Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Theology After Darwin 1 (RJS)

One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: Deity or Deism noted:

…this reminds me of why I get annoyed so much by those who write on theology and evolution. It’s usually just deism and fluff, to be frank.

I’ve enjoyed reading through the comments and seeing some of the ideas shared by others. I firmly believe that this discussion on deism vs/compared to theism in natural theology should be given much more attention. Some of the scientist-theologians (Barbour, Polkinghorne come to mind) speak of a “theology of nature” instead of a natural theology, but in my mind, they haven’t really given us a good framework for how God acts in and through nature. It’s important to note that while natural theology is only one component of theology, it’s clearly a vital one today.


Justin developed these thoughts a bit more on his own blog A Biologists View of Science  & Religion.

I think that this is an extremely important issue that should receive
more attention by theologians (especially those that have training or a
fairly deep understanding of evolutionary biology).  The scientists like
me or those at BioLogos have got to admit that our theology of
evolution is weak.  You cannot persuade Christians that evolution is not
the enemy (and literal Creationism is bunk) if you don’t provide them
with a meaningful and understandable natural theology alongside the
scientific evidence. 


What kind of discussion do you think we need to develop a workable theological understanding of evolution? What is the most significant issue?

I agree with Justin here. As a result one of the things I intend to do over the next many months is to post on ideas and books that delve into the
details of theology in the context of evolution from a variety of different viewpoints. We will examine different facets of the relationship between science and theology. Some, perhaps all, will fall short in various ways – erring in the understanding of science or wavering on the edge of the trap of deism, removing God too far from creation. This will be something of a meander, don’t expect resolution in three short lessons or seven easy steps. Real life simply doesn’t work that way.


So – to begin…

I received a book recently Theology After Darwin (not available in the US – but available from amazon UK (HT DV)). This book contains 11 scholarly essay on theology in the context of evolution. I haven’t read much of the book yet – but intend to post a sporadic series through the book as I have a chance to read and process the ideas put forth in the various chapters. 


The first chapter, by R. J. Berry, an evolutionary biologist and Professor Emeritus at University College London, explores biology after Darwin. While the emphasis is on science rather than theology the essay brings up some important issues. I am not going to bother to try to summarize the entire chapter, but rather concentrate on a common conception, or perhaps misconception, regarding evolution that came to mind as I read.

Evolution is bloody and violent and inconsistent with the revealed nature of God. It is often suggested that evolution is inconsistent with the notion of God as creator and creation as good. After all evolution relies on death and destruction, competition and conquest for life to develop and to progress … doesn’t it? Alfred Lord Tennyson famously addressed the conflict between the love of
God central in the Christian faith and the apparent bloody callousness
of nature with an image that sticks in the imagination:


In Memoriam A. H. H., 1850

Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life;

That I, considering everywhere
Her secret meaning in her deeds,
And finding that of fifty seeds
She often brings but one to bear,

‘So careful of the type?’ but no.
From scarped cliff and quarried stone
She cries, ‘A thousand types are gone:
I care for nothing, all shall go.

Man, her last work, who seem’d so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who roll’d the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,


Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law-
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed- 

(excerpts from canto 55 and 56)

Nature red in tooth and claw, of fifty seeds but one brought to bear, a thousand types are gone. Tennyson wrote before Darwin’s The Origin of  Species (1859), but after the influential book by  Robert Chambers Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation published in 1844. (Darwin did not, we must remember, drop a new idea in the lap of an innocent and unsuspecting age, he was part of a swirling mass of ideas. He rushed publication of his ideas to avoid being scooped. Darwin had an important new insights, but if he had not published, some one else would have – and soon. )


It appears difficult to reconcile evolution with a God of love. For Tennyson the observation of the predators and prey along with the apparent wastefulness of the natural world was sufficient to raise questions. Darwin’s ideas of gradual change by natural selection takes it one step further. Predation, waste, extinction, and death are part of the creative process. A commenter put it quite bluntly on the post linked above: “Theistic evolution gives a false representation of the nature of God
because death and ghastliness are ascribed to the Creator as principles
of creation.

But is this really true? When we consider evolution and natural selection we often think of it in terms of survival of the fittest. The vision is of competition and bloody fight, of victors and vanquished. But this is not the point. Fitness in biology has little to do with competition and victory in the local specific situation. Rather the fittest are those who raise most offspring, nothing more, nothing less. In the long run a variant with greater fitness will survive, but in the short term many will coexist. Evolution does require a natural cycle and process of life and death with successive generations. But this need be neither violent or wasteful. Each succeeding generation fulfills a role in the process of the unfolding of creation.


When we come to mankind and human mortality the theological issues become more complex. But leaving that off the table for the time, there is nothing in Genesis, or in a careful reading of Romans, that suggests that immortality was the norm in biology. prior to the Fall There is nothing, so it seems to me, that suggests that predation or hunting is the result of human sin. Evolution is a marvelous creative mechanism to explore and expand the possibilities and potentialities for life on this planet. It is more akin to growth and flowering than to violence and conquest.

What do you think? How do you view evolution – as violent, wasteful, ghastly or as natural growth and flowering or perhaps something else?

