Wednesday, 10 December 2008

"Creation or evolution - do we have to choose?" - The postscript

Two and a half pages end the book - the first bit with a summary of all that's gone before, the second with the forward-looking statement summing up where to go from here. DA's got a good, systematic mind and ties the book up in a straightfoward way consistent with what's gone before.

The first half then repeats what's been argued for. Science is essentially an objective, value and presupposition-free zone; ideologies are bolted on by others. Science looks at the historical reality what God did; the Bible gives us the theological interpretation. Evolution is compatible with believing in a God of intentions and purposes for the world. (In my review of the preceeding chapter I, to save space, passed over commenting on the very weak form of sovereignty DA argues for in evolution, explicitly disavowing the concept of a total control in favour of a general directional influence). DA argues that we can hold to both Darwinism and all the historical Christian doctrines of sin, the Fall and redemption. Arguing that is water under the bridge now. I think it's DA makes it clear as he argues those things that he holds those doctrines in a severely modified form that does not cohere with historical evangelical orthodoxy, and at times is grotesequely dualistic in some areas, even approaching a new Gnosticism (e.g. the interaction of science and the Bible, the connection between theological and physical facts, and the relationship between the present creation and the new creation to come).

In the final part, DA takes the gloves off. The moderate language of the earlier book (though unless my detectors are wonky, it was always with a heavy dose of condescension) gives way to something quite different. At the beginning of the book, DA told us that these were matters of comparative indifference, that Christians must differ on them amicably, and that there is no excuse for any kind of harsh language or anathematising of any others because of different views on Darwinism. Either amnesia struck DA, his editors and proof-readers, or that was just flannel and now he tells us what he really thinks, or perhaps this last section was written after getting out of bed on the wrong side and he doesn't really mean it. Because now, he tells us that Christians who reject Darwinism are "embarrassing and bring the gospel into disrepute", are (via a quote from Augustine on a different matter) "dangerous... talking nonsense... embarassing...", create intellectual barriers that prevent scientists from taking the gospel seriously, have caused very high-profile (but unnamed) scientists to give up their profession of faith, and to cap it all are following the theology condemned in the book of Galatians!

This then leads into the most cringe-worthy example of double standards, where DA, after writing a 353 page long book on the question of Darwinism, launches a stinging diatribe against Christians who waste time discussing Darwinism when the world has so many other problems to spend time on. Christians who reject evolution, he says, are "divisive" and hypocritical, talking about creation but not being the ones who spend time caring for it. They invest time in magazines about creation and fail to put money into helping the poor, tackling HIV, or funding orphanages.

I wish I could say I've never read this kind of thing before. I've probably done it myself; it's a striking example of the blindness of fallen man that someone who's just spent such a large amount of time on disagreeing with other Christians over the question of evolution can then launch such a vitriolic attack on anyone who else who dares to do the same. But we know what he really means, don't we? He means, it's an evil waste of time and resources to address this matter unless you agree with me. This argumentation is silly and unworthy. It's also a false dichotomy. The creation God has made is very big - immense. God commanded us to subdue the earth - to have dominion over it (Genesis 1:28). Our hopes of doing that were ruined by sin, but restored and indeed made certain in Christ (Hebrews 2:6-9). Man is commanded to explore, harness and glorify God in every aspect of creaton - physical, spiritual, intellectual, etc. Other than the gross generalisation in the above criticism, it's a clear fallacy to criticise Christians for spending time discussing and critiquing Darwinism and its effects on a Biblical world-view as if God commanded us to spend all our time building orphanages. That's a modern Western sentimentality that fails to get to grips with the vastness of the task that God set us in the creation mandate. It's a silly and cheap criticism easily turned back on the one issuing it. Why is Dr. Alexander living in the luxury of 21st century Cambridge, in the ivory towers of the Faraday Institute, when he could come out here and join me in Africa? There are slums with hundreds of thousands of people round here I can point him to. Why is he wasting time behind his desk penning insults against creationists when he could be down on the ground, caring for orphans and widows? I presume he has a good reason - and I can think of many excellent ones. The point is, though, that these are cheap shots whoever is making them and whoever they are made against, whether they like Darwinism or not.

The note we end on has two more points. First, DA criticises creationists for not being enthusiastic enough about combatting global warming. It has occurred to me over the last year or two that anti-creationist critics, whether Christian or atheistic, are necessarily committed to being fully convinced of disastrous man-made global warming theory. Once you take the position, as they do, that the mainstream position has to be the correct one (because of the unbiased and virtually infallible nature of the scientific process, cough cough), and that if Darwin deniers can't get published in mainstream journals then that must in itself prove they're wrong, then you have no option but to unquestionningly accept it all. It's the consensus position, and peer-review guarantees its truth. The parting shot is a final cheapie that follows on from this criticism - creationists are like the man who buried his talent in the ground instead of being good stewards of creation, for which DA references Matthew 25:14-30. He doesn't go on to explain whether, as it actually states in Matthew 25:30, he means to say that creationists are going to be cast "into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth". Perhaps I'd better not ask; I wasn't feeling the lurve, anyway.

That's all for now. There will be more God-willing at another time - I intend to write a review to encapsulate the whole book, and put these up in a more permanent form somewhere. If you had anything to say in the comments though, now's the time!


Anonymous said...

What would be very helpful to me, and I assume any one elese trying to understand the author's TE position on theology specifically, would be a synopsis of the main points. Ignore the science, just summarise the history and theology of the Fall, sin, and salvation. I am attempting just that, to see how well it reconciles with the NT, but I would be most interested in others' understanding of just what it is that the author is espousing.

David Anderson said...

Thanks anonymous. I'll try to put up a brief summary of that as a post as soon as I can.

Simon said...

I'm very grateful that you've taken the the time to review the book in detail and I've found it very enlightening. I didn't really fancy trawling through this book myself just on the off-chance it might truly be challenging the literal Genesis position. Clearly if this is best that can be done then I don't see how the theory of Evolution can ever be reconciled with the Biblical narrative without severely watering down the core doctrines. I think one could even argue this is higher criticism through the back-door.

A sorry state of affairs, particularly when so many otherwise sound Evangelicals have endorsed this line. I just hope and pray that God will use the likes of your review to change their hearts.