According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, 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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why a Christian Evolutionist Cannot be a Naturalist (or, the False Divide between Science and Religion)

Why not "Science AND Religion"?

Introductory Observations
by R.E. Slater

Part I - Naturalism

Even as naturalists will argue for pure science without any attempt to inject their philosophical preferences, so too will Christian scientists argue for the same without allowing Christian beliefs to interfere with scientific research and discovery.

As such, the Theory of Evolution can be admitted by both sides - both by the scientific naturalist as well as by the Christian theist (e.g., God-believer). Even so, the pure naturalist will not attest to a Creator-God, nor His presence, nor sustaining power to a purposeful creation. This is a philosophical belief. In contrast, the scientific theist will disagree with these agnostic/atheistic beliefs or conjectures and strongly admit to those theistic beliefs.

Supposedly, it is this very argument that provides the opposing philosophical framework between the false divide between science and religion. The naturalist will claim that religious belief will influence findings. But the religious scientist will say, "Not so! That religion can - and must - work from scientific neutrality."

Realistically, both positions can influence scientific research and discovery even though both positions would strive for neutrality of personal philosophical beliefs. That the naturalist would strive to ignore his or her's position of agnosticism or atheism even as the Christian scientist must fight the urge to do theology in scientific work.

And yet, it is at this very point of divide between science and religion that the Christian theist finds nature to be the most meaningful, purposeful, and pregnant with destiny, when understanding creation from a God-ward aspect. Even as the pure naturalist would claim that it isn't. That creation is all random chance and disorder.

But again, the observant theist will point out that even in an open system of random chance and disorder God is present as its Maker, Sustainer, and fulfilling destiny. That even in a system such as this it is God Himself who created it by primal decree. Thus, the philosophical argument between the two sides - one doesn't see God in the details while the other does. One disbelieves that a chaotic creation is God-ordained while the other can accept the same.

However, as good and impartial scientists, both the Christian or the naturalist scientist seek to remove their philosophical differences so as to avoid affecting their work as a neutral scientists. Anthropologically this is highly doubtful and it would be better to admit one's philosophical preferences so as to be truer to one's research as a scientist. Humans are not robots. They are not automatons. They come with feelings, pains, beliefs, and subjectivity. This is the nature of being human.

As such, though the ideal meeting point of science is to allow research on its own grounds by means of the scientific method, as human beings this task will always carry the philosophical shadings and preferences of the researcher. Thus the need for dialogue and collaboration without creating the artificial divide between science and religion because all science carries with it its own belief systems - even that of the agnostic and atheist.

Part II - Theism

The other false assumption is that true science is without its integration with true religion. That they each oppose the other. This is a naturalist's prejudice which has become the grounds of argument by popular agnostics and atheists. As example, the agnostic/atheist would claim that a Christian evolutionist cannot admit to the mechanistic - or quantum machinery - of evolution without necessitating interventionist, supernatural miracle(s) into the system of creation. Mechanism is the older classical argument (think, Isaac Newton) that in recent years has been replace by the quantum argument of random chance and disorder (think, Stephen Hawking).

However, both systems are more deterministic than they are indeterministic. In classical mechanics the initial conditions of velocity and mass determines all, while in quantum mechanics the same can be true. That even within the observed disorder of the quantum world if we knew enough about the moving objects then we can project with accuracy specific results using propagation and uncertainty principles.

But for the theist, s/he sees that same world of chance and disorder and admits to the indeterminate nature of the natural world. That behind its existence rules the God of its existence over all its uncertainty and improbabilities. That we do not live in a deterministic world but one that is full of possibilities despite our sophisticated projections and ignorance.

That it is not necessary to claim the need for divine miracle (or supernatural intervention) into the indeterminate "machinery" of creation by a God who dwells outside of its existence. Who must interrupt its workings to impose His will upon it. But that the idea of "miracle" or "sovereignty" is already built into the machinery of quantum physics and evolution. That tells of a Creator who dwells more within His creation - or alongside His creation - than of a God who exists outside His creation and from time-to-time must go within it to "fix" things.

