Thursday, March 5, 2015

Theology and Evolution Part 1

During my theological studies in Belfast I was part of a "fellowship group" in the college. This was a group of about 10 or 12 people who met up every week for one hour. We took turns leading the group. You could basically do what you like, with the only stated stipulation being that it had to be either "social" or "devotional".

For one of my "devotional" slots, I decided to go for a slightly risky option and showed the group a video chat between Thomas O'Loughlin and Conor Cunningham. This wasn't a risky option because they are both from the Republic of Ireland, but because they were discussing the relationship between theology and evolution. (Or maybe it was a bit of both.)

Reactions to the video were mixed. Some thought that the two theologians gave a good account of the compatibility between "science" and "religion." Others thought that their embrace of evolutionary theory was incompatible with fundamental theological convictions derived from scripture. Others thought that the whole discussion was a bit pointless and simply kept silent.

From my own interactions with Christians, I would guess that the majority think that evolution is antithetical to the Christian account of creation. But of this majority, I would say that many have not seriously engaged with Christians who think otherwise. For the majority of the majority, that evolution is contradictory to the gospel is axiomatic, therefore there is no perceived need to delve deeper into the matter. When the topic comes up, you state your position matter-of-factly, point out that evolution is "just a theory" and that you've "never seen a monkey give birth to a human," and with that a potentially interesting conversation is killed before it can even get started.

I must confess, however, that I have not read too much on the matter. My only firm "conviction" at the moment is that evolution (like predestination) is not something which the creeds pronounce upon (though it is something which the "anti-rational, anti-science" Roman Catholic Church has addressed, and in a positive manner at that). If evolution is perceived to be incompatible with Christian theological convictions, then, this perception is an interpretation of what Christian theology does and does not permit one to think; in other words, it is not a first principle, and ought not to be treated as such.

With this conviction in place, then, I will discuss in another post a recent article by Gijsbert van den Brink titled "Are We Still Special? Evolution and Human Dignity", which is an attempt by a Christian theologian to think of humans as images of God post-Darwin.

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