Evolutionary Creationism (EC) vs. Theistic Evolution (TE)

In one of my previous posts, Steve asked a question regarding my use of the term “evolutionary creationism,” or EC. I figured I’d let Denis O. Lamoureux from St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta, speak to the differences between EC and “theistic evolution” (TE) in his outstanding essay “Evolutionary Creation”:

The term ‘evolutionary creation’ to most individuals seems like a contradiction in terms. This would be the case if the words ‘evolution’ and ‘creation’ were restricted to their popular meanings. That is, if the former is bound to an atheistic world view, and if the latter refers exclusively to literal 6 day creation. However, evolutionary creation moves beyond the common use of these terms and the simple ‘evolution vs. creation’ debate. The most important word in this category is the noun ‘creation.’ Evolutionary creationists are first and foremost thoroughly committed and unapologetic creationists. They believe that the universe is a created reality that is absolutely dependent for its every moment of existence on the will and grace of the Creator. The qualifying word in this term is the adjective ‘evolutionary,’ indicating the method through which God created the world. This view of origins is often referred to as ‘theistic evolution.’ However, that categorization places the process of evolution as primary term and makes the Creator secondary as only a qualifying adjective. Such an inversion in the order of priority is unacceptable to evolutionary creationists.

 Clearly, some may use the two terms synonymously, but I prefer Lamoureux’s distinction. Even Howard J. Van Till, in Zondervan’s Three Views on Creation and Evolution, prefers not to use the term “theistic evolution”:

Although the author of this chapter finds this label [“theistic evolution”] to have serious shortcomings, the editors have nonetheless chosen to employ it. . . . the author asks that his position be known, not as theistic evolution, but as the fully gifted creation perspective. (p. 161; emphasis in the original)

I believe the EC term to be fairly recent, and considering Van Till’s use of the term “evolutionary naturalism” to describe atheistic evolution (pp. 164-165), I feel justified to assume his approval of the term “evolutionary creationism.” In fact, in the same chapter, Van Till states:

. . . I have sometimes used the label evolving creation for my perspective. I think it’s a much better term that theistic evolution . . .

However . . .

. . . but it still has the problem of having to deal with all the negative attitudes that a majority of Christians have toward anything that even sounds like “evolution.”

Van Till has a point, but his term “fully gifted creation” does not succinctly describe his view very well. But back to what makes EC, well, EC. Lamoureux writes:

. . . evolutionary creationists claim that through an ordained and sustained evolutionary process God created the entire universe and all of life, including human beings. . . . God’s actual creative method is found through scientific discovery and not by reading the opening chapters of Scripture. . . . Three features distinguish evolutionary creation from other positions on the origin of the universe and life. This view of origins firmly: (1) believes in a personal Creator and the evolution of the world, (2) upholds the foundational principles of conservative Christianity and modern science, and (3) rejects the ‘God-of-the-Gaps’ [i.e., Intelligent Design —Mike Beidler]. . . . evolutionary creationists predict that as biology advances, fine-tuning arguments for the evolution of life will be discovered. Therefore, instead of looking for ‘gaps’ in nature where God purportedly intervened to create living organisms, these Christians see the Creator’s glory expressed in the robust continuum of life from the first cells to human beings. The faith of evolutionary creationists is strengthened with every new finding in biological evolution because each discovery declares the faithfulness of God to His living creation.

 

21 Comments

Filed under evolutionary creationism, intelligent design movement, protology

21 Responses to Evolutionary Creationism (EC) vs. Theistic Evolution (TE)

  1. Ok, that’s kinda what I was thinking. I think it’s a much more marketable term than “theistic evolution” for questioning YEC’s and OEC’s.

  2. I agree that it’s much more marketable. More marketable than Van Till’s “fully gifted creation,” too. And I really appreciate Lamoureaux’s grammatical distinction between the two terms.

  3. So, Steve … how are you going to vote on my poll??? (BTW, you can vote for more than one position in my poll.)

  4. I initially voted for both EC and TE, but I didn’t want to “cheat” 🙂 It’s really a vexed question.

    I guess it really depends on what the term is being used for and who I’m talking to. See, as far as the science goes, I think God created using a naturalistic approach. Science cannot answer “Who”, but only “how”, so I don’t see anything to be gained when talking about the science to tag it with “theistic” and confuse the issue. It’s just evolution.

