What Would Jesus Say to Darwin?

All Things Examined

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In certain company, Jesus had the rather annoying habit of answering a question with a question.

It had the effect of turning the tables on those who were trying to trip him up, while getting others to think through what was being asked. For example, when a religious leader asked Jesus how he could gain eternal life, Jesus’ response—“What is written in the Law?”—pointed the leader to what had already been revealed, to what, in fact, the man already knew.

But what would Jesus have said to someone asking, “Good teacher, you have great wisdom. Tell me, if you would be so kind—how did life begin?”

The scenario is not as far-fetched as you might think.


At the time of Jesus’ public ministry, a number of alternatives to the Genesis story were well-known and actively peddled in the marketplace of ideas. One was “atomism,” a thoroughly naturalistic explanation of the universe developed in the fifth century B.C.

As the Greek philosophers Leucippus and Democritus spun it, the universe was made up of indivisible, and infinitesimally small, grains of matter (“atoms”) whose chance collisions and combinations over untold eons brought everything into existence—even thinking, sentient beings. Have a familiar jingle?

Like neo-Darwinism, atomism gave intellectual comfort to those inclined toward atheism, while raising honest doubts among those who accepted the Old Testament account. So it is possible—maybe likely—that some seeker or schemer would have asked Jesus to settle the controversy between Moses and the philosophers, or, in today’s parlance, between religion and science.

What controversy?

Fast-forward 2,000 years. There are those who say “Controversy? What controversy?” One is Francis Ayala, evolutionary biologist and former Catholic priest.

Ayala, 2010 winner of the Templeton Prize (for his “exceptional contribution affirming life's spiritual dimension”), recently stated that "scientific knowledge, the theory of evolution in particular, is consistent with a religious belief in God...” Well, yeah, since knowledge—true knowledge, scientific or otherwise—is sourced in the Author of truth.

But the knowledge of which Ayala refers is not the “after its kind” microevolution accepted by the religious and non-religious alike; it is the “mud-to-man” macroevolution of neo-Darwinism. Consequently, the Templeton Prize winner went on to exclude “the tenets of creationism and the so-called intelligent design” as knowledge consistent with belief in God.

If Ayala’s exclusion sends your head aswirl, Francis Collins’ explanation will help right it. Collins is a celebrated geneticist and evangelical Christian:

ID [intelligent design] portrays the Almighty as a clumsy Creator, having to intervene at regular intervals to fix the inadequacies of His own initial plan for generating the complexity of life. For a believer who stands in awe of the almost unimaginable intelligence and creative genius of God, this is a very unsatisfactory image.

Almost unimaginable is a curious way for an awed believer to put it. That aside, Catholic biologist Ken Miller heartily agrees about ID’s klutz-Creator. Miller, author of Finding Darwin’s God, likens the God of ID to “a kid who is not a very good mechanic and has to keep lifting the hood and tinkering with the engine.”

Francis Collins and Ken Miller are “theistic evolutionists”; believers who believe that creation was accomplished by Darwinian processes enfolded into the laws of nature by God. Never mind that theistic evolution, both the front-loaded variety they embrace and the God-guided one they deride, is intelligent design, their critique of ID, despite its reasoned charm, is built on syllogistic sand.

Collins and Miller claim that evolution deflects the blame from God to nature for all of nature’s “bad designs,” like the panda’s thumb or the inverted retina of the eye. Ayala raises the human jaw bone as an example, touting that any engineer responsible for its design “would be fired the next day." Darwinism is not only compatible with religion, it is essential to maintain God’s good reputation.

But that doesn’t quite work. If a software engineer inserts a random-number generator into a computer program intended to control a factory’s hazardous emissions, he, not the program, is answerable for any unabated toxic materials released. Similarly, if God engineered a random, unguided process into nature, he, as the engineer, is responsible for the effects of that process, whether good or bad. On the other hand, if God infuses some creatures with intelligence, reasoning, and free will, they, not he, are morally accountable for the consequences of their actions.

There are further problems for theistic evolution from any faithful reading of Scripture; not the least of which is that the “creator by proxy” is contrary the entire biblical narrative, not just the first chapters of Genesis:

To those who insist that the eye is the product of a process rather than a Person, the Psalmist asks, “Does he who formed the eye not see?”

To those who claim that God distanced himself from creation through evolution: 1) Solomon states that God is the “Maker” of “rich and poor” alike; 2) John writes, “Through him all things were made” and “without him nothing was made that has been made”; 3) Paul declares, “all things were created by him...in him all things hold together”; 4) the author of Hebrews reveals, “The Son...sustain[s] all things by his powerful word,” and 5) a few chapters later, “by faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

And to those who ignore what nature plainly reveals about God, Paul says, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.”

Bad design?

Now about those “bad” designs, several things are to be said.

A design flaw could be real or it could be apparent, the result of ignorance concerning purpose and function, as has been the case for numerous anatomical features prematurely dismissed as “vestigial”—the appendix, tonsils, pineal gland, coccyx, and thymus come immediately to mind.

