We have already mentioned a number of professional organizations and Christian denominations that find science and theology complementary points of view. Their sites provide a rich abundance of resources for further study. The prior page introduced several online courses written by Christians who explain how God creates this beautiful world and sustains it by means of evolutionary mechanisms. Below we highlight a few particularly helpful books in the same vein.
First we list a couple books that look at the general intersection of faith and science. Then we detail 12 books focusing on the topic of evolution as integrated within Christian belief. At the bottom of this page is our new DVD resource section.
How Some Christians Connect Science and Faith in General
Test of Faith: Spiritual Journeys with Scientists
The Faraday Institute in partnership with Contrapositive New Media developed materials on science and faith that are relevant and accessible for churches, with contributions from leading scientists and theologians.
The relationship between science and faith is often represented as a battleground. The claim is that science has pushed God into the margins. But is the truth more complex? Talking to leading scientist-believers, we probe the issues at the heart of this debate. Has science really murdered God? Or is the God question being redefined in new ways by science? Does the possibility of a Creator remain an ineradicable challenge?
For more about the project, including a trailer of the film, see the Test of Faith webpage
The film was previewed at the Cambridge Science Festival. In response, Richard Gray published "Science and Faith: The Conflict” in Britian's Telegraph, 16 Mar 2009.
To accompany the course is a book entitled Test of Faith: Spiritual Journeys with Scientists. In it respected physicists, biologists and brain scientists share their life stories and their reflections about science and faith. Contributors include Dr Francis Collins, Professor Alister McGrath, Dr Ard Louis, Dr Jennifer Wiseman, Professor Bill Newsome, Rev Dr John Polkinghorne, Rev Dr Alasdair Coles, Dr Deborah Haarsma, Professor Rosalind Picard, Professor John Bryant.
The DVD and book.
Exploring Science and Belief (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007). Amazon And for you Brits, it is also published in the UK as User’s Guide to Science and Belief, 3Rev Ed edition (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2007). Amazon
Michael Poole is Visiting Research Fellow in Science and Religion at King's College, London. Academic Biosketch
Science and belief are both very important for us in our 21st century society, so is it really necessary to choose between them?
The view that science and belief are in conflict is a major stumbling block for many students today, with further confusion fuelled by the ongoing debate in the press and media. Adding clarity to the situation, Michael Poole explores the interaction between science and religious belief, facing dilemmas and finding unexpected solutions.
A substantially rewritten and updated account of a best-selling book, the User's Guide to Science and Belief is a clear and concise introduction to the relationship between science and faith—creative, interactive and multi-sensory.
More on the book.
The Reverend Dr. John C. Polkinghorne is a mathematical physicist, theologian, and Anglican priest whose treatment of theology as a natural science invigorated the search for interface between science and religion and made him a leading figure in this emerging field. He resigned a prestigious position as Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Cambridge in 1979 to pursue theological studies, becoming a priest in 1982.
Since then, his extensive writings and lectures have consistently applied scientific habits to Christianity, resulting in a modern and compelling, new exploration of the faith. His approach to the fundamentals of a Christian orthodox view of creation, using the habits of a rigorous scientific mind, have brought him international recognition as a unique voice for understanding the Bible as well as evolving doctrine. In 1997, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for distinguished service to science, religion, learning and medical ethics. In 2002 he won the coveted Templeton Prize, the richest award made to an individual by a philanthropic organization, for his contributions to research at the interface between science and religion. Polkinghorne has written over 30 books, and has been translated into 18 languages. His biosketch in Wikipedia can he found here.
Quarks, Chaos & Christianity: Questions to Science and Religion, revised and updated (New York: Crossroads Publishing, 2005).
Templeton Award winner and theoretical physicist John Polkinghorne explores the gap between science and religion. "Do we have to choose between the scientific and religious views of the world, or are they complementary understandings that give us a fuller picture than either on their own would provide?" Quarks, Chaos, & Christianity shows the ways that both science and religion point to something greater than ourselves. Topics include: chaos theory; evolution; miracles; cosmology; guest for God; how God answers prayer; our human nature; religious fact and opinion; scientists and prayer.
Other items from Polkinghorne:
Interview (in print) with Chris Floyd, Science & Spirit, November/December 1999: Spirit-Wrestler: An Interview with John Polkinghorne
Interview (audio) with Krista Tippet on Speaking of Faith, May 2008: Quarks + Creation
How Various Christians Explain Creation-through-Evolution
Darrel R. Falk
Coming to Peace With Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004). Amazon.
Falk (PhD, University of Alberta) is professor of biology at Point Loma Nazarene University in Point Loma, California. He serves also as President of BioLogos. Biosketch at Wikipedia and BioLogos
Is a thoroughly Christian and biblically informed doctrine of creation compatible with widely held conclusions of modern science, especially biology? For Darrel R. Falk, this is not just an abstract question but one with which he has personally wrestled. A professor of biology, Falk brings together his biblically based understanding of creation and the most current research in biology. The result of his efforts to acknowledge the validity of science and the authority of Scripture is a new paradigm for relating the claims of science to the truths of Christianity. Written with the undergraduate student in mind, this book nonetheless will help anyone who is looking for a place to stand in the creation-evolution debate, fearful that they'll have to choose between intellectual integrity and the faith of the church. Calling for charitable discussions within the church, Falk shows how an original and ongoing interaction of God with creation is fully reconcilable with the kinds of development identified by current biological science.
Foreword by Francis Collins
Observers note a wrestling match taking place in our materialistic society: the naturalistic worldview, which embraces the tools of science as a means of understanding the world, versus the spiritual worldview, which seeks to determine truths about God and faith. Many conclude that the natural worldview is winning.
After all, science has achieved many triumphs, from determining the natural laws that govern all objects in the universe to discovering the principles that govern all living organisms and mapping the sequence of the human genome. Yet despite the intellectual satisfaction of these achievements, thoughtful people still have eternal questions that science is unable to answer: “Why am I here?” “What happens after I die?” “Is there a God? Does he care about me?”
Polarizing influences abound, locking these worldviews in seemingly irreconcilable conflict. Some evolutionary biologists cite growing evidence from the fossil record and DNA analysis to argue that evolution proves there is no God. In the process they commit the logical fallacy of using natural laws to exclude the supernatural.
Religious fundamentalists, perceiving an assault on their faith from evolutionary theory, cite an ultraliteral reading of Genesis to insist that the earth is only a few thousand years old, and God created all species out of nothingness.
Tragically, earnest seekers confronted with these extreme expressions of the two worldviews feel obligated to choose one or the other, missing out on the deeply satisfying harmony of science and faith in a personal God experienced by many scientists, including myself. Particularly at risk are those who, having been taught young-earth creationism by well-intentioned families and churches, ultimately become exposed to overwhelming scientific data supporting evolution and an old earth. Faced with unreasonable demands on their logic by sincere teachers of their faith, is it any wonder that many sadly conclude that they cannot believe in a God who would ask them to deny the truth?
Many books about the action of the Creator written over the past forty years have used metaphorical language that draws from the field of engineering. God is frequently referred to as a designer, as though he designed and built living creatures in a manner analogous to how we humans construct a building or a piece of equipment. Metaphors, by definition, draw upon human experience. As we try to picture the activity of God, our image of God at work is constrained by our own inability to adequately imagine that which we have not seen. Regardless of whether proponents of design arguments maintain that creation occurred in six twenty-four-hour days or over millions of years, they frequently find themselves at odds with much of the scientific world. A huge gulf has come to separate the world of faith from the world of scientific reasoning. True, the world of science is highly agnostic. Almost by definition, its purpose is to try to explain the events of natural history in nonsupernatural terms. It searches for rules and laws of regularity to explain the existence of everything and does so in a manner that purposely excludes the intervention of the supernatural. Indeed, were it to include the exploration of divine activity, it would not be science—at least not as science has been practiced over the past 150 years.
