Accepting Darwin’s Theory Without Compromising Faith

A colleague and friend had his letter to the editor published in the Indianapolis Star. It is a response to Pulliam’s piece on evolution that I mentioned a couple of days ago.

In related news, a commenter drew my attention to an online version of the book Creator and Creation by Ronald A. Simkins. And presumably everyone has heard by now about “Ardi” (the nickname given to a hominid fossil of Ardipithecus ramidus that has been the focus of much research which has now been published). I was a bit dismayed that IO9 characterized the find as “the closest we’ve come to finding the missing link”. Ardi is a link in the chain that interconnects all living things on this planet to those organisms that inhabited it in the past. For each such find there are countless other “missing links” on either side. We are filling in our knowledge of relevant fossils as more discoveries come to light, but as Francisco Ayala has said, there really are no more gaps in our understanding of the interrelatedness of all things, since the study of this subject no longer depends only on fossils. We can now study how all living things on this planet are related, using the same methods that allow us to do paternity and maternity testing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07085674629106780182 laBiscuitnapper

    This is not so much a comment on this post per se, but some of the themes it brings up.Do you ever find this whole 'accepting evolution doesn't have to compromise one's faith?' line a little forced? Although I am certainly guilty of the above as a no doubt misguided fellow liberal Christian, I have to wonder why it seems some of us, when talking publicly about science and faith (rather than religion, as one doesn't have to believe a word of the 'faith' to be religious) are placing such a value on 'keeping' faith when many of us will use Paul's words to describe faith as a 'gift from God' whose comings and goings are ultimately down to It (whatever It may be!). Pehraps I am just being cynical, but it can seem that all the 'believer' does in the face of science is ignore it, to a greater or lesser extent (Greater in the case of Creationists and lesser in the case of the 'God of the Gaps'ists) but ignore it nonetheless. It would be nice to hear about some theological perspectives that don't boil down to 'here is one way to keep on believing in God' with the never spoken aloud caveat 'in spite of all the evidence' rather than 'because of all the evidence'. After all, we don't need to convince anyone other than ourselves – we certainly won't convince the Creationists especially as the movement does not seem – to this Briton at least – to be particularly theological but rather more cultural.And my apologies for the fact that despite having read and enjoyed your blog for so long, the first time I've commented properly I'm sounding rather fractious!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04272326070593532463 Pseudonym

    Biscuit, I tend to agree, but I'll put it a bit differently.There's a subtext that you get from some thinkers that the correctness or otherwise of some position on some topic is influenced by whether or not it agrees with faith. This is contrary to the idea of "faith" that I was brought up with.Faith, as I was always taught, is not a set of propositions to be accepted or rejected, but a practice which is supposed worked out "with fear and trembling". My mother (a Methodist preacher's kid and lay preacher) told me once that "you learn faith by faithing".

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Not at all, I appreciate the comment, and the point is a good one. To be honest, if I felt that I were simply clinging to "faith" (however that is understood) in spite of evidence against it, I hope I'd have the honesty to accept the evidence and ditch my disproven belief system. In fact, to the extent that we're talking about any given specific belief, I hope I do just that – revise it or abandon it when the evidence requires it.But when I try to do without religious language of any sort altogether, without symbols of transcendence, I find that I'm neglecting aspects of my inner psychological and emotional life, elements of the aesthetic, and much else that is about transcendence or depth. I find I need symbols, metaphors and analogies, and even though believe me I've tried, I've not found that I can come up with better ones starting completely from scratch, than those I find in the Christian and other traditions, combined, supplemented and expanded where necessary.But then again, that's probably what you'd expect a misguided fellow liberal Christian to say! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    We now know so much more than 2000 years ago in so many fields.Except in the field of theology, of course, where the theology that Jesus had is still the correct theology despite 2000 years of so-called 'progress'.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07085674629106780182 laBiscuitnapper

    Thanks for your replies, Pseudonym (that's certainly a definition of faith I was brought up with – I'm sure we can't have been the only two, though it certainly feels like it sometimes!), James (I completely get where you're coming from when you talk about the language of Religion as being part of the language of one's emotional reality. So many of my own beliefs would technically be the same as say, Dawkins'. I just use different words to describe them and yet that makes enough of a difference that I'm willing to go by an entirely different – if not oppositional – label to his. Part of the mystery/trials of being a misguided liberal Christian, I suppose) and Steve.Not to be facetious Steve, but that was sort of my point. Theology has moved on since the days of Jesus, although not always in a positive way (as can be seen by the all-too modern phenomena of Creationism and Dispensationalism). That was the reason I made the comment I did – I find it strange to read certain Christian thinkers (especially the very old ones) whose musings would fit rather well with today's scientific knowledge, but are only ever quoted when we want to say something clever about what faith or the various articles thereof mean and so on. Yet, whenever it comes to science, 'public' theology seems to move backwards, ditching the sophistication those like Origen and Asthanasius could be capable of (I say could be, because there are things I disagree with them on!) and the more modern Bonhoeffer and Kierkegaard along the way. Of course, I have read some really excellent stuff from modern theological thinkers on matters of science and what said discoveries mean to our ideas about faith and 'God', but I don't hear about them nearly enough.That's what makes so much discourse about faith and science seem forced to me. It wouldn't be if we didn't seem to suddenly forget our theological (or even atheological as the case may be) developments, but as that's what happens, that's how it appears.Or maybe it only appears so because the idea that matters of God can be thought about seriously is somewhat out of fashion with the zeitgeist if not irrelevant. I'm probably just too much of a medievalist!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    'Theology has moved on since the days of Jesus, although not always in a positive way….'Strange, because in other fields, knowledge advances, but not in the field of theology, where Jesus is still the expert after 2000 years.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07085674629106780182 laBiscuitnapper

    I get what you mean now. I'd like to think that it's due to his basic philosophy/theology being the starting point as I myself don't consider Jesus's words so much as the end point to any discussion, but I'd like to think – when it comes to matters of say, Christian ethics. Science is a different matter – the spirit of his teaching is kept. Otherwise, using this example, it simply becomes a discussion on ethics with the appropriate tag (secular, humanist etc) depending on what the background is.But then, I am not much of a theologian so your criticism still stands.

  • Daniel O

    Could I jut point out that the word "theology" being used in this thread is a very populist one… theology is not an end in itself but always a process… You are confusing theology with doctribe/dogma. The doctrines/dogmas of Jesus that have been mentioned here are much different from that of America in the 21st century because the process (theology) they went through is different. Compare Jesus saying on Blessed are the poor with the multi-millionaire Chirstians (republicans)in american christianity… not the same….


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