creation and evolution

Last Monday the seminary hosted John Walton for a provocative discussion on what the Bible, and in his talks specifically Genesis 1-2, says about creation. I think about Walton’s thesis like I think about the New Perspective on Paul—I like what it is for but not what it is against. I gladly add Walton’s functional notion of creation (much like I add the NPP insight on Jew-Gentile reconciliation), but see no compelling reason why I should think that Genesis 1 is not also speaking about the beginning of our material creation (just as, despite its protest, the NPP only confirms my belief that Paul was fighting a type of legalism).

I’m also not sure what the ultimate benefit is of saying Genesis 1-2 is not teaching creation ex nihilo or that Adam was an individual, historical person if we’re going to throw all that back in when we get to Romans 5, 1 Corinthians 15, and 1 Timothy 2. Did Paul invent new beliefs about creation that were not present in Genesis 1-2, or was he merely noting what was already there? Unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary, I would think that Paul, who as a first century Jew was closer to the Ancient Near Eastern context than we are, would be a reliable guide to how the first Jewish audience would have understood the opening chapters of Genesis.

Walton is a careful exegete whose work contributes to our understanding of Genesis 1-2 in its ANE context, but I was surprised when he concluded by saying that his reading of Genesis demonstrates there is no conflict between Scripture and evolution. He said that because humans are finite they would die without access to the tree of life, so human death is more natural than we think. Our bodies are inherently mortal.

I was pressed into moderator duties at the last minute (and so unable to participate in the give and take of the panel), but I used my first question to ask about this. I said I was surprised to hear there is no conflict between evolution and Scripture because Scripture says that human death is a consequence of Adam’s Fall while evolution says death is required for natural selection, which is the mechanism that explains how the world evolves.

I said I agreed with his statement that human bodies are inherently mortal and I would even go one better and insist that our souls are also (otherwise we land in Platonism), but I don’t see how that helps his case. It’s true that humans could die without access to the tree of life, but it’s also true that they would not lose this access apart from sin. The possibility of death is always present with finite creatures (we have everlasting life because God sustains us, not because we are inherently immortal), but the actuality of death is a consequence of sin. Walton dismissed the question, saying there are theories of evolution that do not require natural selection (he didn’t elaborate) and repeated his claim that humans would die without access to the tree of life. I’m puzzled by the first part and agree with the last part, though I don’t see how either helps his claim (even if it doesn’t hold to natural selection, is there any form of evolution that claims that death is unnatural?).

There is a conflict between evolution and Scripture, and it’s a big one. This should not surprise us, as there likely will be conflicts between Scripture and any theory of origins. And because they are just theories, we should avoid committing wholeheartedly to any of them, but remaining fiercely loyal to Scripture, use what we learn there to critique them all. Walton’s presentation gave plenty of reason to raise questions about how Christians have traditionally read Genesis 1-2, but it is important to remember that Scripture also pushes back against evolution, and in important ways.

Last week I conducted a funeral, and a big chunk of my message was that my friend’s death was unnatural, not the way it’s supposed to be. And because it is unnatural, there is hope that God will set this right when Jesus returns to resurrect our loved ones. As far as I can tell, any theory of evolution would not allow me to say this. Let’s not prematurely shut down the conversation about creation and evolution, but let’s not pretend there aren’t real, important differences too. This matters, especially when we counsel those who are dying.






40 responses to “creation and evolution”

  1. Paul

    Helpful distinctions. Thanks.

  2. You seem to be hooked on a text-based approach to faith, rather than a Christ-based approach. Worshipping the book is a form of idolatry. I really don’t believe those who eventually wrote Genesis down (after centuries in oral tradition) saw themselves presenting creation stories as literal scientific truth. Note for example that there are two creation stories, not one (and many stories in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures have more than one version in scripture, and details often vary). They are stories – myth in the best sense of the world – which reveal truth, but are not intended as historical or scientific text books.

  3. millerjune

    Hi Mike, It wasn’t until 5th Century BC that concept of time was conceived into the linear format we know today. How do you see that in the light of Gen 1-2?

  4. Ron

    The problem with the views that dismiss the literal recent creation is that those who hold such have weak authorities. For a strong authority, see what Jesus believed in “Coming to Grips With Genesis.”

  5. Ryan Clevenger

    Dr. Wittmer,

    A few comments to add to the discussion.

