An Unfolding Creation

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January 4, 2012 Tags: Image of God

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

Today's video features biologist Kerry Fulcher and is courtesy of filmmaker Ryan Pettey, director/editor of Satellite Pictures.

In today's video, Kerry Fulcher discusses the idea of viewing creation as a constant, evolving process in which God is intricately involved, rather than a single explosion of creation a long time ago. When we get stuck on the idea of having biological ancestors, Fulcher says, we can miss the point that being made in the image of God is a relational quality, not a biological trait. It means that we can communicate and have a special relationship with God, and we can reflect his character and represent him to the rest of creation.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

Kerry Fulcher is Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU), responsible for all undergraduate and graduate operations in the area of curriculum, instructional programs, educational policy, academic planning, and academic resources. He studied biology as an undergraduate at Northwest Nazarene College, and then earned his PhD in Zoology from the University of Idaho. He further did his Postdoctoral IRTA Fellowship with the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, NIH. He was a professor of biology at PLNU as well as Biology Chair from 2002 to 2008. He is a professional member of the Society for the Study of Reproduction, National Association for Research in Science Teaching, and the National Science Teachers Association. He has also given numerous lectures on stem cells, the Creation-Evolution debate, and spiritual lessons from nature and science.

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Jon Garvey - #66949

January 5th 2012

This is both irenic and wise in its approach. May more of us model his humble attitude to others’ views.

But ... it underlines how much we can put opposite spin on similar statements by how we present them. Kerry Fulcher (assisted by soft music - no sin there, though!) gains our sympathy by denying, rightly in my view, that creation is a one-off. God is, instead, intimately involved in directing things through evolution. His “specific” in this case is the historical Adam, but I guess he would have in mind a 7-day creation too.

Yet today I read a TE writer (not the first) saying that Intelligent Design demeans God by having him “tinker” with creation instead of getting it right first time. Probably no soft music accompanying that.

But these two TE positions are mutually contradictory if they are fleshed out with enough detail to work with meaningfully. For one man God “directs” evolutionary processes - someone else might justly call it “tinkering”. For one man God “tinkers” if he introduces design - to another he “directs.”

It depends on what God is actually doing in both cases (and on whether you spin your description positively or negatively).

So I feel it’s necessary to pin Kerry down: what, in your view, does God actually do  in overseeing and directing evolution? If he makes choices, he’s designing it (and that’s a claim that Darwin’s illusion of design is actually the illusion of the illusion of design). If he doesn‘t make choices, then in what sense is he overseeing at all? Would he not be like those policemen in the middle east “overseeing” the burning of churches by militants while they stand by?

And if Kerry’s not available to comment, my question still stands: if God is “using”, “involved in” and “directing” evolution, what is he actually doing now?

Roger A. Sawtelle - #66985

January 7th 2012


I think that he is trying to build a bridge between creation, ID, and evolution. 

After all it seems to me that we all should agree that the universe was created, that its design is intelligent, and that God uses change to work out the divine will.  On the other hand since we are not God, we cannot say exactly how God does this.  We can only approximate this through observation, science, and revelation. 

Jon Garvey - #66989

January 8th 2012


The “how” isn’t really the issue, except in the broadest brush-strokes. We’ve seen in much TE theology the idea of a hands off God, “letting” evolution do its thing, giving creation “freedom” etc. The net result is to sideline God from the actual decisions in creation, so he “accepts” what it produces, and in some cases “puts up” with its errors, up to and including human sin seen as an inevitable evolutionary product. That kind of view is heterodox with reference to historic Christian faith, and so cannot be a good basis for mainstream Christian acceptance of theistic evolution.

Many, however, are more orthodox than that, and speak instead of God being behind, in, under (etc) creation. But that says very little that even an atheist would object to because it doesn’t mean that God necessarily decides anything, any more than my decisions affect the gut flora that depend on me for existence.

So it surely has to start with asking, and answering, the question of whether God gets what he wills through creation, or gets part of it, or simply watches with fatherly (but impotent) interest. In other words, is it directed by him, or as I suspect your Trinitarian approach would have it, in relationship to him (which, however, would need unpacking when it comes to inanimate matter)?

If it’s agreed that evolution does produce God’s will, then ones view of the process will colour the questions about how God acts - to the extent that it’s law-driven, does God decide the laws? To the extent chance is involved, does God overrule chance events? If organisms are to some extent self-organising, does God give helpful suggestions, or what?

Those kind of things are valid theological questions, not an attempt to put God into science, but they are key to formulating a consistent theistic evolution. Howevert, one seldom sees them discussed in nebulous phrases like “God is overseeing it”, which frankly could cover anything from special creation to naturalism-with-an-onlooker.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #66995

January 8th 2012


You are exactly right and that is exactly what I have tried to do in my book. 

Of course my concern is that no one else really seems to be concerned about the relationship between theology and evolution, but are willing to argue around the edges without addressing the real issues that you mention. 

Roger A. Sawtelle - #67026

January 12th 2012


I do not understand why you haven’t responded to my agreement to your statement. 

If that is what we as thinking involved Christians need to do, then let’s do it instead of nibbling around the edges which leads to nowhere.

Jon Garvey - #67031

January 12th 2012


I didn’t want to seem to be crowing over being agreed with (or risk it not lasting)! What seems sad (and telling) is that none of our points on this thread, and on the others dealing with the limits of science, have been discussed at all by those TEs from the scientific community who have the greatest personal stake in reconciling their faith and their profession.

As you know I worked in medicine, where the reconciliation was a different task but, I fancy, no easier. It left one rather exposed on many ethical and other issues. Do many Christians in science prefer not to rock the boat?

