Maybe this can become more of a compendium of responses than a place for extended discussions. Something that others can refer or link back to later. If it is too redundant with discussions already happening in other threads, we can delete it. But I thought I would give it a try here.
Here is a first entry.
I wish people could understand that Evolutionary Creationism (also commonly referred to as “Theistic Evolution”) is not some separate system of theology, as if people who accept science must automatically or suddenly become some “separate denomination” of its own.
Nor does it suddenly become some sort of “different science”. It’s just science. The fact that some have picked out an intersecting subset of scientists who also happen to be believers does not suddenly mean they are doing a different kind of science than any of their colleagues generally.
Evolutionary creationism (EC), Theistic evolution (TE), Biologos, etc. are not a “denomination” or unified camp. There are many different views that fit under the umbrella terms EC and TE.
Christians who might consider applying to themselves the label of EC or TE are actually Christians.
Christians who might consider applying to themselves the label of EC or TE seek to hold their Christian faith, and understand the natural world as it can be observed, in a time when Christian faith is not automatically supported by the a Post-enlightenment world of thought. Yes, we are all swimming in and using that way of reasoning.
Christians who might consider using these labels believe that their faith is independent of a particular view of the natural world, and likewise that an accurate understanding of the natural world is independent on any particular interpretation of the Bible or other form of revelation.
Christians who might consider using these labels have a wide variety of views on how a contemporary study of the natural world complicates Christian theology or doctrine, if at all. In spite of the possible challenges, they understand that the best, most reliable, most accurate, eventually most productive/useful study of the natural world is the most direct possible study of the natural world using the scientific method that has been developed over centuries. God does not require particular knowledge of Himself or theology to study or understand the natural world accurately.
Not all Christians who are identified with EC or TE would like to be labeled in this way; we did not seek to be labeled in any way other than followers of Jesus. I suspect that most Christians (at least in the U.S.) who believe that the scientific method is the most faithful way to study nature are not scientists. We are Christians who would like primarily to live our lives quietly and do what we had been doing. However, increasingly within the last 15 or 20 years, we find ourselves in the middle of a fight we did not pick and do not want.
Although we are not scientists, many of us had/have a reasonable enough science education to recognize that the scientific method is reliable and useful for studying the natural world, and leads to useful scientific discovery. We are capable of learning about the productive ends that scientific discovery have been put and benefit from them constantly.
We also recognize that no competition for useful discovery is based in a theological interpretation of the natural word.
@Mervin_Bitikofer , thanks for framing the question in a way non-scientists could answer as well.
What I wish people understood is that there are still a wide range of beliefs within evolutionary creationism. It’s not a denomination. It’s not about 99% of the Bible, though I guess the process used to come to evolutionary creationism will also be used for all other passages too. It makes you genre, cultural context and other literary devices.
I also wish people knew that evolutionary creationism is not synonymous with intelligent design. That some, like myself, does not believe in intelligence behind creation. Not with laws being set up, or through guidance or with a particular purpose. I don’t believe God set up laws with the intention of creating us. I think he knew we would come about, and he reached out to us throughout all of the universe’s history through the Holy Spirit.
For me evolutionary creationism is a philosophical outlook that is built off of science and theology. That it’s the same science that atheists accept and just as much faith in god as with any other form of Christianity.
What I find disturbing is that if someone says he thinks evolution has happened and supports an EC-type interpretation of the past, that person is condemned as someone who denies the Creator, creation and the authority of biblical scriptures.
It has been surprisingly difficult to explain that a person supporting EC-type interpretation can be a person believing that God created and think that biblical scriptures are authoritative texts in matters of faith. There seems to be a false dichotomy: either you believe that God created as a schoolbook-type interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis tell, or you are practically an atheist or other type of non-believer.
I haven’t really had this problem because I have never announced or labeled myself as an evolutionary creationist. In dialogue with people, the theological, ecclesiastical, and even philosophical issues usually arise first. I suppose I wouldn’t give creationist pseudoscience even so much credit as to need such a label. The label of Christian and the label of scientist should be sufficient.
Is it possible that the difference here is that I don’t see myself as being on a mission to convert people to a belief in evolution? I think I have mentioned before that I find this battle somewhat tiresome – a bit too much like trying to defend the world from the flat earthers. Perhaps the key difference is I wasn’t raised in that community – not even the Christian community let alone a creationist one. Thus it is as far from my reality as the flat earth society.
The most likely way the topic of evolution would arise is in explaining what I do with my time, in which case I am likely to talk about the Biologos forum and what its purpose is.
Yes. It would be nice if there was one or two threads that could be used for people who want to engage polemics on evolution. It seems like almost every thread on a scientific topic that involves evolution gets hijacked that way. Edit: I think there should be a space for asking honest questions, but polemics can be tiresome.
I’ll second this one because I come to this from the point of view of the scriptures as ancient literature and, reading it in the original, have yet to find any hint of a foundation for such accusations. The actual text in its literary type and worldview don’t tell us how old the world is, don’t tell us how it was made other than at God’s command, or much of anything else involved in the debate – though I will note that the command to earth and sea to “Bring forth!” sounds suspiciously like the trigger for evolution.
