August 24, 2019

Nice Try

Woodcut from Nicolas Camille Flammarion: L’Atmosphere – Météorologie Populaire. Paris 1888. Coloration: Heike Forests Hugo, Vienna 1998

The young earth creationists believe that Genesis 1 is “literally” a description of creation. I do not. It is this simple disagreement that is the cornerstone of my objection. I believe that Genesis 1 is a pre-scientific description of Creation intended to accent how Yahweh’s relationship with the world stands in stark contrast to the Gods of other cultures, most likely those of Babylon. Textual and linguistic evidence convinces me that this chapter was written to be used in a liturgical (worship) setting, with poetic rhythms and responses understood as part of the text. It tells who made the universe in a poetic and pre-scientific way. It is beautiful, inspired and true as God’s Word.

Does it match up with scientific evidence? Who cares?

• Michael Spencer

• • •

Todd Wilson makes a good effort at his CT article, Ten Theses on Creation and Evolution That (Most) Evangelicals Can Support. But, in the end, it is unsatisfying and unsustainable.

Wilson begins by noting that, with regard to the topic of origins, “There is hardly a more controversial subject among evangelical Christians.” As one of our commenters noted the other day: “And hardly a less controversial subject anywhere else. Sometimes there are not two sides to every issue. There is a right answer and a wrong answer.” My main response to this article is, “Boy, do evangelicals need to grow up and enter the real world.”

I understand that this puts pastors such as Todd Wilson in an uncomfortable position, but so be it. The process that he and his church went through is well known to me from my own experience. A church is stuck in a dogmatic box. The pastor and other leaders suggest a long process of study and conversation to come up with a statement or policy that most everyone can live with. In the end, they develop something that doesn’t really end up dealing with the elephants in the room.

This tension-filled season in the life of our church provided a good occasion to engage in serious conversations about origins issues. We grappled with our doctrinal boundaries as a local church: What degree of diversity will we allow? And given our diversity, what can we still affirm together as a unifying doctrinal core?

The upshot was the development of a series of ten theses on creation and evolution that we believe (most) evangelicals can (mostly) affirm. We weren’t looking for perfect unanimity. Our ultimate goal was to maintain the “unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3) and to prioritize the gospel as of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). It was important for us to arrive at a position on creation and evolution that was in keeping with that faithful Christian saying, “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

I’ve been there. I admire the good intentions of the church leadership. However, they only delayed the inevitable sense of dissatisfaction that comes with an unfinished task. The statement they came up with will only keep them in a no man’s land of intellectual dishonesty.

Here are the ten theses Todd Wilson’s church developed:

  1. The doctrine of creation is essential to the Christian faith.
  2. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is the Word of God, inspired, authoritative, and without error. Therefore whatever Scripture teaches is to be believed as God’s instruction, without denying that the human authors of Scripture communicated using the cultural conventions of their time.
  3. Genesis 1-2 is historical in nature, rich in literary artistry, and theological in purpose. These chapters should be read with the intent of discerning what God says through what the human author has said.
  4. God created and sustains everything. This means that he is as much involved in natural processes as he is in supernatural events. Creation itself provides unmistakable evidence of God’s handiwork.
  5. Adam and Eve were real persons in a real past, and the fall was a real event with real and devastating consequences for the entire human race.
  6. Human beings are created in the image of God and are thus unique among God’s creatures. They possess special dignity within creation.
  7. There is no final conflict between the Bible rightly understood and the facts of science rightly understood. God’s “two books,” Scripture and nature, ultimately agree. Therefore Christians should approach the claims of contemporary science with both interest and discernment, confident that all truth is God’s truth.
  8. The Christian faith is compatible with different scientific theories of origins, from young-earth creationism to evolutionary creationism, but it is incompatible with any view that rejects God as the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Christians can (and do) differ on their assessment of the merits of various scientific theories of origins.
  9. Christians should be well grounded in the Bible’s teaching on creation but always hold their views with humility, respecting the convictions of others and not aggressively advocating for positions on which evangelicals disagree.
  10. Everything in creation finds its source, goal, and meaning in Jesus Christ, in whom the whole of creation will one day achieve eschatological redemption and renewal. All things will be united in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

