Evolutionary Creation 3 (RJS)

We’ve been working through  Denis O. Lamoureux’s book Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution – a book that describes a way to move beyond the creation and evolutions debates.  In the posts today and Thursday we will look at the third chapter of the book. This chapter, The Creator in a Designed and Evolving Universe, is rather long, covering a number of interesting topics – the question of divine action in creation, intelligent design in creation, and the anthropic principle.  I am not going to discuss the anthropic principle – we’ve discussed it a number of times in the past – most notably in a long series on Alister McGrath’s book “A Fine Tuned Universe.”  Instead I would like to concentrate on some ideas developed in the book related to divine action (today) and intelligent design (Thursday). It should be exciting.

Dr. Lamoureux discusses four categories of divine action: personal interventionism where God interacts specifically in individual lives – healings, revelation etc., personal providentialism which Lamoureux describes as “God’s subtle and indirect activity in relationships with men and women“(p. 55) , cosmic interventionism where God interacts specifically in the past – origin of the universe, origin of life, origin of humans etc. or in the present, and cosmic providentialism – “God’s subtle and indirect activity in the origin and operation of the universe and life. It is His working through routine and uninterrupted natural processes that He ordains and sustains.“(p. 55).

These four categories of divine action help to define the approaches that many Christians take to issues of science and faith. Most Christians see providential divine action on both a personal and cosmic scale, although some will question personal providentialism, seeing little evidence that God concerns himself with individual Christians.

Divine intervention is a different issue, here the lines are drawn more clearly. Positions span the spectrum from denial of both personal and cosmic intervention, to acceptance of personal intervention but denial of cosmic intervention, to insistence on both personal and cosmic intervention. The distinctions drawn depend quite closely on the way Christians view science and understand scripture.

This leads to the question I would like to consider today.

How do you view divine action in the world?

How does your understanding of scripture or of science impact your view of divine action?


Dr. Lamoureux includes a good discussion of divine action and the impact and pitfalls of God-of-the-gap type reasoning. He uses the following table to summarize, drawing distinctions between the way various groups view the questions of divine origin and creation:

He summarizes the impact of these views in terms of assumptions about scripture:

Young earth creationists and progressive creationists believe that God intervened dramatically to create life, reflecting ultimately their acceptance of scientific concordism. But evolutionary creationists are not tied to this interpretive assumption of Scripture, and thus are not forced to embrace cosmological interventionism in origins. (p. 58)

Dr. Lamoureux allows that gaps could exist in creation, indicating divine action by intervention, but a look at the history of gap arguments shows that the gaps proposed have consistently closed and there is no reason to expect that any of the remaining gaps are insurmountable. He suggests that the reason for expecting to find gaps is based in a specific approach to scripture:

Of course, the central factor supporting the God-of the-gaps is the assumption of scientific concordism. Genesis 1 states ten times that living organisms were created “according to their/its kinds.” Consequently anti-evolutionists need to find discontinuities in the continuum of life in order to define these basic groupings. (p. 62)

And with respect to evolutionary creation:

To summarize, evolutionary creationists claim that God is active in the world in a variety of ways. As a loving father He reserves direct and dramatic interventions for personal relationships in order to admonish, call, and encourage us. The Lord also acts in subtle providentialistic ways with men and women. As the Ordainer and Sustainer of the cosmos, the creator did not intervene in origins nor does He act dramatically in its operations. This is not to assert that it is outside his power, but rather to state that this is His will. Thus evolutionary creation is not deism. In addition this Christian view of origins rejects the God-of-the-gaps. Liberated from the assumption of scientific concordism and cosmological interventionism in origins that this interpretive approach dictates, evolutionary creationists read the Book of Nature unencumbered in its God-glorifying splendor and purity. (p. 62)

Is this the best description of evolutionary creation? I have a problem with Dr. Lamoureux’s summary here, a rather serious problem, and it touches on an issue that has bothered me in much of the literature on science, Christian faith, and evolutionary creation – not just this book. I am not sure that I would classify myself as an evolutionary creationist – by this definition at least; but I think the problem may be with the details of this definition not with the overall idea of evolutionary creation. Evolutionary creation, as Dr. Lamoureux defines it, describes a position that takes a metaphysical leap and insists that God did not and would not intervene in origins as a postulate rather than a conclusion.

Let me elaborate a bit.

