As a fan of Bible scholar Bruce Waltke, and especially his commentary on Genesis, I was surprised to see a new video online where Waltke says, “If the data is overwhelming in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us [the Church] a cult.”
Here’s the full video clip that appears on the YouTubes:
Now, my little brain can come up with at least two definitions of “evolution.”
A: Evolution as in the gradual changes and mutations occurring in the world since creation. In this definition I see no contradiction between the creation account and changes within species of animals since the creation. Changes have happened and will continue to happen even among humans. Read about the Philistine “descendants of giants” (2 Sam 21:15–22) and picture a nation of Shaquille O’Neals.
B: Or evolution as in explaining how man marched from cell to worm to fish to lizard to monkey and finally to man over the course of three billion years. This is a different topic and it’s one that raises a host of theological problems.
A good place to read is Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck (1854–1921). Bavinck was clearly open to A and admitted that the number of animal species has surely increased since creation. He had no problems admitting to gradual changes and mutations in creation.
However, Bavinck saw key theological problems with B, none of which were more important than how B undermines the unity of mankind. Here’s how Bavinck explains it in Reformed Dogmatics:
The unity of the human race is a certainty in Holy Scripture (Gen. 1:26; 6:3; 7:21; 10:32; Matt. 19:4; Acts 17:26; Rom. 5:12ff; 1 Cor. 15:21f., 45f.) but has almost never been acknowledged by the peoples who lived outside the circle of revelation. The Greeks considered themselves autochthonous and proudly looked down on ‘barbarians.’ This contrast is found in virtually all nations. In India there gradually came into being even a sharp division between four castes of people, for each of which a distinct origin was assumed. … On the position of Darwinism, however, the question concerning the origin and age of humanity cannot be answered; the transition from animal to man occurred so slowly that there really was no first man.” (2:523, 525)
And that is the key problem with B. Who was the first man? Evolution cannot answer this. But the Church must have an answer.
The unity of the human race, as Scripture teaches it … [is] not a matter of indifference, as is sometimes claimed, but on the contrary of the utmost importance: it is the presupposition of religion and morality. The solidarity of the human race, original sin, the atonement in Christ, the universality of the kingdom of God, the catholicity of the church, and the love of neighbor—these are all grounded in the unity of humankind. (2:526)
You can see the problems with B. Scripture makes it clear that the whole of the Christian faith is tied back to the historicity of a single man—Adam—who is the first man, the head of fallen man, and the universal and original ancestor of all people.
For Bavinck, to deny this unity is a theological tragedy. To resist B is not to marginalize the Church into a cult, it is to free the Church to breathe the fresh air of revelation. All while making it possible to embrace A.