    1) You see “no compelling reasons” from the text in the context of ANE literature, or for later theological reasons? He’s arguing from the text (albeit, with a little help from his ANE friends, but from the text nonetheless), all you’ve said is you see no compelling reason without a hint as to what those are. What textual evidence do you find in Genesis 1 that pushes you back into a narrative about material creation ex nihilo? (I’m sincerely asking, not trying to be snarky).

    2) Walton said Adam was archetypal and an historical individual, so your comments here aren’t addressing what he said but what you read in Enns (as I see it).

    3) I agree that his reply to your question didn’t answer your question, but I think that is because he answered a different question. I didn’t hear him say that there is NO conflict between evolution and Scripture, only that Genesis 1 doesn’t necessarily conflict with Evolution (which he never explicitly affirmed) because it’s talking about something different. In other words, it’s a categorical error. We might draw conclusions from Gen. 1 with respect to evolution, but we shouldn’t say (according to his view) that Gen. 1 is intentionally addressing the exact same issues as evolution is. He was responding to this methodological problem (as I see it), which isn’t exactly your question.

    4) There also seems to be a need for more clarification on the idea of “natural.” I think this is an important theological discussion which is a continuation of the Nouvelle Theologie controversy of Henri de Lubac, “pure nature” in the Neo-Scholastics, and natural theology (and thus Barth). Thinking through this issue some more might help clear up the discussion about death being “natural.” Along these lines, I think your push back assumes a creation ex nihilo of Adam and Eve, while his may (and I emphasize MAY as I don’t know what he actually thinks) assume that God took an already existing thing, gave it the breath of life and thus it “became” human. So, death is “natural” characteristic of creation, God took something and “made” it human and gave it access to the Tree of Life and so death to humans comes about (actualized) by losing access to Tree of Life (there would be no “humans” to actualize death before being put into the Garden). The question about death outside of the human realm still remains, yes, but this may answer the death question with respect to human beings. Does that make sense? I’m not taking a particular side, I just don’t think you two are addressing the same issue. (On another related note, being specific about what a human being is may be helpful. An example of what I mean can be found at Edward Feser’s blog []. I’m not saying I agree (or disagree) with Feser; I only link this post as an example of what I mean).

    4) Sarah Coakely’s recent Gifford Lectures has something to say about a “new” view of evolution which emphasizes the role of cooperation (all available on youtube, here is the first one: This may be what he has in mind, but I’m sure there are others that I am unaware of.

  6. Food for thought: Death is not necessarily a punishment for sin (at least, Reformed Christians don’t think so, according to Heidelberg Q/A 42). Because Christ paid the penalty and bore the curse of sin, we don’t have to. What does this mean? Perhaps not much. But it does mean that there’s at least one other category (and a fairly large one, numerically) in which death is NOT punishment for sin. If death is not hooked to punishment/consequence of sin in this instance, it’s at least logically possible for death to not be hooked to sin/curse in some other circumstance (say, some sort of pre-fall death).

  7. mikewittmer

    I’ve got to run–I’ll get back to the other questions later, but Branson, if death isn’t a punishment for sin then why did Jesus die and what did he save us from? You can’t take the solution to a problem as evidence there isn’t a problem. I think you are misreading the intent of the Heidelberg, not to mention Romans 5:12-21.

  8. Keith Rockefeller

    Great job Mike.

  9. mikewittmer


    I’m pretty sure that every human has always understood that time is linear. Even my dog understands that he gets his treat after he poops outside. I would think that the ancients also understood that event x comes before or after y. Walton also conceded this point when he said that Genesis 2 is “sequential” to Genesis 1. Which by the way, would seem to require that Genesis 2 is historical.

  10. mikewittmer

    Thanks for taking the time to write all this out Ryan. I’ll respond to each point.

    1) According to my colleague John Hilber, most evangelical OT scholars think that Genesis 1 is referring to a functional and material creation. I also think that ancient people would logically wonder where stuff came from. Note Walton’s description that the Egyptians thought the “waters above” served a merely functional role, yet a main reason they thought there were waters above was that rain hit them on the head. So even Walton smuggled in material concerns into his ANE touchstone.
    The main thing for me is that John and Paul clearly think of creation in material terms. Where did they get this is if not from Genesis?

    2) Walton said he believes Adam was historical from what Paul says. The most he would say about Genesis 1-2 is that they don’t rule out the historical. When Jesus was asked about marriage, his answer conflated Gen. 1 and 2 as if they were talking about the same thing. So this would also count against Walton’s claim that Gen. 2 is “sequential” (which would logically then also make it historical, not merely possibly historical.

