In the Beginning: Why I Reject Evolution and Embrace Wonder – Milton and Kelly on Creation and the Foundation of Faith

I am a confessional Christian. I am thankful to have been brought into a confessional church, the Presbyterian Church in America. And I serve a seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, as president and professor of pastoral theology that is also confessional. I, along with each professor, must take a vow annually, that I hold to this confession of faith. I state that I believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible and I believe that the system of doctrine taught in the Bible is delineated in the Westminster Confession of Faith, and its Larger and Shorter Catechisms.

For years I had a confession, but it was one that I had made up as I went along. In those years, in my early twenties, my confession was like my faith: seriously lacking in faithfully Biblical, life-giving truth that sets human beings free. By God’s grace, I learned that I could get past my chronological arrogance, as C.S. Lewis called my spiritual disease, and stand on the shoulders of giants. And a kind physician of the body became a physician of the soul and he introduced me, at an Evangelism Explosion meeting, to Reformed confessional Christianity. I learned that a most robust Biblical faith had been articulated by some of the finest minds that had ever preached the Gospel and some who bore the marks of persecution for their faith. And they said it more Biblically, more comprehensively, more carefully, more succinctly and more thoughtfully than I ever could. That confession was the Westminster Confession of Faith. When I came upon it at that session (where I also heard the truth of the Gospel in Ephesians 2.8,9 that saved my filthy soul) I learned that one significant part of the confession of faith, the most amazing part that really hit me, was that the first chapter of our confession, in the Westminster Confession of Faith, is Scripture. Thus on the revealed Word of God, I begin to understand who God is and who I am. My worldview, my convictions, my thinking is now, over these many years, either shaped or should be shaped by the Word of God.

I also learn where I came from. And I learn where we all came from.

Years ago, as a young pastor, I was asked in a youth group gathering, where I thought we came from. My answer was simply this: Chapter Four, article one of the Westminster Confession of Faith says,

“It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.”

This is not just my faith as a PCA minister and now as a president and professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, but it is the faith that I pass along to my children, to the children of Christ entrusted to me in my church, and the future pastors in my class. While there are variations of views allowed in the PCA and at RTS about what constituted a “day,” and other related issues where men of good will may differ, nothing allows for striking out of the confession the foundational truth to all of our faith that God created the world ex nihilo (out of nothing). The Confession of Faith teaches this because this is the clear, unequivocal testimony of the Word of God:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 19:1

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:20

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities, all things were created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16

I have read Aristotle’s Physics. He didn’t believe in a beginning of the world, though he created a Mover of everything else. I am familiar with George Garmow’s 1946 primordial “Big Bang” but cannot accept a naturalist creation without a supernatural first cause. I think Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time has a lot for us to think about. But, honestly, I have no idea whether a black hole is a reality or not. But I know there is a God and that if there is a black hole God made it. My faith is simple because I only know what God tells me. I do not judge the Bible by science, but believe the Bible and then move out from there. Since I believe Jesus is the God-Man, risen from the dead and ascended on high and coming again, and since Jesus believed the Bible without qualification as inerrant and infallible (i.e., Luke 24:27), and since the Apostles themselves recognized their own writings as sacred (2 Peter 3:16), I believe the Bible’s account of Creation. In other words, I believe the framers of the Confession got it spot on. God created the world out of nothing. God created the rainbow trout (which I enjoy trying to catch) and God created the nebulae (which I would enjoy trying to understand).

I believe that I do not know it all about creation. I know what God’s Word tells me. But because I believe in the resurrected and reigning Christ, I do not, cannot, will not and advise others not to believe in any form of Darwinism. In fact, I have written about Darwin on this site. I do not believe in evolution. While I can see the development of species “according to their kind” as Genesis says, as a believer in the Bible to be the very Word of God, I cannot hold to Darwin’s theories. Dr. David Calhoun, in his Princeton Seminary: The Majestic Testimony: 1869-1929, wrote about an exchange between Charles Darwin and Charles Hodge and summarized their views:

“Both Charles Hodge and Charles Darwin, it seems, agreed that Christianity in its orthodox sense could not be reconciled with Darwin’s views of evolution” (Banner of Truth, 1996, page 18).

So in this matter I also agree with Charles Darwin! There is no reconciliation! I think Dr. Philip Ryken said it well when he wrote in Discovering God in Stories from the Bible:

“Whatever else it may be, evolution is not a theory of origins. It is a theory of changes. It tries to explain how one creature evolved into another. But it cannot explain why there should be any creatures in the first place. Or why there should be anything at all, for that matter.”

