Surprised by Jack, Part 4: Mere Evolution

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December 13, 2012 Tags: Creation & Origins

Today's entry was written by David Williams. 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.

Surprised by Jack, Part 4: Mere Evolution

Note: Earlier in this series, we learned how C.S. Lewis viewed the inspiration of Scripture, the interpretation of Genesis, and the doctrine of the Fall. Today David Williams concludes this series by countering recent attempts to depict Lewis as a private skeptic of biological evolution and a firm believer in a literal Adam and Eve.

Mere Evolution: Lewis on Evolutionary Science versus the Myth of Evolutionism

For many American evangelicals it will come as a surprise to realize just how little Lewis thought was at stake in the scientific question of our biological origins. As we have seen, Lewis had no objection to the notion that “man is physically descended from animals.” Four years after admitting to being shaken by some of the writings from Bernard Acworth’s Evolution Protest Movement, Lewis could still write in a private letter, “I don’t mind whether God made man out of earth or whether ‘earth’ merely means ‘previous millennia of ancestral organisms.’ If the fossils make it probable that man’s physical ancestor’s ‘evolved,’ no matter.”1 So far as we can tell, Lewis never took the view that belief in mere Evolution, “Evolution in the strict sense,”2 “the Evolution of real biologists,” which he took to be “a genuine scientific hypothesis” and “a purely biological theorem”3 was necessarily at odds with a belief in mere Christianity.

Indeed, the final chapter of his classic book Mere Christianity, “The New Men,” assumes an evolutionary picture of life’s origins and development throughout.4 He writes,

Perhaps a modern man can understand the Christian idea best if he takes it in connection with Evolution. Everyone knows about Evolution…: everyone has been told that man has evolved from lower types of life.5

While Lewis acknowledges that “some educated people disbelieve [the theory of Evolution],” he gives no hint throughout the rest of the chapter that he is one of their number.6 In fact, throughout the rest of the chapter he seems to simply assume a broadly evolutionary picture of natural history (as he does in The Problem of Pain and elsewhere). So, for instance, he writes:

Thousands of centuries ago huge, very heavily armoured creatures were evolved.7

At the earlier stages living organisms have had either no choice or very little choice about taking the new step [of development]. Progress was, in the main, something that happened to them, not something that they did.

Century by century God has guided nature up to the point of producing creatures (humans) which can (if they will) be taken right out of nature, turned into “gods.”9

And he says much more in that vein. While it may be possible to read Lewis as invoking Evolution for purely illustrative purposes without actually believing in it, such a reading seems less than likely given his statements in this chapter and elsewhere. In fact, Lewis offers no hint anywhere in his public writings that he regards evolutionary theory as either untrue or conflicting with mere Christianity.

What Lewis did believe to conflict with Christian faith was what he called the great “Myth” of “Evolutionism” or “Developmentalism.” But this is not the same as evolutionary theory per se. “[We] must sharply distinguish between Evolution as a biological theorem and popular Evolutionism or Developmentalism which is certainly a Myth,” he writes in his essay “The Funeral of a Great Myth.”11 Lewis believed that the great myth of “Evolutionism” conflicted not only with the Christian faith, but with Reason itself, undercutting the grounds for believing in human rationality and, therefore, in any human rationale that could be offered for believing in Evolutionism in the first place. According to Lewis,Evolutionism’s chief premise, namely, Naturalism, invalidates human reasoning itself, amounting to “an argument which proved that no argument was sound—a proof that there are no such things as proofs—which is nonsense.”12 “All possible knowledge…depends on reasoning,” he writes in chapter III of Miracles.13 “We infer Evolution from fossils: we infer the existence of our own brains from what we find inside the skulls of other creatures like ourselves in the dissecting room.” All sciences, including evolutionary science, depend upon the validity of human inference for their own validity. “Unless human reasoning is valid no science can be true.”14 Naturalism, however, with its grand Myth of Evolutionism explains all of reality, including human reason, in terms of non-rational natural causes and effects, reducing all human reasoning to being no more than the accidental byproducts of chance, matter and time, and thereby undercutting the validity of reasoning itself.

However, if one allows, as Lewis apparently did, that God guided the evolution of humanity so as to make us reasonable creatures, then humanity’s descent from the animals in no way undermines the validity of human reasoning. By maintaining the distinction between Evolution as a scientific theory and Evolutionism as a popular Myth it becomes possible for one to be a full-blooded theistic evolutionist with both a robust belief in God and a robust belief in evolution. The distinction frees Christians to accept evolutionary science without knuckling under to reductionistic Scientism. Thus, in the very essay where Lewis most acerbically attacks Evolutionism, “The Funeral of a Great Myth,” Lewis also clearly allows for a form of theistic evolution. Lewis writes:

I am not in the least denying that organisms on this planet may have ‘evolved.’ But if we are to be guided by the analogy of Nature as we know her, it would be reasonable to suppose that this evolutionary process was the second half of a long pattern—that the crude beginnings of life on this planet have themselves been ‘dropped’ there by a full and perfect life.15

As Lewis makes clear in another piece, “Two Lectures,” the “full and perfect life” by which “this evolutionary process” was “dropped” exists outside of Nature, which is to say, exists outside of the purview of the natural sciences. “Is it not…reasonable to look outside Nature for the real Originator of the natural order?” he asks.16

Lewis, however, was no Deist. He clearly did not believe that the “crude beginnings of life” were simply “dropped” by God so that the “evolutionary process” would do what it would. Lewis seems to have thought that God at least superintended the evolution of humankind, particularly humanity’s cognitive capacities, in a rather hands-on manner:

For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man: it may even have been clever enough to make things which a modern archaeologist would accept as proof of its humanity. But it was only an animal because all its physical and psychical processes were directed to purely material and natural ends. Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say “I” and “me,” which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty, and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past.17

Whether this picture of hands-on divine guidance is friendlier towards present day Intelligent Design theory or towards theistic evolution, a la BioLogos, will be a matter for debate. Lewis does not draw the distinctions that are customary in contemporary debates surrounding evolution—macro- versus micro-evolution, Evolution qua mere common descent versus Evolution qua wholly unguided, random process, and so on—making it difficult to say with certainty what he would say if he were here today. It seems likely, however, that Lewis would not have expected the natural sciences to be able to detect God’s supernatural guidance of man’s evolutionary path any more than he expected the modern archaeologist to be able detect the moment when our ancestors crossed the threshold from beast to man, and that likelihood might count as a strike against the ID movement’s claim on Lewis. In any case, Lewis plainly outlines a view that is quite compatible with the standard evolutionary picture of common descent and that hardly amounts to Scientistic reductionism. In short, Lewis made it quite clear in his writings that he believed that there is no real conflict between mere evolution and mere Christianity.

Surprised by Jack

Whatever Lewis may have believed in private, as a spokesperson for the faith, Lewis consistently allowed that mere Christianity was compatible with mere evolutionary science, and he even took the trouble to articulate his understanding of the Fall in such a way as to harmonize it with his belief in human evolution. While some recent writers have attempted to wield Lewis as weapon in intra-Evangelical debates around Evolution, to wield a thinker is, as Martin Buber says, to treat that thinker as an ‘It’ rather than as a ‘Thou,’ to treat him as an object to be used rather than as person with the right and capacity to defy our expectations.18 We evangelicals have become so accustomed to inserting quotable quotes from Lewis’s corpus into our sermons, books, power-point presentations, Facebook walls, and Twitter feeds that we drowsily pass over the surprising elements of his thought—the elements not easily reconciled with our clean-cut theological shibboleths—without even noticing. This is an intellectual habit ripe to be broken, and it is high time we allowed the real Jack to shatter the cultural icon—indeed, the mirror—we have made out of him. At this watershed moment in the history of the Church, when so much seems to threaten to upend the faith once delivered—whether scientific or archaeological discoveries, cultural trends, or newfangled philosophies—there is doubtless much that the greatest modern exponent of mere Christianity can teach us to help us navigate these troubled times. But it is only by opening ourselves to being surprised by Jack that we will be capable of actually learning something from him.

