Concordia Irvine Professor and 1517.® (Not 1580!) Author says “Thank God for evolution indeed!”

It may be time to look into Concordia University Irvine a little though I suspect the administration just didn’t know about this professor.  It seems that one of their professors has written an article for 1517.® titled “Thank God for Evolution“.  Yes, the title of their article is trying to gain clicks for their site (1517 is not 1580… not even close [evidenced by the period after the number by a feat of irony!]).  Here is a good quote which shows some of the 1517.® Gospel Reductionistic story:

If we could stop worrying so much about the age of the Earth, the status of humanity in the biological sciences, design inferences, historical or non-historical Adams, and a host of other problems that seem to arise from the current state of the biological sciences, trusting that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and the author and perfecter of our faith, then one realizes that all the important facts begin and end in the middle of the Bible. It may seem counterintuitive, but Christians begin and end with Jesus, NOT the beginning of created time or from the eternal outside of time. From the shade of the cross, we can confidently look back to the beginning and glimpse the eternal. From the dying, yet victorious cry from the cross, “It is finished,” we may be able to see Christ working through the biological sciences bringing outsiders and reminding insiders where our security and salvation is anchored. If we remove a few cognitive planks from our own eyes, we may even be able to serve our evolutionary neighbor. Thank God for evolution indeed!

This is strikingly similar to the promotion of evolutionary conversation we witnessed last summer in Concordia Journal.  Maybe “It’s Time” for some more pastoral conference resolutions!

Concordia University – Irvine can be reached here.

The Pacific Southwest District of the LCMS can be reached here.

The Office of the President of the LCMS can be reached here.


About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


Concordia Irvine Professor and 1517.® (Not 1580!) Author says “Thank God for evolution indeed!” — 66 Comments

  1. “[H]istorical or non-historical Adams…”

    That is mind-boggling. The entire point of Justification and proclamation (and prophecy) of the Gospel is because of the sin of a historical Adam.

  2. “Stop worrying so much…”

    This is so disturbing. The author tells us to “stop worrying so much” about false doctrine. This directly contradicts what God Himself has told us. The Holy Spirit says,

    “Pay close attention to your life and to your teaching. Persevere in these things, for by so doing you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” 1 Timothy 4:16

    “Pay close attention to everything I have said to you. You must not invoke the names of other gods; they must not be heard on your lips.” Exodus 23:13

    Furthermore, we don’t “thank God” for the false doctrine of evolution since it didn’t come from Him. False doctrine doesn’t come from God; it comes from the devil himself. The devil is a liar and the father of lies—He has been a murderer from the beginning. There’s nothing to be thankful for when hearing false doctrine.

    Let God be true and every man a liar (Romans 3:4).

  3. This article, Thank God for Evolution, in its entirety, is not well thought out and should be retracted by the author. The man is arguing that there may be a positive apologetical use for evolution, that we can use evolution and its presuppositions, specifically its historical concomitant assumptions, to show that evolutionists must also take seriously the history of the New Testament. But the historical assumption of evolution is that God doesn’t exist. That’s the number one principle, the raison d’etre of evolution, the foundation of any historical assertion evolution makes. Evolution is not, as the author claims, committed to finding truth in history. It is committed to denying the God of history. This comes down to an equivocation of terms. The author is acting very poorly as a dialectician here. He doesn’t define his terms. History means one thing to the Christian and quite another to the evolutionist. Why? Because God matters. His existence or non-existence, his involvement or his non-involvement, define what history is. And this is precisely where there is no interface, no rapprochement, between evolution and Christianity. The former is godless, and so its history is godless, with no, that is zero, commonality with the latter, which is godly and committed to a history of God’s involvement.

    I’d urge the author of this article to remove it.

  4. Hey there, to help grant a little clarity on this subject, may I be so humble to offer the following?

    Christian Apologetics functions as a tool to create an opportunity to confess the Lord’s Words of Law and Gospel – to confess Christ-crucified.

    To accomplish this, apologetics functions negatively and positively.

    Negative apologetics deconstructs an opponent’s assertion to confess the foolishness of the cross. Negative apologetics is similar to a football team playing defense – they want to stop the other team and get the ball back so that their team may score a touchdown.

    On the other hand, positive apologetics seeks to construct a case for the Christian faith, which leads to confession as well. Positive apologetics is similar to a football team playing offense – they want to move the ball down the field so that a touchdown can be scored.

    With this in mind, one has to be careful to distinguish between these two methods of apologetics. For example, one mustn’t criticize a football team’s defense for not playing offense and the offense for not playing defense, for that is not their proper functions. The same is true for apologetics. Negative apologetics plays defense, not offense. And positive apologetics plays offense, not defense. To accuse positive apologetics of not deconstructing an opponent, would be like criticizing a quarterback (who has the ball in his hands) of not intercepting the opponent’s ball. It doesn’t make sense and doesn’t properly distinguish between the two methods of apologetics.

    For example, 2 Corinthians 10:5 would be an example of Negative Apologetics, ” We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

    And 1 Peter 3:15, would be an example of Positive Apologetics, “…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

    Grace and peace in this discussion!

  5. @Matt Richard #4

    Yes. And neither should thank God for the soul-destroying heresies of Evolution – or embrace Gospel reductionism.

    Lutherans once thought we could win people over by just giving in a little. It was called the Augsburg Interim. It did nothing good for the church and certainly only divided Lutherans further.

  6. Rev. Scheer:

    I agree. But the point is this. Negative apologetics dismantles evolution. Positive apologetics neither dismantles or condones evolution (in our example) but seeks to move to construct the reason for the hope that we have. That is to say, positive apologetics is not gospel reductionistic and negative apologetics is not law reductionistic. But rather, they are different methods of defending and constructing a case for the Christian faith.

  7. A couple of the embarrassments evolutionary science has yet to construct a way to avoid:

    A. How many links between pre homo sapiens and homo sapiens have there been?

    B. Any projections for how long it will be before evolution moves on past homo sapiens?

    Can you avoid a scientific footing for racism with multiple links?

    Can you avoid the abolition of man with moving past homo sapiens?

  8. @Matt Richard #6

    I don’t think you’re actually clarifying the point here at all.

    What most people are objecting to isn’t the suggested use of a belief in history shared with evolutionists as a sort of common ground from with to discuss the historicity of Christ and the Resurrection–what you describe as “positive apologetics.” (That suggestion is naive, to be sure. Evolution *doesn’t* proceed from a devotion to accurate history, as evidenced by the rampant amount of speculation involved and the proclivity for “just so” stories for every biological feature. But the naivete is a judgment call, and not the fundamental problem.)

    The fundamental problem is that in the quoted paragraph, Dr. Deen not only disparages the use of “negative apologetics” when it comes to evolution, but disparages both the beginning and ending of God’s Word. He doesn’t merely suggest beginning with the middle of the Bible (which genuinely is good rhetoric), he suggests *ending* with it as well (which is irresponsible teaching.) Nobody authorized Dr. Deen or anybody else to fix God’s word by discarding the unimportant parts.

    Positive apologetics isn’t Gospel reductionism, but what Dr. Deen wrote absolutely is.

  9. It has been said that in our apologetics with evolutionary biologists, we should begin at the middle of the Bible with Jesus and move forwards and backwards from there.

    So let’s look at that. Some questions that arise could be:

    A. In his incarnation, why did the Only Begotten Son of God become Homo sapiens and not some other species?

    B. In his propitiatory sacrifice, why did Jesus atone only for Homo sapiens?

    C. When evolution moves on past Homo sapiens, won’t the new species also be sinners? Why not?

    D. When evolution moves on past Homo sapiens to a new species of sinners, will the Only Begotten Son of God become incarnate again as that species to be their propitiatory sacrifice?

    E. With evolution and time, how many times will the Only Begotten Son of God be sacrificed?

  10. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #7

    Hello Pr. Scheer,

    I am the author of that blog article for 1517. I am a reader of the Steadfast blog and attend a church that was, until recently (he took a call to Washington), shepherded by a Steadfast author. Thank you for engaging my post. I understand Gospel reductionism according to the Rev. Dr. Scott Murray’s analysis:

    “Gospel reductionism” was a term coined in the Missouri Synod during the 1960s. The term had its birth in the battle over the normative nature and extent of the Law and Gospel principle implicit in Lutheran theology. In the 1960s some theologians began to invoke Law-Gospel as the ruling or the only hermeneutical presupposition in Lutheran theology. They adopted this hermeneutic as a replacement for the old inspiration doctrine, which they had decisively abandoned in this period. The adoption of this method spurred a critical response by John W. Montgomery and others, such as Ralph A. Bohlmann and Robert D. Preus. Montgomery traveled around the Synod during the spring and fall of 1966 delivering papers opposing the doctrinal aberration, which he called “Law/Gospel reductionism,” among other things (Law, Life, and the Living God, CPH 2001).

