Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What does the resurrected Jesus say about the after-life?

Rob Bell's Replacement Speaks Out on Bell and Hell

by Shane Hipps - http://shanehipps.com/
November 2011

Editor's note: Shane Hipps, the teaching pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, recently posted his thoughts surrounding Rob Bell's book and the issue of hell. The discussion about hell is still very important for the church today and we encourage you to share your thoughts in the comment section below--we also encourage you to be civil and use Scripture to back up your arguments. Tomorrow, we will feature a post on hell from Francis Chan.

Rob Bell's Replacement Speaks Out on Bell and Hell
Shane Hipps discusses hell, theology,
and the post-resurrection teachings of Jesus.
There is a lot of talk these days about heaven and hell. Recently, a handful of best-selling books have been published on this topic (23 Minutes in Hell, Erasing Hell, Heaven Is for Real, God Wins). Some of these are in direct response to Rob Bell’s book Love Wins (incidentally and ironically, a book almost entirely concerned with this life, not the next one).

As a Christian who believes in the Bible and Jesus, I have found the intensity and certainty of the debate all very bizarre. It’s strange that so much passion and ink has been spilled over something that is all speculation.

Here’s what I mean: If you died, took pictures, and came back to life again, then you would know with certainty what happens after death. Of course, you would only know what happens to you, not everyone else. But if you haven’t died, you can only speculate about what happens to you and everyone else.

This speculation is perfectly fine. As long as we recognize these are only our beliefs. And beliefs by nature are not certain; they are faith based assumptions. That’s what makes them beliefs. Once you can prove them, they are no longer beliefs; they become a kind of knowing. And the funny thing is once you know, you don’t need to debate anymore.

I have never died, so I don’t have a theological position on heaven or hell. I can only entertain theological possibilities. There is a big difference.

I take a position when I know something with certainty. Almost always through direct experience. If someone pinches me, I don’t believe they pinched me. I know it. I experienced it. It doesn’t reside somewhere in my head. Nothing to debate. It happened.

I consider a possibility when it’s something I don’t know. This is something I merely believe. Either because someone I trust told me, or the Bible seems to say it, or reason supports it. But until I’ve experienced it, this is only something I believe– a possibility. And possibilities should be held with an open hand, perhaps with some humility and even humor. Who knows, I could be wrong about what I believe?

Now having said this, I’m only aware of one person who died, and I mean really died, like three days dead, and came back to life again. His name was Jesus. Upon his return from the dead, he didn’t believe anymore; now he knew. So if I wanted some indication about what happens after I die, I should probably pay attention to what he said after he came back from the dead.

Here’s what he said about heaven and hell after his resurrection. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

What did he talk about? Here’s just a sampling:

  • He tells his disciples to make students of him (Mt 28:16),
  • to share the good news of liberation in this life (Mk 16:9-20).
  • He says, “Peace be with you,”
  • and “I’m hungry.” (Lk 24:36-41)
  • He says, “Receive the holy breath; now you can forgive sins.” (Jn 20:22)
  • He says, “It’s me, really, touch my side” (Jn 20:27),
  • and “The fishing is better on the right side of the boat.” (Jn 21:6)
  • He says “Let’s eat” (Jn 21),
  • “Feed my sheep; now follow me” (Jn21:18-20), and
  • “Stop worrying about the future and the fate of other people; just follow me.” (Jn 21:22; Acts 1:7-8)

Not exactly a systematic theology of the afterlife. Mostly, it’s a repeated invitation to trust and follow him and not worry about the future. Apparently, he is also hungry a lot. If anyone had the authority and credibility to provide a coherent-once-and-for-all description of exactly what happens after you die, it would be Jesus upon his return from beyond the beyond. But he didn’t. He didn’t even seem all that interested.

If it were important to him, you’d think he would have written a book about it. Or preached a sermon or two. But he didn’t. After Jesus rose from the dead, he spends his time talking about this life.

It would seem Jesus is more concerned with this life than the next. Perhaps we should be, too.

We only get one, and it’s short.

Genomic Observations About Adam and Eve

Understanding Evolution: Mitochondrial Eve, Y-Chromosome Adam, and Reasons to Believe

by Dennis Venema
October 28, 2011

Today's entry was written by Dennis Venema. Dennis Venema is an associate professor and department chair for the biology department of Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. His research is focused on the genetics of pattern formation and signaling.                                                      

One of the challenges for discussing evolution within evangelical Christian circles is that there is widespread confusion about how evolution actually works. In this (intermittent) series, I discuss aspects of evolution that are commonly misunderstood in the Christian community. In this post, we tackle the issue of why “Mitochondrial Eve” and “Y-chromosome Adam” are not an ancestral couple from whom all humans descend, as claimed by the Old-Earth Creationist organization Reasons to Believe.

