Hart on Machen and Evolution

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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
I’ve been a member of opc since 2013, and it’s about as far as I go back in my familiarity (and appreciation) with Machen. But I don’t think I agree with Hart on his final analysis regarding Machen, Warfield, Old Princeton and evolution.... I think these guys should have been right there on the front line in the Scopes trial fighting tooth and nail against evolution and its implications..... was it an embrace of Evolution that brought down Princeton? Maybe?

https://www.opc.org/OS/html/V9/1b.html

I think Biblical Creationism vs. Evolution is a false dichotomy..... we should look at evolution on its own merits and in multiple, disqualifying ways it fails to withstand the scrutiny of the scientific method.... in many ways the scripture account is much more verifiable when meaured against historical data/records, human experience, and natural realities including the effects of sin
 
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TheInquirer

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think Biblical Creationism vs. Evolution is a false dichotomy..... we should look at evolution on its own merits and in multiple, disqualifying ways it fails to withstand the scrutiny of the scientific method.... in many ways the scripture account is much more verifiable when meaured against historical data/records, human experience, and natural realities including the effects of sin

False dichotomy means we are forced to make a choice between two things when in reality there are more options. Don't we want to affirm biblical creationism?

As far as looking at evolution "on its own merits," aren't we to evaluate all competing claims against the Word of God by the Word of God? I wouldn't want to appeal to an authority outside of Scripture to shoot down evolution.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
I’m kinda viewing this from the lens of the Scopes trial, but the whole theory of evolution is so silly, that it fails on its own merits.... there is little science and observable evidence to account for their greater assumptions, there is no reason for a Christian to try and accommodate or account for it....
False dichotomy means we are forced to make a choice between two things when in reality there are more options. Don't we want to affirm biblical creationism?

As far as looking at evolution "on its own merits," aren't we to evaluate all competing claims against the Word of God by the Word of God? I wouldn't want to appeal to an authority outside of Scripture to shoot down evolution.
 

Regi Addictissimus

Completely sold out to the King
I have spent a significant amount of time debating an evolutionist. He says that evolution is the one thing keeping him from following Christianity. Him and most of our youth are so indoctrinated into the Cult of Evolution, they can't wrap their brains around the idea that it is only a theory. At best, a poorly thought out theory that can not be demonstrated.
The tides are turning and Intelligent Design will win the war.

https://dissentfromdarwin.org/

https://evolutionnews.org/2006/02/over_500_scientists_proclaim_t/

Dr. Douglas Axe is worth consulting

As is Dr. Behe
https://evolutionnews.org/2014/07/so_michael_behe/
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Him and most of our youth are so indoctrinated into the Cult of Evolution, they can't wrap their brains around the idea that it is only a theory.

The more frustrating thing is that these people think evolution is an alternative cosmogony to Gen. 1. It’s not. Even if evolution were a fact, we still have no answers as to the origin of the mechanisms that allow for evolution to function in the first place.

This is not even to mention the ethical and epistemological catastrophe that evolution introduces...
 

Bill Duncan

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't think it was an embrace of evolution that brought old Princeton down. It was probably a symptom of the criticism of scripture which had been sweeping through the Presbyterian Church. The liberal leaning President of Princeton J. Ross Stevenson was ultimately the catalyst to bring the changes. I would suppose Machen would have seen things like Scopes similar to how many of his older colleagues had looked at other political matters as attempting to "Christianize" government. These men tended to stay in their lane, the church.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
Yeah, well, call me when you uncover a positive mutation that brings new genetic material to the table.... regardless, we develop from the genetic material we were given... ToE is just a lot of very creative writing ....

yeah Axe, chemist James Tour.... there are plenty of highly qualified in all the related fields that understand ToE doesn’t, nor ever had legs
I have spent a significant amount of time debating an evolutionist. He says that evolution is the one thing keeping him from following Christianity. Him and most of our youth are so indoctrinated into the Cult of Evolution, they can't wrap their brains around the idea that it is only a theory. At best, a poorly thought out theory that can not be demonstrated.
The tides are turning and Intelligent Design will win the war.

