Southern Baptist Series: Evolution and the Problem of Evil

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December 28, 2012 Tags: Problem of Evil

Today's entry was written by Steve Lemke. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Southern Baptist Series: Evolution and the Problem of Evil

Today we post the seventh and final installment in our Southern Baptist Voices series–a collection of essays from Southern Baptist scholars with BioLogos responses to their concerns and arguments. You can read more about the series and access all of the other papers here, and get an overview in Dr. Kenneth Keathley's introductory essay.

But because today's essay from Dr. Steve Lemke is the last in this nearly year-long project, and brings together many of the concerns expressed by his colleagues (not to mention many non-academic Christians), we're handling the response in a slightly different manner than we have in previous exchanges. Instead of posting a separate response essay, we've chosen to highlight how the conversation has developed over these past months by including pertinent links to previous SBV exchanges within the paper itself, and responses to Dr. Lemke's key points in the sidebar: mouse over highlighted phrases to show and hide this additional text. As BioLogos President Darrel Falk explains in his accompanying post (also published today), we think this method shows how prescient Dr. Lemke was when he wrote this paper early on in our dialogue, and how the conversation itself has suggested ways forward in many of the key areas of concern he cites. Please be sure to read Dr. Falk's series summation, as well.

Evolution and the Problem of Evil

Let me begin by expressing appreciation for the commitment and intent of BioLogos. Francis Collins was speaking at nearby Tulane University a couple of years ago when my son was a senior in high school, and I brought him along to hear this noted Christian biologist’s presentation to help prepare him for challenges he would experience (as he is now) in college. This is a tremendously valuable ministry. However, as a philosopher and a theologian I do have concerns about some of the theological implications of the BioLogos theistic evolution view, particularly regarding the problem of evil.

The problem of evil is one of the most persistent and intuitive challenges to the Christian faith and the existence of God. The classic defenses or theodicies that have been used to answer this challenge include the Freewill Defense (God is not responsible for much of evil because it is caused by the free actions of humans), the Soul Making Defense (God allows or sends some evils or suffering in order to build human character in overcoming adversity), and the Eschatological Defense (although the cause of some suffering may be beyond our understanding, whatever suffering we may experience in this life cannot compare with an eternity of blessing in heaven).

These theodicies or defenses to the problem of evil, however, normally presuppose the standard view of divine creation. Were one to propose creation by means of theistic evolution, some of the presuppositions for these responses to the problem of evil no longer function. Therefore, advocating some form of theistic evolution poses problems for standard explanations of the problem of evil.

Cornelius Hunter has recently published Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil,1 an excellently researched book which re-examines Darwin’s motives for developing the theory of evolution. Hunter’s main thesis is that Darwin’s intent was not to undermine belief in the existence of God, but to afford a defense of God’s moral nature. The viciousness of nature caused Darwin and some of his contemporaries to desire to disconnect God’s role in creation from this viciousness in nature, and the blind process of natural selection is the vehicle for disassociating God from the vulgarities of nature. In essence, then, Hunter’s argument is that Darwin’s theory was a form of theodicy – sheltering God’s goodness against the accusation that He is the author of the evil in nature.

Hunter’s thesis sounds hauntingly similar to that of the early Gnostics, who sought to insulate God from the evil material world. They therefore proposed intermediary aeons, archetypes, or a demiurge to isolate the purity of God from the evil of nature. The Darwinian account sharply differs from the biblical account in at least three crucial ways:

  • The Darwinian account removes God from being directly involved in much of creation by utilizing natural processes instead, while the biblical account presents God as directly involved in the details of creation, both in the beginning and throughout history through his providential care.
  • The Darwinian account blurs the distinction between humans and other animals, while in Scripture humans are a distinctive and special creation.
  • The Darwinian account presents God as apathetic and disinterested in the moral status of animals, while the scriptural account presents God (though giving primary focus to humans) as vitally interested in the moral status of animals, and indeed for the redemption of the entire created world.

Another problem with Hunter’s thesis is that whatever Darwin’s original motivation might have been, the novelty of Hunter’s thesis underscores the fact that this is not how Darwin’s ideas predominantly have been used and understood. No one (including contemporary evolutionary biologists) seriously believes Darwin’s ideas as he presented them. Darwin’s ideas about evolution have themselves evolved. ( see Falk, Part 2) So even if Hunter’s thesis were correct about Darwin’s original motivation for the problem of natural selection, this has little relevance to contemporary evolutionary biology.

Any such Darwinian evolutionary biology also undermines classical defenses for God’s goodness. For example, the Christian group BioLogos has presented the perspective that God created all living organisms, including humans, through a gradual process that includes natural selection, group selection, genetic drift or other such physical processes, with God possibly intervening at some undefined points. While this BioLogos approach (which might be labeled a variety of “gradualism” with regard to creation) includes a role for God in creation (as opposed to pure Darwinian evolution), some of the same problems involved with the problem of evil pertain to the BioLogos view as well. In fact, the specific role that God plays in evolution remains somewhat vague and ill-defined. (see Falk, Part 1) Without BioLogos providing a clearer and more precise differentiation between itself and Darwinian evolution – and thus building a clear “Chinese wall” between their view and that of Darwinian evolution -- these views appear to be very close, and the problems that pertain to one view pertain to the other view (at least in part) as well. The following problems arise with regard to the problem of evil in relation to forms of creation by gradualism.

The Best of All Possible Worlds

First of all, it is incumbent upon a good God to produce an optimally good world. We could not necessarily expect an evil or morally mixed God to produce a good world, but we have every reason to expect a good and beneficent God (Matt. 5:48; 1 John 1:5, 4:7-8) to produce the “best of all possible worlds” (given human freewill). In the biblical account, therefore, the evil and suffering we witness in nature and in human experience is not accountable to God because of a defective process in creation, but rather it is a result of the moral Fall of the first humans and subsequent sin by their descendents. However, gradualism has no such vehicle to defend God against the accusation of being responsible for natural and physical evil and suffering. (see Applegate, Falk, and Haarsma, Part 2).

Human Distinctiveness

Second, if God created all living species, including humans, through a gradual evolutionary process that includes common descent from nonhuman primates, there is no clear line to draw a moral or spiritual distinction between humans and other living beings. (see Falk, Part 2).. Yet fundamental to any view of a moral universe is the belief that humans are created in the image of God in a way that is uniquely above all other sensate species (Ps. 8:4-8), and included in this image is our soul and our moral capacity. It is difficult to imagine how humans could receive the image of God through some sort of physical process. Instead, the Bible describes God as being directly and personally involved in creating the human soul by breathing it into mankind (Gen. 2:7). (see O’Connor, Part 1). In the specific language of the biblical account (if not to be discounted, allegorized, or completely ignored), God created human souls directly, not indirectly through some impersonal process. Gradualism offers no clear answer as to how a human soul reflecting the image of God could come about; in fact, such a unique thing in all of creation is everything but gradual or natural. (see Bishop, Part 2).

Whence Cometh Freedom?

