Saturday, March 7, 2009

Addressing Theistic Evolution

I am here continuing to comment on Chris’ latest post, “Re-hashing Nicely an Old Debate.” In comment 4, the following quote is given which is a theistic evolutionary concept of evolution, more or less. I will continue to comment back at Chris’ post, but am putting this here because of length, importance, and to specifically address theistic evolution.

"It is possible to believe that God created the world while also accepting that the planets, mountains, plants, and animals came about, after the initial creation, by natural processes. In theological parlance, God may act through secondary causes. Similarly, at the personal level of the individual, I can believe that I am God's creature without denying that I developed from a single cell in my mother's womb by natural processes. For the believer the providence of God impacts personal life and world events through natural causes. The point, once again, is that scientific conclusions and religious beliefs concern different sorts of issues, belong to different realms of knowledge; they do not stand in contradiction."

(Ayala, Francisco J. Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 2007. p. 175)

Given the analogy above, the single cell in the womb is irrelevant to the topic at hand. Why? Because, that speaks of what the Bible speaks of before any human philosophy tainted reality, that we are each after our own kinds (Gen 1:11, 21, 24, 25, 28). “For Thou did form my inward parts, Thou did weave me in my mother’s womb… I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:23-24). There is no “evolution” for us to grow into children and adults, that is growth that God created from the get-go, “each producing after their own kinds.” The “natural processes” of this growth are here DECEPTIVELY being attached to “natural selection” and “natural processes” which evolution claims drives and creates our world. Furthermore, this quote is theologically terrible, for it is totally confusing God’s creative acts which were “finished” the seventh day and from which God rested from all His labors saying, “It WAS (past creative event) VERY good;” (Gen 1:31)- with God’s providence. God’s creative acts are miraculous for sure, meaning God employed in them either a suspension of natural law or a replacement of natural law with a higher temporary law of God’s power. Either way, natural processes, although they very well may have been a part of God’s creation as recorded in Genesis 1, are not the primary means of that creation. And, creation is finished and good before the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Providence on the other hand is God currently working through natural processes towards us and to fulfill His purposes. However, there is nothing implied in Scripture that says this creates something entirely new such as a new species, and there are valid reasons as I mention here to say it contradicts Scripture. Mountains forming are just that, a reformation of something already there, but still identified as the same thing. Certainly, a far cry from “evolution.” In other words and to sum up using the womb analogy, David was crediting God with “creating” him after “his kind,” or with continuing the replication of God’s finished acts of creation as described in the 6 day creation. The “creating” of David in his mother’s womb was not a new species!!!

Theistic evolution maintains that God’s creative work was accomplished by means of ongoing evolutionary processes. There is therefore no clear beginning and therefore no clear end, creation and providence are muddled into one. As I have pointed out above, THAT is Scripturally unsound. It is fair and correct to think that God’s providence lies in the realm of what Hebrews 1:3 says, “He upholds all things by the Word of His power.” God is so immanent in this it is astounding! But to confuse that immanence with God’s initial creation is theological ineptitude and the work of the devil. I will explain myself further for such strong claims, if you bear with me. By the way and to credit Sarah, I think we can much re-think what providence is, and realize we have hardly probed its depths. It is certainly not a prescribed existence we live out without risk, care, love, interaction and freedom between God and ourselves. I don’t pretend to understand the Providence of God.

Now, herein is a bigger problem, the fact that theistic evolution is self-contradictory. The premise of the evolutionary concept is that current natural processes can account for the entire geosphere and biosphere, and once this essence is denied, which it is by theistic evolution, evolution collapses. This is why I think Francis Collins denies Intelligent Design, because it brings out into the light the inherent self-contradiction of a theistic evolutionary position. Basically, theistic evolution co-opts God’s intervention such as might be argued with abiogenesis or the creation of energy itself, or the existence of matter, or the forming of complex systems, or the coding of DNA, or the teleological inherent order of the cosmos toward more complex systems despite the second law of thermodynamics for such “closed systems” to degenerate. Or to use the example given above, “It is possible to believe that God created the world while also accepting that the planets, mountains, plants, and animals came about, after the initial creation, by natural processes.”

Science fails to explain natural law, yet alone the religion and philosophy of evolution trying to do so (which it doesn’t of course). Science merely observes natural law. In other words, science can not speak of that which is the parameters of its own existence. Without natural law, there would be no science, no testability, for there would be no yard stick of measurability. The low entropy of complex systems in the universe is directly maintained by natural law. “Natural processes” are merely an outworking of natural laws exerted on God’s finished creation, which laws can not at all be explained by science, and truly is the parameters of choice of our God for our universe. The Law of gravitational force states that the mass of two bodies divided by its distance squared, gives the measurement of its gravitational force. We know this merely by observation and testability. But God could very well have made it the distance cubed rather than squared or some other variable. Further, nothing is actually scientific unless it can at present be disproven. Evolution and many of its axioms (I say axioms because it is a philosophy more than a science), are not testable. Anything neither provable nor unprovable can be called science.


