Ask an Anglican: Creationism Redux

800px-Creationist_carMichael writes:

I watched your video Creationism and Talking Cats with great interest. I consider myself to be a creationist and have some questions about the Scriptural implications of belief in evolution.

Romans 8:19-22 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 make it clear that death is the result of Adam’s sin and that his sin resulted in the fall of all creation. If evolution is to be believed, then that would mean that there would be death before Adam’s sin and that death (through natural selection) brought man into the world. How can you reconcile this view to the modern “scientific” view that human beings evolved from apes and that there was death throughout the whole process? Also, Jesus said that “from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female,” (Mark 10:6), so how does that fit with the modern scientific view that man has only been around for the last million or so years out of billions of years of history?

If there is no literal Adam and Eve, then that would mean that there was no Fall, and if there was no Fall, then there is no sin to be redeemed from, so there would be no need for a Saviour. If evolution is true and there is no sin, doesn’t that completely destroy the Christian religion?…

As I tried to say in the video, I am agnostic on the question of whether or not human beings evolved from apes. I do not have the kind of scientific background that would allow me to adequately evaluate the evidence and come to some sort of conclusion. I am inclined to believe there is some merit to evolution because so many scientists seem to be convinced of it, but I am not willing to make any ironclad assertions. My point in the video was not to make the case for evolution but merely to show how it is that we use Scripture to test our theories about the world. Evangelicals, particularly in America, have vested a lot of time and energy in proclaiming as absolute that Genesis proves there could be no evolution and that to say otherwise is to deny the validity of Scripture entirely. But in fact, Genesis says nothing at all about evolution, or about geology, or astronomy, or physics, because Genesis is not a modern scientific textbook and it is a mistake to treat it that way. The Fathers were not all in consensus about how to understand the seven days of creation. It would be a great act of hubris in our own day if we acted as if we knew better than they did.

Reading is Fundamental

Again, the issue here is how we read and understand Scripture. For Catholic Christians,  Scripture is never read on its own, in isolation, but always through the lens of the teaching of the Church. In understanding how Scripture speaks to us, we follow the rule of Saint Vincent of Lerins, believing only that which has been taught everywhere, always, and by all. In practical terms, this means that we require belief in what is absolutely plain in Scripture (for instance, the fact that Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead), what is found in the ancient creeds which explain the Scripture, what the ecumenical councils of the Church agreed about the Scripture, and what the Fathers of the early Church were unanimous or nearly unanimous about in their interpretation of the Scripture. Creationism fails all of those tests, which does not mean that it is necessarily false or that a good Christian cannot hold it. It means simply that it cannot be required.

Figure it Out

The problem with the modern Evangelical hermeneutic is twofold. It assumes that there is only one level of meaning in any given scriptural text while ignoring the interpretive biases that we bring as individuals to the text. Take, for instance, the question that Michael poses about how Paul’s writing about death might affect how we should interpret Genesis. I am not sure quite how Romans 8 is being roped into this since it says nothing about Adam, but the appeal to 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 has become quite common. Let’s review for a moment what Paul says there:

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

Paul is setting up a contrast here for rhetorical purposes, trying to show how death afflicts mankind and how Jesus is the answer to that affliction. Adam was the first man. Through his sin, all die. Jesus is the new Adam. Through Him, all live. From a creationist standpoint, the implications are clear. There was no death of any kind before Adam, so how could there be the millions of years of dying creatures that evolution postulates as necessary for Adam to have arisen from amongst the apes by natural selection?

Except, that is not what Paul has said. He has not addressed the question of whether or not there was death amongst the creatures who lived before Adam. What he has said is that death comes to all mankind and that it comes from Adam as a stand in for all mankind. Paul is speaking figuratively here, which is how the Fathers understood this passage. Consider, for instance, this from a homily by Saint John Chrysostom:

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

What then? Tell me; did all die in Adam the death of sin ? How then was Noah righteous in his generation? And how Abraham? And how Job? And how all the rest? And what, I pray? Shall all be made alive in Christ? Where then are those who are led away into hell fire? Thus, if this be said of the body, the doctrine stands: but if of righteousness and sin, it does so no longer.

According to Chrysostom, Paul is talking about death but not about righteousness. There is no implication regarding sin, even though elsewhere Paul will link the two. Here, at least in Chrysostom’s view, Paul is arguing that the bodily death which all must go through, both the righteous and the wicked, is defeated by Christ in the resurrection. The death that exists in other creatures, outside of humanity, is not in Paul’s mind here at all.

