Evolution and Holiness

(system) #1
A new book attempts to understand Wesleyan “holiness” theology in light of evolutionary science.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/evolution-and-holiness

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #2

I am a Wesleyan by tradition also, but my church does not identify itself as a holiness church.

Still we do accept the Wesleyan view of perfection and sanctification. In the short term I would say that sanctification goes well with the concept of evolution, in that sanctification is a process of gradual change as is evolution. Christianity is based on dynamic change, not status quo, just as is evolutionary change…

On the other hand the way the question is posed is problematic. For instance Dr. Hill seems to equate Christian ethics with being altruistic or being moral, when it is actually it is based on Christian Love through the Holy Spirit. Christian love is not the same as altruism, because Christian love is loving others as yourself, while altruism is defined as loving others instead of yourself. This is a huge difference which needs to be highlighted. Christian love works, while altruism does not. Christian love is more than being moral.

The biggest problem seems to me to be a misunderstanding of what holiness really is. Holiness is being in the Holy Spirit, which means being right relationship to God, rather than a moral statement, per se. Because it is a relationship, it can grow and decline. Because it is relational it changes as people change. Also while we should be in right relationship with everyone, there is bound to be differences in how well we relate to others and vice versa.

Darwinian evolution is based on intra-species conflict. This is absolutely contrary to Christian love and has been a serious objection to Survival of the Fittest from its beginning. Ecological evolution is not based on genes and conflict, but relationships, so it solves these problems and provides a solid scientific foundation for evolution as well as a solid spiritual basis for understanding Christian spiritual growth.

(Phil) #3

Roger, I cannot see how intra-species conflict has anything to do with Christian love, unless at one of the species is human, and maybe not even then. Also, as I understand evolution, individual animals live their lives and die with no real evolutionary impact other than in the number of offspring they produce, to simplify it to the basics.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #4


Thank you for the response.

Maybe there is a misunderstanding here. Inter-species means between different species. Intra-species means between members of the same species.

If God created humans to be in constant conflict or war with each other then love would be impossible. If God created humans to work together to be mmemebers of the Kingdom of God, we might find that difficut because of sin, but it is very doable because that is what we are created to do.

The evidence today is that humans are where we are, which is not in the kingdom of God, but also not min the chaos of every person for him/herself because we have worked together for the common good, in part under the influence of Jesus Christ. We can see what has happened in the Middle East when the notion of the common good has broken down.

If Survival of the Fittest is the law of Nature, created by God, then the Common Good and Love have no place in Reality.

(Phil) #5

i can understand you feelings, but feel we too often anthropomorphize lower animals, not only in the secular world but in this case theological interpretation. I see the competition of predator and prey ( or predator for prey) as being irrelevant to Christian love. No more so than the competition of ants for a food source or bacteria for glucose molecules in a culture broth. It is normal to have emotional attachments and to see these life and death struggles as meaningful, but I do not equate them with human suffering and human love.
The whole topic of animal suffering is interesting to look at however, and if you have any insights that would change my mind, I am interested in hearing them.
It is fascinating to see how the reintroduction of predators has made the elk population more healthy in Yellowstone, and improved the habitat. It is also interesting in how the migration of salmon upstream to die improves the forest life by moving nitrogen products to that area which acts as fertilizer. While off topic for this thread, those things are worth contemplating when you consider death before the fall.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #6


James, please read what I am writing and not what you think I am saying.

I agree with you concerning predator and prey. Humans are predators, but this does not put us in conflict with livestock. We house, feed, and care for our livestock before we eat them. Cows and chickens would not exist if it were not for humans.

The fact is that Survival of the Fittest does not apply to prey and predators. Why? Because 1) humans and cows are not competing for the same scarce resources, and 2) Survival of the Fittest is conflict between members of the same species for scarce resources, which predator and prey are not.

As you indicate the challenge of life forms is to get the most out of their environment. They develop in an environment because they are adapted to it and it meets their needs, but when the environment changes, they need to adjust. This is how evolutionary change takes place, when the environment changes, not the result of conflict between members of a species.

Right or Wrong?

(Phil) #7

I agree with you (I think) but need to digest that a bit. Certainly when you look at social Darwinism I have concerns as to how that works in a loving body of believers, and for believers interacting with the world. However, outside of human relationships, I do not think that there is a problem. Good food for thought.

(Martin Mayberry) #10

survival of the fittest works fine for the animal kingdom. Humans are not animals and have and use reason and they reason with each other and work together that is part of the image of God that he has put in us.:slight_smile:

(Martin Mayberry) #11

One of the EVILS :imp: I see with Darwinism is that it puts people in the “animal category” and out of the “made in the image of God” category. and when followed to it’s finality we end up like Hitler did.

(Phil) #12

Hopefully not, as long as PETA is around. If not believing in Darwinism keeps you from being like Hitler, I’m all for it. Hopefully, there is more to it than that.

(Martin Mayberry) #13

no, you mis-understand, according to evolution teaching{Darwin’s teaching} humans are no more or better than the rest of the animal kingdom. according to the Bible however man is made in the image of God and very special. while we share the earth with the animals we are NOT animals in any sense we are made a little lower than the angels. what say ye?:smirk:

(Phil) #14

Evolution makes no statements as to “worth,” being only concerned with process. As a Christian, while unworthy, God through love considers us of such value that he became flesh and died for us, through Christ. (My previous post was a bit tongue in cheek, guess I should so label.)
It is interesting to consider what it means to be “in the image of God” and there has been a lot of speculating on that. I certainly do not feel that it refers to a physical image, as your comments seem to lead toward, in connecting it to evolution.

(Martin Mayberry) #15

Being than man and woman is the only of his creation he claims to have made in his “image” and being I have never heard of a chimpanzee or ape of any type building a sky scraper or a rocket or a telephone or car, i would assume the words in his image would include communication of words and thoughts and the ability to create wonderful objects. apes can not do that!

(Casper Hesp) #16

The Hitler parallel is very common. But be careful, Martin. It’s all too easy to write things off by comparing them to Hitler or Nazism… In fact, Hitler is often called upon in internet discussions, sooner or later. This has been called Godwin’s law. That affects the quality of the conversation…

There seems to be no kind of origins doctrine that defends one against racism. In fact, churches are among the most racially segregated parts of life in America, despite American Christians being the most sceptical of evolutionary thinking.

(Martin Mayberry) #17

No the comparison is: Hitler did not respect human life because he killed people with no concern or remorse we do the same with abortion today by just saying the life in the woman’s womb is less than human and a “flap of tissue” with no human meaning. I have read that Hitler just believed that humans were just matter with no meaning, that way he could do his evils and no conscience was broken.when you start down grading people from the “made in the image of God” position you can do unmentionable things to them and feel no remorse while doing it, we do it already with abortion as i have said.:sob:

(Martin Mayberry) #18

Godwin’s law is ridiculous given what I have put out. just because a person brings up Hitler,as a comparison it does not make them automatically wrong for doing so.:confused: That’s {Martins law}

(Casper Hesp) #19

As far as I understand, the whole idea of BioLogos is that God could have made mankind in His image by means of a process like evolution. Evolutionary processes do not diminish in any way the value of human life and are compatible with Christian theology. Actually, it can enrich one’s understanding of the value of human life and life in general. All living species have been through millions of years of intensive research and development… Something to think about when we fervently try to kill the mosquito that keeps us awake at night, or when we enjoy having meat for dinner, or when we pollute the Earth, or cut the trees, et cetera.

Denying the negative influences of humanity on the Earth’s climate also won’t help us to care better for it. The Earth is the habitat of God’s creatures (at least of those creatures that we know of). God gave Adam and Eve the mandate to rule over Creation, not to destroy it.

By the way, evolution does not prescribe any solutions for “improving the species”. Such considerations have been imposed by other people (e.g., Hitler). Something similar holds for people who try to improve the gene pool by means of abortion. It’s not for us humans to deny someone the right to live. If people use evolutionary theory as a justification for abortion, they are actually playing ventriloquist with the theory. They try to make it say things which it doesn’t.

I guess, this can be compared to people who try to let the Bible say things it doesn’t (e.g., that the Earth is 6,000 years old). People in general (me included, unfortunately) are adept at ventriloquist constructions and we always have to be wary of it. My point is that the problem often lies in the way the ventriloquist is using the puppet and not in the puppet itself (this holds for evolutionary theory as well as for the Bible).

(Martin Mayberry) #20

People do not try to use evolution to “ok” abortion, they attempt to say this: The fetus or as i put it baby is nothing more than a wart or flap of skin or tissue in the human body therefore if I remove it by the procedure of abortion it has no consequence and is no big deal.That thought is the same as this: the human person is nothing more than a bunch of useless cells there fore if I kill it by the gas chamber it is of no consequence and no big deal. No difference in the thoughts at all. but what does it do? it gets me to believe that if a human being is NOT made in the image of God, then to kill it is no big deal.= Nihilism in the end.

(Martin Mayberry) #21

I would really rather not attempt to claim that evolution and God’s creation do not mix{even though that is my 100% view} the reason being is that every time I do people accuse me of “arguing and starting trouble” because that is the view of Bio-logos and I get canned for a month and they use the "I am screaming "thing to do it. While being on here is more like the Apostle Paul on Mars Hill experience.I figure I can as Paul did state my case very well. will people accept it? Maybe not ,but that should NOT stop me from speaking for the truth.It did not stop Paul either, he just told the Truth any way come heck or high water! To show my good will I will give you an >:grin:

(Casper Hesp) #22

So for you, the discourse here feels more like discussing with some pagans why they should leave their idols?

I was hoping that we were just having a respectful conversation as Christians among each other. I just want you to know that I do accept you as a brother in Christ, even if you do not share such an attitude towards me.

We’re not moderating the content, but the graciousness of the dialogue. Paul, being led by the Holy Spirit, was very good in this. His advice in Colossians 4:6 was:

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

So if Paul is an example for you as he is for all of us, then you should keep his advice and speak graciously. For the record, assigning underlying motivations to people is not gracious dialogue.