My comments:

  • Re: Tenet 2 — Committing yourself to a typical evangelical statement of inerrancy locks you into a closed system of reasoning that will not allow for honest inquiry into other evidence about origins.
  • Re: Tenet 3 — Calling Genesis 1-2 “historical in nature, rich in literary artistry, and theological in purpose” tries too hard to cover all the bases of genre and style without really saying anything meaningful.
  • Re: Tenet 5 — Again, there is no nuance or wiggle room in this conviction about Adam and Eve. Wilson himself notes that this could be a sticking point for some, and he also acknowledges that in twenty years, this will probably be a minority opinion. They make an unequivocal statement anyway. Why?
  • Re: Tenet 7 — I find this to be an especially unhelpful statement, especially in an evangelical context, where there is often a genuine lack of appreciation for “the book of Nature.” “All truth is God’s truth” to most evangelicals means “science will ultimate agree with my interpretation of the Bible.’
  • Re: Tenet 8 — This point once again shows the limited perspective of evangelicals. To say that “the Neo-Darwinian assertion of people like Richard Dawkins, that mutations are random and that evolution is therefore necessarily unguided or blind, is a metaphysical add-on to the scientific theory of evolution, not a part of the theory itself…” is to misunderstand what science is. By its very nature, science does not take into account theological concerns such as God’s providential oversight of creation. Will evangelicals ever feel comfortable talking about any aspect of life without using explicit God language or requiring that everything fit into their narrow “worldview”?
  • Re: Tenet 9Christians should be well grounded in the Bible’s teaching on creation but always hold their views with humility, respecting the convictions of others and not aggressively advocating for positions on which evangelicals disagree.” While I appreciate the author’s desire for unity and agree that we should not trample upon others’ beliefs, the church ultimately needs to move on from this controversy. Would the sentiments of this tenet have been appropriate in the light of Galileo and Copernicus’s findings? For how long?

For how long?

Nice try. But all this statement tells me is that we have a long, long way to go.

Comments

  1. Apart from your issues with it, CM, the YEC people would never agree to this list, so it doesn’t help establish a middle ground in the least. For them, not believing in YEC is tantamount to not trusting the Holy Scriptures; they don’t see any middle ground, and Wilson’s list won’t help them see it. They make, and assert that there can be, no distinction between the historicity of the Genesis account and the historicity of Jesus; for them, the historicity of every detail given in both testaments is the content of salvation history: you can no more “be saved”, or be confident in your salvation, if you don’t believe in YEC and a literal Adam and Eve than if you don’t believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. But there is the real crux of the problem: they have a deficient view of the nature of salvation, their approach to interpreting the Bible is driven by fear and the need to neutralize it. As long as this is the case, they will never see a middle ground of any kind.

    • Christiane says

      ” But there is the real crux of the problem: they have a deficient view of the nature of salvation, their approach to interpreting the Bible is driven by fear and the need to neutralize it.”

      Robert, that is a thought-provoking comment indeed.

    • “the YEC people would never agree to this list” – which is ironic, because this list is 90% of the way to their position. But as you point out, with YEC/inerrantists there is no middle ground – it’s the whole enchilada or nothing.

      “the real crux of the problem: they have a deficient view of the nature of salvation” – I would argue that this is actually tangential – medieval folk Catholicism held similar views (and without the Protestant bible thumping). I would argue that the root is a mixture of inherited “common sense realism”, a shallow view of truth (eternal transcendent atomistic propositions), and good old democratized anti-intellectualism and hostility toward any authority not derived from your sect.