Notes

1. C.S. Lewis to Joseph Cranfield, Feb. 28, 1955, unpublished letter, Wade Center Collection, Wheaton College, as cited in West, “Darwin in the Dock,” 113
2. Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry?,” in The Weight of Glory, 137
3. Lewis, “The Funeral of a Great Myth,” 85, 86
4. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 185-91
5. Ibid, 185
6. Ibid
7. Ibid, 186
8. Ibid, 187
9. Ibid, 188, my italics
10. Ibid
11. Ibid
12. Ibid, 24
13. Lewis, Miracles, 23
14. Ibid
15. Lewis, “The Funeral of a Great Myth,” in Christian Reflections, 91
16. Lewis, “Two Lectures,” in God in the Dock,
17. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 68
18. Buber, I and Thou, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996)


David Williams is the campus staff for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's Graduate & Faculty Ministries at NC State University, Meredith College and Campbell Law School in Raleigh, North Carolina. A native of North Carolina, David earned his MAR from Westminster Theological Seminary and his ThM from Duke Divinity School. He has taught students from grade school to college at St. David's School and Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, respectively. In April 2012 David organized the symposium Biblical Faith in an Age of Science: Adam and Eve, Evolution, & Evangelicalism at NC State University, which was cosponsored by InterVarsity and Ratio Christi. As a part of his ministry, David works to encourage healthier and better-informed conversations about the Christian tradition and modern science in both the university and the local church. You can follow him on his blog at www.resurrectingraleigh.com.

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Chip - #75407

December 18th 2012

Hi David,

The “picture of hands-on divine guidance” that you’re attempting to paint that “frees Christians to accept evolutionary science without knuckling under to reductionistic Scientism” would be great if only evolutionary science would even consider the possibility of divine guidance.  But even the theists at BL generally reject such notions as anti-scientific “tinkering.” 

Given this, maybe we’re not quite as “free” as you seem to believe.  On the other hand, if you can provide one—just one—reference in the published biological literature that discusses divine guidance in the context of evolutionary theory (without scoffing or derision, that is), I’ll reconsider what you’re saying here.  


David Williams - #75410

December 18th 2012

Hi Chip,

Thanks for reading and commenting.  My purpose in this essay is not so much to promote a particular model for relating Christianity to evolution as much as it is to set the record straight about what C.S. Lewis actually said.  Indeed, Lewis seems to favor a more hands-on view of God’s involvement with evolution than many folks at BioLogos would be comfortable with.  But I say kudos to them for being willing to own up to that and for not asking me to squeeze Lewis into a more convenient box.  

My interest here is for us to be a) honest about what Lewis actually said, and b) more keenly aware of what our theological options are.  I think Lewis gives us some creative and helpful ways for navigating our contemporary theological challenges and that he is worth paying attention to.

Anyways, I’m not sure what you’re referencing when you mention my believing we’re “free.”  “Free” in what sense?  Is there a particular passage in my essay that you’re thinking of?


Chip - #75417

December 18th 2012

David,

The free reference came from your piece; here’s the larger context: 

God guided the evolution of humanity ... By maintaining the distinction between Evolution as a scientific theory and Evolutionism as a popular Myth it becomes possible for one to be a full-blooded theistic evolutionist with both a robust belief in God and a robust belief in evolution. The distinction frees Christians to accept evolutionary science…

Well, no—not really.  If evolution really means what most mainstream devotees say it means, evolution does not allow “guidance” of any sort—hands on or not.  Thus, my challenge to find a single mainstream quotation to the contrary. 

Finally, c’mon.  Your whole series is all about “relating Christianity to evolution.”   If not this, then what “contemporary theological challenges” are you concerned about?


Keith Elias - #75418

December 18th 2012

Chip;

If evolution really means what most mainstream devotees say it means, evolution does not allow “guidance” of any sort—hands on or not.  Thus, my challenge to find a single mainstream quotation to the contrary.

 

Would you consider rejecting the biological nature of birth because you cannot find any references in the mainstream medical literature to the existence of the soul?


David Williams - #75421

December 18th 2012

Chip,

I never said I wasn’t interested in “relating Christianity to evolution.”  Of course I am.  I only said that the aim of this piece was “not so much to promote a particular model” of doing that.  You’ll note that my piece offers no evaluation of whether Lewis was right or wrong.  I never offer a defense of what Lewis said.  I just tell you what he said and leave you to make of it what you will.  Some will read this and decide that Lewis must be dismissed as heterodox.  Others will not be willing to throw Lewis under the bus and will, perhaps, be led to consider his ideas or ideas like them to be live theological options.  Personally, I would prefer people take the latter option, but, hey, it’s a free country.

As to the distinction between Evolutionism from Evolution freeing Christians to believe in the latter, I think you may be confused.  If you define “mainstream” evolutionary theory as eschewing any possibility for divine guidance to evolution, then, yes, by definition TE conflicts with “mainstream” evolutionary theory.  In other words, if Richard Dawkins gets to decide what counts as “mainstream” evolutionary theory, then we can expect that Theistic Evolution will be on the outs.  But how is that relevant?  Might a Theistic Evolutionist not just accept his or her place outside of the “mainstream” and get on with life?  Or might not a Theistic Evolutionist challenge what the “mainstream” devotees say, noting that by claiming that evolution is not supernaturally guided, they have gone beyond making scientific claims to making metaphysical ones?

Your argument strikes me as being a bit like saying that one cannot be a Bostonian and a Yankees fan because most Bostonians (“mainstream” Bostonians, if you will) are Sox fans who root against the Yankees.  A Bostonian Yankees fan may be pretty lonesome, but he is hardly a logical impossibility.  It’s not like Bostonians are by definition Sox fans (no matter what most Bostonians will tell you).  


Seenoevo - #75431

December 18th 2012

“Divorce and remarriage do great harm, also to children,family, friends… So Barry and Shirley can stay married without loosing their salvation and even be blessed, but will also see spiritual damage as a consequence of their sin and as a big warning not to fall in such a sin again.”

But certainly no damage to, say, their children, who under Barry and Shirley’s teaching and example will know that they too can divorce and remarry without eternal harm?

 

“Christians can’t sin without great costs.”

But they can sin (i.e. continue in sin) without really really great cost,

just so long as they’re a Christian?


beaglelady - #75462

December 19th 2012

Seenoevo,

Should we assume that you have never, ever, lusted after a woman you aren’t married to. You simply never have sexy thoughts about females, right?  That would be committing adultery in your heart, you know.    


