Evolutionary theologies – a thought for the day

I believe the evolution of life happened, albeit that the mechanisms have barely been glimpsed, and that providence is bigger than science. But I notice a tendency amongst theologians who accept evolution to suggest that, whenever fundamental theological questions like the nature of God, or the nature of man, are discussed, only an evolutionary view of the world enables them to be rightly approached.

It’s worth remembering that for over 1000 years in Old Testemnt Israel, and for 2000 years in Christianity, they were dealt with quite adequately under the working assumption of special creation and fixity of species, usually in seven days. Those assumptions included the worldviews of Jesus, the prophets and the apostles.

That’s not to say that evolution is untrue, but that absolutising its theological implications is more likely than not to be erroneous.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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3 Responses to Evolutionary theologies – a thought for the day

  1. Cath Olic says:

    Jon, this must be your shortest Hump post ever.
    It’s also one of the wisest, to my mind anyway.

  2. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Cath Olic

    Having achieved my shortest reply to my shortest (nearly) post above, I feel I should add a bit more explanation of what I have in mind.

    I read this week, for example, something criticising YECs for treating God as another, superior, maker within the Universe (he had William Paley in mind first), and stressing that creation is essentially ex nihilo, not making one thing from another.

    The “evolutionary assumption” then kicks in, that God’s creation, being the original bringing of the universe into being, must include gifting it with abilities to make the changes within it rather than involving his intervention, and so special creation is not just mistaken, but poor theology.

    Now each of those points has some truth (though most also include some unwarranted assumptions – like restricting creation entirely to ex nihilo, which the Bible doesn’t – however metaphorically, it has God actively making Adam from dust, quite apart from going on to create Israel from a motley crew, disasters from Babylonian armies and so on.)

    But the bottom line is that sophisticated ancient theologians, well aware of this kind of philosophical issue, were nevertheless quite able to formulate creation doctrine within the non-evolutionary, young-earth assumptions that were available to them. Thei strength is that most of them also sit quite happily in old earth and even evolutionary scenarios – and when they don’t, it’s quite often because our own thinking is woolly.

    One specific example I’ve covered before is the way some Catholics have “proven” from Aquinas that evolution must be true because God is the Creator outside creation, not like a human designer cobbling together artifacts from parts. And they forget entirely that Aquinas, knowing these arguments because he invented them, didn’t come up with a self-organising universe, and repeatedly described God (analogically, of course) in terms of a craftsman.

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