https://dissentfromdarwin.org/

https://evolutionnews.org/2006/02/over_500_scientists_proclaim_t/

Dr. Douglas Axe is worth consulting

As is Dr. Behe
https://evolutionnews.org/2014/07/so_michael_behe/
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
Yeah, but Warfield was drinking Darwin’s koolaid, and Machen deferred to him... I think this issue transcended politics a bit, it was existential suppositions. One was a God ordered worldview, the other is anything but.... I guess evolution was just another excuse for hardened unbelievers to take a pass on the God of Heaven & Earth. I ultimately understand where Machen is coming from.... as for Scopes, he was dipping into sources that promoted eugenics and white supremacy, and the like.... a Nazi’s dream curriculum
I don't think it was an embrace of evolution that brought old Princeton down. It was probably a symptom of the criticism of scripture which had been sweeping through the Presbyterian Church. The liberal leaning President of Princeton J. Ross Stevenson was ultimately the catalyst to bring the changes. I would suppose Machen would have seen things like Scopes similar to how many of his older colleagues had looked at other political matters as attempting to "Christianize" government. These men tended to stay in their lane, the church.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
If you want an interesting read on young earth creationism, check out this book: The Creationists by Ronald Numbers.

During the 19th century, old earth creationism was the norm for many in conservative groups like many of the old school Princetonians/early OPC and Free Church of Scotland.

The goalposts have changed over time. William Jennings Bryan was fine with an old earth and non-literal days, but he was adamantly against any form of evolution. Many modern young earth creationists (especially Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis) are very adamant in their support of creation being done in 6 literal days 6000 years ago, but at the same time, still believe in a form of evolution that has occurred very rapidly over a period of thousands of years instead of millions of years.

Here are some comments from Bryan at the Scopes Trial (Numbers in his book goes in more details about Bryan): https://geochristian.com/2009/09/21/william-jennings-bryan-and-the-age-of-the-earth/

Here's a PCA scientist who has written some articles dealing with Ham's "hyper-evolution hypothesis": https://thenaturalhistorian.com/201...olution-hypothesis-a-collection-of-critiques/

It wasn't until the flood geology hypothesis, first made by the Seventh Day Adventists, that there was an argument presented in a scientific form for dealing with the huge amount of evidence for an old earth found by geologists in the 19th century. The flood geology hypothesis argued the evidence was explained by the catastrophic event of the global flood. Many SDA worked off of visions from Ellen G. White to come up with hypotheses, including notably George McCready Price. These views were brought into the fundamentalist mainstream eventually, notably by Whitcomb and Morris, two fundamentalists who were eventually published by P&R, though they were not Presbyterian or Reformed to my knowledge.

Before this theory, leading fundamentalists argued for old earth creationism, including the famous Scofield Study Bible. Many Presbyterian and Reformed men believed in old earth creationism, and many did not join the fight against evolution, though there was a mix of opinions on evolution with some tentatively supporting the theory as it developed, as the article you posted showed.

I think Biblical Creationism vs. Evolution is a false dichotomy..... we should look at evolution on its own merits

I definitely agree, and a lot has transpired since Darwin first wrote. I know Keller is not popular on this issue, but I recommend reading this article of his to help understand the issue better as many in the church are facing: https://biologos.org/uploads/projects/Keller_white_paper.pdf
 
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Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Regarding evolution, a major problem is a lack of a consistent definition of the term. The idea that animals adapted and changed over time but still remained within their "kinds" is perfectly compatible with Scripture. The idea that various "kinds" evolved into other "kinds" (i.e. all animals descending from a common ancestor) is incompatible with Scripture. And the idea that animals evolved into men is expressly denied by Scripture. But secular evolutionary theory blends all three ideas of evolution together making it hard to discuss with them. And it is true that many accepted the old earth geology theories of their day (i.e. Hodge, Machen, etc.) but they did not embrace Darwin. There is debate about Warfield's embrace of Darwin. I read somewhere that he withdrew support later in his life (can't recall the reference now).

Regarding the downfall of Princeton, it wasn't due to evolution. Princeton was a conservative hold out in a liberal denomination with other liberal seminaries pumping out liberal ministers. Princeton fell, as I recall, because the denomination intervened and reorganized the seminary to better reflect the "tolerance" of the denomination. That is what triggered Machen and others to form Westminster. Others correct me if I'm wrong on those details.

Two cents...
 

