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, April 12, 2013

How Evolutionary Creationism Will Require Rethinking Scriptural Doctrine

In the accompanying article below I wish to make a few comments where necessary. This is not to say that Daniel Harrell and I differ so much as to qualify a few statements within the article that RJS has written in her observations with coming to grips with Evolutionary Creationism. I will keep my comments short, however, for further reference please refer to the various sidebars on creation, sin, God, evolution, etc. Thank you.
R.E. Slater
April 12, 2013
 * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Tortuous and Tortured Path of Evolution
The scientific evidence is too strong in evolution’s favor to reasonably deny its occurrence. You can refuse to believe it, but that still won’t make it untrue, any more that denying God exists proves that he doesn’t exist. The overwhelming evidence in favor of evolution has led plenty of Christians to suggest that the Bible tells the who and why of creation (the primal or final cause), leaving evolution to describe the how (the secondary or efficient cause). And that works as long as you don’t think about it too much. This is my problem. I think too much. Theology teaches me that the character of creation reflects the character of the Creator – God’s beauty and order and goodness and purposefulness. But as soon as you start thinking about what an evolving creation truly reveals – namely, cruelty and disorder and indifference and randomness – you can’t help but wonder about that faith and about the God to whom that faith points. (p. 46)
Evolution is both tortuous and torturous … or so it has been described.
Comment 1. What Harrell points out is that many Christians think of evolution in antipathy to God's character. However, we often discover that God is unlike what we think of Him and no less the more with the subject matter of creation. Thus, the indeterminacy found in God's creational process of mediated evolution no less reflects God's purposefulness, or His other divine characteristics, than would the 7-Day creational model of immediate creation. (I chose to use the word "mediated" to refer to God's sovereign - and continual - involvement in evolutionary creation, as opposed to the classical definition of spontaneous creation by God).

In fact, God's divinity is expanded in our consciousness in ways that we could not imagine without the scientific model of evolution. So that, disorderliness, randomness, death, and destruction (think in terms of quantum physics as well as in biological and geological terms) are as much a part of God's creation as is it's orderly functioning based upon chaotic and seemingly random evolvement.

To add to this complexity, then couple these thoughts with reflections about how sin's entrance into God's creation corrupted the natural, evolutionary process of indeterminacy. As a result, the Christian thinker must expand his/her concepts of creation and of God Himself, especially as they impact classical doctrinal themes and biblical principles.

- res
Of course Harrell doesn’t leave us hanging here. In the next sections of Ch. 3 (What Happens When I Think Too Much) and in Ch. 4 (E-Harmony) he works through many of the issues involved in understanding an evolutionary creation. He wanders through a discussion of faith, randomness, purpose, heaven, love, and the image of God.
E-Harmony. Harrell discusses what he calls ‘E-Harmony’, the way faith and science integrate, in the context of a conversation with a friend, Dave, who is content (especially when peckish) to deny and ignore the possibility and the questions of evolutionary creation. But we need to face the facts – not ignore them or fiddle with them to match what we already believe. Here Harrell looks at interpretations and data and the power and limitations of reductionist thinking. An example he doesn’t use, but I as a chemist find useful. … One can explain in exquisite detail the properties of hydrogen and of oxygen atoms in isolation. The equations are really quite simple (if one doesn’t dig too deeply into the nucleus). But one can’t derive the properties of the water molecule simply from the isolated atoms, one must consider the influence of each on the others. Likewise one cannot derive the properties of liquid water from a single isolated molecule – one must consider how the molecules interact and the influence this interaction has on the properties of the individual molecules. The elementary equations remain simple (if unsolvable) but because of interactions the system is immensely complex. And it only gets worse. Harrell (he has a Ph.D. in developmental psychology after all … and as a pastor he works with people) looks at the complexities of nutrition and human society to explore both the power and limitations of reductionist thinking.
Interpretation. Harrell has a good introduction to the problem of interpretation. “A fruitful dialog between faith and evolution requires a particular kind of relationship between knowledge (“the way we know”) and reality (“the way things are”). (p. 62) Is objectivity a pipe dream with reality unknowable aside from one’s interpretation? … or is there a reality and objectivity (at least when averaging over a large enough group) possible?
Reality itself does not depend upon our ability to know it. While perceptual capacity and personal bias clearly are factors when it comes to making sense of reality, they are not determinants of the reality itself. God was there before anybody believed in him. Evolution occurred before Darwin boarded The Beagle and sailed to the Galapagos Islands. God is not a product of faith any more than evolution is a product of science. So to say that God and evolution are at odds is an interpretative statement, not one that the realities themselves dictate since both existed together before interpretation was possible. (p.63)
And a bit further down the page:
Reality exists independent of me. But knowledge of reality is never independent of me. We have to be honest with our own biases and proclivities. … My belief in God affects my view of nature. My beliefs about nature effect my belief in God because I believe God reveals himself in nature, and this makes evolution part of God’s revelation. Therefore to study evolution is to further understand God. And what I understand about God helps me to better understand evolution. Christian theology doesn’t have to submit to accurate scientific findings, only to account for them. Authentic faith strives to believe in what is rather in than in what we wish was. All truth is God’s truth, however you look at is and whether you like it or not.
God is infinite and independent reality. Even when we know everything we can know about him, there will still be infinitely more to know. That is what makes theology so interesting. Every time we think we have God figured out, some new experience or new realization comes along that unmasks our convictions as idols in need of breaking. (p. 63)
We want God to be simple and straightforward, our faith an acknowledgment of solving the equation – connecting the dots. But there is nothing in human experience, and nothing within Scripture, that indicates that this is reality.
Death. One of the things that evolution requires us to rethink (or at least many of us to rethink) is the role of death in God’s good creation. I’ll end this post with two brief video clips where Daniel Harrell reflects on the question of death. In this first clip he gives a perspective on death and evolution.
Comment 2. I like to ask the question of whether death existed before Adam and Eve's fateful decision in Genesis. To consider whether death itself was an integral part of God's quantum creation of the universe. To consider death as a premeditated, and purposeful, plan by God within His intentional evolutionary creation of the universe and all life that would spawn from its origin. For if it was, then it spins the concept of death as an effect / result of sin upon its head. More the rather, death is by the hand, heart, design, and purposeful plan of God.

