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ESSAYS VII-IX: GENERAL INTRODUCTION

Robert J. Schneider

In the latter half of Essay VI, "Human Evolution and the Image of God," I moved the reader from scientific data and theory to theological reflection. In the three essays that follow, I shall explore theological responses to biological evolution as a whole. Essay VII will examine some of the ways in which Christians who accept that we live in an evolving creation are modeling God's relationship to the world described by the natural sciences. These thinkers largely share the perspective that while the doctrine of creation remains rooted in biblical themes and historical concepts, our understanding of the nature of the creation and God's relationship to it has been enlightened by the scientific world-view of cosmic and biotic evolution.

In Essay VIII, I turn to Young Earth Creationism, the earlier of two twentieth-century movements that have challenged the evolutionary paradigm. These creationists read the early chapters of the Book of Genesis as straightforward historical and scientific texts. They interpret them to mean that God created the universe in six literal twenty-four hour days less than 10,000 years ago and made each living species separately, and they claim to have scientific evidence to support their interpretation. I will describe and critique the major elements of this belief system.

In Essay IX, I turn to the newer phenomenon of the Intelligent Design Movement. I will describe its proponents' attempts to construct an alternative to mainstream science which they call "theistic science." I will also examine their claims that the actions in nature of an intelligent designer, their coded expression for God, can be discerned scientifically, and evaluate the theological assumptions that underlay these assertions.

Young Earth Creationism and its Intelligent Design variant are also cultural movements. I will look at the impact each has had on the thinking of Christians in the United States, and on the often heated debates over science education in public schools.

In the Resources section, I provide bio-bibliographies and relevant web links related to the topics of these essays that I hope will supply the reader with useful sources of information.

Once again I thank Ben Wakeman for his work on the technical aspects of this project, and my colleagues at Berea College for their continuing support. Phina Borgeson, Thomas Lindell, and Paul Seely have helped by reading selected essays, and I have benefited from the on-going discussions on these topics posted on the ASA discussion list.