Just because this is Chrysostom’s view does not make it so. But Chrysostom’s unpacking of this verse and those that follow shows the complexity of what Paul is doing, a complexity that is lost in a straight, literal reading that lacks the figural sense. In fact, according to Chrysostom, a non-figural reading makes a mockery of the text because it assumes not only that all die in Adam but that all are given the new life of the resurrection, even the wicked and unbelievers, something which Chrysostom thinks is absurd given what Paul has to say on this topic elsewhere. Nevertheless, this is precisely the kind of reading that creationists want to give to this verse, though few if any creationists follow out their own logic and argue for universalism.

Death Before Death

So how then, if evolution is true, could it be that death existed in the world prior to Adam? There are myriad explanations. One possibility would be that the death of non-human creatures prior to the evolution of humanity is not the result of Adam’s sin but of some other mechanism entirely. Another perhaps more plausible explanation is to point to the fall of Satan and the demons that precedes the founding of the world. This prior fall may have affected the creation in myriad ways that are unknowable to us, including introducing death to lesser creatures. Finally, it is possible to postulate that the fall of Adam could have introduced death into the whole of creation even before the events of the fall took place. We are bound by time now, but it is not clear that this was always God’s intention. God Himself exists outside of time and what He does affects all time. Jesus’ death on the cross for sinners is just as salvific for the long list of people who died before it happened as it is for all of us who have come along since. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, not just the whole world from now on.

Are any of those theories correct? I have no idea. There are places in Scripture that seem to support one or the other of them, but Scripture does not definitively reveal the answer, just as it does not definitively reveal whether or not we evolved from apes or how old the earth is. These are not the questions that the Bible was written to address, and when we try to force the Bible to say something about them, we end up undermining the true value of Scripture to speak to us about who God is and who we are in relation to Him.

When You Assume…

Creationism relies on underlying assumptions about the biblical text that cannot withstand scrutiny. Michael points out that in Mark 10 Jesus says, “From the beginning, God made them male and female.” Is Jesus saying something here about the timeline involved in creation? Not at all. He is saying, simply and plainly, that God created human beings to be male and female and that it has always been so. It does not follow, however, that “in the beginning” in this sentence indicates that God created human beings out of a puff of smoke, making no use of natural processes, fallen or otherwise.

Bottom line, when attempting to apply the teaching of Scripture to answering modern questions, it is best to approach the topic with caution, being as skeptical as we can of our own assumptions while trying as best we can to see the text through first century eyes rather than twenty-first century eyes. Catholic, historic Christianity is able to do this, which is why Catholics and Orthodox and Anglicans tend to be far less bothered about the “creation versus evolution” question than Evangelicals are. It is possible that creationism is essentially correct and the world was created in six twenty-four hour days, but if that is the truth it will not be because Scripture somehow settled the matter in an unequivocal manner that anyone reading without prejudice ought to be able to see. As an Anglican, I am quite happy to believe that Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation, but as Hooker and many of the other great divines pointed out, containing all things necessary for salvation is not the same as containing all things. Whether evolution is true or false, we have nothing as Christians to fear from it.

Image by Flickr user Amy Watts. Used under Creative Commons license.

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About Fr. Jonathan

Your average traditional crunchy Christ follower with a penchant for pop culture, politics, and puns.
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35 Responses to Ask an Anglican: Creationism Redux

  1. Tiller says:

    I agree with you, as usual.

    I would note that the issue raised regarding Paul’s use of Adam in his typological rhetoric opens two different cans of worms: First, as you mentioned, is the issue of death before the fall. The second is more complex for us to address: The historicity of Adam as the first man. If our ancestors evolved, were there men who died before Adam? Where there other men alive then? Was Adam even a real historical character? I think this raises some other interesting questions in the debate about the prehistory in Genesis. The Catholic Catechism points out that the soul of man is created by God, which might be a nice and tidy explanation: mankind evolved, but Adam and Eve were endowed with souls directly by their creator- the breath of life, as it were. But what evidence is there for this?

    I think the debate is fascinating, but I hesitate to get entangled because I don’t believe it is something worth dividing fellowship over, which seems to be a common problem in evangelical circles. And I’m not nearly well educated enough to speak with authority, or even think very deeply, about the scientific data and arguments.

