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

Friday, January 6, 2012

How God Created by Evolution: A Proposed Theory of Man's Evolutionary Development


The Bible reflects the ancient cultures in which it was written,
and this very fact proclaims the glory of God.




January 6, 2012, Update

After re-reading the NPR story, "Evangelicals Question the Existence of Adam and Eve" (found further below) submitted on August 16, 2011 (along with my initial opening comments, "Introductory Comments to NPR's Review")  I thought I might provide a simplified formula that might blend the traditional understanding of the Genesis Account to the evolutionary account confronting it. In this way both accounts stand true within their own systems and yet can find working agreement between each other. I had thought of this emendation when considering the impasse between classical physics of yesteryear and its more contemporary twin of quantum mechanics seeking to explain the "large" through terms of the "very small." Left unexplained, we have two separate scientific systems at loggerheads with one another separated by an unexplained paradox lying between them. Similarly with traditional Christianity's impasse of theology with today's evolutionary/scientific discoveries.

Consequently, the impasse that exists between the traditional and contemporary understandings of the Genesis Story could be more simply resolved by offering a small explanation that might recover God's creative acts to the theological satisfaction of both sides. Technically, this commentary should actually fall after the NPR report and not before it, as I am only now updating my thoughts several months afterwards. However, I am making it foremost before all else as a completely separate topic. And when given the time and opportunity I may later try to rewrite this entire section again from a more extenisve biblical, hermeneutical, theological standpoint. My proposal now follows...

R.E. Slater
January 6, 2011



HOW GOD CREATED BY EVOLUTION

------------

A Proposed Theory of Man's Evolutionary Development
from a
Contemporary Christian Theological Perspective

A Suggested Plausible Theory Inter-relating Biblical Theology
with Evolutionary/Scientific Discoveries

by R.E. Slater
January 6, 2011


[This commentary continues from my earlier critique of a National Public Radio commentary submitted on August 16, 2011, listed further below and is titled "Evangelicals Question the Existence of Adam and Eve." Because it created an unnecessary impasse to Christian theology I have consequently written a secondary response to it contained here in this present commentary.... - R.E. Slater]


Introductory Comments

"...In this writer's opinion, I consider Al Mohler's traditional sentiments (as quoted in an earlier NPR review) to be a "false positive assertion" spoken by a church traditionalist unwilling to integrate orthodox theology with present-day academic findings. And yet, by turning that very same traditional Christian sentiment around, I would further submit that we may be able to find theological agreement between (Mediated/Progressive) Evolutionary Creationism to that of the (Immediate/Spontaneous) Traditional Creationism position of late-20th century Evangelicalism. The former relies on present day sciences whereas the later relies on present day interpretive ideologies in order to retain orthodox teachings.

But in order to proceed with finding a corollation between both Christian positions it must be immediately understood that Evolutionary Creationism does not refer to Darwinian Evolution (or, Scientific Naturalism). This distinction has been addressed in another article which drew the conclusion that the former proceeds from a theistic foundation whereas the latter proceeds from an atheistic or agnostic foundation. Though each position uses the sciences, they too differ by ideological interpretation (sic, Differences between Evolutionary Creationism and Darwinian Scientific Naturalism).

To begin then, in this writer's opinion, traditional Christianity has a valid argument for their pointed misgivings regarding the following Christian doctrines as listed below:

1 - original sin and human depravity, known as the Fall, seems to have no initiating point;

2 - the uniqueness of humanity seems inspecific from the animal kingdom in regards to man's creation in the image of God when descending "as a population" from the lower primates;

3 - the origin of sin into the world is also inspecific when regarding Eve and her disobedience (including Adam's); their mutual eating of the fruit of the tree of life; and the involvement of the serpent's deception using human speech and logic. Consequently there is no specific point of disobedience when using the evolutionary model nor a similarly corresponding language of evil;

4 - the typologies of Adam and Christ references of the OT and NT no longer seem pertinent as viewed from within the evolutionary model of creationism.

To this list might be added other traditional theological doctrines of disagreement, however, the point is made here that contemporary theology's model of Evolutionary Creation must re-integrate these most basic of Christian doctrines back into the Christian faith if it were to be considered as a valid counter-proposal of God's creative activity. And so, how can we proceed beyond this impasse if we should attempt a reconciliation beyond the doctrinal watershed of orthodox Christianity's foundational theologies? I submit that it can, and must, be done using evolutionary discoveries couple with contemporary biblical research.


