The problem with “Evolution” in Christian Apologetics (Part 3): Dealing with the evolution question in conversation

This has been a post that I’ve pondered about for weeks. I think what ultimately made me “kicked the bucket” is
1) The Ken Ham vs Bill Nye debate
2) a discussion between amateur apologists in Christ Sanctuary PN
3) The Unbelievable podcast between Rice Broocks and David Beebee

Now, the urge to have an answer to prepare for this sort of situation stem from me having been asked twice during conversational apologetics as well as needing to tackle the topic on a QA panel as well as seeing Rodney Lake being grilled on it during a QA session in 2013. After much thought about ways to make the answers efficient, I think I have come up with a couple of meta-game ideas and strategies.

A) Remember that the Gospel is key in all things.

What is the first portion of 1 Peter 3:15? “In your heart set apart Christ as Lord”. This is very important: because if the Ken Ham debate has shown anything, it is that Christians can make the mistake of putting too much effort in defending certain interpretation of the Bible rather than, say, defending the historicity of the New Testament or the reliability of the Bible as a whole.

Do you know how much did it cost to build the Creation Museum? U$ 27 million. Do you know how much does it cost to print a Bible for distribution in China? U$1.50-2. It’s time for Christians to realize that when we put too much emphasis on trying to defend something not relevant to the Gospel what they’re doing runs a high risk of being afoul with the Biblical Instruction of setting apart Christ as Lord.

Now, at this point I’m sure some YECs will be irked. “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FALL, YOUNG EARTH CREATIONISTS DEFEND THE FALL! WE DEFEND BIBLICAL CHRISTIANITY”. Well, so does OEC. So does BioLogos. So does Non-Concordists.

Imagine that I am a hypothethical evolutionary creationist. Now imagine that I am an evolutionary creationist who believes in substance dualism a.k.a. each living organism is imbued both with a material and immaterial aspect (consistent with the Biblical application of “nephesh chayah”). What is the outcome of my belief then? That Darwinian evolution is a physical mechanism to deliver a physical form but which God still has to step in to “inject” a soul to create a new living thing. Now, while I find this view leaky and has flaws, does it reject the view of a literal and physical Adam? Not at all – in fact, this is roughly the view of Francis Collins . So Darwinian Evolution by itself does not compromise The Fall – It is Darwinian Evolution armed with a Physicalist view of human nature that does so.

B) Remember that the Gospel message is about our individual brokenness before God.
C) Remember that the Gospel message does not require Biblical Inerrancy, only NT reliability
D) Authority of Scripture is not something that non-Christian affirm and using it to justify a belief on them is the same as preaching the Gospel in Latin to the Chinese people in the 15th Century.

Let’s, for a moment, imagine that Darwinian Evolution with Physicalist theory of mind works and that compromises a literal Adam. So what exactly has been compromised?

Let’s look at the 5 Greek words translated into “sin” today

1) hamartia – missing the mark
2) adikia- Unrighteousness

3) Porneia – evil of a degenerated kind

4) Parabasis – trespassing the law 

5) Anomia – Lawlessness

Does denying the Fall destroy any one of this words in describing the human condition as it is right now? My contention is no.

So while The Fall may be an important explanation of the broader picture of how the human race got into our quagmire, it does not affect the “is” part of the human condition – that we are genuinely broken and in need of a Saviour because we cannot bootstrap ourselves out. And only Christ had been, can be, and ever will be that only saviour. And the key to that assurance of the reliability of the New Testament and the various arguments for Christ’s existence.

E) Most importantly, recognise that the “Creation/Evolution” debate is a 3rd order Philosophy of Science question
– 1st order scientific question is “what is science”, “what is biology”, “what is evolution”
– 2nd order questions are questions about science, e.g. “what are the best methods of science”, “is science real or just a coherent product of our mind”
– the evolution/creation debate is grounded in answers from 1st and 2nd order questions – it requires plenty of prior assumptions and conclusions to reach a standpoint.

With these few points in mind, let’s come up with a meta-game:

Hypothetical situation:
– You are in the middle of discussing the case of God. Person you are talking to asks “what about evolution”

A) Force him to define evolution. This is where the 5 definitions of evolution by Stephen Meyer and Michael Keas come in: those definitions encompasses both academic and popular definitions for evolution. At the end of the day, even Common Ancestry does not challenge the The Fall especially if guided evolution (a.k.a guided change from a common ancestor) is possible.

B) Get him to clarify just how exactly does evolution refutes/undermine the Gospel message
– At the end of the day, it is important to realise that while evolutionary naturalism requires evolution, evolution does not require evolutionary naturalism. The key here is to expose the naturalistic presuppositions and attack those.

-Ask him how does evidence for Darwinian Evolution compete or conflict with the historical evidences and arguments for Christ. Evolutionary naturalism is a retrodiction as a product of science under presuppositions of naturalism. At face value, Darwinian Evolution (as an outcome of science) should not conflict with Resurrection of Jesus (which is a historical space-time event). To say that there is a conflict almost certainly requires either a presupposition that only naturalism is true or Christianity is not an evidence-based religion.

C) If you have to, focus on the origin of life and substance dualism
– Stephen Meyer’s “Signature of the Cell” is a powerful book because it essentially reduces the origins of life down of either a random process, via natural law, or via an intelligent agent (who, for a theist, is also the Lawgiver of natural and moral laws.) A living organism’s DNA is packed full of specified information – a.k.a functional instruction necessary for life. The prima facie source for information is an intelligent agent.
– one of the most serious threats to evolutionary naturalism, IMO, is substance dualism. If you can give good arguments while we should believe we are soul-ish beings, evolutionary naturalism quickly becomes an inadequate theory of origin. To use JP Moreland’s argument:
1) We are physical beings with an immaterial substance
2) Darwinian Evolution is a physical process
3) To argue that a physical process can produce an immaterial substance is an argument for something out of nothing
*4) Something cannot come out of nothing

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