Evolutionary Creation 1 (RJS)

I am going to begin a new series of posts today – one post every week or so – centered around Denis O. Lamoureux’s book Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution. Dr. Lamoureux is an Associate Professor of science and religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta (UA) in Edmonton. He received his BS in 1976 from UA, a DDS from UA in 1978 and then changed directions – receiving his MDiv and Master of Christian Studies degrees from Regent College Vancouver in 1987 and his Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Theology–Science and Religion from University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, in 1991.  Returning once again to science he received a Ph.D. from UA in Oral Biology–Dental Development and Evolution.  We need not agree with all of his conclusions as we work through the book – but he has the background to make it well worth reading and discussing.  I have received several e-mails from readers who found his book very helpful and the publisher was kind enough to send a copy for consideration. For those who find the full book (400+ pages) somewhat daunting Dr. Lamoureux has condensed the book into a more accessible version (I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution). He also provides audio and slide summaries of each chapter of Evolutionary Creation online.

In the first chapter of his book Dr. Lamoureux puts forth a number of definitions and concepts to help discuss a Christian view of evolutionary creation. Everyone comes at this question from a historical context, and an understanding of the context helps to make sense of the situation. He begins by making an analogy:

The world of ideas is similar to the world of color. We appreciate that many topics are not simple black-and-white issues and that many shades of opinion and understanding exist. Yet in contrast to the world of color, the ability to discern the spectrum of ideas is based more on our education and life experience than on genetic predispositions. Categories are for the most part learned, and once they become part of our mindset, they act like glasses through which we “see” the world. (p. 1)

In the discussion of the issues of origins, especially human origins, there are learned category distinctions that color the conversation and conversation difficult at times. There are also very real issues that underlie some of these categories, and these must be dealt with – not dismissed using superficial category distinctions and labels.

Two of the first categories that Lamoureux brings up are evolution and Darwinism, moving from there into consideration of the categories of creation and concordism (the expectation of correspondence between scripture and reality). After the jump I will summarize the discussion of these four categories – but to set the stage:

What do the categories evolution, Darwinism, creation, and concordism bring to the discussion? What preconceptions color the discussion from your perspective?

Evolution on a scientific professional level is simply a description of the ‘natural’ mechanisms that lead to modifications in the arrangements of matter leading to the diversity of biological life. These observations and the history deduced from them makes no statement about purpose or teleology. Evolution can be viewed as dysteleological (having no purpose or plan, driven by meaningless blind chance) or as teleological (a mechanism for producing an intended end result). Some scientists (especially some prolific popular writers) conflate evolution with lack of purpose and plan, but this follows from worldview not from the science.

Study of Darwinism is the study of the beliefs held by Charles Darwin during his lifetime. Introducing the term into a modern conversation of evolution or origins introduces confusion and proves nothing. Darwin was correct about some things, contributed some important insights, and was incorrect about very many things. This is about what one would expect given the state of knowledge of his day.  The term Darwinism is meaningless in the modern discussion of evolutionary biology and should not be used. It is not used in the scientific literature.

Creation is another concept that introduces confusion. The Christian doctrine of creation is consistent with YEC creationism, but is not defined by any such literalism. According to Lamoureux the doctrine of creation is described by the following (p. 11-12):

The creation is radically distinct and different from the creator. The Creator transcends the creation. Yet He is also imminent …, knows their every detail, …  enters the world to interact with his creatures at any time and in any way He so chooses.

The creation is utterly dependent on the Creator. God ordained the Universe and life into being and He continues to sustain their existence during every single instant. …He has ordered a plan and purpose for the world.

The creation was made out of nothing. … The Creator existed before all things and powers, both visible and invisible.

The creation is temporal. … God not only created physical matter and empty space, but also time. The universe is not eternal. It is bound in time and has both a beginning and an end.

The creation declares God’s glory. … In particular, the beauty, complexity, and functionality of the creation reflect intelligent design pointing to the mind of the maker.

The creation is very good. … This is a cosmos made ideally for experiencing love and developing relationships between ourselves and between us and our Creator.

Lamoureux sees two advantages to a doctrine of creation rooted these traditionally affirmed statements. First, it is not confined by or challenged by scientific discovery. The truth of God’s creation transcends any scientific understanding, past, present, or future. In science we explore and search for a better understanding of God’s creation, we get things right, sometimes we get things wrong, but the study can be done without fear.  As Christians in the sciences we seek to understand God’s creation – we are not looking to explain away God or to identify gaps that only God can fill. He sustains and penetrates all from the beginning to the end. Second, Lamoureux points out that this expression of the doctrine of creation tends to unify Christians.

Finally there is the understanding of concordism, the method of biblical interpretation that looks for correspondence between scripture and reality.  Lamoureux suggests dividing this into three realms. (p. 15-16)

Theological concordism … claims that there is an indispensable and  non-negotiable correspondence between the theological truths of the Bible and spiritual reality. The central purpose of Scripture is to reveal God, including His character, laws, and acts.

Historical concordism asserts that Scripture is a reliable record of a period in human history. First and foremost, the Bible offers a trustworthy account of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It is also a history of the nation of Israel and her interaction with neighboring countries and it documents the activities of the early Church.

Scientific concordism states that there is a correspondence between the Bible and the physical world. The most common form of this type of concordism aligns the Genesis creation accounts with modern science. …  All scientific concordists agree that since the Bible predates the birth of modern science, any correspondence between the scientific statements of Scripture and science today is proof for divine inspiration. Only an all-knowing Creator who transcends time could reveal future scientific discoveries to ancient biblical writers.

Theological concordism is essential to a Christian understanding of scripture. It is consistent with the universal traditional understanding of scripture within the church, and it is consistent with what scripture teaches about itself. The typical “proof texts” for inerrancy say little, if anything, about historical concordism or scientific concordism, but theological concordism is implicit and explicit.

