Evolution in the Key of D: Deity or Deism? (RJS)

This is the final post from John F. Haught’s book  Making Sense of Evolution: Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life. The last chapter of the book deals with the concept of deity – who or what is this God that imparts meaning to the underlying facts of the material world?

I have been asked on a number of occasions, by e-mail, in comments, and in person, how my view of evolutionary creation avoids deism. Several have suggested that a view that accepts the evidence for evolution and does not see a need to search for evidence of God’s direct action in the history of the physical-material realm is, almost by default, deistic because it envisions a God who simply created the right environment and let it go.

On the other hand, a creationist view of any sort – young earth, old earth, or Intelligent Design, – sees a God who is intimately involved in the creative details of the world around us. God’s involvement includes, but is also empirically distinct from, the natural mechanisms we see around us.

Today I would like to focus on this question of the nature of God and his actions within the world around us. It is a big question for many…

Is evolutionary creation necessarily deistic?

How do you think of God and his intervention in or interaction with creation?

Haught has been tipping his hand on his thoughts of God throughout the book – while pointing to this last chapter. In an earlier chapter he noted:

Science, especially, after Darwin, has made it increasingly implausible to think of God as an actor or intervener in nature. … In a prescientific age, the sense of God understandably came to expression in oral traditions and scriptures that located divine action alongside natural causes; but in a scientific age, such reports cannot be taken literally. (p. 88)

Trying to figure out exactly how God influences the natural world, and especially life’s evolution, too easily ends up in shallow theological speculation. Inserting divine action into a series of natural causes not only sounds silly to scientifically educated people; it also in effect reduces God to being part of nature rather than nature’s abyss and ground. (p. 96)

In this last chapter Haught relies heavily on the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in developing his thoughts on the nature of God as understood in a scientific age. Rather than a Platonic view of God as static, outside of and above creation, or a view of God shaping and forming the universe, the earth, and life from behind, Haught suggests, following Teilhard, that we should think of God as up ahead calling creation forward with an attractive power that offers more and more possibility. Ultimately however Haught’s view of God  seems rather mystical, not consistent with the personal God revealed in scripture.

Are these the options we are left with?

Lego_Chicago_City_ds.JPG

  • A deist God who gets things going and steps aside to watch.
  • A mystical God-force calling the world forward into a new kind of becoming.
  • A tinkerer God who shapes, forms, and fixes – as though building a massive Lego world.

None of these seem particularly satisfying to me.

So some of my current thoughts… I agree with Haught that emphasis on God as explanatory mechanism at the level of chemistry and physics is troublesome; as though God’s ordained, created, “natural” mechanism is of necessity insufficient. It is better to go with the evidence as we explore creation and simply rest in the assurance that however the chips fall – God did it. Evolution and God are not competing explanations. If the evidence supports evolution – we have learned something more about how our world works and something more about our history, but who the creator is does not change.

The power of God seen in the majesty of the heavens is not impugned by scientific study of the stars. The power of God seen in the glory of the sunrise is not undermined by an understanding of the role that atmospheric conditions and optics play in the scattering of light. The power of God in creation is, I think, entirely consistent with the unfolding of potentialities and diversity in evolution. Life obeys the command to be fruitful and multiply.

Yet God does intervene in nature and  – more importantly -  interact with his creation and his creatures. To eliminate consideration of direct action as inconsistent with our modern scientific age, as an understanding that we have outgrown, is to walk away from orthodox Christian belief. The God revealed in scripture is not the deist cause who steps aside. He is not a mystical force calling creation forward, providing meaning in his eternal memory. Nor is he a tinkerer perfecting creation as it moves along. It seems to me that God, as revealed in scripture, is first and foremost personal. He interacts with his creation, develops and desires a relationship with his creatures, especially with mankind.

We see this in God’s interaction with Adam and Abraham, Moses and David, Isaiah and Jeremiah. In the very essence of Christian doctrine, God entered into his creation in the incarnation. He became like us, fully human, to meet us on our level, to redeem us, to enable us to become fully active in his mission in the world. The guidance of the Holy Spirit is the promise of a God active in creation and among his people. The relationship continues with Peter and Paul in Acts.

The Psalms in all their glory and emotion as part of scripture are a testament to this relationship. The incarnation is the ultimate embodiment of this relationship.

God is the foundation of all – but we see God most clearly in the context of this relationship; not as the answer to a scientific question or as the ultimate source of mystical meaning. We know God because he chooses to know us.

I don’t think that accepting the idea of evolutionary creation means, of necessity, accepting a deistic or even a mystical view. The move by some toward a deistic or mystical view has theological and philosophical roots, not scientific ones. Many of the arguments against evolutionary creation are also rooted in a philosophical assumption that requires objective evidence for God, and looks for God in the wrong place.

What do you think? Where should we look for evidence of God and what is the role of science in this discussion?