    Is this a fair assessment of your understanding of Gospel reductionism? If not, please inform me of what I am missing.

    Who am I?

    I am a confessional Lutheran and a philosopher originally trained under the apologetic tradition of J.W. Montgomery via Rod Rosenbladt. I consider my writing as a continuation of this tradition. My vocation demands engaging culture (scientific and other) as it is found. The claims in this article should all be read in the context of the article, which concerns how one addresses unbelievers in a positive apologetic. I am not making claims as to biblical interpretation or the relative importance of doctrine. I am not suggesting that questions regarding the Creation are inessential. I am engaging the culture in interdisciplinary dialogue, creatively meditating on how best to call others to start with Jesus and not divisive issues of science when engaging unbelievers.

    In this sense, Matt Richards has it exactly right as to the nature of my post. I am not engaging in Gospel reductionism or Law reductionism. If, as you suggest, the contention is the language, how would you rephrase it? I’d like to revise my blog post for maximum clarity on this point. I look forward to working with you.

    You Brother in Christ,
    Dan Deen

  11. @T. R. Halvorson #10

    Very interesting questions! T. R. Harrison. As I understand it, you are a young earth creationist. YEC scientists are nearly unanimous in teaching that Neanderthals, and Homo erectus are human too. Where did they go so wrong? What Scriputure do you use to demonstrate to Ken Ham that only Sapiens are human?

  12. This exchange is why I largely quit reading this site. Dr Deen’s thesis is helpful and none of what he had been accused of. The lack of constructive conversation I believe is proof of that. The biggest problem here is that nobody actually read or inwardly digested his thoughtful suggestions, either because some are perpetually half-cocked and constantly looking a fight, or because some who think they are intellectual are in fact not, and can’t grasp what is offered up for constructive brotherly conversation. He has some excellent points worthy of consideration and discussion, unless some are fearful of actually engaging in a conversation outside of the safety of their programmed script.

  13. @Josh Reimche #15

    “some are fearful of actually engaging in a conversation outside of the safety of their programmed script”

    Attribution of fear. Yes, that certainly is a better way to conduct, let’s see, what did you call it, “constructive conversation” and “constructive brotherly conversation.”

  14. I must have missed the rush of the world to embrace the Gospel once so many Lutheran churches, pastors, professors, colleges, and seminaries gave up Genesis.

    Oh, wait, there was no rush.

    What evidence is there that this apologetic works?

  15. Dr. Deen,

    The Bible (Genesis included) is Christocentric. We do not find Christ only in the middle. When we teach the faith, where do our Lutheran Confessions begin? Article 1: God – eternal and the maker of all things. Article 2: Original Sin – the Fall of Man through Adam. The first two articles of our Lutheran Confessions begin in Genesis. God made the world. Sin entered the world through Adam. This is where we begin as confessional Lutherans because it allows us to share why Jesus came to earth. Article 3: Jesus – God’s perfect Son born of the virgin Mary. Article 4: Justification – why Jesus came to earth, to pay the price of sin by His death on the cross.
    Moreover, at the beginning of the Smalcald Articles, Father, Son, and Spirit are “one God, who has created heaven and earth.” Thus, Jesus was there, in the beginning. We confess that we believe God is the Creator of all things and that He created all things through His spoken Word. “Let there be…” and there was. What God created was good, and then with man was very good. Adam’s fall corrupted all of creation. God’s solution was redemption of the fallen world through the death of Jesus, for the wages of sin is death. This is the way a confessional Lutheran can and should share the faith to a non-believer. How does evolution fit in this? It doesn’t. Thanking God for a man-made theory that was developed to explain creation without God does not fit with our Lutheran confessions. I hope you may be led to retracting your article.

  16. Dr. Deen – I haven’t commented on Steadfast for quite a long time, but since you asked for suggestions on how to improve your post, I humbly offer these comments.

    Your title is provocative and attention-getting, but by leaving it to stand alone and without qualification, it leaves an impression not in keeping with biblical faith. Your point is that God can use and has used what has come from evolution for his saving purposes, but the title gives the impression that evolution, by itself, is something good and God-given — a blessing to be grateful for. Imagine writing a piece talking about how the horrors of Nazi Germany provide the Christian apologist the opportunity to show the skeptic that the Gospel is the only worthwhile foundation for morality, ethics, and human rights, and that any other human-centered approach leads to evil results … and titling it, “Thank God for the Holocaust”. You have a great purpose, but the title sends the reader in the wrong direction and, ironically, away from your actual point.

    Perhaps a more useful title or thesis would have been something like, “Yes, God can use evolution — but not in the way you’re thinking.” This would have the advantage of getting people’s attention, yet at the same time make clear that you’re not calling evolution itself a blessing to be grateful for (or arguing for some kind of theistic evolution), but rather showing how this bad thing can be turned around and used for good — something the Lord is quite interested in and adept at doing.

    Changes like these would require some other edits within your post, but not too many, and you would be able to keep most of your thesis intact.

    Also, the paragraph that is causing the most consternation here could perhaps begin a little less antagonistically. “If we could stop worrying so much …” suggests that concern about such things is somehow out-of-place. Instead, something like, “Let’s appreciate that sometimes focusing on issues like … can be a counterproductive distraction when we’re dealing with skeptics and unbelievers; we’re not going to bring anyone to faith in Christ arguing those things. How much better to …”

    Those are just a few suggestions, but lest you think I only have criticism: I applaud your efforts to get Christians — especially Confessional Lutherans — thinking apologetically. I’m a recently-minted Fellow of the Academy in Strasbourg, and I appreciate your attempt to get us focused less on “danger” and more on “opportunity” when we encounter false ideas and philosophies.

  17. “All the important facts begin and end in the middle of the Bible.”
    How does a statement like that square with such passages as 2 Tim. 3,16 (all Scripture),
    Ps. 119,160, John 10,35 (Scripture cannot be broken), Is. 8,19-20 and Jn. 17,17 to mention
    just a few passages.
    We are not walking alongside a restaurant buffet to pick and choose what we like. All of God’s Word is important! It is not to be changed nor disregarded. A statement like that sounds very much like Gospel reductionism to me.
    Adam and Eve were very historical people.
    Jesus, the Second Adam, is a very historical person and our God sent and only Savior.

  18. @Daniel Deen #12

    Dr. Deen,

    I realize you asked Rev. Sheer specifically for suggestions, but as you did so in a public forum, I will provide a suggestion as well: Replace the last paragraph with the following.

    “When engaging in positive apologetics, we need not worry about the age of the Earth, the status of humanity in the biological sciences, design inferences, historical or non-historical Adams, and a host of other problems that arise from the current state of the biological sciences, and trust that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and the author and perfecter of our faith. In doing so, one realizes that our faith begins in the middle of the Bible. It may seem counterintuitive, but Christians begin and end with Jesus, NOT the beginning of created time or from the eternal outside of time. Once we stand in the shade of the cross, we can confidently look back to the beginning and glimpse the eternal. From the dying, yet victorious cry from the cross, “It is finished,” we may be able to see Christ working through the biological sciences bringing outsiders and reminding insiders where our security and salvation are anchored. If we remove a few cognitive planks from our own eyes, we may even better serve our evolutionary neighbor. Thank God for evolution indeed!”

    As you can see, very little changed. But explicitly restating your context in the conclusion is a common practice that reminds the reader that you mean “we” in a way that is a lot more specific than just the audience in general. Removing “seem to” from “problems that seem to arise from the current state of the biological sciences” also removes the strong impression you gave that the state of the biological sciences *isn’t* actually problematic with respect to the Gospel. Removing the part about our faith ending in the middle of the Bible removes the most explicitly reductionistic statement in your entire piece, which, even in the context of positive apologetics, remains unambiguously reductionistic because it talks about a faith which extends far outside that specific context. Changing “we may even be able to serve” to “we may even better serve” removes the implication that those who engage in negative apologetics on the subject are useless (i.e. the eye telling the ear ‘I have no need of you.’) Also, it fixes the grammatical error in “where our security and salvation is anchored.”

    With those adjustments, I could take “Thank God for evolution” in the same way I could take “Thank God for that car wreck.” I can happily say God brings good out of evil so long as I don’t claim that evil is actually good.

    I’d also like to offer you the perspective of an anonymous reader: Your self-defense above centers on the question, “Who am I?” As is likely the case with the vast majority of people who read this piece, I don’t know you. Who you are and what your background is are not nearly as relevant to me as what you wrote. And what you wrote includes Gospel reductionism. I have no idea whether or not that was intentional on your part. And to be frank, I have absolutely no personal state in whether or not it was intentional. What I, as someone who teaches in the church, do care about is false teaching being promulgated among Lutherans. That is why, whether or not you take any of my suggestions, I sincerely hope you either retract or correct the piece in a way that removes the false teaching.