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Tim. 3:14-17

The purpose of scripture is theological – the purpose is to teach about God, the nature of God, the law of God, the relationship of God with his creation, and to give the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus. The theological purpose of scripture requires historical concordism at some level. It requires truthfulness in telling the story of Israel, of Jesus, and of the Church, but it does not require that the history be told in the form of a transcript of events. The theological purpose of scripture does not require the kind of historical concordism that demands harmonization of the gospels, of King and Chronicles, of the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2, or of the conversion and early travels of Paul as related in Acts and the Epistles.

The theological purposes of scripture requires little, if any, scientific concordism. In fact, it seems clear that the science in scripture, especially the science in the creation accounts, is ancient science. According to Lamoureux “It is the science-of-the-day a few thousand years ago in the ancient Near East. Therefore any attempt to align science with biblical statements about the origin of the world is doomed.” (p. 18)

This first chapter of Lamoureux’s book introduces a number of concepts. A discussion of science and faith as related to biology and common descent requires a consistent use of terminology. The term evolution should be used and understood as it is used and understood in the scientific community. The terms Darwinism and Darwinist should be dispensed with altogether. Most interesting in this chapter though are his description of the doctrine of creation and his parsing of the idea of concordism, dividing it into component parts. This is where I’d like to focus conversation today. What do you think?

Is the doctrine of creation as outlined by Lamoureux consistent with your understanding? Is something missing or unnecessary?

Is this distinction between types of concordism -  expectations for the correspondence between scripture and reality – useful? Do they further understanding, or lead to confusion?

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

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  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Only an all-knowing Creator who transcends time could reveal future scientific discoveries to ancient biblical writers.

    I realize it’s an aside from the main point, and I don’t want to sidetrack things, but what do you think about the claims that such “future scientific discoveries” are found in, say, the Upanishads or the Koran?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    It seems to me that a couple of aspects of his creation doctrine are more scientific presumptions and not theological constructs.

    The creation is radically distinct and different from the creator.

    We don’t know the nature of the physicality of the universe. I don’t know why this has to be true since I believe that the actual make up of the universe is an aspect of God. Why does it have to be radically distinct?

    The creation was made out of nothing

    Why? It seems to me that it could be made out of God..

    The creation is temporal.

    Again, this seems to be attempting a scientific concordism. I don’t think anyone has proven there is a distinct time, but we experience one. Those are different things.

    The creation declares God’s glory.

    Perhaps, but why does this have to be part of creation? Are we saying that he could not have made it better? If he could have made it better then is it actually reflecting his glory? Or if he could not have made it better then it is obviously not reflecting his true glory.

    He continues to sustain their existence during every single instant

    Again, this seems like scientific concordism. Maybe he does not have to sustain it and the beauty of it is that it is self sustaining. Or maybe it is part of God and he does sustain it. We don’t know.

    To me, creation is only one thing and it is said in the op.

    God ordained the Universe and life into being

    Why is anything else needed?

  • John I.

    It seems to me that Darwinism, or neo-Darwinism is still useful as a shorthand way of referring to gradualist evolution. Certainly punctuated equilibrium, and its offshoots, are not Darwinism though they are evolution. Also, Darwin believed in the tree of life, but several secular publications this past year have announced the death of the tree of life, and it is now a much more controversial topic. Many aspects of evolution that were once secure parts of the theory have been challenged in the past few decades or years. Other than perhaps common ancestry, there does not seem to be much currently in various evolutionary theories that is not being challenged. To simply refer to “evolution” masks this fact.

    John I.

  • normbv

    I consider Lamoureux’s version of creation useful to a point but I also consider his application of the ANE science a form of concordism in itself that does not appear to mesh with the Hebrew account significantly. I believe Denis is mixing ANE apples[pagan] and oranges[Hebrew] sometimes appropriately and sometimes not. Possibly his weak link from what I have read in his publications is his theological integration with the NT especially his Pauline theology I find less than robust. If one reads or listens to his Baylor 2009 ASA presentation found at the following link it will be clear that Denis projects Adam’s death as physical death and not spiritual death in contrast with Paul IMO.

    http://www.asa3.org/ASAradio/ASA2009Lamoureux.mp3

    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/meetings/baylor2009/papers/ASA2009Lamoureux.pdf

    This approach is more in line with a literal YEC reading of Gen 3 and sets his evaluation back when he interfaces with Paul’s Romans 5-8 and 1 Cor 15 sections. I believe because Denis hasn’t reconciled Adam’s death in Gen 3 with Rom 5 and 1 Cor 15 in a clear theological approach he reverts to thinking Paul must have been thinking physical death because of the ANE worldview somehow. The view of Paul though is that “death” is a metaphor for relationship with God because if one encounters “physical death” outside God’s Covenant relationship death then has defeated that person for eternal life. Physical death is the dividing line reality ultimately but the story is framed using “Death” as a metaphor throughout scripture of separation from God for the living.

    Isa 25:7-8 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. (8) HE WILL SWALLOW UP DEATH FOREVER;

    1Co 15:54 … then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

  • http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A10ULJVWJGVUYD/ref=cm_cr_dp_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort%5Fby=MostRecentReview Paul Bruggink

    Re #3, the word “Darwinism” carries too much baggage and ambiguity. I have found that “biological evolution” is a better descriptor.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    John I –

    Also, Darwin believed in the tree of life, but several secular publications this past year have announced the death of the tree of life…

    I’m aware of only one, “New Scientist”, which garnered a lot of scientific as well as ‘political’ criticism. Not only that, but they were writing mostly about lateral gene transfer among single-celled organisms. For single-celled organisms, it’s more like a ‘web of life’ than a ‘tree of life’.

    While it’s true that multicellular life seems to have arisen from single-celled ancestors, lateral gene transfer happens very rarely in multicellular creatures. The ‘tree of [multicellular] life’ may have tangled roots, and occasionally you’ll find a couple branches spliced together. But it’s still a tree.

  • John I.

