Jul 25

God and Evolution, edited by Jay Richards ????

This text is written by a number of scholars at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, WA from an Intelligent Design perspective to counter the theistic evolution movement. Surprisingly many evangelical theologians and pastors have given their imprimatur to the theistic evolution movement, including Bruce Waltke, Philip Yancey, Os Guinness, Robert Schuler (?), Tim Keller, and Mark Noll to name a few. The theistic evolution movement argues that their stance is consistent with an orthodox reading of Scripture held in an inerrant fashion. This book seeks to establish that theistic evolution falls out of the traditional Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish beliefs.

The first emphasizes the importance of correct thinking on evolution. Richards  and West argue that errors in thinking on evolution has led to such heresies as gnosticism and deistic views of God. Richards identifies prominent Christian leaders like Tim Keller, who seem entirely inconsistent and poorly thought out on his evolution beliefs. Ultimately, the bioLogos movement tends to destroy more theological truths, including a rigorous view of the fall, and a denial that God is present and active in this world. Collin’s efforts to make evolution compatible with a strict view of Scripture has not engendered acceptance of the atheistic evolutionist crowd, primarily because evolution is much more than a scientific theory, but rather a complete belief system about the universe. Luskin spends a chapter detailing why theistic evolution will never appease the atheists in the crowd. Of greatest perplexity is Francis Collins’ strong reaction against the Intelligent Design movement. Attempts at reconciling science and religion had led to the proposal of differing spheres of influence (NOMA), which again reflects confused thinking since science and religion regularly overlap, whether one is a theist or an atheist. Demski investigates the claim that theistic evolution gets God “off the hook” for creating evil, yet argues that is does nothing of the sort, since God remains directly or indirectly “responsible” for evil. Witt then focuses directly on Collins’s position, focusing on his anti-ID stance. In the process, Collins must maintain that the so-called imperfections of nature attest to an imperfect or clumsy God who can’t get things right the first time around (as though theistic evolution solves the problem!). Wells feels that Collins prematurely caved into his atheistic buddies in the science world, but seriously compromised himself in the process by not promoting the notion of a God as immediate creator of the universe. Richards details the belief system of Howard Van Till, showing how Van Till suggested a mechanism built into the system from the beginning by God  which would lead to the tendency toward the evolution of life, called the “robust formational economy principle”. To me, this sound much like an anthropic-teleological principle, with the entire system bent toward the non-random formation of humans. Yet, Richards argues that this is not how we see nature to be, and forms very shaky theological grounds. In the end, Van Till offers more confusion than direction. Van Till himself has since abandoned an orthodox view of God, even being rejected by the now quite liberal Calvin College. Meyer summarizes by suggesting the theistic evolution fails to solve any of the questions that they attempt to solve, i.e, why nature doesn’t seem to have a perfect construction, as defined by our current concept of what an ideal, perfect world (or biological organism) would look like.

The remaining chapters are the Catholic and Jewish argument against theistic evolution. For the Catholic, much discussion related to medieval concepts of nomism vs. realism, Aristotelian thinking in the mind of Thomas Aquinas, and the formal positions of the Catholic church. For the Jewish crowd, discussion of great minds such as Maimonides and traditional Jewish thought through the ages was details. Klinghoffer suggested that while the preponderance of Jews, whether reformed or orthodox,  have blindly accepted evolution as an explanation for the world without conflict with the Hebrew Scriptures and subsequent thinking, this is a result of very poor thinking as to traditional Jewish belief systems.

In all, this book is a superb tour de force contra the theistic evolution crowd. It avoids the young earth/old earth controversy and focuses entirely on the problem Christians assuming that science must speak first, followed by us conforming our theological beliefs to science. To this end, I fear that many conservative theologians are gravely in error subscribing to theistic evolution. It leaves me wondering how my own denomination (the PCA) could close a blind eye to Tim Keller (perhaps because he has a large successful church) while forming a witch-hunt in a minor theological dispute with Peter Leithart.

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Jul 25

Shostakovich Complete Symphonies, performed by Kiril Kondrashin and Moscow Symphony Orchestra ?????

As you can tell, I’ve been reviewing mostly Russian music, including Borodin, Rachmaninoff, and Shostakovich. Shostakovich is my favorite of all Russian composers. This 11-CD set includes all 15 of Shostakovich’s symphonies, as well as his violin concerto. Though recorded a few years ago by Melodia, the sound is quite excellent. Kondrashin provides very convincing performances, that rank among the best. His tempo and dynamics often differ a bit from western conductors, but is done in a way that is quite pleasing. The 5th symphony is comparatively slower than Bernstein’s, yet maintains all the vim and fire worthy of the symphony. This is a set of Shostakovich’s symphonies that is worth having, and is probably the best Russian performances available. I have complete sets by Barshai, Haitink, Maxim Shostakovich, and Jansons, as well as this set by Kondrashin, and tend to prefer the Kondrashin and Jansons sets above the others. Each conductor provides a much different interpretation of these symphonies, and all of the sets are worth having. Kondrashin would be a reasonable starting set for the beginner.

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Jul 25

Rachmaninoff Edition (Complete Works), various performers ?????

This is one of the sets produced by Brilliant Classics as a budget series, though none of the recordings in this set would fit the “budget” category as being highest quality performances. Especially delightful were the piano concertos with Earl Wild at the piano. This is reportedly a comprehensive set of Rachmaninoff’s works, including his operas, solo piano and solo voice works and other works. As a special treat, various historic performances of Rachmaninoff were also included. This set doesn’t seem to be available any longer from Amazon.com, but for the price when it was available, was a true bargain.

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Jul 25

Borodin Chamber Music, performed by the Moscow Trio and Moscow String Quartet ?????

Alexander Borodin was a Russian chemist associated with “The Five”, a group of amateur musicians that sought to reform Russian music. The others in “the Five” were Balakirev, Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov,  and Mussorgsky. Though the musical output of the Five was not massive, it did have a profound influence on composers to follow, including Tchaikovsky and the 20th century Russian composers. Borodin has a sweet style to his music that is neither harsh on the ears or lacking in luster. Borodin’s chamber music is not commonly heard, and that’s a shame, since it is both tuneful and creative. The recording is flawless with a strong sense of presence, and the performances by the Moscow Trio/Quartet manifest charm in their interpretation. This is a worthy set to have in either small or large collections.

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Jul 24

Fünf Stimmen für ein Halleluja, by Die Beinahe Sechs ?????

Die Beinahe Sechs (The nearly six) vocal ensemble  from Germany has composed and revised various Christian themed songs. They offer a mix of songs sung in German and English in a truly remarkable performance. Dr. Kretschmar (from Leipzig) first introduced me to this album. Rather than offer a ponderous description of their music, I thought it best to include two excerpts, both in highly reduced format to hopefully render these as not violating copyright laws. My only regret is that this group is not producing more albums, as they beat most of the Christian music being produced in the English-speaking world.

Jesu, meine Freude

What A Friend We Have In Jesus

 

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