Evolutionary Theology – does it actually exist?

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.

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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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29 Responses to Evolutionary Theology – does it actually exist?

  1. Cal says:

    I thought some TE’s argued that Creation is like some sort of unfolding toy. God wound designed it and wound it up and it unfolded as He had planned it to do so. Perhaps that’s deist-lite?

    I do like to think, as NT Wright, that Heaven (spiritual realm) is overlapping Earth (material realm) but I’m not sure how that works out this issue.

    There’s also the problem of how the Fall enters in. I personally think there was a literal Adam and also Adam as federal head of the new ‘Homo divinus’ as Alexander Denise has premised.

    Sometimes I wonder if some of the facts of reality are almost living arrows to say ‘Look, there’s a Creator!’, as Paul argues in Romans. Not that there is a personal, loving God mind you, but something that is not creature that made the creature.

    But when you’re confronted with the unlikely happening of abiogenesis that might be a clue, not that it was bound to happen nor that it was miraculous, but apart of the ‘design’. Just as Earth is a small, insignificant planet and man is not necessarily the strongest, biggest creature here. Signs of humility? To beg the question, “What is man that you are mindful of him?”.

    I’m glad that Jesus says “Come to me all who are wearied and are burdened, I will give you rest”. You can sit at His feet and find rest for your soul, and stand on that rock and from there ponder the theological significance of the sciences.

    Some food for thought,

  2. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Hi Cal

    Thanks for comments. I’m addressing some of the points you raise in a follow-up post (probably up in a few hours). I include your overlapping of the realms. But the unfolding toy idea certainly looks like deism to me. It’s not so much different from a clockwork watch, after all.

    The fall I’m not dealing with here, but to me it’s a key reason why the Open Theism approach is deficient – the unfolding toy ends up producing not only nasty parasitic wasps and badly designed knees, but the small matter of sin as well. They should prosecute the makers of such toys!

    I agree with you that the natural (ie designed!) response to the wonder of reality is worship, not least because Paul explicitly says so. This is nothing to do with proof for the skeptic – as I said in my piece on Paley, natural theology has nothing to do with proving the existence of God, but with increasing our appreciation of God. Amen, therefore, to your last paragraph!

  3. Cal says:

    Greg Boyd, an Open Theist (albeit a careful and very thoughtful one!) posited the effects of the ‘war in Heaven’ afflicting the development of nature. So we end up with the beautiful wings of a butterfly and parasitic organisms like mosquitoes. Interesting and consistent view at least!

    I still wrestle with nature being “red in tooth and nail”. Granted, most creature’s are not capable of feeling ‘pain’ but it doesn’t take away that seeing a deer dead on the highway is sorrowful.

    Looking forward to the follow up!

  4. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Interesting approach of Boyd’s: he takes one highly apocalyptic and cryptic passage and applies it (following Milton, maybe?) to the whole nature of creation, thus espousing dualism, whilst ignoring the many passages in which God clearly takes responsibility for, and pleasure in, the creation.

    But certainly nature can seem cruel, as we’ve discussed before. Here’s a thought to ponder: is it the deer being dead on the highway that’s sorrowful, or our seeing it being dead on the highway?

  5. Cal says:

    I think Boyd might say that the Lord still takes pleasure in caring for man and knits men in the womb while at the same time mankind is ‘totally depraved’ (in the traditional sense).

    So in the same way creation is tainted but he still uses it, still cares for it and is said to have created it. It’s not as much dualism rather than a painter who paints each day, only to have a scoundrel come and try and ruin it by drawing ugly lines across his art. Yet the painter is so masterful that despite the scoundrel, it turns out to be a beautiful work of art. I’m not sure I agree with him, but it’s not as out in left field as it may seem prima facia. Boyd is rather careful as an Open Theist to account for Sovereignty and not slide off anywhere close to deism.

    I suppose for the deer, it is a level of both. I can’t ignore that I usually do not sit at home, removed, mourning for slain deer and the thought usually crosses my mind when I’m driving and see it. However, in the abstract, death is something that I’d want to end, even for creatures like deer.

    Tying to the two together Paul says that God had signed creation over to disobedience to show mercy, does that include the world order created? It is clear that God will create things destined one day for termination (Paul’s purpose, I think, in Romans 9 about the vessels) such as the Mosaic law once it’s objective is complete. Though, again, I’m not sure Boyd has it with the cosmic warfare, I wonder if this world was to predate one better. Better than Eden perhaps!