    Once again, I appreciate your clarity and insight.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Fair questions, certainly. There are a number of ways of addressing them, as you set out. I think it is possible to maintain an historical Adam while also holding to evolution, but there are different ways that people go about this. For me, it just isn’t that interesting of a question, so I have never pursued it with much vigor. Whatever the historical reality is, I accept the truth that our sinful state is the result of choices made by our earliest human ancestor(s) and move on from there.

  2. Joshua says:

    Great post Fr. Jonathan. The only thing I would add is that some Catholics believe exactly what Evangelical Protestants believe regarding the literal Genesis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Catholic_creationist_organisations
    It is not a dogmatic position within the Church, provided that we keep within what has been universally Catholic. I do however’ think that some of the theistic evolutionists are pushing the boundaries on that. What I would like my fellow Catholics to understand about young earth creationism is that it does not mean that there are no changes that occur. Here we need to note that many think that young earth creationists do not believe in any changes. However, we have no theological objections to the microevolution that is observed within populations of creatures. For examples, Christians do not question the development of resistant strains of bacteria or that a population of Daphnia (water fleas) by natural selection would produce more individuals with defensive spikes if predators are present. God bless!

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Hi Joshua,

      You are quite right that there are Catholics who hold to a creationist position. There are Anglicans and Orthodox who do as well (though far fewer of the latter, from what I can tell). My point wasn’t so much that the sacramental churches have closed the door on the discussion as that it is not thought of as that big of a deal. Creationists and those who accept the theory of evolution can coexist in more Catholic churches in relative harmony..

    • Joshua says:

      Some have suggested that the trend to side with science occurred within the Roman Church after they proclaimed that the world was flat and latter were proven wrong. It was very embarrassing for them. I would note that nothing in scriptures, nor ecumenical councils, nor consensus of the fathers, ever made that claim in the first place. Admittedly holding to more liberal views on Genesis does not separate anyone from being a Catholic, but i would be very cautious about it. I would consider the assumptions that lead to this form of thinking. The main assumption is that there is no God and that God creating the world is not a starting place. Another thing to consider is the fact that scientists are not even close to agreeing about evolution. Some hold that we are in a state of stasis until something catastrophic occurs (like a meteor hitting earth) and then we evolve. Others hold the more Darwinian belief that we evolve slowly over time. There are some pretty big holes in the evolutionary theory. We don’t need to be afraid of the literal Genesis. My friends they already think we are stupid. St. Paul makes that clear. It is just the way it is. Trying to be somewhat more in agreement with them will not change that. Reminding them that they will be held accountable for there sins might change that, as there consciences have to agree with it, even if they deny it. At that point the gospel message can set them free.

  3. barefootbrian says:

    I have never understood why Christian people tip-toe around the Genesis accounts, the way you have done in this post. I have no more difficulty believing that God made the world in six days than I have in the fact that He raised Jesus Christ from the dead. These things are matters of faith. To the human eye (the “scrutiny” about which the Bible can’t stand, as you put it), these things may seem foolish. Parting the Red Sea? Making the sun stand still? Ezekiel’s visions? None of these can be understood by the human mind. They are simply things that happened to God’s people. Who am I to doubt it? Am I the one to call Moses a liar? Am I the one to say Isaiah was seeing things? Do I dare call the apostles forgers for testifying to Christ’s miracles? Never.

    You make the mistake many make in your reasoning here: you defer to science. Science is not a bad thing at all, however it is only part of the picture. Without science we couldn’t be corresponding now by internet, I wouldn’t have medicines for my allergies, etc. But science is not able and never has been able to answer the intangible questions of life. That is where God comes in – the make of all things visible and invisible. Who can see love? Who can analyze faith? Who can quantify joy? These matters of the spirit are as valid as any discovery of science. Men of faith should not kowtow to science merely because it is “science.” They have a long track record of getting it wrong. I suspect that in 100 years scientists will cluck their tongues at modern views of evolution in the same way evolutionists today cluck their tongues at Darwin.

    You also don’t address the issue that is almost universal among evolutionists: the removal of God the Creator. This IS a matter of the Creed (actually all three of them). The fact that the Creeds don’t mention six days is almost a side issue. According to the Cornell Evolution Project, fewer than 5% of evolutionist scientists believe in God. To proclaim to “believe in one God Who made the heavens and the earth” is the starting point. Accepting the Genesis account (in one way or another) becomes easy and natural after that.