      • I think medieval folk Catholicism believed, along with current Protestant fundamentalists, that if you got one thing wrong you went straight to hell at death. The focus of right belief was different: in the case of fundamentalists, it is an inerrant Bible to be believed in its entirety in all respects; in the case of medieval Catholics, it was a system of belief involving a complex interweaving of Scripture, purgatorial machinations, the mythological world of protecting patron Saints, and the canons of the Church (most especially having to do with mortal sins and indulgences). I think there was a lot of thumping going on in the late medieval world — itinerant Catholic preachers thumping into the heads of the laity how sinful and bound for eternal hell they were, and how to take advantage of the indulgence system as a leverage against their sins and hell.

      • I would argue that fear the based Christianity of medieval Catholicism, with its indulgences, cult of patron Saints, hellish purgatory, and severe doctrine of sin, fed the fires that led to the Reformation revolt wherein salvation was re-centered on a fear based approach to the authority of the Bible. The fear-of-missing-salvation fixation was transferred from one object to another, but it was the same fear.

        • Same fear — different object, different shape.

          • Christiane says

            Hello Robert F

            I think that there is ALSO another kind of fear in fundamentalism, especially revealed by those ‘leaders’ who insist that if you don’t belief in a ‘literal’ interpretation of Genesis, you are not a Christian. . . . .

            the fear I speak of is this: the leaders are afraid of losing control over the minds of these followers

            nothing Christian about it, this, no

            the sadness about the ‘all or nothing’ fundamentalist teaching is that once a young person know longer can swallow the line, they may walk away from the faith entirely, being discouraged and beyond hope for themselves

            that is the real tragedy in my opinion

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        “”””I would argue that the root is a mixture of inherited “common sense realism”, a shallow view of truth (eternal transcendent atomistic propositions), and good old democratized anti-intellectualism and hostility toward any authority not derived from your sect.””””

        THIS! In shorter form: The People are not even interested in having this Conversation.

        If they were Interested, they also – very likely – would no longer have any use for these “Leaders”.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > the YEC people would never agree to this list, so it doesn’t help establish a middle ground in the least

      I do feel a touch of compassion for Mr. Wilson. I hear this same kind of Solution all the time.

      He is certainly not alone in trying to host “conversations”. This is a very familiar meme: “”lets have the hard conversation(s)”. among Progressives. It may be sincerely intended . . . for awhile. Especially by Leaders – perhaps more appropriately called Organizers – who are dispositionally opposed to or deeply uncomfortable with Confrontation. Because there is no Middle Ground. There is nothing to mediate when people have distinct Visions of their past, thier future, their community, their city, or their origins. They can either give each other space to coexist . . . or they can choose not to give space. That is a hard thing to acknowledge.

  2. Iain Lovejoy says

    Regarding tenet 8, this is a common misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. The complaint that evolutionary science holds that evolution is “random” is simply wrong: evolution is not in any sense random. The natural variations between individuals in a population may be random (I.e. whether I inherit my father’s hair colour or my mother’s) but the whole point if evolution is that which traits end up persisting and getting passed down is determined by those which are most suited to their environment and allow the exploitation of available ecological niches, not by chance at all. The progress of evolution is completely determined and guided by the operation of natural laws (for which see tenet 4).
    Tenet 5 will necessarily the biggest issue with evolution for some Christians. It is problematic for a particular notion of original sin that holds we are all damned regardless of anything we may or may not do through somehow inheriting at birth the guilt of Adam’s own specific individual offence because we are descendants. If we have no single ancestor and / or Genesis 2 is intended to be metaphorical rather than an historic account of actial events thus doesn’t work. I personally, however, am completely cool with this is I think it is a stupid idea anyway, and arguably grounded in nothing more than a bad Latin translation of Romans 5.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > this is a common misunderstanding of evolutionary theory

      Seems inevitable. These are Evangelical leaders hosting a conversation about a Scientific theory. The same issues occur when Evangelical leaders step over into Economics or Psychology. There is a root issue of a lack of respect for Expertise; a distrust many Evangelical leaders have seeded in their congregations in order to aggregate authority to themselves. Or they, at least, turn a deaf ear to when others in their orbits do that for them.

