Creationist Wisdom #353: Iowa Preacher

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in an oddly named newspaper — the Algona Upper Des Moines of Algona, Iowa (population 5,560). What we found isn’t really a letter. It looks like the latest installment of a local feature called Ask the Pastor. We’ll treat it as a letter-to-the-editor.

This thing is titled How do Christians account for evolution? We’ll give you a few excerpts, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Although we usually omit the writer’s name and city, this time we’ll mention that the author is described as “Rev. Jason Peterson, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Burt and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Whittemore.” Those are two Iowa towns. Burt’s population is 533, and Whittemore’s population is 504

The rev is writing in response to this question: “How do Christians resolve the idea of evolution with the Bible’s account of creation in Genesis? Is it possible to reconcile these two ideas or much [sic] one choose between them?” If the rev is attempting to reconcile those two ideas, this could be fun. Okay, here we go:

Soon after Charles Darwin published his ideas of natural selection, Christians began to contemplate how it should be received in light of the Genesis creation account and to formulate responses to this new theory. Some Christians ardently objected to the contradiction, preferring the Genesis account, refusing to even study or evaluate evolutionary theory in light of its disagreement with Scripture’s record. Others simply accepted the evolutionary proposition as fact, disregarding the Biblical account as myth or symbolism in the process.

Later, some arose who attempted to reconcile the two in a concept called Theistic Evolution. This attempt accepts the premise of species, even man, occurring by means of evolution, but gives God the credit for orchestrating the process.

Those three positions are quite common today. But the rev has given the matter a great deal of thought, and he doesn’t like any of them. He says:

All of the responses mentioned so far have their difficulties, though: For Christians to simply disregard scientific research is problematic, because it gives the appearance of anti-intellectualism and drives Christians to mere belief. For Christians to uncritically adopt a scientific position that forces them to disregard Scripture is also problematic, because it leaves no reason to affirm anything in Scripture as true.

Aside from the fact that your Curmudgeon hates the word “problematic,” that’s a pathetic description of the options. We agree with the rev about the anti-intellectual rejection of science which some denominations demand, but how can he contrast that with a position that requires one to “uncritically adopt a scientific position.” Hey Rev: That’s why we have schools, so people can learn things and then make educated decisions.

But wait — what about theistic evolution? The rev doesn’t like that either, and he tells us why:

Theistic Evolution likewise has inconsistencies which make it an unsatisfying option for the Christian. The foundational problem with theistic evolution is that it abandons a single human couple as the parents of all humanity — and therefore undermines the foundational concepts of salvation and sin in Christianity.

He’s right — theistic evolution is still evolution, and therefore there’s no Adam & Eve. The rev sees that as a huge problem — maybe even problematic! Then he says:

If God guided the process of evolution so as to produce humanity rather than creating man as a distinct act, then one must discern exactly which generation marked the transition from a former species (lacking an immortal, spiritual, existence; not accountable to God for actions) to humanity (having an immortal soul and accountable to God for actions).

An astute observation! That’s the key to understanding all forms of evolution, theistic or otherwise. The rev is a deep thinker. So what’s his solution? It’s coming soon, but we should take the time to note how the rev arrives at his solution. He doesn’t tell us that he consulted any science text, nor did he contact a university to consult with anyone on the faculty. Then how does he resolve this problem?

It appears to us that the rev digs deep into his own spiritual nature for the answer. Maybe that’s the best way to decide such things. Sometimes these small town preachers have a lot of wisdom. We know you’re impatient to learn of the rev’s insight, so let’s read on:

A reasonable path in dealing with evolution as a Christian seems to be to affirm Darwin’s observable and repeatable explanations of change within species (called micro-evolution) while denying his unobservable, unrepeatable proposal of evolution across species (called macro-evolution).

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! It’s the micro-macro mambo. We recently discussed that here: Creationist Wisdom #352: Micro-Macro. The rev continues:

Modern research is indicating numerous instances where evolution does not adequately explain many natural phenomena, and while science cannot tell us who is responsible, it is becoming more and more evident that nature shows evidence of design.

Aaaargh!! Here’s how he finishes:

It is ultimately unwise and inappropriate for Christians to pose an adversarial relationship between science and faith, because it does justice to neither. It is also not necessary for Christians to attempt to compromise between the two. Instead, Christians affirm well-researched science and its conclusions, while questioning agenda-driven or poorly considered theories.

