Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

Darwin’s Challenge Was Not to God, it Was to His Word

darwins church.jpgThe Vatican embraces Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as fully compatible with Christianity. The Church of England honors its former member. (His parish, in which he was active during his early life, pictured above)
And we are thus reminded that evolution is not really a challenge against God or Christianity even, it’s a challenge to Biblical Revelation. In doing research about the Founding Fathers’ beliefs I ran across the same point: people like Jefferson and Tom Paine were viewed as infidels even though they were theists. What they challenged is Biblical literalism.
Now of course for many people, the absolute truth of the Bible is the heart of religion. Undermine one, and you’ve undermined the other.
But not for everyone — including the Vatican. The most interesting debate, then, would not be between an atheistic scientistic and clergyman. It would be between passionate Christians, one who puts a literal reading of the Bible at the heart of his faith, and one who doesn’t. It would be between Pope Benedict XI and James Dobson.

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posted February 12, 2009 at 11:38 am

The most interesting debate, then, would not be between an atheistic scientistic and clergyman. It would be between passionate Christians, one who puts a literal reading of the Bible at the heart of his faith, and one who doesn’t.
I think that’s very true. Although, from personal experience, I can say that debates between atheistic scientists and non-fundamentalist Christians have been some of the most satisfying conversations I’ve had. My interactions with fundamentalists tend to end with my getting declared a de-facto atheist.

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Sheryl Nelson

posted February 12, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Simplistic but true. At the time of the Reformation, it was popular among the theological intelligentsia to insist that God had not really made the world in 7 days, as the Bible said, because God didn’t need 7 days to do anything. Reason dictated, so they said, that God had made the world in 1 day, because a God who needed 7 wasn’t much of a God. But John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, refuted the point. He said (and I am not quoting) that God didn’t _need_ 7 days, but he said he _took_ 7 days and we should take Him at His word. God created Everything from Nothing; he could do however He wanted and we should trust what he says. In the same way, many modern Christians defend evolution by saying, “Well, God could still have done it that way; it doesn’t make him less God.” True, it wouldn’t make Him less God. He could certainly do things anyway He wants. But it does call Him a liar.

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posted February 12, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Maybe God’s seven days were measured differently. Maybe time moved slower. Maybe it is not literal because the Bible would be many books to describe the detail around creating the world and other stories in the Bible.
Maybe God knew that many people he designed had short attention spans and that even a smaller Bible would be a challenge for many or most people. God did not design everyone with the same gifts or same level of intelligence.
Maybe the Bible was written with information that was intended to be “far out” in an attempt to get people to see the “point” rather than getting stuck in the weeds.
For example women having babies at an age that was far beyond the normal life span.
I do not think anyone can say “I know the only correct interpretation of the Bible. ”

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posted February 12, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Always fun to debate with believers whether an infinite, yet personal God beyond time, space, and understanding, would choose to limit Himself to the “rules” contained in the Bible, or if He provided the stories we know in terms those to whom He revealed Himself could understand.
Could He have made the universe in six days? Sure, He’s a pretty big God.
Could He have made the world in a day? Sure, He’s a pretty big God.
Or could He have made the universe over 15 billions of years (give or take a few) using a scheme that only an infinite God could have conceived, which only He understands, and which He chooses to reveal to us as we continue to explore, progress, and seek Him, all the while marveling at its complexity, while marveling at the simplicity of His message?
Well sure, He’s a pretty big God.

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Steve Knott

posted February 13, 2009 at 7:36 am

“He could certainly do things anyway He wants. But it does call Him a liar.”
I must respectfully disagree … this interpretation does not call God into question in any way. Those of us who believe can ‘know’ that God made the universe; it is the one absolutely inerrant Gospel. We only have the assertion of human beings that the Bible is divinely inspired/controled/edited. This line of thought only calls into question the chapter Genesis … or depending on your view … some of the interpretations of the chapter.

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posted February 13, 2009 at 1:58 pm

God is certainly big enough to do exactly what He wants to do. If God had revealed that the universe was created ages beyond numbering in the past and that from there every thing evolved through the years to what we see now, then I’m for it. The problem is that this isn’t what He said that He did. He said in very plain language that He created in 6 days and qualified it by adding morning and evening to His description. And then told us in a non-technical way, what He did on each day. A ‘pretty big God’ isn’t limited by concepts or language, so wouldn’t that make Him big enough to say exactly what He meant? A ‘pretty big God’ is also more than capable of keeping His word intact for us to read.
Our problem as Christians is that we feel we need to ‘marry’ evolutionary thought with Genesis because we’re bombarded with the message that evolution is an uncontestable fact.

