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Revelation and Evolution: What’s this world coming to?

Written by: on February 21, 2019

Decisions…decisions! Perhaps “Scandal” is the best title for this book when reviewing this week’s reading, “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind;” after all, Mark Noll seems to enjoy hitting on some of those favorite topics of the modern-day preacher…evangelical or not. The fact is, he hit upon two of my personal favorites; Revelation and Evolution. Though neither of these topics actually has to do with my dissertation, I did find that the reasoning behind his arguments does. One particular comment that caught my eye to explain this connection read; “This situation, however, reverses the scale of confidence communicated by Scripture, where we are taught, first, to respect God and what He had done (including His creation of the world, His guidance of all human affairs, and His preservation of the human ability to learn something about the world) and, second, to mistrust our own deceiving hearts[1].” When I view the way churches view baptism today, I feel that too many influences from outside of Scripture have impacted the understanding of its value. I believe this is one of the common assertions Noll kept eluding too; though I must admit; at times, I was not sure if he was ‘for’ or ‘against’ the progression of thought that these topics and others were taking.

So, let’s look first at Revelation (don’t worry, though I love teaching Revelation, I will not go all ‘Days of Wrath’ in this this post). You can imagine how quickly the text caught my attention when I read, “Those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to write end-times books[2].” Considering the fact that I just finished teaching a 6-month series on the book of Revelation; which included my own personal outline of the entire book, I figured I should pay attention. Interesting enough though, the comment was actually more focused on those who try to force modern day politics into the prophetic warnings believed to be found primarily in the book of Revelation. On this point, I was in agreement; it seems everyone is desiring to prove who the “anti-Christ” is; which usually includes their least favorite president of governor. I believe the struggle with modern day religious scholars who get caught up on Revelation, is the fact that we are given scriptures that tells us:

“…so much the more as you see the Day approaching[3];”

“For false christs and false prophets will reise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect[4].”

“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity…[5]

“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders[6].”

And my own personal motivation (scripture concerning interpretation of 666)

“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.”

It is the desire of the heart to not only know the things we believe God has set before us in His Word; but also the desire to show to Him our love for studying that Word. However, Noll’s warning should be heeded by all who profess to be ministers of the Gospel; sometimes our hearts can be deceived as a result of our own lusts, wants, desires, and environmental surroundings. We see perceived evils surrounding us and immediately want to find God’s guidance through those times. It is not that I believe these things should not be studied; in fact, I believe the exact opposite. However, I also believe that it is important to “clean our plates” before opening God’s Word. We cannot allow our own preferences to interfere with His instruction.

Second, the issue of evolution. Okay, so here is another one of my favorite sideline bible studies; so favorite in fact that I have been working on my own independent paper, which deals with evolution, Pangea, and even the history of the ‘flat earth’ teachings throughout the ages. Noll discussed three perspectives that have erupted within the evangelical movement as a means of dealing with the scientific approach as it pertains to God’s Word.

  1. “Conservative opponents reject evolution out of hand; primarily for religious reasons, because it did not square with their understanding of the bible[7].” Again, there must be caution with automatically dismissing anything simply due to our own understanding. Science itself, at least when practiced properly and correctly, is supposed to be based upon observable facts. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary online, scientific method consists of “principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of date through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.” Here lies the problem though; how can science make any real assertions concerning evolution, when it is impossible for anyone to have ever actually observed it taking place the proposed billions of years ago. For a Christian, we have faith in the bible and believe it to already be fact; so theories that conflict, yet fail to prove, that fact, are arguable.
  2. “Theological evolutionists thought it was possible to affirm evolution within the boundaries of historic Christian doctrines[8].” For someone like myself, I believe that Science can be very beneficial in proving things mentioned in the Bible; thus the evidence from the scientific method has merit. Science has supported the flood and yet, it has also been used to debunk every single “missing link” proposed up to this day. If you expand this to other studies like, archeology, geology, and even astronomy; I believe that true and honest scientific methods have proven their place alongside of scripture on numerous accounts.
  3. “The majority who embraced evolution, however did so as part of a major adjustment in theology…a new trust in religious consciousness[9].” This is where I suppose my skin started to crawl; when words and phrases such as; “progressive advancements of the human race,” “trends,” and “to redefine the Bible as an expression, were being used. For myself, I have tried diligently to not challenge the God of Creation. I have never forgotten the first time I read Job 38:

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, ‘Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know!”

I will stop the quote here, though if you have not read this text in a while, I encourage you to return to it before challenging the Creation story of the Bible, or before trying to progressively advance or redefine the knowledge given to us in Scripture.

 

I believe one of the greatest challenges facing the Church today is the challenge of Faith; Satan does not have to honest, though God always is. Satan does not have to be fair, though God will always be just; and there is a reason God gave us this warning; “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour[10].”

 

 

Bibliography

Merriam-Webster Dictionary.2019. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/science (accessed February 21, 2019).

Noll, Mark A. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.

 

 

[1]Noll, Pg 175

[2]Ibid, p. 174.

[3]Hebrews 10:25.

[4]Matthew 24:24.

[5]Luke 21:25.

[6]2 Thessalonians 2:9.

[7]Noll, p. 180.

[8]Ibid.

[9]Ibid, p. 181.

[10]1 Peter 5:8.

About the Author

Shawn Hart

12 responses to “Revelation and Evolution: What’s this world coming to?”

