Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Making Sense of Evolution -- Review

MAKING SENSE OF EVOLUTION:  Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life.  By John F. Haught.  Louisville:  WJK Press, 2010.  144 pp.


Here’s something creationists and evolutionary naturalists agree about: Darwin’s theory of evolution leads inevitably to atheism. John F. Haught disagrees. In Making Sense of Evolution, he proposes that one need not choose between God and Darwin.

Haught is most concerned with people such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett who define faith in narrow, ultraconservative terms. He challenges them by suggesting that one can be faithful to a religious tradition and also open to modern science. Haught reminds those of us who are people of faith open to evolutionary science that coexistence doesn’t mean living in separate homes (as Stephen J. Gould suggested).

Making Sense of Evolution invites the reader to develop a “theology of evolution.” The key to Haught’s argument is found in the second half of the book’s subtitle: “the Drama of Life.” Science offers one lens on reality, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t offer answers to questions of meaning or purpose or explain why people continue to believe in God. Haught suggests that evolution is like a set of grammatical rules that guide the telling of the story of reality but don’t define its content. As we seek to understand this story, we also ask what role God might play in the drama.

The traditional answer to this question is to point to design, and no one laid out the principles of design better than William Paley. But as Darwin himself discovered, Paley’s principles of design were too simple, too mechanical. Haught sees reality as involving multiple layers, one of which can be seen from the vantage point of science. Drama is another one of the layers. In this layer, God is not an engineer laying out the machine called life (Darwin effectively overthrew that image) but is coming into reality from the future, luring and beckoning life to move forward toward God’s desired end. Of course not all the scenes are written in this scenario, for God must adapt to the choices that are made.

A theology of evolution offers an “ultimate reason why things are the way they are.” “It is not in the design, diversity, and descent,” says Haught, “but in the transformative drama of life, that theology finally makes its deepest contact with Darwin’s science.”

Haught's theology is process-oriented. He makes wide use of Whitehead, Hartshorne and Tillich. He assumes that God’s involvement in the creative process is noncoercive and synergistic. Humans play a significant role in the evolutionary process.

Drama allows creation the freedom to work in relationship with the creator. The process isn’t always pretty, but do we really want a preordained, preset world that provides no opportunity for growth or contribution from the creation? Haught doesn’t.

If Christians wish to join in the scientific conversation, they need resources like this one. Evolutionary science and theology need not be done in isolation. Instead, we can see Darwin’s theory as a spiritual gift that will further our understandings of God in our age.

This review was originally posted at Theolog, the blog of the Christian Century

43 comments:

David Mc said...

"God must adapt to the choices that are made."

That cracks me up, even as a scientist. It's like us saying life doesn't exist elsewhere because we aren't aware of it. It's like saying war doesn't exist, because we're comfy and more interested in entertainment.
I'm sure God wouldn't have initiated this world if He didn't value the outcome. I don't think God is "stuck in time" as we are. But that may be the scientist in me talking.

Gary said...

The problem is calling evolution science. It is philosophy, not science. There is no evidence that life evolved from simpler forms.

The evolutionists would have us believe that from an explosion(the Big Bang) we got planets and seasons, and rocks, and dirt and trees and water and corn and beans and potatoes, and birds and rabbits and people. And the evolutionists are perplexed and offended that we won't believe their ideas.

John said...

Gary,

You said: "The problem is calling evolution science."

You have it wrong. The problem is calling opposition to evolution theology.

John

Gary said...

John,

There is no theological evidence opposing evolution? That's absurd.

Genesis chapters 1 and 2, and Exodus 20:11 come immediately to mind.

John said...

Gary,

Do you think that whether one opposes or supports the theory of evolution will affect one will be saved or not?

John

Gary said...

John,

If someone is a saved believer, why would they believe something that contradicts the Bible, which evolution certainly does?

John said...

You have not answered my question.

But your response suggests an interesting position: Whatever a saved believer believes, it must be true because saved believers cannot believe in something which is erroneous.

This begs the further question: If this is true is it true because saved believers are protected from error by virtue of their being saved, or is their infallible correctness merely a reflection of their being saved?

Now you have three questions to answer.

John

Gary said...

