Our Reasonable Faith 7

This post is by RJS; for the record a Professor of Chemistry and thus (take a deep breath) a scientist…
We all know, or have heard repeated over and over … Science has Disproved Christianity… the elite and intelligent know it … it is only a matter of time before average Americans come to their senses and realize it. This is the proposition discussed in Chapter 6 of Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God.
There are several aspects to the conflict – or apparent conflict – between science and faith that often serve as barriers to consideration of the Christian story in our educated and skeptical society. We could stretch this over several posts – but instead I just beg your indulgence in one longer than normal post.

1. Science has proven that miracles are impossible. We’ve heard this statement in many forms and many places. It is, of course, not true. Science cannot disprove miracles, as science can only address the question of normal or natural cause. None of us actually think that miracles represent the normal process in the world today or were the standard mode of operation in the past.

If there is a Creator God, there is nothing illogical at all about the possibility of miracles. After all, if he created everything out of nothing, it would hardly be a problem for him to rearrange parts of it as and when he wishes. To be sure that miracles cannot occur you would have to be sure beyond a doubt that God didn’t exist, and that is an article of faith. The existence of God can be neither demonstrably proven or disproven. (p. 86)

There is another important point here as well – miracles are not and never were intended as magic tricks, or as on call interventions for our individual good. When we consider miracles the most important point is why — why are miracles performed in the first place?
In the ministry of Jesus and in the early Church miracles had purpose. They fulfill prophecy and enact the coming of the kingdom of God. Disease, hunger, death, pain, suffering; these are not the intent of God in his creation. As Keller puts it: Jesus has come to redeem where it is wrong and heal the world where it is broken. His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Jesus’s miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming. (p.96) A corollary to this must be the realization – any miracles today must also have purpose.
2. Intelligent people don’t believe in God. People like Dawkins and his ilk like to point out that only 7% of members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) believe in a God who actively communicates with humanity, at least through prayer. From this a causal link is assumed – intelligent scientific thinking leads to the nearly inevitable conclusion that there is no God.
But, there are several problems with this conclusion. First – most scientists base disbelief on other than scientific grounds; the factors are nearly always a complex mix of intellectual, social, and personal issues. Second – while all scientists base their science on methodological naturalism, it is not true that all or even most profess belief in ontological naturalism or “physicalist naturalism” – that the ultimate explanation and reason for everything lies in the as yet unknown theory of everything. There is more to life than elementary particle physics and string theory. Most scientists today, for example, believe that our conviction that genocide is morally wrong is not an “accident” of evolution – but an absolute value. Finally – I (RJS) think that the well documented drop in percentage of believers as one moves into elite circles – faculty at top universities, scientists elected to the NAS, Nobel Prize winners – comes in part from the highly competitive nature of science and the fact that it is hard to balance a Christian lifestyle with the level of effort and commitment required to excel in science today. This is not a criticism of those successful Christians, but a realistic assessment of the forces at play. Values influence choices. Choices influence achievement.
3. Evolution disproves the Bible. This, of course, depends on our interpretation of Genesis and other passages of scripture. Scientific knowledge may inform the interpretation of some texts – and it may be inconsistent with certain interpretations. But this does not mean that evolution disproves the Bible. Frankly, God’s method in creation is not fundamental to Christianity. On this blog we have discussed these issues in the course of a six-part series on Francis Collins’ book The Language of God,especially in this post a couple of months ago, and in a series on Vern Poythress’ book Redeeming Sciencefrom early 2007 found here, here, and here.
Keller’s own position is not given in detail but he makes several provocative comments on p. 94:

I think Genesis 1 has the earmarks of poetry and is therefore a “song” about the wonder and meaning of God’s creation. Genesis 2 is an account of how it happened. There will always be debates about how to interpret some passages — including Genesis 1. But it is false logic to argue that if one part of Scripture can’t be taken literally then none of it can be. That isn’t true of any human communication.

For the record I think that God guided some kind of process of natural selection, and yet I reject the concept of evolution as All-encompassing Theory.