  19. @Elizabeth Peters #3

    Modern meteorologists can explain rain in terms of natural causes (e.g., cold fronts meeting humid air). Their explanations don’t deny that God sends rain in response to prayer. God controls all of nature, so he governs even natural causes of things like rain.

    Likewise, scientists during the Enlightenment and afterward observed that living things in the past (as shown by fossil evidence) were very different than those of today. They naturally asked, Why?

    Cuvier argued that, in each age of the world, God created living things, destroyed them with a catastrophe, and created new forms of life in the next age.

    Lamarck proposed that various living things arose separately by spontaneous generation according to divine law, and then evolved over time by passing on acquired characteristics.

    Darwin proposed that all living things share a common ancestor (which may have been created by God), and that they evolved over time primarily due to natural selection.

    Now, I don’t want to get into all the issues involved over whether (or to what extent) any of these theories is compatible with Scripture. My point is simply that it is inaccurate and unfair to say that the very foundation of evolution is atheism.

    Theories of evolution often arose because of observations of the natural world and the attempt to explain them. Many (not all) of the scientists who proposed these theories were believers in God, and were simply trying to “trace God’s footprints in the sands of time,” if you will. If (and that is a very big “if,” I grant you) God used evolution to create, how can the very concept of evolution be inherently atheistic?

    There is such a thing as theistic evolution. Many scientists have been believers in God and also accepted some form of evolution as God’s method of creation. Darwin went from Unitarianism to agnosticism, but his greatest defender in America, Asa Gray, was a devout Presbyterian.

    Are there many who claim evolution necessarily implies atheism? Sure. Richard Dawkins is a famous example. But Dawkins and men like him don’t get to define evolution for everyone.

    Francis Collins, head of the NIH, is a Christian, and he accepts evolution. You can call him misguided, or “all wet” on his interpretation of the Bible, but he is most certainly not an atheist.

    So I think that “evolution is inherently atheistic” is an unfair criticism of that theory.

    P.S. I am not saying evolution is true.

    P.P.S. I believe Dr. Deen was not trying to say evolution is true.

  20. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    Let me add my two cents worth…

    First, thanks to Pastor Scheer and the folks at BJS for alerting us to this blog post. I don’t have time to browse the web for everything of interest to conservative-confessional Lutherans, so I appreciate that someone is doing that for me here and at “Lutheran Pundit.”

    When I started in the ministry, all that an LCMS pastor or theologically-educated laymen needed to do was read CTQ, CJ, CHIQ, Lutheran Witness, Reporter, and a few unofficial journals. By the early 90s, we added LOGIA to that mix. These were all print media.

    Now there are countless blogs, aggregators, podcasts, etc. A full-time parish pastor who has a parochial school, makes calls, prepares his own Bible studies and sermons, catechizes young and old, trains his laymen in their offices and various tasks, and is in constant contact with his people, just doesn’t have time to surf and browse the web for all of this Internet stuff. So thanks, Pastor Scheer and BJS, for all your labors!

    Second, I agree with the need for “dialogue” on this topic, as mentioned by some commenters above. But not between “science” and “religion” or “scientists” and “religionists.” Rather right now we need some good discussion on this topic among folks who identify as conservative-confessional Lutherans, primarily LCMS, WELS, ELS, LCC in North America, but there are others synods and groups that could be interested.

    The controversy between two LCMS districts and the Concordia Seminary over the latter’s journal article indicates division in the ranks. This could be resolved by either LCMS seminary, BJS, ACL, ACELC, or other groups hosting conferences on the subject matter–not to prove “they are right” but to get at the truth.

    Third, both sides need to avoid the temptation to be dismissive of the intelligence of the other side. Pastors with M.Divs. in the LCMS are not “dumb.” They have to learn two exotic foreign languages (Greek and Hebrew)–and that is just for starters in three years of intensive graduate studies, plus a full-year of off-campus vicarage. I have yet to meet a “dumb” LCMS M.Div. pastor. On the other side, academicians and scientists with Ph.D.s in their field are quite obviously not “dumb.”

    Fourth, we need to ask how to resolve the problem of origins, not for Christians in general, but for conservative-confessional Lutherans in particular. We confessional Lutherans have a fully developed theology that informs our way of reading the Bible that is quite different from the Roman Catholics and Liberal Protestants, and somewhat different from other conservative Protestants. We also have a five hundred year old tradition of orthodox Lutheran theology, whose theologians and pastors grappled with the same questions long ago.

    Fifth, although I disagreed with the controverted article in CJ and I am disappointed by the web-article that is being discussed here, I appreciate the fact that the Concordia Seminary and the 1517 author are saying, in effect, that there is “more than one way to skin the cat.” (my apologies to cat-lovers :)).

    If you read the books published by CPH over the years by our great theologian-scientists (e.g., John Klotz, Paul Zimmerman, Alfred Rehwinkel, etc.), you will see that they are not clones of “Answers in Genesis” or Henry Morris’ ICR. Lutherans have taken a different approach, because they have been more attentive to the Scriptural text in the original languages than, let’s say, the American fundamentalists and their kin.

    Sixth, without writing an essay on the topic, let me point you to four sources. First, Francis Pieper’s dogmatics (CPH), where he talks about the six days and their interpretation. Second, Adolf Hoeneke’s dogmatics (NPH) where he talks about the same. Third, John Klotz’s “Studies in Creation” (CPH) where he talks about the gap theory. All of these three reject the gap theory as it was proposed by late 19th century conservative Lutherans in Germany, and their reasoning is sound.

    But then there is, four, Robert Preus, whose orthodoxy no one contests. He was removed as President from CTS because he was too orthodox for his opponents (e.g., Ralph Bohlmann, Sam Nafzger, and the whole ALPB/Jesus First crew). Dr. Preus explains, in his “God and His Creation” volume in the “The Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism,” vol. 2 (CPH), the theory proposed by some of the orthodox Lutherans of the 16th and 17th century. This theory stated that the heavens and the earth were created a significant time before the six-days formation and population of earth. Preus says this theory is “not incompatible” with the Scriptural testimony. Hmmmm…

    By the way, I don’t agree with the theory of evolution at all and believe that the term “micro-evolution” is really a misnomer. The concept of “evolution” precedes Darwin, going all the way back to Lucretius (see also the recent book by Stephen Greenblatt).

    Bottom line: The conservative, orthodox Lutheran tradition gives us more than one option for resolving these problems. Check out Robert Preus on the subject if you don’t believe me.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  21. @Martin R. Noland #23

    Hello all. Pastor Scheer and I have communicated via email. He plans on adding his thoughts to my original comment (#12) today. I am looking forward to it.

    Right now, however, I’d like to thank you all for suggestions both positive and negative. A few that stood out to me:

    @erika mildred (#18) “The Bible (Genesis included) is Christocentric.”
    — Yep, that is my intention. Thanks for clearly pointing it out.

    @Pastor Samuelson (#19) Thanks for the suggestions and recognition that “opportunity” is an oft-neglected aspect of the apologetic enterprise

    @MattCochran (#21) Really appreciate your edits and have already incorporated them into my main text. I also found your comment…

    “With those adjustments, I could take “Thank God for evolution” in the same way I could take “Thank God for that car wreck.” I can happily say God brings good out of evil so long as I don’t claim that evil is actually good.”

    …insanely funny for some reason!

    @MartinNoland (#23) You raise a very good historical point of contact between our current biological context and the astronomical context of Reformation and Post-Reformation Wittenberg. I find great hope in Preus’ text. Here is one of my favorite lines:

    “But it is quite clear that they [early post-Reformation theologians] did not believe Scripture with its definite theological aim presented any unified world picture. And it is clear that they did not consider it incumbent upon them to favor or reject on theological grounds any of the cosmological hypotheses of their day.”

    I don’t have the specific page reference, but can locate it when I get to my office for those interested.

    You also raise the important point that we really need to “workshop” these issues together. Concordia Irvine hosted a “Two Books, One Truth” conference right before I arrived. I wonder if it is time to host round two?

    Again, thanks for everyone’s comments and I’m sure there will be more to say when Pastor Scheer comes online.


  22. @James Gibbs #22

    Dear James,

    Thank you for your response and critique of me saying “evolution is inherently atheistic.” I understand your point. I of course cede the point that there are people who believe God guided the gradual process of life evolving from less complex to more complex over millions of years. I term them proponents of intelligent design. My point is that evolution sets out to explain the complexities of life without reference to God. That was Darwin’s object and that is the object of the scientific academy today. That’s why the processes of evolution are called random. Once God is introduced into the picture, your typical university evolutionist will deny that evolution is being discussed, and will term it something different, like “intelligent design.” The university “evolutionist’s” study of “history” is atheistic. It demands that God be left out.