2cortenfour - #75447

December 18th 2012

Daddy says to his little girl, “Let’s read through the Bible!” 
“OK Daddy!”
So Daddy and daughter start reading Genesis…. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth….And God saw that it was good…..the Lord formed the man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breathe of life, and the man became a living being… But for Adam no suitable helper was found…so… The Lord made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man…”
“Daddy?” the little girl said, “Is this story true? Is that what happened?”
“Well, not exactly, honey. You see this story is what we call a Myth. It has a true meaning, but it never really happened.”
“So it’s a true story but it never really happened? Daddy, I’m confused!”
“It’s complicated honey…. You see, scientists tell us that this story can’t really be true, but we can still get something good out of it, because it has a good message…”
“Oh…. OK Daddy…. So there wasn’t really an ‘Adam and Eve’, right?”
“That’s right.”
“So it’s not a true story.”
“Well….yes and no…. Lets just keep reading, OK?”
[Months later]
“Do you want to read some more of the Bible today, honey?”
“Sure Daddy!”
“OK, let’s see, where did we leave off….? Here we are…  Matthew 23:34”
“Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar..”
“Wait Daddy! ...Abel?”
“Yes, honey, Abel”
“Wasn’t he from the Adam story?”
“Well…yes, he was Adam’s son…”
“But didn’t you say Adam was a fake person?”
“Yes, I guess… In a way..”
“So Abel was fake too, right?”
“I suppose so… he didn’t really exist - its just a story…”
“Was Zechariah real?”
“I’m pretty sure Zechariah was real… he came later in the Bible”
“So how come Jesus didn’t know Abel was a fake person, Daddy?”
“Well Jesus didn’t know everything - He was just going by what He read in His Bible.”
“Oh….so Jesus was wrong, then…”
“Well I wouldn’t say that… He was just mistaken”
“But Daddy you said Jesus was God…. How can God make a mistake about the Bible?”
“I’m not sure, honey….let’s keep going.. OK?”

Somebody’s mistaken…
Is it Daddy?  Or Jesus?


Jon Garvey - #75457

December 19th 2012

Indeed, Lewis seems to favor a more hands-on view of God’s involvement with evolution than many folks at BioLogos would be comfortable with.  But I say kudos to them for being willing to own up to that and for not asking me to squeeze Lewis into a more convenient box.  

David, to be fair there has not been much stress on the “more hands on” approach of Lewis to evolution in your series, or indeed in BioLogos coverage of Lewis in general. It seems to be considered sufficient to claim him as “pro” rather than “anti”. And it is a significant issue, because there has been quite a lot (like reams) of discussion here about the crucial distinction to orthodox theology between a TE in which God is actively involved and one in which he is not.

To me it’s a little like the Fundamentalist-inclined Evangelicals who are happy to cite Lewis’s name, but get into a slight confusion because he was a smoker - they accommodate Lewis by avoiding critiquing his tobacco habit, though that issue is trivial. A just treatment of Lewis on evolution would deal with how, and why, his position differs from ones own (in this case, meaning the prevalent BioLogos view as the host for your series, rather than your own as his spokesman).

To Lewis, I suspect that God’s sovereignty over any evolutionary process was as crucial to his accepting evolution as it was for Asa Gray or Hodge or Warfield, and in our own age to someone like David Wilcox.

It’s a similar case to Lewis’s treatment of Adam and Eve - the primary distinction to be drawn there is not that he considered the story to be mythical rather than historical, but that he considered it to be inspired and true rather than human and erroneous. The issue of “true myth” is very instructive, but secondary to his key concerns.

In the same way, the factual truth of evolutionary events was a matter of secondary importance to him, because his ultimate concern was about a creation guided by God, by whatever means, as opposed to an autonomous or deistic process.

That needs addressing in the field of theistic evolution, one of whose best and most theologically orthodox theorists ( R J Russell) has described the commonest approaches as “statistical deism”.


David Williams - #75458

December 19th 2012

Fair enough, Jon.  I haven’t put all that much emphasis on Lewis’s idea of “hands on” divine guidance to evolution.  (We need to be cautious here, lest this phrase “hands on” gets away from us.  Lewis never used that phrase.  That was my phrase for describing Lewis’s view.  Lewis says “God perfected” the organism that would be man through centuries of development.)  I’m not sure how I could have better emphasized it, however, without making things up.  Lewis just doesn’t say all that much about the “mechanism” driving evolution.  You can “suspect” Lewis would have said whatever you like, but I have tried to be pretty conservative and stay close to the primary sources.

I think you’re dodging on the Adam and Eve bit and that you may have misunderstood Lewis’s concept of “true myth” (by which he did not mean that the story was historical after all).  In any case, my main purpose in the sections on Genesis and Adam was simply to show that what BioLogos folks have been saying is fully (if surprisingly) compatible with what Lewis says in his public writings.

Now I’m going to go a little bit off of the reservation here and stop talking about Lewis for a second.  Please help me to understand why you and R.J. Russell believe that God’s creating via evolution (as driven by chance variation and natural selection) amounts to Deism.  Look God causes the rain to fall and the sun to shine on the just and the unjust.  Rain and sun are natural processes.  Not a single sparrow falls to the ground (even sparrows that have died of natural causes) apart from the will of the Father.  Just because these things are regulated in a law-like way, it doesn’t follow that they are not regulated by God who, as the letter to the Hebrews says, “upholds the universe by the word of His power.”  The regular, the law-like, and the statistical do not, so far as I can see, necessarily exclude divine action, they just point to regular and statistically predictable divine action.  Just as I do not conclude that the regularity and “naturalness” of the sunrise requires that God has nothing to do with it, so to can I allow that the regularity of chance variation and natural selection are upheld and, if you like, “guided” (in regular and law-like ways) by God.  If that’s possible, then we’re talking about Theism, not Deism.  


Jon Garvey - #75465

December 19th 2012

Hi David

I don’t think I was confusing Lewis on “true myth”. As I understand the material in your posts, Lewis envisaged the Spirit of God being able to bring eternal truth through the non-historic, even by the gathering of existing ANE stories if necessary. My point was that he was not viewing what resulted as “erroneous” because it was non-historic. Whether he was right or wrong on that is, as you correctly say, another matter - as indeed is whether his acceptance of that category of myth was in any way a denial of an historic fall, which seems far more integral to his thought than it is to many now.

You’d have to ask R J Russell what he means by “statistical deism”, but as one of the major thinkers in the science-faith field he knows more about theistic evolution than most. Russell’s writings are extensive, but he says a lot about divine action, developing, as you may be aware, his idea of God’s ordering of quantum events as being compatible with science, since they are unspecified by science. He’s pretty scientifically “conservative” there - others like Plantinga would argue that we need not be so precious about the inviolability of natural law, that being a leftover of 18th century determinism.

The question is why Russell should want to find means for divine action, and though I’m not sure he spells it out, I shall draw a parallel from David Wilcox which I think is valid. One starts, maybe, from the descriptions of God’s special providence (Russell’s preferred phrase) in Scripture, which shows a detailed, responsive care for every creature - in their design (“consider the lilies of the field”) and in life and death (not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of your Father”). One might add also the providential care for humans in general, and individual believers (and their hair!)in particular, which the other examples are given to illustrate.

Deism arose around a deterministic science: so God might determine each and every event simply by laws and initial conditions, and Laplace’s demon could predict them all. God’s sustaining of the Universe had no material effect on this, because all his actions followed the laws. Nevertheless, deism still teaches lawlike divine action, and it makes little difference if that action is secondarily autonomous (the laws work themselves out) or is God’s ongoing work according to lawlike habits. In neither case are the laws interactive with the lily, the sparrow or the believer - unless you want to interpret being run down by a bus or crushed by an asteroid as “providential care” via the laws of momentum and motion.

But nowadays, physics is found to be indeterminate at the quantum level (and quantum events can dictate the direction of evolutionary mutations), and possibly at the level of chaos theory too. Laplace’s demon is out of a job. Evolution, as we now know, is highly contingent - far more so than it was under Darwin’s original theory for a number of reasons, eg the randomness and non-homogeneity of variation, the weakness of natural selection as compared to drift, and the sheer complexity of the process. It is just impossible for special providence as described above to operate exclusively via lawlike necessity, if one also holds that chance is independent of God’s providence. 

Of course, if one accepts the biblical teaching that chance events are under God’s control, as Wilcox does when he says that chance is God’s hand at work, then one is already where Lewis seems to stand. To Wilcox it is a definitional matter:

Theistic evolution, by definition means the directed realization of God’s eternal decrees by his absolute control of all natural processes.