If you wish you may contact me directly at rjs4mail[at]

Comments read comments(52)
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posted August 31, 2010 at 6:42 am

Isn’t the whole “survival of the fittest” aspect being challenged.
From a recent BBC article:
“…new research identifies the availability of “living space”, rather than competition, as being of key importance for evolution. Findings question the old adage of “nature red in tooth and claw”.
If true, it may not change the death/violent aspect of nature, but it may cause one to tweak how one looks at how the process (both scientifically and theologically) takes place.

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posted August 31, 2010 at 8:03 am

The simple answer is YES–we need a robust theology to accompany evolutionary biology. It’s very difficult to affirm the creed, “I believe in God, creator . . .” and say you believe in evolution at the same time. Somehow it seems woefully inadequate to just leave creation to the Big Bang (if that). I want to support the evolutionary hypothesis, but as a pastor I don’t dare open my mouth. I meet parishioners who are frankly shocked that I would even contemplate the idea that creation didn’t happen in six 24 hour days. Whatever the results of your theological inquiry, make it accessible to pastors.

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Hannah Nedrow

posted August 31, 2010 at 8:11 am

Absolutely we need a more robust theology. I, personally, need it as I have gradually come to reject youth earth creationism and accept evolutionary biology.
Many evolutionary biologist are coming to an consensus that a capacity for cooperation is vital in the evolutionary process. I don’t see evolution as violent, wasteful, or ghastly at all.

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posted August 31, 2010 at 8:41 am

I think one of the issues we have to deal with is that evolution leaves creation (and hence the world) amoral. This is where is gets bloody and violent, in the human struggle for land, resources, et. al.

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posted August 31, 2010 at 8:51 am

I also agree with Justin; he identifies why I’m essentially undecided on origins issues. I thought David Opderbeck raised a valuable point (along with others) many weeks ago concerning the basic narrative of scripture. I haven’t seen a theology of the narrative from an evolutionary perspective that doesn’t look worse than a poorly done skin graft, but maybe that says as much or more about my expectations than the theology. But it does seem that the ‘creation’ and ‘fall’ bits get patched together and sometimes conflated, and the rest is askew. Maybe, though, I’m trying to put new wine into old skins.
The most valuable part of these conversations, though, for me has been to examine some of the problems with a YEC view, not only with the external evidence in nature, but also internal inconsistencies which lead me to think that YEC approaches Gen 1 & 2 wrongly.

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posted August 31, 2010 at 8:53 am

So… it’s possible that none of you are interested in the Roman Catholic thinking in this area, but the Church has accepted evolution for a long time.
Check out the link.

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Don Heatley

posted August 31, 2010 at 8:55 am

These are great questions. As one who accepts evolutionary biology, I believe more theological thinking needs to be done in this area. Much about the natural process does appear to heartless, violent and pointless. Suggesting that process is somehow the work of God raises many questions. Perhaps this messy process is part of the “groaning of creation.” I am not suggesting there was once an idyllic age where no creatures ate each other or died. But maybe what biologists term “survival of the fittest” is the reality to which our theological phrases such as “the Fall” or “original sin” point. I have often wondered if the way of Jesus can be thought of as an alternative to the eat-or-be-eaten nature of the universe. As such, the Sermon on the Mount might even be considered the next phase of the evolutionary process.

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Randy G.

posted August 31, 2010 at 8:58 am

I believe that first of all we need a passionate love for and wonder at God’s good creation.
A theology of evolution is important, but being able to look on creation with awe and wonder is fundamentally important, whether one is thinking of the evolutionary processes or not. Here I look to people like Cal De Witt, Fred Van Dyke, Stephen Bouma Prediger and David Warners and their students (these are just the people I know). Being able to consider creation as God’s beautiful work, no matter how he did it is key.
I guess what I am trying to say is that people like Jerry (#2) need to hear people speak with passionate joy as much as they need people to present theory or theology. I fear that in our technological society our resources for passionate joy may be in short supply.
Randy G.

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posted August 31, 2010 at 9:08 am

Thanks. I will check out the RCC teaching on this, though I think some here have done so already.

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David Congdon

posted August 31, 2010 at 9:18 am

A couple things:
First, we need to be careful about terminology. Contra Justin, “natural theology” does not refer to a theology of God’s acts in the natural world; that would be a theology of the Creator, or a theology of nature/creation. “Natural theology” is a way of coming to knowledge of God on the basis of the natural world. It is a form of metaphysical reasoning that begins with natural givens accessible to any rational observer. It’s a completely different topic.
Second, I support the pursuit of fleshing out what a post-Darwinian theology should look like, but I want to raise a caution. I seem to detect a false dichotomy: either deism or a theology that explains how God is acting in and through evolutionary developments (and thus has to explain how God could be involved in such a messy, violent process). Obviously, we all reject the deistic route. But I think this is to let the creation-vs-evolution debate set the terms for doctrine. It’s sort of the mirror image of the creationist problem with a God who would make the world appear old.
While the issue of evolutionary violence and the role of God might be an interesting topic worth pursuing, I strongly insist that we do not let this discussion define what a doctrine of creation or a doctrine of God the creator looks like. That is to say, this should not dictate whether or not Christian faith is compatible with evolution. The doctrine of creation tells us about the God who orders, sustains, and governs the world; it answers the “who,” not the “how.” It tells us only that God is the creator and we are God’s creatures. It tells us that, because of God’s absolute transcendence, God is noncompetitively involved in the world-process. The doctrine is wholly teleological in nature: by confessing that the God of the covenant is the one who upholds the world, we can have faith and hope that there is indeed a future, a new creation, in store for us.
It’s important to keep the strict distinctions in place between theology and science. The two disciplines do not compete in any way whatsoever. Theology does not claim to explain the natural world or how God could have been involved in evolutionary processes, nor does science (properly understood) tell us anything about God. Here I appeal to John Walton’s excellent image of the layer cake from his book on Genesis. I think once this insight is properly grasped, it becomes clear that any conflict between “I believe in God, creator” and evolution trades on a problematic doctrine of creation.
In short, a theology of evolution is important and well worth exploring, but it should not be the litmus test for whether Christianity and evolution are compatible ideas.

