Posts Tagged ‘theistic evolution’

Review: Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution

January 9th, 2011 | 10 Comments

Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to EvolutionEvolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution by Denis O. Lamoureux

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have long maintained that we cannot hope for a broad acceptance of evolution among evangelicals until the heavy theological questions are acknowledged and a plausible approach to the theological quandaries evolution creates are sketched out — followed by rather than in reaction to an explanation of the science behind it. This is what Denis Lamoureux aspires to do in Evolutionary Creation.

This book bears the name of Lamoureux’s recommended term for exclusively non-interventionist “theistic evolution”. In discussing scientific strengths of evolutionary theory, I especially appreciated how Lamoureux supplements a respectable treatment of genetic evidence for common descent by lending his unique perspective as a dentist to present the considerable paleontological evidence from analysis of teeth and jawbones. His critique of special creationism and intelligent design was clinical and admirably civil, but fervent nonetheless.

Lamoureux spends considerable space presenting a view of the Bible’s authority that doesn’t take its scientific or even all of its historical claims as accurate. In his memorable terminology, he rejects scientific and historical concordism, the beliefs that an authoritative Bible demands full agreement between the authors’ understanding and scientific/historical reality on those matters. This is a good and necessary start, and I found his candor about theological problems and uncertainties commendable. Yet ultimately I found rather weak his basic assumption that a “message of faith”, a divinely guaranteed spiritual message, lay embedded within every passage; I found that he offered no compelling rationale for discarding scientific or historical concordism while retaining what appears to be merely nuanced theological concordism.

One more significant component of the book is its detailed account of Lamoureux’s “evolution” of thought on these matters, beginning with creationism, followed by evolution acceptance and atheism, then back to creationism, and finally to acceptance of evolution. One should not underestimate the potential of testimony for creating empathy and so attracting outsiders.

Due to this book’s impressive attempt at being a comprehensive volume giving at least an overview of all areas touched by “evolutionary creation”, it is not for the casual reader. For someone who wants to delve deep into the theological and scientific issues swirling around the debate, it seems a great introduction, almost textbook-like (indeed, I can see it being used in Christian college environments). Evolutionary Creation will serve as a useful introduction for those wanting a thorough discussion of all these matters.

(Please note: this book review first appeared at Goodreads. I’m just getting into that site and noticed that I could post my review as a blog post; hence this.)

Evolution as creation: for the kids

September 7th, 2010 | 1 Comment

How many times have I solicited suggestions for children’s materials of one sort or another presenting evolution as creation?

I gnashed my teeth when one highly capable friend (who has since gone into hybernation!) mentioned that his version of this project had been put on the back-burner. I thrilled to see someone else also show interest in working toward this goal (although I fear this project, too, has stalled indefinitely). I myself (actually, my daughter) discovered one possibility, but it diplomatically focuses more on geology than biology and may well be out of print by now, anyway.

But did I ever actually seek to fill this void myself? Nope. This despite the fact that I would enjoy such a project very much.

Well, Arni Zachariassen has done the sensible thing and stepped up to the plate.  Good on him!

I’m not picky. Textbooks would be great, and storybooks such as Arni’s project would be likelier to capture the heart and mind of the child with the wonder and majesty of nature at an early age; I certainly wouldn’t complain if both became available!

Any more takers?

Clash of Titans: Christianity vs. Dr. Mohler’s theology

August 26th, 2010 | 10 Comments

The fireworks continue between BioLogos and the esteemed Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology and President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, God’s chosen Arbiter of Faithful Readings of the Scriptures, and official representative of the spirit of biblical interpretation on earth, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. The latter has responded to Karl Giberson’s own response to an unreadably ignorant lecture recently given by The Great Baptist Paraclete.

A lot of the specific furor has been over Mohler’s original charge (it was no bland statement) that Darwin’s important trip aboard the Beagle was undertaken in search for evidence for an already assumed evolution. Giberson’s objection to this mischaracterization of history and Darwin’s motives is duly noted, but I myself am not so sure that Giberson’s stance that Darwin was still consciously nursing his “childhood faith” when he left aboard the Beagle is quite right, either.

Still, to acknowledge that Darwin’s faith was already somewhat cultural and never particularly personal as Mohler is intent to do is not at all to grant the demonstrably and consciously false implication of Mohler (and his fellow rotten teeth in Fundagelicalism) that Darwin was intent to find ways to bolster a rejection of a “literal” reading of Genesis — still less of faith in God’s creative role in general. The Beagle naturalist Darwin was a man who struggled more with problematic tenets of Christianity and organized religion in general, and not until his heart-breaking family crisis much later in life did his doubts orbit the question of the basic existence of God.

For Mohler, though, this would make no difference: the fact that he would even question Mohler’s understanding of “orthodox Christianity” at all would make any compatible beliefs he held highly suspect at best. This is where the best part of Giberson’s latest response picks up:

Let me conclude by responding to your charge that what I “have actually succeeded in doing is to show how much doctrine Christianity has to surrender in order to accommodate itself to evolution.” As a theological layperson, I hesitate to engage a trained theologian on this question, but let me rush in where angels fear to tread and offer that “doctrines” are human constructs, much like “theories” are in science. They are not facts—they are explanations or interpretations of facts.

You seem to equate your understanding of how the Bible should be read with plain-fact Christian orthodoxy. There we must part ways, and I suspect that at the end of the day, this may be the real point of contention. I do not think that I am showing how much doctrine Christianity has to surrender, but how problematic fundamentalist literalism is for engaging science. [my emphasis]

You’re darned right that this is “the real point of contention”! As Mohler stated categorically, “The theory of evolution is incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ even as it is in direct conflict with any faithful reading of the Scriptures.” The poor guy’s fear is explicitly the “costs” of accepting evolution “in terms of theological concessions.” Concessions? Would the decision to consider another piece of (rock solid) evidence in order to help us in our interpretation of Scripture mean that we’d actually have to reevaluate something we had already believed without examining? Might one honestly approaching the scientific evidence in order to help better understand Christianity as it actually exists, which to varying degrees it always does independently of our perceptions of that reality, be forced to “concede” that an earlier perception was incomplete, inadequate, or even just plain wrong?

If that’s so unthinkable, Dr. Al, you’re right: you better run from evolution like the plague.