Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Christadelphian magazine and evolution. Part 6a - Andrew Bramhill

In response to the growing acceptance in our community of evolution as the mechanism of creation, the recognition that it affects no fundamental doctrines, and the desire for a rational, civilised, Christ-like discussion on the subject, the response from militant anti-evolutionists in our community has been sorely lacking.

While the principle of ecclesial autonomy means The Christadelphian has no formal power in our community, it still retains, due to its long history, a position of some influence. Given this, The Christadelphian could have done much towards resolving these issues by allowing an informed, honest discussion in its pages. Instead, it chose to publish a series of articles on Genesis which committed all the usual fallacies. The final article in this series, written by the editor Andrew Bramhill on behalf of the CMPA committee summarises the typical mistakes made by anti-evolutionists in our community. We need intelligent, thoughtful leadership on this issue, but it will not be found within the recently-concluded series of articles by The Christadelphian.

1. Genesis 1 is not primarily about material origins

Bramhill begins with a paragraph that highlights perfectly some of the critical errors committed by evolution denialists:
“The simple scripture truth remains as certain today as it ever was, that “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Genesis is indeed the foundation of God’s revelation to man – and not just as a source of facts about creation, but also as the watershed of profound spiritual truths.” [1]
The first error is the assumption that Genesis is a source of facts about creation; an assumption that reflects a modern belief that an ancient text written primarily to a pre-scientific community would have as a priority the need to impart scientifically accurate facts about creation. Given that:
  • Genesis 1 clearly reflects a pre-modern cosmogeography as shown by its reference to a solid firmament separating waters above from waters below in which are set the sun, moon, and stars
  • The Earth is 4600 million years old, life has progressively appeared on this planet for over 3000 million years, and the order of creation flatly contradicts a literal reading of Genesis 1
  • Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 when read as literal, consecutive creation accounts of the same events contradict each other
  • Modern Hebrew scholars recognise that “the interpretation and translation of the first complex word, בְּרֵאשִׁית, in the Masoretic text of the Leningrad Codex as an absolute temporal prepositional phrase, “in the beginning, …” is grammatically indefensible. Period. End of story” which means that any attempt to use a literal reading of Genesis 1 and the genealogies to date creation are misguided
Bramhill’s claim that Genesis is a source of facts about creation is misguided; he has overlooked a fact that even conservative evangelical scholars OT scholars re increasingly recognising: namely that Genesis 1 is more about a functional ontology of creation than a material ontology.

The second error is Bramhill’s failure to show how accepting the fact of evolution undermines the utility of Genesis as a source of profound spiritual truth. This rigid thinking, which asserts that Christianity and evolution are mutually exclusive not only makes the mistake of conflating a theology of creation with a science of creation, but also lays the foundation for unbelief, when people who are inculcated with this fundamentalist view of the Bible eventually read outside the narrow, shallow, poorly-informed anti-evolution articles produced by our community at an official level, discover the truth about evolution and leave, having bought the lie that the truth of evolution automatically falsifies the Bible.

Our need for Christ as an example to follow stands true irrespective of whether Adam is our literal ancestor or not. To assert that the gospel message is falsified by the fact of evolution, or that acceptance of evolution destroys the ability of the Bible to be a profound source of spiritual truth not only places a huge stumbling block in the path of a generation that has seen the truth of evolution everywhere from the fossil record right down to the genome, but also demonstrates a fragile faith that cannot survive unless it is shielded from reality.


1. Bramhill A “And God said…” The Christadelphian (2015) 152:532