The Unexpected Perspective
The Implications of Darwin and the Big Bang for Christians ... and Everyone Else

Perspectives

The fifth reason Christians should love Darwin and the Big Bang Theory is because they can be used to help Christians formulate a solid response to secular humanism.

THE FIFTH REASON

            The fifth reason for Christians to embrace Darwin and the Big Bang Theory has to do with secular humanism.  Secular humanism is a group of creeds that have emerged over the past 100 plus years representing an alternative to Christianity and other religions.  While not exclusively so, a very high percentage of secular humanists are atheists and freethinkers.  Their thinking is summarized in three Secular Humanist Manifestos, issued respectively in 1933, 1973, and 2003.  In general, one can summarize their beliefs as follows:

  • Humans have an innate capacity to do and be good
  • We should focus our attention on the needs of this world, not on some mythical deity and  "afterlife"
  • The values of scientific inquiry, as well as justice and fairness, are paramount
  • Humans are capable of making progress, and given this capacity, should focus on building a better world.

There is much one can find appealing in the beliefs of secular humanists.  The

problem, of course, for Christians is that secular humanists believe there is little or no place for God in the world: in the secular humanist world, God either doesn't exist, or He takes a completely "hands off" approach to the world, similar to the conception of the Deists.  Either way, in the mind of the average secular humanist, God, even if He exists, is completely irrelevant.  When the subject of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, comes up, secular humanists tend to make the following arguments:

  • Religious beliefs tend to become fanatical, causing unnecessary wars
  • Humans have demonstrated tremendous progress, particularly in the past few hundred years, and that progress will lead us to solve any and all problems without the help of God
  • One of the highest values for humanity is science, and religions tend to be opposed or at odds with scientific endeavors
  • Sacred books such as the Bible are merely a bunch of stories and myths, things that can be disproved by science
  • Secular humanists can be just as moral, maybe even more moral, than Christians and those who adhere to other religions, so why bother with religious dogma?

These arguments will understandably cause Christians to get red in the face, but what responses can be offered?  First, with respect to wars, it's true, sometimes wars have been undertaken in the name of religion.  However, what secular humanists are forgetting to consider is that atheists have been the cause of incredible suffering, too.  All one needs to do is consider the murderous reigns of Hitler, Stalin and Mao Tse Tung.  Thus, the argument that religious belief leads to irrational, possibly murderous, behavior is not credible. 

Beyond this, in response to secular humanism, Christians tend to refer back to the Bible, but secular humanists already dismiss the Bible as a bunch of myths that lack credibility.  The result is that Christians and secular humanists largely shout past one another. 

The bottom line, however, is that for increasing numbers of ordinary people, secular humanism seems very appealing.  Once again, this is where a Christian embrace of Darwin and the Big Bang Theory could be beneficial to Christians.  Let me explain how and why.  First, I've laid out the argument that Darwin's theory actually reinforces the idea that sin is a byproduct of the evolution of humans.  Thus, the core belief of Christianity, one can argue, is based upon the very science that secular humanists seem to embrace. 

Second, secular humanism is grounded in the idea of human progress.  I agree that humans have, and continue to make, tremendous technological and material progress.  No one would disagree with that.  Even the most committed Christians still love their Ipads and Iphones, and wouldn't trade them in for old fashioned rotary dial up phones or 300 baud computer modems.  Where the disagreement comes is whether or not humans are making any real moral progress.  A fundamental tenet of secular humanism is that humans have the capacity to solve their own problems.  It may take us a while to do that, but we can eventually solve pretty much any problem.  My response is that secular humanists are mis-guided in this because they are not taking antagonistic pleiotropy into consideration.  Let me provide a brief review of the concept.

Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection suggests that traits that do not fit well will eventually die out.  If that's the case, one would expect that various terrible diseases would eventually disappear because humans, and other animals and organisms, would adapt to the diseases, much as microbes tend to adapt to antibiotics intended to kill the microbes; unfortunately, after a period of time, the antibiotics no longer work.  The problem is, terrible diseases don't seem to disappear, or at least humans don't seem to develop innate resistance to those diseases.  In my book I cite the example of Sickle Cell Anemia, a terrible disease that tends to strike people of sub-Saharan African descent.  The reason is because the genes that cause the disease have both negative a positive characteristics: the positive side of Sickle Cell Anemia is that it confers resistance to malaria, so the disease doesn't disappear because it simultaneously has negative and positive characteristics.  I make the argument that Sickle Cell Anemia is a metaphor for human sinfulness: each human behavior has both a positive and a negative side, the positive being the reason the person has survived, and the negative being the sinful side of the trait.

The argument I make is that each human behavior has both a positive side and a negative side, much as Sickle Cell Anemia has both a positive side and a negative side, and much as every coin has both a heads and a tails.  Assuming that's the case, the notion of human moral progress becomes impossible.  This is because the bad sides (the tails of the coin) of our individual natures are – what we call sin – are the flip side of the very things that have helped us survive – the heads of the coins.  These bad traits aren't going to go away.  Yes, humans will likely continue to make technological and material progress, but our real problem is that we're unable to make moral progress: we continue to deceive others, cheat on our spouses, gossip, bully others, engage in wars, and do all manner of other bad things, ostensibly because these things help us to be genetically successful.  Precisely because these bad things help us to be genetically successful, they're not going away. Moreover, the argument of the secular humanists – the reliance upon science – is used to overturn the secular humanist belief in human progress. 

Christians can then combine this understanding of Darwin with traditional Biblical arguments, as follows.  When mankind evolved from lower species, the negative traits that helped us to survive, combined with our far greater brainpower, led us to become simultaneously capable of doing good along with being sinful.  That's the traditional Christian formulation – the dual nature of humanity.  Moreover, Christians argue that we cannot overcome this on our own – it's "baked in."  The only thing we can do is to rely upon faith in Jesus Christ to help overcome this.  We can't do it on our own.