    But “biological evolution” is also ambiguous, and redundant as well because the only evolution under consideration is biological (meaning that evolution is typically only discussed when controversial biological evolution is the topic). Other types of evolution, use the very generic sense of “change over time”, such as in the evolution of rock formations, and so are not controversial. One could say “gradualist evolution”, etc., but the use of “Darwinisim”, “Darwinian” and “neoDarwinian” is very common in scientific literature anyway, so it obviously is a useful term to scientists.

  • John I.

    Re #6 and tree of life

    Aside from that article, there are the ongoing and unresolved debates about the structure of the tree. Genetic trees vary greatly, and also differ from morphologically structured ones, and are continually revised. Hence there are no assured results. The New Scientist article merely brought in the open the ongoing discussion and the unresolved nature of the tree that had been going on for several decades. Already in the early 90s one could read such statements as ” “As morphologists with high hopes of molecular systematics, we end this survey with our hopes dampened. Congruence between molecular phylogenies is as elusive as it is in morphology and as it is between molecules and morphology.” (Patterson et al., “Congruence between Molecular and Morphological Phylogenies,” Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, Vol 24, pg. 179 (1993)). The same statement could be made today.

    Furthermore, Darwin of the Gaps thinking has less and less room as evidence mounts that his theory was significantly wrong in many respects. For example, he rejected Lamarckianism, though now there is evidence for the transmission of acquired traits and of environmental effects. In addition, the fact that gradualism does not appear to account for the fossil record is becoming a more well accepted position.

    ***

    In regard to the next set of questions, I think that the use of the term “concordism” is not helpful and is not descriptive of the concepts Lamereux is referring to. It makes for nice titles though. Lamereux should use “correspondence” where appropriate (e.g., theological correspondence), because that is the concept that he is referring to. Furthermore, the term has strong associations with either the formation of concordances, or (pejoratively) with creational concordism between the days or events described in Genesis and the actual evolution of the universe, planet earth and biological life.

    John I.

  • JoeyS

    @ #1 Ray,

    I was wondering the same thing. I spent seven months meeting weekly with a Muslim man who also happened to be a professor of chemistry at the University of Tehran but was doing research at the university near the church I was at that time. We would regularly discuss God and the “tool” he used to try to convince me of the Qur’ans superiority to the Bible was scientific concordism. He, as a scientist, believed firmly that the Qur’an told of future scientific discoveries that could only have been written if it came from God. As a non-scientist these “discoveries” hardly seemed scientific, but he claimed that since I couldn’t read Arabic I could not fully understand what was written.

  • normbv

    Does the idea that the Bible predicts future scientific discoveries follow along the modern hermeneutic line of Grasshoppers in Revelation as cobra Helicopters?

    If we want to continue giving the atheist scientist more gun powder against faith then I guess it’s alright to speculate to our hearts content.

  • AHH

    normbv #10, the alleged finding of modern science in the Bible is unfortunately typically no better than the example you give. For example, OT verses that picture God as a tentmaker “stretching out” the heavens are said to refer to the expansion of the universe. You could find many examples on the Reasons to Believe website, where “scientific concordism” is the driving paradigm.
    Some of their scientific concordism with regard to Genesis 1-11 is critiqued here:
    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2007/PSCF3-07Seely.pdf
    [I should add that I am not totally negative on RTB; they do well at showing that, even if one has a very literalistic inerrantist hermeneutic (which many do, unfortunately IMO), one need not fall into young-Earth creationism.]

    I agree with Lamoureux that efforts at finding modern science in the Bible fail, and that instead any “science” we see in the background as we read Biblical passages is just the normal knowledge of the Ancient Near East at the time of the writing.

    IMO, scientific concordism falls under one of Skye Jethani’s “10 Commandments of Scripture Interpretation” that Scot linked last Saturday: You shall not ask questions the text does not want to answer.

  • rjs

    Ray (#1) and others,

    I don’t think it is appropriate to look for modern science or “future scientific discoveries” in any of these ancient texts. For Christians it represents a faulty method of biblical interpretation – inspiration doesn’t mean miraculous encoding of 21st century scientific understanding. The science in the Bible is Ancient Near Eastern science (cosmology etc.).

    Some Christian groups do use this as a “proof” of inspiration – and it just doesn’t make any real sense in the context of the texts that we have.

  • rjs

    John I.,

    The point is that it doesn’t matter where and if Darwin was wrong. This is especially true in the context of the discussion of science and Christian faith.

    Our understanding of evolutionary mechanisms is becoming increasingly more sophisticated. But the idea of evolution itself is not being challenged on any serious level at all.

    This is why reference to Darwinism is just a pointless exercise. It makes no difference where Darwin was wrong.

  • normbv

    AHH

    I found Reasons to believe a good first stopover “evolution” from YEC in learning how to recognize the correct nature of biblical language without having to jump through hoops. I consider Denis’s book mentioned here another transitional step to the next level in our biblical quest. This is a natural cultural process as our contemporary scholarship grows up around new understandings.

    The tendency to hang onto various forms of concordism is rife within almost all biblical investigations to some extent, as it seems our natural inclination to go that route. That is why I can’t give Denis an A for his book, maybe a B+ is in order. The Hebrew book is built on symbolism and if that symbolism is mistaken as science or applied outside the scope of the Hebrew scribal purpose then we start loosing sight of the intended picture. It’s akin to discovering an Aesop fable and trying to analyze it from a physical perspective. If the natural symbols become the focus instead of what they actually represent in the original narrative then the examination becomes futile.

    This means that the application of ANE scholarship unless it is coupled fully with Hebrew and especially NT theological relevance will be suspect The NT tells us the correct way to interpret the OT if we believe the Apostles and Paul were truly inspired, if not it becomes anyone’s guess.

  • rjs

    normbv,

    Have you read Lamoureux’s book? I don’t think that he is seeing any modern science at all in the OT text.

    But I also have to note that, based on your comments here and elsewhere, your view of the symbolism in the OT text is rather unusual.

