A Lesson From A Law Professor

Several years ago, I invited Phillip Johnson, a staunch adversary of macro-evolution and a law professor at the University of Berkeley for over thirty years, to be a guest speaker for a regional preachers? meeting. On the appointed day in a local restaurant while we sat around a large table, I cautiously presented a question about “evolution and creationism.”

I have forgotten the exact nature of my question or the answer he offered. What does remain clearly etched in my mind is his discourse on the danger of speaking about “evolution and creationism.” When the discussion is framed in this manner, he said that this automatically places the creationist at a disadvantage since he is defending an “-ism.”

In order to engage the topic without verbal bias, he recommended speaking of “evolution and creation” or if preferred “evolutionism and creationism.” Otherwise, evolution by definition automatically has the upper hand on a verbal basis, not an evidential one.

His lesson on the significance of getting the starting framework right, also has implications for the church. As those who are interested in serving God in the manner God desires, we need to make sure that our assumptions about definitions and our doctrinal understandings are faithful to the biblical author’s intent. If interpretation is severed from the mooring of the author’s intent, then eisegesis becomes the legitmized and accepted norm.

Unfortunately, it can be easy to use words like faith, grace, works, and baptism with definitions the biblical author never intended. If such building blocks are misrepresented, the result would be biblical whitewash plastered over a human creation. The teaching might sound biblical because the words would be biblical, but the source of the message would be all too human.

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