Christian apologetics book recommendations that accept the fact of evolution
April 3, 2012 9:07 AM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations for books on Christian apologetics that take seriously the reality of evolution rather than denying it in favor of the argument from design.

A little background: I was raised as a Young-Earth Creationist so, naturally, I denied the fact of evolution and the old age of the earth in favor of believing that God made the whole earth and all life as they appear today ~10,000 years ago. Lots of the Christian apologetics books I read growing up were written from this perspective and many of their core arguments depended on evolution being false. The argument from design was trotted out to prove God's existence, the reasoning being that life and the universe look designed…therefore there's a designer (exhibit A: Intelligent Design). A lot of the anti-evolution content was written in response to the "new" atheists like Richard Dawkins who argue that evolution makes belief in God unnecessary. These books also explained away the existence of pain, suffering, and death by saying that God originally made a perfect world, but since humans have free will, we rejected God, brought in death, and royally screwed things up.

I was intellectually satisfied with this way of thinking until I went to college and realized the mountain of evidence in favor of evolution and a really stinkin' old universe. However, despite this change, I still call myself a follower of Jesus because I realized that a literal interpretation (rather, application) of how the Bible describes creation is unnecessary. (See, for example, John Walton's book The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.) One can believe that God is creator without having to believe he created everything in 144 hours ca. 4004 BCE.

I now reject the conflict thesis that says religion and science are incompatible with each other. Both the fundamentalist creationists and atheists virulently push this idea that you can't follow Jesus and believe evolution is true. Instead, I take the middle route popularized by theistic evolutionists like the BioLogos Foundation that says you can be a Christian and accept the findings of evolutionary biology, paleoanthropology, geology, etc.

SO, I'm looking for apologetics or philosophical literature written by Christians who accept evolution as the method by which God created life, who don't use the argument from design to "prove" God exists, and who explore the implications that the theory of evolution has in thinking about death and suffering (an evolutionary theodicy?). I'm not looking for theology/biblical studies per se (e.g., Peter Enn's The Evolution of Adam offers a more nuanced interpretation of Genesis in light of evolutionary theory) but rather studies that go about "defending the faith" without attacking evolution or falling back on Intelligent Design.

Would works by Alister McGrath and Alvin Plantinga fit the order? I just don't know what's out there having grown up on the stuff by Lee Strobel and Norman Geisler.

P.S.: This question doesn't seek to start a discussion on whether or not God exists, whether or not evolution is true, whether or not Jesus is the way, etc. I'm looking for apologetics books that fit a theistic evolution point of view. Thank you for being civil and for your help!
posted by huxham to Religion & Philosophy (12 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure I'd call it a work of apologetics, but you might get some use out of Making Sense of Evolution by John Haught.
posted by gauche at 9:15 AM on April 3, 2012

Best answer: Yes, Plantinga defends the faith without attacking biological evolution. See also Evolutionary argument against naturalism, in which he argues that naturalistic (ie, atheistic) evolutionary theory actually undermines itself. i.e., if you do believe in evolution, you have to believe in a deity. Amazingly, it works.
posted by goethean at 9:16 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might look into some books by Michael Ruse?
posted by cupcakemuffin at 9:32 AM on April 3, 2012

The French Roman Catholic priest and paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin wrote a bunch of books about the connection between theology and science.

In general, looking for works from the Roman Catholic and the Anglican/Episcopal/Church of Canada tradition may be fruitful for you; both the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion endorsed evolution theory as the most accurate explanation of the origin of species in the 20th century.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:50 AM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Please check out Dr. Peter Enns and his new book, The Evolution of Adam. You may also like his current blog and his writings for the Biologos Foundation.
posted by apartment dweller at 9:54 AM on April 3, 2012

Apologies, I didn't read down to your last paragraph.
posted by apartment dweller at 9:55 AM on April 3, 2012

"Neo-Darwinians who adduce random genetic variation and natural selection as evidence that the process of evolution is absolutely unguided are straying beyond what can be demonstrated by science. Divine causality can be active in a process that is both contingent and guided. Any evolutionary mechanism that is contingent can only be contingent because God made it so."

You might like this summary of the Evolution vs. Christianity issue from a Catholic perspective.
posted by cross_impact at 11:02 AM on April 3, 2012

Mcgrath is good and I would also check out other UK authors as young Earth creationism isn't as common here. For example Keith Ward, has a fair number of apologetics books out. Publishers like SPCK, would probably have a number of books addressing topics that might interest you. You might also want to check out the Gifford Lectures which often focus on the interplay between science and religion.
posted by nangua at 11:29 AM on April 3, 2012

Quakers, Jews, and Science
posted by Miko at 11:56 AM on April 3, 2012

E.O. Wilson's book The Creation is a pretty short read, written as a series of letters to a southern preacher on the importance of life on earth.
posted by one_bean at 2:52 PM on April 3, 2012

May not have the philosophical discussion you want, but check out The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis Collins. Who, I might add, is currently the director of the National Institutes of Health (and founder of BioLogos, which you mentioned).
posted by southpaw at 3:31 PM on April 3, 2012

I signed up to answer this! Try Marilynne Robinson's Absence of Mind. There's also a relevant essay in her newest, When I was a Child I Read Books.
posted by this roof at 7:23 AM on April 4, 2012

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