    3) He ended his second lecture by saying there is no conflict between evolution and Scripture. This is a broader statement than Gen. 1. If he only meant the former, then why his impassioned plea to make room in our evangelical world for biologists who hold to evolution? I agree with him that we need to dialogue with evangelical biologists and not ostracize them simply because they believe in evolution, but we should be free to push back as well. Anyway, the point here is only that Walton clearly said there is no conflict between evolution and Scripture. It’s in my notes, and he didn’t disagree with that part of my question.

    4) Yes, this would solve the problem of human death, but would still saddle us with the disturbing belief in hominid death (a creature who looks and acts and feels as a human but hasn’t yet been given the image of God). There is still a cost to pay in saying that God created a world in which this evolved hominid would die. Not only does that raise questions about God’s goodness, but it’s hard to believe this is what Moses, Paul, John, or even Jesus understood when they talked about Adam, Eve, and the original creation. We must be careful that we don’t strain our interpretation of Scripture beyond recognition. At the end of the day our interpretation of Scripture must at least seem plausible.
    I was explaining this discussion to a friend today, and she got this puzzled look and said, but Scripture says “the wages of sin is death.” I think it’s important that we honor the spirit and not just the letter of Scripture.

    5) Thanks for this tip.

  11. Is there audio available of this event?

  12. mikewittmer

    I don’t think so.

  13. Justin Guy

    Dr. Wittmer,
    I am persuaded of that we ought to consider Paul a reliable guide to reading the Old Testament, but have one lingering question: What do you believe the ultimate benefit is of saying that Genesis 1-2 IS teaching creation ex nihilo or that Adam was an individual, historical person if we DO have those assertions in the New Testament documents? What is the benefit to having this in Genesis 1-2 beyond that of having a Scriptural source for Paul to make those assertions? Or put another way, what do we lose by not having this in Genesis 1-2 if we can in fact affirm it from other texts? How do these omissions compromise our doctrines of sin and humanity if we can still affirm them from elsewhere?
    If I’m not understanding you or Dr. Walton, or if this was addressed elsewhere, please forgive me. I haven’t had opportunity to hear the lectures and discussions of last week, and can only draw on what you’ve said here, and Dr. Walton’s “Lost World of Genesis One” and commentary on Genesis.
    Thank you for your time!

  14. mikewittmer

    Hi Justin–are you still in Washington? This is a good question, and sort of the reverse of the question I wonder about Walton–why stress so much that Gen. 1-2 are not about a creation ex nihilo and historical Adam if you’re going to backfill it in anyway?

    Per your question, I would say that Walton believes in creation ex nihilo and a historical Adam so these doctrines are not immediately at risk. But I suspect that the more daylight is posited between Genesis and Romans the more some people might be inclined to question or at least reinterpret Paul’s assertions in Romans.

    Here is an example from Walton’s lecture. He emphasized that Genesis 1-2 describe an archetypal Adam that may or may not be historical. When he came to Romans 5 he said that Paul also was mainly concerned about an archetypal Adam rather than a historical Adam, though his Adam was clearly historical too.

    I suspect that Walton’s treatment of Genesis 1-2 led him to posit the term “mainly.” I happily concede that Paul uses Adam in an archetypal way, but to say “mainly” sounds as if even Paul is downplaying the historical fact of Adam. So I think it does matter what we think is going on in Genesis, even if it’s not always an immediate, in your face issue. I would say that Walton’s reading of Genesis and Romans makes it easier to give up a historical Adam (not that Walton does!), because after all, it’s not found in Genesis 1-2 and it’s not Paul’s main point anyway.

  15. Justin Guy

    Dr. Wittmer,
    I am still in Washington! That’s very kind of you to remember! And thank you for your reply. It is quite helpful in understanding the urgency with which you address your concerns. Please keep writing (both here and your books!) to help us think through these issues and pointing us to helpful literature. I, for one, am grateful.

  16. Hi Dr Wittmer;

    This comment is initiated in part in response to Bill Samuel. My comment will be based on theories presented by J P Wiseman in his book: Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis.

    Bill stated: “I really don’t believe those who eventually wrote Genesis down (after centuries in oral tradition) …”
    This theory of how genesis was written has been discarded by many because it was established in an age of ignorance regarding early civilizations and their methods of writing, even assuming that writing was not part of the skill set of the patriarchs.

    Wiseman asserts that from the structure of the text which now comprises Genesis is text which was recorded by the participant on stone/clay tablets and compiled by transcription by Moses.