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posted August 31, 2010 at 9:22 am

Sorry…but evolution is pretty darn bloody. RJS is correct in that it is all about passing on genes through one’s offspring, but with most offspring being killed off rather early, the “bloody” nature of this isn’t diminished one bit. We might, from our vantage point today, look at all of this as some grand cycle of life. But I assure you that you living 98,000 years ago as priminitive man, with short lifespans, rampant disease, infant mortality, constant fear, frequent hunger, and pain – your perspective would have been different.

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posted August 31, 2010 at 9:31 am

David Congdon (#10) — great comment. In the original post, I agree generally with Justin’s complaint that we need a more robust Christian theology after Darwin. Heck — we need more and more robust Christian theology always! I don’t think, however, that divine action — the problem Justin highlights — is much greater a problem after Darwin than before. The greats of the Church — Augustine, Aquinas, etc. — worked out a theology of divine action based on primary and secondary causation in response to the Stoics and others long ago. It still provides a helpful framework and is regularly employed by Christian theologians after Darwin.
I agree with T (#5) — of course since he cites me! — that the most significant theological issues to work through are those surrounding human nature, sin and the Fall. This is where, IMHO, most of the present efforts are quite weak. There is a really good symposium on this, BTW, in the current issue of Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith.

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posted August 31, 2010 at 9:40 am

I like your comment, but I don’t think we can say that science tells us nothing about God. As you mentioned, Paul and others make it clear that the creation does reflect the Creator, so our conclusions about nature have bearing on our theology, and vice-versa.
On the bloodiness of evolution, are we also confronting some of the same uneasiness that many or all of us have with some of how God acted and directed others to act in the OT? I don’t see much in evolution in terms of blood that is any more shocking or intense than the Psalmist, for instance, praying that the infants of the wicked will have their children’s heads smashed against the rocks, or the conquests by Israel’s armies at God’s leading and command. We can and should let Jesus be the highest and best revelation of God, but that doesn’t mean the God of the Christian scriptures is a stranger to death.
Naturalism tells us that all the blood of nature is random, while the scriptures generally attribute it to the evil in the world and/or the acts of God. In any event, I agree that the question of what evolution would tell us about God is a difficult one, but I don’t know if it’s any more difficult than the book of Job, or Revelation, or Joshua, etc.

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posted August 31, 2010 at 9:44 am

Ha! My comment was directed to David C. (10). Good to hear from both Davids!

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posted August 31, 2010 at 9:54 am

The Design Spectrum
Any theology in this area must include a good, clear explanation of when a design inference is warranted and when it is not and why (cf Romans 1:18-20). Francis Collins, Tim Keller and all the main ID folks think it reasonable to draw a design inference from cosmological fine tuning. Collins does not explain well why no design inference is permitted in biology, even at the level of origin of life. The ID folks deal with this issue far better than any TE proponent has.
Am I wrong here?

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Jason Barr

posted August 31, 2010 at 10:45 am

I’m not convinced at all that evolution is at odds with God’s character. It seems to me that at least part of the problem is caused by a view of God’s character as static, unchanging in the sense of Greek perfection, rather than as something that is alive, dynamic, and dwelling with the created order.
People who focus on the “bloody nature” of evolution, I feel, are missing the fact that life gives way not simply to death, but to more (and more diverse) life. Bodies decompose or predators excrete the undigestible remains of prey, which enrich the soil, which enables greater flourishing and diversity of life. There is a creative aspect even to what seems at first glance to be bloody. A view of creation as creatio continua leaves fertile ground for a positive discussion of God’s character as creator seen through the lens of biological evolution.
It’s worth noting that I also think it’s important to see creation not as statically finished (again, in the Greek sense of perfection) when God rests on the 7th day, but rather more as a beginning, as something human beings are to shape into a God-honoring form that brings the creation into fullness of life. It’s an ongoing process (not necessarily in the sense of “process theology”), and I’m not convinced that biological death is at odds with the narrative of a pre-fall world.

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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 31, 2010 at 10:48 am

#15 pds
From a biological standpoint, I would agree that there is no fine tuning. Science is limited from to study of the natural world and is unable to inform us about influences outside the natural world. But as theistic evolutionists we are bringing knowledge other than just science to the table.

