Saturday, 18 October 2008

Creation or evolution - chapter 2 - The Biblical doctrine of creation

Continued from here; beginning of series here.

Chapter 2 is entitled "The Biblical Doctrine Of Creation", and is intended to complete the broad overview that began in chapter 1 ("What do we mean by creation?"). The next four chapters are on the question, "What do we mean by evolution?" and answering objections, before going on to ask whether the accounts of creation given to us by the Bible and by the theory of evolution can be harmonised, and how. So this chapter finishes off the overview of creation. In this chapter, DA discusses the Biblical concept of creation in broad terms, setting the parameters for the later discussion of how in particular we understand Genesis and what it has to do with Darwinism.

The headings will give you some idea of how the chapter develops, the first four being offered as "four key points that emerge about God in relation to his creation"; "God is transcendent in relation to his creation", "God is immanent in his creation", "God is personal and Trinitarian in his creation", "The three tenses of creation", "Creation and miracles", and the longest section, "Does the Bible teach science?".

Looked at overall within the context of the question posed in the title of the book itself, this chapter is one enormous word fallacy. It does not deal with the doctrine of creation proper, i.e., the question of origins and what the Bible teaches about how the universe and everything in it began. Rather, it deals with the doctrine of God's relationship to the creation as it now exists, i.e. the doctrine of providence. DA attempts some kind of defence for this in the opening paragraph of the chapter. He says that the Bible's teaching on creation includes origins, but is much more than this, and we shouldn't become too fixated on it; the majority of the teaching on creation is not found in Genesis, but throughout the whole Bible. The language of creation is much broader.

If we're talking about "the created order", then this is all fine and dandy. But this is supposed to be a book about origins, not anything and everything to do with the created order. What we have here is simply a word fallacy. That statement would be going too far, if the next chapter was going to sharpen things up and be "The Biblical doctrine of origins" - i.e. if DA weren't simply going to discuss providence instead of origins. But in fact, that's just what he is going to do; this chapter finishes the overview of creation with scarcely a mention of origins. Under the heading "The three tenses of creation" we get only a few general words about the past creation; in a later chapter there will be some specific analysis of the early chapters of Genesis (there's none in this chapter, despite its title), but even that chapter will minimise the relevance of Genesis to the question of origins. That's why I call it a word fallacy. We use the word "creation" commonly to mean origins. But DA takes the word and then slides over into any concept connected with creation. Bringing in providence, DA basically avoids discussing at all the doctrine of creation proper as understood in evangelical orthodoxy. That's a fairly incredible procedure when you have a Bible whose opening sentence is "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth".

It's not, however, an incredible procedure from DA's point of view, because as the book unfolds one thing becomes clear; DA's doctrine's ultimate end is to fold creation into providence and obliterate it as a separate category. Whilst the Scriptures teach that creation is indeed a past event at the beginning, Darwinism teaches that it is an ongoing process throughout almost the whole of history that continues at the present time. In fact, as far as higher life forms go, it is an ongoing process in which the juicy bits are very recent - overwhelmingly nearer to the present time than to the beginning of time. DA himself will explain in a later chapter with impressive literary skill that, if we view the history of the universe as a 24 hour clock, then man only appeared on the scene 3 seconds ago, at 23:59:57. Man was not created in any meaningful sense "in the beginning", but in reality at the end. His creation is a result of the God working immanently in the created order through the Darwinian process - i.e., it is a result of providence, not of an original supernatural act.

That's why DA structures and proceeds in the chapter in the way he does. It's not simply that he wants to remind us that the vocabulary of the created order goes beyond origins. It's because his doctrines ultimately collapses the matter of origins and makes talk of it redundant.

To be continued...

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