John,

Can someone who is really saved be an evolutionist? Not if they are thinking correctly. Believers sometimes believe things that are not true, though the Holy Ghost should remedy some of that, and moreso with time and sufficient Bible study.

If someone tells me they are a Christian, but they believe that evolution is true, I immediately question the sincerity of their claim of faith. They are either confused, or they are mistaken about being a believer in Christ. People have to learn the truth and some are slower learners than others. But once a believer learns why they cannot be both a Christian and an evolutionist, they will abandon evolution. If they do not, then their faith is phony.

John said...

Gary,

Bear with me, but I want to try to restate your positions, mostly to make certain I have understood them correctly.

It appears that you are saying that opposition to the theory of evolution does not affect one's salvation, and that believers can, through innocent error, endorse the theory of evolution.

It appears that you are also saying that a genuine believer will eventually come to oppose the theory of evolution as their faith becomes more theologically informed.

Finally, it appears that you are saying that one who claims to be a believer but continues to accept the theory of evolution after being informed of the biblical arguments against it, may be lying about their claim to faith.

Did I restate your positions correctly?

John

David Mc said...

Don't give Gary any scientific facts. If he comes to believe evolution and it suggests the stor(ies) of Genesis aren't exact detailed narratives, his faith may well crumble! I believe evolution is awesome and has survived as a strong enduring theory. By the way, to most believers, God is a theory. I believe He is a theory to all believers.

David Mc said...

To be honest, for me, so far, God is a working hypotheses. John usually pushes it toward theory, Gary toward confusion and doubt. I try to assume he doesn't mean to.

David Mc said...

Interesting.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lema%C3%AEtre

Gary said...

John,

Yeah, that's about it. That's what I believe.

David Mc,

What is confusing about what I believe? Seems crystal clear to me.

earl said...

It seems to me it takes much more faith to believe that God created the earth as we know it over several million years as opposed to a few thousand. The problem with humanity is that we often want to limit God to our world which is finite as opposed to God who is infinite. Even if one wants to take the Genesis account literally, the fact is that the sun and moon that effectively defined the earth day (24 hours) did not come about on the first day. So what is the first day in Genesis? Could it not be a few million years or so? Plus the earth was without form and void (empty) in the beginning. That actually supports the ideas such as the big bang theory. After all, should not anything created by God be considered a big bang and in effect a marvelous event?

David Mc said...

What confuses me is that you seem to have an above average intelligence and natural rationality- and don't use it to challenge your own perspective. How will you ever grow with such self-assured perfection?

I do wish you happiness regardless- but not at the expense of others.

David Mc said...

I don't know Earl, I think what Monsignor LemaƮtre discovered along with the vastness of the universe makes it easier to believe in a creation. It also teaches me we must be patient in matters of God, and impatient in matters of society.

John said...

Gary,

If my salvation is not affected by whether or not I oppose the theory of evolution, then whatever I believe about evolution is really irrelevant and needn't be of any theological concern for me or for you.

Moreover, I have to think that if what I believe about evolution, for it or against it, correct or incorrect, is intentionally and specifically interpreted by me to disclose and glorify what I believe to be the loving, beneficent, and creative role of God in the whole enterprise, I have to believe that I have explored the issue faithfully, regardless of the which side of the issue I come down on.

If I have explored and treated the issue faithfully, sincerely, and with a loving heart for God, how is it appropriate for someone to question the quality of my faith. I may be factually and scientifically wrong, and one may fairly challenge and criticize my conclusions.

But my error does not render my faith bogus.

John

Gary said...

John,

If someone claimed to be a Christian, and to love God, but also claimed that from his sincere study of Scripture he has concluded that adultery is not immoral, would you think that his claim to faith was genuine?

We prove the reality of our faith by what we believe and how we live. People who live immoral lives and claim to be Christians are thought to be hypocrites, and rightly so. The same is true of those who claim faith, but who hold beliefs which contradict the Bible. There is something wrong there.

Gary said...

David Mc,

My assurance is in God and the Bible, not in myself. I've been a believer a long time. I've done a lot of studying. And I'm convinced of some things and not confused about them.

John said...

Gary,

A sincere faith in God does not guarantee that each and every thought we have will be accurate, nor does it guarantee that we are open to correction toward more orthodox understandings - whatever those may be. We are still human, still prone to see things narrowly, and all too often erroneously. King David, in his murderous and adulterous immorality, never lost his heart for God.