I think that God created through evolutionary processes. I see no reason to doubt the evidence we see for evolution. I see no reason to suppose a priori that there must be gaps in creation that provide empirical scientific evidence for divine action in the origin of the universe or the origin of life. I don’t think that we should expect scientific concordance between the creation accounts in Genesis and the formation of the universe or the development of life.

I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect that God acted in creation through his natural processes as Ordainer and Sustainer. I see no reason to look for gaps that only God could fill. In fact, I doubt that any will ever be identified that are not in essence time-limited gaps in knowledge.

But, and this is the big caveat, I also see no reason to state as an a priori commitment that God did not intervene in origins, nor do I see any reason for the rather arrogant idea that we now understand the Will of God well enough to assert categorically that he would not have intervened in the origin of the universe or the origin of life.  I expect that the ultimate conclusion will be that God created through evolutionary means, including in the origin of life.  But we certainly do not, as of yet at least, know by observation and empirical reason that He did not intervene more directly.

We need to retain a humility in our pronouncements and in our approach to understanding. To make a categorical statement about what God did or did not, would or would not do, outside of the realm of evidence is, at its heart, a metaphysical statement no more justifiable than the statement that God must have intervened and left evidence of his intervention. To make the categorical statement (however right we think the conclusion might be) is to fall into the trap the church has fallen into so many times in the past – to think we have finally reached the truth and understand God.

And – big concern – to make such a concrete and absolute statement raises the bar for Christians considering, but not convinced of, the reasonableness of evolutionary creation. To overstate the case and make this kind of rigid statement is to draw a totally unnecessary line in the sand.

Bottom line – no a priori commitment to intervention in origins, no a priori commitment against intervention in origins. We go with the evidence wherever it may lead. And wherever it leads – God did it. He ordains all. He sustains all. At times, especially in relationship with his people, he intervenes in a more direct fashion. Here I will stake my flag. If this means that my position is not evolutionary creation – so be it. The term introduced by Francis Collins, biologos, is not likely to catch on, but perhaps it is a better descriptor. God spoke life into being.  To determine the means and methods used we look to the evidence.

What do you think?  Agree or Disagree?

How definitive should we be in our discussion of divine action in origins?

And a related sub-question

Does our understanding of the nature of God – our theology – point one direction or the other?  How firm is your conclusion here?

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.

  • Dave

    Thanks RJS, for sharing where you are at and why. I think what is helpful about this book and your posts is that it moves us further along. For those of us for whom the whole category of this debate is in the past, the real question is “now what?” ie now that Christ followers can set the “evolution” debate behind them, what does that mean for scientists, Christian leaders, pastors, and perhaps most importantly, students and the next generation.

    I’m curious to know more about what Lameroux’s book (and your articulated thought above) means regarding research, witness, missional community etc. Do you think that a whole new generation of scientists who are Christ followers could be raised up and sent out free to do world class science and talk about their faith? What would that take?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I’ll write more later, but your “God spoke life into being” reminds me of my wife’s thought. She has great intuition on things and suggests that God sneezed the universe into being….

  • Tim

    Why does evolutionary creationism tick the marks for both personal interventionism as well as personal providentialism?

    Couldn’t an evolutionary creationist be someone who has a lack of belief in both personal as well as cosmological interventialism, but one that affirms providentialism across both domains? I know as an epistemological issue, of course, that one can’t ever “prove” that God never “intervened” in either domain.

    But shouldn’t the view that one “sees God’s subtle” hand behind every aspect of the cosmos as well as our personal lives have some acknowledgment by Lamoureux, as this by no means is an uncommon view?

  • Tim

    …also, I believe Francis Collins ascribes to a fairly “deistic” view of Evolution, but a very “intervionalist” as well as “providentialist” view of God’s interaction with humanity.

    I’m starting to wonder what on earth Lamoureux is doing when he’s putting together these categories.

    I am not, as of right now, terribly impressed with the man’s argument.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I believe the nature of God’s interaction with our reality is probably different that we are able to conceive it to be. For all I know God could be consciously creating us instant by instant or once during creation, whatever that is. We are talking God here, not us.

    I actually think it does help having some background in some of the current debates in physics concerning cosmology and the nature of reality. Given the wide range in possibilities for the fundamental construct of the universe it is quite easy to concede that we probably have no idea how to say God interacts with the universe because we really do not know what the universe is. Our anthropomorphic concept of God is woefully primitive.