On the other side of the chasm exists the realm accessible by faith. Again, almost by definition, it exists through a whole different approach to the universe. Here, there is a commitment to the principle that the supernatural is just as real as the natural. Indeed, on this side of the gulf, people live, move and have their being in the belief that at the heart of existence, including most vividly their own, all is grounded in the supernatural. It is this transcendental Presence that set in place the rules scientists study, and it is this same Presence that can suspend those rules anytime, anywhere.
Far too often society—especially North American society—finds itself on one side of the gulf or the other, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a bridge between the two sides. This is one of the great tragedies of today’s culture. On one side, that of the world of faith, is life in the Presence of the Creator—a life rich in meaningful fulfillment and heartfelt joy. On the other side exists the study of nature—the study of what the Creator has made—in all of its aesthetic majesty. Oh, that there were a bridge that would take the people who love the detailed study of nature to the other side to see and experience the beauty of the world of faith! Similarly, would it not be wonderful if there could be a bridge to take people of faith into the detailed world of nature, a world created by the God they love?
Chapter 1: Science and Religion: Trying to Live in Two Worlds at Once
This is the story of creation as seen through the eyes of a biologist. The Story of creation itself begins a very long time ago, but the story of my interest in it begins much more recently—about forty-five years ago—in a home near Vancouver, Canada. As a young person, I saw what seemed like the Presence of God in those around me, and I came to admire and love that Presence. Each evening I would kneel beside my bed and ask God to guide my life and fill me with the same Presence I saw in those around me. Most of the time I believed that he did. However, the evangelical Christian beliefs of my family were somewhat unusual in that part of the world at that time. Outside of my own tiny church and immediate family, I went for years knowing only a handful of people who believed in the sort of God whom we believed in. Because of that, when I was in a pensive mood, I questioned how it could be that, given all the religions in the world (including, especially, the religion of no religion), I was fortunate enough to have been born into the right one. When I was in one of those introspective periods, I had doubts and was strongly suspicious that the people who were wrong were really those of us in what seemed like a tiny circle, that of evangelical Christianity.
I still vividly recall the personal struggles that accompanied my studying the evidence for ancient humans. The images of those charts of human evolution in my seventh-grade social studies textbook are still etched on my mind. They almost cost me my Christian faith. The following summer, at a church camp, I spoke to a couple of friends, both of whom were sixth graders. I told them that they would find the seventh grade to be enormously challenging to their belief in God. “You are going to be hearing about the Cro-Magnon humans, the Neanderthals and the evolution of the human race. Be prepared for an assault on your faith,” I told them. I felt fortunate to have emerged from seventh grade with mine intact.
Joel W. Martin
Joel Martin (PhD, Florida State University) is an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church USA and is the chief of the Division of Invertebrate Studies and curator of Crustacea at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. He is a youth advisor at a Presbyterian Church in Southern California and currently teaches Sunday school and confirmation classes. Biosketch
God or Darwin? It is one of the most contentious conflicts of our time. It is also completely unnecessary, according to Joel W. Martin, an evolutionary biologist and ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church USA. In this slim but powerful book, Martin argues that it is not contradictory to be a practicing, faithful Christian who accepts the science of evolution.
Martin finds that much of the controversy in the United States over evolution is manufactured and predicated on a complete -- and sometimes willful -- misapprehension of basic science. Science and religion, he says, serve different purposes and each seeks to answer questions that the other need never address. He believes that many of the polarizing debates about evolution distract from the deeper lessons of Christianity and that literal, fundamentalist readings of the Bible require the faithful to reject not just evolution but many of science's greatest discoveries.
Just as the scientific explanation of rainbows is not meant to refute the biblical "rainbow" story of God's promise, evolutionary theory is not a ploy to disavow the divine. Indeed, Martin shows that the majority of Christians worldwide accept the theory of evolution. He urges his fellow Christians to refuse to participate in the intellectually stifling debate over evolution and creationism/intelligent design.
"Dr. Martin has written an accessible and interesting introduction to evolution for teenagers who are afraid that the basic theories of modern biological science are incompatible with their Christian faith. Martin shows why this is not so and why their commitment to the belief that God is creator should stimulate rather than discourage their study of natural science. The book meets a real need in Christian education." -- David C. Steinmetz, Duke University Divinity School
"A concise yet comprehensive exposition of the fundamental issues in the current debates between (and among) Christians and evolutionary biologists on creationism, intelligent design, and theistic evolution. It addresses all the key issues, both biological and theological, in a form and language easily accessible to Christian laity, including teens, and evaluates them fairly and with erudition. I would recommend this book without hesitation for use in both parish and university settings." -- Jarvis Streeter, California Lutheran University
"Professor Martin has a very good understanding of the relationship of science to religion. He applies that understanding effectively in this sensitive and sensible discussion of evolution and Christian faith." -- John F. Haught, author of God after Darwin
"A wonderful introduction to the evolution—creation debate... I think it would be a wonderful book to use in discussions both at school and at church. I could see it having a wide readership and doing much good in the direction of reconciling those who want to run with the hare of science and hunt with the hounds of religion." -- Michael Ruse, Florida State University
Gordon J. Glover
Beyond the Firmament: Understanding Science and the Theology of Creation (Chesapeake, VA: Watermark Press, 2007). Amazon
A native of the Republic of Texas, Gordon J. Glover currently lives and works in the Baltimore-Washington area with his wife of 13 years, Kathryn, and their three children.
Gordon has always had an insatiable interest in the natural sciences; specifically how they relate to Christian theology and the Bible. He studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas and Ocean Engineering at Texas A&M University. He then served 11 years in the U.S. Navy as a Deep Sea Diver and Ocean Engineer before settling down in the suburbs of southern Maryland.
In his ongoing quest to integrate science with Christian orthodoxy, Gordon has probably held just about every conceivable position on Creation. He now spends most of his free time studying, discussing, speaking and writing about the challenging philosophical issues that arise from the scientific investigation of natural history - and doing backyard astronomy with his kids.
As debates within the Church over the scientific details of creation become more frequent, the ‘experts’ seem to grow more entrenched while the rest of us only become more confused. Somewhere between the endless arguments over distant starlight and Carbon-14 dating, calculating the mathematical improbabilities of things that already exist, and parsing ancient Hebrew and Greek, somebody needs to ask the simple question, “If 3,500 years of scientific progress can’t help modern Christians figure out Genesis, then how could the ancient Israelites possibly have understood it so well?” What secret did this newly liberated gaggle of Hebrew nomads take with them out of Egypt that holds the key to understanding God’s telling of His own creation story?
Beyond the Firmament challenges all creationist camps—whether Young-Earth, Old-Earth, or Theistic Evolutionist—to step outside of traditional paradigms and recognize how our modern, Western, post-Enlightenment scientific worldview actually blinds us from seeing the simple truth of Creation as it was originally intended; and how our failure to grasp the theological significance of the biblical creation model puts science and faith on a collision course.
Brian McLaren, author/activist: “Gordon J. Glover’s new book will be important for several groups of people: thoughtful Christians troubled by culture wars and seeking a way beyond them, people engaged in the science-religion debate that seems to have heated up (on both sides) in recent years, and those interested in how world-views (ancient, medieval, modern, or whatever) resource and limit the ways we read sacred texts – and apply them today. I found it energetic, well-researched, and constructive.”
