Jonathan Dudley, author of a book called ‘Broken Faith: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics,’ has written a piece over at the liberal HuffPo called “Christian Faith Requires Accepting Evolution.” It’s not just the grandaddy of non sequitur – it’s just plain wrong! And it’s too obviously a plug for his new book, so let’s take a quick gander at the product description for what he’s selling:
“Growing up as an evangelical Christian, Jonathan Dudley was taught that abortion is murder, homosexuality sin, evolution nonsense, and environmentalism a farce. He learned to accept these conclusions–the “big four”–as part of the package deal of Christianity. Yet, when he began studying biology at the evangelical Calvin College and theology at Yale Divinity School, Dudley’s views started to change. He soon realized that what he had been told about the Bible–and those four big issues involving scripture and biology–may have been misconstrued and that what so many Christians believe about key social and political issues may be wrong.
Arguing against absolutism on abortion and opposition to embryonic stem cell research, Dudley shows that most Christian theologians throughout history, including Augustine, Aquinas, and even American evangelicals up until the 1980s, have believed that life does not begin at conception. He argues that evangelical opposition to gay marriage has more to do with allegiance to socially conservative cultural values than allegiance to the Bible. He demonstrates that traditional Christian valuations of science, as well as scientific evidence itself, should lead evangelicals to accept evolution and reject both creationism and intelligent design. And he surveys how evangelicals are changing their minds about environmentalism, and how this development supports a new way of thinking about the Bible. Throughout the book, Dudley, now an M.D. student at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, also illustrates the scientific problems with popular evangelical views.
In the process, he lays the groundwork for a new generation of post-Religious Right evangelical political activists, who believe in evolution, rally behind the environmental movement, are moderate on abortion, and support gay marriage–and who are more faithful to orthodox Christianity than their counterparts.”
Funny story: Ken Ham just wrote this book called Already Compromised in which he warns that traditionally Biblical colleges, like Calvin Princeton, eventually compromised and became rankly liberal. And these “Christian” colleges and universities are now teaching our children to echo the question of the Edenic Serpent: “Did God really say?” Jonathan admits that went from holding views based on the Bible to having views based on the word of men who weren’t there, don’t know everything, and play science by a game that says God isn’t allowed as a possible solution. (And don’t be fooled by the wording of the product description; he doesn’t think traditional Christianity “may” be wrong – he thinks it’s unequivocably wrong!)
By the way, Already Compromised has an excellent appendix which records the statements of these compromising professors who claim to represent orthodox evangelicalism while actually teaching their students mainline liberalism. No wonder poor Jonathan Dudley thinks he’an orthodox evangelical: his professors assured him what they were teaching was traditional Christianity, even though it was simply modern liberal revisionist theology.
Anyway, this fellow wrote the following over at the liberal Huffington Post:
“As someone raised evangelical, I realize anti-evolutionists believe they are defending the Christian tradition. But as a seminary graduate now training to be a medical scientist, I can say that, in reality, they’ve abandoned it.”
Quite the claim! He [and likeminded “progressive” Christians masquerading as evangelicals] believes something never claimed in Scripture [microbes-to-man evolution rather than divine creation], but those of us who affirm the authority of God’s Word over man’s word have somehow abandoned traditional Christianity. OK, let’s see how he backs it up…
“In theory, if not always in practice, past Christian theologians valued science out of the belief that God created the world scientists study. Augustine castigated those who made the Bible teach bad science, John Calvin argued that Genesis reflects a commoner’s view of the physical world, and the Belgic confession likened scripture and nature to two books written by the same author.”
OK, so he cherrypicks a few possible exceptions to the rule and pretends as if they constituted a general rule. Nice. Before I examine his specific objections, let me just remind folks that Biblical Creationists are far from anti-science. In fact, I put it this way when I drafted the Creation Letter (the Biblical response to atheist Dr Michael Zimmerman’s pro-evolution Clergy Letter Project):
“Observable, testable, repeatable science has brought us many benefits and innovations. The founders of modern science were Creationists, “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” Most of the disciplines within science were founded before Darwin or by scientists who actually rejected his theory. The Scientific Method itself is based on the idea that an orderly creation can be rationally understood because it was designed by an Intelligent Creator. Creationists today continue to practice normal, experimental science without need of evolution.
Evolution is not observable, testable, repeatable science. It’s a belief about the past, an atheist Just-So Story seeking to displace the divinely revealed Creation record. It’s based on the flaw of naturalism, which begs that all problems must have a natural explanation, so God isn’t needed. This stands directly at odds with the Biblical claim that God’s existence, eternal power and Godhead are self-evident in His Creation, for it excludes an Intelligent Creator from all consideration. Faulty assumptions lead to faulty conclusions!”
