Evolutionary Creationist views of how life originated and evolved

(Frank Cross) #1

Frank: Thanks.

I’m glad that even though we differ on certain details there is peace between us which ought to be the situation amongst all believers.

Over the years I’ve had discussions with, well, to be perfectly honest I couldn’t put a figure to the number of theistic evolutionists – and each of those persons were of the belief in the bottom to top model in which God rolled the dice and let natural selection and mutations as the mechanism for evolutionary change take its course and see what would occur.

And from what I’ve read of Kenneth Miller who describes himself as a theistic evolutionist this is pretty much his position. Off the top of my head I recall Miller saying something to the effect that if evolution was to be re-run that there could have been an entirely different outcome and with a large brained dinosaur somewhere near the top of the tree – so to speak.

You say you have a different view of “origins.”

I’m intrigued and yes I would like to know how you think life originated and evolved.

Determining similarity statistics between the human and chimp genome
(Peaceful Science) #2

This will be a fun conversation.

I have some important qualifications to make here before we dive in.

First, I am broadly speaking in the BioLogos “tent”, but this is question to me so I will tell you what I personally believe on these things. In the same way that you disagree with other YECs about important points, I also disagree with other theistic evolutionists (TE) and evolutionary creationists (EC) about important things too. In this conversation I will speak for myself. BioLogos has its own, limited belief statement if you are curious of their position: http://biologos.org/about-us/.

With that, it is quite easy to find TEs that disagree with me (like Kenneth Miller) and visa versa. Even here on the forums, I can identify important disagreements between my friend @DennisVenema and myself. So let’s try and avoid the assumption that either of us automatically agree with everyone in our respective “camps.” I know I do not, and (given the diversity of the YEC camp) I am sure you do not agree on everything of importance with everyone in your camp either.

I’ll start with a statement of my belief.

I am an Evangelical Christian. I affirm the historic creeds (Apostles and Nicene) and the more recently written Lausanne Covenant (https://www.lausanne.org/content/covenant/lausanne-covenant). I also affirm the intended meaning of BioLogos’ belief statement http://biologos.org/about-us/, though I do dispute some of the vocabulary.

I believe that Jesus bodily rose from the dead by an act of God in this world to reveal Himself to all mankind. I respond with belief to this self-declaration that God exists, is good, and wants to be known. Because of this historical fact, I trust the Bible as God’s authoritative written word to all of us. The One who rose from the dead is entirely able to preserve His written message to us through history.

From Scripture, then, I believe that God created us; He designed us all. With providential purpose, forethought and care He brought us all into existence. According to Scripture, his way of doing this was not instantaneous and was part of a process; He asked the the land to “give forth” many kinds of life (Genesis 1:24), which tells us something about what the land is capable of doing, and that this is still dependent on His calling.

Next, he created Adam and Eve; historical people that existed in space and time in our past, and all of us trace our lineage to them. According to Scripture, He did not make them out of nothing, popping them into existence. Rather, He made Adam from the “dust of the earth” and Eve from Adam’s “rib.” We are in “God’s image”, but we are also of the “dust”.

He created them as the first beings capable of communion with Him. It was good for a time, but not perfect. Then, moving from naivety they chose to understand Good and Evil for themselves, and this brought them into accountability and judgement for their sin. The same judgement that we all live under now, if not for the grace demonstrated to us through Jesus. The ultimate end of mankind remains the same at is was in the beginning, to enter into communion with God.

The God in Scripture providentially governs all things. Nothing is beyond His sight or His reach. This includes the process by which the “land gave forth” life of many kinds. We discuss and mathematically model randomness in lots, poker and dice, knowing that we speak from a human perspective. God knows the outcome of all these random events, and governs them according to his providential concerns that we do not understand. In the same way, we discuss “randomness” in the land’s giving forth (i.e. evolution), but this is a limited statement from a purely human point of view. What is random to us, is known to God. He providentially governs all things.