I think that a humble and sincere faith manifests itself most aptly in how I live it out, how I treat others, and especially in how I respond to those who oppose me. Do I honor and defend and sacrifice for others? Do I seek to discern and lift up the Spirit in each person - even in the midst of genuine disagreement?

God seeks to heal the sinners not the faithful. And the medicine of healing is forgiveness and loving kindness, not castigation.

So as between you and I, I have come to believe that I can only pray that you and I get the important things right, (whatever those might be), and that as neighbors, the other gets them right as well.

John

Gary said...

John,

The message of evolution is entirely incompatible with the message of the Bible. Each necessarily destroys the other. You can no more be both a Christian and an evolutionist than you can be both a Christian and a Muslim.

John said...

Gary,

Are you saying that it is more important to God that we believe a particular idea correctly than that we should avoid being a murderer or an adulterer. God loves all kinds.

By the way, I am sure you will agree that Moses didn't know the Genesis stories of creation when God approached him on Sinai. It appears that God did not hold his failure to believe in those ideas against him. And later, when presumably Moses had learned those ideas, God still did not allow him to enter the promised land.

Apparently right thinking will get you only so far.

For me its all about trusting in the Lord, that God will get it right even when I don't. And treating others kindly.

John

Gary said...

John,

I don't have time today to go into this in detail, but I'll say this:
Beliefs have consequences. A study of the New Testament will reveal that treating Genesis as myth and not as history removes the foundation of Christianity. If the events recorded in Genesis did not happen, then Christianity has nothing to stand on.

David Mc said...

Perhaps life evolved to a point where an animal first reached a level God called Adam. Where did Adam's grandchildren come from?

Even in matters of adultery, there is no black and white, so your example is weak. Adultery often is not meant to hurt and only occurs when a marriage is totally lost and waiting on lawyers and systems. You're a poor judge of character if you make rash proclamations.

On the plus side, you haven't advocated we burn our Bibles lately.

Gary said...

David Mc,

What? Where did Adam's grandchildren come from? Huh? I assume that, as is true with everyone else, Adam's grandchildren came from Adam's children. Do you have another theory? Aliens? Traveling salesmen?

In reading the Bible, I have not detected that God thinks that adultery is anything other than black and white. You are either an adulterer, or you are not.

John said...

I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that for Gary adultery is not that great of a sin, not as great as endorsing the theory of evolution, anyway.

John

Gary said...

John,

Is there any Biblical evidence to support the theory of evolution? Did Jesus give any indication at all that he believed anything other than the historicity of Genesis? Why would God tell Moses that He(God) created the heavens, the earth, and all that in them is, in six days if He did not actually do that?

If Jesus was wrong about Genesis being historical, as you obviously believe he was, why do you think that anything else Jesus said, or believed, has any validity? Jesus claimed to be God, and the Bible teaches that he is God and that Jesus created the universe(John 1:3). If Jesus created the universe, then shouldn't he know how he did it? Why do you believe some of what Jesus said, but think he was lying about Genesis?

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

You know this discussion is exhibit A as to why inerrancy simply doesn't work. Ultimately you set yourself up for failure -- see the discussion at Jesus Creed for a good example of this:

http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2010/07/evangelicalisms-radical-divers-3.html

I believe that God gave us brains so as to discern truth, from wherever it comes. Gary, you keep saying there is no evidence for evolution but as has been stated time after time there maybe differences in opinion as to how the process took place, but in the scientific community there is little or no dissent on the matter that evolution has taken place!

So, keep on conversing, but this discussion looks exactly the same as the last one!

Darwin said...

"If the events recorded in Genesis did not happen, then Christianity has nothing to stand on."

If this statement is true, then would the last person to leave the church please shut off the lights.

Gary said...

Cornwall,

Since there is no way to reconcile the Bible with evolution, you evolutionists MUST deny the truthfulness of the Bible; you have no other choice. If you claimed the Bible is true, and at the same time claimed that evolution is true, you would all be accused of being insane!