John H. Walton, Dept of Biblical and Theological Studies, Wheaton College and Graduate School: "I have read many books over the years attempting to deal with the Bible and Science. It is rare to find one that can address both the Bible and Science well and offer straightforward discussion that cuts through the complexity of the subject. Glover's faith is communicated strongly, his understanding of the Bible's demands is well-informed, and his presentation of the scientific evidence is persuasive, concise, and remarkable clear. It is just the right kind of book to put into the hands of someone who is struggling with the subject. I have been recommending this book to everyone." Professor Walton's insights on Genesis can be found on our page Scholars Explore Non-concordism.
Stephen Matheson, Associate Professor of Biology, Calvin College: "The universe is billions of years old and life on our planet is unmistakably characterized by common ancestry. For Christians, the questions are not new, but lately they seem more urgent. How then do we read the great creation accounts of Genesis. What does it mean to hold a high view of biblical revelation while honestly considering the facts of natural history? Gordon Glover has created a delightfully readable yet comprehensive exploration of the relationship between the Genesis narratives and the science of our day, focusing on the context in which those narratives were given to humankind. Beyond the Firmament combines clarity and wit, honoring the Word of God while respecting our understanding of God's world. This is an impressive achievement for the author and a Godsend for Christians." http://sfmatheson.blogspot.com/
Read the Preface Table of Contents Official Book Website
Daniel M. Harrell
Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? (Oxford: Monarch Books, 2008). Amazon
Denis Alexander is the Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, St. Edmunds College, Cambridge, to which he was elected a Fellow in 1998. Dr Alexander is also a Senior Affiliated Scientist at The Babraham Institute, Cambridge, where he supervises a research group in cancer and immunology, and where for many years he was Chairman of the Molecular Immunology Programme. Dr Alexander writes, lectures and broadcasts widely in the field of science and religion. Since 1992 he has been Editor of the journal Science & Christian Belief, and currently serves on the National Committee of Christians in Science and as a member of the International Society for Science and Religion. His biosketch in Wikipedia can be found here.
Builds an integrated position between the biblical doctrine of creation and evolutionary theory.
Dr Denis Alexander is a immunologist who believes passionately in both the biblical doctrine of creation and the coherence of evolutionary theory. His book draws on the latest genetic research. What do we mean by creation and evolution? What are the common scientific objections to evolution? Is evolution atheistic? Who were Adam and Eve? Can the concept of the Fall be reconciled with evolutionary theory? How could a God of love create a world where animals kill each other? What about intelligent design? The author concludes that the question in the title is a false dichotomy: we do not need to choose, since both are true. 'Nature is what God does' - Augustine.
Denis writes: Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? Many Christians think that the answer to this question is “Yes!” Creation is perceived as God bringing everything into being rather suddenly by His divine command. Evolution, by contrast, is often thought of as a secular alternative, whereby living things come into being by chance.
Unfortunately this view brings Christianity into direct conflict with science. In fact many scientists are put off even listening to the Gospel because they think Christians are being obscurantist by rejecting evolution. Are the scientists right?
And might not the time, money and energy which some Christians spend on attacking evolution, not be better spent on preaching the Gospel and feeding a hungry world?
This is a good time to reconsider such questions, because  is the double centenary of Charles Darwin, who was born in 1809 and published his famous book The Origin of Species in 1859. The centenary year 2009 will be marked with a huge outpouring of books, radio and TV programmes about evolution. So be ready!
Many of our evangelical forebears had no problem with baptizing evolution into a strong Biblical doctrine of creation, simply seeing it as God’s chosen method for bringing all living things into being. It is time to recover their robust Biblical theism and see God’s creative work in the whole panoply of the created order in all its wonder and diversity.
In carrying out this task we need to hold firmly together the books of God’s Word (the Bible) and of God’s works (nature), not avoiding the difficult questions that may arise when we do so. ‘Creation or Evolution’ contains plenty of recent startling biological discoveries, but also lots of Biblical reflection. Written for the general reader with no background in science, the book tackles the following key questions and many more besides:
· How should we understand Genesis in the light of science?
· How do we know about the age of the earth?
· What does evolution really mean?
· Is there any evidence for one species changing into another?
· What does genetics tell us about evolution?
· Is evolution really a chance process?
· Who were Adam and Eve?
· Was there death before the Fall?
· How can evolution be true if it involves so much suffering?
· What about Intelligent Design?
· How can we explain the origin of life?
I hope you find the book helpful in thinking about these issues so that we can all be as effective as possible in giving “a reason for the hope that is within us” (1 Peter 3:15).
Dr. Francis Collins, Head of the Human Genome Project, USA: "In this brilliant and highly readable treatise, Denis Alexander the scientist-believer argues convincingly and lovingly that a committed Christian need not fera evolution, but can embrace it as God's awesome means of creation."
J. I. Packer, Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia: "Surely the best informed, clearest and most judicious treatment of the question in its title that you can find anywhere today."
Andy Crouch, Editorial Director, The Christian Vision Project, Christianity Today International, USA: "Denis Alexander brings scientific acuity, lively faith, and not a little humor to this judicious and thorough explication of a fully Christian, fully reasoned understanding of creation and evolution. This book will go a long way to encouraging both believers and skeptics that the much-vaunted "conflict" between science and religion is a mirage. One can only hope that it will inspire more Christians to pursue scientific careers, and inspire many scientists to take a closer look at the claims of Christian faith."
E. David Cook, Professor of Faith and Learning, Wheaton College, USA: "A trenchant, carefully argued, substantive treatment of a sadly divisive issue. If you want to understand the debate and the central concerns at its heart, this excellent book, written by an eminent biologist and committed Christian, will help all of us be true to our Christian faith and to the realities of scientific understanding and practice."
Rt. Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, UK: "Very timely, thorough and full of integrity. It speaks the languages of both science and faith in a remarkably clear and accessible way."
Andrew Halestrap, Professor of Biochemistry, University of Bristol, UK: "Denis Alexander is both an eminent scientist who finds the evidence for evolution overwhelming, and a Christian who believes that the Bible is God's authoritative word for all people. In this exellent book he takes us on a masterful and enlightening journey through both the relevant biblical text and the science underlying evolution." More ->>>
Julian Hardyman, Senior Pastor, Eden Baptist Church, Cambridge, UK: "A fresh and massive contribution to an important debate....no Christian interested in the questions of origins can ignore this book."
More from Dr. Alexander: Our page Complementary Disciplines links to Denis' essay "Models of Relating Science and Religion" as well as his book Rebuilding the Matrix: Science and Faith in the 21st Century (Oxford: Lion, 2001). An essay "Can science explain everything? Scientific naturalism and the death of science," and a lecture "Does Science Make Religion Redundant?" are found on our page Scientism. Here also is a 2006 sermon entitled "Why are Christians Passionate Darwinians?"
Nature's Witness: How Evolution Can Inspire Faith (Living Theology) (Nashville: Abingdon, 2008). Amazon
Daniel M. Harrell (PhD, Boston College) is Associate Minister at Park Street Church in Boston.
People of faith insist that God is the God of the world around us. Yet scientific evidence supporting evolution seems to offer an explanation of reality different from the biblical one. In light of this apparent conflict, some choose either to deny the scientific data or separate science and faith from each other, giving the appearance that faith is disconnected from reality. Others accommodate faith to science, but run the risk of watering down faith such that faith “fills in the blanks” left by science. Against these options, Daniel Harrell asserts that the evidence for evolution accurately describes the world we see, but insists that this description does not adequately serve as an explanation for the world. Rather than seeing science and faith as diametrically opposed, Harrell suggests that evolutionary data actually opens the door for deeper theological reflection on God’s creation. Writing out of a pastoral concern for those struggling to negotiate faith and evolution, Harrell argues that being reliable witnesses to creation helps people of faith be reliable witnesses to its creator. Whether they are pastors wondering how to talk about these issues with their congregations, or students asking whether their biology classes make their faith irrelevant, Harrell’s readers are winsomely led on a journey of exploration in which a robust biblical faith can be held along with affirmation of the scientific data for evolution.
