Dennis Venema writes an epilogue to explain further why he now rejects intelligent design and embraces evolution, or biologos as his community likes to call it. I would like here to respond to his comments.
Firstly, he claims that he grew up and rejected the Sunday School level of theology. But accepting the multi-layered nature of Scripture is something that all Christian have to come to terms with, but this doesn’t mean we have to give up on reading Scripture literally as part of that layered structure. Theology also offers a great depth of intellectual though in terms of for instance understanding free will in light of divine election, or trying to get to grips with an Augustinian or Irenaean theodicy. In other words, growing up and encountering a rich intellectual stream of thought doesn’t force us to abandon belief in design or a literal creation. Furthermore, growing up and coming to terms with theology is as much a relational process through simple trust in God’s Word as being purely intellectual.
Secondly, he writes that Genesis has all the hallmarks of an ancient near-eastern worldview. But Ernst Lucas for instance writes that Genesis is a polemic against near-middle eastern worldview. The pagan cultures at the time had early beliefs in evolution, (i.e. the later Theogeny of Hesiod), and the ancient cultures believed in long ages (i.e. the Sumerian King List), even though they had some names common to the Genesis account. Genesis has always radically stood out against pagan beliefs proclaiming the personal, relational Creator of all things who created mankind in his image, as opposed to an impersonal force, or various disinterested deities who indwelled idols, or planets and stars.
Thirdly, Venema believes evolution is well supported scientifically. Some aspects are I agree, such as cyclical changes to the size of beaks of Galapagos finches, but that is merely natural selection acting on pre-existing genetic material and is a long way from finding evidence for the meta-narrative of evolution. Supporters of evolution love the ‘big story’, or the ‘just so’ stories, but often skim over the detail leaving that to our imagination. Many of us find this unsatisfactory and we think scientists should pick through the complex detail if it is to be a genuine science. On this basis I wonder why I should give up the biblical ‘big story’ when such weak arguments in science are presented by evolutionists. The response as Venema intimates is that sceptics are not sufficiently gifted intellectually to understand evolution, and somehow evolution believers live at a higher level of thinking. But instead, we have worked out that the reason why we don’t understand how evolution works is because it is logically incoherent at many levels. For instance, evolution is based upon weak analogies (animal A looks like animal B) whereas design relies upon univocal thinking from the doctrine of the Imago Dei; Evolutionary thought also often uses self-evidencing explanations, what we might loosely call circular reasoning.
Fourthly, he claims to have experienced God’s Holy Spirit. That is Great! But I would suggest that Venema needs to consider how Enlightenment ‘rational’ thinking reawakened ancient evolutionary beliefs; led to a rejection of design and belief in miracles in creation, to a rejection of the Resurrection, even to rejecting present day miracles (i.e. from Hume); also in criticising Scripture through the Germanic Higher Biblical Criticism, or naturalising Christian faith through Schleiermacher. Instead, those of us in the charismatic movement find coherence between belief in present day miracles and belief in intelligent design and-or special creation. An interesting research project might be to look at how growth in intelligent design (and-or special creation) mirrors the growth of Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement.