From: PSCF 39
(March 1987): 9-19.
Pattle P. T. Pun is an Associate Professor of Biology at Wheaton College, Illinois. He received his B.S. in Chemistry from San Diego State University, his M.A. and Ph.D. in Biology from S UNY at Buffalo, and his M.A. in Theology from Wheaton Graduate School. He has published 30 technical or integrative articles or abstracts. He is the author of Evolution: Nature and Scripture in Conflict? (Zondervan, 1982; Chinese edition by Christian Chinese Translation Center, 1984). He has lectured on campuses in the U.S. and the Far East on the issue of CreationlEvolution. His current research interest is in gene-cloning.
By elaborating on a Calvinistic system of revelation and providence, progressive creationism attempts to delineate the immanence of God in His providential involvement in His Creation. Natural selection is viewed as one of the processes utilized by God in His creative activities. However, God is transcendent in that He is not dependent on the Creation for His completion. Evil is allowed but not purposed by God. The human Fall affects God's creation in terms of its eventual disintegration. Physical death existed before the Fall as necessitated by the food chain. Man was maintained immortal by God's special sustenance. Man is separated from God after a historical rebellious act. Physical and spiritual death entered the human race as a result. However, God overrules all evils.
1. Unity of God's Revelation in Nature and Scripture
John Calvin made significant contributions to understanding the sovereignty of God and, in addition, delineated the two distinctive modes of revelation from God. His entire monumental treatise, the Institutes Of the Christian Religion, was based on the two-fold revelation of God: knowledge of God the Creator and knowledge of God the Redeemer. For him, God's general revelation through nature and God's special revelation through Scripture are complementary and necessary in order for men to have a saving knowledge of the Creator and the Redeemer. Calvin describes the beauty of God's creation revealing the divine wisdom as follows:
There are innumerable evidences both in heaven and on earth that declare his wonderful wisdom; not only those more recondite matters for closer observation of which astronomy, medicine, and all natural science are intended, but also those which thrust themselves upon the sight of even the most untutored and ignorant persons, so that they cannot open their eyes without being compelled to witness them.4
Calvin is clearly suggesting that the closer observation of all natural science is intended to uncover God's wisdom in His creation. The input to our understanding of the Creator offered by science is to be scrutinized and respected in our holy meditation of God's inestimable wisdom:
There is no doubt that the Lord would have us uninterruptedly occupied in this holy meditation; that, while we contemplate in all creatures, as in mirrors, those immense riches of his wisdom, justice, goodness, and power, we should not merely run over them cursorily, and so to speak, with a fleeting glance; but we should ponder them at length, turn them over in our minds seriously and faithfully, and recollect them repeatedly.5
Calvin does not espouse a natural theology of Universalism, that man can come to know God through general revelation apart from special revelation. Rather, he stresses the importance of Scripture as a guide and teacher for anyone who would come to God the Creator. But Calvin has definitely departed from the medieval mindset which condemns science when it appears to be contrary to Scripture, as exemplified by the Copernican controversy over heliocentricity. Calvin never suggests that we should interpret God's creation from Scripture alone. He shows great respect for the natural scientists who, by their close observation of nature, can bring us to a better understanding of God the Creator. In other words, Calvin maintains that general revelation of God through nature is a valid though incomplete avenue of knowing Him. Because of our depravity, we fail to know and worship God the Creator, but with the aid of the Holy Spirit, Scripture reveals to us the knowledge of God the Creator more intimately and vividly. Revelation in Scripture complements revelation in nature to enliighten us in our efforts to understand our Creator. Therefore, God, the final cause of the universe who is known through Scripture alone, can also be partially revealed to us through the understanding of the secondary causation in nature gleaned through science.
2. Immanence of God in His Providential Control over Creation
Calvin also had a wholistic view of God's involvement in His creation, whereas popular deism glorifies reason instead of revelation. Following the success of the Scientific Revolution, the creation is thought by deists to be an elaborate machine governed by natural laws set up by a creator who is no longer involved in the activities of his creation. As a result, humans have become the masters of their own destiny and of that of the whole creation. Emile Brehier, a historian of philosophy, summarizes the differences between deism and Christian theism as follows:
We see clearly that a new conception of man, wholly incompatible with the Christian faith, had been introduced. God the architect who produced and maintained a marvelous order in the universe had been discovered in nature, and there was no longer a place for the God of the Christian drama, the God who bestowed upon Adam "the power to sin and reverse the order. " God was in nature and no longer in history; he was in the wonders analyzed by naturalists and biologists and no longer in the human conscience, with feelings of sin, disgrace, or grace that accompanied his presence; he had left man in charge of his own destiny.6
In reaction to deism, Calvin stipulates that creation and providence are inseparably joined:
Moreover, to make God a momentary Creator, who once for
all finished His work, would be cold and barren, and we must
differ from profane men especially in that we see the presence
of divine power shining as much in the continuing state of the
universe as in its inception.... Faith sought to penetrate more
deeply, namely, having found him Creator of all, forthwith to
conclude He is also everlasting Governor and Preserver-not
only in that He drives the celestial frame as well as its several
parts by a universal motion, but also in that He sustains,
nourishes, and cares for, everything He has made.7
In short, Calvin has presented to us a world view that is consistent with God's revelation. It is based on the assumption that the world and the universe were created by the Creator who sustains them by His providence. The creation exists moment by moment only by the direct sustenance of God the Creator. Both the creation and the Creator are part of an external reality rather than an illusion in the mind of man. The deistic implication of Recent Creationism suggests that God's involvement with His creation consists only of miraculous intervention. However, in the context of the Scripture there is no distinction between supernatural or natural, since we are to see His sustaining power in all things. A miracle is an extraordinary event which is accomplished by God as a sign of some purposes of His own. However, God is equally involved by means of His providential control which allows the probabilities determined by natural processes to work for His purposes.