  6. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Romans 9.32 refers to men, surely (both “pantas” = “all” masculine and the context suggest this)? The natural creation (arguably) is covered in Romans 8, where maybe this relates (if you’ve not already read it before).

    Whether or not this world was intended originally to give way to a better one, it certainly is now! And there’ll be no more sorrow, so either the deer are different, or we are, or both…

  7. Cal says:

    I had read it but had forgotten some of the arguments given. Seems to me reasonable enough!

  8. Gregory says:

    Nice back and forth – I was hoping for some commentary dialogue on this theme and voila!

    Like Jon, I’ve been following BioLogos for 2 years, actually, since December 2009. On the one hand, I support their desire to educate mainly evangelical Christians to not fear science, specifically, the notion that the Earth is not ‘young’ based on a literal/non-symbolic reading of Genesis. Because evangelicals are statistically (in general) the least educated among USAmerican Christians, there is a great tendency to dismiss ‘science’ among evangelicals, if it ‘appears’ to disagree with what they are hearing at their local churches and from their religious leaders.

    On the other hand, I agree with Jon that BioLogos’ embrace of ‘evolution’ is excessive. They have not clearly been able to draw limitations on their views of ‘evolution,’ aside from token gestures (backed up with nothing) to disavow ‘evolutionism’ as a ‘worldview’. They even removed the only definition involving ‘Darwinism’ from their Questions sections, which in my view shows that they are not prepared to face the deeper ideological debate that overshadows their narrow mission.

    Theistic evolution(ism) is a worldview, it is ideology combined with religion, based upon ‘trusting biological science.’ It depends little on science in its formulation, but bows its back to the biology of the day, which often parades itself as ‘scientism.’ The approach of BioLogos to Adam and Eve is telling; it has succumbed to geneticism, in supporting the work of genomics to disprove the (real, historical existence of) covenant heads of humanity. Ian Hutchinson’s post on ‘scientism’ is welcome, but it makes such a mess of things because of his weak HPSS (more about this coming soon on my blog) that it defeats his high-flying MIT-backed purpose.

    Indeed, this is the main problem with BioLogos – no philosophers, no historians and no sociologists of science. This absence leaves much to be desired in the ideology that BioLogos is presenting to evangelical Christians. And it betrays the seriousness of the dialogue to anyone else who happens to be interested in reading about ‘science and faith’ as BioLogos is hanging/framing it.

    “belief in a God who chose to create the world by way of evolution is BioLogos” – BioLogos Questions

    They have done nothing to further the meaning of ‘BioLogos’ in the 2+ years since their website has operated. Creation + Evolution reveals they still haven’t moved beyond the 20th century debates of Creation vs. Evolution, onto a newly ‘informed’ field of discussion.

    We are agreed, Jon, about the ‘hands-off’ view of God ‘in nature’ that TEs often display. I’ve labelled this ‘kenoticism’ – i.e. stretching the idea of God’s kenotic or hidden action, too far. George Murphy is one of the leading voices for this view, though he hesitates to call himself a ‘theistic evolutionist.’ Indeed, after the conference last year, I recall Darrel Falk suggesting that ‘evolutionary creation’ was closer to the BioLogos view.

    Yet, what you are touching on in this thread, with respect to the connection between BioLogos and Open Theology or Process Theology, deserves more attention. How can one concentrate on Origins when they are entirely concerned with Processes (and vice versa for the IDM)? How can ‘evolution’ be considered as an Open system, when according to the Abrahamic religions, some aspects of the Universe are Closed or limited by God’s divine action? Is BioLogos suggesting that Origins are not important for evangelical Christians to consider, beyond the ‘natural selection’ of the Darwinian evolutionary paradigm?

    “Prebiological natural selection is a contradiction in terms.” – Theodosius Dobzhansky

    TE’s have stuck (naturalistic) ‘evolution’ onto their perception of divine action, taking spiritual air out of their description of ‘natural history,’ just as Darwin did. The irony is, they are doing this for the admirable purpose of making evangelicals appear more respectable again to a secular audience, who have mainly written them off as fools for their YEC ideologies. Do they not realize at all the damage to ‘humanity’ they are potentially causing with their undirected spiritless language?

