“Creationists make it sound as though a ‘theory’ is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night.” Isaac Asimov
Tim Keller leans towards theistic evolution.
Tim Keller wrote this article at Biologos Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople in 2012.
Many secular and many evangelical voices agree on one ‘truism’—that if you are an orthodox Christian with a high view of the authority of the Bible, you cannot believe in evolution in any form at all. New Atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins and creationist writers such as Ken Ham seem to have arrived at a consensus on this, and so more and more in the general population are treating it as given. If you believe in God, you can’t believe in evolution. If you believe in evolution, you can’t believe in God.
As one who leans toward theistic evolution and believes in a literal Adam and Eve, I am grateful that pastors like Keller recognize a panoply of literary devices used by God in His Scriptures. This is evident in understanding the differences between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.
…Perhaps the strongest argument for the view that the author of Genesis 1 did not want to be taken literally is a comparison of the order of creative acts in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Genesis 1 shows us an order of creation that does not follow a ‘natural order’ at all. For example, there is light (Day 1) before there are any sources of light–the sun, moon, and stars (Day 4). There is vegetation (Day 3) before there was any atmosphere (Day 4 when the sun was made) and therefore there was vegetation before rain was possible. Of course, this is not a problem per se for an omnipotent God. But Genesis 2:5 says: “When the Lord God made the earth and heavens–and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, because the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth, and there was no man to work the ground.” Although God did not have to follow what we would call a ‘natural order’ in creation, Genesis 2:5teaches that he did. It is stated categorically: God did not put vegetation on the earth before there was an atmosphere and rain. But in Genesis 1 we do have vegetation before there is any rain possible or any man to till the earth. In Genesis 1 natural order means nothing–there are three ‘evenings and mornings’ before there is a sun to set! But in Genesis 2 natural order is the norm.5
If Genesis 1 and 2 are read literally, one would have to perform all sorts of mental gymnastics to make them mesh.
But in any case, you can’t read them both as straightforward accounts of historical events. Indeed, if they are both to be read literalistically, why would the author have combined the accounts, since they are (on that reading) incompatible? The best answer is that we are not supposed to understand them that way
Keller discusses the following issues, carefully outlining why deeply convicted Christians can believe in the biological process of evolution while disagreeing with the Grand Theory of Evolution.
Belief in evolution as a biological process is not the same as belief in evolution as a world-view.
…I believe that Christian pastors, theologians, and scientists who want to argue for an EBP (evolution as a biological process) account of origins must put a great deal of emphasis at the same time on arguing against GTE (Grand Theory of Evioution.)
Atheists such as Sam Harris insisted on the Grand Theory of Evolution and did so when he spoke out against Francis Collins, a devout Christian, who was nominated to head the NIH. BTW, please do not use this as an opportunity to rail against Francis Collins and his handling of COVID vaccinations. Here I am focusing on the issues surrounding believers and evolution.
The argument here is clear. If you believe human life was formed through evolutionary biological processes (from here on, referred to as EBP), you must therefore believe in the Grand Theory of Evolution (from here on, referred to as GTE) as the explanation for every aspect of human nature. Collins, he says, should see that human beings have no ‘immortal soul, free will, knowledge of the moral law, spiritual hunger, genuine altruism’ based on our relationship with God.3 Evolution, Harris claims, has shown that these things are illusions. All features of human life have a natural, scientifically explicable cause. If you believe in EBP, you must believe in GTE.
There is much more to be said about this excellent article at Biologos. But, as the reader can tell, I enjoy Keller’s reasoning.
Ken Ham accuses Tim Keller of being a lukewarm compromise regarding Scripture.
Chew on that for a minute…
One may disagree with Keller on his Reformed theology, relationship with The Gospel Coalition, and seeming ignorance of the problems with the startup TGC’s Keller Center for Cultural Apologetics. Need I remind readers of the mess surrounding the new and former fellow, Josh Butler?) As folks know, I am not a Calvinist, but I appreciate various aspects of his writings and am aware of his church’s impact in NYC. I have learned from some of his books and sermons. I have long known of his tilt towards theistic evolutionism, which has caused some wailing and gnashing of teeth by some.
I have long disagreed with Ham’s approach to “apologetics.” Just as some remember the moment they “became Calvinists,” some remember the moment they became “Young Earth Creationists.” Let me be clear. There are some incredibly kind Calvinists and YECs. Ham, who is both, is not. I have written about him since the year I started this blog. I wrote about him from the beginning because of a nasty little group in my former SBC church who carried briefcases around with literature proving the earth was created 6,000-10,000 years ago, and anyone who didn’t believe that bordered on heresy. These fanboys of Ham carried on the spirit of their hero.
