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Monday, 23 November 2009

Avoiding the topic of Evolution in Christian Academia: Reflections from a Theology Student

This is a guest post by Bethany Sollereder and is the sixth in our series on “Evangelicals and Evolution: A Student Perspective”. Bethany is working on her Masters in Christian Studies at Regent College in Vancouver, where her studies focus on evolutionary theodicy from an evangelical perspective.

“I just don’t think that’s a very interesting question...” the professor said slowly from the front of the full lecture hall, “there are so many more important issues.” The first year class of graduate students collectively sighed in disappointment. The questions about evolution had poured in when they were told they could ask any question of a panel of professors at the end of the year long course in Christian thought and culture. The answer they received seemed like yet another evasion.

The Science – Faith Dialogue: Great Potential in Christian Academia
I have now spent six years in the Christian academy and I find it remarkably hard to understand why the discussion on the interaction between faith and science is so often avoided. If anything, it is a wonderful doorway into many “more important” topics such as hermeneutics, models of biblical inspiration, ancient worldview, cultural engagement, and interdisciplinary studies. The science-faith topic stems from and reaches into all these areas and many more. The beauty of this subject area is precisely that its implications are so wide-reaching. The same tools that you use to exegete Genesis 1-11 extend out into the rest of the biblical literature. For example, an understanding of ancient near eastern cosmology gained in Genesis 1 brings an excellent understanding of passages as diverse as 1 Chronicles 16, Job 26, Psalm 104, Isaiah 40, Philippians 2, and Revelation 21! A discussion that takes modern science into account can challenge traditional readings of everything from theodicy to literary criticism, leading to a wide array of interesting topics. Perhaps it is because it can lead in so many directions that professors avoid it: it is a conversation that might never end.

The Challenge of Teaching about Origins
On the other hand, the issue of origins in particular seems to be uniquely challenging from both an emotional and a spiritual perspective. Step the wrong way in this issue, and it is not simply belief in the historicity of the opening chapters of Genesis that threatens to topple, but potentially a person’s entire faith! However, given the spiritual volatility of the topic, isn’t the Christian academy the perfect environment to critically examine issues of faith, and therefore issues of origins? Would it be better for the student to struggle through these issues in the context of leading a church or working in the secular environment? Yet, even though questions about origins are embarrassingly common, it seems that the topic is often sidestepped in order to avoid giving offense. Even when asked directly about it, answers from Christian faculty are often short and evasive; there seems to be a fear of committing too strongly to one side of the debate. Perhaps this betrays a lack of clear thought on the side of the faculty; perhaps it is simply an unwillingness to engage in such a volatile issue so directly. Yet it is precisely because it is such an explosive topic that we need more thorough training in the area.

“I feel so frustrated” a student once confessed to me, “I feel like everyone deals with the evolution debate as if it’s a conversation we’ve already had, yet I’ve never heard it talked about once in two years!” From the faculty’s point of view, I can imagine that dealing with the same issues over and over again, year after year, would be exhausting. It is true that addressing the hesitancies of students in relation to the science-faith interface must be tiring, especially when it can be a remarkably pedantic area, and can branch almost out of control. But that is not a good reason for avoiding it! I’m sure that New Testament Greek professors do not consider it an exhilarating task to teach the declensions year after year. However, delivering this technical information is foundational, and they realize that the relative drudgery of grammatical basics will one day lead to more interesting debates on interpretation.

Reclaiming the Study of God’s Works in our Culture
I wish that the science-religion dialogue would receive a similar grounding: some aspects of the topic may be tedious, but this grounding is necessary in light of the current cultural battles. And the cultural battle is real. A Gallup poll on Darwin’s 200th birthday found that only 39% of Americans accept evolution, while another 36% do not have an opinion either way. For one hundred and fifty years, evolution has provided biology with its unifying theory and the evidence for it has only strengthened over time. However, 61% of Americans still do not accept evolution as valid. Perhaps the ambivalence in the Christian academy is simply a reflection of the wider culture’s lack of conviction. In this case, it would be a great opportunity for the Church to rise up and become, once again, those who drive discovery of the natural world forward while providing a theological framework in which to understand those revelations.

New Resources for Evangelicals
At the Bible College I attended, a small faculty was responsible for covering a wide spectrum of academic disciplines. As a result, the idea of tackling the massive issues involved in the science-faith dialogue may have seemed quite daunting. Ten or fifteen years ago this task was even more difficult since there were so few books that affirmed both evolution and an evangelical faith. Today, however, there is a torrent of books which provide both the scientific and hermeneutical material necessary to “get past” the most common roadblocks to accepting evolution: how to read Genesis and how to reconcile the theory of human evolution with our affirmation of divine creation. Francis Collins, Darrel Falk, Denis Lamoureux, and Loren and Deb Haarsma have all provided valuable resources to the evangelical community.