It is reasonably well known among evangelical Christians that all living humans trace their mitochondrial DNA back to a single woman (a so-called “mitochondrial Eve”) and that all living males similarly trace their Y-chromosome DNA back to a single male (a so-called “Y-chromosome Adam”). These individuals are commonly assumed by evangelicals to be the Biblical Adam and Eve, the first humans alive and the progenitors of the entire human race. While most young-earth and old-earth creationist organizations make this claim, perhaps one of the best-known organizations to do so is the old-earth creationist / anti-evolution organization Reasons to Believe, who have produced numerous articles, podcasts, and even entire books on the subject.

In contrast to this common evangelical understanding, the scientific picture is rather different. Mitochondrial Eve, though the most recent common matrilineal ancestor of all humans, was but one of a large population living about 180,000 years ago. So too for Y-chromosome Adam: he was also a member of a large population, and he lived about 50,000 years ago [(notice the age span between Eve and Adam of at least 100,000 years; Eve is called in the Bible as the "Mother of all Living," not Adam) - res]. As has been discussed several times here at BioLogos, there are multiple lines of evidence that indicate the human population has never been below around 10,000 members at any time in its history: we branched off as a large population to form our own species.

When presented with the evidence for human population sizes over our evolutionary history, a common point of confusion for evangelicals is how this evidence fits with Mitochondrial Eve. How can we all come from one woman (and one man) but also come from a large population of 10,000 individuals? Aren’t these two observations in conflict?

The answer is no, these lines of evidence fit together. (1) Humans do come from a large population, and (2) all present-day humans do inherit mitochondrial and Y-chromosome DNA from specific individuals in the past.

The reason for the apparent discrepancy lies in how mitochondrial and Y-chromosome DNA are inherited, as we shall see below.

Mitochondria are organelles responsible for energy conversion, and they contain their own small, circular chromosome that they replicate apart from regular chromosomes in the cell nucleus. Mitochondria are not passed on to progeny through sperm, but only through the egg: as such, mitochondrial DNA is passed on solely through the maternal line. Consider a small pedigree (family tree) below. Circles represent females, males are represented with squares. In this family, one grandmother (the woman at the top right of the pedigree) has passed on her mitochondrial DNA to her sons and daughter, but only her daughter passes it on to the next generation. All individuals who have this grandmother’s mitochondrial DNA are shown in blue:

Mitochondrial Eve

Conversely, if we examine Y-chromosome inheritance in this same family, we would see that (obviously) women cannot pass it on to their children. Here, the red lines show all males who have descended from a grandfather of the family (the male at the top left of the pedigree):

Y-chromosome Adam

Now we are ready to examine how these types of DNA are inherited in a larger group, and compare their modes of inheritance with regular chromosomal DNA. While it is not possible to draw out a pedigree for a population of 10,000 individuals, let’s examine a smaller group to see how a specific mitochondrial sequence can “take over” a population of organisms (note that this effect applies to other organisms besides humans that use an XX – XY system of sex chromosomes).

In the family tree below, three mitochondrial DNA variants are present in the first generation (the top row of the pedigree) and a represented with different colors (green, blue and red). Tracing the inheritance of these mitochondrial DNA versions through the family tree shows that all living members of this population (the bottom two rows) have inherited the red version only. The blue and green versions eventually hit a dead end where they were not passed on (either through females who did not have children, or [who were] males). As such, all living individuals can trace their mitochondrial DNA back to this group’s “mitochondrial Eve”, the woman at the top right of the tree with the “Mito 3” variant.

Mitochondrial Eve's DNA Inheritance Patterns

Let’s now examine Y-chromosome inheritance patterns in the exact same family tree. Suppose there are three Y chromosome variants present in the first generations:

Y-chromosome Adam's Inheritance Patterns

Here we can see that the current population has inherited its Y-chromosome DNA from one individual as well (variant 1, the red lines) and that the other Y-chromosome variants (blue and green) hit dead ends through males that did not reproduce or men who only had daughters. All living members of the population trace their Y chromosome DNA back to an individual (filled in with yellow) who lived two generations after their most recent matrilineal common ancestor (the woman at the top right).

