Epilogue: the sea of faith – Darwin didn’t drain it R. J. Berry and T. A. Noble
Taking a metaphor from Matthew Arnold's 'On Dover Beach' and popularised by Don Cupitt, Berry and Noble maintain that faith is still unscathed by Darwin's ideas. This book is an attempt to show that. Even tricky doctrines like the fall and Adam and Eve can be salvaged in the light of Darwin. But I wonder at what cost?
The strength of this book is that within a narrow range we have diverse views. Some see the fall as a cosmic event, others as an an event without cosmic implications, but an event in time nonetheless. Adam has different roles, for Blocher he is an historic person, for others they 'cannot rule out the existence of a historic Adam'. For some Adam is the ancestor of us all for others he is a federal head. However, this range of views is a weakness of the book. There is sadly no discussion and critique of each other's views. There is no attempt ot come to a consensus.
Throughout the book the views of Patricia Williams and Christopher Southgate are briefly mentioned and critiqued. Their shadow is felt. It would I would have liked to have seen a fuller engagement with their work. Next to Darwin and Augustine, their names occur most often in the index. And it is their work that has most recently outlined the evolutionary challenge to a traditional Christian theology of the fall. Williams dismisses it and rewrites theology, whereas Southgate rejects a historical fall as being a 'spurious reading', a general condition rather than a chronological event.
The unexpressed presupposition is that Darwin was largely right and evolution is correct. However, they don't express which view of evolution they adhere to. There is no clear scientific consensus; we have a wide range of views from naturalistic evolutionism (which obviously they dissent from) to theistic evolution. However, which form of theistic evolution do they accept? Is it a form of structuralism, cladism, punctuated equilbrium, neo-Darwinism or what? How does God work through evolutionary chance(?) processes? Though, to be fair, to address this would mean another book.
It doesn't really fully address the issue of pain and suffering prior to the fall. How are we to reconcile that with the God of the scriptures? This remains an unanswered question.
Nevertheless, this book provides much food for thought. It will help all those who accept an evolutionary framework attempt to reconcile the fall with evolution.