Keller’s theistic evolution

Keller’s confused theory of theistic evolution

 Tim Keller is a firm believer in theistic evolution, and promotes this false view of creation in the Christian Church.

 The Reason for God

In The Reason for God (2008) he says that doubt is a healthy part of faith, and that those who do not ask hard questions about their faith are at risk and ‘will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic’ (pp. xvi–xvii). And Keller seeks to help Christians overcome their doubts by persuading them of the ‘truth’ of theistic evolution, a theory that allows Christians to claim that they believe in both ‘creation’ and evolution.

In The Reason for God, Keller propagates the usual theistic evolutionist compromise. In Keller’s mind, the science of evolution is beyond question, and so the Bible must be made to conform to the ‘truth’ of science. In other words, the biblical account of creation must be made to fit the claims of science. And this Keller does by asserting that that the first chapter of Genesis is a poem (p. 93), and therefore cannot be taken literally.[1] Tim Keller writes: “I personally take the view that Genesis 1 and 2 relate to each other the way Judges 4 and 5 and Exodus 14 and 15. In each couple one chapter describes a historical event and the other is a song or poem about the theological meaning of the event… I think Genesis 1 has the earmarks of poetry and is therefore a “song” about the wonder and meaning of God’s creation. Genesis 2 is an account of how it happened… For the record I think God guided some kind of process of natural selection, and yet I reject the concept of evolution as All-encompassing Theory.”[2]

 Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople by Tim Keller

In the article Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople, published by The Bio Logos Foundation, Tim Keller again applies his intellect to the problem of evolution. His objective is to help ordinary lay Christians to know what the Bible teaches about creation and evolution. He writes: “Many secular and many evangelical voices agree on one ‘truism’—that if you are an orthodox Christian with a high view of the authority of the Bible, you cannot believe in evolution in any form at all. New Atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins and creationist writers such as Ken Ham seem to have arrived at consensus on this, and so more and more in the general population are treating it as given. If you believe in God, you can’t believe in evolution. If you believe in evolution, you can’t believe in God.”

But this straightforward view of creation creates a real problem for Keller. For him to stand for biblical truth against scientific theory could be damaging to his reputation as a great intellect. He might even face ridicule from the scientific lobby. He might even be called a fundamentalist, and that would never do. So he finds a convenient solution – he simply combines ‘creation’ and evolution and arrives at theistic evolution. By doing so he keeps faith with the science of evolution, and he keeps God in the equation by making Him the author of evolution. The problem for Keller is to explain why the Genesis account of creation does not actually mean what it appears to mean. His answer, as we have already seen, is to say that the first chapter of Genesis is a poem and so must not be taken literally.

 Genesis 1 and 2

Keller writes: “Perhaps the strongest argument for the view that the author of Genesis 1 did not want to be taken literally is a comparison of the order of creative acts in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Genesis 1 shows us an order of creation that does not follow a ‘natural order’ at all. For example, there is light (Day 1) before there are any sources of light—the sun, moon, and stars (Day 4). There is vegetation (Day 3) before there was any atmosphere (Day 4 when the sun was made) and therefore there was vegetation before rain was possible. Of course, this is not a problem per se for an omnipotent God. But Genesis 2:5 says: ‘When the Lord God made the earth and heavens—and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, because the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth, and there was no man to work the ground.’ Although God did not have to follow what we would call a ‘natural order’ in creation, Genesis 2:5 teaches that he did. It is stated categorically: God did not put vegetation on the earth before there was an atmosphere and rain. But in Genesis 1 we do have vegetation before there is any rain possible or any man to till the earth. In Genesis 1 natural order means nothing—there are three ‘evenings and mornings’ before there is a sun to set! But in Genesis 2 natural order is the norm.”

Dr John Byl, Professor emeritus of Trinity Western Universityand an Elder in the Canadian Reformed Church, is not convinced by Keller’s convoluted reasoning: “In sum, there is no contradiction between Genesis 1 and 2. The fact that Dr Keller goes out of his way to invent such contradiction belies his professed commitment to remain true to the text. It undercuts his denial that he is motivated by scientific pressures. Dr. Keller seems more concerned to deconstruct Genesis – to leave room for secular science – than to honestly exegete it. Given such a cavalier approach to Scripture, it is not surprising that Keller sees no problem reconciling Adam with human evolution.”

Keller concludes his article with this advice for lay people:  “My conclusion is that Christians who are seeking to correlate Scripture and science must be a ‘bigger tent’ than either the anti-scientific religionists or the anti-religious scientists. Even though in this paper I argue for the importance of belief in a literal Adam and Eve, I have shown here that there are several ways to hold that and still believe in God using evolutionary biological processes.”

