From the Dust: The Fall
This week we feature the third clip from the upcoming documentary “From the Dust”, directed by filmmaker Ryan Pettey. It is our sincere hope that, above all else, the film can become a focal point for some of the big questions that inevitably arise at the intersection of science and faith. We believe Ryan's work will inform faith and enrich discussion, and we feel that this week’s topic, the Fall, is of particular importance for Christians as we think through the ramifications of creation by evolutionary mechanisms.
To help foster such dialogue, we are once again including several discussion questions with this week’s clip. In the transcript below, you’ll find several prompts that are meant to help viewers dig deeper into the material being presented. Mouse over each highlighted region and a question will appear on the side. We encourage you to watch this video with your friends, your churches, your small groups and Sunday School classes, your pastors -- or anyone else for that matter – and take some time to discuss what is being said (and maybe even what isn’t). You may not all agree, but you will find yourselves engaged in fruitful and spirited conversation. And it is this kind of conversation that will help move the science and faith discussion forward.
“The Fall” Transcript
Dr. Jeff Schloss: “My friends and colleagues, who have concerns about evolutionary theory for theological reasons, are onto something, and one of them involves the Fall, the nature of the Fall, what it is. Even if it is a metaphor, it is a metaphor for something, and what is that something? And how would we make sense of that something in light of evolutionary theory? The other issue on this has been probably the most serious issue that not only Christians, but all theists who believe in a good and providential God have wrestled with, it is the problem of natural evil.”
Reverend Dr. Michael Lloyd: “The problem of evil is a real problem to religious faith. It was certainly the thing for Darwin himself. That is what made him question his faith, and I think rightly so. It does not look like the sort of system that a good and loving and benevolent God would have set up. Now, obviously that raises huge questions because we don’t see any evidence of a world that was harmonious. We only see evidence of a world that was at war with itself, and that obviously is the problem that Christian theologians face. For a long time I used to believe that the Genesis narratives paint a picture of a world completely at peace, completely harmonious until the human fall, and then something goes wrong. When I began to look at it more closely, I began to think that there is more to it than that. There is evidence from the text that things are already dislocated, already out of joint. For one thing, there is the serpent, and however you interpret the serpent, here is a bit of the created order that is actively talking against God, working against God—so there is already something that has gone wrong. Secondly, there is the command to fill the earth and subdue it. There is the suggestion that something needs to be subdued, something is not quite right that needs to be put right and humans beings are called to do that—to put it right. And thirdly, it is a garden. It is almost as if God has said, ‘Here is a little bit I have done for you, here is a little bit of order and harmony that I have done for you. Now you go and spread that order and that harmony throughout the rest of creation.’ The tragedy is, of course, that human beings don’t do that. Rather than put that right, they make it worse.”
Dr. Alister McGrath: “Clearly Scripture distinguishes humanity from the rest of creation by this idea of the image of God. And that is understood in a number of ways—one of which is relational. Human beings have this God-given capacity to be able to relate to God, which is simply not there for the rest of creation. How do we understand that phrase: the image of God? If we accept the narrative of biological evolution, we have to say that at some point humanity became sufficiently distinguished from the rest of the natural world to be able to have this relationship with God.”
Reverend Dr. Michael Lloyd: “If you have a very finely graded gas tap and you begin to turn it on, initially, there is not enough gas in the air for the gas to ignite. So, you turn it up some more, still nothing, a bit more, still nothing, and a bit more, still nothing. At a particular point, there will be enough gas to air ratio for the thing to ignite. So, you can have a completely smooth, upward development, and yet, you can have something decisive happening at a particular moment. You get an increase in that moral capacity and moral awareness; you get an increase in their relational ability, in their social ability. You get an increase in their tool-making ability. You get an increase in their language. At a particular point there is enough of all that. There is enough relational capacity; there is enough social capacity and moral awareness and spiritual awareness for God to deal with us in a new way: ‘They have enough creativity to reflect the fact that I am the creator. They have enough relational capacity to reflect the fact that I am love. This in some way reflects who I am, and I will stamp my image upon them.’”
Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne: “As hominids evolved and became more complex, then self-consciousness, in the sense of projecting our minds into the remote future or past began to dawn in them. And that didn’t bring biological death into the world, because obviously it had been there for millions of years beforehand, but it brought into the world what you might call mortality. Because our ancestors were self-conscious, they knew they were going to die. Because they had turned away from God, they had alienated themselves to the only one who was the ground for the hope of a destiny beyond death. And so, mortality, meaning the sadness, the human sadness at transiency and decay dawned in human life. Another very subtle feature of the Genesis 3 story is that it is a fall upwards as people would sometimes say. It is the gaining of some knowledge, the knowledge of good and evil, the story says. And so, the dawning of self-consciousness is also the gaining of something that wasn’t there before. What the serpent whispers in Eve’s ear is, ‘eat this fruit, and you will be like God. You won’t need God anymore. You can do it yourself.’ That is the fundamental sin, the fundamental mistake in human life is believing that we can do it on our own, doing it my way, and spiritual death is to deliberately and persistently cut yourself off from that. It doesn’t occur as an angry God giving you a punishment for not falling into line. It is simply that you have punished yourself. You know, preachers sometimes say that the gates of hell are locked from the inside not to keep the creatures in, but to keep God out. And that, I think in the end, is what spiritual death is if you persist in it. But God is always, I am sure, at work, seeking to draw people back into the divine love. I think that is the work that is necessary to understand what Paul is getting at in Romans 5 when he says that death came into the world through one man. The cost of development is a degree of precariousness. The people need the grace of God if we truly are to live fulfilling lives.”
Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.
Ryan Pettey is a filmmaker and the director/editor of Satellite Pictures. He produced the feature length video From the Dust, which examines the question of human physical origins from a theological, historical and social perspective.