The problem with this expansive dualism, according to Wright, is not simply that the two sides are intractably at war with each other but that they are representing two variants of the same Epicurean worldview. In particular, he highlights the ways in which creationism and evolutionism, at least as stereotyped in popular culture, both exacerbate the Epicurean separation between God and creation:
[Creationism and evolutionism both] inherit and operate within the deeply damaged vision of the creator and the cosmos that they get from Deism, and which shares its worst features with Epicureanism: that some things happen naturally, while other things only happen because God makes them happen. (p. 14)
To Wright, Darwinism only leads necessarily to atheism “if causation were a zero-sum game, so that either God orobservable physical causes were involved. As soon you challenge that rather naive assumption, all sorts of other options are open” (p. 13). Thus, the problem is not Darwinism or creationism per se, but instead a limited imagination of Divine action handed to us from modernity.
When you view the conflict from this angle, Wright argues, “the real problem ought not to be posed in terms of faith on the one hand and science on the other, but in terms of a worldview that splits science and faith…and one that does not” (p. 18). In light of this, “our vocation as Christian thinkers is not to make an easy, compromising peace,” he explains, “but to discern how to restate and reinhabit a genuinely Christian worldview in its place” (p. 18). Wright then lays out the broad strokes of this Christian worldview, which instead of dualizing God and his creation, “celebrate[s] and explore[s] the mysterious interpenetration of heaven and earth” (p. 21) and thus sees fresh and new ways to integrate faith and science without making either beholden to each other. The final (and most important) step in this new conception of faith and science, according to Wright, is to see all of creation not only in light of God’s good work in Genesis but his project of new creation in Jesus:
If we want to make the real quantum leap that the science-and-religion debate badly needs, we should look deeply into the four Gospels and their story of Jesus inaugurating God’s kingdom, dying on the cross, and rising as the firstfruits of the new creation, and ask ourselves about the nature of the new temple, the new heaven-and-earth reality, and the new creation itself, which Jesus was modeling and launching. (p. 24)
As a student of the Scriptures myself, I deeply resonate with his yearning to recast these contentious debates in terms of a more holistically biblical Christianity. When we adjust our lens to account for the influence of modernity on Christianity (whether “Evangelical” or not), it is less clear who is surrendering to whom. In fact, I would agree with Wright that the way forward is a path that remains largely untrodden by modern Christians; a path where God’s presence and action is not relegated to an apologetic punchline but instead infuses our whole picture of reality. I am thrilled to be a part of an organization that is courageously charting this renewed course for biblical Christianity—not simply to acquiesce to science or materialism but to bring together both science and faith into the kind of greater, harmonious unity that the Bible models and demands.
All quotations are taken from Wright, NT. Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues. New York: Harper One, 2014. pp. 1-25.
In the next part of this series, BioLogos content manager Jim Stump will review chapter 2 of “Surprised by Scripture” on the question of the “historical Adam.”