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From the Dust: Evolutionary Creation

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September 6, 2013 Tags: Creation & Origins

Today's video features Ryan Pettey. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

Note: This clip is being posted to highlight the digital release of the movie From the Dust. You can purchase (or rent) the movie today on iTunes, or if you prefer, a physical copy through Amazon or Highway Media.

My name is Ryan Pettey, and I am a documentary filmmaker who has been amazingly blessed to work on a feature-length documentary over the last year and a half called From the Dust.

With From the Dust, we wanted to put something proactive on the table that could help motivate an elevated conversation about the “war” between science and faith. It was our goal to help Christians see (and accept) the complexity of the issues raised by modern science, as well as help them to courageously engage with the theological conversations happening within the sphere of Christian culture today. We wanted the film to address the topic hermeneutically, historically, and socially in order to gain a better perspective on the issues, and, hopefully, address some of the fears (justified or otherwise) concerning what science is telling us about our physical origins.

Personally, this project has been a spiritual shot in the arm and has whole-heartedly reignited my walk with God. I have been truly humbled by my opportunity to speak with so many incredible theologians, scientists, biblical scholars, and authors. As a result of this project, the book of Genesis has become more alive and more dynamic than I had ever allowed it to be. It is my hope that this film will both challenge and inspire people of faith, no matter where they are on their journey, to revere the complexity of God both through his word and his creation.

Through the BioLogos Forum, I will be posting a few short, topic driven clips from the film in the coming weeks as conversation starters.

This first clip titled “Evolutionary Creationism” poses these particularly important questions to the Evangelical Christian community:

  1. John Polkinghorne says, “The doctrine of creation is not about how things began, it’s about why things exist.” What does this mean?

  2. Is it reasonable that God’s method of creation would be an unfolding process such as evolution? In other words, does an evolutionary process uphold God’s character as revealed in the scriptures? If so, how?

Thanks for watching!

Ryan Pettey
From the Dust

Editor's Note: The full documentary is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. You can order the film here, and learn more about the project here.

“Evolutionary Creation” Transcript

Dr. John Polkinghorne: “The doctrine of creation isn’t about how things began, it’s about why things exist, what holds the world in being. The Christian belief is that it is the will of God that holds the world in being.”

Dr. Jeff Schloss: “No matter how you think the creation began and the process of the emergence of life occurred, if you are a Christian, you believe that God is mightily hands on.”

Dr. Alister McGrath: “And when I stopped being an atheist and became a Christian instead, actually I found that that conversion really brought a new intellectual and spiritual depth to my scientific research. I studied the philosophy of science and began to realize that proof in science was much more complex than I had realized, and above all, I began to realize that the scientific narrative actually pointed to a deeper narrative, which is that of God himself.”

Dr. Jeff Schloss: “The scriptures make it very plain that while God does marvels, miraculous marvels, he embeds these marvels in a historical process.”

Reverend Dr. Lincoln Harvey: “I have heard theologians talk about the account in Genesis in a way in which, however you read the days, whether you read them literally, or allegorically, or however you read them, they do suggest something of God taking time.”

Dr. Jeff Schloss: “Well, why does God use history to achieve his purposes? Why not just have created everything right to begin with? And then, if it were made wrong at a point in time by Adam and Eve falling, why not just have Christ die right there in the Garden and have salvation? Why wait thousands of years for the revelation of Christ? And we don’t get to have the answer to that.”

Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne: “That shows us that God is patient and subtle, that God is prepared to create through process, unfolding process, rather than through just divine magic decree.”

Dr. Jeff Schloss: “If you believe that every kind of living organism was supernaturally created by God, then, in one sense, every organism is unique, and the cheetah is the fastest organism, and the redwood tree is the largest organism, and they are all specially and supernaturally and distinctly created by God; they are all unique. If you believe in common descent and believe in evolutionary theory, then there is a sense in which no organisms are unique to the extent that they can be explained by the common mechanism of mutation and selection. When we look at human beings, human beings do things that, as of yet, are actually not adequately explainable by the common mechanism of genetic mutation and natural selection.”