      I did not see mentioned anywhere if they invited any Scientist to attend the conversation. I’m not sure, having read the article who the “our” in “In this essay, I share our ten theses on creation and evolution” is. Evangelical does have a storied history of issuing Statements AS IF they were developed by some Authoritative Assembly, when they are the musings of a few dudes.

      Maybe I am wrong. According to the Internet: “””Based on the third annual CPT conference, this volume brings together the reflections of church leaders, academic theologians, and scientists on the importance—and the many dimensions—of the doctrine of creation””” So there were Scientists? But at a Conference, not at a Church. I did find https://www.pastortheologians.com/2016-theology-conference by searching. A line-up which does not bode well for the Conversation – – – not a Biologist among them. 🙁

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        They invited one Physicist – from a private Christian college – just so they could put the term “scientist” in the description? That is an utterly political maneuver.

  3. Pellicano Solitudinis says

    The problem for me is: how does someone who has arrived at a position of generally accepting theistic evolution co-exist with a YEC church community, a family or even a spouse?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > how does someone who has arrived at a position of generally accepting theistic evolution co-exist

      Silence.

      • Yep, Keep your mouth shut to keep the peace. It’s a wasted debate anyway.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          Dark side of this type of thing: They feel that they’ve had a debate – look, see! So if you are not happy, you chose not to participate|engage, you are being recalcitrant/difficult; The Adults had a “conversation” about this. #sadness That is not unique to Evangelicalism.

        • Eventually they “throw you out.”

          Been down the path of silence along with many others. You will eventually get pressed into a corner and an answer of how you think is “demanded”. Then you get told “you’re not a Christian” unless you can duck out of the question or tell a lie.

          This has been true for a circle of my friends for the last 10 years or so. And for the last 2 years seems to get wrapped up into who you voted for for president. (No intent to derail here.)

          • Who did you vote for president? 🙂 🙂

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Been down the path of silence along with many others. You will eventually get pressed into a corner and an answer of how you think is “demanded”.


            Like a Jihadi putting the beheading knife to your throat, demanding “La ilaha illa Al’lah” (first half of the Shahada, Islam’s Profession of Faith), and waiting for you to make the Correct Response.

  4. senecagriggs says

    Every Sunday, our pastors [ over the years ] have spoken from the pulpit, “Thus says the very Word of God.” They’ve always treated Scripture as inerrant, authored by God Himself who is outside of space and time, sole creator of everything. No miracle is beyond Him.

    And so my church survives. Our pastors have always been men, our elders have always been men. We have followed, “Old Paths.”

    At the entry, “All who will may come.?
    Looking back, “You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.”

    • Glad we have one of the chosen among us. How about engaging in the conversation about the post?

      • senecagriggs says

        I “do” engage C.M., just not the way YOU think i should. I’m not you brother.

        • “Engaging in conversation” typically implies listening to what the other person has to say. You just keep asserting the same points over and over again, and when points that counter your assertions are raised, you ignore them. That is NOT “engaging”.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            There are many seminars, classes, and such about Engagement and constructive dialogue.
            Many of them are free. Might be a worhwhile time investment.

          • Christiane says

            I am glad for the voice of senecagriggs here.

            It validates a truth about Imonk, that we do not close any doors that open out into the great hall where we can meet and share with one another how we see things.

            I don’t ‘agree’ with senecagriggs on many things, but I would be a lesser person if I did not respect his voice as his own, and meaningful to him, for reasons only he may understand.

            If we want him to engage, let’s try to remember that in the Body of Christ, there are no one who is not needed. Let him speak. If we cannot agree, say so, but the put-down stuff won’t get him to engage with us. I was recently disrespectful to the person who identifies as Bndct, and I might have handled that differently, sure. I am human and person ‘Bndct’ had attacked a commenter that has been troubled and ill and I took offense at that, but I did wrong to do it. I did not ‘apologize’. So I need to come to terms with my own behavior in that instance, and eventually I will sort it out likely only with the help of grace.

