Monthly Archives: April 2015
I have mixed feelings about the work of John Walton. While I don’t object to much of what he writes about how to interpret Genesis, I don’t like the way he applies his knowledge to defend the project of TE/EC. Take his latest column on BioLogos, “Natural” and “Supernatural” are Modern Categories, Not Biblical Ones. I would ask the reader here to read that column first, before reading what I write below.
…I was inspired to explore their natural history a little more. The European cuckoo, famed in fable, has been declining in Britain for several decades. We heard them sometimes in the first few years we lived in Essex, but then they disappeared. And we actually saw a pair whilst holidaying in South Wales a number of years since. But this was the first one I’ve heard since we moved to Devon seven years ago, which immediately casts doubt on one theory that they find nests to predate by familiarity with their infant environment.
The discussion on my recent divine action piece has gone in a direction that is quite detailed. That’s all to the good, as there are not many blogs where serious work along these lines gets discussed. I’m aware, though, that for myself and probably many regular readers we’re operating beyond the limits of our knowledge of Aristotle, Aquinas and so on. Stick with it, though – the more we all get even slightly familiar with these metaphysical issues , which are central to the science-faith debate, the richer the result will be for all. Today, though, I want to revisit a more basic point that is probably still a difficulty … Continue reading
King’s College statistical geneticist Michael E Weale has just published a new article on Patrick Matthew, the discoverer of evolution by natural selection, in the Journal of the Linnaean Society. You may recall that this was the journal in which Darwin and Wallace’s theory was first announced, some three decades after Matthew’s publication.
If God is the universal author of natural events in the way described in the previous post (following the position of classical thinkers like Aquinas in denying the univocity of God and affirming his concurrent acton in the world) we would expect that, in their own domain, natural processes should give a complete explanation of events. God is evidenced by such explanations, not by their absence. God acts from within nature. And so they are right who say that it is a wrong approach to look for gaps in knowledge to demonstrate God, for that is to limit God’s activity to the miraculous.
Darwinian evolution is an atelological theory of origins. Theism is the belief in a “Hands On” God who acts for clear purposes. On the face of it, then, the title of this piece is an oxymoron. Purposeful purposelessness is a flat contradiction. And so in such a context, it would appear that “guided evolution” can only mean the miraculous imposition of intention on the unintentional. That would make biology intrinsically supernatural, with the concomitant that its directedness would be evidence for God as evolution’s principal efficient cause.
In my youth I was a keen photographer – and I mean I started processing my own films when I was twelve. But there was a stage in my teens at which I stopped carrying my camera everywhere because I realised I was no longer participating in events, but just recording them through a viewfinder.
Summary: The nature of the language in Genesis 1 tells strongly against the view that it is a straightforward historical account. Quite simply, a straightforward historical account would not be written as Genesis 1 is written. The style and genre are not that of historical prose.
Among views of Genesis 1 held by Reformed thinkers, the Framework view has attracted much positive interest over the past hundred years or so. It is not, however, a novel view, as we shall see. The basic idea is that the week of Genesis 1 is a “literary framework”. Its highly artful, complex, quasi-poetic form shows that it isn’t a simple historical narrative; no one would communicate such a narrative in such a form. It is an “exalted prose hymn”. The material of the prose-hymn is arranged into the shape of a week, but it portrays God’s creative activity in a topical or thematic way rather than strictly chronologically. E.g. … Continue reading
BioLogos is currently doing a series with the strapline: “A continued examination of the genetic evidence that God designed humans by way of common descent.” This is actually more an attempt by Dennis Venema to demonstrate the truth of a Neodarwinian account of human origins than simply an appeal to common descent (still less to divine design), but in fairness it would seem that the description is the result of sub-editing as it does not occur in the articles themselves.