Reviewing Evolving Out of Eden – Introduction

After reading the introduction, I am left wondering if this is not Ken Ham writing this book, holding desperately to his fundementalistic view of Christianity. What I mean is that often times, fundamentalists who do not make the transition well still view Christianity, and thus theology, only through their lens. In the first few pages, one will note that the base line view of Christian theology is the old inerrant fundamentalism view with others seen as more liberal or as accommodating (the former word is not used, but the second is). The problem here is that the authors, like too many present-atheists-but-were-fundamentalists, would have us assume that their version of Christianity is the only version of Christianity, it’s just that some are more accommodating.

I do not intend for this review to be a “take-down;” it is unlikely the authors would either accept or appreciate that motivation. As with each asked-for review, I feel the authors have placed in my hands a certain amount of trust in dealing fairly with their work. I would accept no less for my books; yet, this will not keep me from speaking directly to what I see as major fault lines in their argumentation. Granted, they may chalk this up to the middle path of thought or whatever it is they will say; however, I am a Christian, not because of argumentation, or culture, or whatever excuse you may use to make yourself feel better about not being; I am a Christian because I believe. I may not always know what I believe, either today or tomorrow, but I do believe. I’ll admit that now and stand there at the end of this review. Yet, I will attempt to remove that aspect as much as possible in reviewing this.

To that end, let me allow first and upfront, that Christians have made a mess of exploring the role science plays in our faith — almost as much of a mess as atheists have on their hands when they try to pigeonhole Christianity. I would have to agree that Young Earth Creationists are simply the worse sort of intellectuals and the more so if they are scientists in any meaningful sense of the word. However, the authors seem to disparage Christians who aren’t Young Earth Creationists, judging them as disingenuous either to the Faith or to Science. The authors, I fear, still live in a black and white world fo their former fundamentalism.

They begin by suggesting that evolution (“now-indisputable”) “challenges some foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. These doctrines are “the Bible,” the Creature, and the Creator. Oddly enough, each “foundational doctrine” is defined in the strictest Reformed view. How odd that to present a map of evolutionary apologetics, you essentially limit the geography to 1920 Princeton University, but I digress. While they speak of a “middle path between Genesis and genetic” (I was unaware that these two places needed a path to connect them), their writing betrays a certain starkness, with a game being played between the thrones of apologetics and modernity.

As I said, they see three foundational doctrines of Christianity. The first, the Bible, is labeled “The Word.” This chafes my hide because any thinking person knows that the particular capitalization of the fourth letter in sequence is a trademark of fundamentalists as is the usual appellation of the phrase to Scripture. Further, they attribute to the Bible a sort of divine status. I will try not to quibble over this too much because I know of plenty of fundamentalists who have  declared that Scripture, sorry, I mean the Bible, is Jesus in book form. I kid you not. Yet, for the majority of Christians, either present or throughout the history of Christianity, this statement is blatantly false. Further, they call it the foundational text of Christianity. And yet, Christianity exists before the canonization of the Old Testament and the writings of the New Testament. And yet, Paul speaks only about preaching good news as authority. And yet, there are the views of the great history of the Church that places the foundational authority not in Scripture but upon the Church who interprets Scripture.

As I mentioned above, they begin with a baseline. Everything else is a redefinition. For instance, they write of the “move strategically to redefine inspiration and inerrancy.” How odd that inerrancy, a new doctrine shared by only a slim faction of Christians, is considered the baseline. Further, they go one to use a logical fallacy in suggesting that the counter to the notion of progressive relation is to suggest that we could never advance as a species in the knowledge of God because he could never give us anything more than we could grasp at that moment. This shows a complete ignorance of progressive revelation, among other things.

The second foundational doctrine of Christianity they see is the Creature. Man. Anthropos. Humanity. Humankind. They assume that we are an after thought and tie this to a belief in the divinity of Christ to consider oneself a Christian. How odd that they would first displace the radicalized notions of an evolving universe, the necessity of life in the universe, and the history of early Christianity and sects that struggled with Jesus as a Prophet rather than divine. But, again, they are stuck only in Christian fundamentalism rather than what I might would call reality. Added to this is their, once again, rather limited view of Original Sin. This is not a doctrine that is universal to Christianity either now or since the beginning, but it is treated as such by the authors.

The Creator, their third foundational doctrine. It is rather short section, but filled with attempts at proving the negative. I admit, I searched for several terms and finding, them, will refrain from discussing this section at the moment.

As they conclude this introduction, they are still yet fundamentalists arguing with other fundamentalists. They believe Scripture was written as a science book and thus contains errors. They ridicule others who would use science (biblical studies) to reread Scripture, suggesting they have an “acute cognitive dissonance.” Further, they seem to suggest those who believe and accept Christianity are in fear of losing their membership in the evangelical club. They suggest the burden of proof (for what, I don’t know) “rests on Christians to demonstrate any good reason for factoring the supernatural or metaphysical into the total picture.” I wonder if they understand that “supernatural” is a television show rather than any meaningful descriptor of God?

The tagline for this book is “Christian Responses to Evolution.” Yet, thus far, it seems only to be an argument against the Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Reformed versions of Christianity rather than any dialogue with or presentation of such dialogue with Christians. Not only this, but thus far, there are logical fallacies and a certain level of discourse that does not betray any sort of appeal to the faithful to acknowledge that certain things are not and cannot be factually maintained. And yet, we are told to dispense with this (version of Christianity which seems to be their monolithic view) and instead fall in love with science, which from what I can see, they view equally as monolithic.

