According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Monday, November 4, 2013

Evolutionary Theory and Moral Development

Bio - Mark A. Maddix
Northwest Nazarene University
Professor of Practical Theology and Discipleship

Mark A. Maddix is Professor of Practical Theology and Discipleship, and Dean of the School of Theology and Christian Ministry at Northwest Nazarene University. Before coming to NNU he served in pastoral ministry for twelve years. He has published several articles and co-authored books including Discovering Discipleship, Spiritual Formation: A Wesleyan Paradigm, and Missional Discipleship: Partners in God's Redemptive Mission.

Evolutionary Theory and Moral Development
November 4, 2013

Growing up in a Christian home, evolution was only referred with negative connotations. I was taught that evolution was an atheistic theory which undermined the authority of Scripture in general and specifically Genesis 1 and 2. If a person believed in evolution he or she could not be a Christian. This view was substantiated during my first biology class at a nearby state college. The professor supported evolution and took great pride in degrading uneducated and ignorant Bible-believing Christians who denied evolution. The professor, teaching in the Bible Belt, enjoyed arguing with students who opposed his views. This experience confirmed the assumptions of my upbringing that evolution was from the "pit of hell."

A year later I sensed God calling me to be a pastor so I enrolled as a Bible major in a Christian liberal arts university, rooted in the Wesleyan tradition. During my first semester I took Introduction to the Old Testament. I was eager for the professor to support my view of the creation accounts and to deny a humanistic view of evolution. In my amazement, the professor said nothing about the creation-evolution debate. Rather, he began to explain that the creation story in Genesis 1 & 2 was a hymn that was theological and had nothing to do with proving or disproving creation from a scientific perspective. He said the author of Genesis, probably not Moses, (that created another anxiety) had no understanding of modern science and was writing to show God's relationship with God's creation. His explanation changed the course of my understanding of the creation-evolution debate and helped me understand Genesis 1 and 2 as theological not scientific.

I was convinced that Genesis 1 & 2 had a different purpose and meaning, until I took a course in the natural sciences, taught by a young earth, seven day creationist (YEC). He argued that the creation accounts in Genesis could be scientifically traced, and the world was only 6,000 years old. He talked about dispensations of time and used the Bible to support his views. Now I was really confused.

I continued to wrestle with what I believed until I took Introduction to Biology, a course I had taken at the state university and had to take again because of a poor grade. In class the professor affirmed his belief in evolution by stating that Darwin's theory was the best way to explain how God created the universe. He affirmed what my Bible professor had articulated about Scripture. He also indicated that many scientists, who were Christian, see connections between science and the Bible. After class I asked the professor to explain how he could hold to evolution and creation. He responded by stating, "Believing in evolution does not reject Scripture, since Scripture was not written for such purposes."

My Christian liberal arts education provided me with a clearer understanding of a Wesleyan view of Scripture, particularly as it related to the creation accounts and a view of creation that could include evolution. As a pastor, and now as a professor, this theological understanding of the creation accounts are foundational in discussing creation and science with parishioners, students, and constituencies. Many of them think that the more recent focus on evolution among evangelicals in general, and Nazarenes in particular, is something new. I often remind them that it was something I learned in college over twenty-five years ago.

Evolution and Moral Development

Since I am not a scientist, I cannot speak about the details of evolutionary theory. I can only rely on the vast amount of research that supports evolution as a viable option in explaining how God may have created the universe. I can speak, as a practical theologian, on the theological significance of the creation accounts and my expertise in the integration of theology and the social sciences. Beginning with my doctoral studies in the interdisciplinary fields of Christian education, theology, and the social sciences, I explored how evolutionary psychology impacts the understanding of how people grow and develop. I began to see clear evidence of the impact of evolution on development theories as it relates to how we grow physically, cognitively, and morally. More recent studies in evolutionary psychology and neuroscience have expanded my understanding of how persons grow and develop. I want to explore in more detail how evolutionary theory impacts my understanding of moral development.

In my search for understanding how persons grow and develop morality, I first asked whether humans are born with the capacity to know what is right or wrong (nature), or is morality shaped primary by our environments (nurture). Developmental theories argue that human consciousness - how we determine right and wrong - is developed during the first years of life through our interaction with our parents. In other words, humans are created in the image and likeness of God, with the capacity to know what is good and evil, but a person's moral consciousness is shaped and developed by our parents and/or guardians. This is why some people have a higher level of consciousness (morality) while others do not. Since persons inherit a particular environment, it impacts their morality.

On the one hand, we are shaped morally by our environments, but on the other hand, recent studies in evolutionary ethics show that morality is not merely learned through one's environment. Many of our moral instincts are inherited through our evolutionary past. We are created with a universal morality that is imbedded in our nature, which is biological. Thus, humans don't simply learn moral behavior, but humans are biologically designed to acquire morality. In other words, humans are biologically wired with the necessary components for morality. Therefore, all human persons, created in the image and likeness of God, have the inherit capacity for morality.

Evolutionary ethics does not contradict a Biblical view of human persons Instead it provides a scientific explanation for how God created humans with the capacity to be moral, and through our environments, we grow and develop morally.

Index to past discussions -

Index to past articles on "Science & Religion"

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