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Vol. XIV • 1992

The Perils of Theistic Evolution
Jean-Marc Berthoud

Theistic evolutionism posits the death of living beings (animals and men) as the mechanism of evolution and places it prior to and independent of the Fall of man. It must be pointed out that this is true not only of the death of man but equally of the death of animals. On this point consider the implications, among others, of the spiritual uncleanness which accompanies the contact of man not only with human corpses but also with animal cadavers. Thus the death of an animal does not make one less unclean than that of a man. The existence of unclean animals also shows clearly the effects of sin upon the animal world. The sense of this uncleanness is evidently not simply that of hygiene or ritual. By sin death entered the world, the cosmos, not only the limited domain of the life of man. These two consequences of the sin of Adam, so strongly attested by the Pentateuch, could not have existed in this form in an entirely good world. In the theistic evolutionist system it is no longer sin which makes death penetrate the world, but rather death precedes the appearance of sin. Theistic evolutionism ultimately empties the atonement itself of its unique sense of salvation: the death of a Savior as propitiation for the sins of the world, since death is no longer the wages of sin.

It is one thing to affirm one's faith in the inerrancy of all the Bible, and another to apply it to the establishment of the biblical text and to the exegesis of the texts read, not according to the hypotheses of rational critique, of theological science or of literary studies, but according to the analogy of the faith itself. The debate in our evangelical circles is today about the interpretation of the Bible, and no longer only about the question of its inerrancy. Theistic evolutionism represents here a rationalistic temptation of the creative omnipotence of God. This is an aspect of evangelical rationalism which we must fight without respite in order to preserve the apostolic Faith for this generation.

In the modern world, at least since the Renaissance, we are confronted with an enemy whose constant aim behind divers fronts is the suppression of any and all true knowledge of God's transcendence. Philosophical idealism is a movement which moves manifestly in this direction, from Occam to Descartes, from Kant to Wittgenstein and Lacan. In politics the social contract of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau with its nominalist and atomist view of society is nothing else but a war machine to eliminate all transcendence in the political area. The juridical positivism of Kelsen and many others serves to eliminate all reference to a transcendent Law in the legislation of our nations.

Today the doctrine of creation is attacked everywhere in all areas: exegetical, philosophical, scientific, political, social, economic, etc. All these areas are the object of attacks by one single system of error. There is a coherence in this system of error which cannot be strictly compartmentalized within exclusively exegetical, biological, historical or philosophical aspects. If the creation order is correct in one particular domain, it can only be so in all the others as well, because creation is one. We must deal with a coherent universe, coherent because coming from the hands of One God, and not with multiverses, expressions of a polytheistic pluralism! The Word of God is normative for all areas. Thus, in all domains the created order is denied by an evolutionistic dialectic in favor of an evolution, a progress which brings about evidently the destruction of all creation order, of all divinely established order. Dr. A. J. Monty White explains this double coherence in his recent article, "The Doctrine of Creation: a Foundational Truth" (Judgment and Reconstruction, No. 6, Feb. 1990, P.O. Box 1, Whitby Y01 1HP, United Kingdom).

We find a remarkable analysis of the interference between the evolutionist hypothesis specifically applied to biology and the religious domain in the chapter entitled "The Evolutionistic Interpretation" of the latest work by the Anglican theologian P. E. Hughes, The True Image (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI 1989). In describing a tradition whose end result is the syncretism of Assisi, Toronto and Canterbury [recent multireligious conferences initiated by Pope John Paul II], he shows very well how biological evolutionism and an allegedly Christian spirituality can corrupt each other. Thus one arrives by the application of evolutionistic theories to spiritual realities at a neo-pagan universal syncretism, decked out today as the so-called New Age of which we hear so much. This is one of the dangers from this evolutionism which is as illegitimate in the sciences as it is in the religious domain. The dialectic of the Hegelian type is perverse as a mode of thought wherever it manifests itself. For if God is One, His universe must also be one, and truth, despite the various modes of knowledge, must also be one. The system of Teilhard de Chardin is built upon the dialectic myth of biological evolution applied to the spiritual world.

