I’ve been following BioLogos for maybe two years now, and like any other long association one begins to pick up the general “vibe” of theistic evolution. One of the main things I’ve noticed is how unformed the connection between evolution and Christian theology tends to be. TE’s know they’re not Creationists, and they know they reject ID, but beyond that where they do stand often seems vague. When the link is made firmer, it tends to be expressed in heterodox terms of Open or Process theology, as I’ve discussed at length before.
My impression is that BioLogos has, to some extent at least, been distancing itself from these non-mainstream theologies recently. Its writers (or those dealing primarily with the science itself, rather than philosophical or devotional matters, for example) appear to wish to stand for mainstream science, and also for mainstream faith. That’s a worthy aim, but it tends to appear rather nebulous as far as the theology goes. It usually takes the form of an assertion that God is behind everything, including evolution, sustaining it, overseeing it, underpinning it – even directing it. But given these writers’ use of the ateleological terminology of science in their science writing, and the tendency I’ve mentioned for TEs to promote a “hands-off” view of God’s relationship to nature, it’s not clear what they really mean by their assertion.
On a few occasions, when replying to writers who tend to interact with their readership on the site, I’ve raised the question of what, in their view, God actually does in evolution. Most recently I raised this question in reply to a video by Kerry Fulcher, which is admirably irenic towards the various streams of Christian opinion, but doesn’t actually state his own position very clearly. Neither he, nor any of the working scientists associated with BioLogos, have replied over several days. “No comment” is, in my experience, the usual pattern.
I may be wrong, but I get the impression that in many cases the situation is that scientists know the science, and accept the truths of their faith with less depth of knowledge, and so they are hesitant to be the people to integrate the two fully. Granted, it’s not everyone’s role to build bridges, but if they don’t do it, who will? It does seem obvious that if you hold to theistic evolution, you ought to be able to explain what it is.
As I’ve stated before, some streams within Christianity have no essential theological problem with the fact of evolution, nor even with its Neodarwinian expression. The Reformed Tradition has a high view of providence, meaning that we believe God to be sovereign over everything in his Creation, including natural law, chance and even (in a mysterious way not too relevant to this subject) the free decisions of men (see, for example, Genesis 45.4-5; Proverbs 16.9, 21.1; Acts 4.27-28). But a majority of Christians are not from that tradition – William Lane-Craig (a Wesleyan in origin, but no materialist) even says it is “plain wrong”, but I don’t think he’s a TE. I get the impression that even some TE scientists from the Reformed camp fight shy of accepting God’s direct hand in evolution. This may be because the essence of evolution is indeed that it is “undirected” – a direct contradiction of mainstream Christianity’s view of creation – or, to be fair, it may be simply a denial that God’s hand can be detected within nature.
But in either case, I’m not sure these are tenable positions. Distancing God from creation to maintain some kind of compliance with science’s avowal of evolution as “undirected” is a direct conclusion of the Open Theism approach. But if one wishes to maintain a traditional theology of creation, the clear contradiction between “directed” and “undirected” must be admitted and addressed seriously. If evolution is undirected then God does not direct it, even by being “under” or “behind” it. If God directs it, whether by fine-tuning natural laws, by overruling chance, or by influencing the decisions of volitional creatures (I’m not sure there are any other possible categories, apart from miracle, which TEs generally exclude), then one must deny it is undirected. Indeed, if God rules all, then “undirected” is actually a meaningless concept. There does seem sometimes to be a rather unwieldy process of translating “design” in nature into “appearance of design” for the purposes of methodological naturalism, followed (though less rigorously) with a retranslation into the “design” inherent in orthodox theistic evolution.
To say that God’s design (which is after all only another word for “will”, “intention” or “purpose”) cannot be detected in nature is equally problematic. In the first place, at an informal level nearly everyone accepts that design in nature is visible. It’s just that the materialist says the designer is an undirected process (which the Christian cannot, surely, say). Strictly, the materialist in denying teleology is actually saying that the observed design is illusory. Can the Christian scientist really share that view, if God truly is “overseeing” evolution? Granted, the appearance of design does not prove God’s involvement, or the materialist could not make his claim, but we are discussing Christian theology here – what does the Theistic Evolutionist believe about God and design? With apparently astronomically unlikely events like abiogenesis, the DNA code and so on, does he say that God has so fine-tuned chemistry that the odds are not that slim at all? Does he say that given God’s directing oversight, you would expect some low-probability events – or does he rather imitate the thinking of atheists, who say that any probability is more likely than God’s “interference”?
Unfortunately, I can’t say, because direct statements from Christian scientists on these matters are thin on the ground. But to the extent that such matters are not discussed, theistic evolution remains an incomplete, and insufficient, explanatory position to those who take their faith seriously. And that is not healthy.