Keller’s most important point is that this is a “nonessential” with sincere Christian believers taking different positions. Keller notes:

…those who are considering Christianity as a whole should not allow themselves to be distracted by this intramural debate. The skeptical inquirer does not need to accept any one of these positions in order to embrace the Christian faith. Rather he or she should concentrate on and weigh the central claims of Christianity.

And then we have issues of common descent and The Fall…
Ok Folks … What are the essentials?

  • http://mikerucker.wordpress.com mike rucker

    i think it’s funny how you just mentioned ‘The Fall’ almost as an afterthought … to me, that’s one of the most difficult aspects of the whole deal!
    there are so many pieces here:
    (a) i’m sorry, but genesis 1 and 2 cannot be harmonized unless you jump through hoops. they seem to be two separate stories pulled together by whomever (Moses?) wrote the book. genesis 1 has God as the focus; genesis 2 has man as the central player. they simply do not harmonize, and attempts to defend inerrancy by forcing a joint creation account from the two are misguided and pointless.
    (b) if you go looking for the four rivers mentioned in genesis 2, and make incredibly educated guesses that somehow bring you to where the garden of Eden is supposed to be, the safe money says you will not find an angel with a sword there, nor will you find the Tree of Life. so what do we make of that? did Noah’s flood extinguish the flame? did the Tree of Life get cut down for firewood? we are forced to conclude that genesis 1-2-3 are myths, which opens up a whole new can of worms…
    (c) people for most of human history likely accepted that everything started from a couple named Adam and Eve. only in the last 200-300 years have we moved on in our understanding of life on earth. the lack of a definitive Adam has always been one of the main reasons i never felt comfortable with penal substitutionary atonement. however, i see a not-too-hidden breadcrumb trail in scripture that God the Father seems to deal more with ‘mankind’ than individuals; thus, not having a specific Adam does not mean we don’t have ‘original sin’ – it’s more just an awareness that, looking around us, we see that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
    (d) i encourage everyone to read some books from the ‘dark side’. one of my favorites is David Mills’ ‘Atheist Universe.’ it might challenge your faith a bit, but i believe you will be able to see some of the errors he makes in his arguments. however, i think it’s important that we have an accurate understanding and opinion of where science is, and not just throw up ignorant straw-men in creation-vs-evolution sunday school lessons that are easy to bash.
    i interact with this chapter of Keller’s book at my blog here if you want to read further.
    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa

  • John Hong

    Very interesting blog.
    Science is the objective study of the physical world that we can observe, experiment with and ultimately try to understand. To say that with such a tool, we can disprove the possibility of miracles is more a statement of faith that one tries to support with scientific authority more than anything else. The really interesting thing about science is that there is an incredibly strong, underlying expectation that the universe not only makes sense but that physical laws (many of which are not currently known to us) are applied uniformly everywhere. We may not know all there is to know (what these principles are), but we press on, to increase our understanding. This is what scientists do. I don’t think that they are out to disprove religion.
    I find it interesting that people want a theory of everything.
    But none of these approaches is complete. The young earth view is inconsistent with astronomical observations and completely rejects many biological and geological as misled or at odds with the second law of thermodynamics, in a way that reveals .. misunderstanding. The other extreme is what some call evolutionism which rejects anything beyond this world to explain things in this world. So that view throws out the entire bible and wants to use the evolutionary principle of natural selection to explain everything. I hold to the theistic evolutionary perspective but I don’t understand how original sin fits into the overall picture (and a few other issues). I suspect that we could come up with plausible scenarios but that is all. I hold this view because it is the most reasonable to me.
    I have been teaching a class introducing christianity to visitors to our church and have told people about the various views about our origins. I completely agree with Keller that these are not to be counted amongst the central claims of christianity. But I have found from experience that this is not just an intramural discussion but one that is very important for seekers who must judge for themselves whether christianity is reasonable or not.
    This is my first time, leaving blog comments. Sorry if this was too long.

