Recently, an article was published in the Religion section of the popular online news agency The Huffington Post. I don’t know much about the author, Jonathan Dudley, but according to him he has graduated from seminary and is currently studying to be a medical scientist. That’s excellent! However, I’m not too convinced that his article is all too accurate. In fact, it’s wrong.
I don’t want to push off the article all together because there are certainly many good points made. For instance,
In theory, if not always in practice, past Christian theologians valued science out of the belief that God created the world scientists study. Augustine castigated those who made the Bible teach bad science, John Calvin argued that Genesis reflects a commoner’s view of the physical world, and the Belgic confession likened scripture and nature to two books written by the same author.
These beliefs encouraged past Christians to accept the best science of their day, and these beliefs persisted even into the evangelical tradition. As Princeton Seminary’s Charles Hodge, widely considered the father of modern evangelical theology, put it in 1859: “Nature is as truly a revelation of God as the Bible; and we only interpret the Word of God by the Word of God when we interpret the Bible by science.”
My quarrel with Dudley’s article is that his logic seems to be a bit off. If by “requiring” acceptance of evolution for the Christian he means that it necessarily entails the acceptance of evolution then he has missed the gospel message. There’s a difference between having sound Christian theology and philosophy and what it means to have Christian faith. Here’s the logic.
Necessarily, Christian faith entails the acceptance of evolution.
This doesn’t make sense at all. He also equates this as orthodoxy! Here are a few examples of what having Christian faith necessarily entails.
Necessarily, Christian faith entails the belief in the existence of God.
Necessarily, Christian faith entails the belief that Jesus was fully human and fully God and died as a propitiation for your sin.
These are examples of the gospel message, what it means to be a Christian. Consider one’s theology as a web. In the center of the web is the gospel message. The next ring is orthodoxy, the acceptance of the inerrancy of Scripture, the second coming of Christ, the existence of a hell, etc. Then there are peripheral manners and doctrines such as how sign gifts function today, how ordinances and sacraments are to be observed, etc. One’s science, in this case, how one views evolution, is peripheral to being a Christian. I agree with Dudley, a Christian should have sound theology and philosophy, which will shape how one applies theory in approaching the scientific data. However, the scientific aspect of theology and philosophy is not the gospel message and it is not a manner of orthodoxy. Dudley then proceeds to list several examples of creationism inability to account for specific scientific data, which I am not going to comment on (my credentials are in philosophy and theology). However, I’d encourage him to be aware of one hand clapping.
I myself am not a creationist. I believe [this] universe is about 13.7 billion years old. I do advocate intelligent design, which is completely compatible with common descent evolution. My only objection is with Darwinian evolution. I appreciate what Dudley has attempted to do. He has attempted to present Christianity in the light of responsible intellectual existence. I hope he continues in doing so; however, he must do so by properly making the distinction between what requires Christian faith and applying sound theology and philosophy to science.