    Bill stated: “They are stories – myth in the best sense of the world – which reveal truth, but are not intended as historical or scientific text books.”
    Wiseman would protest that instead the “stories” are first person accounts recorded, as we would journal today, and passed on as an inheritance.

    When I read Genesis from this perspective I find the text is much more precious.

  17. Mike,
    Thanks for writing about this. I had hoped to come down for the seminar, but didn’t make it. Appreciate your summary.

  18. Ryan Clevenger

    Dr. Wittmer,

    Thanks for your response. I hope to further the discussion without becoming pedantic or getting off topic. We’ll see how successful I am.

    1) So you admit that you have no textual argument, only an appeal to someone else’s say-so. 😉 Actually, I’m fine with an appeal to authority on this issue since it involves many obscure details unavailable to the uninitiated (i.e., those familiar with ANE comparative literature). However, I don’t think your example proves what you want it to prove, namely, that the Egyptians had to have been trying to conjure up a material explanation of rain and so posit it existing above the heavens. This is arguing from human experience back onto the evidence available of ancient Egyptian cosmology (in other words, how do you know that “a main reason they thought there were waters above was that rain hit them on the head”?). Are you saying that Walton specifically noted this (if he didn’t, I don’t remember), or are you filling in the gaps? While such explanation might help fill in details, it should be subsumed to what historical evidence is available, and I think this is what Walton is trying to do. Might it be clearer if we call it a genre distinction? Such texts as Genesis 1 assume a material creation (cf. other OT evidence), but put that question aside and focus solely on function. The text is meant to convey function, not material existence/coming-into-being. This is how I take Walton, though I very well may be wrong. I could always ask him when I move to Wheaton. 🙂 As for John and Paul’s concept of material creation, they could have gotten it from the other passages which Walton produced as OT evidence for creation ex nihilo outside of the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1.

    2) I remember wanting him to elaborate on why he took Adam as an historic individual, but he was rushing through that section that I couldn’t remember what exactly he said. I’ll have to take a listen to the audio which is available here: (mp3).

    3) Similar to paragraph 2 above. This may be vagueness on his part, conflating his practical goal of not ostracizing theistic evolutions and his textual analysis of Genesis 1. His argument would be stronger if he restricted his affirmation to Genesis 1 only, and that would be significant because most of the opposition to evolution come from interpreting Genesis 1. There are other portions of scripture to deal with, yes, but the brunt of the dialogue is in Genesis 1.

    4) It is also difficult, at least based on the evidence that Walton mentioned, to think that Moses, Paul, and John (we’ll leave Jesus out of this one) believed the Earth to be a sphere and not a disc. I take this to be in the same category as the issue of evolution, and indeed this is the question I wanted to ask: can there ever be an agreement between science and scripture if we are working with two different methodologies (i.e., scientific method and hermeneutics) aimed at two different objects (the natural world and the meaning of texts)? It seems that trying to push them together is a category error, when the real question is how to relate the meaning of a text to our understanding of nature. This is a “third thing” and I think (to show my hand a little) it requires a specific methodology that has not been articulated (or about which I no nothing at the present), and I think this is why there is more heat than light in these types of discussions.

    5) I should warn you that her lectures are extremely boring.

    I’ll try to listen to Walton’s presentation again in the next few days and see if it changes anything that I’ve said so far.

  19. mikewittmer


    1) Walton specifically said that one reason the Egyptians thought there were “waters above” was because the rain came from there. I immediately thought to myself that this sounded materialistic, and seemed to undercut the point he was trying to make.

    I also think that it’s pretty clear that John 1 is echoing Genesis 1 (and it argues that the Logos made everything–so sounds like creation ex nihilo), and 1 Timothy 2 and Romans 5 and 1 Cor. 15 are also clearly referring back to Gen. 1-3, if for no other reason than Adam doesn’t come up often in the OT.

    4) This is an interesting question. My initial thought is that there is nothing in principle to prevent Scripture from making claims about the natural world. The trick is to figure out what Scripture intends to say. Some may well overstate the number of natural world referents in Scripture, but I think it’s equally problematic to rule them out as beyond Scripture’s purview. That would seem to land us in a sort of Kantianism, where science tells us how things came to be and theology is only good for telling us why. I’d rather not limit what the Bible and theology can tell us. But you’re right, more work needs to be done in this area.