If you wish you may contact me directly at rjs4mail[at]att.net

  • RD

    I think that there is no question that God interacts with the creation. I don’t think, however, that it happens as routinely as some Christians might teach. There are many pastors and teachers who talk as if God moves and intervenes in their life almost on an hourly basis. I think that a large part of all life has been set into motion and that free-will reigns in the entire structure. Humans have free-will in thought and action; cells have free-will in growth and development; tectonic plates have free-will in stability and movement etc. Thus, earthquakes happen and hurricanes happen and cancer happens and car wrecks happen, etc. I also think, though, that there are “spaces” in the structure where God moves and intervenes and that is where prayer connects with the divine (John Polkinghorne discusses this much more inteligently than I ever could). I think the creation is ever evolving, changing, growing. I do think that Teilhard made some very interesting observations about the overall trajectory of the entire creation, that there is a movement toward a greater perfection and closer awareness and communion with God (aka Dr King’s “long arc of history bending toward justice”). For me this brings up the idea of Open Theology. If God intervenes and answers prayer and moves in relationship with the creation, then can the final outcome be set in stone?

  • Kerry Belcher

    I think any view of theistic evolution is very simply trying to befriend Christianity with modern science. It is not truth and is compromise beyond what God’s inerrant Word will allow. When God created the Heavens and the earth, in the space of six days, by the Word of His power and all very good it was perfect! Since Jesus is the way, truth and life, there is no other version of truth than the plain spoken truth. Since the garden was very good it could not have possibly included death. Romans 5:12 and other passages plainly state that Adam’s sin brought death to this perfect creation that God had rendered and now Romans 1 and Romans 8:22. Any form of theistic evolution includes billions of years of…evolution…survival of the fittest and DEATH to all else. The holy, perfect LORD, powerful enough to save our souls from Hell, would never allow one sin into His perfect creation that He himself called “very good”. The National Association of Biology Teachers states in it’s position statement for teaching evolution, in part, ” Explanations or ways of knowing that invoke metaphysical, non-naturalistic or supernatural mechanisms, whether called “creation science,” “scientific creationism,” “intelligent design theory,” “young earth theory,” or similar designations, are outside the scope of science and therefore are not part of a valid science curriculum.” My advice to any who would try to blend and blur biblical creationism with Science is to understand that no matter how close they try to slide toward “modern science”, it will end in futility. I respectfully submit there is no blending of the two.

  • GrayMac

    RD,
    I’d like to agree with you, but what then do you do with the studies that seem to indicate that sample groups of those involved in prayer have similar results to those who weren’t in prayer?
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I don’t believe in prayer, but I’m just questioning what prayer is (or does). If God intervenes and answers prayers, then wouldn’t we be able to prove that scientifically (at least to some extent)?
    One way of looking at it is that prayer is more about the spiritual/internal connection between God & his subjects (ie: in having a loving relationship with them), rather than a means to change the physical world.
    If this is the case, then prayer is about changing us.

  • GrayMac

    Kerry,
    You said, ‘[God] would never allow one sin into His perfect creation that He himself called “very good”‘. The problem with saying this is that He did! Maybe you meant to say that you can’t see how God would use something like death in a creation he called “very good”.
    My problem with this argument is that if the all-knowing God, from before time knew that He would be sending his Son to die for us, surely death was always going to be a means of bringing about life.
    So, is death to animals a sin? Is it even a result of sin? As far as I know, all we can say from the Biblical references to death is that it came to humans as a result of the sin of one man!
    Another thought to ponder: if Satan was already “fallen” before Adam sinned, did any kind of death exist already? If evil already existed, then why would only Adam’s sin have brought decay to the whole universe?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I have some thoughts on this.
    First, to me creation and creationism should not be viewed as something that happened, but something that happens. Correct me if I am wrong, but every day there are millions (if not billions) of created beings brought into this world that have free will to impact that world and its inhabitants. I suppose that one could think that I am somehow my own person but I believe that I am one of god’s created ones. Creation happens. You happen.
    Second, it appears to me that creations in 6 days and theistic (or even deistic) evolution are not different in kind, but only different in timing. Whether god created the world in 6 days 10,000 years ago or over a period of billions of years the conclusion is the same. He put the building blocks in place and created the world! It is the same. One could actually argue that the long embrace of evolution is much more active than a 6 day hug.
    I suppose someone who believes in a strict reductionist view of the created things (the things that get created on a daily basis) could become atheistic because they would be, after all, simply the results of the chemicals in themselves. But I don’t find that to be close to my personal experience in this world. When I look at my 3 wonderful children I see creations of my god that are regularly interacting with me and my world. He is intimately involved with me. He is making his image in our world.
    So, as RJS also points out, the idea of religion really is the relationship that we are in with the creation that is happening. When god comes into my life through a million interactions with his ever evolving and changing creation I feel that there is indeed a groaning that is trying to move forward and bring the kingdom here. (sorry for getting religious on you there.)
    If there was a 6 day perfect creation without death happened then there would be little opportunity for god to continue to interact with the world. But instead, he created this wonderful evolving world where he is constantly interacting through an ongoing process of creation. I am created, as are my children, and pets, and community.
    Does god interact with the world? Every day and in every way.

