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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

An Evangelical Statement on Evolution (ESE): Contents

This is the fourth post in a series on “An Evangelical Statement on Evolution (ESE)”. If you are new to the series, you may wish to read the Introduction, ESE Objectives, and ESE Approach first.

Crafting a statement on evolution may be difficult for Evangelical Evolutionary Creationists (ECs). On the one hand, this is a very contentious topic in the broader Evangelical community and we must be careful if we are to have a positive impact on that community. On the other hand, many salient aspects of the dialogue are contentious even within the very small EC community. In the last post we discussed “How” we should say what we need to say; in this one I’ll lay out my suggestions on “What” we should say.

Some Initial Notes
I) A qualification: This is a broad overview of the content, and not a suggestion for the final (or maybe even initial) wording. My hope is that others will take this content and create the final statement (more on that in the next post)

II) A note on style: I see three options for the ESE (other suggestions welcome)

  1. A style similar to the Clergy Letter Project
  2. A “We believe” statement – somewhat like a statement of faith
  3. An Open Letter to our Evangelical community
My initial vote would go with #3.

III) Sections: I have divided the content into 6 sections: Creation, New Creation, Scripture, Science, Biological Evolution, and Purpose. These do not need to form 6 sections in the final ESE but I believe all of this content should be included in some manner.

A) Creation
The ESE should begin with an emphatic affirmation that we believe in creation. We trust in a God to whom the universe owes its origin and being. We trust a loving Creator who continues to sustain his creation from moment to moment. Even though the term “creation” has been tarnished in our modern culture, we need to reclaim and proclaim creation. As Richard Bube outlined most eloquently back in 1971, “We Believe in Creation”.

B) A New Creation
We also look forward to a new creation, when “All things will be made new”. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is both our hope and our promise. But this New Creation is not something that is restricted to the future. It is in our hearts. The Kingdom of God has already come. This is the good news we want to share with others.

C) Scripture
As Christians, we are “People of the Book”; as Protestant Christians we maintain the authority of Scripture; as Evangelical Protestants we continue to affirm the inspiration and authority of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, even when many of our Protestant cousins no longer agree with this claim.

Three points for discussion here:

1. I believe the ESE should remain silent on inerrancy, even as umbrella organizations like the NAE and the EFC are silent. Some Evangelical EC’s may still strongly affirm inerrancy (although, maybe not the version articulated in the Chicago Statement). Other Evangelical EC’s (maybe most) have strong reservations on inerrancy or at least would wish to qualify the term.

2. I am not sure if the ESE should say anything about scientific concordism. Some (probably a very few) ECs still maintain this hermeneutic strategy. So I’m tempted to be silent on this as well since a) I think the ESE should be as “big a tent as possible” and b) I think we should minimize negative terminology. On the other hand, as Rob mentioned here, scientific concordism is very problematic. So maybe the statement needs to say something as simple as “God’s Word is not intended to teach us science”.

3. More fundamentally, what does the ESE state about specific interpretations of Genesis – particularly Gen 1-11 or maybe just Gen 1-3? I am at a loss on what to say here – I’m tempted again to remain silent. How does one produce a statement which is acceptable to both staunch concordists (eg. Glenn Morton and Dick Fischer) and to those who maintain that the early part of Genesis bears little relation to historical or scientific fact (eg. Denis Lamoureux and Paul Seely)?

D) Science
Two things we should mention:

1. Christians are called to be people of integrity. This includes the area of science. We need to go where the evidence leads us, not where we think the evidence should go.

2. Many Evangelicals fear science (see ESE objective 2b) . This is highly regrettable. Since science is the study of God’s handiwork, Christians should revel in the study of creation. As Stephen Matheson noted, opponents of faith stole the reverent study of science from the Church; it may be time to steal it back.

E) Biological Evolution
I have already received several suggestions for what to include here. My view is that we include only those claims that are well supported by the evidence. This basically maps to E1, E2, and E3 from Allan’s definitions for evolution:
  • The earth is billions of years old and the geological record shows a progression in the development of life over many millions of years.
  • Common descent: The evidence strongly indicates links between all living organisms both in the present and in the past. Thus we can say with some confidence that any two living organisms on earth today share a common ancestor (maybe in the very ancient past).
  • Many different evolutionary mechanisms (eg. natural selection, genetic mutations, genetic drift) are important factors in the development of life on earth. It appears that God used these mechanisms in creating life, including the creation of humanity, the living organism he created in his own image.
My suggestion is that we leave out E4 (that evolutionary mechanisms completely account for common descent). Personally, I have no problem with E4 and believe it is theologically attractive and sound. However, I also believe the really important hurdle for the Evangelical church is common descent; let’s not make the bar higher than it needs to be (or possibly higher than it is warranted).

F) Purpose
Many people equate evolution with purposelessness. We must state categorically that this is incorrect. God has a definite purpose for creation; he has revealed much of that purpose through his written Word and the Word made flesh. God has both the ability and the will to accomplish that purpose, no matter what the cost (and thus his ultimate sacrifice). That his purpose will be accomplished is ultimately assured – even though he has given much freedom to his creation (including rebellious humanity).

