Monday, April 20, 2020

Theological Cost of Evolution

Here is a good review in the latest issue of Themelios by Hans Madueme on a recent attempt to reconcile evolution with Christian theology.

Dr. Hans Madueme is associate professor of theological studies at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, USA. He reviews the volume Finding Ourselves After Darwin: Conversations on the Image of God, Original Sin, and the Problem of Evil (ed. Stanley Rosenberg, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018).

The contributors discuss how, in the light of evolution, Christians should update their understanding of anthropology, original sin, and evil.

In his review Dr. Madueme assesses:
"The recommendations to revise our understanding of original sin and theodicy raise particularly challenging questions. Traditional interpretations of Scripture, for instance, are often devalued in order to reduce tensions with our current scientific understanding. Additionally, the more radical arguments undercut doctrines that earlier Christians believed are pivotal to the biblical story.”
Further, he is not convinced that they adequately justify the theological cost for updating our theological anthropology in line with evolution.

Dr. Madueme notes that the few essays that make only minor changes in traditional theology still leave deep tensions with evolutionary science. Hence, they don’t really solve the presenting problem. On the other hand, the essays that harmonize better with evolution make radical theology changes that clash louder and sharper with traditional interpretations of Scripture.

He concludes:
“Although the more controversial essays make good use of Scripture, my impression is that traditional ways of reading it are downgraded whenever the canons of science pull in a different direction. This tendency—rightly or wrongly—gives the sense of Scripture as inconvenient, a hurdle to circumvent, rather than the trustworthy guide for doctrinal construction. My primary worry, then, is that the more radical revisions in this book tend to undermine doctrines that the church historically considered of high dogmatic rank. Of course, this alone is not an argument against such revisions, but it registers a caution. Tremors in the doctrine of the fall and original sin are only the bellwether, for a theology that absorbs standard evolutionary theory will deform the shape of the gospel story itself (more noticeably than most of the authors acknowledge)...”
But read his review for yourself, for a more detailed account of why theistic evolution raises theological problems that are not easily resolved. 

For an in-depth scientific critique of theistic evolution I recommend the volume TheisticEvolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), edited by J.P. Moreland, Stephen C. Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann K. Gauger, and Wayne Grudem [See my post A New Critique of Evolution].

The best theological critique of theistic evolution is probably the book by Reformed pastor John Otis, "Theistic Evolution: A sinful compromise" (2013).


Steve Drake said...

Hello John,
Thanks for this recent post. While I am no fan of The Gospel Coalition, of which Themelios is listed as their international journal for students of theological and religious issues, and no fan of the TGC's cultural-Marxist, same-sex attraction, Planned-Parenthood affirming, social-justice, and redefinition of complementarianism bent, of which I wish to say more later, I did read Madueme's review in totality.

A point of clarification, if I may, for other readers of your blog and the ability to post comments. From our earlier email discussion, and your suggestions, I found that depending on the browser used, one has to go into Settings and select "Allow all Cookies", to effectuate a comment to show up on your site.

As you might imagine, those of us who enjoy reading your blog, and type up a thoughtful comment, only to hit the "Publish" or "Preview" button and find that thoughtful comment disappear into thin air, and how frustrating this is, and after several more tries with the same results just give up, and go on to something else, perhaps this suggestion about the browser and Allowing All Cookies might help.

john byl said...

Hi Steve

Thanks for alerting me to the commenting problem. I have added your "allow all cookies" suggestion to comment form.

I, too, am wary of TGC, and I certainly do not endorse everything published in Themelios. In fact, I encourage readers to be ever discerning, even regarding my own posts. That said, since you mention cultural Marxism, the same issue of Themelios also has an interesting article on that very topic.

Steve Drake said...

Hello John,
My initial thoughts after reading Madueme's review center around his statement at the very beginning:

"There was a time when evangelical scholars argued over the age of the planet. Young and old earth creationists sparred over the length of the days in Genesis 1, they debated whether fossils provided evidence for deep time, and so on. The lines of the dispute placed evolutionary perspectives largely beyond the pale of evangelicalism."