KevinR - #66952

January 5th 2012

” He concludes by expressing his optimism that the church will find ways forward in engaging with modern science.”

I take it “modern science” means evolution, only evolution and nothing but evolution.

The church has no problem with real, hard, practical and even theoretical science, rather it’s people [in the church] wanting to embrace the ungodly myth of evolution that causes conflict.

The conflict arises because these people who so want to embrace evolution then go ahead and start  re-interpreting the bible to fit in with their own sense of how things came about, instead of accepting the word of God as it stands and as it is easily understood.

That is where the conflict arises. Then, having amassed enough support in the church among easily persuaded  folk, they then turn around and accuse those who want to hold onto the simple interpretation of God’s word of being divisive when they challenge the modernists. They then cry out how hurtful, cruel and thoroughly unchristian the fundamentalists are when they tell them that they, the evolutionists, are going down a wrong path.

Simply put, the adherents of the theory of evolution really say there is no God as in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Everything made itself, of itself and for itself. There is no need for God. This is what it eventually boils down to. Please go read the latest book by Karl Giberson - he says precisely that, these are not my own words.

Cal - #66955

January 5th 2012


How is evolution an ungodly myth? Evolution is a mechanic, and while the word is a catchword for atheistic naturalism, it does not mean the same thing. One can explain how birds find their prey and then proceed to hunt and one can explain how a lily uses light, air, nutrients and water to grow its petals; but it does not take away from the fact that God feeds the birds and clothes the lilies.

Just the same we know things about how stars are formed, how planets are created and how life forms change but it does not then follow that God is absent; His word of creation still echoes through this universe of ours.

MrDunsapy - #66956

January 5th 2012

Actually there is no conflict with science and the bibles creation accounts. The problem is the interpretations from the scientists and from religions. 

What science has really done is give all of us a better understanding, of the creation and the incredible design found there.
The hypotheses of ‘evolution’ is not found in the life we see around us. There is adaption, breeding, natural selection, and mutations, that gives life a variety.But there is no evidence that one animal came from another naturally. That is why there are no  almost   humans or ex-humans.
There are 3 facts that people know as true. They are
1 life comes from life
2  a human comes from humans
3 there is design in life.
These 3 facts are all supported by creation. But the interesting thing is all 3 the scientists ignore, and actually go against. So who is really going by the evidence?
It is a mistake to accept what the ‘evolutionary’ scientists say about science, because it is interpretations, just like the many interpretations of Christianity.
Any kind of link that the scientists say they see, can also be explained the Patterns of Creation.

stewart - #67176

January 16th 2012

Re:  Evolution as an unfolding creation

It was interesting to see, in Scientific,  how some authors appear to think in a limited linear progression. Fortunately there are some who do know how to “think outside the square” and see the bigger picture.

The main article’s author is so foccussed on a comment (lot very logical) by Christopher Hitchens and also alludes to Richard Dawkins. The comments relate to evolution and their understanding so far (or rather faulty understanding).

I am puzzled to see where they perceive how any conflict even exists between scientific inquiry, evidence of evolution and faith.

The Salamander’s eye (or perhaps loss of eyes) was the subject discussed. But surely it is obvious that Salamander (in the article in question), much like the Australian Emu, are examples of animal life where evolution has allowed a “regression” (for example, where Emus, (previously being able to fly) now, with very few predators to fear, have very little use for their wings and therefore have largely lost the aerodynamic ability of their wings. Similarly, Salamanders living underground would not have much use for a normal eye, and have made an appropriate adaption to suit.

But how could this be so difficult to figure out?  Why should evolution be only in one linear progression? Why could it not work in reverse, as required by circumstances? Surely this is the beauty and genius of evolution?

But it appears that C. Hitchens and R. Dawkins (who should have been expected to have far more insight) have fallen into the same tunnel-vision trap as some “fundamentalist” (unguided) readers of the Bible (ie., the Bible being largely metaphor to be easily understood by any person, and never being intended as a scientific explanation of creation, anyway). Or  these gentlemen perhaps had seen a convenient opportunity to make use of this confusion for their own purposes.  Naturally, people wishing to believe all scientists implicitly, now keep perpetrating this same error ad naseum.

For example: where some people have gone wrong in interpreting the meaning of “evolution” is that they “took it upon themselves to interpret the word ‘creation’ - their own way and without guidance. Some people, by taking the Biblical Hebrew word “Yom” to mean a time-span of just seven days, failed to take into account the various nuances of the word (ie., “Yom” does not only mean a time-span of 7 days. It also can be used in terms of “in my grandfather’s day; as well as meaning “an undetermined span of time - including millions of years”). 
Dr. Conor Cunningham explains how Theologians at the time of Darwin saw no problem in seeing Evolution as an elegant explanation of God’s genius.

It needs to be said again: Is it so difficult for these scientists to figure out?  Why should evolution be only in one linear progression? Why could it not work in reverse, as required by circumstances? Surely this is the beauty and genius of evolution?

Why the need to manufacture controversy - where there is none?
OR maybe we have to ask: are “controversial”  “big-bucks” book-sales the real objective … for some of these pop-science “authors”?

Jon Garvey - #67184

January 17th 2012

“Why the need to manufacture controversy - where there is none?
maybe we have to ask: are “controversial”  “big-bucks” book-sales the
real objective … for some of these pop-science “authors”?”

I don’t think they’re in it for the money, Stewart. The truth is that any argument that seems to work against God, however inconsistent or factually wrong, will do. Of course, that only works if you’re onside enough to have your views granted legitimacy by Scientific American etc. I guarantee if  a Theistic Evolutionist offered a reasoned rebuttal it would not be published.

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