We can suppose about different worlds (A World Where Neanderthals Survived Till Now), but ultimately, we are only given this world and can only understand God clearly through what He chooses to reveal to us. No human effort can bring us to HIm, not even science. We are totally dependent on His self-revelation.

And in this world, we find that revelation in the living Word: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Let us all follow him.

Of course there is much to discuss from here. But this is my statement of belief.

(Casper Hesp) #3

Hi Frank,
To be honest, I haven’t met any Evolutionary Creationist who holds a view of “open theism” except for @ThomasJayOord (though there surely are more out there, I just haven’t met them yet). I would say the more common position among Evolutionary Creationists is to state that God specifically intended the creation of mankind, down to every base pair of the genome, so to speak. That also happens to be my own position. I don’t think God just “rolled the dice” as if He didn’t know yet what was going to happen. From where I stand, that would be contradictory for a transcendent God who is both inside and outside of time… By His providence, He orchestrated the whole process from the beginning till now and till the end of times. This includes natural history as we know it and therefore also includes evolutionary processes.


(George Brooks) #4


Exactly ! However, @aleo (if my memory serves) believes God refuses to touch DNA. I don’t know the full elaboration of his views … but I thought it was notable in connection to this extremely rare position…

(Patrick ) #5

That’s terrible to consider. God specifically intended all those terrible genetic malformations that cause kids to be born with severe birth defects? How terrible. He can do something about genetic defects and is not correcting them? Why? Specifically causing those genetic defects. Why? How about Tri -chromosome 21? God’s specific intent?

(George Brooks) #6


Theodicy is a problem for all denominations that involve an “all powerful deity”. This is not something that BioLogos has special vulnerability to… or special competence to answer.

Theodicy, the problem of natural Evil, is a problem more or less (frequently less) appreciated by virtually all Christian denominations.

If you could resist trying to single out BioLogos supporters from your moral zeal, I know I would personally appreciate it.

(Patrick ) #7

I am not trying to single out BioLogos supporters, Casper is a great guy.

As long as God is kept out natural processes, science and EC meshes. But as soon as EC inserts God into natural processes the Theodicy problem comes front and center. The Theodicy problem never goes away. If you say God did something specifically and purposefully in the natural world, you get the messiness of the natural world. There is no way around it.

(Peaceful Science) #8

So, if this is what you think, what do you make of the Resurrection? Did God do “something specifically and purposefully in the natural world” when He rose Jesus from the dead?

Though I understand your sentiment (though I am curious if you affirm the bodily resurrection of Jesus or not), the logic here is a non-sequitur. The logical problem of theodicy is solved with Molinism. This notion was recovered by Alvin Plantinga in the 70s/90s (@jstump help me here?), and logically affirms a good God that governs all things.

The Molinist idea: with perfect foreknowledge and complete power, God chooses the best of all possible worlds to instantiate. So God is involved with and governs all things, and might even interject by first cause at times (as I believe He did in the Resurrection). At the same time, without denying providence, He grants a measure of relative autonomy to creation (a very Lutheran concept, @JustAnotherLutheran).

I choose the word “governs” carefully. I do not know to what degree God specifies anything on this earth beyond what He tells us in Scripture. This does not deny that He can or does specify things beyond what He has told us, but what human means can discern this? And our ignorance here does not indicate a logical error. Far from it; rather it is a sign that we are engaging something greater than our ability to comprehend.

In this way, the Theodicy problem is not a tenable argument against God’s action in this world. He might act. He might providentially govern all things. But this does not mean He has purposely specified all the evil we see in this world.

(George Brooks) #9


I think you are missing my point. If you are here to support BioLogos in discussions with YEC’s… that’s great!

But if all you are going to do is bash all forms of Christianity - - - well, perhaps you will be amazed to hear that your efforts would not be helping.

So are you hear to help correct the views of YEC’s ? Or are you hear to attempt to correct the views of all Christians?

