Evolutionary Creation 2 (RJS)

The second chapter of  Denis O. Lamoureux’s book Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution provides a sketch of five basic categories for common views on creation, Genesis, and human origins – young earth creation, old earth or progressive creation, evolutionary creation, deistic evolution, and dysteleological evolution.The sketches are designed to highlight the distinctions between the various positions and avoids much of the nuance;  thus many will find that their view falls in the cracks between the sketches.

I am not going to rehash each of these positions – young earth and old earth progressive creation are fairly well understood. Dysteleological evolution denies the existence of God and the presence of any purpose or plan in the origin and development of life, or in the universe as a whole. The universe simply is, life simply evolved as a result of physical and chemical processes combined with blind chance. This too is fairly well known.

Less clear to many Christians, at least as far as I can tell from comments on the blog and e-mails I’ve received, is the distinction between evolutionary creation and deistic evolution or dysteleological evolution.  Evolutionary creation is a view that takes both science and scripture seriously. The position is often identified as theistic evolution, but the word order is significant. The view is conveyed more accurately when the noun is creation and evolutionary is descriptive of a view of creation. Perceptions of theistic evolution can range from the view of evolutionary creation presented here to a hands-off view that comes closer to deism. Dr. Lamoureux gives a good description of evolutionary creation and of the contrast of this position with deistic evolution, including forms of Christian deistic evolution in his book:

Evolutionary creation asserts that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created the universe and life through an ordained, sustain, and design-reflecting evolutionary process. This position fully embraces both the religious beliefs of Christianity and the scientific theories of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution. It contends that God established and maintains the laws of nature, including the mechanisms of teleological evolution. (p. 29)

Clearly this needs to be fleshed out – but the statement is critical. Evolutionary creation is a view that fully embraces Christian orthodoxy yet sees no reason to doubt the empirical evidence for an old earth or for evolutionary processes including common descent.  You can argue that we are wrong – but the level of the discussion is on par with many theological debates in the church. This is not a step away from God and into skepticism or demythologized rationalism.

From your perspective what is the most significant issue for an evolutionary view of creation?

Lamoureux uses the example of human development – embryology – as an analogy to explain evolutionary creation. In Psalm 139:13-14 we read

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Few of us, however, read this with a vision of God stepping in to perform discrete acts in the process, say construction of an eye or the neural network of the brain,  distinct from the natural growth from fertilized egg to human infant. God is fully capable of weaving an infant in the womb and knowing him from unformed substance to manhood without undermining or sidestepping the ‘natural’ process. Nor do we see science in verse 15:

My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

This is not a scientific statement about the formation of humans prior to the womb.

So… Lamoureux puts forth the following features of evolutionary creation (p. 30-31):

First, embryological and evolutionary processes are both teleological and ordained by God. At conception, the DNA in a fertilized human egg is fully equipped with the necessary information for a person to develop during the nine months of pregnancy. Similarly, the Creator loaded into the Big Bang the plan and capacity for the universe and life, including humans, to evolve over 10-15 billion years.

Second, divine creative action in the origin of individual humans and the entire world is through sustained and continuous natural processes.  … evolution is an unbroken process that the Lord sustained throughout eons of time.

Third, human embryological development in the microcosm of the womb and evolution in the macrocosm of the world reflect intelligent design. That is, each is a natural revelation authored by the Creator.  … Indeed, the Big Bang “declares the Glory of God” and biological evolution “proclaims the works of His hands.” (Ps 19:1)

Finally, spiritual mysteries are associated with both the embryological and evolutionary processes that created humans. Men and women are unique and distinguished from the rest of creation because they bear the Image of God and have fallen into sin. … Christian evolutionists firmly accept these spiritual realities, but recognize that understanding fully their origin is beyond our creaturely capacity to know.

Evolutionary creation is not a position that disregards scripture. Scripture is a record and revelation inspired by God of his nature, his relationship and interaction with his creation and his creatures – including humans created in his image for covenant relationship and for mission, and his relationship with his people in Israel. Most importantly it reveals Jesus Christ – not simply the historical Jesus, but God’s messiah who, as Paul tells us, was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. But evolutionary creation does view the creation narratives as conveying theological rather than scientific truth in much the same way that Ps. 139 conveys theological truth rather than scientific truth.

Evolutionary creation is distinct from deistic evolution – the position that sees a God who started the process in the Big Bang, but then steps aside and allows life to unfold.  In particular, evolutionary creation sees God at work within creation in both natural and supernatural ways. There is a place for personal miracles, signs, and wonders as well as natural processes. Evolutionary creation does not reject intelligent design in nature, nor does it reject human spirituality. In fact there is little difference on these issues between Christians who hold to young earth, old earth, or evolutionary creation. When signs and wonders are rejected, and this is true of young earth creationists as well as evolutionary creationists, the reasons have to do with theology and the reading of scripture, not with a denial of the possibility on scientific grounds. Those who hold to evolutionary creation run the gamut from Presbyterian to Baptist to Pentecostal and all between.

The most significant issues with evolutionary creation center on divine activity in origins – both the place for divine activity in general and the role for divine activity in human origins in particular.

According to Dr. Lamoureux “evolutionary creationists reject dramatic miracles in origins. They argue that God created everything by ordaining and sustaining a teleological evolutionary process. ” (p. 48) While some do take this position, it seems a bit of an unnecessary overstatement. An evolutionary creationist sees no reason to expect that God created using dramatic miracles, no reason to doubt the evidence we see for the gradual development of biological diversity or common descent. But there is not, or need not be, a blanket rejection of the possibility that God acted in a supernatural fashion at key points. Simply put, there is a willingness to go with the data. Whatever the method or process, God created and sustains all.