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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 31, 2010 at 11:02 am

I keep coming back to two things. One is the overwhelming evidence for the age of the earth and evolution. That is the science part. The other is that metaphorical stories revealing critical theological truths revealed to a pre-scientific cultures are all we have to work from in trying to theologize about origins and processes.
I don’t know that I can (or anyone can) fully reconcile all we know of evolution with all we know of God. It is entirely possible that how we became humans … in the image of God sense … and how sin came to be may something that is still beyond grasp of understanding. The metaphorical story still be our best and most helpful theological guide.

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posted August 31, 2010 at 11:04 am

I guess I don’t understand why there has to be a theology on evolution, unless we are going to try to put together a theology on everything (gravity, calculus, Paris Hilton, ect). Certainly the creation accounts in Genesis have to interpreted in some way. Jesus never said “believe in creationism” as a precondition for something. The only times he (or anyone in the NT) references creation is in its theological usefulness with regards to the original sin.
We know with certainty that the way fundamentalists read the creation narratives does not accurately describe the origin of anything. But nowhere in the bible does it say we have to read it that way. Besides, it (and the flood) takes up a tiny fraction of the first book in the bible. I see them as prologues to the main story (which begins with Abraham, Israel’s founder and originator of the covenant). I think people make a lot out of nothing over this issue.
The creation narrative has key similarities to other ancient near eastern creation narratives, although there are unique facets to it that make it distinctly Hebrew. Besides, the literary theme (creation, genealogies, corruption and a worldwide flood, then more genealogies) is a common one in ancient near eastern narratives. Only after that do the Hebrew scriptures take on their own unique path.

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posted August 31, 2010 at 11:07 am

I much appreciate the comments of David Congdon #10 above, especially the distinction between a “theology of nature” (theological understanding of nature’s relationship to God, which we certainly need to some extent) and “natural theology” (trying to reason to God from nature, which may have value in the modest forms advocated by people like Alister McGrath but has been detrimental in its stronger forms [Paley, some of the ID movement, etc.]).
I would also agree with something he alluded to in that we should NOT make it necessary for a theology of nature to figure out the exact mechanisms by which God rules God’s creation. I don’t see much value in speculations that try and box God into working in quantum fluctuations or whatever — I think it is one of those things like prayer or free will that is beyond creaturely understanding and trying to figure out exactly how God’s primary causation interacts with the secondary causes of nature is probably not good stewardship of our time and energy.
On the earlier part of RJS’s post, “nature red in tooth and claw”, this isn’t a full answer but when I taught a class on science and faith a few years ago I pointed out that the anti-evolution “God wouldn’t use a process involving pain and suffering to accomplish his purposes” is not a coherent argument for Christians in light of the Cross.

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nick gill

posted August 31, 2010 at 11:07 am

Tell the parent of a child with a horrific genetic mutation (the very thing which drives evolution) that, “Evolution is a marvelous creative mechanism to explore and expand the possibilities and potentialities for life on this planet,” and that they should thank God for such a rich a marvelous blessing.
After that, I recommend fleeing rapidly.

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Jesse Phillips

posted August 31, 2010 at 11:34 am

@Adam – the key similarities are EXTREMELY interesting, especially in that they are different, if the key creation event didn’t actually happen. The fact that so many accounts (and varied details) exist, to me, is one of many indicators that things actually happened more in a literal fashion the way the bible describes it.
I believe that far too much trust is placed in “scientists” to determine how life came about. I mean, that’s not a trivial question, nor is it testable – how ridiculous for our society to think we could solve such a question with so much certainty. The incredulity of which, to me, actually serves to prove itself wrong, that it’s hiding something, trying to prove something – the fact that we have wholesale bought into evolutionary theory, based on so little evidence, w/ all dissenting opinions being shouted down actually lends some credibility to the contrary idea: 7-day creationism.
BTW we see this pattern of society wholesale buying an idea & sticking to it religiously based on very little evidence (the world is flat, formula is better for your baby, leaching blood, atkins diet, communism) – something to be aware of when evaluating big ideas that aren’t 100% provable that also are not open to question.

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posted August 31, 2010 at 12:04 pm

The Design Spectrum
Michael #17,
You have not explained the inconsistency that I point to in #15. Your comment kind of proves my point, actually.

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nick gill

posted August 31, 2010 at 12:19 pm

pds #23,
I think what Michael #17 is saying is that biology cannot point out any fine-tuning – it is not equipped to identify, much less explain it.
That’s where a theological perspective is necessary, because a solely biological one is ill-equipped to offer any kind of response to questions of design and fine-tuning.

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posted August 31, 2010 at 12:26 pm

T#13 – I think T has a great point about the bloodiness of the OT being similar to the supposed bloodiness of evolution. Do we all just think that it was in the people’s heads that god told them to kill all those people? That the OT peoples did not have a good vision of god and therefore had an incorrect interpretation of god’s will? That would leave the gore of evolution on its own, but I don’t think that is what most people here think.
I am starting to believe that the people in the OT did not really know the will of god and all that killing was not the will of god. Do you?
Also, I think the apparent disgust with the blood of evolution is a modern phenomenon. Our materialism places such a high value on the physical… I have broken many bones and been hurt fairly bad, but it was in pursuit of the enjoyment of life and that is part of the price I pay. Sure it hurts. But mental abuse is worse. god abuse even worse.
Last thought, our superior mental abilities have reached the end of our evolutionary benefit. The smart people are making a society where they do not reproduce, and are therefore not fit…right?