The input to our understanding of
the Creator offered by science is to be
scrutinized and respected in our holy meditation of God's inestimable wisdom.
3. Scripture in General and Genesis in Particular, a Historical-Theological Interpretation
The bitter debate between the fundamentalist and liberal camps in Biblical hermeneutics has led to the dichotomization of the scientific history and the redemptive history in Biblical theology. According to Langdon Gilkey, many theologians have "used Biblical and orthodox language to speak of divine activity in history, but at the same time continued to speak of the same events in purely naturalistic terms." The emphasis on the existential encounter with God through the Bible attempts to reestablish the relevancy of the Scripture for modern man. Yet it does not succeed in recovering the theological dimension of the Bible. B. S. Childs proposes a new Biblical theology to use the canon of the Scriptures as a context from which to interpret the Scriptures in relation to their function within the community of faith that treasures them.' He returns us to Calvin's emphasis on learning from both the Old Testament and the New Testament in concert, where God unfolds more and more about Himself and His will for humans in the course of Biblical history. The theological center of the Old Testament as revealed in the New Testament is the testimony of Christ, The Messiah (John 5:39). However, this does not necessarily imply that the Bible is to be interpreted by .. the theology of the Cross," as George Murphy advocates.10 Luther, who originated such a theology, tends to propagate a theology of paradox." According to Luther, Christians live in an earthly kingdom as well in a heavenly kingdom, and are accountable to both man and God. Thus we are to live in perpetual tension, especially when the demands of these two kingdoms clash. The emphasis on the existential nature of human evil without provision for an adequate historical foundation of Theistic Evolutionism seems to perpetuate this paradoxical mindset; that is, we have to deal with human evil although we are not sure how it came into being historically.
Therefore, a unifying concept must be constructed in the context of both the Old and the New Testaments, since the two Testaments are mutually interpretive. The methodology in Biblical hermeneutics must be a historical-theological one. Hasel summarizes this method succinctly:
This is to say that the Biblical theologian engaged in doing
either Old or New Testament theology must claim as his task
both to discover and describe what the text meant and also to
explicate what it means for today.... The Biblical witnesses are
themselves not only historical witnesses in the sense that they
originated at particular times and particular places; they are at
the same time theological witnesses in the sense that they testify
as the word of God to the divine reality and activity as it
impinges on the historicality of man. Thus the task of the
Biblical theologian is to interpret the Scriptures meaningfully,
with the careful use of the tools of historical and philological
research, attempting to understand and describe in "getting
back there" what the Biblical testimony meant; and to explicate
the meaning of the Biblical testimony for modern man in his
own particular historical situation.12
The unifying principle throughout the Old Testament seems to be the self-revelation of God through the nation of Israel. The beginning of the history of Israel was marked by the promise of a great nation to Abraham through whom all the people of the earth will be blessed (Gen. 12:2-3). An underlying theme in the Old Testament appears to be that God will raise up a deliverer for men in general and for Israel in particular (Is. 7, 9, 11, 53, 61, 62; Zech. 6; Mic. 5; Mal. 3; Psm. 8; Dan. 9, 12; Ezek. 34; Jer. 23; job 19, etc.). The book of Genesis by definition is the book of beginning. It centers on the beginning of the chosen nation of Israel through whom God is to reveal Himself to the world. Genesis traces the history of man from the origin of his rebellion from God through God's choosing of Abraham, through whom the people of the earth will be blessed. The rest of the book is devoted to the preparation of Israel through the lives of the patriarchs. God's sovereignty in the midst of man's rebellion is stressed throughout the book.
4. Natural Selection As One of the Processes Utilized by God in His Creative Activities
Fred Van Dyke questions the validity of natural selection-which depends on resource scarcity, competition, differential survival and reproduction-as a creative mechanism employed by a benevolent God before the Fall of man.13 Before attempting to address this charge, one has to clarify several presuppositions, discussed below.
