Pastor Todd Wilson and his church are trying to do the impossible—in two respects. First, though it is impossible to harmonize the creation account in Genesis with the basic beliefs of Darwinian evolutionism, this has not stopped Wilson from trying. Wilson recognizes evolutionism’s most glaring problem is that it is anti-God (anti-theism). But he hangs on to the idea that one can believe in God (theism) and hold to other parts of evolutionism. For example, he believes it is possible to reconcile Genesis with the idea that men evolved from monkeys. Second, though it is impossible to unite those who purely confess the truth of Scripture regarding creation with those who have corrupted the truth by accepting evolutionism, this has not stopped Wilson from making a valiant, though foolhardy, effort. Wilson and his congregation have adopted ten theses on creation and evolution.1 Together these ten theses form a kind of confession of faith that is supposed to unite “evangelical Christians.”
Wilson desires unity. This is evident from the title of his article as it appeared on christianitytoday.com: “Ten Theses on Creation and Evolution That (Most) Evangelicals Can Support.” He also writes, “Our ultimate goal was to maintain the ‘unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace’ (Eph. 4:3) and to prioritize the gospel as of ‘first importance’ (I Cor. 15:3). It was important for us to arrive at a position on creation and evolution that was in keeping with that faithful Christian saying, ‘in essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.’” Wilson wants unity between “young-earth creationists,” “old-earth creationists,” “advocates of intelligent design,” and “evolutionary creationists or theistic evolutionists.” He admits that it will not be possible to attain “perfect unanimity” but he believes that he and his church have created a document that reflects “what most (evangelical) Christians, at most times, have believed and should believe about creation.” Here is what Wilson wants Christians to confess together:
- The doctrine of creation is central to the Christian faith.
- The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is the Word of God, inspired, authoritative, and without error. Therefore whatever Scripture teaches is to be believed as God’s instruction, without denying that the human authors of Scripture communicated using the cultural conventions of their time.
- Genesis 1-2 is historical in nature, rich in literary artistry, and theological in purpose. These chapters should be read with the intent of discerning what God says through what the human author has said.
- God created and sustains everything. This means that he is as much involved in natural processes as he is in supernatural events. Creation itself provides unmistakable evidence of God’s handiwork.
- Adam and Eve were real persons in a real past, and the fall was a real event with real and devastating consequences for the entire human race.
- Human beings are created in the image of God and are thus unique among God’s creatures. They possess special dignity within creation.
- There is no final conflict between the Bible rightly understood and the facts of science rightly understood. God’s “two books,” Scripture and nature, ultimately agree. Therefore Christians should approach the claims of contemporary science with both interest and discernment, confident that all truth is God’s truth.
- The Christian faith is compatible with different scientific theories of origins, from young-earth creationism to evolutionary creationism, but it is incompatible with any view that rejects God as the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Christians can (and do) differ on their assessment of the merits of various scientific theories of origins.
- Christians should be well grounded in the Bible’s teaching on creation but always hold their views with humility, respecting the convictions of others and not aggressively advocating for positions on which evangelicals disagree.
- Everything in creation finds its source, goal, and meaning in Jesus Christ, in whom the whole of creation will one day achieve eschatological redemption and renewal. All things will be united in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
It is readily apparent that this is not a distinctive, sharp statement of doctrine. For this reason alone it cannot serve as a unifying document. Our Reformed confessions unify because they plainly identify the truth. The sharp statement of the truth identifies those who are one, namely, those who confess the same truth.
This document turns things around. Instead of identifying the truth and then identifying those who are united on the basis of the truth, it identifies the groups it wants to bring together and then attempts to state the “truth” broadly enough to make sure everyone fits in the tent.
This is doomed to failure. Suppose that an attempt was made to unite Reformed believers with Baptists by a confession of faith. Think of how loosely worded and fuzzy any statement would be (after we dumped LD 27 Q&A 74 of the Heidelberg Catechism) that made allowances for those who affirm and those who deny infant baptism. Suppose such a statement was actually produced. Would it result in real unity? Neither the Reformed believer nor the Baptist would be happy. It is impossible for a church to have unity in both affirming and denying infant baptism. So it is impossible for a church to have unity in both affirming and denying that Adam and Eve had ancestors.
If Wilson and his congregation have not produced a unifying document, what is it? It is thinly veiled theistic-evolution propaganda. The goal of the document is not to unite people who hold to different beliefs about the origin and government of the creation. Its goal is to convince the evangelical church world that there is no danger in tolerating evolutionism. Wilson practically admits this in one of the opening paragraphs of the article. He describes the congregation where he is the pastor as “on the conservative side on many theological issues, this one included. In its not-too-distant past, the church embraced six-day, young-earth creationism as its (unofficial) teaching position.” Wilson somewhat whimsically recounts how a rumor spread about him in the congregation a few years ago that “Pastor Todd thinks we came from apes!” There was some “congregational heartburn” over the pastor holding to a “version of evolutionary creation.” The cure for this “heartburn” was not a heartfelt confession of sin on the pastor’s part. No, the congregation needed to “engage in serious conversations about origin issues” and find out what they could “affirm together as a unifying doctrinal core” even as they embraced their diversity concerning the doctrine of creation. In other words, the congregation had to learn to tolerate her pastor’s views.