We were hoping for some comforting, small-town, home-spun wisdom. Instead we got something that could have been written by Ken Ham. Maybe it was. Nice try, rev.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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20 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #353: Iowa Preacher

  1. Rev. Peterson sermonises:

    It is also not necessary for Christians to attempt to compromise between [science & faith]. Instead, Christians affirm well-researched science and its conclusions, while questioning agenda-driven or poorly considered theories.

    All science is “agenda-driven,” the agenda being to get a better grip on reality, something the Revver strategically skirts. But that’s not his point it seems; rather more, his aim appears to be to make the sly insinuation that evolution, or at least his macro straw man thereof, is an “agenda-driven or poorly considered” theory (wrong on both counts, Revver) that challenges a literal reading of the two Genesis accounts.

    Note that the Revver didn’t actually answer the question that was posed: How Crushtians should reconcile evolution and scripture. Still, it’s a safe bet which side the Revver will choose.

  2. Doesn’t “micro”evolution pose as much a problem for Adam & Eve? Indeed, doesn’t just plain genetics?

  3. Yes, genetics does pose a problem. If we all started with Adam and Eve, then their sons married their sisters and so on (or was there another creation going on next door?). Any way, the population would be so inbred that there would be much less genetic diversity than we see today in our analysis of human genomes. Also since there were only about 8 (?) survivors of The Flood, we would have the same inbreeding problem. And all of this in less than 6000 years? Yes, why doesn’t the DiscoTute train their considerable mathematical skill (?) on this problem?

  4. Richard Olson

    Poorly considered “theories” are either hypotheses that failed or else ignorant surmises which lacked sufficient evidentiary basis to yield useful results. As is always the case in the creation v science argument re the goddidit advocate, the definition of theory is semantically undermined to the point that it no longer has any accurate meaning and is useful only to serve scriptural literalist purposes.

  5. Dear Rev. Some of us don’t think it’s that important. We prefer to remember that the Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go. Yes, I know that’s not evolution. It was the best I could come up with in answer to the question.

  6. So the good Rev.’s post was not agenda driven? I’d suggest that the actual revulsion displayed towards science isn’t as much to do with the discoveries scientists have made as much as an abject fear of scientific method. The agenda they fear is any process that attempts to remove the perceptive filters that are required when one wishes to embrace mysticism.

  7. SC, I don’t care for the word “problematic” either. It never comes to mind when I’m writing or speaking, and I find myself looking askance at those who do use it. Hard to say why. Possibly I associate it with certain University administrators who seemed to be using it pretentiously.

    However, the word has been used in English since the early 1600’s, so it’s got tradition behind it. Yet it sounds newfangled, not at all antiquarian. Weird.

    Can you say what turns you off about it?

  8. Retired Prof asks: “Can you say what turns you off about it?”

    The word “problematic” is supposed to mean “uncertain,” and if it’s to be used at all, I think it should be when saying that some statement or proposition is vague or fuzzy. Instead, people use it when they mean to say: “There are problems with your proposal.”

  9. Ceteris Paribus

    The Reverend advises:

    “A reasonable path in dealing with evolution as a Christian seems to be to affirm Darwin’s observable and repeatable explanations of change within species (called micro-evolution) while denying his unobservable, unrepeatable proposal of evolution across species (called macro-evolution).”

    A reasonable and perfectly formed theological solution to a very knotty problem. In my little liturgical notebook I must copy down his “How do Christians account for evolution?”.

    It will go right after the entry: “How to explain the Trinity to monotheists?”

  10. The Rev says, “If God guided the process of evolution so as to produce humanity rather than creating man as a distinct act, then one must discern exactly which generation marked the transition from a former species (lacking an immortal, spiritual, existence; not accountable to God for actions) to humanity (having an immortal soul and accountable to God for actions).

    I’m not sure why one must discern this – since it should be good enough if just God knows when this is – why do we mortals have to worry about which cave men were the first to have souls?

    But if we really need to, we can actually figure this out easily if we look at Genesis symbolically. It was upon gaining the Knowledge of Good and Evil that man was cast from the Garden. This means that at the point at which humans became aware of the concept of morals is the point at which they were subject to judgement.

    Also note that God “cursed” eve with difficult childbirth. Evolutionarily speaking, humans have touugher birthing than a lot of animals because our large brains. Shouldn’t be too hard to pinpoint this on the fossil record.

  11. Tangential note on the Creationist ‘Big Tent’. Although the Disco’Tute scrupulously avoids criticising Young Earth Creationists and their ilk even though, under duress, their own views are OEC, I had not really noted until recently that the DI is bitterly hostile to ‘theistic evolution’, and in fact run a web-site dedicated to descrying the evils of such. For a blast of John West as you may not have seen him before, see What is Theistic Evolution?

