Discussion forum: Seven Conversations Plus

21st century planet Earth is engaged in a global conversation with seven participants plus. Imagine this global conversation like you would seven people seated around a dinner table. There is the Christian, the Secularist, the Jew, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Primalist/Animist, the Communist.

There are many topics of conversation and debate at the table. Some topics provide moments of harmony while others create points of contention. One emerging topic of conversation that each participant must engaged is an evolutionary understanding of reality.

An evolutionary point of view is not new. That’s what makes it noteworthy. An evolutionary framework is now fairly common and somewhat comfortable.

So, in terms of our seven conversationalists, how dangerous is an evolutionary framework today? Who loses most? Who gains the most?

Turning our attention towards Christ followers: What if… within three to four generations all of the developed world embraces an evolutionary framework? Will they think back and compare the fundamentalists that opposed an evolutionary framework to the religious leaders that opposed Galileo and Copernicus? What do you project?

Christ following people will increasingly incorporate evolutionary processes into their understandings of life and faith. Given this new future worldview, new and fresh understandings of God will emerge that will help the world understand God.

Here are my questions: Is an evolutionary framework truly dangerous to the Christ following movement? Is the Christ following movement truly dangerous to an evolutionary framework? Can they complement each other? My sense is that most Christ following people are comfortable with an evolutionary framework and easily incorporate it into their view of reality and faith. Is that your experience?

What do you think?

See you in the Mystic…

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9 thoughts on “Discussion forum: Seven Conversations Plus

  1. “In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.
    And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?”
    (Mark 12:23-24)

    If you truly believed the Scriptures, you would not be asking such ridiculous questions regarding evolution. You are probably a lot smarter than I am, so I don’t think I need to go into a lengthy explanation as to the multitude of ways that the Bible contradicts evolution (the gospel contradicts evolution as well). Your questions are not unlike a lot of those the skeptics asked Jesus Christ. His answer: the Scriptures have already told you the answer, but you will not believe.

    YOU CANNOT BE A “CHRIST FOLLOWER” AND ALL THE WHILE BE MAKING UP YOUR FAITH AS YOU GO ALONG. My guess is that you need yet to come to the REAL Christ of the Bible by REPENTANCE and faith in Him. These teachings of yours are heresy. And that can be easily shown. Repent today and God will forgive you!

    Mat

    P.S. The Bible never contradicts Galileo’s teaching of the earth not being at the center, but the Bible clearly contradicts evolution throughout and most certainly in the very first two chapters.

    P.S.S. The Christian does not “come to the table” to dialogue. The Christian preaches the Word!

  2. Ah, friend Mat, there are many ways to preach Christ. After eighteen years in ministry to the urban poor, I can tell you that you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. The “honey” in this case is at the table, and it’s called “dialogue.”

    On the other hand… I lean toward your side of this issue. While the various reiterations of the Creation story make clear (to me at least: a dash of insight from Form Criticism helps too) that it is metaphorical poetry, it is equally clear that God is the prime motivator, the Architect and Artist, the Creator solely responsible in both design of created things and the exercise to carry out that design. To embrace God as he reveals himself through the hebrew and christian scriptures is to embrace not only the Intelligent Designer but the Creator (i.e. active exercise of power to overcome the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, which is also part of the Design) and the Sustainer of the universe.

    Back to the first hand… Alex’s “three or four generations” have passed already, from what I can see. The whole world, my children included (who grew up on a steady diet of “God made the world”), has embraced an “evolutionary framework.”

    But like most aspects of worldview, there is a broad interpretation of the details in that framework, “fundamentalist” christians (heck, ALL christians) excluded.

    If by it you mean “a general intuitive acceptance that things change over time” (the evolution of basketball, the evolution of the personal computer, the evolution of a relationship), yup, I’d say that’s a universal precept of Western culture, and the semantic structures to explore that precept all come from Darwin and those who unpacked his ideas.

    There are other facets of the “evolutionary framework” we could fruitfully explore without compromising the truth of God as Creator. We need not herd everyone toward the opposite poles of Young Earth Creationist Hypercalvinist vs. Atheistic Darwinistic Strict Materialism (and ultimately nihilism). There’s plenty of room to explore the landscape of truth between those poles.