With so much good information “out there”, why is there still a reluctance to discuss the science-faith interaction in our academies? I think that we shy away from the challenges science presents to our interpretation of the Bible because there is always a “fear factor” involved in evangelical hermeneutics. This was clearly seen at my Bible College where biblical criticism was largely portrayed as that “slippery slope” where “liberals” began by questioning the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and ended up denying the resurrection of Christ. There was very little effort put into incorporating the beneficial aspects of criticism because there was so much fear that one might go “too far”. We evangelicals are happy to admit, as a sort of joke, how susceptible we are to guilt; it is much less frequently admitted how susceptible we are to fear. Yet the reality is that as God’s children we have nothing to fear when searching for truth in God’s Works and his Word. The discoveries of science and the tools of higher criticism help us to understand better the amazing world in which God has placed us and the ways in which God has revealed himself to us. With the excellent voices speaking from within both science and theology, the time is ripe for moving past this debate. But we should do this carefully by working through the issues rather than ignoring them.

Fortunately those first year students in that full lecture hall I mentioned in the opening did not have to wait long for a more helpful response. Another professor on the panel took the microphone and spoke about fossils, genetics, his preference for the term “evolutionary creation” over “theistic evolution”, and the importance of a robust theology of creation without extreme dogmatism over the method of creation. It was a brief answer, and it did indeed stir up controversy in some of the tutorial sessions after the class, but it was one of the first times I had observed a positive, informative answer that clearly dealt with some of the issues raised. I hope this type of response is a harbinger of what we can come to expect of Christian academia, and that Evangelical students will receive the guidance they need in the science-faith dialogue.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Clarifying Concepts in the Creation-Evolution Dialogue

This is a guest post by Jordan Mallon and is the fifth in our series on “Evangelicals and Evolution: A Student Perspective”. Jordan is a Ph.D. student at the University of Calgary where he is studying the evolutionary palaeoecology of the Late Cretaceous herbivorous dinosaurs from Alberta.

The transition from young earth creationism to a position that reconciles evolution and faith doesn’t occur abruptly. It’s a process that takes time and usually proceeds by the gradual piecing together of concepts and information. This was certainly the case for me. When I was growing up, I sympathized with young earth creationism as taught by the conservative Lutheran church I attended. Now I research and teach evolutionary science at the university level, but only after a prolonged period of soul-searching and careful study during my post-secondary education. My theology of nature is still incomplete, but the clarifying concepts introduced below helped to deconstruct the barriers that often polarize the evolution-creation ‘debate’ and allowed me to gradually formulate what I consider a more integrated view of science and faith. Hopefully, these concepts will help other students in their struggle to harmonize evolution and evangelical Christianity.

1) Agency and Mechanism in Creation

The word ‘creationism’ is understood by many evangelical Christians to refer to the miraculous and instantaneous creation of life by God. This view is prevalent and has pigeonholed many of us into confusing agency for mechanism. That is, the act of creating becomes needlessly associated with divine intervention. The corollary is that any explanation for life’s diversity that doesn’t appeal to miracles, such as evolution, is assumed to somehow exclude God’s creative agency. Evolution is often described by believers and non-believers alike as ‘godless’.

This conflation is unfortunate because the Bible teaches that even natural processes, such as weather, are under God’s control (e.g., Lev 26:4; Deut 11:14; 1 Sam 12:18; Job 5:10, 37:6; Ps 135:7, 147:8). More to the point, we are each called a creation of God (Ps 139:14) despite the fact that human conception and development proceeds by entirely natural processes. The Bible’s distinction between agency and mechanism therefore allows God to exercise His creativity using the laws of nature He instilled at the beginning of creation. In this sense, creationism doesn’t preclude evolution at all! I liken evolution to the Lutheran doctrine of the Real Presence, in which God is “in, with, and under” the natural processes that produce biodiversity on Earth.

2) Methodological and Ontological Naturalism

If evolution were truly godless because it does not invoke divine intervention, then the same argument would necessarily apply to all of science because the scientific method excludes all appeals to the supernatural. Miracles, by definition, can’t be measured or explained and therefore they do not further our knowledge about how the universe works. Sir Isaac Newton once believed that the stability of our solar system was due to the miraculous intervention of God, but the French astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace later showed that the stability could be explained entirely through the natural laws of gravity.

It’s important to note, however, that the preclusion of miracles from science is only done in practice. Science cannot comment on whether or not miracles happen, or whether or not God exists; science is neutral on these matters. God may perform miracles every day, but for the reasons given above, the scientific method simply can’t detect them. The search for natural processes that operate in the universe is called methodological naturalism. The atheistic belief that there’s no God and that the natural world is all that exists is called ontological naturalism. The former is perfectly in line with Christian principles, but the latter, obviously, is not.