Chris, what you are proposing here by using this quote, is theistic evolution, wherein lie many theological and Biblical concerns. You have not yet addressed the issue I have proposed to you of biblical literalism as posed and propagated by Christ Jesus and the New Testament regarding Genesis. Furthermore, by trying to “solve” the seeming problem of “scientific conclusions” which obviously to the minds of some, negates the truth of the Old Testament’s historicity, you and anyone subscribing to such theistic evolution, create more problems than you solve. The intent may indeed be good, with the spirit of it done with “reasonable pragmatism” in a scientific world, but nonetheless, greater problems remain. This may not be evident to you as of yet. But I want to suggest some rather astounding realities of the god of this world, who has taken much of Christian philosophical unity in all disciplines, and shut us Christians up to private inner lives only as the paradigm of our faith and of truth.

I want to do this by looking to the final concluding statement of the quote from Ayala;

"The point, once again, is that scientific conclusions and religious beliefs concern different sorts of issues, belong to different realms of knowledge; they do not stand in contradiction."

Is this really true? Is Genesis 1-3 historical or fiction or allegory or just spiritual? The God who saved us is historical in our own lives. Many of us testify to outright “miracles,” wherein in our specific “histories” supernatural realities and events take place in and toward us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Israel experienced its God in its history. That history can not be watered down to half truths at a historical level. Genesis is clearly a historical document as far as the Bible and Jesus Himself are concerned. (Granted Genesis 1 does have flexibility, though not the kind Francis Collins goes ballistic with). That settles it for me. If that does not settle it for other Christians, well, they have to answer to God for that when they meet Him. Anyway, we are all suffering as Evangelicals from isolation, fragmentation, abuse, and post-modernity. I want to give a few quotes from David Wells book “No Place for Truth” and then relate the consequences of the kind of thinking that says “The Bible over here,… science over there,..great, no contradiction.” What they don’t tell you is, “No contradiction, just so much pressure, silently, so much isolation, so much keeping your faith to yourself, because, YOU IDIOT, THE BIBLE IS NOT SCIENTIFIC!”

David Wells;

“The great sin in Fundamentalism is to compromise; the great sin in Evangelicalism is to be narrow.”

“The impulses of modernity have generally sundered private from public. The result of this among evangelicals was that their characteristic beliefs were increasingly limited to matters of private experience, increasingly shorn of their distinctive worldview, and increasingly withdrawn from what was external and public. Being evangelical has come to mean simply that one has had a certain kind of religious experience that gives color to the private aspects of daily life but in which few theological elements can be discerned or, as it turns out, are necessary. Evangelical faith is pursued as a matter of internal fascination but abandoned as a matter of external and public relevance, except in the areas of social relief, where evangelicals have a more exemplary record than any other religious group according to Gallup’s polling.”

“Good works are seldom offensive in the modern world; it is the belief in truth that is troublesome.”

“The evangelical form of separation is as real as was that of the Fundamentalists; it is simply not as effective, and it is much more damaging to the Protestantism of which they are the heirs”
(pages 129-131; chapter- Things Fall Apart).

Now let me take a step back for a second. I think Wyatt has identified, (he has a beautiful way about him and his concerns), the fact that as Evangelicals there is a desire to “come out of the closet” so to speak. When Sarah mentioned this could be her “coming out of the cave” back at her Evolution post, I think the sentiments are similar. We all have multiple reasons for personal exploration of our world views which includes our “faith.” I have mentioned in my mind, many atheists are driven by emotional issues more than logical ones, with regards being atheists. Evangelical Christians, first off all have our emotional baggage from our childhood, then from the Church (which ain’t what it’s cracked up to be), then from the world at large. Secondly, we are often “driven” by the spiritual orthodox reasons of our faith. But in the “real world,” as David Wells so nicely puts it, we are “irrelevant.” Why? Well, many reasons exist, such as post-modernity and materialism and the “purposeless” implied. But, we also have a world philosophy the likes of which the world has never seen, purporting itself not as a philosophy or as a religion requiring incredible faith for its “true adherents,” but as SCIENCE. Behind this theory lies humanism, which for all intense purposes, wants nothing to do with God. Now, I ask, is it any wonder, Ayala is chanting (unknowingly I imagine) the mantra of the god of this world, and selling it to Christians as “theological parlance?” We bite because we are tired of the separation in our lives of church and state, or rather church and “the world,” or “church and science.” We ache for more than an impotent inner world of belief, useless to the world at large, which drives us into further isolation. Therefore, I believe we think this is not within the realm of acceptability to “stand on God’s Word” as it is clearly written. We find ways to harmonize Scripture with the bastardized science of evolution which has run rampant like a computer virus through the whole scientific community. We have accepted the deceptive and false tenant of their faith, “this is science.” Once we accept this, what choice is there but to be a theistic evolutionist? Let me be clear, we do not reject this claim because we have to based on Scripture, we reject it because scientifically it is false. At best evolution is an untestable scientific hypothesis with myriads of philosophical axioms, not scientific ones. Therefore, it should not be taught in classrooms as anything more than a philosophy or a religion. Why should we teach it here or speak of it or accept it as “bona fide” scientific theory?