Augustine, Calvin [whom it sounds as if he’s quote-mining], and pretty much any man, confession or creed you can think of are beside the point: Let God be true and every man a liar! I’m getting ahead of myself…
Augustine had a dreadful habit of allegorizing the Bible because he feared being laughed at by folks with scientific knowledge [The literal meaning of Genesis, Vol. 1, #21 (page 20)], so he made the false dichotomy that Scripture was meant to nourish the soul while science spoke of material things. In this he forgot that the Bible is also a book a history and that it is true on whatever it speaks. In this, he forgot Jesus warning to Nicodemus:
“If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” (John 3:12)
The fact is that the Bible makes claims about the physical world, chiefly that God has acted and still acts in this world. If we can’t believe what the Bible says about Creation, the Fall, the Flood, or Babel, how can we trust it when it speaks of God, heaven, eternal judgment or the existence of the soul? Augustine also obviously forgot that the Bible says we are to Let God be true and every man a liar, for he warned the following (which atheists and Bible compromisers so love to quote):
“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”
Yet Augustine’s warning did not make void the Word of God where it is clear. There are unfortunately cases where the graspings of science and the supernatural revelation of an omniscient God conflict. If it were the case that we were always to side with science, to be consistent we would have to deny the Virgin birth, the miracles of Christ and the resurrection itself for science denies all these as possibilities when it is conducted by a set of rules that disqualifies the supernatural from all consideration. Mr. Dudley nor Augustine appear to have thought out the consequences of their position, as reasonable as it sounds until examined more closely.
Calvin’s no good as an ally to progressive evangelicals either. In Calvin’s Commentary on Genesis, he speaks concerning the first day:
“Here the error of those is manifestly refuted, who maintain that the world was made in a moment. For it is too violent a cavil to contend that Moses distributes the work which God perfected at once into six days, for the mere purpose of conveying instruction. Let us rather conclude that God himself took the space of six days, for the purpose of accommodating his works to the capacity of men.”
And of course six literal days is what opponents of the apostolic interpretation of Genesis are trying to avoid.
The Belgic Confession states [Article 2]:
“We know him by two means:
First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.
All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse.
Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.”
The Belgic confession might say nature and the Bible are both revelations of God, but that doesn’t make them equal revelations of God. Creation has been affected by the Curse. This Fallen world would reveal an Ogre in the suffering and predation of Nature in its current state; the Bible reveals that the world was once very good [accurately reflecting the goodness of its Creator] but then by man’s sin death and suffering entered into the world. Any compromise with microbes-to-man evolution necessitates death before the Fall, which makes nonsense of Scripture and makes theodicy a valid protest against the Christian religion. Furthermore, Article 7 warns that Scripture trumps all other revelation:
“We believe that this Holy Scripture contains the will of God completely and that everything one must believe to be saved is sufficiently taught in it. For since the entire manner of service which God requires of us is described in it at great length, no one– even an apostle or an angel from heaven, as Paul says–^2 ought to teach other than what the Holy Scriptures have already taught us. For since it is forbidden to add to or subtract from the Word of God,^3 this plainly demonstrates that the teaching is perfect and complete in all respects.
Therefore we must not consider human writings– no matter how holy their authors may have been– equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else.
For all human beings are liars by nature and more vain than vanity itself.
Therefore we reject with all our hearts everything that does not agree with this infallible rule, as we are taught to do by the apostles when they say, “Test the spirits to see if they are of God,”^4 and also, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house.”^5 ^2 Gal. 1:8 ^3 Deut. 12:32; Rev. 22:18-19 ^4 1 John 4:1 ^5 2 John 10”
So following Augustine’s warning to its logical conclusion would lead us to apostasy, Calvin believed in a literal Creation Week and the Belgic Confessions do not say what Mr. Dudley would have us believe concerning an alleged equality of natural and supernatural revelation. So far, I’m just not that impressed with his argument. Moving on then, he says:
“These beliefs encouraged past Christians to accept the best science of their day, and these beliefs persisted even into the evangelical tradition. As Princeton Seminary’s Charles Hodge, widely considered the father of modern evangelical theology, put it in 1859: “Nature is as truly a revelation of God as the Bible; and we only interpret the Word of God by the Word of God when we interpret the Bible by science.””