    • Joshua says:

      That is a great point. I think we need to look at the assumptions that guide this thinking. In the new Testament we have a Virgin Birth. I don’t think we would be as comfortable if this was made allegorical.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Hi Brian,

      I think you have misunderstood me quite dramatically. I agree with you entirely about miracles. Given that I believe that God became man, that He died, and that He then rose from the dead, it is not difficult for me to accept things like the Virgin birth or the parting of the Red Sea. And in that vein, I am happy to accept the possibility that the creation of the world took place in six literal twenty-four hour days. What I object to is the notion that a plain and unbiased reading of the text demands that interpretation. I am not deferring to science at all to say that. In fact, you’ll notice that I said very clearly towards the beginning of the post that I do not have the kind of scientific background that would allow me to address the matter scientifically. There is no mention of science in my post. I’m arguing strictly from the Scriptures as interpreted by the Fathers of the early Church. The Fathers knew nothing at all of Darwin, and yet they are divided amongst themselves as to how to interpret and understand the days of creation in Genesis. If you watch the original video which sparked these questions, I include there some quotes from different Fathers about the Genesis passage, as well as a general explanation of the historical, catholic approach to reading the Scriptures and accepting their authority.

      As to whether particular groups of scientists do or do not believe in God, that is far beyond the scope of the questions I was asked. This is not about where we come out on the particular question of the days of creation. It is about the Scripture’s authority and how we receive it.

      • Cadog says:

        “As to whether particular groups of scientists do or do not believe in God, that is far beyond the scope of the questions I was asked.”

        Well, for starters, let’s consider Francis Collins, arguably the pre-eminent scientist in the US, currently the Director of the National Institutes of Health, and former head of the Human Genome Project. He believes that evolution is true, AND he is also an orthodox Christian who believes that everything Jesus said about himself is also true.

        His book The Language of God speaks for itself. Anyone who has not read it is not sufficiently informed to have much of an opinion on these matters.

  4. Andrew R Nixon BSc (Hons) says:

    Here are some useful scholarly but comprehensible resources. I have an Honours Science Degree from a British University and I am unashamedly a six day, 6,000 year old Universe, Biblical Creationist.

    General Information –

    http://creation.com/genesis-questions-and-answers

    The Church Fathers on 6 day Creation and the Universality of the Noachian Flood –

    http://creation.com/orthodoxy-and-genesis-what-the-fathers-really-taught

    The meaning of “day” in Genesis 1 –

    http://creation.com/how-long-were-the-days-of-genesis-1

    Hermeneutics of Genesis 1 and 2 –

    http://creation.com/problems-in-interpreting-genesis-part-1

    http://creation.com/problems-in-methods-of-interpretationgenesis-1-11-part-2

    First Adam and Last Adam –

    http://creation.com/first-adamlast-adam

    Some myths about Scientists –

    http://creation.com/a-look-at-some-myths-about-scientists

    If evolution from goo to you via the zoo is true then there is no Christianity because we are NOT sinners and we have absolutely NO NEED to be saved from anything or anyone! Richard Dawkins understands this, why do many professing Christians not understand it?

    ‘Oh but of course the story of Adam and Eve was only ever symbolic, wasn’t it? Symbolic?! So Jesus had himself tortured and executed for a symbolic sin by a non-existent individual? Nobody not brought up in the faith could reach any verdict other than barking mad!’ Richard Dawkins

    http://creation.com/dawkins-on-compromising-churchians

  5. Joshua says:

    You are correct about that Fr. Jonathan. It was that the earth was the center of the universe and not that it was flat. I believe that we can hold different views on the reading and still be Catholic (Roman, Eastern Orthodox,oriental, Anglican, Old Catholic, Maybe some Lutherans). That is what I meant when I wrote “Liberal”. That we can hold to different views and not that we do not care what the text is saying. If I remember correctly some of the fathers did hold that this was allegory and some did not. However, nothing in the text leads me to believe that what the author is conveying is poetry or allegory. It reads like history and the rest of scripture seems to treat it as if it is real and historical. I can definitely understand the approach with Revelation, but not really with Genesis. just my opinion and people can disagree and partake of the Blessed sacrament of Christ’s true body and blood anytime. That does not read as allegory either.