Walking across the Boston Common one cold winter’s eve, I was approached by a gentleman, somewhat agitated, who recognized me from church.
“Are you the minister who’s writing the book on evolution?”
This didn’t sound good. “Uh, ... yes?” I replied, bracing myself.
“Do you believe in the word of God? Do you believe that God created the heavens and the earth in six days, like the Bible says?” His articulation was semiautomatic—as was his tone.
I assured him that yes, I believed the Bible says that God created the heavens and the earth in six days. I also believe that rivers clap their hands and that mountains sing (Ps 98:9) because the Bible says that too. But I don’t think that the Bible means six twenty-four-hour days any more than I believe that the Bible means that rivers have literal hands.
He worried that I suffered from delusion (which as far as I am concerned is never outside the realm of possibility). However, I reminded him that there are two types of delusion. There is the delusion that believes something that is not true, and there is the delusion that fails to believe something that is true. If evolution is an accurate description of the emergence of life, as science attests, then believing it alongside the Bible should pose no threat. There’s no need to fear any honest search for truth because in the end, all honest searches for truth inevitably lead back to God.
Historically, religious faith, particularly Christianity, served as the loom onto which the discoveries of science were woven. It was within a Christian theological framework that scientific disclosure found its transcendent meaning. Descartes, Bacon, Galileo, Kepler and Newton, believers all, saw their work not as replacements for faith, but as extensions of it. The idea was that the best of science and the best of theology concerted to give human beings deeper insight into the workings of the universe and, subsequently, into the divine character. Scientific discovery was received with gratitude to the Almighty for the wonder of his creation. Scientists, alongside the psalmist, would proclaim, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Ps 19:1 NIV).
The balance between faith and science (or reason) was established in the Middle Ages by Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas, building on Augustine, established a delicate equilibrium between theology (reasoning down from faith) and philosophy, analogous to science (reasoning up from sensory data). Aquinas, unlike the Reformers who would follow, taught that human senses and rational faculties, as made by God, were competent for understanding reality, albeit from a limited standpoint. The limits were filled in by theology. Aquinas asserted that God acted through “secondary causes,” creating the world according to his laws and then giving nature room to unfold in accordance with God’s laws. Whatever was good science was good as far as God is concerned; science simply described what God had already done.
However, if God operated mostly behind the scenes as the prime cause, then it wasn’t long before people started wondering whether he was there at all. In time, reliance upon divine revelation gave way to human reason in its Enlightenment form, and soon the supernatural was rendered superfluous. As science advanced, Christians reacted by retreating into a sort of Manichean dualism whereby science was demonized and faith grew reliant on a super-supernatural world where any ordinary explanation raised suspicion. With battle lines so starkly drawn, scientists were left to assume that any move toward Christian faith was akin to committing intellectual suicide. Conversely, the faithful relied on science for their medicine or the weather forecast, but much more than that was to attempt spiritual suicide. Let a spark of evolution in the door and you were liable to catch the whole house on fire.
The controversy between Christian faith and evolution is exacerbated by increasing mounds of scientific data that lend weight to evolution. Paleontology, biochemistry, cosmology, physics, genetics—you name the discipline—each regularly puts forth newly discovered evidence in support of Darwin’s simple idea of descent with modification. While some people of faith choose to keep their doors closed, shutting out science is not necessary. Christian faith by definition defies human conceptions of reality (1 Cor 3:19). Its claims are grounded in extraordinary events that defy scientific explanation (most importantly the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus). But God is not only present where science is silent; he remains present even where science speaks loudest. The expansiveness of the universe, the beauty and complexity of organic life and the remarkable makeup of human consciousness—naturally explicable occurrences—are also interpreted by Christians as manifestations of God (Rom 1:20). Christianity consistently asserts that all truth is God’s truth, implying that faith and science, despite differences when it comes to explaining why, nevertheless should agree in regard to what is. Why bother talking about God if God has no relation to observable reality?
An avalanche of books has been devoted to the controversy between Christianity and evolution. Don’t expect a contribution to that debate here. There are plenty of other places where that conversation occurs. Instead, I’d like to look at Christian faith in the face of evolution as essentially true as most scientists assert. Now I know that just because a particular theory makes sense of the way something could have happened, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it actually happened that way. But if evolution truly provides an accurate description of life on earth, and things did happen the way evolution describes, how might we rethink the way we think about what the Bible says? To rethink what we think about the Bible is not to rewrite Scripture, nor is it to capitulate to Christianity’s detractors. Instead, rethinking and reworking our theology in light of accurate data results in a more dependable and resilient theology. To be a serious Christian is to seek truth and find it as revealed by God both in Scripture and in nature. If God is the maker of heaven and earth, as we believe, then the heavens and earth, as science describes them, have something to say about God. Natural selection need not imply godless selection. To be reliable witnesses of creation can’t help but make us more reliable witnesses to the Creator.
"Many Christians steer clear of the evolution debate, fearing an adverse impact on their faith; others dismiss the scientific facts outright. But what if evolution is true? Venture into the maze of science, scripture, theology, and faith with Daniel Harrell, and you will not be disappointed. It is a challenging and bumpy ride, but your faith will be informed, strengthened, and even inspired by the journey." --Eileen Boye, Ph.D., Instructor in Developmental Biology, Harvard School of Dental Medicine
"Daniel Harrell has interesting friends. To argue for Darwinism among evangelicals and for God among empirical scientists takes courage. And unlike many science-and-religion books, which range from dull to daunting, Harrell's gracious opening up of those conversations to the rest of us is not only informative but entertaining. Where's this book been?!" --Jason Byassee, Assistant Editor, Christian Century, and affiliate professor of theology, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
"Harrell argues that for the thinking Christian, science matters. His personable style invites us to journey along with him as he learns some of modern science's recent revelations and then asks what these revelations reveal about the nature of God. At times a friendly stroll through genomes and quarks, at others a wrestling match to reconcile science and theology as two valid and valuable sources of knowledge, this book shows how one can be a firm believer in both." --Anne E. Carpenter, Ph.D., Director, Imaging Platform, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT
"With his peerless ability to turn the familiar inside out and upside down, and to make even the most unfamiliar ideas from both science and theology accessible, Daniel Harrell has given us a gift of a book. It will make you laugh, think, and pray--and it is very possible that when you finish it you will believe more deeply in both evolution and creation than ever before." - Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making, and editorial director, The Christian Vision Project
"For those who fear that either theology or science might become the ventriloquist controlling the voice of the other, this is a most welcome book. Affirming that both Scripture and scientific discovery must be heard, Harrell playfully and profoundly engages our most serious questions about life’s beginnings and life's future. You’ll want to pull up a chair and join him, his friend Dave, and Aunt Bernice, in this important conversation." --Joel B. Green, Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Fuller Theological Seminary
"If you’re a Christian who believes that evolutionary science provides an accurate account of the history and development of life on earth, you probably have some hard questions about what this means for Christian faith. I have these questions, too. How do we talk of a loving Creator while referring to random mutations? What does orthodox Christian faith say about the hundreds of millions of years of death and failure that preceded humanity’s arrival on earth? How do extant hominids, descended from bacteria and fish, partake in the image of God and talk of everlasting life? We need a friend who understands these questions and who has the ability to address them knowledgeably while affirming our faith: someone smart and knowledgeable, but humble and faithful, maybe even funny. We need someone who knows what’s at stake, but who also knows that our faith has nothing to fear in the face of the facts of God’s world. And now, happily, we have Daniel Harrell’s book. Full of wisdom, humility, patience and good humor, it’s a book I never dared to hope for. Enjoy it, and give thanks." --Stephen Matheson, associate professor of biology, Calvin College
"Some Christians are fighting the wrong battle. Evolution is not the enemy, as Daniel Harrell argues persuasively in Nature’s Witness. With wry, self-deprecating humor, he introduces the basics of evolution and asks big questions about God and God's creation. Harrell is not trying to develop an apologetic for the Christian faith in a scientific world. What he has done is much more demanding. He has written an honest, thoughtful, doubt-filled, faith-filled, searching exploration of foundational reality. This is an important book." --Richard Peace, Robert Boyd Munger Professor of Evangelism and Spiritual Formation, Fuller Theological Seminary
Review by Scot McKnight
Pastor (Park Street Church Boston) Daniel Harrell’s new book, Nature’s Witness: How Evolution Can Inspire Faith (Living Theology), is the book we need. Here is someone who can translate science into theology and theology into science, and do so in engaging, fun, and clear prose.