  3. I think that evolutionary thinking needs to be clearly defined. There are many different evolutionary theories, some are supported scientifically and some are not. This is where I think the Christ following community has fallen short – not being willing to learn due to accepting the dogma of religion and being afraid of what science has discovered. We as Christ followers should not fear what we may discover because we should be confident that all truth comes from Him. So, for me to say that micro evolution is a reality and so there is a place for evolutionary thought, while there is no real evidence for macro evolution, is not contradicting anything spiritual and causes me no conflict with my belief and faith in Christ.
    referring to the first 2 chapters in genesis: Does it list every single animal that exists today? If not, then where did all the variations come from? Adam was of one race, how did all the other races get here? This is micro evolution – changes over time due to genetic variation within a species maybe even a genus. It is proven and it is a form of evolution and it is a natural process of life.

    It is possible to see life as a process and a journey instead of a all or nothing approach? What can we learn from all people believing that every person was created by God and therefore has intrinsic value – so opening up the table to talk about anything is of great value because in the dialogue itself, you are valuing in the person.

  4. Hi Alex,

    I am happy to offer my opinion, certain in the knowledge that some of the world’s biggest geniuses have devoted their lives to these questions –

    I begin by saying this: I need to listen to what they have to say.

    Whenever I ask people about stuff relating to science/evolution, they seem to think that I’m ready to have a big fight with them about it, like I’m about to play a game of theological chess or something. Really I don’t care. Science was going before me, it’s zooming along now, and it’ll zoom right past me when I get old and talk about the good old days and complain about my dentures. Science is great – humans learning how the planet and universe work. Wonderful.

    I think, at least since the reformation, the big church has, at least in parts, strongly resisted science, and in the process has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. As a result, the church is seen to be engaged (or perceived to be by many) in an alarming, childlike circular logic (plus cognitive dissonance – making up a collective mind and then doing everything it can to confirm/verify its decision?) that doesn’t allow for scientific exploration, because all scientific exploration is a threat to the church.

    This, of course, is silliness. Science is great! For me, studying how animals change in environments is amazing – not just individually, but as groups/hives/packs/flocks, etc. I want to list a few reasons why I love science – my iPod, computers, the strings on my squash racquet, the spinning skyscraper in Dubai, how they get toilets to work at the top of a tall building, the giant underground particle tube thing in Switzerland and France – all great. But if you combine the church’s historically adversarial posture to scientific exploration with the inherent hypocrisies of the church as an institution (all institutions are in some ways hypocritical – it’s the human way!), people tune the church (and its members) out.

    The answer to all of this absurd debate is simple and easy. Engage with those who ask the big questions (we ask big questions too – we have a lot in common!) Orient yourself towards learning – be curious! There’s some amazing stuff going on – find out about it! I think the church will be amazed how receptive the world to what God is up to when we drop by the laboratory and show them how excited we are about what they’re doing.

    Ryan

  5. Great conversation.

    In terms of entry into the Christ following movement, we have to ask ourselves if adopting a particular scientific theory is a precondition to becoming a Christian? If it is (and young earth creationism seems to be a shibboleth for some), then what of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah?

  6. Mat, Ryan, Shawna, Brian…

    Thanks for your input.

    I think there are two important elements of an intelligent (“amateur”) engagement with science: Openness and Skepticism.

    On all things scientific I look to the scientific community for informed opinions. I am open to new discoveries and understandings of the world and humanity. It takes humility — especially for some Christians who are taught to believe they know everything and the rest of the world doesn’t know anything — to embrace the fact that non Christians may know more about God’s world in some arenas than Christians do. Humility is the key here. Openness is the first and weightiest element.

    The second posture is skepticism…a questioning curiosity. Most people who believe in evolution — the idea that all living organisms emerge from a single celled organism and thus are biologically related — do so by virtue of faith in authority. Very, very few have actually seen and/or studied the evidence for this kind of idea. Thus many evolutionists believe (often passionately) in something based on faith in the authority of the scientific community. They are as blind in their zeal as the religious fundamentalists. The key to avoiding this kind of fundamentalism is responsibility.

    My personal take on it is this: I believe that evolution — both micro and macro — is the current majority opinion of the scientific community. This is different than believing “in” Evolution for which I have personally not seen any evidence. (I’ve heard and read of evidence but that’s all). I’m too skeptical to have blind faith in authority. This same skepticism is what keeps me from being a fundamentalist in the religious arena too. I do not believe that evolution as I have defined it necessitates an abandonment of a creation faith. I do think that it permits an opportunity for an increased knowledge of God.