    • Joshua says:

      I bought into evolution for a time. There are many prominent Anglican and Catholic theologians who believe in it. I believed in it because they believed in it. I just figured that the creationists were not facing reality and could not accept the facts. Only about 10 percent of Anglicans are said to believe in young earth creationism. The number maybe a little higher with Catholics and a little higher than that with the Orthodox. When I got into college and took an in depth science class on the subject, rather than strengthen my view in evolution it worked against it. I became convinced that this was a large overreach from what the scientific method actually gave us. I do believe in microevolution as this has basically been proven, but the rest of it is a large overreach in my opinion. I know that I am in the minority on this subject. I am not disagreeing with Fr. Jonathan, but I would ask that more Catholics research evolution with an open mind and ask lots of questions. I have heard some good arguments from Catholic and Anglican theologians on the subject but I respectfully disagree with them on it. I am with the 10 percent ( if the number is even that high because I don’t think the Sydney Anglicans are all that Anglican). God Bless!

      • Cadog says:

        Hi Joshua, sounds like you and I must have passed each other along the way. I have not never been a young earth creationist, for the simple reason that the Genesis account is not a scientific text, any more the Darwin’s Origin Species is a theological text. My faith was never rattled by the apparent contradictions, since so much other Scripture is read allegorically or symbolically. The reality is that most Christian traditions are a bit selective in how and to what texts they apply the litmus test of “literal”. I don’t know about you,but I have never gouged out my eye after looking lustfully upon a woman, and I assure you I would be blind by now, since I have probably done so twice just in the last 24 hours.

        I am not at all sure how evolution works, if at all. In that sense I am more an agnostic on this theory than an evolutionist. But what clinched for me that the earth is not 6000 years old ( or whatever date you want to choose, I am using Bishop Ussher’s date of 4004 B.C.) is this: science has demonstrated some things quite definitively, and one of them is that elements decay at a predictable rate. That is where Carbon 14 testing comes from, and that is how we can tell whether a radioactive substance is still toxic (a very important consideration in fields like nuclear medicine and oncology). This is how the age of things like rocks, dinosaurs etc is estimated to be really really old — a lot older than 6000 years.

        Physics is also useful hear. Light travels at a known and measurable velocity. Astronomers can use these measurements and other things like how gravity and mass affect the way celestial bodies affect each other to determine their relative positions, how fast they are moving, even their chemical composition. If all of these things that are demonstrated by science are true — then the premise that these bodies are very, very old, and very very distant (countless numbers of light years in the most distant and ancient examples) must also be true.

        On the other hand, as I understand young earth creationism, all those fossilized bones we see in museums (how the heck did they turn into rock in the first place?), the layers of sedimentery rock visible in places like the Grand Canyon, even man-made stuff like cave paintings in France — it all just LOOKS old. All of those principles that science demonstrates (which the amazingly widespread and effective tract called The Four Spiritual Laws acknowledges as the “physical laws that govern the physical universe”) — they are all a sham. God made this amazing universe, in all its beauty, complexity, and diversity — and gave mankind a mind to discover, measure, and understand a little bit — just in part — the workings of that universe — but all of the underlying rules are really not what they seem to be. There is a hidden inconsistency, and we must accept — by faith — that it will really all work out.

        So my question is: if indeed God would make it so hard to really understand these things — even to the point of essentially tricking us by laying out physical laws that only apply part of the time, at his arbitrary discretion (which is fine, since he is after all the almighty, eternal, omniscient God who really did create it all and can do what he wants) …

        … then how can we be so confident that Holy Scripture (which I honor and adhere to as best I can as the very Logos of God) is reliable and can be taken literally on spiritual matters, including our relationship as the crown of creation with this incredibly loving God who wants nothing more than that we be in relationship with himself — and each other — and his magnificent created order?

        I don’t expect this will change your mind in any way. The hope and faith we share in our Lord is far more precious than any difference of non-essential belief. Our unity in Jesus is all that ultimately matters.

        Peace – Cadog

  6. Ben says:

    A very well-written post. Thanks Fr. Jonathan.
    -Ben

  7. Joshua says:

    Cadog,

    I am open to what you are saying. I “lean” more towards young earth creationism, but would be very comfortable if there was something more to this. I just can’t get passed the many loopholes in evolution. Many people are teaching it (even in the Church) as though it were fact. Well it isn’t fact.