Here’s an opener: “What if, instead of getting all threatened and frightened by scientific advances, we viewed scientific advancement as new vistas for theological consideration, new mountains to explore?” (10) He concludes: “This may sound like a compromised theology. But it’s not. It is an adjusted theology, that’s nothing new” (132). And: “God is the God of both evolution and the Bible” (134).
Here's the full-entry, along with the comments from his "blog community."
Interview with the Author
Tell us a little about yourself. For the past 22 years I have served as a minister at Park Street Church in Boston. I also hold a PhD in developmental psychology and am interested in the interplay between faith and psychology and faith and science in general.
What was your motivation behind this project? Theological integrity demands that whatever we think about faith and life correspond to the way things actually are as opposed to how we want or wish things to be. God is the God of reality. If evolution is real, then to reject it presents difficulties for Christian faith and theology. A proposed alternative is to assume that ultimate truth resides in the heart and mind of God and to assume evolution to be part of that truth (“all truth is God’s truth”). Based upon confirmed scientific data, a flourishing, robust Christianity stays faithful to the Biblical narrative as its source for theological reflection, while at the same time heralding scientific discovery as an accurate description of the universe on which theology reflects.
What do you hope folks will gain from this project? Written as a pastor and practitioner, the intent is to provide scientific information and theological reflection making a connection between faith and evolution reliable, comprehensible, authentic and less fearful.
How were you personally impacted by working on this project? Delving deeper into the sciences caused me to marvel at the creativity and competency of God. At the same time, some of my ideas about God were rightly challenged, causing me to rethink and relearn theology in ways that focused on the cross and the sacrificial identity of God.
Who are your influences, sources of inspiration or favorite authors / artists? For this project, Kenneth Miller's "Finding Darwin's God" was particularly inspirational. I also appreciate the work of scholars from Calvin College, led by physicist Howard Van Til, as well as astute theological work done by Alister McGrath.
Anything else you'd like readers / listeners to know: Do not be afraid of science. If the earth shows forth God's handiwork, science, through the lens of Scripture, can provide an accurate lens to see God's hand.
Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlett
Can You Believe in God And Evolution? A Guide for the Perplexed (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006). Amazon.
Peters (PhD, University of Chicago) is Professor of Systematic Theology, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union, UC Berkeley. A former Parish pastor, Rev. Peters is ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). He directed the Science and Religion Course Program at the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences and has authored numerous books and articles. Dr. Peters is Co-editor of Theology and Science.
Hewlett (PhD, University of Arizona) is Professor Emeritus, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Arizona. He is also an adjunct professor at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology of the Graduate Theological Union. He is interested in the philosophy of science as well as the interface between science and theology. Homepage.
The best science and our best thinking about God belong together. But how can this be with the current culture wars over teaching evolution? and How can pastors and church leaders equip congregations so they have a confident faith when talking about evolution? Who is Charles Darwin and what did he actually say? Can you believe in God and evolution? Does teaching evolution corrupt our values? How can you connect science and faith? Can science be a Christian vocation? So how can we interpret the creation story in the Bible?
This guide for the perplexed contains a thoughtful and lively discussion of the current culture war over evolution. It tackles a wide variety of questions concerning faith and science and provides a solid understanding of the issues and positions involved. The book offers a way to integrate science with faith and encourages the idea that science can become a divine vocation. The authors place themselves in a middle position, subscribing to Christian faith while embracing the value of the Darwinian model of evolution for scientific research and classroom teaching.
Cokesbury provides a guide for small group discussion here. Also by these authors is a book somewhat more advanced on the same topic:
Evolution from Creation to New Creation: Conflict, Conversation, and Convergence (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003). Amazon
Kenneth R. Miller
Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God & Evolution (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1999, 2007). Amazon
Miller (PhD, University of Colorado), a recipient of numerous awards for outstanding teaching, is a cell biologist, a professor of biology at Brown University, and the coauthor of widely used high school and college biology textbooks, e.g, Prentice Hall Biology (Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007), with TOC here. In addition, he has written articles that have appeared in numerous scientific journals and magazines, including Nature, Scientific American, Cell, and Discover. His CV is posted here. Biosketch on Wikipedia.
From Booklist: From the first publication of Origin of Species in 1859, religionists have heaped abuse on Darwin and his godless science of evolution. Meanwhile, atheists have rarely passed up an opportunity to wield Darwinian doctrine against religious faith. In an act of intellectual daring and spiritual integrity, Miller--distinguished biologist and devout Christian--inserts himself between the combatants to call for a cultural cease-fire. With scrupulous evenhandedness, he challenges both sides to reexamine their premises and subdue their rhetoric. The shrewd arguments that a new generation of creationists have marshaled against Darwin do not long survive Miller's incisive scrutiny. Indeed, he warns his fellow believers that those who deploy slipshod arguments and specious science deployed against evolution actually pose a greater threat to faith than do any number of fervent Darwinians. Still, Miller well understands the believers' dismay at the way some scientists have interpreted evolutionary science as a conclusive disproof of God, of morality, and even of meaning in the universe. Honest reasoning, he insists, will not convert evolutionary science into a warrant for materialistic atheism. Rather, he argues that in a truly open-minded assessment of Darwin's evolution, there emerges a living manifestation of the divine wisdom that made possible a universe of living creatures acting on unscripted impulses. A refreshing departure from the tired polemics of the evolution wars. Bryce Christensen
Jacob Neusner, Distinguished Research Professor of Religious Studies, University of South Florida & Bard College
"Religion's answer to Stephen Jay Gould's scientific atheism, Kenneth R. Miller, Brown's superstar in biology and religion, here shows not only why Darwinian evolution does not preclude the existence of God, but how remarkably consistent evolution is with religion.' Written with sharp wit and in pungent prose, his book redefined the entire debate by showing the true meaning of the science represented by the name of Darwin. Had William Jennings Bryan read Miller's book, he would have not botched the Scopes trial--but then, there'd not have been such a trail to begin with."
Francisco J. Ayala, Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine
"Can evolution and God coexist? With powerful logic and evidence, Kenneth Miller, a distinguished biologist and believer, develops an affirmative answer. Finding Darwin's God is an artfully constructed argument against both those who deny evolution and those using science to justify a materialist worldview. Yet it is a book for all readers. I know of no other that would surpass it in being mindful of different views, while still forceful. Miller has an uncanny gift for expressing profound ideas in clear and graceful prose."
Excerpt from Chapter One: Darwin's Apple
Where are you from?" It's the kind of question that strangers, trying to become friends, will often ask one another.
No one can begin to know another until he knows where that person is from. Not just his family, school, and town, but everything that has helped to bring him to this point in his life.
