Massive New Critique of Theistic Evolution; Editor Explains Its Importance

By Sean McDowell Published on November 14, 2017

J.P. Moreland is one of the top 50 most influential living philosophers. He is a distinguished professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, and is one of my all-time favorite teachers. Today he is a colleague and a good friend.

I recently had the opportunity to interview him about his soon-to-be-released book, Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. If you follow current discussions about the intersection of science and faith, then this is a book you need to get, study and discuss with others. In the meantime, enjoy this brief interview with Professor Moreland.

SEAN MCDOWELL: At this stage in your career, what motivated you to co-edit such a massive book (over 1,000 pages) critiquing theistic evolution?

J.P. MORELAND: At my age, I realize daily that I have less time than I used to and I want to make my time count. And as a Barna research study showed, one of the six top reasons people—especially young people — are leaving the church is that the church is not keeping up with or teaching people how to interact with science.

The sad thing is that Christian scholars are, in fact, doing just this. The quality of Christian literature is getting better and better when it comes to showing that the Bible gets it right. Both theistic and naturalistic evolution are rationally inferior to Intelligent Design theory theologically, philosophically and scientifically. But people don’t know this, so a group of us decided to do the book Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical and Theological Critique.

The quality of Christian literature is getting better and better when it comes to showing that the Bible gets it right. … But people don’t know this.

MCDOWELL: How would you assess the current debate over theistic evolution, creation and intelligent design?

MORELAND: As William Dembski told me recently, Intelligent Design theory has won the argument against Theistic and Naturalistic Evolution, but they have not won the war. Why? Because, sadly, people form their opinions about things based on whether those ideas are supported by respected universities. And ID theorists have not been able to get any science department in any major university to have an ID research center to formulate and test ID ideas. What are they afraid of?

This reaction is a result of irrational, group-think and academic embarrassment. But as far as the arguments go, ID is an explanatorily powerful and highly verified group of theories. At the same time, more and more secular scientists are admitting that Darwinism is taking on more and more water.

MCDOWELL: In one of your chapter titles, you say that theistic evolution “robs Christians of confidence that the Bible is a source of knowledge.” What do you mean by this and what support do you offer for this claim?

Many on both sides of the Atlantic are already calling our book “magisterial.”

Theistic Evolution is a revisionist treatment of the Bible. It’s based on the idea that if the Bible is going to be even partly credible, it must be constantly revised to keep up with what contemporary science says. Thus, Theistic Evolution supports scientism, the view that the hard sciences are the only or vastly superior way of knowing reality.

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This leads believers to wonder what will be revised next? The soul being replaced by the brain? Same-sex actions being determined by genes and brain chemistry and, thus, not immoral?

By supporting scientism and revising the early chapters of Genesis, TE contributes to scientism. And scientism creates a cultural climate in which biblical and theological claims cannot be taken seriously; they must be accepted by blind faith.

MCDOWELL: What makes the new book Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique different from previous books of this sort?

Many on both sides of the Atlantic are already calling our book “magisterial,” “the best book ever written against theistic and naturalistic evolution,” “the most authoritative critique of theistic evolution available.” The book contains chapters written by around 12 world-class scholars in European universities and about the same number of North American scholars. Each one is writing in his/her area of expertise.

No one with an open mind can look at the credentials of those who contribute to our volume and say that ID theory is foolish or irrational. They may still not buy ID theory, but from now on, it would be intellectually dishonest to claim ID theory is anti-intellectual or an expression of blind faith.

All we ask is that people read the arguments in the book with an open mind. If that happens, we authors believe many people will change their thinking.

MCDOWELL: I can imagine critics saying that this book positions Christians as being against science. Is this true? How would you respond to such a critique?

It would be foolish to say our book is against science, since 40% of the book is cutting edge science written by well-established and well-published scientists! Christians aren’t against science; they’re against scientism. Moreover, our book alerts Christians and non-Christians that the case for ID theory is powerful and persuasive. It shows that the case against Theistic Evolution is very strong, indeed.

If our readers know a friend or relative who can’t become a Christian because of evolution, or a Christian who has accepted Theistic Evolution, please get them a copy of our book and ask them to read it with an open mind.

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 

Originally published at SeanMcDowell.org. Used by permission

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  • GPS Daddy

    This is a good thing. Theistic evolution is trying to marry two worldviews that are diametrically opposed. You cannot marry a worldview that says there is no God needed and a worldview that says God is intimately involved.

