The Actual Question:
In the January 2010 interview with Robin Brace, Mr Brace mentions two things which put a question into my mind. He complains that the average modern British evangelical church has no policy on where they stand on evolution, and he also writes of the foundations of the modern British evangelical movement, listing such influences as John Stott, C.S. Lewis and F.F. Bruce. I agree that that is a fine foundation, I also agree that it seems unbelievable that most English evangelical churches usually won't give a policy, or preferred approach, towards evolution. My question to your Mr Brace ties the two points together: Where does the modern British evangelical movement really stand on the issue of evolution?
UK Apologetics Reply:
I would love there to be a clear, definitive answer to this question but, sadly, I suspect not.
The whole approach of British evangelicalism became one in which one should unite over essentials, and refuse to argue over the 'peripherals.' I guess it all depends on how you define a 'peripheral.'
C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, for instance, were quite clear in their own minds that evolution was making some major errors and they were quite anti-evolution but other writers/influences have just about ignored the whole matter. Of course, F.F. Bruce was primarily a New Testament scholar and it wasn't so logical for him to get involved in this area at all. Certainly many of these writers/influences felt that the older fundamentalists were erring in their outright opposition to evolution. It's not that evolutionary teachings were ever good, but - the question is - should we Christians be fighting a battle on that particular front? That was the question. There was a feeling that the Christian preacher and writer should focus on the message of the Gospel and leave the science well alone. I understand this, especially in those earlier years. However, times move on and I think it is now much clearer where the real science is and where the materialistic 'scientism' enters in. The real science is in the area of so-called 'micro-evolution' (which isn't actually evolution at all), it is the area of natural selection (although too much has been claimed for this), variations in plants and animals often according to local variations in conditions. Selective breeding of plants and animals uses some of these principles. That is what we witness all around us and it fully conforms to the 'reproducing only after it's kind' teaching of Genesis. That is the established science.
Macro-evolution, on the other hand, is the big philosophical picture (which doesn't carry a shred of proof), that we all - I literally mean everything! - evolved from some primeval 'low life' gunk which somehow 'came into existence' billions of years ago. According to this, absolutely everything evolved from that primitive 'soup.' Evolutionists will insist that micro-evolution led to all of this even when we know that micro-evolution (variations in kinds etc.,) sets strict limits which are never broken, this leads to the somewhat desperate reliance on "mutations" to produce just about everything even when it is known that most mutations are positively damaging, others are neutral, and just very occasionally and rarely they might be partly beneficial. So I think that any wise observer can now separate the supposition, hype and speculation from what is clearly established. It depends how deep you want to go in argument, actually, 'macro-evolution is bad but micro-evolution is good' is certainly not the whole story. Loss of information is the big problem for evolutionists. If you are going to get people gradually developing from much lesser things (the 'gospel' of macro-evolution), you would need an information increase. It would require gradual changes that increase genetic information, but all we observe is a sorting and a loss of information. So macro-evolution does not have a shred of serious evidence that supports it.
Then, just to take the question of the fossil record, nothing there backs up evolution at all and evolutionists will often admit that, though mostly rather grudgingly. What Darwin expected the fossil record to eventually reveal has not borne the expected results. Rather, the 'Cambrian explosion' - all life appearing together - is what is actually found.
So I think the subject does not need to frighten the Christian Apologist any longer, yet I still agree that most Christian witness (away from the discipline of Christian Apologetics) should focus on the Gospel. Having said that, I think a Christian will lose face if he/she cannot handle basic questions on evolution. Most of those now coming to Christ will be aware of the claims of people like Richard Dawkins, and evangelism must have a satisfactory response to that.
So I think the British evangelical movement has been - and presently continues to be - very mixed on this issue and that it is mainly left to Christian Apologetics to tackle it. Worryingly, a surprising number of modern ministers avoid all contact with Christian Apologetics, preferring to encourage the view that Christianity should exist on an emotional/faith level alone. But Christian Apologetics is simply the defence of the Holy Bible and the Christian Gospel and the New Testament shows the Apostle Paul, for example, heavily involved in it.
In our modern day, people tend to be well-read and will often have deep and and well thought out questions on the Bible and on the Gospel; we must be equipped to answer them!
Robin A. Brace, January 18th 2010.