An Enlightening Evening.

I have just returned home from a small after dinner gathering of Christians at the home of one of the members of the Washington area chapter of the ASA (The American Scientific Affiliation). The guest of honor, was Denis Lamoureux, a well known evolutionary creationist, whose books include “I love Jesus, and I believe in Evolution”, and “Evolutionary Creation”. I have known Denis for a few years, and he is a gifted speaker and teacher. I don’t agree with everything he says. He does not believe in the existence of Adam, and would accept none of the 6 possible interpretations of Adam that Jon so ably presented us with a week ago.

Most of the people at this gathering were church goers, who had never heard of theistic evolution, or the idea that an evangelical Christian  could fully accept biological evolution. There was some discussion about Adam as a man, and Imago Dei (which was quite fitting for me, since my article “Evolution and Imago Dei” just came out today in the latest PSCF issue). But what struck me was not the details of whether Biblical texts reflect ancient science or should be followed literally, but the simple fact that no matter what sort of disagreements were present in the room, the basic tenets of the faith were shared by everyone, including those who still don’t see evolution as having anything to do with the emergence of man.

Denis made it quite clear. Imago Dei is a critical concept for all Christians, whether it was conferred on one man or many. It is the characteristic of human beings that defines us as God’s children. Furthermore, we are all sinners, and Christ died for us, and we are redeemed by His sacrifice. I understood, not for the first time, that it doesn’t matter about the details. Its good that there are so many Christian denominations, and that everyone has slightly different ideas even within one church. But we all know that Christ came to redeem us from sin, that He died, and that He overcame death to rise to Heaven. This truth unites us, and all the disagreements we might have over details should not divide us.

We will find out the truth eventually, we are making great strides in that direction. But meanwhile, I think our mission is to spread the word, the new good news that science is not the enemy of faith, that young people exposed to biology and geology need not abandon their Christianity or be forced to choose reason or faith, and give up the other. This mission is a holy one. The atheist followers of scientism on one side, and the fundamentalist deniers of God’s natural wonders on the other, have made common cause to claim we are foolish and in error. Denis made it clear that this is the battle that must be fought for the souls of our youth. Let us keep this in mind as we use this wonderful blog set up by Jon, to discuss, debate and learn. This is God’s work.

Sy Garte

About Sy Garte

Dr Sy Garte earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the City University of New York, where he also holds a bachelor’s of science degree in chemistry. In addition to publishing more than 200 scientific publications in genetics, epidemiology, the environment and other areas, Dr. Garte is the author of Where We Stand: A Surprising Look at the Real State of Our Planet (Amacom) and Genetic Susceptibility to Environmental Carcinogenesis (Kluwer) and is co-editor of Molecular Epidemiology of Chronic Diseases (Wiley).
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11 Responses to An Enlightening Evening.

  1. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Thanks Sy

    You rightly raise the issue of the truth of Christian fellowship and diversity, and obliquely the question of disagreement. There is a perennial tension between these.

    Think of two extremes. Two Christians work in the same office, one belonging to a Presbyterian church, and the other to a Congregational. It’s a minor matter of church government they are unlikely ever to mention, though if pushed their pastors might make a biblical case for their respective practices. At the other extreme, somebody belongs to a cult which calls itself “Christian” but is utterly heterodox and even abusive: the word “Christian” is being misused. Clearly, real “fellowship” here is not only impossible, but unhelpful to anyone – though that doesn’t preclude respect and courtesy.

    Between those extremes, one might recognise a fellow Christian, but be convinced that some aspect of their beliefs is so seriously wrong that it threatens to damage the gospel if it becomes widespread – and errors tend to arise because they are more attractive than truth, for some reason or another. Or one might find it hard to square someone’s Christianity with the things they teach – sometimes demonstrably rightly at the point when the teaching leads them to renounce their Christianity.

    The balancing act is to maintain fellowship without compromising the defence of sound teaching.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Further thoughts:

      The atheist followers of scientism on one side, and the fundamentalist deniers of God’s natural wonders on the other…

      Hot off a science-faith meeting I understand that remark. But of course the second part is where the rubber hits the road – do I extend my concept of “fellowship” to those fundamentalists? Do fundamentalist Christians actually deny God’s wonders, in principle? If a YEC says, “Great dinosaur, but then it would be since God created it de novo on day 6 – pity it died in the Flood,” then he might be very mistaken in facts, but not in attitude to creation. How much does that matter, from the point of view of mutual fellowship?

      On the other hand, some Creationists consider some of creation evil because the devil gained control of it through the Fall – and some TEs consider some of creation evil because God left it free to go its own way. In that they’re both on the same side – denying that certain natural wonders are God’s. How much does that matter?

