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PROGRESSIVE CREATION: WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

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  • Kurt Streutker <kurt_streutker@yahoo.com>
    Folks, statement to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope John Paul II lent the authority of the Roman Catholic Church to the theory of evolution, saying
    Message 1 of 3 , Mar 3, 2003
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      Folks, statement to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope John
      Paul II lent the authority of the Roman Catholic Church to the theory
      of evolution, saying that ". . . fresh knowledge leads to recognition
      of the theory of evolution as more than just a hypothesis."

      Further remarks seem to indicate that the Pope was
      espousing "theistic evolution," the theory that God, over immense
      periods of time, used evolutionary processes to create all physical
      life-forms from a single living organism. When at last a suitable
      hominid was produced (what the Pope called "pre-existent living
      material"), God allegedly deposited within it a human soul,
      thus "creating" the first man. Whether or not this was the Adam
      referred to in Genesis (and in the Gospels and epistles as well),
      remains unclear.

      For many orthodox Catholics and Protestants, these concessions to
      evolutionary theory --echoed by numerous evangelical leaders as well-
      -are both surprising and deeply troubling. They are surprising
      because the "fresh evidence" we are aware of is contrary to
      evolutionism, rather than favorable to it. Space does not permit me
      to discuss it here, but interested readers of a scientific bent need
      only consult such works as Evolution, a Theory in Crisis (Michael
      Denton), Darwin on Trial (Phillip Johnson), Darwin's Black Box
      (Michael Behe), Origin of the Species, Revisited, (ed., William
      Ball), Evolution: The Fossils Still say No! (Duane Gish), to realize
      that much has changed since the heyday of Neo-Darwinism back in the
      1950's. When respected British paleontologist Colin Patterson
      admitted in 1981 that he did not know one thing about evolution that
      was certainly true, he spoke for many of his less candid peers. One
      could wish that news of his refreshing honesty had reached the
      Vatican.

      My concern, however, is for the spiritual implications of the Pope's
      remarks-- which are troubling indeed. I will state my thesis
      bluntly: theistic evolution is a serious departure from the historic
      Christian faith, one that represents a grave threat to the spiritual
      well-being of God's people and the
      effectiveness of their mission in world. It should be resisted, not
      recommended, by leaders in the Church.

      Doubtless many would call this alarmism. "What difference does it
      make," they ask, "how God created? The important thing is that He
      created." To this oft-repeated question let me offer a brief,
      theologically oriented response.

      To begin with, we must understand that human beings are "wired for a
      world-view." By this I mean that God has implanted deep within our
      hearts the need to find answers to the fundamental questions of
      human existence--"Where did I come from? Why am I here? How should I
      live? Why is there evil and suffering in the world? Where is history
      going? What will happen when I die?"

      All people--especially young people--yearn for satisfying answers to
      these questions, and in our modern world the seeker for truth
      certainly does not lack for world-view options. Naturalism, Marxism,
      New Age pantheism, and a host of theistic religions all present
      themselves to inquiring minds for consideration.

      Historic Christianity enthusiastically enters this fray,
      passionately arguing that in the Bible we have a revelation from God
      that supplies not just a world-view, but the world-view: the truth
      about the ultimate questions of life. I would submit that second to
      the Lord Himself, this world-view is the Church's greatest treasure.
      And my concern is that in attempting to adjust it to modern theories
      of cosmic and biological evolution, we are in danger of destroying
      it altogether.

      To explain why, let me use an illustration familiar to the children
      of our church. The message of the Bible may be likened to a life-
      line which God throws out to a spiritually drowning humanity. This
      life-line is comprised of three strands of truth, indissolubly
      braided together: creation, fall, and redemption. Very
      significantly, theistic evolution undermines all three.

      1. Creation: The first strand is creation. The Biblical view is that
      God supernaturally created "out of nothing" a beautiful, harmonious
      world in six days. The brief creation week perfectly suited His
      purpose, which was to provide a home and a stage for the chief actor
      in the forthcoming drama of history, man- the creature uniquely made
      in His own image and likeness. Indeed, so special was man that God
      gave him prince-like authority over all nature, commissioning him
      lovingly to "subdue" it for his own enjoyment and the greater glory
      of the Creator, (Gen. 1:24-28)