    I would go so far as to say that we would probably have a difficult time recognizing God for what he is if confronted with him. He may be everything, or nothing we experience. We can’t tell.

    Therefore, I don’t believe we should include any divine nature in our explanation of origins from a mechanistic or causal perspective. I think it is fine to say God allows us to be, but beyond that I don’t see how it helps anything. For all we know everything is a manifestation or part of God and the question no longer makes sense.

    I, personally think the theology is most consistent with my God being everything, and is in addition to everything both.

  • rjs

    Tim #3,

    Dr. Lamoureux is charismatic and both believes in and has experienced “signs and wonders.” This includes things like healings – clearly a case of personal intervention.

    Does God heal? Does God lead? The posts that T has written give testimony to personal intervention. Is this all delusion? I don’t think so.

    I agree with Dr. Lamoureux here – while one can hold to evolutionary creation and deny personal interventionalism, one need not deny personal interventionalism.

  • Tim

    RJS,

    I don’t know that you are tracking with what I am saying. I am not making an argument for or against personal or even cosmological inteventionalism. I am making the case that Lamoureux is doing a lousy job putting together his categories. Mainly, I’m criticizing how he defines these categories in his table.

  • rjs

    Tim,

    I think Dr. Lamoureux is reacting primarily to the criticism that evolutionary creation is in essence deistic. He is making a case that this is not true. It all makes a good conversation starter.

    By the way – I don’t think that Francis Collins ascribes, as a postulate, to a deistic view of evolution. Although I would have to know what you meant by a deistic view of evolution. If you mean denying providential divine action in evolution I am pretty sure that you are wrong.

  • Tim

    RJS,

    I think Francis Collins view of Evolution is God fine-tuning physical constants for a number of cosmological forces, then setting off the Big Bang and having it all play out. He seems to reject the idea of God “tweaking” the DNA of organisms such that it progresses right where he wanted it to be – mainly arriving at us. But, I could be wrong. Collins hasn’t articulated thoroughly his view on theistic evolution, but what he has said thus far (at least of what I have read) seems to point to what I just wrote.

    As to the rest, I would then perhaps agree with Lamoureux’s “point” that evolutionary creation has to be deistic. I for one ascribe to “evolutionary creation”/theistic evolution and don’t at all view God as deistic. But having said that, I still feel he has arrived at his categories in a pretty lousy way, and if posters on this thread start to adopt these categories in conversation, I feel it will lead to a lot of confusion and unnecessary false fencing-in of views.

  • Tim

    …for the above point of agreement with Lamoureux, what I meant was that I agreed that equating evolutionary creationism with deism would be wrong. I think my language on that could have been clearer.

  • http://www.gettingfree.wordpress.com T

    Very interesting. I appreciate both RJS and the author affirming (or at least allowing for) both interventionalism and evolution at the same time, and all under and by God. It’s the kind of position that is rare because of the inevitable crossfire.

    I also appreciate seeing these rough categories of God’s action brought into the conversation about evolution because I think that, unfortunately, evolution is often the mere venue for discussing the larger issue of the presence, activity and even existence of God. Though, I think a continuum is more accurate than the categories. Regardless, the call to humility on all sides is worthwhile.

    Very interesting post, RJS; thanks.

  • http://jeffkclarke.com Jeff

    It seems that the scientific evidence for evolution is mounting, which means that it is not ‘just a theory’ in the weakest sense of the word; leaving one to conclude, “I can just take it or leave it.” However, acceptance of this theory does not remove the theological sense portrayed in Genesis 1; that “in the beginning, God.” There is no evidence, scripturally or otherwise, that can account for a non-interventionist approach in God’s creation of the universe. God creates and sustains all of creation, and evolutionary ideas seem to help us along in understanding how God may have went about that work.

    My concern at the moment centers not on accepting evolutionary evidence, but on the lengths some will go to align biblical and scientific ideas. There are some who want to bridge the divide so desperately that they have to create ideas like the non-intervention in origins in order to complete their system. It seems like it is a move they need to make in order for their systems to remain intact, and not because of sufficient evidence that resulted in them drawing such conclusions (a priori). An argument cannot, and should not, be included because a system ‘demands it’ so it can be coherent. This is my concern about the idea of God’s non-intervention in origins.