  • http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A10ULJVWJGVUYD/ref=cm_cr_dp_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort%5Fby=MostRecentReview Paul Bruggink

    Normbv (re #14),
    Denis Lamoureux’s book makes the strongest case AGAINST concordism that I have seen anywhere. He discusses the failure of scientific and historical concordism at length, and includes two very helpful summary tables (pp. 150 and 242).

    John I. (re #7),
    The phrase “biological evolution” at least makes it clear that one is not including any forms of social Darwinism or “change over time” in any field other than biology. In addition, “Darwinism” is all too commonly used as a pejorative in Young Earth Creationist literature.

  • John I.

    “Our understanding of evolutionary mechanisms is becoming increasingly more sophisticated.”

    I think it is more like “science is continuing to reveal the ever expanding gaps and insufficiencies in evolutionary theory” and it has become as speculative as cosmology.

    Moreover, my point still remains that scientists use “Darwinism”, so how can it be an irrelevant word? When I see the term, it usually means gradualist evolution as opposed to other types of evolution.

    It must be kept in mind that the monopoly of evolutionary theory results from the fact that secular science has no other way to address the data of life on earth. There is no other paradigm within which they can work. The evolutionary model has never been seriously challenged in the last one hundred years because there is no other naturalist and materialist model at all.

    What concerns me, as I read theistic evolutionists, is that they exclude God so entirely that he is irrelevant to evolution, to the development of life on earth. However, God’s revelation of himself is that he is involved in history and does interact with the physical universe and does do things gradually, and, importantly, starts out with things being “good” but not perfected and thereafter works directly with the good to bring about perfection.

    I see nothing in the biologos website that makes God relevant to science (to the spiritual life of individual scientists, yes, but that’s not the same thing). It’s like doing history and ignoring the acts of God in history–for example, the variety of history in which all acts of God’s were explained as merely natural phenomenoms. Unlike theology, biblical studies, philosophy or history, science by Christians does not seem to have moved on from a Bultmannian approach to its subject matter.

    Christian scientists, as a whole, do not seem to have taken up Plantinga’s challenge to scholars, but rather have been content to work solely within a secular paradigm. I wouldn’t count Lamereux’s work as a response of the sort desired by Plantinga, but as a reaction to a secular programme that is leading the way with Christians in its wake.

    John I.

  • normbv

    RJS,

    I’m not sure how familiar you are with G. K. Beale or James Jordan regarding biblical symbolism but their approach is similar to mine. I really haven’t laid it out in context enough or specifically for you to properly grasp. If you have questions when I do present something symbolic or metaphorical then I suggest you ask me then concerning the context.

    Denis is not the classical modern concordist but he uses the ANE approach to science to effectively argue his points. Point is that modern’s applying our science or Greeks applying theirs is not much different than applying the ancient Assyrian, Babylonian or Egyptian inappropriately to Hebrew Theology and that is what I believe Denis leans toward at times. Now it sounds ok if it’s performed in the guise of the ancient ways but if we are applying ancient science mistakenly when the narrative was projected with allegory is IMO an error. This is what I believe Denis does with his argument of “death” of Adam in Gen 3 and his application to Romans 5. Go to those two links above in #4 and listen to his lecture and follow along with his PowerPoint and see what you think.

    I have not read Denis book as it’s a bit expensive but I’ve probably read most of his ASA articles including his 2009 Baylor presentation I linked above. So I’m familiar with his arguments pro and con on concordism.

    Paul, I’m acutely aware of Denis fine case against concordism but my point is he appropriates an ancient application himself and misapplies allegorical applications because he thinks its ancient science and is ok. My point is that biblical allegory and symbolism is not science period, ancient or modern.

  • http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure Denis O. Lamoureux

    Greetings to everyone from miserably cold Edmonton (-28C)

    Just thought I’d make a few comments about my work to give some context. First, the genre. It is not theology, and it is not science, but it sits squarely in the tradition of Henry Morris, Duane Gish, Hugh Ross, etc of an evangelical origins book. In fact, as you’ll read in the personal story chapter, I walked out of medical school with the intention of becoming a creation scientist. Of course, my views have changed since that time. But when I began the voyage, I sensed the Lord leading me first to examine the Book of God’s Words (specially, Genesis 1-11) and then the Book of God’s Works (evolution of teeth and jaws). So, I was just another evangelical kid wanting to fight the good fight, and to do it within the academy (and this is exactly the same vision of the ID guys: Dembski, Meyer, Nelson, Wells).

    In light of the genre, plse note that when I deal with the doctrine of creation, it is NOT a full treatment of the subject. I deal with this doctrine simply to outline some of the basic concepts of the doctrine. I wanted to emphasize that when theologians use the term ‘creation’ it does not mean young earth creation or progressive creation.

    Finally, Paul Bruggink is very correct. If there is one distinguishing aspect of my work, it is this: I reject scientific concordism throughout the Bible and historical concordism in Gen 1-11. So, back to the genre. It’s an evangelical origins book that rejects in particular scientific and historical concordism in Gen 1-11, which as most know is not the typical evangelical position. (It is no coincidence that I teach in a Catholic college within a public major university . . .).

    Blessings,
    Denis
    PS Happy American Thanksgiving!

  • AHH

    I agree with those who have said that “Darwinism” is not a helpful term in these discussions.

    When scientists use the word, it is typically synonymous with “biological evolution” by the mechanisms proposed by Darwin and his successors.

    But when anti-evolutionists use the word, it tends to have additional meaning attached to it, such as exclusion of metaphysical purpose, atheism, etc. (as in Phil Johnson’s Defeating Darwinism book of about 10 years ago).
    As a result, the scientifically literate see Christians rejecting “Darwinism” and figure Christians are ignorant in rejecting well-established things like common descent and natural selection.
    Some Christians do fit that description, but others are just rejecting some metaphysical baggage — and those Christians should find another term (perhaps “philosophical naturalism”) to describe what they are rejecting in order to avoid the appearance of ignorance and resulting harm to Christian witness.

