Christian Darwinism Intelligent Design

Does Karl Giberson represent the new face of American evangelicals, “accepting” Darwin?

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As some might hope? Where would that leave evangelicals now that Darwin is being re-evaluated in so many other places?

Dragging in here late, with the last of the religion coverage for the week:

Further to: “Karl Giberson? But at this point who cares what Darwin’s Christian huffs at Huffpo? (We all rate a better informed class of critic. Especially now.)

There we looked at Nazarene process theologian Karl Giberson’s fact-free claims about the Discovery Institute, sponsor of ID theorists …

Sounded odd, but he had been in the files for years. So I went back to see what else one might learn about a figure on the Christian lecture circuit who wants to “save Darwin.”

From my notes:

–  Giberson helped genome mapper Francis Collins found Templeton-funded Darwin apologist group (2008), BioLogos. He has served as vice-president (2008–2010) Collins resigned from BioLogos when appointed NHS director in 2008. However, in 2011, Giberson also left both BioLogos and Eastern Nazarene College in Boston, where he had taught physics.

– He considers Darwin’s theory of evolution to be “confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt by science,” though as Bill Dembski notes, “No theory is that good.”

– In 2008, Karl Giberson wrote a book called Saving Darwin (Harper One, 2008). That positions him clearly, considering that, as far-left The Nation (2012) noted, Christian Alvin Plantinga, non-materialist atheist Thomas Nagel, and materialist atheist Jerry Fodor (well-known philosophers all) agree on doubting Darwin. And it is becoming a trend.

– In the book  co-authored with Collins, The Language of Science and Faith (IVP Books, 2011), readers are told, “We avoid using the ‘E-word.’” [evolution]

Theistic evolution is the belief that God created life using natural processes, working within the natural order, in harmony with its laws. So, why don’t we simply use the term evolution to describe our view? We don’t use the term, at least not at this point in our discussion, because it is associated with negative ideas, including atheism, and many readers would have a constant uncomfortable feeling while thinking about it. The word evolution carries emotional baggage that we are tossing overboard. (pp. 19–20)

Of course, the history of the word “evolution” is not emotional baggage. It is the best evidence for what the word usually means: 78% of evolutionary biologists are pure naturalist atheists.

– Giberson, along with Collins, seems to display a deep attachment to Darwinism that comes out in his theology. For example, in response to the question of whether God planned us in any sense, Giberson and Collins are quite clear in The Language of Science and Faith, that God is not in the details like us:

… we hope readers will agree with us that the relevant part of our origins is not the story of how we acquired the specific details of our body plan—ten fingers, two ears, one nose—or how we lack a marsupial pouch to carry our newborns, or why potty-training takes so long. Nothing about these details is critical to what makes us human. Our humanness is embedded more holistically in our less tangible aspects and could certainly be embodied in creatures that looked nothing like us …

Many may find this thought unsettling and strangely at odds with their understanding of creation, which celebrates that God created us “in his image.”We suggest that this is due to the influence that actual artistic images have had on our view of God and ourselves Because God became incarnate in Jesus, who looks like us, we all too quickly slip into the assumption that God also looks like us. (p. 201, p. 204-5. )

This feels disingenuous. The question isn’t whether God looks like us (a notion with which the Scriptures are clearly comfortable) but whether God intends us to look the way we do. On a Darwinist reckoning, no. On a Christian reckoning, yes.

– In Saving Darwin, Giberson offers a doctrine of the fall of man that most orthodox Christians would not recognize:

Selfishness, in fact, drives the evolutionary process. Unselfish creatures died, and their unselfish genes perished with them. Selfish creatures, who attended to their own needs for food, power, and sex, flourished and passed on these genes to their offspring. After many generations selfishness was so fully programmed in our genomes that it was a significant part of what we now call human nature. ( p. 12.)

In other words, the fall was not a human choice after all. And salvation now means getting the better of that selfish gene.

– More significantly, Giberson also tells us, “Jesus would believe in evolution and so should you.” Jesus thus stands revealed as a mere man among men—a good, honest man who wants to believe the correct things. As it happens, orthodox Christians regard him as the Word who created the entire cosmos. In that case, for Jesus, belief is superfluous. He knows how he made life.

– There has been conflict among Nazarenes in recent years over “emergent” (open, process) theology, as denominational news stories attest, with some asking, about Giberson, “What is this guy doing teaching in an allegedly evangelical school?”

Process/open theology affirms that

1) love is uniquely exemplified by God, 2) love is the human ethical imperative, 3) God and creatures enjoy free and mutually-influencing relations, 4) and the future is open and not settled.

Open theology affirms that God knows everything that may happen in the future. God knows all possibilities. But God does not know with absolute certainty what every free creature will someday actually do.

Note: This summary is from the page of Thomas Jay Oord, a Nazarene theologian supported by Giberson.

Process theology would be most helpful to anyone promoting Darwinian evolution as an account of the history of the human race among Christians. But most evangelicals have rejected it in the past, due to its sharply diminished view of the sovereignty of God.

However, in 2011 Christianity Today went to considerable trouble to highlight—favourably, it seemed—Giberson’s approach to origins, grounded in process theology. As I used to write for that mag, I took an interest, and will unpack that episode next Sunday if possible.

Meanwhile, is Christianity Today onto something, that a Darwinized human origins story is gaining ground among American evangelicals? Or what?

Note: Giberson currently has a Web site, “Exploring America’s creation-evolution controversy* * probably not going to hell,” which doubtless updates any of the forgoing. – O’Leary for News

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