3) Accommodation and Concordism

If there’s nothing inherently atheistic about the scientific theory of evolution, why do so many evangelicals oppose it so strongly? The answer in large part has to do with the assumptions we bring to the scriptures. Evangelicalism, under the influence of fundamentalism, has promoted the idea that in order to take the Bible seriously, we must believe that it provides a literal and accurate description of the physical universe. That is, God revealed to the authors of Scripture scientific facts about the universe that could not otherwise have been known to them at the time. This assumption is known as scientific concordism. A concordist interpretation of the Genesis creation accounts obviously does not leave room for evolution.

In spite of the popularity of concordism as it pertains to Genesis, history shows that it’s a largely unwarranted assumption. At various points in the past, prominent Christian scholars used the Bible to support numerous outdated ideas about science, most notably geocentrism (e.g., Jos 10:12; 1 Sam 2:8; 1 Chr 16:30; Job 38:4; Ps 19:4–6, 24:2, 50:1, 93:1, 96:10, 104:5; Ecc 1:5; Hab 3:11). These ideas have since fallen by the wayside in light of scientific knowledge, and Christians now read these parts of the Bible in a different way. Rather than blindly insisting that our understanding of the physical world must accord with a literal interpretation of these passages, we now appreciate that God sometimes accommodates His message to the limitations of human understanding. The sun may not literally rotate about the earth as the Bible describes, but it certainly appeared that way to the earth-bound Hebrew people of the Old Testament. The principle of accommodation is the understanding that God spoke to the authors of Scripture using language and imagery with which they were familiar. Many Christians now feel that, given the previous shortcomings of concordism, the Genesis creation account might likewise be better understood as an accommodation of God’s timeless message to the culture of the ancient Hebrew people. If that’s indeed the case, then accepting evolution may be no more heretical than accepting that the earth goes around the sun!

Further Reading

The concepts introduced above are obviously interrelated and merit much lengthier discussions than given in this essay, but time and space prevent further elaboration. I’ll offer instead a few relevant resources that helped shape my thoughts here. Stephen Godfrey and Christopher Smith’s co-authored book Paradigms on Pilgrimage dedicate a couple helpful chapters to exploring more fully the concepts of agency and mechanism, and methodological and ontological naturalism. Denis Lamoureux’s books Evolutionary Creation and I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution similarly provide a thorough discussion of the principles of accommodation and concordism. All the various concepts considered here are connected in Keith Miller’s edited volume Perspectives on an Evolving Creation. Steve Martin tells a similar story to mine in a blog post here. Be sure to also see Steve’s selected bibliography for more resources about the relationship between science and faith.

Friday, 13 November 2009

An Update to the Selected Bibliography on Evangelicals and Evolution

My current selected bibliography on evangelicals and evolution was getting a little long in the tooth (over two years without an update). I have now posted an updated PDF version of the selected bibliography. These are all resources that I have found helpful in my own research into the interaction of evolutionary science and an evangelical expression of the Christian faith.

Note that this is a personal bibliography and is thus biased to my own set of interests (eg. historical context of the dialogue, and the theological implications of evolution); it is certainly not a comprehensive list of resources. For example, the Haarsma’s Origins book is not on the list since I haven’t read it. However, this might be the first book I recommend to an evangelical from the reformed tradition who is investigating evolution & its faith implications for the first time.

As well as uploading the PDF version to scribd, I’ve reproduced the list of resources below.

Selected Bibliography

Alexander, Denis. June 1999. Can science explain everything? scientific naturalism and the death of science. The Cambridge Papers 8 #2, , http://www.cis.org.uk/assets/files/Resources/Articles/Article-Archive/naturalism.htm (accessed December 2006).

———. 2005. Is intelligent design biblical? Evangelicals Now, http://www.cis.org.uk/assets/files/Resources/Articles/Article-Archive/EN_IDarticle.pdf.

———. 2001. Rebuilding the matrix : Science and faith in the 21st century. 1st ed. Oxford: Lion Books.

———. Darwinian evolution: The really hard questions. in ASA 2007 Annual Meeting [database online]. [cited Nov 10 2009]. Available from http://www.asa3.org/ASAradio/ASA2007Alexander.mp3; http://www.asa3.org/ASA/meetings/edinburgh2007/papers/Edinburgh_Alexander_slides.pdf.

———. Does evolution have any religious significance? [cited December 2006]. Available from http://www.cis.org.uk/assets/files/Resources/Articles/Article-Archive/Denis-Alexander-evolution-religious-significance-v2.pdf.

Bartholomew, David J. 2008. God, chance, and purpose : Can god have it both ways?. Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Beale, G. K. 2006. Myth, history, and inspiration: A review article of inspiration and incarnation. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society: 287-312.

Bebbington, D. W. 1989. Evangelicalism in modern britain : A history from the 1730s to the 1980s. London ; Boston: Unwin Hyman.

Bimson, John J. 2006. Reconsidering a "cosmic fall". Science and Christian Belief 18, (1): 63-81.

Bright, John. 2000. A history of israel. 4th ed. Louisville, Ky: Westminster J. Knox Press.