Hodge in his human arrogance spoke further than the Scriptures revealed. Just because the Creator’s Godhead and glory and eternal power are declared in Nature does not make them equal revelations [as we just mentioned]. Furthermore, nor true from the beginning, nor of being God-breathed. Hodge’s arrogance is not enough to make an equal claim for Nature with Scripture, for Scripture alone is God-breathed, true from the beginning and perfect. Logically, that means that Gods Word trumps every other source source of knowledge. Nature requires interpretation. No claim is made for nature being perfect. In fact, if we fail to interpret nature without the authority of God’s revealed Word as our guide, we would have no way to know that God’s original Creation was good and has since fallen due the Curse. Nature would tell us that God was an ogre who created via a cycle of death, mutation and struggle. The Bible tells us that death entered the world through Adam’s sin and that one day death will be once again vanquished; we may infer that natural selection is therefore a preservative grace against the effects of the Fall.
He also falsely equated Nature (the facts) with Science, the study and interpretation of nature. Fossils do not come with convenient tags that tell us what they are, what they ate and how long ago they lived. Facts must be interpreted and we generally interpret facts according to our presuppositions.
“In this analysis, Christians must accept sound science, not because they don’t believe God created the world, but precisely because they do.”
Of course, Christians do accept sound science, but we reject evolution. It was a Creationist rock scientist, Dr Werner von Braun, who got man to the moon. He did it without need for microbes-to-man evolution. He believed in Creation. And Creation-affirming scientists do much the same today.
Mr. Dudley then correctly notes that Creationists have pointed out that scientific inquiry is not conducted without presuppositional bias, especially where origins science is concerned:
“Of course, anti-evolutionists claim their rejection of evolution is not a rejection of science. Phillip Johnson, widely considered the leader of the Intelligent Design movement, states that all he’s rejecting is the atheistic lens through which evolutionary scientists view the world. Evolution, he argues, is “based not upon any incontrovertible empirical evidence, but upon a highly philosophical presupposition.
And to a certain extent, this line of argument makes sense. Science is not a neutral enterprise. Prior beliefs undoubtedly influence interpretation. If one believes God created vertebrates with a similar design plan, one can acknowledge their structural similarities without believing in common descent. No amount of radiocarbon dating evidence will convince someone the Earth is 4.5 billion years old if that person believes God created the world to look old, with the appearance of age.”
A minor point of correction: Biblical Creationists do not believe that God made the world look old or that He created it with the appearance of age – we believe that He created it mature. Just as Da Vinci did not have to paint the Mona Lisa as a baby and wait for her to grow up on canvas, the Creator made the world mature.
In any case, after admitting that presuppositions play into origins science, he does a bit of hand waving to dismiss these objections without actually addressing them:
“But beyond a certain point, this reasoning breaks down. Because no amount of talk about “worldviews” and “presuppositions” can change a simple fact: creationism has failed to provide an alternative explanation for the vast majority of evidence explained by evolution.”
Here, he finally reveals his premise: that this talk of worldviews and presuppositions is somehow moot [another grand non sequitur] because he believes that Biblical Creationists have not offered alternative explanations for the evidence. Unfortunately, he was foolish enough to be specific in his charges, which makes refuting his basic premise quite an easy matter. You see, Biblical Creationists do have alternative explanations for the data, just not evolutionary ones.
He gives his first challenges:
“It has failed to explain why birds still carry genes to make teeth, whales to make legs, and humans to make tails.”
The reason birds carry genes for teeth is because some birds had teeth. In fact, they need a tooth to break out of their shells. All vertebrate classes [reptiles, mammals, fish, etc] have representatives with and without teeth, why should birds be any different? That being said, a loss of genetic information is consistent with the creation model [of created kinds being gradually and deletoriously affected by the Fall] but it hardly gives us the increases of genetic information that microbes-to-man evolution requires.
The whales with legs argument has been answered by Creationists ad nauseam. As has the fallacy of a so-called “human tail.” Both are addresses in a post called Vestigial Arguments: Begging the Question for Darwin. Whale evolution itself is addressed in Does Whale Evolution Hold Water?
“It has failed to explain why the fossil record proposed by modern scientists can be used to make precise and accurate predictions about the location of transition fossils.”
Unfortunately, [per his book] he’s refering to Tiktaalik, which was disqualified as the missing link between fish and land-dwelling tetrapods precisely because landlubbing footprints that pre-date Tiktaalik [by evolutionist reckonings] have been found. So his point is rather moot, since Tiktaalik is no longer considered transitional. Before that discovery was made, we still had a viable explanation for Tiktaalik [just not an evolutionary one]: namely, that it was just a fish. In fact, transitional fossils more of a problem for evolutionists than creationists; Instead of the innumerable transitional fossils Darwin predicted for his theory, we have only a handful of disputable candidates that are generally disqualified after new evidence is found.