  • Tim

    Jeff,

    “There is no evidence, scripturally or otherwise, that can account for a non-interventionist approach in God’s creation of the universe.”

    This is not necessarily true in an exhaustive sense. We have no conclusive “evidence” that the ONLY explanation for the universe, whether before the Big Bang, at the Big Bang, or following the Big Bang with all the star and planet forming, evolution of life, etc. has to involve an act of a deity. For instance, the Big Bang could have been caused by intersecting branes, courtesy of multi-universe applications of M-Theory, where each brane is in an eternal state of rippling.

  • rjs

    Dave (#1),

    I hope and pray that, as you put it, a whole new generation of scientists who are Christ followers could be raised up and sent out free to do world class science and talk about their faith. I don’t really know what it would take though (beyond the work of the Spirit).

    For one thing, I think it means some investment of effort in discipling and equipping – and I am not sure that most churches have the time, energy, or resource (in people or material) to do the job.

  • http://jeffkclarke.com Jeff

    Tim,

    The examples you provide in the last sentence are a list of ‘could haves,’ which do not in any way support your position. If we choose to remove God from the creation account, specifically in the origins, what role does God play in creation? The creation account does not “have to involve an act of deity,” as you say, but yet scripture does lead us to hold to the belief that God, through Christ, initiated the creation process, in one way or another.

    I’ll refer you to Colossians 1:16-17, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

    I take the “all things” Paul mentioned to be just that, “all things.” That is, God in and through Christ was directly involved in creation, including the origins. How God did this, exactly, remains unclear. But God’s active involvement remains intact. Genesis may not provide us with a detailed account of creation (how it went down), but it does provide us with one thing, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” God may have used any number of means to bring this about (big bang, etc), and through an extremely long process (as evolutionary science suggests), but God’s being there to initiate the process is a non-negotiable. I may not be able to provide a detailed script of empirical evidence to prove, through a series of naturalistic scientific tests, that God was there in the origins, but scripture does point us in that direction with a good degree of clarity; and not just in the Genesis account. What are we to do with this? How are we to account for this? A theological reading of these texts provide us with at least this.

  • Tim

    Jeff,

    Yes, it is a “could have”, just as God starting the Big Bang is a “could have.” I am well aware of this point, and I believe this is implicit in the language and arguments in my prior post.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jeff, I agree with Tim, there is no conclusive physical evidence for an interventionalist god in any sense.

  • http://jeffkclarke.com Jeff

    That maybe true, but what about the questions I posed based on the biblical texts that speak of creation, specifically those that have God involved in origins? They may not provide us with scientific details, but they do provide theological information about God’s creative activity in creation. Do we simply lay them aside?

    DRT: God does not intervene in “any sense”? Personally, cosmically, or otherwise?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jeff, I do believe God intervenes somehow. However, I have never seen conclusive physical evidence. I believe that God has talked directly to me a few times in my life. My son thinks my experience can be accounted for by natural means, but it didn’t seem like it to me.

  • AHH

    As someone who would answer to the “evolutionary creation” label, I agree with RJS on the need for humility and to avoid a priori conclusions about how God must or must not have created.

    God can create however God wants. It is a very important point that “intervention” in natural history is not necessary from the standpoint of Christian theology; what is necessary is that God is the creator and “providential” means are every bit as valid. But that does not make “intervention” automatically invalid.

    We can say that cosmological intervention is not necessary. We can observe that gap-based arguments for intervention in cosmological history have failed in the past, and that typical arguments for such “gaps” today are bogus or at best unconvincing. We can even recognize some theological principles (theology of the cross, kenosis) that might lead us to expect God to have worked providentially.

    But to categorically state no cosmological interventions, period, as part of an EC position is claiming more than we can know, not to mention unnecessary.
    Let’s instead affirm that God can create however God wants, and let the evidence point to however God did it. And yes, the evidence so far points to “providential” in pretty much all cases (from stars to starfish), but observing that is different than taking providential as an a priori position.

  • http://jeffkclarke.com Jeff

    DRT,

    Thanks for your response.

    Relative to our pursuit for evidence, what are we to do with the miracles we read about in Jesus’ ministry and in the Acts record? Even if we did not in any way include more contemporary examples, those in Jesus’ ministry must in some sense point to a demonstration of God’s activity in and through Christ to a broken world?

