Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nothing New Under the Sun: Theistic Evolution & the Early Church

Nothing New Under the Sun:
Theistic Evolution, the Early Church, and the Return of Gnosticism, Part 1
Below is the Chapter One Introduction to God and Evolution, a compilation of writings on one of today's great debates in our contemporary churches. But is there anything really new in all of this debate? Below you will see, there is truly Nothing New Under the Sun. Been there done that.

I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food,
Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.
—Isaac Watts (1715)

From the words of English hymnist Isaac Watts to the music of Hadyn‟s Creation, from the ceiling of Michelangelo‟s Sistine Chapel to the pages of C.S. Lewis‟s novels Perelandra and The Magician’s Nephew, the Christian doctrine of creationi has inspired countless poets, composers, authors, and artists to celebrate the beauty and artistry of God as Creator. Yet in his recent book Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution (2008), theistic evolutionist Karl Giberson writes dismissively of the Christian doctrine of creation, insisting that it is but “a secondary doctrine for Christians. The central idea in Christianity concerns Jesus Christ and the claim that he was the Son of God.”ii Giberson‟s point seems to be that so long as people accept the divinity of Jesus, their view of God as Creator is unimportant.

Early Christian thinkers would have disagreed vigorously. For example, when Irenaeus (c. 130-200) began his refutation of Gnosticism in Book II of Against Heresies, he started not with the doctrine of Christ, but with what he called “the first and most important head,” namely, the doctrine of “God the Creator, who made the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein.”iii Similarly, the Nicene Creed, which reaches back nearly 1700 years and is accepted by all the major branches of Christianity as authoritative, begins by affirming “one God, the Father Almighty” who created “all things visible and invisible.”iv Many other affirmations of God as the Creator can be found in the early centuries of the church.v Thus, far from regarding the doctrine of creation as secondary, early Christians took it as the indispensable starting point for their theology.

Why were early Christians so insistent about the doctrine of creation? One obvious reason is that without God as Creator, the rest of the Christian story makes very little sense. Church historian Philip Schaff rightly observed that “without a correct doctrine of creation there can be no true doctrine of redemption.”vi According to the traditional Christian narrative, redemption is understood in light of the fall, and the fall is understood in light of a prior good creation. Thus, efforts to disassociate the doctrine of creation from the doctrines of redemption and the fall are likely to result in theological incoherence.

But there was another, more pressing reason why early Christians emphasized the doctrine of creation: They faced sharp opposition to the idea of God as Creator from the intellectual elites of their day. In many ways, that opposition foreshadowed debates over God and evolution in our own time. Perhaps there is no better way of gaining clarity about what is at stake theologically in today‟s debates over evolution than by understanding what was at stake in the conflicts over creation in the early church.

Read Chapter One in which John West refutes first century arguments such as: The Epicurean Materialists, The Gnostic Heresy, Natural Selection as the New Demiurge, God as the Cosmic Trickster, and Denying the Fall. We could learn much from his apologetic approach.
Is Theistic Evolution A New Theology? Or is it just the same old heresy wrapped in today’s garb?
ht: World Magazine


loswl said...

WOW!beautiful article, short and to the point. I cannot believe that a "christian" would say that Creation is secondary, they would have to place the Book of Genesis in the middle of the Bible and a couple other books too, just sad how evolution has infiltrated our minds, our faith in the Creator God and the Church. Christians who believe this should take a good hard look at Romans 1:18-27:

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error." Romans 1:18-27

At its core of this teaching is a suppression of the truth of God the creator. Some Christians are now confused as to who or what created the heavens and the earth and have a diminishing faith in God. More Bible believing Christians need to have a renewing of the mind as far as it concerns Creation, yes, believing in Creation does not save us, but the one that saved us... Created everything.

Deb said...

Check out the link to the entire First Chapter by John West. It's an awesome piece that discusses similiar problems that occurred in the early church. I found it enlightening, because so often we think that our problems are specific to our place in history, yet we so often find history repeating itself.

loswl said...

I scanned the first page and I am really amazed that the 1st century church was discussing the same issues, just blows my mind. I thought that Creation vs. Evolution was a 21st century argument.

This quote surprised me a lot:

In the century
prior to the Christian era, the Roman poet Lucretius popularized Epicurean materialism in
his epic poem De Rerum Natura (“On the Nature of Things”), where he proclaimed that
“neither by design did the primal germs ‟stablish themselves, as by keen act of mind.”
Instead, the colliding atoms continued “blow on blow, even from all time of old” until at
last they combined fortuitously “into those great arrangements out of which this sum of
things established is create[d].”

Very interesting, really opened my mind to a wider area of this debate. I actually read somewhere this week, that scripture supports the fact that people found fossils back in the Bible days before Christ. I never bothered to save the reference. But this seem to solidify that opinion. I will download the pdf and read more, thanks so much.