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Creation, Providence And Evolution. Lecture Road-Map 1.A robust view of Christian theism which provides a matrix within which the natural sciences in.

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Presentation on theme: "Creation, Providence And Evolution. Lecture Road-Map 1.A robust view of Christian theism which provides a matrix within which the natural sciences in."— Presentation transcript:

1 Creation, Providence And Evolution

2 Lecture Road-Map 1.A robust view of Christian theism which provides a matrix within which the natural sciences in general, and evolutionary biology, can happily flourish. 2.The Christian doctrine of providence. 3.How comfortably can evolution be accommodated within Christian ideas of creation and providence?

3 Evolution: ‘chance’, ‘random’, ‘stochastic’, ‘purposeless’…..?? John Ray [1627-1705] - a key Christian founder of the discipline of natural history Francesco Petrarch [1304–74]: “What is the use--I beseech you--of knowing the nature of quadrupeds, fowls, fishes and serpents and not knowing or even neglecting man’s nature, the purpose for which we are born, and whence and whereto we travel?”

4 Robert Hooke, Micrographia (1665) Hooke’s compound microscope - an illustration from his Micrographia A magnified flea - from Hooke’s Micrographia The more objects are magnified with the microscope “the more we discover the imperfections of our senses, and the Omnipotency and Infinite perfections of the great Creatour.”

5 John Ray published his Ornithology [1676] for “the illustration of Gods glory, by exciting men to take notice of, and admire his infinite power and wisdom.”

6 John Ray (1627-1705) John RayTrinity College Chapel The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation

7 Nicolas Malebranche [1638-1715] “one insect is more in touch with Divine wisdom than the whole of Greek and Roman history.” Bishop Thomas Sprat [1635-1713] In his History of the Royal Society, Bishop Thomas Sprat claimed that the formal study of nature had been part of the original religion of Adam in Paradise!


9 The Christian understanding of creation GOD EVERYTHING THAT EXISTS

10 Human Creation “God's causality is so different from the causality of creatures that there is no competition between the two, that is, we do not need to limit, as it were, God's causality to make room for the causality of creatures. God causes creatures to be causes”. “Creation is not essentially some distant event; rather, it is the on-going complete causing of the existence of all that is. At this very moment, were God not causing all that is to exist, there would be nothing at all. Creation concerns first of all the origin of the universe, not its temporal beginning”. Bill Carroll [Oxford University] God’s Creation

11 Thomas Aquinas [1225-1274] "Over and above the mode of becoming by which something comes to be through change or motion, there must be a mode of becoming or origin of things without any mutation or motion, through the influx of being”.

12 God’s transcendence in creation ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ Isaiah 55:8–9 “Our God is in heaven, he does whatever pleases him” [Psalm 115:3].

13 The contingency of creation promotes the emergence of empiricism 'Without all doubt this world...could arise from nothing but the perfectly free will of God....These (laws of nature) therefore we must not seek from uncertain conjectures, but learn them from observations and experiments. Cotes in his preface to the second edition of Newton's Principia Mathematica Isaac Newton

14 “Since there are countless different configurations which God might have instituted here, experience alone must teach us which configurations he actually selected in preference to the rest. We are thus free to make any assumption on these matters with the sole proviso that all the consequences of our assumption must agree with experience” [Rene Descartes, Principles of Philosophy]. 1596-1650

15 The immanence of God in the created order “God’s ruach swept over the surface of the water” [Gen. 1:3] “…the divine Spirit (ruach) is the creative power and the presence of God in his creation. The whole creation is a fabric woven by the Spirit, and is therefore a reality to which the Spirit gives form”. Jürgen Moltmann

16 “For it is the Spirit who, everywhere diffused, sustains all things, causes them to grow, and quickens them in heaven and on earth….In transfusing into all things his energy, and breathing into them essence, life and movement, he is indeed plainly divine’. [Institutions 1, 13-14] John Calvin

17 A Christological Creation “Through the Logos all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” [John 1:3] by the Son of God “all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’ [Colossians 1:16-17]

18 A Christological Creation ‘The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word’ [Hebrews 1:3] for: God is the one ‘for whom and through whom everything exists’ [Hebrews 2:10]

19 ‘He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’ [Matthew 5:45]. ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being’. [Rev. 4:11]

20 The Spirit-energised Christological created order PSALM 104: God “makes grass grow for cattle and plants for man to cultivate” [v. 14] “The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God” [v. 21] “How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” [v. 24] “When you hide your face, they [the animals] are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created (bara)), and you renew the face of the earth” (verses 29–30)

21 The Spirit-energised Christological created order “In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” [Job 12:10]. “…in God we live and move and have our being” [Acts 17:28]. “O LORD, you preserve both man and beast” [Ps. 36:6]. God provides “food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food” [Job 38:41]. The eagle soars at God’s command and builds his nest on high… “His young ones feast on blood, and where the slain are, there is he” [Job 39:30].

