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
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
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

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The "God of the Gaps" and ensuing Metaphysical Arguments

As a former Young Earth Creationist (YEC) I was quite familiar with the idea of the "God of the Gaps." Essentially it is the anti-evolutionary position that "biological gaps" exist between evolutionary transitionary forms that could not be explained. This position more-or-less argued for the biblical idea (found in the Genesis creation story) that God made animals and man in their "kinds" as versus the evolutionary idea that an evolutionary species transitioned from one evolutionary level to the next evolutionary level, branching as it goes through specialized biological adaptations in response to the evolutionary environment that it existed within, its needs as a living thing, and need for succession and survival.

For example, a YEC would say that a fish and a mammal are two separately created kinds (or life forms) with no evolutionary forbearance from one to the other. Whereas an evolutionary position would say that the eyes or the jaw bone of the fish persisted from the fish to the amphibian to the reptile and mammal that marks the human species today. So that rather than thinking in the YEC category of a "kind" one should think in the category of "developmental evolutionary transitions." Which is why the idea of a transitionary species (or kinds) becomes the next level of argument with the YEC position pertaining to evolutionary progression.

As the argument goes, if there were transitionary species than why don't we see them? Suffice it to say that this argument is better contextualized within the larger understanding of evolutionary development of which we have suggested several articles to this idea (see the science sections here at this blogsite. Or do a google search using Relevancy22+the topic you wish to find). Succinctly, in answer to the question, the type of transitionary forms that a YEC position is seeking are non-existent, making the YEC argument moot. Why? Because for a good mutation to exist it must survive otherwise it would die as a freak to its species level. Too, these transitionary forms are found everywhere about as pre-evolving forms moving from one level of adaptation to another, while all the while branching off into their own lines of specializing species. Some of which managed to survive major catastrophes like end-of-life volcanic eruptions, meteor bombardment, or large climatic change (depleted oxygenation stages, evolving sea water salination, or the more typical latter-stage glacial periods).

At this point, the "God of the Gaps" idea expanded from primarily one of biological argument to a more generalized form of metaphysical argument. That is, the YEC position would begin to make larger-than-life metaphysical observations based upon its belief system to more generalized (spiritual) principles about God, human history, life, and the basis for all things and where they are going. Basically, a summary logic or teleology of "positional-observations" arguing from an imagined YEC past to a preconceived YEC present with logical inferencing and deductional YEC conjectures towards future expectations and biblical surmise. Thus, a YEC-based Bible will see God differently than a non-YEC Bible with its resultant doctrines. The same will go with YEC-based church doctrine and dogma with their rules of "biblical" engagement with assumed "non-biblical" belief systems as a YEC person would project or hold towards any evolutionary subject portending towards the subject of evolutionary creationism.

Obviously, the error that began at the roots of the YEC argument now becomes even more pronounced as it expands into this next level of metaphysical (or, spiritual) argumentation. However, to be fair, the Christian evolutionist (I prefer the term evolutionary creationist over the older term of theistic evolutionist for reasons previously written about here on this blog) essentially does the same. However, it is hoped that this direction of thinking is based upon a much better foundation allowing for scientific observations than the speculative (and in my estimation, contrived) YEC position unhinged from the evolutionary sciences with its concurrent archaeological and anthropological discoveries both primitive and ancient.

My own YEC indoctrination began with the reading of Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth and Henry M. Morris' The Genesis Record in my teen years. But it was also coupled with well-meaning biblical preaching from my churches, bible-school experiences, and my own set biases about God and His Word. Over time (and based upon my own concurrent studies in science and math) I became less apprehensive towards the subject of cosmologic, geologic, and biologic evolutionary formation, and more open to the idea that my initial youthful prejudices may have been ill-informed and naive. Now don't get me wrong, I willingly attended and participated in any YEC conference that was in my area... so I am well-acquainted with the early days of YEC argument against science and it's projected "manipulation" by evolutionary atheists and agnostics with an axe to grind against any-and-all things "God." The arguments I heard have been well-drilled into my mind and heart, but forgive me when I say that I began to find their arguments fabricated and baseless. And once they became suspect, they fell hard and fast, with no further personal need for their support, or my own personal need to cling to them any longer, when becoming more aware of the fallacy of their foundation and argument.