Thus, by relying upon Darwin, Christians can build an argument that secular humanism is fundamentally flawed.  The argument relies upon science – the very thing secular humanists say is the cornerstone of their thinking.  Secular humanists will no longer be able to make a claim that they're the only ones relying upon science.  Christians will be able to do the same, in addition to having the arguments laid out in the Bible.  Of course, secular humanists will reject these arguments, but Christians will now have a new set of arguments to use, ones that will buttress their underlying arguments about the claims of the Bible.  In other words, Christians won't be using science to replace the Bible – the thing secular humanists have been doing – but use science, in conjunction with the Bible, to undercut the secular humanist case.  So far, I haven't seen any effective secular humanist argument in response. 

In summary, Christians should love Darwin and the Big Bang because they can be used to help Christians to build solid, credible arguments against secular humanism.

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The fourth reason Christians should embrace Darwin and the Big Bang Theory is because it will provide a way to resolve the issue of what type of science should be taught in schools, a question that has caused great angst for Christians for many years. Christians will definitely like my proposal.

THE FOURTH REASON

            The fourth reason Christians ought to love Darwin and the Big Bang is because it provides a way to deal with the longstanding problem of what to teach about science and religion in the public schools.  This is certainly a very old problem, one going back to the famous Scopes "Monkey Trial" in Dayton, Tennessee in the 1920's. 

Unfortunately, Christians have generally come out on the losing end in court cases, the courts pretty much always ruling that Christian efforts to present alternatives to Darwinian science are unacceptable.  Many would argue that everyone – Christian and non-Christian alike – has lost out, the reason being is because teachers and schools are so afraid of this issue they shy away from teaching anything.  Some would argue that students are simply being taught "junk".  I believe that my proposed approach can come to the rescue, offering benefits to all:

  • NonChristians will be happy because good science will be taught
  • Christians will be happy because they will be able to build the set of arguments they've always wanted taught in schools, but simply haven't been able to advance, until now.

Sounds like a pretty bold claim – and it is – but let me show you how I believe I can make it.

            Let's go back to the great fear that Christians have had about Darwin.  I think there have been two: 1) that Darwin is inconsistent with the Biblical narrative; and 2) that it hypothesizes a world without purpose, and one without God, so students will be taught that the atheistic conception is correct.  Elsewhere I've shown how Darwin is clearly not inconsistent with the Biblical narrative, so we can definitely dispose of that objection.  Let's now turn to the other objection.  My proposal will provide atheists and other non-Christians with something they've always wanted – to teach Darwin in the schools – but it will come at a cost they haven't considered, one that Christians will definitely like.

            Let me explain how I think the subject of Darwin and the Big Bang should be taught in schools.  Bear with me, because if you're a Christian, I think you'll like where this is going.  As I've argued in my book, I think the schools should teach that the Big Bang and Darwin's theory are essentially correct, so let's teach that in the schools.  Atheists should love that, so what might their objection be?  Well, the problem that arises for atheists is that, just as Christians are practicing religion, atheists really are, too.  They'll object mightily to this, but let me show you why they actually are practicing religion.  If the schools follow through with what I'm suggesting, it should be fairly obvious.

            So here's what I think should be taught in the schools.  First, the Big Bang is our best explanation for how the universe began, about 13.8 billion years ago.  From that, the universe, as well as life, emerged and evolved to the present.  Here, though, is the big question: what caused the Big Bang?  Christians, as well as adherents of other religions, believe that God, or some type of God-like agent, caused it.  Atheists, of course, believe that it more or less happened by chance.  Who's right, and what proof is there?  Let's consider the alternatives.

            The question of the cause of the Big Bang is an excellent opportunity for schools of all sorts to teach the scientific method.  Pretty much everyone believes it's a good idea for children to learn the scientific method, they just haven't thought about it in this context.  So let's demonstrate the scientific method in the context of the question, who or what caused the Big Bang?

            Teachers at all levels could describe the following experiment.  Imagine that there is a giant wall, with all humanity on one side of the wall and an unknown world on the other side of the wall.  The question is, what's on the other side of the wall, and how can scientists prove it, one way or the other?  So imagine that a group of scientists get the very best scientific equipment available and aim it at the wall to determine what's on the other side of the wall.  Now even young children are familiar with X ray machines, if only because they may have seen them at airport screening.  Imagine that the scientists aim all of their sophisticated equipment at the wall, but despite their best efforts, the equipment provides absolutely no information about what's on the other side of the wall.  The question is, what conclusions can the scientists draw about what's on the other side of the wall?

            The obvious answer is, nothing!  If there are no data produced by the machines about what's on the other side of the wall, it remains a mystery what is on the other side.  Since no data are available, any conclusions reached are in the realm of speculation, and possibly religion.  I say this because one of the definitions of "faith" is belief in things that are unseen and not provable.  The experiment I've described is a perfect example of our understanding of what happened before the Big Bang.  Right now, we have absolutely no data points, so the experiment I've described pretty well summarizes our understanding of the "cause" of the Big Bang.  The scientific method dictates that we can reach no other conclusion than that, at least at this time.  So if someone tries to draw conclusions about the cause of the Big Bang, it means they're moving from the realm of science and into the realm of the metaphysical or religious.

            Christians, as well as adherents of other religions, believe that God caused the Big Bang, but what proof is there of that?  Well, unfortunately, there is no proof.  As such, the belief that God caused the Big Bang is a faith statement – a belief in something that is neither provable nor seen.  Absolutely no surprise in that!  Religious people have always understood that at some point, at some level, there was no way to prove what they believe.  For Christians and other religious people, our conclusion that God is on the other side of "the wall" is understood to be a religious statement. 

The problem, though, is that the very same principles apply to atheists.  Let me show you why.  Recall, there is absolutely no data from our hypothetical experiment about what is on the other side of the wall, so any conclusions drawn are religious or metaphysical.  That means that the conclusions of atheists about the cause of the Big Bang are, well, faith propositions because there is absolutely no data to back up the statement.  Yes, while atheists insist they're not practicing religion, they actually are, because they're making claims that they dress up as scientific, but are not based upon science.

Thus, everyone benefits, for the following reasons: 1) good science is being taught in the schools; 2) children are learning about the boundaries between science and religion; and 3) no one needs to worry that a particular religious view is being taught.  Christians should also be pleased because children will be taught that the claims of atheists are, like those of Christians, merely faith statements, so any conclusions drawn are beyond science.

