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Theistic Evolution

Theistic evolution, also known as “evolutionary creationism”, is the general view that, instead of faith being in opposition to biological evolution, some or all classical religious teachings about God and creation are compatible with some or all of modern scientific theory, including specifically evolution. It generally views evolution as a tool used by God, who is both the first cause and immanent sustainer/upholder of the universe; it is therefore well accepted by people of strong theistic (as opposed to deistic) convictions. Theistic evolution can synthesize with the day-age interpretation of the Genesis creation account; however most adherents consider that the first chapters of Genesis should not be interpreted as a “literal” description, but rather as a literary framework or allegory.Theistic evolution, less commonly known as evolutionary creationism, is the general opinion that some or all classical religious teachings about God and creation are compatible with some or all of the modern scientific understanding about biological evolution. Theistic evolution is not a theory in the scientific sense, but a particular view about how the science of evolution relates to some religious interpretations. In this way, theistic evolution supporters can be seen as one of the groups who deny the conflict thesis regarding the relationship between religion and science; that is, they hold that religious teachings about creation and scientific theories of evolution need not be contradictory.

The term was used by Eugenie Scott to refer to the part of the overall spectrum of beliefs about creation and evolution holding the theological view that God creates through evolution. It covers a wide range of beliefs about the extent of any intervention by God, with some approaching deism in rejecting continued intervention. Others see intervention at critical intervals in history in a way consistent with scientific explanations of speciation, but with similarities to the ideas of Progressive Creationism that God created “kinds” of animals sequentially.

This view is accepted (or at least not rejected) by major Christian churches, including Catholicism and some mainline Protestant denominations; some Jewish denominations; and other religious groups that lack a literalist stance concerning holy scriptures. Various biblical literalists have accepted or noted openness to this stance, including theologian B.B. Warfield and evangelist Billy Graham.

With this approach toward evolution, scriptural creation stories are typically interpreted as being allegorical in nature. Both Jews and Christians have considered the idea of the creation history as an allegory (instead of a historical description) long before the development of Darwin’s theory. Two notable examples are the writings of Philo of Alexandria (1st century) and St. Augustine (4th century).

Theistic evolutionists argue that it is inappropriate to use Genesis as a scientific text, since it was written in a pre-scientific age and originally intended for religious instruction; as such, seemingly chronological aspects of the creation accounts should be thought of in terms of a literary framework.

The term evolutionary creationism is used in particular for beliefs in which God transcends normal time and space, with nature having no existence independent of His will. It allows interpretations consistent with both a literal Genesis and objective science, in which, for example, the events of creation occurred outside time as we know it.

While supporting the methodological naturalism inherent in modern science, the proponents of theistic evolution reject the implication taken by some atheists that this gives credence to ontological materialism. In fact, many modern philosophers of science, including atheists, refer to the long standing convention in the scientific method that observable events in nature should be explained by natural causes, with the distinction that it does not assume the actual existence or non-existence of the supernatural.

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