Moreover, to make God a momentary
Creator, who once for all finished His
work, would be cold and barren, and we must differ from profane men
especially in that we see the presence of divine power shining as much in
the continuing state of the universe as in its inception.
1. One has to question the extent to which we can impose human emotion or volition onto the non-human world. It is true that man, as part of God's creation ' is made of that same "stuff" of life which is traceable to the most basic matter of the universe (i.e., "dust of the ground"-Gen. 2:7). But only man was created in the image of God. Other than the devil himself, man is the only agent who willfully turned away from God. When Paul mentions the creation groaning in travail, awaiting its deliverance from the bondage to decay when the sons of God are revealed (Rom. 8:19-22), he apparently is using metaphorical language to describe the solidarity of man with the creation. The redemption of the natural world from evil and decay is a corollary of the redemption of the body of man which has been condemned as a result of sin. Paul does not seem to teach that the non-buman world has a will of its own which can turn back to God by faith in order to be saved (Eph. 2:8). Scientific studies on the volition of animals are inconclusive.
2. Adam and Eve were admonished to multiply and subdue the earth, and have dominion over the animal world before the Fall (Gen. 1:28). This command seems to involve man's control over the reproduction of other creatures and their utilization of natural resources. Death is certainly one of the ways to control population growth. As one biologist put it, if animal reproduction were not controlled, then even "a lone aphid, without a partner, breeding 'unmolested' for one year would produce so many living aphids that, although they are only a tenth of an inch long, together they would extend into space twenty five hundred light years."" Having dominion over animals seems to involve, in part, the subduing of their activities by selective breeding and elimination. In addition, the word "subdue" seems to mean more than to reign over. It seems to mean "conquer and subject." The same word is used in contexts of conquest in the face of opposition (Zech. 9:15; josh. 18:1; 11 Sam. 8:11, etc.). It seems that some principle was already at work in the earth which man was enjoined to conquer for God. The Bible is silent about the source of this principle. It may have been due to the activity of Satan in his assumed form of the serpent (Gen. 3). However, God's sovereignty seems to have overruled this principle since the creation was pronounced good (Cf. Gen. 1:31; see also below).
3. Man is described in his original relationship to the
rest of creation as being an eater. Other life forms are
also introduced as part of a food chain:
I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it, they will be yours for food. And to the beasts of the earth, and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground ... I give every green plant for food. (Gen. 1:29--30, NIV)
Although carnivorousness, the eating of animal flesh, is not mentioned here, this omission may or may not be construed as an argument for vegetarianism. Animal sacrifice was needed for the skin garments for Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:21). Abel's animal sacrifice was accepted over Cain's offering of fruits by the Lord. It seems that there is no compelling reason to justify the claim that animal killing is permitted only after the Fall. Genesis does not provide a theological ground for differentiating between the nature of plant and animal life. Biologically, the modern understanding of the cell theory and the genetic basis of life has unified the living world. The biochemistry of digestion and decay of food stuff made of plants or animals is quite similar, barring minor differences in the varieties of digestive enzymes. Moreover, unless one completely abandons the fossil record of life, one has to acknowledge the presence of carnivorousness long before man's appearance. Even if one were to argue that man's eating was limited to the consumption of only seeds and fruits, such consumption would necessarily decrease the reproductive potential of the thing eaten since seeds carried by fruits give rise to new plants. Therefore, one may postulate that the existence of physical death in the non-humanworld is necessary in order to account for the operation of a food chain before the human Fall. As Wilkinson puts it:
A unifying concept must be constructed in the context of both the Old and the New Testaments, since the two Testaments are mutually interpretive. The methodology in biblical hermeneutics must be a historical- theological one.
Calvin addresses the problem of the necessity of the Incarnation.18 God's decrees for the Fall and the Incarnation run together. Christ would not have to be incarnated if Adam did not sin, for Christ was the second Adam (I Cor. 15:47; Rom. 5:12-21). He was made like man in all respects except sin (Heb. 4:15). He was reckoned as a descendant of Adam (Luke 3:38). Colossians 1:15-17, quoted by de Chardin and his associates to support the idea that the Incarnation is a necessary stage of God's creative plan, is taken out of context. Paul seems to suggest that the fullness of God indwells Christ so that Christ can reconcile to Himself through His blood, shed on the cross, all things on earth or in heaven which have been alienated from God (Col. 1: 19-20). God's eternal purpose is to predestine us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ before the creation of the world (Ephes. 1:4-5). All things were created by the pre-existent Christ and for Him. But the necessity of Christ's Incarnation hinges on the Fall of man.
