Do 46% of evangelical scholars support creation by evolution?

Bruce Waltke recently conducted an interesting survey “each president of the Fellowship of Evangelical Seminary Presidents (FESP)” and wrote a 13 page white paper detailing his results: Barriers to Accepting the Possibility of Creation by Means of an Evolutionary Process (PDF).

  1. The creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2, when interpreted by the grammatico-historical method [hereafter assumed], cannot be harmonized with creation by the process of evolution. (44%)
  2. The genealogies of Genesis do not harmonize with evolution (23%)
  3. Evolution does not harmonize with the doctrine that Adam brought death and decay into the world (34%)
  4. Evolution calls into question Adam as the father of original sin and of Christ as the Redeemer from the effects of sin (28%)
  5. Evolution is bad science in part because it presumes an old earth (19%)
  6. Evolution is bad science, even though the Big Bang occurred 13.73 billion years (8%)
  7. ID explains the origins of species better than evolution (36%)
  8. “Scientists only have the present—they do not have the past,” ruling out the possibility of science to theorize the history of origins (17%).
  9. The apparent age of the universe can be explained by reckoning that God created the universe with apparent age (18%).
  10. The gap theory explains the fossil record (6%)
  11. The framework hypothesis does not harmonize with evolution (7%)
  12. None of the above. I can accept the theory of theistic evolution (46%)

659 Evangelical professors visited Waltke’s (Zoomerang “radio button”) survey site, but only 264 completed it. (I wonder why the other 60% chose not to participate.) You might find Waltke’s  survey details and conclusions interesting; he notes some definitional problems.

I’d be interested to see more surveys of this kind distinguish the opinions of different types of evangelical scholars. For example, I’m guessing that there might be a significant difference of opinion between Old Testament scholars and systematic theologians. Environment–the  kinds of people they generally interact with–likely makes a big difference too.

Some of you might also be interested in this paper from the BioLogos foundation:

  • “Adventist Origins of Young Earth Creationism” by Karl Giberson
    Download full PDF
    Many evangelicals believe that young-earth creationism is the only authentic and Biblical way for Christians to understand origins, and that until the advent of Darwin’s theory of evolution, young-earth creationism was the only view held by Christians. However, in this excerpt from his book, Saving Darwin, Karl Giberson explains that young-earth creationism is a relatively new phenomenon that stemmed from the 20th century fundamentalist movement.

HT: Thanks to Karyn Traphagen via Twitter. Karyn’s Boulders 2 Bits blog has had a lot of fun posts lately including Shewa fight (for you Hebrew scholars) and 21 Reasons why the English language is so hard to learn (for the rest of us).

American evangelicals and race 1: pre-civil rights

Many whites express fatigue with the subject of race and feel like everything has been rectified with the legal changes wrought by civil rights. Now that Obama has been elected President, many feel like they can rest their case. Unfortunately, we’ve still got a long, long ways to go.  Years ago, Spencer Perkins wrote that given that America has been working on racializing society and oppressing blacks for three hundred years, we should not expect everything to be rectified in thirty? (Spencer Perkins and Chris Rice. More than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel. Rev ed. InterVarsity, 2000, 96.)

Looking at how the American church has responded to racial injustice over the years can be very instructive for our blindness to the present. emerson-divided-by-faithMichael Emerson and Christian Smith do exactly this type of analysis in Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, 22ff) Before the start of the eighteenth century, only Quakers and a few others opposed slavery. Once they saw its economic advantages, most Anglos began to feel like slavery was necessary for survival. Initially when slaves became Christians, they were freed. But when economic ramifications were realized, the church quickly modified its beliefs and liturgy to insure that they would not be considered as equal –i.e. “free” – brothers and sisters (p. 23).This same concern for economic success led George Whitfield, of the Great Awakening, to lobby Parliament for the introduction of slavery into America’s newest colony, Georgia, where slavery was initially forbidden (26). Eventually, an abolition movement arose – partially due to Continue reading

A post evangelical America?

The Washington Post On Faith asks, “Post Evangelical America?”

Lisa Miller says, “Yes”

Just as “race” has a whole new meaning in America this week, so, too, does “faith.” For at least four decades, white evangelicals have been the religion-and-politics story in this country. Their power, their rhetoric, their numbers, their theology–all have been so dominant that many of us in the media had forgotten that religious faith could be expressed any other way. Last summer, a colleague and I wrote a profile of president-elect Barack Obama that described his Christian faith–a journey that started with a deeply spiritual but not religious upbringing, progressed through a considerable amount of reading, searching and ambivalence, and culminated in an emotional homecoming in a socially active, black church in Chicago. . .

