This post is the second in a series discussion the Argument about Creationism/Intelligent Design/Evolutionism in Christianity specifically. Click here for links to the rest of this series.
Theistic Evolution is probably the group I am farthest from, largely because I do still see some problems with the evolutionary theory (noting that I am no scientist or expert in the field) and I also have problems with the theological arguments advanced by Theistic Evolutionists in supporting their view.
I have decided to start off by reading a selection from Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, edited by Keith B. Miller. I start with Theistic Evolution because I want to survey fairly as many sides of the debate as possible. The article I started with is called “Christology, Evolution, and the Cross” by George L. Murphy.
The essay is exclusively a theological one; it is dealing with the issue of Christology in light of evolution. Murphy argues that God, on evolution, can be seen as working in the world just as He worked in the world through Christ. Christ humbled Himself when he became man. So, too, argues Murphy… “God voluntarily limits his action in the world, rather as a parent limits what he or she does to allow a child to grow and gain some understanding of its world and control of its environment and life” (372).
Further, Murphy argues against those who may accuse Theistic Evolutionists of being deistic in nature. He states that “God does not simply stand above the evolutionary process and make it happen. In the incarnation God becomes a participant in the process…” (375). Thus, God does in fact participate in a very theistic manner.
Further, Murphy raises a point I find very interesting (if initially somewhat strange). If evolution is true, then God coming as fully human includes that evolutionary history within mankind. Thus, Jesus, the incarnate God, literally takes the sins of the world upon Himself. Not just the sins of mankind, but all things. Murphy cites Colossians 1:20 (here in context with 19) “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Murphy argues that on Theistic Evolution, people can take this quite literally. Being fully man and fully God, Christ was taking on the reconciliation of all things (having the history of creatures’ DNA), not just mankind. Jesus is the liberation that all creation was looking toward (385).
I find these points something to think about for a while, but I must object to Murphy’s view on a few aspects. Murphy, following the quote cited from page 375, states that God is redeeming the “…losers in the ‘struggle for survival’–for in the short run Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate are the survivors. And the resurrection of the crucified means that natural selection, important as it is as an evolutionary mechanism, is not God’s last word. There is hope for those who do not survive” (375).
I’m really not sure what to make of this. I think that Murphy is reading way too much into these verses. It seems that he does this often–reading evolution into parts of Scripture that don’t even seem to closely reflect it (if, indeed, any of Scripture can be said to reflect evolutionary theory, a claim that I find dubious at best). But taking his argument as it stands, it seems fairly interesting. Looking at the large scheme of things, a Theistic Evolutionist can offer an apology for Christianity from an argument of this sort. Why does God use death (natural selection) to bring about good (i.e. humanity and later redemption)? The Theistic Evolutionist can now answer “Christ is the answer” (just as one may answer with Covenantal Theology the problem of evil). Christ came in order to give God’s final answer to the perceived wrongness of the world. He came to promise an eternal life and redemption to all creation. It’s certainly a very different view than anything I’ve read before, and one I will contemplate as I continue my studying.
Ultimately, I’m not convinced by Murphy, but I think that he has shown me that the Theistic Evolution side does take Scripture seriously and that they are very sincerely Christian. He notes that “Every aspect of genuine human nature is saved only by… God in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ” (379).
There are some major problems with Theistic Evolution that I maintain. The first is an explanation of the “Image of God” in mankind. If man is simply evolved from lower lifeforms, what is the “Image of God”? Further, how does one perform Theistic Evolutionary exegesis (not eisegesis) on God’s special creation of man out of dust? The second major problem is original sin. If the wages of sin are death, how was their death before sin? These are questions that stand unanswered as of yet in my reading, and I don’t see any easy answers forthcoming.
Some criteria, on my view, for an acceptable explanation of the origins of life include: 1) God’s specific interaction with nature in a theistic, rather than deistic sense (and I believe Murphy may have dealt with this on a small scale in his essay) 2) An adequate explanation of original sin and its meaning with creation and the origins of life (and must thus include an account of redemption through the divine Christ), and 3) An adequate explanation of the special creation of Adam and Eve. These points still have some pretty heavy weight against theistic evolution.
I want to note that one very valid point that Theistic Evolutionists make is that, as far as scientific inquiry goes, critics of evolution must offer a competing scientific model. It’s all well and good to criticize evolution and point out the flaws in the theory, but what can replace it? One may try to answer that this seems like a positivistic claim- why should we, as Christians, have to argue within current scientific means for a Creationist account? I think that this counter is ineffective, however, as it is true that scientifically speaking (not philosophically or religiously speaking), one must offer a competing model if one wants to overthrow the current one. This is a question I will be exploring in the future, as I have read parts of works in which competing models are indeed offered (such as Intelligent Design or Hugh Ross’s “Creation as Science” model).
I’ve been getting into a bit of a rut with what I’ve been reading, and this kind of makes all of it fresh again. I’ll be interspersing theological articles and books throughout. For me, the most important thing in this debate is Scripture and sound doctrine. Whatever side is right is that which stands closest to the absolute authority and truth of God’s Word. I’m looking forward to looking at the scientific aspect of the debate, in order to see how the sides present their cases.
For further reading/sources:
Murphy, George L. “Christology, Evolution, and the Cross.” Perspectives on an Evolving Creation. Edited Keith Miller. 2003.
Works I will be referencing/reading as part of this series:
Perspectives on an Evolving Creation
Mere Creation. Edited by William Dembski.
Ross, Hugh. Creation as Science.
Ross, Hugh. More than a Theory.
Behe, Michael. The Edge of Evolution.
Behe, Michael. Darwin’s Black Box.
Ham, Ken. The New Answers Book 1.
Van Fange, Erich. In search of the Genesis World.
Strobel, Lee. The Case for a Creator.
Collins, Francis. The Language of God.
Rehwinkel, Alfred. The Flood.
Dembski, William. Intelligent Design.
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