Thursday, May 1, 2008

An Atheist Challenge to Theistic Evolution

Those of us who readily accept the scientific evidence for evolution, and yet still beleive in a creating God, are often called theistic evolutionists. While we most often are challenged by our Christian frinds on the right, I just read is a well thought out challenge from an atheist, Jason Rittenhouse. While exploring what several theistic evolutionists have had to say on the topic, he notes the following:

I have often commented that it is the arguments of theistic evolutionists, as opposed to those offered by Creationists, that have convinced me that evolution and Christianity can not be reconciled in any reasonable way. . . .

God, after all, set the evolutionary process in motion. It was He who decided that the appropriate way to create a species with human-like intelligence was several billion years of evolution by natural selection (helped along by numerous mass extinctions, we should add). If we find it unlikely that a benevolent God would directly create parasites and the rest, why should we find it likely that God would set in motion a process that has parasites as a near-inevitable consequence?

The only way out of this is to argue that in some way God was logically compelled to create through evolution. He grieves regularly over the general awfulness of nature, but accepts it as the price He had to pay to achieve His goals.


Read it all here.

In the end, however, all that Rittenhouse is really claiming here is that a theology of theistic evolution does not solve or otherwise explain away the problem of evil. I agree. An omnipotent and all-knowing God who chooses evolution as the mechanism of creation must know and accept the resulting suffering. Evolution is not the solution to the problem of evil.

But does this make evolution incompatible with a creating God? Or perhaps more cricially, the God of a Christian faith? As long as you find an answer to the problem of evil elsewhere (and that is a topic for another post), it seems to me that nothing in the Chrisitian faith is inconsistent with evolution.

3 comments:

Gary said...

Does it bother you, or cause you to question anything, that Jesus confirmed the Genesis account of creation? It seems that a "Christian" who is a "theistic evolutionist" should have a bit of a problem with Jesus' point of view.

Chuck Blanchard said...

Gary:

A great question! Fortunately, Chris Tilling recently addressed this very issue on his blog so I have responded to your question with a full post.

WSJM said...

Rittenhouse writes: "The only way out of this is to argue that in some way God was logically compelled to create through evolution. He grieves regularly over the general awfulness of nature, but accepts it as the price He had to pay to achieve His goals."

I don't think that's too far off the mark. I don't think I would say "logically compelled to create through evolution," since that lays an exigency on the divine freedom that we don't want to imply, but IF God's goal is a world of beings who are called to enter freely into God's love, that entails the possibility of freely refusing to enter into God's love. I think we have to be brutally unsentimental about this: freedom has a price. And God did not simply exact this price; God personally paid this price. Many people, both believers and atheists, might prefer a neater, tidier, less bloody world, but I think if we were to chase down all the logical entailments and implications of such a world, we would discover that it would not be a better world after all.

Chris Tilling's piece is very good. Thanks for adding that to the stack. To deny the contingent fact of Jesus' ignorance on some matters (or nescience, if you prefer) is not only close to docetism, but squarely in the middle of Apollinarianism (the heresy that the human soul and mind of Jesus was completely subsumed by the Logos), a precursor of Monophysitism (the heresy that the human nature of Jesus was completely subsumed by his divine nature).

Bill