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Theistic Evolution: Goals of the book

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Part 2 of a series discussing:

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.

Two of the editors, Steve Meyer and Wayne Grudem, helpfully provide a “General Introductions” section at the beginning of the book. In 45 pages, they offer a synopsis of all thousand pages. It is a good way to understand the essence of the message before looking at the details in the remaining pages.

On pages 64 and 65 of the book, Wayne Grudem offers this summary of the goals of the book:

“Our goal in this book is to say to our friends who support theistic evolution, and to many others who have not made up their minds about this issue,

1. that recent scientific evidence presents such significant challenges to key tenets of evolutionary theory that no biblical interpreter should think that an evolutionary interpretation of Genesis is “scientifically necessary”;

2. that theistic evolution depends on a strictly materialistic definition of science that is philosophically problematic; and

3. that the Bible repeatedly presents as actual historical events many specific aspects of the origin of human beings and other living creatures that cannot be reconciled with theistic evolution, and that a denial of those historical specifics seriously undermines several crucial Christian doctrines.”

My response is as follows:

1.       A. All scientific challenges of evolutionary theory concern the details of mechanisms and specific applications and none has yet arisen concerning the basic overarching theory. To the contrary, a tremendous amount of evidence for the basic theory of evolution has been amassed and its foundation is stronger than ever. B. I do not know of anyone advocating an “evolutionary interpretations of Genesis.” All that is sought is an accurate biblical hermeneutic that reflects the truth. While the truth of evolution may be helpful in some way, there is no evolutionary interpretation per se.

2.       No theistic evolutionist I know thinks that it depends on a strictly materialistic definition of science. The scientific data are vast and compelling independent of a strictly materialistic definition of science. A proper theistic definition of science does just fine.

3.       Grudem’s presupposition here is fundamental concordism, in which the Biblical message must correspond to modern science. I do not know of any biblical passage that teaches such concordism. The basis for concordism is no more than human imagination of how biblical inspiration might have occurred. A more proper presupposition is that the Bible is the inerrant revelation of God to us and that its theological message is inerrant, using phenomenological language understandable by all people of all ages, and specifically the cosmology accepted in the era in which it was written. No contradiction to evolution is evident.


Clearly, I have made many assertions that I will need to explain and justify in future posts as we address various specific chapters in the book. Stay tuned.

Tags:  concordism  evolution  Evolutionary Creation  faith  science  theistic evolution 

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Comments on this post...

Robert C. Bishop says...
Posted Tuesday, December 12, 2017
As you point out, Randy, the three claims/goals of Grudem are false.

1. This rests on ID arguments from irreducible complexity. The problem, here, is that all the examples of irreducibly complex systems have been shown to have plausible historical pathways of development, so no evidence exists supporting the IC argument. The usual response to this by ID advocates is that scientists have yet to offer explanations for every step in the developmental history of IC systems such as bacterial flagella. There are at least two problems with this response. First, it's a reasoning fallacy known as unobtainable perfection: Increase the evidential demands beyond what can reasonably be met; proclaim victory whey the demands cannot be met. Second, the demand would prove too much. We have relatively few explanations in the sciences that have every detailed step filled in. The implication is that there few acceptable explanations in any of the sciences. A conclusion that serves as a reductio of the demand. On the other hand, if ID advocates claim that only complex biomolecular systems are subject to the demand, then the burden is on them to give a principled, non-question begging reason that only such systems are subject to the demand. No such reason can be given.

2. This is the typical ID problem of confusing metaphysical naturalism with methodological naturalism (aka natural science methodology). There is no such thing as a "strictly materialistic definition of science."

3. Concordism is not the only problem, here. This claim also depends upon a modernist notion of "historical" to be coherent. But to apply that understanding of "historical" to ancient texts and an ancient community is a flawed hermeneutical approach. Sound interpretation begins with understanding how the ancient biblical writers and their community would have understood the texts, not our modern conceptions.
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Randall D. Isaac says...
Posted Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Excellent points on all counts, Robert. Thank you. These will be helpful as we go on to discuss the specifics of various chapters. The "unobtainable perfection" phrase is particularly relevant to many of the arguments, from IC to missing links in fossils to origins of life.
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Kenneth J. Van Dellen says...
Posted Thursday, December 14, 2017
One of the editors (also an author) is a geophysicist, but I wish they had had a paleontologist and/or another geologist who actually talks and listens to the rocks. The other editors and authors are even more removed from the geologic record. “If you knew what I know about the geologic record you would find it more difficult to hold the views you hold.” – Ken Van Dellen

I'm an emeritus geology prof and charter member of the Affiliation of Christian Geologists
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