  • Tim

    First off, I think us humans pondering how God might interact with creation is a little humorous. We have so many assumption we bring with us to the table, and oh so many limitations in our perspective.
    One assumption we have is that God would create and interact something the lines of what a human would do, if they were all knowing, all powerful, all present – that sort of thing. But I don’t think God is like that.
    For instance, we humans are familiar with concepts of engineering and design, and many of us are quite good at doing this. However, who’s to say that God creates through some analogous process of engineering and design?
    We see also conceptualize a separation between the natural world and the supernatural world, where we envision God exerting his creative will upon the natural world in a manner akin to how humans habitually do – just more pervasively, powerfully, and perhaps often invisibly so. But why would we expect even the concept of “will” to function the same for God as it does for man?
    Why is it not a possibility, for instance, that when we look at nature and see that it is beautiful, that it is beautiful because God pervades the universe and interacts with it in such a manner akin to how fertile soil interacts with new seed to bring forth lush vegetation?
    Why would we assume that God acts somehow like a craftsman shaping the universe in his workshop, rather than more like the Earth’s water (ocean, lakes, rivers, springs, etc.), sustaining life and bringing beauty and form to what otherwise would be a desolate Earth?

  • T

    GreyMac,
    I’d agree with you that prayer changes us more than anything. But to make it into an either/or between prayer changing either the pray-ers or the rest of the world is simply and squarely counter to the biblical narrative from start to finish. If we want to say we don’t believe in that half of prayer (that God/Christ changes things beyond the pray-er) on grounds of our experience or inability to verify with scientific methods, so be it, but it’s quite a bold move theologically if the scriptures are to play any serious role in shaping our faith. And given Jesus’ own unwillingness to ‘perform’ for verification or to satisfy the human powers of his day, I don’t find it at all surprising that he refuses to do the same today.
    It seems that the most obvious examples of God’s activity, then and today, occur on the cutting edge of mission among those in greatest need. Fortunately or unfortunately, humility, need, mission and even faith seem to all play a role, but are also far from determinative. God’s activity is always undeserved kindness in any event.

  • Jonathan

    I can’t speak as a scientist, but as a philosopher, Maurice Blondel sums up my thoughts on this pretty well:
    “For philosophy no contingent fact is impossible… So miracles are truly miraculous only for those who are already prepared to recognize the divine action in the most usual events.” Letter on Apologetics, Sect. I, Part 3 (p. 135)
    Bernard Lonergan’s hefty tome Insight suggests that God is a higher integration upon the universe in all its emerging factuality, conditioning the lower integrations (physical process, bio-evolutionary procees, human meaning making) as algebra does to arithmetic. It’s not an either/or between science and God.
    It’s a sublation of one by the other.

  • AHH

    I think it is only deistic if one has an deficient view of God’s sovereignty over nature. If one sees “natural explanations” and “things God does” as two mutually exclusive categories (as many Christians, including much of the ID movement, unfortunately seem to), then one is left with deism, or maybe Haught’s fuzzy mystical forces, when faced with natural explanations. But if God is always intimately involved with his creation (not that we can understand how that works exactly), “natural” explanations are just a subset of “how God works” and one is not led to deism.
    I’ve pointed this out before, but this is one of those questions where it helps to look at an area less controversial than biological evolution. We have fully satisfactory “natural” explanations for the formation of stars, and for the formation of rain, both of which the Bible credits to God. Even before thinking about the evolution of life, any theology of God’s role in nature has to be able to deal with these examples without becoming deistic. Once we have theology that allows God to be the creator of stars via “natural” processes, we can apply the same to starfish.

  • Bill

    I can’t fathom how anyone can see God working in life today. I have yet to see anything supernatural ever. So many assumptions about God it’s staggering. To attribute natural events or natural processes to a supernatural person seems delusional. Why do people do this?
    In any other area of life we use reason, evidence, and observation, but in spiritual matters we throw it out the widow and make up our own quasi-rational explanations.
    How in the world can anyone act as if they know that they know in matters of the supernatural when none of them can demonstrate any of it or show anyone proof.
    Using the Bible or any other religious book falls very very short of evidence of supernatural beings or a God. Every religion, just about, claims their god or their book is the real one. Come on people….. time to give up what you want to believe and have the courage to deal with what is real, tangible and works.
    Nother fails like prayer in my experience.