A Proposal

Importantly, let us first begin by saying that the Genesis story is an ancient Hebrew creation story used both for theologic and national purposes by Israel. That it was understood as part of Israel's historical legacy as witness to its oral traditions passed along from generation to generation. That it uses poetic and mythological elements to convey a literary construction. And that the lessons it teaches have importance to understanding Israel's monotheistic religion of God whom they knew by the name Yahweh (YHWH); and who declared Himself to be the "I AM whom I AM." From this interaction we understand then that God is the Creator of the world who judges sin. Who is declared to be "The Lord of all" and the "Almighty God" as witnessed by His actions. And whom the Hebrew's Creation Story declares to be their Savior when observing God's promises made to the man and the woman in the Garden of Eden whose offspring will wound the head of the deceptive serpent.

From these observations we may also say that the Genesis story in its early narrative passages (chp 1, chps 2-3, chps 4-11) is not allegorical (that is, symbolic language left to imagined retelling). But that it has a literal-historical content that relates a meta-narrative of the nation Israel's nationalized history as it bisects with God's own meta-narrative of bringing salvation to both themselves, as a nation, and to each man personally in the history of the earth. Nor is it mythological in the Greek sense of a polytheistic religion. It is, however, a monotheistic religion that can be said to be mythological both in the literary sense of historical genre as well as to the disbelieving non-Christian who considers the Christian God but mere myth. But to those who follow Jesus it is anything but that, as the Jewish faith (or,  Jewish religion) provided a spiritual depth and reality not usually found in any of the other world's ancient religions. But this is a discussion for another time and place....

So far we have declared the biblical creation story of Genesis to be factually true as an ancient comprehension of cosmogeny taught and passed along by the Hebrews to the next successive generations (much like the Church has done through the centuries of its teachings on Jesus). Thus, we are giving our support for a biblical hermeneutic that is historical, grammatical, and contextual. but not allegorical. Nor mythological (in the strict, polytheistic sense as used in the ancient Near-Eastern religions of that time). And not without support by Israel and its religious traditions. For Israel believed their creation account to be true and had drawn from it certain theological conclusions about God, man, sin and salvation as described in Genesis.

Consequently, here is my first proposal of theological/linguistic solidification - That "original sin" and "human depravity," typically used in describing "the Fall" by the Church in Christian literature, could possibly be described in present day scientific terms as the early formation and development of "human consciousness." Especially as it developed within the Homo Sapien branch of the hominid population evolving distant eons later into today's human populations. Whether human consciousness was learned, or innate (probably both), will be left to the anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and learning theorists to debate. But since Evolutionary Creation theory proposes God's purposeful and intricate relationship to the continuing formation of creation that we call evolution (even unto this present day!) than we can assume that God somehow (1) "sparked" that innate sense of consciousness, as well as (2) directed the earliest Homo Sapiens towards its learned acquisition and development. (I'm assuming earlier hominid forms may not have had this quality but there is no reason not to assume this either. Why? Because ape and chimpanzee studies seem to indicate a self-conscious awareness as well; as perhaps did other hominid groupings. Though not found to be as refined as it may have been within the succeeding Homo Sapien populations that were beginning to evolve 800,000 years ago. Especially in connection with the correspondent (and similarly evolving) concepts of "sin" and "guilt" that we as mankind bear today).*

*Most recently the concept of eusociality has come to light pertaining to the development of human consciousness and I would refer the reader to this more recent article entitled, Eusociality and the Bible, for a fuller explanation by Edward O. Wilson after completing your present study here - http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2012/04/eusociality-and-bible-part-2-of-2.html].

