“For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well” (NRSV).
Siamese Fighting Fish must be kept separate from other fish, otherwise they start a fight, but that is not the kind of fish fight I am talking about today. This is a fish fight that you see on the trunks of cars. Many cars have a decal, which is two intersecting arcs, representing a fish. Some of these decals contain the word "Jesus." Others contain the Greek word for fish, which is ἰχθύς. It is spelled: Iota Chi Theta Upsilon Sigma. I know that sounds like a college fraternity or sorority. But the letters are an acronym for Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ, which translates as Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior. Thus, the fish was a secret symbol of Christianity in ancient times.
That is why you see the outline of a fish on some cars. But that is only half of the fight. You might also see fish sprouting legs, with the word "Darwin" inside. I have seen a couple of decals with the word “evolve” inside. On yet other cars, you may see a fish saying “Truth” devouring the Darwin-fish. It is a fin to fin fish fight. But what is it all about?
Lets go back to ἰχθύς. The fish symbol was used by early believers to communicate secretly. When meeting a stranger, one person would draw an arc, which was one side of the fish. If the stranger was not a Christian, he would not think anything of his new friend's doodlings, and then the Christian knew to be cautious. But if the stranger was a believer, he would complete the fish by drawing the other side, and then they could talk about Jesus. Ancient etchings of the fish are still visible on the walls of Roman catacombs, which were a secret meeting place for early Christians. Today, Christians put fish decals on their cars for several reasons. Some do it as a positive expression of their faith. For others, it is an anti-evolution statement.
On the other hand, the Darwin fish decal, the fish with feet, affirms a person's acceptance of evolution. People who use Darwin decals may also think that evolution disproves the existence of God. Ring of Fire is a California-based company that sells Darwin fish. The company says that the Darwin fish is a parody of the "creationist theory supported by fundamentalist Christians."
So we have a fish fight. And the question in every fight is: whose side are you on? Frankly, it bothers me that an ancient symbol of our faith is being used in a way that it was never intended to be used. The fish is a Christian symbol, but it was never intended to be a statement against evolution. On the other hand, I am a creationist. I believe that God created the universe.
I thought about putting one of each decal on the tailgate of my pickup: a fish to declare my devotion to Jesus, and a fish with feet to show that I am not opposed to the scientific theory of evolution. I am aware that when I say that I shock some folks. They ask, How can a Christian agree with evolution? Does not evolution prove there is no God? Has not a generation of fundamentalist preachers taught us that evolution is “the work of the devil”?
I am obviously not a scientist. I am a minister. For many years now, I have been unhappy with the obvious fact that some folks in the church make a living opposing evolution. They call themselves “Creation Scientists,” but they do not do science at all. That is to say that they do not do research and they do not publish articles in scientific journals. What they do is publish propaganda in the church that is anti-evolution. Their efforts have convinced many Christians, who do not read scientific journals, that evolution is anti-Christ and anti-God, which it is not. Their efforts have led to this unnecessary fish fight.
As Christians, we believe that God created the earth and everything in it. We say to the Lord, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Therefore, with the Psalmist, we lift up our voices in adoration and praise God that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
People use science to study the works of God, the natural world. The scientific method of theory supported by experiment and the peer review system (where scientists review one another's work before publishing in respected journals) were developed to prevent personal opinion from influencing a scientist's results. When followed properly, scientific research reveals how the natural world operates. In other words, science attempts to answer the question: How does it work? Why does milk sour? Why do apples fall from trees? Why isn’t it raining? Those are all valid scientific questions.
But science cannot test every question. Natural science by definition only examines the physical, not the spiritual. Thus scientists can not experimentally test for the existence of a Creator because God's presence is perceived spiritually. 1 Cor. 2:14 reads, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (ESV). Accepting that a spiritual or supernatural realm exists is an expression of faith. Therefore, no matter what science reveals about natural history and the development of organisms, it can never disprove, or prove, the existence of God.
