Friday, November 07, 2008

Faith and Evolution

I found this book review for "Nature's Witness: How Evolution can Inspire Faith" by Daniel Harrell in an email from Emergent today. I have not yet read the book, but I like the things the reviewer had to say about his own journey.

Check it out here. We have often tried to say on this blog that there is a beauty to much of science that points to a Creator if we let it. We cannot allow our ties to an interpretation of Genesis 1-11 become our Ptolemic, earth-is-the-center-of-the-universe belief--the white whale of our modern church--that ultimately destroys our credibility and points people away from the very God we are intending to support.

I especially like the quote the reviewer quotes about our real problem is not with evolution, but with what some scientists do with evolution to interpret the rest of the world (e.g. there isn't a God).


K Burkholder said...

like i wrote yesterday...

It is the glory of creation intertwined with the beauty of evolution.

the two are not mutually exclusive. and god is not confined in our present-day reality.

Tauratinzwe said...

Why do creationists always choose the Genesis 1 account and not the Genesis 2 account of creation? And why do they ignore the contradiction in the order of creation between the two accounts?

I guess they have a pick and choose view of biblical inspiration/inerrancy/authority.

Arnie Adkison said...


I think that people start with a presupposition and then manipulate the texts to support it. That's why I did for years, I know. They don't see a contradiction between 1 and 2 because someone has given them a semi-plausible explanation that doesn't require a change in suppositions.

This is always the problem when our interpretations become equal to the truth. When we equate the glass holding the wine with the wine itself.

BWolf30 said...

Hey Arnie, how's it going? A few questions: do you mean that since I believe Gen 1 & 2 don't contradict each other that I have been co-opted by a presupposition and therefore am manipulating the texts? Am I drinking the juice of a "semi-plausible explanation" that someone gave me? What do you think the presupposition is? Or are you talking about a narrower group of people and not generalizing across the board, which in some cases I would be inclined to agree with you?

I think the issue of presuppositions here is correct, who we think God is, who man is in relation to Him, and how He communicates to us is vital in how we approach the Bible. That is why arguing about specific (alleged) contradictions rarely is fruitful since it doesn't hit the heart of the matter. When examining the evidence for the Gen 1 & 2 issues I think it is more than "semi-plausible" that they cohere and support each other when everything is taken into account, but that probably isn't likely to be convincing to you or Tauratinzwe. The divide logically precedes this. I also know it is currently fashionable in the Emerging/Post-conservative milieu to deny inerrancy and subtly question the sufficiency and perspicuity of Scripture, and that certainly muddies the water even more.

Perhaps it would be helpful to clarify the ultimate source of authority that each follows(although fallibly of course), in the stuff I have read recently this is a true weakness in the EC/Post-Conserv. conversation - not to mention mediating theology for the past couple hundred of years. We are all familiar by now with the attacks on the Bible, but where is the self-criticism of those attacking? Why do so many ignore the fundamental problems of their own views? Who is really picking and choosing their "view of biblical inerrancy/inspiration/authority"? It is always easy to question, but not so easy to answer.

If, for example, Gen 1 & 2 contradict each other how do you get the real (God's?) message from the text? Certainly it can't be from the words themselves unless God constantly changes his mind, one must spiritualize away the verbal meaning in order to arrive at a more amenable position. But what constrains this more amenable position? - here is the heart of the issue. Once the message of the bible is divorced from the actual words one by necessity stands above
the text. Now, if one can justify himself in standing above the text this isn't a problem, we do similar higher-level reinterpretations all the time. Biblically based judgements also commonly incorporate passages into wider canonical contexts and expand/contract/clarify the layered meanings embedded in the passage as such. But is this what is going on here? Is interpretation being subsumed into a wider biblical scheme or is the Bible being subsumed into a foreign framework?

These days I think the crucial question we all need to answer is: How do you know God and about Him? People say a lot of things about God and in His name, but who is right? Modern theological history is littered with attempts to 'save the real meaning of Christianity', but how is this done in a non-subjective manner? It is trendy these days to invoke the Holy Spirit to magically get us out of the pitfalls of such a situation, but which spirit (1 John 4:1) and how are we to know when He is speaking to us? What is the spirit's relation to the (allegedly) fallible Bible? Now, I know much defense of the Bible is weak, misplaced and often hurts more than it helps. But how can we be sure we are not substituting the word of man for the Word of God? I think these are vital questions for today. Like to hear your thoughts.

- Brandon

Arnie Adkison said...


Whew, as always, your mind works well. I don't ever know where to start in talking about all this, since you have all these deep thoughts rolling around in your head.

I can only speak for myself, I guess, and you probably know where I would go with any real or perceived unreconciled differences between Ge 1 & 2 and your question of "how do we know what God was/is saying?" Later you ask how we know him.

I do think he is meant to be known personally. I think that the Bible at its core is a collection of stories that reveal God to us, and reveal in particular his interaction with creation in general, and with humanity in particular. As such there are important truths revealed, some very clearly, some very muddied. I was assume this to be the case given a complex God (could there be a simple one?) I would also expect some of those truths to be culturally informed, and the more culturally informed, the less relevant to other cultures they might be, without being translated into principles that can then be applied to the culture. I know that you see this as a low view of Scripture, but I do not. Your presupposition approaches the Scripture with a view of inerrancy and interprets accordingly; my presupposition of a more narrative revelation of God is also how I approach the Writings and how I interpret accordingly. This is perhaps that divide that you mention.

So, I can accept that the compiler of Genesis pulled from two different creation myths (meant here in the classical sense, not in the sense of "untrue") in chs 1 & 2 because he wanted--under inspiration of the Spirit of God--to reveal something about God's interaction with creation/humanity. My presupposition allows for this without jettisoning either what I believe to be true or what I think might be true.

You have a different presupposition that either allows or demands (depending on how you look at it) a reconciliation of the stories in 1 & 2 so that you (perhaps--I am putting words in your mouth) believe that the 2 stories tell the same story, either from different viewpoints, or with less attention to certain details (e.g. order of creation). Your presupposition allows for your interpretation to explain what you believe about God. The difference is in our presuppositions. We all have them, we all approach the Bible with them, we must pray that God reveals himself through them, over and above them, and sometimes in spite of them.

I'm not sure I answered any of your questions, but I have sure rambled awhile for an early morning...