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Theology of Creation in the light of evolution: three scenarios

Creation: Evolution enhanced

The first option is as follows: God takes the dust of the ground, (general providence) and supplements natural selection by bringing into being particular probabilities in order to create human beings. This additional influence may be detectable (i.e. it is a case of special providence). As we saw earlier, Rolston describes this special divine action in terms of a temporal ‘opening up of possibilities.’ Haught, drawing from Whitehead’s process philosophy, considers it the effect of the ‘divine lure.’ Note: this option is dependent upon an unspecified account of special divine action.

Creation: At the mercy of evolution

The second option proposes that God takes the dust of the ground, and allows natural selection to run its course (general providence). There is no providential involvement or intervention. This means God is at the mercy of the significant contingency inherent in the process. Peacocke’s proposal could be viewed this way.

Creation: Evolution as the outcome of contingent general providence

These first two options mark out the two ends of a spectrum of possibilities. At the centre of this spectrum is a third: Much as the existence of liquid water can be said to be the contingent result of general providence, it is possible that the requirements for life are sufficiently tied to the laws of nature that it too can be considered the reasonable outcome of contingent general providence. Such an account has no need of additional divine influence because the outcome is sufficiently tightly constrained to achieve God’s purposes. If a divine influence were present, it would be undetectable.

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Theology of Creation in the light of evolution: three scenarios

[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
Responses from contemporary theologians
Holmes Rolston III
Keith Ward
John Haught
Arthur Peacocke
An increased role for general providence?
[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