  20. Ryan Clevenger

    Dr. Wittmer,

    1) I guess I’m still not following on how positing waters above — even if it is done so because of common human experience — undercuts his thesis about functionality if one says that the material existence is assumed by the ancients when composing cosmologies because cosmologies are intended (i.e., my comment about genre distinction) to describe the rational order of the cosmos and not answering the question of why the waters are up there but how everything fits together. At least, that’s how I’m reading/hearing him. However, I may just be coming to my own conclusions based on his evidence and imposing them back onto his presentation, at which point we’re talking about two different things. Let’s hope he’s clearer in his book on Genesis 2-3.

    4) Yes, we must avoid Kant, but unfortunately I think our models for doing science and hermeneutics are heirs to him whether we like it or not (on that note, cf. Feser on the metaphysical change in the development of modern science: :/ But I do think that a related question is raised: Is “it” true because Scripture says it, or is Scripture true because it accurately relates “it.” But, that takes us down a road not addressed by Walton and so probably should not be addressed here. Another time, maybe? 🙂

  21. Ryan Clevenger

    P.s. – I forgot to add that you still haven’t given any textual argument from Genesis 1 that it should be taken as creation ex nihilo, and that (IF I remember correctly, which should clearly be challenged at this point in the discussion) is Walton’s emphasis. Later authors may see creation ex nihilo in Gen. 1 as it combates Greco-Roman philosophy (i.e., think John Philoponus against Proclus), but that doesn’t mean Gen. 1 intended at that point in history to mean creation ex nihilo. This gets us into problems with the NTs use of the OT, how sufficient is an “only literal” hermeneutic for the whole Canon, and probably many other difficult issues that I can’t think of at the moment, but we’ll leave those to the side for now as well. 😉

  22. mikewittmer

    Ryan: Working backwards, I would take Gen. 1:1 and 1:3 as statements that imply creation ex nihilo. The light had to come from somewhere, in this case, the direct act of God. My understanding is that the majority of evangelical OT scholars agree, at least with 1:3.

    I would say Scripture is true because it accurately describes reality (this would be a rough definition of truth), but I know something is true if Scripture says it (I don’t want to judge biblical statements by my preunderstandings).

    I’m not denying Walton’s use of function. I’m only saying that he can’t entirely divorce function from material in the ancient world view. By his own admission the Egyptians combined both ideas in their description of the natural universe. So why should we think Genesis is not doing the same thing?

  23. Ryan Clevenger

    Dr. Wittmer,

    Right, but implication doesn’t mean authorial intent (if we’re going to be good conservative Protestant/Evangelical interpretors) and I think this is where there seems to be a fog between Walton and his interpretors (cf., the debate between Walton and Poythress: 1), 2), and 3) Function obviously needs a material thing, but does that mean that ancient cosmologies intended to answer the question of where the thing came from? Does it mean that it doesn’t? I don’t think we can answer those questions from implications alone, but from the evidence we have of ANE cosmologies, which leaves us in the hands of those OT guys. I’m willing to withhold judgment at the present time. I just think the Walton’s point (from what I have heard) is misunderstood and (to be honest) misrepresented by himself (the vagaries we spoke of earlier).

    (note: this is why I study Church history. 😀 ).

  24. Forgive a novice question, but are “cosmologies” that don’t intend to answer the question of where the thing came from . . . cosmologies? Ryan, are you suggesting that contemplating and hypothesizing ultimate origins is a more recent human endeavor? Or, perhaps, ANE-ers contemplated and hypothesized elsewhere, but not with these “function-oriented” origin stories?

  25. Ryan Clevenger


    Good question. Your last statement sums up what I think Walton is trying to do (this whole discussion is really me defending what I think Walton is saying, not necessarily what I think since I am very uninformed about all of the relevant information). The easiest way for me to understand this is to consider it as a different “genre” that needs to be interpreted accordingly. Also, I would add that the way we look at cosmology is very dependent upon the radical shift in the philosophy of nature that took place in the Enlightenment (for this, see Feser’s youtube video that I linked a couple comments up). On a slightly related note, I’ve also found Charles Taylor to be helpful in moving between the ancient/medieval and modern worlds. I haven’t read through his entire book, but he summarizes it in some lectures that I found very helpful: 1), 2), 3)

  26. […] John Walton was here last week he visited Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. Mike Wittmer offers his reflections on Walton’s views. As always Mike has some interesting […]

  27. Rev. Bryant J. Williams III

    Dear Mike,

    Thank you for the review. Yet I think several factors are not being answered.