Wilcox clarifies his position by saying he lacks the faith to believe, as the naturalists do, that all we see in evolution could result without the guidance of God, which is clearly to say that law alone won’t do it.

Nobody in the ring has a problem with describing lawlike events (here understood as natural laws, rather than say moral laws) as God’s faithful activity, direct or indirect. The problem comes from confining God’s activity in nature to such laws, because what we now know of natural law does not allow such detailed care. Put in other terms, the laws contain insufficient information to specify the outcomes.

Russell, Wilcox and so on resolve that by restoring God’s teleological activity in other areas. Many at BioLogos seem to have resolved it by eliminating detail in God’s will and control: “Not one sparrow” becomes “flying creatures still exist.” This is sometimes stated overtly (though never justified in detail) in terms of nature’s “autonomy” or “freedom”.

Does that begin to address your question?


David Williams - #75539

December 20th 2012

Yes, that is very helpful.  And I should say that I am not sure where to locate myself on the map of current options.  I am nowhere near YEC, but I am also unhappy with Kenneth Miller’s idea that, for all God cares, we could have turned out to be exceptionally sharp mollusks.  I like Plantinga’s idea that Intelligent Design ought to be conceived of as a discourse, rather than as an argument.  As an argument ID strikes me as an attempt to revive “the God of the Gaps” by prying open gaps in contemporary science.  That strikes me as an unwise and unnecessary procedure if God could conceivably providentially create the world as-is through regular, law-like, “natural” processes.  

If you don’t mind me asking, Where do you find yourself in this theological tangle?  

In any case, I am neither a scientist nor the son of a scientist.  I come to this discussion as someone trained in critical biblical scholarship, as a reader of Lewis, and as a pastor to graduate students and faculty (most of whom work in the sciences).  

I’m sorry that I misread you as misreading Lewis on myth.  I also think you’re right in thinking that Lewis thought a historic Fall was more important than some at BioLogos seem to believe.  But I suspect that the bare-bones conception of the Fall that Lewis defends in The Problem of Pain is compatible with all of the paleontological, archaeological, and anthropological data that folks like Giberson are trying to honor, primarily because, for Lewis, the Fall is fundamentally a spiritual and moral event which would not necessarily leave any empirical footprint.  


Jon Garvey - #75548

December 20th 2012

Where do you find yourself in this theological tangle?

Ha-ha! Ploughing a lonely furrow, of course! How to summarise? The scientist in me thinks there are indeed some big holes in current evolutionary theory, but that’s a secondary issue really - my Reformed theology can sit quite happily with God’s “providentially creating the world as-is through regular, law-like, ‘natural’ processes.” Underpinning that, of course, is the classical theistic conception that every event with an efficient cause is also primarily willed by God, so the division between “natural” and “supernatural” is just unhelpful theologically, though useful to science as “the study of efficient causes”.

More important, as I’ve explored this field, is the realisation that there’s nothing in evolutionary science proper that is necessarily incompatible with conservative theology, including a historical fall and, maybe, even an actual Adam, if carefully worked through. If the fall did not leave an empirical footprint, then it is beyond the purview of science and “the paleontological, archaeological, and anthropological data” are irrelevant. Having a high doctrine of Scripture, but avoiding crass literalism, the science and the theology seem well on the way to convergence. So I’m quizzical about much of TE’s perceived need to rewrite many areas of theology, and conclude that the motives are theological (or political, sociological, psychological etc) rather than scientific.

If nothing else that theological revisonism is an unnecessary barrier to persuading Evangelicals of evolutionary science’s benign nature. When it gets incoherent, as when trying to graft process theology’s “free creation” on to Evangelical creation doctrine, it’s a barrier to reason as well.

A couple of thoughts on design “inferences” and “discourses”.

(a) Stealing fom Plantinga, it seems to me that “design” is usually intuitively perceived, not proven. That intuition, though, is universally if unconsciously used by scientists, eg in assigning “function”, or choosing the more “beautiful” of two theories. So by rights it ought to be admissible in looking at biology. It’s really, then, a question of arguing that teleology is already active within natural science rather than pushing to make it so.

(b) That said, the role of God’s providence, other than the mere execution of known simple laws, must logically produce an outcome different from the outcome in its absence. Russell says as much, as does Wilcox when he says he lacks the faith to believe low-contingency outcomes would occur apart from God’s guidance. If so, then in principle one ought to be able measure outcomes different from those one would predict from theory, thereby putting design into the scientific arena. That may well be impossible in practice because of the vast number of variables, but I don’t think that can yet be proven. So, eg, Doug Axe’s work on the actual shape of protein search space is worth doing to give evolution a more mathematical foundation.

Broadly, though, such research is likely to demonstrate only organisation arising despite very low probabilities. Since chance is merely the lack of a known cause, the TE should surely have the conviction to affirm God’s primary providential agency, or if not to admit to being, in practice, deistic. I don’t see what’s wrong with preferring “design” to “extreme contingency” as a matter of inference, if not of scientific “proof”.

 


beaglelady - #75594

December 21st 2012

David,

Please point me to where Ken Miller says that for all God cares, we could have turned out to be exceptionally sharp mollusks.  


David Williams - #75596

December 21st 2012

You know, beaglelady, come to think of it, I’ve only ever hear John West attribute that line to Miller.  I’ve never seen West’s documentation.  As rule, I am much more sympathetic to Miller than I am to West & co.  So I would be very pleased (and not all that surprised) to find out that Miller never quite said that.  West quotes Miller to this effect on page 110 of The Magician’s Twin but the footnote cites another work by West and not anything by Miller.  It’s actually a little fishy, now that I think about it.


Eddie - #75600

December 21st 2012

Miller has said something very close to that.  It may have been in a debate rather than in one of his books.  I don’t have the reference at hand, but as soon as I find it, I’ll pass it along.  It may be after Christmas, though.  (I add that West is a careful scholar and that it is very unlikely that he cannot document the remarks of Miller.  If you are in doubt, and don’t want to wait for me, write to West at Discovery.  I am sure he will oblige you with his source.)

In any case, the issue is bigger, because Miller is not the only one.  Many ASA-TEs have said the same thing, with variants.  I stumbled across one exchange in an ASA group where someone suggested that it could have been an intelligent dinosaur that got endowed with the “image of God.”  There were a score or more of churchgoing TEs participating in the discussion; some of them supported the idea, and not one of them objected, to say:  “No, God intended man, and God made sure that he got man.”  And on this site, less than a year ago, when some of the biologists were asked whether God controlled all the outcomes of evolution, they were very slippery and would not commit, mumbling things about nature’s “freedom” and/or being “‘Wesleyan.”  But if God wasn’t controlling the outcomes then he couldn’t have guaranteed the existence of man.

So this theme is much bigger than Miller.  It’s connected with strong tendencies of many TEs to celebrate “randomness” as God’s wonderful way of creating, and it’s connected with flirtations with Open Theism—more than flirtation, in the case of Polkinghorne (or so I’m told by people who know Polkinghorne’s thought intimately), and it’s connected with the general distaste of most TEs—especially the biologists among them—for any suggestion that God “intervened” in nature, and with a general preference for a natural world that, being “fully gifted” (Van Till) and having its own “created capacities” (Murphy) runs itself (albeit with God’s concurrence) once set in motion and which, since its running depends much on randomness (according to several BioLogos science columnists), cannot guarantee any fixed outcomes.