Brown, Warren S., H. Newton Malony, and Nancey C. Murphy. 1998. Whatever happened to the soul? : Scientific and theological portraits of human nature. Theology and the sciences. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Cobern, Bill. One christian's perspective on creation and evolution. in Western Michigan University (SLCSP) [database online]. [cited November 13 2009]. Available from http://www.wmich.edu/slcsp/SLCSP176/SLCSP176.pdf.

Colling, Richard G. 2004. Random designer : Created from chaos to connect with the creator. Bourbonnais, Ill.: Browning Press.

Collins, Francis S. 2006. The language of god : A scientist presents evidence for belief. New York: Free Press.

Collins, Robin. 2003. Evolution and original sin. In Perspectives on an evolving creation., ed. Keith B. Miller, 469-501. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.

Dawkins, Richard. 1976. The selfish gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dembski, William. Christian theodicy in light of genesis and modern science. [cited December 2006]. Available from http://www.designinference.com/documents/2006.05.christian_theodicy.pdf.

Dickerson, Richard. June 1992. The game of science: Reflections after arguing with some rather overwrought people. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 44, (2): 137-138.

Domning, Daryl P., and Monika Hellwig. 2006. Original selfishness : Original sin and evil in the light of evolution. Ashgate science and religion series. Aldershot, England: Ashgate.

Enns, Peter. 2007. Preliminary observations on an incarnational model of scripture: Its viability and usefulness. Calvin Theological Journal 42, : 219-236.

———. 2006. Response to G. K. Beale’s review article on inspiration and incarnation. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society: 313-326.

———. 2005. Inspiration and incarnation : Evangelicals and the problem of the old testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

———. Inspiration & incarnation: Thoughts, musings, interactions, responses…about or inspired by the book. [cited November 13 2009]. Available from http://peterennsonline.com/ii/.

Falk, Darrel R. 2004. Coming to peace with science : Bridging the worlds between faith and biology. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Finlay, Graeme. June 2008. Human evolution: How random process fulfils divine purpose. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 60, (2): 103-114.

———. April 2003. Homo divinus: The ape that bears God’s image. Science and Christian Belief 15, (1): 17-40.

Fischer, D. 1994. In search of the historical adam: Part 2. Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith 46, : 47-57.

———. 1993. In search of the historical adam: Part 1. Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith 45, : 241-50.

Giberson, Karl. 2008. Saving darwin : How to be a christian and believe in evolution. New York: HarperOne.

Gingerich, Owen. 2006. God's universe. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Glover, Gordon. 2007. Beyond the firmament. Chesapeake, VA: Watertree Press.

Godfrey, Stephen J., and Christopher R. Smith. 2005. Paradigms on pilgrimage : Creationism, paleontology, and biblical interpretation. Toronto: Clements Pub.

Gould, Stephen J. Evolution as fact and theory. in Stephen J. Gould Library [database online]. 1981 [cited December 2006]. Available from http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_fact-and-theory.html.

Gray, Terry. 2003. Biochemistry and evolution. In Perspectives on an evolving creation., ed. Keith B. Miller, 256-287. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.

———. Complexity--yes! irreducible--maybe! unexplainable--no! A creationist criticism of irreducible complexity. in ASA [database online]. [cited December 2006]. Available from http://www.asa3.org/evolution/irred_compl.html.

Haarsma, Deborah, and Jennifer Wiseman. 2003. An evolving cosmos. In Perspectives on an evolving creation., ed. Keith B. Miller, 97-119. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.

Haarsma, Loren. March 2002. Can many world views agree on science? Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 54, (1): 28-29.

———. Chance from a theistic perspective. in Talk Origins [database online]. July 29, 1996 [cited May 2006]. Available from http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/chance/chance-theistic.html.

———. 2003. Does science exclude god? natural law, chance, miracles, and scientific practice. In Perspectives on an evolving creation., ed. Keith B. Miller, 72-94. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.

———. Is intelligent design scientific? in ASA [database online]. [cited May 2006]. Available from http://www.asa3.org:16080/ASA/meetings/Messiah2005/papers/IsIDScientific_ASA2005.htm.

Haarsma, Loren, and Terry Gray. 2003. Complexity, self organization, and design. In Perspectives on an evolving creation., ed. Keith B. Miller, 288-312. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.

Hall, John. 2009. Chance for a purpose. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 61, (1): 3-12.

Harvey, Allan. Science and nature in christian perspective. [cited December 2006]. Available from http://steamdoc.s5.com/sci-nature/.

Haught, John F., and Carl S. Helrich. 2005. Purpose, evolution and the meaning of life : Proceedings of the fourth annual goshen conference on religion and science. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press.

Hedman, Bruce A. 1989. Mathematics, cosmology, and the contingent universe. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 41, (2): 99-103.

Hill, Carol. June 2007. A third alternative to concordism and divine accommodation: The worldview approach. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 59, (2): 129-134.

Hughes, Philip Edgcumbe. 1989. The true image : The origin and destiny of man in christ. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

Hurd, James. June 2006. Reply to the real adam and original sin. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 58, (2): 102-3.