Note the pejorative label Keller applies to those Christians who believe in creation as described in Genesis. He ridicules them as ‘anti-scientific religionists’.  We consider the implications of this term in our conclusion.

 An Interview with Timothy Keller

In 2008 Anthony Sacramone of First Things interviewed Keller about his book The Reason for God. He asked Keller: “How do you talk about evolution without confusing people?”  Keller replied: “Oh, it’s a little confusing, but actually I’m just in the same place where the Catholics are, as far as I can tell the Catholic Church has always been able to hold on to a belief in a historical Fall—it really happened, it’s not just representative of the fact that the human race has kind of gone bad in various ways. At the same time, if you say, ‘There is no God and everything happened by evolution,’ naturalistic evolution—then you have ‘theistic evolution’: God just started things years ago and everything has come into being through the process of evolution. You have young-Earth six-day creationism, which is ‘God created everything in six 24-hour days.’ To me, all three of those positions have perhaps insurmountable difficulties.”

Keller continues his explanation: “The fact is the one that most people consider the most conservative, which is the young-Earth, six-day creation, has all kinds of problems with the text, as we know… I think therefore you’ve got a problem with how long are the days before the sun shows up in the fourth day. You have problems really reading the Bible in a straightforward way with a young-Earth, six 24-hour day theory. You’ve got some problems with the theistic evolution, because then you have to ask yourself, ‘Was there no Adam and Eve? Was there no Fall?’ So here’s what I like—the messy approach, which is I think there was an Adam and Eve. I think there was a real Fall. I think that happened. I also think that there also was a very long process probably, you know, that the earth probably is very old, and there was some kind of process of natural selection that God guided and used, and maybe intervened in. And that’s just the messy part. I’m not a scientist. I’m not going to go beyond that.”

Keller continues: “How could there have been death before Adam and Eve fell? The answer is, I don’t know. But all I know is, didn’t animals eat bugs? Didn’t bugs eat plants? There must have been death. In other words, when you realize, ‘Oh wait, this is really complicated,’ then you realize, ‘I don’t have to figure this out before I figure out is Jesus Christ raised from the dead.’ ”[3]

 The confusion of Keller

Keller openly admits that his account of theistic evolution is confused. And because he realises that there are insurmountable difficulties with his theistic evolution theory he says that he prefers the messy approach. And his messy approach is without logic, incoherent and full of contradictions. He believes in an evolutionary process, and concedes that this means that death must have occurred before the Fall, because he knows that animals eat bugs, and bugs eat plants. But this is contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture in Romans 5. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5.12).

Yet Keller says that he believes in a real Adam who somehow appeared after a long evolutionary period when death was already present in creation. In Keller’s model Adam’s sin is not the cause of death. The inference is that death is not the result of Adam’s sin, but was in God’s original plan for creation. But Scripture says the creation was very good. This is indeed complicated, confusing and completely contrary to Scripture.


Here we must consider the implications of Keller’s stand on theistic evolution. First, we must note the pejorative label Keller applies to those Christians who believe in creation as described in Genesis. As we saw above, he ridicules them as ‘anti-scientific religionists’. Here we see a church leader, and prominent member of The Gospel Coalition, labelling millions of sincere Christians, who hold to an orthodox belief in creation that for centuries has been widely believed and taught by the Church, as ignorant (anti-scientific) and not really genuine believers (religionists). It seems remarkably arrogant for a man who admits that he is confused over the issue, to label those who believe the biblical account of creation as ‘anti-scientific religionists’. He shows his appalling ignorance, for there are many believers with a scientific background, including the author of this article, who believe the Genesis account of creation.

Second, we must note the extent of Keller’s theological compromise. Rather than defend the Christian faith against the onslaught of evolutionary ideology, a godless ideology that has gained such prominence in recent times, Keller is content to bring evolutionary ideas into the Church. And he does so by twisting Scripture to fit his pro-evolutionist views. Does the biblical account of creation lead to confusion? Is the biblical doctrine of creation messy, as Keller infers? Of course not! There is only confusion among those who deny the clear teaching of Scripture, and attempt to justify their flawed belief in theistic evolution by calling Genesis 1 a poem. For Keller to admit that his doctrine of creation is confused and messy disqualifies him as a church leader and elder. Scripture is clear; a church elder must teach sound doctrine (Titus 2.1). The shocking reality is that Keller is using his ministry to spread confusion in the Church.

You can learn more about Dr Tim Keller, Pastor Mark Driscoll and Pastor John Piper in the book, The New Calvinists (2014), published by The Wakeman Trust and Belmont House Publishing. The book is available from The Metropolitan Tabernacle bookshop or from Amazon  More on John Piper and his Christian Hedonism at The Real John Piper website

[1] Tim Keller, The Reason for God, p93