  23. @Elizabeth Peters #25

    Hi, Elizabeth…thanks for the kind reply. I guess I would restrict the use of “intelligent design,” or ID, to those who argue that evolution required direct, miraculous intervention on the part of God for it to “work.” An example of this would be Michael Behe, who famously argued that the bacterial flagellum could not have evolved, but had to be directly created by God.

    There are theistic evolutionists (TE’s) who argue that God, in creating the world, foresaw all of the “random” results of a purely natural evolutionary process, and set it all in motion with one timeless act of creation.

    In other words, TE’s would say, “God let the process of evolution he ordained bring forth the bacterial flagellum naturally,” and IDers would say, “God set evolution in motion, but he needed to intervene directly here and there, as in the creation of the bacterial flagellum.” Does my distinction make sense?

    I also don’t think it was Darwin’s object to explain life without reference to God; instead, I think he simply wanted to see which was the better explanation of what we see in nature: special creation of each species in situ, or descent with modification.

    For example, he said special creation explains the adaptation of living things to their environment by saying God specially designed each living thing to “fit” its environment. He then pointed out that the Cape Verde Islands and the Galapagos Islands have very similar environments but quite dissimilar fauna (especially birds). So he asks: why would the Creator do this? Why place such different birds in two such similar places?

    He then notes how similar Galapagos birds are to Ecuadorian birds, and how similar Cape Verde birds are to African ones. He concludes that special creation does NOT explain the different fauna in similar habitats, but that “descent with modification” WOULD explain the resemblance of each archipelago’s birds to those of the neighboring continent. In other words, each island chain’s birds migrated from the nearest continent in the past, and have evolved since that time.

    Trying to explain things without reference to God or the supernatural is not necessarily driven by antipathy to religion; instead, it can be “methodological naturalism,” or the principle that science should always seek natural causes for things.

    If we see a mystery in nature, should we simply throw up our hands and say, “God did it,” or should we seek to unravel the natural causes of that mystery? This is what Kenneth Miller (a biologist at Brown and a devout Catholic) says in his book on ID, Only a Theory. He says ID is a “science stopper,” because it says certain things “can’t have happened naturally; therefore, God.” He argues that science’s pursuit of natural explanations is not anti-God, but instead is simply another way for humanity to expand our knowledge of the world God created.

    Another problem with bringing God into science is, How can you test God? Miraculous action is, by definition, beyond the ken of science. All scientific hypotheses are tentative, but religious dogma is, by definition, beyond dispute. It’s kind of like certain creationists who say, “Science supports the Bible!”, but who, when you challenge their science, then say, “Anything that contradicts [my interpretation of] the Bible must be wrong!” Heads I win, tails you lose. Or like those who say, “The public school science classroom needs to include arguments for creationism!” Well, should we also expect pastors to include arguments for Darwin in the pulpit? Fair is fair.

    As far as “random,” look–there’s a verse in Proverbs [16:33]: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Many things are random (to us), but God is in charge even then. That’s how I think of it.

    Are there folks in academia who are genuinely hostile to our faith? Absolutely. But I think there is also a case to be made for science that leaves the supernatural to the realm of faith, and sticks to what science is good at: using reason and natural observation to derive truths about the natural world. Something can be non-religious yet not hostile to religion.

    Kenneth Miller also makes the point in another of his books (Finding Darwin’s God) that scientists who use evolution as a weapon against religion aren’t doing science any favors. Who would WANT to believe in a scientific theory if they were constantly told that that theory is the mortal enemy of all they hold most dear? I know I wouldn’t!!

  24. @James Gibbs #26

    Hello James Gibbs,

    You state that a reason to leave God out of science is because we cannot test for God. However, all hypotheses of origin fall into the realm of historical science, not operational science. We likewise cannot test for the big bang or for supposed intermediary species that supposedly existed millions of years ago. We cannot even test conclusively for why things occurred 5,000 years ago. We can hypothesize based upon what remains today, but just like God and His infallable Word must be trusted by faith, so too theories of our origins that are natural in explanation must likewise be trusted by faith. This clarification does not often seem to be made by those espousing natural explanations to origins of life and the universe. Rather, these theories are often presented as scientific facts and are touted against those who have faith in our Creator God and the Biblical account of creation. I believe this reality is at the heart of much of the evolution-creation debate today. If those supporting a natural explanation to origin would admit that theirs is a faith-narrative that counters the faith-narrative of God and His creative work, then people would be presented with a debate in stasis and would be able to better weigh the arguments and beliefs of both sides.

  25. Dr. Deen, thank you for commenting here and also communicating privately. I will attempt here to put down some of my thoughts about your article and also your comment. I will also applaud many of our readers and commenters here for their handling of this issue.
    1. Gospel Reductionism
    a. Your definition from Dr. Murray’s is too simple and incomplete from his book’s standpoint. Look at page 106 to see how Murray addresses the abuse of the simple definition. Also look to the endnote 111 where Murray quotes the CTCR document “Gospel and Scripture” which describes a more insidious form of Reductionism (one which you I think unintentionally advocated) “use of the Gospel as a norm of theology in such a way to suggest that considerable freedom should be allowed within the church in matters that are not an explicit part of the Gospel.” This wider and more insidious form of Reductionism is what happens when we say things like what you do in your last paragraph.
    b. I would encourage you to understand the context of the blog you write for. Writing for 1517 you have to know the charges that stand against it and its subsidiaries. There are ardent reductionists working for that organization. Their efforts to be hip or edgy or whatever have led them to embrace revivalist worship for their conferences (this is also related to their reductionism), to have defrocked and disqualified men teaching theology for them, and otherwise to take things too far in an effort to “reach”.
    c. There is no need to overstate something to encourage something else. While you were trying to encourage a different starting point with evolutionists, your words about the age of the earth, the historicity of Adam and so forth do not do that. You minimized the teachings of Scripture even if you did not outright deny them. This is dangerous and ought never be encouraged among the baptized.
    d. I would also encourage you to understand your Synod history. The topic of evolution and then the historicity of Adam are very hot issues in Synod history. Last summer’s “Concordia Journal” situation was a recent example of how the error is still among us but also how divided the Synod is on the matter. In order to confess on this topic that you have entered into, please try to read up on the history behind the use of Gospel Reductionism especially in relation to evolution within the LCMS. I think if you are going to write on such a topic you need to understand how incredibly devious previous generations were in trying to make the two fit together.
    2. Positive/Negative Apologetics
    a. I would humbly submit that we do not gain any ground by conceding to error or the presuppositions of the error before we start talking. By waving off things like creation or the historicity of Adam you appear to be doing just that.
    b. Christians can obviously learn much about evolution in order to understand it, but it still needs to remain in the realm of a false teaching that has indeed robbed many of their faith in Christ. The study of these things should be very guarded. Evolution is not something that is “neutral” in regard to the Christian Faith. We should guard ourselves accordingly.
    c. I still question the usefulness of “positive” apologetics. I saw some people trying to claim the St. Paul did this at the Areopagus. I see him using Law and Gospel. I see him using Creation and not backing off of it or softening it one bit in his approach to the materialists of his day. Dr. Richard cites 1 Peter 3 as an example, but I am not sure he is understanding that verse properly in its context. Gentleness is helpful in discussions and as far as it is possible with us we certainly should seek to live at peace with all. Gentleness, however, does not mean we hold back on speaking the truth.
    3. You claim in your comment to not be making claims about biblical interpretation or the relative importance of doctrine but you most certainly did. You did this when you say “all of the important facts begin and end in the middle of the Bible”. This is a claim. If you meant to say that all theology is Christology just say so and you would have been far better off. As pointed out, your statement about “don’t worry about” things like creation, historicity of Adam, etc. gives the reader the impression of making different teachings of the Scripture of relative importance or unimportance.
    4. Lastly, I would suggest a different title and concluding sentence that does not thank God for an evil teaching which is responsible for so many being led astray. Simply put, why not just say something like “Next time you talk to an evolutionist, try a positive apologetic”. This would still draw readership but not be provocative. I get it though, in my years at Steadfast I have learned about clickbait and also the temptation to bump the numbers by using it. We try to stay away from it here and I would encourage that for anyone.

    Dr. Deen, I respect the way you are open to talk about this here and even open to correcting your article. I hope some of these points have helped clarify things. I truly believe that you had no malice or erring intent in writing your article. I would encourage some reworking to remove any doubt about your stance on Gospel Reductionism. It will only help your argument to encourage and explain “positive apologetics”.

  26. @Erika Mildred #27

    Hello, Erika!

    I agree that the “origins debate” deals with historical science, since we are talking about the remote past.

    I disagree with you on the “historical-operational” distinction.

    To build on something Bill Nye said to Ken Ham during their 2014 debate, that distinction is used by folks like Mr. Ham primarily to make young-earth-creationist “science” look as valid as real, mainstream science.

    When we send a man or woman to prison for a crime based on circumstantial evidence, we are using “historical science” to figure out what happened in the past. That’s perfectly valid.