Now we are ready to examine regular chromosomal inheritance in this same family tree. Genetic variation on chromosomes other than the Y can be passed through either gender without problem, and individuals can have two variants at a time (one on the chromosome inherited from mom, the other on the chromosome inherited from dad). These key differences (compared to how mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosomes are inherited) produce a very different effect. In this same family, numerous variants (represented by the different colors) have been transmitted to the present generation without loss:
Regular Chromosomal Inheritance Patterns
for Males and Females

Notice the middle couple in the first generation in the pedigree. This man’s Y chromosome did not make it to the present day, and similarly his wife’s mitochondrial DNA did not make it either (scroll up to see this if you need to refresh your memory). So, they contributed nothing to the current generation, right? Not at all: both of them have passed on regular chromosomal variation to the present day (traced as blue and black lines).

While determining correctly that these two individuals share common mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome ancestors, it would be incorrect to examine this population and then go on to conclude that these same two individuals were an ancestral pair that started this entire family. We know this group descends from a larger population because the genetic variation in our present population is too large to explain [it as anything other than] coming from one pair (there are five colors, or genetic variants in this population, and the max any one pair could carry is four, with two each).

While this example examines a small family, the same principles apply to larger groups. Mitochondrial and Y-chromosome lineages, though interesting, cannot be used to estimate population sizes over time. For that type of work, regular chromosomal variation should be examined.

[Further,] Present day human genetic variation indicates that though we all share a common mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome source, these individuals came from a population of at least 10,000 individuals, and that they lived over 100,000 years apart. (If you are interested in examining the evidence for human population sizes, Darrel Falk and I have discussed it previously.)

In summary, anti-evolutionary groups, such as Reasons to Believe, that claim that the evidence for Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosome Adam supports an ancestral couple for the entire human race are not interpreting the data correctly. They have failed to account for the unique pattern of inheritance these types of DNA have in populations.

Photo courtesy of Lewis Schofield.

For Further Reference
Human Y Chromosome Much Older Than Previously Thought
Human sex-determining chromosomes:

X chromosome (left) and the much smaller Y chromosome.


An Open Letter to Women in Seminary

For Men Only? An Open Letter to Women in Seminary

Sometimes women find a mix of support, apathy and downright hostility at seminaries.
Perhaps the best we can do is encourage them that they're loved, valued and needed.

by Kyle Roberts
October 31, 2011

Dear Friends,

I know that seminary can be a mixed bag for women studying and training for vocational ministry. You likely encounter a confusing blend of support, apathy, and even downright hostility—perhaps all in a single day. I can't imagine what it would be like to dedicate oneself to God and to devote oneself to the ministry, while sorting through such a mixed reception from fellow students, professors and church leaders.

I will never forget a female student who, after a class discussion on the theology of gender and ministry, shared—with tears in her eyes—her struggle with this confusing reception. She was about to complete her Masters of Divinity, with the goal of following her passion toward God's leading in a church. But a troubling reality was settling in: the vast majority of the jobs posted by churches in her conservative denomination were explicitly designated "for men only." No mixed message there.

Along with the bleak outlook in certain vocational areas of church ministry, women seminary students can regularly experience forms of oppression or derogation, whether striking or subtle, that can add up to a heavy burden. In many evangelical seminaries, this can be compounded by predominantly male faculties, predominantly male textbook authors, and even by male colleagues who question your right to be there. Of course, each experience is different and each seminary is different, but studies suggest that the increasing number of female students in seminary during the last 40 years has not always equated to a hospitable reception and nurturing environment. (For some reflection on these studies along with a recent study, see "Women's Well Being in Seminary: A Qualitative Study, by Mary L. Jensen, Mary Sanders, and Steven J. Sandage, in Theological Education, Volume 45, Number 2 (2010): 99-116.)

If I may, I'd like to share a brief personal story. During my seminary days, I became theologically convinced of male headship in the church and home. I bought wholesale the argument that a "literal" reading of Scripture necessitates a patriarchal authority structure. We are fallen, sinful people, so we need well-defined, established and static authority structures. Male and female are equally worthy as human beings and both are created in the image of God. But men, not women, are designated the leaders. Perplexed? Don't argue. It comes from the secret wisdom of God. And, of course, from the pen of Paul.