I suggest that the ESE remain silent on design. I am sure that some ECs will be passionate in their desire to include some positive affirmation of design in the ESE; I am equally sure that many others (maybe most) would just as strongly wish to articulate a rejection of Intelligent Design (at least the ID movement). I think neither strategy would be helpful in accomplishing the goals articulated earlier. Design is a slippery concept, and I doubt we will achieve consensus on how we should articulate our position on it. More pertinent however, even though all of us believe that an intelligent designer (our God) was responsible for creation, design is not nearly as strong as purpose, is not as scripturally relevant as purpose, and is not as theologically important as purpose. Thus purpose must, in my opinion, be included the ESE while design should be neither affirmed nor rejected.

G) Conclusion
In our conclusion, I think we should affirm that we believe that harmony between faith and science can be achieved. However, we should also acknowledge that there are differences of opinion on how that harmony is reached. There is no point in pretending there is consensus when there may be significant differences of opinion between us on matters like biblical interpretation and models for divine action. What we share however, is a faith in the Creator God, and a desire demonstrate integrity in the study of his creation.

Finally, I believe we should directly address objective #2 defined earlier, ie. Helping those struggling with issues of faith and science. We might articulate it as follows:
  • To those Evangelicals considering abandoning their faith because of the evidence for evolution we say, “The conflict between science and an Evangelical expression of the Christian faith is completely unnecessary. We can trust the Creator God even if our understanding of how he created has changed over the centuries.
  • To those Evangelicals that fear science we say, “Do not be afraid. Science is simply the study of God’s creation. A deeper understanding of creation can lead to a deeper appreciation of the Creator.”
  • To those who are considering a commitment to Christ we say, “You CAN have the best of both worlds; both the one that leads to forgiveness, love, and spiritual fulfillment and the one that is intellectually satisfying and coherent with a scientific worldview.
Ok, in my last post I said the ESE should be short. However, in describing the contents I wrote possibly my longest post ever. Maybe this is going to be even more difficult than anticipated.


joel hunter said...

C)3. What, if anything, to say about Genesis.

Some thoughts.

The question is: what do the first chapters of Genesis primarily proclaim? Not a scientifically correct way of relating created beings in space and time. Not a physical model. Not natural history. The logic of Genesis is cosmological.

Genesis throws down the gauntlet for monotheism. The God of Genesis has no origin, he has no family tree, there is no theogony preceding the cosmogony. Genesis de-divinizes nature while yet affirming its goodness. It announces to all the surrounding kingdoms and superpowers of the day (and today): light, darkness, sun, moon, stars, water, land, plants, birds, bugs and all other animals are not gods. Humans are not gods. The one true God, though he be the God of the shepherding Israelites, is no mere local or tribal deity. He is, appearances to the contrary, the one transcendent God, and Genesis, like Isaiah 40, denies polytheism, pantheism, and all other theisms man has devised.

The progression of the days of creation, and the overall arc from chaos to order, is one of theological order, not chronological order. Genesis is not about creationism or science, it is a revelation of the true God over against idolatry, and its first two chapters set about smashing those polytheistic idols whilst affirming that nature and history are sanctified by God's declaration that all creatures had been made good, and that the whole was very good.

* * *

Of course, evangelicals do have a theological rendering of Genesis, but it is mainly to tell the genesis of sin, i.e., the Natural History of Original Sin. I think on that issue, your ESE will have to remain silent.

Kent said...

Good start Steve.

I agree, common descent and the age of the earth/universe are the key scientific evidences that need to be affirmed. The most compelling evidence I am aware of for common descent is the genetic code; for the age question it is astronomical. I think some mention of these should be made. Even IDers like Behe and Dembski can agree with that.

I remember clearly a conversation I had with Richard Bube about 10 years ago. I had become an IDer while overseas through Phillip Johnson's Darwin on Trial On returning to the US I had a conversation with him one afternoon over lunch. I asked his opinion of the book and was surprised he did not agree with P.J. We discussed why ID was in fact anti-science and this lead to a deeper discussion on a proper view of science. I remember three points from this conversation I think should be considered as content for the ESE.

The subject came up "what about when science seems to contradict the Bible." He responded, "There cannot be any contradiction between scientific truth and the Bible because truth is truth." Although I found this statement perplexing, I could not shake it. I think something along this line should be affirmed in the ESE. (To be more accurate, there cannot ultimately be any contradiction between true science and true theology.)

A second point Bube made was to bring up Galileo. The Church has a history of fearing science will "do away with God." The ESE should affirm that scientific explanations for phenomena previously attributed to an act of God never have nor ever will threaten God. However, whenever the Church behaves like they will, she invites ridicule that dishonors God and drives people away from Christ.