  • normbv

    Denis you state. “I wanted to emphasize that when theologians use the term ‘creation’ it does not mean young earth creation or progressive creation”

    Denis when Paul says in Romans 8 that all “creation” is groaning do you understand Paul to infer a physical creation and if so would you expound a little.

    Along with that is it possible that Paul conceivably is speaking of the Hebrew concept of Creation in Temple fulfillment language? If not why not?

    Norm

  • rjs

    normbv,

    As we get further into Lamoureux’s book I am sure it will lead to more conversation. The view you espouse here is a minority opinion (Jordon and Beale not withstanding). It would help though if, when we get to such points, you refrain from dumping scripture on us as though your position was self-evident from a reading of scripture. I would like to understand the position better – short, to the point comments would help.

    I think some of the people with positions similar to that you are suggesting espouse yet a different kind of concordism. The method of Biblical interpretation insists that there must be an inerrant correspondence between what the author intended and reality. Therefore all of the text must be symbolic – the author could not have used errant ancient science (or ANE myth).

    I think this assumption is wrong and it is clear that there is ANE science in the text. The science is wrong but that doesn’t matter. The theology is right. This doesn’t mean that there is no symbolism in the text – there is or may be symbolism as well.

  • normbv

    RJS,

    I’m not a trained scholar and writer or even a decent one which should be evident and hopefully you will strive to bear with me as it’s hard to teach “old” dog’s new tricks.

    I hope you realize that much of what you accept concerning Genesis is also a minority belief among evangelicals yet you hope to expand it in some manner. Isn’t this the reason for your great investment concerning this site?

    I believe we are in new times concerning the exploration of scriptures and from this liberating time will come ideas that you have possibly not been exposed to. It takes time for ideas to come together and gain traction but over time the cream rises to the top if it is indeed well founded.

    Again I ask that if there is something you disagree with then please present you reasons why and let me have the opportunity to respond.

    You are also over generalizing in several of your statements about what I present. You really should be more specific but I do realize you prefer concise remarks. ;-)

  • http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A10ULJVWJGVUYD/ref=cm_cr_dp_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort%5Fby=MostRecentReview Paul Bruggink

    John I. (re #17):
    Not all theistic evolutionists exclude God. R. J. Berry (in “Darwin, Creation and the Fall”), Daniel Harrell (“Nature’s Witness: How Evolution Can Inspire Faith”), Tim Keller (in the essay “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople”), John Polkinghorne (various sources), Vern Poythress (“Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach”), Robert John Russell (various sources), Peter Rüst (“in the essay “Early Humans, Adam, and Inspiration”), Robert J. Schneider (Science and Faith essay series), and Bruce Waltke (“An Old Testament Theology”) come to mind as believing in some form of God’s providence in the evolutionary process, and I am sure that there are others. There are numerous flavors of theistic evolutionism.

  • Ben B.

    DRT (#2)

    I think more is needed than “God ordained the Universe and life into being” because we are talking about a Christian doctrine of creation. The more detailed statements provided are supported by Scripture. I think your proposal is too general.

    On a separate topic, I think I prefer “the creation WAS very good” to “the creation IS very good”. I see ruin around me and in me and I cannot say that the current cosmos is “ideal for experiencing love and developing relationships”.

    Finally, I hesitate to look for modern science in the Bible, but I wonder if others think it is appropriate to point out the similarities between Psalm 22 and crucifixion although the psalm was written a few hundred years before crucifixion existed? If so, how is this different from looking for modern science in the Bible?

  • Mike M

    Denis: ouch! -18 deg F and your fingers still move on the keyboard? I give you lots of credit, Brother.
    Let’s face it: invoking Darwin is out. Out of 3000 scientific papers I have read in the last 30 years, exactly zero have mentioned Darwin. Life marches on: although the “Fish-to-Gish” saying was funny at the time, it’s too full of holes and out-dated to even mention anymore. Much like Darwin.
    We don’t need science to explain faith, no more that we need to find archeological proof for the fall of Jericho or evidence of Noah’s Ark. Is it me or does anyone else find it ironic that fundamentalists like to speak in metorphors like “cream rises to the top?”

  • normbv

    Mike M
    Just so you will know. I’m not a fundamentalist. I’m a theistic evolutionist who happens to discuss biblical theology fairly extensively. My position is if we are going to argue with the creationist then we need to understand biblical theology better than they so we can point out the whys and why not’s. Yes I realize that many interested in science and the bible are not always as comfortable with the theological side but it doesn’t mean every theistic evolutionist is. My disagreement with Denis is with some of his theological applications by and large not his science or most of his ANE work. Denis does ground breaking work in the ANE yet his theology is often old school and doesn’t fit or there are better explanations than his out there. Also let me remind you that Christ spoke extensively in metaphors and parables and those who didn’t have an ear to hear but were literalist and philosophers didn’t always get His message. One should become versed in the metaphor if they want to hear the story in depth.

  • John I.

    Mainstream scientists regularly use the terms “Darwinian”, “Darwinism”, “Darwin”, “Darwinist”, etc. to specify biological evolution rather than other types of evolution. Search any biology related journal or magazine. For example, a search of “Nature” back to 1980, at nature.com, just for the term “Darwinism” will return several hundred hits, so I don’t know what Mike M. reads if he never comes across the term. It’s a useful word, so I don’t know why we should abandon it.

    John I.

  • John I.

    Or how about this quote, “For example, there are several TRAF genes in humans and Drosophila, and obvious prediction of Darwin’s model is that there must be an ancestral gene in a common ancestral organism from which the modern TRAF genes were derived.” from Cell Cycle 6:15, 1873-1877, 1 August 2007]; “Universal Genome in the Origin of Metazoa”, Michael Sherman; Department of Biochemistry; Boston University Medical School; ©2007 Landes Bioscience.

  • rjs

    John I.

    Why are you so intent to hold onto the word?

