Friday, September 18, 2009

Confusing Conversations 2. "Creation vs. Evolution" is not a conversation

I think it was Thomas Renz, a then lecturer at Oak Hill, who was the first to point out to me that Creation vs. Evolution really isn't a real conversation. It is the confusion of two conversations.

Really there is one staggeringly important conversation: Creation vs. Evolutionism

And one real, but far less important conversation: Creationism vs. Evolution.

The first conversation is vitally important because it is a conversation about worldviews. Is there a creator or not? Is the world utterly dependent upon that creator, or is "evolutionism" (the idea that evolution can explain everything) true? "Evolutionism" is a term used in different ways, but where used appropriately and not merely as a sneer, it is a materialistic philosophy that believes that evolution is not merely an historical explanation of what has happened, but also a philosophical explanation. Matter is all there is; matter happens to have thrown up these incredibly evolving organisms that have eventually, through an entirely materialistic process, led to the existence of humans.
By contrast, "creation" presupposes a theistic worldview: it assumes that the world is created by a divine being who is utterly in control of whatever processes have taken place to bring about humanity, and every other thing in existence, from the smallest molecule to the largest supercluster of galaxies. Whatever processes there may have been to get to where the creation is now, in a very real sense these processes can be described as his acts of creation.
All Christians should obviously be in agreement that "creation" rather than "evolutionism" is alone a satisfactory worldview that makes sense of the existence of our universe and everything in it.

The other debate is not about worldviews at all, though it is often confused as being so. It is a debate about ancient (Natural) History, the debate between Creationism and Evolution. It is a debate about the age of the earth; the time it took for certain species to come (be brought) into being. It is a debate about taxonomy: are the species fixed, or can there in time be sufficient divergence within a species that eventually one has multiple species.

These are, of course perfectly valid questions to be asking. But I hope that every theist at least recognises how these questions are far far less important than the questions of worldview.

The methodology by which we come to a particular conclusion on this second question might betray a worldview, and more of that anon; but it is inaccurate to imply that either position, in and of itself, encapsulates a worldview.

So in summary, we have two debates.

1) Worldview Debate: Creation (theism) vs. evolutionism (materialism)
2) History / Taxonomy debate: creationism (young earth / fixed species) vs. evolution (old earth, unfixed species)

Two questions to think about.
a) which debate is more important?
b) which debate is nearer the centre of the force of Genesis 1?

I think that all Christians who have read Genesis 1 carefully should be in no doubt at all that the answer to both these questions is (1)

For other posts in this series see here


The Bicycling Guitarist said...

A common misconception is to frame this controversy as science versus religion. That's wrong in two ways. First, these don't necessarily overlap. Science deals with what we can observe and measure (such as evolution). You can't cram God into a test tube (although He's there of course). Secondly, the real conflict is between the science of 2000 A.D. versus the science of 2000 B.C. I for one no longer believe in a flat earth as the writers of the Bible did.

Mike Gilbart-Smith said...

Hi Bicycling Guitarist,

Yes, I think "science vs. religion" is a very similar confusion of conversation to "creation vs. evolution", though "science vs. religion" is more general.
I like your comment about the science of 2000AD vs 2000BC, though if Genesis 1 is not trying to be a scientific account at all, then it is a hypothetical conflict.

The Bicycling Guitarist said...

Thanks Mike. I can't take credit for the comparison of 2000 B.C. and 2000 A.D. though. That came from a book edited by Ashley Montagu from the early 1980s called Science and Creationism.

I have a great problem with those fundamentalists who insist that if Genesis isn't literally true, then the sacrifice of Christ means nothing. A LONG time ago Augustine warned of the folly of taking Genesis literally, that it makes Christians and Christianity look foolish if they insist on interpretations that are falsified by the evidence of the physical world.

IF Genesis must be interpreted as literally true, then I absolutely can NOT be considered a Christian, because I don't believe God would lie to us by planting so MUCH false evidence of so MANY different types that shows the earth is billions of years old and life evolves.

God bless you and yours. TBG