    What about when Jesus calmed stormy waters? Or, when Peter walked on water? In these cases, surely we would have to conclude that in some sense God, through Christ, by the Spirit, altered natural laws and processes? I’m not trying to be overly simplistic here, but I am trying to account for these instances where it seems that God ‘intervened’ in some sense, either from within (as some panenthists would claim), or from without.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    RJS, I agree totally. I see no evidence to suggest dramatic intervention in the tree of life. But to say God would not or could not intervene is beyond what I am willing to assert. I am thus uncomfortable with these definitions.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jeff, from what I have read the miracles reported of Jesus were more or less reported to have been done by others in that ANE context. I think we will never know if the miracles were reported exactly as they happened and since they are not vital to my faith I don’t see a problem with holding their “reporter on the ground historicity” with skepticism.

    The one intervention that I do hang my hat on, though I don’t see any conclusive physical evidence for it either, is the resurrection. I have come to believe that Jesus is my Lord by virtue of the Resurrection.

    Now I don’t deny the miracles or virgin birth or tongues of fire and transfiguration or any of that, but I also don’t feel the need to state those reports as irrefutable fact. I hold those beliefs loosely.

  • rjs

    DRT,

    I think many of the gospel miracles are much more significant than you are allowing. This is where I found NT Wright and his Challenge of Jesus enlightening. The miracles are not window-dressing, they are part-and-parcel of the embodiment of the coming kingdom of God. This is the story-line and an indication of divine action in relationship with his people as part of his mission.

  • http://jeffkclarke.com Jeff

    I agree, RJS.

    DRT,

    I’ve been thinking about Jesus as he commenced his public ministry in Luke 4:23, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”

    Here we see Jesus three-fold ministry beginning to take shape, with miracles being an integral part of it. They in some sense pointed to the arrival of God’s kingdom (at least in part), and to what the fullness of that kingdom would one day look like.

    We also know that John’s intention in writing his Gospel account was evangelistic in scope. And, this witness included, not only Jesus’ words, but also the miraculous.

    “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (Jh. 20:30-31).

    Signs were those things that emphasized the significance of the action rather than the marvel (they also revealed Jesus’ glory). Jesus didn’t perform miraculous signs simply because it seemed like a right thing to do. The signs pointed to (which is what the Greek intends) something beyond the actual event. As I mentioned already, they revealed Jesus’ glory and pointed to the arrival of the Kingdom of God. Obviously, they were more than a peripheral activity to Jesus’ ministry. As such, they were of central significance in revealing his messianic identity.

    In John’s Gospel, Jesus made this statement: “Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father” (11:37-38).

    The reality of the Kingdom of God was demonstrated by these miracles. They pointed to Jesus’ messianic identity and were meant to instill belief in him, along with his teaching.

    In response to John the Baptist’s question concerning his identity, Jesus pointed to his teaching and miracles as evidence (Luke 7:18-23 – also a reflection of Isaiah’s passage about the messiah in 61:1-2. cf. Luke 4:18-21).

    I’ve highlighted these things in the hopes that you will perhaps begin to frame Jesus’ miracles in the context in which he placed them and see that rather than being peripheral (take it or leave it) to faith, they were of central significance.

    Sorry for the length of my response :)

    Blessings…

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    rjs Thanks.

    Jeff,

    Thanks for the lengthy response. I am quite willing to learn, that’s why I state my current position. I will continue to look. Again, thanks brother.

  • Darren King

    RJS, you wrote: “I hope and pray that, as you put it, a whole new generation of scientists who are Christ followers could be raised up and sent out free to do world class science and talk about their faith… I am not sure that most churches have the time, energy, or resource (in people or material) to do the job.”

    I would say that most of all it is vision that is lacking, before time, energy or resources.

  • http://jeffkclarke.com Jeff

    DRT…

    Keep on searching. That’s the great thing about the journey, none of us have arrived yet :)

  • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/babinski-bio.html Edward T. Babinski

    Scott, WHAT DID GOD DO? NUDGE A COSMIC RAY TO MUTATE A SPECIFIC DNA LINAGE IN A SPECIFIC GENE? GOD WOULD ALSO HAVE TO NUDGE SOME COSMIC RAYS AWAY FROM MUTATING A GENE THAT GOD WANTED TO PRESERVE. SO GOD IS NUDGING COSMIC RAYS TO HIT CERTAIN THINGS, AND ALSO NUDGING SOME RAYS AWAY FROM CERTAIN PARTS OF THE GENOME HE WANTS TO MAINTAIN AND PROTECT. IS THAT WHAT YOU BELIEVE? BECAUSE BASED ON WHAT WE KNOW GOD WOULD INDEED HAVE TO BE DOING BOTH. OR, . . GOD ALLOWS EVOLUTION TO OCCUR AS DENIS SUGGESTS.