At that point, I hadn't yet taken into account all of the theological complexities, hermeneutical and exegetical ambiguities and ethical implications that go with applying biblical texts to modern situations. For just one example of the exegetical ambiguities, I hadn't realized that "head" (kephale), which most translations render "authority," probably didn't mean for Paul and his audience quite what we mean by it. Many Christians assume that the "head" language in 1 Corinthians 11 designates "authority over," like a CEO over a company, rather than "source" or "origin" (see Phillip Payne, Man and Woman: One in Christ, Zondervan, 2009). They sometimes miss other significant factors, such as Paul's assumption that women "preached" regularly in public (1 Cor. 11:5), that women and men are interdependent of each other and equally dependent on God (1 Cor. 11:12) and that genuine Christian community depends on mutual submission (Eph. 5:21).

While I wasn't prepared to go all the way with my literal hermeneutic (I didn't expect women to wear head-coverings in church or for men to keep their hair short), I was settled in my position; so much so that when the church where I served as youth pastor invited a woman to preach on a Sunday morning, I skipped the service. Thankfully, I didn't make my stand known to anyone but the pastor (as far as I was aware). Had I broadcast my little protest, who knows what damage I could have done to the church—in particular to women who may have already struggled to embrace their status as glorious creatures, created in God's image and equal to men in God's economy (Gal 3:28)?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

23Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the years since, I've changed my position on women in ministry and in the home. I don't need to go into all the exegetical, hermeneutical, theological and ethical (not to mention practical) reasons for that. I'm sure you know them all anyway. But in sum, I came to realize that women and men are equal not just in "ontological worth" but in God's salvation history and that God's planned future for all people is an egalitarian community of mutually submissive, loving, and honoring relationships built on the Gospel of Christ, the Servant-Lord. Why should we structure our churches, families and relationships on the basis of past and present sins and failures rather than on the basis of God's planned future for shalom?

Furthermore, I sense that Paul was concerned less with the details of gender relationships than he was with the advancement of the Gospel. His practical theology of church and family life was meant to serve the Gospel, much like the Sabbath was made for people, rather than people for the Sabbath. In our day, I believe that the Gospel is most powerful and effective when egalitarian relationships are the norm and when the equal worth of women and men is not just affirmed, but exemplified and practiced in the church and home. It's one thing to proclaim an egalitarian theology, it's another to support it and encourage it by practice.

I think back on my immature unwillingness to listen to a woman preach in church with embarrassment, shame and a sense of lost opportunity. But I use that now, I hope, to redouble my efforts to encourage you women who desire to follow Jesus into the often inglorious, sometimes thankless, and at times seemingly-homeless life of ministry.

I'm glad you are studying and preparing for ministry in whatever capacity and role God may call you toward. When you are discouraged with "opposition," whether that opposition is explicit and brash or implicit and subtle, be assured that people do sometimes change their minds. More importantly, know that you are valued and loved and that the Church needs you.

In Christ,

Kyle Roberts
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology
Lead Faculty for Christian Thought
Bethel Seminary
St. Paul, MN

Kyle RobertsKyle Roberts is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Lead Faculty of Christian Thought, Bethel Seminary (St. Paul, MN). He researches and writes on issues related to the intersection of theology, philosophy, and culture. Follow Kyle Roberts' reflections on faith and culture at his blog or via Twitter.

Roberts' column, "Theological Provocations," is published every second Tuesday on the Evangelical portal. Subscribe via email or RSS.

Pete Enns - The Evolution of Adam, Parts 1, 2, 3


by Peter Enns
November 8, 2011

This post is by Pete Enns, and it is taken from his blog at Patheos and re-posted here.

Last week I spoke to a gathering of pastors from the NY Metro presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of America on the problem of evolution and Adam. This topic is a particularly pressing problem for this denomination, since the Westminster Confession of Faith (their doctrinal standard written around 1650) presumes, understandably, that Adam was the first human, created specially by God without any preceding evolutionary process.

I thought I’d summarize what I said to these pastors. My aim was not to force upon anyone views they are not prepared to ingest, but simply to present the options, my own position, and why I arrived at it.

So, my first point was to lay out the options for thinking about Adam in view of evolution.

Evolution can either be accepted (in some form) or wholly rejected. If rejected, one has no problem with an historical Adam as first man, but then one has to find ways to neutralize the scientific data, which is attempted in various (but unconvincing) ways. (Google Al Mohler, Ken Ham, and Hugh Ross.)