Human evolution is an even more explosive topic. Here again there is a spread of views held by Christians who support evolutionary creation. There is general agreement that Genesis is not a science text and there is no expectation of scientific concordance. There is general agreement that humans evolved in common descent with all of biological life, sharing a common ancestor with Chimpanzees some 4 to 5 million years ago or so. There is much more variety of opinion on the significance of Adam and Eve, the historicity of the fall, and the intertwined relationship between historical and theological concordance in Gen. 2-3. Dr. Lamoureux will argue that Adam is not historical and there is theological, but no historical concordance in Gen 2-3. Dr. Denis Alexander,  on the other hand, who has a Ph.D. in Neurochemistry, has published ~60 papers in the primary scientific literature, and is Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion,  sees both theological concordance and an element of historical concordance in Gen 2-3, but no element of scientific concordance (see specifically about 3 minutes into this clip).

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These distinctions in positions will undoubtedly lead to some good conversation as we continue on in discussion of Dr. Lamourex’s book, but do not challenge the general premise of evolutionary creation. There is work to do at the edges, particularly the theological edges of this view of God’s creation. Of course, there is work to do at the edges of any view of creation, including young earth and old earth progressive creation. None of these are entirely self-consistent in their accord with scripture or view of theology. The mystery or uncertainty alone is no reason for concern. We are meant to wrestle with scripture, the relationship of God with creation, and his redeeming work in creation.  This is part of being both human and God’s people.

What do you see as the strengths and weakness of evolutionary creation? What distinctions and positions are possible?

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

If interested you can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

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.

  • http://jeffkclarke.com Jeff

    The greatest strength of theistic evolution is that it attempts to take seriously both the witness of Scripture and recent scientific discoveries regarding creation. This is important and can help to do justice to both, while at the same time build a bridge between two disciplines that have for too long been separated.

    My primary concern (I’m sure there are more) centers on the creation of human beings. Even if the purpose of Gen. 2-3 is theological and not scientific, what are we to do with explicit texts that speak of humans being directly created by God? Those texts do not in any way even refer to the possibility of common descent. If the purpose is theological, what theology is this section espousing exactly?

    We can wrestle with these passages on an academic level (which is great), but my concern also centers on those in the pew. How can we address these issues to those who may not have the theological background to work through the arguments? Many Christians believe that God created humans, not through an evolutionary process, but by a direct and specific action.

    Appreciate your thoughts.

    Jeff

  • AHH

    One issue, which gets to your comment on “divine activity,” is that there is no good way to scientifically distinguish between evolutionary creation, deistic evolution, or dysteleological evolution. With the exception of some theistic evolution positions that have God making supernatural interventions in the process (Michael Behe), all 3 of these lead to identical results in terms of what science finds — just as science has no way of distinguishing whether my formation in the womb, or the formation of the Earth 4.5 billion years ago, was under God’s hand or dysteleological.
    Any distinction between the positions must come from other ways of knowing, such as special revelation or theological reflection.

    That lack of ability for science to distinguish between positions bothers some people, especially those with Enlightenment presuppositions. If a Christian has the (perhaps subconscious) mindset that scientific knowledge is the pinnacle, then he will want/expect to be able to detect God’s work scientifically. I think if we could get rid of the assumption that God’s work should leave scientifically detectable “fingerprints” we would be better off in these conversations.

  • Linda

    The weakness in theistic evolution is that if we allow science to determine our understanding of Genesis, then this could lead to more unbelief through the rest of the Bible. For example, science says that a person cannot be raised from the dead. So the logical progression in belief would be that Jesus never rose from the dead.

    Genesis states that God created Adam from the dust, and that Eve was created from Adam’s rib and that God created various animals “according to their kind” Genesis 1:21,24,25 .

    We should acknowledge that the Bible clearly does not line up with the theory of evolution, and we should never try to force the Bible to agree with fallible man’s beliefs.

  • chad miller

    To Linda, if God is the author of all things including science why do we need to be afriad of Science interpreting scripture? How do know that Gen. 1 would have us believe in a young earth perhaps we have been misreading it all along.

  • Linda

    Dr. Lamourex in the video argues since Adam and Eve did not die on the SAME day that they ate from the “tree of the knowledge of the good and evil” means there was physical death prior to the Fall of mankind. I disagree, God warned Adam in Genesis 2:17 that if he ate of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” he would “die”. The Hebrew grammar actually means “dying, you will die” – in other words, it would be by the commencement of a process of physical dying. It took Adam a process of 930 years to die, during those 930 years his body was dying,so this proves God’s word to be true “dying, you will die”. It also clearly involved spiritual death.

  • Alberto Medrano

    The stregnth is the approach taken: seriously. Everyone reads the Scriptures through certain lenses. Reading the Bible from a scientific view doesn’t devalue the Bible. I love the the way evolutionary creationists take te approach of taking both science and Scripture seriously. If you can’t take science seriously, then you’re living in a fantasy world. If you can’t take Scripture seriously, you’re just as ignorant. The Bible is not a science textbook, so it will never seem to line up with much of science. It’s a theological book. Because it is such, it’s important to take it seriously, but that in no way means to take it literally. The creation stories are told from an ancient eastern perspective of mysticism. So they should be interpreted metaphorically.

  • Linda

    Chad and Alberto – please keep in mind there are two types of science:

    One is OPERATIONAL science – were scientists do experiments in the present, make inferences from these results and do more experiments to test their ideas. The conclusions are closely related to the experiment and there is little room for speculation. This type of science has given us many wonderful things such as: men on the moon, cheap food, modern medicine, electricity, computers etc. The second type of science deals with the past, which is called HISTORICAL or ORIGIN science. When it comes to working out what happened in the past, science is limited because we cannot do experiments directly on past events, and history cannot be repeated. The further in the past the event being studied, the longer the chain of inference involved, the more guesswork.

