Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Rise of the Evangelical Evolutionists

It used to be that the terms evangelical and evolutionist were oxymoronic. If you were one, then you obviously couldn't be the other. Evangelicals generally were seen as being the stalwarts of biblical authority, and in light of that authority most evangelicals held to some form of direct (or directed) creation by God of all that currently exists in the world. Some held to the young earth view, which sees the earth and the cosmos as being only thousands of years old, because that's considered by them to be the most plain sense reading of the early chapters of Genesis. Other evangelicals accepted that the earth and the cosmos are much older, as in billions of years older, but nonetheless still held to a form of creationism, which, though divided by their various views in the details, nevertheless all agree in rejecting Darwinian evolution as the explanatory framework to how speciation has come about. Some accept a limited form of evolution, such as micro-evolution, but reject macro-evolution. Some go so far as to accept a limited macro-evolution, but reject that humans are part of that equation, saying instead that humans were specially created by God distinct from all other creatures. And in more recent years, there has been the very popular movement called Intelligent Design or ID for short. They've argued that they accept an ancient earth and cosmos. They also accept limited evolutionary activity, but that certain physiological functions are so complex that Darwinian evolution cannot satisfactorily explain them. Thus these functions are deemed to be "irreducibly complex" as so only an "intelligent designer" can explain their existence.

On the other side of the aisle are the evolutionists.Traditionally they've been seen as holding to scientific materialism. And some certainly do. We need look no further than the New Atheists to see that at work. Though to be fair to many who do hold to scientific materialism, most are not as crass, provocative and dogmatic (dare I say fundamentalistic?) as Dawkins, Hitchens, or Harris. These are the loudest voices, and of course they're going to get the most press, if only because of their offering up the neat dichotomy of faith versus reason. Once again, it offers up the comforting bromide that if you're a person of faith, reason must necessarily be checked at the door, and if you're a person of reason, faith is seen as the foolish superstition that holds poor men and women in its insidious grip for far too long, keeping them in the dark (ages) about origins, sex, and anything else that helps us to actualize our expressive individuality.

But there are those who have advocated for the evolutionary viewpoint who consider themselves to be Christian, or at least theistic. Some have been relatively orthodox in their views, but in many cases, those arguing for the evolutionary viewpoint have come from the mainline denominations and have been considered to be liberal in their theological perspective. To be "liberal" in theological circles, whether Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, is to so reconcile the scriptural narrative to modern science as to rob it of any supernatural content, such as miracles, the direct action of God on the natural world contrary to how natural laws normally work. Once again, in each of these cases, the false dichotomy has been offered up that faith and reason are diametrically opposed to each other. Theological liberals are guilty of giving up too much to the scientific materialists. Too often theological liberals have ceded clear language of miracles to naturalistic explanations when the writer clearly understood the event in supernaturalistic terms.

Part two coming up.

1 comment:

Brendan Payne said...

Jolly good. The false dichotomy once again rears its ugly head. Looking forward to part II!