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posted August 31, 2010 at 12:29 pm

“Horrific genetic mutations” are not what drives evolution and using precisely this term prejudices the discussion. Modification and selection does drive evolution – with the modification occurring in a variety of ways.
The post also, you will note, excepted for the moment discussion of human death and disease.
What do you think about the general pattern in nature that seems to require the potential for many more offspring than actually survive, from insects and fish to mice and monkeys? I don’t see that this pattern is a development of human sin. It is theologically suspect to make this connection. Given this mortality (non-human at least) must be part of the creation mechanism and mandate to be fruitful and multiply.

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nick gill

posted August 31, 2010 at 12:44 pm

I just re-read your great offering from March 2009 on futility and groaning in Romans 8, and I think these concepts weigh heavily into a development of a theology of nature or a theological understanding of evolution.
Paul seems to believe that at some point in the past, something happened. A serious change occurred in how the world was being run. He seems to believe that creation was not created in subjected to futility, but that creation was subjected to futility.
The evolutionary narrative (and the evidence presented to support it), though, sounds more like what Peter writes: “Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
If humanity was, at some point in the history of creation, living in healthy relationship with God and with creation, acting as wise stewards, and the pointlessness we currently experience derives from a fracturing of that relationship, what is the nature of that pointlessness?
Was the change in relationship so wholly spiritual that it had absolutely no effect on physical reality? If not, where is the evidence of the change in relationship? Because it seems that one of the bedrock assertions of theistic evolution is that suffering is part of reality, and thus we’re being rescued from is the mindset that suffering is bad – that it will always exist, but the truth that will wipe the tears from our eyes is that suffering is actually good – death isn’t really an enemy. Jesus didn’t defeat death, he experienced it to show us how good it is. Theistic evolution makes death an essential facet of God’s marvelous creative mechanism – and if an essential part of salvation is the restoration of creation to how it was always meant to be, then death (which TE asserts is an essential mechanism and was always part of God’s good creation) will remain in the “restoration of all things.”
Is Paul wrong when he says, “The last enemy to be defeated is death?”
Is John wrong when he writes, “There will be no more death?”
Those are my struggles with TE:
what is the nature of the pointlessness that derives from the fractured relationship between humanity and nature?
Why is there no evidence of a healthy, pre-subjection-to-futility, relationship between humanity and the rest of creation?
Does the role of death change in the renewed cosmos, or is our understanding of it enlightened?

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nick gill

posted August 31, 2010 at 12:57 pm

RJS #26
“”Horrific genetic mutations” are not what drives evolution and using precisely this term prejudices the discussion. Modification and selection does drive evolution – with the modification occurring in a variety of ways.”
What ways besides genetic mutation does modification occur? What would you as an honest scientist describe as the ratio of positive to negative mutations, with relation to the survival of the organism? How often do beneficial mutations occur right now?
“What do you think about the general pattern in nature that seems to require the potential for many more offspring than actually survive, from insects and fish to mice and monkeys?”
I agree that it is not a development of human sin, and I agree that in some sense non-human mortality is part of the plan. I believe it is part of God’s response to the angelic rebellion that led to the chaos that we find at the beginning of Genesis, the chaos into which He breathed His Spirit and established a garden/temple as the spearhead of His counter-attack that culminated in the DBR of the Messiah and will climax when He rescues the entire cosmos from the rule of the rebels. That’s a REALLY thin thumbnail sketch, but at least it is a start.

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Dana Ames

posted August 31, 2010 at 1:08 pm

David Congdon, well said. I especially resonate with the teleologic nature of the creation narrative; I think that is sort of the “acid test” for anything theological and agree with N.T. Wright, who said that one’s eschatology determines one’s theology.
David Opderbeck, I would point you Eastward, where the discussion among *those* Fathers was not about Causation, but rather about why the narrative was set out the way it was – which had to do more with God’s character than the mechanism of creation. In all I’ve encountered there so far, the emphasis was to somehow (depending on the writer and the topic) point to God’s goodness; and/or to Jesus’ incarnation/cross/resurrection, and the effects of “the Christ event” in the present and past. I think understanding the multiple simultaneous levels of meaning the eastern Fathers saw in Scripture could go a long way toward delivering us from the pitfalls of an overly linear-based and literalistic way of thinking about this topic, into which American Christians have fallen (not you!). I have very little hope for this, however, partly because we Americans are very WEIRD ( and partly because it’s so hard to see how we think in this fashion, much lest to shift away from it, even a little.

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posted August 31, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Just maybe Genesis 1 & 2 is the story of Israel and not humanity at large from Adam until Christ That seems to fit the picture of Paul?s understanding properly. If that is simply the case then science can go about its business and the faithful can move away from reading Genesis from the wrong mindset and evaluate it how it seems to have been intended. Now convincing folks of that reality is the challenge.

