Friday, May 14, 2010

Progressive Creation

After Bruce Waltke's words about the evidence for evolutionary process and his subsequent resignation from RTS, some will (of course) adopt the myopic narrative that this is the Church listening to modern, rationalistic science instead of to God (in fact an article on Reformation21 has stated just that, in a disservice to Bruce Waltke).
Unfortunately (or fortunately) this unbelievably simplistic analysis is...well, unbelievably simplistic and wrong. The idea that the six creation days ought not to be taken literally has a long history that goes back to the Fathers (it can be seen in Augustine, Origen, Clement, and others). Here in Scotland, some of the Free Church's own Fathers, men like Hugh Miller and William Cunningham, were happy to embrace an old earth and a progressive creation process moving from simplicity to greater complexity. I'm glad to say that prominent Free Church theologians today are similarly inclined.

To stress the unity and eternity of God; to insist that the whole universe is His work; to emphasise that we live in a world of order, not of chaos; and to put the gods of Egypt and Babylon firmly in their place: these were the intentions of the author of Genesis 1. I suspect that if we had asked him, 'But how long were the days?' he would have looked blank. He was assuming a natural science rather than advocating it.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed would soon lose its effect if we became obsessed with the question, 'But is it really the smallest of all seeds?' And our Lord's encounter with Nicodemus would teach us little if we focused only on the question of reconciling John 3:8 with modern meteorology. I am not sure that our treatment of Genesis 1 has been much more intelligent. (Macleod, A Faith to Live By, 60).

If I am not hostile to the notion of a universe thousands of millions of years old and if I am prepared to accept that life-forms emerged according to a progressive pattern, from the simple to the more complex, does this make me a Darwinist? Not for a moment! I draw a very firm distinction between such a position and the position of consistent evolutionism. (Macleod, AFtLB, 62).