I am not angered by people believing in evolution any more than I am angered by people who are Buddhists, or atheists. What angers me is when they try to claim that evolution is scientific(it isn't). And I am much more angered by people, like you Cornwall, and like John, who are so fundamentally dishonest as to claim that you are both an evolutionist, and a Christian. Well, to be fair, is it dishonesty on your part, or is it stupidity? It is certainly one or the other.

John said...

Gary,

1. I assume from your silence that you agree that adultery is a pedestrian sin whereas endorsement of the theory of evolution is much more significant. We'll get back to that.

2. Doesn't it trouble you to believe that God is unable to create from scratch but only by snap? That God is capable of abacadabra style magic but not creation by craftsmanship? Doesn't it trouble you just a little to hold to the magic theory of creation when there is so much evidence of divine craftsmanship?

3. Why do your arguments so often devolve into personal attacks and the calling into question the sincerity of your opponents' faith?

4. Do you really think that all genuine Christians must agree on all particulars of their faith? Must they agree with you? If so how do you explain the rather limited requirements of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15? If disagreement is permitted, then how do we decide on what we can disagree about and still claim to be faithful?

5. Can you or I claim the support of generally recognized Church Fathers for our arguments - does their support carry any weight either in strengthening our doctrinal claim, or in our claim to a genuine faithfulness?

John

Gary said...

John,

Please address my questions in my last post addressed to you. When you do, then I will answer the questions you just asked.

David Mc said...

I have held marriage dear my whole life, but yes, I committed adultery toward the end of a long divorce proceeding. I certainly won't give details because I have innocent children, but if I could have just stated "I divorce you" three times and it was a done deal, I'd be golden.

I have been remarried and so far (>14 years) 100% faithful (I was 99.9984 % the first marriage).

So, I can't be a Christian? I'm really not that repentant in my case as you can see.

I'm not immoral. We live a lot longer than in Jesus' time and there seems to be more borderline sociopa.. er, sorry kids.

Anyway, I always turn out the lights when I leave.

John said...

Gary,

I thought your questions to be more rhetorical than substantive.

1. I suppose that Biblical evidence could simply be that nowhere does it say that God performed magic. It says "He created..." As for what constitutes a day, in 2 Peter 3:8 it is said: "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." In the first creation story of Genesis, without sun and moon there is no actual day and night and in truth no passage of time. The whole notion of time is fluid in that story and can only be told in metaphor. (By the way how can you have light and darkness yet there is as yet no sun and stars to generate the light?)

Where in the Bible does it say that God told Moses the story of Genesis? As for why God would communicate to anyone in Biblical times any explanation of creation other than by metaphor, is obvious, they did not have the science to comprehend the incredible complexity of creation - we still don't and probably never will.

There is no evidence that Jesus believed planes could fly or that Atomic bombs were a possibility, or that the sun doesn't revolve around the earth or that the planets don't revolve around the earth, or that television was a possibility, or that the world was not flat, or that there were more stars than could be seen with the naked eye, panda bear and platypus and the American continents existed.

There is no evidence that the human Jesus had the same fullness of comprehension as the resurrected Jesus. There is no evidence that the human Jesus was not as informationally limited as other men of his time.

John

Gary said...

John,

Wow! After your last post, I am almost speechless. Almost. For someone who claims to be a Christian, your ignorance of the Bible, and the people in it, is astonishing!!!

Given the antagonism between us, I won't offer any advice, but just say that you need more than I can help you with. And besides, I don't think you want any help from me.

David Mc said...

(I was 99.9984 % the first marriage).

eww, math error it's 99.68% (based on days, not minutes). I feel worse about it now for some reason- thanks.

John said...

Gary,

I assure you, if there is any antagonism, it is wholly one sided.

Bur that doesn't mean I don't loose patience on occasion.
John

David Mc said...

I was watching this tonight with my parents. It was funny. See 5:45 for instance-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfCLkVzD2C0&feature=related

John said...

Just to put a point on this discussion I thought I should wrap up the pint I was alluding regarding divorce.

Your argument regarding the regarding the spiritual gravity of issue of evolution is argued and supported by entirely by implication and extrapolation. You appear consumed and pre-occupied by this issue, to the extent that you question other's faith and castigate them with words of anger and malice.

