Blog Update: An Evangelical Dialogue on Evolution

In light of my recent criticism of creationism, it seems appropriate to mention a new blog by Steve Martin entitled An Evangelical Dialogue on Evolution. His blog is devoted to exploring the relation between American evangelicalism and evolutionary science. Read his introductory post and then read his excellent post on “Scripture or Science: Do we have to Choose?” I look forward to many interesting dialogues on his blog. Keep up the good work, Steve!



Steve Martin said…
Hi D.W.,
Thanks for the plug. I have a question - not really related to this post but wasn't sure where else to put this. I'm reading the june 2007 issue of "Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith". In an article entitled "Integration and Confrontation of Contemporary Worldviews: Evolution and Intelligent Design", Pattle Pun makes this statement about neo-orthodoxy.

The Creation myth theory of neo-orthodoxy stipulates that the creation is a myth. It is not real as we are real. Yet it is a theological myth that is more real than reality, although I do not know what that means. The creation myth idea emphasizes the existential encounter between God and humans in salvation.

That’s not exactly how I’d express a theology of creation, but I can live with it – or rather I would certainly want to dialogue further on this. If you’ve got some pointers / references /links to Barth’s comments / views on creation, I’d welcome them.

However, Pun goes on to describe neo-orthodoxy’s view of Christ:

The historical reality of Jesus Christ is not necessary. Jesus Christ can be found in our encounter of him in our experience. Thus it emphasizes our religious experience divorcing it from natural revelation.

Um, is this true of neo-orthodoxy or Barth? I admit I know very little on either but that position seems to me classic liberalism or possibly post-liberalism. Is the author completely out to lunch or am I completely uninformed on this subject? And in the spirit of false dichotomies, I guess both could be true :-).
This is very fascinating. I am a Wheaton grad, so it's only appropriate that Pattle Pun is a Wheaton professor.

That said, Pun could not possibly be more wrong. To think that neo-orthodoxy (which is not descriptive of Barth, but that's another debate) doubts the historicality of Jesus Christ is simply absurd. I've never heard anything remotely like this. The fact that he thinks neo-orthodoxy emphasizes religious experience shows that he has completely misunderstood neo-orthodoxy, which developed as a reaction (hence the name) against what they felt was the unorthodox liberal theology of the 19th century -- a theology which emphasized religious experience over the dogmas of the faith and the history recounted in Scripture. So for Pattle to make the claims that he does is too funny to take seriously.

Now he is closer to the mark regarding the interpretation of Gen. 1-3. Barth does not call the creation narrative a myth but a "saga," as is common in much contemporary OT scholarship. Barth takes it seriously as a theological narrative, but not as a historical one, so in this sense Pun sort of gets it right. My guess is that Pun thinks this view of the creation story eventually leads to a dehistoricization of the NT narratives as well. But how he gets from the one to the other is beyond me.
Steve Martin said…
Thanks. That's more-or-less what I thought. Although the comment "neo-orthodoxy is not descriptive of Barth" is interesting (Is this in the spirit of "X-theological tradition is not descriptive of Y-theologian in that tradition"? Or is there something else you are getting at? And no you don’t have to answer that question as I realize the answer could probably be a whole essay.

Anyways, what was fascinating is that I ran across this website that claimed to peg you to a specific theological worldview. Now, a bunch of the questions demonstrated the author’s lack of nuance (how about this false dichotomy: God does not intend to save everyone, only those he has chosen) but it was an interesting exercise nonetheless. Reason I bring it up is that my worldview turned up “neo-orthodox” – not wildly (only 71%) - but still the top. And fundamentalist (0%) and reformed evangelical (36%) were the bottom two. Hmm, maybe I’ve got to rethink what I call myself :-).

The first time I took that QuizFarm test, I came out 100% neo-orthodox. The second time, in the high 80s-low 90s. :)

Re: Barth and neo-orthodoxy. Bruce McCormack's excellent historical work on Karl Barth argued that Barth should not be viewed as a neo-orthodox theologian, simply because Barth is doing his own thing and cannot be accurately lumped in with the rest of the neo-orthodox camp. I think McCormack is correct, but it's also true that Barth shares a lot with the neo-orthodox theologians. Part of McCormack's argument is a frustration with labels like "neo-orthodox" that attempt to explain a person's theology by pigeon-holing it. In a certain sense, then, no theologian is actually neo-orthodox.