Reverend Dr. Michael Lloyd: “What Mother Teresa did on the streets of Calcutta is not evolutionary useful. It is taking limited resources and giving them to people who are dying. That is not, from a survival point of view, useful. And yet, most of us think, that it’s a rather good thing.”

Dr. Jeff Schloss: “This is not a God-of-the-Gaps argument attempting to prove that there is a miracle or supernatural causes at work—that actually might be the case. But it might also be the case that there are natural causes at work, designed by God, not operating in other organisms, unique to human beings. Right now, evolutionary theory actually gives content to and illuminates the reality of human uniqueness. E.O. Wilson says that this capacity that humans have for unusual degrees of cooperative sacrifice is the culminating mystery of all biology.”

Dr. Richard Colling: “So when we talk about evolution, it is really not a matter of death and destruction imposed upon humanity and all forms of life. Evolution, from a geneticist standpoint, is really a game about probability and potential and hope and possibilities—the same thing that the New Testament says that Christians should be all about.”

Dr. Kerry Fulcher: “In Colossians, it tells us that in him all things hold together. I think God’s creation is continuing to unfold. As it continues to unfold and as we have new species that are being generated, that is not in absence of God’s creative power. Creation is not this one time deal in the past, but God is intricately involved now.”

Dr. Jeff Schloss: “There is a fabulous and profound thematic continuity to the history of life: for example, the transition from primitive prokaryotic cells to eukaryotic cells, the transition from single cells to multi-cells, the transition from asexual, basically clonally individually reproducing organisms, to sexually reproducing organisms that have to do it together, the transition from individual to social organisms. Well, there is really no other way to put this, it is progressive. It is exactly what we would expect if a God, who we already believe on the basis of the sacred history of redemption described in scripture, is also involved in incrementally achieving his purposes over the entire course of history.”

Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne: “And when you come to think about it…if the nature of God is love, as Christians believe, then I think that is the way you would expect the God of love to create, not through just brute power, but by the unfolding of fruitful potentiality.”

Dr. Darrel Falk: “If people think because of scientific evidence, ‘my Christian faith doesn’t stake up anymore’—that day needs to end. All of the richness in life that I know is because of my relationship with God, and so I don’t want people to miss out on that. I don’t want people abandoning the faith because they find out that evolution is really real. It is God’s truth. So here we have this segment, this all-important segment of God’s people, who are out of touch with God’s reality. I mean, it is God’s universe! This natural world is God’s creation—and so the people, who especially need to be in touch with God’s reality, are off in a corner.”

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

Ryan Pettey is a filmmaker and the director/editor of Satellite Pictures. He produced the feature length video From the Dust, which examines the question of human physical origins from a theological, historical and social perspective.

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Paul Lucas - #82623

September 15th 2013

I would suggest you add Dr. Kenneth Miller to your list of interviewees.  In particular, you would enjoy his book Finding Darwin’s God and chapters 7 and 8 in that book, which deal with some of the theological implications of what has been found through science.

I also suggest you consider this quote Darwin used in the Fontispiece of Origin of Species:

“The only distinct meaning of the word ‘natural’ is stated, fixed, or settled; since what is natural as much requires and presupposes an intelligent agent to render it so, i.e., to effect it continually or at stated times, as what is supernatural or miraculous does to effect it for once.” Butler: Analogy of Revealed Religion.

This is another way of stating what the verse Dr. Fulcher is referring to. 

 Reverend Lloyd is stating the “naturalistic fallacy”.  Evoloution is a description of how God created us.  It is not a prescription for our behavior to our fellow human beings.  IOW, it is not a moral system.  We are not called upon to behave in a way that furthers evolution.  Evolution happens no matter what we do.  Also, Reverend Lloyd has another mistake:  Mother Theresa was not using limited resources.  She was redistributing abundant resources or excess resources.  There was more than enough to keep everyone alive, even if some had to sacrifice some luxuries.  Keeping the alleles of the poor in the gene pool may, on an evolutionary level, been a very good thing.  We humans are not smart enough to know when those alleles are going to be useful for the species.

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