Finally he made the point that Christians need to counter false claims made by scientists who have a nonscientific, philosophical, generally atheistic agenda. Science can never be used to prove what is moral or answer any of the big philosophical questions like purpose or meaning. But there are a few scientists out there using their true scientific credentials to falsely claim that science proves their philosophical agendas. The ESE should affirm our solidarity with all co-believers in creation that we oppose such a misuse of science.

Emiliano M said...

Though I frowned at the broadness of the statement's proposed contents at first, I guess it is a wise choice and a good start.

I think Joel Hunter gave a great suggestion about Genesis1-3.

Paz de Cristo

VanceH- said...

Hi Steve,
Some comments on your content sections:

C: Scripture

Without Genesis chapters 1-3 we would not be having this discussion. It is hard for me to see how the ESE can be silent on this topic and accomplish its objectives. I agree that inspiration and authority are useful and important terms, but their definitions vary widely among the evangelical community. Perhaps something along the lines of stating that Genesis 1-3 or Gen 1-11 can reasonably be interpreted as something other than a quantitative literal history would be enough, and still be broadly acceptable. This is similar to your "God's word is not intended to teach us science", but I don't think your statement stands on its own--it seems to be the result of a unstated hermeneutic.

I wonder if we should challenge that a literal, historical interpretation is the only "Christian" way to read these passages and perhaps also question whether this literal historical interpretation is applied consistently.

An example might be helpful. A literal historical interpretation would suggest that Adam and Eve should have died physically in the 24 hour period after they ate the fruit (Gen 2:15). The word used for "day" is the same word used the days of creation and the word "die" is the same one used elsewhere to signify physical death. The traditional interpretation does not interpret God's statement as being literal--very reasonably, but this points out that the context and reasonableness are important tools in interpretation.

D: Science
I often see people trying to set up a false dichotomy of believing Science or believing the bible. According to them science states that miracles can't happen--so a choice between the two must be made. I see at least two counters to this position: 1. God can do what ever He wants--the Creator is not bound by the creation, and 2: Quantum mechanics allows many things that previously were believed to be impossible (e.g., teleportation, passing through walls) to move into the realm of events that are very unlikely, but fully consistent with nature.

It also might be useful to note that good scientists recognize that their theories are always in some way flawed. General relativity and quantum mechanics are very good theories with lots of very accurate and useful predictions but they don't explain everything (e.g., matter / anti-matter asymmetry) and they are at this point not integrated with each other. Evolution in my opinion is much less mature than these disciplines, so we should expect fewer answers and more questions. The beauty of evolution is not in its completeness, but in that it addresses the evidence much better than anything else we have.

Probability is often used in an attempt to show that the claims of science (especially evolution) are unlikely to the point of unbelievability. As individuals we believe (correctly) that we are very unlikely to win an lottery that has the odds of say 300 million to one, and yet we aren't surprised when someone else wins the lottery. Computing the chances of an event happening must objectively include the number of trials that are going on.

F. Purpose

I have also seen people equate evolution with randomness, and then contrast that to the purposefulness of God. The bible teaches that God is in control of what we call randomness ( Prov 16:33, Acts 1:26) --it in no way undermines Him.

Regarding ID, I think it could be treated as just another sub-theory under evolution. It should stand or fall based on its ability to predict / explain / match the evidence--it shouldn't have special status because "The Designer" has been invoked.

Steve Martin said...

Excellent summary! I’m going to take back my statement on being at a loss on what to say. We should really have to state something about what Genesis primarily proclaims – ie. Its theology. Not all of us can agree on the science / history in here (eg. the historicity of Adam) but we all can agree on the theology. So let’s include something about that. I think I’ll make an Addendum post 4b in this series to correct this - yes it is very important. Thanks.

Note: After I saw your post I thought, hmm, maybe I should have reread my own Gen 1-11 post from a couple of years ago.

Yes, I agree we stay silent on the “natural history” of Original Sin.

Steve Martin said...

Hi Hornspiel:

Thanks for the anecdote about Bube. Very interesting. Our generation should be very, very thankful to guys like him who helped dig us out of our own Evangelical “dark age”. Our concern about being “marginalized” within the Evangelical community is nothing compared to what his generation endured.

Two good points that you raised on inclusion for the ESE:
1) affirming that scientific explanations for phenomena previously attributed to an act of God never have nor ever will threaten God. – agreed.

2) that science is often misused to make statements about meaning, purpose – agreed. This should probably be added to section on purpose.

Steve Martin said...

Also excellent. On Gen 1-3, yes, you are absolutely right – we can’t ignore it. See my brief acknowledgment to Joel above that this was missing.

I do think we want to be cautious though about specific interpretations (eg. definition of “day”) – even if just used as examples. This can potentially be used as a target by the critics and distract from the overall statement.

Re: mention of randomness. Yes you are right. That to should be in the content. Thanks.

Re: mention of God’s ability to do miracles. Yes. That to, and probably connected with Hornspiel’s comment on “scientific explanations don’t threaten God” for balance.