            Imonk is special. I want to see it be a place where people can come and treat each other with respect. I will do what I can to try to sort out my own demons in this regard. Every time a human person speaks out hopeful of being understood, it is important to try to listen with a thought to the bigger picture in that person’s life, and so many times, I have failed to do this, and a moment was lost that might have made a difference. I commit to trying to be more respectful of those whose opinions are not my own . . . if they are vicious to people, I need to remember ‘hurting people hurt people’, and so their ‘bigger picture’ is already one of pain we cannot know the details of . . . .

            senecagriggs has shown frustration from time to time, but I think he HAS tried to engage with this blog and to share. That is my own opinion.

            • I do agree with you Christiane, and to me he is not the troll that others see him as. And his voice helps shape my arguments against some of the things he tends to spout, so in that way he’s helpful. And without him and other “disagreeing” voices, there’s a danger we’d become an echo chamber.

              • Of course, I agree with you, and have given Seneca and others like him fairly wide berth here. Just remember that there are rules for participation and that the moderator is the judge.

                • I don’t want him to leave – I just want him to try more to actually talk and not pontificate. 😉

        • Seneca, with all due respect, your earlier comment did not foster conversation. We have written about this often on IM. Merely declaring one’s position as though it were some kind of final, unassailable answer doesn’t cut it.

          • Christiane says

            sometimes senecagriggs has engaged with me, but I also have noticed that often he has not, although I hoped he would

            I am still hopeful for better to come.

            I’ve been thrown off of three blogs so far:
            SBCvoices
            Wartburg Watch
            SBCtoday

            for some reason of immense kindness and graciousness, Wade Burleson has continued to allow me to comment over on Istoria Ministries;
            and I although thought I might get thrown off of Imonk when I had such a visceral reaction to the tormenting of the border children and I thought I was ‘out of line’ more than once; the truth is, I had to speak out about it out of conscience and where others saw a barrier between talking about politics, all I could see were those cages and the children with those pitiful mylar ‘blankets’ (please!) and I was a complete mess. It was too much for me.

            I was always grateful for not being put out because of inappropriate political commenting during that time, as so many were offended. I would have understood this though.

            • Clay Crouch says

              Why in the world were you thrown off of Wartburg Watch?

              • Christiane says

                Hello Clay,
                I’m not exactly sure. I remember I offended someone called ‘Daisy’ and that was my first awareness of a problem. She blogs under the name of ‘Miss Daisy Flower’. She was REALLY offended.

                I also tried to reconcile Velour who helped with the prayer lists each week to Dee. It was a good faith effort on my part. Dee had given me the impression that I did not have the whole story, but I thought if I could convince them to talk to each other, but ever the problem was might be resolved.

                In the end, Dee made a good decision, in my opinion. Daisy needed to be on Wartburg Watch more than I did. I take no offense. But I always hoped that Velour might reconcile with Dee, and vice versa, but it was not to be.

                long story there, and the truth is, I don’t know the whole of it, so I never fully understood the bigger picture as I was not privy to the heart of the story, no

                I do not take anything personally, and am at peace with my being put off though, as I must have crossed boundaries that were invisible to me but unacceptable to others, so I take responsibility for what happened in so far as I can do this.

                Sorry if not clear, but I really don’t know everything that was going on between other people and obviously I said what made things worse. All is well with me. I hope Dee’s work prospers.
                Wartburg Watch provides a good service to the Church as a spotlight on some of the worst abuses out there. They deserve our support and our prayers.

                • Yeah, there was a lot going in behind the scenes, especially when Velour just went postal & began making accusations that people were saying things in comments that they just weren’t saying. My suspicion is that Velour had some issues, & that maybe some of what she had represented herself as wasn’t true. Dee has absolutely kept Velour’s problems confidential though, just a hint that things weren’t well. I don’t think reconciliation was on the cards, as the situation wasn’t what Velour was presenting it as.

                  It’s very very rare to get kicked off the Watch, very rare. It took Jimmy (Seneca) a lot of hard work to get blocked on & off.