    “Darwin forgot the spirit.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

    p.s. to Cal, do you think Denis Alexander actually accepts the ‘Homo Divinus’ model himself, or does he just present it as one option among many?

  9. Avatar photo penman says:

    A good thread. My two cents:

    I’ve agreed in the past, & still agree, with Jon’s sound critique of Open Theism & associated views that cut creation loose from God’s sovereignty, granting the cosmos & its processes some sort of metaphysical independence of the Creator & His will. This not only contradicts the strong doctrine of divine sovereignty held by Reformed (or more broadly Augustinian) theology; it contradicts a catholic belief in divine providence (just read St John Chrysostom). When these anti-catholic views are built into theodicies of evolution, the result may seem scientifically face-saving, but it is theologically disastrous.

    From a purely theological standpoint, it seems to me there is no need to say HOW God’s sovereignty works in the evolutionary sphere, or indeed in the natural world as we currently experience it. I see no such explanation in scripture itself, merely a statement of the fact. In that regard, I do see a parallel with scriptural statements about God’s sovereignty in relation to human volition: sovereignty is stated rather than explained. Or to borrow Charles Hodge, the fact but not the mode is asserted. God is sovereign, but the human will is not coerced & remains responsible.

    Speaking therefore from within theology, rather than philosophy or science, I don’t see why we shouldn’t simply affirm the fact of God’s sovereignty within the evolutionary history of life, much as we affirm it within the history of nations & empires. Everything unfolds according to the purpose of Him who works all things after the counsel of His own will – as a great theologian once put it (St Paul in Ephesians 1:11). Nothing therefore “just happens”, nor is there anything that happens by fluky chance in any ultimate or metaphysical sense.

    But once we move from this into the sphere of mechanisms – the mode whereby divine sovereignty operates, the HOW – I think we should recognize that we are no longer doing scriptural theology. We are doing philosophical theology, or pure philosophy, perhaps with some scientific content (e.g. brain-cognition-behaviour studies). Here the =biblical= theologian is entitled to maintain his agnosticism concerning the interface between divine sovereignty & empirical process. The great Scottish Reformed theologian William Cunningham spoke strongly on this in an essay about the relationship between the Reformed belief in divine sovereignty & the philosophical theory of psychological determinism.

    Not that I’m hostile to philosophical theology et al. I sometimes dabble in it myself. I’m all in favor of wholesome speculation. But I’m just trying to guard the integrity of boundaries between distinct spheres of thought & utterance. And being humble, I’m open to correction…

  10. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Thanks Gregory.

    And Hi Penman. Your position is sound, it seems to me, and there is bound to be a sense in which God’s “methodology” is hidden. What could analysing the baskets of leftover loaves and fishes possibly tell you about how Jesus fed the 5000? But I think you’re drawing your line slightly further back than Scripture does. Or at least you imply more than you state.

    In terms of general causation, science recognises the operation of laws, chance events (based on quantum or chaotic considerations etc) and, sometimes, voluntary actions. All three of those are subordinated to God’s will in Scripture as explicitly as non-scientific terminology allows, which is really all the acknowledgement I’m after from TEs, because that covers the whole of science.

    They have a tendency to proceed as if the laws “just are”, as if chance is random to God and as if human choice were totally independent of him. Or to leave it so vague you’re not sure what they have in mind.

  11. Cal says:

    Scriptures are apparent that while God is sovereign, we’re still responsible. That’s clear, but perhaps we miss out if we begin to wonder off from His Word. I don’t mean Scripture, but rather, perhaps things become concrete when He speaks.

    God may have thought of Light but it did not come to be until He spoke. Every time Prophecy is given, it is spoken, the Word of God fell upon a man and he spoke truth to be. Men may run about, construct empires, building towers to the heavens and the Word of God rearranges the Cosmos, rearranges the reality of things, by Truth.

    I feel as though this line of thought smooths over some rough edges of the dual reality that God is sovereign and mankind is responsible and makes choices. When Israel wanted a king, they really did reject God and David’s throne was not forthrightly apart of the path to Salvation but foreknowledge enters in and wisdom regarding His own Creation. Jacques Ellul has interesting thoughts on all this. Gregory: I’m not decided, I think the model is pretty interesting. Is there reason to suspect he himself is not convinced?

