Theistic Evolution and the PCA – Part 1

By James C. Raketraw, PE, CFM

The purpose of this series of articles is to explore theistic evolution (also termed Evolutionary Creation) and the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).  This series has four parts which will attempt to answer four basic questions as follows:

  1. Where is theistic evolution found within the PCA?
  2. How did theistic evolution come to the PCA?
  3. How does theistic evolution differ from the Christian church’s traditional view of Creation?
  4. What are some Impacts of theistic evolution on the PCA?

Part 1: Where is Theistic Evolution Found within the PCA?

Theistic evolution has been present in the evangelical community for some time.  However, the aggressive promotion of theistic evolution began the founding of the BioLogos organization in 2007.  The BioLogos has a strong relationship with the Templeton Foundation.  All evangelical denominations are the targets of promoters of theistic evolution and the PCA is no exception.  By 2016, supporters of theistic evolution within the PCA include well prominent pastors, prominent seminary professors, academics and ruling elders.

The most proponent pastor who supports theistic evolution in the PCA is Dr. Tim Keller, the pastor of Redeemer PCA which is located in New York City.  In 2008, Dr. Keller authored the book The Reason for God.  This book made it to #7 in non-fiction on the New York Times bestsellers list.  In his book, Dr. Keller expresses his support of theistic evolution.  Dr. Keller contributes to the BioLogos website and on that website (10/29/16) is listed as an endorser of BioLogos.  In 2016 Keller was a speaker at the 2016 General Assembly of the PCA.  Dr. Keller is an example of the BioLogos objective of recruiting leading pastors to theistic evolution and then letting them influence those who look to them.

The most influential voice for theistic evolution in the PCA may be that of Dr. C. John “Jack” Collins, a professor at Covenant Theological Seminary, which is the denominational seminary of the PCA.  Dr. Collins is a participant at BioLogos events.  Dr. Collins is the author of papers (1994 and 1997) that support the t Analogical Days Interpretation; this interpretation is described in the PCA Report.  Dr. Collins is the author of several books on creation related topics.   Books by Dr. Collins include:

Science and Faith: Friends or Foes (Crossway, 2003)

Genesis 1-4: A Language, Theological, and Literary Commentary (P&R, 2006)

Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care (Crossway, 2011)

Dr. Collins has focused on harmonizing the Biblical account of creation with evolution. This is well expressed in the following quote excerpted from Wikipedia on 5/21/16:

“Collins’ most recent book is Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care (Crossway, 2011), in which he highlights the importance to Christian theology of believing that the Fall of man was a historical event, and explores whether such a belief can be compatible with a Darwinian view of human origins. Collins has been a prominent voice in recent discussion among evangelicals on this topic.”

Dr. Collins is a participant in the Templeton Foundation sponsored Creation Project as a scholar-in-residence.  The Creation Project is described as:

“….a three-year, six-program initiative intended to bring greater clarity, openness, and understanding about the doctrine of creation within the evangelical theological community in light of modern scientific discovery. In addition to providing wider guidance to the evangelical public, the project is also intended to stimulate interdisciplinary scholarship and engagement on the controversial issues at the intersection of Scripture, theology, and scientific discovery.” 

Dr. Collins contribution to the Creation Project is described as:

“During the first year, the group will be focusing on the topic of “Reading Genesis in an Age of Science.” Dr. Collins’s particular focus will be on “Genesis 1–11: Poetry, History, Science, Truth.”

Dr. Collins is an example of the BioLogos objective of recruiting leading seminary professors to bring the Bible into harmony with theistic evolution.  The professors will then influence future generations of PCA pastors.

Information and quotation were excerpted ON 5/4/16 from: www.covenantseminary.edu/the-thistle/Collins-research-fellowship

Solid Rock Lectures, a theistic evolution ministry, presented a lecture at the 2012 PCA General Convention titled “The PCA Creation Study Committee a Dozen Years Later: What does science say now? “ One of the Solid Rock Lectures speakers was Dr. G.R. Davidson who hold is doctorate in hydrogeology and is a member of a PCA church.  Dr. Davidson is the chairperson of the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at the University of Mississippi. In 2009 he authored the book When Faith & Science Collide – A Biblical Approach to Evaluating Evolution and the Age of the Earth (2009 – Malius Press).  This book supports evolution and a discordant view of creation.  Dr. Davidson is also listed on the BioLogos Speakers Bureau – BioLogos Voices (BioLogos website 10/15/16).  Dr. Davidson is an example of the BioLogos objective of recruiting science professors to theistic evolution and then using them to influence future generations of young professionals.

Another Solid Rock Lectures speaker is Dr. Joel Duff who holds a doctorate in botany and is a professor of biology at the University of Akron (Ohio).  Dr. Duff is a member of a PCA church.   Dr. Duff is also listed on the BioLogos Speakers Bureau – BioLogos Voices (BioLogos website 10/15/16).  Dr. Duff has website, www.naturalhistoria.com which has numerous blog posts on theistic evolution.  Dr. Duff is an example of the BioLogos objective of recruiting science professors to theistic evolution and then using them to influence future generations of young professionals.

Dr. Lee Irons is a former OPC minister and he currently serves as a ruling elder at New Life Burbank (PCA).  Dr. Irons and Dr. Meredith Kline presented the Framework Interpretation in the book The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation (2000).  Dr. Irons has a website:  www.upperregister.com  which contains much information concerning Framework Interpretation and Dr. Kline.  Dr. Irons has an interesting paper titled “Adam and Evolution” (dated 4/24/15); it may be found on his website /papers/Genesis Debates.  The paper is a consolidation of a series of blog posts covering a number of evolution related topics.  Dr. Irons believes there is evidence for evolution.  He also expresses concern about theistic evolution and the historicity of Adam. Dr. Irons lists five (5) possible views of Adam for those who believe in theistic evolution.   Dr. Irons is an example of a church leader who is highly committed to the Framework view of creation and who is now wrestling relating evolution to Christian doctrine.