    Regarding Galileo, Mat, my sense is that there were fundamentalists who believed that the Bible and the Gospel were contradicted by Galileo’s ideas. I imagine that, like you today with regard to evolution, they believed that the Bible and the Gospel could “clearly” demonstrate that Galileo’s ideas were heresy.

    I can almost hear one of those fundamentalists addressing both Galileo and those who thought his ideas were interesting. He would have sounded something like this:

    “YOU CANNOT BE A ‘CHRIST FOLLOWER’ AND ALL THE WHILE BE MAKING UP YOUR FAITH AS YOU GO ALONG. My guess is that you need yet to come to the REAL Christ of the Bible by REPENTANCE and faith in Him. These teachings of yours are heresy. And that can be easily shown. Repent today and God will forgive you!”

    Sound familiar?

  7. I agree wholeheartedly that certain forms of evolution are reality. I also completely agree that this isn’t a “staple of faith” issue. It’s simply not on par in terms of major issues with the Gospel.

    That said, I think a “major” within the issue is that there is a God and that He is proactive and even interested in the journey of humankind and creation. Where evolution begins to feed into philosophy is the notion that there is a God who might not be there and if he is, then He is silent (to play on Schaeffer’s titles a little:). These, I think are hills worth dying on because it reflects the nature of all that we believe to be true reality. At some point, there is a deep rift between realities and the nature of those realities. To not acknowledge that would not only hinder our dialogue with others, it would confuse them (as well as ourselves) in terms of providing a significant contribution to the conversation.

  8. Hey Derek. You’re right. A truly “public” theology in the 21st century means that our conversation partners must extend beyond our own circles. Our discourse must include science and technology, politics and society, other religions, etc as partners. But, as you so rightly suggest, we must be present. If we are to be a part of the conversation, we must know what realities are ours to contribute.

    I use evolution in three ways. First, as the idea that all life (including man) emerged from a single celled organism. Second, as the idea that design emerges out of chaos without the aid of mind. Third, as a cognitive-gaining process. Adaptations are a form of knowledge.

    My guiding trajectory — the one with which I enter this conversation — is that God is making the world human again and that He is doing so through Jesus Christ.

    This is the case even if all of life emerged from a single celled organism or if the universe, the planet, the biosphere, and our species emerged out of chaos without the aid of mind.

    About the phrase “without the aid of mind.” Our scientific knowledge is too puny (I think) to be able to make so absolute a statement. This is one of the ways in which we can be “fundamentalists” on the science side. But I accept the phrasing as a general purpose one without excluding what may also be true — namely, that in His own way and in His own time, God calls life forward into his future as the universe evolves to include humanity.

  9. Wow! Hey Alex, I follow this blog closely because I feel the things you say are refreshing for a heart that has grown weary of hearing the same cliches. What we teach often doesn’t quite jibe with what I hear Jesus saying or the unusual people and events in the Bible that wouldn’t fit in – in today’s Church. It takes a lot for me to write in though, and this discussion is one. Thanks.

    I find it kind of funny and ironic that when we get carried away calling some “heretics”, we forget that the Reform tradition that we are all a part of was founded on the teachings of those who were initially accused of being heretics. I can think of Martin Luther, William Tyndale, John Wycliffe, and because I’m Presbyterian (don’t hold that against me), John Knox and John Calvin. Oh, and don’t forget that we follow that Heretic of heretics (to the religion of his time): Jesus Christ. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be aware of heretics, but that when God wants to shift us back to His mission, he will give a voice to those who will speak from a different or unsual perspective. They may serve to jolt us, but are still very Biblical. I think the Bible gives many examples of people like this, particularly the Prophets. Be very careful then, for you may be accusing those who speak on God’s behalf, and end up inadvertantly being God’s accuser. Personally, I hope that the things you bring up here serve as a “Tipping Point” for Church culture and the world’s culture.

    Any problems I may have with evolution are scientific, not theological. As with Shawna above, I acknowledge the evidence for micro-evolution (all the evidence that Darwin himself gave in “Origin of the Species” was for micro), but macro sounds speculative. Michael Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box” is excellent for this. Plus, Evolution is a theory of how single-celled organisms could have evolved into complex ones. It is NOT a theory of how a single-celled organism came from nothing. There is even less science on that, and all speculative.

    Thanks again for the great discussion.

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