    The conflicts between science and religion occur in this historical science not in operational science. Unfortunately, the respect earned by the successes of operational science confounds many into thinking that the conjectural claims arising from origins science carry the same authority.

    When it comes to historical science, it is not so much the evidence in the present that is debated, but the inferences about the past.

    from: The Revised and Expanded Answers book by Ham, Sarfati, Wieland pgs. 22/23 (subheading “Is it Science?”)

  • rjs

    Linda,

    The distinction between operational and historical science is untrue and misleading. There needs to be some humility in drawing historical conclusions from observation, but these two cannot be neatly separated. There is a real history embedded in the nature of the world we see and it is consistent with the laws of so-called operational science.

    With respect to evolutionary biology the most persuasive evidence is embedded in the DNA itself, but the paleontological evidence is entirely consistent with the genetic evidence. They tell the same story.

    A postulate that God made it look old (mature creation) is consistent with the evidence (but theologically troubling). But a distinction between operational and historical science is not.

    This post however, is not dealing with this issue. Please stick to the questions at hand.

  • Tim

    I wish we could avoid saying things like, “Evolutionary creation is a view that fully embraces Christian orthodoxy.”

    The theological implications of evolution are still being worked through, and there is much debate between a wide variety of positions on this subject. Who is to say that when (or if) the dust finally settles, that dominant views of evolutionary creationists will remain what most evangelicals would comfortably call “orthodox”?

    Until we see what directions thoughtful Christian’s who embrace evolution go doctrinally, I think such statements as “Evolutionary creation is a view that fully embraces Christian orthodoxy” are premature.

    Of course, it would also be premature to say the reverse as well.

  • rjs

    Tim,

    I disagree quite strongly here. Orthodoxy is fairly well defined in the early ecumenical creeds which grow out of the creeds and expressions in the NT and the early church fathers.

    There is nothing in an evolutionary view of creation that contradicts this foundation of historical christian orthodoxy. I think it is important to make this clear.

    There are places where I think the church took a wrong turn, and doctrines proposed that are not consistent, – but not here.

  • AHH

    RJS, I think what Tim #9 meant is that there are a variety of views among people who hold to “evolutionary creation” and some of those people are not orthodox. For example, some embrace process theology. We can’t pretend that people (John Haught comes to my mind, or one could go back to Fosdick) for whom evolutionary creation is part of a larger non-orthodox framework do not exist.

    What I think you are saying (and I agree) is that there is nothing in an evolutionary creation position that is inherently contrary to orthodoxy. Which I hope should be clear based on the many orthodox Christians who hold such a position (you, me, Lamoureux, Francis Collins, Darrel Falk, most of the Calvin College science faculty, Tim Keller, etc.).

    So maybe instead of saying
    Evolutionary creation is a view that fully embraces Christian orthodoxy.
    it should have been something more like:
    Evolutionary creation, in the form held by Lamoureux and many other Evangelicals, fully embraces Christian orthodoxy.

  • Tim

    RJS,

    If what you are defining as orthodoxy along the extremely basic lines of the Apostle’s creed or the Nicene Creed, then I would agree with you RJS. But some people consider “orthodoxy” a little more specific than just that.

    So, is there anything inherent in evolutionary creationism that would threaten the content of these creeds? No, I don’t believe so.

    But is there anything inherent in evolutionary creationism that could threaten the credibility some might give to certain aspects of Paul’s theology, where one might say that Paul was, well, just plain wrong on some points? Well, that might be a possibility. I’m not saying that this has been demonstrated to be the case yet, but looking at the sort of trajectories that embracing not just evolutionary creation, but all the implications that might entail theologically, could one quite confidently assert that such might never be the case in the future?

    So, while one could discard portions of Paul’s theology and still maintain the early creeds, would this still be considered “orthodox”?

  • rjs

    AHH,

    Well, I expect Tim can chime in with what he means. But there are many people who hold a wide range of views (hence the disclaimer that many will find their view falling in the cracks).

    But I read Tim’s comment – especially the part about “still being worked out” – as a position that requires putting everything on the table up for grabs, including the essence of Christian doctrine throughout history. I don’t think this is right.

    Plenty of people throughout the centuries and today have abandoned orthodoxy. But they ultimately do it for “non-scientific” reasons. Science doesn’t put orthodoxy in the dock.

  • rjs

    Tim,

    I am comfortable with the idea that the church (any church, every church) has somethings wrong. I don’t know what they all are, even what I may have wrong. But the winding path of church history shows us many different views at different times and in different places. They cannot all be right.

    Science today may point us to some of those errors, in fact it probably does.

    I think we are meant to muddle and wrestle and think – and this is part of being humans following God.

  • Linda

    A weakness of theistic evolution is that it misrepresents the character of God. God is perfect (Matthew 5;48), when God created the world, His work was “very good” Genesis 1:31. Theistic evolution has God using death as a principle of creation.

    I do not know about you, but to me death is not “very good”.

  • rjs

    Linda,

    I don’t see human death as “very good” – but I do see bacterial death as very good, and some animal death etc. Not because of harm bacteria and animals do to humans but because the death is part of life, renewal, growth, and fertilization of soil.

    Also – like John Calvin and others in church history – I don’t see Gen 1-2 as depicting a static existence – the people had a mission on earth. The mission was part of “very good.” Even without human decay they would have passed on to another stage.

  • Tim

    RJS,

    I am trying to find a way to read both #13 and #14 in a way that makes sense (thought I do get that you wrote #13 before reading my reply).

