Thank God for Evolution
A friend recently called my attention to Michael Dowd, an evangelist of “evolution theology.” Dowd is a former preacher who left pastoral ministry to spread the gospel of evolution theology. His primary point is fine enough, marriage and science are not irreconcilable. In fact his scientific research and clear stance on the old age of the earth are refreshing. Where did the Bible ever say just how old the earth is or that such a question is important or essential to faith?
Dowd takes a more positive, all-embracing stance claiming that “the marriage of religion and science can profoundly improve your life and the world.” There is much in science that can and should be integrated with theology. However, Dowd goes beyond the integration of science and scripture to the reinterpretation of scripture from the viewpoint of evolution.
In his book, Thank God for Evolution, (free pdf of book) Dowd writes:
I cannot agree that “Jesus as God’s way, truth, and life” means that only those Christians who believe certain things about Jesus or the Bible get to go to a special otherworldly place called heaven when they die. I used to believe that, but I don’t anymore. In hindsight, I see that my old belief cheapened, belittled, and impoverished the universal glory of the Gospel. What Jesus’ life and ministry were actually about is far larger and more meaningful, and offers more this-world relevance, than my old clannish, contracted “we win, you lose” understanding. More, one need not be a Christian, nor ever have read the Bible, in order to walk what is, effectively, the same path we Christians aspire to—the same “one way”to a realized, redemptive life of fulfillment and service in this world, here and now, while simultaneously blessing future generations.
To be sure, Jesus did not teach a “we win, you lose” mentality. Instead, he taught us to love God and neighbor, rendered possible not just through his example, but through receiving new hearts to love by faith in his sacrifice for our failure to love God and neighbor. An essential claim of Christ is that the man and the world are broken because of sin, rebellion against God. Jesus seeks to redeem humanity and the world through his death and world-renewing return. However, he does not minimize his own sacrifice or teachings as optional. They are essential and joy-giving to those who embrace him.
The problem with Dowd is that he applies an evolutionary hermeneutic to Jesus’ teachings. Dowd claims that we must not interpret Jesus words as he intended them (a great disrespect and distortion to any teacher/author), but with a scientific and evolutionary lens: “If my interpretation of Jesus as “the way, the truth, and he life” of God is the same as that of peoples living hundreds or thousands of years ago, I miss the magnitude and magnificence of what God has publicly revealed through science and cultural evolution in the intervening centuries.”
If I were to apply the same hermeneutic to Dowd and say that what he really meant was that “evolutionary theology” affirms the historic claims of the Church and of Scripture, that salvation is by faith alone through Christ alone, and that evolution is only tenable if it affirms God as Creator and maker of man in his unique image, Dowd would be terribly upset. But I do not disrespect him in that way. Instead, I honor his intention and present his doctrine as he states it. Dowd could at least do the same for Jesus.