I’m Convinced that the Evolutionary Paradigm of Human Origins is True. Now What?

I’m Convinced that the Evolutionary Paradigm of Human Origins is True. Now What?

If one becomes convinced that evolution is real – it happened – what then is one to do with the Bible? With traditional Christian beliefs and doctrines? With personal faith in Jesus that affirms his bodily resurrection from the dead?

If you are someone who finds the scientific evidence for evolution compelling, but wonders how an evolutionary perspective can accord with Christian faith (or, more specifically, with a faithful and intelligent reading of the Bible and a commitment to robust theological orthodoxy), there are some really great resources available out there.

At a recent talk on faith and science, I was asked a question about how one is to understand the Genesis account of Adam (Gen 1-3) in light of recent genomic evidence (e.g., population genetics), which is telling us that humans did not descend from a single, original pair and that the early human population consisted of something in the area of 10,000 people.

This data is threatening to some interpretations of Genesis, but not to all of them (even amongst conservative evangelical theologians and biblical scholars, there are many who don’t see a problem with this because they believe that Genesis was not written to address the kinds of questions raised by modern science). There are many scholars who hold to traditional Christian belief and the authority of Scripture who also find the evidence for evolution compelling.

Many people just have not been exposed to good resources by reputable scholars who are also devout Christians. So, I thought I’d post some resources here. This is just a quick and brief sample of the resources available, but if you read some of these, the footnotes and hyperlinks will open up even more resources to you.

This list not intended for those who are wrestling with the evidence for/against evolution (for Christians who want a good, balanced and fair resource to start with, I recommend Gerald Rau’s book Mapping the Origins Debate published by InterVarsity Press). On the other hand, I still recommend this reading if you are in the midst of searching and thinking through the issue, because our assumptions and pre-commitments about how Genesis ought to be read can impact (even bias) our approach to the scientific evidence (there are always philosophical, theological, and hermeneutical factors that frame and determine the way we move from observation of data to inference about the significance of the data).

This brief list is (mostly) for those who have already become convinced by the scientific evidence for evolution and who want to know how one then reads the Bible (esp. Genesis) and thinks theologically about the challenges evolution raises for certain traditional doctrines (e.g., universal sinfulness of humanity/original sin, the image of God, the nature of Salvation, miracles and divine providence, randomness and meaning/purpose, and so forth).

Websites:

BioLogos website: probably the best place to start – lots of good blog series, resources, videos, and a great Q&A section.

The American Scientific Affiliation: an organization of Christians working in the sciences (usually in higher education). Their journal, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, posts its back-issues online and there is a search feature to search for articles according to the topic you are interested in. Click here to read an article I wrote for the journal about reflecting theologically (making theological sense of) evolution. And here is a gem of an essay on Genesis 1 written by Rikk Watts, of Regent College, for the ASA website (published in book format elsewhere).

Some Books I’ve Found Helpful

Here are some books which I have found helpful on Genesis, Adam & Eve, Biblical Interpretation, etc. that are relevant to the topic (there are lots, this is just a sample):

  • Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010.
  • Charles, J. Daryl, ed. Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation. Peabody: Hendrikson, 2013. For my summary and review of this book, click here.
  • Enns, Peter. The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2012.
  • Franklin, Patrick S. Being Human, Being Church: The Significance of Theological Anthropology for Ecclesiology. Bletchley, Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2016. [In this book, in three chapters, I unpack three lenses through which I understand what it means to be human theologically (relational, rational, eschatological). Chapter 5 explores the biblical and theological resources for understanding human beings as eschatological (end/future-oriented) beings whom God created not only with a beginning (creation) but also a destiny (consummation/perfection) in mind. Consummation and perfection were not “plan B” which God put in place only after the “fall” in Genesis 3. Rather, God always intended an unfolding, developing creation (and for humans to be a part of this and even play an active role in it).]
  • Greenwood, Kyle. Scripture and Cosmology: Reading the Bible between the Ancient World and Modern Science. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2015.
  • Lamoureux, Denis. Evolutionary Creation A Christian Approach to Evolution. Havertown: The Lutterworth Press, 2014.
  • Longman, Tremper. How to Read Genesis. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005.
  • Rad, Gerhard von. Genesis: A Commentary. London: SCM, 1991.
  • Venema, Dennis R., and Scot McKnight. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture After Genetic Science. Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2017.
  • Walton, John. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009.
  • Wenham, Gordon J. Genesis 1-15. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.
  • Westermann, Claus. Genesis 1-11: A Continental Commentary. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994.
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Encouraging words from Carl Braaten about my book

