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.

Bavinck concludes:

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.

21 thoughts on “Evolution

  1. I couldn’t help but think of these verses from Daniel…

    There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” Daniel 3 v12-15

    Well, since everyone else is doing it…

  2. Though I am not a Bible scholar or a devotee of Darwinism, I am a believer in God’s word as authority over man’s destiny and origin. We cannot ignore the existence of many species that simply are not mentioned in the Bible, like the dinosaurs, but that does not preclude a creation of this earth for the purpose of supporting human life as God intended.

    Genesis provides a “shorthand” version for millions of years of planetary formation. It’s purpose is to set the stage for God’s ongoing relationship with man as a psychological being made in his image. God assumes His rightful position as the “I am” and has no need to explain his creation process. It is not theory, it is fact. Seven days might be 7 billion years, but the product is the same.

    Darwinism is the “Theory of Evolution.” It remains a theory to this day, without final proof that links us as homosapiens to another earlier species. Darwinism has an irresistible logic for scientists, but God is beyond logic and that’s why faith is required to have a relationship with him.

    If science proves that man may have developed in some “organic” way, and perhaps even in more than one location on the earth, does that threaten God’s authority over human creation? Does the Bible lose authority as God’s revelation to the thinking feeling species represented by Adam in the Bible? Does our experience of God as believing Jews or Christians make an argument for or against Darwinism? What do faith and scientific theory have in common. Not much.

    In fact Christianity is a cult, if defined as a group of people who hold strongly to a set of beliefs that dictate behavior, even behavior that sets them apart from their community. Should we worry about being marginalized by a scientific theory? I can hear Jesus laughing. I don’t think so!

    Betsy Shulman

  3. In my first year at university, I was forced to confront my views on evolution and creation, and really sort out what I believe. I had not ever considered this issue before: I knew Adam and Eve existed, but I also knew evolution was true. But that year, I began to realise that if the Bible and evolution were both true, then Adam and Eve were basically just apes chosen by God to be human, and their parents (so-called ‘not quite humans’) weren’t. So then by some arbitrary decision of God, Adam and Eve get salvation and to be in a very good place, but their parents weren’t. I realised through both scientific evidence and questioning my theology that I had to choose between evolution and Christianity. But I know for sure that Christianity is true, so I cannot believe in evolution. This doesn’t change the fact that evolution was hammered into me throughout secondary school, and I still sometimes catch myself thinking in that way. I can accept that Christians do often believe in evolution, but unlike me, they haven’t seen the contradictions inherent in this.
    I am very lucky that here in Edinburgh, there are plenty of faithful creationists around.
    Izzy, Scotland

  4. A and B as you represent them seem to be the difference between the false dichotomy, scientifically speaking, of micro and macro evolution. As a matter of process the mechanism would be the same for A and for B, in other words to accept the mechanist process of A that brought about micro evolution would be to also accept B, scientifically. There is significant evidence that this is the case.

    I believe this is Waltke’s point about become a cult. Simply rejecting B because it causes theological problems with a conservative, traditional, or literal view of scripture, would seem to be a cult like adhesion to an old perspective. This would also seem to violate Calvin’s encouragement: “reformed but always reforming.”

    Waltke address theistic evolution in his book (pages 202-203 of An Old Testament Theology), keep in mind that when you see ‘ADAM’ he is referring to humanity as a species:


    The best harmonious synthesis of the special revelation of the Bible, of the general revelation of human nature that distinguishes between right and wrong and consciously or unconsciously craves God, and of science is the theory of theistic evolution.

        By ‘theistic evolution’ I mean that the God of Israel, to bring glory to himself,
    1. Created all the things that are out of nothing and sustains them
    2. Incredibly, against the laws probability, finely tuned the essential properties of the universe to produce ADAM, who is capable of reflecting upon their origins
    3. Within his providence allowed the process of natural selection and of cataclysmic interventions – such as the meteor that extinguished the dinosaurs, enabling mammals to dominate the earth – to produce awe-inspiring creatures, especially ADAM
    4. By direct creation made ADAM a spiritual being, an image of divine beings, for fellowship with himself by faith
    5. Allowed ADAM to freely choose to follow their primitive animal nature and to usurp the rule of God instead of living by faith in God, losing fellowship with their physical and spiritual Creator
    6. And in his mercy chose from fallen ADAM the Israel of God, whom he regenerated by the Holy Spirit, in connection with their faith in Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, for fellowship with himself.


    That’s my two sense anyway…

  5. I think we have an inflated view of what science is capable of. Our old views of celestial mechanics and combustion, for instance, were very well supported by scientific evidence. Science provides us with theories (not meant to be a slur) that have tremendous explanatory power. But frankly, the best of these theories could be overturned one day.