“It has failed to explain why the fossil record demonstrates a precise order, with simple organisms in the deepest rocks and more complex ones toward the surface.”
“Precise order” is a gross overstatement. Is there a general pattern? Yes, there is. Is there a Creationist explanation for the column that does not involve long ages? Yes again. Check out Tasman Walker’s BiblicalGeology.net, for example.
It is also an oversimplification (and wishful thinking) to say that the fossil record evidences simple organisms in the deepest rocks and more complex ones later. The Cambrian explosion alone gives lie to this claim. It has been complex from the lowest levels to the highest levels of strata. For example, trilobites have some of the most specialized eyes we’ve encountered. In fact, Descartes’ lens design for minimal aberration is found in the lens of the trilobite Crozonaspis, while Huygens’ lens design for minimal aberration is found in the lens of the trilobite Dalmanitina. Rather than increasing complexity in the strata, what we actually see are distinct ecologies. In fact, the fossil record actually much better evidences Biblical Catastrophism than it does the uniformitarian model.
“It has failed to explain why today’s animals live in the same geographical area as fossils of similar species.”
Um, similar habitats. Animals are generally suited for specific habitats. It’s why we don’t generally find camels in the tropics.
“It has failed to explain why, if carnivorous dinosaurs lived at the same time as modern animals, we don’t find the fossils of modern animals in the stomachs of fossilized dinosaurs.”
Actually, since we tend to see the fossil layers as evidencing distinct ecologies [successively overtaken in the Noachian Flood], Creationists could object that this so-called prediction of our model is actually something of a straw man – something we’ve never claimed one should see. In any case, one is forced to admit that fossilized stomach contents are rare and they usually consist of bone fragments [in carnivores]. In other words, even if this were a prediction of our model, there’s simply not enough evidence to rule one way or the other.
As for the canard that we don’t find velociraptors and bunnies fossilized together, check out Dinosaurs and Bunny Rabbits.
“It has failed to explain the broken genes that litter the DNA of humans and apes but are functional in lower vertebrates.”
I was wondering when we’d come to “junk DNA.” We keep finding uses for “useless” pseudogenes, don’t we?
In any case, Creationists have suggested alternative explanation for this one. While we lack a comprehensive creationist model to explain pseudogenes at present, that is no reason to disqualify it as a valid model. Science does operate, after all, on the principle of progressive knowledge, that each discovery builds on the next; in other words, we don’t know it all… yet. To grant evolution science the benefit of the doubt for not yet having all the answers while disqualifying creation science on the same grounds is a double standard. All such a tactic really does is show where one’s ultimate loyalties lie.
“It has failed to explain how the genetic diversity we observe among humans could have arisen in a few thousand years from two biological ancestors.”
Oh. let me guess: he’s not asking how the gentic diversity we observe among humans could have arisen from two genetically perfect ancestors; no, he’s assuming we came about by evolutionary processes and that we share genetic mistakes with ape-like ancestors. In doing so, he’s comparing apples to oranges and creating something of a straw man argument against creationism. To clarify, Biblical Creationists believe that all humanity is derived from two genetically perfect individuals and, more specifically, a bottleneck of four genetically near-perfect couples who gave rise to humanity after the Flood, but that mutations and genetic mistakes had become so common by the time Leviticus was written that God subsequentially prohibited marriage between close relatives. This downward genetic trend continues to this day.
He then goes on to confuse the evidence with the evolutionary interpretation of that evidence:
“Those who believe God created the world scientists study, even while ignoring most of the data compiled by those who study it, might as well rip dozens of pages out of their Bibles. Because if “nature is as truly a revelation of God as the Bible,” it’s basically the same thing.”
Again, his assumption that natural revelation is equal [or, as he practices it, even superior] to special revelation is not a teaching of Scripture; the Bible notes that natural revelation evidences God’s existence, majesty and power but its interpretation is subject to bias, as Romans chapter 1 amply illustrates. What “Progressive Christians” like Mr. Dudley are actually saying by their interpretive method is that the Bible is a prescientific work that needs to be calibrated by modern scientific models (specifically, uniformitarian geology and microbes-to-man evolution) that were designed to explain the universe without God’s agency, rather than calibrating man’s theories and models by the infallible Word of God. No man can serve two masters. In doing do, these progressive Christians makethe accusation that some Scripture really did come by the will of man and are really just cleverly devised fables after all. In other words, the only thing “progressive” about these fellows is that their progressive unbelief.
