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Preacher to tell O.C. church Thank God for Evolution
Orange County Register
by Gary Robbins
Author-preacher Michael Dowd will visit Anaheim’s Unitarian Universalist Church on Friday to give a free public talk in which he’ll present evolution as theology instead of theory. The 7 p.m. lecture is largely drawn from his new book, “Thank God for Evolution!”, which has been praised by five Nobel laureates. I recently asked Rev. Dowd about his views via e-mail:
Q: Why should Christians thank God for evolution? It runs counter to the message in the Bible.
A: I’m not sure which “message in the Bible” you are referring to. There are countless messages in the Bible - liberals and conservatives focus on different messages and highlight them. There are countless devout Christians who interpret the Bible literally and countless of others, equally devout, who interpret much of it metaphorically. Please clarify.
Millions of Christians thank God for evolution because they’ve experienced how a “God-glorifying” interpretation of cosmic history strengthens and enriches their faith. For many Christians, such as myself, God didn’t stop revealing truth vital to human well-being back when people believed the world was flat and religious insights were recorded on animal skins. God’s still communicating faithfully today, publicly, through the worldwide, self-correcting scientific enterprise. Millions of us, including evolutionary evangelicals such as myself, take the Bible far too seriously to interpret it literally.
Q: Most people don’t know what evolution theory is, as you use the term. So perhaps you should explain it in simply lay terms.
A: When I use the word “evolution,” I’m meaning the entire history of cosmos, Earth, life and humanity as we understand it through mainstream cosmology, physics, chemistry, astrophysics, geology, biology, primatology, anthropology, evolutionary psychology, neurobiology, etc.
Q: Readers are going to want a full, simple, clear explanation about why they should consider evolution theory, but your answer indicates that the Bible is wrong.
A: The Bible is only wrong when it’s compared to the standards of how we come to know the nature of reality today. God (Reality) revealed Himself/Herself/Itself to humans living three thousand years ago through dreams, visions, intutitions, etc. God is revealing the nature of reality today most effectively via empirical evidence.
Q: How is God’s word more accurately and effectively revealed through science? Which field(s) of science? I need examples.
A: All sciences. From an evolution theology perspective, “God’s Word” cannot be limited to texts written thousands of years ago. It includes any and all guidance for how to live responsibly, lovingly, faithfully — that is, in integrity. Scripture is where we traditionally have found guidance, solace, and strength. It is also where we are invited, challenged and supported to be all that we can be, both for the present and for the future.
For me, scripture is divine communication in any form that supports me in honoring and serving the Whole (the Holy One) — it is everything that inspires and encourages me to grow in evolutionary integrity. If a poem, chapter in a book, website, or movie helps me grow in humility, authenticity, responsibility, and service to others — then for me, it is scripture. Writings and other artifacts that do not support me in this process I do not consider scripture, even if they appear on a page of the Bible.
Q: I have no idea what you mean when you say, “God is still communicating faithfully today, publicly, through worldwide, self-correcting scientific enterprise. What does this mean in mean, in lay terms?
A: Not long after writing emerged, the Bible came to be. For many in the land of Moses and for centuries thereafter, it would have seemed a miracle to watch someone coax words from scratches on clay tablets or from strange symbols on papyrus or animal skins. It is thus no wonder that, for Christians, tradition places great significance on scripture as the written Word. A much broader understanding of scripture is now emerging, however. It includes awareness that intepretations of the Holy Word should not be tethered to the meanings made manifest at any particular time. Rather, interpretations should grow commensurate with our understanding of the human condition, the world, and indeed the Cosmos.
As I shared in my earlier email: God didn’t stop revealing truth vital to human wellbeing back when people believed the world was flat and religious insights were recorded on animal skins. God is still communicating faithfully today, publicly, through the worldwide, self-correcting scientific enterprise. Facts are God’s native tongue. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that “God’s Word”, “God’s Will”, and “God’s Ways” are revealed more accurately through the global scientific endeavour than through all the biblical writers combined. This is in no way a denigration of scripture. It’s simply recognizing that “divine revelation” didn’t stop in the past. Evidence reveals God’s truth more effectively than do authority or tradition.