    The reason evolution is the current theory explaining the origin of mankind is not because it is true, but because it explains the data better than creationism. The question we have to ask is ‘if creationism is true, why does evolution explain the data better?’ To me, this is still mysterious, but due to sciences changing nature, I’m not too worried about it.

    Two points: First, if I’m doing science, I’m going to either (A) assume evolution to be true (though I believe it isn’t) and so add to the explanatory power of our current scientific theories (which will likely lead to advances, potentially including technological or medical advances), or (B) quixotically try to uncover a flaw in evolutionary theory or some related and strongly-held theory which will explain why science has gone down the wrong track.

    Frankly, I think it is unlikely that creationism will ever be the dominant theory in science again. One of the benefits of evolutionary theory (for the scientist) is that it leaves room for further scientific study. Creationism moves our explanation outside the physical world, putting obvious limits on science (not necessarily a bad thing, from my point of view, though I can understand why many scientists would see it that way).

    (2) Science changes. One of the best things we can teach children to keep them from putting too much faith in new science is how science works and changes. When we teach them how strongly we believed in geocentrism and flogiston, and how well we were able to explain things with those theories, they will perhaps see the value of our scientific theories without feeling the need to embrace them as true descriptions of the world.

    If we have confidence that the Bible is the unchanging word of God, we should be able to embrace science (and evolution) as a highly successful tool for increasing our capacity for fruitfulness in the world without thinking the explanatory power of any one theory or set of theories will be permanent or in any way call the authority and accuracy of God’s word (including six-day creation) into question.

  6. “If the data is overwhelming in favor of evolution” makes the rest of the statement pretty much moot. There is little data that supports new species arising from old. ‘Micro evolution’ is a misnomer. My Boston Terrier is as much a dog as a Great Dane, but they look incredibly different. Also, since Christ said the world was made in 6 days, I’ll stick with 6 day ex-nihilo creation.

  7. John,
    I think you are under-estimating what is taken as data. Evolution is supposed to be an explanation for certain complex features of the world, answering questions such as, ‘why are there such well-working complex features in biological organisms?’ and ‘why is there such variety in the world along with strong similarities between animal species?’

    To the extent that evolutionary theory answers these questions better than other theories (by also explaining puzzling features like vestigial organs), evolution has data.

    You’re last sentence hits on something stronger. How should we value scientific data? Well, it may be helpful in increasing our fruitfulness in the world, but it is not even in the same neighborhood as our Lord’s good book.

  8. “The formal completeness of the logical theory of Darwinism is fairly matched, therefore, by its almost ludicrous actual incompetence for the work asked of it.”
    -B.B. Warfield

  9. “And that is the key problem with B. Who was the first man?”

    To my mind, the most obvious answer, from a biblical perspective, is he who bore the imago Dei. Quite irrelevant to the equation is whether or not there were other bipedal hominids walking around from which the first human couple derived, or even whether or not option B is scientifically accurate. Sure, there’s some tough theological questions that arise as a result of the veracity of option B, but the probability of being asked tough questions isn’t good enough to predetermine something isn’t true. This is precisely what Warfield asked when faced with all of this, regardless of his particular confessional stance: Is it true? That’s the real question.

  10. I think that it may be wise to have some kind of humble orthodoxy when coming at this issue.

    Concerning differing views in gray areas, Christians are called to be convinced in their own mind and to be tolerant of others with different views (although not in that of which comprimises the Gospel). In light of this, I think that, metaphysically, the story of creation has fallen into much of the same trap as eschatology: one of extraordinary pride and presumption. I mean, if Augustine disagrees with the modern interpretation of Genesis 1 (and that was a key to him becoming a Christian), then perhaps we should reconsider our thoughts on orthodoxy and the attached evangelical view of Genesis 1 and its interpretation therein.

    As it is, we all know crazies that state: “The end of the world is here! I read [so and so…] in the news paper and it says in Revelation/Daniel [so and so…] that this was going to happen!” Whereas that may or may not be true, I think that scripture also says that no person knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return, not even Christ himself. In such a way does many a person’s view of Revelation show forth a vast amount of pride as does may people’s view of creation.

    The only difference is that one happens to be culturally acceptable and the other is not of which is a tragedy.

    Perhaps it may be wise to consider what scripture does say and what it does not say:


    1) God created the world and actively governs it by the Word of his power for the purposed of magnifying His glory and enjoying Himself forever.

    2) God documents (through Moses) the creation account in his inerrant and infallible Word.

    3) God created time and created the world in time and created the world over time (several ‘days’ of reasonably arguable durations).