No need to get into that here. This group of pastors was already (largely) aware that evolution cannot be dismissed, and so we proceded to other things.

If one accepts evolution, the first thing to note is that one has left the biblical worldview. I think this is an obvious point, but needs to be stated clearly. As soon as evolution is accepted, the invariably result is some clear movement away from what the Bible says about Adam.

Hence, if one wishes to bring Adam and evolution into conversation, one is left with the theological burden and responsibility of bringing them together somehow in a manner does justice to both. The second part of my talk was focused on how that conversation can proceed with integrity (see below).

Back to the flow chart.

So, once one accepts evolution, the question becomes “what do I do about Adam?” I see two choices: Adam is either historical (in some sense) or he is not.

If one wishes to retain a historical Adam, the two options I am aware of (if you know of others, please let us know) are:

(1) “Adam” was a hominid chosen by God somewhere along the line to be the “first man”;

(2) “Adam” was a group of hominids (a view that accounts best for the genomic data that the current human population stems from a few thousand ancestors, definitely not two ancestors).

In my opinion, these two options fail for the same two reasons:

(1) They are ad hoc, meaning that are invented for the sole purpose of finding some way to align the Bible and science. It is generally a good idea to avoid ad hoc explanations, and we rarely tolerate them when others make use of them.

(2) The “Adam” that results from these ad hoc maneuvers is not the Adam that the biblical authors were talking about (a chosen first pair or group of hominids). No biblical teaching is really protected by inventing “Adam” in this way.

This brings us to a non-historical Adam–meaning Adam in the Bible as parabolic, metaphorical, symbolic, or “supra-historical” (a term I learned from Richard Clifford, meaning a truth transcends history but told in historical terms, and therefore not meant to be taken literally).

I gave three options for a non-historical Adam (there are more). The red line joining them indicates that these options are not so much distinct as they are variations on the larger category “non-historical.”

One option is to understand Adam as a literary figure, which would relieve the pressure of thinking of Adam as the first human.

A [second option is a] mythical understanding [of Adam] – which is the most common, I think, among scholars of the Bible and the ancient world–means that the story of Adam is a concrete expression of a deeper reality. (Some would argue that story is really the best form to communicate “deep reality,” but we’ll leave that to the side.)

A third option, which I throw in because I happen to think it has a lot of merit, is to see the story of Adam as a story of Israel and not as the story of the first human. I will explain that more in my next post.

Anyway, those are the options as I see it. Which option(s) is(are) best depends on one thing: accounting well for the relavant exegetical and historical factors.

That is the subject of the next post, but let me preview it here briefly. Any attempt to account for Adam in an evolutionary scheme will have to account for “data.” Scientists work this way, too. “Models” that account for most of the data well (not forced, ad hoc, or idiosyncratic) are models that need to be considered.

Bringing Adam and evolution into serious conversation is really a matter of building convincing models.


Talking to Pastors about Adam and Evolution: Models (1)

In my last post, we looked at some options for how to bring Adam and evolution into conversation. Today, we begin to look at the factors that have to be addressed when building a “model.”

A model is a way of “putting the pieces” together that accounts for as many pieces of the puzzle in as compelling a way as possible. So, when discussing Adam today, a pretty big “piece” is evolution. Talking about Adam in a way that ignores this “piece” will not be compelling.

The same holds for ancient Near Eastern literature. Any talk of Adam that does not account for the similarities and differences between Israel’s origins stories and those of Israel’s neighbors won’t be compelling.

We don’t have all the pieces, however. Think of it as 1000 piece puzzle where only, say, 300, are in the box. Skilled puzzle solvers dump the pieces and begin separating out the edge pieces, and they find that most of the boarder can be put together.

Then they group together similar pieces–those that look like grass and trees, others of sky and clouds, etc. Many of those pieces fit together nicely and are placed inside the frame where the puzzlers’ skill and experience tell them they should go: grass and trees down here, sky and clouds up there.

What the puzzle as a whole looks like is a matter of working with the pieces you have, putting them where they most reasonably belong, and filling in the empty spaces based on your general knowledge of what puzzles look like, and that more sky is likely to be up there, more grass and trees down there, an animal of some sort over here (because one piece has a tell-tale paw on one edge).

OK. I’m killing this analogy. You get the idea.

That is what biblical scholars do. We put pieces together and fill in the gaps as best as we can. Any attempt to solve the puzzle that leaves pieces in the box or puts sky where grass should be will not be compelling.

