October 24, 2017

IM Recommended Reading: Rachel Evans on BioLogos

By Chaplain Mike

Friend of Internet Monk Rachel Held Evans has a great post on the BioLogos site that includes a video conversation. It’s called, “My Faith Shouldn’t Be Alive (But It Is, and Here’s Why).”

Check it out here.

We recently reviewed Rachel’s wonderful book, Evolving in Monkey Town, and continue to recommend it to you as a winsome, honest testimony of maturing faith.

Comments

  1. Rick Ro. says:

    Thanks for pointing us toward that post!

  2. I read the article and am considering the book, but I remain in the position of having to choose. Even after reading dozens of articles from BioLogos and struggling with the issue, I am still of the opinion of Evolution and Christianity are incapatible.

    It is a simple problem, in truth. If nature and life developed on its own through its own mechanism (no need for a supernatural answer to development of life as provided in creationism, young or old earth), then as creatures living in nature, we do not require a supernatural answer for life, either (demons, angels, spirit, etc). In other words, the world has progressed through history without God supernaturally micromanaging nature (assuming God is supernatural) and it stands to reason that we do not need God to supernaturally micromanage our lives now.

    Christianity teaches a type of relationshihp with God where a daily dependence on a supernatural God is necessary. Jesus Himself said that without Him, the disciples could do nothing (John 15:5) and that God provides our needs (Matthew 6:32-33; “our daily bread”). Evolution, logically, brings me to a place where I must conclude the opposite, that God and Jesus DO NOT micromanage my life, that my needs are basically taken care either by my own efforts by the efforts of others. God may be a first cause of the universe, but life has proceeded for millions of years without His direct intervention. Of course, we could argue that God is WITHIN nature, thus equating natural selection with divine intervention, but that is Panthetheism.

    If I accept evolution, I inevitably must come to the conclusion that my faith is in Jesus not because I utlimtaly NEED Him, but WANT Him. If I walk away from Jesus and become a Muslim or Buddhist or atheist because I do not want Jesus anymore, I’ve not lost anything. Life will go as it has for millions of years.

    But if I accept scripture as is, I am faced with a God who is intimately involved in our world in a micromanagement level and I am dependent on God and not human effort for my daily existence.

    • In my view, there is another alternative. God is so much bigger and mysterious than we can ever understand (in terms of creation, see the end of the Book of Job), that, at least at this point, it is hard for us to imagine how some things fit together. For example, a God of providence who is involved in his creation and the seeming “chance” mechanisms of evolution. But we can’t stop there. There are whole realms of science besides biological evolution that challenge our accepted understandings of God and the universe. Are we going to throw it all out and say the whole enterprise is wrong? Or can we somehow come to a point of withholding final judgment and simultaneously hold as at least possible multiple ideas which seem at present to be incompatible with one another?

      • Thank you for the response. And I certainly have considered such an alternative. For me, it still pushes God far, far away, putting millions of years of distance between Him and humanity to the point where I might say humanity is on its own. And that is my sorrow.

        • MWPeak, I have found even the doctrine of Providence to be “cold” like you describe at times. The bottom line for me is always Jesus. God visited us in Person and made it clear he is not far away. And in this New Covenant, through the Word, Sacraments, Spirit, and Church, his presence continues to be made manifest. I can rarely feel anything but a sense of mystery and transcendence when I truly consider nature—valuable of course for promoting reverence and awe, but not very intimate. It is in Jesus and his gifts that God’s immanence is made known.

        • Thanks, MIke. I will continue to struggle with God’s intimacy. For me, scripture, sacraments and the church are merely symbolic of the faith, but they do little to truly draw closer to me. As for the spirt, I am still praying and searching.

    • Wading into deep waters here, with not even a rubber ducky to keep me afloat, but here goes nothing:

      From her introduction to the “Paradiso” of Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, Barbara Reynolds (1962, Penguin):

      “Similarly, when Darwin’s theory of evolution was made known, honest-minded Christians saw themselves faced with a choice between intellectual integrity and religious belief. Darwinism would scarcely have worried Dante, whose system of delegated creation was flexible enough to allow considerable variation in the functioning of secondary causes.”

