Christians are divided as to how to view the broad theory of evolution. Some believers view evolution as the biological means by which God created the diverse life found on planet Earth (often called theistic evolution or evolutionary creationism). Other Christians reject the idea that human beings are the product of evolution, affirming instead some form of direct divine creation (accepting either young-earth or old-earth creationism theories).
The new DVD entitled Evolution vs. God pits Christian evangelist and young-earth creationist Ray Comfort against a handful of secular scientists and multiple university students who affirm naturalistic evolution (the atheistic view that human beings evolved through purely naturalistic means). The DVD splices together segments of Comfort’s interviews with these professors and students on a number of university campuses.
Evolution vs. God is an engaging and thought provoking video that raises important questions about science and faith. It also seems to be receiving a wide showing among many evangelical Christians. These reasons prompted me to provide a brief review of this film. Since my academic and professional background is in philosophy and theology I’ll provide a general apologetics review of the DVD. If you would like to read a review written by a scientist who is also a Christian then let me strongly recommend my friend and colleague Dr. Jeff Zweerink’s critique on the Reasons to Believe website.
As an example of evangelistic and apologetics engagement on science-faith issues I think the video is largely a mixed bag containing both positive and negative elements. In the end, the way the video captures and shapes Comfort’s interactions with the interviewees seems quite contrived and somewhat unrealistic. Thus, I think the film may give Christians a false impression about what it means to engage in science-faith apologetics. However, before I offer further critique allow me to address what I think are the positives in the film.
Positive Elements of Evolution vs. God
1. The fast moving question and answer format of the video does indeed show Mr. Comfort to be a clever interrogator who is quick on his feet and comfortable with the one-on-one sparring that can often result in evangelistic and apologetics engagement. Comfort has clearly logged many hours of street evangelism where he has refined his Socratic-oriented, Christianized rhetoric. Comfort repeatedly asks very specific questions that these secularists seem ill prepared to answer.
2. The question-and-answer video format does at times reveal evidence of how both the secular-minded professors and students rely heavily upon questionable naturalistic philosophical presuppositions (worldview) to support their science-oriented positions.
3. Building upon the previous point, the video captures some evidence of how evolutionists are arguably susceptible to group think. That is, they clearly appear to be unused to facing questions critical of their philosophical assumptions. This comes out when Comfort insists upon asking for direct and observable evidence of evolution that constitutes a clear change in kind. (However, whether this is a fair-minded question or an example of a complex question fallacy deserves some careful reflection.)
Negative Elements of Evolution vs. God
Let me now briefly touch upon three negative aspects in the video.
1. The biggest problem with Evolution vs. God is that the production gives clear evidence of selective editing. Instead of allowing the viewer to hear the evolutionary scientists explain their views in some reasonable length, the video utilizes an extreme cut-and-paste (even “gotcha”) format that works to the interviewers’ advantage. A thoughtful person will simply wonder what was cut out and if the video was then shaped illegitimately. I seriously doubt that Comfort would appreciate it if skeptics of Christianity selectively edited his interview responses.
2. The video also gives Christians the false impression that the best way to witness to scientifically-minded people is to engage in an interrogation format where people are asked to give brief responses to complex questions. The problem is that there really is no quick and easy way to engage effectively in Christian apologetics and evangelism. The best efforts, especially in a science-faith context, come from people who are well educated in the sciences and who blend careful thinking with a winsome attitude and are motivated by a genuine respect and care for other people.
3. The general attitude the video seems to emit is that people who affirm evolution are clearly motivated, not by reason and evidence, but by a desire to dodge their moral and spiritual accountability before God. While Scripture indicates that all sinners engage in this behavior to some degree or another (Romans 1:18–20), this legitimate scriptural accountability concern does not mean that there isn’t an evidentiary basis for evolution that those who reject evolution need to respond to.
Overall I think the video is worth seeing if for no other reason than to illustrate the lack of critical thinking that can occur in both secularists and Christians. Unfortunately, Comfort’s approach to evangelism and apologetics in a science-faith context causes the negatives of the video to raise doubts about the positives.
After I watched the video and pondered its content, nagging questions lingered in my mind. Was the video fairly and objectively edited? Does the video give a false impression about what actually goes on in a real life evangelistic and apologetics encounter? If people embrace evolutionary theory merely as a means to dodge accountability before God, why are so many thoughtful and seemingly devoted Christian people accepting theistic evolution?
The broader truth is that Christian evangelism and apologetics is not an easy business. But God’s Spirit is the only one capable of instilling in the human heart a genuine desire to be reconciled to Him through faith and repentance in Christ. What effective evangelists and trained apologists must do is remain faithful to the gospel message itself and strive to practice the golden rule of apologetics. In presenting a vigorous, rational defense of the faith, they must seek to treat other people’s ideas the way they want theirs treated. In other words, respect people and their ideas—then leave the evangelistic results to the Holy Spirit.