In the past, I wrote about Roger Olson’s mistake in interpreting what it means for God to be good. I made the point with classical theism in mind, which is called so because it was held by older theologians. Anyhow, Olson makes this point:
Here’s what I mean—to be specific. What ordinary lay Christian, just reading his or her Bible, without the help of any of the standard conservative evangelical systematic theologies, would ever arrive at the doctrines of divine simplicity, immutability, or impassibility as articulated by those systematic theologians (e.g., “without body, parts or passions” as the Westminster Confession has it)? Without body, okay. But without parts or passions? The average reader of Hosea, for example, gets the image of God as passionate. While “parts” isn’t exactly the best term for the persons of the Trinity, a biblical reader will probably think of God as complex and dynamic being rather than as “simple substance.”
I like to think of myself as a Biblically minded fellow. I really do understand what Olson is getting at here. But the rub comes in when you look at how inconsistent his own methodology is. On his blog he notes his adherence to evolutionary theory. But what ordinary lay Christian, just reading his or her bible, without the help of any of the standard moderate Christian biological arguments, would ever arrive at the doctrines of natural selection, an old earth, or speciation over time as articulated by these biologists?
Now, Olson’s nearly absurd double standard here is not clear evidence that his conclusions are wrong.
I would suspect that the problem lies in the fact that Olson, for whatever reason, feels he understands the biology well enough to accept the biologists at their word. Therefore, he has to reinterpret the Bible. But the problem is that he does not accept certain aspects of older Christian metaphysics. Since he does not take Aristotelian or Platonic philosophers at their word, he must reject certain conclusions that these thinkers find to be necessarily true about God. The problem with this is that Olson, as far as I know, is not a scientist, but he is a humanities professor. He can examine the Aristotelian claims to see if they’re logical (they are). But he cannot really examine the evolutionary claims in the same way. If I knew Olson, I would challenge him to read more on the topic, because I’m finding that Aristotle’s theory of causality makes sense of all cause and effect in ways that more recent theories do not. Because of that, Aristotle’s metaphysical reasonings seems to apply to the biblical God precisely because the Bible claims things about God that Aristotle’s metaphysics reasons toward: God is pan-causal, unchanging, a-temporal, etc.
The deal is that Olson is, perhaps innocently, appealing to simple biblicism when it suits what he is convinced of (Open theism/biblical personalism) and he is allowing a complicated hermeneutic to determine how he reads Scripture when that suits him.
The sum of the matter is that one need not be convinced of evolutionary theory or classical theism to be a disciple of Jesus. One certainly need not even know about either. The question is, in the realm of ideas where evangelism, apologetics, and good academic work must be done where does the logic lead? Of course Christians who read the Bible simply might come up with false conclusions. That’s true with anything. Paul said that as an apostle he only sees dimly. The argument that a simple view of things is best does not match with experience. A simple view of the Bible is adequate because Jesus doesn’t demand that we be right about everything, he demands that we love God, neighbor, and enemy in his name.
Note: according to Bruce Charlton, evolutionary theory is largely metaphysical as well.
Also, Edward Feser deals with Olson here.