Or, tougher, that supporting EC-type interpretation is done because of believing that the scriptures are authoritative in matters of faith.
That’s another thing that those indulging in “creationist pseudoscience” don’t get: to them, if you ‘believe in’ something you want everyone else to as well.
I have to agree there, especially when I try to talk about the text and get accused of trying to male it fit evolution. I understood the text mostly the way I do before I grasped the whole evolution thing (having done the Greek and Hebrew and ancient literature thing before studying much science), and evolution doesn’t come into it; you don’t drag outside stuff (i.e. science) into interpreting the text any more than you drag your interpretation of the text into science – it’s as helpful as asking what type of spark plug a diving snorkel uses.
So . . .
What I wish people would understand is that for the most part I don’t really care about evolution when it comes to understanding the text because it really has nothing to say, at least perhaps until you’ve sat down with the text and wrestled with what it means in the original language and setting, the original literary type and worldview!
You mean… some people are up front about the things they drag into interpreting the text while other people try to hide them in some completely delusional pretense at objectivity.
I can believe in the objectivity of experimental science, because those written procedures give the same results no matter what you want or believe. But I find it highly dubious that people can objectively assess what people of another culture understood by a text let alone what God intended in his inspiration of that text. But while science consists of objective observation where what you want is irrelevant, life requires subjective participation where what you want is central. This is why I see value in religion… but for that very reason a pretense at objectivity in religion looks utterly pointless to me.
I make no bones about the fact that science is a part of my perceptual process by which I make sense of the world and my question in approaching the Bible and Christianity was always whether that could be meaningful in that context otherwise it has no value to me.
But there is
So far no polemics
I have a question for the evolutionary creationists, in the name of understanding
How do miracles fit into EC? EC seems to accept the scientific explanation for biodiversity with the addition of God’s providence, but what about miracles described in the Bible like Jesus walking on water or (most importantly) Jesus’ resurrection? How does this relate to the presence and absence of scientific evidence?
I’m going to go “behind” the question because I don’t think EC or any other approach matters when it comes to miracles.
It’s clear from various passages that God in essence creates the whole universe anew each moment, doing so in a dependable, i.e. faithful way that looks to us humans like laws and constants and such. Thus all that a “miracle” is, is God recreating the next iteration of the universe in a different way with respect to certain details.
Thus while a certain set of stone jars was filled with water one moment, instead of recreating the universe with those stone jars still full of water, God switched that to wine; while humans normally sink in water, instead of recreating the universe anew with that universally true, God switched a set of iterations so that a certain human being didn’t sink; and while human bodies after death normally decay, God switched three days’ worth of iterations for a certain body so that decay never started – and then on that third day He ran the system backwards so that instead of decay there was a return to life, and in fact put in place a new “rule” for new iterations that instead of a certain human body just being biologically alive it was alive also in a different way, a way taken from the iteration rules of Heaven rather than of Earth.
Having said that, it’s worth noting that evolution itself is no more than the method or set of rules God recreated the universe in accordance with, moment after moment.
As for scientific evidence, that can be obtained when God is operating normally, making every new iteration related to the immediately former iteration by the same set of laws and constants as before; scientific evidence is possible because God is dependable, i.e. faithful. But when He changes things in a new iteration such that it can be called a miracle, scientists will only be able to get any evidence – if they catch the matter – that this changed iteration happened, never how it happened because in the in-universe frame of reference a miracle will be an effect without a cause since the cause comes “from beneath”, from the operating code being temporarily suspended in favor of a very special deviation.
That said, some miracles seem to be more matters of timing rather than changing the “code”. Jericho’s walls falling may have been a switch in the code from one iteration to the next, or it may be that God arranged things so that Joshua & Co. got there at the time an earthquake was going to topple those walls anyway.
Generally speaking … if I may presume to answer this on behalf of (most?) ECs …or at least some of the common views many of us would be friendly to around here anyway …
Miracles and miracle claims are largely accepted (or rejected) as just that. A special case, and therefore nothing that would have bearing on the normal course of scientific investigation. Not that the result of some given miracle wouldn’t be observable - even scientifically - if one happened to be present to observe one. Science provides the comparative backdrop … the typical experience that ‘long dead people don’t come back to life’. That’s science. “Some have because God worked it so in special cases.” That’s the claim of orthodox Christianity. And that would just be seen as a special case by scientific-minded Christians who accept that miracles have happened. They wouldn’t see it as any cause to re-think the general observations about how the world works. That back-drop of the normal workings of creation in fact needs to stay solidly in place (from a Christian’s perspective) or else miracles would not be anything special. Gravity makes it so pencils don’t levitate. But I can make a pencil rise off the table by lifting it with my hand. It’s ‘defiance’ of gravity (with my help) doesn’t suddenly mean that Newton and Einstein were all wrong. It just means that the pencil ‘got some assistance’ from somebody who could make that happen. Miracles (as claimed in scriptures) are God causing special things to happen as a sign or a help. ECs, depending on their religious traditions and approaches may have varying level of skepticism about whether or not miracles are “supernatural” or just “natural - in ways beyond our understanding” or such … and maybe some ECs from very liberal traditions even reject miracles entirely and find ways to discount those particular claims. But most of us who accept them (or many of them - with the resurrection being the key one in that regard), are willing to just use that same phrase that nobody seems to use enough: “we don’t know how.” And we don’t generally think that science will ever adjudicate on that aspect of our faith because science is all about the repeatable and ordinary things we can observe - and yes, ‘anomolies’ are part of science too, but it’s the patterns that help us begin to understand and predict - and anomolies don’t help us do that so much. They may be an ‘anomoly’ in the sense of being rare on the scale of a human life time (like a meteor impact), or they may be something of a ‘permanent’ anomoly in the sense that we never see it repeat at all. While any miracles would have to be in these latter categories, ECs would probably remain agnostic about science being able to tease all that apart.
