The Gospel and Evolution–Buddies?

Awhile back I blogged about an article by Carl Trueman where he questioned the rationale behind the Gospel Coalition’s stand on complementarianism.  You can read about it here, but the gist of it was how complementarianism became a core, gospel issue.  In other words, the folks at GC decided that this issue was not open for alternative views within their coalition.

A couple of days ago Trueman posted a new article that addresses the same issue but with a new twist.  Now he compares two of the leaders in this coalition regarding their views on creation, Genesis 1, and evolution.  Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,  is a staunch defender of the traditional view of creation.  Tim Keller is Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in New York and argues for a form of theistic evolution.

The question raised is important.  Why is complementarianism central to fidelity with the gospel, but theistic evolution is not?  What is the big deal you ask?  Well, simply put, GC argues that complementarianism flows out of creation theology.  The fact that Adam was created first helps define, biblically, certain roles and relationships between man and woman.  It also comes to bear on the nature of subordination within the Trinity.  These tend to be big deals if you work them out carefully.  With regard to creation, your view of Genesis 1 and 2 invariably affects your understanding of humanity, salvation, and sin.  These are not little things and they, too, are central to the gospel.

The bible portrays Adam as a historical person, not some idealized idea.  Humanity is seen as a special creation by God, one that involves the imputation of God’s image and establishing man and woman as caretakers and overseers of all creation.  It also makes it clear that sin entered the world through this one man, Adam and that all of creation is under the curse of sin as a result.  Then, we see the Jesus Christ is the second Adam, and through this one Man, sin and its curse is resolved.

So, how does this all work out if there is the gradual, billions of years kind of gradual, evolution of man from other animals?  When did the image of God come about?  When did “man” actually become “man” and not “almost man-but-not-quite-there-yet-so-he-doesn’t-bear-God’s-image?”  And that sin, when did it occur and if the story of Genesis 1-2 is not as it is portrayed, then is Genesis 3 treated in the same manner?

So the question is a valid one.  Why does GC forbid/reject one issue but not the other?  There are plenty of egalitarians who believe the gospel.  Tons of them!  Tim Keller loves the gospel, that is clear.  But why does he get a pass on creation?  What is the essential difference.

I am sure I would be told that it is a nuanced point that is hard to see.  And perhaps that is correct.  But this again is a key reason why the coalitions and gatherings are so problematic to me.  The Gospel Coalition is filled with great guys but they are not truly representative of the genuine Christian community who believes and loves the gospel.  They are a narrow group of teachers and pastors that represents a narrow group of Christians.  But being narrow doesn’t keep them from being squiggly in that narrowness.

So I go back to my conviction that doctrine matters (not that they would disagree) and that all doctrine is necessarily connected to one another making it very hard to separate.  If you want a coalition of gospel lovers, then you necessarily have to define exactly what the parameters of the gospel are.  And that is where the nasties begin to arise.   Apparently for GC an egalitarian position (which I am against) is contrary to the gospel, but a theistic view of evolution is up to snuff.  I remain unconvinced and unimpressed–like anyone really cares what impresses me.

About Matt Henry

Middle-aged pastor trying to figure out how to be missional in his world. Loves his wife, his children, and his dog Bear. I have a love of woodworking even though woodworking doesn't always love me. The name is xagete but is pronounced exegete.

Posted on January 16, 2013, in Bible Observations, Church, gospel, Prayers and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Perhaps it has something to do with who Tim Keller is in the GC? I know. I’m cynical and jaded. I wonder why.

    • Bruce, I have no doubt that is part of it. Though you might be surprised to find out how many actually hold to some sort of evolutionary scheme. Of course my point was how the GC can make a strong stand on complementarianism but not evolution or creationism when the latter has much more of an effect on the gospel.

  2. I’m really glad you’re starting to write on this topic. The spoon-fed nature of TGC doesn’t force passive readers (which make up the majority of college students) to consider the deeper and more long-run implications of ideas. This is yet another example.