    On the one hand, you wrote

    “I read Tim’s comment…as a position that requires putting everything on the table up for grabs, including the essence of Christian doctrine throughout history. I don’t think this is right.”

    And on the other hand, you stated

    “I am comfortable with the idea that the church…has somethings wrong…Science today may point us to some of those errors…I think we are meant to muddle and wrestle and think – and this is part of being humans following God.”

    So, based on the above, you probably have some idea of what doctrines could be potentially challenged or held suspect in light of the theological outworkings of evolutionary creation and which doctrines not so much. But you haven’t really articulated those views, so I guess that leaves me with a lit of ambiguity as to where you fall in that.

    In any event, for me I think that Paul’s theology as it relates to sin might be partially challenged by working out the theological implications of evolutionary creationism. That alone might cause some (perhaps many) within the Evangelical community to cry heresy. And we don’t really know yet where the theological implications of evolutionary creationism will really take us in that respect, as the conversation is a relatively fresh and no dominant theological position has risen above other competing views to convince the majority of current participants in this debate. So, this really is a big question mark in terms of where the conversation might take the Evangelical community.

    Then, there is the issue of what the future implications of challenging a significant (non-peripheral) component of Paul’s theology might entail. It might lead to a re-examining of other doctrines that might be seen as resting on less than solid ground from a scholarly point of view. Or not, but again, we don’t really know at this point until we cross that bridge.

    So, I’m not advocating putting “everything up for grabs,” but I do think that evolutionary creationism still could still, when all the implications are worked out, challenge quite a bit that used to be considered theologically safe (though not likely anything in the Apostles Creed of course).

  • normbv

    I like the way Dr. Lamoureux lays out or defines evolutionary creation but I must side with Dr. Alexander on his approach to Adam and death at the fall in which he calls it spiritual separation from God. I think the ancient Jews would also see it figuratively and yet historical as well and the book of Jubilees written around 150BC seems to bear this out.

    Jubilees 4:29 … thereof, Adam died, … And he lacked seventy years of one thousand years; for one thousand years are as one day in the testimony of the heavens and therefore was it written concerning the tree of knowledge: ‘On the day that ye eat thereof ye shall die.’ For this reason he did not complete the years of this day; for he died during it.

    It is quite obvious that the Jews just a century before Christ were reading Adam allegorically concerning the meaning of the Day he died. Because his figurative death at 930 years left him 70 shy of the eternal maximum of the 1000 year Millennium achievement. That is the age that John uses in Revelation to illustrate eternal life in Christ.

    Again though I believe Dr. Lamoureux presents a compelling understanding for Christians who embrace evolution and I commend his work in that regard.

    I do disagree with Tim somewhat concerning whether we are going to need to jettison some of Paul’s understandings [if that is what Tim is inferring as a possibility]. I believe we simply need to understand his theology better and realize that he like Jubilees read Genesis allegorically regarding Adam’s death. This makes sense because he was a product of second Temple Judaism and Jubilees was influential during the first century AD.

  • Linda

    RJS,

    Why do you see some animal death as being “very good”, since God originally told Adam and Eve they could only eat the plants and the animals did not seem to be a threat to Adam and Eve.

  • Tim

    …just thought of something else, in addition to part of Paul’s theology of sin, that might be threatened – the idea of an actual Devil, of Satan. The theological implications of evolution don’t directly challenge the existence of this supernatural entity depicted in the Bible, but indirectly, I think many would admit that humanity’s evolutionary dispositions do such an excellent job of accounting for the presence of sin and evil in this world, that Biblical notions of some supernatural demon “tempting” one into error seem, well, to some quite silly and unnecessary. I mean, as it relates to God, one can always point to internal, subjective “proofs” that point to his existence and to which people maintain go beyond just the base materialism of body and gray matter. But the deep down temptation to do wrong now has a more than adequate evolutionary explanation than Satan, leaving him without any adequate subjective “proof” anymore for his existence. Again, not a direct challenge, but it could have an impact nonetheless.

  • Linda

    RJS,

    P.S. – if the death of some animals is “very good” then I guess the curse that God put on Adam and Eve and the whole world (that would include all animals) AFTER they disobeyed Him was very, very, good, since all animals and humans die.

  • Tim

    Normbv,

    “I do disagree with Tim somewhat concerning whether we are going to need to jettison some of Paul’s understandings.”

    I am not saying this. Obviously one alternative, such as you noted, would be to better understand what Paul was saying. But why would we conclude at this point in the conversation that better understanding what Paul was saying would lead to agreement rather than disagreement with respect to the theological implications of evolutionary creation? I think the conversation is too fresh and dynamic now to make such an assertion.

  • Linda

    Evolution in and of it self cannot explain morality, so to try to blend it with a Creator who is the standard of morality does not seem to be the proper thing to do.

  • normbv

    Tim,

    It seems in the NT that it is individuals or groups of people that are associated with Satan. Christ calls the Jewish leaders a den of vipers [snakes] and John declares that one should not be like Cain who was of the evil one. Now we know that Cain was born of Adam and Eve yet John says he was of the “evil one”. The Devil motif appears to be an image for the adversary of Christ and is associated with those encumbered with the Law. This is borne out extensively in John 8:44. I believe that Satan is simply a literary tool to help identify an adversarial mindset against God’s plan and it is literal people who fill those shoes in scripture.

    Joh 8:44 ESV You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

    Also Tim yes we do have some theological work to accomplish and I agree with RJS that historically the church has been all over the place to paraphrase her and that seems to be the status quo and is a reality that we simply have to live and deal with.