I’m not saying that you hold to such a form of TE, David, but I’ve been studying up on my TEs lately, and I’ve seen these themes and conclusions repeatedly.  The idea that God may not have fixed all the results of evolution in advance, and may not have even fixed which biological form would emerge suited to receive the image of God, represents a significant (I don’t say majority) strand of TE thinking within the ASA, and it has appeared here on BioLogos.  TEs who are opposed to it should speak out strongly against it.  But I’ve noticed a strong reluctance of TEs to publically contradict other TEs.  It appears that they don’t wish to seem divided in the face of ID and creationist opposition.  But the truths of Christian theology should come before such political considerations.  If TEs have fundamental differences amongst themselves over whether or not man was intended and guaranteed by God, those differences should be aired, loudly and publically, on this site and in all other TE venues.  An orthodox understanding of creation is at stake, and if TEs are seen by the evangelical world as “soft” on this issue, TE’s fortunes within the evangelical world will suffer a major downturn.


Jon Garvey - #75602

December 21st 2012

I’ve never read Miller talking about molluscs, but then I’ve not read much Miller. I assumed, David, you were simply talking of a commonplace notion rather than parroting a quote from a rival Lewis scholar over which you now have second thoughts!

I didn’t comment on it (though I did write you a detailed reply to your question) because it is a commonplace, in essence, on this board certainly. I can’t comment on the ASA, being a Brit who was in full-time work when that board was active. But the belief that evolution is largely autonomous, but either broadly programmed by the Creator to produce intelligence by convergent evolution, or just bound to do it by luck eventually, often crops up. God is happy that an intelligent species appears - whether mammalian, reptilian or molluscan, and to put his image upon it. More often than not, my suggestions that mankind might have been specifically willed by God have been greeted with cries of “micromanagement” (or sometimes, I kid you not, “Well, you’re Reformed, aren’t you?”)

It shouldn’t be controversial that the view is common, whether or not Ken Miller subscribes to it, to anyone familiar with theistic evolution discussion. The question is, if you disagreed with it when you thought Miller said it, do you disagree with it when others say it?


David Williams - #75604

December 21st 2012

Jon, I wouldn’t say that I flat out disagree with it.  I can’t prove that God specifically intended our five-fingeredness and bi-pedality.  But I do think that that is a metaphysical question lying beyond the purview of the natural sciences.  I don’t think that recognizing the physical and logical contingency of the evolutionary process entails that God might not have willed that process to turn out homo sapiens in particular.  There’s a lot of ways in which we could say that He did that, too.  For instance, one might take a Molinist tack and say that God chose to actualize the possible world which He foresaw as producing homo sapiens via evolution.  To my mind, there’s no reason why TEs should say, with any degree of assurance, that God did not specifically will for human beings to evolve.  The fact that many do seem to make that claim in that way makes me scratch my head.


beaglelady - #75616

December 21st 2012

Clearly, God wanted a white male fundagelicall!  


David Williams - #75606

December 21st 2012

Thanks, Eddie.  I would be interested to see the reference and its context.  

Yeah, I really don’t understand why Polkinghorne goes the Open Theism route.  As you’ll see in my comment below (#75604) I think that TEs who resolutely go the route that you’ve identified—saying that God definitely did not see to it that evolution produced specifically human beings—are making a mistake.  And, yes, my sense is that you’re right that a lot of TEs seem to go that route.  But I don’t think it’s a necessary entailment of Theistic Evolution.  I think TE is compatible with a number of different views of divine providence, including a thorough-going Edwardsean Calvinism.  Maybe I’m crazy.


Eddie - #75608

December 21st 2012

Thanks for this response, David.  It’s so refreshing to hear, on this site, one theistic evolutionist say that some other theistic evolutionists are making a mistake.  It almost never happens.  Usually all the TEs here lock arms against the invading hordes of IDers and creationists, and don’t publically air their differences.  Your comments are a hopeful sign for a new era of open discussion on this site.  Especially for those ID proponents who don’t reject evolution, but only some anti-traditional theological claims that some TEs insist on packaging together with evolution. 


Eddie - #75613

December 21st 2012

Hi, David:

Here is one passage by Miller, not about mollusks, but along the general line suggested by West:

The passage is from his second book, “Only a Theory.”  The pages aren’t numbered in the Google preview, but look for the passage above the subtitle “Meaning.”  (I think it’s pages 152-53 in the original book.) 

Miller writes:  ” ... evolution ... was almost certain to produce a species like ours ...”
 
Well, “like ours” sounds promising, though “almost certain” doesn’t sound much like the outcomes decreed by the Biblical God to me.  But let’s look at “a species like ours”—what does Miller mean by it?

“Turning our attention to the special case of our own species, we can be fairly confident, just as Gould tells us, that our peculiar natural history would not repeat, and that self-awareness would not emerge from the primates. Indeed, we would have no reason to suppose that primates, mammals, or even vertebrates would emerge in a second running of the tape. But as life reexplored adaptive space, could we be certain that our niche would not be occupied? I would argue that we could be almost certain that it would be — that eventually evolution would produce an intelligent, self-aware, reflective creature endowed with a nervous system large enough to solve the very same questions that we have ...”
 
So, according to Miller, our “niche” would be occupied—but that “niche” seems to be for “an intelligent, self-aware, reflective creature”—and does not seem to require “primates, mammals, or even vertebrates.”  So the “intelligent, self-aware creature” could be something quite different from man.  He doesn’t say “mollusk”—but it appears that an invertebrate could possibly fill the gap for him.
 
(Just to be clear, I’m not arguing that an invertebrate could be the kind of creature Miller describes.  I doubt that it could.  But whatever I think, Miller seems to open the door to invertebrates.)
 
It seems to me that I came across a much franker and more explicit statement by Miller; if I find it, I’ll pass it along.  This is all I can do for the near future.

David Williams - #75623

December 21st 2012

This is great.  Thanks for doing the digging, Eddie.  

I do sort of wonder how important our five-fingeredness, bipedality, and primativity (to coin a few terms) are to our being bearers of the imago Dei.  Does it really matter whether we are primates or vertibrates?  Or does the divine image consist more in our being “intelligent, self-aware creatures”?  What’s really at stake here?

In any case, as I may have already hinted, I do adhere to a pretty Calvinistic understanding of divine providence and so I am logically committed to thinking that God did intend us to be as we are.  I don’t know why it was important for us to be intelligent hairless apes and not intelligent hornless rhinos or intelligent spineless blowfish.  God’s ways are beyond tracing out, I suppose.

Anyways, don’t feel obliged to dig any further on the Miller thing.  This was very helpful.  I hope you have a merry Christmas! 


Jon Garvey - #75624

December 22nd 2012

David

How important are five-fingeredness, etc? Surely that kind of approach is where TEs go wrong as theists. If theistic evolution is anything, it is a position that affirms that the efficient causes studied by science are not the whole story, and that God’s teleology is lurking behind in the theological realm. Otherwise it is just deism, in the form of what I’ve previously compared to an ancient TV series, Billy Bean and his Magic Machine.

Analogy:

Scenario 1 - I set out to sculpt an interesting piece of wood I’ve found that looks potentially vaguely human. As I whittle away, it begins too look more like a dog, so I go with that idea and am happy that the rather aimless process ended up with a saleable piece of art. Form dictates function, and chance dictates form.

Scenario 2 - I have an idea for a human sculpture for, let’s say, a crucifix for my local Catholic church. I choose wood, tools and process to actualise the clear purpose in my mind. The Catholics only pay me because I didn’t give them a crucified Dog.

Which scenario best accords with Christian doctrine? A whole host of biblical themes point to the second - such as God’s wisdom, craftsmanship, power, authority etc. But principally there is the rather basic truth that he creates according to his purpose, through his λογος, and that his purposes are from eternity - notably his eternal purpose that his Son would triumph through suffering on mankind’s behalf.

What’s at stake is simply whether God created us in his image (for whatever reasons he chose to make us as we are) or whether he cast around creation for a suitable receptacle for this image.

