Dr. Jerry Coyne is a brilliant and respected biologist, currently a professor at the University of Chicago in the Department of Ecology and Evolution. I start off with that, because some of what I have to say next might otherwise seem disrespectful.
Coyne has made it no secret that he is an atheist (if anything, he’s very proud of the fact), nor his belief that science and any kind of religious faith are incompatible. But of late, it seems he’s been positively gloating about it. See the recent blog posts on his website, Why Evolution is True, here and here.
In the first article, Coyne writes:
… accommodationist organizations like BioLogos and the Templeton Foundation are ultimately doomed to failure. Christian opponents of evolution aren’t dumb, and are in fact forcing those organizations to move more and more toward fundamentalist Christianity while the creationists themselves never waver in their views. That’s why, for example, BioLogos — and now Templeton — are tying themselves in knots trying to show how Adam and Eve, while not the literal progenitors of all modern humans, could nevertheless be seen as some kind of metaphor. BioLogos, in fact, refuses to take any stand on the historical existence of Adam and Eve.
We recently touched on the BioLogos Foundation’s views on Adam and Eve on this website, and while it’s true the organization takes no official stance on the issue, that appears to be only because its members hold a variety of different views. Indeed, contributors to BioLogos have submitted a number of theologically and scientifically sound ways to understand Adam and Eve. If Coyne is asserting here that disagreement on one aspect of a subject means there is no truth to be found therein, then the theory of evolution is in more trouble than I thought.
You’ll also want to see Coyne’s conclusion: “Those Christians who see evolution as a problem also are wedded to doctrines like the unique human soul and the existence of Adam and Eve. For them, no reconciliation is possible.”
Strong words. Both of the posts I’ve linked to here are actually largely in reference to an essay published last year by liberal-Protestant-minister-turned-atheist Mike Aus. In the article, Aus confessed that he once “glossed over the clash between the scientific world view and the perspective of religion,” but now sees evolution actually challenges virtually every core belief of Christianity. So, apologies to Asa Gray, Charles Kingsley, B.B. Warfield, C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, Francis Collins, Alister McGrath, Peter Enns, Kenneth Miller, Karl Giberson and more — but you all were/are wrong. Mike Aus is right.
Thank you, Mike Aus.
Here’s how he puts it:
Which core doctrines of Christianity does evolution challenge? Well, basically all of them. The doctrine of original sin is a prime example. If my rudimentary grasp of the science is accurate, then Darwin’s theory tells us that because new species only emerge extremely gradually, there really is no “first” prototype or model of any species at all—no “first” dog or “first” giraffe and certainly no “first” homo sapiens created instantaneously. The transition from predecessor hominid species was almost imperceptible. So, if there was no “first” human, there was clearly no original couple through whom the contagion of “sin” could be transmitted to the entire human race. The history of our species does not contain a “fall” into sin from a mythical, pristine sinless paradise that never existed.
All right, Mike, I think that’s quite enough. All of this frustrates me to no end, and here’s why: It’s one thing for other believers (young-earth creationists, for example) to say stuff like this (which YECs do all the time). I’m up for a good theological discussion any day. But to have someone who is not even a Christian claim Christianity is incompatible with science is utterly ridiculous, and it needs to stop. I don’t try to tell you how to be the best atheist you can be; don’t tell me how to understand my own faith.
Simply put, if you think evolution, gravity, the big bang or any other scientific theory invalidates Christianity, then you don’t know squat about Christianity. For proof, let’s go back to, arguably, the moment it was born in this world.
Jesus is hanging on a cross. On either side of him are two thieves, also crucified. One mocks the lord, but the other rebukes him saying, essentially, “Is nothing sacred to you? We belong here, but this man doesn’t.” Then, he turns to Christ and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
According to Aus, Coyne, Ken Ham and a million other jokers who apparently don’t get Christianity, Jesus replied, “Sorry. If you had more time to read Genesis and properly understand the doctrine of original sin, then maybe you would have a shot. But seeing as you’re just a couple minutes from punching out your time card here, I’d say you’re out of luck.” But that’s not what my Bible says. In it, Jesus’ words are this: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Let’s recap: I messed up. I deserve death. And…I’m kind of scared about it. Jesus, save me. Please.
That’s it. That’s the gospel. That’s Christianity. All these other doctrinal issues have undeniable value. They come from the Bible, after all (there is a lot of other stuff in there outside of Luke 23), and I think they are things Christians should study, learn and discuss with other Christians. I would, in fact, argue that many of them are vital to understanding, from an intellectual standpoint, what the Christian faith is and what it’s based on.
But in the end, these doctrinal points are not equal to saving faith in Christ, nor are they necessary for it. They are icing on the cake. If President Obama were to perform a Jedi mind-meld on me tomorrow that wiped clean every point of doctrine I know, other than my admission that I am a great sinner and my belief that Jesus is a great savior, I think I’d still be all right.
And if anyone is going to convince me otherwise, it sure as heck isn’t going to be Jerry Coyne.