In February 2023, Church Leaders wrote Ken Ham Accuses Tim Keller of ‘Lukewarmness,’ ‘Compromising’ Following Announcement of Keller Center for Cultural Apologetics. Apparently, when TGC announced the Keller Center for Cultural Apologetics, Ken Ham sounded the alarm. Genesis was under attack, and Keller was leading the troops into battle against Ham.
“So Tim Keller says ‘American Christianity Is Due For A Revival,’” Ham tweeted on Sunday (Feb. 12), quoting the title of a Keller authored op-ed recently published in The Atlantic, “but I don’t believe true revival can happen until there’s a new reformation to call church leaders (like Tim Keller) back to the authority of the Word of God beginning in Genesis.”
Christian, wake up and smell the coffee!!!
Ham added, “Then many church leaders accepted varying degrees of Darwinian evolution & eventually the Big Bang. All this undermined the authority of Scripture & resulted in generations being raised without the foundation of Genesis 1-11, which is the foundation for all doctrine, the rest of the bible, the Christian worldview, & really everything.”
“A Tim Keller apologetics center won’t help this situation because he has adopted evolutionary ideas into Genesis. True revival can’t take place without the right foundational history,” Ham argued. “Christians need to wake up and understand the foundational importance of the book of Genesis.”
Keller even wrote an article for Biologos. Trebuchets, fall to the front and commence lobbing.
Ham went on to point out that Keller has written for BioLogos, an apologetic resourcing organization seeking to reconcile Christian beliefs with scientific discovery.
…In his Twitter thread, Ham described BioLogos as “one of the leading compromise organizations trying to get the church to reject a literal Genesis,” linking to a 2012 blog post wherein he further criticized Keller.
My guess is that the Keller Center did not think Ham was worthy of a response. Currently, Keller is having difficulties surrounding the treatment for his cancer.
Ham has been after Keller for over a decade.
Tim Keller is an example of a very evangelistic teacher of the Word, who we would applaud for his teaching on the centrality of Christ and his fervor to reach people with the gospel. And certainly, there are many who are responding to his teaching—for which we praise the Lord. At the same time we need to step back and recognize that we are losing this culture, and the church in America is moving in the direction of the church in England where church attendance is way down and the culture as a whole has become extremely secular.
We have said many times over the past years that the attack on the Word of God in this era of history has been an attack on Genesis 1-11 in particular. So many in the church have adopted evolution/millions of years into the Genesis account, reinterpreting it in various ways. This has led to an undermining of the authority of the Word of God and contributing to the loss of the coming generations from the church. It only takes one generation to lose a culture.
The following references the paper I linked to at the beginning of this post.
…It is so sad to see a great Bible teacher like Tim Keller promote belief in evolution to the church. In 2009, he co-sponsored a conference with the Biologos Foundation (a Foundation that I consider to be extremely liberal in many ways) in New York. Tim Keller presented a paper at that conference which I will link to below.
Ham says one can be a Christian and believe in evolution, but he always adds the “but.” See how he does it here.
I have stated many times that there are many men and women of God who believe in evolution or millions of years. But I am also quick to say that salvation is conditioned upon faith in Christ—Christ alone! Believing in evolution or millions of years is not necessarily a salvation issue per se, but it definitely is an authority issue—a battle over the authority of the Word of God. So to make the statement Tim Keller has declared about me—that,“If you believe in God, you can’t believe in evolution. If you believe in evolution, you can’t believe in God”—is a gross misrepresentation. In case theereader is not convinced that Ham has a thing Ham, I add this final example from 2011: Which Well-known Pastor Participated in This Pro-evolution Workshop?
In 2009, Pastor Keller co-sponsored a major BioLogos workshop. It was attended by many well-known theistic evolutionists—both scientists and theologians. It was held in November of 2009 at the Harvard Club in New York City and was entitled “In Search of a Theology of Celebration.”
Note that this group also affirms the truth of Adam and Eve.
We agree that the methods of the natural sciences provide the most reliable guide to understanding the material world, and the current evidence from science indicates that the diversity of life is best explained as a result of an evolutionary process. Thus BioLogos affirms that evolution is a means by which God providentially achieves God’s purposes.
Accounts of Origins
We affirm without reservation both the authority of the Bible and the integrity of science, accepting each of the “Two Books” (the Word and Works of God) as God’s revelations to humankind. Specifically, we affirm the central truth of the biblical accounts of Adam and Eve in revealing the character of God, the character of human beings, and the inherent goodness of the material creation.
If one reads Ham for any length, one will discover this is about an “authority” issue. However, I wonder if this is really about the authority of the Bible or the authority that Ham desires to have in the Christian world, which is leaving him behind.
We need to understand that there is an increasingly aggressive effort—more than ever before and by many Christian leaders—to convince the church to believe inevolution and millions of years and to convince Christians not to take an authoritative stand on six literal creation days, a young earth, and so on.