“Evolutionary creationism” sounds like a contradiction in terms, but to theologian and biologist Denis Lamoureux, it is the liberating truth of the Holy Spirit as revealed in both Scripture and nature. Indeed, in his view, creationism, intelligent design, and evolution all work together to proclaim the glory of God, and his reading of scripture frees Christians from the dichotomy of God-given creation verses atheistic evolution.
But Lamoureux, now associate professor of science and religion at the University of Alberta, did not always hold this view. He was raised to believe in six-day creation, became an atheist when he discovered evidence for evolution, and only came back to the faith years later. After his return to Christianity, he made it his life’s mission to disprove evolution.
“I walked out of medical school to be a creation scientist,” he told PJ Media in an interview Tuesday. The military was paying his entire dentist’s salary (he estimated it at $250,000 per year in today’s dollars) for him to go to medical school, but he walked away from it in order to study theology and biology and fight the good fight against atheistic evolution.
Only through studying the Word of God deeply in seminary did Lamoureux realize that there was no inherent contradiction between God’s theological truths and the science of evolution. The title of his new book says it all: Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!
The author described the deeply personal moment when he suddenly realized that scripture does not rule out modern science — “There was a moment where all this came into my mind and just exploded,” he told PJ Media. “All of a sudden I sensed the Holy Spirit putting his arms around me. Intelligent design in nature hit me like a ton of bricks.”
Lamoureux had been led to reject a certain idea about science and scripture — that ancient scientific truths revealed in the Bible would be confirmed by modern science, and that the Bible was meant to reveal facts about nature as well as inerrant spiritual truths. But his deep study of theology and the Bible actually led him away from this view, which he calls Concordism. And it terrified him — he thought he was walking away from God.
“The Lord said to me, what you’re stepping away from here is Concordism, you’re not stepping away from me, or from the Bible,” the author explained. God accommodated His calling to Lamoureux to fit the man’s specific circumstances — and that deeply personal experience helped him to understand why the Bible should not be read as a science book, but rather as the inerrant Word of God for spiritual truths.
The thing that scared Lamoureux and made him think he was rejecting God was his discovery of the ancient science in scripture. This is more than the well-known facts that the Bible represents the sun rising and setting, rather than the Earth revolving around it. All throughout scripture there is a view of the universe which seems extremely primitive to people today, but was the height of sophistication in the ancient world.
Reading the Bible from the viewpoint of the ancients is very important. Some Christians read their view of the universe into the Bible’s text, and this is a big mistake, the author explained. Looking at the text on its own terms suggests a few key facts about the world — facts that everyone today knows are wrong.
For instance, the Bible speaks of a “firmament” in the heavens. People in the ancient Near East believed that the earth was flat, that it was a circle surrounded by a sea, and that it was covered by a solid dome (firmament literally means “pounded out,” strong and hard) which held up the waters in heaven. In fact, there were two “heavens:” the dome with the sun, moon, and stars in it, and the realm on top of the heavenly sea where God lived.
This view of the world pervades scripture, and explains some odd passages like Jesus being able to see all the kingdoms of the world from a high place (Matthew 4:8-9) and the idea that when Jesus comes back to Earth, everyone will be able to see him at once (Revelation 1:7).
There are other inconvenient errors, such as Jesus calling the mustard seed the smallest of all seeds (when the orchid produces even smaller seeds), and the idea that women only incubate human babies (women are said to be “barren” because the ancients thought of a baby coming from the man and planted in the woman’s womb, like planting seed in the earth).
But it is easy to explain these gross scientific errors, by pointing out the real purpose of scripture — and Lamoureux insisted that he still believes the Bible to be the inerrant (completely true) Word of God.
Next Page: How to reconcile scientific errors in the Bible with the perfection of God’s Word.
“When we speak to young people, we accommodate, we come down to their level,” Lamoureux explained. In the same way, “The Lord accommodated, the Holy Spirit accommodated, and used their understanding of nature to get the idea that the God of the Hebrews created the universe.”
Sensing that this idea might make Christians uncomfortable, the author insisted, “I’m an evangelical and I have no problem with the word ‘inerrant,'” to describe scripture. “These theological truths are absolutely true and I’d be willing to fall on a sword for them.”
Rather than “watering down the Bible,” as some Christians claim, this view of God accommodating to a limited human understanding “is deeply embedded in our faith, and the most obvious example is Jesus Christ.”
Lamoureux pointed out that human beings cannot fully understand God, but God Himself “took on human flesh, Jesus was fully God and fully human,” to accommodate Himself to the needs of men and women.
Another key example of accommodation comes in Jesus’ parables, which the author explained as “earthly stories with heavenly truths.” When Jesus said the mustard seed was the smallest of seeds, “Jesus didn’t lie. Jesus, by grace, accommodated.”
Lamoureux also insisted that “the Word of God is where we start, this is non-negotiable.” And that means submitting to the Word of God, and “if I find the Word of God accommodating to ancient science, I will start with the Word of God, I will adjust my hermeneutics to fit the scripture.”
