What Todd Wood would like to hear an evolutionary creationist say
  • AnthonySmithAnthonySmith November 2011
    The Colossian Forum is some new thing trying to promote discussion on issues of science, culture and Christian faith. They invited young-age creationist Todd Wood to write an article for them on What I Would Like to Hear an Evolutionary Creationist Say. So what would Todd Wood like to hear an evolutionary creationist say?

    "I don't know."
    Perhaps when people ask if Christian theology is compatible with evolution, the first answer should be, “I don’t know.”

    He continues,
    As a young age creationist, let me take this opportunity to follow my own advice and publicly express my ignorance. If creationism is true, why can we see starlight from stars millions of light years away? I don’t know. If creationism is true, what does radiometric dating mean? I don’t know. If creationism is true, why do humans and chimpanzees have nearly identical genomes? I don’t know. Just like evolutionary creationists wrestling with theological issues, though, young-age creationists have proposed all sorts of answers to the above questions. Some weren’t very good ideas, but others are quite intriguing. And just like evolutionary approaches to theology, there is no single creationist scientific model that most creationists would accept.

    And in conclusion,
    When it comes to the origins fight, maybe the key is to follow Christ’s example. Maybe the only way we’ll ever resolve the war is through surrender. Maybe in surrender, we’ll find out what real victory is. Maybe we’ll find that confessing ignorance is the first step towards finding God’s truth. Maybe we’ll discover that asking for wisdom is just what God wanted us to do all along. Most important of all, maybe we’ll find that we can humbly ask for wisdom together, and in doing so, the world really will see something different about us.
  • Paul November 2011
    Anthony, thanks for posting Todd's essay here. I think he offers some very sage advice, whatever side of the origins question we're on.
  • SimonSimon November 2011
    But of course Christian theology is compatible with evolution - how could God possibly be incompatible with his creation?
  • Paul November 2011
    Simon, that rather begs the question, doesn't it? As Todd says:

    Call me crazy, but don’t you think if evolution and Christianity were so obviously and easily compatible, there might be a bit more unanimity on how that compatibility actually works? Am I expecting too much? Perhaps when people ask if Christian theology is compatible with evolution, the first answer should be, “I don’t know.”

  • SimonSimon November 2011
    YECs and IDers just don't understand either evolution or theology - it's an education thing. The majority of them are well meaning, sincere but a bit naive, however there are a minority who are nasty pieces of work and should be confronted as robustly as possible.
  • Paul November 2011
    Do you think Todd Wood fits your description of someone who is ignorant of evolution and theology?
  • Michael November 2011
    A good question Paul
  • GavinM November 2011
    I appreciate many of the things Todd Wood says or more specifically the manner in which he communicates them - even if I disagree with them. He is usually very gracious and considered with what he says.
  • SimonSimon November 2011
    It is difficult to get the balance. I get hugely frustrated when people make very strong arguments despite having no background in the subject they are discussing. I went to one memorable ID lecture where a "Professor of Rhetoric" at a Christian university in the states gave a hour long talk on epigenetics. He sort of got bits of it but you can't do a talk on a subject so wildly different from your own expertise and expect people who do work in the field to be impressed. Most YECs & IDers do precisely this most of the time. They don't seem to think it curious that all the people who have devoted lots of time to studying the subject do not agree with their theories!
  • Paul November 2011
    I agree, Simon, that that's frustrating when it happens. But it's not a problem unique to creationists. Perhaps we all fall into the trap from time to time. I've certainly had non-creationists make silly comments about research I've been involved, but they're sure they must be right because, after all, I'm one of those wretched creationists!
  • Todd Wood has posted again on The Colossian Forum. He argues that if we're going to move towards agreement on issues of creation and evolution we need to surrender in the way that Christ surrendered on the cross. Following the example of Christ's prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, we need to surrender our selfish desires, and we need to surrender to the sovereignty of God.

    It's a great post. Here it is: Surrender
  • exchemist July 2012
    Yes, well he certainly seems to be arguing for a civilised debate without rancour which, especially in the acrimonious US climate, is much to be applauded. 

    But I do feel he's living in a bit of a fundamentalist (or evangelical?) bubble, with his comment that "there are also those who seem happy to BEGIN [stress added] the task of re-imagining theology for this evolutionary age". Todd, my dear fellow, this was done in the c.19th. Most educated mainstream Christians in England had ceased to believe in a young Earth by about 1850. There's even a nice article on the subject from a certain Rev Michael Roberts:- 

    But he's an American so I suppose he may not know how the history of ideas has unfolded in other countries. 

  • exchemist - are you suggesting that Todd Wood's concerns about the compatibility of evolution and Christian faith were dealt with thoroughly in the 19th Century, and that he is simply ignorant of that fact?

    I share many of Todd Wood's concerns, so please point me to the 19th-Century book(s) you had in mind.

    Perhaps, as an example, you could pick one of Todd Wood's most serious concerns, and then give the answer to that concern, as expressed so clearly in one of those books?
  • And I apologise if I come across as being almost "American" in the depth of my ignorance.
  • exchemist July 2012
    Anthony, fair enough, I was lazy in my thinking. What I had in mind when I wrote that was the accommodation of the age of the Earth with scripture (Todd Wood is a YEC isn't he?), rather than the narrower issue of evolution. The evolution point you'll need to leave with me a bit longer to come up with, if you want a c.19th citation.  

    Meanwhile, on the age of the Earth, see the attached as an example of informed ecclesiastical thinking from about 1840:-

    This extract is taken from the 5th lecture in a series of 12, delivered in Rome by Cardinal Wiseman. The relevant extract starts at p.275 and runs to the end of lecture 5 on p.302. This was written about 20 years before Origin of Species and cites early Christian scholars such as Origen in support of an interpretative reading of Genesis, which in Wiseman's view accords very well with the (then) new advances in geology. Wiseman seems to have been primarily concerned to defend Christianity from anticlerical thinkers in France who were trying to use the new science to kill off religion (just like Dawkins today - plus ça change, eh?).

  • exchemist July 2012
    OK Anthony, re evolution itself, I would quote MacCulloch's History of Christianity, p. 858. MacCulloch says that, from the 1860s:

    "Many Protestant theologians began a new natural theology which saw evolution as a gradual unfolding of God's providential plan (see Plates 42 and 43) [exchemist note: Rev Ebenezer Cobham, author of a textbook for schoolchildren, reassuring them modern science held no threat; Rev Dr Brewer's book "Theology in Science", subtitled the Testimony of Science to the Wisdom and Goodness of God]. James McCosh, an Ulsterman appointed president of that powerhouse of reformed Protestantism, Princeton University, in 1868, did not allow his enthusiasm for the revivalist movements of Ulster and America to chill his friendly reception of Darwin's work. Equally, by the end of the c.19th, the Anglican Communion was headed by an Archbishop of Canterbury, Frederick Temple, who in earlier years had presented a series of lectures in Oxford on the relation between religion and science which depended on the assumption that evolution was basic truth."

    While I would not try to assert that every concern specific to fundamentalist or evangelical theology has been successfully addressed (I don't know nearly enough about that end of the Christian spectrum to judge), it does appear that, for mainstream Christians, a workable modus vivendi was in place by the end of the c.19th. 

    MacCulloch's book includes copious notes, so if you are interested in following up some of his statements, I might be able to dig some of them out to enable us to do this. I'd be really interested in Temple's lectures for example. Could be interesting to compare with Wiseman's efforts half a century earlier.