Christians, of course, can rest assured that the case doesn't end there.  After all, as I've pointed out elsewhere, the real "line in the sand" Christians should be drawing is not how the world was created.  Instead, the "line" is the Garden of Eden, the reason being that the core of Christian beliefs are derived from that event: 1) mankind is sinful; 2) we have a dynamic God who cares about us; 3) we can't overcome sin on our own; and 4) Christ's death and resurrection are the atonement for our sin.  As I've noted elsewhere, Christians can build a strong case out of Darwin that leads directly to the Garden of Eden.

Based upon this understanding, an embrace of Darwin and the Big Bang will benefit Christians, especially those who have been concerned about what is taught to children in school.

           

 

 

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Since Darwin's theory was first elucidated about 150 years ago, religious people, both Christian and non-Christian, have sought ways to reconcile the different ideas.

A DIFFERENT AND BETTER QUESTION TO ASK

As discussed in the last post, at a minimum, the world view of a religious person, Christian or non-Christian, seems to be at odds with what Charles Darwin and the Big Bang Theory are saying.   This is because the religious believe that God, or a god-like agent, pre-existed the world, then directed the emergence of the world.  The Big Bang Theory seems to suggest that the world emerged out of nothing at a particular moment in time, and Darwin seems to suggest that the world emerged without purpose.

Since Darwin's theory was first elucidated about 150 years ago, religious people, both Christian and non-Christian, have sought ways to reconcile the different ideas.  You'll recall in an earlier blog post, I pointed out two theories – directed evolution and planned evolution – that reconcile Darwin, the Big Bang and Christianity.  A number of Christian groups, including the Roman Catholic Church and various mainline Protestant denominations, have reconciled the ideas.

Reconciliation, however, is not the same as what atheists have done – they've wholeheartedly embraced Darwin and the Big Bang.  Is there a difference?  I think there is, and let me describe it by analogy.  Recall when you were a child that at least one of your parents, most likely your mother, told you to eat your vegetables because they're good for you.  You probably didn't care for them, but you knew you needed to eat them.  For me, it was Brussels Sprouts.  Today, I'm a man in late middle age, and my tastes in food are considerably broader than when I was a child … but I still HATE Brussels Sprouts!  Conversely, I absolutely love carrots and watermelon, two other fruits and vegetables.    You likely have your own version of Brussels Sprouts, carrots, and watermelon.

Darwin and the Big Bang are like my carrots and watermelon to the atheist – he or she absolutely loves these theories, whether he or she knows anything about them.  Conversely, for the average Christian who has reconciled these theories with the Bible, it's still somewhat like my Brussels Sprouts: my "good reason" for eating them was to avoid the wrath of my mother.  But in my own mind, no one has given me a really good reason I should love them.  

But imagine a different scenario – a variation of the carrots and watermelon one I described above.  Imagine that Christians wanted to embrace Charles Darwin and the Big Bang Theory just as much, if not more than, atheists?  What would be the benefit of that?  Well, let me suggest a bunch of benefits:


    #1: Younger Christians might stop leaving the church as much as they do now, if only because one of the reasons for leaving has been mooted;
    #2: Rather than spending time arguing about "origins", Christians could use the that "bandwidth" to offer constructive comments about other matters of science, particularly scientific matters with an ethical dimension.  Hint: there are LOTS of them!
    #3: Christians could regain the respect of non-Christians on matters of science.  The latter probably still won't adopt Christianity, but at least some important attitudes could change.

There could be real benefits to this, but it could only happen if Christians could be given reasons to want to embrace Darwin and the Big Bang.  

You'll recall how I said that entrepreneurs often reframe old problems by asking new questions?  Well, that's precisely what I'm doing here.  Most everyone has some sort of entrenched position on this issue, and no one is budging.  In a case like that, the only way to make any real progress is to re-frame the problem.  Thus, for me, the starting point for addressing the BIG ISSUE – the relationship of Christians to science and technology – actually starts with coming up with a solution to the Darwin/Big Bang issue … and the only way to make real progress on that is to re-frame the entire problem by asking the following question: what would have to happen for Christians to want to "bear hug" embrace Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection and Georges LeMaitre's Big Bang Theory?

The answer is actually pretty straightforward: the two theories would have to show something that somehow reinforced something else that Christians already believed.  After all, that's really the reason atheists embrace the theory – because the two theories, when taken together, appear to reinforce the idea that the world just emerged out of nothing and evolved without purpose.

So the real question becomes: is there a way to think about Darwin and the Big Bang Theory that provide evidence that reinforces what the Christian Bible has been saying all along, that reinforces fundamental Christian doctrines?  If the answer is yes, then Christians ought to want to "bear hug" embrace Darwin and the Big Bang Theory, not because an atheist said to, but because the Christian Bible, and therefore God, says to do so.

Your initial reaction may be, preposterous!  I invite you to continue along with me, for I am going to take you on a journey to a place you probably thought was preposterous, but which I firmly believe is real. 
 

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The third reason Christians ought to love Darwin and the Big Bang is because it can provide a better way to do evangelism, particularly of the well educated.

THE THIRD REASON

            Unlike the first two reasons, the third reason I think Christians will love Darwin and the Big Bang Theory has to do with evangelism.  The importance of evangelism is found in Matthew 28:16 – 20: 16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (NIV).

            The words are pretty clear yet, by and large, Christians tend to have a problem following through.  In my experience, nothing makes Christians, even committed ones, squirm in their seats more than when they are reminded of the importance of evangelism: it gets lots of lip service, but often not a good deal of follow through.

            Unfortunately, the problem is getting worse, not better, especially when it comes to evangelizing the well educated.  Committed Christians seem more than willing to invest in efforts to evangelize in Africa and Asia, but they largely ignore their neighbors, especially well educated ones. 

            Why do Christians have such a hard time sharing the message of the gospel with well educated neighbors?  I haven't researched this, but I have plenty of anecdotal evidence that the well educated are especially resistant.  Why?  Because a high percentage of them have grown to develop a healthy skepticism of Christianity, particularly of the Bible.  It's the skepticism about the Bible that may be creating the greatest challenge, but Darwin may actually provide an unusual, and unexpected, solution to the problem.  Let me explain.

