Over at the Jesus Creed, RJS, per usual, has posted a thoughtful and discussion-generating blog entry on Deity or Deism in John Haught’s evolutionary theology. This post has hit on something that is so prevalent in natural theology and evolution. Frankly, it only seems to lead to a God of deism. That’s not to say that theologians are saying that the theology of evolution leads to the God of deism, it’s just that the theism they portray is lacking severely.
I think that this is an extremely important issue that should receive more attention by theologians (especially those that have training or a fairly deep understanding of evolutionary biology). The scientists like me or those at BioLogos have got to admit that our theology of evolution is weak. You cannot persuade Christians that evolution is not the enemy (and literal Creationism is bunk) if you don’t provide them with a meaningful and understandable natural theology alongside the scientific evidence. Furthermore, I believe that any Christian apologetic with a focus on scientists has got to do better than simply saying: All that stuff that science shows us? Oh yeah, that was just God’s way of doing it. We must do better.
All of that being said, natural theology is just one component of systematic theology. But it’s an important one today when science is king.
Anyway, I shared my 2 cents in the comments section, and will share it here as well. Link is also provided:
Great post, RJS, and this reminds me of why I get annoyed so much by those who write on theology and evolution. It’s usually just deism and fluff, to be frank.
I’ve enjoyed reading through the comments and seeing some of the ideas shared by others. I firmly believe that this discussion on deism vs/compared to theism in natural theology should be given much more attention. Some of the scientist-theologians (Barbour, Polkinghorne come to mind) speak of a “theology of nature” instead of a natural theology, but in my mind, they haven’t really given us a good framework for how God acts in and through nature. It’s important to note that while natural theology is only one component of theology, it’s clearly a vital one today.
Some have posited that God influences in the quantum realm (which cannot in principle be observed), that God “guides” mutations (which I suppose could possibly be observed, but would absolutely not be conclusive), or that God “front-loaded” the unfolding of creation (unobservable too, I think). I’m not sure what to make of any of this but I like Polkinghorne’s idea of comparing or modeling God’s mode of action after our own. That is, I can choose to do something (mentally) and then go and do it (physically). Can this process of going from mental to physical/matter that we engage in daily be similar to what God is doing in nature? I don’t know, but I can’t rule it out as of now. Of course, this model assumes that humans have free will and can influence events (and then that God could as well), a concept that is certainly not accepted by all, if even most (but is by me).