    Now, in theological conversations (i.e., if I’m trying to affirm that God is ultimately responsible), it makes more sense to refer to “creation”. Unfortunately, the term “creationism”, as noted by Collins, has been hijacked and carries the baggage of being too closely associated with “those who insist on a literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2 to describe the creation of the universe and the formation of life on earth” (The Language of God, p. 172).

    So as things stand right now, I’m more comfortable referring to myself as a TE (specifically a TE3 in Vance’s terminology), and add the “theistic” only in theological dialogue. So I changed my vote to just TE.

  5. Good points, Steve.

    I would prefer the ability to use a number of different labels depending on the audience. Sadly, pristine, newly-defined labels used long enough end up acquiring their own “baggage.” Frustrating, no?

    In addition to Lamoureaux’s grammatical distinctions, I think EC “sounds” grander! Still, couldn’t EC refer to the belief system and TE refer to the process?

    To answer Vance’s question, I think I’d put myself into the T3 category. Hard to believe, especially considering I was a reluctant YEC a year ago.

  6. In addition to Lamoureaux’s grammatical distinctions, I think EC “sounds” grander! Still, couldn’t EC refer to the belief system and TE refer to the process?

    I definitely agree that there is a special ring to Lamoureux’s term, and as a Christian I am naturally in endless awe of God’s creative act. “EC” is fine to refer to the belief system – perhaps widespread adoption of this terminology would be able to wrest the word “creationism” away from the literalist connotation and generalize it. I suppose I am wedded to “evolution” as the noun rather than the adjective because of its candidness.

    Hard to believe, especially considering I was a reluctant YEC a year ago.
    I understand the feeling. I didn’t linger on TE1 or TE2 for long (if at all) because when my hermeneutic changed, it seemed like those “hybrid” views would have been compromising for the sake of retaining comfortably orthodox beliefs. You know, kinda like partial preterism 😉

  7. I swear we were separated at birth. You have an official invite to be a guest blogger on this website. Just let me know if you want to submit anything. 😉

    BTW, I think you’ll like a major portion of Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn’s upcoming book. While I disagree with their take on Genesis 1, I do love how they present the need to be consistent in both origins and eschatology. For me, TE3 and FP compliment each other perfectly.

  8. Thanks, Mike – who knows? I may take you up on that sometime. 🙂

    I’ve already ordered their book. I’m glad they’re breaking up the fallow ground of the Genesis question. I know I’ll have plenty of disagreements with them, especially if they have not considerably revised their stance that the Creation and Flood accounts are “apocalyptic”, of the same basic genre as Revelation.

    I, too, see a good bit of harmony between TE/EC (?!) and FP, and additionally between both of those and Middle Earth mythology. That’s worthy of a post, right there! 😀

  9. Dan W.

    Mike,
    I vote for EC, but understand it may not be possible in light of TE’s extensive usage and YEC’s & OEC’s stranglehold on the term Creationism. Still worth a shot.

    Have you watched Lamoureaux’s presentation?

    http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/beyond.html

    Lots of good stuff there as well, and easy for anyone to understand.

    Also heard a rumor that he was working on something for kids to digest (both scientifically and theologically), but I’ll have to verify. My daughter is already asking questions like whether there really was a garden with a talking snake, and I had to carefully navigate my way in relating that the story is true without necessarily depicting exact history at that point. I think I succeeded! Incidentally, on a separate occasion I had to tell her the Gish book we have showing a fire-breathing dinosaur was not depicting reality. (I can’t believe ICR actually thinks that’s likely!)
    Dan

  10. Ha! You know, I think I remember that book. Is that the one that suggests that the same mechanism from the bombadier beetle was present in this dinosaur? I thought it was so cool when I was young. 😀

    My daughter is also learning the Genesis stories, but she’s yet to ask if it really happened. I am not looking forward to navigating through an explanation of “true, but not historical” – pity we don’t all have Dr. Wallace’s knack for explanation! 🙂 Any tips?

  11. Steve,

    Tim and Jeff still maintain Terry’s position that the early chapters of Genesis should be read as apocalyptic literature.

    Middle Earth mythology??? Interesting. I enjoyed Tolkien’s creation account in The Silmarillion and thought it entirely compatible with Genesis. I wouldn’t doubt that this was Tolkien’s intent.

    ***********

    Dan,

    I’ll check out Lamoureaux’s presentation!