Re: Quantum mechanics allows many things that previously were believed to be impossible (e.g., teleportation)

Yes, let’s also put something in there on teleportation … um, then again, maybe not :-).

Steve Martin said...

Joel: On reviewing your comment, I have one more question. That little summary you did was very, very good - do you have a resource that was based on (or is your background OT biblical studies - even if just as an amateur ). My own ideas were originally shaped by Gordon Wenham's commentary on Gen 1-15. Excellent resource.

joel hunter said...

Conrad Hyers: The Meaning of Creation: Genesis and Modern Science.

wtanksley said...

I'm really looking forward to seeing this... I'm slowly in transition to an EC position myself.

As such... I have one problem I'd like to point out. You say "Many Evangelicals fear science." I don't think that's an effective way to address the point you're trying to convey. It sounds almost like an insult, or perhaps calling them "chicken". Don't forget that a lot of YECs and IDists are engineers, who think they understand science.

Perhaps a better way to express what you want would be to say something like "Many evangelicals fear losing their confidence in the authority of scripture if they allow science to tell them how to interpret the scripture, as if they were giving science a veto over scripture."

Frankly and openly, this is my fear -- if I concede that science can in one day force me to drastically re-interpret the univocal testimony of the scriptures on THIS point, what else will I have to concede? I've seen too many Christians who accept evolution and who also are (what I would call) extremely theologically liberal, and not enough who seem to present a case for being able to accept evolution and still accepting the authority of Scripture.

I'm not totally comfortable with my position here! I want to pursue truth, not the convenience of adhering to old beliefs. But this is what I'm stuck with right now.

I don't know if this ESE can answer this concern; but surely it can note that exists, and claim that there are solutions, and possibly note the nature of the solutions.

Marlowe C. Embree, Ph.D. said...

I'm impressed, as I usually am with your work. A few stray thoughts here.

First, as an inerrantist, I am a bit miffed (ever so slightly) by your notion that some EC's "still" believe in inerrancy (as if this were a vestigial belief that will eventually be expected to fade away). For those like who hold it, it is a central doctrine. And I think it's important to note that inerrancy and acceptance of evolution need not be enemies (though the challenge of harmonizing the two adds another layer of difficulty to your already challenging task). I agree that your statement need not take sides on the inerrancy question, but please do use language that doesn't make one side or the other feel marginalized.

Second, I wonder if you are failing to address in some way the meta-level question of how scientific and religious knowledge interact, if they do. You may not want to take a single position on this disputed question, but since this is the meta-question on which everything else hinges, it's worth at least noting the problem. Are there sources of knowledge that are extrascientific (you imply that there are)? If so, what are they and how can we justify calling them "knowledge"? In so doing, are we defining "knowledge" in a manner that an Enlightenment secularist could and would accept as valid, or not? (In other words, are we foundationalists? Why or why not?) Does this matter?

No matter how much we affirm mainstream science, unless we develop a means to recapture the "unity of knowledge" concept that existed once upon a time (e.g., 600 years ago), we may be whistling in the dark. Do we, and should we even try to, have anything to say here that would at all impress, say, a Richard Dawkins or a Daniel Dennett? Are such persons included in the potential audience you have in mind?

Just a few stray buzzings from a friendly gadfly. Again, very good job with all you have done here. I look forward to reading more.

P.S. Please don't use a "this we believe" approach. A "this we offer as food for thought" approach seems much more suitable here. We're not promulgating dogmas, we're suggesting lines of approach to a very thorny set of issues.

Steve Martin said...

Hi Wtanksley,
My statement that many Evangelicals fear science was not meant to be insulting – it was merely based on my personal experience and anecdotal evidence. I don’t know how big this group is but my guess it is not insignificant. However, you are right that there are many YEC, OEC, and ID proponents who have no fear of science and indeed believe the science completely backs up their position; this group too is quite large (probably the majority of Evangelicals). My concern is more for the first group for pastoral reasons.

Re: the relationship between science and faith, and in the spirit of a picture is worth a thousand words, check out slide 46 of Loren Haarsma’s presentation on Where is God in Science. Or, if you have more time, check out Section D: Reconciling Scriptural Authority with Evolutionary Science in the Blog Ebook I compiled from various posts.

Steve Martin said...

Hi Marlowe,

Stray thoughts??? Hey, those are pretty straight arrows as far as I’m concerned.

First, apologies on the statement about inerrancy. In hindsight, I really should have left out the “may still” and simply said “Some Evangelical EC’s strongly affirm inerrancy”. In fact, now that I think about it, maybe the majority of ECs do affirm inerrancy – at least all the theologians in the Evangelical Theological Society affirm this (so for example, Waltke and Enns who either explicitly accept evolution or probably do so). For some thoughts on the ASA and the ETS – and the discussion on inerrancy, you may want to check out my post on A re-evaluation by Evangelical Theologians.

Anyways, this type of slip (ie. Betraying my own prejudices in regards to inerrancy) is why I’m looking for lots of feedback – and indeed as the next post will state, why we really need to have a process to ensure this type of “marginalizing” language(even if unintended) doesn’t occur. So, again, apologies.