  12. Gregory says:

    Hello Guys,

    Many events these days and little time to follow-up. One of them included finally receiving my (PhD) diploma direct in hand, so that is something to celebrate : )

    With respect to Denis Alexander, I must admit he has puzzled me in the past. It is partly a language issue – how far does he go in promoting evolution in spheres outside of his own and how much work has he done in limiting the meaning of evolution to biology, geology, botany, and/or other specific natural-physical sciences? What’s his take on evolutionary psychology and how is he working to distinguish the ideology of evolutionism (in multiple fields) from the (single field) science of evolutionary biology?

    For me there is no problem celebrating the scientific achievement Darwin made, but the ideology that Darwin himself and other, later ‘Darwinists’ invested in their notions of ‘evolution’ by means of ‘natural selection’ is debatable and highly problemmatic for the integrity of biologists and other natural-physical scientists.

    Let me stand corrected in doubting Alexander’s position, i.e. whether or not he accepts a ‘Homo Divinus’ (supposedly coined by John Stott) model or just presents it as one option among many. In his article “Viva la Evolution!” Alexander (link below) says that “Personally I tend towards model C” – which involves a ‘real, historical Adam and Eve,’ and deals with “events located in history.”

    To bring this around to Jon’s OP about ‘evolutionary theology’ or ‘theistic evolution’ (noting that the two have different meanings), the relation between historical events and ahistorical symbolism is rarely made clear in TE ideology. The BioLogos web is sticky, with at least one contributor K. Applegate accepting a ‘real, historical’ A&E, while many others do not (Venema and Lamoureux among them, with Falk not sharing his personal opinion).

    However, to be fair, the topic of evolution and evolutionism wrt anthropology – by far the most important and controversial field for questions about evolution and ‘design’ – is likewise still unresolved in the Reformed Christian tradition. One of the biggest Dutch Reformed philosophers, Herman Dooyeweerd, stumbled on the topic of evolution in his unfinished 32 propositions on anthropology (see link below). In proposition 30 he rejects the Catholic Christian perspective of a ‘direct creation’ of souls. In proposition 32 he argues, ‘first natural, then spiritual.’ But we are left wanting as to what ‘historical’ basis he gives for arguing this, and why an ‘immediate creative act of God’ (in history) is deemed unnacceptable.

    I agree with Jon about the following: “theistic evolution remains an incomplete, and insufficient, explanatory position to those who take their faith seriously.” Yet in the third link below, D. Alexander is called a ‘theistic evolutionist.’ And I have little reason to doubt that he ‘takes his faith seriously.’

    Such dilemmas are what make this such an interesting conversation!
    – Gr.




  13. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Yet in the third link below, D. Alexander is called a ‘theistic evolutionist.’ And I have little reason to doubt that he ‘takes his faith seriously.’

    I did restrict my comment on the condition of whether the core issues were discussed – and Denis seems to do so!

    Congrats on the PhD, Gregory.

  14. Gregory says:

    What I wonder is what Denis Alexander calls himself. Does he call himself a ‘theistic evolutionist,’ an ‘evolutionary creationist,’ a BioLogosist,’ or…? It would surprise if he called himself an Open Theist or Process Theologian, still I’d be interested to read about how/when/where he discusses “God’s direct hand [or breath] in evolution.” Anyone want to follow-up on this?

    Alexander is after all the Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at Cambridge University. This might be one of the highest institutions of its kind in the U.K.

    Yet I am not convinced that he actually does discuss the ‘core issues.’ He is limited by his biology communication, which I am not convinced he does not easily exaggerate into biologism. It would be a new fashion to discover Alexander portraying the ‘humble biologist’ in the shadow of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology.

  15. Gregory says:

    Thanks for congrats, Jon!! Visited Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky and Lomonosov today, a humbling path to walk…

  16. Gregory says:

    …and also surprisingly, unexpectedly the grave of Leonhard Euler (on which is written “Academy of Petropolitan,” the same which granted my degree).

    “Sir, a+(b to n)/ n = x, hence God exists—reply!” – Euler said to Diderot in front of Catherine the Great

    Diderot is said to have asked to leave the country out of mathematical embarassment…!

    Theistic evolution = everything that makes sense scientifically-apologetically counts in favour?

  17. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Gregory, I was going to ask what the great men had to say, until I saw you were visiting cemeteries!