    However maybe there will be some major communicative breakthrough by some gifted orator that God raises up at some point that straightens us all out. Well on second thought maybe not. ;-(

  • Tim

    Linda,

    Have you taken a serious look at the literature out there that does attempt to use evolutionary principles to explain morality? Or are you just asserting this as given your own imagination you can’t envision how evolution would explain morality? I would encourage you to consider that perhaps it might be worth you while to investigate the work of experts who’ve dedicated much of their lives to this subject before you declare it an open-and-shut case against their position. Actually, this would probably be very good advice on any subject.

    Of course, I am assuming you aren’t familiar with these people’s work. But this isn’t a baseless assumption (though it could still of course be incorrect, and if so I apologize), as those who are more familiar with this type of work tend to make much more nuanced arguments than such sweeping statements as your assertion that the experts “cannot explain morality.”

    P.S.,

    I myself believe God, at morality’s very root, is what makes “good” truly good and a rejection of that “evil.” I am not a materialist, but I do have the ability to appreciate others arguments without discounting them with a wave of the hand.

  • Tim

    Normbv,

    “I believe that Satan is simply a literary tool to help identify an adversarial mindset against God’s plan and it is literal people who fill those shoes in scripture.”

    Well, that certainly would be consistent with portions of the OT, particularly books such as Job. Concerning the NT, who knows. I have an inclining that it is a much more complicated issue to work through in casting Satan as a literary tool in the context to which he was referred to in the stories. I would have to re-read the relevant passages to give your argument an adequate evaluation.

    In any case, it certainly would go against quite a lot of historical Christian interpretation. I personally don’t think Satan exists, but of course I’m so far beyond the pale for my fundamentalist family they wouldn’t be surprised by anything at this point. But for upstanding members of many Evangelical church’s, I could envision the words “heresy” forming on many a congregant’s mouth upon hearing such a proclamation made by a fellow church-goer. You know, I wish we had a better definition of what is heretical and what is orthodox. Or are these terms no longer even useful anymore?

  • normbv

    Tim,

    I’m afraid if I begin teaching that in my adult bible school classes I might actually get to witness Satan at work against me. ;-) However it is quite clear in the NT that the “bad seed” of the Devil is applied to those opposing God’s will and just because we have these medieval images in our mind doesn’t mean that was the inference of scriptures.

    You can essentially teach this idea without making it controversial though but you need to be skilled in illustrating such ideas. People can actually accommodate new views if you back into them carefully.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I think this conversation illustrates an inherent difference in the way many people view the world. When we talk about global warming many conservatives have a paranoia that the scientists are somehow colluding to fix the outcome of their analysis. Nothing could be more wrong. The glory in science is figuring out that someone else is wrong, not that they are right. People in science would love to conclusively prove that man made global warming is false, they would be famous.

    So to in this when Tim (not to pick on you too much, but you have broad shoulders) objects to all the change that will have to come as a result of accepting an evolutionary sort of creation. I look at it as a wonderful thing because it will get us so much closer to the truth. Rjs had it right when she said (and I paraphrase), all churches have some stuff wrong, we just don’t know which parts are wrong.

    We should be happy when we figure out which parts look like they are wrong because this will bring us closer to God!!!! Amen!!!

  • Tim

    DRT,

    I don’t object to change. I’m just questioning whether the “change” introduced by evolutionary creationism and all its theological implications might intrude on what some consider “orthodoxy” and if so, whether recognition of such a possible outcome at some future point in time is being expressed by those who claim that evolutionary creationism poses no threat to “orthodox” Christian doctrine. Of course, this all goes back to what is “orthodox”, but someone will have to let me know when the exact meaning of that word is agreed upon.

  • Ben Wheaton

    I think that this issue cannot remain always in limbo. Eventually we are going to have to come to concrete conclusions about what coincides with Christian orthodoxy in these matters and what does not. And when we do, there will be actions taken.

    I for one think that those who deny an historical fall are outside orthodoxy and should be disciplined by their churches; if their churches won’t do this, then good Christians should shun them.

    And here, RJS, is where you lose me; you think that an historical fall is somehow a negotiable issue. I disagree. Massively.

    I’m all for reconciling biological evolution with Christianity, but there are theological limits that are just as important as the scientific limits. A literal fall is for me the main theological limit that comes up.

  • Tim

    …and that will be the kind of conversations we will have in Evangelical churches (perhaps without the “shunning” bit).

    I think RJS’s statement concerning the compatibility of orthodox Christianity and evolutionary creationism should either drop “orthodox” all together and just say Christianity, or at least define what “orthodox” means in that context whenever the statement is issued. Otherwise thoughtful Christians that become aware of the theological implications of evolutionary creationism might question why some are going out of their way to convince others that any such conflicts won’t threaten orthodox doctrine (whatever that is).

  • clioprof

    Tim,

    I feel compelled to compliment you for the generous way you engage in the give-and-take on this blog. Too often, this sort of issue quickly degenerates into name-calling and charges of bad faith. You provide a good model for us all as we struggle to work through some very tough things.

  • rjs

    Ben,

    “Believe this or else” isn’t going to cut it.

    You need to argue why a historical fall is essential as various issues are considered. David Opderbeck has done this quite well on occasion here. I included the video clip by Denis Alexander as a counter example because I think the discussion needs to realize that there are ways to hold to a historical fall and even perhaps Adam. We will see where Dr. Lamoureux goes in the later chapters and it will open more discussion of these issues.

    Tim,

    I go out of my way to include the term as a short-hand because many Christians who accept evolution see no problem with dumping the incarnation, the resurrection (of Jesus or of all), making the crucifixion nothing but “example” … from Harvey Cox to John Haught and more. It is important to me to affirm that the choices are not evolution with demythologized, desupernaturalized, deeschatologized Christianity or reject evolution.