  3. Great article. I do not know alot about Tim Keller and this Gosple Coalition but some issues have alarmed my parent’s at their former southern baptist church they left due to the pastor being a New Calvinist and also my sister’s PCA church’s pastor loves Tim Keller. So sthis name is alarming to me and I have found out that he is also into contemplative mysticism and spiritual formation. I did not know that the Coalition made a stand against egalitarianism (which I agree egalitarianism is wrong) but somehow makes a pass at theistic evolution. I knew Keller was an evolutionist though. Why is Al Mohler buddying up with this guy? Is he pulling a John Piper?

    • Thanks! There are many things to love about Keller and he certainly gets the gospel right. But there are things I don’t like either and you listed most of them. There is a good book out there that does a very good, careful examination of some of Keller’s more unique teachings or position. Just be aware that it is coming from a Presbyterian perspective and theology so you need to read it with that in mind. I don’t think he is a man to reject, hence Mohler’s relationship. Remember that the GC exists to encourage us to focus first and foremost on the gospel rather than doctrinal differences that are secondary. Hence my article. Why is complementarianism a gospel issue but not creation?

      • How does he get the gospel right? I read some things where he seemed to get it wrong. or he just flat out does not explain it truthfully or get to the point but is ambiguous and avoids answers.

      • Well you have given a very open-ended question. Why don’t you first give me the quotes and links where you see that he got the gospel wrong. I literally cannot answer you honestly with what you have given me and I do desire to do so.

      • Here is one article I read about how Tim Keller has the gospel wrong. I think this article has very convincing arguments that Tim Keller is much more sinister than you make him out to be. And this is one issue I really am concerned as to why people like Allister Begg and Al Mohler would team up with him.

        http://www.teachingtheword.org/apps/articles/?columnid=5449&articleid=77005

      • Well, I read several of the articles in the link provided and honestly found them weak on facts. I have little desire to defend Dr. Keller as I have my own concerns. Yet whether he understands the gospel or preaches it is not one of them. Dr. Elliott makes some huge leaps in the facts through selective quotes. But that is merely my opinion.

        Regarding your actual issue, obviously I am the wrong person for you to be asking the question. Send an email to Dr Begg and Dr Mohler but I suspect that if they answer you it will be similar to me. They see Keller as a man who understands, believes and preaches the gospel.

      • ” I have little desire to defend Dr. Keller as I have my own concerns. Yet whether he understands the gospel or preaches it is not one of them.”

        Shouldn’t that be the concern for every christian for every pastor or teacher in their churches? I think that is the #1 concern for anyone.

        How was that article weak on facts? It seems I struck a sensitive nerve with you. Selective quotes? Since when is large blocks of texts with much detail selective quotes? Should any man of God who is a super preacher of evangelicalism today even say such things? How is it biblical?

        How are the articles weak on facts? I suppose you don’t want to answer because you are going to have a hard time explaining them unless you are one with such teaching and are upset I am questioning it and asking people for clarification.

      • As I already said, I see no reason to view Dr. Keller as not understanding nor preaching the gospel. And I appreciate you see that you disagree, such is life. Regarding the articles, they are poorly written. Whether you agree with me on that is of little concern as well. He uses essentially one article on defeater beliefs to craft strong accusations that simply don’t stand up to the plethora of writing that Keller has done. His site is like so many out there acting as a self-ordained watchdog who is broad with the paint brush and weak on the grace and preciseness that ought to be present.

        Do me a favor and don’t assume you know what strikes me in a sensitive manner because you simply don’t. Don’t decide you know when or if I wish to answer something, for you don’t. Don’t assume you know if I am upset because I am not. But I do have zero patience with people who wander onto my blog and then try to create an argument because we may not see something quite the same.

        So, I trust I am clear here and you can move on to another blog and find something to nitpick on.

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