    When a historian draws conclusions about past events based on artifacts, documents, etc., she or he is using “historical science” to describe past events. That’s valid, too.

    Ken Ham likes to ask the question, “Were you there?” That question is not very helpful, because he already knows the answer (“No”), and he just wants to make those who accept mainstream science look silly.

    A much better question to ask is, “How do you know?” Then we can discuss the available evidence, and try to draw conclusions about what happened in the past!

    Can we test for the Big Bang? Sure we can! Read astrophysicist Ethan Siegel’s Sept. 4 article, “This Is Why There Are No Alternatives To The Big Bang,” where he explains that only the Big Bang can explain four pieces of evidence: “the observed expansion of the universe, the large-scale structure and the evolution of galaxies, the Cosmic Microwave Background along with its temperature and spectral properties, and the relative abundances and evolution of the elements in the Universe.” He concludes, “Scientists don’t believe in the Big Bang; they conclude it based on the full suite of observations.”

    As far as “supposed intermediary species,” try reading paleontologist Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish, where he explains how he and his colleagues used geologic evidence to decide where to dig for a transitional fossil intermediate between fish and amphibians, and discovered Tiktaalik, a beautiful intermediate.

    You could also check out the Wikipedia article with its links, “List of Transitional Fossils,” or the many pages on these fossils on the website. Another fine resource, if you are curious, is Donald Prothero’s Evolution: What the Fossils Say And Why It Matters.

    As far as your statement, “We cannot even test conclusively for why things occurred 5,000 years ago,”—I’m not sure what you specifically have in mind, but I teach high-school world history, and, I assure you, there are lots of things we can know pretty definitely about 5,000 years ago! Do we know everything? No—but we do have lots of artifacts, documents, etc. that enable us to describe life in ancient Sumer, for instance, in quite a lot of detail.

    I trust God and his Word partly by pure faith, but partly based on actual, tangible evidence! For instance, Biblical archaeology has confirmed lots of details in Bible history, bolstering my confidence in the Bible’s accuracy. The evidence of ancient manuscripts of the Scriptures strengthens my faith in the accuracy of my Bible, since it seems clear ancient scribes took the task of copying God’s Word very seriously indeed!

    Scientific evidence can have a real bearing on what we believe about the past. For instance, Mr. Ham insists that dinosaurs and human beings co-existed. Well, if that’s true, why don’t we EVER find human and dino fossils in the same rocks? We don’t even find any modern mammalian fossils mingled with dinos.

    We have lots of coprolites (fossil droppings) from dinos available. Why do we never find the bones of modern creatures embedded in dino coprolites?

    This real, hard evidence bolsters my confidence in what mainstream science tells me: dinosaurs became extinct long before humanity appeared on this earth!

    I agree with you—it is wrong if scientists use what they know to attack the Bible or our faith in God.

    I disagree with you that we have a clash of two “faith-narratives.” When guys like Mr. Ham call (for instance) the antiquity of the earth (4.6 billion years old) a matter of “faith,’ I think they are doing three things.

    First, they are ignoring the massive, multiple lines of evidence supporting the mainstream scientific view.

    Second, calling mainstream science a “faith” makes it sound like it is a religious rival
    to Christianity, which will make many sincere believers reject science out of hand as a threat to what they hold dear.

    Third, calling well-supported science a “faith” (like Christianity) makes creationism and mainstream origins science sound like they are on equal footing, when the actual reality is that the evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of mainstream science.

    I’ve enjoyed discussing these things with you. Sorry to be a bit long-winded. Thanks!

  27. @James Gibbs #29

    Hello James,

    I appreciated your response. I encourage you to go beyond “Ken Ham” as an example of the young-earth movement. Ken Ham is a great apologist and also a highly logical and intelligent person. However, he himself states he does not have a PhD in a science field. Instead, I encourage you to investigate the myriad of PhD scientists who work, do research, and publish their findings for AIG, ICR, and other creation science organizations. They will present to you better scientific explanations for the historical-operational science difference. This difference is crucial to understanding the nature of the debate today and is not just espoused by Christian apologists such as Ham but also real scientists who have PhD’s in physics, geology, astronomy, chemistry, and other scientific fields. The big bang theory, for example, is still just a theory that attempts to explain the evidence we see today (e.g., the expanding universe, red shifts, radio waves, etc.). The evidence does not prove the theory. The number of scientists today who hold the theory to be true is irrelevant and appealing to it is a logical fallacy, as might does not equal right. Moreover, the theory is proposed precisely as a natural (i.e., void of any supernatural) way to explain the evidence we see today.
    As Christians, we KNOW there to be a supernatural cause. Thus, “needing” theories that propose how origins came to be with only natural causes disappear completely. And whether we as Lutherans teach in the arena of the sciences (as I do) or not, we all ought to read what scientists (not just Ken Ham) have to say about creation science and young-earth creationism. The scientific research and findings are fascinating. And unlike evolutionary naturalism, these scientists (using the same fossils, geological record, and the like) work from a worldview that begins with God who created the heavens and the earth.
    I have enjoyed discussing this topic with you as well. God’s blessings.

  28. @Erika Mildred #30

    Hello again, Erika…nice to hear from a fellow teacher. Do you teach K-12 or college?

    I agree completely that we know all things to have an ultimate supernatural cause: God! However, I think you would agree that secondary causes are responsible (under God’s providence) for nearly all of what we see in the natural world on a daily basis.

    For example, God (the Primary Cause) sends rain to the just and the unjust, but he normally uses things such as weather fronts and the water cycle (secondary causes) to deliver the blessing of rainfall.

    Because of how God uses secondary causes, the Big Bang doesn’t remove God from his role as creator. Why couldn’t it be how God started things? We also don’t actually know what (if anything) came before the Big Bang, so it could be that the BB isn’t “the moment of creation,” and the ULTIMATE creation moment was some unknown time before that.

    (Btw, I once read an article by a Christian geologist from Wisconsin who asked, “Why couldn’t God have created an infinitely old universe?” That REALLY made me think!)

    If we say, “I know God created the universe supernaturally, so I don’t need a theory to explain it,” then isn’t that kind of a “science-stopper”? Also, what about all the evidence in favor of the BB theory? Why would God create the universe by supernatural fiat, but leave the Cosmic Microwave Background (the “echo” of the BB) in place as “evidence” for something that never happened?

    If I go to my Christian doctor when I’m sick, and he says, “God has allowed this illness to befall you for reasons known only to him,” his words might comfort me spiritually, but they do nothing to diagnose and treat my sickness! Likewise, it’s the job (in my view) of a Christian scientist to “figure out” (as best she or he can) how God’s creation originated, works, etc.–not to simply say, “God did it in some unknowable fashion.”

    As far as the BB being “just a theory,” it does a far better job of explaining the evidence than any other theory out there. Saying “God did it” is a true statement, but it
    explains nothing!

    I agree with you that the number of scientists agreeing with a theory doesn’t prove it’s true. But, at the same time, isn’t it true that, all other things being equal, a theory that 99% of scientists agree with (such as the BB, evolution, or the universe being ancient) is at least worth considering the evidence for? After all, consensus isn’t always wrong! Not every dissenter from orthodoxy is a “rock star”–sometimes, he or she is simply “off their rocker”! 😉

    I agree that Ken Ham is a nice man and a sincere Christian. I strongly disagree with you on his merits as an apologist. He is, in my opinion, entirely too blind to any possible views of Scripture or science other than his own. (Look at the brouhaha he stirred up last October at Southern Evangelical Seminary–and he was arguing with another young-earther!) He is definitely a “My way or the highway” kind of guy!

    I also think his demand that Christians MUST choose between accepting the Bible OR huge portions of well-established science is driving and will continue to drive lots of educated Christians out of the church, and lots of educated seekers away from serious consideration of the claims of the Gospel. This concerns me a lot!

    I agree with you that Ken Ham has never claimed to be a Ph.D. scientist. I also agree that there are lots of creationist scientists out there whose work should be considered. The trouble is, I HAVE read plenty of creationist scientists’ work over the last four years.

    I hate to say this, but creationist scientists (especially those who work for AiG, ICR, etc.) have about zero credibility with me. (One exception is Todd Wood, who is not affiliated with any major group.)

    First and foremost, they have already drawn their conclusions–the young-earth, Flood-geology version of earth’s history MUST be true, regardless of the evidence. I know AiG makes all its employees sign a statement to that effect! What kind of scientist agrees in advance to refuse to consider certain ideas regardless of the evidence?

    Second, I have read tons of arguments advanced by these guys, and (to this layman) their arguments simply don’t hold up very well. For instance: AiG still uses the “Earth’s magnetic field is decreasing” argument to argue for a young earth–an argument that was debunked over thirty years ago!

    Third, creationist scientists either don’t publish very many papers, or only publish in creationist journals. Some argue they can’t get a hearing in mainstream science journals–that claim was shown to be without merit during the McLean court case in 1982.

