Is evolution ever the *basis* for theological understanding?

(Christy Hemphill) #1

I don’t think BioLogos actually does this. What article is an example in your mind of making evolution the basis of theological understanding?

A Problem with BioLogos' Approach
(GJDS) #2

Hi Christy,

A statement that I have seen numerous times has been, “evolution is how God created …” or words to that effect. By all means correct me if I am mistaken, but even the name combines biology with Logos - if it very important for this site, I will be happy to be involved in greater detail, but for the sake of brevity, let us start with this.

(Christy Hemphill) #3

Okay. I would say the theology involved in the statement “evolution is how God created” is that “God is the creator.” If you disagree with the mechanism, you can still hold to the theology of a Creator God. So evolution is not the foundation of the theological assertion, it’s a detail.

(George Brooks) #4

When a Christian says God brings rain to a place… and says: “rain clouds are how God created the rain” … is that an abuse of faith?

(GJDS) #5

Theology is all about God - I think you would appreciate that a sentence carries meaning and it is unwise to conflate one sentence that specifically pretends to be theology with another, and claim their meaning is the same. God is the creator is biblically correct. “evolution is how God …” is not a biblical statement, but if taken as a theological fact, deifies evolution.

But to make my point once again, from what Biologos believes:

We believe that the diversity and interrelation of all life on earth are best explained by the God-ordained process of evolution with common descent. Thus, evolution is not in opposition to God, but a means by which God providentially achieves his purposes. Therefore, we reject ideologies that claim that evolution is a purposeless process or that evolution replaces God.”

This statement is startling! Anything that is God ordained requires at the very least, apostolic authority, and I do not believe BioLogos or biologists have been given such authority. So now we have something that God Himself is supposed to have ordained and is the very means to achieve God’s purpose - I would dispute this approach to any of the sciences, Human knowledge of the creation is simply that. I would not use words, such as God ordained for any human construct, which includes all of the natural sciences. Surely the difference is obvious - if God ordained some ToE it must by (theological) definition, be unchangeable and absolute. The ToE has undergone so many changes that atheists would delight at showing that Good is fickle, as He ordains one version after another - He would get very confused after a few decades :sweat_smile:.

It is easy to change the wording in the BioLogos belief statements, but that would weaken and remove the emphasis on ToE - what you would have is to acknowledge that all major disciplines of the natural sciences operate within given paradigms (which have changed over time), and biology is no exception.

Once again, a theological statement that speak directly about God and His purpose is the very basis of theology. Pretending some things are details that people can add to please themselves is an unsound approach.

(Christy Hemphill) #6

They say the process is God-ordained, not the model of the process, or the theory describing the process, or the academic discipline that studies the process. Good grief. It’s the equivalent of saying nature is subject to God, that’s all. You are critiquing a section directed at the contentions of atheists.

I believe my life is God-ordained. Am I not supposed to assert that because I don’t have the apostolic authority to do so? What are you even saying here?

Yeah, neither would we. Go ahead and look for anything approaching “our human understanding of science was ordained by God” or “the theory of evolution was ordained by God.” It’s not there.

(GJDS) #7

Good grief Christy, now scientists must distinguish a theory of evolution, from a model of evolution, from a process of evolution, and then decide what role God has in all or some of these?

And to correct you, your salvation has been ordained by God through Christ.

Perhaps for the sake of clarity, you will explain to poor ol’ me what is the process of evolution, how this differs from ToE, and how you decide what is God ordained :confused:

The wording that I have referred to, appears to try to distinguish ToE put forward by atheists from that put forward by BioLogos and others. Again, how does the process of evolution, as you put it, differ, when as science shows, it is exactly the same process put forward by atheists? From my visits on this site, extraordinary effort and heat has been displayed to ensure there is no discernible difference between evolution as accepted by its proponents, be they atheists or theists (and yet we have the versions of evolution, but oh well, such it is :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:) - and yet the claim continues, God must have ordained something that stands apart. It does not make sense!

My point has been to show the natural sciences are what we understand as human beings. God as creator and sustainer is understood through scripture. Understanding the creation at a general level may be done by discussed the intelligibility or accessibility of nature by science, and this speaks to the human spirit and God’s grace - which deals with personhood and not nature or a process of evolution.

It would help BioLogos if they reflected on these matters, and perhaps it may also encourage a more peaceful dialogue with other Christians - there is no denial of any science discipline in such an approach, and we are always guided first by Biblical teachings. It may also help some to avoid thinking science is there to revise the Bible and Christian doctrine - and surely you will not deny this would be a positive step, and would enable discussions on ToE for those so inclined, and also deciding on various versions of evolution, without getting into a theological muddle.

(Christy Hemphill) #8

The process of evolution is the objective reality that we observe whether or not we can adequately explain it. Evolution is a natural process. All of nature is under God’s control. That is a faith claim not a scientific one. It doesn’t need any more explanation than the virgin birth or the resurrection.

As I understand it, there is no difference in the science. The difference is at the metaphysical level with the added faith claim that processes that appear random are still subject to God’s will and sovereignty. That is a faith claim, it is not part of any scientific theory. It does not originate in science or in anything observed in the natural world. It originates with God’s revelation in Scripture.


No one is disputing this.

(GJDS) #9

Hi Christy,

Please say you are kidding me. That statement even exceeds the absurd statement that all of science must bow to evolution, and all understanding is found in evolution.

Evolution is not a natural process nor is it nature. Evolution is the current paradigm of biology and it is under attack from many areas of science. It has undergone many changes and continues in its conflict riddled existence to this day. It has been a source of conflict and ideological battles for more than a century. It is not something that God has revealed, nor an article of faith for any serious Christian.