22 The three tenses of creation PASTPRESENTFUTURE “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” [John 5:17]. “Behold, I will create (bara’) new heavens and a new earth” [Isaiah 65:17] Jesus is “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13).




26 Providence “Your hands shaped me and made me. Will you now turn and destroy me? Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese, clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews? You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit” [Job 10:8-12] “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” [Ps. 139:13].

27 Providence “God exhaustively plans and meticulously carries out his perfect will as he alone knows best, regarding all that is in heaven and on earth, and he does so without failure or defeat, accomplishing his purposes in all of creation from the smallest details to the grand purposes of his plan for the whole of the created order”. Bruce Ware EVERYTHING THAT EXISTS PAST PRESENT FUTURE


29 Stephen Jay Gould “We are a momentary cosmic accident that would never arise again if the tree of life could be replanted…” “The universe we observe had precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” Richard Dawkins

30 Daniel Dennett Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

31 Biological data that render the inference of randomness and purposelessness less plausible: 1. Natural Selection


33 Biological data that render the inference of randomness and purposelessness less plausible: 1. Natural Selection – the role of Chance COPY ERRORSRADIATIONCHEMICAL MUTAGENS MEIOTIC RECOMBINATION NATURAL SELECTION

34 2. The overall sweep of evolutionary history Cells 3.5b Multicellular Life-forms 1.2b Cambrian explosion 505-525m Everything really small <1mm Human Brains 10 11 cells 10 14 synapses

35 From: S.B.Carroll Nature ‘Chance and necessity: the evolution of morphological complexity and diversity’, Nature 409:1102-1109, 2001.

36 “Life’s contingent history could be viewed as an argument against any direction or pattern in the course of evolution or the shape of life. But it is obvious that larger and more complex life forms have evolved from simple unicellular ancestors and that various innovations were necessary for the evolution of new means of living. This raises the possibility that there are trends within evolutionary history that might reflect the existence of general principles governing the evolution of increasingly larger and more complex forms ”. Sean Carroll [Nature Review] 2. The overall sweep of evolutionary history

37 Multicellularity has evolved many times in the different domains of life From: S.B.Carroll Nature ‘Chance and necessity: the evolution of morphological complexity and diversity’, Nature 409:1102-1109, 2001.

38 The allometric scaling laws of evolution Kleiber's Law: metabolism equals mass to the three-quarter power [Max Kleiber, 1932]

39 Trees Mammals Banavar, J.R. et al., ‘Form, function, and evolution of living organisms’, PNAS 111: 3332- 3337, 2014. Kleiber's Law: metabolism equals mass to the three- quarter power.


41 4. Evolutionary Convergence


43 Energy-hungry animals Blue-nosed dolphinBat Primates INDEPENDENTLINEAGES IDH2 = Mitochondrial NADP + - dependent isocitrate dehydrogenase - a key enzyme in the energy-producing Kreb’s Cycle

44 IDH2 – a key enzyme in the energy producing Kreb’s Cycle Ai, W-M. et al., ‘Parallel evolution of IDH2 gene in cetaceans, primates and bats’, FEBS Letters 588:450-454, 2014. MUTATION AT POSITION 186 VALINEALANINE AT POSITION 186

45 VALINEALANINE AT POSITION 186 The red lines indicate the three vertebrate lineages in which valine has been changed to alanine INDEPENDENTLY at position 186 ONLY for energy-hungry dolphins, bats and primates

46 Simon Conway Morris Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology, Cambridge Life’s Solution - Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe pp. 283-4


48 Filling up design space = Genomes that don’t work= Genomes that work TIME

49 “My position is very simple. Evolution has led to a human brain that can gain access to a Platonic world of forms and ideas”. Martin Nowak, 2009 Harvard University [Director, Programme of Evolutionary Dynamics]

50 Plus hundreds of other examples of ‘constraints’ in evolution! evolution of proteins. RNA structures. the genetic code. hot-spot genes. and many other examples.

51 ‘Atheism-of-the-gaps’? Premise: Evolution is a purely chance process: had the tape of life been replayed, everything would have come out very different. Ergo, there can be no God with intentions and purposes for the world. PROBLEM: The premise turns out to be implausible

52 CREATION GOD’S INTENTION AND PURPOSES THE EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS A theology of nature: The Trinitarian God’s created order, including the evolutionary process, fulfilling his intentions and purposes

53 Many questions remain! Why would God choose to create living things through such a lengthy process involving so much pain and death? How should we interpret the early chapters of Genesis? What about Adam and Eve and human evolution? How do we understand the doctrine of the Fall in the light of human evolutionary history? Etc.

54 Second revised expanded edition. September 2014 £8 from: [on-line Shop]

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