Loren Haarsma: God-Guided Evolution in 2019

The text below is from a thread I started on BioLogos.Org:

I have posted the link to Loren Haarsma ](Loren Haarsma - BioLogos) article published just last year (April 16, 2019).

[[NOTE: I had originally thought this article was published last week! - - the pandemic must have me rattled!]]

While the article is quite brief, I have to say it’s about as fine a writing on my favorite topic as I have ever seen at BioLogos! What is my favorite topic? Well, E.G.G., of course! Sometime way back in the BioLogos archive is the first appearance of this term (EGG) by someone (not me): “Evolution: God-Guided”. Maybe we can locate that one day.

But in the meantime, I have to celebrate Dr. H’s last paragraphs!:

Misunderstanding 3.
God didn’t need to micromanage evolution…

"Some people would interpret the sentence “God-guided evolution” to mean something like the following. *“Evolution isn’t limited to making small-scale changes. And of course God is in charge all the time so evolution never happens “on its own.”

Yes, indeed! I hear this all the time. Some people won’t even allow a sentence that says “God used Evolution to create Earth’s living creatures.” So the thinking goes: if God used Evolution, then it isn’t evolution! Ugh.

Dr. H continues at a full gallop! with the next common misunderstanding:
"[Since] … evolution had the potential to go down many possible paths… God acted from time to time to select, or to nudge evolution down particular paths to produce particular species and ecosystems.”

He counters immediately, but diplomatically!

“The challenge with this misunderstanding is that it might be too restrictive. Some evolutionary creationists hold this view, and I think it’s a fine view. I’m OK with the science and I’m OK with the theology. But it’s not the only version of evolutionary creation.”

His explanation - - right on point!:
“Theologically, I believe that God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Scientifically, I describe rainfall in terms of evaporation and condensation and warm fronts and colds fronts. I don’t think God needs to “nudge” the clouds to make it happen the way God wants (although of course God could do so). Theologically, I believe that God makes trees grow. Scientifically, I would describe trees growing through photosynthesis and transpiration and lots of other chemical processes. I don’t think God needs to nudge the molecules in order to make each tree grow (although of course God could do so).”

Perfect wording!

I affirm evolutionary creationists who believe that God nudged evolution down particular paths. But I also affirm an evolutionary creationist who might say something like the following. “Theologically, I believe that God created every species, including humans. Scientifically, we describe how it happened in terms of evolutionary mechanisms…"

He then warns:

“If I said “God-guided evolution,” some people would misunderstanding me as ruling out this second version of evolutionary creation.”

Which leaves me with just one quick question for the esteemed Dr. H! When he writes:

"[There are] … common and conflicting ways to interpret the phrase “God-guided evolution.” It’s not surprising that they’re common. God’s providence and guidance of the natural world is a complicated theological topic. Evolution is a complicated scientific theory. But none of them are what I mean. So while I can affirm that “God-guided evolution,” I rarely say it. I’ll instead choose other phrases – probably a lot longer and less pithy, but harder to misunderstand."

My question is: what is the phrase he prefers that is harder to understand! I think I would very much benefit from such a phrase!!!


TYPO: I have corrected the pronoun error… sorry about the oversight, Dr. LH!

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Isn’t that from a long time ago?



I don’t remember ever reading about MY favorite phrase: God-Guided Evolution.

But… as it turns out… I got myself all confused… is the pandemic shaking my brain up?

I added this TYPO comment at the top of the thread!

I think what you miss about this @gbrooks9 is that BL has always given lip service to this idea, but then never really made space for explaining or affirming this in anything but the most generic terms.

For most people, it doesn’t really seem like more than lip service.

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I don’t actually think that’s how the thinking goes. The main question would be what it means to say that God used evolution. What does it mean to say “Theologically, I believe that God makes trees grow”? I have no idea. Do you? Does Haarsma?



I am starting to think he does… this is why I asked for what he prefers to use as a substitute phrase!

I am optimistic… but until I hear what the other shoe sounds like when it hits the floor, I won’t bet dinner on it!

In the meantime, it would certainly be advisable not to use a term whose meaning you don’t know.


I’m the one who MOST used the phrase God-Guided Evolution at BioLogos… so I know the term.

And the article just spent QUITE A BIT OF DISCUSSION on how to interpret it. So there’s no problem there.


There is nothing WRONG with the phrase God-Guided Evolution - - except he thinks it is subject to misunderstanding … if the person doesn’t get any further information about the use of the term.

I don’t think you should have any fear that I am not going to provide plenty of other information to REDUCE confusions.

It is my personal view that God-Guided Evolution really is the BEST PRACTICE phrase… but we’ll see!


Yes… I was mistaken… it was published last year …

[[NOTE: I had originally thought this article was published last week! - - the pandemic must have me rattled!]]

… and I have corrected my introductory text (and am going to check on the title of the thread right now).

But you have not addressed the questions, which I will thoughtfully repeat for you:


You apparently don’t believe what I write. I said, at the top of this thread:

Dr. H’s article is the best on the topic I have yet read. THAT is what it means.