And we’re also generally a suspicious bunch (like any scientists or skeptics are) about miracles claims generally. It doesn’t bother us that somebody would want to investigate a miracle claim to see if it can be otherwise explained. But … (and this really starts to elude some people about us) … some of us vehemently deny that there is some set of events that were set apart as “God’s providence” while all the other ‘normal’ events are “Hands off - No God.” That dichtomy is rejected by many ECs as one of the chief sources of all sorts of ideological / religious mischief. All of creation is under God’s providence. ECs have no interest in trying to turn that faith conviction into some sort of scientific claim, as it has no bearing on what science can investigate anyway. Father Lemaitre (father of big bang) was an excellent example of this. He was distressed that his theory excited some of the Creationists of his time as an opportunity for triumph over the atheists - and the good father, to his credit, took no part in that enthusiasm and gave it no encouragement, having no interest in such thirsty ideologies himself.
Different people will give different answers for what they themselves believe. One like me or @paleomalacologist would essentially say that miracles can be outright suspensions of standard natural laws (resurrection would qualify in most views), or events so unlikely and perfectly timed as to seem rather odd otherwise, or just ordinary providential workings in everyday events. And would essentially agree with the contents of the two preceding posts.
Many (I’m tempted to say most) are, and without breaking any natural laws, “code”, but sometimes involve a matter of degree or amplitude of natural events – the crossing of the Red Sea, for instance. Even Jesus calming the storm on Galilee did not break any natural laws – a Man in a boat said something and a storm suddenly stopped. (I always like to note “…and it became completely calm”… so they had to row all the rest of the way. The moral being it is better to trust than to fear, and maybe less work. )
If how the world worked wasn’t consistent, we couldn’t even recognize miracles. If natural laws and universal constants could spontaneously change willy-nilly, how would we even know what a miracle was?
‘Rather odd’ might be understatement. Shall we talk about the 50 σ (that’s low) of five exquisite ‘lottery wins’ or a Turkish translator who ’just happened’ to be on scene precisely when they were needed by someone who was in crisis. Factual evidence for Christians to rejoice in, remember and recount, and for true seekers to ponder
The idea that God normally works through the patterns of natural laws, yet also works otherwise from time to time, is no innovation. As an example, the Westminister Confession of Faith (from the 1640’s), part V.iii, states: “God, in His ordinary providence, makes use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at His pleasure.” This is the position taken in the Bible as well - God is credited with providing the seasons and harvests, etc., not just the occasional miraculous intervention. Ecclesiastes and Job emphasize that just looking at the physical evidence doesn’t get you anywhere useful theologically. Rather, it must be informed by faith.
Conversely, just because an explanation of a miracle appeals to physical processes does not mean that it is a good one. Exodus specifies that God sent a wind to part the sea, and indeed just the right wind would have set up a seiche parting one of the Bitter Lakes along the border of Egypt. Just the right landslide will stop the Jordan. Both of those represent exceptional timing of rare natural events. But the claim that Elijah’s altar burned because he was actually pouring kerosene, not water, over it implies that God miraculously provided Elijah with the technology to refine petroleum; a well-aimed bolt of lightning is a much better physical model (and particularly appropriate for showing up Baal).
It’s only even an issue because we Westerners took an axe to our understanding of reality and forged a division between sacred and secular. The writers of Genesis wouldn’t have a clue what that was about since obviously everything that happens is thanks to God, so where di we get this idea that there are things He’s not in charge of?
There have been lightning bolts that last fifteen seconds; given the temperatures involved, that certainly could have burned up sacrifice, water, wood, and the altar itself!
And this as well:
Lightning can travel 10 to 12 miles from a thunderstorm. https://www.weather.gov/media/ilm/Lightning_NWSILM.pdf
That makes a lot of sense, and consistent with what I have heard from other EC’s and theistic evolutionists in general.
I have often heard criticisms of EC along the lines of “if you believe in science then you can’t believe in the Resurrection because science says people can’t come back after being dead for 3 days”. You also see the reverse, such as creationists saying miracles aren’t being considered as the cause of biodiversity. In my observations, it is the interplay between the scientific method, scientific evidence, and miracles within EC that people have a hard time understanding.