  • T

    Bill,
    I appreciate your experience, and recognize that’s the experience of many. All I can say to you is that I don’t believe in God’s activity only because the bible reports it, but also because I’ve personally experienced and known countless others who have experienced the same kinds of things. Friends with documented tumors that just disappeared (before treatment) after prayer, even dead folks revived, severely swollen legs instantly brought to normal during prayer, and that’s just a couple of people I know personally off the top of my head, and just the healing kind of miracles. And I’m far from alone on this. The global church tends to practice and experience these things often enough to have an abundance of witnesses to match the theology. None of this means that there aren’t fakes, or that healed people never get sick or die, or that we have God at our whim, doing everything we want when we want.
    But as your own reaction to my report likely proves, the reports of others is often of limited value if it doesn’t match our own experience. Fair enough. I just want you to know that people believe in God’s present activity, and sometimes convert to such a belief, for a variety of reasons, whether because they experience it personally, or hear the reports of scripture or of friends they know and trust. You see (let alone do) this stuff happen once or twice, maybe coincidence is more likely, but after a while the faith required for coincidence becomes absurd relative to faith in an active and benevolent God the way the scriptures portray, even as some questions for how and why it happens when and how it does remain.
    And, I agree with others who have stated that miracles through nature are not opposed to miracles beyond it. God is over and in it all.

  • Linda

    The Bible reveals God to us as our Father in Heaven, who is absolutely perfect (Matthew 5:48), holy (Isaiah 6:3), and omnipotent (Jeremiah 32:17). The Apostle John tells us that ‘God is love’, ‘light’, and ‘life’ (1 John 4:16; 1:5; 1:1-2). When this God creates something, His work is described as ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31) and ‘perfect’ (Deuteronomy 32:4).
    Theistic evolution gives a false representation of the nature of God because death and ghastliness are ascribed to the Creator as principles of creation.

  • RJS

    Linda,
    If you have comments (like this last) that make a point and enter into the conversation, fine. But please don’t simply quote passages from answers in Genesis or other sites. Such quotes will be deleted.
    The nature of death in creation is something well worth talking about.

  • http://arbevere.blogspot.com Allan R. Bevere

    An interesting post, RJS. I truly enjoy reading your stuff.
    Let me just stick my one and half cents in on something.
    I think we get ourselves into some trouble theologically speaking when we accept a natural/supernatural dichotomy. To say that God is transcendent is to affirm that the Creator is not to be confused and equated with creation (e.g. pantheism and panentheism). But we must reject the idea that God somehow stands exclusively outside of creation and then enters in or intervenes at select times and places. Deism indeed postulates this kind of wholly transcendent God that does not intervene. What has happened in much theological discourse since, is that many in response have rejected that latter (that God does not intervene), but have held to the former (that God is wholly transcendent.) Thus those who embrace the latter view God as someone who reaches into the world (like the cat sticking his paw in the fish tank) only when he wants to do something.
    Once we get rid of this dichotomy, we then can affirm a God who is continually involved with his creation (though we may not always be clear as to how he is involved). Therefore, God doesn’t intervene in the sense that he comes on the scene from the outside, but that perhaps the God who is with us at times does things that from our end can only be described as miraculous because God works in a way that seems to us anyway, outside of the norm of how God acts.
    If I may use a poor analogy– If I am helping one of my sons change the oil in his car, I am present with him continually as he does so. I will stand and watch and may at times utter some verbal advice. And then, there are times during his work that I may actually get my hands in there and help him when I feel he really needs it. Again, I am present and there assisting with my observations and words, but I get my hands in there when I need to.
    Now, this analogy is severely limited in what it affirms. If someone tries to take certain of these details too far, the point will be missed– which is, that God is always with us and working in routine ways(the parable of the mustard seed), but will, at times, for his reasons, act in our midst in a way that we do not expect.
    Now, how all that relates to science and evolution, I will let others work out.

  • Percival

    I think RJS is on the right track here. I think we can take another step further down the same track with a thought experiment. Where is evidence for God? The so-called natural world provides no real clue. Some people look at things and see God’s handiwork everywhere. Some look at the same things and see just stuff. So, imagine that we observe the world not with human eyes, mind, imagination and insight, but as computers. We would be observing the same things, but nothing would mean anything. I think it is only that image of God in us that enables us to wonder and see beauty and look for meaning. We, the religious hominids, are the evidence.

  • Linda

    There are many problems associated with Theistic evolution:
    Theistic evolution undermines how we read the Bible, Jesus referred to FACTS of the creation (Matthew 19:4-5).
    Theistic evolution knows no sin in the biblical sense of missing one’s purpose (in relation to God). If sin is seen as a harmless evolutionary factor, then one has lost the key for finding God.
    Theistic evolutionists regard the creation account as being merely a mythical tale, however, the sinner Adam and the Savior Jesus are linked together in the Bible—Romans 5:16-18. Thus any theological view which mythologizes Adam undermines the biblical basis of Jesus’ work of redemption.

  • Curt Cameron

    Kerry in comment #2 says that science and biblical creationism are irreconcilable, but then advises coming down on the side of the Bible. Given that science is just a method for arriving at knowledge (facts), you’re saying that there’s a choice between believing actual facts, or believing the Bible. And given that choice, you throw facts out the window.
    I see the same choice, but I choose facts and knowledge over ancient myths.

