Winter 1997

Volume 16, Issue 4

Where Did We Come From?

by Dr. Douglas Kelly

Dr. Douglas Kelly is Professor of Systematic Theology at RTS/Charlotte. A noted author and biblical scholar, Kelly holds a B.A. degree from the University of North Carolina, an M.Div. degree from Union Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Edinburgh University. In addition to numerous other publications, he co-authored the book, If God Already Knows, Why Pray? with his wife, Caroline. This article is adapted from his latest volume, Creation and Change: Genesis 1.1-2.4 in the Light of Changing Scientific Paradigms.

Where did the world and human life come from? Were we created by a personal God, or did we evolve from a "mute" impersonal slimepit? These are age-long questions that have taken on fresh and controversial significance in the last thirty or so years. Currently even the legislature of North Carolina is considering whether both sides of this question can be presented in the public schools, or whether evolution is a philosophy that should be protected from even scientific questioning by government decree.

Until perhaps the 1960s, one might have assumed - following the pervasive opinions of the secular mass media - that the question of origins was forever closed in favor of Darwinian evolution, especially after the "Scopes Monkey Trial" in Dayton, Tennessee in the 1920s. Out of a desire not to appear ignorant and obscurantist, and in hopes of still maintaining a hearing for the basic Gospel, large numbers of Christian theologians and denominations fell into line with some form of evolutionary thinking, offering surprisingly little intellectual resistance. And yet, this vitally important question of cosmic and human origins has not rested there.

During the last thirty years, with an increasing pace during the last ten, many fields of scientific research have pointed in a surprisingly different direction from the philosophy (or even "religion") of evolutionary materialism. It is necessary to admit here that theologians have done little or nothing to bring about this remarkable new interest in origins. "Operational" or "empirical" scientific studies have forced our intellectual culture to take another look at this question that seems never to go away.

As Christians who wish to know the truth and to make it known to our own generation, we are obliged to take a long and careful look at the profound changes that have occurred in the studies of origins during the last several years. Such a rethinking of the creation issue, instead of being a burden, should prove to be exciting and encouraging for serious Bible believers. Although you would still not know it from reading some of the popular magazines of the secular media, evolution is a theory in crisis. In his book, A Theory in Crisis (Adler & Adler,1986, p.357), scientist Michael Denton writes:

... there can be no doubt that after a century of intensive effort biologists have failed to validate [evolution] in any significant sense. The fact remains that nature has not been reduced to the continuum that the Darwinian model demands, nor has the credibility of chance as the creative agency of life been secured.

Phillip E. Johnson, Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley, whose specialty is the evaluation of evidences, has stated that in an impartial court of law, evolution has so little hard, scientific evidence that - for all its popularity in modern Western culture - it must ultimately be considered a philosophy or "faith," rather than true, empirical science. As an expert evaluator of evidence, Johnson concluded in his book Evolution as Dogma: The Establishment of Naturalism (Houghton Publishers, 1990, pp.1,2):

What the science educators propose to teach us as ‘evolution,’ and label as fact, is based not upon any incontrovertible empirical evidence, but upon a highly controversial philosophical presupposition.

In Darwin on Trial, Johnson discusses the astonishing lecture of Dr.Colin Patterson, senior paleontologist of the British Natural History Museum, given at the American Museum of Natural History in 1981.

His lecture compared creationism (not creation-science) with evolution, and characterized both as scientifically vacuous concepts which are held primarily on the basis of faith ... According to Patterson, Darwin's theory of natural selection is under fire and scientists are no longer sure of its general validity. Evolutionists increasingly talk like creationists in that they point to a fact but cannot provide an explanation of the means. (InterVarsity Press, 1993, pp.9,10)

The fact that evolution is a "faith" or philosophy rather than actual science is becoming harder to avoid, especially as the supposed "proofs" for it are carefully assessed. Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins (Houghton Publishers, 1989) has been written by three scientists (not theologians or philosophers) to serve as a supplement to biological text books in public high schools. It is being widely used in many high schools both in the United States and in Russia . It critiques the proposed mechanisms for evolution on the basis of the most recent scientific research. It shows, for instance, that mutations (alleged by Darwinism to be a major way to produce evolution of new, more complex species out of earlier, more simple ones) have never been demonstrated to "...create new structures. They merely alter existing ones" (p.12). Years of experimentation on fruit flies ("which because of its short life-span allows scientists to observe many generations") (p.12) in which the flies were bombarded with radiation to increase the rate of mutations have yielded no new structures or different species.

The scientific evidence against mutation as a means of evolution has been even more strongly confirmed by French zoologist P. P. Grasse. He has studied mutations in generations of bacteria, which reproduce much more rapidly than even fruit flies. One bacterial generation lasts approximately thirty minutes. Hence, they multiply 400,000 times faster than human generations. Researchers, therefore, can trace mutational change in bacteria in a relatively brief time equivalent to 3,500,000 years of change within the human species. But Grasse has found that these bacteria have not essentially changed during all these generations. (Traite de zoologie, Tome VIII, Masson, 1976) In view of this empirical fact, is it reasonable to maintain that humankind has evolved during the same equivalent time period in which bacteria have been stable?


