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Interview with Timothy Keller

 The Reason for God by Timothy Keller is No. 18 on the NYT bestsellers list.  Over at First Things Anthony Sacramone has a great interview with Keller that includes this on the evolution debate:

 In The Reason for God, you make a very brief argument for the validity of evolution within a limited sphere. It would seem to me that apologists for the faith must address this issue at some point. But doing so can call into question the historicity of the Fall and the very need for a savior. How do you talk about evolution without confusing people?

Oh, it’s a little confusing, but actually I’m just in the same place where the Catholics are, as far as I can tell. The Catholic Church has always been able to hold on to a belief in a historical Fall—it really happened, it’s not just representative of the fact that the human race has kind of gone bad in various ways.

 

At the same time, if you say, “There is no God and everything happened by evolution,” naturalistic evolution—then you have “theistic evolution”: God just started things years ago and everything has come into being through the process of evolution. You have young-Earth six-day creationism, which is “God created everything in six 24-hour days.” To me, all three of those positions have perhaps insurmountable difficulties.

The fact is, the one that most people consider the most conservative, which is the young-Earth, six-day creation, has all kinds of problems with the text, as we know. If it’s really true, then you have problems of contradictions between Genesis 1 and 2. I don’t like the JEPD theory. I don’t like the theory that these are two somewhat contradictory creation stories that some editor stuck together—some pretty stupid editor stuck together. I think therefore you’ve got a problem with how long are the days before the sun shows up in the fourth day. You have problems really reading the Bible in a straightforward way with a young-Earth, six 24-hour day theory. You’ve got some problems with the theistic evolution, because then you have to ask yourself, “Was there no Adam and Eve? Was there no Fall?” So here’s what I like—the messy approach, which is I think there was an Adam and Eve. I think there was a real Fall. I think that happened. I also think that there also was a very long process probably, you know, that the earth probably is very old, and there was some kind of process of natural selection that God guided and used, and maybe intervened in. And that’s just the messy part. I’m not a scientist. I’m not going to go beyond that.

I do know that I say in the book, “This is an absolute red herring—to get mired in this before you look at the certainties of the faith. Because the fact is that real orthodox believers with a high view of Scripture are all over the map on this. I can line up ten really smart people in all those different buckets, which I’ll call “theistic evolution,” “young-Earth creationism,” and let’s call it “progressive creationism” or “semi-theistic evolution.” There are all these different views. And when you see a lot of smart people disagreeing on this stuff, well . . .

How could there have been death before Adam and Eve fell? The answer is, I don’t know. But all I know is, didn’t animals eat bugs? Didn’t bugs eat plants? There must have been death. In other words, when you realize, “Oh wait, this is really complicated,” then you realize, “I don’t have to figure this out before I figure out is Jesus Christ raised from the dead.”

Over the years—it’s not bad, but I’ve gotten sort of hit from both sides.

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31 Responses to Interview with Timothy Keller

  1. In other words, when you realize, “Oh wait, this is really complicated,” then you realize, “I don’t have to figure this out before I figure out is Jesus Christ raised from the dead.”

    Over the years—it’s not bad, but I’ve gotten sort of hit from both sides.
    ********

    Tim Keller is a good man and I agree with his assessment that the Death and Resurrection of Jesus is for more important! Its good to see he is honest, cause let’s face it he has no scientific background and says “it’s complicated,” a more humble response than most (me included).

    I sometimes feel like its not okay to say “I don’t know how to reconcile everything” in this debate.

  2. Interesting interview.

    Why does there have to be death before the fall? Does the Bible say that the animals ate other animals during this time period? Would they have even had to eat?

    I agree with him when he says “I don’t have to figure this out before I figure out is Jesus Christ raised from the dead.” There’s only so much concrete scientific information on the topic, and it’s not as important as to find out the ‘how’ of creation as it is to figure out the ‘why’ of creation.

  3. How could there have been death before Adam and Eve fell?

    God says in Gen 1:11 “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed…” . This creation occured before man and the fall. Since plants had seeds, the planest meaning of this test can only be that plants lived, seeded and died. If plants did not die then it would be pointless to have seeds.

  4. Peter, what about predation, disease and natural evil before the fall?

    Maybe, I don’t understand Catholic theology.

  5. It would be nice not to debate the fine points of Christian theology. For those who aren’t Christians, anyway, unless this is really to become a sectarian religious blog.

  6. Good point, Magnan.

    Do you think we could all make a gentleman’s agreement to avoid overtly theological discussion?

  7. —–Dembskian: “Do you think we could all make a gentleman’s agreement to avoid overtly theological discussion?”

