The Focus of Christian Faith (Belief)

Posted: March 21, 2010 by Prof. Dan Lioy in Biblical Studies, Creation/Evolution

Over at Biologos, there is a blog titled “The Light of Faith”. The writer talks about the importance of faith in connection with the “orderliness and consistency of God’s world”.

I thought it was important to add a clarifying thought or two in connection with the above, and so I posted the following in the comments section:

>>>Just to clarify, it is important not to make the notion of “faith” a vague, ill-defined, end in itself. Faith always has an object. For believers, it is the triune Creator-King of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.

In this regard, Hebrews 11:6 declares that a basic starting point for faith is believing that God exists. And, according to verse 3, a related belief is that He formed the universe by means of His powerful command (regardless of whether, from a modern-day scientific viewpoint, the process of creation involved evolution).

To put an even finer point on the above, Christianity asserts that it was through the divine-human Word, Jesus of Nazareth, that all things were made (John 1:3). This includes everything throughout the cosmos, whether visible or invisible (Col. 1:16). Indeed, He sustains all things by means of His powerful word (Heb. 1:3), including, it would seem, the eons-long process of evolution.<<<

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Comments
  1. Faith truly is more than “a vague, ill-defined, end in itself. And it is more than just believing that there is a God. Sadly, many people believe that there is a God, but it has no effect on their lifestyles. True faith extends beyond God’s existence to a behavior based on a conviction about God’s very character. Hebrews 11:6 ends with “and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (NASB) Faith results in a seeking after God because one believes that God is a “rewarder!” Someone once described faith as a belief that behaves. To say it differently, let me quote Bonhoeffer’s famous saying:

    “To believe is to obey; to obey is to believe.”

    If one’s faith does not result in a lifestyle of “seeking” God, then one’s faith has missed the primary point that this God who exists is a rewarder.
    __________

    Evolution? I may be somewhat of a dinosaur, but I continue to be a holdout on the theory of evolution. It still stands to reason to me that if all of life on this planet was the result of one, single form of life issuing in every other form of life through eons of time and change that the evidence for it would be everywhere. While I do think we see adaptation, I do not see overwhelming evidence for evolution.

    I am reminded of Phillip Johnson’s comment to his peers at Berkeley. In a discussion on why the majority of Americans don’t believe in evolution, someone said that he thought it was because most Americans don’t really understand evolution. Phillip Johnson responded, “I think it is because they understand it all too well!”

  2. Dan Lioy says:

    We won’t be able to resolve here the longstanding debate among evangelical Christians regarding the matter of evolution, though I will take issue with the notion that there is scant scientific evidence for some aspect of the same. I think the evidence is enormous and increasingly so. For the record, I’m not a YEC. More to the point, regardless of where one stands on the notion of evolutionary creationism, the Lord Jesus remains absolutely sovereign over every aspect of life on earth, from its inception onward.

    • Amen on the sovereignty of Christ!

      In conversations on evolutionary theory, I find that it is important to make sure that participants are using the same definitions. There is quite a bit of evidence to support changes within a species – adaptation. I have yet to see lots of support for one species evolving into another, entirely different species – evolution. Even less to support the theory that all of life on this planet is the result of this mindless, purposeless process. My contention is that if Darwin’s tree of evolution was a true picture of how all the species on this planet came into being, we should be inundated with examples of transitional life forms.

  3. Dan Lioy says:

    Clearly, we are in sharp disagreement over the presence of scientific evidence and what it implies. From what I’ve read, and from my interaction over the years with specialists in the pertinent fields of scientific study, the evidence is unquestionably abundant and convincing. I think this matter will have to be a situation where the two of us agree to disagree.

    • Perhaps so, but that is part of the joy of dialogue. I also am always willing to learn, and would love to see some of this evidence that clearly shows one species evolving into another species.

  4. Dan Lioy says:

    For that a truly interested individual is encouraged to check out the postings and links on a website such as Biologos (http://biologos.org/), among others.

  5. Thanks for the reference to biologos, here and at the beginning of your blog. What a great site!

    I do find that they do not fully answer my issue of evidence as the following explanation on the site shows:

    “A common argument raised against the theory of evolution is that despite hundreds of years of observation, there has been no experimental proof of macroevolution. Scientists have only directly followed minor microevolutionary changes, and primarily within a single species. Some prominent examples of microevolution include the variation of finches’ beaks in the Galapagos Islands, or the variation of dogs’ body types in societies that breed them.3 In these cases, the result of gradual changes has only amounted to a new form of the same species.

    The distinction between microevolution and macroevolution is somewhat arbitrary. After all, macroevolution involves nothing more than a long series of microevolutionary changes within a particular species until those changes become significant enough that they prevent interbreeding within that species. According to the above definition of species, this calls for a new name. This is especially true when one considers the possibility of geographical separation over long periods of time. If, during the slow process of microevolutionary changes, a species becomes divided by some geographical barrier like a river or a mountain, the different factors of the two environments may encourage different traits to be inherited by future generations. With enough time, macroevolutionary changes leading to speciation can occur.