Now, getting back to what David Wells has identified as a large part of the spiritual problem plaguing evangelicalism, I would like to say this, “truth” as Jesus said He was, is not confined to “spiritual” only. Now to be fair to Ayala’s quote, yes, the Bible is not a science textbook and neither is science descriptive of spiritual reality.

I will now quote a Christian scientist, Professor Andrews who says something strikingly similar to David Wells but as a scientist, rather than as a theologian.

“The divorce between science and religion is one of the most significant aspects of our modern philosophical scene. The unity of truth and knowledge, which has always been a prime objective of thinkers down the ages, has been all but abandoned by our Western culture. It has been replaced by a schizophrenic world-view which divorces the ‘real’ pragmatic world of science (the material world) from the insubstantial thought-world in which philosophy and religious belief are permitted to function, like birds imprisoned in a cage of subjectivity. The dichotomy between our inner and outward lives is bound to introduce serious tensions to both the personal and social levels” (Prof EH Andrews; God, Science, Evolution).

The parallels to Wells are striking such as “inner-outward lives” and worlds, and such as “subjectivity,” fragmentation of science and religion akin to the sundering of private and public lives as mentioned by Wells. Who is the author of all this? Is it merely Darwin? Am I really to consider Darwinism a “gift?” “Every good and perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). Well, in this case it’s not “perfect”, it’s “evolving” and it’s not from “above” and it’s definitely not a “non-variable.”

So what about it? Let’s get back to “the unity of truth and knowledge.” But as Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) Is it theistic evolution?

“Awake, awake,
Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city.
For the uncircumcised and the unclean
Will no longer come into you.
Shake yourself from the dust, rise up,
O captive Jerusalem;
Loose yourself from the chains around your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion” (Isaiah 52:1-2).

6 comments:

Christopher said...

Suneal,

Thank you for going out on a limb and writing your article. I really appreciate the time you took to look into, and think about the matter of theistic evolution as it squares (or doesn't) with what you understand as God's creative processes.

There are a couple of things from your article that stood out to me. I will take them up here.

P1. “Providence on the other hand is God currently working through natural processes towards us and to fulfill His purposes.”

P2. “Theistic evolution maintains that God’s creative work was accomplished by means of ongoing evolutionary processes. There is therefore no clear beginning and therefore no clear end, creation and providence are muddled into one.”

P3. “By the way and to credit Sarah, I think we can much re-think what providence is, and realize we have hardly probed its depths.”

P4. “I don’t pretend to understand the Providence of God.”

Now, I understand that your article wasn't specifically about God's providence but about whether theistic evolution can be accepted in light of basic hermeneutical approaches from Scripture, and philosophical observations. However, one of the pivotal points of your thesis suggests that God's creative urge would, in His providence, not be expressed via theistic evolution.

You may be right. I don't know.

However, I cannot reconcile your view with the four propositions I've highlighted above. In the first proposition (P), you lay out a reasonable definition of providence. In the second P, you suggest that both creation and providence are accounted for within the framework of theistic evolution, even though, it seems to you, that creation and providence “are muddled into one.” In the third P, you admit to having to recalibrate your thoughts on what providence actually is, and cite the shallowness of our current understandings. In the fourth P – and this is where I really get confused – you outright admit to not understanding providence at all.

Stay with me here. I won't belabour this aspect of your article for too long (at least, according to what I consider 'too long'!).

As it turns out, P1 would directly contradict P4, and make a formidable question out of P2. How could you reasonably define providence if you simultaneously admit to not understanding the providence of God? How are you able to suggest that creation and providence are “muddled into one” if you admit to not knowing what providence is? How are you perceiving providence as distinct from God's creative act and also maintaining that your distinction is indiscernible within the context of theistic evolution? Shouldn't they remain the same if your understandings and distinctions are sufficiently accurate?

At this point, I am simply questioning the internal logic of the four P I've listed above. I may be wrong in my estimations of what they are suggesting. If so, I'm happy to accept that.

