Weeks and weeks ago, I promised to write this post, in response to a provocative comment by my friend Tim Enloe. So I finally got around to making some kind of stab at it.
Darwinism is a fine example of the ambiguous foundations of modern science. On the one hand, it is generally agreed that the rise of nominalism and voluntarism, which drove a wedge between knowledge of the world and knowledge of God, helped liberate science from theology, and thus enabled the rise of natural science as we now know it. On the other hand, science had to maintain a faith in the meaningful fixed regularities of created nature, something which realism had guaranteed, but which, in a nominalist and voluntarist universe, was by no means certain. Thus science found itself in the uncomfortable position of biting the hand that fed it. So it is that we find an odd tension within modern science, which has grown as science has become increasingly secularized: on the one hand, science insists upon the law-like regularity of the natural world, and yet must also insist that things need not be as they are, could easily have turned out differently, and may yet turn out differently.
Darwinism, and the Christian accomodation to it, manifests this tension perfectly. On the one hand, Darwinism starts from the presupposition of regular processes of nature, ostensibly eschewing the voluntarist God who simply creates at a whim (deceptively too--with the appearance of age), and intervenes from time to time. Theologians who embraced Darwinism often took this oddly realist tack (as the lecturers at the book release emphasized), arguing, “Which God is greater? A God who creates a world according to fixed inherent laws and principles, or one who creates everything by fiat, via random interventions?”
And yet, Darwinism argues that all takes place by chance, and thus, while certain base chemical laws may be fixed, traditionally understood biological natures are not fixed--there is nothing intrinsically human about human beings, or canine about dogs--they just happen to be the way they are, and could very well be something else entirely. And Darwinian theology, as I mentioned in an earlier post, happily jumps on this nominalist bandwagon, asserting that the special status of human beings has nothing to do with any inherent nature, but only of an apparently arbitrary decision by God at some point in history; nor does the particular form of creation at any given time reveal God’s purposes, which must instead come only through special revelation.
So we find these hopeless theologians simultaneously arguing that we need a God who operates by fixed principles, rather than arbitrary interventions, and that our relationship with this God and knowledge of him has nothing to do with any fixed principles, but only with his arbitrary interventions. And to think that these folks hold the chairs of theology at most of our top seminaries and universities...