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Three Cheers For Christian Evolutionists!

Patricia: [...] I am a Christian Evolutionist. Is there such a thing? Yep. Must be.
Good luck to you.




THREE CHEERS FOR CHRISTIAN EVOLUTIONISTS!


Mark Noll, Christian historian at Wheaton College (the "Harvard" of evangelical Christian colleges), made the following admissions in his article, "The Evangelical Mind Today" (First Things, Oct. 2004):


"Taken together, American Evangelicals display many virtues and do many things well, but built-in barriers to careful and constructive thinking remain substantial... We [evangelicals] remain inordinately susceptible to enervating apocalyptic speculation, and we produce and comsume oceans of bathetic End Times literature while sponsoring only a trickle of serious geopolitical analysis... And far too many of us still make the intellectually suicidal mistake of thinking that promoting 'creation science' is the best way to resist naturalistic philosophies of science. When it comes to the life of the mind, in other words, we evangelicals continue to have our problems... Strife over 'creation science' continues to simmer, exacting a high cost in both serious study of nature and serious learning from Scripture, yet several positive influences are evident. Without claiming mastery of the recondite issues involved, I can say I am heartened by the consistent quality of intra-evangelical debate in forums such as the American Scientific Affiliation's Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. I am also encouraged by the boldness and clarity with which evangelicals such as Denis O. Lamoureux (debater of Phillip E. Johnson in the book, Darwinism Defeated?), and Keith B. Miller (editor of Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, Eerdmans Publishers, 2003, that brings together a wide variety of specialists who each address evolution from the perspective of their own discipline. There is a good balance between scientific and theological issues with multiple voices representing a range of Christian theological traditions), spell out why they are evolutionists and why they hold evolutionary theory to be compatible with traditional Christian orthodoxy."


Besides Mark Noll, another prominent Evangelical Christian professor at Wheaton College is John H. Walton, author of the NIV Application Commentary On Genesis, 2002, which is a MUST READ for any Evangelical still trying to squeeze 'scientific creationism' out of the first three chapters of Genesis.


OTHER PRO-EVOLUTION EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS
Between 1910 and 1915 a 12-volume set of books was published, titled, The Fundamentals, filled with essays by conservative Protestants, among them, R. A. Torrey (an editor of The Fundamentals), George Frederick Wright and James Orr, who all advocated a cautious pro-evolutionary stance. Only in the eighth volume of The Fundamentals did two aggressive rejections of evolution appear, one by an anonymous essayist and another by the relatively unknown Henry Beach, both of whom lacked the theological and scientific standing of the senior Evangelicals already mentioned. Reverend Orr, one of the more renowned contributors, was a theologian of the United Free Church College in Glasgow and widely respected as an apologist for Evangelicalism, but expressed doubts as to how literal, Genesis, chapter three, ought to be taken: "I do not enter into the question of how we are to interpret the third chapter of Genesis -- whether as history or allegory or myth, or most probably of all, as old tradition clothed in oriental allegorical dress..." [James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World (1897), p. 185, 447]


David N. Livingstone (a Research Officer in Queen's University, Belfast) has documented that most leading Evangelical scholars in the 19th and early 20th-century accepted vast geological timescales and some form of evolutionary theory.~ In the sciences: Hitchcock, Silliman, Guyot, Maury, Gray, Wright, Dana, Winchell, and Mcloskie. And in theology: McCosh, A. A. Hodge, B. B. Warfield, C. W. Hodge, and Strong (of Strong's Concordance fame). Even some of the contributors to The Fundamentals (mentioned above) advocated a cautious synthesis of creation and evolution. Livingstone's conclusion: "Evangelical scientists were among the first in America to adopt and later to promote an evolutionary outlook... The Fundamentalists who arrived in the 1920s more closely resembled stepchildren than children of this family." [David N. Livingstone, Darwin's Forgotten Defenders: The Encounter Between Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary Thought (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans, 1987)]


Nor was the mid-20th-century Evangelical, C. S. Lewis, disturbed by the thought of Genesis being "...derived from earlier Semitic stories which were Pagan and mythical." [C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (London: Collins, Fontana Books, 1958), p. 93] "We read in Genesis (2:7) that God formed man of the dust and breathed life into him. For all the first writer knew of it, this passage might merely illustrate the survival, even in a truly creational story, of the Pagan inability to conceive true Creation, the savage, pictorial tendency to imagine God making things 'out of' something as the potter or the carpenter does." [C. S. Lewis, "Scripture," Reflections on the Psalms] In short, "Lewis found more truth in the story of the 'Garden of Eden' when he regarded it as myth than as history." [Michael J. Christensen, C. S. Lewis on Scripture: His Thoughts on the Nature of Biblical Inspiration, The Role of Revelation and the Question of Inerrancy (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1979), pp. 34-35)]


Other 20th-century Evangelicals have expressed views similar to Lewis's:


"The style [of Genesis chapters 2-3] is lively and picturesque... The Lord God takes on a human form: we see him mold clay, breathe into man's nostrils, walk in the garden when the breeze gets up and make for the guilty couple better clothes than their improvised cloths... The presence of one or several word-plays [in the story of how Eve was crafted from Adam] casts doubt on any literal intention on the author's part... There is a dream-like garden with strange trees and a cunning animal who opens a conversation; you could believe you were in one of those artless legends, one of those timeless stories which are the fascination of fokelore." [Henri Blocher, In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis (InterVarsity Press, 1984)]


Speaking of prominent modern day Christians who accept evolution and even defend it against I.D. arguments, there's Howard Van Till (of Calvin College), Kenneth Miller (author of Finding Darwn's God), Denis Lamoureaux (co-author of Darwinism Defeated? The Johnson-Lamoureaux Debate on Biological Origins. Vancouver: Regent College, 1999), Dr. Stephen C. Meyers (manager of bibleandscience.com), Conrad Hyers (author of The Meaning of Genesis), and Paul Seely. For more information on them and other Christian evolutionists, including the ones at the American Scientific Affiliation (that publishes Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith), and at the Institute for the Study of Religion in an Age of Science (that publishes Zygon magazine), see the article: The Fine-Tuning Hypothesis, an alternative to the Intelligent Design Hypothesis.


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