  • Stephen Hesed

    The way I see it, theistic evolution goes hand-in-hand with a high view of the sovereignty of God. If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, then therefore not a particle of creation exists that is not under his influence. Within this kind of framework, God’s involvement with the process of creation is not that of a deistic “watchmaker”, nor that of a deity that from time to time intervenes “supernaturally” in an otherwise closed system, but is the continual crafting of every mutation and natural pressure that goes into evolution. My favorite metaphor is that of a symphony: God wrote the symphony and conducts it, but assigns natural processes to play the individual parts.
    As for the subject of (non-human) death, I presently believe that God created death as a good part of the natural order, but that He always intended to eliminate death as the creation project came to fruition. If humanity had not sinned, this would be the gradual transformation of Creation into what we would call “New Creation”. However, because of the Fall and the following process of redemption, New Creation will be ushered in suddenly after the arrival of Jesus back on Earth. At this time, God will eliminate not only death but also marriage – both parts of the original creation that are no longer necessary for his purposes.
    I’m still working through a lot of these issues, but this is where I’ve landed at the moment.

  • Kenny Johnson

    Linda,
    RJS already said it, but it apparently needs to be said again. Discussion is great, but cutting and pasting from other websites is not discussion. I was able to find your quote from:
    http://www.christiananswers.net/q-aig/aig-c015.html

  • http://krusekronicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    As I read this, I’m reminded of C. S. Lewis tale of the Flatlanders, two dimensional creators trying to understand three dimensional objects. I’m persuaded that God exists in dimensions and functions in ways we can’t fathom or detect. As a theistic evolutionist, I’m fully persuaded of the evolutionary emergence of humanity and our world. I’m also fully persuaded that Humanity is unique and special, bearing the image of God. Exactly how that happened is shrouded in pre-history. The genres of early Genesis speak to the metaphyscial significance of that reality through a type of metaphorical theology, not through historical “reporter on the scene” recountings. It is mystery. The specific “hows” are not revealed and it strikes me a bit of modernist arrogance to say that something isn’t true if I can’t understand it.
    I’ll also add that I don’t know how to sort out in any particular case how God what, where, when and to who. I do know that God instructs us to pray and that in some way from his 3D existence he participates in our flatlander world.

  • Linda

    Kenny Johnson,
    No more pasting from me, but please discuss how theistic evolution does not actually cause these problems mentioned. I want to know your answers.

  • Kenny Johnson

    Linda,
    Part of the reason these topics are posted on this blog is to wrestle with those issues. If evolution is true, then how do we respond as Christians. How do we interpret the Bible in light of scientific discoveries. I’m not a theologian or philosopher, so I struggle with these questions myself. I don’t have easy answers to your questions. All I can say is that I experience sin as real. So even if I can’t explain its origins, I know it exists and I know I need Christ.
    As for the historic Adam. There are differing opinions there. Not all TEs believe that Adam isn’t a historic person. Not all people (like myself) who are open to the science of evolution accept all the current interpretations and understandings of it. . . For example, I’m open to the ID movement. I do however think the evidence of an old earth is so overwhelming that it can’t be denied and that much of evolution is true based on the fossil records.
    With that said. If you’re interested in learning how a lot of Evangelical Christians wrestle with the subject, I recommend checking out the BioLogos website: http://www.biologos.com. Whether you agree with what they write or not, it should at least be helpful in understanding how they are trying to come to grips with these difficult questions.

  • RJS

    Linda,
    In the conversation reported in Mt 19 Jesus places marriage as ordained by God (Gen 2). I don’t dispute that. He alludes to a passage in scripture (Gen 1) that notes that God made humanity male and female. Those of us who hold to an evolutionary creation certainly think that God made humanity and that he made us male and female. Again there is no dispute with the words that Jesus used. The fact that he quoted scripture to make a point does not necessarily mean that the part he quoted is literal history. A reference to Lazarus the beggar and the rich man’s conversation with Abraham (Luke 16) doesn’t mean literal history either.
    Evolutionary creation is certainly consistent with sin and estrangement between God and mankind. Nor do I consider the creation stories as “merely” mythical tales. They are important parts of scripture with an important and inspired message.
    The link made by Paul between Adam and Jesus is one that takes a great deal of more space to discuss.
    I don’t claim to be able to answer all questions in short comments, or to everyone’s satisfaction (not always even to my satisfaction). But the conversation has to have some give and take. I look for people to push back on what I write and make me think about it more deeply.

  • T

    Linda,
    Some of those questions have been discussed at length in other posts by RJS. You may want to search for RJS in the “Search this Blog” section above.
    That said, one example that means something to me is the following: If I reason with someone and reference the story of Lazarus and the rich man in support, am I by making the reference saying that the story is history and not parable? I don’t think so. I can reference the story in support whether it is history or parable. In the same way, Jesus statements that you reference don’t strike me as proof on that question. I’m personally undecided on how Genesis ought to be best approached and understood, and Jesus’ statements don’t push it one way or the other for me.

