Evolutionary theism and hermeneutics

The title promises more than this post will offer, and for that I will readily apologize. My inquiry is this: I am aware that many Christians in the academia are evolutionary theists. 6 (literal) days creationists, i came to realise, are a „major minority” which you’ll find in certain fundamentalist circles of Christianity. This came as a huge surprise, growing up in a creationism-imbued environment. But before you start stoning me to death, allow me to modestly declare my agnosticism on the subject. I haven’t yet been persuaded by none of the 2 choices that are allegedly compatible with orthodox Christianity (creationism – evolutionary theism). Creationism seems ridiculously naive, anti-intellectualist and massively fideist, but evolutionary theism entails an alarming amount of theological revisionism.

Will someone  help me out of my agnosticism and spell out, firstly the hermeneutical implications for evolutionary theism, and secondly, the theological implications? How does a theistic evolutionist’s hermeneutics look like? How will he read Genesis 1-3 or the whole of Genesis? Where does he begin reading in historical key, shedding the parabolic, symbolic key of interpretation? Is Adam an historical individual or a social group? You know… all those comments and objections creationists will corroborate to defeat theistic evolution.

I agree with Vanhoozer and the rest of the hermeneuticians desiring to be sensitive to the genetic (genres) diversity of Scripture, but readiness to detect genres will not help us actually identify them. I’ll read Psalms and I’ll know it’s poetry. I’ll read Revelations and I’ll know it belongs to apocalyptic literature, but what is Genesis, especially the first chapters? History (in what sens? what kind?) or/and hymnic literature? Is Genesis 1-3 a „Creation’s praise to the Creator” or is it veracious history (in distinct inerrantist terminology)? Can it be both?

Well, enough with the questions.

Please feel free to comment and try to shed some light on the matter. Please also suggest articles and books. I’ll gladly accept your recommendations. Let us be edified and know what it is that we’re reading so we’ll know how to „read the Bible for all its worth”!


11 gânduri despre „Evolutionary theism and hermeneutics

  1. Daniel spune:

    I’d start off by suggesting you read the various books by John Polkinghorne. I don’t agree with all of his theology, but considering he comes from a strong dual theological and scientific background, it’s a good place to start.

  2. natanm spune:

    Thanks for the tip. I have John Polkinghorne’s „Science and the Trinity: The Christian Encounter of Reality”, but haven’t yet had a chance to read through it.
    I do know that he is an theistic evolutionist himself, not that will bias me in my reading of him.
    Thanks again!

  3. Francis Schaeffer argues quite strongly in his book Genesis in space and time that Genesis MUST be taken literally, including both Adam and Eve as historical persons. He does not dismiss a 7×24 hours for the creation days, but says that days can be interpreted as long periods of time, of a duration not strictly determined.
    I believe that this issue will not be settled until Lord returns, and each of us must „follow where the evidence leads”, but not only the evidence. It is not simply a matter of hermeneutical implications. It is also a matter of what king of God we have. A God of evolution is different from a God of 6 day creation. Was the original creation very good? Or is the „Nature, red in tooth and claw” very good?
    Creationism (YEC kind) is understood as naive as the information we have about it. It is not very popular in Christian academia, but it is not non-existent. There are quite some high-quality books, some peer reviewed scientific journals (like Journal of Creation from Creation Ministries International) and a handful of PHD’s.
    Unfortunately I cannot answer your questions but I do hope I will write someday an article (in romanian) on these subjects. Journalism (and job, and familiy) keeps me busy and have little time for apologetics. If you want, I cand recommend some high-level creationist books. On a sidenote, creationism is quite ofthe abused and argued in a fundamentalist manner, but that’s another discussion).

  4. natanm spune:

    Thank you, Vasile, for reminding me of Schaeffer’s Genesis in space and time. Haven’t read it, but I sure will.
    That’s my point… the THEOLOGICAL implications for theistic evolution are immense. I can think of many, but I’d love a semynar or round table sort of a setting in which to go over them. Our hermeneutics will determine our theology. Is God continually creating new life forms through evolution? How does that square in with Romans 8:22 (We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time)? I have a ton of Q… 🙂
    Feel free to link me to those books on creationism.
    By the way, do you know where Intelligent Design stands on the issue? Are they creationists? If so, of what kind? See, even more questions.
    Yes, it’s true that creationism is usually mocked as psuedo-science, quite unfair.

