Re: Methodological naturalism

Allan Harvey (
Mon, 30 Mar 1998 12:09:26 -0700

At 11:38 AM 3/30/98 -0600, Paul A. Nelson wrote:
>Allan Harvey asked:
>>Paul Nelson, are you willing to make such a statement? Does the
>>theory of evolution, if true, negate Christianity, or not? It seems
>>like such a simple question to be dodged so many times.
>In November last year, I lectured at Whitworth College in Spokane.
>During my visit, Steve Meyer showed me a paper written by a former
>student of his, now studying at Fuller Seminary under the tutelage
>of Nancey Murphy.
>The subject of the paper was how Christians need to reconcile the
>doctrine of original sin with neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory.
>The author argued that neo-Darwinism is true, and that whatever is
>true cannot contradict the Bible. Therefore the doctrine of original
>sin, he said, needs a thorough-going revision.
>Which this young man then provided. In their natural state, he wrote,
>humans are good and capable of perfection, because a holy God would
>not have employed an evolutionary process which was intrinsically evil.
>Only by not living up to our full evolutionary potential do we "commit
>sin," and indeed this is what it means to "fall short of the glory of God."
>How does that strike you, Allan? Does the theory of evolution, if true,
>negate Christianity, or not?

Paul's story illustrates the need to distinguish between scientific
findings and theories (what I meant by the admittedly slippery word
"evolution" above) and any philosophical extrapolations or metaphysical
baggage humans may have tied to the science. The negation of Christian
doctrine here comes not from the science, but from metaphysical notions
of what God "would not" do, and maybe other problems the more
theology-minded on this list could point out. Those so inclined can take
almost anything and (ab)use it to "negate" Christianity.

I answer with another example. Long ago, some decided that the success
of Newton's science eliminated the need for anything other than a
clockmaker God. They "revised" their theology accordingly, and ended up
in Deism. So here's an equivalent question: "Does Newtonian physics, if
true, negate Christianity?"

The abuse does not destroy the use.

| Dr. Allan H. Harvey | |
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| National Institute of Standards & Technology | government for what I |
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