    • Joshua says:

      Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

    • Cadog says:

      Joshua – You mention “loopholes” with evolution and that people teach it as if it is fact. And I don’t entirely disagree with those critiques.

      I think for a long time Darwin’s theory of evolution was taught as just that — theory. When I was in school (if I remember correctly), a theory was distinguished by the essential feature that it could not be observed or reproduce under controlled or laboratory conditions. So, it is still a theory because it is obviously impossible to replicate years (even 100s, much less millions) in the lab.

      I also, for a long time, felt that the very science courses that I took in a major, secular university (one of the top research centers in the world) offered much evidence against evolution (or at least evidence that it could not be proven). For example, I remember (and it is a long time back so I may be remembering wrongly) that species change can only result from genetic mutation, which is rare (like only 1x per 10,000 generations — or that is what I recall). If true, that the 10s or 100s of 1000s of mutations millions of generations needed to go from (for example) from monkey to man seems statistically very unlikely..

      And of course anti-evolutionists make a really good point that if adaptation and species change results from incremental alterations at the genetic level over many 1000s of generations — then it would follow that their would be more examples of “in-between” species, maybe even a sub-human or half-human creature like the ones we see in museum dioramas. But in fact, these things don’t exist in nature. Even the most “advanced” primates other than Homo Sapiens are a far cry from the average person.

      For this and other reasons beyond what can be related here — I am agnostic on evolution.

      But I am more open to it than I used to be because of my respect for scientists who are professing Christians, like Francis Collins (see my prior comment) — who know a lot more than I do — say that their is scientific evidence (not to be confused with proof) for evolution.

      OK. So I (sort of) believe in evolution and you don’t. Thankfully, there is room for us both at the wedding feast of the Lamb.

      I do think that you are taking a bit of a dodge in not offering a more reasoned or authenticated reaction to my assertion that young earth creationism, if true, would be the biggest cosmic scam imaginable — and unimaginable at the hands of a beautiful, omniscient, creative and loving God whom we worship. Of course God could make all this stuff look older than it really is, and lay down principles and rules to govern it that completely contradict the evidence HE gave us, and make his revealed Word, including Logos-Jesus, Genesis, and the rest of the Bible even harder to understand than it already is.

      But why would He?

      Peace … Cadog

      • Joshua says:

        Well, I don’t see a problem with evolution being taught as a viable theory, but as far as the Church is concerned I think we need to do this with warning and remind people that we have boundaries. I would grant that not all of the fathers held to the literal Genesis. However, one thing that I can also grant beyond any reasonable doubt is that none of them believed in evolution. Being that this has no place in the Scripture or Tradition, I think we need to be cautious as to how much emphasis we are putting on this theory. Here is a link from the Kolbe center for the study of creation. If anyone is interested. These guys are Roman Catholics. http://doxacommunications.com/kolbe/the-traditional-doctrine-of-creation/ It’s good that you have retained your faith in God as Creator, but please understand that our culture is becoming increasingly anti-Christian and secular, and many today are walking away from the faith because of evolution. Following the example of St. Augustine, Catholics first must properly understand the literal sense of Scripture. The fact that Scripture has other senses wherein further and deeper meanings can be derived does not discount or eliminate the literal sense.

      • Carter says:

        Not to jump into the middle of someone else’s conversation, but I did want to point out that, while nobody in the past believed in evolution, the precedent for accepting secular science is very present in church history. In the middle ages they accepted basically anything that was ancient as an authority, whatever the subject and whatever the religious affiliation, at least for the most part. This is why they were known for developing systems; because they had to synthesize various views of the Fathers, secular philosophers, etc. What Aquinas was doing with Aristotle wasn’t a surprising move; it was par for the course in terms of theological method. And this isn’t restricted to the middle ages. The Father’s seemed to be, in my limited readings of them, quite amenable to secular learning, and in fact I believe Augustine even says we should listen to those sources when we interpret Genesis, and make our interpretations somewhat conditional (I believe it is in his Genesis commentary, but I’m afraid I don’t have a reference).

        That said, obviously this had some negative effects. But that is exactly my point. In a way, we are far more critical of outside learning in this day and age in the Church, and in fact, greatly to our detriment at times I think. Some modern theologians may think it compromising with the heathens to tweak our interpretations to fit certain information in the secular academy, but the Fathers and Schoolmen didn’t seem to think so. For what it’s worth!