Now some reports that I have read have put the branch of Homo Sapien closer to 160,000 years ago... but I suspect that this "inception" date to perhaps signify the "maturity" of that species away from Neanderthal man into its own more separate lineage (cf. sidebar articles under this topic). That said, I have toyed with the idea that sometime then - or later - God could have "breathed" His divine image in a specialised moment of interrupted creation which would appeal to Immediate Day Creationists who may be more open to the evolutionary development of man but are caught between the Genesis account and its theology of sin, death, disobedience, etc. Consequently, this idea could be allowed for we have no factual evidence that it couldn't have occurred. How could we? It is too far back to be proved. Nor could it be proved except on the oral tradition of Israel's processions.  However, in the view of Evolutionary Creationism, it seems an unnecessary interuptive act of God in the stream of human development's natural course. And as a point of rigorous scientific discipline it would be more credible to maintain an evolutionary perspective throughout the development of mankind and cede to the understanding that God subtended throughout the creation and development of man through a continual act of special creation. This avoids the instantaneously miraculous, per se, but extends the concept of the miraculous continually throughout the creative development of man, beginning all the way back to the creative spark of the universe itself. Why? Because if this is God's universe, and if God created it to share with free willed beings, then this is not incredible at all to believe despite sin, death, disobedience and the indetrminacy found within the heart of the cosmos (or in nature) - that God sovereignly rules through allowance and subtendance - as we've discussed in a variety of articles from process thought and open theism to evolutionary theory and indeterminacy.

So then, this is my first scientific + theological proposal in attempt to wed a human trait - consciousness - with the theological concept of - sin or guilt - and merge the two into one, thus bridging the gap between science and biblical doctrine. I also find Edward Wilson's concept of eusociality to be immensely helpful in regard to the development of man's social consciousness through primitive tribal groupings, posturings, and protection that were occurring in the Stone Age. And from this evolutionary concept I now intend to proceed to wed other theological concepts to it as a way to bridge the incendiary gap between Evolutionary Creationism and Traditional Creationism.


With consciousness comes humanity's uniqueness

One that God provided again by "tweaking" the mutation stream of the Homo Sapien gene pool to cause a more refined development within this more evolving hominid branch. Perhaps this quality began further back in earlier hominid lines (as I think it must) as hominid populations mutated further and further away from their common ancestral evolutionary line of apes. But eventually, after millions of years of evolvement - at the directing hand of God, or by God's most intricate involvement (cf. Evolution: Is God Playing Dice?) - a more refined sense of "self-understanding" grew through "societal interaction" between Homo Sapiens and the world around. All brought about by the scientific concept of "consciousness" that can now be used to not only describe sin and guilt, but the uniqueness of mankind from the animal kingdom. A uniqueness we may describe as the "image of God" found within man.

Thus far I am appealing to God's active presence and involvement  within the "process" and "mediation" of creation itself using the propositions of Relational Theology (see sidebars) coupled with Evolutionary Creationism's theoretical propositions. Simply, God is relational and thus we should find that same relational aspect within man which we call in theological terms as "the image of God." Moreover, God is independent of, but intricately involved with, His creation. That is, God is immediately and always involved with evolving not only mankind, but the earth, and the universe beyond. This continues even now to this day of modernised, industrialised mankind. God is here and present within the societies of men. We should not expect otherwise. Though this holds no meaning whatsoever for those who see the world as a cold, mechanistic place lurching haphazardly from one societal era to the next, devoid of the simple elements of love, peace and forgiveness. These are but adjectives for how we get along in life until we die and become nothing again held within that sterile space of void and darkness. But to those of us who vibrate with God's Spirit, who feel the flow and energy of God's love, peace and forgiveness, the world is a beauty place filled with the incense of heaven overflowing with God's presence, personage, perspective, and propitiation.

However, I am not proposing a panentheistic relation as process theologians think of God's relationship with this world. But am attempting to elevate a classic theistic position using appropriate parts of process thinking and describing it in terms of relational theology. Why? Because somewhere in the mix comes the vital aspect of "free will" as it relates to (1) God's self-image; to (2) creation in general - which seems to have its own kind of "free will" not normally acknowledged by latter day Evangelical theologians; and (3) to ourselves in the composition of our being. For now, I'm simply stating that free will is part-and-parcel of man's make-up of "consciousness." That free will is actually the true meaning of consciousness in that to be conscious of one's self is to be aware of one's determinative choices. If we could not choose, could we be self-conscious of ourselves and of the world about us? We see this similar trait of will and choice within the ape and monkey population. But again, not to as great a degree of enhancement as it lays within the Homo Sapien line of hominids. Further, we'll again leave it to the  anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and learning theorists to debate how will and consciousness are related to one another; or distinguished from one another; or are compounded definitions of the one to the other; or even which one gave birth to the other,... or to neither. I am simply saying that if man bears the scientific qualification of a conscience, than with it has come man's willfulness.