    Good to see you on here!

    ***********

    Steve (again),

    The subject of Genesis and geologic time have come up recently, especially since we visited a dinosaur musuem in Colorado a few weeks ago. I explained to my oldest (almost 8) that it is important we read Genesis like the Hebrews understood it. She seemed to “get” that concept.

  12. Well, my daughter is just 5, so I’m not expecting her to understand that yet. I will probably tell her something like, “They are stories meant to tell us that God made everything and that people always do things that make God sad, and that’s why God had to send Jesus, etc.” or the like. We’ll see.

    Yeah, I was talking about The Silmarillion‘s creation story. Tolkien includes some features that cause most futurists and literal Genesis readers to blanch, but which jive with our perspective quite well.

  13. Pete

    I’m scared to death to start discussing the historical reality of Genesis with my two daughters. I’m even more scared to discuss Noah, of which I really don’t know myself whether it was historical, even in a local flood setting. Right now they are 6 and 4 and I just teach them as if they were true.

  14. Pete

    Sorry: does FP = full preterism?

  15. Pete,

    Yes, FP = full preterism. Are you familiar with the view?

  16. Pete

    Just the basics: I guess partial preterism would be everything in Matthew 24 and Revelation took place in the first century except the return of Christ. Full Preterism would also include the return of Christ.

    I don’t really have a strong opinion. At least for Matthew 24 it seems to me that Jesus clearly is talking about things that are about the happen and will affect the his literal listeners…and yet other portions seem to indicate things that could not have yet happened. I find it all very confusing.

  17. You’ve got the basics down, Pete. If you’ve got any specific questions, feel free to email Steve or myself. =)

  18. What I don’t like about the term Evolutionary Creationism is that the connotations of the word creationist make EC not reflect what I would like it to mean. When I hear someone call themselves an EC, I think that they accept the theory of common descent, but do not accept evolutionary mechanisms. I think EC would be a great term for Michael Behe to use to describe himself.

    I also dislike the term TE. Similarly, I dislike the terms theistic mathematician, theistic chemist, and theistic meteorologist.

    I’m a Christian who accepts mathematics, chemistry, meteorology, and evolution.

  19. Jeffrey,

    Thanks for your post.

    When I hear someone call themselves an EC, I think that they accept the theory of common descent, but do not accept evolutionary mechanisms.

    How is it that you came to “hear” this association of terms? Does not the qualifier “evolutionary” denote the acceptance of evolutionary mechanisms?

    I think EC would be a great term for Michael Behe to use to describe himself.

    Oh, I think he likes ID just fine, which is exactly what he believes in.

    I dislike the terms theistic mathematician, theistic chemist, and theistic meteorologist. I’m a Christian who accepts mathematics, chemistry, meteorology, and evolution.

    I highly respect your approach and would be willing to use it in the right company. But when among Christians, I like to use EC or TE. If I recall correctly, Gordon Glover uses your very argument against the TE label. Have you ever read his book?

  20. I agree somewhat, Jeffrey. EC sounds more like “Creationism with a little evolution thrown in for good measure”. But TE sounds like “evolutionary processes with a little meddling from the deity”. If I just said “evolutionary theory” and didn’t use any sort of theological qualifier non-Christians would (should) not think I am denying God any more than they do when I say I believe in “gravity” instead of “theistic gravity”.

    Then again, it would be helpful in theological discourse to be able to use a term to say specifically that I believe God’s role in creation to be one of intentionality rather than in intervention, with God as the divine rule-maker Who only had to blow the whistle for the game to begin. If there were a term for this, I would gladly use it over “evolution” alone.

    Of course, the issue of being an “evolutionist” is somewhat analogous: scientists will often explain that they are only “evolutionists” in the same sense that they are “heliocentrists” — they are scientists who happen to accept the prevailing theory on biological origins. Astronomers are astronomers, and most accept heliocentrism and evolution. Calling someone an “evolutionist” is not saying much more than saying that he is someone who accepts the scientific method applied in the realm of biological science.

  21. >How is it that you came to “hear” this association of terms? Does not the qualifier “evolutionary” denote the acceptance of evolutionary mechanisms?

    It’s probably left over from my creationist misconception of “evolution” means the Big Bang, abiogenesis, and evolution.

    My new association is the equating of “evolution” with the theory of common descent, without specifying the mechanism. I very recently learned that is incorrect.

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