            My book develops the argument that Christians ought to embrace all of the science of Darwin and the Big Bang, with one notable exception: Christians believe that God pre-existed the Big Bang while atheists reject the idea of God.  Thus, with the respect to the "cause of the Big Bang", Christians believe that God was the author of the Big Bang whilst atheists tend to believe either that it "just happened", or that all matter and energy has always existed.  In other words, Christians believe the source and first cause was God, whereas atheists don't offer a specific first cause, but likely deny there is any cause.

            With that in mind, let's go back to the problem that evangelists have, particularly today.   All of the arguments that evangelists make are based upon the Bible.  That certainly makes good sense, except when the person being evangelized tends to reject the Bible as "hocus pocus", something more and more people, especially the well educated, do. 

            So what is the Christian evangelist to do when he or she is trying to evangelize the person who thinks the Bible is simple rubbish?  If the person being evangelized thinks the Bible is without merit, likely every statement the evangelist makes will fall on deaf ears.  Well, that's where Darwin and the Big Bang might play an unexpected role.  Here's how.  The first task of the evangelist, much like anyone who is trying to persuade another person to change his/her mind, is to establish rapport.  Anyone who has ever been involved in sales knows this is essential: if you can't establish rapport, you'll never persuade someone to buy your product.  My theory is that Christian evangelists can utilize Darwin and the Big Bang as the way to establish rapport, especially when the person being evangelized is highly skeptical of the Bible itself.  Here's how.

            I'm suggesting to committed Christians, and all evangelists, that they should embrace Darwin and the Big Bang.  Thus, the Christian evangelist can establish rapport with a non-Christian by pointing out a common belief in Darwin and the Big Bang.  Having done this, the evangelist can then ask the other person, "if Darwin is correct, and you and both believe he was correct, why do we still seem to have so many flaws as humans; and why haven't many of these flaws been eliminated through natural selection?"  This question may or may not start a discussion.  The Christian evangelist can then proffer the theory of pleiotropy that I advance in the book.  There isn't enough room to discuss that theory in detail now, but I will in an upcoming blog.   Pleiotropy is an accepted concept in biology, the idea that given genes perform multiple functions.   Paired with this is the concept of "antagonistic pleiotropy", also an accepted scientific concept.  The essence of the "antagonistic pleiotropy" argument is that bad traits don't disappear because they simultaneously offer benefits to humans: a given trait offers simultaneous benefits and drawbacks to humans.  There are lots of examples of antagonistic pleiotropy in the natural world.  The book cites sickle cell anemia as an excellent example: sickle cell anemia is a terrible disease, but it doesn't disappear, as Darwin's theory would expect, because it simultaneously confers the benefit of resistance to malaria.  Thus, the disease of sickle cell anemia has the seemingly peculiar characteristic of being simultaneously bad and good. 

My argument is that antagonistic pleiotropy provides an excellent metaphor for the behavior of mankind.  Like sickle cell anemia, humans have evolved a set of traits that are simultaneously good and bad: the "good" side of each trait is what has helped humans to survive and evolve; and the "bad" side of each trait is what we call sin.  When considering the sickle cell anemia analogy, the benefit of resistance to malaria is the "good" side while the terrible effects of the disease are the bad.  In the case of humans, for example, there is evidence that lying and deception can be simultaneously good and bad: we all know when lying is bad, but don't realize that all kinds of animals use deception as a strategy to survive.  It is evolutionarily beneficial.

The person being evangelized can certainly understand, and most likely accept, the concept of antagonistic pleiotropy, as well as idea that human traits can have both positive and negative sides.  From there, the evangelist can use the antagonistic pleiotropy hypothesis to explain the Garden of Eden.  The atheist and the Christian can agree that man evolved from lower mammals.  They can also agree that non-human mammals display the same type of behavior that we describe as sinful in humans, but with some important differences:

  • While humans evolved from lower mammals, because of their larger brains, possessed certain capabilities that lower level mammals lacked, in particular, the ability to understand the difference between right and wrong, as well as the ability to make decisions
  • Humans had the ability to make a bad choice, even though they knew that the choice was wrong.

From there, the evangelist can present the story of the Garden of Eden.  Assuming the non-Christian accepts the idea of the evolved differences of humans, it should then be quite easy for the non-Christian to understand the meaning of the Garden of Eden.  

            The non-Christian and the Christian evangelist can then agree that humans are different than their non-human mammalian forebears.   The question then becomes, what can humans do about their faults?  Increasingly, the modern narrative is that humans can overcome their weaknesses, possibly even "perfect" themselves.  However, "antagonistic pleiotropy" suggests otherwise; and the evangelist can ask the other person, if the "bad" traits and behaviors are the flip side of the coin from the positive behavior, intimately intertwined with the "good" traits, how can a person possibly hope to eliminate them?

The evangelist can then describe the traditional Christian narrative: the only way mankind can overcome its sinful nature is through God, specifically the atonement provided by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

            The narrative and conclusion for the evangelist is the same as before, but the science on which both the evangelist and the evangelized agree, it can become a "bridge" to a positive evangelistic experience.  Because of the skepticism of the person being evangelized, it is important to provide Darwinian science as "the bridge".  Absent that "bridge", the evangelist is very unlikely to "connect" with the person being evangelized.

            The "bridge" is made possible by the Christian's embrace of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, as well as the Big Bang Theory. Darwin and the Big Bang are not a substitute for the Bible, merely a "bridge" to understanding.

Thus, these theories provide another unexpected benefit to committed Christians.

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The second reason Christians ought to love Darwin is because Darwin provides a way for the Garden of Eden to have been a real event, not simply an allegory.

THE SECOND REASON

            In my last post I described in a little more detail why Christians should love both Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, as well as the Big Bang Theory.  Now I'd like to turn to the second reason: the implications for the reality of the Garden of Eden.