  • Linda

    Kenny – thank you for your reply. To believe in evolution is to equate that humans did not really disobey God, our problem can be solved by evolving more. So it eliminates the sin problem, we do not need a Savior to save us from the penalty and power of sin.
    Evolution has not been proven, there are no “credible” missing links to support it.
    I recommend you go to the “Answers in Genesis” website, they can help you see evolution is not proven at all.

  • RJS

    Linda,
    However we got into the state we are in (and a state that we have been in all of history), the one thing of which I have no doubt is that there is a sin problem, and that we need a Savior to save us from both the penalty and power of sin.
    The myth of progress is put to shame by the way people treat each other – and even our recent past (as in the book Scot highlights in another post today).

  • RJS

    Linda,
    And to continue – your comment brings up a point I was trying to make in the post. Haught does seem to look at sin in a different way, look at evolution as an inevitable progression toward the more perfect and godly, and undervalue the need for atonement and for God’s action in the world.
    I don’t think that this is because of a view of evolutionary creation – I think it is more foundational in his worldview.

  • DRT

    somewhat tangential, maybe.
    I like to listen to the poscast radiolab. A recent episode explores the role of words in our society.
    It is easily conceivable in this that the “image of God” from the bible is language. I know it is an hour, but radiolab is good quality fun.
    The reason I make the connection between the language and the image of god is because of all the word magic that is in the bible. There is the naming of the animals, the naming of god, the act of a blessing being the final word etc etc. Words could be the key. It is a good episode.
    http://blogs.wnyc.org/radiolab/2010/08/09/words/

  • Kenny Johnson

    Linda,
    I have read Answers in Genesis. I have wrestled with science and religion pretty much my entire Christian life (10 years) and even before that. I don’t find AiG arguments convincing.
    I don’t see how TE eliminates the sin problem. Whether evolution is true or not, sin and evil exists. And we still need a savior to rescue us and defeat sin.
    Proof is a bit of a loaded word. I do believe evolution has its problems and I’m more skeptical of its claims than RJS, but I think the fossil and genetic evidence suggests that evolution has occurred. I find the claims of evolution to be more convincing that creation science.

  • Linda

    Another thing to think about is if evolution is true and the creation account in Genesis is not then that makes God a deceiver, since He misled many throughout history into believing the creation account. This dishonors His character, to make Him to be a deceiver and untruthful.

  • Brian in NZ

    I’m always surprised that so many people view death coming into the Garden of Eden as physical death. I believe it refers to spiritual death (aka separation from God). To my mind, physical death can’t be applied, because it implies that all creation (or at least humans) should all live forever. This is not feasible, simply due to population growth in a finite resource -the earth.
    We (western Christianity) place a high value on physical life (probably because we don’t like dying), but if we had a different world view (eastern) we would think quite differently.

  • Glen

    Linda, I’d recommend that you read John Walton’s book The Lost World of Genesis 1. He makes an exceptionally strong case – based on the text of the Bible in its Ancient Near East context, without resorting to science – that Genesis 1 is not concerned with material creation at all, but functional creation – assigning functions to various parts of the cosmos, and inaugurating the cosmos as God’s temple. This view does not deny that God is ultimately responsible for creating the world (materially), but it suggests that Genesis 1 is not dealing with this matter at all. Therefore, there is no conflict between Genesis 1, properly understood, and the findings of science. It’s a very compelling read, and comes highly recommended by many respected Bible scholars.

  • Linda

    Kenny – there is no credible fossil evidence to support evolution, and and genetics research proves that evolution is not true, since mutations are incapable of an increase in information and complexity, mutations destroy the information, diseases are linked to mutations.

  • Kenny Johnson

    Linda #30,
    I think the opposite is true. I think if evolution and an old age isn’t true, that it makes God a deceiver, because observation shows an old earth.
    But please go read some of the stuff that serious Biblical Christians are writing in this regard. Genesis was never meant to be a scientific or historical book. It was written by ancient people who had an ancient understanding of the cosmos. God used their limitations and still provided a profound statement about himself and mankind in the Genesis account.
    It’s not as simple as “Literal history = truth” and “Myth = deceit.” That’s very simplistic. Myth (or parable or other story telling devices) can provide profound truth. If evolution is true, would you expect that God teach it to ancient people before they could write Genesis?

  • YourName

    No, the opposite is just the case.
    If evolution is not true, it makes God a liar. On one hand he says the world is 6000 years old, but on the other hand he deliberately deceives people by making the earth look millions of years old to all scientific study.
    I’m not sure you could trust anything such a God would say.
    People have misled themselves into ignoring science and calling it faith. God isn’t responsible for that. When Galileo had to swear that the sun revolved around the earth to avoid the inquisition, that wasn’t God at work. That was man sinning and using the Bible to justify it.

  • Linda

    Kenny – Is Jesus a deceiver because He created wine out of water instantaneously? First of all wine does not come from water, and wine needs months to ferment if it was coming from grapes. So is Jesus (who claims to be God) a deceiver and a liar? Yes or No?