Second, re: avoiding a “We believe” approach, yes, agreed. It wasn't my first option but maybe it shouldn't even be an option at all. This is important as per the “modest” approach outlined in the last post.

Third, on the philosophy of science and definitions for knowledge, I agree that this is important. But, I’m thinking this is going to be very, very difficult to include a simple (and short) paragraph regarding this. Any suggestions?

Allan Harvey said...

One quick thought with regard to early Genesis is that I think such a statement should absolutely not get into specific interpretations.

Good OT scholars have come up with many (often overlapping) approaches, from the framework views of Kline and Blocher, to those emphasizing the aspect of theological monotheistic polemic, to John Walton's recent "cosmic temple inauguration" (his new book is well worth reading). I'm sure I'm leaving out some. So, for example, if the statement said that Genesis 1 was "theological", Walton might not like that wording even though his new book indicates that he would agree with the goals of this statement.

What all these interpretations have in common is the conclusion that the early chapters of Genesis are not trying to provide any kind of science-like account of material origins. So I think what is said about these chapters needs to be something leaving open a variety of interpretations, and rather simple, something like:
While the early chapters of Genesis have much to teach us about God's status as creator and about God's nature and human nature, the inspired writers were not trying to convey scientific information and we should not expect it to answer our modern scientific questions.

Cliff Martin said...

I just read through the post and comments. As I was reading, the comment that came to my mind is very similar to Dr. Harvey's. While there are a number of ways of understanding Genesis 1-3, the important thing to communicate to our non-evolutionary evangelical friends is that we do take these chapters seriously, accept them as part of divine revelation, and study them to discern what God is communicating to us through them. No specifics beyond that should be added.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the "we believe" versus the "food for thought" approach.

I think we can all agree that there are legitimate ways of harmonizing the Bible's teaching with E1-5. At least, I believe that there are.

So why not a simple statement that says something like, "We believe that both E1-5 could be true and not contradict Biblical teaching. Further, it seems to us that at the present time that at least E1-3 have very strong scientific support"?

Two more thoughts: First, thanks to Francis Collins' book, I found out that Benjamin B. Warfield had no problem with evolution as a means to create human beings, nor with an old age for the earth. Given that Warfield was one of the architects of the Fundamentalist movement, this is significant.

Second, Steve, you seem to blend E3 in with E4. Not only would most IDists have a problem with E4, but so would non-IDists such as Lynn Margulis, who reject neo-Darwinism as a dead science. --Bilbo

Allan Harvey said...

Since my E4, etc. definitions are being discussed (and I would add that a statement should rephrase things rather than point to those), let me respond to Bilbo above.

If I were writing that today, I would rephrase E4. As it reads now, it sounds like it attributes all the evolution of life (E2) to the mechanisms of genetic variation and natural selection (E3). What I really should have said was Darwin's mechanisms perhaps supplemented by other natural mechanisms (evo-devo, genetic drift, etc.). What I mean is evolution by "natural" processes, with Darwin's processes as much of that story but perhaps not all of it.

With such a revised E4 definition, I think scientists who see more than strictly "Darwinian" (a word to avoid because it means different things to different people) natural mechanisms at work would not disagree, although most ID people still would.

Having said that, I think getting Evangelical acceptance of common ancestry (E2) is the big enchilada here, and we shouldn't try to reach much beyond that (and shouldn't even mention the origin of life).

Kent said...

Jim Kidders review of a blog post Cornelius Hunter got me to thinking.

Hunter states "One fact that is incontrovertible is that evolution is driven by theological claim.... Evolution is a religious theory." Obviously Hunnter is speaking of E6, evolutionism. The ESE needs to counter that claim.

It occurred to me that, because our audience is Christians seeking to reconcile their religion/theology with science, the ESE should be structured using theological affirmations supported by scientific affirmations. In light of this, I propose three affirmations that could provide the outline of the statement. Note: I am not suggesting these be used as is, or that the "We believe" format be necessarily used.

I. We believe in creation: Bube's line affirming Genesis.

II. We believe evolution is the most intelligent way of understanding how the creator designed all living things: A statement designed to counter ID.

III. We believe Man is created in the image of God: Affirming that we are not "just" animals.

Steve Martin said...

Allan, Cliff:

Re: Gen 1-3. Thanks - this is helping me focus my own thoughts. First, I probably lean heavily towards the theological monotheistic polemic (from reading Wenham – have I mentioned I liked his commentary? .. oh, only 20 time? :-) ). I am not aware of Walton’s new proposal but my thoughts are this: isn’t the theological monotheistic polemic compatible with most of the other views (maybe even the “literal” view)? Ie. The theological ideas proposed about the Creator, creation, humanity, and the relationships between them do not rule out any of the other frameworks or interpretations. More importantly, these theological conclusions are ones all orthodox Christians share. So, while I like the second part of Allan’s revision, I’m thinking we should actually state some of these theological conclusions, rather than just saying that Genesis teaches “… us about God's status as creator and about God's nature and human nature”

Steve Martin said...