Thirdly, even if God intervened at various points in theistic evolution to create new forms from which other species evolve, this does not afford a satisfactory account of human freewill. If humans are not a unique and distinct creation (as the biblical account makes quite clear), but are with other apes the product of a single ancestor, from whence did freewill arise? How can we account for some mutations having freewill and others not having it?

Some quasi-materialists propose some form of epiphenomenalism in which the mind emerges somewhat magically from material cells. This proposal is devoid of any convincing scientific evidence, but it is the only alternative left for materialists to espouse in order to account for some of the most basic human intuitions – that our minds are more than merely a physical organ, that our choices are genuine expressions of freewill, and that we are free moral agents who are responsible for our actions.

Evolutionary biology has no scientific evidence to respond to these basic human intuitions other than to assert that “there is no ghost in the machine” and that any apparent choices are actually mechanical outworking of hard determinism predetermined by prior physical causes. (see O’Connor, Part 2). Therefore, if human choices are merely illusions, humans cannot be held morally accountable, all blame and responsibility reverts back to the God who created this world.

The Problem of Pain

Fourth, gradualism has no moral explanation for animal pain. If humans are the product of an earlier ancestor, it may have taken thousands or millions of years for life to evolve to that point, or for humans to evolve from an earlier primate ancestor. How can the pain of these creatures (some of them quasi-human or proto-human) be justified? (see Schloss, Part 2) This is specifically the issue that worries many Christian ethicists about cloning. Each experiment in animal cloning has produced hundreds of “monsters” before the clone is successful. What if we were cloning humans? What would be the moral implications of creating hundreds of “monsters” just to develop one clone?

The unanimous view is that this would be morally unjustifiable, but this is uncannily similar to the notion of creating animals who suffer for millions of years before evolution finally produced humans. (see Schloss, Part 3) In the biblical creation accounts, pain and suffering comes into the world after the Fall and as a result of the Fall of the earliest humans, and thus God is absolved of direct responsibility for this pain. In this gradualist account, pain and suffering precede the Fall. Millions of generations of sensate beings would have suffered and died before the Garden of Eden. Why would God allow this suffering of innocents for millions of years? (see Schloss, Part 3)

Ironically, Hunter’s Darwinian explanation in Darwin’s God doesn’t work for the BioLogos perspective at this point, because God is somewhat more directly involved at several steps in creation than in the purely Darwinian perspective, so it is God who must shoulder the blame for this undeserved pain. (see Schloss, Part 2)

Another attempt to affirm a gradualist view of creation in which pain preceded the creation of humans was by William Dembski, who in his book The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World2 proposed that the animal world existed in pain for millennia before the creation of humans, and thus the pain of these animals was applied retroactively from the later Fall (pp. 9-10). This proposal was not well received by many in the evangelical world because it depicts God causing pain to sensate beings even before the cause of the pain took place, and Dembski ultimately felt compelled to post a clarification of his views.3 So, the reality of animal pain before the Fall in the gradualist account of creation heightens the problem of evil rather than resolving it.

Death and the Nature of God

Fifth, in orthodox Christian theology, death is seen as the ultimate punishment for the Fall of Adam and Eve. There was a time of created goodness from when humankind has fallen. All human suffering, animal suffering, natural disasters, and death was ultimately the result of the God’s punishment for human sin, the curse after the Fall as described in Genesis 3. (see Schloss, Part 1)

However, in the gradualist evolutionary account, there is no Fall.(see Applegate, Falk, and Haarsma, Part 2). If anything, there is a “rise,” as human beings “come of age” and become morally responsible at some point in the process of evolution from prehuman primates. There are multiple problems with this proposal from a theological perspective:

  • It is one thing to apply symbolic interpretations to the first three chapters of Genesis; it is another to eliminate the historical reality of the Fall altogether.(see Applegate, Falk, and Haarsma, Part 2). .
  • In the biblical view of creation, God creates humans in a paradisical Eden, and humans are ejected from Eden after their sin. In the gradualist view,(see Applegate, Falk, and Haarsma, Part 2). there never was an Eden, and humans never enjoyed the kind of original created goodness described in Scripture.
  • In the biblical view of creation, separation from God and death are the punishments for human sin. In the gradualist view, there never was an Edenic paradise, and persons were created to die. Sin has no real causal connection with physical death. (see Schloss, Part 1)
  • In the biblical view of creation, humans were created “a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5). In the gradualist view, humans emerged from previously created nonhuman primates. This is a profound re-envisioning and diminishment of the Christian anthropology found in the Bible. (see Falk, Part 2)
  • The Bible describes God creating a beautiful paradisicial Eden with sinless humans, which was lost only because of human rebellion and sin. The gradualist account posits God creating a substandard world that had to evolve to reach even the sad levels of contemporary life. This imperfect creation reflects on the nature of God. Why would a perfectly good God create such an imperfect world? Why or how could a moral God create humans to be already fallen? Orthodox Christian theology affirms that God is already perfect in all His attributes, and does not evolve or change in His essence. The theology more apposite to the gradualist account is Process Theology, in which evolution in creation mirrors evolution within God himself, as he moves from a powerful but imperfect being toward a more perfect being. In fact, Process Theology was designed with a view to harmonizing Christian theology with evolutionary presuppositions. But Process Theology is not held to be orthodox by most evangelical Christians, particularly with regard the nature and perfection of God.

At the core of the Christian worldview is the biblical metanarrative of creation, fall, and redemption. The evolutionary gradualist perspective radically rewrites this standard Christian account by essentially merging the creation and fall into a single event. Humans were created as finite and fallen, not placed in a paradise with created righteousness. This gradualist approach squares well with an evolutionary account, but it does not square well with the biblical creation accounts in Scripture.

Notes

1. Cornelius Hunter, Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil (Waco: Brazos Press, 2001).
2. William A. Dembski, The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2009).
3. Tom Nettles, review of The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World, by William Dembski, in Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 13.4 (2009): 80–85. A partial defense and Dembski’s clarification are found in David Allen, “A Reply to Tom Nettles’ Review of William A. Dembski’s The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World,” a white paper at the Center for Theological Research (February 2010), available online (PDF).


Dr. Steve Lemke is Provost and Professor of Philosophy and Ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he occupies the McFarland Chair of Theology. He is also Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry and Editor of the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry.

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GJDS - #75851

January 10th 2013

HornSpiel (continued) ...

1)                  God’s will is for the complete well-being and happiness of humanity, and this requires the exclusion of sin from people. The fact that unhappiness, suffering, and death are found in the world makes it necessary to remove the cause of these things, which is sin, brought by the author of sin, the Devil, and removed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The law of God is so sacred, inviolate, and necessary for the salvation of humanity from sin, that the son of God sacrificed his life to provide the forgiveness of sins.

