At the suggestion of Chuck, at A Guy in the Pew, I have begun to read "The Language of God" by Dr. Francis Collins. Collins, a former atheist, is head of the Human Genome Project. Under his leadership, the Project mapped the 3 billion letter long human DNA sequence -- certainly no small feat and one of the greatest scientific achievements of our lifetime. Interestingly, Dr. Collins is a Christian (having converted shortly after obtaining his medical degree) and a "theistic evolutionist." His book discusses his conversion to Christianity and attempts, in is words, to find a "harmony between scientific and spiritual worldviews," including evolution.
Evolution is a term that has drawn the ire of many in the Evangelical Christian community. Atheists and agnostics have used the concepts of evolution to replace the need for God in the development of creation. How, then, could a man that calls himself a Christian also believe in evolution? This is what I hope to find out by reading Collins' book.
There are several ways that creation has been explained, including evolution (or macroevolution) and intelligent design. Each of these camps have subcategories. Evolution can be divided into gradualism (meaning that new life forms evolved gradually over long periods of time) and punctuated equilibrium (meaning that new life forms evolved in relatively short "rapid bursts" in history). There is debate in the scientific community about how evolution works, but not about the existence of evolution. Intelligent design can be divided into young earth (meaning creation was formed in the literal 7 days in Genesis and each species was formed by God without evolution) and progressive/old earth/day-age (meaning that creation was formed over a longer period of time, but God still formed each species without evolution). Christians also have internal debate about which model best fits scripture. To put it mildly, both sides (evolution and intelligent design) have significant debate within their circles and between one another, arguing passionately that the other is misguided.
Theistic evolution is an interesting hybrid of evolution and intelligent design -- stating that God used evolution to form creation. In essence, He is the guiding force behind evolution. These folks (such as Collins and Allister McGrath, who I mention in a previous post) are hammered by both creationists and evolutionists.
I have finished half of Norman Geisler's book "Unshakable Foundations." He makes a persuasive argument for the progressive/old earth camp and dismisses, after much thought and argument, evolution -- even theistic evolution. At this point, I would have to say that I am leaning toward the progressive/old earth model of creation, but am open-minded about evolution. It is hard for me to dismiss scientists like Dr. Collins, and quite frankly most of the scientific community, who believe that evolution best explains the formation of life.
I do not believe evolution violates the teachings of scripture, and thus do not throw evolution out the window a priori. Nor do I believe that Christians who believe in evolution are putting man's knowledge above God. I do admit that I am hesitant to accept evolution with open arms given its association to those who have used it as a means to dismiss God and in some instances attack people of faith. However, if I dismiss evolution simply because atheists support it, then I am no better than those who dismiss intelligent design simply because it adds God to the equation.
Evolution would require us to take a different look at God's creation and our place within it, just as was done in the 1500's when Galileo and Copernicus showed that the Earth was not the center of the universe. Galileo's pronouncement did not undermine mankind's uniqueness or abdicate our responsibility as humans. I do not believe evolution will do this either, if viewed in the context of a God guiding such a process.
I will write another post once I finish the book.