I don’t consider theodicy to be an appropriate area of discussion for BioLogos efforts … but that’s just me talking. The moderators, of course, have the official view …

(GJDS) #10

The question of theodicy (and that of good and evil) has been a major question for Christianity, and requires in-depth treatment. The site “Eclectic Orthodoxy” has a thought provoking post today which considers various views (and to a lesser degree that of atheists). The fundamental point is that God does not create evil, nor uses evil. This quote may be of some interest:

"Against the determinist deity the catholic faith stands firm. God is not the author of evil; iniquity is not divinely ordained. Suffering, grief, evil, mortality—they are but “cosmic contingencies, ontological shadows, intrinsically devoid of substance or purpose”. They do not have ultimate meaning. God may make them the occasions of his redemptive grace and incorporate them into his providential ends; but they are not good in themselves. From them the eternal Word came to deliver us."

My view (which is consistent with Orthodoxy) is that we are saved from evil, and that the unique aspect of human agency is grounded in a singular freedom, which is beyond libertarianism and instead defines us by how we exercise this grounding in freedom. Singular terms cannot be understood within any sort of duality (free and not-free, liberty or slavery etc.) - instead when our choices and acts are that of evil, we loose our grounding (are in bondage to sin).

The fact that Christ lived amongst us and paid for our sins on the cross is all we need to know regarding the goodness of God - He saves us from our sins and evil deeds. The entire cosmos waits for the day when all will be fulfilled and we are all in communion with God.

(Frank Cross) #11

Frank: Appreciated.

When you said: “I also disagree with other theistic evolutionists (TE) and evolutionary creationists (EC) about important things too” you weren’t kidding and I’ve had to read your comments twice to make sure I hadn’t strayed onto another person’s pages.

Believe me when I tell you that you are the very first TE – and I’ve spoken to countless numbers – who think as you.

My initial reaction on reading your statement of belief is that I’m reading the testimony of an advocate for Intelligent Design.

Let me illustrate this for you. Only recently I listened to a debate between Stephen Meyer who, is as you’ll know, an IDer, and Professor Keith Fox who is if I remember correctly a microbiologist at Southampton University and indentifies himself as a TE.

Had I not known better I would have thought that Fox was an atheist given that he was arguing from the position of a Darwinian evolutionist in which life started in “a warm little pond” and over billions of years evolved into the diversity of life via a process that was undirected, unguided, and random chance.

When asked by Meyer where in his model of life does God come into the picture Fox said something to the effect: “He oversees the whole natural outworking of things.” Hmmm.

So if you accept that my encounters with TE’s are pretty much in line with the views of Miller and Fox you’ll see how your position, which is for me an entirely different TE perspective, would not be out of place at the Discovery Institute which accommodates a variety of views.

What more can I say? We’re on the same page about our sinful condition; our need for salvation; that salvation is only through Jesus Christ; we can’t earn salvation by works and can’t of our own volition, intelligence, efforts impose on YHWH and that faith and salvation is by His grace and to whomsoever He chooses.

If all TE’s shared your faith and attitude I think I would not be wrong in saying that the friction that exists between TE’s in the camp of the Miller’s/Fox’s and the ID and Creationist camps wouldn’t exist.

I’ll make a closing comment at this time by saying that there’s probably a few YEC’s who, possibly quite new to this view, come across as hard-line but generally speaking are not as some persons would have believers depicted. Indeed the people I know at CMI are very reasonable and we happen to be on the same page that belief in billions of years and TE is not really a salvation issue.

And these few exchanges between us who have differences but commonality of belief in the most vital areas has shed some light on the issue and been of some value, has it not?

(Frank Cross) #12

Hi Casper,

I’d certainly have to agree with you that God “specifically intended” the creation of mankind.

God aka YHWH is the Alpha and the Omeg knowing the Beginning to the End - and everything in between and he even chose Jeremiah to deliver His word before the prophet was born.

I also agree with you that God knowns the very sequence of the digital code in DNA in each and every one of us and even knows the “number of hairs on your head.”