I am bigging to get a deeper appreciation for the culture wars in the USA and why some Christians would wish to separate themselves from the “liberals” amongst you.

You mention of faith claims are serious enough to explain the culture wars in the USA - if you are speaking in generalities, a reasonable approach would be that we discuss nature and the material world. Yet you speak of evolution, a term that is clearly understood to mean the paradigm of biology, as equated with the birth of Christ.

Wow - that has knocked me over, and has made my point on deifying ToE. It is little wonder some Christians and their organisations are battling such error, and I guess worse things may occur.

I have read discussions on the Philosophy of Science and as yet cannot find a metaphysical version of ToE, and certainly no tenets of the Christian faith derived or base on, nor need, the ToE. Since you accept that God is the creator and sustainer (which is the basis for our faith based outlook) why go beyond - simply add that the various natural sciences study nature.

Christy, this “deification” of ToE has caused so much angst and harm - and when we observe the push back by creationists, it seems to have bedevilled good honest Christians with arguments and theological error. Truly a tragic state of affairs.

(George Brooks) #10


I’m not going to put words in @Christy’s mouth; I expect she will be replying soon enough. But are you sure you don’t want to go back over the text I have quoted just above … and re-consider what it is you are trying to say?

I read the same sentences that you did … and I see no attempt to equate Evolution with the birth of Christ.

God makes the Cosmos; we say he made the Big Bang.
God makes the rain; we say he has created the Water Cycle, and two of its components - - Evaporation and Precipitation.
God makes lightning; we say he has invented the processs of atmospheric electrical discharges.
God makes living creatures; we say he has invented the process of Evolution, with its two main components being natural selection and mutation.

How you can get yourself worked up to such an excited level of horror and conjure up such a sense of dread and abomination is really beyond me.

(Christy Hemphill) #11

Change over time is an observable reality. Sorry you don’t see it that way.

Um. No. I spoke of parallels between the inability to scientifically describe God’s sovereignty over nature and the inability to scientifically describe the virgin birth.

There is no metaphysical version of the theory of evolution. It’s a scientific model. That is why many people who believe God creates with evolution object to the term theistic evolution. The science part is plain old regular evolution.


Why indeed? I feel like you keep arguing with your own misconceptions.

I don’t know why I should take responsibility for other people’s misunderstandings. I and others are putting a lot of effort into communicating with whomever wants to discuss.

(GJDS) #12

I see that we are not getting anything useful from this - I made the clear statement that evolution is NOT God ordained. You have gone on about some nebulous change over time (for heavens sake, that is how we measure time - periodic change). I have tried to show you that ToE deals with biology (and a controversial one at that), you make statements that involve faith - I cannot think of any scientist who would think ToE is anything but the paradigm of biology.

Add to all of this, the clear and personal difficulties amongst US Christians centred on disputes around ToE and we have anything but something ordained by God. It seems George Brooks thinks such difficulties are trivial, but I think they are a ghastly aspect of the ToE debates.

(Christy Hemphill) #13

Yeah. We disagree. The fact that evolution is God-ordained logically follows from the faith claim “all nature is under God’s sovereignty.” So if someone accepts that evolution is a part of nature (not you, evidently) and accepts the truth claim that God controls nature, the idea “evolution is God ordained” is obtained logically, not scientifically, or via direct special revelation.

Again, I don’t know who you think you are arguing with. The reason this thread started in the first place was because you thought BioLogos makes evolution the basis for theological claims and I said it does not. All along I have been saying evolution is a scientific theory. There is no God in it. I’m really confused about how you find what I have said so confusing.

(GJDS) #14

This is becoming humorous - I and almost everyone (of whatever outlook) all agree that evolution is a theory of biology, but you Christy persist in equating the paradigm with nature (and a part of nature to boot). Are you seriously suggesting this is logic? And of all things: God is Sovereign = God controls nature therefore we logically conclude evolution is God ordained. Man this is hilarious :smirk:

(Lynn Munter) #15

I don’t understand your problem. Biology is obviously a part of nature. What else would it be? Fantasy?

(Mervin Bitikofer) #16

I’m with Lynn on that too. I’m not sure what you are finding difficult about this. It seems like you want to split hairs over whether things like gravity or evolution are realities in nature or are just scientific constructs of our about realities in nature. Trying to press the difference may be appropriate in in some discussions, but it seems a bit pedantic for this discussion.

(Christy Hemphill) #17

Yes, a theory of biology that attempts to explain an observable reality of nature. Glad to put a smile on your face.

(George Brooks) #18

Wow! @GJDS , when did theories of Biology get divorced from Nature?

Does it help if we also point out that Evolution is a theory of chemistry? And physics? And geology?

That seems like an awful lot of nature in that - - too much nature to ignore …

(George Brooks) #19


So you think @GJDS is “fixed” on the idea that a “theoretical construct” about nature is not Nature itself? This is an epistemology question … how do we “know” anything?

Our theory of Gravity is a construct. Our theory or theories of lightning formation is also a construct. I really don’t know any knowledge about the natural world that isn’t a Construct - - something housed in our models of how nature works.

A theory of biology is nature… because what else would it be? We can’t go around saying the theory of gravity is something other than nature can we? So why else would Evolution be treated differently?

(GJDS) #20

@Mervin_Bitikofer, @Lynn_Munter,

I am not sure there are hairs to split and the argument is a non-event. I have stated early on that the natural sciences study the material world (ie Nature) and biology is one discipline of these sciences. I cannot fathom where this has led to an argument? My point is to try (unsuccessfully, obviously) that any theory of these disciplines of science, and ToE in particular. cannot be termed “ordained by God”.

The rest of the apparent arguments are lost in a fog of this or that opinion.