Dr. Dru Johnson Named Senior Research Fellow at Carl F.H. Henry Center

In Fall 2018, Dr. Dru Johnson will complete a research fellowship sponsored by the Creation Project at the Carl F.H. Henry Center.

Dru Johnson
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In Fall 2018, Dr. Dru Johnson, associate professor of biblical and theological studies, will complete a semester-long research fellowship sponsored by the Creation Project at the Carl F.H. Henry Center within Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois. As a senior research fellow, Johnson will examine the shared premises between two narratives often seen as incommensurate: modern origins stories and the Genesis 1-11 account.

Johnson says, “I’ve noticed a trend in Christian scholarship that misses the intellectual prowess of Genesis by assuming that it is basically flat-footed religious oracle, incompetent to offer any guidance on origins-talk to any differing cosmology.” Such an “apples-to-oranges” view prevents the biblical texts from participating in conversation with modern evolutionary theories regarding anthropology.

Johnson contends that while Genesis should be read within the context of its intellectual world, its concerns are not merely ancient:

Theistic evolution is a movement, growing in popularity amongst evangelicals, that seeks to comport human evolution with Christianity. Many of these attempts sideline the creation texts by relegating them to myth or making a thin argument that those texts don’t care about scientific ideas. My project wants to deal Genesis back into the discussion as a theological force to be reckoned with—finding the hard and soft sticking points for Christians who want to affirm some sort of theistic evolution.

In his research proposal, Johnson highlights the three evolutionary “pressures” that drive natural selection, according to Darwinian theory: scarcity of resources, genetic fit to an environment, and propagation of the best-fitted species (survival of the fittest). Johnson argues that these same pressures come through clearly in the biblical texts and offer insights into human anthropology. In other words, Genesis has something to say about what it means to be made in the image of God and what it means to be human. The biblical narrative offers not only theological, but also ethical, metaphysical, and relational claims about human personhood.

To offer one example, the evolutionary concept of scarcity of resources features in the biblical accounting of sin’s entry into the world. “In the curses of the woman and man, both suffer from a metaphysical re-ordering of physical structures that create scarcity,” Johnson says. In both pain in childbearing and pain in tending the earth, “that which once favored adequate resources for humanity now works against them.” Part of Johnson’s research project will be to consider points of contact between biological and theological understandings of this metaphysical re-ordering. This “apples-to-apples” mode of reading allows the Biblical text to critique theistic evolutionary narratives that would deem scarcity the natural state of affairs.

From the research conducted during the Henry Center fellowship, Johnson intends to develop a popular academic book accessible to non-specialists. He has been writing on creation narratives and their significance for theology, the church, and society for around ten years. Previous books on the intersection of scientific knowledge and the creation account include Biblical Knowing: A Scriptural Epistemology of Error and Knowledge by Ritual: A Biblical Prolegomenon to Sacramental Theology. Most recently, Johnson published The Universal Story: Genesis 1–11 as part of the Transformative Word series edited by biblical scholars Craig Bartholomew and David Beldman.

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