You’ll appreciate the difficulty of sustaining discussion along such lines here from the fact that, by suggesting you may favour a strong view of providence, you have already placed yourself in the camp of white male fundagelicals. Best embrace Open Theism whilst you still have any reputation left!


David Williams - #75631

December 22nd 2012

Uh, oh.  Can we just keep the Calvinism thing between you and me then, Jon?  (As far as the white male thing goes, well, that cat’s been out of the bag for a while!)

What’s at stake is simply whether God created us in his image (for whatever reasons he chose to make us as we are) or whether he cast around creation for a suitable receptacle for this image.

I’m not sure I completely agree with this regarding the question at hand.  I think that the question I’m asking is whether five-fingeredness is a necessary condition of divine image-bearing or whether there might be possible scenarios (or “possible worlds,” if you like) that God might have chosen (in accord with his wisdom and broad purposes) wherein divine image-bearers might be anatomically arranged in another way?  This is essentially part of the larger question of what are the necessary and sufficient conditions of possessing the imago Dei.  I don’t see how one’s answer to these questions commits one to a particular set of views about divine providence and foreknowledge.  Am I missing something?


Jon Garvey - #75635

December 22nd 2012

Ah yes, from that point of view, as a consideration of what “image of God” means, I see your point. But as a friend of mine one said, “Things would be different if only they weren’t the same.” Didn’t Aslan say something about our never being told what would have happened if…?

One thing that struck me as I was playing Christmas carols on soprano sax at our local farm shop just now (funny where ones mind goes) is that it says God created us in his image, rather than that he added his image to us. That doesn’t explain what it is, but does surely give some idea that our very creation was to that end, rather than a post hoc thing.

On the other hand (I thought during the descant to “See Amid the Winter Snow”) I accept John Walton’s thesis that Genesis 1 is a functional account, so that would make the image primarily a functional, rather than a structural, matter. Doesn’t solve the five fingers conundrum, though, since fingers are mostly functional too, especially playing carols on a soprano sax…

Therefore I distinguish, “God made me thus, but he isn’t telling exactly why” from “I turned out thus for indeterminate reasons, but God will run with it anyway.”


Wayne Dawson - #75688

December 27th 2012

It never seemed wise to me to read “image” to be more than a metaphore for the character of God; similar to fruits of the spirit.  We don’t think of oranges when we talk about fruits of the spirit, so why then should we insist on some jolly old man (or whatever) to represent “God’s image”.  Should it not be also the fruits of the spirit?

 

On whether evolution could produce mollusks in God’s image (here I’m mean in the sense of fruit of the spirit, not in the sense of bodily form), I still think we don’t know enough about the world we are investigating.  I would say that it is better to try to understand the world through the eyes of faith, but keep looking and open to what comes our direction. 

 

For example, let’s say that SETI actually intercepts some definite extra-terrestrial communication.   If these extra-terrestrials  looked similar to us (perhaps with four fingers instead of five), as scientists, we would probably begin to conclude that the universe is “designed” with some self-assembly ability that leads to a sentient being of similar morphology.  If instead, they look more like a sharp mollusk, we would probably have to overcome some prejudice, but scientifically, we would have to conclude that sentience does not have any correlation with morphology.  It seems like a mollusk has limited capacity for industry, social justice, peace, stewardship etc.  Even a dog-like morphology has problems in this respect, though I don’t say they couldn’t look like a dumb dog.  Maybe they have two mouths and one ear so they can talk more and listen less —prewired with a social network connection to facebook. 

 

I’m not saying that there are extraterrestrials, but just as example, these are things that the faithful should keep in mind when arguing about matters of faith.  Although we have accumulated considerable knowledge, we are largely ignorant.  When new information comes in, our (so-called) Christian response is akin racing around putting out fires.  Why not instead, be quick to listen and try to understand this world as best we can through our God-given image of patience and thoughfulness, rather than judge everything that doesn’t fit our theological rubric as wrong.  (I, of course, have never had this problem.)  The thing is, we just don’t know a lot about how the world really works, and history shows, that most of the time, when people claim they know, that is when it soon becomes clear that they don’t know.  Humility.  Resting in a manger (a feeding trough for animals).  Just the opposite of what the world expects.  When we are at our weakest, that is where we finally see how the foolishness of God is our strength.

 

always depending on Grace,

Wayne


beaglelady - #75633

December 22nd 2012

Do consider reading Miller’s books.   He’s a respected figure in the science and religion discussion, but is despised by fundagelicals and militant atheists alike.

And maybe you should learn why a mollusk cannot be intelligent, and why it is a grave distortion to suggest that Miller thinks a mollusk would do nicely as an intelligent and self-aware being, worthy of a soul.    


Eddie - #75643

December 22nd 2012

beaglelady:

You are aware, I trust, that octopodes are classed as mollusks?  And that many scientists regard them as highly intelligent?  

I am not saying that Miller named mollusks or octopodes specifically, nor am I saying that octopodes are in the same intelligence class as man.  But your statement seems in need of qualification.

You are also going to have to explain the passage I quoted from Miller, which suggests that a vertebrate body structure is not necessary for high intelligence.


beaglelady - #75615

December 21st 2012

David,

Please give me the quote and I’ll ask Dr. Miller about it.  


beaglelady - #75617

December 21st 2012

Razor clams are exceptionally sharp mollusks. 


Jon Garvey - #75637

December 22nd 2012

There’s an unhealthy taint of molluscism running through this thread. Were not the Ammonites descended from Lot? Have we forgotten that Isaac’s brother was Isnail? Elijah had a mantle - who knows if he did not have tentacles too? We have to leave room for mystery - not everything is cut and dried.


Joriss - #75471

December 19th 2012

“But certainly no damage to, say, their children, who under Barry and Shirley’s teaching and example will know that they too can divorce and remarry without eternal harm?”

If parents sin and come to repentance afterwards and confess their sin, then it is the total picture that teaches a lesson to the children and everybody else.

Is this lesson that you can sin without eternal harm, a free licence to sin, because God’s mercy is that great? Ofcourse not, who say so, deserve judgement (Romans 3:8)

So what is the lesson?

1. Sin does dishonour to God and is evil in God’s eyes. It hurts Him and makes unbelievers blaspheme his name.


2. Sin  brings pain, alienating and disharmony in families and relationships and thus entails inherent punishment - not eternal judgement - that, if that sin is very serious, can last a lifetime.

3. God is faithful and righteous that, on our sincere confession of sins and prayer, because of Jesus’ blood , will absolutely forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Or are 1 John 1:7 and 9 and 2:1 and 2 lies? But God has not promised He will take away the consequences, they often function as a discipline for us.


“But they can sin (i.e. continue in sin) without really really great cost,
just so long as they’re a Christian?”

No you can’t continue in sin! But you can fall in sin every day of your life! Don’t you see the difference?

Was David continuing in sin? No, he wasn’t! Nevertheless he will have committed sins in the rest of his life, and even a number of years later he committed a great sin again, a sin that big that God wanted it made part of David’s history in the bible: the numbering of Israel, what God had not commanded him, for mere pride.

Consider the consequences for David and Israel! But consider also his repentance and God’s forgiveness!

Now grant me to ask you a question:

What do you think about the “salvation status” of a Christian who is divorced and remarried?


Seenoevo - #75520

December 19th 2012

Joriss has written (with some of my emphases):

“And we know that, when David repented, God forgave David’s sins.”

“So also the New Testament assures us that, if we repent and confess, we will ALWAYS have forgiveness”

“And if we do not repent and confess our sins and turn our back on our old sinful life, we will not be forgiven!”

“If parents sin and come to repentance afterwards and confess their sin, then it is the total picture that teaches a lesson to the children and everybody else.”