Bill Duncan

Puritan Board Freshman
Regarding evolution, a major problem is a lack of a consistent definition of the term. The idea that animals adapted and changed over time but still remained within their "kinds" is perfectly compatible with Scripture. The idea that various "kinds" evolved into other "kinds" (i.e. all animals descending from a common ancestor) is incompatible with Scripture. And the idea that animals evolved into men is expressly denied by Scripture. But secular evolutionary theory blends all three ideas of evolution together making it hard to discuss with them. And it is true that many accepted the old earth geology theories of their day (i.e. Hodge, Machen, etc.) but they did not embrace Darwin. There is debate about Warfield's embrace of Darwin. I read somewhere that he withdrew support later in his life (can't recall the reference now).

Regarding the downfall of Princeton, it wasn't due to evolution. Princeton was a conservative hold out in a liberal denomination with other liberal seminaries pumping out liberal ministers. Princeton fell, as I recall, because the denomination intervened and reorganized the seminary to better reflect the "tolerance" of the denomination. That is what triggered Machen and others to form Westminster. Others correct me if I'm wrong on those details.

Two cents...
Yes you're right, Patrick. Though many were strong in the Presbyterian Church. The wheels were already falling off when in 1901 the General Assembly committee presented a majority report to revise the WCF. "The Letters of Geerhardus Vos" edited by James T. Dennison Jr. and Danny Olinger's brand new "Geerhardus Vos" are great sources from a historical source who was directly involved but tended to be overlooked by many in the Presbyterian world. He saw it coming and is very insightful for our modern subscription issues.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
Obviously, my issue with Darwin’s theory is what falls outside the observable, testable realm, and that would be anything resembling macroevolution....

Not sure why a global flood wouldn’t cancel out anything resembling a case for old earth....which is needed for Darwinian type progressive changes in function and complexity. I believe man, in particular, was created with a high capacity of thought, speech, reasoning, etc. I don’t believe in old earth because I don’t see a need for it... maybe there is some compelling evidence for it, but not sure it could ever prove air tight or trustworthy due to foggy and skewed presuppositions..... whether it be dating mechanisms or whatever case be made
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I still believe the Bible is not unclear about what it says re. the universe, earth's origin, the beginning of the biosphere and its inhabitants, and man's special creation. I adhere to the Bible's own internal timeline, which I think puts a severe limit on any massive extension of the age of the earth, to anything close to approximating naturalistic theories.

In other words, the most optimistic compatibilist theorizing--short of the "gap" theory (which is infinitely elastic, intentionally so)--are still essentially antagonistic to naturalism's dogmas. There is no "peace" with the religion of naturalism for anyone who sincerely believes the Bible as given contains a true account of "the beginning," and connects it seamlessly to the rest of recorded history.

As I have matured, I have become tolerant of those who place less stock (than I have previously) in whether the Bible's "prehistoric," or its antedeluvian and postdeluvian chronology was given to the church so that we'd know the number of years its been since the clock started.

I haven't stopped worrying about men who seems to pick a convenient hermeneutic, one that dehistoricises (to some degree) the earliest parts of the Bible that "don't fit well" with various a priori certainties; because I wonder what other "certainties" brought to the Bible will encourage them (or others) to jettison other "history" in the Bible that just doesn't "fit" with the "facts."

On the other hand, I consider the history that flows out of God's dealings with Abraham, the patriarchs, then the children of Israel to be more important than the previous chronology and events (NOT that I think Gen.1-11 is unimportant). I consider the doctrine of man's need of a Savior, and the provision of that Savior, to be of first importance. I consider the Savior's Personal history to be of utmost importance. I consider the doctrine that is taught in Scripture about the nature of God and salvation and the church and the end of all things to be primary.

I accept that people can be right about the main things, and be wrong (if possible) about how old the earth is; or whether the chronology of Genesis 1-11 is meant to be taken at face value; or whether the flood was universal. I can accept that men who do take the greater part of the Bible as I do, think they take the earlier portions just as seriously as I do, yet come up with alternate interpretations.

I look at men like Warfield, or WHGreen, and many others, and I say they were admirable men, defending the chief articles. I do not believe they would accept the criticism that they were weak on biblical authority in the early part of Genesis. Whatever we may think now, we are not free to impose a 21st century perspective (and there is more than one) on their vision of their own battlefield.

I can't accept if someone treats Adam as the first subhuman given a soul; now he's the first human. Eve (and womanhood) is treated even worse in that view, in my opinion. [If you ask me, the abuse of women is incompatible with a biblical view of the female, but quite in keeping with evolutionary dogma.] I can't accept if someone regards Abraham as a composite ancestor. I can't accept if someone regards the plagues on Egypt and Israel's Exodus, together with the conquest of Canaan, as mythical as Greek gods-and-hero tales.