    I might very well write a paper that looks for a prediction from Newtonian mechanics. This doesn’t mean that I think Newton was right, or that I am casting this against a more complete description of mechanics – demonstrating an error in Newtonian mechanics doesn’t send us backward to a more primitive view of mechanics, but forward to a more sophisticated view of mechanics including quantum theory and relativity. And I am certainly not a Newtonist …

    My concern with the use of the word Darwinian or Darwinist in the science/faith discussion is that it sets up a false dichotomy, as though disproving “Darwinism” would send us back to direct production by God. But it doesn’t. The shortcomings of Darwin’s view (and there are many) send us forward to a more sophisticated understanding of evolutionary biology. The broad topic is biology not darwinism.

    The term has a place … but it has no place at all in the science and faith discussion. It only serves to obscure the real issues.

  • John I.

    Re post #30 by rjs

    I don’t see that the current usage of Darwin-terms sets up a false dichotomy, and scientists do continue to use it, and I think it has a role in science and faith discussions, but we are evidently approaching the question from different perspectives. We’ll have to agree to disagree on the answer to the question posed in the lede post. I’m not going to the stake for the term, but the question was asked, so I gave a response.

    RE post #24 by Bruggink

    I don’t mean that theistic evolutionists don’t talk about God, but rather that they have no role or room for God in the process of biological evolution. Perhaps he got the ball rolling and created the first life, or got the ball rolling toward life by establishing the physical constants of this universe is about the only role left for God in the material I’ve read. And possibly the injection of a soul to turn homo sapiens into homo divinas, but not necessarily. Biological evolution, like cosmological evolution, is the random rearrangement of physical materials according the statistical regularities and relationships (“laws”) of physics and chemistry.

    R.J. Berry’s essay in his edited volume takes the position that homo sapiens evolved via the random rearrangement of matter and that consequently God has no role in evolution, but has a role at a certain stage in evolution when injects the soul into hominids.

    Similarly Tim Keller’s essay (at http://www.biologos.org/uploads/projects/Keller_white_paper.pdf) takes a “God’s-hands-off” approach to evolution. God had no role in evolution itself, which can be completely explained via science. Keller’s focus is to say that there is no conflict between science and religion-properly-understood, and so gives no real thought to any roles for God in biological evolution (though the background working assumption for the article is that he has none; it’s all science).

    One may legitimately query why Keller’s thesis is not that there is no conflict between religion and science-properly-understood, but it seems that virtually all theistic evolutionists share this blind spot. I’ll try to keep in mind that I have to modify my religious beliefs to be in accordance with science, and not my science beliefs to be in accord with revelation, the next time I read about phlogistan.

    John I.

  • R Hampton

    I don’t mean that theistic evolutionists don’t talk about God, but rather that they have no role or room for God in the process of biological evolution.

    That greatly misunderstands a long held belief of Christian theology:

    With creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p4.htm

    So every process, from gravity to entropy to evolution, directly involves God even though it doesn’t require “Divine Intervention”

  • John I.

    Re post 32: That goes without saying, and relates to the entire material creation. If that’s all that is theistic about theistic evolution, then what’s the point of it? Other than saying “I can believe in God and also in a completely materialist evolutionary process from atoms to humankind”. The result is a two independent domains theology, which is not the starting position for orthodoxy and especially not for Reformed theology. It also amounts to saying that there is no trace of God in the universe that is detectable apart from our faith response to him.

    What I was referring to was a specific role for God, specific interaction with the physical creation. God has done this throughout salvation history (Egypt, Sinai, Canaan, etc., resurrection of Christ, spiritual gifts), so it seems more consistent with God’s character and the nature of his interactions with his creation over time that he would have acted within history in relation to evolution.

    God can do whatever he wants, so maybe he did use a completely materialist process. I doubt it, for what I think are good reasons, but it’s not a hill I’ll die on, so I can accept that some Christians go for it. That is to say, this is an area where revelation is not entirely clear, and thus where there it possible for a Christian to have a living faith in Christ and to also to accept current approaches to science, we should consider that to be within the acceptable area / range of variation in evangelical theology. I don’t think it is wise to close off this door (i.e., agreeing with current science even if current science points to materialist evolution), but on the other hand we shouldn’t expect everyone to accept it (current science of evolution) either.

  • John I.

    I believe that Barth and Bultmann continue to speak to our current situation in western science, and that they still do so far better than current evangelical attempts to do so (not that such attempts should not be made, just that they are not yet at the level of sophistication, confidence and clarity that exists with B & B).

    The evangelical reaction to Bultman is typically to use at least at 10′ pole, and to see him as a heretical threat to vibrant and orthodox evangelical faith. Nevertheless, his perspective is very germaine to the issue of historical and scientific concordism and to the views of the author’s that rjs has been bringing to us for discussion.

    From a Bultmannian perspective, the fact that we are made of mud and clay means that we can only speak of God in terms of mud and clay. But this is wholly inaccurate because God is transcendant and cannot be known in se by means of mud and clay. Any attempt to do so merely objectifies God in materialist terms and creates a mythology. Mythology, for Bultmann, is an objectifying discourse about God and so he often uses the following term as equivalent to “mythology”: “word “mythology” with the term “objectifying representations.” Mythology, because it objectifies God in terms of our human discourse, is God to us.

    Bultmann’s take on biblical revelation (in the context of these threads Genesis 1 – 3) is that it is ANE myth that talks about the transcendant (God) as this worldly. God is portrayed in human terms, as a super-smart super-strong human. That is, as fundamentally quantitatively different rather than as wholly other in a qualitative and existential sense.

    As in the discussions (on this blog) about Genesis as ANE myth that is incongruant with science revealed reality, Bultman argues that myth displays / shows / illuminates the perspective of those who are speaking (writing) about God and there by trying to reveal the divine.

