Focus on the Family responds

Focus on the Family has responded to an anonymous blogging friend we call Thomas who wrote a letter in protest of their misrepresentations about evolution in the October 2009 issue of Clubhouse Jr. which I described in the post, The creation of anti-evolutionists. Timothy Masters from the “Office of the Chairman” (who until recently was Dr. James Dobson, now supposedly but uncomfirmably one Pat Caruana) wrote this response:

Yes, we understand that there are many Christians who consider themselves theistic evolutionists – among them Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, an eminent scientist and Christian apologist who has served as a guest on several past Focus on the Family radio broadcasts. We do not, however, feel obligated in any way to adopt these believers’ opinions or to endorse their point of view. On the contrary, we feel there is room for disagreement here. Though we love and respect those who share your perspective as brothers and sisters in Christ, we simply can’t come to terms with some of the implications of their position. As we understand it, the underlying philosophy of Darwinism – particularly the theory of natural selection – relies heavily upon the idea that life has come about purely through a process of random chance. It’s difficult to reconcile this concept of randomness with the Bible’s assertion in Genesis 1 that God made the world intentionally and intelligently, creating each and every species in its own kind. You are entitled to your own opinion, of course, but that’s the way we see it.

First I’d like to thank Mr. Masters for responding and for the respectfully conciliatory tone of the letter. But as Thomas noted when he posted this response on my blog, it sadly skates around the point. One of the worst issues was the article’s insistence that the only reason anyone would believe in evolution — not just “dysteleological evolution”, but “the theory of evolution” — was to deny God: “At its foundation, the theory of evolution starts with one basic premise: There is no God,” and “…by excluding God, evolution ultimately boils down to the religion of self-worship.” This is absolutely untrue, as would be obvious if they had simply asked any theistic evolutionist, and even most atheist scientists (atheistic blowhards will distort science for their ends as badly as creationist blowhards). Evolution wasn’t concocted in order to deny God or worship self. The first person to propose the theory of evolution as we know it was no atheist when he published On the Origin of Species. So although Mr. Masters makes a much appreciated point to affirm the Christianity of theistic evolutionists, he does not go so far as to qualify or back off of the opposite view implied in the article. My main problem with the article stands: Christian kids all over are being conditioned to accept the toxic “evolution=atheism” falsehood that even Mr. Masters rejects in his response.

You no doubt noticed that his comment, “…life has come about purely through a process of random chance,” like the original article, subtly blurs the line between origin of life and the development of life, the latter of which is what the theory of evolution is all about (this repeated motif suggests some genuine ignorance of these distinctions more than sloppiness). But beyond that, he says that FoF rejects evolutionary theory because random chance in natural selection cannot be reconciled with intentional creation as shown in Genesis 1. Anyone with an imagination can understand that “God being at the mercy of random chance to bring about humanity” and “God purposefully, sovereignly ordaining random chance to bring about humanity” are entirely different things! The first would certainly cause significant theological problems, but the second is the actual viewpoint of theistic evolutionists, which soundly contradicts the objection that evolution can be neither intentional nor intelligent. Their position comes into “focus” a little more clearly at the end of that sentence: we must reject evolution because God wants us to believe that He created “each and every species in its own kind.” Fine. But don’t pretend this is a scientific argument!

And as Thomas also pointed out, Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe are no friends to theistic evolution; their pseudoscientific version of special creation is called progressive creationism (God miraculously created each species over millions of years, without evolution), but at least they labor to get Christians to acknowledge the actual age of the universe. I think I’ll write back a letter informing them of a few actual evolutionary creationists/theistic evolutionists who are even more “eminent” and better placed to to be credible in their Christian apologetics than Ross. I’d encourage you to do so, as well!

Overall, I’d say I give them a C-. They get a passing grade for responding at all and for not denying that those who accept evolutionary theory are Christians (a modest concession, to be sure), but for the reasons outlined above they pass only by the skin of their teeth. For taking the sort of action in contacting them that I wish I had, Thomas gets an A+.

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  • Thanks for the kind words, Steve. It was nice to hear a reply from FoF, but at the same time, it’s frustrating that you can’t have more of a back and forth with them. There was lots of misunderstanding in his reply.
    .-= Thomas´s last blog ..Mark Driscoll’s Song of Solomon Series: A Review =-.

  • Thanks for the kind words, Steve. It was nice to hear a reply from FoF, but at the same time, it’s frustrating that you can’t have more of a back and forth with them. There was lots of misunderstanding in his reply.
    .-= Thomas´s last blog ..Mark Driscoll’s Song of Solomon Series: A Review =-.

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,

    Real quickly, I wanted to comment on only one part of your post. You said:

    “Anyone with an imagination can understand that “God being at the mercy of random chance to bring about humanity” and “God purposefully, sovereignly ordaining random chance to bring about humanity” are entirely different things!”

    I don’t see how it is possible for God to ordain anything that is “random” If something is random, then it falls outside His control. If even one electron is random in its orbit, it could, theoretically, lead to the Butterfly Effect, and creation could slip out of God’s control.

    Instead of using the words “random chance”, I would like to propose amending that to “controlled development” Such developments probably appear to us, with our limited scope, to be random. But I do not believe that is what they are. There is much more to discuss about this topic, but suffice to say that random chance isn’t much different than cosmic dice. I don’t believe God plays that game!

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,

    Real quickly, I wanted to comment on only one part of your post. You said:

    “Anyone with an imagination can understand that “God being at the mercy of random chance to bring about humanity” and “God purposefully, sovereignly ordaining random chance to bring about humanity” are entirely different things!”

    I don’t see how it is possible for God to ordain anything that is “random” If something is random, then it falls outside His control. If even one electron is random in its orbit, it could, theoretically, lead to the Butterfly Effect, and creation could slip out of God’s control.

    Instead of using the words “random chance”, I would like to propose amending that to “controlled development” Such developments probably appear to us, with our limited scope, to be random. But I do not believe that is what they are. There is much more to discuss about this topic, but suffice to say that random chance isn’t much different than cosmic dice. I don’t believe God plays that game!

  • Doug,

    The “randomness” issue is tricky. But I’m afraid I must beg to differ from the implications of your alternative. The problem with “cosmic dice” is that it implies God Himself doesn’t know how it’s going to come out. Random processes can (and I believe were) be chosen for what they are going to produce.

    “Random” just means without a designated order. Thinking that God “planned” the minutiae of how each mutation arose would be determinism — I am not a determinist. God’s hand in creation was something like shooting an arrow: you don’t have to plan which particles of dust it will fly through on its way to the destination, although because you were operating the bow, you are certainly responsible for its passing through each particle it hits. What counts is that it reaches the destination. The methodology of evolution was chosen, as was its endpoint (this is teleological evolution). “Random” doesn’t mean “accident”. Do you know what I’m trying to say?

  • Doug,

    The “randomness” issue is tricky. But I’m afraid I must beg to differ from the implications of your alternative. The problem with “cosmic dice” is that it implies God Himself doesn’t know how it’s going to come out. Random processes can (and I believe were) be chosen for what they are going to produce.

    “Random” just means without a designated order. Thinking that God “planned” the minutiae of how each mutation arose would be determinism — I am not a determinist. God’s hand in creation was something like shooting an arrow: you don’t have to plan which particles of dust it will fly through on its way to the destination, although because you were operating the bow, you are certainly responsible for its passing through each particle it hits. What counts is that it reaches the destination. The methodology of evolution was chosen, as was its endpoint (this is teleological evolution). “Random” doesn’t mean “accident”. Do you know what I’m trying to say?