Launch of new interdisciplinary project
Beyond Galileo – to Chalcedon: Re-imagining the Intersection of Evolution and the Fall
“If humanity emerged from non-human primates—as genetic, biological, and archaeological evidence seems to suggest—then what are the implications for Christian theology’s traditional account of origins, including both the origin of humanity and the origin of sin?”
In late June, TCF helped convene a gathering of Christian scholars to explore some of the knotty issues which arise from questions like these. This gathering launched a three-year project designed to help the church wrestle with the theological implications of contemporary scientific models. The starting point for this project is a respectful engagement of scientific research, while maintaining the primacy of a profound commitment to theological orthodoxy.
The project creates a context for interdisciplinary work, rooted in Christian commitment and developed for the benefit of God’s church. It proposes that theological investigation flourishes in conversation with the rich Christian tradition and in dialogue amongst friends. Differences of interest and opinion, in this context, are not seen as threats, but as gifts to enliven and clarify theology and ultimately, to build up the resources of the church. In this way, the broad range of expertise represented by participating scholars can be brought into generative interplay, resulting in fruitful theological collaboration.
This event, therefore, was uniquely designed to foster relationships that will underlie the project in the coming years. Participants were invited based on their shared interest in addressing doctrinal concerns relating to human origins and the nature of sin. In order to facilitate the possibility of fruitful collaboration, this first gathering created space in which new relationships could be forged and healthy interactive dynamics established. The structure of the event was perhaps more slow-paced than most, allowing the group to focus less on deliverables and more on one another. The pace practically reflected the Christian virtue of patience, rooted in the assurance that comes from TCF’s core conviction that “in Christ, all things hold together.”
The pace of the colloquium was furthermore framed by the practice of prayer. Morning and evening prayers formed a crucial aspect of the event, as participants worshiped together and remembered the significance of their work for the sake of the church. Academic purposes aside, this project has profound implications for the lives and practices of Christians worldwide; prayer situated the work properly, as service to God and the church.
Prayer furthermore reminded participants of the rich heritage available in the traditions of the church. Though the questions under consideration are weighty ones, this is not the first time the church has confronted difficulties – nor will it be the last. Over the course of time, however, the church has worked out controversies and emerged the stronger for them, and our confidence in God’s goodness allows us to anticipate the same for these issues.
The intentionally relational and ecclesial frame positioned the team to tackle some of the difficult questions that lie ahead. Current scientific understandings of human origins undoubtedly challenge our conceptions of several fundamental Christian doctrines. These include questions about the goodness of God, the goodness of Creation, and the historical nature of the Fall. We believe that by taking these basic beliefs as the creative confessional constraints within which the Christian imagination operates, new possibilities for understanding God and his world will emerge. In this sense, this project will faithfully extend the Christian intellectual tradition.
As team members explore these issues– or others like them – they will share their work as it progresses. This in turn will allow for feedback and input between participants, sharing ideas and refining one another’s proposals. The group will convene again in 2014 to discuss these questions in light of continuing research. And once again, the event will be structured to promote friendship, unite Christians in worship, and foster a specifically ecclesial approach to difficult questions.