A good model of Adam will account for the pieces and make a case for where those pieces belong and how they hang together. So, what are the pieces of the puzzle that have to be accounted for? That is what the next slide begins to address.

Adam is mentioned in Genesis and in Paul’s letters (Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15). For each of these authors–living in different times and places–we need to be mindful of three factors.

(1) Near literary context. One must account for the words the text before us, i.e., how it behaves, what it is “saying” on its own terms. This is often refered to as “grammatical-historical” interpretation. So, what do Genesis and Paul actually say about Adam?

(2) Canonical context. What Genesis says about Adam must be placed in the larger context of what the Old Testament says as a whole, and what Paul says about Adam must be placed in the larger context of what the New Testament says about Adam. [This is known as "contextualization" - res]

(3) Cultural context. Neither Genesis nor Paul’s letters written in a vacuum, but in cultures where origins was widely discussed. What these biblical authors say about Adam must be placed against the backdrop of the cultural moment(s) in which they were doing their writing. [Thus, what is their "cultural context?" - res]

One caution is that these factors are not mutually exclusive–they interact with each other, which is sort of the point for why we have to look at all three (hence, the connecting blue lines).

Only after we do the work of thinking through Genesis and Paul in terms of these three interweaving contexts can we bring Genesis and Paul into a meaningful biblical theological conversation and begin answering the question: “What is Adam doing in the Bible?”

Then–and only then–can one turn to the issue of how evolution and Adam can be in conversation.

In my opinion, many of the problems with the Adam/evolution discussion stem from short-circuiting this process. For example, taking the near literary context of Genesis, comparing it to evolution, and saying, “Well, that doesn’t fit.”

Looking at Genesis and Paul in their larger canonical and cultural contexts helps us understand what the biblical authors were saying and why–which helps us understand what we might have the right to expect from the story of Adam.

But that is no quick fix; it is a process that takes some patience. Welcome to the world of biblical interpretation.

OK, I spent too much time talking about puzzle pieces and such. In my next post, I’ll outline some of the details a bit more (unless I think of another analogy and get wordy again).


Talking to Pastors about Adam and Evolution: Models (2)

Near Literary context of Genesis.
  • A perennial issue is the presence of other human beings outside of the Garden (Cain’s wife and the people whom he fears will retaliate for his act of murder).
  • The relationship between Genesis 1 and 2 (how does the creation of Adam relate to the creation of humanity in chapter 1?).
  • The universal feel of the Adam story (Eve as mother of all living).
  • The fact that only death is spoken of as an explicit consequence of Adam’s disobedience, not sin. (Commonly it is asserted that sinfulness as consequence is implied, which raises the question of why something so fundamental to the story of the fall is not mentioned.)

Near literary context of Paul.
  • Romans 5:12 seems to say that death is the result of the sin of each individual, not the disobedience of Adam, which does not easily square with the rest of Paul’s argument in chapter 5.
  • Paul seems clear in thinking of Adam as a real person whose disobedience led to universal death and sinfulness.

OT canonical context.
  • The absence of any overt reference to Adam in the Old Testament after Genesis 5, save 1 Chronciles 1:1, seems significant.
  • The parallels between Adam and Israel’s national history seem to be more than coincidental (both are exiled from a lush land for disobedience to law).
  • Eve’s choice and Adam’s compliance to seek wisdom (knowledge of good and evil) apart from fearing the Lord (obeying his command) parallels the choice between wisdom and foolishness given in Proverbs.
  • Eden is a well-known foreshadowing of Israel’s sanctuaries, which suggests that Adam is more an Israelite (priestly?) figure than the first human.
  • Adam is certainly present typologically in the OT (e.g., Noah, Abraham, Moses are “new Adams”), but not in the way that Paul presents Adam, especially in Romans.

NT canonical context.
  • Although Adam is mentioned elsewhere (the genealogy in Luke 3, 1 Timothy 2, and Jude 14), Paul alone speaks of Adam as the cause of sin and death.

Cultural context of Genesis.
  • When Genesis was written is an extremely relavant factor discerning why it was written, i.e., what we are to expect Genesis to deliver when we read it.
  • Ancient Near Eastern origins stories were ubiquitous in the ancient world, and the similarities and differences with Genesis must be accounted for.
  • The question of Adam cannot be addressed in isolation from Genesis 1-11 as a whole and its ancient Near Eastern parallels.