———. 2003. Hominids in the garden. In Perspectives on an evolving creation., ed. Keith B. Miller, 208-233. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.

Hyers, Conrad. 1984. Dinosaur religion: On interpreting and misinterpreting the creation texts. Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 36, (3): 142-148.

———. 1982. Biblical literalism: Constricting the cosmic dance. The Christian Century Aug 4, : 832-841.

Isaac, Mark. An index of creationist claims. [cited November 13 2009]. Available from http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/index.html.

Isaac, Randy. Sept 2005. From gaps to gods. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 57, (3): 230-4.

———. June 2007. Assessing the RATE project. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 59, (2): 143-146.

———. 1996. Chronology of the fall. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 48, : 34-42.

Johnson, Timothy R., and Karl Giberson. Dec 2002. The teaching of evolution in the public school: A case study analysis. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 54, (4): 242-248.

Kline, Meredith. 1996. Space and time in the genesis cosmogony. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 48, (1): 2-15.

Krienke, Karl. Dec 1992. Theodicy and evolution. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 44, (4): 255-257.

Lamoureux, Denis. 2008. Evolutionary creation : A christian approach to evolution. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.

———. 2008. Lessons from the heavens: On scripture, science and inerrancy. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 60, (1): 4-15.

———. Evolutionary creationism. [cited May 2006]. Available from http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/3EvoCr.htm.

Leslie, John. 1989. Universes. London ; New York: Routledge.

Lindberg, David C., and Ronald L. Numbers. 2003. When science & christianity meet. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Livingstone, David N. 2008. Adam's ancestors : Race, religion, and the politics of human origins. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

———. 1987. Darwin's forgotten defenders : The encounter between evangelical theology and evolutionary thought. Grand Rapids, Mich.; Edinburgh, Scotland: W.B. Eerdmans; Scottish Academic Press.

Long, V. Philips, Gordon J. Wenham, and David W. Baker. 2002. Windows into old testament history : Evidence, argument, and the crisis of "biblical israel". Grand Rapids, Mich. ; Cambridge, U.K.: W.B. Eerdmans.

Marsden, George M. 1987. Reforming fundamentalism : Fuller seminary and the new evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.

———. 1980. Fundamentalism and american culture : The shaping of twentieth century evangelicalism, 1870-1925. New York: Oxford University Press.

Marsden, George M., Mark A. Noll, Joel A. Carpenter, Roger Lundin, Nathan O. Hatch, and Wheaton College . Authors. 1984. Evangelicalism and modern america. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.

McGrath, Alister E. 2008. The open secret : A new vision for natural theology. Oxford: Blackwell Pub.

———. 2005. Dawkins' god : Genes, memes, and the meaning of life. Oxford: Blackwell Pub.

———. 2002. The future of christianity. Blackwell manifestos. Oxford ; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.

———. Has science eliminated god? in CiS-St Edmund's Online Lectures [database online]. [cited November 13 2009]. Available from http://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/cis/mcgrath/index.html.

———. Has science killed god? (faraday paper #9). in Faraday Institute for Science and Religion [database online]. [cited November 13 2009]. Available from http://graphite.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/faraday/resources/Faraday%20Papers/Faraday%20Paper%209%20McGrath_EN.pdf.

———. Isn't science more rational than faith? in Evangelical Alliance of the UK [database online]. [cited November 10 2009]. Available from http://www.eauk.org/resources/idea/bigquestion/bq18.cfm?renderforprint=1.

McIntyre, J. A. Sept. 2002. The historical adam. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 54, (3): 150-7.

———. June 2006. The real adam and original sin. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 58, (2): 90-8.

McLaren, Brian D. 2003. The story we find ourselves in : Further adventures of a new kind of christian. 1st ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Menninga, Clarence. Sept 1988. Creation, time, and "apparent age". Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 40, (3): 160-2.

———. Dec 1999. Disease and dying in the fossil record. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 51, (4): 226-230.

Miller, Roman. Mar 2007. Do we debate or dialogue issues of science and faith? Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 59, (1): 1-2.

Miller, Keith B. September 1993. Theological implications of an evolving creation. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 45, (3): 150-160.

———. June 2002. The similarity of theory testing in the historical and “Hard” sciences. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 54, (2): 119-122.

———. 2003. Common descent, transitional forms, and the fossil record. In Perspectives on an evolving creation., ed. Keith B. Miller, 152-181. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.

———. 2003. Perspectives on an evolving creation. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.

Miller, Keith B., and David Campbell. 2003. The "cambrian explosion": A challenge to evolutionary theory? In Perspectives on an evolving creation., ed. Keith B. Miller, 182-204. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.

Miller, Kenneth R. 1999. Finding darwin's god : A scientist's search for common ground between god and evolution. New York: Cliff Street Books.

Morris, Simon Conway. 2006. The boyle lecture 2005: Darwin's compass: How evolution discovers the song of creation. Science and Christian Belief 18, (1): 5-22.

