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In 2017, I was a coeditor for the book Theistic Evolution: a Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique . in my introductory chapter to that book, I defined theistic evolution as follows, using a definition jointly authored by the editors of the book:
God created matter and after that did not guide or intervene or act directly to cause any empirically detectable change in the natural behavior of matter until all living things had evolved by purely natural processes (p. 67).
But after the book was published, some reviews on the Biologos website objected that our definition had misrepresented their position. The primary statement of this objection was in a thoughtful and gracious review by Deborah Haarsma, President of Biologos. She proposed an alternative definition of theistic evolution (though she prefers to call it “evolutionary creation”):
God creates all living things through Christ, including humans in his image, making use of intentionally designed, actively-sustained, natural processes that scientists today study as evolution.
Haarsma adds, “God guided evolution just as much as God guides the formation of a baby from an embryo” (in the previous sentence she had cited Psalm 139:13, which says, “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb”). She also says, “Although God in his sovereignty could have chosen to use supernatural action to create new species, evolutionary creations [sic] are convinced by the evidence in the created order that God chose to use natural mechanisms.”
However, Haarsma’s new definition does not actually conflict with our definition, but rather confirms the essence of our definition given above. We could modify our definition to add more things that she advocates, but the substance of the definition would remain, as in this example:
God created matter [with intentionally designed properties governed by “natural law”] and after that [God continued to sustain matter and preserve its natural properties but he] did not guide or intervene or act directly to cause any empirically detectable change in the natural behavior of matter until all living things had evolved by purely natural processes [which God actively sustained but did not change].
In this modified definition, I have explicitly added the Biologos belief that God actively upholds and sustains the activity of the entire natural world (as affirmed in Col. 1:17 and Heb. 1:3). I agree with that belief. But to define creation this way is to confuse God’s initial work of creation with his ongoing work of providence. (Note the present tense verb in Haarsma’s definition of theistic evolution: not “God created” but “God creates,” thus drawing no distinction between God’s initial creative work at the beginning of the universe and his subsequent sustaining work that continues today.)
The key point in our definition is the theistic evolutionist claim that God did not “cause any empirically detectable change in the natural behavior of matter” until all living things “had evolved by purely natural processes.” Haarsma does not raise any objection to this crucial part of our definition, and in fact her proposed definition affirms the same thing: “God creates all living things… making use of intentionally designed, actively-sustained natural processes.”
In another Biologos review, Jim Stump writes, “Yes, we believe that God guides evolution, the same as we believe God guides photosynthesis.”
But this is a misleading use of the word “guide.” People ordinarily use the word “guide” to refer to an action that influences the course of an object so that it changes the direction it was otherwise going. But the Biologos explanation shows that they use the word “guide” to mean “does not change the direction of an object but sustains it so that it continues in the direction it otherwise was going.” So ordinary English speakers understand “guide” to mean “change the direction of something,” but the Biologos foundation uses the word” guide” to mean “not change the direction of something,” which is just the opposite.
I conclude that our definition of theistic evolution remains accurate. The advocates of theistic evolution who are affiliated with Biologos support a viewpoint that is correctly summarized in this statement:
God created matter and after that did not guide or intervene or act directly to cause any empirically detectable change in the natural behavior of matter until all living things had evolved by purely natural processes.
 Edited by J.P. Moreland, Stephen Meyer, Chris Shaw, Ann Gauger, and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017).
 See Deborah Haarsma, “A Flawed Mirror: A Response to the Book ‘Theistic Evolution,’” dated April 18, 2018: https://biologos.org/articles/a-flawed-mirror-a-response-to-the-book-theistic-evolution.
 See p. 65, n. 6 for a discussion of why we retain the term “theistic evolution.”
 Jim Stump, “Does God Guide Evolution?” at https://biologos.org/articles/does-god-guide-evolution.