      *deep breath* Which is to say, that the mediaeval philosophers and Scolastics developed Aristotleanism to say that there were two levels of reality; the eternal things which always existed (e.g. God) and the sempiternal, directly created things such as the angels, and then the secondary creation of what we nowadays call ‘nature’ which were influenced by what we nowadays call ‘environment’ (as in the ‘nature vs. nurture’ argument of development) and included the stars (astrology), the angels as the Guiding Intelligences of the spheres, chance, accident and the like. (And before we start smirking at the superstition of believing in astrology, the popular understanding of it was something like the popular understanding of genetics nowadays: influences on human character by something mapped out in nature. They looked to the skies and we look to our cells).

      But what is probably more helpful than my ignorance are posts such as the following:

      http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/science/sc0035.html

      http://bedejournal.blogspot.com/2009/10/creationists.html

      http://m-francis.livejournal.com/tag/medieval

      Basically, the mediaevals would have had not much difficulty with Darwinian evolution as the description of a process in Nature; where they would have differed is the same point here – evolution as an explanation that refutes the need for God.

      • Or, y’know, I could just let St. Thomas Aquinas do the heavy lifting for me 🙂

        Courtesy of Mike Flynn’s blog:

        Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move towards a concrete end: as if the man who builds up a ship could give to the pieces of wood that they could move by themselves to produce the form of the ship.
        (Commentary on Physics II.8, lecture 14, no. 268)

        • Okay, last I’m going to say on this, shutting my trap now, honest:

          Again, courtesy of Michael Flynn (and since I’m ripping off quoting so much of his work, plus he’s a co-religionist and of Irish descent to boot, I should get the plug in for his excellent SF-and-religion novel, “Eifelheim” – rush out and buy, folks!):

          http://m-francis.livejournal.com/139135.html#cutid1

          “5. The End of Evolution
          Much of the modern problem of understanding stems from the rejection of final causes. This was due to fear of Early Moderns that if final causes were recognized, then God would have to be admitted. That is, establishing finality is hard; but once you do, God pops out like Jack-in-the-Box which startles small children and modern sophisticates. But this gets it backward. Aquinas thought that finality in nature was obvious, but reasoning from there to God was very difficult. After all, Aristotle saw finality in nature too; but never concluded a God from it.

          Hence, the modern sees everything in terms of a certain kind of efficient cause, and the old idea of God is pasteurized into an engineer sitting at a drafting table having a bit of fun with the platypus before getting down to the serious business of puff adders and praying mantises. God must be some sort of efficient cause, too; right?

          Actually, evolution is very hard to get to using only efficient causality. Not even Dawkins can avoid teleology in his writings. (His famous example of deriving a sentence from a series of random letters is not only teleological — he has the target sentence already in mind; but unDarwinian — the intermediate sentences do not make sense and so are “unfit” for their niche as information-bearers. The real trick is to start with an intelligible sentence and, by accumulating random mutations and eliminating the results that become unintelligible, wind up with a different sentence. Better yet: start with the Don Quixote genome (biblionome?) and watch it mutate into Moby Dick! “

    • I actually think almost the opposite. The evolution of information (in this case, genetic information) must be fairly closely monitored in order to increase. Random noise causes a decay of information. That means that God didn’t simply wind up evolution like a clock and let it tick away, but rather drove it by choosing which creature developed which way. To us, it may look random, cruel, and unguided, but so is human history and God obviously drives history for his purpose. Rather than a distant God, I see one that has patiently and diligently gone through his billion years old plan every step of the way in preparation for an intelligent, moral creature made in his own image. God manages everything in the universe, not just us.

      • ahumanoid says:

        “To us, it may look random, cruel, and unguided, but so is human history and God obviously drives history for his purpose.”

        Good point. Also, another possibility is that the process of evolution (or at least the cruelness of it) is a result of the fall working retroactively.

    • I read this, Matthew, and to be honest, I’ve been so disappointed in the MacArthurites and their fundamentalist approach to this subject. 100 years from now (if the Lord doesn’t return first) they’ll be compared to the Catholic church in Galileo’s day.

  3. “I have friends who walked away from their Christian faith right when their gifts and talents could have served it best. They walked away because they thought being a Christian demanded willful ignorance and fear of truth. They walked away because they felt betrayed by their pastors, parents, and professors. They walked away because they believed the lie that they had to choose. And that makes me angry sometimes.” – Rachel Evans.

    Most of my Christian friends from high school walked away for similar reasons. They were so passionate. They witnessed. They read several times more bible chapters everyday than I. They prayed. It’s like being the sole survivor of a plane crash: it seems unfair that I’m still here.