That tells of a creation that is at all times miraculously woven-and-framed through God's originating decrees of chaos and disorder. That it is these very decrees that describe what modern science calls "the evolutionary theory of life." That the very nature of evolution itself is from the very hand of God who bespeaks "life from nothingness" so that it may at all times live in some way or fashion. That within the very fabric of evolutionary theory the teleology found within evolution is driven forward by the dynamic decrees of the God who creates. This is what is meant by "Christian evolution" and why it differs so dramatically from the naturalistic expression of a "scientific evolution" that the church seems to react so strongly against. A reaction that naively disclaims all forms of evolution in favor of its own "special creation" theories that are scientifically implausible and improbable based upon scientific discoveries of evolutionary life in our universe.

Hence, the very process of indeterminate evolution itself is how God chose to create by decree. That His fingerprints are everywhere about and nowhere seen except by the believing heart. That evolutionary creation was ever-and-always a supernaturally mediated process without necessitating any form of immediate intervention or natural disruption by "special creation". It is simply how God made the universe with all its disturbances, irregularities, uncertainties, randomness, and disruptions... and this despite the cries of both the disbelieving naturalist or argumentative church.

Part III - Evolutionary Creationism

This latter descriptor of an "evolutionary creation" would then separate the Christian evolutionist from the Christian creationist who would argue for a creational process of supernatural intervention and disruption. This is generally known as biblical creationism (or, the young-earth Christian YEC position). That Adam and Eve were immediately created and not purposely planned through the God-ordained process of evolutionary creation. Though both positions are theistic, each differ as to type or kind of creational process that God implemented. That one is anti-evolutionary while the other is evolutionary. One is interventionist while the other is non-interventionist. One is immediate in process whereas the other is mediated by process. That one claims direct supernatural intervention by miracle (sic, "how many movies do we see of Adam rising from the dirt and dusty clays of the earth??") whereas the other is indirect and full of supernatural miracle within its system of theistic evolution.

Hence, for the Christian evolutionist (otherwise described as an evolutionary creationist) there is the dual dilemma of finding common ground with the agnostic/atheistic naturalist even as there is the additional burden of finding common ground with the theistic non-evolutionist. The first deals with the philosophical/theological belief of whether there is a God or not. While the other wrestles with the kind of creation that this God has ordained, does now rule, has-and-is ordering, superintends, and maintains, in His sovereignty.

Moreover, to this latter discussion come the difference in idea to the kind of divine sovereignty God shows to us. Whether it is one of meticulous sovereignty requiring absolute control over fair-and-foul, giving to us the old problems of theodicy (the source of evil and sin, and the kind of election God that rules with per the doctrinal system of Calvinism). Or whether divine creation is laced with free will ordination throughout its being by holy decree (per the doctrinal system of Arminianism). And it is this latter doctrine of arminianism that for the evolutionary creationist determines all. Why?

Because a free will creation (more accurately described as an indeterminate creation as representing non-sentient objects that cannot exhibit an animal's or human beings "free will") does not require a mechanistic, determinative creation meticulously controlled by a Creator God (as errantly presumed by Newton and Hawking in their respective outlooks). But one, like the creature or man himself, that exists as an indeterminate creation without disallowance to the broader doctrines of divine sovereignty.

That God is not a controlling God but a permitting God by primal decree on the eve of creation's dawn. A dawn that forthwith included indeterminacy of free will. And that the process of evolution is God's ultimate idea (or vision) of that primal decree where random chance and disorder must occur as the very mechanism of His (evolutionary) creation. But that within that indeterminacy God does somehow miraculously rule sovereignly over all His creation without interposing Calvinism's stricter, microcasmic degrees of Christian determinism. This is the mystery of sovereignty. A mystery that we would try to describe when there are no words to describe it except that it just is as decreed. Where a postmodern, more continental or existential approach, would better suit its framework than the Christianized materialism of Western civilization.

