by Melissa Stoakley
As put by Lutheran theologian Ted Peters, there is a current state of war, or revolution rather, among the philosophical community that seeks peace between the concepts of science and theology. This revolution adds complexity and nuance to the age-old disbelief that God cannot be connected with a scientific discussion about the natural world. Peters supports this new unprecedented way of thinking by asserting that faith and science can be bridged through a teaching called theistic evolution. It is his belief that it is important to break down the boundaries between religion and science in order to unify the human race and gain a renewed understanding of the human’s universal purpose.
Historically, the concepts of science and religion have been road maps that have guided cultures to understand their place in this life. Unfortunately, left and right wing perspectives of these teachings have focused on discrediting one another rather than finding parallels between the two. In the evolutionary brief “Who’s Fighting with Whom about What?” written by Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlett, the viewpoints of evolutionary biology and scientific creationism are analyzed on the contradicting arguments overall fertility within the scientific community. This battle over which is the “better” science reminds those in the philosophical community that truth is subjective, and time should rather be spent on the two concepts drawing upon one another to widen the intellectual world and help the human race as a whole flourish. As Albert Einstein once said, “Science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind. The two can be distinguished as the language of fact and the language of value. Science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be.” It can be concluded that neither science nor religion represent the whole truth and it is essential that there be an openness to learning something new on the part of theologians and scientists alike in order for society as a whole to progress forward.
A healthy alliance between evolutionary science and Christian views on creation and redemption provokes further reflection, provides spiritual guidance and offers an understanding toward the human’s universal purpose. These basic concepts of theistic evolution are what drew Ted Peters into researching this renewed way of thinking. Religious separatists may challenge evolutionary biology due to its tendency to discredit the creation story of Adam and Eve, but those affiliates within the religious community do not represent the whole. Throughout an editorial written on the subject matter entitled “Evolution? What Should We Teach Our Children in Schools,” Peters combats the impression that one of Christian faith must be anti-science by arguing that “every generation needs a select group of young people to cultivate their natural curiosity in the direction of systematic research into the workings of nature.” He continues by highlighting Christian professionals and Christian Day Schools that advocate for the study of God’s creation through the microscope and telescope because the society as a whole benefits from those studying in labs and advancing the human knowledge medicinally and technologically. Furthermore, Peters’ extensive research has led him to believe and preach that theistic evolution can be viewed as the telling of the gospel in such a way that the emerging postmodern culture can perceive its significance within the natural world. As defined by Peters in his article “Science in Pastoral Ministry,” theistic evolution is a way in which “God employs evolutionary processes over deep time to bring about the human race and perhaps even carry the natural world to a redemptive future.” This way of thinking is what aids Peters in finding his personal divine purpose because the teachings do not waste time defending evolution against attacks by advocates of scientific creationism or Intelligent Design, but rather seek to work through questions raised by randomness and chance.
In the grand scheme of things, scientists and theologians have been looking for common threads that not only seek compromise between differentiating viewpoints, but also increase knowledge and lead an advancement in the human understanding of reality. Such aspirations can be achieved through the teaching of theistic evolution. Ted Peters, a theologian whose credentials stem from years of research on the means by which the ideas of science and religion can be bridged, offers a compelling argument that through a global understanding of the implications of theistic evolution the human race can begin counteracting the self-harm they have created in the ecosystem. While many of his views are controversial, Peters supports his claims with ethical reasoning rather than statistical evidence. Like the teaching of Big History is an attempt to share a universal, scientific origin story that is relevant to anyone and everyone, theistic evolution may be the unifying religiously scientific approach that will lead the human race toward a redemptive future.