    • So what is wrong with the proposition that evolution was orchestrated by God? The concept of God implies some sort of “intelligence” lurking behind all the Creation, “the man behind the curtain,” so to speak. So how exactly does “Intelligent Design” differ from “Theistic Evolution”? This article doesn’t say.

      In my opinion, proponents of “Intelligent Design” simply wish to muddy the waters between religion and science. The term “Intelligent Design” sure sounds lofty, but it’s still nonsense. If proponents of “ID” ultimately think that Adam was created from dirt, and Eve was created from one of his ribs, it’s simply as nutty as a the “young-Earth” creationism that posits that Life, the Universe, and Everything was magicked into existence just 6,000 years ago.

      • Jx5austin

        …and the idea that once-upon-a-time-but-never-since life sprang from non-life…now that’s a winning proposition?!?!?!?!?

        • It’s called organic chemistry. There are plenty of books on the subject. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen has a very natural physical propensity to combine, and given water and sources of energy, they will combine into forms of increasing complexity. Life eventually springs from there.

          If you want to say that “God” created the rules of organic chemistry, that’s fine.

        • It’s called organic chemistry. There are plenty of books on the subject. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen has a very natural physical propensity to combine, and given water and sources of energy, they will combine into forms of increasing complexity. Other elements such as phosphorous, chlorine, and sulfur, even metals like iron and calcium, can add to that complexity. Life eventually springs from there. Life can be simple, life can be complex, but there’s nothing supernatural about it.

          If you want to say that “God” created the rules of organic chemistry, that’s fine. It’s no skin off my back.

          • GPS Daddy

            >>It’s called organic chemistry

            Really Chuck? Scientists are readily admitting that how life started on Darwinian evolution is a total mystery. Organic chemistry does not even begin to answer the questions that must be answered.

          • We can’t go billions of years back in time to examine what the earliest precursors of life consisted of, so I supposed you can gloat about that.

          • GPS Daddy

            Lets explore that, Chuck. That’s the whole point. We cannot go back there. Organic chemistry does not explain how life can come from no life today. We cannot take non-living substance into the lab, apply what we know from organic chemistry and come out with life. If we could that would be testable. Hence, we could apply the scientific method of investigation.

            So what you have really stated by saying that organic chemistry is an explanation is that you assume this to be true. Its part of that base of assumptions you make about life. You have faith that even though organic chemistry does not show this today it is the explanation of life.

          • Hi Chuck:

            Eugene Koonin, a recognised expert in the field of evolutionary and computational biology, has done a lot of research on the origin and early development of life. He authored a book entitled The Logic of Chance: The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution. I found a PDF copy online and read all 500+ pages.

            If you read the book or even just a few of the later chapters you will learn a lot and get a good feel for the complexity of life. Being a good secularist, Koonin rejects theistic explanations for life’s origins. However based on his research the only alternative he thinks would work is the most extreme form of the multiverse hypothesis–the Many Worlds in One version. He said, “Thus, spontaneous emergence of complex systems that would have to be considered virtually impossible in a finite universe becomes not only possible, but inevitable under MWO.” (p. 385).

            Unfortunately (for some people), the MWO hypothesis requires as much faith–if not a lot more–than belief in God.

          • Yes, Eugene Koonin is quite the favorite of the Discovery Institute.

          • You can’t come up with something better than that?

            “An association fallacy is an informal inductive fallacy of the hasty-generalization or red-herring type and which asserts, by irrelevant association … that qualities of one thing are inherently qualities of another. Two types of association fallacies are sometimes referred to as guilt by association and honor by association.”

            You’re slipping, Chuck.

      • GPS Daddy

        >>So what is wrong with the proposition that evolution was orchestrated by God?

        See my original post for the answer to that question.

        >>If proponents of “ID” ultimately think that Adam was created from dirt,
        and Eve was created from one of his ribs, it’s simply as nutty as a the
        “young-Earth”

        Hmmm, I guess a being sooo powerful to have created the universe just could not do it the way the bible claims…. because Chuck thinks its nuts.

        • You prefer faith in an intangible, invisible world of angels and demons and gods and prophecies. My antenna doesn’t pick up that frequency, sorry. I have to content myself with the hard realities of life. But they aren’t boring. Scientific inquiry about Life, the Universe, and Everything are actually quite exhilarating.