2)                  We all have sinned: Even though sin is attributed to Satan as the author of sin, it is nonetheless sin committed by mankind. The fall of Satan is described as a transformation of a being through his own will, and this transformation is initially passive, commencing with pride and vanity, (Lucifer conceives himself as being greater, or other than what he is).  The transformation is completed through an act, or force of will, in activity towards his kind (war with other angels) and involves the community of angels. This analogy is intended to teach us by showing that will, freedom, and choice, cannot affect God, but have an effect on the community. The destructive aspects of reason is considered to arise from a passive state, in that a human being is capable of reasoning contrary to God’s will, and also from an active state, in that a human being would use his reason, and life, to plan and execute actions that he knows will bring harm to others. The intent is known to such a person and this transforms him into a lawless creature; this is an attribute that is formed within a human through his activity, and as a being he now follows the path set by Satan. The attribute of lawfulness is developed by following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and requires intent (passive, to repent or turn away from sin) and an act of will (active) in that actions towards God, and towards other human beings, are not only intentionally, but are actually so, for the good of the individual and the community. This completeness of both intent and act of goodness within a person and to the community is the basis of ‘all good things held in common’ by that community.

3)                  The matter of faith now becomes obvious (as is grace) for salvation. Lawfulness is a pre-requisite and enables a sinner to reject sin, by recognising that this is in fact malevolence both in act and intent towards himself and other human being; this rejection (repentance) of sin also includes intent and act (will) to live his life according to the law (will) of God.

I think this response is sufficient for our participation in this forum. As I said, the matters considered are profound and need very lengthy discussions before we can clearly communicate.

 


GJDS - #75852

January 10th 2013

The numbers changed when I cut and pasted - the above is a continuation of point 3 and the next point is 4 - even as I type this, this awful site covers some of my typing and not other - very difficult forum.


Seenoevo - #75855

January 10th 2013

robynhood wrote: “Seenoevo, As this is drifting off topic…”

How are we drifting off topic? The topic is “Evolution and the Problem of Evil”. How can we discuss the problem of evil if we can’t first agree on what evil is, and agree on what are Biblical examples of evil?

 

“The Bible says that all of the Law can be “safely ignored” as long as we do not ignore the command to love our neighbor.”

Why then, does Jesus say “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” [Mat 5:17-19]

Christ not only does not relax the commandments, he expands and strengthens the commandments – “You have heard that it was said, `You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” [Mat 5:27-28].

 

“... in as much as homosexuality is not inherently un-loving, I do not consider it inherently sinful.”

Christ specifies adultery and fornication as evil [cf. Mat 15:19, Mark 7:21], and Paul says those who practice such will not go to heaven [cf. 1 Cor 6:9].

Is not the practice of homosexuality a form of fornication? Is not the practice of homosexuality then inherently sinful? I mean, according to Jesus and Scripture, of course.

 

What other sins listed in Scripture would you not consider “inherently sinful”?


robynhood - #75874

January 10th 2013

Just as a literal reading of the first chapters of Genesis results in an unrealistic view of creation, a literal reading of the sermon on the mount (and many of Jesus’ teachings) results in an unrealistic view of morality.  We cannot live by a list of sins - especially one “expanded and strengthened” to impossible extremes.

I don’t deny that the words attributed to Jesus here are difficult to reconcile with other parts of the Bible, but to me, it seems that the sermon on the mount is a call to ‘extend’ the law into our own hearts so that we realize we cannot measure up to God’s perfection and must live by Grace instead.


Jon Garvey - #75858

January 10th 2013

I’m with GJDS here.

Here’s an entry-level test case of “trying to justify God”. The relative is dying painfully of cancer, and the Christian friend tries to help by saying, “I expect God wants to teach him humility…”. Most of us would say that is execrably poor counselling - better simply to share in quietness, liek Job’s friends before they got bored and started doing theodicy. If you don’t know God’s mind (and you don’t) who makes you his spokesman?

We know nothing of God except what is revealed to us, which we accept by faith - and a faith based on a personal encounter with the risen Christ as he challenges us about our evil. God in Scripture tells us that does nothing evil, that he had made creation good, that evil is rebellion against him and yet that he is powerfully behind all that happens. He also says that his ways are higher than our ways, which ought to be a caution to us not to exceed our theological pay-grade.

In places, eg Romans, questions are raised by doubters about how all that fits with experience. Logic can’t extrapolate the information to a synthesis, so you’d expect Paul, answering questions like “Why did God make us so?”, to offer fresh revelation: “You see, God couldn’t do X without doing Y” etc. Instead, he says in effect, “Who are you to question God?” He doesn’t do that in a vacuum of course - it’s in the context of offering a supernatural gospel of faith. And faith is properly “faith of the gaps” in the sense that we receive by faith what we cannot know by sight.


Joriss - #75862

January 10th 2013

robynhood,
If a man loves his neighbour’s wife, his love can be real, self-sacrificing, warm and tender, so suppose the neighbour on his turn, loves the first man’s wife in the same way, and the wives also love their neighbours, then, according to you, they could very well have a love relationship with one another. Nobody is hurt. Nobody is unloving. All love one another, so we can ignore the commandment here, not to desire one’s neighbour’s wife?


GJDS - #75876

January 10th 2013

robynhood - #75873

Your argument is that your idea of love is a law that is above or somehow differentiates it from the rest of the law - this is a mistake, and echoes a previous argument that states, ‘since god is so eager to forgive us (after all he sacrificed his son for us), this gives god a chance to demonstrate his grace - so if people sin more, god has the opportunity to show more grace and greater forgiveness’. This idea is clearly wrong.

It is also a mistake to pick out one sin for ‘special’ treatment’ and pontificate on this. If a person accepts the faith, than he/she/I/you does this on tha basis that we live our life according to its teachings. Paul did show that various rituals and other obligations that were in place specifically for the nation of Isreal were no longer in force. He condemned the erroneous teaching on grace in the strongest terms, just as he condemned incest. He also showed us that once someone repents of his sins, and lives according to the faith, his sins are forgiven - not before. I also say, if someone knows the faith forbids sin and that perosn cannot accept it, than why pretend to being a Christian. Nowadays many people do not embrace the Christian faith, and no-one would compell them to do so.


robynhood - #75880

January 10th 2013

GJDS, you wrote:

If a person accepts the faith, than he/she/I/you does this on the basis that we live our life according to its teachings.

What if we disagree on what its teachings are?

I also say, if someone knows the faith forbids sin and that person cannot accept it, than why pretend to being a Christian.

Why is it that we are inclined to think that a Christian (a real Christian anyway) is someone who interprets the Bible just like us?

There are those who would claim someone is not really a Christian if they accept the theory of evolution.  They would wonder, if someone claims to have faith, why can’t they just accept what the Bible says plain as day in Genesis?


GJDS - #75883

January 10th 2013

Robynhood,

My remarks are to faith and the law of God. You are now asking for a discussion of other matters on a ‘what if basis’. If you wish to discuss the major points in what I have said, please do. I have not met any Christians who believe that the ten commandments, or the clear statements in the Epistles, are simply a matter of interpretation.


HornSpiel - #75887

January 11th 2013

GJDS,

Thanks for your responses. I see now how I misunderstood at least some of what you said. 