      Here, then, in the creation account, is a child's first exposure to
      the wisdom, goodness, and power of God, as well as to the dignity and
      uniqueness of man in the creation. But theistic evolution (and so-
      called "progressive creationism" as well) undermines all this. It
      denies, of course, the plain biblical chronology and sequence of
      God's creative acts (Gen 1,2, Ex. 20:8-11). But even more seriously,
      it attacks the very character of God, identifying His creative
      activity with the violent, painful, ly, and often purposeless
      course of evolution. Furthermore, it obscures the majestic "creation
      hierarchy" that God established in the beginning--God over man, and
      man over nature, with all three dwelling together in peace (see,
      e.g., Ps 8).
      Accordingly, theistic evolution subtly undermines the dignity and
      sanctity of human life (a theme dear to the Pope's heart),
      transforming the prince of creation into a virtual after-thought of
      the creation process, and tracing his physical origins to the animal
      kingdom rather than to the immediate hand of God.

      2. Fall: The second strand is the fall. According to Scripture, the
      first man, Adam, dwelt in Eden as the father and representative of
      the human family. When he failed God's simple test of love and
      obedience, the entire race fell with him into guilt, indwelling sin,
      sickness, suffering, and (Romans 5:12f). Not only this, but
      nature itself was also brought down, so that henceforth the ground
      was cursed, the elements disturbed, and the animal kingdom wounded,
      (Gen. 3:17). In the words of the apostle Paul, through man's sin the
      whole creation was "subjected to futility" and "enslaved
      to corruption." As a result, the whole creation waits and
      groans for "the revealing of the sons of God" in resurrection glory
      at the return of Christ--for as in
      sin, so in final redemption: the destiny of the creation is
      inextricably bound to the destiny of man, (Romans 8:20-22).

      This biblical teaching on the fall supplies a
      reasonable and spiritually comforting explanation for the presence of
      evil and suffering in the world--an absolutely crucial component of
      any satisfactory world-view. Furthermore, because it pictures sinful
      passions as alien to original human nature, it motivates us to
      resist them, directs us to seek help from Him who is opposed to them,
      and encourages us to believe that, in due season, those who fight to
      the good fight will be delivered from them.

      Theistic evolution, however, again throws all into confusion. As
      mentioned earlier, it implicitly makes God the author of suffering
      and , thereby diminishing our sense of His holiness and
      goodness. Furthermore, despite brave theological efforts to rescue
      an historical Adam from the torrent of
      evolutionism, theistic evolution will always incline us to identify
      ourselves with the (fallen) animal kingdom. This in turn beclouds
      our sense of man's direct responsibility for the presence of moral
      evil in the world, as well as for the management of it. (see Gen. 4:6-
      7). In sum, by obscuring both man's origin and fall, theistic
      evolution damages the foundation of ethical aspiration--an
      incalculable loss for society at large, and most especially for the
      effective spiritual training of our young.

      3. Redemption: The third strand of the biblical life-line is
      redemption. Though the theology of redemption has humbled the
      greatest of minds of the Church, its basic truths are readily
      understood even by a child. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the
      world to become "the last Adam," (Romans 5:12, ff., 1 Cor. 15: 45
      49). The former Adam "sold" mankind into sin and the peril of
      eternal judgment. The latter, in behalf of all who trust in Him,
      paid the debt to God's justice, thus "buying them back" into God's
      family through His own life, , and resurrection. The rich
      inheritance of these believing sons and daughters includes
      forgiveness of sins, fellowship with God, spiritual transformation,
      and hope of eternal, resurrection life in a glorious new world that
      Christ will create at His return, (Phil. 3:20-21).

      We find, then, that the infrastructure of the message of redemption
      is the stupendous revelation of the two Adams--a revelation which
      definitely presupposes a recent creation. But again, theistic
      evolution strikes at its very heart. This is because the compromise
      with evolution almost inevitably leads to a denial both of the
      historicity of Adam and his ruinous fall. Thus, as a sequel to the
      Pope's remarks, we learned from Catholic theologian R.P. McBrien
      that, "No Scripture scholar today would say we are literally
      descended from two people," (Time Magazine, 11/4/96). Evolutionism
      clearly undermines the first Adam. But what, we must ask, is the
      effect of this on the Last Adam, whose very mission, according to
      Scripture, was to do what the first Adam failed to do, and to undo
      what the first Adam had so disastrously done?!

      Insightful critics of theistic evolution have often commented on its
      inherent anti- supernaturalism. For this reason, the Pope--and his
      evangelical advocates (e.g., David Neff, Christianity Today,1/6/97)--
      should pause to consider that an aversion to the supernatural in
      creation and fall will sooner or later infect our understanding of
      redemption as well. The tendency, of course, will be to direct the
      eye faith away from the cross and second coming of Christ towards a
      divinely directed evolutionary
      process.