The line of faith has to be drawn (the more it conserves, the better): where a man says, "History is firm here in the Bible; and I don't care what you 'know' from other sources. This Book is my preferred and reliable source. I have good reason to think God cared enough to get the facts down in order for all future generations." Because, that conviction WILL come under fire. The Bible's version of events, its predictive prophecies, its doctrines and ethics--all of that gets subjected to challenges.

The Defense of Duffer's Drift http://www.sfi-sfmc.org/downloads/The_Defense_of_Duffers_Drift.pdf is an old book about military defense. It is the Principles of Defense set forth in story form. Here's something it can teach us about defending biblical authority: You have to defend the Bible itself. If you decide only to defend some "key aspect" of your assignment, you will probably keep what you're defending; but you will lose the rest, and possibly outmaneuvered in your "redoubt," and so end up retreating from there too.

I don't think I'm wise enough to challenge the Princetonians' earlier defensive strategies. You can apply principles of defense right by the book, and still be forced out of your position. And who never makes any mistakes? The conceit of Duffer's Drift is that the young defender dreams about his defense, and endures many possible failures and misapplications of the Principles, and only after he's awake and recalls what to do/not do in his case does he perfectly execute his mission.

I don't think those old heroes were surrendering Gen.1-11, even temporarily, like DMacA leaving the Philippines, promising, "I'll be back." I don't agree with all the modern defenders' tactics, which often seem to me like versions of the dream-sequences in DD. But the fact is that we are all on similar missions, defending our assignment. I shouldn't be overly worried about how some other unit's efforts are going to impact my area of responsibility. Let us praise the men who have earned respect from their doughty defense, and bear the scars of suffering. The battle is the Lord's.
 

Von

Puritan Board Sophomore
Wrt your OP:
we should look at evolution on its own merits and in multiple, disqualifying ways it fails to withstand the scrutiny of the scientific method....
I think I understand your concern. I sometimes want to ask people who hold on to things like evolution or the Big Bang, to make a choice; to be hot or cold, but not lukewarm. If you want to be "scientific" and sit around the table with other scientists, then keep abreast with what they believe. The Big Bang theory is being doubted from all sides of the scientific community because it still hints at an ultimate cause. Hence the move away from that kind of thinking. The theory of evolution also suffers from inconsistencies and other problems and thus scientists are by and large singing a different tune today.

But in the middle we have a group of people that are neither hot nor cold. They hold to stale theories because they don't know enough about either side to truly join the conversation. And especially old earth creationists as well as professing Christians who hold onto these theories fall into this category.:2cents:
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
As far as looking at evolution "on its own merits," aren't we to evaluate all competing claims against the Word of God by the Word of God? I wouldn't want to appeal to an authority outside of Scripture to shoot down evolution.
Jim,
Do you mean to say that the only arguments you will use against evolutionary theory are ones from the Bible? Try applying that principle to, say, atheism. Is our only argument against atheism to be, "The Bible says God exists?" Can we not critique atheism by pointing out its inherent irrationality? If we can argue that way against atheism, why not against evolution?
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
True brother, I’ve done lots of research and we are on firm ground in just a basic understanding. The only mutation they have been able to duplicate in a lab is a fruit fly and they just rearranged the genetic disposition to the point of lesser functionality. There are breeding restrictions/limitations that could never transcend species , and the historical record is skewed to try and accommodate a type of ToE perspective.They have nothing that even meets a minimum standard of criteria for the scientific method and the probabilities against unguided naturalism bringing about even the slightest inter-species progress is off the charts.... I’m suppose to be compelled by a dating method that has been altered and adjusted to meet predetermined standards and assumptions before it is even applied as their best case scenario? I think not. I will trust the info God has provided and discard their attempts to alter natural realities that exemplify special, purposeful and glorious creation and design, despite sin.
Wrt your OP:

I think I understand your concern. I sometimes want to ask people who hold on to things like evolution or the Big Bang, to make a choice; to be hot or cold, but not lukewarm. If you want to be "scientific" and sit around the table with other scientists, then keep abreast with what they believe. The Big Bang theory is being doubted from all sides of the scientific community because it still hints at an ultimate cause. Hence the move away from that kind of thinking. The theory of evolution also suffers from inconsistencies and other problems and thus scientists are by and large singing a different tune today.

