Friday, March 25, 2011

Not Digging on Lee Strobel's Approach to Evolution and Divine Causation

I'm currently listening to the book on tape of Lee Strobel's The Case for a Creator. It's like The Case for Christ book (he goes around and interviews people again), but this time its arguing for the Creationism/ID. I like the book to the extent that the people he interviews (both scientists and natural theologians) are pretty interesting. They give some good information as well. His opening chapter did not please me though. I think he has a flawed understanding of divine causation. In the first chapter of the book he says that theistic evolution doesn't work because it leaves no room for divine causation and therefore destroys the Christian doctrine of creation. In other words, since evolution could (if it was believable) explain how everything came to be without reference to God, then God would be unnecessary. Of course, I can explain how my house came into existence casually without reference to God, but the Bible tells me that "unless God builds the house, the builder builds in vain."

Strobel seems to work from the idea that some things happen because God acts and then the rest of the time creation just sort of sits out there independently and does things on its own. It's a very Modernistic understanding of divine and human agency. In other words, for post-18th century folks, creation is an autonomous realm. It hums along on its own. For theistic people, God somehow enters into the realm occasionally and that's a miracle. Again, the rest of the time it just hums along on its own, while God sits by passively.

This isn't the classical Christian understanding divine causation. God is intimately involved in everything within creation- both in his sustaining of creation and his providential care. The Bible repeatedly tells everything is sustained every moment of every day by God's Word. God is then the cause of every cause, even if he is not the maker of every decision (the classical way that the Lutheran scholastics put this (following Thomas Aquinas) was that God concurres in all acts materially, but not formally). That being so, God still works with our fallen wills and their bad effects to direct events to his good end.

From a Christian theological perspective, a better series of reasons for rejecting evolution might be the following: 1. It contradicts the authority of Scripture. 2. It is rooted in an alien Epicurean worldview that is antithetical to that of Biblical Christianity. 3. Promotes the notion that the right performance (i.e. autopoesis- works of the law) and violence, rather than God's peaceful and trustworthy giving are at the heart of and indeed the driving force behind creation. 4. It lacks evidence (no transitional species, lack of an explanation for the origin of life, genetically impossible, etc.)


  1. Good post. Years ago I read a book by Henry Morris which gave an odd interpretation of God's rest after the work of 6 days. Almost like creation was self-sustaining. The doctrine of continuous creation is so beautiful. It makes clear how close we are to God ontologically every moment.
    God rested after 6 days to teach the ancient Hebrews to honor the Sabbath. He wanted the ancient Hebrews to honor the Sabbath so that we would rest from our works and trust in the completed work of Christ on the cross.
    You might want to explain in more depth your point number three. I think you are on to something there.
    Taking the six days literally undergirds the doctrine of justification beautifully.

  2. I have a question that perhaps you can answer or provide a reference. We have an all-sustaining Creator intimately involved with His creation, yet we read in the Bible about Creation groaning for the salvation of man through Christ. In this last view it would seem to me that God's creation is also intimately involved in our sin, which provides an explanation of natural evil - earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, the deaths of animals, etc. Are these two views reconcilable?

  3. Creation is groaning because God has cursed it. All natural evil is a punishment for sin. Now when we say this, we must be careful that we do not say that it is for specific sins, unless of course God has revealed that it is as in the case of certain things that happened to the Israelites. The point is though, that humans are subject to natural evil because of sin. Why some people suffer from it and other do not, is not understandable. Also, that God curses with one hand and blesses and redeems with the other is truly mysterious and not reconciliable this side of eternity. This is part of the dialectic of the hidden and revealed God that Luther spoke about. All we can do is hold to the revealed God in Jesus Christ ("the Father's true heart") and believe against the hidden God.