Moshier, Stephen O., Dean Arnold, Larry L. Funck, Raymond Lewis, Albert J. Smith, John H. Walton, and William Wharton. Dec 2007. Theories of origins: A multi- and interdisciplinary course for undergraduates at wheaton college. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 59, (4): 289-296.

Murphy, George L. March 2006. Reading god's two books. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 58, (1): 64-7.

———. March 2001. Chiasmic cosmology and creation's functional integrity. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 53, (1): 7-13.

———. March 1986. A theological argument for evolution. Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 38, (1): 19-26.

———. June 2006. Roads to paradise and perdition: Christ, evolution, and original sin. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 58, (2): 109-118.

———. Dec 2008. Chiasmic cosmology and atonement. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 60, (4): 214-224.

———. 2005. Pulpit science fiction. Ohio: CSS Publishing Company Inc.

———. 2003. Christology, evolution, and the cross. In Perspectives on an evolving creation., ed. Keith B. Miller, 370-389. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.

———. 2003. The cosmos in the light of the cross. Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press International.

———. 1998. The theology of the cross and god's work in the world. Zygon 33, (2): 221-31.

Murphy, Nancey C. 2006. Bodies and souls, or spirited bodies?. Current issues in theology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———. 1996. Beyond liberalism and fundamentalism : How modern and postmodern philosophy set the theological agenda. Rockwell lecture series. Valley Forge, Pa.: Trinity Press International.

Murphy, Nancey C., and Carl S. Helrich. 2002. Religion and science : God, evolution and the soul by nancey murphy : Proceedings of the goshen conference on religion and science. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press.

Noll, Mark A. 1994. The scandal of the evangelical mind. Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.

———. 1992. A history of christianity in the united states and canada. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans.

———. 1986. Between faith and criticism : Evangelicals, scholarship, and the bible in america. Confessional perspectives series. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Numbers, Ronald L. 2006. The creationists : From scientific creationism to intelligent design. Expand ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Peters, Ted, and Martin Hewlett. 2006. Can you believe in god and evolution? : A guide for the perplexed. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

———. 2003. Evolution from creation to new creation : Conflict, conversation , and convergence. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Plantinga, Alvin. Sept 1997. Methodological naturalism. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 49, (3): 143-154.

———. 1977. God, freedom, and evil. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Polkinghorne, J. C. 2006; 1988. Science and creation : The search for understanding. Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press.

———. Creation, evil, and time. in The Faraday Institute of Science and Religion: Summer 2006 Lecture Series [database online]. 2006Available from http://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/faraday/resources/Summer%20Course%201/045_John_Polkinghorne3.mp3.

———. 2004. Science and the trinity : The christian encounter with reality. New Haven: Yale University Press.

———. 2002. The god of hope and the end of the world. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.

———. 2000. Faith, science and understanding. London: Spck.

———. 1998. Science and theology : An introduction. London; Minneapolis, Minn.: Spck; Fortress Press.

———. 1994. Science and christian belief: Theological reflections of a bottom-up thinker. Gifford lectures for 1993-4. London: Spck.

———. 1989. Science and providence : God's interaction with the world. London: Spck.

———. The future of the science-religion debate. in The Faraday Institute of Science and Religion [database online]. Available from http://graphite.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/faraday/resources/FAR173%20John%20Polkinghorne.mp3.

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Monday, 9 November 2009

My Transition from a Conservative Creationist to a Theistic Evolutionist (albeit with some unanswered questions)

This is a guest post by Eric DeVries and is the fourth post in our series on “Evangelicals and Evolution: A Student Perspective”. Eric is a post-grad biology student at Calvin College.

I’m an evolutionist, a theistic evolutionist to be specific. My transition to this position is relatively recent and I still have much to learn about the interaction between faith and science. I can’t say that my journey is a unique story, but maybe it resonates with some readers of this series.

So here it is.

Early impressions of Evolution
I grew up in a typical, western Michigan, Dutch family. By this I mean to say my family was reserved, proper, and attended church every Sunday. Our first church was a mega-church named Calvary which we attended until I was in 4th grade. At this point my dad decided that he was tired of all the behind the scenes drama so we left to find a “better” church. Ironically we ended up at one of the spiritually deadest churches I have ever attended. It was there that the idea of evolution was first presented to me. And in a typical “good” Christian way, it was described as a theory which directly contradicted the bible and was therefore wrong; so wrong in fact that those who accepted it were ostracized as “unbelievers”.

Attending a Conservative Christian school in a Liberal part of America
When I was in grade 6 my family moved to a part of California that many would describe as relatively liberal. Being the only Christian school in the area, my parents enrolled me in a conservative, Baptist school. Again the idea was taught that evolutionary science could not be reconciled with God’s plan for humanity. Only this time instead of just hearing it, I integrated it into my belief system and self-identify. I came to believe that whomever held to the theory of evolution was at best direly misguided and at worst going to hell.