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Justin Topp

posted August 31, 2010 at 2:26 pm

David #10
Thanks for the point on the natural theology vs. theology of nature distinction. For the comment and my short post relating to it, I was attempting to keep it short and sweet for sake of time and clarity. I will be working on a series of posts this fall for BioLogos looking at John Polkinghorne’s distinction between the two, which I hope will be helpful for this discussion.
Justin Topp

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posted August 31, 2010 at 2:46 pm

nick (#28),
The adjective “horrific” is what prejudices the discussion. Most negative mutations never result in a viable organism of any sort. A small handful of mutations are what we might describe as horrific, but even then I only think the adjective is relevant in the context of human life.
On your other comments – I don’t have time today to engage with all points, and I agree with many of the ideas. I think that the impact of sin is both physical and spiritual – but how it is physical is worth a good deal of conversation. On another related note – I also think that “new creation” or cosmic renewal will be very different from what we know, a reality where the role of birth and death both change in a way we cannot begin to fathom just now.
Captcha: cituarn McKNIGHT,

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Phil M

posted August 31, 2010 at 4:35 pm

On the topic of the bloodiness of the Old Testament it is worth pointing out that there is some fairly recent work being done on understanding this.
It seems that the style of writing used to describe the taking of Canaan is idiomatic hyperbole. For example if we reported on a sports match saying that our team “slaughtered the opposition” we don’t actually mean that literally.
For a more detailed look at this, visit this link (search for “The Slaughter of the Canaanites” and read from there):
This is a topic that Mr Flannagan has been invited to speak on at an upcoming Evangelical Symposium in the US.
This highlights to me the caution we must use when reading scripture. Contextual understanding is so important!

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Darren King

posted August 31, 2010 at 4:58 pm

“I don’t know that I can (or anyone can) fully reconcile all we know of evolution with all we know of God. It is entirely possible that how we became humans … in the image of God sense … and how sin came to be may something that is still beyond grasp of understanding. The metaphorical story still be our best and most helpful theological guide.”
Michael Kruse wrote the above comment. And I really think he’s on to something. I certainly don’t criticize those who try and understand these things. I do it too. However, I do still feel like there is a large degree of hubris at play when we assume we can answer such large questions – if we can just get the argument right.
I don’t that we can. In fact, I’m pretty positive we can’t. So, what if we moderns aren’t nearly as far ahead as we assume. What if we too – just like our faith predecessors from both the New Testament and Old Testament, have to settle with metaphors. Are we okay with this?

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Darren King

posted August 31, 2010 at 5:52 pm

But that said, I do think RJS’s point/question is a good one. Because people do need comprehensible, organizing stories. We need to be able to say more than God created, and evolution is how He did it. Because that sounds a little too much like a silly, circular, fill-in-the-blank game.
But… like I said, organizing stories aside, I still think that (in reality) we’re far beyond our reach here.

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posted August 31, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I must admit. I find it very disturbing here that Scripture and theology bows at the feet of evolution and ?science?.
What do people say when theology clashes with evolution? ?Evolution is not the enemy.? ?Literal creationism is bunk.? ?Theology must be more robust.?
Should our firm rock be the Word of God instead of evolution?

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posted August 31, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Take a look at the photos at the following links.
Then this one, and the accompanying video.
It seems to me that this is where we must start. We know and even understand, based on the nature of atomic structures and the sequences in the evolution of the various elements, that these massive and ancient galaxies are where all the elements of the periodic table have been created, actually evolved in regular sequences, over billions of years in time and space.
In short, we must admit to evolution of the cosmos from the start. It was not flung into space instantly fully formed.
What, who is God that would make stuff in this way??? – huge fiery explosions, over endless miles in time and space??? – instead of, a grandfatherly looking God about the size of Abraham Lincoln, or maybe an elderly version of Jesus with long white hair and a beard, something like Gandalf, stooping down to mix some dirt to form humans???
We have an immense amount of work to do first on the God of the still evolving Cosmos, before we can get then to the God of biological life. IMHO, we start with a lot more work in cosmology, a lot more thought about a God who is indeed infinite in time and space, outrageously smart and clever – i.e., look again at those photos, all the pieces, laws, space, speed, etc. God has set in motion, and able to lead to solar system like ours and a planet with human inhabitants like ours. Rather cool!!! I’m not sure I could manage this.
Back in the 1950’s the pioneer in modern Bible translation J.B. Phillips wrote a little book, Your God Is Too Small. Daily, I am reminded of his book.
ps.Phillips book is available to read online at the website below.
It is available for purchase here.
Does God understand radar? Read Phillips and find out.

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Paul Bruggink

posted August 31, 2010 at 11:35 pm

A search of on author = Berry and title = Theology After Darwin will yield a USA-based source for a new copy of the book at a cost of $19.47 plus the usual $3.99 for shipping. I got my copy from them last November.

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posted September 1, 2010 at 9:10 am

I haven’t been following all the evolution blogs, but this was an interesting read.
I can see how evolution may not be seen as totally violent, competitive, and bloody, but the cycle of life and death does involve pain and suffering. Examples, lions catching and eating other animals involves injury and pain. The lions best equipped at hunting, will thus be able to pass on their genes. Another aspect of evolution is sickness. E.g. those with genes that produces a sickness, that make it harder to pass genes on the future generation. E.g. those with a sickness like sickle cell anemia, makes it harder for them to pass on their genes because they’re more at risk of dying earlier due to complications.
So my question is, for TE’s, I suppose the answer to whether pain, suffering, and sickness existed prior to Adam and Eve is yes??
I’m also curious as to how people explain Jesus’ role and the atonement changes anything with regards to pain, suffering, and sickness, if it does at all?
@RJS, you said that in the new creation, the cycle of birth and death will change. So are you implying that in the new creation, people will die and they don’t live for eternity?
Sorry, I may not be using all my terms correctly, but I hope you understand what I”m trying to say.