This book is about the ultimate "Where are you from?" question. As important as it may be to understand one's ethnic origin and cultural identity, the bigger question is one that every child, sooner or later, asks of his or her parents: "Where did people come from?" In each culture according to its fashion, every child gets an answer. For me, a little boy growing up in suburban New Jersey in the 1950s, the answer came in the form of the first couplet of my religious training:
Question: "Who made us?"
Answer: "God made us."
Every year, that training reached deeper, demanded more, and grappled with more sophisticated questions of faith and virtue. But every year, it began with exactly the same question: Who made us? And that question was always followed by exactly the same answer. God made us.
In a different building, only a few hundred yards away from the red brick walls of St. Mary's, I began to find another answer to that question. This other school did not always grapple with the same straightforward questions of right and wrong that were the weekly fare of our catechism, but it taught its students to believe something at least as intoxicating as the divinity of their origins--the possibility that the world around us was constructed in such a way that we could actually make sense of it. That great secular faith drew strength from a culture in which science seemed to fuel not only the fires of imagination, but the fires of industry as well. And that faith extended to living things, which yielded, like everything else in the natural world, to the analysis of science.
Looking back on my youth, I am struck by how meticulously those two aspects of education were channeled to avoid conflict. Teachers on both sides, secular and religious, were careful to avoid pointing out the dramatic clash between the most fundamental aspects of their world views. No one ever suggested a catechism with a different beginning:
Question: "Who made us?"
Answer: "Evolution made us."
Nonetheless, the conflict between those two points of view is real. The traditional Western view of humanity as the children of God once had a direct, literal basis in the historical narrative of sacred scripture. Not only was God our spiritual father, He was also the direct agent of our creation. His actions were the immediate cause of our existence, and His planning and engineering skills were manifest in every aspect of our bodies. By extension, the splendor and diversity of the living world that surrounds us testified to the very same care and skill.
Charles Darwin himself recognized how profoundly scientific analysis had changed this view of life and humanity when he wrote the historical sketch that preceded his great work, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Generously (and correctly) he gave credit for this transformation to the now much-maligned French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck:
In these works, he [Lamarck] upholds the doctrine that all species, including man, are descended from other species. He first did the eminent service of arousing attention to the probability of all change in the organic, as well as in the inorganic world, being the result of law, and not of miraculous interposition.
Today it is very clear that the line of reasoning Darwin attributed to Lamarck has emerged triumphant. Change in the inorganic and organic world is no longer attributed to "miraculous interposition." It once was possible to point to a humble seed and invoke the attention of the Almighty as the only possible explanation for how such an ordinary object could grow into a mighty tree. Today we look into the seed itself, examine the program of gene expression that begins at germination, and seek our answers in the rich complexities of molecular biology and biochemistry. This does not mean that we have reduced the seedling to mere chemistry or physics. It means instead that we have elevated our understanding to appreciate the living plant in a way that lends wonder and delight to our view of nature.
My purpose in this book is to attempt something that is generally avoided. I want to ask a question that most of my colleagues shy away from, and to attack head-on the defenses that many of us have built up in our unwillingness to reconcile the two different answers to the question of "Who made us?" The question is whether or not God and evolution can coexist.
There is no need to break new scientific ground in approaching this question. The century and a half since Darwin has provided us with more than enough time to flesh out the details of his abstract outline on the process of biological change. To add to Darwin's ideas we have half a century of molecular biology, bold explorations of space and time provided by the physical sciences, an understanding of earth's history from geology, and even an appreciation of the limits of our most powerful reasoning tool--mathematics. We have to be willing to bring all these resources to bear in unfamiliar surroundings, to apply them in new ways, and to ask the sorts of questions that are not commonly heard in scientific circles.
We can by starting with the man himself, Charles Darwin, a writer of exceptional clarity whose words and ideas remain accessible, even today.
Keith B. Miller, editor
Perspectives on an Evolving Creation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003). Amazon.
Miller (PhD, University of Rochester) is Professor of Geology at Kansas State University.
According to the authors of this book, who explore evolutionary theory from a clear Christian perspective, the common view of conflict between evolutionary theory and Christian faith is mistaken.
Written by contributors representing the natural sciences, philosophy, theology, and the history of science, this thought-provoking work is informed by both solid scientific knowledge and keen theological insight. The three sections of the book address (1) relevant biblical, historical, and scientific background, (2) the scientific evidence for an evolving creation, and (3) theological issues commonly raised in connection with evolution, including the nature of God's creative activity, the meaning of the miraculous, and the uniqueness of humankind. Woven through the volume are short meditations designed to direct readers toward worshiping the God of providence.
Kevin Padian, Curator of Paleontology, UC Museum of Paleontology, writes in review: "At last, a book written by evangelical Christians that shatters the myth of necessary conflict between creation and evolution. All Christians should read this book for instruction and perspectives on science that they can trust and think about. So should all scientists, Christian or not, who are interested in the practical rapprochement that is possible between science and religion. Keith Miller has done a tremendous service in gathering knowledgeable scientists with a variety of theological views. Their science is accurate and their perspectives should be discussed extensively by students and professors together all over campus."
Chapter 1: "An Evolving Creation: Oxymoron or Fruitful Insight?" by Keith B. Miller
Before discussing how the relationship of “creation” and “evolution” might be best understood, it is useful first to define the terms. In my discussion below, “evolution” refers to the descent with modification of all living things from a common ancestor. That is, the history of life can be envisioned as a branching tree of life in which all living things are linked together in a genealogical relationship that extends back to the first living cells. Understood in this way, the word “evolution” includes any of a number of proposed mechanisms by which evolutionary change occurred. Furthermore, evolutionary theory does not address whether, or how, God might act to guide such processes. “Creation” refers to everything to which God has given being. As a verb, “creation” refers to the past and continuing action of God to bring into existence all that is and has been. A closely related theological concept is that of “providence.” This doctrine includes several distinct aspects: God’s sustaining and upholding of creation; divine cooperation with creaturely action; and the governance of creation toward God’s desired ends. As thus defined, are the concepts of evolution and creation really antithetical as often portrayed? Is the idea of an evolving creation truly an oxymoron, or might it just prove to be a fruitful source of theological reflection?
Chapter 5: "Does Science Exclude God? Natural Law, Chance, Miracles, and Scientific Practice” by Loren Haarsma
Denis O. Lamoureux
Denis Lamoureux is an assistant professor of science and religion at St. Joseph's College in the University of Alberta. He holds three (!) earned doctoral degrees: dentistry, theology, and biology. His academic specialty focuses on the modern origins controversy. His two books below both explain and explore creation-via-evolution. The first I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution is the shorter and more accessible of the two. The second Evolutionary Creation: An Evangelical Approach to Evolution expands on the first, adding more detail and argument. For an interview with Denis (summer 2009) link here.
In this thought-provoking book, born-again Christian Denis O. Lamoureux argues that the God of the Bible created the universe and life through evolution—an ordained, sustained, and design-reflecting natural process. In other words, evolution is not the result of blind chance and our creation is not a mistake. Lamoureux challenges the popular assumption that God disclosed scientific facts in the opening chapters of Scripture thousands of years before their discovery by modern science. He contends that in the same way the Lord meets us wherever we happen to be in our lives, the Holy Spirit came down to the level of the inspired biblical writers and used their ancient understanding of origins in order to reveal inerrant, life-changing Messages of Faith. Lamoureux also shares his personal story and struggle in coming to terms with evolution and Christianity.