I have never heard yo challenge divorced people, or raise the spectre of damnation for those who have been divorced and remarried. Yet Jesus makes a specific pronouncement on this issue. And even though Jesus was quite clear about this, whole Christian denominations have chosen to ignore this teaching.

And yet you ignore this issue completely and instead obsess on the your presumption that those who seek to embrace the complexity of God's creation are spiritually doomed.

It is not that I am personally concerned about the issue of divorce and remarriage - I use this simply as an example to highlight the narrowness of your obsession, an obsession which sidesteps genuine issues and focuses instead on fabricated issues.

John

Gary said...

John,

The topic is supposed to be evolution. For the record, I oppose divorce and adultery on moral grounds founded in the Bible.

The issue of whether the Bible is trustworthy on the subject of the creation goes to the heart of all Christian doctrine, including divorce.

"And he(Jesus) answered and said unto them, 'Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?'" Matthew 19:4-5

Jesus was referring to Genesis 1:27 and 2:23,24. Now, if Genesis is myth, which it would have to be if evolution is true, then Jesus was wrong about God creating male and female in the beginning. And if he was wrong about that, then he has no credibility to make pronouncements concerning divorce and adultery.

Can you not see the unsolveable problems that come with dismissing Genesis? Surely you have enough intelligence to see that?

If you are convinced that evolution is true, then why don't you have the integrity to admit that the Bible is bullshit, throw it in the trash, and be true to your REAL beliefs?

John said...

Gary,

Genesis is true, and I take it very seriously. What you and I disagree about are the truths communicated in Genesis. You read it as a history/science text and I read it as a love letter. It is not the Bible which I reject but your mean-spirited interpretations of it.

You are right about the focus of this thread being on evolution. The point of my repeated questions as to divorce were intended to check the consistency of your rejection of sin. There is an inescapable subtext present whenever you become involved in these dialogs though, and that is the challenge presented by your self-righteousness and everyone else's reactions to it. Personally, I accept it as a challenge to my commitment as a peacemaker. Not just with you but with people of any persuasion with whom I strongly disagree.

It is highly unlikely that you and I will reach a substantive agreement on most of these issues, but it is always my hope that we can come to appreciate both the integrity in each other's points of view, and love we share of our God.

As for the divorce issue, Jesus' explicit injunction was not against divorce but against divorce and remarriage. And Jesus injunction was not based on grounds of immorality, but on the basis of his interpretation of one of the Ten Commandments.

Jesus also interpreted other commandments, such as don't murder, resulting in his injunction against anger directed at another, and against insults directed at another, directly and explicitly equating such malevolence with murder. Why do violations of this explicit injunction not trouble you as much as the sins which you infer relating to beliefs about evolution?

You heap insult upon insult at others because they perceive God as something more and greater than the capricious magician who snapped his fingers to create the universe.

These are some of my real beliefs.

John

Gary said...

John,

Can you name anyone whose name appears in the Bible as a believer, Old Testament or New, who did not understand Genesis to be history? If you can please tell me, and tell me how you know they looked at Genesis like you do.
And if you cannot name someone, isn't it curious that you think you are more informed than they?

Isn't it true that the only way in which you think Genesis is "true" is if you can give it the meaning that YOU want it to have? If you read it as history, it conflicts some of your other beliefs, so something has to give. Your belief in evolution is non-negotiable, so that means the Bible is what has to yield.

I'm convinced that you and I believe in different Gods. I believe in the God the Bible talks about; the God who told Moses the truth in Exodus 20:11 when He said He made the universe in six days.

By the way, since you believe Exodus 20:11 to be a lie, what effect does that have on the validity of the Ten Commandments for you?

I don't know what God you believe in, or think you believe in; but you provide a great deal of evidence that it isn't the God who talked to Moses, or killed everyone except Noah and his family, or called Abraham out of Ur, or who chose David to be king, or who saved the three Hebrews from the furnace, or who raised Jesus from the dead.

Anonymous said...

My friends and Christian brothers, evolutionism is acceptable and agreeable with Genesis if you believe that God is not tied to human time. Why should God follow standard human time when He is almighty? He Who Can Do Anything can surely move outside of our time, and His six days in which He made the Earth may not be comparable to our own. It is much easier to believe and comprehend that it took millions of years to make the earth and all its life than thousands.