As a result of human sin, the ground was cursed (Gen. 3:17). The creature is subject to frustration (Rom. 8:20). It seems possible that the condition described by the second law of thermodynamics, the increase of randomness in the universe, is a result of the human Fall. The food chain, operating efficiently before the Fall, would now be subject to the same fate; although we still see many examples of its effective operation today. Man's immortality was apparently maintained before the Fall by means of God's special sustenance, perhaps through the Tree of Life. As a result of man's sin, God's special sustenance was removed (Gen. 3:24). Death and evil entered the human race. Mankind and the creation need to be reconciled to God through the Incarnation and Atonement of Christ (Col. 1:20). However, man is to be made a new creation in Christ (II Cor. 5:17), and is not to be restored to his pre-Fall status. Therefore, Scriptural references such as Isaiah 11:6 and 65:25, which abolish predation, seem to be referring to the millenial kingdom or to the new heaven and the new earth, and cannot be used to refer to the original creation.
One may postulate that the existence
of physical death in the non-human
world is necessary in order to account for the operation of a food chain
before the human Fall.
1. Fiat Creationism (or Recent Creationism)
This view is currently the most prominent view of "Creationism" and is often synonymous with it in the popular mind. Despite being ridiculed by some scientists as some kind of a cultic movement,19 it has gained momentum and visibility in some legal circles. One spokesman for the movement, Wendell Bird ' has gained a respectable hearing in the Yale and Harvard law journals.20, 21 Although the courts in Arkansas and Louisiana have ruled against Creationists, the public awareness raised by the Creationist movement has yet to be fully appreciated. Despite the insignificance of its support among academicians, there is considerable grass-roots support among conservative Protestant Americans." The widespread support of Recent Creationism is based essentially on its high regard for Biblical authority and its concern for moral and traditional values.22 It is apparent that the most straightforward understanding of the Genesis record, without regard to all of the hermeneutical considerations suggested by science, is that God created heaven and earth in six solar days, that man was created in the sixth day, that death and chaos entered the world after the Fall of Adam and Eve, that all of the fossils were the result of the catastrophic universal deluge which spared only Noah's family and the animals therewith. Since many outspoken scientific and theological proponents of evolution are also known for their agnostic or humanistic views,23 the Creationist movement alleges that many scientific assumptions, such as the principle of uniformitarianism, are colored by humanistic presuppositions.24 It follows, therefore, that many of the conclusions drawn by geologists and anthropologists on the age of the earth and the fossils are questionable. It was the Creationists who alerted the American public to the dogmatic claim by some scientists that evolution is a fact, and who went to court in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, and Texas to require the teaching of Creation science alongside of evolution in the public schools.25
However, the Recent Creationist position has two
serious flaws. First, it has denied and belittled the vast
amount of scientific evidence amassed to support the
theory of natural selection and the antiquity of the earth.23, 23, 27
Secondly, much Creationist writing has
"deistic" implications. Although Creationists would
probably not admit that their position could suggest
that the Creator only intervenes in the creation occasionally to perform creative acts and miracles, the
stipulation that the varieties we see today in the biological world were present in the initial
that the Creator is no longer involved in His creation in
a dynamic way. Rather, the creation is seen as having
been left to its own devices for the expression of the variability potential endowed to it in the beginning.
This deistic implication is contrary to Hebrews 1:3,
which stipulates that all things are upheld by the word
of His power.
2. Theistic Evolutionism
Many theistic evolutionists accept the historicity of the Bible, but some allegorize the Genesis account in order to treat the whole Creation account as a "poetic" representation of spiritual truths of humans' dependence on God their Creator and of their fall from God's grace by a symbolic act of disobedience. They accept the processes of organic evolution as the method God chose to create humans. Such theistic evolutionists are the dominant voice among many scientifically oriented theologians; they are the "Christian Darwinists."29 Darwin rejected the notion of a designer, for which William Paley argued eloquently in Natural Theology, and averred that the directive organization of living things is the result of a natural process-althougli he deferred to the Creator as the initiator of the process. 30 Darwin's views changed later as he increasingly denied the Christian faith. The Christian Darwinists, on the other hand, see the process of natural selection as a way to explain God's immanence in nature and the omnipresence of His creative power. Thus, they see God's providential hand behind the process of mutations selected by the favorable environment which endows the living system with the capacity to leave more offspring and become the dominant variety. Seen in this light, the Christian Darwinists maintain a more wholistic theological position concerning God's providence than do the -Recent Creationists, who have to posit a repetitive divine intervention in cataclysmic proportions.
However, Theistic Evolutionists have to deal with two theological obstacles:a. The exegetical problems in the Genesis account of creation.
More recently, Blocher"' has suggested that the creation account in Genesis should be interpreted "historico-artistically." That is, as a framework of seven days used anthropomorphically by the author of Genesis to outline a theology of sabbath. Blocher traces the anthropomorphic usage of the word "days" back to Augustine."35 Aquinas also recognizes the difference between the work of distinction (days 1-3) and the work of adornment (days 4-6), although he interprets a day as a 24-bour solar day.36 The difficulties of the creation of the heavenly luminaries after the creation of light, and the inconsistencies of the timing sequence of the creation of plants as recorded in Genesis 1 and 2, are resolved by the anthropomorphic use of "days."
