Re-engaging Theology and Evolutionary Biology: The Nature of True Wisdom

Nicola Hoggard Creegan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Systematic theology is often critiqued as being a totalizing discourse, one in which anything inconvenient, heterodox, or experiential is flattened out under its almighty sweep. But evolutionary theory has also been a totalizing discourse, ironing out all the mystery of life in a kind of anti-theology and anti-teleology—what Tim Ingold, later in this volume, calls “evolution in a major key.” Both theology and science can be modified and enlivened by types of wisdom which also enhance the conversation between them. Some of this anti-theology is explained by Paul Nelson, who argues that for Charles Darwin and subsequent evolutionary writers, “evolution” is contrasted with “creation,” often using unexamined assumptions about the way a creator would act. Nelson writes that “The theory of evolution was born in a turbulent embrace with theology, and it has yet to relinquish that embrace.” He contends that for many years biology tried to be metaphysically neutral by ignoring implied metaphysical and theological questions, or its theological side, while nevertheless making covert theological arguments. Theology, meanwhile, attempted to proceed without taking the evolutionary story into account. It is no wonder that dialogue was difficult and always unsatisfactory. The reasons for all of this were and still are complex. While the biblical book of Wisdom presents subtle understandings of God’s workings, biologists harbored unsubtle theologies of God’s action in the world; and theology, sensing that it was now (scientifically) unnecessary because it could be brought to bear on neither the gaps in natural law, nor holistic renditions of nature, avoided nature as a revelatory source.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEvolution of Wisdom
Subtitle of host publicationMajor and Minor Keys
EditorsAgustin Fuentes, Celia Deane-Drummond
PublisherCenter for Theology, Science and Human Flourishing
ISBN (Print)9781498548458, 1498548458
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Evolution of Wisdom: Major and Minor Keys by Center for Theology, Science, and Human Flourishing is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted. CC BY-NC-ND


  • creation
  • evolutionary theory
  • Theology


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