But even if a defect is real, it says nothing about the original design (or the Designer!) and how that design may have been degraded by cumulative changes over time brought on by changing environmental pressures.

Also, even the best humanly designed systems involve unavoidable engineering tradeoffs. For instance, a car designer must balance the need for safe and reliable transportation with the needs for fuel efficiency, comfort, handling, and low engine emissions. If he calls for a body construction of two-inch plate steel, the car would be safe but not fuel efficient. If he designs it with balsa wood, it would be fuel efficient, but neither safe nor durable. If he specifies tires made of solid rubber, the tires would never have a flat, but they wouldn't deliver a comfortable ride or easy handling, either.

In short, every component in a car is designed not for its optimum performance, but for the optimum performance of the system. It stands to reason that the same holds for biological systems whose complex designs exceed those man-made many times over. And, it might very well be that only in a temporarily flawed world could the essentials of the best possible world be forged: the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love.

Answering Darwin

The American Scientific Affiliation is advertised as “a fellowship of Christians in science.” Results from a recent ASA survey on the origin-of-life indicate that over 60 percent of its members fit in the TE camp. For example, nearly 61 percent of the respondents believe that “Homo Sapiens evolved through natural processes from ancestral forms in common with primates” and less than 30 percent believe that “Adam and Eve had no contemporaries, and were the biological ancestors of all humans.”

Many respondents referred to Adam and Eve as “metaphors,” symbols,” “fictional characters,” and “representations.” Like their atomist and Darwinist bedfellows, they relegate the Genesis narrative to myth and with it, the witness of the biblical writers, including that of Jesus himself.

So how would Jesus respond to Democritus, Darwin, or a member of the ASA? I suspect the same way he responded to the Pharisees: He would direct them to what had already been revealed (“What did Moses write about this matter?”); then, after patiently watching them shrug their shoulders, he would answer:“But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female.”

Regis Nicoll is a freelance writer and a BreakPoint Centurion. His "All Things Examined" column appears on BreakPoint every other Friday. Serving as a men’s ministry leader and worldview teacher in his community, Regis publishes a free weekly commentary to stimulate thought on current issues from a Christian perspective. To be placed on this free e-mail distribution list, e-mail him at: centurion51@aol.com.

Articles on the BreakPoint website are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Chuck Colson or BreakPoint. Outside links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply endorsement of their content.


Reconciling Sides
I have grown up believing in both evolution and creation, so it is particularly hard for me to try to separate the two, let alone set them as opposites. Here's why:

The Bible explicitly states that God moved over the face of the waters, before he had yet made a sky, and even before he made light. Yet if HE had not yet separated the waters, how could they possibly have a face? The Hebrew verb is not 'create' but 'bara'. This is the same verb we would use in Hebrew to say "Create in me a clean heart, O God." In fact, the Bible never uses this verb to mean physical creation, except possibly at this beginning. No one would try to say that God is somehow streamlining the biological process of a heart. He is rather creating something spiritual, renewing the soul. When it says that God 'creates', or as we should say, 'bara's the world, he is setting it up in an ordered system that we can recognize as meant for us. In effect, he is saying "This world was made for you". The creation occurs not necessarily as a physical change of atomic structure, but rather as a spiritual preparedness for God's people, just as our hearts are spiritually prepared for God.

Now, I wouldn't dare claim that God CAN'T make the world in one-hundred sixty-eight hours. HE alone is God. However, it seems to me that if God chose to call the innumerable epochs that science predicts God must have gone through, if he chose to call them a mere seven days then we ought to take it as a sign of HIS power, not as a sign of scientific error. And if science finds errors in science, then it proves our further human need for God. We do not need the Bible to tell us How HE made the world. It is enough that it tells us that HE made it.

After Cain murders Able, he goes off and has children. The Bible does not tell us whether God took Cain's rib too, I admit that to be an answer; I however, find it much easier to believe that un-knowing Homo Sapiens were roaming the world before Adam and Eve, ones that were not 'bara'ed or set aside as true humans, people with knowledge of God.

After Noah and the flood, we again are left with a choice between incest, miracle, or other humans as ways by which the globe was repopulated. Undisputed archaeology shows thriving empires during the flood. However, if the flood was rather a local tsunami, inundating the entire East Mediterranean, rather than the globe where thriving empires remained undisturbed; if it was perhaps even the Santorini eruption that drowned Crete and spawned the story of Atlantis, then maybe we can finally prove the truth of God to the atheists, using their own hallowed science against them.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. And yet I also think that Darwin was right to be buried at Westminster Abbey, because I think his science will one day prove God for the atheists. So what IS a Christian to think?
What's at stake with Theistic Evolution
Can you still sing, "Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe..." and yet refuse to sing, "Jesus made it all, all to Him I owe..?" Can we have it both ways? How can we say that the New Heavens and New Earth promised to all who bewail their sinful condition, abandon all hope in being able to save their own souls, and cast themselves on Jesus blood and righteousness, will be perfect beyond all description....and provide for us perfect and eternal bliss and then at the same time, say, His first creation left us a woefully inadequate and unfortunate world...one that even God could not fix? We see today through a glass imperfectly. This fallen world is all that science can catalogue and quantify. "Sin has left its crimson stain." But with just the same certainty, we believe He has, is, and will one day, restore it all "as white as snow."
Invalid Comparrison
Human Ape You said, "Invalid comparison.
"In short, every component in a car is designed not for its optimum performance, but for the optimum performance of the system. It stands to reason that the same holds for biological systems whose complex designs exceed those man-made many times over."