If you don’t understand Dr. H’s explanation, I suggest that your brain is not wired to understand it.
Theology is not really a gift to those who have a “concrete” way of thinking:

No, I don’t understand what you write. You can blame the victim all you want, but I would consider it merely an excuse for your inability to explain. And I suspect that inability may be underlain by fuzzy thinking: you can’t explain what you mean because you don’t know what you mean.

What does it mean to say “Theologically, I believe that God makes trees grow”?

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@gbrooks9 My favorite is your God-guided cosmic rays finally reaching Earth today after traveling billions of years through space from the massive black holes in the center of a galaxy ten billion lightyears away.


Hey… don’t stop there! For big laughs, one Admin at BioLogos pointed out that the target for most of the cosmic ray-induced mutations would be ovaries and the testes!

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Say what now?


You might be delighted to know that Dr. Haarsma has heard my cry … and has provided a nice discussion to along with his article! It is not a treatise, John, nor do I think it needs to be! If you don’t “get” the point by the end of these paragraphs, I think we can confidently say you will never get the point.

I have the link to the reply at the bottom, and here is a copy of his answer. I am compelled to admit that I prefer his wording [in the very first paragraph below] to my original versions!

“I often say, “God used evolution to create the species” or “God used the mechanisms of evolution to create.” I’m not 100% happy with that verb, “used.” Some scholars who I respect don’t like it, and I understand their reasons. I still say it, because I haven’t thought of anything better to say that’s equally succinct.”

“To be use more theological terms, I might say, “God created and providentially sustains the natural mechanisms of evolution which he used to create the vast variety of life forms.””

“Or I might clarify what I mean by also saying things like the following:
God uses the laws of nuclear physics and electromagnetism, and the random motion of particles in the sun, to keep the sun shining. God uses the laws of gravity and motion to keep planets in their orbits. God uses evaporation and condensation and atmospheric dynamics to send rain on the righteous and unrighteous.”
“God uses worms to feed robins. God uses the laws of quantum mechanics and the random motion of molecules in the air to create a vast variety of beautiful and unique snowflakes. God uses the motion of continental plates to create high mountains and deep ocean trenches.”
“God makes island ecosystems more diverse over time by using the mechanisms of evolution along with wind and ocean and birds to bring new life forms to the islands. God uses random mutation, natural selection, and all the other mechanisms of evolution to produce new and diverse species over time, and so that species can adapt to changing environments over time.”

“The point of giving so many examples is to encourage people to see “divine action” in biological evolution just the same way as they see (or at least, as they ought to see) divine action in every other part of the natural world.”

I don’t know why you would say that, when all Haarsma does here is repeat what he said before, without any actual explanation.

Much hinges on the meaning of that word, so it’s disappointing that he never bothers to explain. The closest he comes is this:

But that clarifies nothing. What does it mean to say that he created the mechanisms of evolution? What does it mean to say that he providentially sustains them? Neither of these things seem necessary. Evolution is inevitable given life, and if there was such creation it was in the distant past. Nor does it seem to require any sustaining, as it sustains itself just fine. So what does “uses” mean?

…followed by a number of examples of “uses” that clarify nothing. We’re back to “what does it mean to say that I cause the trees to grow”? How does that differ from what God does to cause trees to grow? This is just a series of things that happen all by themselves, with the claim that happening all by themselves is how God causes them. I would contend that such a statement is incoherent. If you think otherwise, I have asked you to explain. Simply repeating the claim, even with examples, is not helpful.

And how is that, exactly? This is the question, which you seem determined not even to try to answer.

@John_Harshman ( @swamidass )

And yet I disagree with you.

[1] Dr. H is an academic… he thinks he answered my question.

[2] Dr. Joshua is an academic … and he answered my question with even fewer sentences, and came to the same conclusion.

[3] And since it was MY question he was answering, I think you and I must be finished with this discussion.

Later, doctor.

What question did you ask? Is he correct in his belief?

And so we end as we began, with no response. How many times have you flounced? Are you counting? I for one think that your inability to respond sends a fairly clear message.


I asked him what other phrasing he might prefer other than “God-Guided Evolution” to describe succinctly what he and I are talking about.

His answer was the same as Dr. Joshua’s… though Dr. Haarsma offered more details.

@John_Harshman, you know the English language as well as Joshua, as well as Dr. Haarsma, and even better than I do.

So I find all your kavetching and complaining most provocative. Or perhaps a bit too querulous; and at the very least, certainly a quibble!
[Edit: I found the word ‘disingenuous’ not sufficiently gracious. I replaced the word with ‘provocative’.]

I would be hesitant to even tell you I was baptized in the Catholic Church for fear you would start to grill me on exactly what I meant by that.

Go bother people who enjoy this kind of grill work. I do not.

Dr. H has EXHAUSTED the topic. If you do not recognize this… then you shouldn’t be discussing these topics.