When most Christians think about “evolution” and “creation”, they think of things that simply do not mix: Oil and water. Vinegar and milk. The Red Sox and the Yankees. Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. Me and mornings. Forget it.
When I was a young Christian studying science in college, I was repeatedly told that I had to choose between what evolutionary scientists have to say with what the Bible says about creation. Now, if the choice was between what atheists like Richard Dawkins have to say and what the Scriptures teach, well OK then, I would have to clearly agree that there is a serious conflict here. Atheism masquerading as science is clearly incompatible with the Bible.
The problem is that while outspoken atheists like Richard Dawkins tend to hijack the public discourse on evolution, they represent only a small slice of the debate. Most practicing biologists are not terribly interested in atheistic ideologies (at least in my experience). They just want to study plants and animals and they happen to do it within the context of Darwinian evolutionary theory.
So, the question remains: is modern evolutionary science today completely opposed to the God of the Bible?
Mutually Exclusive Categories or Complementary Truths?
Was what I learned as a young believer true? Is it really impossible for “evolution” and “creation” to go together? Consider Denis Lamoureux. Years ago, Lamoureux was a Young Earth Creationist. Now this Canadian teaching at St. Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta, trained in dental surgery, oral biology, and biblical studies, has written a provocative book, I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution.
Say what? Now, many Veracity readers are probably wondering if the next thing coming will be some Red Sox/Yankees love-fest. Will the historic Cowboys/Redskins rivalry simply disappear?
Just bear with me a moment: Lamoureux takes the position that the relationship between Science and the Bible is one of accommodation: the infinite God of the universe comes down to the level of our limited humanity in the Bible. In this context, God inerrantly reveals his inerrant spiritual Truths using the imperfect limitations of ancient science as described in the Bible. Referring to this earlier Veracity post, this accommodationist approach is in contrast with both the Young Earth (handmaiden approach) and Old Earth (concordist approach) to the dialogue between Science and the Bible. Lamoureaux is more than confident that the infallible message of the Bible is completely compatible with the study of modern science today, assuming we follow his accommodationist approach, or what he calls the message/incident principle.
As an introduction to his book, Lamoureaux has produced a series of eight audio/visual slideshows that summarizes the chapters of I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution. Each slide show is about 12 minutes long, so it would take about an hour and a half to view all eight of them.
Chapters 1 & 2: Terms and Definitions, The Spectrum of Origins Positions
Chapter 3: Ancient Science in the Bible
Supplemental Material: Sources & Genesis Accounts of Origins
Chapter 4: The Biblical Accounts of Origins
Chapter 6: Human Evolution
Chapter 6: Human Evolution (continued: Paul and “Literal” Adam)
Chapter 6: Human Evolution (continued: The Image of God)
Chapter 7: Putting Origins in Perspective
Greatest Pool Player of Them All?:
In the last slide show, Denis Lamoureaux uses the analogy of creation as God playing a game of billiards. Here is how I would reframe Lamoureaux’s analogy: God racks the balls up and with one well placed shot, God is able to sink ball after ball after ball into the proper pocket, each ball spinning (with random variations) and yet moving at a graciously slow speed to the final destination. Finally, the 8 ball is left spinning at the end, only to ultimately dribble into the appropriate pocket that God calls out. This is what happens with what Lamoureaux calls “Evolutionary Creationism”. It is in marked contrast to both the Young Earth, and to arguably a much lesser extent, the Old Earth approaches to Creationism, where God takes several shots to get all of the balls into the proper pockets. Which gives God the most glory? Multiple pool shots, or one single, simple, and elegant shot?
Critics of Lamoureaux from different evangelical perspectives argue that Evolutionary Creationism, while noble in attempt, ultimately fails to sufficiently uphold the authority and clarity of the Scriptures. Evolutionary Creationism, as these critics argue, does not sufficiently uphold the concept of special creation; that is, God intervening in primordial history at different times to perform specific acts of creation. In other words, you should forget about the idea of one, masterful, elegant pool shot. It took God multiple shots to get creation “right”. But if the Biblical text demands special creation at different moments in cosmic history, then this rules out a full-on, total evolutionary approach to Creation as an option for the evangelical Christian.
On the other hand, there are Christians within the Evolutionary Creationist camp who would agree that Lamoureaux’s single and elegant creationary pool shot is in some sense consistent with a high view of Scripture. However, they would reject some of Lamoureaux’s biblical interpretation, arguing that Lamoureaux is too quick in dismissing the historical framework of the early Genesis chapters, particularly as Lamoureaux sees no theological value in the historicity of Adam and the cosmic Fall.
Did I see you raise your eye-brow momentarily, dear Veracity reader? Yes, for quite a few, this is simply a non-starter to deny Adam’s historicity (is it any wonder why Lamoureaux is teaching at a Roman Catholic institution and not at an evangelical school?). Well, in my view, you can have an approach to Evolutionary Creationism that actually solves some persistent problems with traditional approaches to the Biblical text without embracing all of Lamoureaux’s program. I will leave it to your research into Lamoureaux’s book, website, and web slideshow presentation to determine how much of his case is truly persuasive. Nevertheless, while some of Lamoureaux’s applications might be seriously questioned, his “message/incident” principle remains a good example of what an accommodationist view of Scripture looks like.
What if you saw a pool player sink all of the balls with just one shot? Would that not be just totally amazing?
What do you think? Are there good reasons for embracing an approach to evolution that respects the science while still upholding the message of the Bible? Are “evolution” and “creation” really strange bedfellows?
Denis Lamoureaux is one of the primary contributors to the recently published Four Views on the Historical Adam, part of Zondervan’s Counterpoint series, that was introduced briefly here before on Veracity. In this book, Lamoureaux defends his position that the historicity of Adam is not a critical part of Biblical truth claims.
Here is a critical review of Lamoureaux’s I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution , by James Anderson, a professor of theology at Reformed Seminary in Charlotte, NC, written from an Old Earth Creationist perspective. A longer review by Anderson was posted on his personal blog (sometimes the preceding hyperlink does not work very well).
If you want to read an in-depth dialogue of fellow Evolutionary Creationists who critically interact with Lamoureaux, An Evangelical Dialogue on Evolution blog has a great set of conversations.
Finally, if you want to know what Richard Dawkins thinks about Denis Lamoureaux, you might want watch this video where Dawkins makes it clear how Evolutionary Creationism is in contrast with Dawkins’ materialistic atheism founded on evolution. I can assure you that Dawkins is not in a congratulatory mode towards Lamoureaux’s “coming around and seeing the light”. At the end of this interview, when Dawkins refers to someone who has an “unshakeable faith” in “creationism”, he has in mind Kurt Wise, whom we have discussed before here on Veracity.
HT: Pete Enn’s blog.