You're mixing up human progress with your god's magic tricks. Unlike your god fairy, the people who build cars don't use magic wands."

You are correct; the people who design cars do not use magic wands. They use the only thing that can create such a complex system, LOGIC and INTELLIGENCE. Something the is not in the capabilities of the brainwashed Darwinist.

Lets see here you think such complexity came about by accident. It is a known fact, information can only be created by intelligence. Yet you believe in the God of evolution creating something as complex as the genetic code which is intelligence. Who has more faith, the one who believes in the intelligence that put information in place inside the cell, or the one who believes things crashing together like rocks put the intelligence inside the cell?

Life only comes from life. It does not come from rocks like you believe. You display more faith than any Christian in existence could ever muster up. To believe nothing created everything is faith far beyond anything any religious person would ever have to have.
Yet a few more questions for Jesus...
How's Charles doing, seeing as some apparently believe that he and his meager idea actually killed You and all? Could You please point out ONE single example of macroevolution to us simpletons who have so earnestly been seeking one for at somewhere around 160 years now? Couldn't You just PLEASE show us which rock it might be under? And why-oh-why do Your skeptics always seem to underhandedly attack sideways, aiming at one's credentials instead of the veracity of the statements made and the truth behind them? And one more question (an intimately twisted pair, really - kinda like Your double-helix(!)) that should be really easy for You to explain to us: what IS Life anyways, and where does it go when it slips away, so that we can't restart it back up again? Our answers are so confused on this: we give each other different answers depending on if our worldview is steeped in philosophy, religion, the 'medical arts', biology, chemistry, or whatnot. Lastly, please say 'HI!' to Charles for all of us here who are still taking Your test, Teacher-Friend.
I thought this was a well-reasoned discourse which raises some challenges to Theistic evolutionists. If anything it serves to show that there are several plausible ways to interpret what we see in nature.

I haven't seen any comments thus far that actually challenge any of the ideas presented in the article. Regis may not be a biologist, but this is about analyzing the evidence and research of biologists, reading the biologists own interpretations of their evidence and then developing our own reasoned conclusions about the world and how it came into existence. Obviously, one doesn’t have to be a biologist to do this. Depending on your worldview you will interpret the evidence differently.

Throughout history, in scripture and in life we always see the abundance of ‘faith-alternatives’. These are the competing philosophies that come along and challenge what God has said, offering what seems to be a viable alternative – maybe even better.

I see the naturalistic explanations of the world and can understand their appeal. I’ve often wondered, as a result, that perhaps God, in his ultimate Sovereignty and wisdom, engineered into the universe dueling intellectual possibilities that offer temporary relief to those who don’t want Him.
In my most humble opinion, Regis Nicoll seems to know precious little about what Charles Darwin actually theorized (which was "natural selection"...), and seems to know even less about modern theories and scientific research and evidence in biology and work in paleontology.

THe article to me appears to be a choice of a knee-jerk reaction to a lot of the other superstition and mythology out there about natural selection and evolution, thus furthering the preference for ignorance and conjecture in these subjects, rather than a pursuit of a working knowledge in them via the scientific method.

Both natural selection and evolution are perfectly congruent with a position of faith in God, our creator. In fact, these position glorify an infinitely smart being, rather than identifying Him as a "bumbler" (in the case of extinct species) or as a "tinkerer". Natural selection and evolution portray God as an infinitely wise creator who created a system by which life can thrive in the environments that eixst, within the larger framework of the liberty of the free will of mankind.

That's certianly on par with an infinitely powerful and knowledgable creator than merely making Eve from a rib-bone (which could be done today with cloning and genetic engineering...).
You're right. Regis Nicoll is not a biologist.
But now that you mention it, neither was an old graduate of Christ's College by the name of Charles Darwin.
What Would Jesus Say to Darwin?
I've heard "IT" said, Let the dead take care of the dead and I've also heard "IT" said, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

Yes we've heard that also but what does "IT" mean here Victor? :)
Invalid comparison.
"In short, every component in a car is designed not for its optimum performance, but for the optimum performance of the system. It stands to reason that the same holds for biological systems whose complex designs exceed those man-made many times over."

You're mixing up human progress with your god's magic tricks. Unlike your god fairy, the people who build cars don't use magic wands.

"Francis Collins and Ken Miller are theistic evolutionists."

Actually that's not true at all. Neither of those scientists would use the adjective theistic in any branch of science. They might believe in a god, but as scientists they keep that idea completely separate from their careers. They would never invoke a god for any natural process, including the development of new species.

Regis Nicoll is a "freelance writer and a BreakPoint Centurion" but he's not a biologist, he knows absolutely nothing about biology, and he's not qualified to write about biology.


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