  • Kenny Johnson

    No. People saw what he did. It’s an analogy that’s been used before, but I don’t think it’s a good one. Jesus was performing a miracle. He didn’t do so in secret.
    On the other hand, if taken literally, God is telling everyone that the world was created in 6,000 years by special creation. He then makes the universe and the Earth appear old and adds fossils, man-made tools, civilizations, etc that all date back older than 6,000 years. Why would he do that? Why, for example, would he create a temple that looks 11,500 years old and then tell us the world is really only 6,000 years old?
    http://blog.beliefnet.com/bibleandculture/2010/02/the-earliest-temple-in-the-world.html
    That doesn’t make sense to me. The fact is every major science acknowledges an old Earth: Astronomy, Geology, Archaeology. But I’m supposed to believe it’s not because I have to read the opening part of Genesis as literal history?
    I just can’t do that.

  • DRT

    Linda,
    Wonderful questions and probing. Those are things that everyone needs to wrestle to ground. I think if you hang out around here you will see that indeed an evolutionary understanding of creation and intervention by our Lord Jesus is not in conflict.
    I look at it this way. Don’t the really great presenters and entertainers and politicians and preachers communicate to us in a rich fabric of fact, allegory, story, exaggeration and metaphor? Yes they do. They hit not only all the genre’s but also tend to hit all the senses. They put it in terms of taste, feeling, relationship etc. It is multi-faceted.
    Would we expect the will and thoughts of god to be communicated to us in a less expressive way? I don’t think that he does. He uses the full range of expression that we can understand, and hints at a range of expression that we cannot.
    I believe it was on here that someone said that when your 4 year old asks where babies come from, you say something like, when a mom and a dad love each other very much….and it goes on. They are not lying. They are conveying the truth that needs to be conveyed.

  • Bill

    To the author,
    I appreciate your approach and thank you for your response. I still find it strange that people attribute tumors going away after a prayer as proof or evidence that their version of god is true or real. I would love to see the documentation on that alleged healing, as well as dead people rising again. For that matter, how about the Christian parents who pray everyday for their child’s protection and health only to have their child abducted by a sex offender from their church and molested. According to your logic God must not exist, or God does not care. I have seen more times than I can count no healing after a prayer. In fact, I can recall people feeling worse or getting still sicker after prayers. What should that tell me?
    Either way, many religions claim miracles both in the past and the present. Does that make them true as well, or their version of God equally true?
    I will agree that something is a supernatural miracle when a soldier’s amputated arm grows back after Jesus himself appears and touches him or her. I would even accept, as evidence a person’s retardation or brain damage healed, or a missing eye regrows. How about healing a dead person who’s bloated and rotting corpse returns good as new after a prayer?
    I’ve followed many miracles over the years and without fail, every one of them was disproven or could not be attributed to a particular god simply because the person had a particular faith set.
    Do you really think for a minute that such a miracle, like the dead rising, would be ignored??
    Can I assume that you are an unbeliever when it comes to other gods or religions not rooted in xtianity? If so, how is it that you can be sure any of their claims are any less real than your religious claims?
    Religion seems to be all about feeling control in an otherwise discordant world. It gives people a sense of security and feelings of specialness, but it is hardly anything more than thoughts people carry in their heads and played out in organized religion. What would be the point of a god hiding itself in order to position people between believing based on actual proof or assertions by ancient people?
    Give me actual proof of a god and I will gladly believe it is real. The stuff people call faith is just that….. hopeful belief based on zero concrete evidence, but lots of good feelings about what they believe or a combination of guilt mixed with hope.
    The only problem I have with religion are the attempts at dictating morals and laws based on ancient writings which have little to no scientific objective data to support them. Citing the 10 commandments is often an attempt to somehow prove that their god is moral, but if one reads the commandments and the punishments for disobedience, one can hardly consider them completely moral or just. Death for not attending to the Sabbath or for using God’s name in vain…. Just to cite a couple of innocuous laws with horrible consequences for disobedience.
    The greatest scam in my opinion seems to be this belief in god or gods with no objective facts or proofs to demonstrate the claims. Try building a car with faith or prayer. Seems to me it would be far easier than curing cancer or growing a missing leg back. There is a reason the miracles people point toward are always nebulas and unseen.
    There is also a reason why everyone talks about healings that occurred with someone else and not themselves. The last person I knew who claimed she was healed from deafness I asked her to see her personal doctor, but she refused. She said it would be an insult to God. Geesh…..
    I’ve found skepticism much more helpful than faith. It leaves me much room to be wrong, unlike religious faith, yet it protects me from foolish mistakes taken on faith or expected as promised in many a religious text. Try asking God a favor and see if it truly gives you a good gift or allows your tiny mustard seed faith to move a mountain. When someone, anyone, can walk on water call me.
    Thanks for reading my comments.