    • We pretty much know where you stand, but thanks for reminding us. I might’ve otherwise thought something like this would’ve engaged your brain.

      –> “No miracle is beyond Him.”

      Including using the slow, patient method of creation via some sort of evolution. After all, he is “outside of space and time.” What does He care if it takes three billion years to form mankind?

    • That’s exactly the argument the Catholic church took against Galileo when he provided evidence that the earth was not the center of the universe – that everything did not revolve around it. They fell back on Ps. 104:5 – ‘He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved.’ God said it, they believed it, that settled it. So they refused to look through the telescope at Jupiter and its moons. They followed the ‘old paths’.

      I have one question for you seneca (though I have learned that this is no doubt a waste of otherwise perfectly good electrons): Do you believe the earth is flat, that it has a solid dome in the sky separating the ‘heavens’ from the ‘sky’, and that God stores the rain and snow above that dome and opens windows now and then to let the rain and snow fall to earth? Do you believe the sun, moon and stars are inside that dome – that the rain comes from beyond the stars? Do you believe the earth rests on pillars sunk deep into the sea (a flat earth, by the way)?

      If you believe that the Genesis creation account must be taken literally, then you also HAVE to believe that the description it (and many other places in the Bible) gives of that very creation must also be taken literally – there is simply no way around it. Either you believe the Bible is true in every aspect or you don’t. You might argue that some of that is poetic language (e.g. Job 38:22, Ps. 75:3) but to the ancient Israelites it wasn’t poetic at all – it was literal – that is what they literally believed, and (as John Walton from Wheaton notes), the Bible never once attempts to challenge or correct their views of geology, geography, astronomy, etc. In fact, some would argue the Bible seems to reinforce those incorrect beliefs. Or perhaps, it simply isn’t concerned with those things (geology, astronomy, etc.) and instead addresses other concerns (religious concerns, ethical concerns) in the terms and ideas consistent with their ancient non-scientific worldview. Is that even remotely possible in your world seneca??? I confess that for a long time it wasn’t possible in mine – the Bible said, I believed it, and that settled it (though it really didn’t).

    • I don’t think there’s anybody here who has any confusion about *what* you believe, Seneca. What we want to know is, “Why”? Tell us *why* you believe these things. It would at least be a change of pace…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Other than “Virtue Signalling to show My Correct Theology and FAITH”?

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          Now, Now, HUG, you know that **ONLY** Lefties engage in Virtue Signaling and Identity Politics – – – when anyone else sounds like this it they are Declaring Their Values and Representing The [Very] Silent Majority.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Fundamentalism is a state of mind that can transfer to any belief system.

            Most recently it was during a YouTube binge on a channel called “Literature Devil” concerning the Social Justice Warrior Uber Alles influence in today’s storytelling and media (and how it’s driving the readers/viewers away with bad storytelling). I noticed that the SJWs Morally Correct storytelling hit all the same tropes and shticks as Bad Christianese Fiction. Including the Righteousness of The One True Way and hostility to rejection by the audience (usually by Forcing It Down Their Unenlightened/Heathen Throats — “Eat Your Brussels Sprouts! THEY’RE GOOD FOR YOU!”)

  5. Clay Crouch says

    The Gospels seem to indicate that Jesus (the actual Word of God) did not handle the scriptures as inerrant or infallible (as those terms are defined by evangelicals). If anything, he taught that man’s very understanding of God, as revealed in the scriptures, was an evolutionary process. Evangelicals in regard to the Bible and church history, live in the uncomfortable states of denial and cognitive dissonance. I posit as exhibit A, the 7:15 AM comment above me.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      Jesus did seem to have a very Hebrew approach to Scripture. Strange, that.

      • Clay Crouch says

        Anyone up for a round of midrash?

      • This topic is just another way of how people form a “Christian” box and then fit the Bible into it. And if you’re not willing to get into the particular box you are not a Christian.

