Albert Mohler Steps in It on Evolution

Albert Mohler Steps in It on Evolution

There are some basics about what evolution is and is not, and what the various positions of both creationists and evolutionists are, that everyone who steps into the debate should know. Some examples include the difference between a young earth and an old earth creationist. I’ve seen a few discussions in internet fora in which someone explains the age of the earth in great detail to someone else who actually agrees.

Then there is the difference between an intelligent design (ID) proponent and one of the more specific types of creationist. An ID proponent might be young or old earth, or might even accept most, but not all, of the features of biological evolution, as does Dr. Michael Behe.

Someone of the stature of Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. should be aware of these things. I don’t mean he has to agree with anyone else’s position. Merely that he should be aware of what those positions actually are. Pretending that alternative views don’t exist strikes me as just a bit deceptive.

Nonetheless, Dr. Mohler writes, in The End of Evolution (article, not book), writes in his introductory paragraph:

The evolutionist is locked into an intellectual box from which there is no rescue. Evolutionary theory is naturalistic by necessity – everything must be explained in purely naturalistic terms. Only nature can explain nature, and there is no other source of meaning or truth. Thus, in the end the theory of evolution – and the theory of evolution alone – must explain everything about humanity.

Now I could fisk the entire article, almost word by word, but I’m just going to touch on three paragraphs. You see, there may be a few people out there who believe that evolution explains absolutely everything, but there are very few of them.

What evolution does is explain, within the bounds of science, how live diversified on planet earth. It would also propose how life may well diversify anywhere. It is not merely evolution that is naturalistic by necessity, but science itself. That’s for a rather simple reason: Science is designed to explain the natural world. It is ill-equipped to explain the supernatural, because the supernatural does not function as the natural world does. That’s why we call it supernatural.

Now one may not believe there is a supernatural, but if one does believe in something supernatural, it would be extremely odd to also believe that the supernatural followed natural laws. If it did, we would simply call it natural. On the other hand, if it does not follow natural laws, how would a method designed to study things that follow natural laws study it?

Imagine the lab experiment for chemistry (the only science I took in college). Careful instructions are given as to temperature, what chemicals one is to combine, how, and when. Then the teacher announces, “Then, if God wills it, the whole thing will light on fire!” It’s silly. I think everyone knows it’s silly.

Here’s the problem. Many Christians living in western culture are so thoroughly convinced that science is the best way of knowing that they want to put their faith, the most important thing in their life, on a foundation of science, somehow.

But faith is not science, and God is not a proper object of scientific investigation. Oh, we can see what God has done via science. I would suggest that if a miracle actually takes place, the scientific evidence for the physical event should be present. But even so we do not see a miracle. Rather, we see the results of the miracle. We simply have an event for which we lack an adequate natural explanation.

If you can’t accept that there are other ways of knowing than science, then you probably shouldn’t be a Christian, because science is never going to make a scientific theory of the Christian faith. It cannot because of its nature and because of the nature of science itself.

When Christians say evolution is naturalistic, they are quite correct. But when they treat that as some special thing about evolution as opposed to all other branches of science, they are in serious error, both scientifically and theologically (from the viewpoint of orthodox Christian theology). Scientifically, they try to examine a phenomenon that is by definition not available to scientific inquiry. Theologically they try to put God in a box, regulated by natural laws. The god that they can fit in that box is not God.

A bit further on Mohler says:

Evolutionary theory cannot possibly explain the totality of human experience, much less the reality of human origins. Evolutionists – if consistent – believe that every human experience, every emotion, every physical attribute, every hope, and every fear is simply a feature developed by means of natural selection.

Of course, looked at from the Christian point of view, evolution cannot explain the totality of Christian experience. It’s not supposed to. As a Christian, I believe the totality of human experience involves origin from God and an experience with God, neither of which are defined in a way that science could even investigate.

