Competition occurs when science is taken as competent and sufficient to answer metaphysical questions … or when theology is taken as required to answer mechanistic questions about the nature of the universe, from supernovas, to the diversity of life, to the progression of seasons and development of storms, to the reason why the Mississippi flows from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico rather than vice versa."
TE has often misunderstood the very heart of the theological viewpoints that stand in opposition to Theistic Evolution. Who really argues that theology answers "mechanistic" questions about the universe? Who argues that the Bible directly addresses the question of the direction of the Mississippi river? While some may ask the question "how might a narrative relate to the physical universe" and speculate on the implications, there is no real suggestion that the Bible itself speaks as a science book. The primary issue is not that the bible answers "mechanistic" questions, but whether it is true when it touches on historical ones.
If the events in the New Testament or the Old Testament including early chapters of Genesis did not happen, that changes the Biblical narrative itself, and thus changes the meaning of the text, changes the theology. That is the central question, and TE tends to put that question in a box and hide it safely away.
Polkinghorne is quoted:
"Science gives an account of the nature and history of the universe; theology asserts the universe to be God’s creation. Science offers its understanding of the processes of the world; theology affirms its belief that God is providentially active within that world’s history. These statements are not in immediate competition with each other, since they operate at different categorical levels." (p. 97)
The idea of "different categorical levels" drives a wedge between science and faith and eventually between faith and reason, making faith a subjective matter only. Polkinghorne pulls back a bit from the separate spheres notion, to be fair:
"The true relationship between science and theology is therefore complementary rather than competitive. … A positive dialog is necessary, not least because the way each subject answers its own questions must bear some fitting relationship to the answers offered by the other, if it is indeed the one world of reality that both are seeking to speak about." (p. 98)
There must be a degree of consonance and congruence between the answers to scientific and theological questions – but it is not competition, where either theological explanations or scientific explanations prevail. Neither gravity nor random mutation are alternatives to God. Rather the theological answers and the scientific answers work together to speak about God’s creation.
Random mutation paired with natural selection, on the other hand, when seen as a creative force carries all the implications of a narrative that directly challenges the biblical narrative as understood by the church until the last century and a half, particularly in the discussion of the origin of the human race.
She goes on:
We all bestow meaning on scientific facts, but these meaning are metaphysical and go beyond the scientific observations. Theology can legitimately look for…"…the presence of a divine Mind behind the order of the cosmos and the presence of a divine Purpose behind its unfolding history. The claim being made would not be that the universe cannot at all be understood solely from a scientific perspective, for that is manifestly untrue, but that it cannot be fully understood without setting it in a theological context. The doctrine of creation can make intelligible what from a purely scientific point of view has to be treated as brute fact or happy accident. (p. 100)"
God is not a cause among many causes – filling a hole not otherwise filled.”
Signs and miracles are known in relationship with the God who acts. The Moses and the fleeing Israelites knew the action of God because of their relationship with God. Science cannot disprove or speak to the phenomenon of miracles because it does not address this relationship.
A watcher on the edges of the Reed Sea can observe the appearance of a band of fleeing slaves, hotly pursued by soldiers. He can see a wind start up, temporarily allowing the fugitives to cross the marsh. He can note that the winds drop and the waters return, engulfing the pursuers. The spectator cannot be obliged to interpret this as more than an amazingly fortunate coincidence. (p. 118)
So the relevant question remains unanswered because it is unasked. If Christ were to change water to wine in a laboratory, would science be considered as a means of examining actual physical evidence? While we cannot repeat the miracles of the Old or New Testament, the point is that according to the TE line of reasoning, even if a grand miracle occurred before our very eyes, "science" would either conclude that the phenomena had natural causes or would just ignore the event entirely as irrelevant, while faith could come to the completely opposite conclusion - and to TE, both could be true because science and faith are in separate categories.
She tries at the end to connect science and faith, but in a way that turns things completely around.
...Theology describes and wrestles with the nature of God and his work in creation – these are not questions capable of scientific explanation. Science explores the form and function of the universe – religious, spiritual, atheist, and Christian will reach the same conclusions on well posed scientific questions. Yet as a Christian and a scientist, from a Christian point of view, it seems that science is a discipline subsumed within the general framework of theology. The facts learned from scientific investigation neither trump, nor can be trumped by theological consideration. Rather the facts learned from scientific investigation form part of the data – revelation – that informs and forms our theology, our understanding of the nature of God.
The real dichotomy is not between science and faith, but faith and reason - placing them in different spheres - distancing the Biblical narrative and the theology it suggests from history, which distances faith from objectivity, which distances faith from reason. But in severing the connection between the descriptions of God's direct action in scripture and their obvious implications, any theological assertions about God being somehow working behind the naturalistic "facts" are far from compelling.