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Responses from contemporary theologians

It should be no surprise therefore that there is a diversity of theological responses to evolutionary science. At one end of the spectrum we have varieties of ‘creation science’ which do not grant nature or general providence a significant role in creation history. As we have seen, they are responding to supposed threats which are not necessarily justified by a careful interpretation of the science. At the other end of the spectrum we find a number of theologians who endeavour to seamlessly weave Darwinian ideas into a doctrine of creation through ‘theistic evolution.’ For this essay I shall focus on just those scholars who contend that they have taken Darwin ‘seriously,’ leaving anti-Darwinian creationist accounts and the ‘Intelligent Design’ movement for subsequent study.

The remaining responses can be roughly divided into three groups: 1) Those who accept Darwinian natural selection as a force in biological history but one which must be supplemented by divine activity in order to provide a full account of life’s history. 2) Those who accept it as a reasonable approximation of the mechanism driving biological development, but one which is flexible enough to allow for concurrent divine action. While this is typically located in probabilistic events, and may or may not be detectable by methods employed in the sciences, for the believer this divine action is very real. 3) Those who embrace natural selection itself as an expression of divine creativity. As would be expected, each of these groups develop very distinct accounts of providence, some explicitly allowing for miraclesSee Ward, In Defence of the Soul 46-47. and some developing a thoroughly immanentist view of God’s presence in the world.

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Responses from contemporary theologians

[1] Does Evolution ‘do the work of a friend’ for the Christian Religion?
Setting the scene - why focus on providence?
[2] Supposed challenges from the evolutionary sciences to theology
Intellectually fulfilled atheists?
A challenge to human uniqueness and status?
A challenge to purpose in creation?
A threat to the veracity of scripture?
Evolution ‘explains away’ theology?
A challenge to Christian morality?
The challenges in wider context - Darwin as a scapegoat?
[3] The current state of the evolutionary sciences
Different ways of conceptualising Darwinian evolution
Evolution as chance and necessity
Evolution as an algorithm
Evolution as movement within a ‘fitness landscape’
Ongoing debates: contingency versus convergence
Ongoing debates: what are the key causal factors in biological history?
Ongoing debates: the environment as the principle cause?
Ongoing debates: convergence as the principle cause?
Ongoing debates: ‘Universal biology’ as the principle cause?
The importance of moving from evolution as abstraction to particular history
Ongoing debates: directionality and progress
Ongoing debates: the origin of life
Different levels and kinds of selection?
[4] Responses from theology
Evolution, probabilities and providence
Holmes Rolston III
Keith Ward
John Haught
Arthur Peacocke
An increased role for general providence?
Theology of Creation in the light of evolution: three scenarios
[5] Concluding remarks


Adrian Wyard
Adrian M Wyard MSt

See also:

The Relation of Science & Religion
Purpose and Design
The Argument From Design
The Anthropic Principle
Charles Darwin
DNA Double-Helix