Bilbo: A couple clarifications and a question:

1) Clarification: BB Warfield was not really an architect of the Fundamentalist movement; “Fundamentalism” (based on the Fundamentals booklets) didn’t really start until the early 1900’s .. at least a generation after Warfield. Warfield (along with Hodge) articulated innerrancy. And, yes it is very significant that one of the theologians that helped define innerrancy had no problems with evolution.

2) Re: the mixing of E3 and E4: To me E3 is a proper subset of E4. E3 (in my view) is simply agreeing that evolutionary mechanisms are significant. And as I mentioned in the original post, even AIG and other YEC organizations now admit that they are significant. What they disagree on is how significant.

E4, on the other hand, is stating that these “natural” / “physical” mechanisms can (at least theoretically) provide a complete explanation for life’s development (but necessarily origin) on earth. Although everyone agrees that the scientific evidence for E4 is not yet complete, many EC’s believe E4 is both a) theoretically probable from a scientific perspective & b) theologically acceptable for Evangelical Christians; most non-EC’s disagree with both a) and b).

Does that clarify what I’m saying? Or maybe I’m not understanding your question.

Steve Martin said...

Hi Hornspiel:
Yes, communicating both the theological & scientific affirmations & their relationship is critical. And the decision on style (eg. Point-by-by lining up these affirmations) can be made later – we could also weave the affirmations into the statement - for eg. Our creation in the image of God was included in the OP. My suggestion though is that rather than “theological affirmations supported by scientific affirmations” it should be articulated as “theological affirmations consistent with scientific affirmations”

Cliff Martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cliff Martin said...


I have a little different take on the development of fundamentalism, and Warfield's role in its founding.

Benjamin Warfield was only 49 years old in 1900; he was a contributor to Biola's Fundamentalist papers, and he lived until 1921, six years after the 12th and final edition. My impression (and what I've taught) is that fundamentalism's primary American founders included Charles Hodge and B.B. Warfield.

It is true that "modern fundamentalism" arose later in the 20th century, and generally included things like dispensationalism, separatism, and anti-evolutionism, positions that Warfield would have opposed. But the early fundamentalist movement had its roots in the late 19th century.

Hodge and Warfield primarily strove against liberal views of the Scriptures and theological modernism coming from some higher criticism. Hodge thought that they should also oppose evolution. Warfield disagreed. Hodge won the argument, and the rest is history.

Another early fundamentalist leader (and contributor to the Fundamentalist Papers), the Scottish Presbyterian James Orr, was also an outspoken supporter of "theistic evolution." Orr did not subscribe to inerrancy, and warned that it was a dangerous doctrine, impossible to defend. Yet he was considered a fundamentalist.

Interesting. We have E.C.s today who subscribe to inerrancy who can look to Warfield, and we have E.C.s who do not subscribe to inerrancy who can appeal to James Orr. Both were respected Bible believing fundamentalists in their day, and certainly would be regarded as evangelicals today.

Allan Harvey said...

Steve (and others), with regard to John Walton's view of Genesis 1, I highly recommend his new (readable) book The Lost World of Genesis One.

With regard to compatibility among interpretations, certainly there is much overlap; I would say the main overlap is that it is not about scientific questions but is saying theological things (i.e., things about God, with scholars disagreeing about the degree to which it is polemic).

Here's what I wrote in an email a few days ago regarding how Walton sees his views relating to others:
He affirms the validity of the "literary framework" approach, saying that he complements it. He also notes the role of Genesis 1 as polemic against the theologies of surrounding cultures (using similar concepts but making different theological points), but considers that secondary. His main point is that, in its Ancient Near Eastern context, for God to "create" in Genesis 1 is NOT about material origins (the questions we modern people tend to ask), but about God assigning functions in the operation of his creation. And then he frames God's "rest" as God taking his place in the "good" (i.e., functioning as God wills) temple that is the cosmos, suggesting (though this is a side point) that Genesis 1 may have served as a temple liturgy. Hence his overall name for his view: "cosmic temple inauguration".

It is also significant that a prof from a conservative place like Wheaton has come out and said that evolution (including E1 through E5 in my classification) is not in conflict with the Bible (even while carefully noting that he is not advocating evolution, only saying that as a scientific description it does not conflict with Scripture, and sometimes seeming to balk where humans are concerned). But that's a bit off topic for this discussion.

wtanksley said...

My statement that many Evangelicals fear science was not meant to be insulting – it was merely based on my personal experience and anecdotal evidence.

My intent is saying that was not to sound like I was offended, but rather to point out that your language was imprecise and should be improved if you wish this statement to have the desired effect in as large a group as I think it could.

I don’t know how big this group is but my guess it is not insignificant.

There may be people who not only fear science, but who consciously fear science, and will see themselves when you mention that they do.