Having travelled a path from atheist to young earth creationist to evolutionary creationist, Denis Lamoureux has thought deeply about the intersection of the truths in the Book of Nature and the Book of the Bible. In this remarkable and courageous analysis, he describes how he has found compelling harmony between these worldviews. Though certain literal interpretations of Genesis are rendered untenable, open-minded believers will emerge with their faith refined in the fire of rigorous but loving intellectual argument."
—Francis Collins, former Director of the Human Genome Project, author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
"Although there are many fine books that treat the compatibility of 'faith and science' in general, Lamoureux is alone in treating with candor, sophistication, and pastoral sensitivity the interpretive issues that face any Christian reader of Scripture. Lamoureux understands that the heart of the issue is not faith and science, but (1) how one can interpret Genesis as both 'ancient science' and as God's Word, and (2) how Paul reflects this ancient science in his use of Genesis. This book yields much needed clarity and progress in a topic that continues to vex and intrigue evangelical readers, even after generations of dis-ease and awkward silences. It is a book whose time has come."
—Peter Enns, author of Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament
"In this new book, Denis Lamoureux helps us understand how Christians can take the Word of God in Scripture and the Word of God in creation seriously at the same time. Perhaps we are at last coming to a time when even very conservative evangelicals will be able to marvel at the long and beautiful process that God used to create our world."
—Kenton Sparks, author of God's Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship
In this provocative book, evolutionist and evangelical Christian Denis O. Lamoureux proposes an approach to origins that moves beyond the "evolution-versus-creation" debate. Arguing for an intimate relationship between the Book of God's Words and the Book of God's Works, he presents evolutionary creation
—a position that asserts that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created the universe and life through an ordained and sustained evolutionary process. This view of origins affirms intelligent design and the belief that beauty, complexity and functionality in nature reflect the mind of God. Lamoureux also challenges the popular Christian assumption that the Holy Spirit revealed scientific and historical facts in the opening chapters of the Bible. He contends that Scripture features an ancient understanding of origins (see our discussion of this here
) that functions as a vessel to deliver inerrant and infallible messages of faith.
Lamoureux shares his personal story and his struggle in coming to terms with evolution and Christianity. Like many, he lost his boyhood faith at university in classes on evolutionary biology. After graduation, he experienced a born-again conversion and then embraced belief in a literal six-day creation. Graduate school training at the doctoral level in both theology and biology led him to the conclusion that God created the world through evolution. Lamoureux closes with the two most important issues in the origins controversy—the pastoral and pedagogical implications. How should churches approach this volatile topic? And what should Christians teach their children about origins?
- In his endorsement of this book, Keith Miller, editor of Perspectives on an Evolving Creation (below), writes: "This book forthrightly and unflinchingly addresses difficult issues at the interface of science and theology. In doing so, it remains faithful to the authority of scripture, the historical testimony of the church, and the observed record of Creation’s history.”
- Francis Collins writes: "Having travelled a path himself from atheist to Young Earth Creationist to Evolutionary Creationist, Denis Lamoureux has thought deeply about the intersection of the truths of the Book of Nature and the Book of the Bible. In this remarkable and courageous analysis, he describes how he has found compelling harmony between these worldviews. Though certain literal interpretations of Genesis are rendered untenable, open-minded believers will emerge with their faith refined in the fire of rigorous but loving intellectual argument."
by Mike Beidler at his site: "The Creation of an Evolutionist"
Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution
(New York: HarperOne, 2008). Amazon
Karl W. Giberson
(PhD, Rice University) is a physicist and an internationally known scholar of science-and-religion and one of America’s leading participants in the creation/evolution controversy. He was the founding editor of Science & Theology News
, the leading publication in its field until it ceased publication in 2006, and editor-in-chief of Science & Spirit
magazine from 2003-2006. He has published over a hundred articles, reviews, and essays, both technical and popular, and written four books. His homepage
includes additional information and some full-text essays.
Intelligent design, creationism, and evolution have always been hot topics for debate in America. Creationism and intelligent design are usually seen as the province of religious people, while evolution belongs to scientists.
“I wrote Saving Darwin to build a bit of a bridge between two cultures at odds with each other: the scientific community and American evangelicalism. I have lived in both cultures and am dismayed at how far apart they are. In this climate of misunderstanding the ‘naturalism’ of science looks anti-religious and the anti-evolutionism of evangelicalism looks uninformed. I hope to illuminate the tension that divide these two communities and to contribute to improved communications.”
But what about committed Christians who find something lacking in the idea of creationism or intelligent design? Can you still be a Christian and support the idea of evolution? Karl Giberson believes you can. Raised a fundamentalist who firmly believed in creationism, Giberson abandoned his creationist beliefs while working on his PhD, but not his belief in Christianity. This book explores the history of the controversy that swirls around evolution and shows why - and how - it is possible to believe in God and evolution at the same time.
Another excerpt addresses the "Adventist Origins of Young Earth Creationism"
Many evangelicals believe that young-earth creationism is the only authentic and Biblical way for Christians to understand origins, and that until the advent of Darwin's theory of evolution, young-earth creationism was the only view held by Christians. However, in this excerpt from his book, Saving Darwin, Karl Giberson explains that young-earth creationism is a relatively new phenomenon that stemmed from the 20th century fundamentalist movement.
Creation vs. Evolution. A Beliefnet Discussion between Ken Ham and Karl Giberson (October 2008)
Can Darwin be saved? Can evolution be compatible with faith in Jesus? Or should Genesis be read as a literal account of our origins? The debate began in the nineteenth century, but has proven fit to survive to this day in churches, universities, school boards, and neighborhoods across America.
Now, it evolves further in our Beliefnet Blogalogue with Ken Ham and Karl Giberson. Ham is the co-founder of the Creation Museum and president of Answers in Genesis. Karl Giberson is the director of the Forum on Faith and Science at Gordon College and former editor of Science and Spirit. Join them for a lively discussion on Christian faith and modern science.
are in reverse order.
Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion (Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 2007). Amazon.
Francisco J. Ayala is a Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), where he specializes in evolutionary genetics. President George W. Bush awarded him the 2001 National Medal of Science. Dr. Ayala has revolutionized evolution theory, making singular contributions not only to his discipline but also to education, philosophy, ethics, religion, and national science policy. He was a chief witness in the creationist trials in Arkansas in 1981 that prevented religion from being taught as science in the classroom. A member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1980, Dr. Ayala has been called the "Renaissance Man of Evolutionary Biology" by The New York Times. UCI Homepage Biosketch
Publishers Weekly: Taking a more pacific tone than Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett in this marvelous little book, Ayala, a UC-Irvine biologist and member of the National Academy of Sciences, offers a way to reconcile religion and science on the issue of evolution. He is uniquely well suited to address this: before becoming an evolutionary biologist, he trained for the Catholic priesthood. According to Ayala, Darwin provides both a clear understanding of the nature of the physical world and an explanation for its flaws that takes the onus for them off of God. Natural selection gives scientists an eminently plausible and verifiable explanation of the shape species and members of those species have taken over millions of years. For religious believers, evolution offers an explanation for the flawed designs—such as the too narrow human birth canal and our badly designed jawbone—that might call into question the work of a benevolent designer. Ayala points out that science and religion perform different roles in human understanding: science offers a way of knowing the material world, but matters of value and meaning—the core of religion—are outside of the scope of scientific investigation. This elegant book provides the single best introduction to Darwin and the development of evolutionary biology now available.
From the Publisher's Site: With the publication in 1859 of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin established evolution by common descent as the dominant scientific explanation for nature's diversity. This was to be his gift to science and society at last, we had an explanation for how life came to be on Earth.
Scientists agree that the evolutionary origin of animals and plants is a scientific conclusion beyond reasonable doubt. They place it beside such established concepts as the roundness of the earth, its revolution around the sun, and the molecular composition of matter. That evolution has occurred, in other words, is a fact.