      • Cadog says:

        Delighted to have you join us, Carter.

        Joshua, you are certainly in good company in your rejection or skepticism of evolution. This morning, I browsed another favorite book on the topic, Edgar Andrews “Who Made God?”. It is recent book, and in it he answers (though in only a few paragraphs) Francis Collins’ argument FOR evolution in “The Language of God.”

        Incidentally he gives a much better explanation and provides argument against mutation’s role in evolution than I did in my prior post. He also provides good argument against evolution’s basis in natural selection and genetic drift (important to note that Darwin wrote about the former but was not aware of the latter).

        One of Andrews’ best points is that every speciation event results in less, not more, genetic information available to future generations in support of further adaptation and change, and gives simple but persuasive examples. I won’t try to recite it all here.

        So, 2 gifted and brilliant scientists — both Christian — on both sides of evolution. Hmmm …

        Andrews also has a great deal to say re young earth creationism, but I am running behind so must wrap up.

        Joshua, you note that the church fathers did not believe in evolution. Of course they did not. But neither did they believe (so far as I know) in refrigeration, antibiotics, space travel, or nuclear fission. But all these things are true. Not believing something does not make it untrue, otherwise atheists and unbelievers would be right that Christianity is untrue.

        Blessings and Peace — Cadog

  8. Joshua says:

    Cadog,
    I would have to quibble about the earth not possibly being only 6000 years old (some young earth creationists would say it is older). However, everything you are mentioning has been investigated and they have been able to shoot holes through it. People laugh at young earth creationists for believing this stuff but none of them seem to be able to refute the evidence they present. Things like “the fossils saying no way to evolution.” This might seem annoying and ridiculous to a many, but like it or not that is evidence. In Mark 9:47 all of the fathers (Origen being the exception) believed this was allegorical. This is not the case with Genesis as a good percentage of the fathers believed it was literal. Although some did not.

  9. Joshua says:

    Cadog,

    Some great points there.

  10. Joshua says:

    Carter,

    There may be some truth to what you are saying, but where are all of these theologians who are against outside learning today in the church? Are there even any there? The vast majority of catechists and Clergy hold to some form of theistic evolution. I have heard it preached during the homilies. Beyond that what are you assuming? The Catholic creationists are very well educated men and some have spent their lives studying evolution. Many rejected the concept before they were even Christians. In fact this is one of the things that prompted them to become Christians. What is to our detriment is that we only hear one side of the story. I am not saying that creationism needs to be “THE” Catholic doctrine. I am saying that it should be “A” Catholic doctrine. Most Catholics will tell you that they believe in evolution. Is this because they have studied both sides of the argument and decided that one seemed more accurate than the other? No, they believe it because it is what has been implemented to them. Furthermore most Churches hold to doctrines that were never universally recognized. Go tell the R.C.C. that they cannot to require people to believe in the infallibility of the Pope. There are a few of the 39 articles that we could say the same thing about. I accept the articles, but we could say the same thing about some of them as Fr. Jonathan’s articles says about creationism. The articles are not required to be recognized (as far as holding to what is universally Catholic) but most Anglicans ( all real Anglicans) would think it unimaginable to reject them and still call himself an Anglican.

    • Carter says:

      Joshua,

      Thanks for your reply. I’ll admit, we’re in murky waters for me here, mainly because I am only recently Anglican, and my experiences have been more with evangelicals and conservative Presbyterians. In those circles theistic evolution is a massive debate, and one in which many Reformed theologians and Baptists are adamantly opposed to allowing evolution as an option for anyone claiming to be orthodox. So when I replied, I had more in mind that context. My knowledge of the RCC is pretty slim, especially in its modern manifestation, so I can’t speak to that. If you want to say that both positions have a place in the Church, then I am with you on that; I would not tell YEC that they are stupid or that I don’t respect their view, but I would also expect that a Christian who believes in evolution would receive the same treatment at their hands. I don’t often see that, but that’s one reason why I moved to Anglicanism, because they acknowledge the legitimacy of differences in secondary doctrine.

