I agree. Indeed, though many TE leaders have said repeatedly “We’re not Deists!”, the perception that TE/EC is very close to Deism persists. The TE leaders seem mystified by this. They don’t seem to perceive that mere denial that one holds to a position is never adequate. The average American Christian is never impressed by mere denials. He/she seeks evidence in the actions of the person. The average person thinks, “If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck.” And if the perceived duck says, “But I’m not a duck!” the denial will have no effect. Only when TE argument sounds less like Deism will conservative evangelicals believe that it is not Deism.
To many Christians, TE/EC sounds like: “God created the laws of nature, and set them rolling, and the universe carried on stochastically from there.” So God’s role is limited to creating matter/energy/laws in the first place, and perhaps “sustaining” matter/energy/laws by his power. That’s what EC/TE often sounds like to many Christians, and that’s why many of them resist it.
I have many times (ad nauseam, some here would say) proposed a solution to this problem: EC/TE leaders could – as individuals (not speaking for BioLogos or for the ASA or for any particular public body) – explain how each of them personally conceives God’s role in the evolutionary process. That might go a long way to dispelling the suspicion of Deism. But I have found the vast majority of the leaders remarkably unwilling to elaborate their conceptions. And that reluctance to elaborate may well look to many conservative Christians as if EC/TE leaders have “something to hide” about their thoughts relating God to evolution. So the resistance of conservative evangelicals will continue. They won’t embrace a position they do not trust.
I see no end to this situation until individual EC/TE leaders are willing to be more explicit about how they see God as involved in evolution. And of course, by explicit I mean more than giving a purely biological explanation of origins and then throwing in terms like “providentially” at the end, for pious good measure. I mean a real discussion of the relationship between God and nature, God and the world, God and the process of evolution, etc. that has some meat on the bones. Obviously I cannot force or cajole TE/EC leaders to offer such discussions, and even gentle persuasion has failed, but I do confidently predict that for as long as they refuse to offer such discussions, the perception that TE/EC is perilously close to Deism will continue. The power to dispel the perception lies entirely in the hands of TE/EC leaders, but whether they will ever choose to exercise that power remains to be seen.
Perhaps you, Joshua, could offer, on your own website, your own personal conception of how God is involved in the evolutionary process in a way that goes beyond Deistic aloofness. Just a suggestion.