Saturday, May 10, 2008

My Reaction to Francis Collins' Language of God Part 6

Collins' theory of "Biologos"

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Collins' version of theistic evolution should be called deistic evolution. He only allows God a role at the very beginning, setting up the machine at the time of the big bang. Even the arrival of abstract intelligence, morality, and the desire for God were apparently natural developments.19 God's role is limited to foreknowing that evolution would take this path.20 His position is even more deistic than Darwin's own position, because Darwin said: "Therefore I should infer from analogy that probably all the organic beings which have ever lived upon this earth have descended from one primordial form into which life was first breathed by the Creator."21 Collins won't even allow for God launching the first living cells.

Collins' analysis of why people resist this deistic theory of origins centers on two specious reasons—1) that people don't like theism associated with evolution, and 2) that they prefer controversy to harmony. I can't think of anyone who resists deism for these reasons.

The real reason Christians resist deism is biblical authority and sound exegesis. Here, Collins reveals his method again, in a way consistent with his earlier chapters: Genesis 1 and 2 are figurative. Adam and Eve were not the only humans, because of Cain's wife. Therefore they are probably just a representative story of how people don't obey God. C.S. Lewis and the Pope agree that the passages should not be taken literally or historically. The lyrical character puts them in the same category as Job and Jonah, which do not carry a "historical ring."22

As noted earlier, these verdicts fly in the face of Jesus' clear teaching that "God said" the things recorded in Gen 2 to Adam. Jesus likened his resurrection to Jonah's expulsion by the fish. According to this reasoning, if the Jonah story was mythical, Jesus' resurrection could be mythical also. Paul teaches that just as sin entered through one man, justification entered through one man. Again, if Adam's fall was mythical, wouldn't this mean that Jesus' death and resurrection could be the same? How did the fallen nature pass to other humans? Clearly the Adam and Eve story is impossible if humans evolved in a transitional community of organisms probably comprising thousands of members, as Collins assumes. I hope we all see that viewing humans as the product of evolution alone means the rejection of a literal Adam and Eve. It also offers no adequate explanation for a spiritual nature that would even survive death.

Collins' view of scripture is completely unacceptable.

On page 83, Collins gives us two choices where Genesis interpretation is concerned: hyper-literal young earth hermeneutics, and non-historical poetic license. His coverage in this section demonstrates no understanding of other interpretive positions. Throughout this section, he shows little depth of understanding either of the interpretive issues in Genesis or of the theological issues raised by his low view of scripture.

Collins stands close enough to biblical faith to be very appealing, especially because of his preeminence in the scientific community. But while learning from his advanced scholarship in genetics, people could also easily buy into his poorly informed views on scripture.

For us, the determining limits to which theories may be accepted should be biblical exegesis. I believe we have no reason to declare which theory or combination is the correct one, only which theories are possible within a biblical framework.

19 Francis S. Collins, The Language of God, 201. Although he allows that these defy explanation through evolution, he still resists attributing them to God, and maintains that no intervention by God was necessary. He reaffirms this when he describes moral law and desire to know God as gradual, natural developments that could have happened in reptiles if things had gone differently.

20. Francis S. Collins, The Language of God, 205, 207

21. Cited in Gleason Archer, Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 195.

22. Francis S. Collins, The Language of God, 209.


Pete said...

You mentioned that Collins only gives two choices when it comes to Genesis interpretation (hyper-literal young earth hermeneutics, and non-historical poetic license). What are some of the other interpretive positions?

Dennis said...

Some of the main ones would be the day-age theory, the "days literal, but not sequential" theory, the gap theory, and the "days of revelation theory." See these explained in sources like Francis Schaeffer, Genesis in space and time, Or Walter Bradley's book on Genesis.

AdamK said...

I'm not sure I agree with you that if the Jonah story is a myth then Jesus' resurrection could be a myth as well. We compare real events with mythology all the time. Just because it was a herculean effort to defeat the Nazis doesn't mean that it was a mythical event.

Dennis said...

Jesus refers to this as non-mythical. When he says, "Just as Jonah was three days..." he is indicating that he believed this actually happened.