Dialogue With a Skeptic, Part I

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In my next several posts, I will be interacting with a long list of questions submitted by a reader (I appreciated his polite email). His words are in bold type, and my responses are in plain type.

I used to be a Christian until I stumbled upon the evidence for evolution. I always thought it was just a theory, meaning it had no evidence but just an idea. I started looking deeper into the issue and was shocked when I found out that it was well supported. So I started digging into other issues and became increasingly suspicious of the truth of Christianity. I’m not a full blown atheist but an agnostic at the moment. I’m open to God being real but at the same time I have several of these questions that I haven’t found an adequate answer for. If God and the Bible are real and factual then how do you explain the questions below?

1) Creation account vs. evolution

• Science has refuted the creation account.

This totally depends on what you mean by “science” and what you mean by the “creation account.” I will assume that by “science” you mean the theory of common descent of all species (currently known as Neo-Darwinism). Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that Neo-Darwinian theory about the origin of species is correct. Does this refute divine creation of the first life? No. While there are several different theories on the table about how the first life MIGHT have come from non-living chemicals, none of them is very plausible. They suffer from various paradoxes and from the problem of biological information. Now, if all species descended from a common ancestor, does that refute the Bible’s account of God creating all of the various life forms? No. Evidence for common descent does nothing to rule out there being intention and design in the animal kingdom. To be sure, one would have to abandon a strictly literal reading of Genesis chapter 1, but several features of the creation account (such as poetic parallelism) seem to signify that it is completely reasonable to read Genesis 1 as a form of exalted prose meant to teach us about God’s purposes, power, and plan for His creation.

• Adam and Eve didn’t exist.

Do you mean that there were never two people in history named Adam and Eve? Science cannot tell us such a thing. Or, do you mean that there was never a time when only two humans lived who became the ancestors of all mankind? In the field of molecular anthropology, which addresses this second question, the current consensus is that humanity arose from a minimum population of several hundred to several thousand. Many assumptions go into this type of extrapolation, some of which are not proving to be very reliable. In observed population studies that took place over the course of the last several decades, we have seen very surprising results in terms of how quickly populations can diversify. These results have been published in peer-reviewed literature in recent years. There is a LOT we don’t yet know about the dynamics of population genetics and even more we don’t know about human history (and can never know). Techniques designed to re-create our genetic past are somewhat informative, but not comprehensively so. What is required to preserve Christian doctrine? The existence of a historical couple that were once innocent and then disobeyed God. Science is silent on this assertion.

• Why did God use a painful process like evolution?

This is a very good question, if you assume God indeed used evolution. I am not compelled by current evidence that evolution was God’s creative mechanism. I tend to favor a version of progressive creation. But for the sake of argument, let’s say God did use evolution. That process is driven by reproduction and death, survival of the fittest. Problematic? Some Christians say yes, others say no. William A. Dembski has an interesting book out that argues that “natural evil” is all a consequence of human sin, even retro-actively. I don’t necessarily agree with that idea, but it’s a good option to wrestle with. Besides, if God doesn’t exist, there is no such thing as natural evil or natural good, only things we like and things we don’t like. The fact that we look at suffering and death and feel that things should have been different is a big clue that there is an intended perfection that was lost, that we long for. God promises a restoration of creation to its intended state.

• If we have the natural laws, why do we need God?

Where there are laws, there must be a law-giver. The fact that the cosmos is intelligible and operates according to beautiful, mathematical regularities begs for an explanation. Since elegant design is known to be the product of intelligence, the universe’s extraordinary fine-tuning reflects a Designer.

• Jesus dying for a metaphor is absurd

Yes, I totally agree! I do not believe Adam was a metaphor.

• Plenty of evidence for evolution e.g. genetics (chromosome 2, DNA), transitional fossils, morphology, biogeography

The evidence you refer to is often cited as support for common descent. The truth of Christianity is not dependent upon common descent being false. It is, however, dependent upon there being a Creator of life and there being purpose and planning in nature. Common descent doesn’t even rule out a divine intervention that brought about spiritual man, though a physically evolved mankind poses some theological questions that have to be dealt with. I will say that the chromosome 2, genetic, fossil, and morphological arguments, in my view, are not very compelling. One could just as easily use all of these to argue common design rather than common descent.

• Genesis account very similar to other creation myths. Could be Jewish mythology just like Greek or Roman mythology creation accounts.

The existence of other creation accounts has no bearing on whether or not there is a true creation account among all the various options. Furthermore, if there was a shared memory among ancient people groups of a creation story which was passed down to them through generations prior to being written down, we would absolutely expect there to be multiple creation stories floating around.