    My only experience of Alexander is his scholarly essy on BioLogos – I wonder if anyone readiong this has read his book to comment?

    On a thread that was rapidly pulled from there last year Denis Lamoreux said Alexander knew nothing about theology (and hence his belief in a historic Adam). So the guy can’t be all bad :-).

    There does seem a rule of thumb, though, that TEs tend to be either scientists who lack theological depth or theologians who lack theological orthodoxy.

  18. Cal says:

    A question on the side:

    The most I’ve seen from Denis Lamoureux is vitriol to Biologos (in the person of Falk) and some vitriol to Denis Alexander. Why is that? What’s his major problem with them?

  19. Gregory says:

    Jon wrote: “There does seem a rule of thumb, though, that TEs tend to be either scientists who lack theological depth or theologians who lack theological orthodoxy.”

    That seems a fairly accurate assessment to me, as it would also likely be to JamesR at BioLogos, who writes similar things.

    Responding to Cal’s aside, I can only say from experience with Denis Lamoureux that he is quite polemical and dismissive in on-line discussions. Some people thrive in on-line dialogue, give and take, fielding observations, questions and even criticisms about their position, conceding ground or clarifying themselves when fair and good points are made by others. Lamoureux does not appear to be this way.

    I know from a close acquaintance that his recent book “I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution” went through many revisions and had a tough time finding a publisher. That was not his original title. The book was written primarily for evangelicals, promoting his notion of ‘evolutionary creationism’ from a Canadian perspective (just as Falk is/was Canadian, as also with Giberson).

    Review: http://www.discerningreader.com/book-reviews/i-love-jesus-i-accept-evolution

    Yet for USAmericans, the term ‘creationism’ is predominantly negative and ideologically related to ‘creation science’. Lamoureux wishes to put a new positive spin on it from up-north, beyond the legal fray down-south. Yet his post-atheist, post-YEC conversion to Christian Darwinism/evangelutionism has made him heterodox to Rome and the Orthodox Churches with his views of ‘No Adam and Eve’ and no historical Fall. He still seems unable to speak with a civil tone to the majority of Abrahamic monotheists on the historicity topic, being ‘scientifically sold’ down his accommodationist path.

    At the same time, last I checked he is still listed in/as adhering to the ‘BioLogos’ position on the BioLogos resources page. So, I would guess that Falk considers Lamoureux to be an ally and friend, rather than an opponent.

    One of the interpretive keys in this is that Francis Collins is among the biggest names of current ‘theistic evolutionists.’ So Lamoureux, though the biggest Canadian name and main figure promoting ‘evolutionary creation,’ still can fit (or aims to fit himself) inside the larger USAmerican evangelutionary umbrella at BioLogos. Falk acts as the Can-American non-practising (i.e. teaching only) biologist now conducting the Templeton-funded BioLogos orchestra, marching in allegiance to Darwinist melodies.

  20. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Gregory – I see that JamesR has been suspended from BioLogos (red lights all over his pieces). I can’t think why, since his points, though pointed, were not abusive or libellous – more than can be said than some of the more doctrinaire Darwinians there, who never come in for censure in my experience.

    His points have not been adequately answered in my opinion – indeed, barely addressed.

  21. Cal says:

    Thanks Gregory, Jon sent me some stuff too.

    Also as a completely random aside since there are some BioLogos ‘vets’: Whatever happened to Conrad? Though I didn’t always agree with his positions he was a great personality and had some good ideas.

  22. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Cal, I think he got fed up with nobody else being that interested in the explanation of M-theory in Genesis 1 :-). Certainly, he was too good-mannered to be banned.

  23. Gregory says:

    BioLogos is strangely not that interested in ‘dialogue’ about ‘science and faith.’ They display a rather top-down approach, with columnists either not encouraged or not inclined to engage with guests/visitors/commentary.

    On the one hand, as an academic I can understand this – e.g. too much discussion with ‘beaglelady’ (who rules the roost with Falk!) is over-simplistic. Otoh, it displays a lack of sincerity or unwillingness to meet with those people who are interested in what BioLogos is actually trying to do and to answer legitimate criticisms or challenges. No ideology is immune to criticism, yet BioLogos is frank in playing the censor card as it deems necessary. (And that in supposedly ‘democratic’ USA!)