Where we’ll disagree is in the How. You’re starting point is probably a prebiotic soup or warm little pond or hydrothermal vents with maybe the RNA World hypothesis and from that point life evolved in a bottom to top through “evolutionary processes.”

Given that a first single celled organism doesn’t contain the specified information, energy and nanomachines to evolve into a higher organism it would require God at every stage of evolution i.e. organism A to evolve to B and B to C and so on that He would have to involve in that process by inputting new specified information and nanomachines -and that of course is contrary to the Scriptural account that God ceased from creative work on the seventh day.

(Patrick ) #13

Perhaps just a story made up to prop up a new social movement.

Given that I don’t believe in God or Gods, it is hard to come up what His (or theirs) actions were and what purpose He (they) had for doing them.

(Patrick ) #14

Yes, that is the fundamental value of Biologos.[quote=“gbrooks9, post:9, topic:35139”]

So are you hear to help correct the views of YEC’s ?

Yes, absolutely as I am strongly against the lies that YEC’s propagate. I am against everything that AIG and Ark Encounter stand for. I work tirelessly through groups like FFRF to make sure that no public school children has classtrips to the Ark. And that anything to do with YECism is keep out of public schools.

No, not at all. The views of Christians are so diverse, I learn a lot from hearing these diverse views of how to be a good person in today’s increasingly secular society.

(Casper Hesp) #15

Hi Frank,
I’m happy we have such wonderful common ground there!

We indeed disagree on the “how”, but the pre-biotic soup has never been my starting point. Instead, I view that as part of a conclusion that can be revised if the need arises.

Allow me to specify my position further. God orchestrated everything in His foreknowledge, but I also believe that He is always involved everywhere. He didn’t just set up the system and then went for a coffee (that’s what I sometimes do when I program). Also, He doesn’t only give a kick now and then to keep things going (that’s also more like my human programming efforts). Instead, He is intimately involved in everything as He upholds it every moment. If He would withdraw completely right now, the whole of Creation would disappear into nothingness. Everything has existence only by God’s grace.

I believe an almighty, omniscient God is perfectly able to arrange the emergence of cellular machinery and genetic codes by natural means (while remaining involved along the way). As an (admittedly imperfect) analogy, see what amazing things this particular human being can do simply by careful planning:

I believe the seventh day in Genesis 1 denotes the time after God completed the establishment of our inhabitable world from complete chaos (In the beginning, the earth was formless… ). However, if we read the Scriptures, we are also led to believe that God’s creative work is still ongoing. For example, the prophet Jeremiah wrote that God knitted him together in his mother’s womb… Each one of us is one of God’s creations, but as individuals we were made only very recently.

(Peaceful Science) #16

Yup that is me.

That being said, there there are many theistic evolutionists that agree with me on many of these points: http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2010/PSCF9-10Collins.pdf And none of these disagreements are enough for me to leave the BioLogos tent.

As surprising as this may be, I have a great deal in common with the key people here in BioLogos, and I think you do too. They embrace my angle on TE, and even added me to their speakers bureau. So, maybe there is a subgroup here that you might connect with.

Given some of my history with ID that is pretty entertaining to read. If you search for my name on the discovery institute’s blog (http://blogs.discovery.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-search.cgi?search=swamidass&IncludeBlogs=2), you will find over 20 articles, most of which are not exactly friendly, though things might be thawing now.

I take Owen Gingerich’s position:

“I … believe in intelligent design, lowercase ‘i’ and ‘d’. But I have trouble with Intelligent Design – uppercase ‘I’ and ‘D’ – a movement widely seen as anti-evolutionist.

As a scientist, I would add that I do not find their scientific work convincing, and frequently feel they do science very differently that I was trained.

For example, I am very comfortable (both scientifically and theologically) with “methodological naturalism”, the notion that science does not consider God in its explanation. This does not deny God, but it does make science silent about God and blind to Him too. But as a human effort to study nature, this makes a great deal of sense. This helps us understand science’s limits, and focus on its strengths. Science, in my view and most of my colleagues, is not a search for all Truth, but for a certain class of truth; understanding of how the world works in its own terms, without explicitly considering God.