    Many still wonder why macroevolutionary changes have never been observed. The simple answer, as Darrel Falk puts it, is that we haven’t been watching long enough.4 The types of genetic mutations that eventually lead to macroevolutionary changes are rare, and this accounts for the slow pace of evolutionary development. The amount of time that we have spent observing nature is only a tiny fraction of the evolutionary timescale. Moreover, the evolutionary process cannot be expedited by selective breeding within a species. To breed dogs with dogs, for example, will mostly result in a re-shuffling of the information that is already present within the canine genes of that population. If there is a certain trait, like size or color, that is already present within the genes, then selective breeding opens the possibility of making that feature more prevalent within the population. However, selective breeding does not accelerate the rate of genetic mutations that occur in each generation. Because those novel mutations are rare but represent necessary steps toward evolutionary change, selective breeding will not speed up the process of macroevolution.”

    And yet, a process on the scale of macroevolution should have left numerous pieces of evidence over millions of years. Especially if every species on the planet came from one source.

    And, as far as not having observed the process long enough, the results of macroevolution would have had to appear at some point in time – the long process would have had examples of completion. And, since we have had billions of years, we should certainly be able to see evidence of speciation in process if not actual completion.

  6. Dan Lioy says:

    Again, as I said earlier, we will have to agree to disagree on this matter. I, personally, do not want to invest time and energy religitating a point of debate about which each of us (among others) has already-settled convinctions on this admittedly contentious issue among evangelicals.

    As well, my original blog was about the focus of Christian faith (belief), not about whether evolutionary creationism is a valid construct. I see these as two separate points of discussion / debate. Perhaps you might want to post your own blog about the issue of evolutionary creationism and let it become the place for interested readers to debate back and forth the pros and cons, as they see it.

    • Sorry to offend. I was merely enjoying the dialogue. I was not looking for debate or contention. But I do enjoy it when people make me think.

      Believe me, the import of your original blog was not lost on me – I think I understood quite well the idea of faith in a Creator-King. But I was made curious about the details of the connection to the process of evolution.

      Anyway, I don’t have settled convictions on this matter, because I still have much to learn. Hence my enjoyment of a dialogue on the topic. Thanks for the link to BioLogos; I look forward to perusing the site in the future as I broaden my exposure and search for answers to my questions.

      • Dan Lioy says:

        No offense taken or implied. My aim was to clarify, especially in light of your last, long post about evolution, and what I see as my main intent for this particular blog posting.

  7. Good dialogue gents, I certainly hope that there is no ill-will, etc. This is how the blogosphere works. Sometimes it would be much better if we could gather round a table and discuss these things, but the blog does help force us to offer informed and concise comments and thoughts. Andrew, like you, I am unconvinced on macro-evolution. While my scientific research has been unconvincing, my main issue is that it would require miraculous intervention. For those who believe in theistic evolution, and don’t believe the 6 day creation story to be a scientific rendering, then such folks would be affirming that this was the way in which God created. Either way, you have creation ex nihilo, God creating something that once was not.

    I think we are all agreed in our objection to atheistic evolutionary models. Such a system requires a great deal of information intervention with no personal being doing the inputting.

    There are some large concerns about how we understand Adam and Eve, the fall, etc, which, I too, am learning about. The irony here is that some of these ideas have progressed from Meredith Kline and Peter Enns, both reformed guys who taught at Westminster Seminary Escondido (Kline) and Westminster Philly (Enns).

    The debate rages on as to how compatible confessional adherence is with varying theories of the creation story. I actually happen to be “6 24-hour day” creationist. I think that there is a “gap” in the creation of matter and then God’s ordering of that matter and constructing new “things” from it. At the same time, I am not suggesting that matter is eternal. I believe the Noah flood to be historical and would assert that some micro-evolution occurred within the animal species following the flood as Noah took two of every “kind”.

    While the Bible doesn’t seek to be a scientific textbook, I am affirmed in how scientifically accurate it is on many things. For example, I just preached on Amos 5:1-17 this past Lord’s Day and was in awe over God’s providential governance over creation:
    8 He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the Lord is his name; 9 who makes destruction flash forth against the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress.

    Notice that Amos observes that God is the one who causes the waters from the ocean to be distributed on the land. Basically, anything that is found out scientifically agrees with with Sovereign reign over all things. In this sense, I affirm faith in a “Creator-King”. I am not afraid of science. I don’t want to be on the wrong side of issues today like the Church was in the past about the placement of the earth in the created order, etc.

  8. Dan Lioy says:

    Thanks, Pastor Rick. I think I might be closer to Meredith Kline than Peter Enns on some of these issues. I have the sense that Enns might be moving further to the theological left than I am comfortable with. My non-negotiable is to affirm the historicity of the Creation account, as well as such figures as Adam (and Eve), Noah, etc. And yes, these matters are central to how one understands Paul’s discussion of Adam, etc. The latter set of related issues is where I see myself doing further study, reflection, and writing, not whether evolutionary creationism is a possible mechanism the sovereign Creator-King used to bring about life on earth.

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