psf book_front cover official“The theme of this book is that a theologically adequate doctrine of the church presupposes an equally adequate doctrine of the human person. The meaning of being human has a decisive bearing on the meaning of being church. This insight alone makes an important contribution to the contemporary discussion about the nature and mission of the church, no matter which part of the ecumenical mansion happens to be one’s home….

Franklin’s book on the nature of being human and its relation to the nature and mission of the church is a worthy gift to the ecumenical quest for a deeper and broader ecclesiology whose goal is to restore unity to a badly divided Christian world…. Readers would do well to receive with gratitude the insights Franklin’s book offers their own search for a richer understanding of the church.”

– Carl E. Braaten, Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and Founder of the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology

Click here to read what others have said about the book.

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Public Lecture on Faith & Science in Steinbach (Feb. 15, 7pm)

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Now Serving as VP of CSCA

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I recently accepted the role of Vice President for the executive council of the Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation. I and proud and honoured to serve this great organization. Genuine, honest, mutually enriching dialogue between science and Christian faith is so important today. And I have found such dialogue to be intellectually gratifying and spiritually enriching when done well!

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New Chapter Published on Theological Hermeneutics

My chapter o41uboovrxl-_sx330_bo1204203200_n Francis Watson and Stephen Fowl as theological interpreters of Scripture has been published and is now available. It’s included in Pillars in the History of Biblical Interpretation, Vol. 2, ed. Stanley E. Porter and Sean A. Adams.

Click the title for the Amazon link.

 

 

 

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My “Prov Talk”: Being Human, Being Church

Here is my recent “Prov Talk” on Being Human, Being Church (click the link below):

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A Masai Creed

I came across this Masai creed today and thought I’d share it. A beautiful example of the universality of the gospel expressed through the particularity of Masai tradition and culture. Here it is:

We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created man and wanted man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the earth. We have known this High God in darkness, and now we know him in the light. God promised in the book of his word, the bible, that he would save the world and all the nations and tribes.

We believe that God made good his promise by sending his son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left his home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, he rose from the grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.

We believe that all our sins are forgiven through him. All who have faith in him must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love and share the bread together in love, to announce the good news to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen.

(Quoted in J. Tod Billings, The Word of God for the People of God: An Entryway to the Theological Interpretation of Scripture; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010, p. 121; from Vincent Donovan, Christianity Rediscovered; Maryknoll: Orbis, 2003, p. 158)

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My post on 1 Tim 2

So, apparently my post at the Junia Project website on “Why 1 Tim. 2:8-15 does not ban women from teaching and having authority in the church” received over 8500 views as of last week! Here is the link in case you have not seen it yet:

http://juniaproject.com/1-timothy-2-does-not-ban-women-teaching-having-authority/

Posted in hermeneutics, The Bible, Women in Ministry | Tagged , , , , , , ,

A Question About Intelligent Design

A Question to both ID Proponents and Proponents of EC (Evolutionary Creationism or Theistic Evolution) About the Concept of Design

intelligent-designHere’s a question I throw out there on the concept of design:

It seems to me that the inference to design is something that one can make irrespective of one’s discipline of study or area of expertise. I don’t need to be a scientist to infer design from nature. Many do that without any training in science at all. If that’s the case, can design be regarded as a scientific principle per se? Or is it a broader principle of reasoning that various disciplines can employ, in various degrees?

