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Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? The Relationship Between Science and Religion

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Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? The Relationship Between Science and Religion, by Michael Ruse

Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? The Relationship Between Science and Religion, by Michael Ruse

Conflicts between Darwinism and Christianity have existed since Darwin first announced his theory of evolution. Many today assume that the two must be inherently opposed to each other, irreconcilable in terms of premises and conclusions. But is that really true? Is it possible that the two might be entirely compatible? And if so, how?

Summary

Title: Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? The Relationship Between Science and Religion
Author: Michael Ruse
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 0521631440

Pro:
• Shows that Christianity need not reject evolutionary theory entirely
• Demonstrates that fundamentalist rejection of evolution need not exist
• Future work on this topic will have to consider Ruse's work

Con:
• Does not adequately address original sin and salvation

Description:
• Explores relationship between Christianity and Darwinian evolution
• Argues that Darwinism and Christianity are compatible and need not conflict
• Concludes that even orthodox Christian beliefs do not exclude evolutionary theory

Book Review

This is the question which animates Michael Ruse’s recent book Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? A professor of philosophy and ardent naturalist, Ruse looks more closely at the common beliefs surrounding the idea that Christianity and Darwinian evolution necessarily contradict each other. What he finds, he believes, is that this conclusion lacks real substance. By offering an analysis of the basic beliefs of what might be called “traditional” Christianity and comparing them to the basic premises of Darwinism, he tries to show how the two can be compatible.

After exploring the basics of both Darwinian evolution and traditional Christianity, he investigates a number of key issues on which the two are usually thought to conflict. Vital to his argument is his contention that the Biblical texts being used do not need to be read literally. Most disagreements seem to be based upon the conclusion that the discoveries of natural science do not conform to a literalistic interpretation of books like Genesis.

To that end, Ruse makes a good case for the position that non-literal readings of these texts is not a new innovation. Rather, it is a part of traditional and orthodox Christian teachings and it is the literalistic fundamentalists who have adopted an unorthodox set of doctrines. A problem here, however, is the question of which texts to read literally and which texts to read as allegorical or metaphorical.

A larger problem arises, however, when it comes to the question of Original Sin. On the face of it, Original Sin does seem to conflict with evolution:

Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? The Relationship Between Science and Religion, by Michael Ruse

Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? The Relationship Between Science and Religion, by Michael Ruse

    “If one is prepared to accept a metaphorical interpretation of the Adam and Eve story, while insisting on the truth and the relevance of evolutionism — of Darwinism, in particular — a ready understanding of original sin offers itself.”

Once again, Ruse relies upon the possibility of metaphor to find a way to harmonize religion and science:

    “Original sin is part of the biological package. We inherit it from our parents and they from their parents: they acted as they did, and because they acted as they did, it is passed down to us.”

What Ruse’s explanation does not address, unfortunately, is how the Fall from Grace connects with the Christian doctrine of Salvation. If evolution is true, then a literal Fall from Grace in the Garden of Eden is not true — something which is obviously a problem for anyone who reads the Bible literally. Ruse acknowledges this, but he points out that Christians have, for a long time, accepted such metaphorical readings — thus it’s not an insurmountable problem.

» Continue: Fall from Grace, Salvation, and Evolution

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