Comments: weekend reading material

I've wondered if it has ever occurred to anyone that evolution is really God's plan and that the creation story in the Bible was a good way to explain where we all came from, given the limited knowledge of science and the universe at the time the writers lived. I can't recall hearing anyone speak of it that way in the debate that's been ongoing for so many years. It seems that it has to be accepted either as the biblical literalists/fundamentalists would have it or not.

Posted by Richard III at Saturday, 2 September 2006 at 1:08pm BST

I found both the Louth piece and the Pinsky very encouraging and enjoyable.

I hadnt known Orthodox priests could say such things. I certainly love the feasts and legends of the BVM., and regret that sometimes they are caught between poles of rejection or overdogmatisation in the churches. I love the beautiful poetry of it all. (I loved Rosemary Houghton's piece years ago brought out by Living Parish booklets -- had a similar joy and simplicity.)
The Pinsky gave me hope for the future of american evangelicalism as a real spiritual movement with real thoughtfulness and love for others. Their emphasis on orthoprxis is very encouraging to me. Perhaps even episcopal evangelicals and anglican ones will be able to learn from these mega-evos, and become a living and loving spiritual movement for good ?

Also it is written with such interest in people's lives, and such vibrancy.

I want to read the book.

These two articles go well together in my book.
Many thanks for them

Posted by laurence roberts at Saturday, 2 September 2006 at 2:14pm BST

Richard, you would be pleased to know that a current online survey currently has two-thirds of voters believing that evolution and the bible are compatible. (Link found courtesty Melbourne Anglican website)

I think evolution is the explanation of HOW God does something, it does not change that there are moments were God "tweaks" things in a certain direction e.g. Moses or Jesus. God is also an innovator and a pragmatist and works with the materials at hand: a bit like being on Apollo 13 and needing to build a carbon dioxide cleaning filter with what was on hand so the astronauts didn't die.

Coincidentally, I was contemplating the other day how the rate of mutation adds resiliency to a species e.g. the platypus is facing extinction because it stopped mutating. There was a tangent about how that applies to society structures and theology too. As the dynamics of reality e.g. limits to water or space impact on human behaviour e.g. number people can feed, chances to emigrate to a "green field", then souls need to learn new strategies to survive e.g. water conservation, more tolerant behaviours as population density increases.

Laurence, I have a lot of hope for evangelical Christianity, but the leadership is going to people like Rick Warren. The souls who are not in denial about reality but are getting on with doing what needs to be done now e.g. constructively working with AIDS

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 2 September 2006 at 7:08pm BST

Worth noting that the journalist on whose interview the Guardian article was based, doesn't think much of the Guardian's interpretation: see
(The link should work until Thursday 7th)

Posted by Doug Chaplin at Saturday, 2 September 2006 at 7:32pm BST

I don't have the book myself but apparently Benedict XVI, when he was still known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, wrote a book "Creation and Sin" in which he states: "We cannot say: creation or evolution. The exact formula is creation and evolution, because both respond to two different questions. The story of the dust of the earth and the breath of God does not tell us how man originated. It tells us what he is. It talks about his most profound origin, it illustrates the plan that is behind him. Vice versa, the theory of evolution attempts to specify and describe biological processes. It does not succeed in explaining, however, the origin of the 'project' man, his interior derivation and his essence. Therefore, we are before two questions that integrate one another but do not exclude each other."

Quoted from

Just thought, Richard III might be interested to know...

Posted by Thomas Renz at Saturday, 2 September 2006 at 8:15pm BST

Lambeth 88 came up with this on polygamy:

Resolution 26

Church and Polygamy

This Conference upholds monogamy as God’s plan, and as the ideal relationship of love between husband and wife; nevertheless recommends that a polygamist who responds to the Gospel and wishes to join the Anglican Church may be baptized and confirmed with his believing wives and children on the following conditions:

(1) that the polygamist shall promise not to marry again as long as any of his wives at the time of his conversion are alive;

(2) that the receiving of such a polygamist has the consent of the local Anglican community;

(3) that such a polygamist shall not be compelled to put away any of his wives, on account of the social deprivation they would suffer;

(4) and recommends that provinces where the Churches face problems of polygamy are encouraged to share information of their pastoral approach to Christians who become polygamists so that the most appropriate way of disciplining and pastoring them can be found, and that the ACC be requested to facilitate the sharing of that information.

Polygamy today --well 1988 ! and who knows what tomorrow /!

Posted by laurence roberts at Saturday, 2 September 2006 at 8:22pm BST

I think Richard III is on to something.

My own take is that it's a matter of interpretation. The creation myth is a prime case of "what the Bible says" - or not. It doesn't start with a statement "this is how it happened, you must legislate to promote it", it jumps straight in with a *story*.

Attempts to take it literally will only meet with failure on cursory inspection of any real evidence, so taking it metaphorically, or for the purpose of extracting truths from it, is actually the best you *can* do.

Posted by Tim at Saturday, 2 September 2006 at 10:18pm BST

The two creation stories in Genesis show two aspects of how God's creating energy has been experienced by humans and say different - but not contradictory - things about how God relates to the creation. Neither was written by an eye witness to the actual event.