While Blocher's framework hypothesis is attractive for its resolution of some of the apparent conflicts between Genesis I and 2, it remains unclear at what point one can draw the boundary line between an allegorical account, where only the spiritual meaning prevails, and a bistorical-theological account, where both what actually transpired and its spiritual meaning are significant. The assumption that Genesis 1 represents a "wide-angle" perspective of God's creative activities and Genesis 2 gives these activities a "closeup" examination may help in our understanding of the creation account. The seemingly conflicting chronological sequences of the creation of plants, animals and man may be resolved by assuming an overlapping of the creative eras, whereas some of the creative activities may have been contemporaneous or overlapping.37 In addition, the New International Version (NIV) translation of Genesis 2:4-5, "When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up ... there was no man to work the ground," seems to suggest that the shrub and the plant had not yet grown in the "field" or "level place" partly for lack of a farmer. Then God created Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden to take care of it. The emphasis seems to be on the caretaker role of man instead of on the chronology of creation. Moreover, verse 19, "Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air," seems to suggest that these animals were created before Adam so that they could be brought to him for naming. Therefore, the conflicts in the chronology of creation in Genesis I and 2 may be more apparent than real. The origin of sin and evil and the Christ-Adam juxtaposition seem to demand a historical Adam, to which conclusion Blocher also subscribes. If the "close up" creation account of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 is theologically and historically significant, is it not also applicable to the "wide angle" account of creation in Genesis 1?38
In addition, the Hebrew word nephesh, translated as "living soul" (Gen. 2:7), of man is also used to describe other living creatures in Genesis 1:20-21 and 24. The distinction of man and beasts is that man was created in the image of God and other creatures were not. Therefore, in Genesis 2:7, man becomes a living being for the first time, just as other creatures. This would seem to rule out the interpretation that man is genetically derived from some previously existing living forms.32
While Blocher's framework hypothesis
it remains unclear at what point one can draw the boundary line between an allegorical
historical- theological account.
George Murphy proposes several solutions to this theological question from the perspective of a theistic evolutionist39:
i. The first humans, the first to reach reflective consciousness and to be endowed with the image of God, consciously turned away and refused to obey the word of God.
This position seems to have scientific and theological obstacles. Scientifically, if one wants to be completely consistent with the evolutionary paradigm, one has to postulate that a population of pre-existing hominids acquired reflective consciousness and the image of God; for populations evolve, not individuals. Individuals are either eliminated or selected. Evolution occurs when gene frequencies in large populations are changed. Therefore, Neo-Darwinian evolution depends on the gradual accumulation of changes in gene frequencies in populations of organisms. The "hopeful monster" that arose by saltation or sudden drastic changes40 may have led to the evolution of the first human couple from their hominid ancestors. However, the lack of an experimentally testable mechanism to explain the saltation process has long plagued this theory. Recently, the theories of neutral mutation and punctuated equilibrium have been postulated.41 These theories suggest that a gradual selective process cannot account for macroevolutionary changes. However, the random process proposed as a substitute for the gradual natural selection mechanism is difficult to test by means of controlled experimentation.
As an exception to the evolutionary paradigm, one can postulate that God chose two of the evolving hominids to be Adam and Eve, and endowed them with the image of God, just as He chose Noah and Abraham from the wicked generations in which they lived. While this position conflicts with the aforementioned interpretation of Genesis 2:7, it also requires an extraordinary act of God in the selection of only two individuals from an evolving population of hominids. For some Progressive Creationists, the extraordinary act that God utilizes to create man from the dust of the earth is as logical, if not more consistent, since no satisfactory natural mechanism is sufficient to account for the evolution of Adam and Eve. This should not mean that we bring in God for a supernatural event when we cannot see a natural cause. The transcendent God and His extraordinary act of bringing Adam and Eve into existence does not imply " God-of -the-Gap" deism. This stipulation simply stresses the special importance that God attributes to the creation of man, who is created to 11 glorify Him and enjoy Him forever." God's providence does not preclude His using extraordinary acts not explainable by known natural means for a special purpose of His own. The act of creation ex nihilo itself demands a transcendent God performing an extraordinary act to put together the natural processes in His creation.
Theologically, natural selection does not explain the efficacy of the Fall, for it leads to man's death. The Fall was a moral predicament not necessitated by any natural processes. The unity of the human race as derived from a single source and the origin of human death and sin from a single human couple (Rom. 5:12-21) necessitate the Incarnation and the redemptive work of Christ. Christ is the second Adam who is to give life to the fallen human race through His obedience and atoning death. He is not the culmination of human evolution.
The major weakness of the existential
emphasis of sin and the Fall is the
inconsistency of allowing God to act on a personal level through existential encounter while denying God's action in history through creation.