I agree that Satan is an essential element in the biblical understanding sin and evil. I assume you are referring to Milton’s Paradise Lost when you say “I do not share the Miltonian view in that the ways of God should be justified to men.” Satan is, as you know, a central character in that work—as well as several of the works of C. S. Lewis, and other Christian authors, in which the issue of the origin of evil is broached. Those works I consider popular theodicies, works of theology, which help us to understand how there can be evil and suffering in a world created by a good, loving, omnipotent God. I do not see them as contrary or in any way excluding “the view that sinful humanity needs justification before God, and that is through Christ.”

All too often people say they have no need of repentance, or God could never condemn me, “because God made me this way.” A successful theodicy disabuses people of this excuse. In fact you mention Satan as the “Author of sin,” and go on to explain how he sets a “path” before us that we naturally follow as as result of “reasoning contrary God’s will.”  Your reasoning I consider a theodicy. 

The question relevant to this post is, I think: Can a Christian who accepts the scientific evidence for evolution articulate a successful, biblical theodicy? That is, can one have a biblical understanding of sin while believing evolution is the way God created us? To respond, let me reiterate and annotate what I wrote above in my first comment:

What Genesis and a [complete] biblical understanding of creation [in light of evolution] teaches me is that:

  • All natural processes are good, even the ones that do cause death, pain and suffering. [Life and death, predation and self defense, speciation and extinction are morally neutral, at least apart from mankind.]
  • God created humans with a supernaturally endowed capacity to be free moral agents, which science will never be able to explain, or explain away. [Rationality is part of that. I might add I think it is a philosophically impossible to explain away human rationality using human rationality]
  • In some mysterious fashion [i.e. Satan] evil was in creation prior to Man [It did not come in through scientifically describable natural processes therefore it has the aura of mystery about it.]
  • The price God paid to create humans was that they would also participate in evil [your point as well that we naturally follow a path that leads to sin].
  • But God was willing to pay that price because the human race would become the means by which He would enter creation and destroy evil though His self sacrifice. [Again this is not a scientific statement. We must believe based on what God graciously reveals to us concerning our situation]



robynhood - #75888

January 11th 2013

HornSpiel,

I completely agree that what GJDS laid down in posts 75850/51 amounts to a theodicy.  Perhaps theodicy is futile as GJDS claims, but it seems it is our very nature to understand how good and evil can coexist.

Like GJDS, many Christians point to the devil as the source of evil.  To me, this argument is analogous to the scientific notion that the origin of life can be explained by supposing it occurred on another planet.  Perhaps that’s the case, but it certainly doesn’t explain how life originated.  It simply punts the ball somewhere out into space.  Similarly, appealing to the devil as the “author of evil” is punting the ball off into some mysterious realm before time.

Unless one is a Dualist, appealing to the devil as the source of evil simply rephrases the problem of evil to be something like; “If God is all-powerful and all-good, and the devil is the source of all evil, then why does God allow the devil to exist?” 

I think free-will is a sufficient explanation of evil.  Free-will necessarily involves the yielding of some of God’s power (at least for a time) to the free agent.  Free moral agents therefore have the freedom/power to do good or evil.  God, being good, would prefer humans to do good, but is powerless to prevent them from doing evil without revoking free-will.

The trouble is that free-will is not a sufficient explanation of ‘natural evil’.  The two main Christian explanations I’m aware of are:

1. Adam’s sin resulted in God cursing all of creation.  (The traditional Christian view)  To me, the notion that a perfectly loving God would spoil his own originally perfect creation in response to the free choice that He allowed a single man to make is incoherent.  It also seems untenable in light of evolution.

2. Natural evil is only ‘evil’ from a finite human perspective.  HornSpiel, this is essentially your first bullet point, and I agree there is merit in this explanation; especially in light of evolution.  Although I think there is something to this perspective, I admit it’s still a hard pill for me to swallow.

I personally wonder if the solution isn’t something like the analogy; sin is to free-will as natural evil is to the laws of physics.  In other words, just as God allows humans to act in ways He would not prefer, so He allows the physical laws to produce pain and suffering that He also would not prefer?  This idea seems compatible with number 2 above with perhaps some differences in semantics.  Just a thought…

HornSpiel, the position you outlined in your post seems very reasonable to me.  Thank you for your thoughtful explanation.

-Robynhood


GJDS - #75894

January 11th 2013

 

HorneSpiel,

 

Thanks for your considered response. I suppose if I want to place myself in a ‘category’ regarding my view, it would be that of “The Law of God and the freedom he has granted us.” My statement about Satan is to show that Biblical teaching does not render human beings intrinsically evil, but that it originated elsewhere (we may want an imagine to render this meaningful, be it by Milton, Dante, or space creatures; it is teaching us in a meaningful manner). Thus human beings may be saved (because we are ‘saveable’ if I may stretch language), while spiritual sin (which is also taught by the Gospel as an unpardonable sin, or sin against the Holy Spirit, may not be forgiven.

 

These matters have been discussed as poetry and literature, just as many human attributes and activities have, and will continue to be so discussed. This is because profound matters require a full use of human language for meaningful discussion – science however, requires a restricted and defined use of language and terminology. Scientific law (discussed at length in Ted Davis’s column) is understood differently to that of God’s law; we are given understanding by an act of grace and guidance by the Holy Spirit (we research science). God’s knowledge id of the spiritual – we cannot shy away from this, nor pretend that although science deals with the physical world, we may arbitrarily look to it for spiritual understanding.

 

The attribute of God as the creator is sufficient – if science provides compelling data that is believably true, I cannot (and have not to this point) find a conflict with the truth. My criticism is that many prefer label-ism (they get lost in –isms) or ideology, rather than admit that scientific explanations have been modified so many times that we should be very careful, and critical of them.

 

Theodicy (as I understand it) seeks to find reasons (and even excuses) to men regarding human perceptions of God and what we human beings thing God has done, of should do. It is an odd ‘moralising about God’. My focus is on what human beings do, and should do, and how we may find forgiveness through repentance – even this is through the Grace and Will of God. If we accept the latter point, the theodicy that I read about is pointless and futile.

 

On the law of God and freedom, I commence with our reason and ability to consider the Biblical teachings and in that sense, we may ‘contend with God himself’ to find meaning and goodness in our life. This is a human attribute that God respects – but we must take responsibility for our actions. It is neither Satan, nor God, that thinks and does our acts; it is we human beings. This includes the merit of otherwise of scientific ideas.


GJDS - #75897

January 11th 2013

 Robynhood,

 

I refer to my previous comment that ‘human beings are not intrinsically evil’ (or we may say humanity is not the source of evil). You object to Satan as the author or originator of evil, and prefer to see it evil as a ‘natural’ property, and from there perhaps propose a synthesis. I disagree – the topic is lengthy but I will try to be brief. I cannot see animals or plants discussing their situation as good and evil – this is not a trite statement but brevity requires it. I also can perceive a natural order in which the entire earth and all (with the exception of humanity) live in a way that is ecologically sound, so the earth prospers and is filled with an enormously diverse plant and animal life – with all species prospering according to their order in nature. Even if catastrophic events occur, the planet continues to prosper – or scientifically, the entire system continues as it is. Add humanity with its proclivity to do what is good and evil, and we can readily accept decimation of species, forests, and even nations of human beings. These things are real and not some ‘spaced-out’ nonsense.