    1) The texts of Genesis 1-3 are clearly seen to be related. Genesis 1 gives the overall picture. Genesis 2 gives the more specific details of the 6th day with regards to Adam and Eve. Genesis 3 picks up with the issue of the Tree of Life, in the midst of the Garden, introduced in 2:16 and the Fall of Adam. In fact, it was Dr. Bernard Ramm who indicated that other than the phrase, “and he died,” found in Genesis 5, that the only commentary on Adam and his death is found in Romans 5.

    2) Regarding the issue of materiality of Genesis 1 and also chapter 2 (where it mentions the four rivers surrounding the Garden of Eden) it should be mentioned that “time” indicators are used to describe each “day” of Creation (YOM with a cardinal number refers to a normal 24 hour day in Biblical Hebrew; I don’t think that has changed in the scholarly literature) and the use of “evening and morning.” This is especially true since the 7th day is specifically mentioned as being set apart in Genesis 1 and Exodus 20 with the “day of rest.”

    3) Jesus in John 8:58 uses the term EGW EIMI. Now, normally this is thought to come from Exodus 3:14, but it actually is Jesus taking it from its use in Isaiah 40-66 where it is used over 20x. Isaiah frequently refers to the Creation as the act of God (YHWH) that set apart YHWH from the gods (so-called) of all the nations especially in Isaiah 45. Furthermore, Colossians 1:16-17 should also be used with reference to Creation since Jesus is said that the Creation of the world is “by Him all things were created that are in heaven and are in earth, visible and invisible…: all things are created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.”

    4) Evolution is a by-product of the thinking of Greek philosophy and science; the by-product of Gnosticism with its emphasis on aeons and its dualistic view of the spiritual and material world;and from Hinduism (reincarnation).

    5) Moses did grow up and was educated in the ways of Egypt, he would know what they thought and still wrote the exact opposite of that in Genesis. This information could not have come only from other ANE sources but also from the special revelation of God. This disconnect between theology and history is most unfortunate. Too many think that theology is not history and history is not theology. In fact, history is one’s interpretation of one’s theology/philosophy or worldview.

    6) We are “people of the Book.” The text is the final authority on all that it “teaches” with specific emphasis on the NT. We go with what the text says. Our theology is based on the explicit and implicit teachings of Scripture. That is not idolatry or bibliolatry. Bibliotry is when one translation is held above another translation.

  28. Thank you for this, Bryant. I think your connection between evolution and Gnosticism is interesting. I have seen this in biblical exegetes and theologians who feel pressed by evolution to separate spiritual from physical death. I think this is a Gnostic move–one which they should know not to make–and makes it difficult, if not impossible, to explain how Jesus’ physical resurrection supplies spiritual life. And as we wait for Easter morning tomorrow, this seems mighty important!

  29. Bryant,

    Could you elucidate on point 4? As far as I know, biological evolution as it developed in Darwin’s time is a product of the change from a substance metaphysic (i.e., Aquinas) to one that emphasized process in light of Kant and Hegel (with many other factors in between, especially the late medieval nominalism of Ockham). I can see how some Greek ideas could be utilized (i.e., Heraclitus, Epicurus or Democritus who was influential on Galileo and through him Francis Bacon who in many ways is the father of modern science [even though his empirical method has been improved upon]), but I don’t see a direct influence (what you call “by-product”) of Gnosticism or Hinduism. Could you explain what you are referring to or how those specific ideas were a part of Darwin’s intellectual climate?

  30. Rev. Bryant J. Williams III

    Dear Ryan,

    It is not the evolutionists (e.g. Darwin) that are making the claim more than that it is the theistic evolutionists who are trying to separate or make a distinction between material and spiritual creation. The use of allegorical interpretation (even Philo used it), or what would also be called “metaphorical” interpretation, in which one must go beyond or below the surface meaning of the words themselves. This is just playing semantics. Unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, then the text says what it says and nothing more. Too often application is confused with interpretation. Furthermore, what is talked about is the dualism that has been allowed to color the entire debate.

