Monday, April 7, 2008

From Creationism to Evolution

Chris Tilling, a blogging thologian, has a very interesting post about his own change in views from creationism to acceptance of evolution:

As we've been discussing evolution again in the comments on an earlier post, here is my own little story of how I moved from poor, unhappy and lonely creationist to revived happy, popular, wealthy, victorious and blessed evolutionist.

I actually became a Christian listening to a tape by Ken Ham (who, in retrospect, looks suspiciously like the missing link to me), and consequently 'creationism' was a very important topic for me, for years. Evolutionists were for me either atheistic naturalists or, if claiming faith, compromised to the core. However, a number of factors came together that have since caused a change in my view.

First, my doctrine of scripture changed such that I did not need to affirm a literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2 to still believe it was text inspired by God, a step precipitated by reading Goldingay's Models for Scripture. I believe that my doctrine of scripture became, in this phase, more scriptural, and I appreciated the differences in genre in scripture. A text could say something true without me having to read it literally (cf. Jesus' parables). At this point I could accept Christians who promoted an evolutionary view, though I had too long swallowed the teachings of 6-day creationism to suddenly become convinced by Darwin and his followers.

Second, while creationists were still perpetuating quasi-intellectual claims about dinosaurs living with humans and such like, I started to find myself convinced by the science of evolution, by how the theory could explain such diverse material from biogeography, palaeontology, embryology, morphology and genetics (for the last I refer to Sean B. Carroll's brilliant book, The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution).

Third, it became clear to me how the ancient world of creation myths had shaped the biblical material. Biblical cosmology operated, as did the other myths, with a flat earth, and the differences between the biblical accounts of creation and flood were of the same milieu as other Akkadian literature, such as the Enuma Elish, and the Atrahasis and Gilgamesh flood stories. I then started to see what the biblical text was trying to do in its context; I could hear the text again, unclouded by concerns with proving its supposed scientific worth, something I found very exciting. It was making subtle and creative theological points about God, humanity and the world that implicitly critiqued these other myths, and their idolatry (e.g. God just speaks and creates, other gods had to e.g. kill each other to form the landmass with a god's dead body). As Enns writes, 'To put it this way is not to concede ground to liberalism or unbelief, but to understand the simple fact that the stories in Genesis had a context within which they were first understood. And that context was not a modern scientific one but an ancient mythic one' (Inspiration and Incarnation, 55). I remembered that no one was there when God created, and the text does not present itself as 'prophecy'. Rather, it adopted and critiqued the myths of its ancient worldview. Had God inspired a text that told ancient Israel what happened at a scientific level, they would not have understood anyway. God was speaking in and through an ancient worldview.

As I wrote on this blog before: Yes, I believe evolutionary theory is correct. Yes, I believe in God the creator of heaven and earth. Yes, I believe Darwin, despite errors, was basically correct. Yes, I believe that Genesis 1 and 2 is the inspired Word of God. Yes, I believe humans evolved from lower life forms. Yes, I believe we are made in the image of God.

Rad it all here.

1 comment:

Bill said...

My view of the creation/evolution debate never really had to evolve. My father was a molecular physicist and was religious. There was no topic that was taboo in our house. I grew up seeing no difficulty with believing that God had created evolution. It seemed completely Deistic to me to think that God worked for 6 24-hour days and then quit. And to confine "day" to 24 hours was (and is) several steps short of unimaginative. The Hebrews did (and do) use the word "yom" (day) the same ways we do: it can be only the hours between sunrise and sunset; it can be a 24-hour period; it can be an historical period (the day of the British Empire); or it can be an unspecified length of time (the days of old). Genesis doesn't restrict us to one usage only. When we try to limit what God can do by looking at our own limitations, we try to stuff God into an awfully small box. Thanks for this reminder.