Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Struggles of "Theistic Evolution"

The Chicago Tribune reports on the "New Theology" of scientists like Howard van Till, who (like me) accept evolutionary theory and Christianity at the same time. The story notes:

Evolution, they contend, is more than a soulless explanation for the development of life. It is a glimpse of a divine plan so subtle it's almost invisible. Some scholars call the idea "theistic evolution," though the term has been slow to catch on. Dr. Francis Collins, the leader of the U.S. government's Human Genome Project and a born-again Christian, prefers to call it "BioLogos," the union of biology with the word of God.

"BioLogos." Hmmm. Probably better than "evolutionary creationism."

The article also addresses the inadequacy of ID, a topic I have also addressed:

Intelligent design's shortcomings as science are immense, but its theological problems may be just as profound. The God of intelligent design is a master craftsman who leaves virtually nothing to chance. That's unsatisfying to Cambridge University paleontologist Simon Conway Morris, who says many of his objections to intelligent design stem from his Christian faith. "It's theology for control freaks, with God as an engineer."

van Till addressed the problems of ID in this article. In a related vein:

Darwin couldn't resolve his ambivalence about religion. But Georgetown's [John] Haught thinks he has a better answer to the dilemma that has bedeviled believers for nearly 150 years.

Don't think of God as a meticulous designer of life, Haught urges. A detailed design would have limited the paths that living things could take. Instead, he says, God's love led to a world that's always open to new directions for life, without the need for overpowering divine supervision. The chance-fueled nature of evolution doesn't disprove God's existence, Haught believes. It's what God wanted.

This is similar to what Kenneth Miller believes and has written about in Finding Darwin's God. Correctly, though, William Dembski points out a possible pitfall in this form of theology:

A theology of evolution risks turning God into an "attenuated deity," says William Dembski, one of the founding architects of intelligent design. Haught "sees God's hands in creation as fundamentally tied," says Dembski, a professor of philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth. Whether evolution can foster a spiritually satisfying picture of God ultimately depends on how ordinary believers receive the new evangelists of theistic evolution.

The problem as I see it is that it is extremely difficult to show that the earth is not 4.5 billion years old, that the continents have not moved around, that plants and animals have not evolved and that the earth has not been subject to continual biogeographic and geological changes its entire history. We either choose to believe that God created it or we don't. As for me and my house...

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