Thus science is married again to theology's terms of free will and the image of God in man. Evolutionary Creation describes these concepts in terms of process or development which are mediated by God into evolving traits and characteristics. Whereas Traditional Creationism declares man immediately formed with these traits and characteristics and without the necessity of a mediated process. That these were spontaneous qualities of man sprung from the heart and hand of God's own Image as mythologically described in Israels national account of its history written sometime between 500 and 1500 BC (should we wish to include both the first AND the second temple periods). Logically, evolution was occurring many millions of years earlier and would be impossible to be witnessed by the more developed species of ancient mankind in man's earliest hunter-gather phase. Nor certainly could it be witnessed from the much later bronze ages of the Israel's very recent temple periods 3000-3500 years ago. Why? Because that event is much to recent to such an old, old process occurring eons earlier. But traditional Creationism assumes this and so, these time differences must be noted. However, a Christian evolutionist would say that the Genesis Account simply was God's way of telling Israel about basic theological concepts that would distinguish God as God, and man as man, and give purpose to Israel's monotheistic religion as versus the polytheistic (and pagan) religions surrounding them. That the Genesis Account was not a scientific account of Creation but an consolidated theological account of Creation using poetry, mythology, and narrative. The Bible is still a real and true account. But it has a different interpretive value when faced with the prospects of scientific discoveries made in anthropology, biology, geology and cosmology.... Scientific discoveries which were not conceived of by ancient civilizations at the time of writing the book of Genesis.


Evil results as a by-product of human consciousness

That is, if ancient man was developing the sense of right and wrong, good and evil, and even that of choice, than it was all birthed because he had a conscience. Or a graduated conscience in the sense that it was becoming more pronounced through nearer and nearer mutations, innate development, and learned behaviors. The further we get away from primitive man and the closer we get to early/ancient man the more pronounced evil and sin has become to us as a species. As a simple illustration, the idea of slavery and exploitation is less desirable socially today than it was 2000 years ago. The same can be said concerning the contemporary concepts of social inequality between men and women, various types of race and cultures, of child or gender exploitation, and so on. Meaning that the longer we cohabitate together with one another in our evolving civilizations the more pronounced have become our concepts of right and wrong sociologically. And thus, we as a hominid branch, we are exhibiting graduated levels of a more pronounced social consciousness (which also reveals the truth of the continuing occurrence of evolution within mankind - and the world in general - today! Hence, we are generally less brutish with each other as versus more ancient Assyrian/Babylonian/Roman invasions; even though Spanish Inquisitions, Nazi genocide, and human slavery still occur in pockets of time and civilizations; yet social injustices and regional respect of cultural identity seem to be more of an overriding concern in today's technologically-evolving world). Consequently, we are witnessing evolution occurring, if not physically because of the long periods of time required, then socially amongst human populations, at the hand of God who chooses to evolve - or assimilate - our world into His own ethics of Kingdom and Kingdom living.

Similar argumentation may also be used of "God as light" in considering "sin" or "evil" as a by-product of consciousness: If God is light all else is darkness. God is not the opposite of darkness, but contains the absence of darkness. Or, said another way, sin is that which is not God. Or even, sin is that which is unGod-like. Or, God is without sin. As a result, the conscious level of awareness in primitive man is becoming more pronounced as his faculty develops in connection with his self-understanding, his connection to his environment, and with the other Homo Sapien evolving with him. This is not to say that other hominid populations were not similarly endowed with a self-understanding beyond that of a brute beast. But that God's image of light (and not darkness) had conveyed itself into the evolving stages of mankind's earliest development (and the Relational Theist in me says that God has been intricately involved with man's development throughout every level, every breath, and each-and-every stage of his mutational progress, right down to the personal level of mankind's individuality).


Consequently, Adam/Eve may be retained as Typologies
between the Christian Faith and Christ

The terms of "First Man" and the "Last Man" can be another way of describing some men who have died to sin and others who have lived in Christ. These are concepts of life, death, even sin. But better understood in relational contexts of man to himself, to his environment, and to others within his own species of hominids. As example, Caan's murder of his brother Abel was a reprehensible act to ancient primitive man. He was banished and isolated from the mutual help and support found in primitive communities. Ideas like murder were linked to concepts we call "sin." But in man's development of consciousness came the continuing pronunciation of this quality, or characteristic, through long millenias of hominid development, cycles of life and death, and the general evolution of the species. We see this with Neanderthal man being murdered by the Homo Sapien population as a competing threat to their limited environment due to glaciation and so forth. And perhaps because of bigotry or feelings of superiority by Homo Sapiens to the Neanderthals. Each lived in family and tribal collectives. But the Homo Sapien line was more adaptable to the changing environment. In other instances, both species intermingled and may have collaborated together. Still, the Neanderthal line died out due to environmental changes that the Homo Sapien line could better withstand and adapt to against these same factors. Whether due to biological superiority, mental or social acuity, etc, can only be theorized. But in terms of Pauline origin, this cannot be known. Only that the apostle Paul used the concept of Adam from Israel's creation narratives to describe Israel's Messiah.