        Was visiting a church a while back that had generated a lot of comments about how it was a great church. Took in a Saturday new member “what we believe” session.

        – We are not an Old Testament church. Jesus replaced all of that.

        an hour or so later

        – Our members must tithe 10% because it says so in the OT

        Sigh.

    • Jesus was indeed all over the map. First there are his scripture-trumping, “I know scripture says this, but I say it’s THIS!” Then there are his adjustments of the law “No, Peter… you don’t forgive just seven times (which is four more than required), but seventy-seven times!” (In some texts, he suggests even more than that!) Let’s face it… he says stuff that would get him stoned in certain evangelical churches.

      Also… how many Bible literalists are missing their right eye because they gouged it out?

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        I got a spoon they can borrow.

        • LOL. Yep. And I’m guessing all the “the Bible says men-only in the pulpit and leadership” folks still have both their eyes… thus their hypocrisy.

        • “Why a spoon, cousin? Why not an axe, or a…”

          “BECAUSE IT’S DULL, YOU TWIT. IT WILL HURT MORE!”

          – Guy of Guisborne and the Sheriff of Nottingham, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”

  6. I don’t really have a problem with leaders of a church developing something like this. I don’t even have a problem with many of the ten theses, either, since that’s how they’re presented: as theses. To me, they provide talking points for entering into a discussion and dialog with people willing to chat about it. Maybe its flaw is as you say, CM: in trying to everyone, it will please no one. But I don’t think that’s its purpose: to please. I think its purpose is just something to be able to point to and begin a dialog.

    I bet that during its development several of your critiques were part of the discussion. I wouldn’t be surprised if some tweaking to these occurs later. I rather like #3, as it’s what many of us have said here at iMonk. The only one that seems a little too concrete is #5 (for the reasons you point out).

    • The problem is NOT with the development of things like this.

      The problem is that most of the people in the church want something like this to settle the issue once and for all. So they put it in the church bylaws and frame it up on the wall in the hallways. And it can now not be debated.

      • If someone were to come up to me and say, “Here, sign this”… yep, I’d likely say, “No thank you.” But I admire the thought that went into each of the ten (reading the article brings out some of the nuances behind each), and I like the potential for “engaged conversation” (as Wilson puts it). Of course there will be people on both ends of the spectrum (YECers AND evolutionists) not open to healthy dialog… but that’s pretty much the case with anything theological.

        • But Rick, I don’t think in the end that we’re talking about something “theological” — except that evangelicals want to put an explicit theological spin on everything. We’re talking about engaging with real world knowledge and accepted science. All this statement does is make everyone feel good that we’ve “dealt with the issue” when in fact they haven’t even begun to do so. The “conversations” this will engender will likely all be in house and will not begin to address the facts in the case. As soon as someone goes further than this relatively timid statement and begins to press on a hot button issue (like maybe the Adam one mentioned), the very real danger of conflict and schism will tear its ugly head. The evangelical model inevitably comes to that, or to a virtual suppression of anything beyond strict bounds.

          • I hear what you’re saying, and I don’t disagree. What I think Wilson’s piece helps with is when those of us who think differently run across those who demand it be made into a grand theological issue. His whole ten-point theses came about when a pastor friend said, “I’m not sure how to preach Genesis anymore,” along with his own inner-church struggle with him being more of an evolutionist yet others having a problem with that. Again, I find these helpful talking points more than anything else.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        The problem is that most of the people in the church want something like this to settle the issue once and for all. So they put it in the church bylaws and frame it up on the wall in the hallways. And it can now not be debated.

        Where it becomes Inerrant SCRIPTURE and Infallible Dogma Ex Cathedra.

        “Two Plus Two Equals Five — Ees Party Line!”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      I do not feel the criticism is of making the/a statement – although, boy, howdy, do Evangelicals like to issue statements – it is more the “Why?” It is The Great Missing Of The Point. That the statement is not Helpful; again in the vein of so many statements: Why? Who was calling for a statement? What is the statement really, seriously, expected to do? So many of these statements feel like, brush hands off, whew, there we go, got that taken care of. In practical sense all they do, IMNSHO, is attempt to entrench – rejustify – the status quo. There very [and frequent] existence is evidence that the status quo is in trouble.