 

The notion that God somehow cursed his own creation is an odd statement – I disagree and instead point out that human act brought a separation from God, and the biblical teaching is that humanity was tempted to act contrary to God’s command. You view of traditional Christianity is odd by any reckoning.

 

If we cannot progress our discussion so as to differentiate the sacred from the ‘mixture of good and evil’, I doubt if we can enter into meaningful dialogue. I think something like Jung’s ‘answer to Job’ may appeal to you outlook. I do not accept such views, even though some label them as theodicy.

 

If we want to define an attribute of God as one in which he tinkers with evil, or somehow decided to make Satan, or allow him, or whatever, than I think we have missed the point. The profound aspects are in understanding the Law of God (to which all must be subjected, including spiritual entities) and freedom. This I regard as both profound and inscrutable; however it is a fruitful topic for human reason and intellect, but eventually I turn to faith.


robynhood - #75898

January 11th 2013

GJDS, you wrote:

The notion that God somehow cursed his own creation is an odd statement… Your view of traditional Christianity is odd by any reckoning.

Am I mistaken that a more or less literal reading of Genesis 1-3 constitutes the ‘traditional Christian view’ of Creation and The Fall?  I agree that in the account of The Fall, the act of disobedience was an act of man, but the Bible indicates that God took action as a result. (i.e. “I will put enmity between you and the woman… I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing…”)  The subsequent statement in Gen 3:17 says “...cursed is the ground because of you…”  It is clear that the blame is being placed on Adam, but the implication (especially considering the previous verses) is that God is the one cursing the ground.

Just to be clear, I do not agree with this literal interpretation of Genesis and therefore do not believe God cursed creation.

You also wrote:

If we cannot progress our discussion so as to differentiate the sacred from the ‘mixture of good and evil’, I doubt if we can enter into meaningful dialogue.

I agree that it will be difficult for us to have a meaningful dialog, mostly because I am honestly struggling to make sense of much of what you have posted here.  Perhaps I lack the specific educational background to understand your terminology.  For example, it seems that what you refer to as “The Law of God” is central to your ideas, but I have not yet figured out what you mean by “The Law of God”.  Do you mean the Bible? Or the ten commandments? Or do you mean something more abstract like a set of laws such as mathematics or logic that even God must obey?  I’m sorry I’m not understanding you better.


GJDS - #75901

January 12th 2013

Robynhood,

Yes I think you are right – our difference(s) stem from the meaning I attach to the phrase, ‘the Law of God’. I have lengthy notes as part of a thesis (which forms part of a personal poetic work on Salvation) so I will not lumber you with the detail. The meaning is within ‘Law and Freedom’, (my remarks to HornSpiel). The Law of God cannot be understood empirically as a law God has placed in nature, nor as a law legislated within an assembly. Indeed it is extremely difficult to use the phrase in a concrete manner. The articulation and communication of this meaning would be within the context of human activity. The law of God is stated as a command, but this is based on the overall command, “To love God with all of one’s might….”. The law, as articulated by Moses in the ten commandments and accompanying statements, can only be understood as legislation if it is directed to human activity, such as ‘do not kill,’ ‘do not bear false witness.’ But the law in toto is understood as the expression by Moses of the revealed will of God to Israel, and through Christ, to humanity. If we now appeal to the revealed will of God as law, then the argument implies that the law of God requires the growth of the attribute of lawfulness (rightness), and the ‘death’ of the attribute of unlawfulness (or sin). This is also a ‘communal attribute’ since it impacts on other people. The command to ‘love God’, is the gift from God, stated as the gift from God’s Holy Spirit. God has given us His Spirit and he is stating that it is necessary for us to live within His Spirit - we also need to live amongst other people within His Spirit. By responding to God with goodness, the person (and persons) comprehends goodness from God to humanity, and in a like manner respond to other people within goodness. This response is intrinsic to self, and thus I give it the correct meaning of law. The Holy Spirit is God’s revealed goodness and is intrinsic in every aspect, including that of human understanding.

I am not sure if these comments make the discussion clear or opaque to you. On the other matters you mentioned, yes the Bible speaks in that manner; these days we may say that being separated from God through sin is a curse, and the power of the law is to death. I think words like curse are often given other meanings (perhaps e.g. as in the witches in Macbeth?) but that is another subject. (I have had to condesne this so I hope there are onley a few grammatical errors).


robynhood - #75903

January 12th 2013

GJDS,  Having read back through many of your posts, it seems to me that your position (at least regarding theodicy) could be reasonably summed up by the following:

Because God’s ways are higher that our ways, we will never have sufficient knowledge to succeed at theodicy.  Therefore, our only option is faith.

If that is your position, I can respect it and even agree with it to an extent.  I have never supposed that a finite human being could fully comprehend God.  I further recognize the validity of faith, while pointing out that faith must be based on something.  Additionally, I believe that there is such a thing as truth and that humans are at least capable of knowing if a statement is true or false. 

The Bible contains statements indicating that God is good, loving and just.  True, these adjectives are human terms, but they have definite meaning within the context of our human experience.

Now, by way of an extreme and hypothetical illustration, lets consider what would happen if the Bible also contained the statement; God tortures the innocent.  Even in our limited human understanding, if the Bible did contain such contradictory statements, we would be forced to conclude at least one of them was false and question its divine authorship.

What’s my point?  Even if we accept that God need not be “justified” before mankind, it seems He must at least appear to us to be coherent in order for us to have anything to base our faith on.  This is why humans pursue Theodicy.  It is because they believe they see a contradiction between Biblical claims of God being all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving and the fact that there is great suffering in the world.  Theodicy simply seeks to remove (or at least weaken) this apparent contradiction so that faith may be based on a reasonable and coherent foundation.


Seenoevo - #75904

January 12th 2013

“Isn’t Christianity more about accepting and following the living Christ rather than the teachings attributed to Him?”

This and other statements by robynhood may startle many Christians. But does this need to be the case?

Maybe it’s just a matter of agreeing on the meaning of “accepting”, “following”, and “the living Christ”.

And worst case, if you can’t agree on these words, you can take comfort in knowing you don’t necessarily disagree with robynhood; you disagree only with words attributed to robynhood. (Perhaps more than one person is using the signon for “robynhood”?)

 

Some Christians’ Christ condemns, for example, fornication, while others’ Christ doesn’t.

Regardless, perhaps, the important thing for Christians is that they know Christ.

Or that he knows them (cf. Mat 7:23).

 

Of course, then you’d have to know what “know”…

Whatever.

Christians can take comfort in being “Christian”.

 

For some reason, though, I can’t help feeling that many many people will be very very surprised, after they die.

Mat 7:14.


Eddie - #75905

January 12th 2013

Seenoevo’s “nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean, know what I mean?” style of conversation wears thin in a very short time, after which it begins to grate.  Further, as employed by Seenoevo, it almost always fails to communicate any meaning.  One can figure out only that Seenoevo rejects the religious views of the person he is subjecting to sarcastic interrogation, but not what views Seenoevo would put in their place.  