Even so, it took a long while for me to move past my early YEC indoctrination. Probably several decades to say the least while I began to read and explore Earth's evolutionary history (incredibly, Stephen Hawking helped here, though it was written from an implied non-God, mechanistic perspective). And it wasn't until wandering through the large display halls of the Royal Tyrell Dinosaur Museum in the badlands of Alberta that I began to understand the sublimity of the Lord's creational handiwork as I look upon the fossilized (and not precast) bones of ancient reptilian beasts. The force of the argument came home in the ancient seas beds of this most ancient of primeval of worlds. Consequently, the grandness of God's primeval design, and the majesty of His almighty council, demanded my past theological training to absorb and reflect upon the truths of both the process and the Creator of evolutionary creationism. In essence, I would need to re-think my whole approach to biblical studies, doctrines, and my faith in general because of this belated realization. Essentially, this effort was initiated but several years ago when I began developing this blogsite for a fuller, more post-evangelic depiction of biblical doctrine and dogma. And it has been my steady pleasure to re-write (or re-envisage) orthodox church doctrine from a non-YEC, evolutionary informed basis telling of God our Creator from every conceivable viewpoint and angle as I have had time to develop these ideas with so few resources as aide and guide. Though I would later discover those same resources were everywhere about in so simple a place as It just required a different lens. A lens that would admit God into evolution and not withhold His presence from its topic.
To my further surprise I have found that I am not alone, and am presently in the forefront with a number of biblical scholars and theologians who have likewise been doing the same. Some I have followed here, whilst others I have not. Overall, the impact of this mindful research upon biblical doctrine has become immense. And as any long term reader to this site will tell you, it has been a fun and exciting time of discovery and re-examination of our Christian faith - it's wonders and the intricacies of how it all falls together in a nice and neat heap. But the greatest wonder of all was in discovering how amazing our God really is when uncoupled from my hardened lines of set theological boundaries and non-admits. Once those belief-barriers fell I soon rediscovered both God and His Word in a new and more fulfilling way. It has been a journey full of surprise and wonder. One that I do not regret and am quite passionate about.

In conclusion, what attracted me to Dr. Olson's article below is not his arguments about "God in the Gaps" vs. science (Dr. Olson comes from the old school of orthodoxy, and is himself, on a similar journey to mine but more along the lines of resurrecting the historical doctrines of the church according to contemporary theology and scholarship). It is his studied observation that a YEC-informed doctrinal position predisposes one towards YEC-based metaphysical arguments about God and His Word. Even as an Evolutionary Creationist would likewise hold a resultant doctrinal position influencing church doctrine and dogma. Hence, my real attraction to this topic today is the explanation of how one's epistemology affects, informs, and influences one's metaphysical positions.... Hence, the caution to be careful to investigate the path you trod (or inherited, as was my own personal background).

Not to mention that we do great error in thinking about God in the objective terms of syllogistic argument rather than in the subjective terms of an "I-Thou" relationship. To argue about God and His Word is perhaps necessary, but it will miss the central need of the Creator beheld in meaningful relationship with His creation (and yet, either position will tell you that!). That God is no less a thing, than we our things. That God is a living entity bound to His creation as living entities with all the sublime import that that means as relational beings in fellowship with one another. That we do harm to ourselves and to our fellowship in trying to capture God as an argument or principle when He most desires to capture us with His love, faithfulness, and presence. That was the real attractor here when reading Dr. Olson's ensuring chapter on the "God of the Gaps." That God desires us as persons - and not defenders or apologists to His existence (or creation). That He has created His creation in terms of communion, presence, relationship. And to this accord I think both the Young Earth Creationists and Evolutionary Creationist can agree and attest as brothers and sisters in the Lord, who is our great Creator-Redeemer. Peace.

R.E. Slater
March 4, 2014

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The “God of the Gaps”: Right Use, Wrong Use
The Royal Tyrell Museum of Palenontology

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