Monthly Archives: May 2013
The work I’ve done on the changed position of the Christian Church regarding the supposed damage inflicted by the Fall on nature was prompted by revisiting the usually cited biblical supports for a “fallen creation.” See here and the several posts following. I concluded that there is a very poor scriptural case for it. Amongst them was the passage in Romans 8.18-27.
One of the celebrated incidents of the science v religion myth is the debate of Thomas Huxley with Samuel Wilberforce at Oxford in 1860. It’s presented as the clash of enlightened science with biblical obsurantism. There was no contemporary record of the debate, though, and even the famous quip of Huxley about preferring to be descended from an ape than a bishop is likely to be, at best, exaggerated. But we do have access to Wilberforce’s review of Origin of Species in the Quarterly Review, which is quite an illuminating counterbalance to the myth. It shows, once more, how much one can learn by not taking received wisdom as fact.
Contrary to what is popularly supposed, young earth views did not predominate amongst conservative Christians at the time Darwin published The Origin of Species. I’m grateful to historian of science Ted Davis for pointing that out to me in one of his BioLogos posts. In fact, it’s obvious from the Origin itself, in that although Darwin’s main “opponent” is special creation (a slight straw man itself by 1859), he makes no attempt to argue for deep time, although he does mention the need for it in passing.
In my recent long essay, I contrasted the commonest modern manifestions of theistic evolution with the approach of TE’s first representatives in Darwin’s time. I showed that the latters’ central distinctive was divine teleology. This contrasts directly with the cautiously expressed undirectedness of evolution in the Origin of Species, due to Darwin’s near-atheist agnosticism, and even more with the insistent secularism of Huxley and his successors, which has become the default position in biological science. I also demonstrated that modern TE, formulated academically by the science and faith scholars (mainly liberal Protestant and Catholic) and popularised by authors often from within the biological professions (also multi-confessional but with a higher proportion … Continue reading
A number of posts on this blog revolve around the ideas that much that is wrong with the theological origins debate is also what is wrong with contemporary Christianity, and that much of that has to do with the emphasis on personal freedom and autonomy in our culture. A related concept, in my view, is the prominence of theistic personalism, whose source is the belief, originally from the scholastic Duns Scotus, that God can only relate to us genuinely if his mode of being is the same as ours. Prior to that, the classical view of Thomas Aquinas and his theological predecessors was that God is essentially different from us, … Continue reading
It seems people are capable of believing anything. On a current BioLogos thread there was some discussion of the range of cults, therapies and conspiracy theories around – and I confess I rubbed in a little that most of them come from America, the land of progress and science. But my last post was about fundamental disagreement not at the fringes, but at the centre, of established science.
The publication of the US dictionary of psychiatry, the DSM, got into some of the usual blogs I read because of people’s doubts about its perceived medicalisation of “human distress”. Now I see the furore has spread across the Atlantic by a critical report against clinical psychiatry by the Division of Clinical Psychology, representing (the Guardian says) 10,000 practitioners.
I have to sympathise with new BioLogos poster hanan-d, who is trying to discover whether theistic evolution implies or allows for God’s directive will or not. He’s mentioned on several occasions that his enquiry arises from a crisis of personal faith, not simply intellectual curiosity, and yet he continues to be met with dismissive one-liners from beaglelady, and accusations of ignorance, cowardice and bad faith by melanogaster. Admittedly those responses are what everybody gets from that particular double-act, but one might have wished for a more straightforward set of explanations, and perhaps more empathy. After all, as the survey currently headlining the forum shows, theistic evolution is the firm option … Continue reading
PNGarrison makes some nice comments on theodicy in response to the final part of my essay on theistic evolution and design. He is, of course, absolutely right to suggest that the interest in some kind of theodicy is normal to humanity: “Why does God…?” comes even from the lips of babes and sucklings. So my main aim in devoting a section to it in the essay was to object to its becoming a controlling factor in theology. There are good reasons for the predominant attitude in Scripture, which is in essence, “Who are you to talk back to God?”. Amongst them maybe the most important is to guide us to … Continue reading
Theodicy A third major plank of modern theistic evolution is theodicy. We saw above how Charles Kingsley rejected the prevalent theology of a fallen creation, and saw both the goodness and the harshness of nature as commensurate with the revealed character of God. I would assert that even so he, and more so Darwin, retained a view of nature that was skewed by three centuries of pessimism. Kingsley’s gloomy co-religionists got their “red in tooth and claw” view ultimately from pagan culture, via the Renaissance humanist project. Before that, Christianity had virtually no concept of “natural evil”, but only of God’s wise, if often mysterious, governance. Our own pessimism about … Continue reading