            From the time the Bible was first compiled in the early 4th century AD until the 18th century, pretty much anyone who believed in the Bible also believed that the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden really happened.  Christians, Jews and Muslims, all believers in the Garden of Eden, had no reason to suggest otherwise.  Since that time, the reality of the event has come into question.  This is particularly true when one considers some of the more recent scientific data that appear to contradict the idea that a single pair of humans, named Adam and Eve, were the first to inhabit the Earth, and all humans are descendants of that original pair.  Let's consider the evidence:

Daryl Domning

Daryl Domning is a paleontologist at Howard University in Washington, DC.  Domning has found considerable evidence that non-human mammals display the very same kind of bad behavior that we call sin in humans.  For example, chimpanzees are known to steal and deceive.   If Adam and Eve committed the original sin and passed it along to their descendants, how can one explain "sinful" behavior in non-human primates?  Surely, no one is suggesting that Adam and Eve were the parents of non-human mammals!

Mitochondrial Eve/Chromosomal Adam

In recent years genetic evidence has been found that traces humans back to an original man and woman.  The man has been referred to as Chromosomal Adam and the woman as Mitochondrial Eve.  Unfortunately, there is also evidence that these individuals did not live either at the same time or close to the same place, thus undercutting this as evidence of a real Garden of Eden. 

The Evidence of Francisco Ayala

Francisco Ayala is an evolutionary biologist at the University of California Irvine.  Ayala has identified what is called the DRB1 gene, one found not only in humans but in our genetic near-cousins such as the chimpanzee and gorilla.  Ayala's research shows that all of these mammals appear to have a single common ancestor about 60 million years ago.  At various points along the way, different groups split off.  The reason Ayala's research is important is that it shows that at no point could there have been only two humans.  In fact, according to Ayala, at no point could there have fewer than 16 humans, but more likely the minimum number of humans was from 5,000 to 100,000.  This suggest that there never could have been just an Adam and Eve.

The Evidence From Genesis

Even the Book of Genesis seems to call into question the idea that there were just two humans.  If there were just two humans, then were Adam and Eve not only the parents of Cain but also of his wife?  If so, that would imply an incestuous relationship.  Really?

How the Proposed Theory Helps the Argument

Many have taken the scientific arguments presented above to mean that Adam and Eve could not have been real people.  But for many evangelical Christians, making Adam and Eve allegorical seriously undercuts the Christian message.  If the price of Darwin and other modern science is an allegorical Garden of Eden, many of these Christians say they'll take the real Garden of Eden and reject Darwin. 

My proposed theory presents a solution to this problem.  Assume, for a moment, that both Darwin and Ayala are correct.  That would mean that humans did descend from precursor species, and it would also mean that when humans first appeared on Earth, there were likely at least 5,000 of them, possibly as many as 100,000.  Even in this circumstance, I would argue, there could easily have been a Garden of Eden scenario.  Let me show how. 

The Garden of Eden story includes the following core elements: a) two creatures called humans, with mental capabilities never before seen in any living creature; b) sufficient mental capacity to understand the difference between right and wrong; c) the capacity make a conscious decision; d) the ability to make a bad choice even when the person knows that it is the wrong choice; and e) a God who is willing to respond to the decision they made.  Let's look at each of these.

First, Adam and Eve could easily have been two people selected by God for a test.  They were amongst the original group of humans, so their actions could have been representative of all humans at that time.  Darwin's theory posits that creatures would slowly evolve the capability for independent thought at judgment.  Adam and Eve, therefore, could have been amongst the first two with the capability.  Presumably, though, all or nearly all of the humans in this original cohort had evolved similar mental faculties: all would have gotten to the point that they understand the difference between right and wrong, yet could make a bad decision. Thus, Adam and Eve's behavior would simply have served as a convenient proxy for the entire cohort of humans.

Second, Darwin suggests that humans evolved higher mental faculties.  Eventually, creatures would emerge with sufficient capability to understand the difference between right and wrong, as well as the capacity to make decisions.

Third, according to the theory, creatures could eventually emerge who could think and act sufficiently independently that they would dis-regard what someone else wanted.  That sounds exactly like what Adam and Eve did.

Finally, God responded to what Adam and Eve did.  What we often forget is that God could have simply ignored Adam and Eve, then redirected His attention elsewhere in the universe.  After all, given the size of the Universe, God could easily have said, I don't have time for these people!  But, of course, Christians believe He made a different decision, one to be actively involved in the world.

Now I know I can't prove that this was the scenario.  The important thing, however, is that Darwin's theory creates a very practical way for this to have been the actual scenario.  Further, this scenario very neatly fits the actual description of Genesis 2 and 3.  Thus, Darwin creates a way to have a literal Garden of Eden.  In other words, Darwin provides a means to reinforce a second fundamental doctrine of Christianity, the concept of a real Garden of Eden where real humans willingly and knowingly dis-obey.

 

 

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The first reason is that Darwin actually seems to provide an explanation for the basic doctrine of Christianity.  When introducing this idea, I always like to begin by asking Christians, what is the most basic doctrine of Christianity.  You'd think I'd get the correct answer at least 80 to 90% of the time.  In fact, I get a correct answer less than 10% of the time.  What???  How can that be?

FIRST REASON TO EMBRACE DARWIN

In this post we'll discuss the first of five reasons why Christians ought to love Darwin and the Big Bang Theory.  In each case, the reason actually has something to do with the Christian Bible.  Moreover, it helps reinforce things that Christians already believe.

The first reason is that Darwin actually seems to provide an explanation for the basic doctrine of Christianity.  When introducing this idea, I always like to begin by asking Christians, what is the most basic doctrine of Christianity.  You'd think I'd get the correct answer at least 80 to 90% of the time.  In fact, I get a correct answer less than 10% of the time.  What???  How can that be?

The answers I get tend to fall into one of two categories.  In the first, people say that God created the heavens and the Earth.  That's a reasonable answer, but there is nothing uniquely Christian about the answer.  Most other religious traditions maintain that God, or some Godlike agent, created the world. So  what beyond this is uniquely Christian?

In the second category, most of the answers are somehow related to Jesus and salvation.  The responses tend to be perfectly reasonable, except they almost invariably beg the question, why was it necessary for Jesus to appear on Earth?  In response to almost all of the answers I hear, I ask the follow up question, "Why?"  Most of the time, but definitely not always, I finally get to the correct answer: the most basic doctrine of Christianity is that mankind is sinful.  The story of the Garden of Eden recounts the "Fall of Mankind".

