This is a guest review of Denis Lamoureux’s new book "Evolutionary Creation" by Jordan Mallon. Jordan is a member of the CSCA and has just been accepted into a PhD program in the Dept. of Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary. Congratulations Jordan!
Like Denis Lamoureux, the author of Evolutionary Creation, I'm an Evangelical Christian and a student of palaeontology and evolution. At one time, such an admission would have incited whispers and invited accusations of cognitive dissonance. Many see the act of trying to marry evolutionary science with Christian theology as futile, like trying fit a square peg in a round hole. And for many years I felt the same way. I felt as though there was some piece of the puzzle missing that would help me to make sense of the book God inspired and the world He created.
The Missing Piece of the Puzzle
Lamoureux's latest contribution is that missing puzzle piece. Having been born and raised in a conservative Lutheran church, I was taught to believe in young earth creationism and was told that evolution is a tool of the devil. Probably the most common objection to evolution was that it contradicted the sin-death connection presented in the Bible. After all, if there was death before Adam, how could Adam's sin have introduced death into the world, as Paul repeats in the New Testament? In his book, Lamoureux attempts to answer the "sin-death problem". His solution is simple: There is no sin-death problem.
Approaches to the Relationship of Scripture and Science
We reach this conclusion by first recognizing two important categories in the evolution/creation dialogue: concordism and accommodationism. Concordism is the belief that the Bible's statements about science and history are always accurate, and that any scientific theory that contradicts the Bible must be wrong. Accommodationism is the understanding that God accommodated His message of faith, love, and redemption to the first Hebrew people using language and motifs they were familiar with (e.g. solid firmament in the sky, preformatism, numerology, etc.), and that any attempt to milk scientific insight from the Bible is missing the forest for the trees. Citing the example of Jesus' incarnation, Lamoureux sees the latter position as most in-line with God's nature. He defends this view using an inductive Bible study method, pointing to one example after another of the primitive science and history found in the Scriptures. Lamoureux is careful to defend biblical inerrancy, however, stating
"... the Bible is the inerrant and infallible eternal Word of God transcending time and incarnated in the incidental imperfect words of humans within history"Once we accept that the Bible does not necessarily contain accurate science, we are free to accept the conclusions of evolutionary science, regardless of whether or not they accord with the Genesis creation account. Using the analogy of human development in the womb (Psalm 139:13-14), Lamoureux presents evolution as just another natural process, ordained and sustained by God, by which the Lord achieves His good will and creates human life. In fact, Lamoureux sees evolution as the perfect creative process by which God both reveals Himself to us in the design reflected in that process (Deus Revelatus), and by which He hides Himself from us in the non-miraculous nature of that process (Deus Absconditus), thereby allowing us as His children the opportunity to truly exemplify our faith in Him. This was a key point that really struck a chord with me. After all, we wouldn't need faith if we could use science to prove God's handiwork in the world.
Suffering and Death
But how can Jesus, the Prince of Peace, make use of evolution, which involves suffering and death, to achieve His good will? Lamoureux offers a robust theodicy in answer to this question, noting that Jesus himself declared that suffering and death exist to bring glory to God (e.g., John 11:4). Strangely, this contrasts with Paul's understanding of the origin of death through Adam, as revealed by Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. Returning to the concept of accommodationism, Lamoureux completes this puzzle by noting that the origin of human suffering and death in Genesis 3 is itself an accommodation of God to the ancient motifs of the first Hebrew people. Death isn't a result of sin, as Genesis 3 states and Paul repeats. Death exists to bring glory to God, as Jesus himself tells us.
Some of these claims will no doubt leave many Christians uncomfortable. Lamoureux's suggestions are well removed from traditional church thinking (though perhaps not as far removed as some might think). I am still not sure how to feel about some aspects of the book, but that is part of the beauty of works like this one: It forces us to engage our Evangelical minds and to actually THINK about what we believe and why we believe it. Lamoureux admits to not having all the answers, but this is something he has learned to live with. What remains clear is the author's undying commitment to Christ and to understanding the world and the Word He has given us. And for that reason alone, I think Lamoureux deserves to be heard.