It is a mark of true intellectual and religious courage to say what you mean in such plain language that you cannot escape the praise or blame that will come your way in response.  Seenoevo has yet to demonstrate such courage.

It’s unclear to me why Seenoevo feels he must keep up a constant background noise of nattering, needling, and badgering on this site, when the more productive line of approach would be to offer a clear and coherent prose exposition of his views.  The most likely explanation is that he is out of sympathy with the general Protestant evangelical ethos here, but sees no safe way of frontally challenging it.  If that’s the case, he would be happier on some other site, one where more kindred spirits are posting.  If Mel Gibson runs a web site, I would suggest that Seenoevo try his luck there.


robynhood - #75907

January 12th 2013

Seenoevo,  Aside from my use of the word “attributed” (to indicate my rejection of the doctrine of inerrancy) what would be so startling about my statement?  Don’t most Christians suppose Christ to actually be alive today?  Don’t Christians generally believe there is a Holy Spirit that can  somehow indwell them?

The point I was trying to make in the post that you extracted my quote from is that   what Jesus did - the atonement - is the heart of Christianity.  Many of the Christian Creeds do not mention anything Jesus said, but they do mention what he did. 

In fact, Christian doctrine is largely based on the theology put forth by the Apostle Paul.  It seems to me that, even if we did not know of any of the specific teachings of Jesus, we could derive, from the remaining parts of the Bible, a version of Christianity that is quite nearly an orthodox view. 


By the way, I think your bit about “the words attributed to robynhood” was extremely clever.  But I’m afraid I must agree with much of what Eddie says about your particular style of commenting.  I often cannot tell if you are being sarcastic or not, so it’s hard to understand your points.  Sarcasm also frequently sounds contemptuous, and I hope you don’t mean it to be so.  I believe you are quite smart and have valuable things to contribute, so you might at least consider a more direct approach.


GJDS - #75906

January 12th 2013

Robynhood,

Such hypotheticals are simpleton-like statements put forward for illogical arguments – the statement is impossible within the context that you present. It would have to be stated along the lines of:

(1)   Robynhood saw God at such and such a place.

(2)   Robynhood is now a witness to God acting in such and such a manner.

(3)   Robynhood, based on the facts of (1) and (2) gives a sworn deposition that God tortured such and such a person.

(4)   Robynhood further alleges that the persons being tortured were innocent of any crime.

(5)   Robynhood further alleges that the person he identifies as God was not authorised to perform the acts Robynhood alleges he had done.

(6)   Competent people with the required expertise are now considering the statement by Robynhodd…... etc etc.

I do not believe you are in a position to make the statements (1)-(2), and thus the rest of (3)-(6) would not be made.

If you directed your statement (so and so tortured an innocent..) at human beings (even if you claim it is an idea of theodicy) it would be considered outrageous, and you may be taken to a law court for defamation of character. Yet if it is made about the bible or god, then you feel we are discussing things in a reasoned and coherent manner.

I think these remarks are sufficient to show that I disagree with your comments. I instead argue, that an atheist who considers good and evil, even if he is motivated by good will, would be confused and even bewildered by claims of an all-powerful, all-good, etc etc God when he/she views the world around him. I do not say a Christian with faith in Christ would. Trying to reconcile the outlook of an atheist with that of the faith in Christ is a contradiction in terms.


robynhood - #75908

January 12th 2013

GJDS,  

Forgive me, but I believe you have seriously missed the point I was trying to make in my post (75903).  I was simply trying to demonstrate that faith cannot be based on contradictions.  I was not claiming that any such contradictions actually exist.

It seems we are not really ‘speaking the same language’ so perhaps it’s best for us to simply ‘agree to disagree’ at this point and move on.

Respectfully,  -Robynhood


GJDS - #75910

January 12th 2013

Robynhood,

I am sorry if I missed the point you were trying to make - I am inclined to agree with you that we may not be speaking the same language - nonetheless, I appreciate the effort you have made to put forward your point of view, and I wish you well.


Seenoevo - #75911

January 12th 2013

“I often cannot tell if you are being sarcastic or not, so it’s hard to understand your points.”

Conversely, some here aren’t sarcastic at all, and apparently are quite serious, yet I can’t understand their points. I guess the lack of understanding is all around. [Reminds me of kind-of-sarcastic comments about lack of understanding: “Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit” and “You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”]

 

“It seems to me that, even if we did not know of any of the specific teachings of Jesus, we could derive, from the remaining parts of the Bible, a version of Christianity that is quite nearly an orthodox view.”

Why would one care whether a version of Christianity is orthodox?

Is orthodoxy a good thing?

If orthodoxy is a good thing, how do you determine what it is, determine what is orthodox?

If orthodoxy is good, is it good in degrees, like a spice? The Christian recipe says: “Just add some salt/orthodoxy, according to your taste”?

Or is orthodoxy not in degrees, but rather “digital”? Is it an “on/off” or “yes/no” thing? Is that phrase, “quite nearly an orthodox view”, like saying “quite nearly pregnant”?

 

It’s late, and I’d like to lighten things up. That phrase, “quite nearly an orthodox view”, made me think of a TV commercial.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuOHHA0KTww

 

Buenas noches.


Seenoevo - #75917

January 13th 2013

“Seenoevo’s pretense of being someone who asks questions… they imply an unstated position, one hostile to the basic premises of Protestant evangelical Christianity (which is the ethos of BioLogos).”

Hostile?  Might that be the adjective for something like the following?

“I just wish that evangelical Christians could learn to call a spade a spade, instead of trying to have everything both ways. Either Protestant evangelical Christianity should admit error and modify its traditional teaching, or it should hold the line on its traditional teaching. The attempt to do both—to pretend that one still believes in an infallible Bible while in practice adopting modern mores and standards—will in the long run rip evangelical Christianity into pieces, with only fundamentalism and vacuous mainstream church liberalism left over when the dust clears… evangelicals have to decide what the basis of religious authority is. Is it sentiment? Is it the findings of social science on human sexuality? Is it the Bible? Is it Reformation doctrine? I don’t think evangelicals any longer have a clue. I think they have lost their way. I think they want to be Biblical and also up to date in their science and social science and philosophy and culture and environmentalism and feminism and who knows what else. I think they are trying to serve a dozen masters. At some point, they will have to return to the magisterial Reformation, or they will simply melt away into modern pluralistic humanism as their Christianity becomes equated with “tolerance” and “sensitivity.”  [Very well said!]

 

“If the discussion is on what the Biblical writers taught about homosexual practice —I have given my opinion on that question: they thought that it was sin.”

No opinion is necessary on this, for no difference of opinion exists. Every sane person would agree.

“If the discussion is on whether the Biblical writers are correct in their teaching on homosexual practice —that is a different question…”

Of course, here opinions differ. And here you have withheld your opinion on the rightness or wrongness of the Biblical writers teaching, as is your prerogative. But withholding your opinion is shocking, considering your espousal of “true intellectual and religious courage to say what you mean in such plain language that you cannot escape the praise or blame that will come your way in response… when the more productive line of approach would be to offer a clear and coherent prose exposition” of one’s views.