      • Joshua says:

        I agree that this is secondary and I would not say much about it most of the time. However, we do not talk about this much. I find that conservative evangelicals end up making the best Anglicans. The Evangelicals who are thirsty for the Sacraments and understand the importance of a proper Priesthood should not have to swallow theistic evolution. They need to know that there are Anglicans who agree with them on it. The Evangelicals have (though improperly in most cases) a great knowledge of what the bible says and a strong faith in Christ. If more Episcopalians had that we may be in a better place. They are also well aware of the loopholes in the evolutionary theory. When Episcopalians flirt with strange and new beliefs it is in many cases the former Evangelicals who come and and take a stance behind classical Anglicanism. The evangelicals hold to some subjective and some false beliefs, but much of what they teach is true and Catholic. Some of what they bring strengthens the Anglican faith. It is also important to recognize that even though the literal Genesis was not universally recognized, it was held by many in the ancient Church. it does have a place in the ancient Orthdox Catholic Church.

  11. Joshua says:

    (continued) I understand that both views can coexist within the Church and YEC should not be required. I also understand that in the light of things this is not a doctrine on which salvation stands and thus not of the utmost importance. What I would like Anglicans to understand is that at the same time this is a very important doctrine to those of us who believe in it. In many ways it strengthens our view of God and of the scriptures. That is not to say that those who do not hold to it have a lesser view of God or the scriptures, just that this is important to us and I think that it is proper for those who hold to YEC to get the same respect as those who do not. I do not always see this happening.

    • Andrew Nixon BSc(Hons) says:

      “this is not a doctrine on which salvation stands”.

      The legitimate question however remains for theistic evolutionists Joshua, if the General Theory of Evolution is true, which God are we to believe in (the God who made everything “good”, “very good” in a six day fiat Creation or the God who allowed billions of years of suffering, carnage and death to accomplish “nature red in tooth and claw” as we now see it) and from who or what do we need to be “Saved” (if the Adam and Eve/Garden of Eden/that old serpent the Devil account is mere allegory)?

      If Genesis 1-10 is not historical truth then Christianity has no basis in fact. Christianity is the biggest con in the Universe in fact. The New Atheists are correct in fact. (see Richard Dawkins quotation above).

      People who call themselves “Christians” need a serious dose of reality check.

      • Joshua says:

        I will give you a little bit about my background and why I believe what I believe. I went from Roman Catholic in my youngest years to confessional Lutheran. I then went from that to the Episcopal Church. I now lean toward conservative old Catholicism. What brought me here was the rule of St, Vincent of Lerins “Let us hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all, for that is truly and properly Catholic.” All of my former Churches would hold to this but some would go further than others in making confessions or requiring beliefs that were not always and everywhere believed. This is not to say that I do not regard the Lutheran confessions (I mostly agree with them), but once they go beyond what has been universally recognized they need not be dogmatic. Unlike protestants, we are very careful in making dogmatic conclusions based upon what some person or some priest comes the the conclusion that the bible is teaching. We hold to the early councils of the Church where all of the Bishops in the line of the apostles came together and removed heresies that had arisen in the Church. I readily affirm the literal Genesis. I think that Fr. Seraphim Rose ripped the theistic evolution argument to shreds. There are many of us coming out against theistic evolution. We are going to gain even more support with the New Evangelization going on within the R.C.C. However, we understand scripture through the lens of the early Church Fathers. I believe in the literal Genesis and many agree with me. We can push for more recognition within the church,but it would be difficult to make this dogmatic without it passing the tests that Fr. Jonathan lays out in this article. Then again some have made the argument that it does pass the test as far as theistic evolution is concerned. According to Hugh Owen (the Director of the John Paul II Institute of Christian Spirituality and Director of the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation),”Like Jesus, who taught that the Scripture “cannot be broken,” all the Apostles and Fathers of the Church taught and believed that Scripture was “God-breathed” and free from all error, and that the Holy Spirit moved the sacred authors to write exactly what He wanted them to say. Later, at several ecumenical councils, the Church recognized the unanimous interpretation of the Fathers as a certain rule of Scriptural interpretation. Without exception, the Apostles and Fathers believed and proclaimed the literal historical truth of Genesis 1-11.” I would agree that evolution undermines the Catholic faith. The Church has permitted debate among Catholics on the subject of evolution within certain defined constraints of revealed truth. These constraints are not widely known because they are either suppressed or ignored by those who favor evolution. A complete listing of these teachings is summarized in the document entitled “What does the Catholic Church teach about origins?” If your belief in evolution causes you to deny any of those teachings from Church Councils, then an incompatibility between your faith and evolution exists.

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