The context of this post: I’ve been listening to much of “Unbelievable?” a podcast based in the “post-Christian” United Kingdom. Many of the guests who speak on Unbelievable are theistic Christians, including Justin Brierley, the host of the program. I don’t expect Justin to read this letter as he received multitudes of correspondence from the multitudes that listen to the show. But I just chose this letter as the format to organize my own thoughts in response to the things I’ve heard. I would agree with others who have said theistic evolution undermines the authority of Scripture. I believe Justin to be a Christian man regardless of his thoughts on evolution. By listening to the conversations Justin has hosted, I have been able to organize some of my own thoughts as we continue ministry here in Taiwan where people are predominately pagan.
Thank you for the excellent work on “Unbelievable?”. I have enjoyed listening to many episodes and have benefitted from the conversations I’ve heard. As you once said, it is beneficial to Christians to listen in on these interactions to better organize one’s own thoughts to the end of better communicating the gospel. I think the result for myself has been just that.
I wanted to use this letter to organize a particular thought of my own around the idea that some people require intellectual consistency in the gospel before committing to believing. I have gathered from listening to your thoughts and line of questioning towards some guests that it would seem rather crucial that the Christian faith requires approval from a scientific consensus. Forgive me if the above statement has misjudged your work, as I have not listened to the entirety of all that you have said. I think your position as a theistic evolutionist will attest to that.
As a Bible believer, I would believe if God promised He could fit large squares into small circular holes. I would believe this simply because it is He who promised. I wish to share my understanding of Romans four as to why I would be happy to suspend rational thinking if my God would require it of me, and I believe He has (as I will show from Romans chapter four!).
If a person can be saved, it must be through faith, but what kind? It must be the kind of faith that Abraham has exhibited. Romans 4:1 begins that discussion with that very question, “what shall we say then that Abraham our father…has found?” And in response, Paul says (in my own paraphrase), “What does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God and righteousness was counted to him.”
Now to the point, this imputed righteousness by faith was so done by God, not for the Jews only, but to all “who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father, Abraham. (vv12)” The promise that Abraham would receive a son through Sarah and become the heir of the world flew in the face of everything he knew to be reasonable. Paul says, “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations.” What consistent reason did Abraham have to believe God against what is naturally consistent? Old men married to old women with “dead wombs” cannot have children, but because of faith in God’s promise, he “considered it not” (vv19).
There may not have been science then in the form that there is now, but the ancients weren’t so foolish not to grasp the difficulty of God’s promise. “He staggered not at the promise..but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. (vv20)” Abraham’s saving faith in the OT is not the only instance, Paul says, “Even as David also describes..(vv6).”
What I see here in common between the faith of Abraham and David is how there doesn’t seem to be much intellectual or natural foundation for the promises God gave them. And let us not absolutize the idea our faith is unreasonable or inconsistent. It is reasonable that God would give promises that purposefully lack any natural explanation to glorify God and His word. Is it not the point of a miracle to break the rules of nature? Do we not have sufficient reason to believe God raises the dead to life contrary to what is consistent in nature?
We, too, have something in common with the faith of Abraham and David, that we believe God raises the dead against all reason and what is natural. “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him, but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. (vv23-24).
As I have heard you give testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ and His resurrection, I know you believe this and derive great comfort from God’s promises as I do. But if we apply naturalistic observations with what God tells us in His world, we will hardly come to any agreement. I’m afraid what many will do is compromise God’s word in the name of possessing an “intellectual foundation for faith,” as I heard it said once in the program.
It would seem to me, if the conclusion of Romans four is true, then we cannot avail ourselves to saving faith that imputes righteousness through naturalistic reasoning. But rather, the kind of faith that saves comes by hearing and hearing of the word of God. I know no other means of conversion and transforming other than hearing and being changed by God’s word.
I think it is wonderful that after ten years of hosting atheists, you are still a Christian. But are you Christian because after ten years, logic demands it of you? Only if we knew what we could accomplish the glory of God if we did it all by faith!
In my personal journey, it has perhaps taken much longer than ten years to arrive where I am today, so do not speak as a judge over anyone. And I hope that this exercise (this letter) is not perceived as judgemental. I wish you well and look forward to seeing what you will accomplish in the next ten years.
Missionary John Walz, Taiwan