But lets deal with another part of your article. You wrote the following: “Chris, what you are proposing here by using this quote, is theistic evolution, wherein lie many theological and Biblical concerns. You have not yet addressed the issue I have proposed to you of biblical literalism as posed and propagated by Christ Jesus and the New Testament regarding Genesis.”

Yes, you're right: I proposed an understanding commonly held to be theistic evolution. I did not propose it as a de facto understanding of reality, however. I proposed it as part of an on-going conversation. I thought it reasonable to include a voice that speaks in another direction other than evangelical creationism, or naturalistic evolution. There are models for synthesis out there, so why not include them as meaningful voices in this conversation? Whether 'theistic evolution' is my particular understanding of origins – to my way of thinking – is almost irrelevant in an open-ended discussion that even the best minds admit we simply don't know. It's all theorizing under a certain set of biases, presuppositions, and assumed contexts.

As to Christ's literalism, I'm not sure what you're asking me to do, Suneal. Are you asking me to compare Christ's words with Old Testament narrative to come to a conclusion about origins? Are you asking me to use specific quotes from Christ as they refer to Old Testament passages concerning the nature of God's Word? What are those specific quotes, if so?

More, biblical literalism has a couple of different strains: media-hyped literalism, and traditional literalism. The first strain is easily dismissed as overwrought nonsense, so I'm certain you're not going in that direction. However, the second strain requires some footwork from you if I'm to understand what you're asking of me. First, what our present-day theological systems have passed down to us as 'literalism' may not be the same literalism present in Christ's day. Take for example the two major schools of biblical interpretation present in Christ's day: Hillel and Shammai. Would you like me to interpret Christ's words 'literally' through my present-day theological lineages? Or would you like me to assume that I can understand Christ's use of a certain strain of literalism and then interpret accordingly?

There is a lot of dissonance at this point, so I'm not sure where to go with what you're asking me. What are you after here?

Okay, I'll leave things there for now. I'm enjoying our discussion, bud. Let's keep it going.

God bless you.

suneal said...

Right now Chris, and thank you for acknowledging my work, but right now you sound like my brother who does not want to say anything "straight."

"Decent conversation"...ummm, what did that mean again to you? Oh yeah, you never answered that either.

Think on these two words- "theology" "experience." That takes care of your belief P1 contradicts p4.

Abel- blood shed, Mat 23:34-35, spoken by Christ. Does that mean Jesus will shake THIS here mentioned Abel's hand spoken of ALSO in Genesis 4:1-9 and in heaven give HIM (SINGULAR and a HUMANOID) a big fat hug? (Or some other awesome reception)

Christopher said...

Suneal,

I'm not going to accept your projection of Arun onto me. Here's why: it's an ad hominem statement that gets us nowhere.

What you see as not wanting to answer anything in a forward manner is simply me sifting you for the possible variables in your thoughts. More, it is me avoiding being placed into a 'camp' wherein my answers are relegated to this-or-that sphere of theology or experience. Since I am capable of recognizing that not everything you want to call me to account for has one definite, certain set of answers; and since your article, and my response, is largely to do with epistemological probings into the possibilities of origins as set out in Scripture, I will take my freedom to explore the options your thoughts present to me.

When it comes to 'origins', I feel remarkably free to employ a maxim I coined in bible college: "all answers are questions marked by a period."

suneal said...

Chris, I do not expect you to answer my question. I wish to close our conversation on this topic of evolution altogether. I feel that is best if you don't mind, in the interests of Christian charity.

Blessings on you and Sarah and your family.

Christopher said...

Suneal,

You wrote the following:

"To Christopher:

Abel- blood shed, Mat 23:34-35, spoken by Christ. Does that mean Jesus will shake THIS here mentioned Abel's hand spoken of ALSO in Genesis 4:1-9 and in heaven give HIM (SINGULAR and a HUMANOID) a big fat hug? (Or some other awesome reception)"


Note that I erased your comment, not because I don't appreciate your on-going efforts, but because I don't want to publically broadcast my last name, if it can be helped. Your comment is reproduced here with my last name omitted.

As to Abel, I'm not sure what you're on about. If Christ shakes his hand, or gives him some kind of special reception in heaven, what does that have to do with anything here?

Sarah said...

Christian charity is another one of those phrases of which I'd be interested in exploring the meaning and thereby, purpose.

Hmmm, maybe another post on the horizon, which isn't actually a line, and keeps receding-- blasted lack of clarity!!! Ugh, couldn't God have just made it a bloody LINE? I mean really, why all this, line-but-not-really-a-line nonsense? So what if it's a sphere?! If GOD wanted a line at the edge, surely He could have made one! I think He just wants to test our faith.

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