In our western world many are convinced that evolutionary theory is an atheistic naturalistic ideology. In other words, it is believed that evolution supports the atheistic worldview. Brad Kramer explains that to “many people evolution is first and foremost a “secular”, “worldly” belief system” (1). This view is held by both Christians and atheists alike. Many Christians are vehemently opposed to evolutionary theory out of their theological commitments whereas many atheists seem to assume that their belief systems are supported by the theory.
Before we say anything more we need to note the difference between methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism. Methodological naturalism is the method of science where scientists look for natural causes to phenomena within the universe. However, that is very different from metaphysical naturalism, the view that most atheists hold to. The point being is that metaphysical naturalism is a philosophy that draws conclusions beyond what science can affirm or deny, whereas methodological naturalism is simply a methodology. Therefore, metaphysical naturalism is no more part of science than Christian theism is. And it is here where the atheist’s error becomes noticeable: he fallaciously hops from science assuming a methodology of naturalism to the question of God. This is fallacious because God’s existence is a question of ontology, not methodology. So when the atheist says that evolution affirms naturalism he actually means that it affirms his philosophical worldview of naturalism. The atheist needs to argue for that position as simply assuming it is unwarranted.
And as I’ve pointed out before there is a big difference between evolution and evolutionism. Evolution is the scientific theory that posits that all biological life evolved from a first single ancestor by natural selection and random mutation. As a theory evolution no more affirms or denies a supernatural reality, God’s existence, or the afterlife than does, for example, the theory of gravity. As a scientific theory it is just not able to provide insight on those things. However, evolutionism is a belief system, mostly espoused by atheists. Here evolution transcends being only that of a scientific theory and becomes a “religion,” so to speak. Evolutionism is, as Biologos explains, an “atheistic worldview that so often accompanies the acceptance of biological evolution in public discussion” (2). This is perhaps were so many become muddled up by assuming evolution supports an atheistic worldview.
Thirdly, whether the Christian believes in evolution or is opposed to it, it is no secret that many Bible believing Christians do accept it as an explanation of the diversity of life on Earth. Christian scientist Howard Van Till explains that “On the advice of numerous Christian biologists I am led to the conclusion that the scientific success of the concept of biological evolution is the product of proper theory evaluation and that the apologetic employment of evolutionary theory in the “folk-science” of evolutionary naturalism is a regrettable and irritating cultural phenomenon that we must deal with on its own terms-not as science, but as the misemployment of science in a religious agenda” (3). Peter Hess agrees, “Theologians, clergy, scientists, and others belonging to many religious traditions have concluded that their religious views are compatible with evolution, and are even enhanced by the knowledge of nature that science provides” (4). Therefore, no-one, independent of their own views, can dispute the fact that there is an ever increasing number of Christians accepting evolutionary theory. This puts into question the notion that it is an atheistic ideology.
Many might also think that scientists specializing in evolutionary theory have some kind of agenda. As if the theory is there only to promote an atheistic naturalistic ideology, as the fundamentalist Kent Hovind once incredibly remarked, “Satan is using evolution theory to make kids go to hell.” This is an incredible line of thinking, and if the Christian thinks that evolution somehow possesses such an agenda she should expel it from her mind. Kramer realizes this and goes on to argue that it just “doesn’t logically follow that evolutionary science must be a massive, worldwide conspiracy wherein all evidence for evolution is nothing but fabrication and blind guesses” used to disprove God. Maybe evolution can be shown to be in conflict with, for example, a specific Christian’s interpretation of the biblical Genesis creation account. But that wouldn’t go as far as to make evolution an “atheistic ideology.” It simply shows that evolution is in conflict with a theological interpretation. But one also shouldn’t deny that there may well be an atheistic, naturalistic bias on the part of many scientists, especially those who confuse methodological naturalism with metaphysical naturalism. Thus to be an apologist for good science one needs “to stand firm against the attempt to reduce all reality to the physical and material – especially when atheism masquerades as good science” (5).
Finally, it is not true that because we have a natural explanation of how creatures evolved that it somehow kicks God out of the picture, at least a transcendent God such as the one of the Christian scriptures. This is because God is fully transcendent over his creation and that anything we discover about how creation works only goes to show how this God operates. Therefore, to rule out God’s existence over a theory about how his creation operates wouldn’t work. As the prominent philosopher of science John Lennox explains that God no more competes with a scientific theory as Henry Ford competes against the laws of internal combustion of the Ford motor vehicle. It’s like an oil painting. We can, by analyzing the painting scientifically, explain the crevices and the manner of the brush strokes of the artist. But we can’t conclude that the artist doesn’t exist, or wasn’t involved.
1. Kramer, B. 2015. 5 Common Objections to Evolutionary Creationism. Available.
2. Biologos. How is BioLogos different from Evolutionism, Intelligent Design, and Creationism? Available.
3. Van Till, H. When Faith and Reason Cooperate. Available.
4. Hess, P. Science and Religion. Available.
5. Kramer, B. 2015. Ibid.