I ask, what does “repentance” mean?

 

“No you can’t continue in sin! But you can fall in sin every day of your life! Don’t you see the difference?”

Isn’t the difference that

1) In the latter case, one can choose to acknowledge his sin and not only commit to, but make the effort to, with the help of God’s grace (cf. 1 Cor 10:13), not sin again, but

2) In the former case, one does not commit to make the effort to not sin again, and in fact resumes committing the sin?

 

“Now grant me to ask you a question: What do you think about the “salvation status” of a Christian who is divorced and remarried?”

I think the Bible reads that the “salvation status” of such is not good.

 

Now grant me to ask you a last question, which I asked earlier without receiving a response:

In 1 Corinthians 6:9, who was Paul speaking to, and why would he speak so?


Merv - #75537

December 20th 2012

Seenoevo wrote:

In 1 Corinthians 6:9, who was Paul speaking to, and why would he speak so?

He was speaking to the Corinthians.  Why was he speaking so?    Just read a bit earlier in chapter 5 and you will have your question amply answered.  

I’m still waiting for you to respond to to my earlier questions:

How many times do we get to repent and become “ex-sinners” before we’ve used up all of God’s grace?

Why do you fixate on divorce and remarriage?  Is that your status and you are seeking reassurance here?  If so that merits a different kind of response.  Are you seeking self-justification?  (It doesn’t sound like you are—but that would merit another response.)  Are you trying to make a general appeal that we are neglecting repentance (which means turning away from sin) and treating grace as if it were cheap?  If so, I think Joriss and I would agree, although singling out a certain sin (usually not your own) to focus on or denigrate as more heinous than other sins is not a spiritually wholesome (or Biblical) way to deliver your appeal.  I’ll continue to ask you, Seeno, hoping you may be able to answer:  Will God allow me to repent again (and again and again) for a sin that I was already forgiven for once?  Is everyone who ever fell again after their first repentance now beyond God’s grace?  If so, the narrow and wide road metaphor Jesus used would indeed be an understatement!  I prefer to see Jesus’ words in a wider context of all of his teachings ...that He came to save sinners; not dangle one chance for change in front of them and then reject them for any relapses.

There is a joke about a rather judgmental old man who died and went to Heaven.  He was looking forward to the feast, and God came and put some warmed up hot dog fixings on the table.  The man inquired:  “God, I don’t mean to be disrespectful or anything—but I was thinking of the banquet feast with lots of wonderful food!”   God replied “Oh, yeah.  I hear you, and that would have been fun; but I hope you’re okay with this.  It’s hard to get into cooking just for two.”

-Merv


beaglelady - #75542

December 20th 2012

Merv,

Maybe Seeno is projecting. 


Joriss - #75546

December 20th 2012

 Hallo Seenova,
“I ask, what does “repentance” mean?”

Repentance is - you ofcourse know - remorse, regret, feel grief about things you have done wrong to God and other people, and make a decision to turn your back on it, and indeed - as you say - make the effort with God’s helping grace, to not sin again.

“I think the Bible reads that the “salvation status” of such - divorced and remarried christians (added by me, Joriss) - is not good.”

Is such a person, in your view eternally condemned or can such a person return into the “right salvation state” and if so, how? Can you answer that question?

“In 1 Corinthians 6:9, who was Paul speaking to, and why would he speak so?”

He was speaking to those among the Corinthians - maybe the majority of them - who were still living a fleshy life, although they had received the Spirit and spiritual gifts.

Here below I have made a recapitulation of the signs of their fleshy attitude.

 

1Cor.1:11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 [h]Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

1Cor.3:3 for you are still fleshy. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere man? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?

1 Cor.5:1 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. 2 [a]You have become arrogant and [c]have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.

1Cor6:1. Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbourf, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints?

1 Cor.6:7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren

Therefore Paul, knowing al this, asks them: Hwhat??? You aren’t going back and swim in sin again, are you??? And then comes his fiery warning: (1 Cor.6:9) Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor [f]effeminate, nor homosexuals,10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

From their attitude Paul learns that their spiritual life was too shallow, that they had to have a deeper repentance about their sins, a more serious commitment to a holy, God pleasing life and a greater awe for God’s holiness and therefore a greater desire to shun all the kinds of sin they had lived in before. He aimed at their recovery, not their condemnation.


Joriss: “No you can’t continue in sin! But you can fall in sin every day of your life! Don’t you see the difference?”

Seenova: Isn’t the difference that
1) In the latter case, one can choose to acknowledge his sin and not only commit to, but make the effort to, with the help of God’s grace (cf. 1 Cor 10:13), not sin again, but
2) In the former case, one does not commit to make the effort to not sin again, and in fact resumes committing the sin?

Exactly. I could not have said it better


Joriss - #75547

December 20th 2012

I don’t know why all the characters of the last alineas have become fat, sorry, I just uses them to emphasize, like in the alineas before those. But won’t do much harm to the matter…


Seenoevo - #75566

December 20th 2012

Joriss wrote: “Is such a person, in your view eternally condemned or can such a person return into the “right salvation state” and if so, how? Can you answer that question?” Didn’t you already answer the question yourself: “confess” and “repent”?

 

Note: The above may be unintentionally bolded. Due to possible Ghost in the Machine.


Seenoevo - #75567

December 20th 2012

“Why do you fixate on divorce and remarriage?”

I do not “fixate” on divorce and remarriage (i.e. an example of adultery, according to Christ), but chose to “focus” on this because of the following:

1) Apparently, some sins are more serious than others (cf. 1 John 5:16-17),

2) Apparently, this is one of those more serious sins, given the frequency and tone of its treatment in Scripture,

3) It is not only increasingly common, it is also public,

4) The Scripture seems unambiguous on it, and

5) Most importantly, I think Christianity’s view of it was unambiguous, until fairly recent times.

Regarding point #5, and consistent with the subject of this article blog and of BioLogos in general (i.e. the subject of Scriptural hermeneutics), I prefaced the initiation of this particular dialogue with “Choosing an interpretation of a given Scripture verse or chapter which differs from traditional interpretation raises the possibility of other non-traditional interpretations.”

So, as a “scientific” experiment, I sought to see if BioLogos participants with a “nontraditional” view of Genesis likewise had a “nontraditional” view of adultery, and also of repentance.

 

“Seenoevo wrote: In 1 Corinthians 6:9, who was Paul speaking to, and why would he speak so? He was speaking to the Corinthians. Why was he speaking so? Just read a bit earlier in chapter 5 and you will have your question amply answered.”

So, Paul is speaking not to pagans but rather to Christians, specifically, the members of the church at Corinth? [“It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans…” 1 Cor 5:1]

Then, wouldn’t that mean that Paul was warning Christians that if any of them continued in adultery (i.e. in the end, failed to repent of it, failed to stop it), that they would go to hell?

 

“I’m still waiting for you to respond to to my earlier questions: How many times do we get to repent and become “ex-sinners” before we’ve used up all of God’s grace? …I’ll continue to ask you, Seeno, hoping you may be able to answer: Will God allow me to repent again (and again and again) for a sin that I was already forgiven for once?”

The Bible indicates, I think, that God’s grace can’t be used up, it’s infinite. Thus, the grace of his forgiveness is always available if, as Joriss says, “we repent.” How many times do we get to repent? Usually many times, even “countless” times. But not an infinite number of times. For our time on earth, and so our time to repent, is not infinite.

On what basis may a Christian say that he is now forgiven of his adultery because he has now confessed and now repented of adultery, if he now continues in adultery because he now remains divorced and remarried?