  • http://bartramia.blogspot.com sam carr

    The views today among Christian scholars on the Genesis stories are very broad indeed. I do think the literalistic approach is increasingly being acknowledged to be not particularly true to the text, let alone sound exegetically on other grounds. The diversity of views is generally not acknowledged by the critics who do tend to use the literalistic approach as the benchmark of ‘Christian’ belief.
    In my own experience there is a certain amount of generalised hostility within science to one’s confession of any faith in the workplace. I’m not sure that this is wrong. It’s a sort of “what’s that got to do with anything?” reaction. There is perhaps also a fear that in the extreme case a ‘god factor’ may get inserted somewhere but this is itself an irrational fear and I think mostly not justified by the actual practice of ‘believer’ scientists. The problem is compounded for us by the propagation of non-theories such as ID.
    The scientific establishment is generally quick to deny miracles. But I find this attitude itself unscientific for it is in the observation of phenomena that science begins. Rejecting the unusual or statistically unlikely is a tyranny of the normal that is very detrimental to true scientific study.
    As has been pointed out more than once, insisting on Ockham’s razor in all things is very shortsighted especially as we can hardly claim to already have all the knowledge that we need to be certain of anything. The atheist is therefore being shortsighted and putting him/her self into a ridiculous straightjacket.
    On the other hand, we Christians are also silly to make our ‘stand’ so stolidly on dogmatisms and traditions, especially the ones that depend upon shaky interpretations of poorly understood texts and where our own scholars themselves are in disarray as to provenance and context.

  • Ranger

    There have been very good long discussions on this issue throughout the biblioblogospheren recently, and the consensus is that it’s in no way necessary to believe that the accounts of Genesis 1-3 are historical (although you’re perfectly welcome to do so). I would suggest that you all read John Hobbins many posts on the chapters we are discussing, and particularly those on the genre of Genesis 1 (he truly is an expert on Hebrew and early Semitic languages). He has some very insightful stuff on these chapters, but a background in Hebrew is preferred for understanding all of what he talks about.
    Personally, I just don’t struggle with the issue. It was actually my first Hebrew translation class ten years ago that led me away from interpreting these passages historically. You can’t deny that the text is primarily theological, even down to the form and language used. Furthermore, I’ve never heard the story itself taught in church as purely historical. Every sermon I’ve heard on these chapters has theological points in mind, i.e. God made the world, God allowed man to be free, man screwed it up, et. al. As such, I don’t see why this story has to be historical for those points to be true. I look at the world around me and see sinful actions…I myself sin regularly…therefore I know that at some point in history, whenever man became capable of relating to God, he screwed up and the fall happened.
    Some people will say, “But what about Romans! How can Christ save humanity through one man if sin didn’t enter through the historical person named Adam?” Once again, this isn’t that big of an issue for me since there was clearly a point in time when humanity first realized his relationship with God and transgressed against it. You don’t need a literal person named Adam (which means “humanity” anyways) living 6,000 years ago in order for there to be a federal head.
    Something else to consider and deal with is the fact that the early church loved 1st Enoch. It’s alluded to around fifteen times in the New Testament (1 Peter 1:12, Revelation 5:11, Colossians 2:3, et. al.). It’s even still in some canons (such as the Coptic church). Jude 14-15 quotes 1 Enoch 1:9 as prophesying God’s coming to judge the world for its sin. But in 1st Enoch this sin entered the world not through Adam, but through human sexual relations with angelic beings.

  • Rick

    RJS-
    You ask, “what are the essentials?”
    One would want to include 1 Corinthians 15:3-4-
    “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (NIV/Biblegateway).
    Not to mention that this includes a miracle, these events should be considered when looking at the OT (including the issue of The Fall).

  • http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com steve martin

    Essentials vs. Inessentials. Hmm, that discussion could be long :-).
    On the Fall specifically, it is essential that we acknowledge that each of us individually is fallen. How it happened, that is a tough one. But the “sting of death” that resulted from the Fall has been vanquished by Christ’s death on the cross. So theological teeth gnashing seems somewhat inappropriate.

