by Denyse O'Leary
The biggest loser from the new militant atheism which claims to speak for science is the "accommodationist" type of theistic evolutionist.
Traditionally, theistic evolution simply meant that theists accept that the world has not always appeared as it does today. Once there were trilobites; now there are horses. Life forms rise and fall, as do empires and hemlines.
However, much of what is called theistic evolution today is simply an attempt to sell Darwinism, the creation story of materialism, to people who are not materialists. I call that "accommodationist" theistic evolution - it attempts to accommodate spiritually directed institutions to rule by materialists.
Usually, Christians (or other theists or people who accept that there is meaning and purpose in the universe) are urged to "accept" - in broad terms - "evolution." Darwinism, which nakedly refutes everything the theist believes, is the form of evolution that the sponsors are actually interested in promoting, to judge from their other activities. But they do not spell out its implications with the candor that the anti-God Darwinists do.
Surprising numbers of clergy go along with it, too. For example, in this article, a Lutheran "poster cleric" Nelson Rivera reassures us,
For people of faith, "thinking from below," that is from the realms of nature and history, is helpful. When we think from below, we can recognize the involvement of God with Godâ€™s people and creation, as is true with thinking from above. Thinking from below, however, leaves room and freedom for recognizing that God makes it possible for us to gain a perspective from our experience in the world. ... Eventually, however, we get to some metaphysical construction about our relationship to the whole and to God.
Thinking from above, by contrast, allows very little space, if any, for considering the evolutionary process, which requires freedom and some place to acknowledge chance and accident. Chance and accident are consistent with God's involvement in human life and creation. In thinking from above one canâ€™t easily move from there to allow for knowledge gleaned from a study of evolutionary biology. The study of evolutionary biology teaches us much about the richness, complexity and wonder of God and God's creation. We need to remember, though, that it's sinful for us to think we have the capacity to finally figure out creation and who God is.
"Thinking from below" (the virtuous thing to do) necessarily means accepting materialism. The universe is clearly either either bottom up or top down, and Rivera's pitch is just as clearly a sell job for bottom up - substituting materialism for spirituality. And of course, it is "sinful" for us to think we can finally know God, even though that is one of the promises of Scripture - on earth as it is in heaven.
Sometimes, political messages are obvious as well, even in churches that promote separaton of church and state.
In other cases, accommodationists promote a self-limiting (kenotic) God, in order to rescue Darwinism. As Peter James Causton perceptively writes in "Darwin's Ghost: Can Evolution & Christianity Be Reconciled?" (Catholic thinkmag Commonweal),
in its confident assertions about how God does and does not create, kenotic theology cannot avoid a certain air of presumption. Might it not also be presumptive in its wholesale embrace of Darwinism?
Causton writes cautiously, but there may be less need for caution than in the past, at least in Catholic circles. The Catholic Church, long misrepresented as accepting Darwinism, is beginning to make its position ever more clear. Christoph, Cardinal Schoenborn has firmly insisted that teaching only Darwinism in schools means teaching only a "materialistic, atheistic" view of the universe. Of course that's true - but it didn't used to be polite for a senior cleric to say so.
The underlying problem of accommodationist theistic evolution, of course, is the felt need to embrace Darwinism - and the materialism from which it springs. As I have suggested above, the most likely explanation, based on my encounters with theistic evolution accommodationists, is that they assume that materialism is basically true and that spiritual traditions must somehow accommodate themselves to its rule.
Put another way: Once you do think that materialism is not true, Darwinism is not true either. That raises the question of why any clergy should feel the need to sell "evolution" to their congregations, as part of their ministry.
That's why the accommodationists are the big losers. People will think of questions they never used to ask before, like "why exactly are you telling us all this stuff about how God allows everything to happen by chance .... ?"
Meanwhile, the militant atheists push on, saying - essentially - the same things militant atheists said in the eighteenth century, to as much or little purpose, and most of the world goes on ignoring them. Plus ca change ...
Return to the beginning: http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.php/2/2007/02/26/lstrongglemgpart_1_l_emg_what_s_with_the
Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O'Leary (www.designorchance.com) is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), an overview of the intelligent design controversy. She was named CBA Canada's Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of the forthcoming The Spiritual Brain (Harper 2007).
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