Dec. 20, 2015 (Sunday evening)
I am writing to let you know that on Wednesday I saw my family doctor (Dr. Stephen Hoshiwara) with some puzzling symptoms, and he suspected Parkinson’s disease. He referred me to a neurologist (Dr. Nida Laurin), and on Friday, Dec. 18, she confirmed that I definitely have Parkinson’s disease.
This is a progressive neurological disorder for which there is no known cure, but there are medicines that alleviate the symptoms and may slow the progress of the disease. Dr. Laurin started me on one medicine (Rasagiline, made by an Israeli company) that helps some patients and not others. She did not think my symptoms were severe enough to start me on the most common medicine (dopamine), because its effectiveness diminishes over time and she did not want to start it too early.
Starting tomorrow (Monday), we will begin the process of seeking an appointment at Barrow Neurological Institute, which is (according to Wikipedia) “the world’s largest neurological disease treatment and research institution,” and is here in Phoenix.
The symptoms that I have now include a diminishing of fine motor control, so that my handwriting is less legible and more crowded together, and in typing I sometimes hit a key twice or not at all, and my mouse control is not as precise with the computer. It’s also harder to button my shirts, and I sometimes feel a tiny tremor when I reach for things. I can still do all these things, but they are a bit slower and take more concentration. In addition, I seem to be moving my arms and legs more slowly in ordinary daily activities. And Margaret says that sometimes my facial expression seems a bit “fallen,” and I notice that it’s harder to smile. In recent photos my smile has not seemed as genuine or natural, but more forced.
The symptoms and the rate of progression of the disease very widely from patient to patient, and are apparently impossible to predict. Sometimes the progression is very slow, as with Billy Graham who has had Parkinson’s for 26 years (he is now 96). Michael J. Fox also has Parkinson’s, and has continued to function. In other people, however, the disease progresses more quickly.
How are we doing? Margaret has been a wonderful help and encouragement, and she keeps reminding me that “we’re in this together.” She is an amazing, most wonderful wife.
We both feel a deep peace from the Lord about this. King David said to the Lord, “My times are in your hand” (Ps. 31:15), and I truly feel that way. Parkinson’s usually does not shorten a person’s life expectancy very much, but in any case, I’m happy to live as long as the Lord wills that I live, and to keep on being productive for as long as he enables me to do so. “In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Ps. 139:16).
But I would like, if God allows, to finish my current major writing projects –
(1) a textbook on Christian ethics (which I hope will take me about one more year to finish after the first draft is done, or until Jan., 2017), and
(2) a revised edition of my book Systematic Theology (this should take from 2017 to 2019).
After that, I was sort of wondering what I was going to do anyway. 🙂
I do plan to continue to teach at Phoenix Seminary, so long as I am able to teach effectively. (The seminary will be moving in July, 2017, to a new location in a new building to be built on the site of the old Scottsdale Bible Church chapel on Shea Boulevard – just 12 minutes from our house!)
Here are some other verses which the Lord has brought to my mind a number of times in the last year, and which seem especially appropriate now:
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psa 90:12). (I need to be a wise steward of my remaining days.)
“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep” (Acts 13:36). (All I want to do is to serve the purpose of God for me in my generation.)
“And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” (Col 4:17).
This last verse has been especially forceful in my mind for the last year or so – I deeply want to “fulfill the ministry that [I] have received in the Lord,” which I understand to be the ethics textbook and the Systematic Theology revision.
Then on a personal level, I am concerned to make wise plans so that Margaret will be well cared for if the time should come when I am unable to work and to help with ordinary tasks.
Other verses that have become more meaningful in the last two days:
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself (Phil. 3:20). (My hope of a perfect, Christ-like, resurrection body is even stronger now.)
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:16). (Parkinson’s is a “light momentary affliction” in the light of eternity.)
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:25). (My personal fellowship with God is far more precious than any measure of physical health, and I deeply and truly feel that right now.)
If you think of it, I would appreciate your prayers for the projects I mentioned above, and for continuing good medical care, and also, if the Lord wills, for partial or full healing, whether through medicine or through his miraculous intervention. I am at peace.
(nothing in this letter is confidential)