Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Am I a Theistic Evolutionist?

I am reading Long March of the Koalas and the author, Fred Clark, makes some interesting points about the term “Theistic Evolutionist.” He suggests that it is a term without meaning for several reasons:
  • It does not necessarily apply to all who might be Christians that accept evolution—it includes people that are not scientists, despite making use of the “ist” suffix. 
  • He argues that we cannot apply the word “theistic” to the word evolution.  It is an inappropriate use of the word because it is being applied to the discipline of evolution, which is non-theistic. He writes: “Sir Isaac Newton earnestly believed in God's active, pervasive providence, but he never saw fit to christen his theory as “theistic gravity.” 
  • His final argument is that when we merge the two terms “theistic” and “evolution,” we conflate the metaphysical understanding of the process and the observational understanding of it.
I will have to think on his argument some, but he makes some valid points. He does not, however, tackle the phrase “evolutionary creationist”  Thoughts?


  1. He wrote that passage before BioLogos started using the term "evolutionary creationist," I believe. I'm becoming more and more a fan of "evolutionary creationist" myself. When speaking with Christians, it puts the emphasis on our shared belief that God has created the universe and everything therein. When speaking with scientists, it emphasizes that faith is not antithetical to science.

  2. Good point. The other thought is that ANYONE that accepts a theistic perspective is a "creationist." Therefore, it removes the issue of whether or not you practice science.

  3. Clark's point stings a bit, but it has merit.
    We Christians understand the natural process of gestation in mammals, beginning with conception as the gametes join together, then each stage of development from zygote to blastocyst to embryo to fetus to baby. We have no theological issue with describing the entire process or any of the stages along the way without explicit reference to God. And yet, while affirming the natural process, we also affirm that each puppy, kitten, cub, and especially each human baby, is a unique creation of God, a miracle.
    Perhaps when affirm the biological process of evolution, we experience a felt need to make some reference to God not primarily because that's how we see the natural process, but to remind other Christians (and perhaps ourselves) that we are still members of the tribe, inside the camp.

  4. Anonymous3:03 PM

    I enjoy your site very much and have gained valuable perspective on the theist/non-theist debates, however, I agree with Clark that the term is meaningless. Science does not have use for faith. As a matter of fact, the scientific method consistently challenges beliefs for which there is no repeatable evidence. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot pick and choose the parts of theism we find comforting and the parts of science we find reasonable.

  5. I think you are right. That is why I have settled on the term evolutionary creationist. For one thing it focuses on the word creationist, and sets it apart from young earth creationism and progressive creationism.

  6. Clark's points are on the money, particularly the second. I don't prefix any other branch of science with 'theistic', so why should I do it with evolution? Furthermore, given that theistic evolution is also used to describe one of the alternative mechanisms of evolution postulated during the "Eclipse of Darwin", I would much prefer not to confuse the two terms.

    Like you, I prefer 'evolutionary creationist', and for exactly the reasons you advance. I am a creationist who believes evolution is the mechanism by which God has brought about the diversity of life. Given that Dobzhansky made that point in his famous article, I think that puts us in excellent company.

  7. Anonymous12:28 PM

    I think the fundamental theological problem present is what God's role is supposed to be.

    Theistic evolution, as far as I can tell presumes God being active throughout the whole evolutionary process with a certain deterministic goal in mind, besides creating life(like say, increased complexity, emergence of humans as the current form etc.). This was what Biologos initially meant with "theistically guided evolution", I think?

    Evolutionary creationism seems to be a much broader term of reconciling evolutionary theory with creationism(in the sense that God created the world), which could include theistic evolution, convergence, mathematical models of evolution or just a Deistic conception of God starting the clock and letting it run.

    I don't know if either of these can be reconciled with an Universal Darwinism(of using Darwin's theory of evolution to explain evolution of music, economics, chemicals etc.) which is fairly popular amongst metaphysical naturalists, but here you go.