Friday, December 01, 2017

A. H. Strong, again, on Theistic Evolution

From the Wikipedia entry on Augustus Strong: Augustus Hopkins Strong (3 August 1836 – 29 November 1921) was a Baptist minister and theologian who lived in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His most influential book, Systematic Theology, proved to be a mainstay of Reformed Baptist theological education for several generations.

On theistic evolution, Strong wrote:
There is a Christian conception of evolution, and in light of it, I propose to interpret the fall and the redemption of man. To prevent misunderstanding, I must define what I mean by evolution. Evolution is not a cause but a method. God is the cause. He is in his universe, and he is the source of all its activities with the single exception of the evil activity of the human will. When I speak of evolution as the method of God, I imply that the immanent God works by law; that this is the law of development; that God, and the old the basis of the new, and the new an outgrowth of the old. In all ordinary cases God works from within and not from without. Yet this ordinary method does not confine or limit God. He is transcendent as well as immanent. His is not simply “in all” and “through all” but he is also “above all.” 1
A. H. Strong was just one theologian, and his acceptance of theistic evolution does not, of course, make it right. It does point to, however, the fundamentalist's tendency to, over time, add cardinal doctrines that God, who was perhaps too busy, forgot to provide us with in the scriptures. Imagine a similarly prominent popularized Reformed Baptist making such a statement today. John Piper? Al Mohler? I don't think so. Not only would they not advocate Strong's position, most if not all "famous Baptists" would not tolerate the position.

The Discovery Institute is hawking the Crossway polemic against theistic evolution, as I wrote earlier. I have no problem with anyone rejecting theistic evolution. I have a problem when people use cheap, slippery-slope arguments. It would be reasonable to argue with this premise: Some theistic evolutionists do not accept a historic Adam, and there are some serious theological implications of a non-historic Adam. That could be a fair and potentially valuable and scholarly discussion. Instead it's: If you accept theistic evolution then you deny the historicity of Adam, a totally false implication. (And soon you'll be denying the Gospel and advocating the Designated Hitter Rule for the National League.)

The theological heavyweight of the Crossway book is Wayne Grudem, recently known for his Trinity controversy. Getting the Trinity right (or at least as close as we can based on scripture) is, it seems to me, much more important theologically than worrying about how some try to reconcile their interpretation of Genesis 1 and science, an endeavor that does not necessitate a change in our view of the nature of God no matter how much people like Grudem (or Mohler) stomp their feet and insist that it does. Now a false doctrine of the Trinity, one in which the Son is eternally subordinate,  that by definition changes our view of the nature of God.

1 The Fall and the Redemption of Man in light of Evolution, Augustus. H. Strong, A paper read at the Baptist Congress, Buffalo NY, November 15 1898. Reprinted p. 163, Christ in Creation and Ethical Monism, Augustus. H. Strong, Roger Williams Press, Philadelphia, 1899.

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