    They don’t expel ‘easy rude’ opponents (e.g. Papalinton), but do expel ‘hard polite’ detractors, who in the end should be considered friends with legitimate rebukes.

    BioLogos seems to be much more interested in exorcising their previously YEC demons, and in fulfilling such an exorcist role with other USAmerican YECs, than in actually engaging with credible natural-physical sciences, including the non-Darwinian or post-Darwinian variety of biology and genetics. Thus, some IDists have come to calling them ‘Christian Darwinists,’ though I prefer the term ‘evangelutionists,’ as written above. Posters here seem to have noticed the convenient omissions in BioLogos’ messages.

    Unfortunately, BioLogos’ olive branch to RTB failed. And their constant attacks on ID (often badly informed and even intentionally distorted) have brought more enemies than friends in the larger Christian community. But they somehow managed to receive a new donation from John Templeton foundation, so their mandate has mysteriously lengthened.

    Falk is simply not a deep thinker, despite how nice and devout a guy he might be. He cannot possibly carry the burden that has been placed on BioLogos, based on their grandiose ideals and pretences. Many people left the BioLogos blog voluntarily, with others being ‘expelled,’ like JamesR recently.

    The reasons given to these people have been sparse; ‘too much truth talking’ would seem to be the greatest challenge to BioLogos and their patent biologism.

    All that said, I would still nevertheless be interested to hear how Jon compares ‘evolutionary theology’ (thread title) with ‘theistic evolutionists’ or ‘evolutionary creationists.’

  24. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    As the Prime Minister used to say at Question Time (until live TV made it too boring), “I refer the honourable gentleman to the thread over on BioLogos.”

    The problem, as so often, is legitimate terms becoming loaded with baggage. “Creationist” is one such term – paradoxically Larry Moran is moving towards reclaiming its meaning when he applies it to anyone who believes in a Creator God, though his motive is to confuse, not clarify.

    “Theistic evolution” simple is a legitimate Christian position, requiring however a commitment to a high view of providence. But through its main writers it has come to mean, like “evolutionary creationism”, a largely Neodarwinian-based, scientism-influenced and theologically fuzzy (or faulty) phenomenon.

    I’d hesitate to coin “evolutionary theology” for a generic position, though, as theology has suffered too much from evolution for 200 years!

  25. Gregory says:

    Wrt to Question Time, I’ve already heard that song and seen that dance.

    Loaded terms and baggage means focus on communications. Why then did BioLogos ‘roll back its democracy’ by removing the Question Time about Darwinism and Social Darwinism from its Resources ‘glossary’? They seek to obfuscate, rather than to clarify. This should be obvious, given Potiphar’s observations about BioLogos/TE/EC.

    Why Brits should be worried about USAmerican ‘neo-atheists’ like Moran pontificating about ‘creationism’ is a mystery. Their position is deemed irrelevant once the channel is changed. That new channel is our Time to question and to make aware of both/and, rather than either/or.

    I disagree that ‘theistic evolution’ is a ‘legitimate Christian position.’ It never was and will not be. It is and always was an ideological cover until the next ‘great transformation’ and nothing more. It is a halfway house for those who can’t make a decision or don’t want to rock the boat.

    Saying that one is a Christian who ‘accepts’ (either certain or all) features of biological evolution is not equivalent to ‘theistic evolution.’ Saying ‘God creates by evolving nature’ is not ‘theistic evolution.’ Saying ‘the natural world evolves’ and that ‘God directed/directs it’ is not ‘theistic evolution.’

    Theistic evolution is an ideology wrought by the USAmerican biblical literalism vs. theological liberalism debates of the 20th century. It is not a suitable position for the 21st century. We should move beyond this nonsense and accept that ‘theism’ and ‘evolutionism’ do not belong together. (enter CPs!)

    ID has tried, but not succeeded. But one logically cannot be both a TE and at the same time an ID. Or can one walk this line, dear respected Sirs?

  26. Cal says:

    How would you define Theistic Evolution? Is it Evolution defining the Theos rather than the Theos defining the evolution? So that in the end we fall into the attitude of EO Wilson who near worships Evolution as master? I certainly agree with many factors of biological evolution, but I draw the line there.

