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Theistic Evolution: A First Impression

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Friday, December 8, 2017

Part 1

Although I’m somewhat late in completing a couple of committed book reviews, I’ll take the liberty of interrupting that process to share some musings on another book. November 30 was the publication date of this book:

J. P. Moreland, Stephen C. Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann K. Gauger, and Wayne Grudem, eds. Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017.

It is over a thousand pages long, of which 939 comprise the text with footnotes. I knew the book was coming and had already realized that I did not want to spend the time reading, let alone reviewing, this massive book. There are many other people more capable than I who will be doing that. But yesterday, a friend of mine gave me his free copy which he said he knew he would never read. As I flipped through the tome and read excerpts, I felt I wanted to share some thoughts and feelings. I would not ask any publisher to publish this but in this forum I feel free to say what I think. I hasten to add that all my comments are solely my personal opinions and do not in any way reflect the opinions of the ASA or anyone else. I also want to encourage any of you with differing views to share your comments. I learn much more from those of you who disagree with me than from those who share my opinions.

I will post some thoughts in the future about the content of the book. In this post I merely want to express my emotions at the existence of the book itself and what it says to me. In a tangible way, the book symbolizes a sharp repudiation of the effort for which I and many others have devoted so much time. We have urged that the core issues of the relationship between science and Christian faith be discussed freely with each other in a Christian spirit of civility and respect for one another. We have also held that science and Christian faith are inherently in harmony and we seek to understand that harmony in more depth. This book dispenses with all such attitudes and comes out swinging. It is an uncompromising attack on evolutionary creation, which I believe is now held by a majority of scientists who are Christians, though not by the broader non-scientific Christian community. The authors yield no slack for any other views and leave no door ajar for discussion. There is little evidence that effort was made to ensure that opposing views were included or were correctly articulated and addressed if they were. Even the title conveys a subtle message of antagonism. They authors are well aware that the term “evolutionary creation” has supplanted “theistic evolution” for more than a decade. Yet, they chose to continue with the older term, probably because it is more widely recognized but perhaps also because “theistic evolution” has been around long enough to attract an antagonistic reputation in the Christian community.

It didn’t have to be this way. The recently published book by BioLogos and Reasons to Believe is an excellent example:

Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation?: Discussing Origins with Reasons to Believe and BioLogos by Kenneth Keathley  (Editor),‎ J. B. Stump  (Editor),‎ Joe Aguirre (Editor)

Rather than simply publishing a book opposing the other viewpoints, these organizations, to their great credit, spent a great deal of time in personal discussion and in jointly writing their respect views. This is a demonstration of Christian love and respect that is a model for all of us. The ASA has always had a policy of not taking a stand on an issue for which there is honest disagreement among Christians. Its aim has been to encourage diversity of opinions among its members and to foster open discussion of differing views in spirit of love and civility. While not every interaction has measured up to its ideal, the organization continues to aim for constructive dialog. It is fair for those who oppose theistic evolution to publish their ideas. It is paramount that such attacks include an openness to respect other views and, preferably, to give voice to their response. No such attitude is apparent in a cursory look through the book. I hope to find some on a closer reading but the message is clear.

Personally, I find the book to be the final straw in showing the failure of what I worked hard to achieve in the ASA. When I became executive director in 2005, one of my high hopes and expectations was to find a way to bring the ID and anti-ID communities together in fruitful dialog with, at the very least, a measure of respect and continuing communication with each other. I worked hard, mainly in private with individuals but also in group settings, toward this end. But the task was daunting and positions hardened. Respect was in rare supply. We did manage to have some degree of ID participation in most of our annual meetings but the extent of personal mingling and follow-up discussion was generally meager.

This book will fuel the flames of the conflict model of science and Christian faith. Harmony is not to be found except on their own terms, redefining both science and the Bible. It sets back years of progress in understanding both science and the Bible. I am deeply saddened and I grieve at its publication. In some future posts, I will address the content of the book from selected portions but the tone of the book sets a major challenge before us all.

Tags:  evolution  Evolutionary Creation  faith  science  theistic evolution 

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David E. Singer says...
Posted Friday, December 8, 2017
Randy, thank you for taking the time to offer an initial assessment of this book. As soon as I read the forward and the first chapter I wanted to know what you would think. Fuller says in the forward, "The cumulative effect of the set of papers assembled in this volume is to suggest that the “God hypothesis” (or what philosophers call “divine action”) remains very much on the table as a scientific explanation for events in the history of life." From my lay perspective invoking Divine action can sometimes be rightly discerned, but not by any scientific method of which I'm aware. I understand God's miracles to be one-time, nonrepeatable, events. I have no doubt about the physical resurrection of Jesus; but not by way of science. We don't know from science regarding the "Imago Dei'; we know that from God's revelation. Science has so far been at a loss (from my perspective) to explain aspects of our species that seem more explicable under the iD label. I share your dismay that "Theistic Evolution" doesn't seem intended to generate the sort of discussion that will draw people out of their bunkers and into a dialogue of discovery that would enrich our understanding of both science and Scripture. In the arena of life, and particularly regarding it's origins, mystery abounds. Some of those may yet yield their secrets to scientific discovery. But we can know, thanks to revelation, the spark and ongoing breath comes from Christ. That's no reason to forego the search for how. Dave Singer
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