    Fourth, there are actually lots of Christian scientists (an absolute majority of such, I suspect) who accept an old earth/universe or evolution. I find their arguments more compelling than their young-earth counterparts’, and, by “buying” their arguments, I don’t have to reject mainsteam science in wholesale chunks to remain a Christian! 🙂

    Fifth, I have always been impressed with the “distant starlight problem” as an objection to a young cosmos (how can we see light from stars or other objects millions or billions of light-years away from us if the universe is only 6-10,000 years old?). I once watched a twenty-minute YouTube video from AiG which promised “a new solution” to the starlight problem (from AiG staff astronomer Dr. Danny Faulkner). At the very end of the video, Faulkner gave his solution: God performed a miracle. That was his solution!?! Whatever you think of his idea, it (a) explained nothing, (b) was NOT science, and (c) left me wondering, “Why did they need a Ph.D. astronomer for this? I could’ve said that just as easily as he could!”

    I think, honestly, that lots of Ph.D. holders who work for creationist outfits are there primarily to put the stamp of their prestige as “real scientists” on what those groups put out!

    I think most Christian scientists who do accept the BB, an old cosmos, or evolution DO have a “worldview” that begins with faith in God as creator. They just disagree with their creationist brethren on how and when God created!

    Anyway, I have again enjoyed our dialogue, and hope you have a pleasant evening. Thanks again!

  29. @Erika Mildred #30

    For the record, as I previously reported on other threads, I have come to be at peace with science, while remaining at peace with God.

    Here are some quick comments, concerning things about which we should all become aware, in my opinion.

    #1. Concerning Ken Ham and his AnswersInGenesis (AIG) Website

    Please go back and read point 1.b of comment #28 by Pastor Scheer to Dr. Deen. I take it as a word of admonishment that we should be most careful of our associations and recommendations.

    In a sense of fair play, I believe that a similar word of admonishment is appropriate for all lutherans regarding Ken Ham and his AnswersInGenesis website.

    Check it out for yourself:
    A. Use your web browser to access the AIG website.
    B. Use the AIG search tool to locate articles containing the words “infant baptism”.
    C. Read the articles that your search retrieved.
    D. You should have no trouble finding words such as the following, written by Charles H. Spurgeon, and plucked from article “411. Infant salvation”, .

    “And equally it is far from our minds to believe that infants go to heaven through baptism—not to say, in the first place, that we believe infant sprinkling to be a human and carnal invention, an addition to the Word of God, and therefore wicked and injurious. When we reflect that it is rendered into some thing worse than superstition by being accompanied with falsehood, when children are taught that in their baptism they are made the children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven, which is as base a lie as was ever forged in hell, or uttered beneath the vaults of heaven, our spirit sinks at the fearful errors which have crept into the Church, through the one little door of infant sprinkling. No; children are not saved because they are baptized, …”

    My conclusion: Ken Ham and his organization are at best heterodox in their theology.

    #2. Concerning unionism.

    I copied the following from the website of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

    On Church-Fellowship. — Since God ordained that His Word only, without the admixture of human doctrine, be taught and believed in the Christian Church, 1 Peter 4:11; John 8:31, 32; 1 Tim. 6:3, 4, all Christians are required by God to discriminate between orthodox and heterodox church-bodies, Matt. 7:15, to have church-fellowship only with orthodox church-bodies, and, in case they have strayed into heterodox church-bodies, to leave them, Rom. 16:17. We repudiate unionism, that is, church-fellowship with the adherents of false doctrine, as disobedience to God’s command, as causing divisions in the Church, Rom. 16:17; 2 John 9, 10, and involving the constant danger of losing the Word of God entirely, 2 Tim. 2:17-21.

    #3. Concerning the Big Bang Theory (which has a fascinating history)

    A. The theory that became know as the Big Bang Theory was proposed by Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian Catholic Priest (i.e. a christian), astronomer, and professor of physics.

    B. This theory was given the pejorative name “Big Bang” in 1949 by Fred Hoyle, an astronomer, physicist, and atheist during a talk on a BBC radio broadcast.

    Best regards,

  30. @Jeff Stillman #32

    Hello, Jeff!

    I’m glad you have found peace with God and have come to a peaceful position (whatever that is) with regard to modern science as well.

    You’re right to point out that Lemaître was a Catholic priest, and that Hoyle was an atheist. In fairness, though, those facts alone don’t necessarily mean the BB theory is right! Christians can be wrong, and atheists right, on issues of science!

    Also, Prof. Wikipedia says Hoyle later said he was NOT trying to be pejorative by calling it the BB.

    Again, even though he professed atheism, Fred Hoyle sometimes made statements that sound amazingly like those someone who believed in “intelligent design” would make! Interesting…

    As far as AiG denying infant baptism (in fairness to them), they have a disclaimer on those Spurgeon articles which says they don’t necessarily endorse everything he taught. So I don’t think they have an “official” position on infant baptism.

    Plus, if someone quotes AiG on the origins issue, that doesn’t mean they agree with everything else they teach.

    I quote C.S. Lewis all the time, but I don’t agree with every single thing he believed!

    Charging “Unionism!” is tricky. We’re just sharing ideas on the Web. If we were all trekking to Ken Ham’s home church (I have no idea what that is) and worshipping together, then it might become an issue to be concerned about. Until then, I wouldn’t be concerned.

    Have a great day!

  31. @James Gibbs #26

    The case can be made for science’s adoption of methodological naturalism. However, unless one holds to metaphysical naturalism as well, that adoption also limits the scope of science’s applicability. Such science works well only on subjects where we have no reason to suspect supernatural intervention (i.e. miracles that go beyond the simple providence of rain falling on the just and unjust alike.)

    By way of analogy, if I decide to find out where my house came from, but exclude the possibility of human involvement, then I’m never going to arrive at the correct answer, no matter how rigorous my investigation is. In the same way, as long as we have reason to believe miraculous involvement in the origin of life and of the universe–and there are both Biblical and philosophical reasons to believe that–then a science which adopts methodological naturalism is the wrong investigative tool for the job.

    You’re right that certainty of miraculous involvement is a science-stopper when methodological naturalism is adopted, but why should that be a problem? Realizing that I’m trying to drive in a screw could be called a “hammer-stopper,” but that’s really for the best since a screwdriver is the appropriate tool for that job anyway. The only thing hammer-stopping injures is the pride of a man who has only a hammer and thus sees every problem as a nail.

    The inherently atheistic nature of evolution is not found in the theory itself or even in the methodology behind it. It’s found in the ubiquitous tendency of scientists to conflate “best methodologically naturalistic answer” with “best answer.” Indeed, one would have to ask such people your question of “What kind of scientist agrees in advance to refuse to consider certain ideas regardless of the evidence?” Exclusion of certain ideas is, after all, the deliberate function of methodological naturalism.

    What AiG and the rest are doing is using science alongside other tools when investigating origins. That may make “real” scientist scoff, but given the limited scope of methodologically naturalistic science, it’s the most appropriate approach to take.

  32. I am a semi-frequent visitor to the website. Usually I just listen and learn. Sometimes I comment, and when I do I am torn between being verbose (running the risk that few will read a lengthy comment), and terse (running the risk of being imprecise, or that some might consider me to be engaging in hit and run tactics). With this comment I attempt to strike a compromise.

    I don’t like repeating things, so I try to say something new with each comment. Those interested in my past comments need only use this website’s search tool to find them.

    #1. My background

    I spent 45 years within the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA), a church that takes a very high view of scripture (as do I), but sadly lacks a magisterium (unless you count “This We Believe” by Arnold T. Olson).

    In the early years, partly because it lacks a magisterium, and partly for historical reasons, the EFCA was not a hostile place for those with leanings towards lutheranism. For example, when I attended the EFCA’s Trininty College in Deerfield, Illinois (technically Bannockburn), Rev. Dr. John W. Montgomery, the renouned lutheran scholar, served as a professor across the street at TEDS, the EFCA’s seminary (and no, I never met him).

    Towards the end of my time in the EFCA, people such as myself, became less and less welcome. Two acquaintances (one a runaway Catholic priest, the other a defrocked Lutheran minister) had pointed out to me that their churches had magisteriums and that my church had none. For Catholics, the magisterium is the teaching office of the bishops. For Lutherans, the magisterium is the Book of Concord (i.e. BOC: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church).

    To my surprise, after doing some research into lutheranism, I discovered that I was lutheran, and that this was one source of conflict between me and what the EFCA had become!

    I am a confessional Lutheran in that I believe the truths of scripture as they are explained within the BOC. This is what I was asked to affirm upon being admitted into membership of two LC-MS congregations (going on about 20 years). I did then, and do so now.

    It is possible/probable that my use of the word “magisterium” is incorrect. If so, feel free to substitute words such as “authoritive teaching” in its place.

