Do Evolutionists Have Faith?
By Ryan C. MacPherson, Ph.D.
Lutheran Sentinel (Evangelical Lutheran Synod), March 2006, p. 14.
Creationists sometimes claim that evolutionism is just as religious as creationism, since both viewpoints must be accepted “by faith.” This claim weakens the authority of evolutionists, who try to present themselves as pure scientists. Unfortunately, this claim also weakens the Christian confession, since it drapes the doctrine of biblical faith in confusion. To sort through that confusion, it will help to review the Bible’s teachings about both faith and creation.
The Bible teaches that all people can recognize the Creator’s existence even without faith. “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Moreover, the Bible teaches that anyone who doubts or denies that God the Creator exists is a “fool” (Psalm 14:1). Thus all people have a natural knowledge of God’s work of creation.
The Bible also teaches that believers can have genuine knowledge of God’s work of creation “by faith.” (Hebrews 11:3) Biblical faith is neither an educated guess nor wishful thinking. Faith is, rather, the Holy Spirit’s gift that enables us to have “sure” and “certain” trust in the promises of God concerning who He is and what He does for us (Hebrews 11:1). The Holy Spirit, who inspired the Scriptures, and Jesus Christ, who fulfilled their messianic prophesies for our salvation, together make our faith “certain” (2 Peter 1:19–21). The prophet Isaiah emphasized that true faith in God includes an affirmation that God is our Creator (Isaiah 40:25–28, 42:5,18).
Clearly no one can accept evolution “by faith” in the biblical sense of that term. Adherents to atheistic evolution reject biblical faith in God the Creator, and also reject the natural knowledge of God the Creator. Theistic evolutionists, by contrast, at least preserve some truths of natural knowledge, since they acknowledge that God somehow made us. Theistic evolutionists do not, however, have faith in the Bible’s testimony that God created us directly.
People accept evolutionary theories either because of their confidence in teachers and books or, in the case of researchers, because of an “inference to the best explanation.” That’s a phrase philosophers use to describe how scientists reach conclusions. Modern scientific methodology excludes supernatural causes, so creation is rejected. This leaves evolution as the only (and therefore supposedly the “best”) explanation remaining. In other words, evolutionism is based on an “educated guess” limited by the false presupposition that God did not create us directly.
Faith is an entirely different thing. The Holy Spirit brings us to faith in God—our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier—through the Word (Romans 10:14) and the sacrament of Baptism (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21). The Holy Spirit strengthens our faith and sanctifies us through the Word (John 17:17) and the sacrament of Holy Communion (Matthew 26:26–28). The Holy Spirit’s work does not result in the sort of loose guesswork that the world dismisses as “merely faith,” but rather in a firm conviction that empowers the saints to remain faithful even in the face of death (Daniel 3 and 6; Acts 7).
The Christian worldview begins and ends with faith. The evolutionist’s story of origins begins with unbelief and ends with an educated guess. Rather than trying to discredit evolutionists’ scientific reputations by saying that their “inferences to the best explanation” amount to the same thing as “taking it by faith,” let us simply urge them to be honest about their presuppositions and share with them the amazing testimony that biblical faith is neither an inference nor a guess. It is a sure hope in God Himself.
Let us recognize that people who accept evolutionary theories are struggling with unbelief, and let us share God’s Word with them so that the Holy Spirit may bless them with faith in all of God’s great work—creation, redemption, and sanctification.