Indeed, I believe that evolution that “explains” development of things visible, apart from God cannot therefore be true. Moreover to introduce these ideas brings despair in the human heart and mind. And it brings something worse: it dehumanizes a person. The ideas of evolution brought about enormous pain to the human race (the Twentieth Century, in my opinion,  is the bloody witness to the godless theories of origin of the species).

While I honor and respect other believers who hold to a creationist position but believe that “yom” means something other than a normal “day,” or that Genesis 1 and 2 are frameworks, or they are analogous of some other unknown cosmic event or series of events which God Himself conducted in creation in Genesis 1 and 2, or several of the other views that are not to be belittled as sub Christian, for we say again, with hopeful and proper magnanimity, men of God will differ on these points, I must say that I believe in a literal six-day creation. I believe this as surely as I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and for the same reason: the testimony of the Word of God. My hermeneutic, established by Scripture itself, will not allow otherwise. So, I also believe in a historical Adam and Eve. They are not stories of humanity in my view. Such has been suggested by the most brilliant men of our day who are surely fine men of God. Yet I believe they are being led astray. I must say to the law and to the testimony (Isaiah 8.20). And the law and the testimony of the Word of God do not support the idea of Adam and Eve as mere story. They were historical figures. I must surely bear their DNA in my body as you must. Adam and Eve fell into sin through the temptation of the devil.  And with their disobedience the world changed. It was infested with the briar and the thorn, with cancer strikes mercilessly on young and old, and with sharks that will attack and kill me should I swim too close. I believe that all creation and indeed all of my soul and body has been affected by the fall of Adam and Eve. The fall was devastatingly thorough. We were cast under this haunting spell, as it were.

In Milton’s Paradise Lost, the blind and controversial Puritan-poet dictated these words to his daughter, at the point of seeing the unfolding drama of human depravity and utter fallenness. He spoke of  the pre Incarnate Christ as he wrote every so covenantally:

In him all his Father shone
Substantially expressed; and in his face
Divine compassion visibly appeared,
Love without end, and without measure grace,
Which uttering, thus he to his Father spake.
(See the Searchable Paradise Lost, http://www.paradiselost.org/8-Search-All.html; Book III, lines 139-143)

And Milton depicted the scene in heaven as the angels standing “mute” at the sight of this exchange. And the apple of the Father’s eye coming before the throne of His Father to say,

“Father, thy word is past, man shall find grace;
And shall grace not find means, that finds her way…
…Behold me then: me for him, life for life
I offer: on me let thine anger fall;
Account me Man; I for his sake will leave
Thy bosom, and this glory next to thee
Freely put off, and for him lastly die
Well pleased; on me let Death wreak all his rage.
Under his gloomy power I shall not long
Lie vanquished. Thou hast given me to possess
Life in myself for ever; by thee I live…” (Book III. lines 227-244)

And true to the Word of God, then, the Second Person of the holy Triune God came to earth as a man and yet without ever casting away any part of His divinity, only His prerogatives to that divinity (Philippians 2.6-7). Fully God and fully Man, the Son of the Virgin Mary came to save His people from their sins. He came to us, O glorious Truth, that the “spell” might be broken. On a place called Calvary,  the Son of Man atoned for the sins of a world of human beings who would call upon Him in repentance and faith. He died for me. And I believe that a paradise was and is being regained; a new heavens and a new earth is on its way. My purpose, as one saved by grace through faith in this Savior is to so preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ that on the day when Christ comes again there will be a multitude of souls safe in the arms of Jesus.

To believe that my God who saved my soul through His Son Jesus Christ, who lived the life I could not live and died the death that should have been mine, and who was raised again on the third day, ascended into heaven, prays for me, and is coming again,  is also the God who created all things out of nothing. I cannot separate my faith in Creation from my faith in Christ. I cannot separate the plain Word of the Lord about creation from the plain Word of God about Mary’s virginity or Christ’s resurrection or ascension. They are all humanly inexplicable and I thank God for it! Wonder! Wonder! The soul cries for wonder! And the Word of God declares it. And my soul laps it up. We were made for wonder.

“It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.”

This is wonder. And this is truth. And my Aunt Eva who reared me taught me that wonder on her lap. My pastor, Robert E. Baxter, taught me that wonder from the pulpit. My mentor, Dr. D. James Kennedy, charged me to keep and teach that wonder as his pastoral intern. I learned it from my professors in seminary. And I am proud to labor at a seminary, RTS, that continues to teach that wonder.

