Debate over Theistic Evolution Heats Up, as Does Interest in the God & Evolution Anthology
The debate among evangelical Christians over Darwin's theory of evolution has returned to front stage this summer with the publication of two separate cover stories on the issue by leading Christian magazines. Christian news magazine World has announced that it will name two books critiquing "theistic evolution" as its "Books of the Year" in its upcoming July 2 issue. World called the evolution debate in churches and religious colleges "the biggest current battle both among Christians and between Christian and anti-Christian thought." And, in its June cover story, Christianity Today reported on how Christian proponents of Darwin are challenging historic beliefs about Adam and Eve.
One of the two books honored by World is God and Evolution: Protestants, Catholics, and Jews Explore Darwin's Challenge to Faith (Discovery Institute Press, 2010). The other is Should Christians Embrace Evolution? edited by noted British medical geneticist Dr. Norman Nevin (published first in England, republished in the United States in May).
God & Evolution's editor, Dr. Jay Richards, commented, "We wanted to clear away the fog and fuzzy-thinking on this issue. Our book makes clear that to the degree theistic evolution is theistic, it will not be fully Darwinian. And to the degree that it is Darwinian, it will fail fully to preserve traditional theism."
God and Evolution features essays by Protestant, Catholic and Jewish scholars critical of the growing effort by advocates of theistic evolution such as Francis Collins to persuade leaders of the faith community to change their theology without hearing from scientists who are skeptical of the claims of unguided Darwinian evolution.
Here is the beginning of the book's introduction, penned by Richards:
When someone asks me: "Can you believe in God and evolution?," I always respond: "That depends. What do you mean by 'God' and what do you mean by 'evolution'?" No one seems to be very satisfied with this retort, which seems evasive; but it's the honest answer, since the initial question, as it stands, is hopelessly ambiguous. Without more detail, it's susceptible to almost any answer.
Asking whether one supports so-called "theistic evolution" has the same problem. Unless you define "theistic" and "evolution" very carefully, it might refer to positions that, on closer inspection, are more different than they are alike. One version might be an oxymoron, one a triviality, one an interesting proposition, and another, a complete muddle.
Besides being vague, these questions, and practically every answer to them, are controversial. Perhaps no subject now inspires more heated arguments at family reunions and cocktail parties. Whether in religious or secular, scientific or literary circles, giving the "wrong" answer can put you on the fast track to being labeled a heretic. A scientist in an academic setting who expresses any doubt about Darwinism, for instance, may find himself in a battle for tenure and funding. In his church, the same scientist may be suspected of creeping liberalism because he doesn't think the word "evolution" means atheism. Or he may be thought a "fundamentalist" because he thinks his faith has something to do with his science, and vice versa.
Such countervailing social pressures don't encourage clear thinking or clear speaking. So when they encounter the question, many people, especially academics, choose obfuscation over clarification. If pressed, they may attempt to stake out a moderate both-and position: "I think evolution is God's way of creating." For the conflict-averse, this may be a reassuring response, but what does it mean?
In the century and a half since Charles Darwin first proposed his theory of evolution, Christians, Jews, and other religious believers have not only pondered its truth--or lack thereof--they have grappled with how to make sense of it theologically. So far, they haven't reached a consensus and tend, instead, to argue among themselves. It can be quite confusing. In fact, the whole subject of God and evolution, and especially what is called "theistic evolution," is an enigma wrapped in a shroud of fuzz and surrounded by blanket of fog.
The purpose of this book is to clear away the fog, the fuzz, and the enigma.
You can download the entire introduction as a PDF here.