      Interestingly, we already have an example of this tendency in the
      theology of Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin, who rejected
      the orthodox doctrines of creation, fall, redemption, heaven, and
      hell, in favor of the view that all humanity is gradually evolving
      towards a mystical, pantheistic union with God. Similarly, New Age
      theorist John White affirms, "The final appearance of
      the Christ will not be a man in the air before whom all must kneel.
      The final appearance of Christ will
      be an evolutionary event." (Understanding the Times,David Noebel, p.
      146)

      Conclusion: What difference does it make how we view creation? A
      very great difference indeed! For we find that theistic evolution,
      which at first glance seems a reasonable compromise with "science,"
      not only undermines the biblical doctrine of creation, but the
      entire biblical world-view. Those who would try to cut one strand
      out of God's truth should beware, lest they destroy His life-line
      altogether!

      Let me close, therefore, by affirming once again: next to the Lord
      Himself, the biblical world-view is the Church's greatest treasure
      and her greatest gift to the world. It unveils the glory of God,
      ennobles our understanding of man and nature, comfortingly explains
      our plight, lovingly guides us to our Redeemer, stimulates us to
      holy living, and encourages us with the hope of a better world to
      come.
      And the doctrine of a recent, supernatural creation is integral to
      all.

      Let us not, then, distort or discard any part of this great treasure
      in favor of the ever-changing opinions of science or philosophy.
      Indeed, is it not time to admit that evolutionism--whether
      naturalistic, theistic, or pantheistic--is the foundation from which
      the modern world system launches nearly every ideological attack
      against the faith of Christ? Here, brethren, is where the battle is
      raging in our time. Here, then, is where we are called to stand and
      fight.

      In His own day, and in His own fight, our Lord stood firm--and was
      therefore crowned a "faithful and true witness" to the truth of God,
      (Revelation 3:14). If we wish to share that crown, we are going to
      have to do the same.
    • richard williams <thinkcreation2002@yaho
      ... wrote: thank you for posting the essay. i had not found it yet in my studies. however, for the sake of being
      Message 2 of 3 , Mar 3, 2003
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        --- In RTB_Discussion_Group@yahoogroups.com, "Kurt Streutker
        <kurt_streutker@y...>" <kurt_streutker@y...> wrote:


        thank you for posting the essay. i had not found it yet in my studies.
        however, for the sake of being complete, i would have appreciated a
        link to the original, whole essay at:
        http://www.rae.org/theistic.html



        richard williams

        richard williams.................... thinkcreation2002@...
        http://fastucson.net/~rmwillia ......creation evolution homepage
        http://rmwilliamsjr.blogspot.com ....blog
        http://myhq.com/public/t/h/thinkcreation ...sorted CED bookmark list
        http://myhq.com/public/r/w/rwilliam ........unsorted CURRENT bookmark list
        http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CEreadingstudy/join .... reading group
      • Kurt Streutker <kurt_streutker@yahoo.com>
        Thanks for that link, Pastor Dean Davis is a friend of mine and had it on my email. ... studies. ... bookmark list
        Message 3 of 3 , Mar 3, 2003
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          Thanks for that link, Pastor Dean Davis is a friend of mine and had
          it on my email.

          --- In RTB_Discussion_Group@yahoogroups.com, "richard williams
          <thinkcreation2002@y...>" <thinkcreation2002@y...> wrote:
          > --- In RTB_Discussion_Group@yahoogroups.com, "Kurt Streutker
          > <kurt_streutker@y...>" <kurt_streutker@y...> wrote:
          >
          >
          > thank you for posting the essay. i had not found it yet in my
          studies.
          > however, for the sake of being complete, i would have appreciated a
          > link to the original, whole essay at:
          > http://www.rae.org/theistic.html
          >
          >
          >
          > richard williams
          >
          > richard williams.................... thinkcreation2002@y...
          > http://fastucson.net/~rmwillia ......creation evolution homepage
          > http://rmwilliamsjr.blogspot.com ....blog
          > http://myhq.com/public/t/h/thinkcreation ...sorted CED bookmark list
          > http://myhq.com/public/r/w/rwilliam ........unsorted CURRENT
          bookmark list
          > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CEreadingstudy/join .... reading group
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