Instead of joining an existing church, my family connected with a couple other families to start our own church. We lived the challenges of launching a church in an area resistant to organized Christianity. One of the biggest challenges was church growth, which was extremely slow. This lead to quickly solidifying the relationship between my family and the few others who were part of the church and it was with these families that my love of the outdoors, of mountains and the ocean, developed. The hobbies of hiking and backpacking became central to my life in California, sparking my interest in biology. Evolution was not really avoided as a subject of discussion with this group of families; it was more put on a side burner, and not considered an important enough issue to waste energy discussing. Instead we went about meeting a much more diverse group of people, realizing that Christianity does actually consist of more than the conservative, Dutch social group we were part of in Michigan.

Learning to be more Open-Minded in a Conservative Heartland
Moving back to Michigan is a turning point in this story. The irony is that I started becoming more open minded in one of the most conservative places in America after I had learned to be a fundamentalist in one of the most liberal areas of the country . On the recommendation of my dad, I became connected with Young Life, which is a Christian organization in high schools. I loved it. These people, instead of hiding their failings, accepted them and worked those weaknesses into their stories, changing them into something that God could work with to teach others. My experiences in the conservative Christian school in California had taught me the exact opposite, to hide my failings and only deal with them between myself and God. It took me a long time to accept this new approach, nearly two years in fact.

We started attending a church in Grand Rapids which was pretty “radical”. The pastor there had no reservations about discussing topics which most churches would avoid. The sermons opened up dinner table discussions. Our discussions became more open minded, and my parents tackled controversial topics; we were not afraid to ask some hard questions about our conservative brand of Christianity. We never outright denied specific traditional beliefs, but we were encouraged to ask questions about these beliefs. Yet through this entire time I never gave up on my belief that evolution was a theory from the devil, and that the proponents of evolution were like little demons running around spreading a theory directly against the will of God.

These discussions, along with my eventual acceptance of my failings, became a crucial point in my ability to mentally prepare myself to engage evolution once I went off to college.

Starting College and my investigation into Evolution
After graduating from high school I attended Calvin College. Calvin was like pouring alcohol on a fire as it caused my desire to ask questions, and in particular questions regarding evolution, to explode. Why did so many Christians at this Christian College actually accept this theory which I had been taught was wrong (notice the difference between belief and taught at this point in my life)? I began to dig deeper into the evidence for evolution; and the more I learned the more concerned I became. Evolution made sense, or at least its basic arguments made sense. Some of the particulars were, for me, a bit sketchy. But the basic claims of evolution had a logical ring to them, and they appealed to that left-brained side of who I am. So I accepted a conditional form of evolution which excluded the common ancestry of apes and humans. These new ideas brought tension between my faith and what I was beginning to accept about evolution. It was a real testament to the changes I had been going through since moving back from California that I was able to spiritually and intellectually engage evolutionary theory.

Evolution and Biblical Interpretation
My exploration of evolutionary theory, and its implications, made me revisit my ideas of biblical interpretation. I began to see that a literalistic interpretation of Genesis leads to many discrepancies. One, which may not seem as blatant as others, but oddly enough is the one I remember most, is the geography of the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 2 the garden is described as having 4 rivers flowing through it. One of those is located in Egypt, while two others are located in current day Iraq, and the fourth has its probable current day location in Ethiopia. How these four rivers found themselves, within the recent past (geologically speaking), to either originate or terminate in one area is still beyond me.

This rethinking of biblical interpretation was important in my journey. But even more important was the evidence supporting evolution. Coming back to Calvin, following a semester in Spain during my third year, I decided to take a J-term evolutionary biology class. This class was a three week course exploring the evidences behind evolution. I had previously studied population genetics, homology, and common ancestry in first two years of college, but had yet to see a condensed list of the evidence supporting each idea. We examined the various anatomies of the ear bone in the transition from land to water in the story of the whale. We read The Song of the Dodo by David Quamman, which sifts through the various ideas presented by naturalists over the past two centuries before delving into island biogeography and its affects on the composition and genetics of an isolated population. But most important was our discussion about genetics, which was spurred on by our readings in Quamman and our study of the whale. I began to see the picture of history painted by genetics using the mechanism of evolution.

And it convinced me.

Now I identify myself as a theistic evolutionist; an interesting transition.

I transitioned from a conservative creationist to a theistic evolutionist in a journey that took anywhere between 4 and 8 years, depending on the starting point. Today I see evolution as a beautifully fluid display of the creative aspect of God. But that does not mean I have all the pertinent questions answered. One of the biggest unanswered questions is how to explain death. Evolution is pushed forward by death, but according to the biblical account death is an evil only present in the world after “the fall”. And for that reason how do I explain “the fall”? So evolution doesn’t explain everything, and it actually presents new problems.

But evolution happens. For me the bible no longer dictates what I believe about science. I don’t think it was ever meant to. Science describes science. That’s that.