It seems to me that this is still, really, the issue, and present-day theologians, pastors, and Biblical scholars don't know enough about geology and/or just simply ignore discussion of it as it relates to theological issues. A robust discussion of the worldwide, universal and catastrophic Flood of Noah in Gen. 6-9 that was the judgment of God to save only 8, including the animals on the Ark, is part and parcel of this, and is equally scorned and avoided by the same.

It seems to me that the 'age' issue is from whence all these other issues derive. Discussion of the historicity of Adam and Eve, the image of God, the Fall, original sin, and the problem of evil are discussed in light of evolutionary theory because evangelicals believe the age issue has already been settled. Your thoughts?

john byl said...

john byl said...

Yes, I totally agree with you. See one of my first posts The Cost of an old earth . Many theologians don't, for example, see the inconsistency between believing in an old earth and, at the same time, believing that natural evil is a result of Adam's fall.

I am not sure where Madueme stands on this.

Steve Drake said...

"Many theologians don't, for example, see the inconsistency between believing in an old earth and, at the same time, believing that natural evil is a result of Adam's fall. I am not sure where Madueme stands on this."

I am not sure where Madueme stands on this either, but because he has chosen to submit his articles to Themelios as part of The Gospel Coalition, I can assume, correctly or not, that he has chosen his sides.

What is interesting to me, of the footnotes that Madueme cites as part of his review, there are none from any of the young-earth scientific and Biblical authority journals, books, and articles that speak to the historicity of Adam and Eve, the problem of evil, the Fall, and/or original sin.

Coming to Grips with Genesis, eds. Terry Mortenson and Thane Ury, 2008, Searching for Adam: Genesis & the Truth About Man's Origin, ed. Terry Mortenson, 2016, Refuting Compromise, Jonathan Sarfati, 2004, as well as The Journal of Creation, Creation Research Society Quarterly, Answers Research Journal, have or have had excellent articles from various contributors on exactly the same issues that Madueme addresses in his review and yet he cites none of them.

Quite telling I think. It's as if these organizations and their respective scientific, theological, and journalistic writings don't exist and are of no consequence.

john byl said...

Hi Steve

Don't jump to unwarranted conclusions.

Simply because he published something in Themelios says nothing about where he stands. I have published in Themelios myself. In fact, I have published articles in many journals that are hostile towards YEC (including Nature, Calvin Theological Journal, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Science & Christian Belief, etc.). Sometimes to defend YEC against criticism. But often the topic is not explicitly YEC, in which case there is no point bringing it up (particularly if that would result in your paper being rejected).

Further, when confronting evolutionists, references in secular journals carry far weight than similar references in YEC journals (which evolutionists dismiss out of hand).

Steve Drake said...

Hello John,
I can see that side of the argument.

"Further, when confronting evolutionists, references in secular journals carry far weight than similar references in YEC journals (which evolutionists dismiss out of hand)."

Not sure I totally agree. As to why? I can't quite articulate at the moment. Need to cogitate on it for a while. Your premise that 'when confronting evolutionists, references in secular journals carry far (more) weight than similar references in YEC journals" is rollin' round my brain a bit unsettled at the moment. References to what exactly, is what I"m thinkin' on.

I am happy that you have been able to publish in journals hostile to the true account of creation in six days as God's account of what He did as recorded in His revelation to us, and enjoy your long-standing posting of YEC articles on your blog.

I will take your comment to 'not jump to unwarranted conclusions', if we also recognize those with the gift of discernment the Holy Spirit-given abilities they might have to question the actions of others. All in Christian love and charity of course.


john byl said...

Hi Steve

My point about evolutionists being more impressed by a reference in an anti-YEC journal than by the same article in a YEC journal is perhaps best illustrated by your own distrust in Madueme simply because he published his article in Themelios rather than, say, The Creation Journal.

Steve Drake said...

Good point.