One of my heroes in the faith for years, Dr. Douglas Kelly, is now one of my colleagues. And I am thankful that Dr. Kelly also believes that wonder that my Aunt Eva, and Pastor Bob and Dr. Kennedy taught me. He has written well, scientifically, theologically and rationally, but most of all Biblically, on this in his critical book, Creation and Change. He continues to bear witness to the historic view of the Church, the six-day position, with his characteristic godly esteem for others in the PCA and even at RTS who hold to the other approved views of Genesis 1 and 2 on creationism. He holds his firm convictions in a catholic heart and that is one the reasons I love him. He is a man of God and he is gentleman. That is a mark of our seminary and one of the reasons I cherish her as well.

It is my joy then to welcome Dr. Kelly to this site. And in the words below he shares his concerns, and mine, about the contemporary trends in evangelicalism concerning faith and science. He believes that it is not just that faith is incompatible with science. It is that the Christian faith is incompatible with a naturalistic science which begins by denying God.

I hope you enjoy and profit from this visit from Dr. Kelly. And I hope you share it with many others.

The following was written by Dr. Douglas Kelly for mikemilton.org.

CREATION: FOUNDATIONAL DOCTRINE OF SCRIPTURE

by Douglas F. Kelly, Ph.D., Jordan Chair of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC

The inspired Word of God begins with the doctrine of creation; that is the foundation of the whole book of redemption. A straight-forward reading of the Holy Bible clearly teaches that God created all things in the space of six days, and ‘all very good’.

The prologue to John’s Gospel teaches that our Lord Jesus Christ was the very agent of creation (cf. John 1:3). Revelation 4:11 shows the saints and angels in heaven praising Christ for his work of creation: ‘Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 5:9 goes on to praise this same glorious Christ for having redeemed with His own blood the fallen creation.

It does strike me as strange that the praises of heaven are so full of the honors Christ deserves as agent of creation, while much of the modern evangelical church seems hesitant to make any serious reference to his divine creation. If heaven so glorifies Christ for the wonders of creation, why do so many Christian scholars today seem embarrassed by it?

In Evolution and the Authority of the Bible, Dr. Nigel Cameron commented on this strange situation:

“In other areas, evangelical Christians have taken their stand on the teaching of the Bible and refused to allow consensus opinions of the secular and liberal Christian world to determine their own. Yet here [when challenged by evolutionists] there has been a remarkable readiness to fall in line, irrespective of the teaching of Scripture.”

It has made me sad to see otherwise fine Christian scholars, some in the Evangelical and Reformed camp, refuse to hold to a plain reading of Scripture, in order to join in with the evolutionary ‘consensus.’ I may be misreading them, but it seems to me that it is a way to avoid unpleasant conflict with the modern culture, whose most basic premise is evolutionary theory. While I do not doubt the good intentions of these people, I must raise the serious question: do we really want to follow them down the pro-evolutionary path?

Dr. Michael Denton, though not a professing Christian, has written a massive critique of evolution from an empirical scientific basis: Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. He shows how crucial evolution is to secular humanism:

“The entire scientific ethos and philosophy of modern western man is based to a large extent upon the central claim of Darwinian theory that humanity was not born by the creative intentions of a deity, but by a completely mindless trial and error selection of random molecular patterns. The cultural importance of evolution theory is therefore immeasurable, forming as it does the centerpiece, the crowning achievement, of the naturalistic view of the world, the final triumphant of the secular thesis which since the end of the middle ages has displaced the old naïve cosmology of Genesis from the western mind.”

We probably need not be overly worried about aggressive atheistic evolutionists, such as Richard Dawkins of Oxford, but one is rather more concerned to see Christian scholars, who claim allegiance to the Scriptures, make peace with a doctrine so opposed to the very foundations of Christianity (and Judaism before it). It would appear that some of them feel that evolution is such a universally proven fact, that to accept Biblical creational teaching would render the Gospel itself incredible in the view of most educated people today. It would ‘paint believers into a corner’, and keep needy souls from receiving the good news at their hands.

Let us look at two good reasons why this is simply not the case: (1) empirical science does not prove evolution, nor finally require it, for its progress to continue, and (2) one cannot split the foundational Scriptural teaching on creation from Gospel redemption, without the danger of losing them both!

(1)  Empirical (or operational) science has never actually proven evolution.  Let us take only a few examples.

