Christians disagree radically about the issue of whether God used evolution to create. The problem is not that they disagree, but how the conversation often lacks respect as well as clarity.
So how does theistic evolutionists, or evolutionary creationists (EC), see God’s involvement in creation, especially in the creation of mankind? And why does proponents of intelligent design (ID), or even young earth creationists (YEC) for that matter, object so vehemently?
I agree with you. This particular conversation is often fraught with alarmist suspicion and uncharitable interpretations of opposing views on both sides.
As I understand it, evolutionary creationists see God as having designed a system (finely tuned at the initial level of coming into being) that from the very first moment of its creation, had precisely the necessary properties, due to the nature of created matter and the laws that govern it, to enable the system to develop increasing complexity as He intended it.
The implication of this view is that even if all functioning can be explained in terms of law and mechanism, it is still the case that no part of the system exists or functions that wasn’t designed and intended and therefore also ultimately created by God. It is for this reason that it is simply a mistake, EC would say, to suggest that God is not involved in any specific process that we might observe in nature. How can He not be involved if that process is what He specifically designed and intended for particular outcomes? Why is God involved only if He intervenes directly and miraculously, and not if He uses processes and mechanisms to achieve his purposes?
Intelligent design advocates object. According to their assessment of the data, it doesn’t seem as if the existence of certain biological and biochemical systems or a body of systems, not to mention the beginning of life, can be explained purely in terms of processes involving law and mechanism. God’s involvement can be detected precisely because of the discontinuity in natural processes.
And thus, conflict arises among Christians about what we learn from studying the biological world.
ID says that you can never exclude the possibility that God somehow and at some times intervenes in the system, because this is what the biological evidence suggest. He is a God of miracles, after all. ID then lists, among other things, examples of irreducible and specified complexity.
EC says that you cannot conclude so hastily that God did, in fact, intervene when you’re challenged with explaining the enormously complex data of nature, even when you recognize that God has acted miraculously in redemptive history. EC then lists, among other things, the tedious progress of science and the pitfalls of the God-of-the-gaps fallacy.
In the theory of evolution the idea of common ancestry is key (something that even a staunch ID advocate like Michael Behe accepts). The disputed question, though, is often about whether the proposed evolutionary mechanisms such as natural selection acting on random mutations, are sufficient to explain the changes that populations undergo that would eventually account for speciation.
Well, this is how I understand some of the differences and explanations involved between EC and ID. As for how YEC’s view the matter, please see the comment from Dan below and my response.
Theistic evolution? While this is a new term for me the implication, if I understand it, would indicate that God created evolution. I may be wrong but I will continue with the understanding that this is my assumption. I believe that God created man and man created evolution. I would even go as far as to say that anyone that believes the Bible to be the infallible, inerrant word of God must come to the same conclusion. There are many who feel that it is perfectly reasonable to pick through to Bible and keep what they like and dismiss what they don’t like. Jefferson is a prime example. However, the black and white truth of the matter is simply that it is either all perfectly preserved (KJV) and true in it’s entirety or, conversely, it is just another book without any authority. I am so firmly planted in the former that it pains me even to type the latter. In my view, any doctrine, teaching, preaching or statement that doesn’t line up with the truth of scripture is quite frankly a deception. This is not an indictment, but, it is a very small step from dismissing the account of creation to dismissing the deity of Jesus Christ. Once that is lost there is no redemption, no hope, no good, no love, no morality.
1) So, if I understand you correctly then there is only one way to interpret the meaning of the creation story that is true to the author’s intention. But why should I just accept this unquestionably? Perhaps there are other ways of understanding what the author intended that lines up more closely with the truth of Scripture. Such as that the creation account is not be understood as some sort of scientific account with regards to cosmology and biology, but rather that is was a carefully crafted theological narrative with the purpose of conveying theological truths about, not only who man or God is, but also about the relationship between man and God. What is at stake here isn’t first of all a matter of infallibility or inerrancy (how important it may be) but of hermeneutics. To claim a text is inerrant, does not automatically mean that you have understood what the text actually says. And what it says is tied to the meaning an author intended and how they chose to communicate such meaning. What the author intended is also closely tied to who the intended and immediate audience was and what they would have understood given their background knowledge. (These are just some of the contextual factors involved when approaching a specific text.)
2) If I understand you correctly then it is only if you have access to the English KJV that you have access to the Word of God. I’m not a native English speaker and I know of many Christians who can’t read or even speak English. Are you suggesting that my non-English, non-KJV Bible does not give an accurate rendering of God’s Word? Or that my non-English speaking, non-English reading friends should rather reconsider their faith as Christians because they have never had any contact with an English KJV (of which there are different versions, of course)?
3) If I understand you correctly then understanding scripture in one part of the Bible, such as the creation account, for example, are subject to exactly the same contextual factors that allow you to understand other parts of the Bible such as who Jesus was, for example. But isn’t the study of hermeneutics show exactly the opposite? Aren’t you suppose to interpret a text according to its appropriate genre and other contextual factors? I’m sorry, but to use the slippery slope argument or the cherry-picking argument to indicate on how some people may or might have approached and viewed the Bible in inappropriate ways, says absolutely nothing about how responsible hermeneutics are actually done.