      And isn’t there a pretty big credibility gap regarding a statement on Creation/Evolution made with not even one Biologist in the room?

      • The “why” is made pretty clear in the article. A pastor friend said to him, “I’m not sure how to preach Genesis anymore,” and he had his own inner-church struggle with him being more of an evolutionist yet others having a problem with that. That was the genesis (pardon the pun) of the ten-point theses.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          Ok, I just do not see anything in this statement that clarifies how to preach Genesis. This is a re-declaration of stock-n-trade Evangelical positions . . . made as the result of a supposed serious conversation about the topic . . . WITHOUT A BIOLOGIST, without a paleontologist, without a geologist, and even without ANYONE UNDER FORTY in the room! It’s nothing. It s more of the same, again.

          This is not going to help him preach on Genesis.

          In light of who was invited to the conversation I fail to see this as anything other than “get in line”.

          • I guess I don’t view Wilson’s theses as “be all’s and end all’s,” but more of a snapshot of his current thinking.

            –> “…WITHOUT A BIOLOGIST, without a paleontologist, without a geologist, and even without ANYONE UNDER FORTY in the room!”

            That would be cool to try to draft a position statement with those folks involved, too!

            • Adam Tauno Williams says

              > That would be cool to try to draft a position statement with those folks involved, too!

              Yes, that should be streamed live. I’d watch.

  7. Christiane says

    A thought to the post. The ‘need’ for literal interpretation is not consistent with an ancient attempt to portray Creation by peoples who were not scientifically-trained, but were likely the inheritors of ‘the Story’ that had come down to them from ancient days . . . . going back so far that even in their DNA, was the ‘Story’ engraved in their genetic memories.

    Another viewpoint:

    an excerpt from ‘The Creation’
    a poem by James Weldon Johnson

    ” . . . Up from the bed of the river
    God scooped the clay;
    And by the bank of the river
    He kneeled Him down;

    And there the great God Almighty
    Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
    Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
    Who rounded the earth in the middle of His hand;

    This Great God,
    Like a mammy bending over her baby,
    Kneeled down in the dust
    Toiling over a lump of clay
    Till He shaped it in His own image;

    Then into it He blew the breath of life,
    And man became a living soul. ”

    We need ‘story’ as much as we need theology.
    Whether it’s a spoken liturgy or a poem or myth or saga or the Book of Genesis, there is something about ‘story’ that fills a collective human need.

    We want to know more than we have the capacity to comprehend, but still we want to KNOW. And maybe there is some truth to the idea that in our DNA, we carry genetic memories of ancient days that find a way into our (sub)consciousness?

    Is there more to ‘story’ beyond the ability to ‘entertain’ ?
    Is human imagination a more intricate gift to us from the Creator?
    Have we overlooked human imagination as another way God is communicating with us?

    • Pellicano Solitudinis says

      I get very cross when I hear people say, “JUST a story.” I’ve been pretty comfortable since at least my teens with the concept that something doesn’t have to be factually correct to be true (I blame Tolkien and Lewis :-).

      I think that this understanding that there are different kinds of truth, with different uses, is the main reason why I am no longer content to be a YEC, and also the reason why it is so hard to have a discussion with my fellow church members who are still very much YEC. We see the world through completely different eyes.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I get very cross when I hear people say, “JUST a story.” I’ve been pretty comfortable since at least my teens with the concept that something doesn’t have to be factually correct to be true (I blame Tolkien and Lewis :-).

        ““Remember what Bilbo used to say: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

  8. Christiane says

    That’s something I hadn’t thought of. People with autism struggle with how to communicate, I know. (One of my three children has autistic signs along with his Down Syndrome, and the impact is great.)
    Thank you for your very kind insight, Patriciamc. 🙂