    4) God created man in the sixth ‘day’ and rested in the ‘seventh.’ Thus we are in the last and sixth day of creation.

    5) God specifically knows and creates specific creatures in is intimately involved in the governing of their lives and existence. He glorifies Himself in man through the creation of man in a specific kind of His image and He then glorifies Himself through man through the showing forth of several of His communicable attributes as well as through the Gospel and man’s recognition of God’s incommunicable attributes.


    In this, I do not see evolution formally excluded in scripture. If data suggests that God created man in a certain way then, perhaps, it would be wise to admit that God could have done it that way (not necessarily that he did.

    While it is very reasonable (not to mention commanded in scripture) to mourn and be angry when God’s glory is at stake and to be jealous for God to be glorified in a positive way where he is not, it is not reasonable to do exactly the same thing that one’s opponents are doing in God’s defense. What do I mean?

    Well, if Neo-Darwinian evolution describes the Godless random incremental advantageous mutation in things over time as to show humanity’s origin, that would be considered prideful and arrogant as God obviously would be in the picture however God decided to create the world. To battle that with a presumptuous view of scripture (this word says [so and so…] in the Hebrew translation and it means [so and so…] therefore [so and so…]) is also prideful and arrogant and really does not seem to glorify God.

    A more humble and God-glorifying way to state something would be along the lines of: “Well, I don’t know how God chose to create the world. He is an incomprehensible, infinite, and holy God after all. But in seeing that, if God is who He says He is, then however he created the world would be in accordance to consistency with His goals as presented in scripture and with His account as presented in scripture (of which the account is not too specific). So, I admit that evolution could be true, but the philosophical strings attached certainly are not.”

    Along these lines, perhaps if Christians decided to show forth the glory of God in their work (instead of building temples of pride and arrogance like the Creation Museum), then I would imagine that they would come up with some pretty amazing things, like the cure to cancer, as God would bless them in their work as God would be glorified by their aim.

    Just a few thoughts. I hope that I did not step on too many toes as I love this blog and I love the Gospel-centered nature of it therein. Have a blessed day!

  11. Evolutionary theory is bankrupt. Evolutionists cannot explain how the universe began or how life began or what the mechanism is that causes things to “evolve”.

    It is very possible for scientists to be wrong and to be biased and to be so for a very long time (witness the current man-made global-warming debate). I’ve yet to understand why an evolutionist would care about climate change or animal extinctions – isn’t this just another aspect of the survival of the fittest?

    Flood Catastrophism and a Mature Creation seem to fit the evidence (and Scripture) better.

  12. Calvinistic,

    I think you are right that evolutionary theory doesn’t explain the origin of the universe or of life. I don’t think it pretends to have an explanation of these; evolutionary theory is separate or separable from theories about the origins of life and the universe.

    The claim that there is no explanation of the mechanisms of evolution is a little more questionable. Genetic mutation and selective retention seem to be the mechanisms by which things evolve (again, treating this as a helpful explanatory hypothesis, rather than a true description of the world). How and why those work may be questionable (I’m not up to date on the modern synthesis). But I don’t think claiming that we don’t know the underlying operation of these mechanisms makes the theory bankrupt. We actually know very little about gravity, for instance. It serves to explain certain phenomena by the inverse square law, but we don’t know what the underlying mechanism of gravity are. I don’t think this makes gravity bankrupt.

    Perhaps some examples of phenomena that mature creation do not explain terribly well are vestigial organs, geological findings regarding the age of the earth, and similarities of cross-species body structure/organs. (I’m also assuming there are scientific reasons for uniformitarianism’s triumph over catastrophism, but I’m not familiar with the details of that revolution)

    Now, if our science was perfect, then I firmly believe it would perfectly support our Biblical accounts. There must be a number of unknown errors in our overall paradigm that are skewing ongoing research. Particularly, I hold geological dating methods suspect, but it’s possible that this is even in principle impossible to correct (If, for instance, carbon breaks down differently over thousands of years than it does over hundreds of years). Frankly, the scientific community is just fine accepting a theory that may be false, if it explains the pertinent data. I think that’s the best we can ask of science.

    I think I fundamentally agree with you about most of these issues. I’m just not as optimistic that these errors (whatever they are) leading scientists to see support for evolutionary theory and uniformitarian geology can be corrected, nor do I see a terribly pressing need for them to be corrected so long as we realize that science is only providing explanation and not necessarily truth.

  13. Also, and I’ll let it lie after this, it is interesting that Waltke argues that we have to trust God’s providence and therefore embrace scientific findings, but then goes on to say that for the church not to embrace scientific findings would put us in fear of being marginalized. I guess God’s providence only gets you so much.

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