Evolution, Methodist faith discussed in forum

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Professor Theodore Walker of The Perkins Theological School for the Laity addressed the controversial issue of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in association with the Methodist faith at a forum on March 7.

The Perkins Theological School for the Laity established a forum in the spring every year that welcomes interested citizens in and around the community to expand their knowledge with lectures, courses, and awards a recipient of the Woodrow B. Seals Laity Award. The 2009 recipient is Larry D. Warren of San Antonio, Texas.

Professor Walker declared that Charles Darwin’s publications are the greatest scientific literature in the English language and saw no pertinent disagreement between the analysis of Darwinism, creation and evolution simultaneously in addition to theology. Evaluations of biblical beliefs and doctrines are under the same guidelines to allow critical thinking and scrutiny as any other academic field of study at any educational institution, according to Walker.

“The first president of Southern Methodist University, Robert Stewart Hyer, was Methodist and a scientist,” he said. “Methodists are prepared to argue that they all go together because creation is an evolutionary process. If you have creatures that by definition create, things will change and evolve. When creatures are acting creatively you have evolution, thus when evolution occurs things change. In fact The “M” in Southern Methodist University stands for being methodical and disciplined in science and theology,” Professor Walker said.

A counterargument to science and theology intertwining is Dr. Richard Sloan, a medical physician and professor in New York at Columbia University, cited recently in Time Magazine’s February 2009 issue “How Faith Can Heal.”

“The concern I have is that science operates in a reductionist way, and if you try to understand a spiritual experience or a religious experience from the science perspective, ultimately you are going to reduce it to the coursing of neurochemicals in the brain,” he said. “And while that may be satisfying to a scientist, it’s anathema to a theologian, which illustrates the limits of science. There are some questions for which science can’t provide an adequate answer.”

Walker believes that when Darwinism is spoken of, the questions of creation and evolution are inevitable; but he wants to make it clear that Methodist values are on neither side.

“Methodist ideas stand well,” Walker said. “Theology is a scientific study of language about God.”

In essence, Walker cites that any time creation and evolution are mentioned, someone will bring up “God.” Therefore, Methodists must critically argue alongside experts in philosophy, logic, evidence, reason, and coherence.

“Methodists are subject to all the rules of academic engagement,” Walker said, even if one takes the bible content from a fundamental or liberal point of view.

Walker quoted a familiar researcher on the Methodist faith and Darwinism for creating an agreed consensus among Methodist theologians as stating, “Evolutionary theory and Darwinism theory represent no threat to our religious convictions.”

To Methodists, evolution, creation and Darwinism are all part of a complex spiritual divine plan by God that may not be in our earthly knowledge to understand, according to Walker. Yet, this does not mean that theology is no less a discipline that requires thought than any other discipline in an academic institution.

Professor Walker stated if one takes the “M” in Southern Methodist University seriously, it is a necessity to join in celebrating Darwin’s evolutionary theory because philosophically, it is consistent with the Methodist’s religious convictions regardless of facts and details.

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