    #2. Some insights into my peace with science.

    During this journey, I discovered (or came to the conclusion) that the BOC does not take a stand for or against the various cosmologies under consideration at the time (about 1530 – 1577). To a close approximation, this was the time of Bruno, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo, etc. Please see information attributed to Robert Preus in comments #23 and #24 above.

    The human brain is very poor at computation but very good at pattern recognition. This abiity to recognize patterns and organize information accordingly lead to the periodic table of elements within the scientific discipline of chemistry. This table is a powerful tool. Astronomers have devised an analogous tool, known as the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram.

    Here’s what AnswersInGenesis says concerning Dr. Danny R. Faulkner (a scientist whom I respect, and admittedly as an amatuer astronomer I cannot hold a candle to him):

    “Dr. Danny Faulkner holds an MS in Physics from Clemson University and an MA and PhD in Astronomy from Indiana University and taught at the University of South Carolina Lancaster for over 26 years. He serves as editor of the Creation Research Society Quarterly and has published over 100 papers in various journals. He now works as a researcher, author, and speaker for Answers in Genesis.”

    In 1991 Danny R. Faulkner co-authored paper with Don B. DeYoung for the Creation Research Society Quarterly Journal entitled “Toward a Creationist Astronomy”. This paper uses the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram to explain the challenges facing YoungEarthCreationists with respect to astronomy/cosmology. Interested persons may easily find this paper on the internet.

    My theology (confessional Lutheranism) allows me to be at peace with the science behind the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram as it is explained by Dr. Faulkner, and the conclusions that it supports.

    Dr. Faulkner seems to endorse the science, while at the same time being challenged by the conculsions that it supports (e.g. a 15 billion year old universe). Apparently because of his theology, whatever that may be.

    #3. Final thoughts

    Someone once said the the bible is like a person. You can make it say anything if you torture it enough.

    And so we see people using the bible to advocate YoungEarthCreationism (e.g. Ken Ham of AnswersInGenesis), OldEarthCreationism (e.g. Hugh Ross of ReasonsToBelieve), FlatEarth (e.g. Rob Skiba), etc.

    I have been there and done that. Please count me out. However, within the context of a confessional Lutheran website, I think it fair to raise a warning concerning other websites that promote heterodox theology, as I do here and now.

  33. @Matt Cochran #34

    Hi, Matt…

    Sorry, but evolution is NOT inherently atheistic–see my comment #22 above. Can’t agree with you there!

    Excluding the supernatural is necessary in science because the tools of science can’t measure or test the supernatural–I think you would agree with that.

    Sticking to “pure” science when doing scientific work is appropriate–not a denial of God–anymore than if, being sick, I sought modern medical therapy while simultaneously praying to God for healing! Prayer is not medical care, just as science is not religion–but they can amicably co-exist and each function in its own realm.

    Here is something many assume: God created all things miraculously. But the Bible doesn’t say that! The ex nihilo creation of the universe at the absolute beginning of time–sure, something out of nothing is a miracle. But God uses secondary causes all the time. For instance, he commanded the earth to bring forth vegetation, and the trees to bring forth fruit–Genesis does not say he “zapped” them into being in the blink of an eye. So I see no problem at all with most of the origins of life or of the universe being explicable by the scientific method!

    Your house is an artifact, obviously. But is the world? Did the oceans arise by laws God ordained, naturally? Did forests grow naturally? Does life propagate itself in a natural manner, or is it a strict-definition miracle, each and every time it happens? So I think your house analogy breaks down.

    Meredith G. Kline’s 1958 paper, “Because It Had Not Rained,” noted that God in Genesis 2 waited until after he provided rain (for watering) and a man (to till the soil) to create plant life. From this, he drew the conclusion that secondary causes (or “ordinary providence”) was in operation even during the “creation week”!

    So I don’t think it unreasonable to expect science to be able to figure out quite a bit of what went on even during the creation of the world.

    You say methodological naturalism excludes certain ideas. Yes–because you can’t measure a miracle! That doesn’t mean miracles don’t occur–it just means they are beyond the purview of science.

    “What AiG and the rest is [sic] doing” is not science. It’s taking a dogmatic interpretation of Genesis and bending the evidence to fit that.

    How does AiG know where to draw the line? When do we decide, “Here is where science can investigate no further?”

    Plus, if AiG’s is the “most appropriate approach to take,” how come their type of scientists aren’t out there making the big discoveries? Does creationism really make for better scientists?

    Yes, I know Ken Ham trots out the guy who invented the MRI (and other scientists) to show that creationists can “do real science.” But how do any of their discoveries stem from their creationist beliefs? Aren’t the things they accomplish scientifically really irrelevant to and alongside of their views on origins?

    Food for thought.

  34. @James Gibbs #36

    “Here is something many assume: God created all things miraculously. But the Bible doesn’t say that! The ex nihilo creation of the universe at the absolute beginning of time–sure, something out of nothing is a miracle. But God uses secondary causes all the time. For instance, he commanded the earth to bring forth vegetation, and the trees to bring forth fruit–Genesis does not say he “zapped” them into being in the blink of an eye. So I see no problem at all with most of the origins of life or of the universe being explicable by the scientific method!”

    There’s a bit of a straw man here. I don’t know anybody who argues that God “zapped” things into being. But God did speak things into existence “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light,” just as Jesus yelled, “Lazarus, come out,” and the dead man emerged from the tomb, just as Paul say, “the Gospel is the power of God for salvation” and that faith comes through hearing this spoken Word of Christ.

    What a powerful, powerful thing this Word if God is, a power that kills and makes alive, a power we can’t even begin to grasp!

  35. @T-rav #37

    Hi, T-rav…I was responding to Matt Cochran (#34), who was arguing that methodological naturalism (MN) was an inappropriate scientific approach to use with investigating the creation of the world, since it (MN) cannot consider supernatural or miraculous factors, and (he contended) creation was accomplished miraculously.

    He was basically saying (if I understood him correctly), “Mainstream science can’t explain creation, because it was all a miracle of God. So scientific theories of the origin of things are not helpful, because miracles are beyond science.”

    Sorry to disagree with your experience, but I have VERY often encountered folks who take the “God zapped” position! Btw–you just used it yourself in mentioning the creation of light! 😉

    Can God do things instantaneously and miraculously, by sheer omnipotent fiat? Of course he can! But the question, I would contend, is not what God COULD do, but what he DID do. And Scripture does not rule out secondary causes in God’s original work of creation.

    Was the creation of light sheer miracle? Or was it, say, one of the effects of the Big Bang, as Hugh Ross and others would argue? Either way, God is the creator–all glory to him!

    If God uses natural, secondary causes to do his work, it is still his work. God used a literal miracle to create the baby Jesus in the womb of the Virgin. God used natural causes to create me in my mother’s womb. Both things are his doing!

    I agree wholeheartedly with you that the Word of God is truly amazing, especially in how it work faith in our hearts and gives us all of God’s gifts!

    Have a great day!

  36. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #28

    Pastor Scheer,

    Thanks for directing me to a more nuanced conversation regarding Gospel Reductionism (GR) as well as our Synod’s history with GR in relation to cultural issues. I’ve duly noted the sources, as well as others presented throughout the comment thread, and plan to investigate.

    I thank everyone who has participated in this thread. As we have been engaging in genuine dialogue, it only benefits the Church.

    I would encourage you to reach out to those at 1517 with whom you have a problem. Challenge them to a conversation or even a debate, for disputation is the way of the Reformation.

    I also really liked your statement, “Gentleness, however, does not mean we hold back on speaking the truth.” I agree one hundred percent. I also think that your observation about the usefulness of “positive apologetics” raises the potential for a fruitful conversation at the intersection of evangelism and apologetics. I am looking forward to digesting the series of posts, “Be at Leisure: A Lutheran Approach to Outreach.” Perhaps a digital roundtable discussion might be of value?

    Thanks for the kind concluding words. I really do hope that this discussion provides a positive image of what our Church can become.

    In Christ,

  37. @James Gibbs #38

    “Sorry to disagree with your experience, but I have VERY often encountered folks who take the “God zapped” position! Btw–you just used it yourself in mentioning the creation of light! ”

    There’s no need to give me a condescending wink. I most certainly did not use the “God zapped” position in mentioning the creation of light!

    All I did was directly quote the text of Holy Writ. I didn’t say it, God did. What’s wrong with believing what the text actually says?

    God didn’t zap creation into being; He spoke it and that’s something to be feared, awed, and adored, not treated with the flippant label “zapped.”

    If you think the book of Genesis falsely states that “God zapped” creation, that’s something you can take up with Moses. You’ll also have to take it up with Jesus who “zapped” Lazarus from the tomb, and the Holy Spirit who “zapped” you with faith and gave you new life.

  38. @T-rav #40

    Dude, relax. My wink was meant in fun, not in a condescending way. Sorry it came across wrong–context is hard in email, as I’m sure you’ll agree!