          • GPS Daddy

            You may like the “science” your drawn too. But more and more the “science” you are drawn too is being shown to be inadequate. If you were really about seeking truth then you should be seriously questioning Darwinian Evolution. The whole issue of life being based on information is a serious detractor to all explanations that are materially-only based.

            As far as the hard realities of life I do not think you truly engage them. You are affected by them. But you rationalize the harsh realities away.

            Here are areas that I see you doing this in:

            1. Meaning in life. You do find meaning in your life. Thats clear. But that does not follow from a materialistic view of life. If neutrons, protons and electrons are all that exist then where is the purpose? Eventually you will be dead. Eventually the universe will “die” in the heat death of the universe. What every you thought was meaningful is an illusion. So your content to living an illusion.

            2. I’m sure you “burn” when you see what you think is injustice. If you don’t then I hope you go see a counselor. But the worldview you hold to cares NOTHING about the injustice you burn within from. Yet, that does not seem to click with you.

            3. You spend a lot of time at this sight. Why? To justify what you believe? If you really did hold to the worldview you claim then why waste time here? Go live life. You don’t have must of it left before the illusion of your purpose ceases to exist.

          • I’m here just to keep you on your toes. Is a comment section only for people to preach to the choir?

          • GPS Daddy

            Na… I’ve been around long enough to know when someone is piling it on.

    • Alexander Hamilton

      Even though I personally believe theistic evolution is a cop out (and clearly contradicts the Bible), there’s nothing about evolutionary theory that tells us it wasn’t directed by God.

      • GPS Daddy

        I disagree. Darwinian evolution is predicated on being undirected. This is in stark contrast to the biblical God. Its also in direct contradiction to information being the basis of life. Saying that God “used” evolution to bring life is a statement of faith not science. We have no evidence that one life form can evolve into another. In order to say this one MUST assume first that “evolution” is true. Then interpret the “evidence” in that way.

        But then you have the problem of now having to do theological gymnastics with theistic evolution to get around Gen 1 when God says “after their own kind”…

        • Alexander Hamilton

          I disagree. Darwinian evolution is predicated on being undirected.

          I do agree that scientists assume that Darwinian evolution is undirected. However it is hard to see how they could refute the notion that evolution only appears random but that it is actually directed by God. I don’t think this is a good argument, but I don’t see how it can be disproven. It also helps to highlight the difference between theistic evolution and ID:
          – Theistic evolution: Any indicator of design is undetectable. The “rules” of science prohibit the exploration of such a possibility.
          – Intelligent Design: Design is theoretically detectable. There’s no reason to believe that Design cannot be detected scientifically.

          Intelligent design is clearly the superior contender as it makes testable claims (which is also why evolutionists get so emotional about the theory – because it directly challenges their preconceived notions).

          This is in stark contrast to the biblical God. Its also in direct contradiction to information being the basis of life. Saying that God “used” evolution to bring life is a statement of faith not science.

          I agree.

          We have no evidence that one life form can evolve into another. In order to say this one MUST assume first that “evolution” is true. Then interpret the “evidence” in that way.

          I agree in the macro sense. I know what you mean, but atheists love trying to trip up theists using word games. Evolutionists seem to jump from change within a kind (changes in finch beaks from one generation to the next) to the assumption that therefore everything must have come about through this process. Totally agree that it is an assumption, an act of blind faith.

          But then you have the problem of now having to do theological gymnastics with theistic evolution to get around Gen 1 when God says “after their own kind”…

          Yeah, this is why I find Theistic Evolution to be such an embarrassingly weak and silly theory. 1) It isn’t testable (and therefore gives the false appearance that theism isn’t testable). 2) It isn’t plausibly backed up by scripture. It is unfortunate that the modern impulse among “Christian” academics is to just call a biblical text allegorical if it doesn’t support their assumptions, worldview or the views of their academic community.

          • GPS Daddy

            >>Any indicator of design is undetectable.

            A child sees design. It takes “P’s”, “h’s” and “D’s” to persuade one that design is “hidden”.

            I agree with the rest of your post.