To answer the other point raised by his comment, we have to keep in mind that the origins argument isn’t about facts. The creationist and the evolutionist have exactly the same evidence: we have the same universe, the same Earth, the same physics, mathematics, rocks, fossils – the same facts. And FACTS are not self-explanatory. Facts must be interpreted… usually according to our pre-existing beliefs and assumptions.
And it’s not about science. There’s plenty of evidence for a Creator, if we’re at least willing to entertain the possibility that He exists! Still, when I announce that I’m a Creationist, some people ask, “How can you reject the same science that put man on the moon?” The irony is that it was a Creationist rocket scientist, Wernher Von Braun, who got us to the moon. He did it without need of evolution.
Many inventions and discoveries and scientific disciplines that were founded were the work of Bible-believing scientists, who didn’t need evolution. The Scientific Method itself is credited to one of these Bible-believing scientists, Sir Francis Bacon, and is based on the idea that we have an orderly universe that may be rationally understood because both it and our minds were designed by a Creator.
It’s about authority: The revealed Word of an infallible, infinite God versus the ever-changing word of fallible, finite men who reject Him and who weren’t there.
Mr. Dudley makes it clear that he understands this in his next comment, though he comes out on the side of unbelief:
“But the belief that scientists can discover truth, and that, once sufficiently debated, challenged and modified, it should be accepted even if it creates tensions for familiar belief systems, has an obvious impact on decisions that are made everyday. And it is that belief Christians reject when they reject evolution.”
It is true that Bible-affirming Christians do reject this belief that science must trump the Bible. We do this because, as stated, the Bible is true from the beginning, is God-breathed and accurate in all it states because it was revealed by an omniscient, all-powerful Creator who was there and never lies. Thus, we ought to be judging the word of fallible men who weren’t there, don’t know everything and suppress the truth in unrighteousness because their carnal minds are at enmity with God by the revealed Word of an infallible God who was there, never lies and knows everything – not the other way ‘round. In other words, we ought rather say, “Let God be true and every man a liar!”
But based on his flawed and unbiblical view of the relationship b natural and supernatural revelation, he makes the following allegation of Bible-affirming Christians:
“In doing so, they’ve not only led America astray on questions ranging from the value of stem cell research to the etiology of homosexuality to the causes of global warming. They’ve also abandoned a central commitment of orthodox Christianity.”
Here he pretends as if orthodox Christianity consists of his downgrade method of Bible revision rather than the doctrinal content of the Bible as delivered by the apostles. The fact of the matter is that this belief that the current scientific consensus must trump Biblical revelation is completely alien to apostolic teaching and to Scripture itself. The Galileo affair should have taught us that, if nothing else, scientific consensus can be wrong for centuries before a new paradigm finally corrects the previously accepted model [viz. geocentrism to heliocentrism]. God alone and His Word are infallible.
Speaking of Galileo, these progressive Christians are committing the Ptolemaic error all over again, trying to find proof texts to support the current scientific consensus [as theologians did to make the Scriptures seem to support Ptolemy’s cosmogony (geocentrism) prior to Galileo] rather than allowing the Word of God to speak for itself. The inherent danger of the Ptolemaic error is that it makes the Bible seem to say something that it never did, so when the science falsely so-called it is based on is falsified, Biblical authority is impugned in the eyes of those who listened to those promoting these errors with supposed Biblical proof texts. Nowadays they are trying to make the Bible support millions of years of microbes-to-man evolution even if the plain meaning of Scripture is clearly to the contrary. They suppose they are doing God a favor by keeping His Word current with the times, but it is arrogance to suppose that the God who changes not and knows everything somehow needs an editor. Yet they go on, blaspheming the Word of God by asking, Did God really say that? every time the Bible and scientific models which were intended to explain the universe without God’s agency come into inevitable conflict. It appears that progressive Christianity in its truest sense is simply progressive unbelief.
Far from being a central commitment of orthodox Christianity, this capitulation to the consensus of men whose minds are at emnity with God has been the exception rather than the rule. After carefully weighing Mr. Dudley’s argument, we conclude that not only is there no compelling reason for a Christian to accept evolution – the orthodox Christian would do well to reject it since this model necessitates millions of years of death, mutation and suffering which pre-date Adam’s sin [even though the Scripture affirms that death came by Adam’s sin].
We conclude with a passage of Scripture we have alluded to many times throughout this article, and we hope you will take these words as your banner as you stand fast for the bhistorical veracity and ultimate authority of God’s revealed Word:
“For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar” – Romans 3:3-4a