Thinking Again About EC, TE, and CASE/CAES

I suggest that CASE is just as useful, and far less confusing for people, than EC, and using the newer term creates exactly the conversations we want to have about this too.

Sure it could, but a lot of people don’t like TE either.

I really do think CASE is a better term (@dga471 ). The fact of the matter is that there is a growing community of Christians coming to terms with evolutionary science, but who also have not really liked TE or EC.

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I have not heard of CASE. What does it stand for?

Christians that Affirm the Science of Evolution (or Evolutionary Science), CASE or CAES. Christian that Affirms the Science of Evolution (CASE)

See when I use the terms evolutionary creationism or theistic evolution in theological discussions I use them to refer not to Christians who accept evolution but to those (theologians/scientists) who have put forward hypotheses on how the two accounts of origins can be synthesised. I wrote articles on this in a debate in Sapientia for the Henry Center Creation Project on how evolution and creation should be synthesised, and how evolutionary creationism should be defined. Michael Behe was one of the participants, and also Jim Stump of BioLogos. Still an open question as to how it should be defined, as is the Adam and Eve question. BioLogos evolutionary creationism neither requires or rejects a historical Adam and Eve…

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It will be soon the time for me to write more on this specific topic: EC, TE, and CASE. But that time has not yet come. Soon…


Very interesting topic! Look forward to reading what you have to say. As a theologian my main interest is in having a good umbrella term as a basis for discussion of the various hypotheses.

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I see “theistic” as a rather generic, philosophically broad adjective, which when attached to “evolution”, is reasonably self explanatory, and does not in itself suggest or exclude any particular school of thought beyond the basic meaning of the words.

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There are two main reasons I tend to hear for the preference of EC over TE. @Rumraket mentioned one–i.e., TE is so broad, it encompasses those beyond one’s comfortable limitations of “theistic.” So EC signals something more conservative, perhaps more orthodox. The other is that many think the noun is more important than the adjective, thus “evolutionary creationism” > “theistic evolution.” This also allows EC the same footing as other “creationist” positions.

@swamidass is the first evolution-affirming Christian I’ve encountered who’s made a case (no pun intended) against the label EC. I also look forward to his further explanation of this.

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Agree. I called myself an evolutionary theist until the Henry Center debate I took part in and still do. Started using the term evolutionary creationism when writing because it seems to be more frequently used now than evolutionary theism. Also, given the polarisation associated with much of the creation/evolution debate, a phrase that contains both words can certainly give rise to ambiguity! When using it I am always careful to apply it in a way that encompasses all of the leading hypotheses.

In most theological circles I know (e.g. the broad range represented at The Creation Project), EC signals something LESS conservative, with a strong anti-traditional orthodox-reductionism. That’s been true for a long time.

At TEDS, I commonly heard that scholars were open to evolution per se, but had strong negative positions with respect to EC and the BioLogos “approach” as BL sometimes calls it.

It has been coming to a head in recent years, with Michael Murray, John Churchill, WLC, and Tom McCall all weighing in it, and calling for recognition of CASE views that are distinct from EC. There isn’t consensus on a term yet, with Murray proposing Mere TE (remember ETS?) but many of us don’t like that term for a host of reasons.

So perhaps I’m the first person you heard say it this, but there are a lot of us. I’m not unique or even the first.

I had hope early on that EC/BL would adapt to be a bigger tent, with less of a theological agenda and more aligned with science. Unfortunately they were resolutely opposed to that option. That’s their decision though, and we should respect it.

Still, that means EC will be increasingly a “particular” approach as more Christians find other ways to take ahold of evolution.

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Do you mean EC is less conservative than where they are, or less conservative than the label TE? If the former, I get that (i.e., if EC basically equates to BL’s approach. If the latter (i.e., EC less conservative than TE), then that would be new to me.

Yes I remember this, and thought it odd at the time that he was still using TE (or maybe was trying to use the old label for convenience).

No doubt. My whole intro into this was through BL, and it seemed they championed EC as a way to tie themselves closer to orthodoxy and evangelicalism (rightly or wrongly). I understood your objection to EC to be tied to not wanting to be equated with the BL approach.

