David Sloan Wilson’s book and article in the NYT has initiated an important discussion for the church, namely how are we to understand God, creation, biological life, and religion in dialogue with the best contemporary scientific thought. Wilson, a biologist and atheist, describes how he understands religion within the evolutionary process and while I enjoyed the interview and the question being posed I found his answer as reductionistic as many from various theological streams. For example, certain Barthians will understand religion as a category to be reviled and rejected as the product of human projection (via Feuerbach) but the Christian faith to be exempt to this criticism due to the self-revelation of God in the person and work of Jesus. At first it could be odd to think Wilson’s conclusions about religion to be similar to those of certain Barthians, but both use a very narrow definition of religion in order to reject it and assert their own interpretation of reality. Of course both could respond and say, ‘It’s not my interpretation, it is the revealed truth of God in history’ or ‘It’s not my interpretation, it is the most valid construction of the empirical facts.’
I agree with Barthian’s who confess that there is something particular in the revelation of God in Christ, but not in the rejection of religion as a whole, even Wilson notes some of religion’s important functions in human history. I also agree with Wilson that religion has and will continue to change or transform through human history, it is indeed (at least in part) a construct of human existential needs and desires that is described and practiced through human communities and with human language. That religion is really human however, shouldn’t be a threat to religion and our response as a people of faith doesn’t need to be either a rejection of the scientific endeavor nor a blanket acceptance of a scientific interpretation that we try to cram God into. All truth is God’s truth and all our claims to it, scientific and religious, are partial and more or less functional. A more functional religious interpretation of the world will engage and be transformed by the best science but in doing so I think we will find there is much we can say about religion than Wilson imagines.