An alternative to this dilemma would be to dispose of
the historicity of the "unique" human couple who
sinned and were banished from God's blessing, and to
recognize the existential nature of evil and the need for
redemption. However, this dualistic approach seems to
compartmentalize reality if pressed to the extreme; the
spiritual realm and the physical realm become independent of each other. The weaknesses of this position
will be addressed in the section dealing with Neo-orthodoxy.
ii. Evils are "the Shadow of Creation."
In the early Church, Origen propounded the view that there was a spiritual fall in which man's soul was affected,42 and that the creation is only a testing ground reflecting what has happened in the spiritual realm. Therefore, in essence, the Creation is seen as the result of the Fall, through which man is to be united to Christ, thus becoming redeffied to the pre-Fall state in heaven. This leads to the Manichean implication that the Creation is evil. The necessity for Christ's atoning death is also called into question. One may conclude that such a view is contrary to the doctrine of the goodness of the creation (Gen. 1).
In conclusion, one may say that, although the
emphasis of Theistic Evolutionism on the dynamic
involvement of God in His creation, by means of His
directing of the process of change in the biological
world, is much preferable to the Recent Creationists'
formulation of God's occasional intervention in creation, nevertheless some Progressive Creationists find
the special creation of Adam and Eve in the midst of
God's providential control of His world to be a more
meaningful and less problematic solution than that
supplied by Theistic Evolutionism.
3. The "Creation Myth" of Neoorthodoxy
Neoorthodoxy puts much emphasis on the suprarationalistic or paradoxical aspect of Christian teaching and tends to ignore natural theology. Its view of Creation may be illustrated by its treatment of the creation account as "myth." Langdon Gilkey defines 11 myth" most succinctly as a way of talking about God as a figure who transcends history in the dramatic sense of an agent within history.' He further distinguishes between the anthropological and theological usages of myth." While anthropological myths are essentially fables, and so untrue, theological myths are true in the sense that they are concerned with the ultimate or existential issues of human destiny, using symbols to describe the transcendent or the sacred. Thus, in this view, the creation myth would have more religious significance for man's salvation than would the literal history of creation, for scientific or literal facts have no religious value. By emphasizing the religious meaning of Creation and the Fall and the existential realities of evil and sin, Neoorthodoxy, together with many Theistic Evolutionists, affirms the need for redemption through a personal encounter with the Savior who atones for sin by His death and resurrection.
The major weakness of the existential emphasis on
sin and the Fall is the inconsistency of allowing God to
act on a personal level through existential encounter
while denying God's action in history through creation.
The religious truth, as revealed by a personal encounter
with the incarnate Word through whom all of the
Scripture should be interpreted, seems to be divorced
from the historical truth of the Bible. The lack of
interaction between the religious truth as expressed in
mythical language and the historical truth as expressed
in scientific language seems to imply that reality is
comprised of several levels of truth that are independent of each other. This dualistic overtone seems to
contradict the unity of God's general revelation
through nature and His special revelation through the
Progressive Creationism: A Definition
Ramm defines "Progressive Creationism" as follows:2
In Genesis one, the pattern is development from vacancy to the finished creation at the end of the sixth day. In manufacturing, the pattern is from raw materials to finished products. In art the pattern is from unformed materials to artistic creation. In life the pattern is from the undifferentiated ovum to the adult. In character the pattern is from random and uncritical behaviour to disciplined and moral behaviour.
Progressive Creationism can be further desribed, briefly, as follows:
1) It posits that God is involved in His creation in a dynamic way by shaping the variation of the biological world through mechanisms such as natural selection, thus avoiding the deistic mentality of the God-of-the-Gaps theory.
2) It stresses the historicity of Adam and Eve and gives the creation of Adam and Eve special significance, since it was an extraordinary act of God that is not explainable by known natural causes.
3) It focuses on the unity of God's revelation in nature as well as in Scripture and tries to maintain the historical and theological integrity of the creation account.
Progressive Creationism overlaps with Theistic Evolutionism and Recent Creationism in many respects. If
Theistic Evolutionism and Recent Creationism are on
the left wing and the right wing of the evangelical
spectrum respectively, Progressive Creationism is
somewhere in the middle. It attempts to utilize the
strengths of both positions and tries to avoid their
A Synthesis: Creation Was Good; Sin Comes from the Fall; God Overrules
The Scriptures seem to teach that the devil was a fallen angel who rebelled against God (Rev. 12:3,4; Isa. 14:12-17; Ezek. 28:13-19) and who is always trying to interfere with God's plan (e.g., job 1:6-12; Ephes. 6:11-12). It is clear that the serpent which tempted Adam and Eve is more than a wild beast; that he is a spiritual being intent upon luring man away from God (Gen. 3:1-5). The devil apparently existed before the creation of man. However, the Creation is not the result of the angelic fall. For "the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies declare the work of His hands" (Psm. 19:1, NIV), and "His name is majestic in all the earth" (Psm. 8:9). God is sovereign despite the angelic rebellion. Death in the physical world was in existence before the Fall of man and it may not be the result of evil. The fact that animals and man had to eat, as recorded in the creation account (Gen. 1:29,30), suggests a kind of death for that which had been eaten. Although carnivorousness was not mentioned before the Fall, this does not eliminate the possibility of animal death. The fossil record is replete with carnivores who existed long before the appearance of man. God used natural selection to propagate those species most adapted to survive, thereby ensuring that the resources in His creation not suffer from depletion and that the population of the creatures remain under control. He has allowed natural selection to maintain a finely tuned ecological balance. The creation is moment by moment sustained by the providence of God for He "sustains all things by His powerful word" (Heb. 1:3, NIV).
