In the last post we discussed the objectives for the ESE. Before moving on to the content of the statement (that will be the next post in the series), I’d like to first share my view on the ESE’s approach. What should be its character? If someone read the ESE for the first time, how would they describe it?
Characteristic #1: Positive in Tone and Content
Sadly, many Christian position statements seem very negative, both in their tone (aggressively attacking whatever is perceived to be the problem) and in content (defining itself by what it is not, rather than what it is). Given the polarization of positions in the faith / science dialogue, a negative statement by Evolutionary Creationists (ECs) would only exacerbate this polarization. Special creationists are not our enemies; they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Atheists are not our enemies; they too are created in the image of God (even if this is not acknowledged). If we want our message to be heard, we need to state our position with grace and compassion. If our objective is to win hearts and minds (or at least convince others that there is no need for warfare), we need to articulate positive aspects of an EC position (see HornSpiel's comment).
Characteristic #2: Displaying a Spirit of Humility
All of us have been wrong at times. Many of us were once very wrong on the evidence for evolution (and maybe, to our shame, made aggressive claims that we now regret). Since we are called to clothe ourselves with humility (Col 3:12), the ESE should echo that humility. ECs are not necessarily smarter, more honest, or more Christ-like; we have simply discovered (often through painful experience) that the science-faith war is completely unnecessary. The ESE should be written to share this good news, and not as an opening salvo for renewed debate.
Characteristic #3: Modest in its claims
I like Allan’s point in an earlier comment that the ESE should be modest in its claims. Scientific theories are continually being corrected and modified (see Irenicums comment) and we should not tie the ESE to specific (and possibly debatable) aspects of the theory. Allan’s proposed affirmation that:
science suggests that God may have used evolutionary processes to create, and from a Biblical and theological standpoint it is OK if that's how it happenedmay be too modest for some of us, but I think it is good place to start the discussion. I suspect the extent of the modesty will be one of the more difficult decisions to make when crafting the ESE.
Characteristic#4: Broad appeal
One of the most attractive aspects of Evangelicalism is its ability to see beyond denominational boundaries. Most Evangelicals are very willing to work with others in advancing the Kingdom of God, even when theological differences abound. The ESE should take this approach as well, and appeal to the entire Evangelical spectrum. This means that the ESE should avoid specific theological claims that would be unacceptable to Reformed, Arminian, Lutheran, Anglican, Anabaptist, or any other Evangelical theological tradition.
Characteristic #5: Short
If the ESE is to raise awareness of the faith-science dialogue within the Evangelical community, it will have to be relatively short. A long, detailed document will not be broadly read, and will mean that certain interpretations of the ESE (probably unfriendly) will be read more than the ESE itself. If the ESE is longer than this blog post, it is probably too long.
Characteristic #6: “An” Evangelical statement; not “The” statement
No one can claim to speak for all Evangelicals, and this is especially true in the polarized science-faith dialogue. On the one hand, the ESE should clearly state that the position it espouses on scripture, creation, and evolution is consistent with the Evangelical tradition and that it is accepted by a wide variety of Evangelicals. However, it should also acknowledge that this position will not be acceptable to all Evangelicals, at least in the short term.
Is this an approach you think would work? Are there other characteristics that should be considered?