Friday, 26 December 2014

How one evolutionary creationist reconciles Christianity with the fact of evolution

Jeff Hardin is the chairman of the zoology department at the University of Wisconsin. He's also an evangelical Christian who accepts the fact of evolution and wants to disabuse his fellow evangelicals of their mistaken belief that evolutionary biology and Christianity are irreconcilable. William Saletan, writing at Slate, comments on Hardin's mission to liberate Christians from the bondage of special creationism. 

The problem, as I've stressed repeatedly, lies in the failure to recognise that when scientific facts contradict human readings of the Bible, the latter need to be corrected in the light of the former:
This requires humility. “Truth and absolute certitude are not the same,” says Hardin. The proper Christian attitude is that truth resides in Jesus. The believer’s job is to follow Jesus, not to assume that the believer knows the route. Hardin cites the Apostle Paul’s counsel that God “works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” One way God works in people is through science. They learn that their initial conclusions from scripture—computing the age of humanity, for example, from the number of generations recounted since Adam—are clumsy and naive. To allow God to work in them, Christians must remain, in Hardin’s words, “epistemically open.”
Christians who believe that the world was created in six days, or that the Earth is only a few thousand years old, think they’re reading the Bible literally. But in reality, they’re projecting modern notions of time and narration onto their ancestors. Hardin shares their aspiration to be faithful to the Bible, but he argues that to achieve this, one must approach the text the way one approaches science: with empirical rigor. Scripture is a real thing. It was written and preached for a lay audience in a historical context. Those people weren’t scientists or journalists. So it makes no sense to treat the text as a tight chronology, nailing down timelines or the process of speciation. Instead, evolutionary creationists advocate what Hardin calls “literary-cultural analysis”—asking, in layman’s terms, what each passage was meant to convey to an ancient Hebrew.
The full Salon article is here. Hardin's presentation (and slides) at the November 2014 Faith Angle Forum can be found here