. . .The exit polls echo findings by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which last year published a massive study showing Americans to be deeply spiritual–90 percent of them say they believe in God–but less and less concerned with denominational orthodoxy. Like Obama, a quarter of Americans practice a faith different from the one they were raised in, the Pew survey showed. Among Protestants, that number is a third. Even a quarter of atheists say they believe in a higher power or a universal spirit.

Darrell Bock is a professor at New Testament Studies at the Dallas Theological Seminary who voted for Obama. For Christians like him, social issues such as abortion and gay marriage were not litmus tests this year. . .

Richard Mouw says, “No” – Evangelicals are celebrating Obama too”

After a week or so of basking in the afterglow of the presidential election, I am starting to get a little grumpy. It’s not about President-elect Obama. Like many other Americans I wept tears of joy when he addressed the nation on the evening of November 4. What is irritating me is much of the post-election analysis, especially as it focuses on religious issues.

Lisa Miller’s Newsweek piece, “A Post-Evangelical America,” is one of the things that has put me in a foul mood. . .

. . .Were these commentators really listening when President-elect Obama called for the kind of civility that really listens to folks with whom we disagree? Do they really think that the sober tone of his victory speech was a declaration that it is time to ridicule those of us who hold to some conservative values on the so-called “social issues,” in the hope of silencing our voices in the public debates?I am an evangelical who does not always get very high marks from the Religious Right for the stands that I take. But I do share some of their views on some key issues of public policy. If there is a lesson to be learned about evangelicalism these days, it is not that we have been banned from the public square because of the Obama election, but that we are not as easily stereotyped as the Lisa Miller and others want to think. We have come to an evangelical faith as people from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and economic levels. We reside in urban and rural areas, and we live in countries across the globe. We represent every “tribe and tongue.” This means too that we do not all occupy the same place on the political spectrum.

. . . In my part of the evangelical world, folks have been celebrating the election of Barack Obama.


Onto a totally different subject . . . the Washington Post’s On Faith asks, is compassion central to all religions?: “Religion scholar Karen Armstrong is asking the world to write a Charter for Compassion, based on her premise that compassion is central to all religions. Do you agree? If so, what has gone wrong?”

[Read several responses from different religious perspectives at On Faith ]

Who is an evangelical? Barna’s definition

I’m always curious how people define “evangelical.” According to the most recent Barna report: How People of Faith Voted in the 2008 Election.

Born again Christians” are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. (Respondents are not asked to describe themselves as “born again.)

Evangelicals” meet the born again criteria (described above) plus seven other conditions. Those include:

  1. saying their faith is very important in their life today;

  2. believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians;

  3. believing that Satan exists;

  4. believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works;

  5. believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth;

  6. asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and

  7. describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today.

Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended [What you say, not what you do. ;-)]. (Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “evangelical.”)

What do you think? Does this fit your definition of evangelical? What would you add? What would you take away? How would you define it differently?

I’m interested in the perspectives of both self-reported “insiders” and “outsiders” – of all stripes.

Inquiring minds want to know.

What Americans think of Evangelical voters

From the latest Barna Report: What Do Americans Think of Evangelical Voters?

In general, evangelical voters are perceived with a mix of skepticism and respect. Americans are not always sure what to make of evangelicals, but they believe the voting bloc has significant influence. Barna examined eight perceptions of evangelical voters. Four of the statements represented the most widely-held views:


  • will have a significant influence effect on the election outcome (59% of American adults said this was either “very” or “somewhat accurate” regarding evangelical voters);
  • will cause the political conversation to be more conservative (59%);
  • will spend too much time complaining and not enough time solving problems (59%);
  • will be misunderstood and unfairly described by news media (56%).
  • Surprisingly, given the attention that moral issues have received in connection with evangelicals, only half of Americans (52%) felt that evangelical voters would focus primarily on homosexuality and abortion.

Roughly half said that evangelicals will minimize social justice issues (47%) and another 47% felt they believe that evangelicals will vote overwhelmingly Republican. Roughly two out of every five Americans (44%) believed evangelicals will not approach the election with an open mind.

For more on  Evangelical perceptions of themselves and the perceptions of outsiders towards evangelicals (complete with table), common ground, and how they view the Rick Warren interviews, read:  What Do Americans Think of Evangelical Voters?

Also: How Evangelicals Plan to Vote (11 Aug. 2008) – I wonder if the ground has shifted any in the intervening month?