    Cosmic rays of course are for point mutations. There’s also molecules inside the cell like free radicals that cause mutations when they hit upon a certain part of an exposed DNA chain. And there’s mutations that occur naturally when DNA breaks unevenly during cell division for reproductive cell formation (meiosis). But the same question applies as in the case of cosmic rays. Is God directing where some free radicals float in the cell, and directing breakages in specific places, and also moving some free radicals away from certain points, and preventing some uneven breakages? IT DOESN’T SEEM LIKE GOD IS DOING ANY OF THIS GENETIC ENGINEERING AND PRESERVING BECAUSE THEN WHY IS GOD ALLOWING CHILDREN TO BE BORN WITH HORRENDOUS DEFECTS, AND OTHERS BORN WITH ONCOGENES THAT RAISE THE RISKS OF SPECIFIC DISEASES INCLUDING CANCERS, AUTOIMMUNE AND MUSCULAR DISEASES LATER IN LIFE? IF GOD IS DIRECTING MUTATIONS WHY DO 50% OF FERTILIZED EGGS SIMPLY DIE?

    A similar question involves bodies flying about randomly in space like asteroids that sometimes strike Jupiter, or our moon and earth, and subsequent mass extinctions on earth. The same God who carefully directed the mutations of untold species of dinosaurs to produce just the right Triceratops and T. Rex, then simply shakes up His Designer’s Etch-I-Sketch and kills them all enmasse with a big meteor? That’s a lot of directed mutations to produce just a huge bunch of “designed” creatures to kill them all.

  • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/babinski-bio.html Edward T. Babinski

    Per my previous post, I didn’t realize there were multiple blog authors, such as rjs, so I imagined I was addressing “Scott” above.

    Wanting to keep God in the evolutionary loop just raises different questions, questions that I elucidated above.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    It may look like this or that, but scripture says that God in Jesus holds it all together, so that whatever is happening is dependent on God’s continued work. There’s mystery here, and I might want to see the established order as the rule, with exceptions to the rule such as the virgin birth of Christ, which of course can never be verified scientifically, since science can work only in accordance with the rule, and keep working on that, which in itself is open ended.

  • rjs

    Edward,

    Do not use all caps to make a point or the comment will be deleted. Contribute to conversation and all points of view can certainly join in. But keep it short and to the point. Don’t include long quotes from other sources, interact with the material and present ideas.

    Seems to me that you have a faulty notion of providential divine action. There is no proposal for tinkering with and producing specific mutations at specific times, by cosmic rays or any other source.

    Mutations certainly can and do introduce cause individual suffering and this is a question that needs to be addressed.

  • http://jeffkclarke.com Jeff

    RJS,

    Thanks :)

    Regarding Edward’s concerns about God directing mutations that cause harm to people (i.e., children), I would direct him (and others as well) to consider Greg Boyd’s ‘Evolution-as-Cosmic Warfare’ thesis (his essay can be found in “Creation Made Free-Open Theology Engaging Science” edited by Thomas Oord). It doesn’t answer all the questions he posed, but does provide us with what I think to be a biblical, and sound, option to help us better understand what has, and is, happening.

    Maybe there are other forces at work, corrupting nature’s evolutionary processes as Boyd points out. I would at least read his essay as a basis for additional research. I found it helpful.

    Blessings…

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    RJS,

    Good post. Sorry I arrived late to this party. Some of what you said surprised me a little. It is always good to see how you describe your presuppositions.

    “Bottom line – no a priori commitment to intervention in origins, no a priori commitment against intervention in origins. We go with the evidence wherever it may lead. And wherever it leads – God did it. He ordains all. He sustains all.”

    I agree. Well put.

    You still don’t think the fossil evidence suggests some inference of intervention? I just don’t see you following the fossil evidence wherever it leads.