  5. I just read The Genesis Question by astronomer Hugh Ross. I was blown away by some of the implications of Ross’ case. I have to read more of his books to draw a conclusion on the progressive creationism he argues for, but after reading TGQ it emerged that I could more easily agree with theistic evolution than with him. In his progressive creation, trial and error, „God of the gaps” are some obvious ideas that I cannot accept as reliable. A god that triggers the natural process seems more desirable that a god who keeps changing the scene due to unforseen events.
    But remember that someone said that theistic evolution is only atheistic evolution + god.
    So I think that theistic evolution launches a need to re-write some theology; and this is where theology of nature takes place of our natural theology.
    I quite like the ID people – I have read some of Dembski’ s Mere Creation and there are some truly fascinating essays.

  6. natanm spune:

    Thanks, liftingshadows! Will look into Hugh Ross. Do you think theistic evolution entails „open theology”?
    The comment that theistic evolution is merely atheistic evolution + god is pure propaganda and ignorance. But because of the massive theological revisions it entails people prefer to expediently discard it as something evidently bad (atheism!). I think that’s a slogan for Christians too lazy to think.
    Theological revisionism is probably theistic evolution’s most significant implications. That’s what I’m looking for… give me a book that will tell me how theology looks like after it has embraced theistic evolution premises.
    I like ID as well. I’ve read some Michael Behe myself and have not yet started on „Debating Design. From Darwin to DNA” by Dembski and Michael Ruse. Still…they’re movement has answered the „who” of creation, but what do they have to say about the „how” of origins?

  7. „give me a book that will tell me how theology looks like after it has embraced theistic evolution premises”

    – that is what I am also looking for.

  8. Now I realize I read mostly books that cover the scinetific aspects of cretionism and evolution critique, and less the theological ones. Well, my primary sources of „indoctrination” for creationism are Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International (where our own romanian Emil Silvestru works as scientist. Actually he is featured in CMI’s recent Dariwn Film).

    If you search patient enough you’ll find articles covering theological implications. Beware that their aproach is quite strident (they might be right) and sometimes sounds fundamentalist, especially in popular articles. They have technical/science articles too that are more refreshing.

    I’ll come back with some recommendation of books when it comes to mind.

  9. Robin Plant spune:

    Hello Natan – I have happy memories of conversations with you at Paltinis last year!

    Just to offer a further author to those already recommended – David Wilkinson, soon to be principal of St John’s College, Durham. You might find his book, The Message of Creation (in IVP’s Bible Speaks Today series) helpful.

    Trust you’re doing well and enjoying life in the Emerald Isle.

    Robin Plant

    • natanm spune:

      Hey Robin!
      So glad you wrote and got back in touch. So sorry I haven’t got back to you myself when you initially wrote… I’ve been caught up with so much work in this demanding master’s program. At the minute I’m struggling with the dissertation. Writing away… Haven’t given that much thought to the creation-evolution debate recently, but i’ve had a very good conversation with John Lennox in Hungary a few weeks ago. But thanks anyway for recommending David Wilkinson’s book. I’ll try to have a look sometime.
      Greetings from David Shepherd! I had a chance to talk to him and mention that we had you as a common friend. I passed him your greetings as well. He’s doing fine. He’s accommodated as principal of Belfast Bible College.
      I also enjoyed our conversations at Paltinis. Just last night me and Ligia were reminiscing about the wonderful days we had there. I’m getting back home to Arad on the 11th of July, looking forward to marrying my lovely Ligia on the 30th of August! 😉
      Listen, maybe we can keep in touch from now on. There are still many things we could talk about…
      It’s been really nice hearing from you!

      Best wishes,

      • Robin Plant spune:

        Hi Natan

        Great to hear back from you, and thanks for passing on greetings from David. Yes, by all means let’s keep in touch. I think you have my email address. Maybe we could meet up over the summer? And my warmest greetings to Ligia. These must be exciting and happy days for you – long may they continue.

        You mention on one of your posts that you want to read Tom Wright’s Surprised by Hope. Do! It’s absolutely delicious. I know Wright’s views on justification are controversial, but I think Surprised by Hope is a superb explanation of what ‘the gospel’ is about (and therefore what the business of the church should be).



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