But I seriously doubt it; I think that if you addressed a letter to "those who fear science", nobody (in the modern world) would ever pick it up. Why should anyone?

However, you are right that there are many YEC, OEC, and ID proponents who have no fear of science and indeed believe the science completely backs up their position; this group too is quite large (probably the majority of Evangelicals). My concern is more for the first group for pastoral reasons.

I'm recommending that you remove that group from your mind; addressing them without qualification will utterly alienate everyone else who isn't currently EC, since it looks precisely like you're assigning motives for disbelief in EC. If you want to help people who genuinely fear science, you need to find some kind of root cause for the fear, and you're not going to do that in this document.


wtanksley said...

Oh, and think you for your ebook -- I've actually collected and read the entire set.

Steve Martin said...

Hey, thanks for that note. As the old saying goes, “learn something new everyday” – I didn’t realize that Warfield was one of the contributors. What is interesting is that I’ve typically seen the quote that “2 authors of the Fundamentals supported theistic evolution” (Orr & I think Torrey) – I guess that should be at least three since Warfield should be in that camp as well.

My understanding is that Hodge & Warfield’s views on inerrancy (articulated in the 1870’s) influenced the “Fundamentals” (published in the first 2 decades of the 1900’s), which in turn influenced the birth of “Fundamentalism” (1920s & 1930s). But the relationship is one of “influence” not one of “birthed”.

Hmm, I’m getting more than a wee bit off topic here. Where is the moderator on this blog anyways :-).

Steve Martin said...

Thanks for that. Do you have an online reference for Walton’s comments on evolution? Or are your points derived from some of his comments in the book?

Steve Martin said...

Hmm. I see your point. And I think I agree that the inclusion of any direct reference to “fear of science” (and even “fear of evolution”) should be excluded from the ESE. As you say, it would probably be counterproductive.

Still, I don’t think we should “remove that group from [our] mind” – it is my contention that this is an important group to address (whether they admit the fear or not). However, we can address the issue positively by focusing on phrases like “reveling in the study of God’s creation” and “A deeper understanding of creation can lead to a deeper appreciation of the Creator”.

Allan Harvey said...

My summaries of Walton are from his book. Don't know of anything online specifically stating his view of compatibility with evolution and other science, although there are starting to be a few online reviews like this one:

Note at the bottom of the review the link to Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog where Walton's book has just started being discussed. You will see me commenting there as "AHH"

wtanksley said...

Still, I don’t think we should “remove that group from [our] mind” – it is my contention that this is an important group to address (whether they admit the fear or not).

Do you know anyone who was in that group and admits it now? Do you know anyone who is in that group and admits it? It seems to be a _very_ unusual phobia. And to the extent that it exists, it seems to me that as an irrational fear, it should be addressed professionally rather than by rational writing.

I just strongly suspect that the group you're actually writing to doesn't "fear science" as such; rather, they fear giving up the primacy of Scripture. It seems that this fear can be addressed in a positive manner, by teaching how sola Scriptura should be applied, and how many Evangelicals misunderstand it to create the perception of a threat from science (and other things) where in truth there is no threat.

I'm advocating a positive approach that (it seems to me) targets a valid, reasonable concern; rather than assuming that the only motive for disagreement is an emotional reaction of pure, irrational fear; surely that's a better foundation for a reasoned discussion.

Do you see some opportunity that I don't? I know you've been ministering productively in this area for far longer than I've even known it existed, so I do respect your knowledge. You may know a lot of people that I don't who truly DO have a primary motive of fear, and the right response might be simply "fear not". I just don't know _any_ such people.


Steve Martin said...

Hi Wtanksley,

In my opinion, the fear of science, or at least specific sciences like evolutionary biology or anthropology is unusual at all. A few reasons why I say this:

1. That was my personal experience. I was afraid that these types of sciences would destroy my faith & so I avoided them. I know others in similar situations (or were in similar situations).

2. The common “science & faith at war” metaphor means that some of the reaction to this (like all wars) is fear. Everyone knows there are casualties & doesn’t want to be part of that. Daryl Falk’s “Coming to Peace with Science” spoke very powerfully to me – right from the first time I read the title.

3. Some studies of which I’m aware have shown that the level of Christian involvement in some of these sciences is very low. Now, maybe there are other factors involved, but I think that fear is one of these.

Still, you say you don’t know ANY one like this and I seem to believe there are lots. Since both of us are basing our conclusions on primarily anecdotal evidence, I don’t think we can say definitively how widespread this is. However, I think we can agree with two things:

a) This isn’t something we want to address explicitly in the ESE. I agree with your earlier comment.

b) I think that, addressing this in the ESE indirectly (maybe in a nuanced fashion) is very important – even if the target audience is relatively small.

wtanksley said...

Steve, good points, and you bring forth evidence much more powerful than mine. Thank you for clarifying, and for interacting with me.

I agree entirely with both your (a) and (b) points -- don't state it in _that_ way, and DO address it.