    Gnosticism’s affect on the Patristic Church is clearly seen in two ways. First, in the Hermetic/Monastic Movements where the separation of one’s self from the world to live as a Hermit (Andrew the Hermit) or the later Monastic Movements (Franciscan, Benedictine, etc.). Second, is the use of Allegorical Interpretation. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Augustine were defintely guilty of this. In the attempt to make the Christian message compatible, there has been the attempt to separate the physical creation from the spiritual creation. This affects Bibliology, Theology Proper, Christology, Pneumatology, Anthropology, Hamartiology, Soteriology, and Eschatology just to name some of the doctrinal areas. One good thing that came was over the issue of the NT Canon, but that is an issue for another day (see

    Marcion himself tried to make a distinction between the God of the OT and the God of the NT. Irenaeus clearly disagreed with Marcion on this issue. Post-modern society does not like absolutes. It is anathema to them. If every thing is relative, then we have a contradiction because an absolute statement is made. Furthermore, if what is said in Genesis 1-2 is true, then man is clearly responsible for his own actions, thoughts, etc. In fact, Revelation 6:15-17 and 9:20 state that all the people knew that God was bringing judgement upon them, yet did not repent.

    There is also the issue of syncretism. The Church as been guilty of using other theological symbols or systems to mesh with the Christian message. The New Age Movement is just that. It is syncretistic use of Hinduism to mesh with Christianity. Hinduism believes in a resurrection, but a continual death and bringing back to life, reincarnation, which is different than the Christian Resurrection. Hinduism makes every thing in Creation a god. Thus, as in the ancient paganism of the of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, etc., the truth of God is changed into a lie and the creature is worshiped and served more than the Creator, who is blessed forerver. Amen. Romans 1:25

  31. Trent

    So glad you mentioned this!
    Seems that anything new is all the rave anymore on blogs and reviews like Walton’s book and NT Wright (who, after reading How God became King, I have come to believe is the most arrogant theologian I have ever read).
    In his page at Wheaton he says his wife is a biochemist (think that has any bearing on his presuppositions and what he’s fighting for in the book?).
    I agree with Rev. Williams, evolutionists are not the problem, it is those who say they are Christian and try to integrate the two. I remember like 5 years ago, I read Francis Collins’ book The Language of God I became a theistic evolutionist after the ‘I’m on your side’ tone Collins took in the book and decided to follow his site, Biologos. What I saw and read and heard on the videos was unlike anything I had ever been taught about the Bible and it made me cringe after awhile. They planted subtle hints of a sort of neo-orthodox position on the scriptures if not come outright not so subtly and have a liberal view of the Bible. It was very liquid -modern where dialog was encouraged on the comment section. What got me was that in these dialogs, very much like the new tolerance, was that if you did not believe in evolution, you were a heretic. You could also come up with your own understanding and therefore be right also! The Gospel was not preached there, rather it was transformed into evolution and Christianity are compatible (so long as you cave to everything evolution says) so spread the word! I heard on one of the videos a women arguing that maybe the reason Jesus came was to save us from the horrid nature of evolution and natural selection! They had endless blog post series that would only tickle you and be anti-climatic basically urging you to have a little tradition, a little of the Bible, and all of evolution. They frequently would cite the Bible says ‘the Bible says’ and never mention where. One the things they cited most ‘from the Bible’ using the ‘the Bible says’ would be that ‘the Bible says to look outside of it.’
    The Bible studies were a joke and almost always interpreted in light of evolution, archaeology or historical criticism. They also always cited so called contradictions to get you out of believing the Bible is inerrant to embrace evolution. They had Pete Enns there as well who further exacerbated the problem if not actually start it going so far as to say it’s better to believe in evolution and be an atheist than to be a Christian who rejects it.
    If Biologos is the fruit of theistic evolution, it is rotten fruit that needs to be discarded. It is the logical consequence of accepting man’s notions. Next in line would be atheism. Those who are not for us are against us.

  32. Ryan Clevenger


    I’m still confused by what you are saying. Your first paragraph indicates that my original question was based on a misunderstanding, but then you proceed to fail to demonstrate that theistic evolutionist are a by-product of Greek philosophy, Gnosticism, and Hinduism. Maybe I’m taking “by-product” too literally. Are you say that they have similar features (and so you are making an analogous observation about these similarities), or are you saying that their conclusions are a direct result of the influence Greek philosophy, Gnosticism, and Hinduism?

    (p.s.- If you wanted to discuss the relationship between the early Church and Greek philosophy more, you could comment on my blog: where I deal with this issue predominately, or by e-mail. I think, and I’m probably just biased, the relationship is much more complex than you laid out above).

  33. Might there be some relation between this Functional view of creation and the Actualist view of existence? (And by Actualist, I mean the belief that reality is founded on activity or consists of process.) It seems that Barth might prefer discussing creation in functionalist terms, rather than heavily metaphysical terms. I wonder if Dr. Walton (and his mediator, the student, Ryan Clevenger) could view ANE-ers as possessing an Actualist view of existence, and thus every origin theory they would espouse would be functional.

