Monday, 15 September 2008

To a theistic evolutionist

An edited version of an e-mail to a brother in Christ who believes that God's mode of creation was through evolution:
My point is that theistic evolution, whilst it may not be hard theoretical deism (you believe that God is powerfully at work in the  upholding and progressing of history via predictable laws, rather than saying that he endowed creation with those powers so that it could look after itself), it is certainly functional deism. Deistic-type thinking, by the way, is not a product of the enlightenment; it was well articulated by the Greek philosophers a couple of millennia before - I don't like the present tendency of some theologians to assign every theological position they don't agree with to the Enlightenment as if it were supporters of certain theologies alone who are uniquely able to think outside of those categories!).

Theistic evolution is functional deism, because it teaches that God's mode of creation is naturalistic. Or, as we might want to put it to make clear we're not confused about God's immanance, it is through God's ordinary and predictable workings, as opposed to his supernatural and extraordinary workings. The category of supernatural intervention is not an inherently Enlightenment idea; it is throughtout the Bible - the moon stands still, water turns into blood, the dead are raised, etcetera. Any theology that doesn't recognise this distinction is not a superior one that's climbed out of the Enlightenment straitjacket - it's simply heresy.

Genesis 1, when analysed in light of this Biblical distinction, presents us with a creation that was through distinct, immediate, supernatural interventions that are in the past: not through a long, gradualistic process that is still ongoing. It does not only refute the pagan idea that some god of the Babylonians did it and that in fact it was Yahweh. It also refutes the naturalistic idea that the material world has sufficient inherent powers in itself as to be able to organise itself, whether the theoretical basis of that idea is full-blown deism or through God's immanence. That's why I say that theistic evolution is really deism.

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