    It makes it pretty clear that, although the peddlers of ID endlessly profess that the identity of the Intelligent Designer is ‘out of scope’ – in other words, fill in the blank with the diety of your choice – it really is the God of Abraham—with Jebus at his side, natch. This is particularly clear from West’s three objections to ‘theistic evolution’ as he sets them out at the above link, viz.:

    [1] “…theistic evolution proponents assert that because Darwinian evolution is by definition ‘undirected.’ God could not have actively guided the evolutionary process, contrary to traditional Christian teachings about God’s sovereignty.”

    [2] “theistic evolution proponents repudiate traditional Christian teaching about the original goodness of creation and its subsequent ‘Fall.’ “

    [3] “theistic evolutionists repudiate the consensus view of Jewish and Christian thinkers who for more than two thousand years maintained God’s design could be clearly observed throughout nature.”

    So it really is a matter of repudiating every vestige of ‘Darwinism’ to escape the Lake of Fire—but publically, of course, they’re all ‘agnostic’ about the identity of the Intelligent Designer, and ID is not Creationism, and the Disco’Tuters are doing science rather than religion, and all that bull-puckey….

  12. Charles Deetz ;)

    I was really grooving the Rev’s response as he laid out the conundrum a pious christian faces. But you can see him painting himself in a corner. And then the micro-macro train wreck, but what other choice did he leave himself?

  13. Thanks, SC, for explaining “problematic.”

    And Ceteris Paribus, it occurs to me that Christians could explain the Trinity with a metaphor from particle physics. They could say the three persons are bound together in the same way quarks are bound to form protons and neutrons. That should clear everything right up.

  14. US creationist loons kick up a ruckus at a Scottish primary school. Another instance where the kooks reveal their insidious tactics, centred on targeting minors, as per St. Ignatius of Loyola’s alleged maxim concerning children under seven.

    Where’s Rob Roy when you need him!?

  15. Patience, Con-Tester. I’m about ten minutes away from posting about that.

  16. Ooops, my bad. 😳

  17. SC: “We were hoping for some comforting, small-town, home-spun wisdom. Instead we got something that could have been written by Ken Ham. Maybe it was. Nice try, rev.”

    From your excerpts, the Rev is at least as slick as Ham. He’s not an ID peddler, since he mentions Genesis. But does he find one of the mutually-contradictory versions convincing, like Ham does? Or does he conveniently sidestep the basic “when” questions, so not to offend anyone in the big tent? If so, he’s probably even more in on the scam than Ham is.

  18. Megalonyx: “Although the Disco’Tute scrupulously avoids criticising Young Earth Creationists and their ilk even though, under duress, their own views are OEC, I had not really noted until recently that the DI is bitterly hostile to ‘theistic evolution’…”

    I know I torture myself by reading more ID material than most, but they made it clear to me 15 years ago that they despise TEs much more than they despise atheists. And they have never wavered from that. The reason that that admission so hard to find is that they always first start out whining about atheists, especially Dawkins. Only when someone calls them on their false dichotomy – and that too is usually drowned out by all the bait-taking by critics – do they resort to one of their trusty “Plan Bs” and whine about “compatibilists.” Never mind that they are “compatibilists” to heliocentric YECs, who are “compatibilists” to geocentrists, etc.

    This is counterintuitive to most, especially that ~half of the population that has fallen for many of their sound bites, despite being capable of rejecting them if they had the time or interest, but IDers’ personal beliefs are closest to those of TEs. And that’s what they admit; I’m convinced that most privately accept all of TE. Yet they are more politically sympathetic to YECs than even to Biblical OECs. This apparent paradox makes sense if one explains their actions in terms of strategy rather than belief. (Heliocentric) YEC has the “fittest memes,” even though at least half of rank-and-file evolution-deniers admit being OECs if asked. In recent years I have become convinced that no one keeps the YEC memes on “life support” more than us “Darwinists.” I think it’s time to move it to “hospice” and concentrate on the ID scam.

  19. In defense of “Problematic” —

    You can be certain that a problem is known, or that it is difficult. The uncertainty is generally in the solution. Most recently I was asked how to address a reviewer criticism of a manuscript, and had to answer that it was problematic, because the criticism was correct.

  20. I usually reserve the use of the word problematic to a historical reference ie “The excessive use of the word problematic on the internet has made the word itself problematic to use”.