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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Denis Lamoureux Is an Evolutionary Creationist

We got a note last night from Denis Lamoureux, an assistant professor of science and religion at St. Joseph's College at the University of Alberta and the biggest name in this field up in Canada. Lamoureux is the author of the upcoming book Evolutionary Creation, and he responds to Ken Miller's opinion on the term "theistic evolution" and shares a bit about his own view of origins:

"I certainly appreciate Ken Miller's approach to the term 'theistic evolution.' For example, I practiced dentistry, and in the early years I was an atheist and later I became a theist (evangelical Christian). I never practised 'atheist dentistry' or 'theistic dentistry.' I practiced dentistry, period. I found that there was one good way to extract a wisdom tooth, and atheism or theism had nothing to do with my protocol. So in may ways I'm with Dr. Miller.
However, Ken Miller is a leading figure in the modern origins controversy, and the term 'theistic evolution' does assist us in understanding his position. Clearly, he does not embrace the views of Richard Dawkins, an 'atheistic evolutionist' or 'dysteleological evolutionist.' I think that in the context of this controversy these qualifications are necessary.
I must also add that I find the term 'theistic evolution' problematic because which 'theism' are we referring to? Pantheism? Panentheism? Traditional theism? Or even a deistic spin on theism? As well, and this is my personal twist, I don't like the inversion of priority in the term theistic evolution--a scientific theory as the substantive (noun), and God as a qualifying term (adjective). Consequently, I prefer 'evolutionary creation.' This term also seems to be emerging with those who accept evolution and have distinctly conservative Christian views."

Thanks, Denis, for introducing another term into the discussion. What do you think: Is "evolutionary creation" better or worse than "theistic evolution"?

4 comments:

Karl W. said...

I agree with Denis that "evolutionary creation" is a better term, but I am still not convinced that these terms do any real work. There are so many different theological perspectives on God's interaction with the world that it seems unlikely that we can agree on one particular way to see God's relation to evolution.

Theologians who see God as "outside time" (whatever that means), could say, for example, that God saw the whole evolutionary process, decided it was good, and created it, without having had to interact with the process along the way. Open theologians are more likely to see God interacting with the unfolding process very much "inside time", (whatever that means).

The failure of any of these terms to catch on makes me suspect that the term does not really refer to anything of sufficient interest to people. The terms also look suspicious when their adherents are unable to explain what difference God is making in the process.

I call myself a "theistic evolutionist" for want of a better label, but I can't answer the question "What, exactly, does the adjective "theistic" mean in this context?"

Steve Martin said...

I too like the term "Evolutionary Creationist" for the exact reasons Denis states. It should be noted that it is not Denis's own term as he stated in an email to me:

It's not my term. Howard Van Till introduced it to me
in 1995. It's been around for a while, and comes from
Reform circles. Polemically, it's great. Also good in
that it separates evangelicals from other "theisms."

Stephen Douglas said...

My question is, what are we using these terms for? If we're trying to say that we accept the findings of science, we may call ourselves evolutionists. This is particularly good when trying to talk to an unbeliever, and since that's mostly who Miller talks to on a professional level, I think that suits him and others in his position just fine.

If we're talking to Christians and trying to affirm that we believe God is responsible for naturalistic processes with no intervention necessary, we may justly call ourselves Christian evolutionists. Even Mormons and Muslims believe in "creation", so we're hardly being more theologically distinct by tagging ourselves as "creationists". Moreover, to the extent that we do associate ourselves with the uniquely Christian type of creationist, we are marginalizing our position among non-Christians by bad association. When I first heard the term "evolutionary creationist", I wondered if the person was some sort of progressive creationist or an ID advocate who believes in guided evolution with a few miracles for crutches. We're not really winning any friends on either side with that moniker, IMHO.

Or we can stick with a term that has a universally-understood meaning and is familiar to most: theistic evolutionist. If we feel the urge to further nail down our religion, we may call ourselves Christian theistic evolutionists. Works for me.

Mike Biehler said...

Please check out www.emperorswithoutclothes.com. In the "devious arguments' section, you will see how Denis uses word games to promote his evolutionist agenda.

In my opinion, he is one of those "wolves in sheep's clothing" that Jesus warned us about.