    By “zapped,” all I mean is instantaneous, miraculous, fiat creation–“zapped” is just a lot shorter to type! I meant no irreverence.

    Please don’t jump to the conclusion that I am being flip. “Best construction,” etc.

    And, along the same lines, where did I ever say Genesis said anything false? I disagree with some folks’ interpretation of Genesis, but I do believe it to be God’s Word, just as you do.

    As far as “what the text actually says”–well, here’s the deal. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus tells us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” And God does give us bread. BUT–does he give us bread directly from heaven, like the Hebrews’ manna? Normally, no. We plant seed, farmers do their thing, the grocery chains do what they do, we spend part of our paychecks, etc. But God still gives bread–he just uses secondary causes!

    So, when the Bible says, “God does X”–that’s certainly true, but, as Luther might say, “What does this mean?” Often, God’s action is briefly stated as if it is direct and miraculous, when it actually involves lots of steps (secondary causes). That’s God’s normal way of working in our world, and that’s OK!

    I just think that, often, verses that speak of creation use this kind of “shorthand,” and there may well be lots of those secondary causes at work. Like when Jesus said, “God feeds the birds.” 🙂

  39. @James Gibbs #41

    But you’re taking generalities of how God daily works- daily bread, feeding the birds, etc. and equating those with a one time direct action of God like the manna, like raising the dead.

    “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”

    I can’t in good conscience reinterpret that into saying something other than what it exactly says without robbing God.

    I feel that a lot of comments by various individuals here, on other articles, and in other places couch doubt in a veneer of false piety, sort of like when the prophet of the Lord told the king to ask God for a sign and He’ll give it. But the king said to Jeremiah, “I will not put the Lord to the test.”

    The plain words of Scripture are right there, but somehow some just can’t trust them and seek to come up with a pious way of casting doubt upon them.

  40. I mean it’s one thing to say, “The scientific data seems to say X, but God’s Word says Y. I’ll just live with the tension/paradox and trust that God will sort it out.”

    It’s quite another to say, “The scientific data seems to say X, but God’s Word seems to say Y. Maybe there’s a way to interpret the text of God’s Word to get it closer to X.”

  41. @James Gibbs #41


    You have made some pretty audacious statements in your comments. From a Biblical sense, the Word of God is clear in Genesis 1, in Exodus when Moses references creation week, in the New Testament when Jesus states Adam and Eve were “in the beginning,” and in Colossians when Paul says Jesus was likewise there in the beginning and is the creator of all things. No evolutionary naturalist would say that this narrative fits their scientific explanation of origin (which it doesn’t – one thing I agree with the evolutionists on!)

    Then, your scientific claims are inaccurate or completely false. What AIG, ICR, and other organizations’ scuentists are doing is truly science. They are doing scholarly research, applying the scientific method and known science to artifacts present today, and showing how old-earth theories fail scientifically. I can only assume that you have read articles by Ken Ham (who is an apologist) and then commit the fallacy of hasty generalization to state that AIG isn’t science.

    I don’t know why it is that all Lutherans aren’t supportive of Christian scientists who operate in their field with a Christian worldview. They face hostility from the secular mainstream in their field, a current state of the field to be sure but not one that has historically been present throughout much of the history of Western civilization.

    The fact is that evolution cannot be scientifically supported, whether you apply the laws of thermodynamics, the law of entropy, or the impossibility of spontaneous generation. We have never observed a star form itself, a species evolve into another species, or life come from non-life. Evolution is a scientific impossibility.

    Likewise, evolution is incompatible with the Word of God. God created birds with a “Let there be…” and there was. He created land animals the same way. He formed the first man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and Adam became a living being. Even if you try to add millions and billions of years between the literal days of Genesis, the fossil record doesn’t line up with the organization of Genesis 1. Any way you look at it, evolution and Genesis do not mix.

    I fear we may be at an impass, but I do implore you to delve into the plethora of scientific articles and published research that is available that does not contradict what Scripture says. You can find many articles published on AIG, ICR, and other creation science websites.

    God’s blessings to you.

  42. @T-rav #42

    Okay, that’s enough. I’ve discussed with you in good faith, and you just accused me of “false piety”–of not trusting Scripture and “casting doubt.”

    Have I questioned your motives, or the sincerity of your faith?

    You’re just a stranger on a screen. Respect is a two-way street.

  43. @Erika Mildred #44

    Erika, thanks for the blessings and well-wishes.

    I’ve spent the last four years reading and pondering creationism and related subjects. I think creationists are, with a very few exceptions, utterly sincere people who just want to honor God and his Word. I appreciate their sincere desire to “straighten me out.” They just want me to see the “truth” of young-earth creationism.

    But–I still, with complete sincerity and after MUCH reading, pondering, and prayer, believe in my heart that, though their faith is strong, their “science” is utterly wrong-headed.

    If evolution happened, God did it. Pseudo-science does not honor the God of truth.

    I don’t want to get into any more specific arguments, but I have enjoyed our discussion.

    I wish you all the best in the future.

  44. @St. Stephen #47

    Yeah, and your m.o. is to think the worst of people, take a cheap shot which contributes nothing, and pay no attention to someone’s actual intent (like Dr. Deen’s).

    Deen has responded on this blog with more graciousness and forgiveness than 100 guys like you put together.

  45. @Erika Mildred #44

    Hello Erika,

    First of all, thank you for being willing to engage in civil conversation concerning the issues raised in this thread.

    In your comment #44 above you said: “I fear we may be at an impass, but I do implore you to delve into the plethora of scientific articles and published research that is available that does not contradict what Scripture says. You can find many articles published on AIG, ICR, and other creation science websites.”

    In comment #32 I referenced an article published on the AIG website concerning the subject of “infant baptism”. This is but one example that demonstrates that Ken Ham and his AIG website present enormous problems for confessional Lutherans with respect their theology.

    In comment #35 above, I referenced an article co-authored by Dr. Danny R. Faulner who is one of the best friends that YoungEarthCreationists can have. In this article, he documents how his own scientific specialities (physics and astronomy) present challenges to him as a YoungEarthCreationist.

    In comment #35 above I identified myself as a confessional lutheran and defined what I meant by this term.

    In comments #23 and #24 above, others have attributed notions to Robert Preus, a confessional lutheran leader whose credentials no one challenges. Those notions seem to provide room within confessional lutheranism for persons such as James Gibbs and me.

    Let me say, with all charity and sincerity, that your comments remined me of my 45 years within the EFCA. The bible is used to bully people of differing opinions, and there is no magisterium to which one may appeal for authoritive teaching.

    The Evangelical Lutheran Church (a movement, not a synod, not a denomination) does not function in the manner in which you seem to expect. It may be that everybody at this website agrees with you over and against James Gibbs and I. It matters not! Confessional Lutheranism will not run to your aid in your endorsement of Ken Ham and his AIG website.

    I understand that you are a YoungEarthCreationist, and I have great respect for you and your willingness to engage others of differing views.

    What I don’t understand, and what I am most curious about, is your theology. Are you a confessional Lutheran? If so, please say so and enlighten us as to what that means to you! If not, check it out, and jump in! The water (pun intended) is just fine!

    My very best regards,

  46. @James Gibbs #45

    I’m sorry I offended, but I’ve no idea what else to think and/or feel and this whole topic has greatly troubled me for many years and brings me great pains.

    You say that Scripture often states God’s action briefly.

    This is true sometimes, but not all the time or even most of the time.

    First is that Scripture, especially the Old Testament, is often not brief and to a culture like ours with the way we speak Scripture can seem tedious. Joseph said, “I dreamed a dream,” and the looonnnggg genealogies cause many to stumble with Scripture. Is that a problem with Scripture? No it’s us.

    Secondly, it’s often assumed that evolution couldn’t have been recorded in Scripture understandably. God could have easily given an understandable account of creation from an evilutionist perspective. Here’s one sample from AiG (yes I know many don’t like the source, but this is about the content rather than the source):

    “When God began to create the heavens and the earth, he expanded a small grain of dust and said, ‘Let there be light.’ And it eventually became so. From this grain of dust, over many great ages he formed the stars and then the sun and finally, after a long age, the earth and the moon. And the earth was hot and dry. There was no water anywhere on the earth. Slowly, God caused the seas to come forth, and from the water he formed exceedingly small creatures in the sea and he said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and be slowly changed into fish and plants of the sea and creeping things and animals and plants on the land and birds in the sky.’ And after thousands upon multiplied thousands of years, as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore, it was so. But in those days there were terrors on the land and in the sky, and many also fell prey to a host of terrible plagues. Animals were eating each other, and killing with poisonous stings, and from time to time many of the creatures that God had made died and were buried and were no more. But new ones arose to take their place.

    “Then after a further number of long ages, God said, ‘Let us make man in our image.’….”

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