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posted September 29, 2010 at 9:41 am

evolutuion is not about bad scientific rhetoric…there may be some
truths to these theorems on hand…how did man evolve to this point in time and dimension in spatial relation to other species i.e the living as well as the extinct/?/ what is man’s relation to GOD /?/

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posted October 17, 2010 at 5:39 pm

I think Dana #29 has made a valid point. This Eastern perspective is expanded somewhat here for those interested:

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Christianmom TH

posted January 15, 2011 at 11:38 am

Theology is a matter of the spirit. Theology is about the study of God. Some Christians like myself believe we are not suppose to study God. We accept theology as the study of our relationship with God. Our choices regarding the spirit. Christians have never declared war on God. We have never doubted God and his good purpose for our life. We have only made serious mistakes. Some Christians like myself don’t believe Darwin’s theory contradicts the existence of God. We believe our bible don’t contradict Darwin’s theory. Read our bible, there are wars, love stories, strife, struggle, death, violence, success, happiness, and just the everyday essence of what makes life.
Darwin’s theory is a matter of science. Darwin’s theory must only stand up to today’s scientific method. Our method of science have really grown. The truth is Darwin’s theory in the realms of today’s science most prove true or false. Therefore the theory is only science-history. The theory only proves an intense study on a man’s relationship to man. A Man’s relationship to nature. A Man’s relation regarding his growth in the world.
Darwin’s theory is an interesting theory. It has great philosophical arguments. It holds no place for argument with God.

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John Holmes

posted March 31, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Good discussion.

First time here.

As a Christian I accept that God created. As an Agricultural Scientist working in the area of pests rapidly developing resistance to pesticides with more than 40 years of experience, I have a close interest in the mechanisms of evolution.

My summary to young Christian students is that God created and it is the province of the scientist to explore how it was done. Bearing in mind that we are created beings trying to understand the Creator, we may not always recognise his fingerprints. This should temper human arrogance, yet we need to integrate the theologians to explore the meanings of it all

A bit simplistic?, yet it has worked for me very well and has got the discussion out of the sterile creation Science / Evolution debate as run by the young earth devotees to a more profitable respectful discussion. It also allows students to form a working coherent balance between Faith and Science which allows them to live in all worlds.

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Kate Snyder

posted April 7, 2011 at 1:02 am

Jesus is Creator God of the universe and no Christian should be ashamed to boldly say so. He quoted from Genesis 2 because He was there doing the creating, making them male and female – man from dirt and woman from his rib. Does evolution teach this? Of course not. They laugh and mock it, just as Jesus was laughed at when He walked the earth. The significant issue is this – repenting from our unbelief and embracing the fact that all things were created by His word. He spoke the universe into existence. The “big bang” was just the sound of His voice. Do you really think Jesus believes we evolved from apes or whatever? Do you really think He’s bowing down to Stephen Hawking? C’mon saints, gird up the loins of your mind and proclaim the truth until He comes. It’ll reduce the divorce rate too.

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posted June 23, 2011 at 5:03 am

All who claims Jesus is God will be thrown into the dungeons of !!HELL!!

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posted June 23, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Why? Because the basic foundational doctrinal framework of Christianity is wrapped up in the history of the beginning found in Genesis. The incompatibility of natural science (the science of Naturalism) with the Biblical narrative is irreconcilable. The whole Bible hinges on the beginning. Without the beginning the is NO NEED for salvation, the gospel or baby Jesus.

Genesis 3:20 ¶ And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of ALL living.

Romans 5:12 ¶ Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Romans 5:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

Romans 5:17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)
One thin Christians miss is that Jesus, the Creator walked the Earth 2000 years ago. (John 1:1-3 & 14) He was the Creator and Sustainer before He was our Savior.

Hebrews 1:1-2 ¶ God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by [his] Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

Colossians 1:16-18 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether [they be] thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence.

Matthew 19:4 And he answered and said unto them, HAVE ye not READ, that he which made [them] at the BEGINNING made them male and female,
What is also missed by many Christians is the great Noach deluge. (Worldwide fossil evidence reexamined without any preconceived evolutionary bias actually supports this.)

Matthew 24:37 But as the days of Noe [were], so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
**(The Gospel of Uniformitarianism was prophesied by Apostle Peter follows.)

2Peter 3:3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of the creation.
5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
6 Whereby the WORLD that THEN was, being overflowed with water, PERISHED:
7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

2Peter 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
There are many other Scriptures wrapped up in a literal historical understanding of Genesis. The prophets understood that God made the WHOLE UNIVERSE with mankind in mind. (Times, seasons, days and years) Genesis 1:14 We simply cannot have our cake-and-eat-it-too. The Bible is ONE COMPLETE STORY of redemption and really gives us NO other option. (Either the WHOLE thing is true, including Christ or NONE of it is true, including Christ.)