The one that comes first, in which God creates by speech, shows the transcendent aspect of God, and makes sure we don't see God as a product of nature, an element of the creation. It foregrounds the structure of creation, its rationality.

The second, and actually earlier tradition, shows God as immanent, intimately involved with what God has created, reaching and touching and molding the stuff of creation to form human beings. It foregrounds God's loving involvement with the creates order.

Neither is intended to be a scientific explanation of the physical mechanism of how - after its creation - the plants and animals actually evolved.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Sunday, 3 September 2006 at 3:53am BST

Three things might be profoundly alarming about these newish rightwing church and social initiatives on science/faith. The first is the Home Invasion worry. The second is the Rush To Close worry. The third is the Power worry.

So often these days, new conservative believers join the discussion. Their most vigorous Modus Operandi so far is to import new traditionalistic sounding terms, lexicons, definitions, and narratives into the discussion – all of which have been dramatically redefined and closed down in their newish-oldish rightwing meanings. This new conservative wine in old traditional theological skins typically confuses, overturns, and violates some one or more ground rules or aspects of what we in the west have (since the Enlightenment, if not reaching back to the Renaissance or even earlier) painstakingly assembled and applied as a fallible but reliable tool kit of best practices of empirical and critical investigation.

Intellectually, this is a Home Invasion. The guests are not joining us to talk, foster mutual respect and understanding, and work among us as equals who actually value either the tool kit of best practices, or we the people who are pledged to best practices.

Their purpose is wittingly or unwittingly to obtain power.

Right now this crosses our paths as some newly asserted (but really very old), exclusive, absolute power of religious revelation - to define or redefine everything that might matter. They join the Great Conversation to convert it, which inside their closed religious revelation frame, means to close it down. In this newish view, the disgruntled Medieval Church does not have to learn the Copernicus Lesson and change its ways for the better. Instead, the disgruntled church can claim to have dealt with all that many years ago, and by the way, remind us that it alone possesses a final, absolute, superior religious truth which must always trump all as the shifted starting point for our Great Conversation.

Looming behind this Religious Newspeak lexicon is that most familiar, most traditional, most orthodox human and institutional deep impulse - to call out the sheep from the goats, to confiscate all the resources that any goats might have come to possess, to undermine and erase the suspect narratives through which goats can lay claim to any manner or means of equal opportunity over which this conservative religious power does not have superior control – and, finally, to newly hold levers of power through which dissent can be quelled, people can be punished, and so forth.

Posted by drdanfee at Sunday, 3 September 2006 at 5:53pm BST


I've had experiences like yours, some particularly unpleasant earlier this year. (Not on TA, praise be to God and my thanks to the TA team, where it has happened but within reasonable bounds). The passage from Ezekiel 34 is particularly comforting when you are suffering, especially 34:18-19 "Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?"

That applies within a parish - exhorting the inner clique not to be cruel to the less fortunate members, between churches and denominations, and even between faiths, as well as with the alien and non-believers. We are called to be hospitable not just to those who are considered close family, and trust that God has a plan for all of Creation, including the alien and the lost.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 4 September 2006 at 6:25am BST

Evolution v. creation is a much more complex issue than just the scientific question. It raises the very uncomfortable and difficult question of: if creation didn't occur the way the Bible says and if there was actually no idyllic period where carnivores did not eat other animals and humans and animals never died, then what kind of theology can we really come away with from the story of the Fall? Can we conclude that the words attributed to God as a curse on women are God's will for women or not? Can we conclude that God's commandment to go forth and multiply is even God's will today in this overcrouded world of ours. Can we conclude that male and female partnerships are exclusively permitted? Can we even conclide that non-procreative relationships can and should ahve a significant role in our life on earth?

Creationism is a bulwark to avoid having to deal with the difficult questions raised by a non-literal Fall.

Posted by ruidh at Tuesday, 5 September 2006 at 3:44pm BST

Andrew Louth's use of 'true' is not incorrect, but does demonstrate the poverty of the English language. Words like this which have two distinct meanings might with profit be discarded for synonyms of each of the two meanings, to avoid confusion. Either that, or use 'literally true' and 'spiritually true' (rather a subjective term).

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 6 September 2006 at 12:24pm BST

Thanks ruidh for recognizing the complicated theological challenge that calls to us, the moment we stop hiding in literalist-plain frames and easeful presuppositions. We need our best minds, hearts, prayers, and inquiry to address these challenges; not canned answers from the back of the puppeted apostolic bomb shelter shelves.

The contradiction implicit to these claims is amusing, just so long as they are not empowered by force. One the one hand, nobody knows anything, anything at all, except some apostlic authority to which we must always run in complete inferiority as readers. On the other hand, apostlic authority is only what these living new conservative expositors define it to be. In either case, dealing with difficult questions is unlikely.

Just as the creationists prefer to mis-read scriptures, they prefer to misread science. Neither reading effort gives its materials a decent intellectual shake. Ooops. Lord have mercy.

Posted by drdanfee at Wednesday, 6 September 2006 at 2:37pm BST
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