Unlike science, theology starts with conclusions (e.g., God exists, God is good, Jesus died for our sins, etc.) and then, as those conclusions begin to weaken in the face of evidence, tweaks its philosophy to buttress them. (In science, we may begin with tentative conclusion, but we abandon them if they’re not consistently supported by evidence). The reaction of both fields to the Darwinian revolution is instructive. Biologists before Darwin were largely natural theologians, believing that nature testified to God’s grandeur and ingenuity. After 1859, nearly all scientists accepted the fact of evolution. Theologians did too, but still held onto the idea of a good and loving God, even though the argument from design had been their most powerful evidence for His existence.
Ditto with the Holocaust, which should prove to any thinking person that God is either nonexistent, apathetic, or malicious. But instead of taking that as evidence against God, or against a loving God, theology regrouped and quickly came up with a host of reasons why things like the Holocaust fit perfectly into God’s plan. These reasons, of course, are simply post facto rationalizations, as well as being completely untestable. It’s all just making stuff up.
And so it is with evolution. While organismal “design” was once considered strong evidence for God, theologians since Darwin—and especially in recent years—are now telling us that it makes much more sense for God to have used evolution rather than spontaneous creation as his way of producing life, and humans. Instead of adopting the most parsimonious explanation—that the well-understood, blind, and materialistic process of natural selection is the real cause of “design,” with no involvement of God whatsoever—theologians now explain that gradual evolution is the most sensible way for God to have created. Read John Polkinghorne or John Haught for good specimens of evolutionary apologetics.
To anyone with a brain, this kind of intellectual masturbation is laughable, showing the incredible tenacity of a soothing delusion. And it’s amply on display in a six-minute video just appearing on BioLogos, “Evolutionary Christianity,” made by Ryan Pettey. The clip is an excerpt of a full-length film that Pettey is making, “A Leap of Truth.” Petty explains:
With A Leap of Truth, we wanted to put something proactive on the table that could help motivate an elevated conversation about the “war” between science and faith. It was our goal to help Christians see (and accept) the complexity of the issues raised by modern science, as well as help them to courageously engage with the theological conversations happening within the sphere of Christian culture today.
A look at the film will bring you pretty much to date on evolutionary apologetics. It explains not only God’s reasons for using evolution, but also asserts that humans are special in a way not understandable by evolution: they are altruistic.
Here are a few highlights from the transcript.
Dr. Alister McGrath: “And when I stopped being an atheist and became a Christian instead, actually I found that that conversion really brought a new intellectual and spiritual depth to my scientific research. I studied the philosophy of science and began to realize that proof in science was much more complex than I had realized, and above all, I began to realize that the scientific narrative actually pointed to a deeper narrative, which is that of God himself.”
Dr. Jeff Schloss: “Well, why does God use history to achieve his purposes? Why not just have created everything right to begin with? And then, if it were made wrong at a point in time by Adam and Eve falling, why not just have Christ die right there in the Garden and have salvation? Why wait thousands of years for the revelation of Christ? And we don’t get to have the answer to that.”
But Polkinghorne has the answer!
Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne: “That shows us that God is patient and subtle, that God is prepared to create through process, unfolding process, rather than through just divine magic decree.”
Dr. Jeff Schloss: “. . . If you believe in common descent and believe in evolutionary theory, then there is a sense in which no organisms are unique to the extent that they can be explained by the common mechanism of mutation and selection. When we look at human beings, human beings do things that, as of yet, are actually not adequately explainable by the common mechanism of genetic mutation and natural selection.”
This is evolutionary creationism (popularized not only by BioLogos, but by theistic evolutionists like Kenneth Miller and Simon Conway Morris), whose bedrock tenet is that God intervened or designed evolution to ensure the appearance of humans. That, of course, is not the conception of evolution held by biologists, and is why theistic evolutionists can be considered creationists.
Dr. Jeff Schloss: “This is not a God-of-the-Gaps argument attempting to prove that there is a miracle or supernatural causes at work—that actually might be the case. But it might also be the case that there are natural causes at work, designed by God, not operating in other organisms, unique to human beings. Right now, evolutionary theory actually gives content to and illuminates the reality of human uniqueness. E.O. Wilson says that this capacity that humans have for unusual degrees of cooperative sacrifice is the culminating mystery of all biology.”
There are no “natural causes” we know of that operated only in human evolution. And of course other species besides humans show “unusual degrees of cooperative sacrifice.” In fact, some species show more sacrifice. A honeybee that stings you is sacrificing her life (the sting pulls out the bee’s viscera) for the sake of the queen. Other primates, like chimps, show cooperation, reciprocal altruism, and things that look very much like empathy and a sense of fairness. There’s no reason why human cooperation could also have evolved as simply an evolutionary elaboration of behaviors in our ancestors, now furthered by culture and secular reason.
Reverend Dr. Michael Lloyd: “What Mother Teresa did on the streets of Calcutta is not evolutionary useful. It is taking limited resources and giving them to people who are dying. That is not, from a survival point of view, useful. And yet, most of us think, that it’s a rather good thing.”
As I’ve explained before, the existence of this “altruism” is not evidence for God, If you’re going to argue that Mother Teresa’s actions are evidence for God, then so is her chastity, and so are condom use and adoption: all things that could not have evolved directly by natural selection. The difference between humans and other species—a difference that explains why we can act in ways that don’t comport with natural selection—is that we are a social species with big brains, and can reason. Many humans decide not to have any children, adopted or otherwise. Such behavior would have been quickly weeded out of our ancestors by selection. Is that, too, evidence for God? Nope, it’s evidence for reason.
The video ends with some amusing apologetics:
Dr. Jeff Schloss: “There is a fabulous and profound thematic continuity to the history of life: for example, the transition from primitive prokaryotic cells to eukaryotic cells, the transition from single cells to multi-cells, the transition from asexual, basically clonally individually reproducing organisms, to sexually reproducing organisms that have to do it together, the transition from individual to social organisms. Well, there is really no other way to put this, it is progressive. It is exactly what we would expect if a God, who we already believe on the basis of the sacred history of redemption described in scripture, is also involved in incrementally achieving his purposes over the entire course of history.”
Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne: “And when you come to think about it…if the nature of God is love, as Christians believe, then I think that is the way you would expect the God of love to create, not through just brute power, but by the unfolding of fruitful potentiality.”
Yes, yes, evolution is exactly what you’d expect God to do to create all species. But isn’t it curious that the scriptures didn’t tell us this, or that theologians didn’t come on board with the idea until all rational people had embraced evolution?
Theology does change, but not of its own volition. It changes when science forces it to. In contrast, science is immune to the currents of theology. Any “dialogue” between them is purely a one-way street.