On his blog (in the series on ‘god of the gaps’ criticisms of ID), my friend Hendrik gives the example of finding several Scrabble tiles placed together in the form of an intelligible sentence. One quite naturally infers design here, but one does not need to be a linguist to do so. Now, one might need the assistance of a linguist if the tiles appear to be in random order, let’s say because the sentence is in a foreign language one does not understand or even recognize. We don’t, however, need the linguist, as linguist, in order to make the step of inferring design. We need the linguist to help us discern if the necessary (but not sufficient) conditions are present in order for us (as non-specialists in the field) to infer design. But we already seem to take the notion of design for granted (and to include things beyond linguistics, such as the existence of the mind of the author, as well as motivations, ideologies, loyalties & commitments, etc.), on the way to asking if the linguistic evidence in question supports our (beyond linguistics) design inference or not.

In short, one’s expertise in a field of study does not seem relevant to the discernment of design in general. It only seems relevant if one is considering whether certain observations (which are best understood by a particular field of study/expertise) support one’s overarching concept of design, which depends on other considerations in addition to the present observations. If the notion of design operates as I’m suggesting, it is not (it seems to me), strictly speaking, a scientific concept (though it can be one to which scientists as people/agents appeal to as a broader, more holistic explanation of reality).

SO, HERE’S MY QUESTION FOR ALL: Do you agree that in the sense I’ve described, science can discern necessary but not sufficient conditions for an inference to Design?

I think it would be interesting to tease this out.

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“Intelligent Design” illustration by Cindy Caldwell

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Some Reflections on Methodological Naturalism in Science (and some friendly debate)

Some Reflections on Methodological Naturalism in Science (and some friendly debate)scientist

Methodological Naturalism (MN) is an important concept, one that involves issues that both scientists and theologians (not to mention philosophers) find significant and interesting. Dr. Joshua Swamidass has recently written a post on his personal blog, Peaceful Science, in which he seeks to explain and defend his commitment to methodological naturalism in science.

I met Joshua this summer at a retreat for seminary professors organized, run, and funded (with a little help from the Templeton foundation) by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  He possesses two doctoral degrees, one in medicine (MD) and one in Information and Computer Sciences, specializing in Informatics in Biology and Medicine (PhD). He is currently an Assistant Professor at Washington University in the Department of Immunology and Pathology (Division of Laboratory and Genomic Medicine). And Joshua is a devout Christian, passionate and outspoken about his faith in Jesus (check out a couple of Veritas Forum videos that feature him here).

Dr. Swamidass’s basic position is summarized in the first couple of paragraphs of his post:

Mainstream science seeks “our best explanation of the world, without considering God.” This limiting clause,” without considering God,” is the rule of Methodological Naturalism (MN).

Currently, science does not search for all sorts of Truth. Rather, science is limited effort to explain the world on its own terms, without invoking God, His action, or intelligent design. There is a “line in the sand” in science, where consideration of God is explicitly disallowed by MN. Far from denying God’s existence, this way of doing science is strongly motivated by theism.

For those that doubt that MN is the current rule in science, and that it is applied to exclude ID, the William Dembski edited volume The Nature of Nature asks the right question on its back cover…

The culture war over theism versus atheism, traditional values versus secular progressivism, and transcendent versus material reality has focused on science as the prize. Who gets to define science?

The answer is simple. For the foreseeable future, scientists get to define science. Partly to stay out of the culture wars, scientists have defined science to include MN. This rule is a “line in the sand” that excludes both claims of both creationism and atheism from science itself. This does not exclude consideration of God in science-engaged philosophy and theology. Scientists can consider God in their philosophy and theology too, but in this must be clearly separated from their “science.”

That’s just the beginning. The entire post (linked here) is well worth reading.

Dr. Swamidass offers several intriguing arguments and observations in favour of MN. He also poses some provocative questions for those that reject MN or seek to compromise it (notably, in his view, proponents of Intelligent Design).

What do you think? Does MN make sense to you? Does it raise any questions or concerns for you? What would you want to affirm or challenge in Joshua’s post?

(NOTE: I am posting this at the invitation of Dr. Swamidass. He is interested in reading and considering thoughtful responses posted here).

Posted in Philosophy of Science, Science and Christian Faith, Theology, Theology and Culture | Tagged , , , , , | 30 Comments