The scientific mechanism of mutations selected by the favorable environment to become dominant varieties is the manifestation of God's providence in being directly involved in His creation by shaping the future of the development of life. On the one hand, this position avoids the "deistic" implication of the Recent Creationists who deny the role of natural selection in microevolution. On the other hand, it clothes the chance events, which humanists claim are free and blind and which they find to be the basis for biological evolution,"' with providential meanings. This stipulation of the providential role of natural selection does not necessarily violate the methodological naturalism that is the essence of the scientific approach. While God allows regularity of natural laws to govern His creation so that scientists can describe natural phenomena by physical laws, He does not determine the necessary outcome of physical processes. Scientifically, the classical Newtonian determinism has been replaced by the probabilistic world view of quantum physics. The principle of complementarity, which explains the dual nature of light as both corpuscular and wave-like, can also be applied to relate science and Christianity. 46, 47 The lack of certainty in describing the momentum and the position of electrons at the same time, as spelled out by Heisenberg, also allows for God's providence in 48 terms of probability. William Pollard starts out from the indeterminacy of the atomic world to implicate God's providential control in allowing the probabilities determined by natural processes to work for His purposes.49
If Theistic Evolutionism and Recent
Creationism are on the left wing and
the right wing of the evangelical spectrum, respectively, Progressive Creationism is somewhere in the middle. It attempts to utilize the strengths of both positions and tries to avoid their weaknesses.
Death in the physical world does not
necessarily represent evil. Natural
selection is evil only when it is exploited by man.
The fact that man had to eat seems to suggest that his body needs the nourishment derived from the digested food. He may have to die physically too if he is not maintained by the proper diet. It is possible that man was maintained physically immortal by the fruits of the Tree of Life which man was allowed to eat before the Fall. One of the reasons why the fallen couple was expelled from the garden of Eden was to prevent them from eating of the Tree of Life and living forever (Gen. 3:22). It will not be until the time of the new heaven and the new earth that the Tree of Life will again be freely accessible to the heavenly citizens (Rev. 22:1,2). God apparently sustained the life of Adam not only by the fruits from the Tree of Life, but also by protecting him from any attack by the wild beasts so that He could bring them to the man for naming (Gen. 1:10). The commandment to subdue the earth and rule over all the living creatures seems to have been an exhortation (Gen. 1:28, Psm. 8:6) which will be totally fulfilled in the true man, Jesus Christ, who will be crowned Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11).
As a result of man's fall, sin and death entered the human race because all sinned (Rom. 5:12-21). The death experienced by Adam and Eve was, most importantly, their spiritual separation from God. Physical death also ensued, for they were no longer sustained by God through the Tree of Life. God also removed His providential help from them. The Edenic curse (Gen. 3:14-19) ordained that women would have to suffer through childbirth, the ground would no longer cooperate fully with man, and that man would have to labor for his livelihood. Murder and treachery appeared (Gen. 4). Man also may have lost his cultural attainments following the Fall (Gen. 4:12), although they were apparently rediscovered later.50 God will only allow special providential control to return to those 1. who love Him and have been called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28, NIV). "The creation was subjected to frustration not by its own choice, but by the one who subjected it" (Rom. 8:20, NIV). Therefore, in a metaphoric sense, the creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. The redemption of nature is the corollary of the redemption of the body. Man is not sinful because he is a creature but because of his rebellion against God. In the final consummation, the whole man and the world of which he is a part will be delivered from the influence of evil. Creation and mankind as such are not evil. Man is sinful only insofar as he exalts himself above God and refuses to humble himself to acknowledge his Creator Lord. The redeemed mankind is transposed into God's new creation (I Cor. 5:17), which will be consummated in the resurrection of the body (I Cor. 15) and in the new heaven and new earth. It is not the restoration of the original pre-Fall creation (Rev. 2 1: 1).
1Pun, P. 1982. Evolution; Nature and Scripture in Conflict? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, pp. 174-230.
2Ramm, B. 1954. The Christian View of Science and Scripture. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 76.
