15 June 2008

A more evolved faith?

New York Times Magazine has a brief on Michael Dowd, a UCC pastor who has decided that Christians should not just accept the fact of evolution - they should embrace it. Based on the article, and a quick perusal of the website for Dowd's upcoming book Thank God for Evolution, Dowd's gospel seems center on the idea that we can better come to terms with our sinful nature if we understand its evolutionary origins. It also has more than a hint of Teillardian influences:
When I speak of evolutionary emergence I’m referring to the fact that ‘the Universe’ (Nature/Time/Reality/God) has consistently, though not without setbacks, produced larger and wider scales of cooperation and complexity over time. [emphasis Dowd's]
It's inaccurate, at best, to say that biological evolution has some sort of grand purpose behind it - there may be trends that are visible in retrospect, but these are the emergent result of undirected processes, not evidence of a divine plan. It feels a bit churlish to make that kind of objection, though. Even liberal Christians don't usually know what to do with evolution, beyond accepting it as fact. No other modern thinker, as far as I know, is actively grappling with the ways in which evolutionary thought might actually inform Christian theology. (The closest I know of is Michael Ruse's Can a Darwinian be a Christian?, which is excellent, but resolutely agnostic.) If Dowd's ideas are less than perfect, they do make a good starting point. And Christianity could use a good starting point for thinking about evolution. I might have to track down a copy of Dowd's book.


  1. I find this really interesting. I describe myself as agnostic, but at one time was fairly devoutly Mormon (you live in Idaho--you know what that means). Please keep posting about this. I always wondered what Christians would do with evolution...Thanks.

  2. Hey, Krista! Actually, being new to the West, I mainly know Mormons as the paired missionaries I try to avoid running into on the street. I know next to nothing about the LDS position on evolution - are they pro or anti?

  3. Actually both. If I remember correctly (it's been a while) the belief is God created all animals individually, but evolution does take part on a very small scale. For example, humans haven't gotten taller otherwise we're pretty much the same since God created Adam 7,000 or so years ago. If you want to know more about it you'll have to ask the missionairies. I'm a little hazy on the details since I now spend my time trying to make sense of God.