REVISED Dec. 1, 2008
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Evolution is a driving force behind the rejection of traditional morality, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said in a National Public Radio online forum on evolution and religious faith.
“Evolutionary theory stands at the base of moral relativism and the rejection of traditional morality,” Mohler writes. “If human beings are not made in the image of God, and if the entire cosmos is nothing more than a freakish accident, morality is nothing but a mirage, and human beings — cosmic accidents that we are — are free to negotiate whatever moral arrangement seems best to us at any given time.”
For the Aug. 8 edition of its “Taking Issue” forum, NPR solicited the views of five experts on the question of religious faith’s compatibility with evolution. Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., presented an evangelical Baptist perspective.
Other forum participants include Brad Hirschfield, vice president of CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, who articulates a Jewish perspective; George Sim Johnston, author of “Did Darwin Get It Right: Catholics and the Theory of Evolution,” who offers a Roman Catholic view; Katharine Jefferts Schori, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, who makes a case for the Episcopal view; and Sulayman Nyang, professor of African studies at Howard University and co-director of the Muslims in the American Public Square research project, who presents a Muslim view.
Mohler argues that a fundamental divide exists between those who argue that the universe was purposefully created by God and those who argue that the universe evolved by chance. This divide manifests itself in disagreements between Christians and secularists over a variety of issues, he writes.
“Debates over education, abortion, environmentalism, homosexuality and a host of other issues are really debates about the origin — and thus the meaning — of human life,” Mohler writes.
The biblical Book of Genesis makes it clear that humans are neither “accidents” nor “mere animals living among other animals, for human beings alone are made in God’s image,” according to Mohler.
“The theory of evolution argues that human beings — along with other living creatures — are simply the product of a blind naturalistic process of evolutionary development,” he continues. “… By definition, evolution has no room for the concept of the image of God, for evolutionary theory has no room for God at all.”
Hirschfield argues from his Jewish perspective that the Bible allows a person to believe simultaneously in both Darwinian evolution and the existence of a purposeful creator. Darwinian evolution explains the mechanical aspects of life’s origins while belief in an intelligent creator is “driven by the desire to appreciate the presence of a creator of life,” he writes.
“That difference does not imply that one is more valid than the other, or even more accurate,” Hirschfield writes. “It simply means that when each of them is taught, there should be full recognition of the different biases that each approach carries with it.
“… In fact, the only unacceptable position in this debate between the Intelligent Design folks and proponents of Darwin is the one that insists there is no room for both of these positions in our classrooms, homes, hearts and minds.”
Schori, reflecting her Episcopalian view, contends that Christians should accept Darwinian evolution and the big-bang theory because these theories are based on a significant body of scientific evidence.
“I simply find it a rejection of the goodness of God’s gifts to say that all of this evidence is to be refused because it does not seem to accord with a literal reading of one of the stories in Genesis,” Schori writes.
New scientific discoveries should be viewed as new acts of revelation from God, Schori says.
“We believe that revelation continues,” she writes, “that God continues to be active in creation, and that all of the many ways of knowing — including geology, evolutionary biology, philosophy and arts such as opera, punk rock or painting — can be vehicles through which God and human beings partner in continuing creation.”
Nyang notes that modern Muslims agree with much of contemporary science but reject any theory that downplays man’s status as created purposefully and uniquely by God.
“This Islamic view of human origins and man’s favored status in the universe does not square with the dominant scientific view of evolution as argued by Charles Darwin and the scientific communities around the world,” Nyang writes. “If one follows the logic of the evolutionists, man appeared after a long process of transformation from lower forms of existence to this higher form of biological development.
“… Rather than enclose man within the biological framework of Darwinian theory, man should be seen as a creature that yearns for a rendezvous with the source of his life and existence.”
Johnston, meanwhile, argues that Catholics may accept the mechanical process of evolution but must reject all materialist philosophy, which insists God could not have caused the universe.
“What raises red flags for Catholics is not evolutionary theory per se, but materialist philosophy disguised as science,” he writes, noting that much evolutionary science is based on the “preconceived opinion” that God is not the cause of the universe.
In contrast to materialist philosophy, most Americans recognize that something more than chance caused the creation of the universe, Mohler says.
“Even though they are not credentialed scientists, most Americans have a fairly good grasp of reality,” he writes. “As they observe the world, they are unable to accept an explanatory theory that says that everything — from human beings to the starry heavens above — just ‘happened’ and came to exist without any design whatsoever.”
Mohler concludes, “Without the Christian doctrine of creation, Christianity is only one more artifact of an evolutionary process. The Christian affirmation represents the most significant intellectual challenge to evolutionary naturalism.”