Cultural context of Paul.
  • Many Jewish writers near the time of Paul talked about Adam, but none of them considered Adam to be the cause of universal sinfulness, which suggests Paul’s reading is not obvious. Also, the diversity of “Adams” in Second Temple Judaism reflects the interpretive “flexible” of the Adam story.
  • In keeping with his Jewish context, Paul’s use of the Old Testament in general is marked by a creative approach, centered on Christ, that is not bound to the meaning of the texts in their Old Testament contexts.
  • Paul’s unique take on Adam seems to be driven by his mission to put Jews and Gentiles on equal footing before God. Appealing to Adam as he does helps Paul make the case of universal culpability before God. (As it is commonly put in the NT scholarly literature, Paul is arguing from solution to plight.)

Like I said, these are merely a partial list of factors that I feel need to be accounted for in any discussion of Adam. Although have my opinion, I am not implying that all these factors necessarily push you in one direction or another. And if you think there are other pressing matters, by all means comment on them below.

The main point in all of this is that Adam in the Bible is a long, intricate, and ongoing discussion. Slogans and bumpersticker arguments don’t help.

Catching Up on Evolutionary Creation: Abstracts & Articles

As promised several months ago, I intend to investigate the spectrum of Evolutionary Creation (mediated creation) and have decided on Biologos as a source for this examination in comparison to my older ideas of Immediate Creation. It has been a journey long overdue and one that I hope to have time to complete - let alone understand.

To begin, I am using the Blog section of Biologos' website to read through specific titles. However there are 91 pages of information here. Which is a lot. So I searched under the phrase "human populations" and have come up with these many articles below in hopes of grasping the Genesis story from scientific explorations and deductions made over the past 4 or 5 years. Moreover, to reduce my investigations even further I intend to read from the most recent article to the last, under the assumption that the more recent articles will summarize and eclipse earlier written works more efficiently.

So I present this blog page here as a reference page to Evolutionary Creation as we begin our explorations and discoveries.

RE Slater
November 8, 2011


Biologos: "Human Populations"

If necessary, please click here:



Apr 5, 2010 ... Some genes in human populations exist in hundreds of forms. The catch, however, is that any individual person can only carry at most two ...

Oct 28, 2011 ... As has been discussed several times here at BioLogos, there are multiple lines of evidence that indicate the human population has never been ...
biologos.org/.../understanding-evolution-mitochondrial-eve-y-chromosome- adam
There are multiple lines of evidence that indicate the human population has never been below around 10000 members at any time in its history. Comments ( 75) ...
Sep 23, 2011 ... When a population of modern humans leave Africa around 50000 years ago, they encounter, and breed with, Neanderthals shortly after. ...
biologos.org/.../understanding-evolution-neanderthals-denisovans-and- human-speciation
descended from this tiny founder population. Even the bugs inside human guts tell the same story, with their genetic variation reflecting the African origins of their ...
BioLogos.org. BY DENNIS VENEMA. Genesis and the Genome: Genomic Evidence for Human-Ape Common Ancestry and. Ancestral Hominid Population Sizes ...
Sep 15, 2011 ... A third point is that as we became human, the population that eventually became Homo sapiens did not suddenly cease to interbreed with other ...
biologos.org/.../understanding-evolution-an-introduction-to-populations-and- speciation
Oct 14, 2011 ... Humans and orangutans, on the other hand, haven't shared a common ancestral population in about 10 million years or more, meaning that it ...
biologos.org/.../understanding-evolution-speciation-and-incomplete-lineage- sorting
Jan 4, 2011 ... The finger appears to belong to a novel hominin population that shared a last common ancestor with Neanderthals more recently than humans, ...
biologos.org/.../made-in-the-image-of-god-the-theological-implications-of- human-genomics-1
Feb 10, 2011 ... As I mentioned in the last post, in all non-human primates, the canine ... Even when working with known populations, the problem of where to ...
biologos.org/.../the-human-fossil-record-part-3-the-discovery-of- australopithecus
Models for Relating Adam and Eve with Contemporary Anthropology ...
Dec 22, 2010 ... At some stage humanity began to know the one true God of the ... all the world's present non-African populations are descended from this tiny ...
biologos.org/.../models-for-relating-adam-and-eve-with-contemporary- anthropology-part-2
Dec 28, 2010 ... If the Retelling Model is taken as applying to this very early stage of human evolution, prior to the time at which different human populations ...
biologos.org/.../models-for-relating-adam-and-eve-with-contemporary- anthropology-part-3
Mitochondrial Eve, though the most recent common matrilineal ancestor of all humans, was but one of a large population living about 180000 years ago. So too ...
Aug 12, 2011 ... The keynote speaker was Francis Collins, speaking on the human ... project and mapping common genetic variation within human populations. ...
biologos.org/.../from-intelligent-design-to-biologos-part-3-an-unexpected- opportunity
relevant. The keynote speaker was Francis Collins, speaking on the human genome project and mapping common genetic variation within humanpopulations. ...
Looking at the total variation in the DNA of humans around the world, scientists have estimated that all our DNA came from an original population of several ...
When the population accumulates a substantial number of changes and ... of evolutionary theory is that all living things—including humans—are related to one ...
... similar to the five fingers humans have on their hands and distinct humerus, .... For example, Falk gives the hypothetical example of two bird populations: a ...
communities were divided into test and control populations, and the testing was .... chance hypotheses simply because finite human beings are unable to identify ...
I am pleased to note that my paper1 speculating on the initiation of human spiritual .... your population disbelieves (for religious reasons) the theory of evolution, ...