Yet as we approach the bicentennial celebration of Darwin's birth, the world finds itself divided over the truth of evolutionary theory. Consistently endorsed as good science by experts and overwhelmingly accepted as fact by the scientific community, it is not always accepted by the public and our schools continue to be battlegrounds for this conflict. From the Tennessee trial of a biology teacher who dared to teach Darwin's theory to his students in 1925 to Tammy Kitzmiller's 2005 battle to keep intelligent design out of the Dover district schools in Pennsylvania, it s clear that we need to cut through the propaganda to quell the cacophony of raging debate.
With the publication of Darwin's Gift, a voice at once fresh and familiar brings a rational, measured perspective to the science of evolution. An acclaimed evolutionary biologist with a background in theology, Francisco Ayala offers clear explanations of the science, reviews the history that led us to ratify Darwin's theories, and ultimately provides a clear path for a confused and conflicted public.
Preface to Darwin's Gift
The message that this book conveys can be simply stated: Science and religious beliefs need not be in contradiction. If they are properly understood, they cannot be in contradiction because science and religion concern different matters. Science concerns the processes that account for the natural world: how the planets move, the composition of matter and the atmosphere, the origin and function of organisms. Religion concerns the meaning and purpose of the world and of human life, the proper relation of people to their Creator and to each other, the moral values that inspire and govern people's lives.
The proper relationship between science and religion can be, for people of faith, mutually motivating and inspiring. Science may inspire religious beliefs and religious behavior, as we respond with awe to the immensity of the universe, the wondrous diversity of organisms, and the marvels of the human brain and the human mind. Religion promotes reverence for the creation, for humankind as well as the environment. Religion may be a motivating force and source of inspiration for scientific research and may move scientists to investigate the marvelous world of the creation and to solve the puzzles with which it confronts us.
Along the way, I will belabor two points primarily addressed to people of faith. The first point is that science is here to stay. No matter what flaws or unknowns religious believers may see in scientific knowledge, science will continue its relentless advance toward solving the puzzles of the world of nature. The condemnation of Galileo by the Catholic Church in the seventeenth century did not bring astronomy to a halt. Rather, we marvel at the immensity of our galaxy and the myriad galaxies beyond. Those who see fault with the theory of evolution may seek to keep it out of the school curriculum or to belittle its accomplishments, but the thousands of scientists who in hundreds of universities and other institutions pursue evolutionary research will persist in their endeavors and continue the advance of knowledge. Universities, foundations, and governments will continue investing millions of dollars in evolutionary research, and thousands of research papers will continue being published yearly in scientific journals.
A second point that I make in this book may come as a surprise to people of faith and scientists alike. I assert that scientific knowledge, the theory of evolution in particular, is consistent with a religious belief in God, whereas Creationism and Intelligent Design are not. This point depends on a particular view of God—shared by many people of faith—as omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent. This point also depends on our knowledge of the natural world and, particularly, of the living world. The natural world abounds in catastrophes, disasters, imperfections, dysfunctions, suffering, and cruelty. Tsunamis bring destruction and death; volcanic eruptions erased Pompeii and Herculaneum, killing all their citizens; floods and droughts bring ruin to farmers. The human jaw is poorly designed, lions devour their prey, malaria parasites kill millions of humans every year and make 500 million sick. I do not attribute all the misery, cruelty, and destruction to the specific design of the Creator. About 20 percent of all human pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion during the first two months. That is 20 million natural abortions every year. I shudder in terror at the thought that some people of faith would implicitly attribute this calamity to the Creator’s faulty design. I rather see it as a consequence of the clumsy ways of the evolutionary process. The God of revelation and faith is a God of love and mercy, and of wisdom.
Darwin's theory of evolution is a gift to science, and to religion as well. This book gives my reasons. I hope you, the reader, will find them cogent and perhaps be persuaded.
The Christian Man's Evolution: How Darwinism and Faith Can Coexist by Sally Lehrman in Scientific American, October 2008.
A geneticist ordained as a Dominican priest, Francisco J. Ayala sees no conflict between Darwinism and faith. Convincing most of the American public of that remains the challenge.
Making Sense of Evolution: Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010). Amazon
John Haught (Ph.D. Catholic University, 1970) is Senior Fellow, Science & Religion, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University. He was formerly Professor in the Department of Theology at Georgetown University (1970-2005) and Chair (1990-95). His area of specialization is systematic theology, with a particular interest in issues pertaining to science, cosmology, evolution, ecology, and religion. He is the author of numerous books. Biosketch
Evolution makes good scientific sense. The question is whether it makes good theological sense as well. Christians who find evolution contrary to faith often do so because they focus solely on the issues of the world's design and the notion of the gradual descent of all life from a common ancestry. But that point of view overlooks the significance of the dramatic narrative going on beneath the surface. What evolution is has become more important than what it means. Haught suggests that, rather than necessarily contradicting one another, theologians and Darwinian scientists actually share an appreciation of the underlying meaning and awe-inspiring mystery of evolution. He argues for a focus on evolution as an ongoing drama and suggests that we simply cannot--indeed need not--make complete sense of it until it has fully played out.
Ultimately, when situated carefully within a biblical vision of the world as open to a God who makes all things new, evolution makes sense--scientifically and theologically.
“By taking Darwin's and neo-Darwinians’ work seriously, Haught satisfyingly shows how Christians can and should be both rigorous scientists and faithful believers.” Terrence W. Tilley, Professor of Theology and Chair of the Department, Ford-ham University, Bronx NY
“Ours is an age dominated by “nothing but” treatments. Religious conservatives and atheist biologists alike engage in a war-to-the-death between evolution and creation. How refreshing, then, to read this brilliant ‘both and’ synthesis by one of America’s leading experts in the field. Authoritative yet immensely readable, this volume offers a powerful vision of a God big enough to encompass the adventure of evolution, contingency, suffering, and randomness. Somehow, one feels, when the dust of battle settles, something like John Haught’s rich description of ‘infinite and inexhaustible depth’ will remain standing.” Philip Clayton, Ingraham Professor, Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University and author of In Quest of Freedom: The Emergence of Spirit in the Natural World.
Christians Engaging Constructively with Science: Video Resources
A new adult-education course for church groups entitled "Religion and Science: Pathways to Truth" has been released by the Wesley Ministry Network. Hosted by Francis S. Collins, this course includes the contributions of 17 scientists and theologians addressing several key issues in the relationship between religion and science today.
Join more than a dozen world experts as they consider how religion and science might coexist and even complement one another in the 21st Century. Produced for laity and sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation.
The Nine DVD-Based Lessons
1. Introduction - Francis S. Collins
2. Friends or Foes? The Story of a Complex Relationship - David Wilkinson
3. Truth in Science and Religion - Philip Clayton
4. God and Nature - Keith Ward
5. Creation and Evolution - Darrel Falk
6. What Does It Mean to Be Human? - Warren Brown
7. The God of Hope and the End of the World - John Polkinghorne
8. Religion, Science, and Ethics: New Frontiers - Ted Peters
9. Creation Care – Beth Norcross, Bruce Birch, Denise Dombkowski Hopkins, Kendall Soulen & Susan Willhauck
The Bonus DVD Includes
- A Conversation Between Nobel Laureate William Phillips and Francis S. Collins
- The Dawkins Delusion? – Alister McGrath
- On Faith and Scientific Discovery – Nobel Laureate Charles Townes
- Darwin and the Economy of Grace – Amy Laura Hall
Course kit from Cokesbury
The Next Section: The Science Undergirding Evolution
- The strong evidence in support of evolution is explained in many of the resources found in the links from the sections above. Here we highlight but a few recent publications.