Lamoureux developed these views while he was “still an anti-evolutionist,” he explained. Importantly, the shift in theology came first, and he rejected concordism because he decided, “I shall submit to the very words in the Word of God.”
Just as God accommodated His spiritual truths to the way the ancient Hebrews saw the world, so He accommodated His calling to Lamoureux. The author felt firmly called by God to oppose evolution, and that calling ironically led him to study the best biological arguments for the theory. Only then did he become convinced — after God had prepared him to keep his faith while rejecting Concordism — of the truth of evolution.
The Message-Incident Principle
When Lamoureux teaches students about faith and science, he uses the “Message-Incident Principle,” the idea that God’s message in the Bible is spiritual salvation, and His use of biblical authors’ flawed conception of nature is merely a biproduct of revelation.
“The Holy Spirit could have said, ‘I created through the Big Bang and evolutionary biology,” the author explained, but he argued that no one in the ancient world would have understood that. Such a teaching would have been a stumbling block to faith, and so God wisely decided to leave it out.
“God meets us exactly where we’re at,” he explained. The message of scripture is God’s inerrant spiritual truths, but He gave them to humanity through the biblical authors, who incidentally had a flawed and incomplete knowledge of the universe. This is ok, however, because the Bible is not about science, it’s about God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ.
Lamoureux may have coined the term “Message-Incident Principle,” but the idea goes way back. He cited Galileo, whose Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina explained how science and religion can work together. “He said that science is a gift from God, that nature and scripture reveal God equally well,” the professor explained. But he quoted Cardinal Baronious, writing “The intention of scripture is to show us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”
Next Page: Why evolution is actually an even better way to view God’s intelligent design.
Lamoureux laid out five different views of science and religion: Young Earth Creation, Progressive Creation, Evolutionary Creation, Deistic Evolution, and Dysteleological Evolution. Contrary to the creation verses evolution mentality, there are many different ways to see the interaction of faith and science.
Young Earth Creation states that God made the universe in six days. It rejects the astronomical evolution, geological evolution, and biological evolution discovered by modern science. Leaders in this movement include Ken Ham and his group Answers in Genesis.
Progressive Creation embraces an old Earth and an ancient universe but rejects biological evolution, trying to maintain the idea that the Bible presents some scientific facts. This is the idea behind the “Intelligent Design” movement, featuring astronomer Hugh Ross, geologist Stephen Meyer, and Reasons to Believe.
Deistic Evolution accepts the idea that evolution has a driving goal, a purpose given to it by a kind of God, but that after creating evolution, that God stepped back from the world and did not engage in it. This Creator God does not have a personal relationship with humanity. Charles Darwin embraced his view.
Dysteleological Evolution argues that evolution is driven entirely by chance, and that there is no God. This is the idea held by Richard Dawkins and often taught in schools. Lamoureux argued that such teachers “baptize this evolution with an atheistic worldview,” and he argued that teachers should “leave the theology out of it.”
Evolutionary Creation embraces all of modern science, arguing that God created the mechanism of evolution, which allowed the universe, the earth, and eventually life to emerge on its own — but constantly sustained by God as the ultimate Creator. Lamoureux argued that this view of God’s creation actually reveals a better argument from design — the idea that nature’s beauty and rationality reveals God’s handiwork (Psalm 19, Romans 1).
The author noted Meyer’s argument that the bacterial flagellum reveals God’s design in nature. “Does the flagellum declare the glory of God? Absolutely yes,” Lamoureux said. “But here’s where I step even further than Meyer and my design argument is even greater than Meyer’s.”
“The Lord, from the beginning, had intended the flagellum,” the author explained. “All those parts for the flagellum were in the cell membrane, doing other things. Through the mechanism of recruitment, the flagellum self-assembles without God having to come in and tinker about.”
Lamoureux argued that this view shows an even more powerful and amazing Creator God, one who could set up evolution and allow life to transform on its own. Laughing, he declared, “Denis Lamoureux the evolutionist has a stronger intelligent design argument than the Intelligent Design movement itself!”
Next Page: Freeing students from the faith verses science dichotomy.
Throughout his interview with PJ Media, the author constantly returned to his personal relationship with God, explaining that it was only by God’s grace that he was able to understand the spiritual message of the Bible and how it fits with modern science.
His book not only further explains these ideas, but also recounts many stories of his students. Some rejected Christianity because they learned that evolution was scientifically accurate. Some struggled to maintain their faith in an atmosphere where evolution was widely accepted.
Over and over again, the professor learned that by teaching these ideas, he could free his students from the horrible choice between life with evolution and without God or life without evolution and with God.
Lamoureux told PJ Media that freeing students from this false dichotomy gives his work meaning, and that is the fundamental message of his new book. He even said that he does not care whether readers accept his idea that evolution is true — he merely wants to make sure that Christians know there are other options that do not force them to reject science for faith or reject faith for science.
“As Christians, there are three main positions: Young Earth Creation, Progressive Creation, and Evolutionary Creation. We have to leave these as differences,” the author concluded. “What unites us is the blood of Jesus, what unites us is the Word of the Lord.”
Check out a video presentation of Lamoureux’s story on the next page.