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Did Christianity Evolve? Why There Are Skeptics

An ancient burial cave was recently excavated in Jerusalem. One casket had a name carved on it: “Joseph, son of Caiaphas”.  Immediately biblical scholars took notice. The high priest in Jesus’ day was named Joseph, often called Caiaphas. Could these be the remains of the man who handed Jesus over to the Romans? Many archaeologists think so. Which means that once again archaeology fits the biblical record. Once again it confounds the skeptics.

You see, most skeptical theories of Scripture were devised before archaeology had even become a science. People became skeptics not because of any facts but because of their philosophy-the philosophy of evolution.

Yes, long before Darwin developed evolution as a biological theory it was already a philosophy. It began nearly 200 years ago with the philosopher Hegel, who argued that reality is a vast process of change. Everything moves in stages from simple to complex, Hegel taught-including societies and ideas. No idea is true in an absolute or timeless sense: What is regarded as true in one stage, Hegel said, will give way to a “higher” truth at the next stage. Hegel’s evolutionary philosophy had devastating effects. In theology it led to what we call “higher criticism.” If ideas evolve, theologians decided, then religious ideas must evolve as well. They must begin with crude, simple notions about God and move gradually to more sublime notions.

The trouble is, the Bible doesn’t show any such progression. It doesn’t begin with “primitive” ideas, like animism and polytheism, and then progress to more “advanced” ideas, like monotheism. Instead, it reflects a high ethical monotheism-teaching one true God-right from the opening words of Genesis one. But that didn’t stop the modernist theologians. We’ll just figure out the “correct” evolutionary sequence, they said, and rearrange the Bible to make it fit. Thus evolution gave birth to the cut-and-paste method of biblical interpretation. Passages that theologians regarded as crude and anthropomorphic they dated earlier, while passages they regarded as more refined they dated later-no matter where those passages actually appear in the biblical text. Indeed, the very fact that the Bible doesn’t fit the evolutionary sequence, critics said, proves that it is unreliable and full of errors.

Here is the root of biblical skepticism. It didn’t stem from any difficulty in fitting the Bible to the historical facts of archaeology-because archaeology hadn’t even been developed yet. No, it was purely an armchair effort to force Christianity into an evolutionary philosophy. So when you hear the word evolution, don’t just think of Darwin and missing links. The most destructive part of evolution has been its philosophy-one that insists on forcing everything, even religion, into a preconceived evolutionary sequence.

This is something we need to explain to our friends who want to combine evolution with Christianity. Help them to realize that evolution isn’t just about science. It’s about an entire philosophy of life that is hostile to our Christian faith. What’s more, as archaeologists make new discoveries, it’s a philosophy that is increasingly discredited.

The above article is the transcribed form of a program originally broadcast on BREAKPOINT, a daily radio commentary with Chuck Colson, and a ministry of Prison Fellowship. This was the eighth in an original 10-part series dealing with evolution. It it reprinted here by permission. Copyright ©1993 Prison Fellowship. Special permission is required if this commentary is to be included in a book or in newspapers or magazines with paid subscriptions. Otherwise, when quoting,  copying, or reprinting, appropriate credits must be made to Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship, PO Box 17500, Washington DC 20041-0500.