But neither can any other scientific theory explain all those things that it does not purport to explain. Now there is a great deal that evolution can explain. In fact, I think what evolution can explain would make Dr. Mohler very uncomfortable, and so he has to make a broadside attack on something he clearly does not understand. Evolution can explain a great deal. (See my earlier notes on the book Random Designer: Created from Chaos to Connect with the Creator for more information.)

Finally, I want to address this paragraph:

That’s a cold theory, and it just doesn’t make sense to the vast majority of Americans – and it shouldn’t. The Christian worldview offers a far more satisfying, true, and understandable account of human origins and human existence.

As a minor point, let me note that the majority of Americans are not really equipped to evaluate the evidence for biological evolution. It requires certain skills which the majority of us do not possess. I’m a well-read layman on the subject, yet I would refer you to others to discuss the science, while I discuss Biblical and theological issues.

But as for it being a “cold theory,” it’s also a cold fact that a hurricane will follow it’s proposed course and there’s nothing I can do about it. Shall I reject it because it’s cold, inexorable, and so incredibly NOT warm and cuddly? The fact that the Christian worldview, or rather Dr. Mohler’s particular version of it, is satisfying doesn’t make it any more true. In theology we would have things such as legalism, the notion that one can earn one’s salvation. One can construct such a system that will be quite satisfying. But assuming Dr. Mohler is a good Southern Baptist, he would not accept the satisfying argument as a demonstration of their validity. He would argue that one can’t earn salvation, that it is God’s gift.

Which leads to the word “true.” If we are to determine whether evolution is true we have to go right back to that place that Dr. Mohler apparently wants to avoid–natural, and naturalistic, science. Methodologically naturalistic, of course, which simply takes note of the fact that science studies the natural world, not the supernatural.

The facts do not adjust themselves to our convenience and comfort. Whether I like the idea of evolution or not is quite irrelevant to whether it is a valid theory.

Meteorology is a cold theory. But whether I accept it, or replace it with an alternative theory of lovingly God-guided hurricanes, that hurricane is still coming. It cares not in the least how comfortable I am.

5 thoughts on “Albert Mohler Steps in It on Evolution

  1. A friend of my recently gave me a copy of “Why God Won’t Go Away”, by Andrew Newberg, et al. It’s a book about “Brain Science and the Biology of Belief”. Goes into how things like spiritual experience, myth, and ritual interact with the natural structure and functions of the brain. Whether you read the evidence and theories as the mechanism by which God touches us, or as the source of the “illusion” of God will depend entirely on your world view, but I’m finding it rather interesting to see just how much of this stuff can be explained in terms of the natural world, and (to some extent) evolutionary processes. It may also shed some light on why ID types so vehemently cling to their views.

  2. Well said, sir! Christians being bothered by “naturalism” and treating “naturalism” as if it is a dirty word when related to science has always bothered me. I hope you won’t mind me quoting you on my own blog.

  3. A few months back I was in a church service and heard the pastor remark that evolutionary theory and Christian faith are entirely incompatible. At another church, there was a science and faith discussion group. I asked about it and was told, “several people get together to discuss the intersection of faith and science. But don’t worry–they don’t teach evolution.” Sad enough to say, it seems Mohler’s view is a pretty common one in my part of the country.

    I suppose that the main threat people feel when thinking of evolution stems from the tendency to apply the scientific explanation of what has/is/will happen to questions about the reasons why it has/is/will happen.

    Perhaps conversations between various camps will be more fruitful if we address the issue of where our identity is based. Do we look to the process of evolution to define our identity/purpose (as Mohler suggests all theistic evolutionists do)? Or do we look to God in faith and allow that to shed light on the process and his purposes for it and us?

    I propose the latter.

  4. Very nice summary of the difficulties of injecting God into biology.

    Please insert the usual question here about why precisely it is that “supernatural” effects wouldn’t be subject to science. Are we using a definition of “natural” that makes this tautological?

    My understanding is that science’s scope isn’t limited to natural effects, but to useful effects. As is often pointed out, there are no Flood creationists in oil-discovery companies. But there’s no a priori reason why “supernatural” phenomena such as deities wouldn’t have useful effects.

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