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posted February 13, 2009 at 5:25 pm

Tom Paine’s broadsides against religion (which are available online) were as thoroughly radical in their criticism of Christianity or Judaism as any of the new books written. He attacked every aspect of the Christian faith and the Bible, slashing and burning every concept liberal or otherwise held near and dear by all sorts of believers.
If he wasn’t an infidel, nobody is. Read his books, he was RADICAL.

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posted February 16, 2009 at 3:58 pm

I do not believe in macro-evolution, and I am perfectly capable of accepting that God created the world in 7 literal days. Here is my hold-up: If light travels at speed x, and star A is 1000000 xyears away, then that star must be at least 1000000 years old. That seems fairly simple to me. So my question is: why would God create “false” history? IE God creates the universe mid-stream around 10,000 years ago in 7 literal days – but fills the sky with evidence that the universe is much older? That doesn’t satisfy me. I would welcome being shown the error of my thinking.

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posted February 16, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Nathan, I think God didn’t create “False History” He created Adam as a Fully grown and developed Man not as a Baby.
I think that exactly happened in the universe: He created the Universe in a certain size, thus giving the known distances within the universe but not necesarily due to the expansion of the universe ever since creeation, but to.
As for evolution, I think is a clear example fo the word used by the Psalmist in Psalm 14:1

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C. Okoye

posted February 17, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I think that I’m pretty close in thinking to Nathan. However, I do think that macro-evolution is a phenomenon that exists and shapes living beings. I think that we have the great ability to think and reason, and science, upon which evolutionary theory is based, is our way of codifying that process.
Being raised Christian I do believe in God, but I can’t take the Bible as a literal book, I suppose. Why would God give us this amazing faculty of thought and reason, then fill our universe with all this evidence from which we use our thought and reason to deduce something completely different than what is actually true? Just as some sort of test? I don’t buy it.
I see that part of the Bible as our way of understanding the world given our faculties at the time, but given our constant increase in technological prowess, we have progressively gained the ability to observe more and more about the world and universe we inhabit. With these new observations, we then use our God-given powers of reason to deduce new theories about the structure of the world and the way it came to be.
I honestly don’t see this process or its results as inherently incompatible with having faith.

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posted February 17, 2009 at 5:54 pm

What you have said is simply not true. Here is the Catholic Church’s view on the Bible:
81 “Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.”
102 Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely:64
You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time.65
103 For this reason, the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God’s Word and Christ’s Body.66
104 In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, “but as what it really is, the word of God”.67 “In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them.”68
105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”69
“For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.”70
106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. “To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.”71
107 The inspired books teach the truth. “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.”72

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Tim Ganstrom

posted February 18, 2009 at 11:56 pm

For Nathan and C. Okoye,
I refer you to an awesome book by Russell Humphreys, PhD, called ‘Starlight and Time’ or at least the DVD. The more we learn of Modern Physics, the more the true science lines up with what we discover of the physical world.
Romans 1:20-25
Happy reading my friends!! -TDG

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Your Name

posted February 25, 2009 at 11:55 am

For Nathan and C. Okoye,
Had science analyzed the wine at Cana (John 2), a process of planting, grooming, pruning, vine dressing, blossoming, pollination, fruit-maturation, harvesting, pressing, and fermintation would issues. The entire process would have been estimated in years rather than the few minutes declared by John’s gospel.
Had the best scientific and theologic scholars been asked why the a man was born blind (John 9), various congenital maladies, genetic or improper diet of the mother would be proposed. Yet John’s gospel records Jesus’ answer: “this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
So you ask, “Why would God create “false” history? IE God creates the universe mid-stream around 10,000 years ago in 7 literal days – but fills the sky with evidence that the universe is much older? That doesn’t satisfy me. I would welcome being shown the error of my thinking.”
You slave yourself to the limits of natural science with admittedly paltry access to all that is to be known of our universe. I invite you to bow to a God worth serving, who acts at his own good pleasure and loves us so fiercely as to entertain us with such mysteries as can only be revealed by faith. He anxiously awaits the building of bigger and more powerful telescopes so that we might enjoy his handiwork and stand in awe and praise of him. To do otherwise, to bow to a lesser god is the ultimate error of both thinking and being.
Take a risk. Open your mind AND heart. He made both for his good pleasure.
B.S. in both biology and chemistry, minor in physics
M.Div. in systematic theology
Postgraduate studies in theology and psychology
Chaplain, Major, USAF

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Bill Baker

posted February 28, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Paine and Jefferson were Deists, not theists. Paine was a Strong Deist, Jefferson was noticeable Agnostic-Deist. They were rationalists.

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