 

You also continue to withhold your opinion on the other questions in #75909:

1) Assuming an evolutionary process, did God supernaturally intervene in it? [Just a “yes” or “no” for now], and

2) Would you give the traditional literal-historical interpretation of Genesis the “death sentence” (or life without parole)? [Just a “yes” or “no”].

You refuse to answer. Again, that’s your prerogative, though a shocking one it is.

 

“but his resentment against me (apparently, for daring to challenge some of his ideas and for criticizing his aggressive conversational stance) … It is too bad that he cannot rise above the personal and focus on the issues…”

Oh, you must be referring to my calling you “standard populist”, “inferior in theology and philosophy”, ‘demonstrating precious little logic’, “folksy”, “Philistine”, ‘shameful’ , ‘aggressive and disdainful’, ‘lacking in courage’, “combative”, “hostile”, “reactionary”.

So sorry.

 

“… he might find me, on many of the issues, one of his most powerful allies here”

I think perhaps the foremost quality I look for in an ally is not intelligence, and not learning, and not articulateness. I think it’s humility.

Allies are tough to find.


Eddie - #75920

January 13th 2013

Seenoevo:

On the questions you ask me, you gave no opinion yourself.

You did not state an opinion on the ethical or Christian status of homosexual practice; you merely left it to the reader to infer it from your indirect and sarcastic remarks against robynhood.  Care to be more explicit?

You’ve said nothing about God’s role in evolution, either.

Nor have you answered my question about whether you are a Roman Catholic.

When you get around to giving clear answers to these questions, maybe I’ll give clear answers, as well.  With clarifying exposition equal in length to what you provide.

Regarding the literalness of interpretation of the early stories in Genesis, my views are approximately those of the overwhelming majority of Catholic theologians and Biblical scholars of the past 50 years, as exemplified in, e.g., the Catholic catechism’s remarks on the figurative elements in the Garden story, and the general remarks on literalism and fundamentalism given in the report chaired by the former Cardinal Ratzinger.  So if those Catholic theologians ‘give the traditional literal-historical interpretation of Genesis the “death sentence”’ I suppose that I do, too; and if they don’t, then I suppose that I don’t, either.  So if you want to see me plunged down to the bottom of the ocean as a heretic, remember that the same anchor is tied to many others whom, I suspect, you would not wish to condemn.

Regarding humility, the best way of generating it in others is to model it yourself.  And I cannot honestly say that your posts strongly project that Christian virtue.  But only you can decide what to do about that.


Seenoevo - #75918

January 13th 2013

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil…
Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
and the man who gets understanding,
for the gain from it is better than gain from silver
and its profit better than gold.
She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her…
Toward the scorners he is scornful,
but to the humble he shows favor.
The wise will inherit honor,
but fools get disgrace.

[From Proverbs 3]


Eddie - #75921

January 13th 2013

Seenoevo:

It is a bad thing to invoke a high spiritual truth in defense of a low spiritual motive.  

It is one thing to say—as the Proverb does—that even the most learned person should be humble before God.  That is sound advice, which I wholly endorse.  It is another thing for an unlearned person to resent the education of the learned—education which he could easily have acquired had he invested the time and effort and made the necessary sacrifices of worldly comforts and advancement.

So if a Harvard professor of theology swaggers and intimidates and forgets his creaturehood, I agree that this is worldly pride and sin; but equally, if one who could never be bothered to learn ancient languages, historical research methods, Biblical hermeneutics, etc. finds himself corrected, with the best of intentions, by someone theologically well-trained, for that person to bristle and snarl at the correction is equally sinful, the expression of pride, or envy, or both.

The Biblical writers knew full well that it was not only the “elite” of Israel that sinned; they knew that the “masses” were just as prone to fall into self-indulgence, hard-heartedness, lack of charity, idolatry, and apostasy.  “Wordly wisdom” is a property of all classes, not just of the formally educated.  The “democratic” spirit in which you read the Proverb—as if it is aimed at arrogant university professors and exonerates humble degree-less autodidacts—when the latter are generally every bit as certain of, and proud of, their theological opinions as the professors—produces a manipulative form of proof-texting in the service of the modern “levelling” spirit which is against all excellence, intellectual, moral, or spiritual.  Arrogance is of course to be condemned, but learning per se is not.  And unwillingness to learn theology, or any other subject, from those who are better trained is no badge of Christian virtue.  It merely compounds the pride of the teacher with the pride of the student.  And justifying tit-for-tat pride, vindicating the “democratic” resentment of the unlearned as a response to the “elite” arrogance of the learned, is not the point of the Proverb.


robynhood - #75924

January 13th 2013

Seenoevo, you wrote:

And as I’ve said before, I am particularly interested in questioning people who act like they know more than just about anyone else.

I can certainly relate to your statement here.  Pride is not a becoming feature in anyone. I admit I would also find a certain enjoyment in asking someone (who thinks they have it all figured out) a question that they could not easily answer.  But then I can’t help but think it is the pride in me that would produce this enjoyment.

I suspect that much of the trouble with a forum like this is that we can’t really tell each other’s ‘tone’ in the written word.  When I first began to read your posts, I though they sounded very arrogant.  I suspect that you (and many others) felt the same way about my posts.  It would be nice if we could all give each other the benefit of the doubt and exchange ideas without getting personal.

Anyway, I probably won’t comment on the site for a while.  I really like the BioLogos site and blog, but I was hoping the forum would be a place to engage in thought provoking and constructive dialogue with other truth-seekers.  If I want arguments, I can just turn on the T.V. 

-Robynhood


Seenoevo - #75927

January 14th 2013

“On the questions you ask me, you gave no opinion yourself… Care to be more explicit? … When you get around to giving clear answers to these questions, maybe I’ll give clear answers, as well.”

I’m just the questioner, remember? Remember too, that I’m not the one who claimed “true intellectual and religious courage”. That person should make the first move.

 

“Nor have you answered my question about whether you are a Roman Catholic.”

If I said I was Roman Catholic or Methodist or Southern Baptist or Evangelical what would that accomplish?

Are you primarily interested in issues and ideas, or in labels and “IDs”? You can probably find Roman Catholics who condemn abortion and Roman Catholics who support abortion. You can probably find Methodists who support traditional marriage and Methodists who are open to same-sex marriage. You can probably find Southern Baptists who insist on a literal interpretation of Genesis and Southern Baptists who are “reconsidering” the historicity of Genesis. You can probably find Evangelicals who believe just about anything.

Roman Catholic?

I may be starting my own church soon. I may call it The Christian Atheist Evangelical Reformed Church. Not sure what the theological stance and mission will be. I may make it up as I go along. But regardless, I’m fairly confident I could build a fluid congregation.

 

Regarding the traditional literal-historical interpretation of Genesis, I didn’t ask for the opinion of “the overwhelming majority of Catholic theologians and Biblical scholars of the past 50 years”. I asked for your opinion, your considered judgment. After many years of study and thought, one of “true intellectual and religious courage” should be ready and willing to stand on his own.

