Sunday, July 09, 2006

What about theistic evolution?

Daniel Morgan said:

“Note that both Swinburne and Craig are theistic evolutionists, so I know there are Christians who would disagree with you. What would you say to them?”

There are a number of different issues here:

i) Is Craig a theistic evolutionist? Or are you defining that very broadly in terms of cosmic evolution (i.e. the Big Bang) rather than biological evolution?

ii) There is a continuum of hypothetical options:

flat earth>geocentrism>YEC>OEC>theistic evolution>process theology> deism>naturalistic evolution.

iii) There’s a difference between saying that a Christian can believe x and saying that x is a Christian belief.

iv) Apropos (iii), there’s a difference between what is psychologically consistent with a credible profession of faith, and what is theologically consistent with a credible profession of faith.

v) Apropos (ii), professing Christians relate to each other as well as unbelievers at various social levels.

We break down into various opposing or intersecting subsets. Not every theological disagreement rises to the level of an excommunicable offense.

A Christian might subscribe to YEC, and belong to an organization which promotes that view. Subscription to YEC would be a condition of membership.

Yet that same Christian might well attend the same church as another Christian who subscribes to OEC.

A Presbyterian seminary might include the works of Warfield in the core curriculum, but refuse to hire a theistic evolutionist.

The criteria might be higher for ordination than church membership.

vi) There are differences of natural character. In addition, liberal, moderate, and conservative are relative terms.

The US is the headquarters of the creationist movement. It doesn’t have the same foothold in the UK, much less the Continent.

In addition, a man like Swinburne or McGrath would be considered a conservative by Oxford standards, yet be too liberal to belong to certain Evangelical denominations is the US.

This issue is no different than other disagreements between professing believers (e.g. inerrancy, abortion, just-war theory, environmentalism, the spiritual gifts, theonomy, dispensationalism, ecumenism, hell, the sacraments, the doctrines of grace, the millennium, the ordination of women and/or homosexuals), and where we draw the line is an individual and institutional matter that varies from one individual or institution to another. These are policy questions as well as personal questions.

Likewise, a position can be out of bounds at one level of social affiliation, but not another.

If my brother is an atheist, he is still my brother. I will relate to him as a blood brother, but not as a spiritual brother.


  1. According to Wikipedia, Swinburne is a member of the Greek Orthodox Church.

  2. In the context, I didn't mean "what would you say to them about their belief as it relates to the general faith" but as it relates to the issue of the reliability of the mind if we did descend from apes.

    Again, in the post I did not affirm nor deny a soul/spirit, preferring to focus the question on whether the process of "creation ex nihilo" versus "natural evolution" (whether guided or unguided, whether soul-infused or not) could, relative to one another, categorically be deemed as "a process which intrinsically confers rationality to mind" [or not].

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  4. A brain which is the artifact of theistic evolution could be reliable. There a reliable process would yield a reliable product.

    But Darwin was talking about naturalistic evolution, not theistic evolution.

  5. Swinburne converted from Anglicanism to Orthodoxy a few years ago.