The Compromise Road

The Basic conflict of the ages is between the two world views of evolutionism versus creationism. In its most explicit form, this conflict comes down to Biblical revelatory creationism versus evolutionary humanism. The only Book even claiming to deal authoritatively with this supernatural creation of the space/time cosmos is the Bible, and there the Creator personally inscribed His explicit summary of creation, as follows: "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day" (Exodus 20:11; see also Exodus 31:15-18).

Evolutionary humanism, on the other hand, purports to explain the origin and development of the cosmos entirely by natural processes innate to the universe itself. In its current form, evolutionism says that the cosmos came into existence as an evolutionary accident, a "quantum fluctuation of some pre-existent state of nothingness." From this remarkable beginning, it evolved through a stage of cosmic inflation, then explosive expansion and eventual formation of elements, stars, planets, animals, and people--all by natural evolutionary processes.

The road of compromise looks attractive at first, but long experience has proved it to be a one-way street. The evolutionists at the end of the road are never satisfied until their opponents travel all the way to the atheistic void at its end.

Charles Darwin set the pattern. Starting out as a Bible-believing creationist, he first became enamored of Charles Lyell's uniformitarianism and his "progressive creationism." Soon he abandoned the Bible and creationism altogether, moving on into the domain of theistic evolutionism. Eventually he became an agnostic and finally an atheist.

Many others in his day followed this compromise road. Darwin's chief opponents, in fact, were scientists, not the theologians of his day.

"Despite abundant evidence to the contrary, it is widely believed that the church was a bitter opponent of evolution." [1]

Whole denominations and their religious colleges and seminaries were teaching evolution during Darwin's lifetime, and multitudes of more fundamental Christians were accommodating the evolutionary ages of geology by their "gap theory," "local flood theory," and other devices of artificial Biblical exegesis.

But did such compromises ever persuade the evolutionists to meet them half way? The present state of the schools and colleges and the intellectual community in general is the obvious answer.

Science and religion are dramatically opposed at their deepest philosophical levels. And because the two world views make claims to the same intellectual territory--that of the origin of the universe and humankind's relation to it--conflict is inevitable. [2]
Despite the attempts by liberal theology to disguise the point, the fact is that no biblically derived religion can really be compromised with the fundamental assertion of Darwinian theory. Chance and design are antithetical concepts. [3]

Despite these lessons of the past, most modern Christians seem oblivious to the fact that all their different accommodational schemes were discredited a hundred years ago and that none of them ever budged the evolutionary establishment from its base of total naturalism.

A good modern example is found in the writings of Davis Young, now teaching geology at Calvin College, an institution belonging to the ostensibly conservative Christian Reformed Church. As a beginning graduate student, Dr. Young originally believed in a literal six-day creation and flood geology. Under the guidance of his Princeton professors, however, he converted to "progressive creationism" and the venerable "day-age theory" of Genesis. This position he strongly advocated in two influential books. [4][5] He did acknowledge, however, that the "natural" interpretation of Genesis, as well as the teaching of the early Christians and the Protestant reformers, was the literal interpretation. He had simply decided this had to be abandoned because of its supposed geological difficulties. He did, at that time, still hold out for the special creation of a literal Adam and Eve.

His progressive creationism did not even satisfy his theistic-evolutionary colleagues at Calvin, however, let alone his geological peers at the secular universities. So he is now ready to travel further down the road.

I further suggest that both literalism and concordism have outlived their usefulness, and that these approaches should be abandoned for a newer approach that does not try to answer technical scientific questions with Biblical data. [6]

By "literalism," Young means taking the six days of creation as literal days and the flood as worldwide in geological effects, the position advocated by most scientific creationists. By "concordism," he means any theory (gap theory, day-age theory, etc.) that attempts to develop a concordance between the creation record in Genesis 1 and the geological ages. Young now wants to quit trying to relate science and the Bible at all!

I suggest that we will be on the right track if we stop treating Genesis 1 and the flood story as scientific and historic reports. [7]

This approach is essentially that advocated by Christian "liberals" a century ago and now taught in most main-line seminaries.

Another articulate "progressive creationist" is the Professor of Biology at Wheaton College. Dr. Pattle Pun has recently written a book promoting this system, which is essentially the same as that held by most of the Wheaton faculty and by numerous others in the evangelical college orbit. Like Young, however, Pun acknowledges that this is not the obvious teaching of God's Word.