    “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.” – Augustine   Note: The above may be unintentionally bolded. Due to possible Ghost in the Machine.
Merv - #75572

December 20th 2012

Seenoevo wrote:

1) Apparently, some sins are more serious than others (cf. 1 John 5:16-17),

2) Apparently, this is one of those more serious sins, given the frequency and tone of its treatment in Scripture,

Actually, if ‘frequency’ of treatment is one of your litmus tests, then we need to compare how much the Bible talks about money/possessions and compare that with the number of times it speaks of sexuality (let alone adultery/divorce specifically).  I haven’t researched this, but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard in a sermon (and read elsewhere) that money and greed is addressed far more than adultery.  This doesn’t justify ignoring passages.  But it does make me suspicious that Christians love to fixate on the sexual sins like adultery or homosexuality because they may feel they personally are above that or don’t struggle with it, but money/possessions/greed—that nets pretty much all of us.  And since we don’t like our affluence being challenged one bit we subconscously cast around for other sins that are a bit safer (for us, we think)—somebody else’s sin.  And we settle on sexuality of one form or another and gladly embrace the distraction since we don’t want anybody to call us to account in regard to the poor.  (For that matter, our whole brou-haha over anti-evolutionism and now ‘anti-anti-evolutionism’ may also be another distraction we too gladly embrace.)  So if you want to adopt Scriptural frequency and tone, then get ready to shift gears, Seeno, when you pick up your Bible and start reading.  Here is an interesting starting point:  Remember Sodom, that city famous for wickedness, and we love to dwell on one specific point of its wickedness as evidenced by our use of the word ‘Sodomite’.)  So what were Sodom’s sins specifically?—well many, of course, and many sexual ones too apparently; but those aren’t what made the short list when Ezekiel spells out their downfall.  See Ezekiel 16:49.  Adultery/sexual sins are not on it.  But something else is.   Yes, Ezekiel has much else to say about lewdness (some of which is indeed sexual).  But a casual reading shows that even most of that is about Israel playing the harlot after other Gods (idols that include money, military might, alliances with wicked nations).   All stuff for which we can’t even bring ourselves to repent of yet (do you remember what ‘repent’ means, Seeno?)  Instead hope we can distract God by pointing out an adulterer or two somewhere else.  Israel wants a king and an army so it can be like other nations.  Disciples want Jesus to throw off Rome and be a military hero and rule by that ever seductive sword).  Church fathers seduced by Rome’s power, and apparently Jesus voice to put the sword away couldn’t be heard any more.  More blood.  And we continue chasing that sword (guns now) in affluent nations today.  “In guns we trust” would be the more accurate slogan to print on our money.  It’s a cruel god we have chosen.  We never learn. 

So if you really want to know what the Bible is about, there you have a bigger picture.  It’s God chasing us.  And we run away to other gods.  The way to Life is indeed a narrow, virtually untrodden path.  You have no idea!   Maybe we can hoist a plank or two off our own heads, before we nitpick about a marriage ceremony somewhere.  Then maybe all together we can try to hear that whispering voice again above all the hideous din of obscene wealth and weaponry.

Now you know what trips my trigger (or should so that I do more than just unload on an unsuspecting blog audience here!)

-Merv


Eddie - #75576

December 20th 2012

Thank you, Merv.  I am glad that you “unloaded.”  These are things you have been meditating on for some time, and it is good that you have finally expressed them.  I find your thoughts wise and constructive.

Lewis—or possibly it was Dorothy Sayers, but I think it was Lewis—also noted the obsession that Anglo-Saxon Christians have with sexual sins, and their blindness to the sins connected with greed and the dominance of the wealthy over the poor.  

I’ve been against Seenoevo’s attempt to derail the discussion on this thread since he started doing so, but you, like God in the case of Joseph’s brothers, have turned bad into good, by turning a nattering criticism about the legalities of divorce and remarriage into a broader spiritual lesson.  Well done.  And since anything that Seenoevo says after this is likely to be banal, I hope that he will remain silent, and that we can put this fruitless discussion of divorce and remarriage behind us, and get back to the subject of the column above.  Or move on to comment on the next column on Lewis, when it appears.


Seenoevo - #75579

December 21st 2012

“I’ve been against Seenoevo’s attempt to derail the discussion on this thread since he started doing so, but you…have turned bad into good, by turning a nattering criticism about the legalities of divorce and remarriage into a broader spiritual lesson. Well done.  And since anything that Seenoevo says after this is likely to be banal, I hope that he will remain silent, and that we can put this fruitless discussion of divorce and remarriage behind us…”

 

Unfortunately, I will not “remain silent” and will continue with my “banal”ities.

Again, as I thought I already made sufficiently clear above, my primary intent was not to focus on any particular sin but rather to see if nontraditional interpretations in one part of the Bible (e.g. Genesis) would cause, or at least be correlated with, nontraditional interpretations elsewhere in the Bible.

To that end, I chose “divorce and remarriage” for the reasons I gave above.

And nowhere in my words did I ever say anything about “legalities”.

You appear to value spiritual lessons, because you applaud Merv for giving you a “broader” one here. I thought the apostle Paul was giving the Christians in Corinth a spiritual lesson when he seemed to be warning them about a matter of life and death, actually, of eternal life death.

Would you say Paul was really just engaging in some “nattering criticism about the legalities of divorce and remarriage”?

 

P.S.

Ironically, C.S. Lewis himself had some unpleasant first-hand experience with issues involving divorce and remarriage. http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/node/31


Joriss - #75581

December 21st 2012

Seenova,
“Didn’t you already answer the question yourself: “confess” and “repent”?”

Yes, that is my answer, but I also said: once forgiven they can stay married lest they should enlarge the disaster, but in your answer to Merv you said:

“On what basis may a Christian say that he is now forgiven of his adultery because he has now confessed and now repented of adultery, if he now continues in adultery because he now remains divorced and remarried?”

So your answer is: confess and repent and divorce again? Am I right?


Merv - #75610

December 21st 2012

I’m just trying to follow Christ’s lead here, Seeno.  Remember, it was the Pharisees who were out adultery hunting and found a woman (they let the man go, apparently).  Jesus didn’t send them on any head-hunting missions.  But the Pharisees ended up being on the receiving end of the spiritual lesson.  The woman only gets told not to sin any more (after being reassured that she hasn’t been condemned! ...and no mention of her having to grovel as a prerequisite condition for Jesus’ mercy!)  .  No big lectures or threats that if she ever does this again she will burn in hell.  Jesus seems to reserve that kind of talk for the Pharisees.  So who do you follow, Seeno?

Well, our family is about to hit the road and our internet access may be spotty over the weekend and coming week.  Merry Christmas all.  Try to show more charitable with each other than what I’ve managed to show so far!

-Merv

 


Merv - #75611

December 21st 2012

...er… that is “try to show more charity!”   

In any case, blessings with the season to you all.


Merv - #75612

December 21st 2012

And thanks, Eddie, for the mention in your reply about Lewis feeling the same way.  That rings true and I probably read him that way somewhere too.  I look forward to more ‘on-topic’ Lewis discussions as time allows.


Seenoevo - #75620

December 21st 2012

Eddie: “I don’t have the reference at hand, but as soon as I find it, I’ll pass it along. It may be after Christmas, though.”

Merv: “Merry Christmas all.”

 

Yes. Merry Christmas to all!

 

It’s good for Christians to recognize and celebrate Christmas, isn’t it? Thank goodness it’s not like the old days. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324461604578189293023870974.html?mod=opinion_newsreel


Joriss - #75628

December 22nd 2012

Hurray, the world is still there! Seenova, since you didn’t answer my question - don’t know; don’t want? - I can only wish you much blessings for the coming Christmas time.
And ofcourse to everyone on this blog: blessings for the coming Christmas days!


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