This is some helpful background. It’s interesting that several years ago BL itself took, what seemed to be, a more conservative turn…at least that’s how I saw some of the changes of personnel and leadership. I never asked anyone about this, so I could be totally wrong.

As you know, I’m still friendly with BL. I’ve done some minor work for them over the years, sometimes reviewing articles or curriculum. I especially count Jim and Kathryn friends, and look forward to seeing them whenever I can. So my personal experience has been a lot more positive. This doesn’t make me blind to potential problems (especially for those in my conservative world), but have been thankful for their contributions.

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For me, this isn’t personal. It is about clear substantive issues (see for example here). I’ve had many positive experiences with them, but we have a very different (honestly, incompatible) sets of values. They also have a lot more power and a first-mover advantage.

I’m honestly thankful for their contributions too, which is why I worked with them back in 2016-2017. I stayed with them till they asked me to leave. I’m thankful for my time with them too, because it clarified that I really am not EC.

In the same way, I’m also thankful for a lot of work by LCSM Lutherans too, but that doesn’t make me a Lutheran. I really am not LCMS.

In the end, the rest of us may need other ways to engage with mainstream science. That is certainly true for many of the communities I engage with, not only conservative Christians, but also secular atheists. Instead of waiting for them to change, let them be EC, and let’s find other ways for the people who will never agree with BL to move forward regardless. That might be, in particular, why CASE and CAES are very important concepts for us to work out in the coming year.

At least privately, they have been very clear on their position and its limits. I want to respect their choices here.

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That is the narrative they want to have in public. Perhaps it is true in one sense too. Certainly, they are more “conservative” than Peter Enns and Karl Gibberson, but that isn’t saying much!

Perhaps that’s one reason why frank conversation has been difficult for them. What they actually are may not match how they want to be perceived. The way they managed this is by squashing dissent and maintaining a code of silence. But…that is something I was not willing to agree to…(ref: those conflicting values)…

Funny thing … I was just going to ask if you wanted a title. :slight_smile:

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Leave it to the has-been linguist to focus on the nit behind the pick by bold-facing the pronoun “that” in the acronym explanation above.

Assuming that none of the Christians affirming the Science of Evolution are inanimate objects, I greatly prefer “Christians who Affirm the Science of Evolution (or Evolutionary Science), CASE or CAES.”

Yes, I do realize that many traditional grammarians will say that this particular that is grammatically OK in this context because it refers to an entire “class or type of people.” Even so, I’ve found that in international and even American English discourse this technical distinction doesn’t change the fact that for many English speakers of recent generations it “just doesn’t sound right.” Accordingly, when I am editing manuscripts I find myself leaning towards what reads more smoothly for the most people.

I wouldn’t mention this at all if not for its likelihood of it appearing in future publications. Even so, other editors/proof-readers may well disagree with me on this. (I had a strict Turabian professor who would have said that the entire “class or type of people” should be somehow “official or organized” to allow the that pronoun assignment. If so, then I would maintain that “Christians” as a category/class/type is anything but organized.)

That said, I am probably more likely to say that I’m a Christian who affirms evolutionary biology.

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Okay. Point taken :slight_smile: . I can go with this change.

Seriously, I would be curious to know what today’s professional proofreaders would say in this context. (The grammatical distinction doesn’t matter much in this forum but in broader publication it might be a distraction to some readers if we are assumed ungrammatical.)

[I appended my original comment after a few minutes in order to acknowledge the traditional rule that might allow the “that” in the context. I just don’t know if the old rule is still observed by modern day grammarians.]

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Earlier, I was genuinely curious what various Christians thought of the term “theistic evolution” so thanks for all the feedback. I suspected it was too broad and/or too liberal.

It seems as if people are leaning towards more well defined and organized camps instead of a big tent. That’s not too different from Christianity itself with a spectrum of denominations meeting specific needs within the community. Do most people see this trend continuing where views towards science are more well defined with a diverse set of positions?


Mainly too broad, and not necessarily to liberal, because it is very broad!

That isn’t the best approach, in my opinion.

I’d hope we could all be in one camp, clear about our different views, but in a fun and wild conversation about our differences.

Right now, the only models for diversity in origins is conflicted debate or parallel monologue. Both those models are broken. I want understanding conversations across differences instead, true dialogue.