Philip Rolnick, "Evolutionary Struggle, Pain, and Death: Questioning the Goodness of Creation"

The common experience of struggle, pain, and death seems to question the goodness of creation and, thereby, the goodness of its Creator. In the evolutionary biosphere, animals eat one another, human beings eat a wide variety of plants and animals, and plants silently struggle against one another for space, light, water, and nutrients. But struggle, pain, and death serve multiple purposes: they energize the biosphere, pressuring living things toward unconscious but creative developments; and among human individuals and communities, they stimulate conscious growth, as intellect and will are applied to pressing problems. Philip Rolnick’s talk will re-situate the traditional problem of evil, addressing the problem in the context of an evolutionary creation.

A response will be given by Dr. David Bentley Hart (University of Notre Dame).

Philip Rolnick


Philip Rolnick received his doctorate from Duke University in 1989, and currently teaches at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. He is Professor of Theology, and serves as Chair of the Science and Theology Network (STN), a group that promotes public events and faculty research in science and theology in the Twin Cities. As the author of many theological books and articles, his three major research areas have been: 1) analogy—how words refer to God; 2) what personhood means for Christian faith; and 3) the relation of science and Christian theology. A fourth, recent interest has been the thought of C. S. Lewis.

Philip Rolnick has been the recipient of the Exemplary Teacher Award of Greensboro College; has received several Templeton Foundation grants; was a North Carolina Humanities Scholar; and received the St. Thomas’s University Scholars Grant, its most prestigious research award. He has been a Member of Notre Dame’s seminar on Human Distinctiveness and Princeton’s Center of Theological Inquiry.

Origins Book Cover

His latest book, Origins: God, Evolution, and the Question of the Cosmos (Baylor University Press, 2015), has been nominated for three national awards. This book takes challenges of contemporary science, including evolutionary theory, and turns them to advantages for a robust faith. His talk at Notre Dame will show how, in an evolutionary creation, the problem of evil can be turned to theological advantage.

Free and open to the public.

Sponsored by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. 

Organized by Neil Arner, Assistant Professor of Theology, with support from the Center for Theology, Science and Human Flourishing. 




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