scale patterns of evolutionary history can generally be better discerned than the population-by-population or species-by-species transitions. Evolutionary trends ...
... select representative elements that enable us to understand populations that ... God's secondary agents include human beings, natural processes that God ...
Apr 19, 2010 ... Let's examine human chromosome #1 and compare it to the order of ...Populations of mice with very different chromosome arrangements have ...
Apr 1, 2010 ... If human populations were forced to inbreed, would this be 'evil'? Difference in 'degree' or in 'kind'? Reply to this comment ...
Jun 20, 2011 ... It is best to view them as an isolated population of a highly polytypic species ( modern humans). Reply to this comment. This user is in good ...
Jul 22, 2010... down European flight zones, tsunamis that devastate whole populations, ... Life , and certainly human life in this world, simply does not have a ...
biologos.org/.../how-could-god-create-through-evolution-a-look-at-theodicy- part-1
initially liberating in that it released humans from any sense of obligation to an .... and do very well, is select between variants within a population, based on ...
May 8, 2011... blesses the human community through the discovery of such natural ... accidental finds have established that there are several populations of ...
and mobility strategies in extinct and extant hominin populations; published in The. Journal of Human Evolution, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, ...
Sep 6, 2011 ... If the mystery of divinity and humanity fully inhabiting a single being is at ..... to keep up with mildly deleterious mutations in small populations. ...

Oct 18, 2010... 100 amino acids) in natural populations is speaking from ignorance. ... On average, for humans to achieve a mutation like this by chance, we ...
Understanding Evolution: An Introduction to Populations and Speciation ... The Human Fossil Record, Part 4: Australopithecus Conquers the Landscape ...
Jun 25, 2010 ... It is human-made only in the same sense that a person makes up their ... Gregory , I think it is fairer to say that evolution results in populations of ...
May 11, 2011 ... Later, he claims “Darwinism tells us that, like all species, human beings ... Similarly that some organisms in a particular population received a ...
biologos.org/.../evolution-myths-and-reconciliation-a-review-of-why- evolution-is-true-part-2
Mar 22, 2010 ... Chance takes on considerable significance in small populations. .... about the origin of man, the descent of humanity from a single human pair, ...
Jan 29, 2011 ... Within this theater humans play a significant role in the drama .... at least when persons, and not populations, are the focus of the exercise. ...
The LTEE started in 1988 with twelve populations of E. Coli all derived from one ancestral ..... important physiological processes in tetrapods, including humans. ...
May 14, 2010 ... In this view, the earth and its living populations, as initially created, were ... on animal-occupied earth long before the first humans existed. ...
Understanding Evolution: An Introduction to Populations and Speciation ... Made In The Image Of God: The Theological Implications Of Human Genomics—Part ...
Dec 27, 2010... into test and control populations, and the testing was “double blind. .... we start inferring that some sort of super human civilization (Atlantis? ...

Mar 16, 2011... and unspecifiable “personal knowledge”4 possessed by humans. .... and observe them, we can study populations, breeding, lifespan etc etc. ...
Understanding Evolution: Neanderthals, Denisovans and Human Speciation ... Understanding Evolution: An Introduction to Populations and Speciation ...
human fossil from before the flood because God “buried their remains so completely.” ix. The New Geology Evolves. The reader may object that I have dug up a ...