      • Sy Garte Sy Garte says:

        Good questions, Jon. I of course, dont know the answers, but I feel for myself, that if a YEC is willing to acknowledge that my acceptance of an old Earth and evolution do not disqualify me from being a Christian, then I am perfectly willing to extend the fellowship of faith to him (or her). I have met YECs with the same accepting attitude, but also one or two who did not share it. I think those people are dangerous to the faith, because they tend to drive folks, (especially youngsters) away from faith. Dogmatism and rigidity are required for the core tenets of the faith. And in this, Denis, myself, and other TEs are quite adamant. There is no slippery slope here. When I heard a theologian (whose name I wont mention) question the idea of Imago Dei as a key aspect of human nature, I became quite upset, and in fact wrote the essay I mentioned in the article in response. When I went to see Godspell, a popular musical about the life of Christ, I was horrified that the resurrection was omitted.

        But in matters that do not relate directly to the priniciples of the faith, I think open minded thinking is useful. Of course, the tough part is defining “relate directly”. People like Ken Ham say that if you dont accept YEC, you will reject everything biblical eventually.

        One of the guests last evening, was Mike Biedler, whose essay at Biologos was used by Ham in his new book “Six Days” to slam all of TE. Mike is a committed evangelical, with a burning devotion to Christ, and those published words attacking him were not an example of Christian fellowship.

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          The culture wars have gone on so long now that people have sometimes forgotten why they’re fighting them.

          Ham (with whose position and manner I have little sympathy) nevertheless, I think, has a point when the argument begins to go, “Well, YEC seems to be what the writer of Genesis meant, and the science puts that out of the window. So I guess the writer was in error. But look, Paul seems to make the same mistake, so maybe we need to see him just as a theologian of his time rather than as a source of apostolic authority…”

          There are, of course, other ways of dealing with things – but that’s what we’re here to explore, right?

  2. Hanan says:

    Hi guys,

    I am curious, what do you make out of Shelby Spong. A man, (a bishop) that has looked at the evidence and said “HEY!, there is no way we can accept a theistic God or that all man are sinners.”

  3. Merv Bitikofer Merv says:

    I read Spong’s book “Why Christianity Must Change or Die”, and I was left puzzled as to why he wanted to bother retaining the label “Christian”. I don’t mean that as an attack on him personally or even as a put-down necessarily; but just my own puzzlement about why if there was so much wrong with nearly all the core beliefs of Christian faith, then why not just jettison the whole thing? Needless to say, I don’t think Spong’s teachings could or should be mistaken for Biblical ones. If he has written other more recent works that sounded more conciliatory towards central faith tenets then I would be curious about it, but I have felt no need to seek out any more of his work since I felt he clearly laid out his position in the work referenced.

    • Merv Bitikofer Merv says:

      I should add, that the above comments on Spong’s book were based on memory of my own impressions after reading it ten or more years ago. So I risk doing him injustice in that if I read it with fresh eyes today I might be reminded of more redeeming contributions that might have been nestled in its pages. But the main thrust of the book still led to my overall reaction above.

  4. pngarrison says:

    Only tangentially related, but Pete Enns has some interesting observations on his blog today about a session at the ETS meeting on inerrancy. The session on different views of Adam ran at the same time, so he wasn’t present for at that, due to one of those attributes of God that we don’t share (the ability to be present at more than one place at a time.) 🙂 http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2013/11/inerrancy-and-the-recent-non-apocalyptic-discussion-at-the-annual-evangelical-theological-society-meeting-in-baltimore/

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      The Economist article pushes the issue rather as the desperate struggle to salvage something from historic Christianity in the light of the advance of knowledge. Even John Walton’s pretty successful research which casts added light on the ANE meaning of Genesis, preserves traditional doctrine intact and sits comfortably with science is made to sound as if it’s part of the crisis of faith… “Oh no, he believes in a historical Adam, but has to admit he’s an archetype.” Which is a problem how?

      One can attribute that negativity to the secular press, maybe, but it does seem to constitute a large part of the contemporary faith-science discussion. You long to hear Christians affirming what they do believe, rather than compiling long lists of what they think it’s no longer tenable to believe (and rewriting doctrine to match, of course). We’ve been commissioned to keep the faith, not keep the doubt, or so I understood.

      As you know, I don’t see things that way. I expect science and the apostolic faith to resolve, and have seen many areas in which apparent conflicts disappear on examination. I’ve also seen that it often took many years for those resolutions to appear, and that patient and believing expectation is more productive than desperate manoeuvring. If quantum theory and relativity haven’t been resolved in a century, why should we be in a hurry where the eternal gospel is concerned?

      • Sy Garte Sy Garte says:

        Jon

        Thanks for that last paragraph. I think those words should be engraved on all of our minds, and I for one wholeheartedly, and prayerfully agree as strongly as I can. This is our job, this is what the Lord wants from us, to come to final understanding of His truth, and its up to us for work at it. Whatever it takes.
        Amen.

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