What exactly is supposed to have happened in the Garden of Eden?  An original pair of humans, one named Adam and one named Eve, were instructed by God to do pretty much whatever they wanted, except they were not to eat the fruit of one particular tree.  The Devil tries to deceive them by saying that God really didn't mean that they should not eat the forbidden fruit.  Eve and Adam then eat the fruit, the thing they weren't supposed to do.  God, as punishment, bans Adam and Eve from the Garden.

It would be one thing if the story ended there, but it doesn't.  In fact, Christians believe that because of what Adam and Eve did, all human descendants bear the stain of their sin.  In the most  extreme cases, Christians believe that all humans born after Adam and Eve have inherited this stain, and are marked by it from the moment of birth.  

It's the most fundamental Christian doctrine because the entire rest of the Bible actually deals with the problem of sin, as well as how to overcome it.  Christians believe that humans themselves cannot overcome sin on their own.  Instead, they can only overcome it by having faith in Jesus Christ, whose death atoned for it.  It was a gift that was freely provided and could not be earned.

So what's the problem?  The problem is that while this is the most fundamental doctrine of Christianity, Christians have never provided a truly satisfying explanation for what I'll call the "mechanism of transmission.": how did an act of two individuals, who lived who knows how long ago, cause everyone else to inherit the same propensity to sin?  What is the nature and evidence of the mechanism?  Traditionally, two different doctrines have been used to explain this – one called traducianism and the other creationism.  Both describe some type of mystical, non-material means of transmission.  In the highly rationalistic society in which we live, these explanations sound like so much hocus pocus.  

This, I believe, is where Darwin comes in to play because evolution provides the missing "mechanism of transmission."  To understand that, however, we need to take a side excursion and look at our nearest genetic relatives – chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and similar primates.  We share about 97 or 98% of our DNA with them.  The other 2 or 3% obviously makes a huge difference!  In the next post we'll explore how we're related to these other primates, then use that as a jumping off point to look at the Garden of Eden.
 

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My argument is that Christians shouldn't just accept Darwin and the Big Bang. Instead, they should absolutely love them! There are five reasons why. Here's a brief summary of the five reasons.

THE FIVE REASONS

            I've been making the argument that not only should Christians accept Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, as well as the Big Bang Theory, they should absolutely love both theories.  In fact, they should love the two ideas even more than committed atheists.  I've identified five reasons why.  There may well be more, but here are my five reasons:

            #1: Darwin provides a realistic explanation for the most fundamental doctrine of Christianity – original sin;

            #2: It provides a way for the Garden of Eden to have realistically occurred, not simply been an allegory;

            #3: It provides a better way for Christians to do evangelism, particularly when trying to evangelize well educated people;

            #4: It provides a way to teach science in public schools that will be quite acceptable to pretty much everyone, ranging from the militantly atheistic to the most fundamentalist of Christians;

            #5: It provides a way for Christians to address important questions/challenges that have been posed by secular humanists.

I'll explore each of these in greater detail in upcoming posts, but here's a quick introduction to the argument for each.

Original Sin  - The Most Fundamental Doctrine

Original sin is the most fundamental doctrine of Christianity.  Mankind's sinful nature is the reason why Jesus came to Earth and was crucified.  The crucifixion was an atonement for mankind's sin.  While it's the most fundamental doctrine, Christians today know very little about the doctrine and its significance.  Why churches speak so little about this is not clear to me.  Christians believe that the sin of Adam and Eve has somehow been transmitted to every human.  But what is the mechanism of transmission?  My argument is that Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection provides a perfect explanation for the transmission of sin. 

The Garden of Eden

Did the Garden of Eden really occur?  Were Adam and Eve real humans?  In the past few hundred years, many, if not most, Christians have come to think of this as just an allegory.  More conservative Christians, however, hold tenaciously to the idea that the Garden was a real event.  Modern science seems to call that reality into question, but I believe there is a realistic way the Garden of Eden could have actually happened, and the reality squares with the most modern of science.

Evangelism

Evangelism is clearly important to Christians, but doing it effectively is always challenging.  Perhaps the biggest challenge today is that while the basis of most all evangelism is the Bible, many people sincerely believe that Bible is hocus pocus.  How, then, can one do effective evangelism if the intended audience views the "source" of the evangelistic claims as hocus pocus?  My belief is that Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, as well as the Big Bang Theory, can serve as the "bridge" between Christians and non-Christians, and the two theories can provide the starting point for a discussion about the Bible.

Teaching Science in the Public Schools

Everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, benefits if good science is taught in the schools.  Increasingly, however, students are taught science poorly, or not at all, because teachers are reluctant to tackle the issue of science and religion in the classroom.  I believe that my theory will provide an excellent way to overcome this problem, one that will be acceptable to all, from militant atheists to fundamentalist Christians.

Addressing Secular Humanism

Secular humanists often pose challenging questions to Christians.  For example, the secular humanist may ask, why isn't it sufficient for one to lead a moral life?  The questions are legitimate, and good.  Unfortunately, Christians oftentimes stumble over these questions and fail to provide good responses.  I believe that the twin theories can help provide Christians with better answers when responding to secular humanists.

            In upcoming blog posts, I'll address each of these five "benefits" in greater detail.  Altogether, I believe it will make a strong case for why Christians shouldn't just accept Darwin and the Big Bang Theory, they should absolutely love the two theories.

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I like to think that what's presented in Genesis 1 fits in the category of "simplified, but essentially correct". So what's the evidence for this? David Wolper demonstrated the essential truth of this when he "mapped" what is recorded in Genesis 1 to the known science.

GENESIS 1

In my last post I talked about the concept of "accommodation theory", meaning that the Bible is written in a way that is correct, but simplified in such a way that is understandable by ordinary people.  A good analogy is to a "children's sermon."  In lots of churches, the message the adults will hear is simplified so that young children can understand it.  The core of the message is the same, just expressed in such a way that children can understand.

