Monday, July 31, 2006

Evolution and God? Yes

I've been encouraged (or was it goaded?) by my friend, John, to reflect on creation and evolution. Here's a short, slightly altered, excerpt from my book, "Creation and Last Things: At the Intersection of Theology and Science." It goes something like this...

Although I am more committed to the truth of creation by God than of evolution by natural selection, I am not compelled to choose between the two. In fact, the doctrine of creation makes two primary affirmations: we are created in God’s image, and the world is not fully consistent with God’s intentions. With this mind, there is ample room for scientific discovery. And we must avoid dictating the best way for God to create. Instead we should look concretely and openly at the evidence. As John Calvin wrote, "If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God."

Overall, my church, the Presbyterian Church, does not see conflict between evolution and the doctrine that God created the natural world. Here the Presbyterians and the Roman Catholics agree. Surprisingly, what is true for the PC (U.S.A.) and the Vatican can be extended to the U.S. populace. A 1999 People for the American Way Foundation poll discovered that 68% of our country found no contradiction between evolution and the belief that God created us and guided human development.

Put simply, Christians believe God created us and our world and used evolution in that process. I find no scientific argument that disproves God’s creative act.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Henry Ford and the Politics of the Middle East

The current carnage in Lebanon is just one more instance of the amazingly violent dysfunction of the Middle East. It has spurred me not to comment directly, but to recall a more general connection between Henry Ford's mass production of his Model T 98 years ago and the politics of the Middle East. Could anyone then have realized the unintended consequences of this astounding triumph of American ingenuity?

The obvious connection is the increasing thirst over the past decades for oil. The internal combustion engine's ascendancy to the primary means for moving people and goods also means that entire economies have become dependent on fossil fuel for transportation. No one can reasonably deny the United States' need to secure oil reserves plays a major role in our ongoing interest in the Middle East. And conversely, oil-producing nations have enormous and disproportionate pull in international affairs as a result. It's so obvious I need not comment further.

The more subtle correlation is between Tin Lizzie and terrorists, who now have a ready-made, and certainly surreptious, means for delivering a bomb. The automobile becomes an explosive, driven unannounced to its destination, and wrecking immense havoc. Who could foresee the process set in motion way back in 1908?

Monday, July 10, 2006

"Pirates," Redemption, and Culture

I just checked my Google News and found that "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," has taken in $135.6 million, which is the highest gross of any film on its first weekend. I saw the film on Friday with a packed house in Incline Village, Nevada. It was certainly entertaining, and visually overwhelming, though not--I'm quick to add--as good as the first installment of "Pirates." The latter movie was a serendipity. I've pondered the themes of Pirates II to discern any deeper meaning, and redemption looms large, whether it's for cruel Davy Jones, or the generally upright Will Turner, or even the mischievous Captain Jack Sparrow. All these characters bear chains of one sort or another from which they want freedom so that they can live. And significantly, this one of the core theological images for the critical experience of the Christian life--that we're in a bind without hope or release, unless someone else intervenes. So maybe the U.S. senses this deep need.... Or maybe they just like the visual effects of Pirates II.... At this point, it's not easy for me to decide between the two options.

(Incidentally, I've extended these reflections through a post on the Thoughtful Christian blog: