Our expression of sacrifice and extraordinary kindness towards Ken and AIG has been returned to us and our attendees with Ken publicly attacking our conventions and other speakers. Our Board believes Ken's comments to be unnecessary, ungodly, and mean-spirited statements that are divisive at best and defamatory at worst.
An Answers in Genesis spokesman, however, explained that they were unaware there was a problem and that conference organizers should not have been surprised by Ham’s warnings that evolution compromises God's word.
On the surface this story appears to be about yet another tiff between creationists and evolutionists. The creationists may use it to remind us that scripture must be vigorously defended while the evolutionists may use it to make yet more appeals for nuanced readings of scripture. And those outside the debate undoubtedly will call for unity. But while all these points are perfectly valid, they miss the real story.
Can scripture accommodate evolution?
Evolutionists sometimes ask me if my religious beliefs can accommodate evolution. Do I criticize evolution objectively, they ask, or do I have religious motives? The answer is that my religious beliefs do not accommodate evolution, but not for the suspected reason.
When evolutionists ask this question they are thinking about the material aspects of evolution. Can your religious beliefs accommodate an old earth and species arising via natural processes rather than miraculous intervention? To this I say sure. With thinkers ranging from BB Warfield to the Roman Catholic Church, I don’t have a particular problem with God creating through his natural laws.
I’m not saying this is easy. True, Genesis does speak of the earth bringing forth some of the species. Is this not at least suggestive of natural processes? And even creationists appeal to limited amounts of evolutionary change. But I do not find either of these very compelling. Scripture does not seem to be easily adaptable to the evolutionary narrative. But saying this is different than saying scripture definitely excludes evolution. For me evolution is not a likely interpretation of scripture, but it is not out of the question. And if it is not out of the question, then it must be considered.
So what is the scriptural problem with evolution? The problem is that evolutionary thinking is, and always has been, motivated by non biblical claims about God. I have discussed this in this blog, but the best place to find these claims is in the evolution literature, both before and after Darwin. Simply put, evolutionary thought is motivated and justified by various claims about how God would create the world. God wouldn’t create all of the many lowly creatures—that is beneath him. God wouldn’t create evil or inefficiency—that would be against his nature. God wouldn’t create particular patterns—that would be capricious. And so forth. In all about a dozen theological and philosophical arguments, that mandate evolution, arose in the Enlightenment years before Darwin. And they were and remain today tremendously influential. They are the reason that evolutionists today insist evolution is a fact, not merely a theory. Evolution is, at bottom, a religious idea developed in polite Christian settings. Today’s atheists, like a conforming teenager who thinks he is in rebellion, rehearse these same arguments as if demonstrating a religious skepticism.
But the Bible will have none of this. Scripture presents a creator who is in control. This creator knows precisely what he is creating. He may use miracles, he may use natural processes, but there are no surprises in the end. This may sound evolution friendly but it is not. This view is not at all accommodative of evolutionary thought. For as evolutionist SJ Gould put it, “Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution—paths that a sensible God would never tread.” Both atheist and theist alike agree god would not have created this mess, and so evolution must be a fact. That is a religious claim that doesn’t pass the scriptural test. (And without its religious claims evolution is left only with its scientific claims which are prima facie absurd). Consider, for example, God’s message to Job regarding the unlikely ostrich:
“The wings of the ostrich wave proudly,
But are her wings and pinions like the kindly stork’s?
For she leaves her eggs on the ground,
And warms them in the dust;
She forgets that a foot may crush them,
Or that a wild beast may break them.
She treats her young harshly, as though they were not hers;
Her labor is in vain, without concern,
Because God deprived her of wisdom,
And did not endow her with understanding. [Job 39:13-17]
This and other passages do not give hints that creations arose in spite of the creator’s wishes.
The real story
And so the real story is not at the level of mechanism, but at the level of divine intent. And this brings us full circle back to the Ken Ham and the creationists. For while creationists and evolutionists argue about mechanism, they both agree about divine intent. God, they say, did not intend for this evil world. For creationists the problem is solved by the Fall. For evolutionists it is solved by natural law. But where it counts they agree. Consider, for example, how Ham responded to the killer tsunami in the Indian Ocean a few years ago:
Those of us who believe in a literal Genesis have a history, a history concerning the Fall, a history concerning the Flood. So when we look at this world, we’re looking at a fallen world. It’s not God’s fault there are tsunamis. … Death is not God's fault. [Christianity Today, April 24, 2006]
Creationists say God would not use long time periods to create. They say God would not use cruel processes to create. These are claims about divine intent, and that is the real story.