    The gist of many of the posts is that in light of the revelations of the science of evolutionary biology we must translate our received ANE myths into our contemporary context or else the message of Christ will not be heard. in order to In New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings, re, also be existential in nature. The myth must

    “Demythologizing seeks to bring out the real intention of myth, namely, its intention to talk about human existence as grounded in and limited by a transcendent, unworldly power, which is not visible to objectifying thinking. Thus, negatively, demythologizing is criticism of the mythical world picture insofar as it conceals the real intention of myth. Positively, demythologizing is existentialist interpretation, in that it seeks to make clear the intention of myth to talk about human existence.” [Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology]

    Demythologization is therefore Bultmann’s–and the theistic evolutionists–attempt to interpret Scripture for the sake of hearing the gospel proclamation (kerygma) as modern, 20th / 21st century persons. Demythologizing allows moderns–who no longer accept a “mythological world picture”–to still meet God as God. It let’s us see God as God for us rather than just God to us.

    Even if we see Evangelicalism as a centred set rather than a bounded set, the Bultmannian move to deal with evolutionary science and the ANE myths in Genesis is a movement away from the centre rather than toward it. That is not to say that the move shouldn’t be made, or at least examined. Indeed, it may be that it results in a move of the centre. Nevertheless, it is a move that should be looked at cautiously and I am not yet convinced that it is a move that needs to be made.

    Lastly, I don’t see how theistic evolutionists, when dispensing with historical and scientific concordism but retaining theological concordism, can avoid Bultmannian moves of some kind, even if they retain the historicity of Christ’s incarnation and resurrection.

    [As I wrote this post I started to have flashbacks to my days in Bible College.]

    John I.

  • AHH

    John I (#31 and #33):

    Why does it bother you theologically that the scientific explanations of biological evolution have no “room for God” in that they do not invoke supernatural interventions?

    Does it bother you that science similarly describes the formation of stars (sometimes called “stellar evolution”) entirely in terms of “natural” processes with no divine intervention? Or that science can describe the process of rain with no “room for God”?
    Both stars and rain are ascribed to God in the Bible. Do you apply the same reasoning to stars as you do to starfish? If not, why the different reasoning in the two cases?

  • John I.

    Yes I do use the same reasoning.

    In philosophy,history, religion, psychology, etc. there are gaps that can only be filled by God, though the godless have hope and faith that it can be otherwise. The reason for hope and faith on both sides is that God is not fully revealed; he is hidden to some extent. Consequently, neither side can close the gap conclusively (with either a theistic or nontheistic gap closer). The hiddenness of God is a theme in the Bible. Recent book length treatments include J.L. Schellenberg’s now classic book, Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason (atheist) and Paul Moser’s Divine Hiddenness.

    So, in philosphy for example there is a “gap” at the beginning of the universe. Theists use the Kalam theological argument to address it; atheists use the concept of multi-universes to address it.

    How did stars come about? Literally, God did it. Once he created matter/energy and the relationships between particles/waves/forces (laws of nature), everything then unfolded quasi-mechanistically (quasi, because of quantum effects). That is, matter and the laws of physics and chemistry are all that are needed to account for the physical development of the universe once God puts his hand to creating it. But God is there in the salvation history of creation.

    Similarly, in history, we have a gap in the places of miracles and especially in the resurrection of Jesus. There are good theistic and historical reasons for believing in the resurrection (see, for example work by Habermas, or Wright, or Dale Allison’s recent book), but it is not conclusive.

    Similarly, and also given how God has revealed the manner of his involvement in his creation, I would expect gaps in biological evolution. There is not even a glimmer of hope for abiologial creation of life (only rampant speculations), but there is hope for atheists that it so occurred. The initial creation of life is certainly a gap that can reasonably be filled by God. I also think that the Cambrian and Ediacaran biological explosions are also very likely candidates for intervention by God, where he frontloaded genetic information that unfolded in various forms of life.

    I also firmly believe that Christianity requires direct intervention in the giving of the soul to humans and that reductionist and materialist or non-dualist theories of humans are not only wrong, but heretical (i.e., in the same extreme category of wrongness as arianism).

    If we can develop a theory of anything that is so complete that God is not only hidden but disappears, then we are left with only a Bultmannian hope in a non-apparent transcendance. In short, a delusional hope that cannot be distinguished from an evolutionary development of a non-rational belief in spirits as a survival mechanism that is rightly made fun of by Dennet and Dawkins.

    In short, the character of God as he has revealed himself is one of a non-material God who intervenes in the material universe over time.

    I suggest that a Christian approach to evolutionary theory is one that investigates the central tenets of evolution as they relate to potential gaps, especially origin of life, the origin of information, and the origin of genetic and epigenetic information. Are these real gaps, just as the gap of science vis a vis the origin of the universe is real, just as real as the gap that science has in relation to the mind? Philosophically and scientifically it seems that it is inherently impossible for science to close these latter two gaps, and likely that it cannot close the biological one either.

    There is no reason that a Christian cannot work within the paradigm of methodologically naturalist science (even though such a paradigm is inherently self-defeating), without having to buy into it holus bolus, being all rah rah about it, and expecting that other Christians should kow tow to it as some sort of established fact. And by “not buying into it” I don’t mean publicly announcing that one doesn’t believe it, like that YEC guy who got a PhD in mosasaurs, but rather being appropriately skeptical toward all scientific knowledge.

    John I.

  • John I.

    Hmm, I meant that even without any evidence that life could arise spontaneously and abiologically, atheists still hope that it could.

  • AHH

    This has slid off the front page, but John I. you seem to have missed my point.

    You say that “God did it” (and I agree) with regard to creation of stars, that once God created the initial conditions the physical development of stars unfolded by natural means, with no “gaps” in the process.
    Yet you seem to insist on “gaps” in the unfolding creation of living creatures.
    If gap-free development of stars is theologically OK, then gap-free development of starfish should be theologically OK. This is where I think you are being inconsistent.

    If you want to argue for “gaps” in biological evolution you are free to do so, but theologically there is no more reason to expect such gaps than there is to expect gaps in stellar evolution. In either case one must avoid the “god of the gaps” fallacy that the ID movement often falls into, the implicit assumption that absence of gaps means absence of God.