The document itself proves that it is a theistic-evolution propaganda piece (or “confession” if you prefer the less pejorative descriptor). The document is deceptive in its attempt to pass itself off as something that a so-called “young-earth creationist” could easily affirm. Many of the theses simply regurgitate the claims of theistic evolutionists, which claims have long been refuted by those who affirm the biblical truth about creation. Wilson probably knows this, which probably explains why the theses are so carefully worded. Wilson wants the theses to be palatable to “young-earth creationists.” But the sharp-eyed reader will detect that Wilson has only more cleverly disguised his error.
Thesis 2 cleverly promotes the idea that the human instruments God used to write the Bible were scientifically ignorant. They used the “cultural conventions of their time” to communicate divine truths. Wilson is suggesting that Moses, maybe because of naivete or ignorance (because he lived before so many scientific discoveries), was mistaken in writing about the earth as if it is only thousands of years old. Theistic-evolutionists have long argued that it is possible to affirm the inspiration and infallibility of sacred Scripture and allow that some scientific errors may be included in Scripture due to the limitations of the human writers. Those who affirm the truth that God created all things in the space of six ordinary days have always rejected this as a denial of the truth that all Scripture is God-breathed (II Tim. 3:16).
Thesis 5 is simply dishonest. Wilson deceptively portrays himself as believing what Genesis 2 and 3 teach about Adam and Eve. Wilson wants to hang onto the evolutionary theory of the origin of human beings, but then prevent the logical conclusion that Genesis 2’s account of the creation of Adam and Eve and Genesis 3’s account of the Fall must be denied. He recognizes how troubling it is to question or deny the historicity of our first parents and their fall into sin. He attempts to extend an olive branch to Christians who have been warning for decades that theistic-evolution will lead to a denial of the unique creation of Adam and Eve and then of the fall into sin. So, he says, let us affirm together that Adam and Eve were real persons in a real past. But this is not enough for those who are committed to confessing everything the Bible teaches about Adam and Eve. Wilson may have hoped we would not notice that he left out stating that Adam and Eve have no ancestors. But we noticed, and we insist on this truth too. Anyone who does not believe Adam was created by God from the dust of the ground may claim to believe that Adam was a real person who existed in a real past, but if they believe that this Adam descended from monkeys, then he is not the Adam of Genesis 2 and 3. In his explanation of this thesis Wilson admits his dishonesty. The thesis is supposed to set forth a unifying statement that is essential for the Christian faith and for Christian unity. But Wilson demonstrates he does not really believe this, writing, “I suspect in 20 years’ time, support for Adam and Eve as real person in a real past will be a minority view even within evangelicalism. Should this come to pass, I remain confident that the Christian faith will survive, even though this will require some reconfiguration of our deepest convictions.”
Theses 7 and 8 continue the theistic-evolutionist mantra that Scripture (special revelation) and creation (general revelation) are both truthful revelations of God in order to promote the idea that if science tells us a rock is 4 billion years old, then it is God Himself who tells us the universe is billions of years old by means of general revelation. The astute Reformed believer will recognize the false premise implied in these two theses, which is characteristic of theistic-evolutionism. That false premise is that special and general revelation are equally clear in their witness to the truth. John Calvin taught us that special revelation (Scripture) is like a pair of glasses that allows us to see things more clearly in creation. Creation does not dictate to us what we believe about Scripture. Scripture dictates to us what we believe about creation. Wilson and the theistic evolutionists in theory claim they view Scripture and science to be equally truthful. In practice, they give primacy to science. If science says that the world must be billions of years old, then we have to reject Genesis 1’s account of a younger earth. Wilson’s confession represents the theistic-evolution perspective on the relationship between Scripture and science, not the perspective the historic Reformed creeds.
Thesis 9 is a worn-out call for humility in how one holds his convictions. This is yet another deception that is all the more dangerous because it contains a ring of truth. We are always called to be humble in the way that we confess the truth. Think of infant baptism again. We may not lift up ourselves in pride as if we are better than Baptists because we confess the truth of Scripture and they do not regarding this issue. Our boast is not in what we confess. Our boast is in Christ. The fact that He has shown us grace and made the truth known to us is a matter for humility not pride. But the chief mark of humility in a believer is that he humbles himself before the truth of Jesus Christ revealed in Scripture. It is not a sign of humility but rather pride to affirm or tolerate doctrines invented by man.
Does Wilson really want humility and toleration? I will not question his heart’s intent. However, history has shown that theistic-evolution begs for humility and toleration only until it can turn the tables. Soon no one whispers about someone believing humans came from apes, as if that is a strange view. No, they snicker about that silly man in church who believes that Genesis records actual history. No one says to that man, “Let’s have discussions about origins and try to find unity in our diversity.” No, this bumpkin must yield the right to interpret Scripture to the proud, educated, scientifically advanced scholar. Humility? No, the theistic-evolutionists look down their noses at the simpletons who wrote (Moses) and who read (we) Genesis believing that God actually created the world in six days.
In thesis 10 Wilson attempts a third impossibility. He has tried, though it is impossible, to harmonize Scripture with Darwinian evolution. He has tried, though it is impossible, to unite those who confess the truth of creation as set forth in Genesis 1-3, with those who reject it. Now he attempts to present his “evolutionary creation” views as if they bring glory to God. By denying the historicity of Genesis 1-3, his views rob God of the glory of one of the greatest miracles recorded in all of Scripture.
God has done the impossible (what is not possible for man). He created all things out of nothing, merely by His word, in the space of six ordinary days. He made the first man and woman who foolishly rebelled. He sent His Son to be the seed of that woman for redemption of His own and to establish the hope of a new creation. This is the truth of Scripture, truth that unites believers and that brings glory to God.