One by one, the pillars used to uphold the imposing philosophical structure of evolution, are being pulled down by hard scientific research. The fossil record, most of us were taught in school or university, was the major proof that evolution did indeed occur (by means of gradual changes in preserved animal forms) over long millennia. But actually, contemporary research demonstrates that the fossil record is one of the strongest evidences against evolution and in favor of some kind of creation or "intelligent design." In "Evolution’s Erratic Pace" in Natural History, fossil expert Stephen J. Gould stated in May, 1977, that "The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology." He added: "New species almost always appeared suddenly in the fossil record with no intermediate links to ancestors in older rocks of the same region."

In other words, "missing links" are still missing (with ever more fossils accounted for) and the "gaps" between families and species are still wide. As David B. Kitts of the School of Geology and Geophysics, University of Oklahoma, commented: "Despite the bright promise that paleontology provides a means of ‘seeing’ evolution, it has provided some nasty difficulties for evolutionists, the most notorious of which is the presence of ‘gaps’ in the fossil record. Evolution requires intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them" ("Paleontology and Evolutionary Theory," Evolution, Vol.28,1974,p.467).

But recent scientific research has provided not only negative evidence against the likelihood of organic evolution, it has also - perhaps even more remarkably - borne powerful testimony to the necessity of "intelligent design" (described in Genesis as God's creation of all things out of nothing). One of the best-selling books in the United States in 1996 and 1997 has been Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution by Dr. Michael Behe, Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Behe argues that what is now known (especially since the "breaking" of the DNA code) of the almost incredible complexity of the human cell completely precludes any possibility of evolution and calls for design by a superior intelligence. He shows that :

An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional. An irreducibly complex biological system ... would be a powerful challenge to Darwinian evolution (The Free Press, 1996, p.39).

He notes, "At the tiniest levels of biology - the chemical life of the cell - we have discovered a complex world that radically changes the grounds on which Darwinian debates must be contested "(p.31).

Behe adds:

In summary, as biochemists have begun to examine apparently simple structures like cilia and flagella, they have discovered staggering complexity, with dozens or even hundreds of precisely tailored parts... As the number of required parts increases, the difficulty of gradually putting the system together skyrockets, and ... Darwin looks more and more forlorn (p.73).

The scientific conclusion is clear: the incredibly complex structures of living systems not only rule out gradual evolution by mutation and natural selection, they also require direct creation; that is, being made "full grown" or fully functional. Behe shows why: "The conclusion of intelligent design for physically interacting systems rests on the observation of highly specified, irreducible complexity - the ordering of separate well-fitted components to achieve a function that is beyond any of the components themselves" (p.223). Hence, "...if something was not put together gradually, then it must have been put together quickly or even suddenly"(p.187) "...The greater the specificity of the interacting components required to produce the function, the greater is our confidence in the conclusion of design" (p.194).

Behe hears the voice of molecular biology calling out for creation:

The result of these cumulative efforts to investigate the cell - to investigate life at the molecular level - is a loud, clear, piercing cry of ‘design!’ The result is so unambiguous and so significant that it must be ranked as one of the greatest achievements in the history of science (pp.232,233).


Has the Christian Church ever lived in a time when the intellectual, scientific culture was crying out so clearly for the message of the first two chapters of the book of Genesis? While - much to our gratitude - scientific research certainly can demonstrate the implausibility of organic evolution and the necessity of "intelligent design," pure science can never tell about the Person who created it all, nor about His marvelous purposes in doing so. Genesis, the very first book in the Bible, is given to do just that. How important and timely it is that we should convey its message with confidence and clarity!

Francis Schaeffer once remarked that if he had an hour with a person on a plane who did not know the Lord, he would spend the first fifty-five minutes talking about creation in the image of God and where that man came from, and the last five minutes on the presentation of the gospel of salvation. In an interview toward the end of his life with Christopher Catherwood, Schaeffer stated the crucial evangelistic importance of a sound space/time doctrine of creation (Five Evangelical Leaders, Christian Focus Publications,1994).

In addition to evangelism, creation is also essential to make sense of the world and of life itself. One of John Calvin's associates in Strasburg, Wolfgang Capito, rightly stated in Hexameron, Sive Opus Sex Dierum that an understanding of creation is "the head of divine philosophy" (Argentinae, 1539, p.22). We will never make sense of life apart from the teaching of Genesis that all things were created by the infinite, personal, triune God for His glory and our blessing.

And the truth of biblical creation is important in order to keep the message of the Christian religion from being separated from the real world of space and time. Scottish theologian, James Denney, made this point in the late 1890s in his Studies in Theology: "The separation of the religious and the scientific means in the end the separation of the religious and the true; and this means that religion dies among true men"(London, 1894, p.15). Instead, if the church does seriously address creation, people immediately perceive that God is interacting with the real world they inhabit. The result is that the Bible and its message of salvation can become genuinely significant to their personal lives, as well as to their vocations in the larger culture.

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Last updated 4-2-2002.