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Monday, January 26, 2009

It's about time!

A couple of recent comments to Neil's recent post point to a factor that might be part of the attraction of theistic evolution in some modern theologies.

If there has been a strong influence from ancient pagan ideas, including both Neoplatonism and Gnosticism, in its various forms, then it is understandable that theistic evolution is, if not welcomed, then regarded as acceptable as a metatheological pathway to regarding Genesis 1-3.

The particular points of possible influence run along the lines of the pagan/Neoplatonic (and Gnostic) disdain for the material and rejection of the idea of the divine having anything to do with it.

Thus, for some lines of thinking, the need arose to separate ‘evil’ from the divine or from ‘spirit’. Ironically, in Christian theology, the problem of evil runs the other way, and it is not the material that is the problem, but the spirit (Jeremiah 17:9)!

For Gnostics this lead to the invention of a demi-urge, a type of sub-god that did the creating that resulted in material, and put the real god at a distance from this distasteful and evil-prone stuff.

Theistic evolution has similar marks to it.

It seems to run from the material in disdain and puts a process between God and his creation that also must push God away from us. This God is no longer close, but far off! It’s akin to pagan gods who are not personable or knowable in love, but distant, remote, devoid of possible relationship and needing to be ‘served’ in all sorts of nonsensical ways.

This theistic evolutionary god is one who doesn’t need to ‘get his hands dirty’ with the mess of creating, but is able to build a cosmos that will run such that a creative outcome results.

But this is not the God of the Bible, a God who is impressively, astonishingly close to his creation, who entered into it by incarnation, and who is separated from his creation not by a great affective distance (or a great time, according to the Bible), but by his creatures’ moral rejection of him.

Indeed, the God of the Bible directly gets his hands ‘dirty’ by making Adam out of soil: if anyone seeks a ‘method’ by which God created (for those unhappy with his word, obviously), then this is it: he formed man by directly acting upon the clay which he also made.

He is also a God who is close to his creatures and concerned for them: he reaches out to them, and meaningfully, not in some mythic manner that pretends to cross the divide of aeons (which the fictional long ages of modern materialism/deism require), but directly, on a time stage that is comprehensible to human history and experience, that makes the personal the core and provides a setting for the formation of covenant between God and man that we can take into our understanding of historical relationships.

A number of theologically interesting avenues of enquiry may be opened by this past paragraph; however, not for theistic evolution, which has already decided that its god is remote and comparatively uninvolved and whose making of a setting for the relationship and covenant is almost an accident of the machinery of some initial creative conditions. This is more like deistic disinterest than a Christian passion for life and redemption. Theistic evolution thus has trouble instantiating the person from which its whole scheme escapes, in idealist rejection of the very material that was expressly created by God; not their god, who is unimaginably and incomprehensibly far away, but our God, who is in consonance with the circumscription of our history for which he formed the setting, origin and end.


Critias said...

Wow, Eric. I need to really think about this. Its very deep stuff. But I think you've nailed TE all right! It's a rejection of the God who is there and leads to a god who is not there, but a long way off. We would have trouble making this god relate to his creation, and it even strains the incarnation. Man, the TEs don't know what they're undoing in what they think is a mental back water!!!

neil moore said...

Thanks for your helpful thoughts Eric.

I am reminded by one of a number of like comments by the late Prof. A.E. Wilder-Smith in his book "The Creation of Life - A Cybernetic Approach to Evolution" pge 142, where he says "The irony of the siutuation is that the intense study of matter today has brought us to the position where we have to assume some sort of reality and direction outside (or pervading) matter."

Much Scripture ties together if one accepts a connectivity of the Creator with not only the spiritual but the matter of life and Colossians 1:17 bears testimony that God does this in Jesus Christ - the Word which became flesh and who holds (or sustains) all creation together.

This is in stark contrast to the pagan belief you have mentioned for the pagans have a disconnect rather than a connect between the spiritual and mattter.

Theistic Evolution fails on many fronts but one is its tendency to push God out there to remoteness or Deism. It makes it harder to have a close personal relationship with God. A path Anglicanism has gone down before.

What I have said is not Pantheism, for God is not only within the creation through His Word but also transcends the creation. Jesus Christ is the connect.