Before we can discuss the evidence for evolution, we must define our terms, or we risk producing more of the same old fish fight, which has been going on for the last four centuries. The fight began with Copernicus and Galileo who taught that the earth is not flat and is not the center of the universe. The earth is a planet circling the sun and the sun is a star in one corner of a galaxy. Initially, the church opposed Galileo tooth and nail, declaring him and his followers the vilest of heretics. The church proclaimed that this was a fight for the very existence of Christianity. Well, we lost that fight. We were wrong. We were wrong also in thinking that accepting scientific proof about planets and stars would destroy Christianity. We eventually realized, when all the dust settled, that what Copernicus and Galileo were saying was not anti-Christian. There should never have been a fight at all
Let’s think about evolution. Are we again picking a fight that does not need to be fought? What are we fighting about? This is a definition of evolution: “In biology, evolution is the change in the inherited traits of a population from generation to generation.” (from Wikipedia article Evolution). The inherited traits and characteristics of an individual are derived from genes which are copied and passed on to the next generation. Mutations, and other random changes in genes, can produce new traits, and the next generation will inherit those new traits.
That is biological evolution. Unfortunately, as it is used today, the term “evolution” has several meanings. Scientists talk abut microevolution, the evolution of atoms and molecules, and macroevolution, the evolution of stars and galaxies, and evolutionary biology, and evolutionism.
Evolutionism is a philosophy that says that evolution has disproved God. In his book Cosmos, Carl Sagan wrote, "The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be." Richard Dawkins writes in his book River out of Eden, "The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference." Stephen Jay Gould said “Darwin resolutely applied his materialistic theory of evolution to all phenomena of life, including what he termed "the citadel itself" -- the human mind. And if mind has no real existence beyond the brain, can God be anything more than an illusion invented by an illusion?” (Ever Since Darwin (1979) p.25) Sagan and Dawkins and Gould are representatives of evolutionism which is a philosophy that says science has done away with God.
Now obviously Christians are resolutely and emphatically opposed to evolutionism. If someone says to me that science has done away with God, I am going to reply, very politely, that I think they are bonkers. But we need to keep straight who we are fighting. Know the enemy. The enemy is not science. Many people get confused about this and wind up doing more harm than good. The enemy is not the fossil record, not biology, nor geology. Our enemies are those who say that science proves there is no God. Science proves no such thing, nor can it ever prove any such thing.
A question that is always asked is: Does the evidence support evolution? Well, we are not scientists here, and we depend upon what scientists tell us. Scientists tell us that the evidence does support evolution. The National Association of Biology Teachers official statement on evolution reads, "Modern biologists constantly study, ponder and deliberate the patterns, mechanisms and pace of evolution, but they do not debate evolution's occurrence." What they are saying is that research into how evolution works is an ongoing project, but evolution itself is accepted as a proven law of nature. Comprehensive and extensive scientific evidence exists for the idea that organisms have changed over geological history. We see different forms of plants and animals appearing, changing, and disappearing at different eras in the fossil record (for example, the dinosaurs). Thus, we are led to the conclusion that major groups of plants and animals descended from common ancestral species.
But the question is: What does evolution say about our belief that God created everything. Evolution only talks about how God created. Evolution is what we call in theology a second cause.
The Westminster Confession of Faith was written a couple a centuries before Darwin. It says that God does “ordain whatsoever comes to pass.” That is to say, God is in charge of what happens in the universe from the beginning to the end. And then the confession adds some qualifiers: God is not “the author of sin,” and from our point of view we have free will, and then it says: “Nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” (Ch. 3, para. 1)
What the Confession is saying is that God creates and controls the world, but God does that through “second causes” through what we now call natural law.
Science today tells us that the universe began with a Big Bang. And from that initial explosion, over long eons, stars evolved and solar systems and galaxies, and on one planet there evolved life, and eventually conscious life, human beings.
Question: Is any of that opposed to what we believe about God? No. That is just a description of the way God created.
We see this same way of thinking in a description of a local event. Suppose a Christian lady dies. A doctor gives a scientific explanation of why she died. He might explain what caused the heart to stop functioning. He might describe how the blood stopped flowing to the brain, and then the organism collapsed. Thus, science describes how it happened. Ask me what happened to that lady, and I would probably say, it was just her time. God was ready for her to come home and so she went home. Now who is right in this incident, the doctor or me? We are both right. The doctor is describing the lady’s death in terms of second causes. I am describing her death in religious terms.
The point of all this. Do not get involved in fights that you do not need to fight. There is no conflict between religion and science. There is no conflict between evolution and God. The old saying is: “You ain’t got no dog in that fight.” We need to concentrate on the real issue. We need to talk about how God loves us so much that he made us, and we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” And so we can say, “Wonderful are your works,” O Lord, “that I know very well.”
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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