And why it thrives (cf BioLogos) anyway.
(Editor’s note: “Bowling with God: The problem of theistic evolution” follows up on this post.)
Philosopher-photographer Laszlo Bencze explains:
Last year William Jessup University, an ostensible Christian school, invited a theistic evolutionist to speak to students. He described how he had evolved from being a young earth creationist in his youth, to an old earth creationist, passing through a phase of allegiance to the intelligent design movement, before finally settling on his last and best metamorphosis: Theistic Evolution. He used many rhetorical devices to present evolution as fully compatible with Christianity. “There is no need for a Christian to be afraid of evolution,” he explained. “Embrace it as your friend.” To drive home his point he revealed a remarkable discovery: the first four letters of evolution when reversed spell “love.”
But there’s a big problem in loving both God and evolution. The premise of theistic evolution is incoherent. The “theistic” part connotes a creator God who knows what he wants to do and does it. The “evolution” part connotes a process that is random and in no need of supervision by any conscious agent because it is sufficient unto itself. So theistic evolution might be rephrased as “a system whereby God creates using a process that he cannot influence in any way and which has no need of him.” Huh?
If the theistic evolutionist responds, “Oh I don’t mean that kind of evolution. I mean the kind of evolution which is guided by God to fulfill his purposes,” then the true evolutionist will reply, “Well, that’s no kind of evolution. That’s some sort of creation scenario and you have no right to use the evolution word.”
“But!,” protests the theistic evolutionist, “I want you to know that I have nothing to do with those Intelligent Design idiots. I’m one of you! I’m one of the smart guys who is up on science, not some primitive religious fanatic. I truly do believe that Darwin got it right and random mutation coupled with natural selection is all there is. All I’m saying is that God uses that process to create all the living things on Earth.”
“Oh brother,” says the true evolutionist, “You just don’t get it do you? As soon as you toss God into the equation you blow evolution to smithereens and reveal yourself as exactly what you say you aren’t—a religious nut case. Evolution doesn’t need god, or goals, or interference by any intelligent agent. All evolution needs is a steady supply of random mistakes and the process of elimination called natural selection. That will get you to any form of life no matter how complex. It’s beautiful and you’re just too stupid to understand that its self sufficiency IS its beauty. Now get lost. You bore me.”
As I’ve played out this imaginary dialogue, I hope I’ve made clear that the last thing a theistic evolutionist wants is to be invited into the ID camp. The whole point of being a theistic evolutionist is to be good buddies with the smart guys of the world, the evolutionists; yet, to keep a toe in the belief system they grew up with and towards which they retain warm and fuzzy feelings. In any showdown, whether it be abortion, euthanasia, or school textbooks, staying in harmony with evolution will trump warm and fuzzy feelings about religious heritage.