Likewise, ID by definition is focused on scientifically demonstrating design in nature, without crossing the threshold to proposing, testing, and refining specific models of design. As compelling as that is for many people, that is not how I understand science to work. We care slavishly about “mechanisms”, and our inability to sensibly “model the Designer’s mind” (both theologically and scientifically) appears to hamper inquiry here. This is most evident in the ID movement itself; there is no agreement internally about the mechanism of design, and no internal effort to resolve this debate and present a coherent mechanism.

So, once again, with all due respect, I am not part of the ID movement.

All the same @frank,thanks for the kind email. It looks like we have come to understand each other better. So yes…[quote=“Frank, post:11, topic:35139”]
And these few exchanges between us who have differences but commonality of belief in the most vital areas has shed some light on the issue and been of some value, has it not?

It has and thanks for coming here. I almost do not recognize you from the first day you showed up on the forum =).

There will continue many disagreements, but do have common ground.

If you ever want to look at the human/chimpanzee genomes for yourself, let me know. The science here is beautiful.

(Peaceful Science) #17

Welcome to the forums @Patrick and thanks for letting us know where you stand. I had thought this was your position, but it is helpful to have it clarified.

The “just a story to prop a movement” theory has some appeal. It is a nice comfortable idea, and therefore it is very attractive. For me, however, that is not enough. On this point, it matters what actually happened, Our only hope there is to get more information about that history, and test this theory against others. It is in the well established historical details that this theory seems to feel like comforting fiction.

This is not science, of course, but it is similar in that it is very easy for everyone (including experts, but especially non-experts) to glibly dismiss real events in the past that do not suit our preconceptions or desired worldview. One of the greatest lessons science has to teach us is that we need to embrace the world as it is, not as we think it is. The same is here too.

(Albert Leo) #18

George, your position, and Casper’s @Casper_Hesp, are much more closely aligned with BioLogos’ than mine. Being somewhat of a skeptic by nature serves me well as a scientist, but it results in my being a maverick in the eyes of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians. Some folks make the charge that I am making a God that suits my reasoning, rather than accepting the One described by Scripture–this charge does bother me. Nevertheless, I would have trouble relating to (let alone worshiping) a God who micromanages every detail in the Universe–for example even knowing, before life on earth began, what Al Leo’s genome would read down to the last base pair. There must be some position He could take between a Wizard of Oz and a careless Gambler rolling the dice.

Perhaps it is true that God exists outside of Time, and therefore the future to Him is one and the same as the present. My mind simply cannot comprehend that. And what I cannot comprehend I cannot truly love. For Him to be a God of Love, He must be present in my Time, in my Life. If He really gave me Free Will, then He has no certain knowledge of what my future actions are going to be. How can He be pleased when I do the right thing? If He foreordained it, it was His decision, not mine.

Yes, I may be worshiping a God of my own making--an Imaginary God that does not correspond to a literary reading of OT. But the Loving Father that Jesus described is Real to me, and I feel so fortunate for the chance to try to know and worship him. As far as we know, we are the only creatures in the Universe who can do this. Certainly my way is not the best way for everyone, but evangelical Christians should respect those who are making honest efforts to search for Him. People like Einstein and Hawking may please God even though they believe they have failed in the search.
Al Leo

(George Brooks) #19


The “prebiotic soup” scenario is not the only available scenario to supporters of BioLogos. I for one am perfectly content with the idea that God applied a miracle to an inlet of the oceans, and created single cell life where there was no life before.

For me, the balance between the miraculous and natural processes is always a challenging one to assess. But I make these assessments within a context that God clearly reveals - - an Earth that is 5 billion years old !

(George Brooks) #20


Yes… this seems to match your views quite well. It’s not how I organize my own views of the Cosmic Divine.

But for you, I would think Romans 9 with the “God as the Potter, Humans as the Pots” metaphor would help demonstrate that maybe what God is interested in is not quite what we want him to be interested in.