  • So “intelligent design” isn’t QUITE the same as “theistic evolution.” This column isn’t really clear HOW, except of course to say, “BUY THIS BOOK.”
    It’s always amusing how young-Earth creationists bicker with old-Earth creationists, theistic evolution proponents fight with intelligent design proponents … while in the meantime scientists continue learning more and more about evolution and cosmology.

    • Charles Burge

      Such as learning that the universe shouldn’t exist at all if the big bang theory were true?

      newsweek com/universe-should-not-exist-cern-scientists-discover-692500

      • The term “Big Bang” is a bit old-fashioned, but cosmic inflation is hardly a theory anymore. The article you refer to is about how matter and antimatter SHOULD exist in equal proportions, and the Universe would theoretically annihilate itself, and yet there’s very little antimatter. It’s one of the great unsolved problems in physics, but like all problems, it’s being worked on. There’s a very interesting new experiment I heard about recently that aims to provide more insight into this. Google “SuperNEMO” if you’d like to find out more about it.

        Don’t you love science? I sure do. I know there’s a lot of people who think that the Bible is the only science textbook we really need, but that’s just depressing.

        • Charles Burge

          I do love science, but I’m also aware of its limitations. For example, science has no way to measure or observe the metaphysical or spiritual realm, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It’s sad that most scientists embrace materialism, and the main reason for that is that they reject a priori that God exists. In other words, they let their hearts dictate how their minds process the available information. I happen to think that the Christian worldview fits our observations better than a materialist worldview.

          Regarding the Big Bang (or whatever you prefer to call it), even some secular scientists are saying that it doesn’t work well as a model, yet they tend to get ignored and brushed aside. When groupthink prevails over honest debate, that’s bad for science in general.

          • Can you point me to what those secular scientists you refer to are saying about the inflationary model? I am always interested in reading other points of view.

          • Charles Burge

            rense com/general53/bbng.htm

          • Jeff Rense? REALLY? You embarrass yourself. I may as well get my science from Alex Jones.

            Eric J. Lerner has, for some 30 years, been carrying the torch for a harebrained theory called “plasma cosmology.” Cosmologists and astrophysicists who have evaluated plasma cosmology have rejected it because it does not match the observations of astrophysical phenomena as well as current cosmological theory. Very few papers supporting plasma cosmology have appeared in the literature since the mid-1990s.

          • Charles Burge

            I don’t know who Jeff Rense is. That was just the first place I found the letter. Turns out it was first published in New Scientist in 2004.

            I think my original point still stands, which is that there is a pervasive groupthink in the scientific community which shuts down honest debate and squelches the kind of criticism that serves to strengthen and refine arguments.

          • It’s not “groupthink.” It’s consensus.

          • GPS Daddy

            >>It’s consensus

            You like to push straw-man arguments against Christianity don’t you? Yet you can’t admit that the worldview you hold to cares NOTHING about the injustice you burn within from.

          • The injustices I burn within from? I have no idea what you are talking about.

          • GPS Daddy

            Surly my comment is not that obtuse. But let me be clear: I’m sure injustices that make you very angry. Things you believe tot he bottom of your person that is an injustice that goes “unpunished.” Yet, your world view cases nothing about it. You may burn with anger but your worldview does not care one whit.

        • GPS Daddy

          >>but cosmic inflation is hardly a theory anymore

          Only among those scientists that want to do away with actually verifying scientific theories in the lab. There are actually some top physicists that proposing we do away with the requirement of verification and instead rely on their P’s, h’s and D’s. For the rest of the scientific community that actually wants to seek truth the Standard Big-bang model is still king of the hill.

          • Cosmic inflation is a fact. Research being done at the Large Hadron Collider is helping us learn more and more about the earliest moments of the Universe.

          • GPS Daddy

            >>Cosmic inflation is a fact

            And? How does this affect Ken Ham? How does that impact the fact that the big bang is real which means:

            1. The time-space continuum has a beginning.
            2. The big bang MUST be fined tuned for life to exist on planet earth.

            Gen 1:1. “In the beginning, God created…”

  • Alexander Hamilton

    Very good article! I really liked the point about how theistic evolution is basically a capitulation to the outmoded philosophy of scientism. I never thought of it in those terms. Although I don’t think this book will have as big an impact as it deserves to (most western “Christians” today have a thoroughly secularised outlook and give only passing respect to the Bible), I do think it is necessary. I’m certainly intrigued by this book!

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