Monday, 2 November 2009

An Evolutionary Biology Student Discovers Christ ... and the Toxic Anti-Evolutionism that often Taints the Gospel

This is a guest post by Emiliano Carneiro Monteiro and is the third post in our series on “Evangelicals and Evolution: A Student Perspective”. Emiliano is a doctoral student studying cellular biology with a focus on morphology at the Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil. He is currently researching the digestive system of a Phasmid (stick bug) species, as well as physiological features of its digestive processes.

A) My New Life in Christ
My story with Christianity, and with its struggle with science, began on January 31st, 2007. In the middle of a great big mess in my life I met Alberto Malta, a very dear friend and a leader with Campus Crusade for Christ at the Universidade de São Paulo. I was in the last year of my undergraduate degree in biology and after a long talk with Alberto, I took the first step towards the Christian faith and accepted Christ. Before that, in my adolescence and throughout college, I would have described myself as an agnostic or an atheist, although today I realize my position was probably pantheistic. The Campus Crusade for Christ website published a little post about my story at: http://www.ccci.org/training/evangelism/cojourners/builder-model.aspx

B) My Introduction to Creationism
At the time, I was already well aware that some Christian denominations did not accept evolution and held a ‘literalistic’ interpretation of the book of Genesis. Although it surprised me at first I didn’t really mind; I was busy experiencing my new life and setting my things straight. Furthermore I saw no problem with Darwin's theory. Evolution didn't get in the way of my faith but actually helped. To me, it was a wonderful and elegant process that explained how life developed. Back then the subject of creation and origins rarely came up. When it did I often told people that I accepted evolution but wasn’t a fanatic about it and that there should be more profound and fulfilling explanations that lay outside science.

But tension soon arose. At the first church I attended (Igreja Batista Esperança) everyone kept talking about “Dr. Adauto Lourenço”. I soon discovered that he was a physicist, with a doctorate degree from Bob Jones University, and a creationist. I wasn’t completely aware at the time of what kind of arguments creationists used to defend their point of view. I never met Adauto Lourenço in person, but I rushed to buy a set of 5 DVDs with his lectures.

C) Discussions: Some Fruitless, some Fruitful
While watching the DVDs I had my first faith crisis. Here was a Christian preacher spreading information that was simply not true. Soon I ran across more and more information about the whole “Creation vs Evolution” subject. In no time I was familiar with most (if not all) arguments used by creationists to defend their point of view. I was also aware that almost all their arguments were false. To make the situation worse the topic suddenly seemed to be really important for those around me. However, the many discussions I had were tiring and fruitless, so I avoided arguments about it as much as I could when at Church or among Christian friends.

I even had one or two arguments with my girlfriend, Karollina, on the subject. She is also a biologist and played a big role in leading me to Jesus Christ. Until recently, she defended a creationist point of view (she was never profoundly interested in the whole controversy though). Through my own investigation, interest and dialogue, she became aware of the full array of Creationist’s arguments. She has since reviewed her ideas and now accepts the compatibility of evolution and the Christian faith.

D) Evangelical Christianity in Brazil
Evangelical Christianity is having truly exponential growth here in Brazil. That is great because many people are getting to know more about the gospel and are engaging in following Jesus Christ. It is also very good that we Brazilians are developing our own identity and addressing the unique problems we face here south of the equator. Still, the process is slow and evangelical Christians in Brazil tend to follow trends in the US evangelical church. Antagonism towards evolution is one harmful idea that the American church has exported to Brazil.

I’m extremely grateful to those who helped me grow in my Christian faith. Still, it breaks my heart to see so many honest followers of Jesus believe that one must deny evolution in order to be a Christian. That is due partly because of a lack of information, but also due to the spreading of misinformation (for example, the ministry of Dr. Adauto Lourenço). I continue to find the subject of evolution completely fascinating, and learn more and more everyday. I do not think that the knowledge of the theory of evolution should interfere in a destructive way with anyone’s beliefs.

E) Portuguese Resources on Science and Faith
Francis Collins’s book Language of God really helped me. I remember thinking while reading: “Hey, this guy agrees with me!”. I also had the opportunity to meet and talk to some ministers and theologians whose views on Christian faith and science differ from the creationists. Unfortunately very few books that show a positive relationship between faith and science get translated into Portuguese, and other resources in Portuguese are almost non-existent.

Instead, creationism is being widely promoted amongst evangelical communities in Brazil as being the one and only Christian approach to science. It is despairing for me to see anti-evolutionary misconceptions and false scientific statements being spread in a country that already has significant challenges with its educational system (poor management, and lack of investment from the state). I don’t think there has ever been a poll in Brazil to measure the acceptance of evolution, but I doubt the results would be good.

F) Conclusion
So that is my story. I am hopeful that with prayer, love and action, we may see a change in the evangelical churches in Brazil. I am hopeful that they can spread the Gospel in a way that is relevant for my fellow countrymen, but without the damaging additions to the Word of God that are intellectually faulty and hinder faith in Jesus Christ.

Paz de Cristo