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posted September 14, 2011 at 4:22 am

myxomavirus in rabbits:
‘The virus was originally found (Fenner et al.) to result in 99% mortality, its high virulence due to the ease of transmission by arthropod vectors. However in areas where the availability of such vectors was scarce this highly virulent form acted to stop its own transmission by killing its host before it came in contact with any other possible hosts. This stringent selection provided an environment favouring a less lethal disease which would enable its host to survive for weeks instead of days, an attenuated strain of the virus. Generally such a virus is more likely to succeed since its less likely to kill its host so quickly, resulting in an increased likelihood of recovery. The naturally occurring strains of virus in Australia and Great Britain demonstrate that natural selection produces a virus less rapidly lethal that results in adequate susceptible population and that can survive through periods of low vector density i.e overwinter.’ -lecture notes

An initial preference for highly virulent organisms shifting to more attenuated ones.

Jesus, the pinnacle of evolution?

Has nature been gradually unravelling the wisdom of his Way, revealed to us ahead of time?

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posted March 13, 2012 at 8:47 am

What about the Bible? Who actually wrote it?

What was the original language of the Bible? (Hebrew? Aramaic? Koine Greek?)
NOTE: – The Bible was never in English during the time of any prophet (not even Muhammad) – because English did not exist until after 1066 AD!

Does the Bible exist in the original form anywhere on earth? (No)

Why does the Catholic Bible has seven (7) more books than the Protestant Bible?

Why do these two Bibles have different versions of the same books?

Why are there so many mistakes and errors are from the very first verse right up to the very last verse?

Why do ‘Born Again Christians’ teach concepts that are not from the Bible?

There is no word “Trinity” in the Bible in any version of any language

The oldest forms of Christianity do not support the ‘born again’ beliefs

Jesus of the English Bible complains about the ‘crucifixion’
(“Eli! Eli! Lama sabachthani? – My God! My God! Why have You forsaken me?”) [Mk 15:34]

How can Jesus be the “Only Begotten Son” of John 3:16? When in Psalms 2:7 David is God’s “Begotten Son?”

Would a ‘Just’ God, a ‘Fair’ God, a ‘Loving’ God — punish Jesus for the sins of the people that he called to follow him?

What happens to people who died before Jesus came?

What happens to those who never hear this message?

What about innocent children who die although their parents are not Christian?

Didn’t God create Adam from dirt? — So, why does he need Mary to make Jesus?

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Carl Lafong

posted April 3, 2012 at 1:58 pm

science is faith (faiht is the substance of things not see faith is the substance of things hoped for) thus “hope Einsteins theory is true”

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posted July 6, 2012 at 6:57 am

Jeremiah 11:9 And the LORD said unto me, A conspiracy is found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (zionist conspirators are there by fraud, a counterfeit state with a clever use of a name they have zero authority to use.. israel. Christians MUST NOW separate from the fraud and lies of zionism with the anti-Christ ideology of a criminal global cabal network of descendents of the House of Ananus and elite Sadducee Jewish families of bankers, money changers.
Ritualistic occult worshipers have schemed the greatest deception in human history.. Trusting Christians have been taught by their church leaders that Zionist regime criminals are “chosen” while they continue with impunity their commit crimes against humanity on a daily basis. US troops serve and take orders from a criminal cabal of zionists that have occupied Washington to the highest levels. There is little time left to separate yourself and stand with Jesus Christ and Him alone.

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Rollin Shultz

posted July 28, 2014 at 5:48 pm

When discussing evolution we need to be specific as to which evolution we are examining, Macro evolution or Micro evolution.
Macro Evolution: claims there was no life and then the spark hits some chemicals and off we go. The problems with that set of stories and imaginings is it is totally contrary to the law of entropy. In this universe things break down and everything is in some state of decay. Time is in fact the playing out of the decay of atoms as they vibrate through the universe. There are so many huge problems with Macro Evolution, I won’t even address it because they have been dealt with quite well by many professionals and hardly any scientist or educated layman accepts such nonsense today. DNA was the final nail in the macro evolution coffin, before that irreducible complexity had done its damage and chaos had always shown reality is contrary to the idea that things can become more complex and change from one thing into another.

Micro Evolution on the other hand is quite acceptable and it even explains how Noah could have brought 18,000 species 4300 years ago on his vessel and yet we have so many now. We don’t have anything which didn’t always exist, but we do have many variations of most everything in existence. All of this while still obeying the biblical concept of like kinds reproducing like kinds.

Even the 15.8 billion year old universe has been addressed by secular scientists by the theories of relativity and the stretching of time with space as one thing not two separate things. So as space exploded our from the singularity it stretched and time stretched with it so that it was calculated it did happen in 6 24 hour periods. The last 30 years has revealed so much knowledge, that evolutionary ideas simply caved in to the actual evidence of intelligent design. So much has been discovered I could go on and on. Its probably just better I offer to address any particular issues anyone thinks are pertinent.

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posted January 7, 2016 at 12:19 pm

This is such a great post. i attend church every Sunday, and buy my clothing from they have great appropriate clothing for men and women.

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