Musings of the ASA Director Emeritus
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This blog compiles the occasional musings of Randy Isaac who was ASA Executive Director from 2005 to 2016 and is now ASA Director Emeritus.

 

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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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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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On Faith and Science

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Friday, September 22, 2017

For those of you unable to attend the ASA 2017 annual meeting in Golden, CO, you missed an excellent, well-attended meeting. Recordings are available and highly recommended. I would particularly recommend the ones based on the topic of energy sustainability by Hayhoe, Hutchinson, and Pratt as well as the related contributed talks.

You may have seen that my review of Lucas Mix's book, Thinking Fair, was published in the September 2017 issue of PSCF. I hope it generates some sales for him but more importantly a broader awareness and practice of the concepts he espouses.

I have finished my review of the Zondervan Dictionary of Christianity and Science. It will be published in Science and Christian Belief, the publication of the organization Christians in Science.

Now for my next project. I just received my review copy of the new book On Faith and Science, by Ed Larson and Michael Ruse. It promises to be an insightful book on the history and philosophy of the encounter between science and faith and I look forward to reading it. I intend to post my notes on this blog as I go for anyone who might be interested so stay tuned.

Tags:  annual meeting  faith  Larson  On Faith and Science  Ruse  science 

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