    But I think orthodox Christian doctrine has a pretty universal definition, I’ve used it more-or-less the same way in many posts and comments on this blog – in a fashion that is consistent, I think, with the way Scot would use it. The apostle’s creed is a good place to start.

  • Tim

    RJS,

    If you were speaking to outside communities, I would perhaps understand that more. However, your posts on Jesus Creed would fall more on the ears of Evangelical Christians. Some perhaps on the fence concerning whether or not they might be willing to accept evolution. Telling them there is not conflict with orthodoxy might be later perceived as a “bait and switch” if they later encounter significant theological difficulties that could threaten to place their views outside what might be considered “orthodox” for many Evangelical communities.

    Again, if by “orthodox” you mean, more or less, upholding the Apostles Creed, then just say, there is nothing in evolutionary creationism that would threaten Christian doctrine as laid out in the Apostles Creed. I think more precise statements such as this would cause a lot less confusion, consternation, and potential later feelings of betrayal when the full weight of theological implications for evolutionary creationism might be felt.

  • http://faithfulreason.wordpress.com jordan

    I just posted my responses here.

    I think the nature and extent of the Fall are the big issue. For many people raised in conservative American Evangelicalism there are a lot of strings attached there.

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

    Hi,
    I know that everyone is raring to get in the Adam and Fall material. But the purpose of Chapter 2 was only to introduce Evolutionary Creation and to contrast it to other positions. Before I get to Adam and the Fall I have to set up the categories, especially the hermeneutical tenets first.

    Now, an interesting story about EC. I was invited to speak on EC at Oral Roberts University about 5 or so years ago. Students and profs read my paper on EC online
    http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/evolutionary_creation.pdf
    Then we had a discussion/debate.

    One of their profs, a professor from the department of religion, got up, and in a genius rhetorical move, led the audience to the conclusion that I was a deist. It was a brilliant move, but oh soooo very wrong.

    I then got up and asked the audience if they remembered what I did at the beginning of my talk. Not one person of an audience between 150-200 said a word. That really shook me, because I had opened in prayer. And then I asked the audience, how many deists do they know who prays? No answer again.

    Then I read the first sentence of my paper which they had read: “Evolutionary creation claims that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created the universe and life through an ordained, sustained, and design-reflecting evolutionary process.” Again, I asked how many deists do you know who are Trinitarians? No answer.

    Then I read the last sentence of the first paragraph: “And these Christian evolutionists [EC] meet the Lord Jesus in a personal relationship, which at times involves both dramatic and subtle answers to prayer as well as miraculous signs and wonders.” And lastly, I asked how many deists do you know (and remember ORU is a Pentecostal signs and wonders school) who believe miraculous signs and wonders? Again no answer.

    So here is my point. Evangelicals at a very deep level are conditioned by their Churches to reject evolution, and this is a psychological stumbling block. The fact that a professional academic who specializes in religion—-after hearing me pray and after reading my flamingly EVANGELICAL paper—-could only see me as a deist made it clear to me that coming to terms with evolution is not going to be easy for most people, because of our Church background.

    So Chapter 2 is an INITIAL exposure to EC, more will come in later chapters. I’m just trying to break the psychological block most evangelicals have in their mind when they hear the word “evolution.”

    Best,
    Denis

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

    Comment by Linda — November 30, 2010 @ 11:02 am
    Linda writes:
    “Dr. Lamourex in the video argues since Adam and Eve did not die on the SAME day that they ate from the “tree of the knowledge of the good and evil” means there was physical death prior to the Fall of mankind….”

    Linda the video is by Denis Alexander, not me.

    And disagree with him completely. The death mentioned is NOT spiritual death, but physical death.

    Gen 3:19–”dust you are and to dust you shall return” is dealing with physical death.

    Denis Alexander typifies evangelical Christians who are fine scientists, but who have never done any formal studies in Old Testament scholarship, in particular, Gen 1-11. Consequently, you’ll see in his work that he can’t get beyond concordism and cleverly tries to sneak in an Adam.

    Is he a evolutionary creationist? I wouldn’t put him in that group. He is between progressive creation and evolutionary creation. EC definitely rejects concordism.

    Best,
    Denis

  • http://faithfulreason.wordpress.com jordan

    Tim,

    I wonder if you are perhaps equating evolutionary creation with any sort of Christian view that accepts evolution or similar. It seems to me that part of the whole point of the “evolutionary creation” terminology is to tie it closer to Christian orthodoxy than “theistic evolution” or similar might. I would suggest that maybe an evolutionary creationist who ceased to affirm the broad orthodoxy that RJS suggested would just cease to be an evolutionary creationist.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Tim@29,

    Of course adopting evolutionary creation will intrude on what *some* will say is orthodox. There are some that say the earth is 6k years old.

    If you adopt that stance we will never get anywhere.

  • Tim

    Jordan,

    I agree with you in that I think evolutionary creationism is just a nicer term for theistic evolution. It seems to be geared toward defending against assertions of special creationists that they are discarding the “orthodoxy” of God as creator.

    I myself am adopting the term for purposes of this conversation. Outside of this conversation, I use the term theistic evolution.

