I’ve been traveling again this week, and so am somewhat off my normal schedule. My Tuesday post has become a Wednesday post. Today I would like to pose a question and look for some response and insight. Over the last several weeks we’ve been looking at the essays in a book Theology After Darwin centered around a simple question: What are the implications for Christian theology if Darwin was right? I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately – it touches on so many core questions. The implications of evolutionary biology are enormous … that is, they can be enormous, but the impact is shaped by the way we frame the gospel message. Some people seem to see little if any conflict, while others feel undermined by the possibility of evolutionary creation. The points of conflict also change somewhat with view of the central gospel message. This leads to key questions regarding first, gospel, and second approach to understanding the gospel and the world.
Let me start this discussion by pointing to two recent posts – the first last Friday (here) when Scot commented on two books, one by Greg Gilbert (What Is the Gospel?) and the second by Darrell Bock (Recovering the Real Lost Gospel). Greg Gilbert sketches the gospel quite definitively as “God. Man. Christ. Response.” and discusses this expression of the gospel in opposition to faulty or insufficient gospel constructs, specifically “Jesus is Lord” and “Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation” and “cultural transformation.” In contrast Darrell Bock shapes a vision of the story told in scripture and its consummation in Christ. The second post appeared yesterday morning, bringing to our attention a short book by Michael Pahl, From Resurrection to New Creation, that sketches an overview of Christian theology starting at the resurrection.
In these books, the contrasting views discussed, and others we could list, we see some significant differences of understanding of gospel and interpretation of scripture. In broad brush strokes those who see the gospel as a story of cultural transformation tend to have little quarrel with evolutionary creation. In contrast many (but not all) who see the gospel in terms of God-Man-Christ-Response or Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation seem to find the conflict and concern much more significant.
So here is the question for today:
How does your view of the gospel influence the way you consider the implications of evolutionary biology for Christian theology?
Of course this requires first an answer to the question – What is the gospel?
I have not read Michael Pohl’s book yet – but the sketch in Scot’s post meshes well with my approach to both Christian theology and the interaction between my Christian faith and understanding of science including evolutionary biology.
My suggestion is that the place to start is 1 Cor. 15.
1-4: Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
20-26: But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.
Two key points here – the first is the resurrection. As Paul says – if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain and our faith is vain, if Christ has not been raised, our faith is worthless; we are still in our sins. (per v. 14, 17) These are pretty strong words – our faith is centered in the resurrection as experienced and witnessed by the apostles. This was a transformative event.
The second key point is that Christ died for our sins, if he was not raised we are still in our sins. I don’t see how we can look at this and get a view of gradual improvement – either evolutionary or cultural as a core part of Christian doctrine (although some of the ideas here can contribute to the whole). This doesn’t necessarily mean Adam as a unique historical individual, but it certainly means some kind of a historical fall, a culpable decisive action to turn away from obedience and union with God on the part of humanity both individually and corporately.
I will get into more of this in future posts – but today I would like to hear and learn from others.
Where do you start?
And to flesh it out a bit:
How does your view of the gospel influence the way you consider the implications of evolutionary biology for Christian theology? Is this one of the key factors – or are there other equally important factors at play?
If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net