I would suggest that if you are, or anyone is, unwilling to infallibly pronounce the “death sentence” for the traditional literal-historical interpretation of Genesis, then you give the subject a rest. Then you refrain from criticizing those who hold to the traditional view, until such time that new discoveries provide proof, or provide evidence beyond any reasonable doubt, that the traditional is false.

Because until that time, there really isn’t much point in discussing the subject further. I suggest you give it a rest. Even if that means you have nothing more to write about here.


Eddie - #75947

January 14th 2013

The point is that your own Church does not hold to “the traditional literal-historical interpretation of Genesis,” as you intend the phrase.  And I have the courage to be condemned along with your own Church—if you have the courage to identify that Church, and condemn it for its rank liberalism in Biblical exegesis.

You’re right that there isn’t much point in discussing the subject further.  You aren’t dialogically serious.  You want to yank chains and get reactions, not exchange ideas and be transformed by the exchange.  The idea of give and take, of two people in conversation approaching the truth more closely as they share, borrow, retract, and modify points, is apparently alien to your temperament.  Very odd, for someone who lectures others on the need for humility, to be so close-minded to the possibility of learning something from someone else.

It’s a shame that we have lost robynhood.  She (?) was polite, humble, and genuinely dialogical. I can think of others that I would rather have lost than her.  The Bible teaches that the meek will inherit the earth, and in the long run, I believe that to be true; but in the short run, it is the proud and the aggressive who rule the roost.  Perhaps robynhood, however, is saying to herself, “I know that my Moderator liveth.”  For her Moderator hath acted twice before, and may yet act for a third time.  


Seenoevo - #75928

January 14th 2013

“It would be nice if we could all give each other the benefit of the doubt and exchange ideas without getting personal.”

Did Seenoevo get “personal”? Where and how? I don’t think I did.

But even if I did, I really don’t understand the ubiquitous umbrage taken these days. All this politically-correct, hyper-sensitive “shock”. Is everyone’s “self-esteem” so shaky? An evolutionist might think we’d have mutated “thicker skins” by now. Is everyone else more concerned with what others think of them than with what God thinks of them? Has anyone else ever heard of the sin of human respect? (cf. Luke 6:26, John 12:43, 1 Cor 4:3-4)

Seenoevo’s experience is that, almost always, when a pronouncer’s pronouncements are challenged and the pronouncer is unable to refute the challenge, then the pronouncer resorts to trying to refute the character or the “tone” of the challenger. When ad rem fails, resort to ad hominem. Almost always.

 

“Anyway, I probably won’t comment on the site for a while.”

Farewell, robynhood. Maybe we’ll “meet” again, in the cool of Sherwood Forest.

 

 

“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” – Harry S. Truman


Ted Davis - #76010

January 16th 2013

I’ve not been able to find time to comment on Dr. Lemke’s column before now, and I hope I’m not too late. I join others at BioLogos in thanking him for his clear, thoughtful column. I wish we had more conversations of this sort—conversations that give more light than heat.

I am especially interested in Dr. Lemke’s appeal to the ideas of Cornelius Hunter, so I’ll confine my comments to that aspect of his column. My first point concerns an apparent disconnect between Hunter and Dr. Lemke concerning theodicy. Given Dr. Lemke’s apparent approval of Hunter’s thesis, I am surprised to find him endorsing the fundamental principle of Gottfried Leibniz’ theodicy, namely, that God was obliged to make the best of all possible worlds. (PNG accurately noticed the presence of Leibniz in his comment #75817) Hunter’s book is predicated on the premise that evolution represents bad theology, not good science. Specifically, Hunter rejects all human efforts to tell God what to do: we must not make assumptions about optimal design in creation. Hunter sees Leibniz at the center of all that is wrong with what Hunter calls “Modernism before Darwin,” the tendency to distance God from the creation in order to account for natural evil. If Hunter is right to see Darwin as a kind of Gnostic (an idea that Dr. Lemke seems to accept), then where does this leave Dr. Lemke’s own approach to theodicy, which is so heavily based on the ideas of Leibniz?


Ted Davis - #76011

January 16th 2013

Next, I comment on Hunter’s claim—endorsed by Dr. Lemke—that Darwin’s theory of evolution arose from bad theodicy rather than from science.

We need to understand that, for Hunter, dysteleology in biology falls under the general heading of theodicy. Hunter strongly objects to arguments against special creation that are based on assumptions about what a good God must have done or would have done in making organisms. Stephen Jay Gould and Ken Miller (e.g.) are famous for making such arguments: a good and powerful God wouldn’t have done such a sloppy job of engineering this or that, and therefore it must have been produced by natural laws or blind natural selection—thus distancing God from the creation in what is tantamount (for Hunter) to a defense of God (theodicy). In Hunter’s opinion, Darwin and other evolutionists have mainly argued for evolution only indirectly, by arguing against special creation, not really for evolution, but leaving evolution as the unrefuted default explanation. Such arguments are theological, not scientific; thus, evolution triumphed b/c a religious idea (the goodness of creation as created by God) had failed, not b/c a scientific idea had persuaded. Hunter wants everyone to stop telling God what to do: don’t make assumptions about what God would or would not have done; therefore, we can’t argue against special creation from apparent dysteleology. Without such an argument, in his view, evolution cannot be established.

Hunter is partly right. Darwin worked in a mileu in which the goodness of creation was best seen in biological contrivances, which illustrated the exquisite adaptation of specific creatures to specific environments. Paley was an immediate source of this view for Darwin, but it’s an old idea (as Hunter realizes). Boyle and Newton basically took the same approach, although they did not pursue it nearly to the extent that Paley and others did. Ideas about divine goodness are embedded in this, and to the extent that Darwin responded to what he saw as the “war of nature” (as he put it later in On the Origin of Species), he was making a theological argument that can be seen as a form of theodicy. In the final chapter of the Origin, indeed, he constantly compares his view of descent with modification to separate creation—and to do that, he does need to assume what separate creation would entail. (Darwin was simply taking the prevailing biological view and showing how it did not give explanations of contrivances that were as convincing as his own hypothesis. Hunter realizes this, so he spends a lot of time arguing that the fault with the prevailing view goes back to John Milton, Leibniz, and other earlier thinkers who made assumptions about what a good God would have done in making the world.)

There is however more to this. Hunter picks up on something Ernst Mayr wrote in Toward a New Philosophy, p. 170: “it was Darwin’s realization of the invalidity of three prominent doctrines among the numerous beliefs of creationism that was of crucial importance for Darwin’s change of mind: (1) that of an unchanging world of short duration, (2) that of the constancy of sharp delimitation of created species, and (3) that of a perfect world explicable only by the postulate of an omnipotent and beneficent Creator.” Hunter stresses (3) in his book, basically ignoring (1) and (2) which are not really about “theodicy” (dysteleology) and which Darwin gave up for scientific, not theological, reasons. So, we cannot really claim that Darwin’s motive for adopting evolution was simply to find a new theodicy, even though theological assumptions were part of the story.


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