  34. Ryan Clevenger

    Matthew: Could you clarify what you meant by and the significance of an actualist/process view of existence? I’m not seeing where you are going. As for Barth, well, I don’t read Barth. 😉

  35. Well, I’ll try, but it’s not really blog material. And your refusal to read Barth is your own punishment.:)

    Actualism is the view that reality is activity. Thus, Eberhard Jungel’s gloss on Barth’s work is entitled “God’s Being is Becoming,” though the term “Actualistic Ontology” seems to have been coined by Bruce McCormack. So actualism is historically new, but I wonder if there were inchoate views of it in antiquity.

    As far as where I’m going: It seems clear a person’s ontology deeply influences their view of origins. So, I am wondering aloud what view of reality might lead to the type of functional origin stories that Walton hypothesizes. No need to wonder with me.

  36. David Turner

    Hey Mike,

    I think you may have misrepresented Walton when you said that he holds to a historical Adam solely due to Rom 5:12. I think he has said that (1) the use of _toledot_ in Gen 2:4 and 5:1, (2) the account of Adam’s life and death in Gen 5:2-3, and (3) the mention of Adam in the genealogy of 1 Chron 1:1, all lead him to think of Adam as historical. OT scholars dispute whether Job 31:33 and Hos 6:7 refer to Adam, humanity, or a place name. I don’t think Walton takes these two texts to refer to Adam.

    One of your interlocutors above asked whether the audio of the sessions is available. The answer is yes; it’s on the front page of the GRTS website. I would add that an improved version of my presentation is also available there in manuscript form.

    The Barth contra astronomer story is priceless, but is it historical or merely archetypal? And what of the story that while shaking Van Til’s hand, Barth said “Bad boy!”?

  37. mikewittmer

    Thanks for this, Dave. I forgot the story about Van Til. I was surprised to read John Frame’s theology of God still using VT’s criticism of Barth.

    I missed the point where Walton said that Gen. 2:4 means there was a historical Adam, and wonder why he would then go on and say that Gen. 2 only ‘may’ be historical. This doesn’t seem consistent.

  38. You are part of the “people of the book” by which you mean the Bible is your authority. I believe that to be blasphemy. Christ is the Truth. I am not one of your conservative Christians because you aren’t really Christians at all – you don’t put Christ at the center.

  39. Rev. Bryant J. Williams III

    Dear Bill,

    Your comment that Christ is the center reminds me of the remark of those critics of Paul In I Corinthians 1, “I am of Apollos, I am of Peter, I am of Christ.” Christ is by means the center. At the same time, “in these last days He (God) has spoken through His Son (Heb 1:1-2). The entire bible is from God and He superintended by means of the Holy Spirit using various means to have the Scripture written (II Pet 1:19-20; II Tim 3:16). Thus, it is profitable for all that it teaches (doctrine, rebuke, correction and instruction in righteousness). I would also say that since Christ stated that He did not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them, then priority must be given to the NT as it is what He and the Father wants us to know and do.

    Christ affirmed creation in several ways, but one of the most important is the institution of marriage in Genesis 2:24 between Adam and Eve. Thus, God created all things including marriage between a man and a woman, husband and wife, male and female. The institution of marriage reflects the relationship of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32).

  40. Trent

    Mr. Samuel,
    Allow me to ask you a series of questions. If it were not for the Bible, where would we learn of Christ and his work? What about God and his chosen people? The history of redemption or our fallen state in Adam? Why do we need Christ? Without the Bible how would we govern how churches? All of what you say on here sounds rather relativistic, though I will not go so far as to call you a relativist. it is admirable that you want everything Christ centered but, do think through my questions above.
    If I may be harsher here, why do you call us idolaters and not Christians because we defer to our Bible, the words of God, to learn about how he has revealed ourselves? If we confess with our mouths Jesus is Lord we are saved. We have done that and are therefore Christians, so why do you insist we are not? We are not calling you names or calling you something you are not as we know little about you. I thought Jesus said to use righteous judgment in John 7:24, something of which you are lacking but, then again we apparently worship the Bible and we defer to Jesus’ recorded statements in the Bible, which I am inclined to believe you don’t do according you what you say. Tell me, do you? If you do, then why are you calling us out and being inconsistent yourself? If we defer to the Bible to see what it says and you do so, how are we idolaters and you not? Make your case that we worship the Bible, the burden of proof is on your fellow brother in Christ.

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