3Morris, H. M. 1984. "Recent Creation Is a Vital Doctrine," Impact, 132, June 1984
4Calvin, 1960. Institutes of the Christian Religion, John R. McNeil, (ed.). Translated and indexed by Ford Lewis Battles. Philadelphia: Westminster, Vol. 1, Book 1, Chap. V, p. 53.5Calvin, op. cit. Vol. I, book 1, chap. XIV, p. 180.
6Brehier, E. 1967. The History of Philosophy, translated by W. Baskin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Vol. 5, p. 15.7Calvin, op.cit. Vol. 1, Book 1, Chap. XVI, pp. 197-198.
8Gilkey, L. 1965-66. "Secularism's Impact in Contemporary Theology," Christianity and Crisis, XXV, 66.
9Childs, B. S. 1970. Biblical Theology in Crisis. Philadelphia: Westminster, p. 33.
10Murphy, G. 1986. "Chiasmic Cosmology: A Response to Fred Van Dyke," Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, 38,124.
11Cunliffe-Jones, H. 1978. A History of Christian Doctrine. Philadelphia: Fortress, pp. 338-344,
12 Hasel, G. 1972. Old Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate, revised and expanded 3rd edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp. 169-170.
13Van Dyke, F. 1986. "Problems of Theistic Evolution," Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, 38, 11.
14Dillard, A. 1974. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. New York: Harper's Magazine Press, p. 167 [citing Edwin Way Teale].
15Wilkinson, L. 1976. "A Christian Ecology of Death: Biblical Imagery and the Ecological Crisis," Christian Scholars Review, V(4), 322.
16Teilhard de Chardin, P. 1971. Christianity and Evolution. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.17Cobb, J. B. Jr. 1969. God and the World. Philadelphia: Westminster.
19Kornberg, A. 1982. In A. T. Canesan, Shing Chang and James A. Hoch (eds.), Molecular Cloning and Gene Regulation in Bacilli. New York: Academic Press, p. xxi,
20Bird, W. 1978. "Freedom of Religion and Science Instruction in Public Schools," Yale Law Journal, 87,515-570.
21Bird, W. 1979. "Freedom from Establishment and Unneutrality in Public School Instruction and Religious School Regulation," Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, 2, 125-205.
22Aulie, R. 1983. "Evolution and Special Creation: Historical Aspects of the Controversy," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 127(6), 418-462.23Pun, op. cit. pp. 298-300.
24Whitcomb, J. Jr. and H. Morris 1961. The Genesis Flood. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Reformed Publishers.25Kornberg, op. cit. p. xxi. Also see Minnery, Tom. "Creationists Tenacity Secures Subtle Change in Science Texts," Christianity Today, Nov. 7, 1980, p. 64.
26Young, D. 1977. Creation and the Flood. Grand Rapids: Baker.
27Young, D. 1982. Christianity and the Age of the Earth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
28Moore, J. and H. Slusher (eds.) 1977. Biology, A Search for order in Complexity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, pp. 451-453.
29Moore, J. R. 1979. The Post Darwinian Controversies: A Study of the Protestant Struggle to Come to Terms With Darwin in Great Britain and America, 1870-1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
30Darwin, C. 1859. The Origin of Species, Mentor ed. London: The New English Library (1958), p. 450.
31Harrison, R. K. 1969. Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp. 548-551.
32Buswell, J. 0. 111963. Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, p. 156.33Calvin, op. cit. Vol. I, Book 1, Chap. XIV, p. 161.
34Blocher, H. 1984 In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis, translated by D. G. Preston. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, chap. 2.
35Augustine. The City of God, translated by Henry Bettenson. London: Penguin Books (1972), Book XIII, p. 430.
36Aquinas, T. Summa Theologica, Vol. 1. Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. New York: Bezinger Brothers (1947), pp. 229-233, 247, 346-W9.37Pun, op. cit. pp. 262-263.
39Murphy, G. 1986. "A Theological Argument for Evolution," Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, 38, 19.
40Goldschmidt, R. B. 1940. The Material Basis of Evolution. New Haven: Yale University Press.41Pun, op. cit. pp. 220-224.
43Gilkey, L. 1959. Maker of Heaven and Earth. Garden City: Doubleday, p. 265.
44Gilkey, L, 1970. Religion and the Scientific Future. New York: Harper and Row, p. 66.45Monod, J. 1971. Chance and Necessity. New York: Knopf.
46Haas, J. 1983. "Complementarity and Christian Thought: An Assessment. 1. The Classical Complementarity of Niels Bohr," Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, 35,145-151.
47Haas, J. 1983. "Complementarity and Christian Thought: An Assessment. 11. Logical Complementarity," Journal of the American Scientific Affillation, 35, 203-208.
48Jeeves, M. 1969. The Scientific Enterprise and Christian Faith. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.49Pollard, W. 1958. Chance and Providence. New York: Scribner.