But in the middle we have a group of people that are neither hot nor cold. They hold to stale theories because they don't know enough about either side to truly join the conversation. And especially old earth creationists as well as professing Christians who hold onto these theories fall into this category.:2cents:
 
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TheInquirer

Puritan Board Sophomore
Jim,
Do you mean to say that the only arguments you will use against evolutionary theory are ones from the Bible? Try applying that principle to, say, atheism. Is our only argument against atheism to be, "The Bible says God exists?" Can we not critique atheism by pointing out its inherent irrationality? If we can argue that way against atheism, why not against evolution?

Here is where my limited education in presuppositionalism kicks in - how could I argue against atheism without using the principles of Scripture? I don't mean that every answer is a simplistic "because the Bible says so" but that every argument tends to come down to the root question of "whose authority do you trust?" which inherently leads back to Scripture. I don't believe you can leave the Bible behind and argue from some kind of neutral ground to demonstrate irrationality (as if something like "reason" could ever be neutral). No neutral ground exists so I don't try to pretend it exists. I wish to never move away from Scripture to argue a case. After all, this is God's world and it is governed by God's truth. If I win them over to reason/rationality, what have I really won them over to? The end goal isn't to get someone to see that atheism is irrational (all unbelief is irrational by the way), but to bow before the Lordship of Christ.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
Natural selection is fine, it’s the taking of what is logical and observable and making a great leap of faith that’s the problem .... evolution takes some legitimate natural phenomenon that nobody disputes and mightily projects.... survival of the fittest is a fine concept as far as it goes. It’s how Darwin attempted to take his theories into the realm of common descent, etc.... that not only conflicts with Biblical creation and intelligent design, but also the scientific method. Yet it remains dogma....

"We know intuitively that Darwinism can accomplish some things, but not others. The question is what is that boundary? Does the information content in living things exceed that boundary? Darwinists have never faced those questions. They've never asked scientifically, can random mutation and natural selection generate the information content in living things." https://dissentfromdarwin.org/

I’m tired of hearing that ToE is settled science. Sure, if you don’t hold up theories to proper level of scrutiny, then, well, I guess it’s settled.... I’ve never been one to accept things at face value, with the exception of where God has opened my heart and mind (also, there is no pursuit as satisfying as the treasures to be found in God’s Word and His creation)
“The debate over the new standards has captured the attention Dr. F. LaGard Smith, who believes evolution should be challenged, and does so in his new book "Darwin's Secret Sex Problem: Exposing Evolution's Fatal Flaw – The Origin of Sex."

He argues that evolution's biggest flaw is that its primary mechanism, natural selection, could not have produced a compatible male and female pair of micro-organisms for each species to procreate. To do so would require perfect timing and a lot of luck, he says.

"Given the unique nature of gendered, sexual meiosis compared with non-gendered, asexual mitosis," Smith explains, "the first-ever generation of sexual reproduction would have required 1) a never-before-seen male organism and a novel female organism, 2) magically having compatible chromosomes, and 3) a death-defying process of precisely halving their chromosomes, mixing them together in a revolutionary way, and then recombining to produce, not a clone (as in asexual replication), but a unique offspring unlike any on the planet. Not to mention the minor details of geographic proximity and an evolved instinct to mate – all absolutely required in Round One of sex to start the sexual ball rolling."
https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/201...ducation-sparks-new-round-of-evolution-debate
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
I believe William Jennings Bryan was a Social Gospel guy, which is strange, cause now a days Social Gospel is synonymous with Social Justice and liberal leaning, Bible departing Christianity...not fundamentalism. Which is why theology and Presbyterian form of Church government when applied faithfully is so important. I believe we members need to assist in respectfully and lovingly express our denominational concerns and support and pray for men in leadership positions while holding them accountable if something seems a little off and be ready to be corrected ourselves.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
Thanks everyone, I was able to summarize my thoughts and include some good links/videos into a pretty comprehensive blog post. I believe I gave all sides a pretty fair hearing. Obviously, I have my own biases..

Thanks for the great feedback, I ultimately appreciate Machen’s ability (and foresight) to fence the church from state matters and influence, even though I think the state backdoors their influence one way or another....
 
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