And it is this kind of "special" creation and divine rule that gives to creation its hope and promise. Its destiny and purpose. Its very openness to the future. One that is sublimely burdened with the crux of divine responsibility interposed to free willed beings surviving within an indeterminate universe who would enact and submit to the divine rule of God's (gracious and holy) permitting will. That "all be done on earth as it is in heaven". Even unto this very day. Amen.

R.E. Slater
April 16, 2014

further discussion re God's Sovereignty (Providence)
v. Randomness (Chance) may be found here -

* * * * * * * * * * *

Debra Haarsma from Biologos @ GVSU Forum Discussion on Evolution, April 2014 [GVL/Marissa Dillon]

Grand Dialogue discusses science and religion

by Erin Grogan
April 13, 2014

Alvin Plantinga presented his theory that naturalism and evolution are incompatible at the Grand Dialogue at Grand Valley State University on Saturday. The Grand Dialogue is meant to open conversation about the relationship between science and religion.

Plantinga is the John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame. He said he believes that Christians can believe in evolution but cannot believe that evolution happens by accident. This is because one of the core Christian beliefs is the idea that God created human beings in his image.

“There is a science/religion — or science/quasi-religion — conflict, all right,” Plantinga said. “But it is a conflict between naturalism and science, not theistic religion and science.”

[photos by GVL/Marissa Dillon] Ryan Roberts, professor of religious studies and the Old Testament at Cornerstone University, speaks of the "Manipulation of Nature in Joshua." This presentation was part of this year's Grand Dialogue conference in the Devos Center.

By the term “quasi-religion,” Plantinga is referring to naturalism, which he defined as the “thought that there is no such thing as the God of theistic religion or anything like him.” If both naturalism and the current evolutionary theory were true, Plantinga said, then the likelihood of reliable cognitive faculties, meaning memory and perception, would be low.

As an evolutionary biologist, GVSU biology professor Michael Lombardo responded to Plantinga, supporting the idea that naturalism is the best way to explain the observations and data recorded about the world. Lombardo said naturalism is superior because it is the only form of science that purely seeks answers through natural explanations, completely disregarding any form of the supernatural for things that happen in the natural world.

“Remember in science, ideas that are not testable are of little value to increasing knowledge and understanding,” Lombardo said. “In science, we require tangible evidence, not just arguments. In fact, theistic ideas about causes of life, especially in nature, are outside the domain of science. They’re not vulnerable to either testing or verification.”

Deborah Haarsma, an astronomer, Christian, and the president at BioLogos — a company that dedicates itself to dispelling the idea that science is in conflict with religion, said she believes that God created all matter and continually upholds his laws and creation. However, she also believes that natural evolution is entirely possible and has yet to see a miracle of direct divine intervention throughout her studies of the creation of galaxies.

“For me, doing science has enhanced my faith,” Haarsma said. “When I see the beauty of the natural world, I see God’s glory. When I see the fascinating processes and physics, I see God’s creativity.”

Haarsma took issue with Lombardo’s idea that having a presupposed idea of Christian belief is incompatible with scientific discovery. She said she disagrees with this idea because in history, many influential scientists were Christians and still made top discoveries.

“The regularity of nature is because of God’s faithful governance,” Haarsma said. “And it’s worth studying the natural world because it is God’s creation. We’re learning things about God from looking at his world.”

Several breakout sessions followed Plantinga’s keynote and the responses by Lombardo and Haarsma. They discussed a wide variety of topics surrounding the central idea of the conflicts between religion and science. Such topics included “What is natural selection?” by Lombardo, “What can the Talmuds tell us about science and medicine?” by GVSU professor Sheldon Kopperl, and “Humans are religious beings: An existential-functional account” by John Cooper, a professor of philosophical theology at Calvin Theological Seminary. Breakout session presenters came from local colleges, universities, seminaries and organizations.

“Here in Grand Dialogue, we have a lot of different faiths in the room,” Haarsma said. “But I think that we have a consensus that we are respectful to each other and also seem to be interested to consider how spirituality and science fit together, and maybe share disappointment and even grief that there are a lot of students out there who do not see that science and belief can fit together.”

Index to past discussions -

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