    I would amend that to read that we should avoid “irrelevant theological discussions.” Occasionally there is a point to it. TE’s, for example, often frame their anti-ID arguments around a dubious proposition. They argue that a good God could not have designed the world, because his designs are flawed. We must, therefore, refute that erroneous objection by pointing out that the flawed design is a consequence of the fall and is therefore no reproach to God’s original intent or creative prowess. To me, that is all that needs to be said on the matter, and any further details about what life may or may not have been before the fall are irrelevant to the argument.

    Still, once a theological objection is raised, only a theological response will do. It is remarkable how often the neo-Darwinists and the TE’s are the first ones to play the religion card. The Darwinists are especially entertaining. They want to deny God even as they challenge to His innovative methods. Go figure.

  8. StephenB – Sounds good.

    Didn’t someone suggest creating an ID website whose sole purpose would be to discuss the philosophical and religious implications of ID theory?

    Hope everyone is having a good day. :)

  9. In a way, I admire Taylor’s frank recognition that just about every world view presents some kind of intellectual difficulty. There is no such thing as an air-tight, slam-dunk, immune-from-challenge world view. As one educator put it, “education is a series of questions, the answers to which cause confusion and frustration and a whole new set of questions at a higher and more important level.” To me, the best indicator that one is on the right track is [1] do they have that attitude about the hard questions? and [2] Does their world view allow them the luxury of applying it?

  10. Obviously, I meant Keller and not “Taylor.” I don’t know what prompted that error.

  11. Well,

    I studied these very questions for many years before writing a book on what I discovered.

    The book, Beyond Creation Science, is advertised here on this site. If you are interested in these questions, I think you might like the book very much. There are some very good answers available that have tremendous implications for ID.

    Tim Martin
    co-author, Beyond Creation Science
    http://www.BeyondCreationScience.com

  12. I’ve always been interested in the finer points of Christian theology; however, it has its time and place.

    Dr. Dembski, Uncommon Descent and other ID theorists make clear that Intelligent Design leaves the question of the designer unanswered.

    I think there is not enough data to make any determination of who designed the designer.

    Only when and if we can identify the designer we might have some data to work with in determining the origin of that agency.

    The only feature we know of that the intelligent being possesses is that it contains no irreducibly complex systems itself.

    So, who’s with me in keeping the question of the intentional designer to ourselves?

  13. Probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience; . . . Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the “days” of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know. ~ James Barr Regius Professor of Hebrew at Christ Church, Oxford

  14. Having just completed reading THE DESIGN MATRIX the subject of origins is still a distal relationship from the discussions of process, the point of this site (I hope). The I.D. movement in general is onto something and it is gaining the attention of those in the general public. When the “Expelled” is released coherent discussion will give way with a turgid noise of lovers and haters. For the time being, there is a place for sound discourse. So, chuckhumphrey, I will agree that this is not a theological site. Even those in the ID movement have diverse theological opinions. I say we leave it at that.

    I depend on Uncommon Descent as a source of information. Not to demean theology, but as you say, it has its time and place.

  15. 15

    Welcome aboard toc, good to meet you.

  16. 16

    Please feel free to post comments here. Atleast, I think that is the way it works. :)

  17. 17

    Bevets, that still doesn’t mean anything. That is simply some english ‘intellectual’s’ point of view.

    I bet if you asked a biblical scholar from Scotland or Ulster (Alistair McGraw), they would feel differently.

    G-d bless you, friend.

  18. Friends, now that mention of God has been made, I recommend this excellent editorial from World Net Daily about the consequences of disbelief: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/i.....geId=57068.

    Unless someone puts a stop to the Atheistic zeitgeist, I’m in agreement with Pastor Greg Laurie; talk of theology may be lost forever.

    Can’t the main stream media see the dangers of Darwinism?

    Kuhn was correct about the dogmatism within the prevailing paradigm, but I’d go even further: methodological naturalism doesn’t just hinder science, but is fundamentally immoral.

    Years ago, G. K. Chesterton made this observation about our culture: “You are free in our time to say that God does not exist; you are free to say that He exists and is evil. … You may talk of God as a metaphor or mystification … and it is not merely that nobody punishes, but nobody protests. But if you speak of God as a fact, … as a reason for changing one’s conduct, then the modern world will stop you somehow if it can.”

    Only a fool could say otherwise: Christians are constantly made fools of in Hollywood, the liberal media, atheistic music, etc.; however, some very important men like DaveScot and Dr. William Dembski have paved the way towards underminding this degradation of culture.
    Uncommon Descent is, to this day, clearly the best forum to speak freely and candidly about Intelligent Design science.

