Thursday, April 8, 2010

"Non-Overlapping Magisteria"

Mark Jones has written a good piece on the recent controversy over statements made by Pete Enns' unsurprising and Bruce Waltke's rather surprising comments concerning evolution. Moreover, Jones offers some helpful thoughts on the effort to harmonize evolution and biblical faith.

Those who refer to themselves as theistic evolutionists need to be pressed on “the blind watchmaker thesis” that is so crucial to Darwinism. As noted in the previous chapter, Richard Dawkins has explained the idea of the “blind watchmaker” and its implications for how we view the theory of evolution: “Natural selection is the blind watchmaker, blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view.”[15] The blind watchmaker thesis explains the philosophical implications of evolution, which cannot in any way be squared with what the Bible says about creation and providence. Phillip Johnson claims that he has found it “very difficult to get theistic evolutionists to discuss the blind watchmaker thesis.”[16] No wonder. How can a Christian, in any meaningful sense of the word, admit that life, generally speaking, has no purpose? Plus, to insist that God would choose natural selection as his undirected creative method seems to require more faith than the idea that God created animals of their kind (Gen. 1:24). Darwinian evolution cannot guarantee that humans would have come into existence. Of course, a theistic evolutionist could maintain that God intervened from time to time to provide the required mutations to ensure that humans would eventually evolve, but this becomes mere philosophical speculation, and technically not science. Indeed, this position is neither Darwinism nor Christian theism. Collins assumes the truth of Darwininsm and then he constructs his own form of Christianity that will not contradict his understanding of evolution.

Historically, Reformed theologians have addressed the relationship between science and theology by beginning with the idea that the God of the Bible is a personal God who knowingly and willingly decrees all events. In other words, they begin with God, not Darwin.[17] Darwinism appeals to naturalists because, at present, it remains the most suitable explanation for explaining the diversity of life assuming that God had nothing to do with the process. That is a big assumption, of course. But the Christian can point to defects in the fossil record, the origin of life problem, the irreducible complexity of organisms, and many other problems in the Neo-Darwinian synthesis, to rest secure that Darwinian evolution has not provided a better alternative to the Bible in explaining how the present world came to be. Collins admits that modern science still cannot explain the origin of life, but “this is not the place for a thoughtful person to wager his faith.”[18] Coming from a supposed theist this comment is interesting. Collins argues for God’s existence based on moral life (i.e. altruistic behaviour among humans), but he urges extreme caution for God having anything to do with creating life. Moreover, Collins finds the Darwinian explanation for the moral law unsatisfying and therefore bases his belief in God in part on the argument for moral law. Yet, his reasoning about the origin of life problem should be equally applied to his reasoning for the moral law. Perhaps Darwinians will one day provide a satisfactory explanation for a moral law? Indeed, a number of scientists have done their best to explain altruistic behaviour among animals (which, for them, includes humans).[19]

In the end I expect that Darwinians will not find [Francis] Collins’ synthesis sufficiently convincing; nor do I expect Christians to be overly enamored with his various proposals. Theistic evolution is basically a contradictory worldview, and Collins’ synthesis should be rejected with fervor. And yet Bruce Waltke has explicitly embraced Collins’ version of evolution, which is Darwinian evolution, not evolution which can be empirically observed. Of course, Waltke has theological commitments that he cannot abandon. The problem for him, at least, is that he cannot maintain with any consistency his theological commitments and his appreciation for Collins’ work.

Read the entire article HERE.


Somebody said...
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Somebody said...

That's not accurate. Perhaps the most prominent theistic evolutionist is Alistair McGrath, who specifically addresses the issue of magisteria in his book, The Dawkins Delusion, among others. He strongly advocates overlapping magisteria.