We see today everywhere the ravages brought about by the cockeyed yet immensely influential idea of a universal spiritual evolution, of a human mutation ending in a super-humanity with divine pretensions. Nazi evolutionism had already accustomed us to such aberrations. This evolution is supposed to lead us to that so-called transvaluation of all values predicted by Nietzsche, that demonic madman of genius. Here is the scope of the danger from today's biological as well as ideological evolutionism, for as Jean Brun shows so well, scientific or philosophical evolutionism are fruits of the same poisonous tree, the dialectic (Philosophie et Christianisme, Editions du Beffroi et L'Age d'Homme, Quebec et Lausanne, 1988), and dialectical irrational-ism is nothing else but the devil's claw.

It is because they sensed such a danger that men whose professional competency can hardly be denied, have reacted so strongly and perhaps awkwardly against evolutionism, men like John Whitcomb, Henry Morris, Monty White, A. E. Wilder Smith, Edgar H. Andrews, Rousas Rushdoony, Jean Brun, Pierre Marcel, Pierre Courthial, and so on. Here are responsible Christians who still dare warn the flock of the danger from the evolutionist wolves in scientific, philosophical or even "Christian" sheep's clothes. But unfortunately there are other doctors, sometimes more capable and intellectually better armed, who, being too impressed by the conquering stance of a so-called science (Col. 2:8), and supported by the number and the consensus of an apostate civilization, dare not alert the people of God of the frightful danger threatening it.

In our time the power of the lie is such that those who do not watch out for it when reacting to such seductions, strongly risk being carried away by the prevailing current. But what is yet more grave, all the sheep who naively place their confidence in such shepherds will find themselves also carried away.

If this battle exceeds by its scope everything we have seen in the past, it is hardly new. In the seventeenth century people had to choose between the pseudo-science of a Descartes (pure mathematical rationalism based upon a most suspect pseudo-mystical experience) and the true experimental science of a William Harvey. Likewise in the nineteenth century people had to choose between a Charles Darwin on the one hand, and Claude Bernard or a Louis Agassiz on the other. As the work of Torrance and of Jaki show, it is the same today. Torrance in particular shows us to what point the true scientific exegesis of the book of nature in its experimental modesty and humility before created reality is close in its proper procedures to the true exegesis of the biblical text.

The whole Bible speaks to us of the events which constituted the universe with a disarming simplicity as of real events placed in space and time, to be understood as they are described by simple people without modern intellectual upbringing, as events which occurred within a limited period of time. During this creation time acted the whole power of the Creator, a power incomprehensible to men and their sciences. It is no more difficult to believe in the creation story as contained in the first chapter of Genesis than to believe in the historicity and the scientific truth of the surprising adventure of Jonah, and much more surprising yet, of that Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate Son of the Father, Almighty God manifest in the flesh. Must we not beware of distancing ourselves from this simplicity of the Faith when exposed to the seductive attractions (accentuated by our tendency to a displaced and excessive respect for the fallible science of men) of a science which, as Jean Brun admirably shows, is so easily transformed in our day into an ersatz religion? Let us not forget that our predecessors in the faith were not idiots when they accepted the creation record as written with the simplicity of children. Our specific problems in this area are closely tied to the development of a civilization infected by the so-called enlighteners with a reason from which all knowledge of the Living and True God has been radically expelled. These exegetical problems have grown to the degree that a biological pseudo-science developed (or rather, more pseudo-religion than science!) which is aggressively anti-God and anti-Bible. Add to this the Kantian vision of the world which has become the intellectual consensus of the modern world, and which succeeded in eliminating from our civilization any idea of a general revelation of God in His creation.

In my opinion it is false to assert, as do many adversaries of creationism, that Genesis has nothing to tell us in the domain of science. Don't we know today that the modern scientific enterprise has itself largely become possible only by the biblical cosmology? Whatever touches the Word of God is true. With regard to origins, when one really thinks about it, only Revelation could tell us of an event such as creation which by its very nature is outside the realm of any scientific investigation. All human speculations on origins can by the nature of the facts themselves only be more or less inconsistent. These idle speculations have today become so far-reaching that they even impress our best theologians, because these no longer really realize the magnitude of Revelation of which they are the preservers, and of the greatness of God the Creator.

Editor's Note: Jean-Marc Berthoud is the editor of the excellent Christian quarterly journal Resister et construire, Case postale 468, CH 1001 Lausanne, Switzerland, phone (021) 23 40 81.

"The Perils of Theistic Evolution"
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