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Saturday, 15 September 2007

Billy Graham on Evolution

Billy Graham is unarguably one of the key figures in the revitalization of the Evangelical movement in the last half of 20th century. At mid-century, when other Evangelicals were still intent on fighting the liberal-fundamentalist wars, Graham spoke out passionately for the need to simply preach the gospel. And he did this, working with fundamentalists and liberals alike. Today he remains one of the most respected Evangelical leaders, respected for his integrity and his passion.

So when many voices in the Evangelical movement are claiming evolution cannot be reconciled with Evangelical theology, and that any compromise with evolution is virtual heresy, and that those who do compromise on this issue do not deserve to be called Evangelical, it is interesting to hear what Graham has to say about the scriptures and science, including evolutionary science:

"I don't think that there's any conflict at all between science today and the scriptures. I think that we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and we've tried to make the Scriptures say things they weren't meant to say, I think that we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course I accept the Creation story. I believe that God did create the universe. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man. ... whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man's relationship to God."Billy Graham: Personal Thoughts of a Public Man, 1997. p. 72-74

(Hat tip to Ted Davis for this note to the ASA mailing list).


Tom said...

Thanks for the quote. I would have never imagined Billy Graham to say that.

But there seems to be a hiccup. "...and at a certain point He...made him a living soul" implies creatures other than those capable of sinning do not have souls.

Steve Martin said...

Hi tom,
The intent of the quote was to show (once again) that many Evangelical leaders have no problem integrating both science and scripture. That Graham did not articulate a completely coherent view of this integration is no knock against him IMO.

In your very brief comment, you bring up two very, very interesting points that I haven't dealt with too much in my blog yet.
1) Issue of neuroscience and historical concept of dualism within Christianity (ie. soul / body dichotomy). This in my opinion is the next big discussion if faith/science dialogue. (Frankly, the biology/faith one is practically over - it's just unfortunate that a majority of Evangelicals have not figured this out yet). I see from your website that you are very much into neuroscience. Have you ever heard of nonreductive physicalism as espoused by Nancey Murphy and others? If not, check out "Bodies and Souls or Spirited Bodies?" (more accessible) or "Whatever happened to the Soul" (academic & probably more up your line).

2)evolution and original sin: Yup, this is a big one. More to come on this in future ... and its the future because I'm still a little fuzzy on how this fits together myself.

Tom said...

The "soul" issue is a big one. I have just posted a note on my blog as I start to discuss it.

Thanks for the nonreductive physicalism pointers. "Physicalism" sounds like literal food for thought!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the quote- I'll use it in training materials.


Anonymous said...

This is unfortunate. You cannot have evolution without death and "by one man's sin, death entered the world" so the Bible plainly says there was no death before Adam. Why do people feel the need to reconcile "science" and the Bible. There is more evidence for creation than evolution and neither can be observed. We should reconcile our knowledge witht he Bible, not the other way around.

rewinn said...

“This clash is an absurdity because on one hand there is much scientific proof in favor of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such.” --- Benedict XVI

Anonymous said...

I see no conflict in God having breathed a living soul into an evolved homo sapien. Then the man-in-God's-image rebelling and spiritually dying. The notion that there was no physical death before the Fall has to be mistaken. Death is an integral part of all eco-systems. Why would God have designed a bio-sphere that could never have flourished? Physical death is necessary for a healthy natural system. Read books by Dr. Gerald Schroeder for the astro-physics side of this. He explains that we have never applied Einstein's Relativity to the question of time (old-earth/young-earth). When we do apply it, something spectacular happens!! Read "The Science of God", by Dr. S. for what that 'something' is!!

Anonymous said...

I accept the possibly that God created by evolutionary creationism. Christian professors at Wheaton College in Illinois, where Billy Graham earned his BA, say that God could have used this method. I tend to believe in Progressive Creationism without common ancestry.

Charles E. Miller, BA, MA

Anonymous said...

Why would God take millions of years to bring about a human being then have His only begotten Son turn water into wine in an instant?

Unknown said...

Bob Apjok Jr.,

Personally, I see no conflict with Romans 5:12 and the theory of an old earth. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" Even when I believed in a young earth, I never took this scripture to mean a physical death. It was, is and will continue to refer to a spiritual death. Since man is the only created creature with a spirit, when Adam sinned, spiritual death did enter into the earth. Just an opinion of a non-scholarly Christian.

Joan in Michigan said...

Bob, Death here means spiritual death. Since the animal world did not have souls,the sin of Adam (and Eve, by the way -does that make the verse wrong to begin with? A purely literal translation would have to conclude that Eve didn't sin,only Adam) the sin of Adam brought spiritual death into the world. Only reconciliation with God could bring about spiritual life from that point on.

Joan in Michigan said...

Why not?