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