I like to think that what's presented in Genesis 1 fits in the category: an essentially correct, but simplified version.  So what's the evidence for this?  David Wolper demonstrated the essential truth of this when he "mapped" what is recorded in Genesis 1 to the known science.  His article appeared in the March 15, 2010 edition of The Huffington Post.
He noted that according to Genesis, in the beginning, God said, "Let there be light." This would certainly be consistent with the big bang theory. Between the formation of the universe, likely about 13.8 billion years ago, and the formation of our sun, about 4.5 billion years ago, light appeared in many places due to the formation of stars.
According to Wolper, the second day of Genesis 1 corresponded with the period between 4.5 billion and 3.75 billion years ago: "And God said, 'Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.' So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it." The scientific evidence suggests that at that time, water-rich asteroids and protoplanets collided with prehistoric earth, bringing water. Later, gaseous emissions from volcanoes added additional water. This occurred approximately 4.4 billion years ago.
Over the next several billion years, as the earth cooled, water vapor began to escape and condense in the earth's early atmosphere. Clouds formed, and enormous amounts of water fell on the earth. The waters were separated, water on earth and water in the atmosphere. Wolper's conclusion was that day two of the Genesis 1 story fit with our understanding of science and is in the correct order.

According to Genesis, during the third day,
God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good. Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
Wolper concluded that the third day corresponded with the period of about 3.75 to 3.5 billion years ago. Evidence indicates that about that time, the separation of land masses occurred on earth. However, what happened next during the third day appears to be in conflict with the scientific evidence. Plants, grass, and fruit-bearing trees didn't appear until after sea creatures. Though microscopic, single-cell algae (bacteria or archaea microbes) are plants and appeared at that time, they weren't the advanced forms of plant life seemingly implied in Genesis.

During the fourth day, according to Genesis, "God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night.'" The available scientific evidence indicates that the sun was created prior to this time, so why was light mentioned at this point?

Wolper noted there were a number of scientific theories that might explain this. Gerald Schroeder, a professor of nuclear physics and earth and planetary sciences at MIT, contended that the sun, moon, and the stars were already there but that the atmosphere was opaque. With the cooling of the earth and the rise of atmospheric oxygen, the atmosphere became transparent, and there was light.

Another interesting theory was presented by Alan Parker, an evolutionary biologist and research fellow at Oxford University. Parker speculated that this second reference to light on day four referred to the evolution of vision. If there was no vision, then there was in a sense no light. So the lights were turned on, so to speak, in the evolution of sight in animals. "To separate day from night" refers to the time before and after sight.
The fifth day of Genesis appears to correspond to the period ranging from 3.5 billion years ago until about 635 million years ago. According to Genesis, "And God said, 'Let the waters teem with living creatures … Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the waters in the seas." This is exactly what scientific evidence suggests happened; life began in the sea. The earliest fossils of life, called single-celled bacteria, are found in ancient rocks deposited in the oceans about 3.5 billion years ago. By 1.2 billion years ago, the first complex, multicellular life had evolved. The oldest evidence of full animal life in the oceans comes from about 635 million years ago.

Also appearing during the fifth day, according to verse 22, were birds, but this appears to be in conflict with scientific evidence. However, there is evidence that flying insects appeared at this time. As noted by Wolper, this could be an explanation.
During the sixth day, "God said, Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to their kind." Between 250 million years ago and about 6,000 years ago, that is exactly what happened.

Overall, the scientific evidence seems to agree with Genesis 1. Only with a partial aspect of the third day does there seem to be an inconsistency, but I would argue that it is minor; overall, there is broad consistency.   Thus, I believe this shows that Genesis 1 is an "accommodated" understanding of what really happened.  The description is simultaneously consistent with what really happened, but it didn't literally happen the way it was described.  So one can argue that the Bible is correct, but just as we saw we need to be careful about scientific conclusions to be drawn from a reading of Joshua 10 (The Battle of Aijalon), so we also need to be careful about any scientific conclusions we might draw from the text of Genesis 1.

In our next post, we'll explore Genesis 1 from the perspective of a noted Old Testament scholar.

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Accommodation theory is the idea that God, in all of His greatness, is extremely difficult for humans to comprehend. If He is to be understood and worshipped, then His creation needs to be described in a way that is understandable to ordinary people.

ACCOMMODATION THEORY

An obvious question to ask is, if Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is correct, why isn't it in the Bible?  Surely, God wouldn't deceive believers by saying the world was created one way and then doing it in a different way!   

I think Christians can rest assured that God wasn't being deceptive.  The way He could have created the world using the method described by Darwin, but describe it in the Bible in the way it is, is because of what is called "Accommodation Theory."

Accommodation theory is the idea that God, in all of His greatness, is extremely difficult for humans to comprehend.  If He is to be understood and worshipped, then His creation needs to be described in a way that is understandable to ordinary people.  Let me now show you why this makes sense, both from the perspective of the Reformed Church as well as the Roman Catholic Church.  Let's start with the Reformed Church.

The Reformation was based upon three great doctrinal concepts: 1) sola fides (salvation by faith alone); 2) scriptura sola (the supremacy of the Bible); and 3) the priesthood of all believers.  The Reformers believed that people were saved by faith alone, not by performing any type of "works".  Further, the source of all authority was the Bible itself.  Up until that time, the Roman Catholic Church maintained that Church traditions had equal authority with what the Bible said.  Finally, the Reformers believed that all believers comprised a priesthood, meaning that individuals could have a direct relationship with God.  It wasn't necessary to have that relationship "mediated" by a priest.

One of the logical conclusions of this was the need to have the Bible translated into common languages so ordinary people could either read the Bible directly, or if they were illiterate, to have someone read it to them, but solely for the purpose of letting the individual person draw his or her own conclusions.  No trained priest was necessary.  Needless to say, the Roman Catholic Church wasn't amused.

Assume for a moment that the Reformers were right, and that God did intend for ordinary people to be able to interact directly with the Bible and draw their own conclusions.  This is a bedrock concept in the Reformed Church.  Well if that's the case, the Bible certainly cannot be a scientific textbook.  Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection could never have been described therein.  It would have been akin to taking a textbook on surgery, written in Chinese, then translating it into English, or whatever is the native language of the reader.  Even when translated, the text would have made no sense to the reader.  But if the Bible couldn't be comprehended by the ordinary reader, God's purpose would not have been met.  As such, if God intended for ordinary people to read the Bible and understand His message, it could never have been designed to opine on matters of science.