  • Your Name

    “…faith required for coincidence becomes absurd relative to faith in an active and benevolent God…” Your quote
    I agree that faith would be absurd if it was simply based on one or three coincidental experiences, but I’ve seen it based on far less. Yet, how many times do people believe, pray or whatever and yet they find no solace or answer? Should this not equally, if not more so, instruct us to question our faith?
    In my experience a lack of miracles or answered prayer does not cause too many people to question their faith simply because faith is hooked into some very powerful human needs and motivations. It is also a matter of fear. Holy verses that teach people to question human wisdom, to doubt our own questions or doubts, or promise damnation for disbelief are hardly innocuous.
    It is also true that the people who adopt religious beliefs as children are more likely to hold on to them. There is a very evident reason for this based on brain development. Suspension of disbelief is much easier as a child then as an adult. It’s why religions are much more successful targeting children than adults for conversion.
    I tend to believe that most people don’t take their faith too seriously these days or we’d have bigger problems with religion invading government, education, healthcare or marriage rights. Wait, maybe this is a problem. LOL
    No, I think, in spite of religious belief, people mostly want the same things in life, but differ on how to get there. Same as politics…. People often seem more committed to being right then being accurate, objective and truthful. If religion was inclusive, focused on being accurate about truth and allowed for doubt then I think it would go along way toward helping humanity. Unfortunately, religion prides itself in being inclusive, doubtless and controlling. No true religious believer actually considers the possibility that what they believe could be completely wrong.
    In every debate with a Christian I inevitably am called closed minded yet it is the religious person who has a stake in being right. I merely ask the questions and expect reasonable answers based in actual life not stories, personal subjective experiences and/or feelings.
    People form beliefs based on many things, but I’m glad we have some assemblance of reason in our courts, our universities, our medical facilities and engineering departments. Could you imagine a world based solely on faith, religion or personal beliefs? I think our species has been there and done that only to our shame.

  • Fish

    Get a wolf for a pet. A real wild one. It will be great evidence that not all mutations are negative.
    It was a positive for humanity when some wolves broke away from territories and started following humans around, then diverged genetically into a separate species before being domesticated and bred into the dogs we know today. I saw the show on Discovery Channel (I think). They showed the oldest known modern dog skull, about 30,000 years old. To me, the way a dog’s emotional IQ allows it to almost read your mind… well, I’m just glad that at some point in time, a dog was born with that trait.
    If I were a virus, I’d want to be the mutated penicillin-resistant kind. If they had brains, they’d say it was a positive development for them.

  • RD

    Tim @6-
    What an amazing observation! I have honestly never thought about God in such an oranic way before. I, like most I suppose, have always viewed God as the great designer or, as you noted, the craftsman working in his cosmic workshop. I actually do think that there is evidence that God is a designer, but I think God also inhabits our entire universe in much the way you’ve described. Thanks for the comment. Of all that’s been written here, to me yours really resonated.

  • Justin Topp

    Great post, RJS, and this reminds me of why I get annoyed so much by those who write on theology and evolution. It’s usually just deism and fluff, to be frank.
    I’ve enjoyed reading through the comments and seeing some of the ideas shared by others. I firmly believe that this discussion on deism vs/compared to theism in natural theology should be given much more attention. Some of the scientist-theologians (Barbour, Polkinghorne come to mind) speak of a “theology of nature” instead of a natural theology, but in my mind, they haven’t really given us a good framework for how God acts in and through nature. It’s important to note that while natural theology is only one component of theology, it’s clearly a vital one today.
    Some have posited that God influences in the quantum realm (which cannot in principle be observed), that God “guides” mutations (which I suppose could possibly be observed, but would absolutely not be conclusive), or that God “front-loaded” the unfolding of creation (unobservable too, I think). I’m not sure what to make of any of this but I like Polkinghorne’s idea of comparing or modeling God’s mode of action after our own. That is, I can choose to do something (mentally) and then go and do it (physically). Can this process of going from mental to physical/matter that we engage in daily be similar to what God is doing in nature? I don’t know, but I can’t rule it out as of now. Of course, this model assumes that humans have free will and can influence events (and then that God could as well), a concept that is certainly not accepted by all, if even most (but is by me).
    scienceandthelogy.wordpress.com

  • RickK

    All of this discussion and conjecture is made much more simple and rational if you remove god(s) from the equation entirely. Sure, we’re left with some gaps in our understanding of the universe. But since any gap in our knowledge of nature that’s ever been filled was filled with a non-divine explanation, then it is reasonable to assume that any current gaps will be filled with non-divine explanations. The human need to believe in a deity does not in fact make the deity real. If “God” is not a actual entity, and is just the latest and greatest in the long history of human mythology, then all this “Deity or Deism” discussion gets a lot easier and makes a lot more sense.

  • Justin Topp

    RickK,
    I agree that it gets easier but I disagree that it makes more sense, because I don’t think that it provides the best explanation of the world before us. I must wrestle with it not because God needs to be added to the equation a priori, but because my experience taken as a whole (and those of others, I might add) make the existence of God plausible. It’s difficult to live with the logical tension that sometimes arises, but I can’t ignore things to make the world fit into a more concise and logically “tight” bubble.
    scienceandtheology.wordpress.com


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