  • rjs

    pds,

    No – I don’t think the fossil evidence suggests interference; but that is a subject for other posts (I’m not going to get into that discussion here).

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    RJS,

    One more thought– even if you don’t have an a priori commitment against intervention in origins, don’t you think you have a strong “thumb on the scale” against interventions?

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

    Sorry for coming to the party a bit late folks,
    I’m in the final week of classes & all the pain associated with that time (papers & exams to correct).

    It seems that RSJ is reacting (more accurately, over-reacting) to my Chapter 3.

    RSJ writes:
    Evolutionary creation, as Dr. Lamoureux defines it, describes a position that takes a metaphysical leap and insists that God did not and would not intervene in origins as a postulate rather than a conclusion. . . .

    RSJ then adds:
    But, and this is the big caveat, I also see no reason to state as an a priori commitment that God did not intervene in origins, nor do I see any reason for the rather ARROGANT [my italics] idea that we now understand the Will of God well enough to assert categorically that he would not have intervened in the origin of the universe or the origin of life. . . .

    RSJ concludes:
    We need to retain a HUMILITY [my italics] in our pronouncements and in our approach to understanding. To make a categorical statement about what God did or did not, would or would not do, outside of the realm of evidence is, at its heart, a metaphysical statement no more justifiable than the statement that God must have intervened and left evidence of his intervention.

    Well RSJ, why don’t you read what you wrote prior to these three passages:

    Dr. Lamoureux allows that gaps could exist in creation, indicating divine action by intervention, but a look at the history of gap arguments shows that the gaps proposed have consistently closed and there is no reason to expect that any of the remaining gaps are insurmountable.

    Here is what I actually said in EC on p. 60:
    The God-of-the-gaps understanding of divine action is LOGICAL and REASONABLE. If gaps really exist in nature, then science will identify them, and they will “widen” with further research. That is, as scientists probe a “true gap” over time, physical evidence will increase and point away from natural processes accounting for the origin or operation of a physical structure. Consequently, such a gap in nature would provide scientific evidence for a supernatural intervention by God.

    The fact that I leave gaps as a possibility means the following: I leave gaps as a possibility, and therefore I DO NOT close the door either A PRIORI or CATEGORICALLY on interventionism in origins. It may well be that the origin of life is such a case. However, this argument is a HISTORICAL ARGUMENT; and I have yet to see any evidence for any gaps. If you have some evidence for gaps, please show me.

    Finally, let me add RSJ: I appreciate you taking the time to review my work, but suffer me not with the judgmental tone and judgmental language (eg, arrogant, humility).

    Regards,
    Denis

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

    Oops!
    Sorry RJS, I wrote RSJ.
    DOL

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    Denis #37,

    I actually think RJS read you pretty fairly, and I don’t see her using much of a “judgmental tone” either.

    You said,

    “The fact that I leave gaps as a possibility means the following: I leave gaps as a possibility, and therefore I DO NOT close the door either A PRIORI or CATEGORICALLY on interventionism in origins.”

    But the following discussion on pages 60-62 seems to slam the door shut pretty hard.

    By the way, from what I see in this section, I don’t think you are addressing ID arguments in their strongest form. ID proponents agree that true “gap” arguments should be avoided. They make great efforts (successful in my opinion) to show that their arguments are not the weak gap arguments that you describe. If you want to convince people, you need to address the ID arguments in their strongest form.

  • rjs

    Denis,

    I was frustrated by some of the wording in the section on pp. 60-62, and this sparked my comments in the post, but the commentary was directed not just at this section of your book but at (as I noted in the post) a very similar approach, often more hard-lined, that I’ve noted in a number of books on creation and evolution. It frustrates me because I think it builds a barrier and makes it harder to teach evolutionary creation in the church.

    But I was really trying to get a conversation on divine action started with the post.

    Tomorrow intelligent design – you yourself note that your position here is somewhat controversial. Perhaps it will lead to some good conversation.

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

    40 RJS says:
    “Denis,
    I was frustrated by some of the wording in the section on pp. 60-62, and this sparked my comments in the post . . .”

    Well if you’re frustrated with my wording, I was irritated by your wording. Bringing in judgmental language (arrogant, need for humility)doesn’t help.

    And I’d like to know what wording is so problematic. Heck, the section opens with me saying the God-of-the-gaps is LOGICAL and REASONABLE. What more do you want?

    Denis


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