  • http://www.stephenburns.ca Stephen

    I think Tim might be right. There’s a good chance that the acceptance of Evolutionary Creationism will upend the considered orthodoxy of the EVnagelical church. But so what? It’s pretty tiring listening to us evangelicals insist that their doctrine is orthodox, although much of it goes above and beyond the original creeds. Evolution, for example, is not mentioned in the creeds(and yes, I understand why). Neither is hell and the idea that God will submit those who do not repent to eternal torment, and yet, I know a pastor who was fired for simply being an annihilationalist.
    Linda, for example, seems clearly set in the camp that you are either right or wrong, but theology is still a process. We believe very differently from people 300 years ago. Are we less “Christian” than them? Greater?
    What we do know is that interpeting Scripture literally is not only ridiculous, but dangerous. Evolutionary Creation is not using science to intepret Scripture, but rather using our God given gifts to interpret the world wheich He created. One more thing. At some point, we must address this idolatry of Scripture so rampant in Evangelical theology. It is disturbing…

  • Tim

    DRT,

    “Of course adopting evolutionary creation will intrude on what *some* will say is orthodox. There are some that say the earth is 6k years old.”

    I get that. But I think that the doctrinal threat could be much larger that just age of earth or creation through evolution. I think that the potential of having part of Paul’s theology of sin challenged could be particularly worrisome to many Evangelicals, as, well, many Evangelicals heavily depend on Paul for informing them on all things Christian.

    Of course, it’s not that I am advocating not taking this challenge. I do want Evangelicals to start down the road of meeting it. It’s just that I think that they should be made aware of what will be involved and required of them, and not just have their very valid concerns glossed over by telling them that there’s no threat or potential incompatibility with “orthodox doctrine” (unless that is taken to mean something very basic, like the Apostles Creed).

  • rjs

    Denis #37,

    Now it seems to me that you are defining evolutionary creation by your preference. Taking a tight definition, insisting on it, and defining people as in and out. I see this as one of the biggest problems in the whole discussion of evolution and Christian faith. We need to set up a better framework to allow discussion.

    You may disagree with the way I framed the discussion in the last couple of paragraphs – but I think we as a church need to take a little looser approach.

    What good does it do to help get people thinking about possibilities, see that evolutionary creation is not deist – definitely the most common criticism – and then set it up with an insistence that your view of Adam is the only real possibility consistent with evolutionary creation? We need a much more nuanced discussion of all of the possibilities and the consequences of those possibilities.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Out of curiosity (serious question), what does it take to avoid the deist label? Does belief in the resurrection do it? Where is the line? There is a broad spectrum between a ressurectionist and someone who believes god intervenes constantly.

  • AHH

    Re the “orthodoxy” discussion, Stephen @41 hints at an elephant in the room which is Evangelical approaches to Scripture.

    In the fundamentalist-leaning parts of Evangelicalism, “inerrancy” is often a litmus test for orthodoxy. And there’s really no reconciling evolutionary creation with inerrancy, at least not in its typical forms. Even an old Earth requires some interpretational contortions to line up with inerrancy (of course so does the fact that there is no solid firmament holding back the waters above, or the different order of events in Genesis 2 versus Genesis 1).

    RJS says The most significant issues with evolutionary creation center on divine activity in origins and I don’t disagree, but for those on the more conservative end I think the challenges to cherished doctrines about the nature of Scripture are equally significant. If one’s doctrine of Scripture does not allow some form of accommodation to the culture and limited knowledge of the original writers and audiences, evolutionary creation is probably a non-starter.

  • smcknight

    Tim,

    Orthodoxy (lower case) refers to the Great Tradition of the Church, as defined mostly by Apostles’ Creed or Nicene Creed. That is how we use the term here. Evangelicalism has its own Protestant form of orthodoxy, but we need “evangelical” to be added if we want to refer to that.

  • Tim

    Scot,

    I get that is how you and RJS are using the term “orthodox.” However, if that really is the definition of orthodoxy, then heresy (if defined as simply what is contrary to orthodoxy) as a label could only be appropriately applied to this very narrow criteria (unless it was called something like “catholic heresy” or “evangelical heresy” or some such thing), correct?

    So, in that vein, would Pelagianism not be considered heresy then? I fail to see how it conflicts with anything in the Apostles’ or Nicene Creeds. Am I following you correctly on this Scot?

  • DCL

    Hi All – Any Christian seeking to develop a theological position on the subject of evolution and looking to science should continuously be considering how reliable science is. As a developing research scientist (I am currently working on my Ph.D., studying the biochemistry of cardiac contraction), I am dismayed when I see people thinking that we can make any scientific observations whatsoever regarding evolution and origins. Technically, we cannot ever observe what happened so long ago, so we can’t really design adequate experiments to test what caused it. One is decidedly in the realm of extrapolation and even speculation. To be frank, one will forever be trapped in the realm of experimental brainstorming (speculation has its place in science) but will never be able to run an adequate test. Some people may argue that we can design a testable hypothesis that gets at origins but can be examined using current observations. Let’s look at that: say we come up with experiments to produce the building blocks of life from early atmospheric conditions. How do we ever know that your atmosphere is the correct one? (Hint: we don’t.) Say we do manage to weasel into print an experiment which ultimately proves a failure under the scrutiny of the field: then some people will say, “maybe the building blocks came from a comet at a later point.” See how none of this is really testable, and that we should really think about what we are placing our trust in?

  • rjs

    DCL,

    Be aware as you consider this that five or more of the above commenters are Christians with Ph.D’s in scientific fields, active in research, who have been thinking about these issues seriously.

    You want to say that we do not and may never know how life originated – fine, you may be right.

    But origin of life isn’t really the big question. Age of the earth and evolution following the development of the original cell – these are a whole different ball game. We can make very good observations and draw rather strong conclusions from the genetic material in all living cells. The conclusions are entirely consistent with conclusions drawn from paleontology and other fields of biology. There are also constraints of chemistry and physics that come into play.

  • Tim

    RJS,

    Since it appears you’re still following this thread, could you sub in for Scot on answering #47 for me? My interest in this is just to make sure that I am understanding both you and Scot correctly so as to avoid future miscommunication. Thanks.