Now admittedly my inference and reliance upon the argument of consciousness is simplistic and given as a quick illustration as to how to bring about a type of resolution between traditional arguments for Genesis as factually true against accusations of Genesis as simply allegory and myth. But it does draw upon modern scientific discoveries while arguing for a literal-historic Hebraic account of creation within an ancient mythological context that has elements both of good story-telling and universal truths within it. Moreover, it further accounts for God's story through the apprehension of ancient man (early civilizations) not endowed with scientific reasoning and resources. All the factual elements are there... from creation's order (given as days 1 through 7 now supported by cosmological and early earth studies) to its theologic imports of Creator, creation, man, sin, evil, etc....

In fact, I could argue that modern man in all of his "evolved" subtleties would be hard-pressed to come up with a better explanation of the Genesis account (first written in Moses' day... c.1626 BC?) than what the ancient Hebrew account has done. How could would we explain Homo Sapien history as it was occurring  between 1.2 million or 800,000 years ago (or even earlier branches of hominid development occurring many millions of years earlier than that!!) when even our own oral traditions have had a hard enough time simply retaining what it meant to be "a people of God" conceptually. Consider all the many nuances of that term and phrase as it morphed and changed within the Exodus and Wilderness eras; Israel's early tribal and first monarchy periods; Israel's divided kingdoms and exiles; the Second Temple rebuilding period; the inter-testamental times; then the era of Jesus and the early church; then the early church fathers era, to the middle ages, to the Renaissance, to the modern and postmodern eras. When taken as a whole, to be called "the people of God" had different meanings to each person living within each of those sublime eras. And this would account for roughly only 4000 years of human history (what we call man's "civilization period")! So how could we simply assume that a more detailed account of God's creative activity could be better preserved than it has been at present with a more elaborate story. No, God gave Israel a creational narrative that would be easier to pass down through the years than a more explicit one with more mitigating factualities. A narrative that could be ably preserved in simple literary terms. Not in exquisite scientific explanations and innuendo.


Conclusion

Thus, for ancient man in his early civilizations to account for his anthropological development at least a hundred thousand years earlier or more, through using oral traditions of earlier historical occurrences and theological teaching, would be rather exceptional even by our own standards of literacy today when we cannot even garner agreement from one year to the next between our own contemporary interpretations of society, industry, finance, and historical movement! The fact still remains that we work with what we have as theologians while studying ancient biblical literature and cultures and trying to integrate those understandings within present day science. And that we must be willing to adapt our more traditionally orthodox church-based theologies to present day findings into updated theo-sophical/scientific declarations that might be as valid as their counterpart scientific formulae and evolutionary assertions of human development. Of course this is assuming today's Big Bang theory and man's anthropological evolutionary in the fossil records still are valid a thousand years from now (I suspect that the Big Bang will be greatly modified! But I'm not so sure how to argue against earth's fossil records and geologic/biologic processes as interpretive source).

So here is my proposition for synthesizing the traditionally orthodox understanding of the Genesis record with today's more modern, contemporary Evolutionary Creation theories and concepts within a biblical/theological paradigm. By interposing the inspecific term of "consciousness" as the spiritual/behavioral modifier as the leap (or missing link, pun intended!) between an ancient Hebrew Creation Story to today's more radical understanding of man's ancient development we find a somewhat credible gap of continuity between the old and new. I would suspect better, more sophisticated, theories to  replace this simplistic idea, but for now it's one we can understand, accept and work off from. It supports the biblical revelation of the creation story. And it correlates early civilization views with today's scientific findings. And consequently we have an adequate marriage of Evolutionary Creation with that of Traditional Immediate Creation Theory. Thank you for your consideration.

R.E. Slater
originally posted January 6, 2012
later revised April 2, 2012

 
Related follow Up Article -

Eusociality and the Bible