I am waiting to see if they can break away from their monolithic views — on both science and religion — and actually deal with the issues.

Sorry for the lack of editing… but gotta run

Enhanced by Zemanta

You Might Also Like

9 Replies to “Reviewing Evolving Out of Eden – Introduction”

  1. Joel, I’m glad you “feel the authors have placed in my hands a certain amount of trust in dealing fairly with their work.” Having seen you compare Dr. Price and myself to Ken Ham and assert that we somehow assume our previous, mutually contradictory denominations to be “the only version of Christianity,” that we “still live in a black and white world [of our] former fundamentalism,” I truly hate to think what an unfair review from you would look like!

    We survey the full range of Christian discussion on the topic, from Philip Gosse’s “Adam & Eve created with belly buttons” to John Haught’s divine drama. We give critical but careful attention to writers who believe in the importance of Original Sin–and those who don’t, who believe that the Bible is inerrant–and those who acknowledge its inaccuracies. Yet we apparently have “monolithic views—on both science and religion.” I’m interested in what nuances you think we failed to consider, what solutions you have found that somehow escaped our attention. Indeed, we acknowledge such a possibility right up front, suggesting to the reader that “maybe there is some way for you to perform the feat of accommodation that neither we nor those we discuss have yet found” (p. 12).

    Presumably this piece of the Christian puzzle that we’ve misplaced doesn’t just come down to your statement, “I may not always know what I believe, either today or tomorrow, but I do believe.” Because if it does, then there’s nothing else to discuss. Commendably, you admit to this faith-based stand and make an effort to “remove that aspect.” Good for you! We all have biases, and the more we acknowledge them, the better shot we have at intellectual honesty. But aren’t you still left with this same “motivation to wind up at the foot of the old rugged cross, no matter what” (p. 14) that we find shared by theologians creationist and evolutionist alike? You criticize us as poorly transitioned ex-fundamentalists. It’s almost as if we are a couple of heroin addicts who, having failed to get the benefit of some liberal-Christianity methadone, hit bottom on the skid row of angry atheism. But the fact is that we once believed in our respective forms of Christianity and, having found contrary evidence in abundance, changed our minds about it. It’s a tough thing to do, and we both did with an honest (and reluctant!) sense of seeking the truth wherever it leads. For my part, I didn’t particularly like where it led. I enjoyed singing and Sunday School picnics and my old church friends, and felt a genuine love for this Jesus character I’d heard about for my whole life, as well as what I thought to be his church. As I’ve written elsewhere, an unpopular truth is a cold companion. But it cannot be anything other than truth, no matter how hard we try to persuade it otherwise.

    It seems that you plan to continue reading. Good! Hopefully any follow-up will, as you would have us chastened about our 340 page book, with its 180 references, thousand index entries, and five-page table of contents, “actually deal with the issues.”

    1. Edwin,

      You seemed to have missed the point that I’ve only read the introduction — hence the referencing to the fact that I do not yet know the author’s full meanings here and the what not.

      Further, your aim doesn’t seem to be to survey, only to convert.

      Your characterization of your change is exactly what I mean. You only see Christianity and truth through your respective lens.

      Your last paragraph is a logical fallacy, by the way.

  2. Joel,

    It would have been more honest of you to admit you skimmed the book and didn’t pay much heed to the sections I found most interesting:

    Branch II: The Creature


    Damage Control

    When you have had time to read (not skim) those sections let me know.

      1. No… Edward seems to be bent only on getting out his viewpoint, regardless of what is actually said. I had to remove him from my friends list and after asking him to stop with FB messages amounting to nothing but rants, had to block him there.

        Now he is ranting on my huff post piece as well.

        Oh well…

        1. exemplary of this quote by Eric Hoffer me thinks
          “Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance.”

  3. Excellent review. As someone who has researched both science and Christianity for quite some time, the whole premise of this book that evolution somehow is incompatible with the Bible or the teachings of Judeo-Christianity is a very narrow-minded viewpoint. The authors themselves may have this opinion, but it is not an objective statement by any means. I do agree with your critique that the authors are limited by fundamentalist and highly restrictive, literalist understandings of scripture.

    Evolution is a theory about the changes in living organisms, largely down to processes such as “random” mutations, genetic drift, founder effects, natural selection, sexual selection, etc. It deals with the changes of life over space and time, but has yet to find the exact origin of life itself. It does also does not deal with why life exists in the first place, let alone why conscious life (i.e. humans) exists. It does explain or attempt to explain how.

    In any case, I don’t see where evolution and most Biblical teachings and narratives intertwine, apart from the early sections of Genesis dealing with the origins of mankind and how we came to be here in a world of suffering. Evolution is completely compatible with the statements in Genesis, if one takes a contextual or open-minded approach. The presence of original sin, or essentially the suffering which humanity experiences in our current existence, is not negated by evolution either. I don’t see how it could, given explanations and ideas of original sin and the reasons for suffering are based more in theology, philosophy and metaphysics than with evolutionary biology.

    The last point I wish to make is that the existence of Adam and the earliest conscious humans is not incompatible with evolution either, whether you are of the belief Adam and Eve were corporeal beings of this world or in a transition stage between another plane of existence closer to God and our current world which we inhabit.

    I consider myself a Christian, with leanings toward many Catholic and Orthodox doctrines and traditions. I was raised Catholic but currently am not very affiliated with that Church,

Leave a Reply, Please!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.