    This is also where the Calvinist in me wants to say that “gaps” is not a good way to look at things anyway, that God is sovereignly working in ALL things, both things for which we have “natural” explanations and things where we don’t.

  • John I.

    The origin and creation of stars is not gap free; neither is the origin and creation of biological life gap free. My reasoning is not “God of the gaps”, though such reasoning is not necessarily fallacious in any case, as evidence by the range of philosophical apologetics and the issue of the mind.

    The matter of “god is behind all things” is a theological statement, which does not permit investigation. Whereas, statements such “God is the cause of the universe” or “God is the cause of life” can be investigated.

    John I.

  • http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure Denis O. Lamoureux

    AHH — November 25, 2010

    Dear AHH,
    I am with you completely, and we can also include developmental biology. I never saw evidence of any God-of-the-gaps events during the development of my Xenopus laevis frogs in the lab. And I have yet to meet a Christian who believes the Lord came out of heaven to add an arm or leg to them while they were in their mother’s womb. They all believe that God created them through ordained and sustained natural processes. (You’ll see me appeal to this analogy between embryology and evolution many times in the book. And interestingly, I learned it from Darwin! It’s in both the Origin of Species and the Descent of Man)

    I am not philosophically opposed to God-of-the-gap models, but historically they have always failed (classic example is retrograde planetary motion). The gaps are gaps in knowledge, not gaps in nature. The gaps always closed, and they never widen, which is what we should expect if gaps really exist, indicating a Divine intervention.

    Best,
    Denis

  • John I.

    Talking of God coming down to add an arm or a leg is simplistic dismissal without engaging in the point being made. I assume that your email was merely a kneejerk posting and that the reasoning in your book is better, and less haughty.

    There is more than one type of gap, and the “gaps” are not always closed, because it depends on the nature of the gap. There is adequate and reasonable evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, but no naturalist explanation for it. There is adequate reason to beleive that God created the universe, but no naturalist explanation for it. There is good reason to believe that the soul and mind are creations of God, and no reasonable naturalistic explanation for it. There is information contained in our genes, and no naturalist reason for how it could come about. There is also a gap at the origin of life.

    As I indicated, once we have a universe, then its materials and forces act according to the regularities instituted by God. Things that depend on or derive from those regularities, such as planetary motion, are of course completely explainable in those terms.

    Similarly, and also as I indicated, once we have life, it reproduces according to the regularities and information of which it is comprised or subject to. Hence, frog larvae develop according to these principles without God having to wait a certain number of days before he adds legs.

    If we only allow for and seek naturalist explanations (ignoring for the moment the self-defeating nature of both philosophical and methodological naturalism), then one is no better off than Bultmann or someone who claims that the Puff the Magic Dragon really does live in Honalee, though no one can see either, and he does sustain the universe.

    Other disciplines such as history and philosophy deal directly with God and his interaction with the material world over time. Science is behind the times in that regard, and to beholden to a Darwinist world view.

    John I.

  • John I.

    rjs, I must thank you for the interesting, useful and challenging posts. I have three boys going through school and learing about evolution, so I have found the posts, and everyone’s replies, to be a very helpful learning experience.

    Happy Thanksgiving,
    John I.

  • http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure Denis O. Lamoureux

    John I. writes, “Talking of God coming down to add an arm or a leg is simplistic dismissal without engaging in the point being made. I assume that your email was merely a kneejerk posting and that the reasoning in your book is better, and less haughty.”

    Why is it that when Christians get on blogs, many behave just like John I.?

    Ironically, if there ever was a “knee jerk posting,” it’s yours John. Moreover, your post shows how misinformed you are. In particular, no one uses the term God-of-the-gaps for the Resurrection. God-of-the-gaps relates to the origin and operation of the physical world. That’s the context you’ll see the term appear, if indeed you were in the literature, John. And if you actually read my book, you would know that I believe in the Resurrection, the miracles of Jesus, and that I am a Pentecostal who has experienced signs & wonders.

    Regards,
    Denis

  • http://faithfulreason.wordpress.com jordan
  • http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure Denis O. Lamoureux

    Jordan writes:
    ” . . . but [I] feel like concordism is maybe too messy to try to split into categories.”

    I appreciate your concern. But we already do it, and best to be fully aware when we do.” For example, the Kenotic Hymn (Phil 2) has Jesus as Lord of a 3 tier universe. None of us believe the cosmos has 3 tiers, but all Christian believe Jesus is Lord of the world. Ergo, we need to be aware that we are splitting away the Message from the incidental ancient astronomy.

    And yes, massive implications when we get to Adam.

    Best,
    Denis

  • John I.

    Why is it that when Christians get on blogs, many behave just like Dennis L.?

    I was making a serious theological point, and specfically putting a different spin on the concept of the “gaps” (putting a new spin on existing words is not an unknown practice, both here and elsewhere). Your response did not engage either of those two points, nor did it read my postings (plural) with a charitable read. Rather, your response simplistically assumed that the only “gap” relevant was the God of the gaps where god is used as the explanation for any natural phenomenom not yet understood. Your reply mocked my posting as being equivalent to God adding frogs legs during development. That sort of quick, unthinking, reply to “gap” is “knee jerk” in the sense that the hammer hits the knee and the lower limb quickly reacts without time for reflection and consideration. My string of responses to rjs’ posts on this topic evidence familiarity with a wide range of literature, so you should not be quick to assume I’m not familiar with something. Furthermore, you have completely missed the point about Plantinga’s challenge to scholars and the fact that other sciences directly deal with the unexplanable without necessarily assuming and having faith that there is a naturalistic and material explanation for it. Finally, I worded my posts about Bultmannian issues carefully so as to not imply that you were Bultmannian in your personal orientation, rather I discussed the Bultmannian implications of certain propositions.

    I do note, however, that I have consistently mispelled your name, for which I apologize.

    John I.


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