Moreover, it affects the Christian view of the future as much as that of the past, for in the future the "New Heavens and New Earth" envisioned in Revelation is rid of corrupting sin and death but not of the creational design of death. So that perhaps a better question to ask is how there will be "newness" in the future kingdom of God given the evolutionary character of its creation which must coincide with the continuance of death. Otherwise atoms would no longer function; the cosmology no longer fit together; and biologic organisms no longer evolve. Does all die a final death and cease to exist on a global, cosmological scale? Or, does our concept of death require qualifying if we are to stay within the bounds of redemptive, biblical history? I would posit the latter - that our concept of "death" must change.

Consequently, the difference between the now-of-today, and the then-of-creation, is the infraction that sin's occurrence brought with it upon God's original holy creation. An occurrence that I would submit began immediately by God's very act of creation. A metaphysical intangible that God knew would immediately occur in His omniscience, and planned for in its resolvement through His redemption of creation through His own death and resurrection in the person of Jesus. I say an immediate metaphysical result because it derived in opposition to God's holy will. An antithesis that resulted to God's command, laying as it would in the "ether of God's creation" causing opposition. Not as an entity, nor as an opposing god, but as a construct in opposition to the construct of God's creation as a metaphysical latency. Which I find difficult to visualize even as I write of this concept.

Moreover, the bible pictures for us sin's existence by utilizing the literary nomenclature of "Adam and Eve's" story of disobedience to God, as a parochial explanation for sin's origin. To my mind, it is a simple way by God to help us understand sin in relation to Himself. If expressed in any other way - as I have attempted above - it is met with too many questions, both philosophic and spiritual. However, I believe I have reasonable ground to say that sin existed before Adam and Eve's disobedience on the observation that the angel Lucifer was the first to sin, not man. So the argument that sin existed before Adam and Eve is evident herein. And, I would submit, that it was pre-existent before Lucifer's choice to-be-like-God, thus causing him to sin. Consequently, my own determination that sin, as a metaphysical latency, must have come into being at the very onset to God's holy act of creation. Perhaps this idea has a classical background to it, but I am not a theological historian and am unaware of any past statements by ancient theologians who might have posited similar arguments.

So then, what does this mean? That death is good and natural, even though it is viewed as unholy and borne because of sin. That even God Himself partook of death to be resurrected unto new life separated from death's affects. I do not understand these things but simply mention them here to provide another way of looking at death and creation, resurrection, renewal, and eternal life itself. It is a mystery borne with the fact that in creation's evolutionary indeterminacy we find death as a necessary construct to creation's sustenance, maintenance, continuance, and evolvement. If death were not latent within creation than our quantum physical, biological, and geologic structures would not hold together in the shape, form, and function as they are now found today.

And as I write of these things let us not forget that this concept still holds dearly to the concepts of God's divine, mitigating, sovereignty and to the latent teleological framework of His overarching salvific designs, as found within His creation and future plans of redemption for earth and man to come.

 - res

Death and Evolution: A Pastor's Perspective -

"Death is part of the character of God. God's supreme
 expression of love is an act of death on our behalf..."

God does many things in ways we would not expect, and in ways we would not if we were God. After all, who really understands either crucifixion and resurrection? And yet this is, we believe, God’s method for transforming his creation and bringing the Kingdom of God, in an already/not yet paradox. For 2000 years Christians have still died.
And in this clip … Harrell elaborates a bit more on making sense of death.
Making Sense of Death: A Pastor's Perspective -

"There is an aspect of dying that is redemptive,
both spiritually and physically..."

If Adam had not sinned would he not still have died? In some sense at least the answer is yes. Even John Calvin (no liberal Bible denier he) thought that Adam would have moved from earthly existence to the world to come. The Garden was not the intended end for mankind.
These clips are short – no final answers, and not even Harrell’s complete thoughts on the questions. And yet they make good conversation starters to begin to think through the question.
What is the relationship between what we know and the way we know?
Is death a big problem for evolutionary creation?
Do Daniel Harrell’s thoughts on this make any headway? Where would you agree or disagree.

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