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God is God (And I Am Not)

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May 2, 2010 Tags: Worship & Arts

Today's entry was written by the BioLogos Editorial Team. You can read more about what we believe here.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
"Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?"
"Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?"
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen

- Romans 11:33-36

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Bilbo - #12044

May 2nd 2010


Merv - #12053

May 2nd 2010


Merv - #12172

May 3rd 2010

I was thinking about the typical intellectual “knee-jerk” to our praises for God.  Our ogling over flowers and mountain vistas, of course, seem to be echoes of Paley and the Psalmists and many others before him.  The reaction goes something like this:  yes, but what about ....  & what about ...  and the skeptics delight in their “counter-list” of all the underbelly aspects of the Psalmist’s beautiful visions.  It’s almost as we/they aren’t willing to allow that there may actually be soil (dirty stuff) underneath and nourishing the roots of the beautiful flower up top.  And our appreciation of the beautiful is apparently supposed to be held hostage to the knowledge that a “not-so-beautiful” and even “ugly” side exists.  This is one of the fertile areas of growth for me in how evolutionary science understandings may intersect most interestingly with Christianity.  Sufferings and the ugliness in life can sometimes refine .... sometimes destroy.  I think Job was on to that theme long before we were.  And there we see no less the adversary himself standing at the throne practically stuttering out the objections:  “yes—but what about this….  b—b—but what about that?”

Kathryn Applegate - #12191

May 3rd 2010

Hi Merv,

You’ve made an excellent point.  Suffering and death are all too real and universally felt in this life, but very often that death gives rise to new life.  Seeing that death serves a purpose - even while we long for redemption and a new heavens and new earth - is important. 

I’m reminded by an article I read recently about the estimated 600,000 species of parasitic wasps, which insert their eggs in the living bodies of cute little caterpillars, killing them slowly from the inside out.  Darwin was troubled by these insects.  In 1860 he wrote to his friend, the American biologist Asa Gray, “I cannot persuade myself that a benevolent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.” (to be cont’d)

Kathryn Applegate - #12193

May 3rd 2010

(cont’d from 12191)

There are many today who share his sentiments - these insects are commonly referenced in discussions of theodicy (problem of evil).  But perhaps these horrifying creatures provide an opportunity to look closer, to think more deeply about what it means for the Creator to be good and worthy of praise.  At the risk of sounding macabre, these wasps finding life by feeding on their hosts reminds me of how we too, as Christians, find our life by feeding on Christ.  God isn’t horrified by our need to feed on him; he designed us this way.  So too, perhaps, with the wasp and the caterpillar. 

I doubt we can (or should!) always see such parallels between nature and Scripture, but I think Jesus doesn’t give that very graphic picture to us (the elements as his body and blood) for nothing.  Experiencing death and suffering in nature might be one way for us to see the seriousness of the cross, even though we rejoice at the risen Lord!  Forgive my theological musings, though - I’m a biologist!

Merv - #12210

May 3rd 2010

Don’t apologize —- please muse on.  The ugliness of the cross is the ultimate Christian answer that illuminates (or is supposed to if we let it) everything for us.  Your parallel with the body of Christ is excellent.  And the reactions he got from his disciples is probably still parallel to our reactions to things like this today.

The challenge for me is, then, how do we relate to or view physical death?  As a conquered enemy?  As an integral part of a good creation?  Is it with good reason that we have flowers and mountain vistas on our calendars and not pictures of wasp larvae devouring caterpillars?  Nobody celebrates suffering or ugliness—-almost by definition, I think.  Does the Bible

Merv - #12211

May 3rd 2010

come as close as any to acknowledging the place of those things in creation?  Unless we die ...

I’m curious if the species of wasp you mention ever lived in anything other than the parasitic relationship they have with the caterpillars?  If those caterpillars were to go extinct, would the wasps be next?  Is it possible that what we see as ugly parasitism may actually have a deeper kind of symbiosis?  (not to the individual caterpillar, obviously—but to the species?) 

My dad refused to have an electric mosquito zapper in our yard—- his response was, some birds need something to eat.

Michael Thompson - #12217

May 4th 2010

Check out this national geographic video of a caterpillar that not only feeds the wasp larvae with its blood, but also sheilds and protects its ivaders after they leave its body, til it dies!


Merv - #12328

May 4th 2010

Thanks, Michael.  I was fascinated that the narrator spoke of a “normal” caterpillar life cycle, which presumably doesn’t involved being “parasitized” to death.  But what would be “normal” for the wasps?  Had they evolved any other way of depositing their young?  If not,  (that we have ever been able to observe), then this is extremely interesting.  Apparently scientists have concluded that the caterpillar’s brain must be put in an altered state by chemicals released by the larvae—which they use to explain why the caterpillar gives its life to continue protecting the young wasps.  Do they conclude this because they have found evidence of it?  Or do they conclude this only because of the force of the assumption that no creature would ever behave in this suicidal way without brain-altering chemicals?  It does so

Merv - #12329

May 4th 2010

extremely violate our notion of ‘fairness’—- but who has ever gotten far trying to maintain there must be fairness in nature?  We have parental self-sacrifice and altruism.  Slightly more rarely we have intra-species altruism (humans self-sacrificially helping each other.)  Is it so unheard of in nature that there could be such a one-sided inter-species ‘altruism’?  And for that matter, how do we even know that the caterpillar species as a whole doesn’t get something out of this?


Michael Thompson - #12374

May 5th 2010

haha good question, i don’t know, never been a caterpillar. the more we learn, there more we find out how little we know, eh?


Bilbo - #12443

May 5th 2010

I found C.S. Lewis’s chapter, “On Animal Pain,” in his book, The Problem of Pain, to be helpful when thinking about this.

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