Actually, I'm also appreciative of the words "Coming to Peace with Science". Peace is good; fear is not so good. Even if I'm not afraid of science (and I'm not 100% confident that I'm not -- look at my first post, "this is my fear..."), I'd still want to be at peace with it.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification, Steve, and sorry, Allan, for not restating E4, and thanks Cliff for the info on Warfield.

I guess I would just restate that I think an Evangelical statement on Evolution could be short and simple, such as "Biblical teaching can legitimately be interpreted so that it is consistent with Evolution as understood by E1-E5." And no, I'm not going to restate them all. -- Bilbo

Allan Harvey said...

I wasn't criticizing you for not restating my statements; I was just saying (maybe it goes without saying) that an Evangelical Statement on Evolution should have its own wording rather than directly adopting or pointing to my definitions. Perhaps informed by what I said, but many others have thought deeply about these things and perhaps my taxonomy (and certainly my wording as I've already admitted for E4) is not optimal.

Sorry if my comment came across differently.

crevo said...

Just a quick point. If you wanted to, you could actually broaden this quite a bit and include nearly all evangelicalism (including YEC) if you used the following statements:

1) All organisms undergo a process of change which is called evolution

2) We believe that God can choose to execute designs both in a mediated and unmediated fashion, and there is considerable discussion about the extent to which God used either of these options in the creation and development of life.

3) We believe that the geological record demonstrates that the ecologies of the past are in many signficant ways different from the ecologies today. These transformations may have occurred in a mediated or unmediated fashion. Those transformations mediated by natural processes are encompassed in the theory of biological evolution.

4) We believe that species from the past gave rise to many newer species, where a multiplicity of species can reliably trace their origin back to a common ancestral species. Evangelicals are in disagreement about how encompassing common ancestral species can be.

I know including us YEC'ers isn't your point, but if the goal is to unite a bunch of people together, and to say we are not at war with evolution, I think this might be a better plan. While I'm sure some would object to the wording, I can't think of any evangelical on any side of the crevo issue who would object to the content of those statements.

crevo said...

Also, regarding Genesis, those of you who think that Genesis 1-3 is the main problem - it is most assuredly not. The problem is Genesis 6-9. Was Noah's flood a real, worldwide event or not? That's the issue. The days of creation are an interesting side diversion. The interesting thing about Genesis 6-9, is that if you think Noah's flood was real and worldwide, then you remove any reason you need to think that Genesis 1 is anything other than 7 days. I'm a YEC, and I have always been comfortable with Genesis 1 being a non-literalist description. The problem is that Genesis 6-9 is written in a form that screams historical narrative, and if any part is remotely true, then that means a global flood (i.e. if you have enough standing water for 300 days to lift a boat and prevent birds from finding land, then there is no doubt from basic physics that the water is covering the whole earth).

Anyway, if you cover Genesis, and want to cover the disagreements people have, you have to deal with Genesis 6-9. Genesis 1-3 isn't where the real action is.

Steve Martin said...

Hi Crevo,
The ESE objective is not to get agreement from all Evangelicals on scientific statements regarding origins (and we specifically say it is “An Evangelical Statement”, not “The Evangelical Statement). For a statement on Creation that all Evangelicals can agree with, I’d say we already have that in the General Statement section of the ASA Commission on Creation (which included YEC, OEC, and EC proponents). For the statement on biological evolution within the ESE, we want to include those areas that a) are strongly supported by the scientific evidence – ie. Old earth, common descent and b) are conclusions that many Evangelicals incorrectly assume are in conflict with Evangelical theology.

Re: Gen 6-9 being where the real action is, I guess that is debatable but more importantly, I’m not sure it “screams historical narrative” (eg. See Denis Lamoureux’s Evolutionary Creation essay). But I don’t really want to go down this path here since EC’s do not agree among themselves on the interpretation (although most agree – along with most OECs – that the flood if historical, was local).

Anonymous said...

Allan, I thought your definitons were very good. -- Bilbo

Martin LaBar said...

I guess I let this lie dormant in Google Reader for too long. I'll just say "Thanks," and especially for the material on Purpose.

Karl A. said...

I also agree that, in some way, concerns about Genesis 1-11 need to be addressed. I think many Christians are simply unaware that there are alternate ways of interpreting Genesis besides literal, or at least ways that have been championed by people we respect. I was in that camp until, maybe a few weeks ago (being transparent here). If that's all you know, your choice is accept Genesis 1-11 at faith value or be a liberal who believes it's all fairy tales.

What do you think about mentioning a few prominent names (living or non-living) who are in this camp? Warfield has been mentioned. How about C.S. Lewis. He's near demigod status in the evangelical world. Others? Augustine? Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbes)? :)

Steve Martin said...

Hi Karl,
Your are right that we need to ensure Evangelicals understand what biblical scholars (including Evangelical biblical scholars) are saying about Gen. While name dropping, and better yet quoting, is very good for the overall discussion, I'm not sure that it should be part of the ESE itself; the founding signatories however, will be very important.