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Evolution from Creation to New Creation: Conflict, Conversation, and Convergence Paperback – November 1, 2003
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About the Author
Martinez J. Hewlett is Professor Emeritus at University of Arizona & Adjunct Professor at Graduate Theological Union in Berkley, California.
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The authors present each view positively, then offer their critiques, clearly labeling their opinions as opinions.
Their treatment of theistic evolution is particularly good, in that it clearly labels and systematically discusses the spectrum of flavors of theistic evolution, from reluctant acceptor (B. B. Warfield) to enthusiastic supporter (Theilhard de Chardin), along with the views of six others (Kenneth Miller, Arthur Peacock, Denis Edwards, John Haught, Robert John Russell and Philip Hefner) in between. The authors conclude the book with their own "Constructive Proposal." The book includes extensive notes, a glossary, an index and a scripture index.
I highly recommend it to Christians seeking to better understand the pros and cons of each viewpoint, particularly theistic evolution. Unfortunately, there is virtually no discussion of Old Earth Creationism and Progressive Creationism, which is why I gave it only four stars.
First, they examine the "war" between Christianity and science. What they conclude (I think correctly) is that the war is not over whether Christianity or science is true. The war is over what constitutes science. Young earth creationists are not denying the validity of the scientific enterprise, or rejecting that we should attempt to determine the laws of the universe. What they are denying is that evolution is valid science. They proceed to examine what exactly Darwinian evolution means, and the negative results some have taken from it (e.g. social Darwinism, evolutionary psychology, etc.). This helps us to understand why it is that many Christians are wary of evolution: just look at the bad things people like eugenics programs that have resulted from what people understood to be the practical application of Darwin's theory. The authors explain why these things do not follow from Darwinian theory, removing some major obstacles many Christians have preventing them from even considering evolution.
Second, the authors examine alternate positions on creationism. They deal very fairly with young earth creationism, avoiding the unnecessary condescension many theistic evolutionists unfortunately use. They take seriously the concerns of young earth creationists, but ultimately conclude that they are misguided in their insistence that Genesis 1-2 be taken literally. They seem to skip over old earth creationism, which is somewhat odd, though some of their criticisms of young earth creationism and intelligent design would also apply to the old earth position. As for intelligent design, Hewlett and Peters examine the history of the position (back to Paley's watchmaker argument), and specifically address the arguments of Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, and William Dembski. Of the three, they find Dembski's the most convincing (they conclude that Johnson does not really understand neo-Darwinian evolution and that Behe's notion is mostly a God-of-the-gaps position), but conclude that his arguments effectively argue not against evolution, but against the philosophical underpinnings of science (i.e. whether or not science can include teleological explanations of events).
The third major section was what I found to be the most important part of this book: the survey of positions within the theistic evolution camp. He places the major figures on a spectrum measuring the amount of divine action present in them. On end is scientific creationism (and, not far from the end, intelligent design) and on the other end is deism. The major figures they list are (in the order on the spectrum from most divine action to least divine action) B. B. Warfield, Kenneth Miller, Arthur Peacocke, Denis Edwards, John Haught, Robert John Russell, Philip Hefner, and Tielhard de Chardin. The authors look at the positions offered by each of these thinkers (and a few more) and ask five questions about what they believe about the following five items: (1) deep time, (2) natural selection, (3) common descent, (4) divine action, and (5) theodicy. They raised significant issues with the popular free-will theodicy (the idea that God is not responsible for natural evil because he created the universe to be free to evolve, and could not prevent things like pain without violating its freedom), noting that it is inconsistent for thinkers like Peacocke (and most theistic evolutionists) to take this line of defense yet at the same time talk about there being purpose in creation, and God guiding creation toward His ends. It seems that we must either choose one or the other: either God does interact with creation (in which case we get to keep the idea of purpose in creation) or God freely limits Himself to give creation freedom (in which case we can explain evil). Hewlitt and Peters surprised me by rejecting BOTH of these ideas.
The fourth section consists of their positive construction of what they believe to be a better understanding of what to make of God and evolution. They reject the idea that their is purpose within the natural processes of the universe. They make what I take to be a very important and insightful distinction between purpose WITHIN the natural processes of the universe, and God having a purpose FOR the natural universe. The natural processes themselves need not be purposeful, but Christianity requires that there be purpose FOR creation. This allieviates some (though by no means all) of the difficulty of understanding how there could be purpose in light of the apparently inherently random nature of genetic mutations which allow for changes in biological life.
Thus far I was largely in agreement with Hewlett and Peters on their analysis of alternate positions both within and without of the theistic evolution camp, and I was very much looking forward to their theodicy after they pointed out the major flaws I see in the current evolutionary theodicy. Unfortunately, their theodicy was severely disapponting. They did two things to attempt to relieve God of responsibility for evil: they (1) rejected the idea that the universe ever was good in the first place, and (2) point to the idea of God as a fellow-sufferer, heavily emphasizing a Lutheran theology of the cross. They pull a very, very strange exegetical stunt and explain that when God said that what He created was good, He was speaking from a post-new creation perspective. They actually claim that the Biblical narrative suddenly throws in a phrase God will speak in the future, and we have just misunderstood it to be about the past. I can understand claiming that the universe was never without natural evil, and I can even understand saying that the universe will never be truly good until after the new creation, but to try to claim that this is what is meant by that verse in Genesis one is absurd. At least be honest and admit that this is an argument driven by contemporary struggles to understand why evil exists in light of evolution, not something you took from Genesis one. Second, the idea that God is a fellow-sufferer IS a very significant theological concept, and it is helpful to us in our attempts to come to grips with the existence of evil. However, it does not explain at all WHY evil is here. Saying that God takes part in the suffering caused by evil does not even begin to account for why that suffering and evil are there in the first place. The concept of God as a fellow-sufferer is something which is useful in conjunction with a fuller explanation of the WHY of evil, but not as stand-alone theodicy.
In short, this is an exceptional analysis of the current landscape of the theistic evolution debate, but the positive construction of their own position leaves a lot to be desired, and is, quite frankly, even less convincing than some of the positions they critique in the third section.
This book may not be perfect, but it's definitely worth reading, and there's no better place to look (that I know of) for a comparison of thinkers within the theistic evolution position.
Overall grade: A