Studies in the first and second laws of thermodynamics have indicated that these most basic of physical laws actually run counter to the necessary assumptions of evolutionary. That is, the first law (conservation of energy: ‘nothing is now being created or destroyed’) surely suggests that there was a time when creative forces were in operation that have long since ceased. The second law (entropy: there is a tendency in all closed systems for a certain amount of energy to pass into non-reversible heat energy, thereby causing the system – whether a tree, a star or a human body – to break down) suggests that the original creation was not at a time infinitely distant, because if it had been, everything would already have passed into a non-reversible heat death.

In the realm of biology, a supplement for high school biology textbooks,  Of Pandas and People: the Central Question of Biological Origins states that:

“The only known means of introducing genuinely new genetic material into the gene pool is by mutation, a change in the DNA structure…The fruit fly has been the subject of many experiments because its short life-span allows scientists to observe many generations. In addition, the flies have been bombarded with radiation to increase the rate of mutations… Mutations do not create new structures. They merely alter existing ones… they have not transformed the fruit fly into a new kind of insect. Experiments have simply produced variations within the fruit fly species.”

Operational (as contrasted with evolutionary dogmatic or theoretical) science has in no sense confirmed the assumptions of evolution as to the ability of random mutation to produce (or evolve) new species. The French zoologist, P. P. Grasse, has studied mutations in generations of bacteria, which reproduce much more rapidly than fruit flies. One bacterial generation lasts approximately thirty minutes. Hence, they multiply 400,000 times faster than human generations. Researchers, therefore, can trace mutational change in bacteria equivalent to 3,500,000 years of change within the human species. But Grasse has found that these bacteria have not essentially changed during all these generations (Traite de Zoologie, vol. VIII, Masson, 1976).  If that be true, on what empirical basis can one assert that humans must have changed during an equivalent time frame? Is it not a matter of evolutionary assumption, rather than hard science?

The fossil record is far from having proven evolutionary development. That is, ‘missing links’ are still missing, so that the gaps between ‘kinds’ or ‘species’ are still as wide as ever. David B. Kitts of the School of Geology and Geophysics of University of Oklahoma, commented: “Despite the bright promise that paleontology provides a means of ‘seeing’ evolution, it has provided some nasty difficulties for evolutionists, the most notorious of which is the presence of ‘gaps’ in the fossil record. Evolution requires intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them” (“Paleontology and Evolutionary Theory”, Evolution vol. 28, 1974, 467). It is the dogma, or unproven theory of evolution, not actual science, that runs contrary to the clear teachings of Genesis.

(2)  One cannot split the foundational teaching on creation from the Good News of Redemption, without the danger of losing them both.

Scottish theologian, James Denney, made this point in the late 1890s:

“The separation of the religious and the scientific means in the end the separation of the religious and the true; and this means that religion dies among true men.”

But if we base our understanding of life and nature on the Word of God with its foundational teaching of divine creation, we show people that God and His written Word deal with the real world; with their world! One of John Calvin’s close friends in Strasbourg, Wolfgang Capito, rightly stated that an understanding of creation by God is “the head of divine philosophy” (Hexameron, Sive Opus Sex Dierum).

For instance, how can we possibly understand why we are like we are (including being prey to old age and death), without grasping the primal truth that all human kind was involved somehow in the original sin of Adam, and that ‘the wages of sin is death’? There was no death and decay in the original perfect creation, until man sinned. The theory of evolution runs contrary to this consistent Biblical teaching, for it requires struggle, decay and death to make possible its mythical scenario of one species clawing its way to a higher form of life. And moreover, if we make the first Adam a sort of myth, then do we not at the same time lose the saving significance of Christ, the Last Adam (cf. Romans 5 and I Cor. 15)?

Does not compromise with evolutionary run the danger of  causing the Church to lose too much – not least the Gospel of forgiveness of sins, resurrection and eternal life? Why risk paying such a price with a theory that is against Scripture, and that violates much of operational science? And so we must ask: Is temporary peace with our secular culture really worth it?

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  1. [...] Kelly provide brief essays outlining their belief in the Bible’s account of creation on Milton’s blog. For those who have some reading time this week-end the post is worth [...]

  2. [...] Kelly explain their positions and responsibilities as confessional Christians to this situation. IN THE BEGINNING: Why I Reject Evolution and Embrace Wonder – Milton and Kelly on Creation and the… Those who claim to be confessional Christians would do well to engage with their reasoning. [...]