    I certainly am repulsed by the pop-psychology that ‘evolutionary’ thinking has put tentacle upon. I’ve watched some documentaries on it, very bizarre. If it is true, it should be a cthulu-esque horror, that life is a trivial, meaningless game, humans are the most wretched of all creatures. Smart enough to search for purpose that does not exist. Accept most people who believe such psychologies laugh about the effects. The vaguely defined ‘scientist’ has become a new kind of priest for this age. If Jesus is King, there’s no need to worry and history is seemingly on the Church’s side. Corruptions like this have come and gone and still the Messiah-followers remain with gospel intact!

    If you would, while I’ve been around BL for a decent while, I’d like to know more about the people who’ve posted. I’ve not been able to grasp enough about folks like ‘Beaglelady’, ‘Papalinton’, ‘Bilbo’, etc. Even your own story and opinions would be greatly valued. You can get my email from Jon!


  27. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Cal – I’ll post Gregory your address. I wouldn’t want the Hump to degenerate to a gossip column!

    Re evolutionary psychology, I was reading yesterday about the deconstruction of Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis. Bear in mind that when I studied social psychology (1973 ish) it was one of the three pillars of the discipline (with behavioural and cognitive). It was not without detractors, and I thought it was utter tosh – but the atmosphere was such that it was not openly questionable, and some of its tenets were taught as fact.

    Then suddenly, truth prevails and you realise your gut-feeling was right all along. You’re just left wondering how the crowd believed in the emperor’s clothes for so long, and vexed that so many were deceived for so long.

  28. Cal says:

    Haha, I didn’t think sharing someone’s belief system was gossip! 🙂

  29. Gregory says:

    “How would you define Theistic Evolution? Is it Evolution defining the Theos rather than the Theos defining the evolution? So that in the end we fall into the attitude of EO Wilson who near worships Evolution as master? I certainly agree with many factors of biological evolution, but I draw the line there.” – Cal

    A bit risque to post late at night, especially when supposed to be writing to Cambridge and packing. Memories of Lomonosov and the Hermitage are bright.

    ‘Theistic evolution’ is an unfortunate hangover of the creation(ism) vs. evolution(ism) dialogues from the 20th century. It is important that both are availed to -isms because both became and are -isms in some peoples’ minds/hearts today. Avoid the (real/human) ideological aspect to your own peril.

    Many people forget the impact of ideology on science, especially as they relate ideology to Marxism (or ‘postmodernism’), instead of (Social) Darwinism. When they read Boris Hessen, J.D. Bernal, Robert Merton, et. al. they realise that ‘ideology’ cannot be ‘objectively’ separated from ‘science’ even in its most idealistic ‘pure’ (or ‘applied’) forms. Separation of ideology from science is itself easily seen as idealistic.

    Theistic evolutionism is pacifistic – it seeks ‘concord’ or ‘accommodation’ between the ‘science’ of ‘evolutionary biology’ and the Biblical Genesis (Torah or Quran) account. In this ideology, TE compromises its own integrity by rejecting the actual (real) opposition between ‘evolution’ and ‘creation.’ The simplest way in ‘secular’ terms to express this is that TE confuses ‘origins’ with ‘processes’ (and oftentimes vice versa). The opposite extreme is called ‘intelligent design/Intelligent Design’ (ID).

    The main issue is not whether TEs ‘worship’ evolution as ‘master’ but rather what kind of ideology are they marrying with their science and how or if they allow philosophy to negotiate/mediate. There are many anti-philosophy proponents involved. Wisdom is at a discount in this discourse, sad to say.

    The main question is: what are examples of “things that don’t evolve?” Let me not claim pride of innovation, but simply say I had not heard of that question before having discovered/framed it. Once one acknowledges ‘things that don’t evolve’ they place an important limitation on ‘evolutionism’ as ideology.

    TEs say very little about ‘things that don’t evolve.’ Marrying one’s theology with evolution ‘too tightly’ tends toward rendering few (if any) ‘non-evolutionary’ things. Sure, one can say God-Allah-Yahweh ‘doesn’t evolve,’ but that is an easy escape hatch.

    What else ‘doesn’t evolve’? In the TE position, little or nothing remains. My focus is on those ‘entities’ that are not captured by a/the naturalistic paradigm that contends ‘everything natural evolves,’ such that change forgoes its definitional monopoly to the evolutionary paradigm.

    p.s. it’s not really ‘gossip’ about BioLogos, but some personal stories are best kept private

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