A few years ago, while evaluating what position I was going to take during a congregational vote regarding the adoption of a certain confession, I started researching various theological interpretations of Genesis 1-3. I came across the framework theory, best formulated by Lee Irons and Meredith Kline. The framework view presents Genesis 1 in two stanzas, identifying the parallelism between the two and the poetic crescendo, and how these identify the passage as apocalyptic genre and not historical prose.
At this time I also made a study of the Reformed doctrine of natural revelation, the premise that the Creator designed the world in such a way that we could observe it scientifically and come to conclusions which would contain truth and not lies; therefore, reasonable observations about our environment will not lead us into error. Another Calvinistic way of describing this is that God is the author of two books: the book of nature, and the book of revelation (scripture) and as a single author, he will not contradict himself; therefore, any interpretation of what is “read” in the two books which contradicts what is read in the other is a misinterpretation.
Bring this back to the Framework theory, and you may conclude that the Bible does not actually conflict with Darwin’s theory, because the literary form of Genesis is neither scientific nor historical. It is meant to teach us theological truths, to tell us a story about why we are here: to care for the earth and it’s resources, and why we need Jesus: our inherent sinful bent prevents us from fulfilling this task, as we covet and murder and plunder rather than taking care of each other, and will be punished accordingly in the afterlife (if there be such a thing—today’s topic is genesis, not eschaton).
I believe the Reformed view of God’s providence should make scientific propositions easier to accept: if God providentially governs everything, then special creation as a sort of miraculous work is not required, as each mutation of each strand of DNA of each species over millions of years is governed by his sovereign hand no less than if it were a miracle.
More Fundamentalist and semi-Pelagian views will have a much harder time with this, however, as they see Free Will as the ultimate sovereign in the universe. This leads them to conclude that every marriage, every conception, since the creation of the human race was entirely at the whim of individuals. If humans are genetic descendants of other races, those races likewise went through millions of generations of “accidental” reproduction as well. To try to reconcile such a theological view with evolution is impossible since it would mean we are only here by chance, and therefore one would either have to embrace atheism or conclude that natural revelation is an illusion, and that God is a divine trixter who created dinosaurs and australopithecus not as living things but as prefabricated fossils of stone in order to deceive the reprobate. This is why so many fundamentalists have become isolationists and refuse to believe any propositions by people outside their circles.
I recommend the more rational view. Believe God’s revelation in Scripture. Believe God’s revelation in Nature. And don’t put God in a box, as he is much bigger than you could possibly fathom.
A note on my explorations: It’s tempting to look at atheistic sources for allies in the fight against Fundamentalism, but some of them have a big problem with theistic evolution, as their naturalistic views don’t make room for providence. Most of the religious people they encounter fall into the Fundamentalist/Trixter camp, and often they will end up bashing your more progressive faith just as hard. There are, however, many atheists who are capable of presenting a more Christlike character than many Christians. Hopefully I’ll be able to provide links to such resources on this blog in the future. For now, however, we’re going to spend a few days discussing the origins of fundamentalism.