Now let's consider the same issue, but from a Roman Catholic perspective.  Let's assume that ordinary people were never intended by God to read the Bible and understand its mystery – that God always did intend for trained priests to serve as "intercesors", interpreting the message in ways that ordinary people could understand.  Being firmly in the Reformed tradition, I don't personally subscribe to the idea, but let's assume for a minute that I am wrong.  Well, if God intended for the Bible to serve as a science textbook, his trained interpreters – the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church – got the message wrong for 1500 years!  After all, the trained experts were the ones who read about the Battle of Aijalon in Joshua 10 and were convinced that both the Sun stood still that day AND the Sun revolves around the Earth.  They were so convinced of it that they put Galileo under house arrest of 9 years because he begged to differ.

My conclusion, therefore, is that accommodation theory makes good sense.  Not only that, but Christian theologians, even as far back as Augustine, said we shouldn't treat the Bible as a scientific textbook.  John Calvin said the same.  Dennis Lamoroux, a Biblical scholars, noted that:


The structure and origin of the universe presented in the
Bible do not align with the scientific facts. Yet this fact
does not weaken our belief that Scripture is the Word
of God. It only indicates that the Holy Spirit graciously
descended to the level of the inspired authors and used
the science of their day as an incidental vessel to reveal
inerrant messages of faith.


So if accommodation theory is a good explanation of why Darwin and the Big Bang theory aren't described in the Bible, what then can we say about what IS in the Bible?  We can rest assured, what is described is an "accommodated version" that, while it is true, is a simplified to our level of understanding.  We'll discuss that in our next post.

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While I'm absolutely convinced that Christians can trust the Bible, I am much less convinced that Christians, even well meaning ones, always understand what it is saying. This is particularly true when it comes to matters of science. Moreover, it's true because of a funny thing that happened almost two thousand years ago.

CAN WE BELIEVE THE BIBLE?

Before going much further, an extremely important question needs to be answered: where does the Bible fit in this discussion? If I don't provide the right answer, many Christians may stop reading another paragraph, irrespective of what they think about this subject.

I don't have a problem with that, and I agree that the matter needs to be settled.  Without a doubt, I believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God.  Period.  End of case.  Christians can rely upon without the least hesitation.

While I'm absolutely convinced that Christians can trust the Bible, I am much less convinced that Christians, even well meaning ones, always understand what it is saying.  This is particularly true when it comes to matters of science.  My point is also relevant because of a funny thing that happened almost two thousand years ago.

For those of you who are also very committed Christians, if I asked you, can you trust what the Bible says, you'd answer strongly in the affirmative.  At the same time, if I asked you, does the Earth, the planet on which we all reside, rotate around the Sun, you'd also agree.  The funny thing is, for nearly 1500 years, Christians were absolutely convinced that the Bible said the Sun rotated around our Earth!

The idea that the Sun rotates around the Earth actually predates the Bible.  A Greek scholar/mathematician named Claudius Ptolemy developed the theory in Alexandria, Egypt about 150 AD. Church scholars looked at the Bible and were convinced that the Bible said the same thing. Huh?

In fact, not one but numerous Bible verses were cited in support of this idea.  In particular, the Battle of Gibeon, recounted in the 10th chapter of the Book of Joshua was cited as evidence.  The city of Gibeon entered into a treaty with the Israelites. Alarmed at this, a coalition of five Amorite kings formed to oppose the Gibeonites.  The Gibeonites pleaded for aid from Joshua and the Israelites.  Joshua marched his army from all night from Gilgal, then surprised the Amorite coalition in the morning.  The Amorites were defeated, then fled, with the Israelite army in pursuit.  While escaping, the Amorites were victimized by a hailstorm.  More died from the hailstones than from the battle.  

Joshua felt he needed a little more time, so he pleaded with God to stop the Sun, making it possible to prolong the battle so the Amorites could be finished off.  Translations of the Bible suggest that God "stopped" the Sun, thus giving Joshua and the Israelites more time to finish off the Amorites.  As recounted in verse 14, "there has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a man.  Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel."

The conclusion was that God had in fact stopped the Sun in its tracks, thus prolonging the day.  This and other verses were cited as evidence that Ptolemy was right – the Earth was the center of the universe, and the Sun and planets revolved around the Earth.

The belief persisted until Galileo Galilei demonstrated in the early 17th century that the Earth and the other planets definitely revolved around the Sun.  The Roman Catholic Church wasn't amused.  In fact, Galileo spent the last nine years of his life under house arrest because he would not recant his theory of heliocentrism – that the Earth and the other planets revolve around the Sun.

So what REALLY happened on the day of the Battle of Aijalon recounted in Joshua 10?  Two possibilities: 1) the language was figurative, and the Sun didn't literally stop that day (for a realistic explanation of what really happened that day, look at http://www.accuracyingenesis.com/joshua.html for a thorough, Biblically AND scientifically based explanation); or 2) God somehow really did stop the Sun that day.  But even if the latter occurred – and that is a VERY BIG IF - it doesn't lead to the conclusion that we live in a world where the Earth is the center of the Universe and the Sun rotates around the Earth. 

It's been demonstrated conclusively that Galileo was right. So I like to ask my fellow Christians, when it was determined that Galileo was right, how much of the Bible was re-written?  I, of course, get puzzled looks when I ask that, but it's a serious question, for if the Bible is the revealed Word of God, and Christians for 1500 years said the Bible indicated the Earth was the center of the Universe, but it turned out not to be the case, who or what was wrong?  The obvious answer is, the Bible wasn't wrong, it's just that Christians for 1500 years didn't seem to understand what it was saying, at least with respect to this matter of science.

What conclusions can one draw from this?  The most basic conclusion is that while the Bible is clearly the inspired Word of God, it isn't, and never has been, a science text book.     In the next post, we'll explore this idea further by introducing a concept called accommodation theory. 
 

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Carl Treleaven is an entrepreneur, author, strong supporter of various non-profits, and committed Christian. He is CEO of Westlake Ventures, Inc., a company with diversified investments in printing and software.

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