  19. 19

    I do find it a bit odd, that Dave Scot and Gil (G-d bless them!) provide more blogs than Bill Dembski.

  20. PannenbergOmega

    Bevets, that still doesn’t mean anything. That is simply some english ‘intellectual’s’ point of view.

    I bet if you asked a biblical scholar from Scotland or Ulster (Alistair McGraw), they would feel differently.

    2 points:

    1) Barr was not a ‘biblical scholar’. He was a Herbrew scholar.

    2) He was not speaking merely for himself. He was claiming that this is understood by most other Hebrew scholars.

  21. 21

    Hey buddy, I know what you are talking about. STILL. I will give a little bit of little bit of space here. Especially, as a Scotsman I’m not going to listen to an ‘Englishmen”. Have you not heard of the Covenenters?

    G-d bless, you friend.

  22. 22

    If there is a G-D. Then the ID movement is His breaking forth into reality. Believe me.

  23. PannenbergOmega,

    I know!
    Finally, there is a powerful alternative theory to Darwinist trash-science. ID is the best argument from incredulity that’s come around in centuries. That said, arguments from incredulity aren’t necessarily wrong; they’re rather reliable and are employed constantly and consistently by everyone every day.

  24. 24

    I say this as someone who is a sinner,
    G-d bless our ID guys. This is the only hope for civilization and Christ’s church.

    I honestly believe, that they are our paladins of the church.

  25. Can someone send PannenbergOmega, chuckhumphry & Dembsian back to the forests and mountains of Scandinavia from whence they come

  26. Quote 4, Dembskian

    “Peter, what about predation, disease and natural evil before the fall?

    Maybe, I don’t understand Catholic theology.”

    The Catholic Church has no official “theology” about predation, disease and natural evil before the Fall.

    What it does have is theology of the Fall, and with that original sin, and salvation.

    All “catholic” talks about evolution are just opinions and reflections – even if it comes from the Pope.

  27. All “catholic” talks about evolution are just opinions and reflections – even if it comes from the Pope.

    Are Catholic ideas about evolution any more (or less) “just opinions and reflections” than those offered by any other Christian denomination? Are some Christian denominations more “right” than others about these issues?

  28. Dembskian

    What about predation, disease and natural evil before the fall?

    I believe in human thinking death is the ultimate form of evil/suffering. Once death exists predation, disease and natural evil are all secondary details. We fear death because we are moratl. I think this is the basis of the problem of our interpretation. God is immortal and must have a different view of death then ourselves.
    Predation is death by a carnivore, disease is death by a bacteria or virus, and natural evil is death/suffering by natural phenomemon. Since seeds were created by God and death can be assumed as part of the natural order before the fall, then any of these paths to death, including an old peaceful death is a possibility, although not explicit in the text. I believe these types of death can be reasonably inferred. Job 38:41 expresses a sense the divine view of the natural balance better than I can: ‘Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food?”

  29. Peter, stop knocking down straw man. The Bible teaches that there was no death of nephesh chayyah before the Fall. Plants are never considered such, and were the decreed diet for all humans and animals (Gen. 1:29–30). See also my article The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe: Hugh Ross’s blunders on plant death in the Bible.

  30. With apologists like this, who needs misotheists. He raises boring old canards that were answered by the Church Fathers and Reformers.

    “If it’s really true, then you have problems of contradictions between Genesis 1 and 2.”

    No there are not, providing that you realise that Genesis 2:19 wayyitser should be translated as the pluperfect “had formed”. So say Keil & Delitzsch, Leupold and the NIV, as documented here.

    “I think therefore you’ve got a problem with how long are the days before the sun shows up in the fourth day.”

    Booo-Rinnnng! We know today that all it takes to have a day-night cycle is a rotating Earth and light coming from one direction. The Bible tells us clearly that God created light on the first day, as well as the Earth. Thus we can deduce that the Earth was already rotating in space relative to this created light.

    God can, of course, create light without a secondary source. We are told that in the new heavens and Earth there will be no need for sun or moon (Rev 21:23). In Genesis, God even defines a day and a night in terms of light or its absence.

    The Church Fathers Theophilos and Basil suggested that God made the plants before the sun to show up the foolishness of pagan sun worship, since the vegetation preceded the sun. They clearly didn’t see the problem that this Keller person did. Neither did Calvin, who argued that on Day 4, God assigned the sun to take over the job of lightgiver to the earth, replacing the diffused light.

    “You have problems really reading the Bible in a straightforward way with a young-Earth, six 24-hour day theory.”

    No, just a problem with his arrogance.

  31. [...] Tim Keller noted in this 2008 interview, opinions are all over the map.  He concludes, “I don’t have to figure this out before I [...]

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