Evangelical Evolutionary Religious Naturalism

Evangelical Evolutionary Religious Naturalism February 1, 2012

Michael Dowd has a blog post that reworks some fundamental tenets of Evangelicalism to be more in keeping with his own naturalistic and evolutionary faith. The whole thing is worth reading (and so I encourage you to click through to read it), but here are the key elements of his transformed creed:

Reality is my God, evidence is my scripture, and integrity is my religion. I trust life. I trust time. I trust the truth.

I know that Integrity is the key to joy and that I cannot walk this path alone; I need others. Living “in Christ”, with no resentments, no secrets, or unfinished business, I know the peace that passes all understanding and can embrace my mortality and honor death as no less sacred than life.

Lasting freedom and happiness will elude me unless I make right relationship to Reality/God my highest commitment, and keep choosing Big Integrity as my compass one day at a time.

How can I not express love and compassion, share the good news, and do everything in my power to ensure a thriving future for planet Earth and for the millions of species that constitute my larger family? What greater calling could there be? What more honorable legacy could I leave?

I would be very interested to hear from more traditional Evangelicals, progressives and panentheists, as well as atheists, to find out whether a creed of this sort is one that pretty much anyone in any of these categories could affirm, or whether there are elements that you find problematic. I’m also curious whether the very possibility of a creed that transcends one particular religious viewpoint would be considered a good thing or a bad thing by both adherents to and detractors from religion alike.


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  • spinkham

    Mohler is always great for a line: “Dowd gives even heresy a bad name.”

    I’m frankly jealous. 😉

    It’s not a bad statement of progressive Christianity, and that framework might help people who miss something about the Christian religion (Spong is patron saint here), but it doesn’t really speak to me.

    There’s just too much redefining of words that already have such baggage attached to them(for me anyway). Perhaps in consequence of the tradition it draws from, it uses anthropomorphic and teleological language much more than I am comfortable with.

    In many ways it’s the same ideas as the Humanist Manifesto III, but that is written in a style of language that speaks much more strongly to me. But I’m a programmer, and perhaps my artist wife would see it differently. 😉

    I do believe we need new stories and this seems to be an attempt at getting there from the Christian tradition, but this just has too much baggage for me.  On the other hand, I’ve already broken from my Christian tradition, and I know it’s quite helpful for some people to instead redefine and continue to use the terms their parents used.  In some way it seems to help them feel in the same stream of tradition as they were. For them, progressive (or “evolutionary”) Christianity is great. 😉

    I think if you want to build the next great religion/philosophy, Buddhism seems to have better language and tradition for doing so. Stephen Bachelor seem to be trying to do just that.

    I think you’re also on a better track: Scifi (and fiction in general) does help pull us out of our comfort zones and discuss the big issues, as well as give some insight on other available paths in the small ones, and it does it without using patronizing language. 😉

  • skinman

    I am an atheist.  I lack a belief in a god or gods.  Accepting a creed, in my opinion, is a step toward religion and I have no interest in that.  Especially if that creed references christ or god or any religious figure.
    That being said, I appreciate anyone who accepts the facts that science lays out for us.  I appreciate anyone who understands the need for us to take care of our planet.  So good for Michael Dowd, I wish there were more christians in the world like him.

  • Tim

    I’ll be honest, I’ve read that “creed” three times now, and as far as I can tell, it’s pretty much straightforward, old fashioned existentialism. If it speaks for everyone, then it really doesn’t say anything. Capitalizing words to make them potentially fit a readers idea of a god while also abstracting them with nonpersonal terms doesn’t seem to make it a true fit for anyone.

  • cameronhorsburgh

    I struggled with the bites you put up, but in their broader context they’re pretty much where I’m headed with my own thinking anyway. I can certainly affirm the centrality of reality, and I’ll allow a level of identity of reality with God, although the nature and the extent of that identification is up in the air for me.

    I suspect Dowd would be right at home amongst process theologians. I’m not sure what he’d make of process metaphysics though. (Actually, I’m still not sure what process philosophers make of process metaphysics, but that’s another story!)

    • I feel similarly. This is the way I’ve tended to put matters lately: 

      Reality is transcendent, eternal (something, I think it is safe to say, always existed), and produced you and I. Denying the existence of Reality makes no sense whatsoever. And so the question is not so much “Does God exist?” but “What is the nature of Reality?” and “What metaphors are appropriate for pointing to those aspects of transcendent Reality that are unfathomable to us and yet in relation to which we cannot but understand and reflect on our own existence?” 

  • Dylan

    James, though you clearly do not affirm the existence of an anthropomorphic god that traditional christians believe in, do you believe that there is a “God” out there who transcends this world and is in whatever sense divine?  If not, what is your thought about God or the supernatural not just the transcendent?  

    • Dylan, I apologize for the delay in replying. I found your question less than clear. On the one hand, you make reference to God transcending the world, and yet seem to be looking for something “not just the transcendent” while on the other hand you say “whatever sense divine” which seems to me to be so vague that any answer would be unhelpful and potentially misleading. Could you clarify your question, perhaps?

      • Dylan

        I guess I am wondering what you mean when you profess a belief in God.. Do you believe that God is a seperate entity who transcends the physical universe or do you see God like a pantheist sees God as just being one and the same as the universe?

        • I find the imagery of panentheism helpful, more than pantheism or theism. But from our human perspective we barely glimpse where transcendence begins, and so I am not sure how fruitful it is to engage in disputes about if and where transcendence ends.