  1. mm M Webb says:

    Shawn,
    Hi Shawn! Great introduction and nice tie into your dissertation research on baptism. I must admit that I have told a few baptisee’s, who worry about their past sin lives, not to worry if the water around them starts to boil when they go under. I assure them that’s why we use full immersion, to make sure the fire goes out! One lady after a river baptism nervously smiled and asked me if she needed to go under again! LOL
    Thanks for the Revelation review and your personal connection to the end times theologies. When you said, “it is important to clean our plates” I went straight to a thought of “setting my house in order” and agree with your intention, which is to clear away our distractions to improve our interactions with the Lord. Nevertheless, at lease in my life, God uses many distractions to test my character and reflect my testimony to others. I like to use paper plates so I can quickly throw them out and move on to the next task.
    You gave a great reason to seek academic advancement, within the boundaries set by the indwelling Holy Spirit, when you quoted Job 38, “prepare yourself…I will question you, and you shall answer me.”
    Thanks for calling out the evil one as our adversary.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Armor is on and spirit is willing. I love the empowering spirit that is presented to Christians as they look ahead at their adversary; we are not encouraged to win the battle; we are told we have already won the battle. The greatest challenge today is not fighting; it is just staying in the fight.

  2. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Shawn!

    I knew you would get an applause from Mike on your Blog (grin). And you closed it with such a great scripture, I Peter 5:8.

    Thanks for being “vigilant” in your study and KNOWLEDGE of revelation and evolution. You are smarter than I will ever be, but I will keep trying to catch up to you…

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Jay, I am pretty sure I am not worthy of such a compliment; but thank you for your kind thoughts. I love the purity of your heart in all your comments; it is worthy of striving to meet as well.

  3. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Hey Shawn. a 6 month study on revelation! Wow. Im interested if you would teach anything differently after reading Noll’s book. Also what do you make about America’s and the world fascination and fixation on all things apocalyptic. All you have to do it look at how many end of the world movies there are, and you can see we have an obsession with it.

    personally I do not study revelation hardly at all. I find it interesting and important but not immediately relevant in trying to be like Jesus

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Kyle, when it comes to Revelation, I fear that too many preachers love that “Hell, fire, and damnation,” preaching; rather than actually studying Revelation for the message presented there. The reason I love Revelation is because I see nothing but this final encouraging letter to those who are truly pursing the life as a child of God. Is there Hell, Fire and Damnation in the book…Absolutely. However, they are focused toward those who are not His…so for those are not His; Revelation is a terrifying book. However, for those of us who are His…it is this beautiful book of empowerment and reward.

  4. Hi Shawn,

    Interestingly, the challenge that Noll provides in this book is mirrored in the struggle you describe.

    Biblical topics such as creation and end times are always going to be problematic for traditional evangelicals when juxtaposed against science. You stated, “For a Christian, we have faith in the bible and believe it to already be fact; so theories that conflict, yet fail to prove, that fact, are arguable.” In traditional evangelical thinking, the Bible has the final word, but our world teaches us differently. I think the problem lies in the enlightenment-influenced evangelical attitudes towards hermeneutics: approaching the Bible as a literalistic text. That’s what got us into this mess, and that’s what Noll is critiquing.

    I feel I’m not doing an adequate job of articulating my thoughts so sorry if this is not coming out well but I am late for an appointment!!!! 🙁

    • Shawn Hart says:

      I agree partially with the point, however, I don’t believe that the problem is viewing the bible in a literal way; but rather, it is because we have been conditioned and taught to only see things in a certain way, and I fear new ministers are getting lazy in their own pursuit for biblical studies. There is this short cut process of finding someone else’s sermon and preaching it, instead of actually studying the bible for themselves. I believe true understanding of God’s Word requires us to get deep into that Word and truly see what it says.

  5. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Shawn,

    I believe that you approach the scripture with the intellectual rigor Noll is hoping to encourage. It is not necessary, or even likely, that we will all come away with the same conclusions (even your own restoration movement split) but engaging our minds to understand the depths of the scripture is exactly what I think Noll believes has been missing in the evangelical movement in the US. Would you agree? How would you hope to challenge your congregation to continue to grow in their faith not only through their emotions but also in terms of their thinking?

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Absolutely Dan! I think we have become a fast-food religion thinking society. We no longer study like we should, but rather google and accept. There is no indwelling passion to truly dig into the meat and potatoes of scripture, and thus we see this inability of so many to connect with the Word. The more I study; the more intrigued I become. I am dumbfounded by how many bible-illiterate people love to argue issues that they actually know nothing about. I had a man in one of my classes make this comment in the class one Sunday morning:

      “Shawn, I do not agree with your interpretation of the text.”

      “Okay, that is fine. Can you tell me why or what you do not agree with?”

      “No! I have actually not studied this at all, but I don’t think I agree with your view of it.”

      Isn’t it amazing the audacity of making a comment like that. Boastful that you are ignorant, and yet willing to argue with the person that has actually studied the topic? Don’t get me wrong, I love…I mean love it when someone questions something I have said, and then turns to Scripture to support that. It shows that they have become enthralled by the text. I allow for the potential that I may have missed something in my own study, and welcome the chance to grow further.

  6. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Hi Shawn,
    Great job with some good points. I’m most curious regarding your statement on cleansing the palate – what is your belief in how this cleansing happens?

    • Shawn Hart says:

      “Cleaning the Plate” I describe this as the ability to remove all the instruction that has been shoved in our head from our past upbringing long enough to just listen to Scripture. If all I do when I open my bible is look for the ways it can prove me right in my beliefs; then there is really no hope of me learning anything new that day. I have already decided that I know what the Bible says, and therefore, only read it for verification. However, if I clean my plate…just forget what I had on it in the first place; then I have the potential for a fresh new helping of learning from God’s Word. It opens me up to the potential for seeing mistakes in what I have been taught in the past; it opens me up for seeing things I may have missed before; and it opens me up to learning the “mysteries” that God has still been waiting to reveal to my open and willing heart. I fear we have become indoctrinated by our different religious affiliations that we have fought to protect those rather than allow God to continue to teach us more.

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