It is apparent that the most straightforward understanding of the Genesis record, without regard to all the hermeneutical considerations suggested by science, is that God created heaven and earth in six solar days, that man was created on the sixth day, that death and chaos entered the world after the fall of Adam and Eve, and that all of the fossils were the result of the catastrophic universal deluge which spared only Noah's family and the animals therewith. [8]

The problem with this obvious teaching, according to Pun, is that:

It has denied and belittled the vast amount of scientific evidence amassed to support the theory of natural selection and the antiquity of the earth. [9]

The problem with Pun's compromise, however, is that it depends on "all the hermeneutical considerations suggested by science." Did God really need to rely on 20th century scientists to come along one day to tell us what He meant to say? Pun's article, summarizing his book, was published by the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), the organization of evangelical scientists and theologians which has for forty years been leading Christians down this path of compromise with evolution.

To illustrate the lack of appreciation by the secular evolutionists for this service, however, consider the reception accorded ASA's 48-page booklet, Teaching Science in a Climate of Controversy, first published in 1986 and distributed free (because of a special grant) to over 60,000 science teachers. The booklet accepts the geological ages and much of evolution, but argues that the process was designed by God, advocating progressive creationism and/or theistic evolutionism as a compromise approach that should satisfy both creationists and evolutionists. The booklet is also promoted by the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship.

The response of the academic community has been almost totally negative. Biologist William Bennetta [10] has edited a collection of essays "from leading evolutionists" reviewing the ASA publication, and they all attack it as viciously as they do the strict creationism of ICR. Lynn Margulis says:

The result is treacherous. Authentic scientific and didactic principles have been put to nefarious use, for the writers' ultimate purpose is to coax us to believe in the ASA's particular creation myth. [11]

Stephen Gould, Niles Eldredge, Douglas Futuyma, Michael Ghiselin, and others all contribute bitterly negative critiques to this collection of reviews. The anti-creationist Committees of Correspondence also have come down hard on the booklet, [12] followed by a rather plaintive response [13] by Walter Hearn, one of the booklet's co-authors, complaining that the ASA was merely trying to defend evolutionism against the scientific creationists. Subsequent issues of the C/E Newsletter continue to be filled with attacks on the ASA and its "creationist pseudo-science."

This is ironic. The compromising creationists are attacked as viciously as the strict creationists, by those with whom they are trying to compromise. And in the process, they are rejecting the plain teaching of the Word of God. Even the secular evolutionists can see this.

Cheer Number One goes to the creationists for serving rational religion by demonstrating beautifully that we must take the creation stories of Genesis at face value. . . . Many Christians have taken the dishonest way of lengthening the days into millions of years, but the creationists make it clear that such an approach is nothing but a makeshift that is unacceptable Biblically and scientifically. . . . Creationists deserve Cheer Number Two for serving rational religion by effectively eliminating "theistic evolution." . . . Creationists rightly insist that evolution is inconsistent with a God of love. . . . Three cheers, then, for the creationists, for they have cleared the air of all dodges, escapes, and evasions made by Christians who adopt non-literal interpretations of Genesis and who hold that evolution is God's method of creation. [14]

The road of compromise, however attractive it seems, is a one-way street, ending in a precipice and then the awful void of "rational religion," or atheism. Our advice is to stay on the straight and narrow road of the pure Word of God.


[1] Francis Glasson, "Darwin and the Church," New Scientist (Vol. 99, September 1, 1983), p. 639.
[2] Norman K. Hall and Lucia K.B. Hall, "Is the War Between Science and Religion Over?" The Humanist (Vol. 46, May/June 1986), p. 26.
[3] Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, (London: Burnett Books, Ltd., 1985), p. 66.
[4] Davis K. Young, Creation and the Flood (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977), 188 pp. See especially pp. 19-25.
[5] Davis K. Young, Christianity and the Age of the Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982), 217 pp. See especially pp. 44-48.
[6] Davis K. Young, Scripture in the Hands of Geologists, Part I. Westminster Theological Journal (Vol. 49, 1987), p. 6.
[7] Ibid., Part II, p. 303.
[8] Pattle P.T. Pun, "A Theory of Progressive Creationism," Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (Vol. 39, March 1987), p. 14.
[9] Ibid.
[10] "Scientists Decry a Slick New Packaging of Creationism," ed. by W. J. Bennetta, The Science Teacher, May 1987, pp. 36-43.
[11] Ibid., p. 40.
[12] Creation-Evolution Newsletter (Vol. 6, No. 6, 1986), pp. 3-9. Reviews by Robert Schadewald, William Bennetta, and Karl Tezer.
[13] Creation-Evolution Newsletter (Vol. 7, No. 1, 1987), pp. 16-19.
[14] A. J. Mattell, Jr., "Three Cheers for the Creationists," Free Inquiry (Vol. 2, Spring 1982), pp. 17-18.

* Dr. Henry M. Morris is Founder and President Emeritus of the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Henry M. Morris, Ph.D. 1988. The Compromise Road. Acts & Facts. 17 (3).

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