  • rjs

    Heresy is a pretty strong word, one I generally try to avoid and would reserve for rejection of core tenets defined by the Great Tradition of the church.

    But things can be wrong without being heresy. As to your specific example – I’m not going to step into it without a little thinking and research. I am not really sure what was the root of Pelagius’s claim.

  • Tim

    RJS,

    Thanks for responding. As a follow-up, I was hoping you could maybe consider some of the following thoughts I’ve been working through on this matter:

    If the creeds such as the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed are taken as representative, more or less, of the Great Tradition of the Church, then I think you will find in your research that Pelagianism in no way conflicts with them, though it does conflict of course with other fairly universal Christian doctrine.

    Nevertheless, if Pelagianism isn’t something you or Scot would define as heresy, then I would ask the question whether or not your definitions of orthodoxy and heresy represent the typical Christian understanding or in some way depart from the norm.

    The reason I would ask this question is that I believe it is the common perception in the both Catholic as well as Protestant communities that Pelagianism was a fundamental Christian Heresy, not a “Protestant” or “Catholic” heresy specifically.

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

    rjs #43
    Denis #37,
    Now it seems to me that you are defining evolutionary creation by your preference. Taking a tight definition, insisting on it, and defining people as in and out. I see this as one of the biggest problems in the whole discussion of evolution and Christian faith. We need to set up a better framework to allow discussion.

    Hi,
    I appreciate your comments. As you’ll read in Chapter 2, I limit the categories to only five. Of course, there are dozens upon dozens of others, and combinations of these. And I tried to define them as generally as possible so that proponents of each would not be upset.

    Of the five, three are Christian positions, and of these, two are concordist. So, I think it is only fair to offer a non-concordist Christian position, and I used evolutionary creation. I might add, I find that non-concordism is the hermeneutical move for coming fully to terms with evolution as evangelical. So no surprises that I defined EC the way I did, and entitled the book EC.

    In the human evolution chapter, I will offer 3 approaches, two of which I reject. Nevertheless, they are there for people to accept/reject.

    And finally, to be more direct with your comment:
    “Now it seems to me that you are defining evolutionary creation by your preference.”

    Believe it or not, this is what professional academics get paid to do. Now, I didn’t come to this position simply because of “preference,” in the way that I prefer blueberries to strawberries. I came to this position, and defined is as such, because it was the position that makes most sense when relating the Two Divine Books.

    When I look at people like Denis Alexander or Darrel Falk, who try to tack on an Adam at the tail end of evolution, though they are fine scientists and wonderful Christians, it is painfully obvious to me they have never trained in OT studies, let alone Biblical criticism. Their hermeneutical skill set is at best at the adult Sunday school level. So, should I create a category to accommodate them? Sorry if this offends anyone, but then again, this is what I do for a living–evaluate the work of those in my academic field.

    Regards,
    Denis

  • rjs

    Denis,

    The problem I have with the style of definition you use is two-fold

    (1) It takes the observed data and draws an absolute metaphysical conclusion. I think we should carefully maintain an intentional level of epistemological humility in the absence of data. This will come out more in the next post on Ch. 3.

    (2) Neither of the people you mentioned retain a literal Adam because of a lack of understanding of OT studies. To imply that underestimates their intelligence, scholarship, and commitment to the faith. Rather the significance of Adam is rooted in NT testament doctrines of sin. If this was not developed in Romans and 1 Cor. 15 and a few other places the “Adam problem” would be gone. Then you would be right, I think, in the analysis that a theology of scripture, looking for scientific and/or historical concordance where none should be expected, is the root of the conflict.

    But the sin issue is a deep theological issue and we do expect theological concordance in the text of both Old and New Testaments. Until and unless there is an adequate way to understand sin it is unwise and counterproductive to slam the door on the discussion and drive a stake in the ground. To do so requires people to take a stand – and prevents or inhibits careful and serious thought. We have a conflict or barrier to evolutionary creation that seems insurmountable.

    Oh – and of course what I am doing here is both putting your ideas up for consideration and offering my critique of aspects of the position, which is what good scholars do as a matter of course.

  • beaglelady

    rjs,

    Does this mean that you believe in the flood of Noah? After all, it’s tied in with Christ’s teaching about the end times.

  • rjs

    beaglelady,

    I didn’t say explicitly what I think here, I said we can’t dismiss the argument as an unnecessary reliance on scientific concordism and a misunderstanding of the nature of the Genesis narrative.

    As far as the reference by Jesus to the Noah narrative … it was a warning to be wary for devastation can come when least expected. For the passage to convey its intent as a warning it is required that the story is known – it isn’t required that the story is history. Of course this opens a can of worms to be discussed (what did Jesus or Paul know).

    Some will claim that the use of Adam by Paul is ontological – it describes facts (even historical facts) about the very nature of human beings. It cannot be dismissed – it must be dealt with. Or so I think.

  • beaglelady

    So we’ll dismiss Christ’s Noah but keep Paul’s Adam?

  • rjs

    I doubt if “we’ll” do anything. If you think the two cases are the same – make the argument and put it to the test.

    I think the reference of Jesus to Noah is theologically inconsequential (that is the historicity of Noah is theologically inconsequential for the point Jesus was making). As a result I spend no time pondering the issue.

    The reference by Paul to Adam has, at least potentially, more significant theological consequences and thus the whole issue must be thought through carefully – not dismissed abruptly.

    But I have not given an opinion here as to the historicity of Adam and/or the fall. It isn’t a short comment or even a one post kind of issue.

  • beaglelady

    So you don’t see the similarities?


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