As I write this, I am preparing to participate in the Skokie Library’s panel discussion of religious leaders, interacting with the Smithsonian Institute’s Exploring Human Origins exhibit currently on display there. If you’re a follower of Jesus, I would certainly appreciate your prayers as I get ready for this exciting event. If you’re in the area, consider coming on on Monday, September 19th at 7PM to enjoy what promises to be a lively discussion.
Does the Bible contradict Darwinian evolutionary theory? I believe it does. Some disagree. But what if they do contradict one another? Would that be a good reason to give up belief in the Bible? No; as I intend to show, there is good reason to the Bible, even if it does conflict with the accepted “scientific” paradigm of Darwinian evolutionary theory.
To begin with, I will freely admit my dependence on God’s revelation in Scripture. The truth of the Bible is my most fundamental presupposition about reality, and I reason outward from there. As we will see, that’s a good thing–especially given the alternative.
So why doesn’t it matter whether the Bible and Darwinian evolutionary theory contradict? It is because belief in evolution means believing in rationalism. The problem is that rationalism ultimately collapses on itself and turns into irrationalism. And irrationalism similarly collapses on itself and turns back into rationalism again.* The belief system turns out to be totally incoherent. We’ll look at this issue in two stages.
Clear as mud yet? Read on.
It is a rule of logic that two contradictory propositions can not both be true.
If Bible and evolutionary theory contradict (which, again, is the issue we’re considering–whether or not they actually do contradict is beside the point), then to believe in evolution is to disbelieve, from the get-go, in the Bible. Because rejecting the Bible means rejecting the God of the Bible as the standard for truth, to reject the Bible in favor of evolution would be to subscribe to a kind of rationalism.
Rationalism, according to theologian and philosopher John Frame, is, “the view that the human mind is the final judge of truth and falsehood.” But remember that two contradictory propositions cannot both be true. Therefore the only way you can be sure that everything you think you know is not false is by knowing single fact in the universe. Unless you know every fact in the universe, for all you know there might be a fact out there that contradicts every single proposition you think you know.
As an ape evolved by time and chance alone after an extraordinarily long series of random mutations out of a sea of goo, you don’t know every fact in the universe. After all–why should an ape think he is omniscient!?
Therefore, for all you know, every single proposition you think you knowcould be contradicted by some fact out there.
This means you cannot actually be certain about anything in the world.
You are stuck in irrationalism: you are now forced to live in complete uncertainty and without any certain knowledge of anything at all.
This means that, even if evolution were true, you would have no good reason for thinking that you should believe it–because you could never actually be certain that you knew it (or anything else in the world).
Therefore, it doesn’t matter if the Bible and Darwinian evolutionary theory contradict. Because if evolution were true, and it did contradict with the Bible, then you couldn’t know that, or anything else. And this whole conversation is moot.
“Fine!” You may say. I can see that there’s no reason to believe in evolution, if it’s actually true. But I still can’t believe the Bible, because I am now an irrationalist. With my limited mind, I can’t know anything for certain–including that the Bible is true!”
Alright now, you’ve adopted irrationalism. Irrationalism, according to Frame, is, “A view of epistemology [the study of knowledge] that emphasizes the deficiencies of human reason, at the extreme denying the possibility of rational knowledge.”
And now, like a good irrationalist, you know that you know nothing for certain. Here’s the thing: you DO know some things for certain about the world. For example, you now know that you have no good reason for believing in evolution, if it is true (see above). You also know you exist. And if you insist that you really don’t know anything at all, well then I would simply ask, “Do you know that for certain?” See the problem? You’re asserting irrationalism with rationalistic certainty. You know that you don’t know.
Given that you do know some things for certain, and given that two contradictory statements can never both be true, there are only two possible options: either (a) you know everything–and therefore you are sure that there are no facts out there that contradict anything you think you know, or (b) God, who reveals Himself in the Bible, who actually does know everything and alone can be certain, has revealed some things to you–such that you can be certain.
So the fact that you have certainty at all in your life, about anything, presupposes the truth of the Bible, God’s revelation about Himself and the world.
To emphasize that point: because the Bible is true, we have certain knowledge about some things in the world.
Because the Bible says that every book, chapter and verse within itself is “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:15-16) we must presuppose that the Bible is true in its entirety. If we want to pick and choose which parts we will believe, we are substituting God’s standard of truth (Scripture) for our own fallible, fallen and incomplete knowledge. And then we’re right back to where we started.
So this is why it doesn’t matter whether Darwin’s evolutionary theory contradicts the Bible. Because the Bible is true. So if Darwin’s theory contradicts it, then Darwin’s theory is wrong.
How to Respond
The Bible is God’s truth, given to us through men whom the Holy Spirit spoke through. And in the Bible, God reveals to us his holy character, his grand design of the world and His plan for the people He has created. As a people, we have rebelled against God. We have sinned and pursued our own autonomy–strongly desiring to live in God’s world, enjoying God’s benefits, but without God. As we have just seen, the desire for autonomy does not work out very well. In fact, it collapses in on itself!
In the Bible, God warns sinful people like you and me of the eternal consequence of living a lifetime in rebellion against him: everlasting punishment in Hell (Romans 6:23) says, “the wages of sin is death….” In the same Bible (in fact in the same verse!) God offers sinners like us complete pardon and reconciliation–through the man that he has chosen as judge of the world. God publicly confirmed that this man is both the perfect standard of goodness, and the perfect judge of humanity, when he raised this man from the dead.
You guessed it: the judge and God’s perfect standard is Jesus. And it is He who offers you reconciliation to God–even right now as you read this! The Bible says to change your mind (“repent”) about your so-called independence from Him and completely trust your life to Jesus, believing that He is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). If you will turn and trust yourself to Jesus, God will forgive you and give you new life, that will last forever with Him.
I know. To someone who has believed that Darwinian evolutionary theory was true since grade school, the Gospel (good news) about Jesus is going to sound foolish at first. But remember, we’ve shown here that, even if the Bible contradicts evolution, you should still believe the Bible. The Gospel may seem to go against what you’ve come to see as common sense. But then again, compared to Darwin’s theory with its self-defeating rationalist-irrationalist cycle, the Gospel doesn’t sound like such nonsense after all, does it?
If you would like to know more, or you read this and have become a follower of Jesus, I would love to hear from you. Would you please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org?
Thanks, and God bless you.
*apologies to John Frame and Richard Pratt
Want to learn more?
Pratt, Richard L., Every Thought Captive (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1979).
Frame, John, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1987).
Bahnsen, Greg, “Greg Bahnsen vs Evolution” on YouTube.