Christians and the origins of life

It seems to have been a quieter time recently in the ongoing discussions, debates, and wars of words about the origins of life.  But recently I’ve been wondering how much Christians with different perspectives are in communication with each other.

I wonder this especially about those who defend a literal, young-earth reading of the Genesis creation story: do they run the risk of believing that they are carrying the “Christian” banner on this issue without realizing that not all Christians are behind them?  Although I lean toward a theistic evolution interpretation, I’m not writing this to criticize other positions.  My concern is more about communication between Christians.  Do we as Christians communicate with and understand each other well on this topic?  If not, wouldn’t that be an important dialogue to have with fellow believers?  What do you think?

It would seem to me that the toughest thing for an evangelical holding to the theistic evolutionist position is the risk of undermining the special status of human beings, one of the critical teachings of the Christian faith.  In fact, modernist former bishop John Shelby Spong (not an evangelical) argues that Darwinism destroys the whole idea of the gospel as redeeming us, because there never was perfection.  Evangelical genetics expert Francis Collins and the Catholic Church both embrace theistic evolution and propose answers to this challenge, but it remains a difficult issue.

The risk for a literal interpretation is ignoring the large amounts of evidence for evolution.  I don’t mean that it’s all conclusively proven beyond any doubt, but it is overwhelmingly affirmed by scientists.  Whether or not people are convinced by that fact, it’s important that to acknowledge that the widespread agreement exists.

The risk for intelligent design advocates, as Francis Collins has pointed out in his book The Language of God, is that it is a God in the gaps theory, which fills God in where we don’t understand things.  The problem with this is that is pushes Him out when we do.

Here’s a sampling of three Christians’ views (and the view of one atheist) from a while back.  Collins (theistic evolution) is an evangelical scientist, Behe (intelligent design) is a Catholic scientist, and Mohler (young-earth creationism) is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Another example of Christian diversity on this topic is the last chapter of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, where he discusses evolution as a way to discuss the idea of the “new creation” that God makes possible in Christ.  And Francis Collins quotes Lewis’ The Problem of Pain at length on human evolution in Collins’ book that I mentioned above (see pages 208-209).

It looks like a recent issue of Christianity Today has an article by Alister McGrath on the origins of life that I hope to read soon.

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3 comments

  1. I’m a young-earth creationist, but I’m not grasping your point about communication. Where are we supposed to be talking and why?

  2. Well, I guess that I see young-earth creationists, intelligent designers like Michael Behe, and theistic evolutionists like Francis Collins all engaging the larger culture separately. My question is whether Christians with different perspectives are engaging each other as well. Do you think that this would be a productive conversation among Christians of different beliefs about this?

    (Warning: I can be pretty naive and idealistic (not in the positive senses of those words). I sometimes think “let’s get together and talk and find common ground” sounds like a solution because it sounds nice. This could be one of those times.)

  3. I don’t know how such a conversation could occur because I really don’t see how these positions can exist together. I think you must embrace one or the other. The best we can do is agree to disagree, which is what is happening now. I also think that most folks have nothing but contempt for the YE position, it’s a definite minority right now.

    Talking would be fine I guess, but I don’t really see what the goal would be.

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