  • RJS

    Mike (#1),
    No not an afterthought—Rather the point at which I have seen the greatest conflict and soul searching among Christians on this issue.

  • RJS

    Steve (#6) and others…
    Holding to a simple historical, literal interpretation of the creation accounts is, for many of us (and I include myself firmly within this crowd), untenable. Making such an interpretation “an essential” keeps many from serious consideration of the faith.
    We will see if the discussion is long…I think it is a necessary conversation in our church today.

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    RJS,
    Let me weigh in on one essential: if we begin with Jesus and the early Christians, we must begin with “what is wrong.” Jesus (and John Baptist) thought Israel had gone wrong; that in order to rectify the situation Israel had to repent and own up to its wrongness; the apostle Paul dug his heels in deep on this one: the wrongness was not only choice but condition — all humans were wrong. So, let’s call this what they called it: sin and trangression against God’s Torah.
    To make sense of Christianity, to make sense of the call to follow and have faith in Jesus, is to admit there’s something wrong with me and with everyone. To say Jesus is Messiah, of course, only says that Jesus is the long-expected king; to say Jesus is Savior, which is what the Gospels and Epistles clearly teach, is to say there is something wrong.
    Christianity only makes sense when there is something terribly wrong that it resolves.
    So, I weigh in with the first essential: something’s wrong with us.

  • Rick

    RJS-
    Clarification: essential for what? Salvation? Orthodoxy?

  • RJS

    Orthodoxy – as most of us will hold that “salvation” does not depend on having a right understanding of everything.

  • Rick

    With Orthodoxy (#11) in mind, I will throw out a list that C Michael Patton put out:
    Deity of Christ
    Doctrine of the Trinity
    The Sovereignty of God
    The historicity of the physical death, burial, and resurrection of ChristÂ
    Hypostatic union (Christ is fully God and fully man)
    The sinfulness of man
    The necessity of the atonement
    Salvation by grace through faith
    The reality of the body of Christ (the catholic [universal]Â Church)
    The authority of the visible body of Christ
    The inspiration of Scripture
    The canon of Scripture made up of the Old and New Testaments
    The future second coming

  • http://www.getting-free.blogspot.com T

    I can’t help but think of one of Jesus’ statements, that I will admit is taken out of context, but nevertheless seems germane: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.”
    Mary hadn’t mastered many of what most of us would call the “essential doctrines” of Christianity. But she had–actually and earnestly–decided to put all her eggs in the Jesus basket. This commitment to Jesus is the “one necessary thing” that leads to all the others.

  • http://www.vmchurch.com Phil Niemi

    Hello,
    I’m associate pastor of a small church and deal with this all the time. Not being able to adequately share my inconsistent and tentative views on this subject. I am a biologist by education and pastor by trade. When dealing with essentials, it’s “God’ did it” for me, how???? I believe macro-evolution is not a tenable theory and at times have held “gap-flood”. It seems that all view are full of holes, and at times through my hands in the air. If Genesis 1 is history, why is the earth apparently so much older and different, etc…
    Presently, I hold Gen 1 as poetry, but 2 more literally, believing in a literal Adam and Eve as they are alluded to in Romans and by Christ, allowing scripture to interpret scripture as best as I can. However, as to essentials and hills to die on, etc. If I am going to argue science or miracle etc, I am going to take an NT Wright slant and argue for resurrection, as that is an absolute core belief that definitely does not sit well with the observable world. Without the resurrection we have no hope.
    Thanks from this first time poster…

  • http://www.getting-free.blogspot.com T

    BTW, I loved the section on miracles. I would only add, though, that while the salvation of God is certainly larger than any individual–it is focused on the whole creation–it includes and is even customized to every individual. Jesus did and does have compassion on particular human beings, and acts on that compassion. From a pastoral standpoint, it’s important to let particular people know that God’s cosmic plans of redemption aren’t too big to include, even surprisingly, humble individuals. This seems to be part of the NT revelation of God.

  • Brad Cooper

    WOW! Looks like I’m alone here at Jesus Creed. Oh well,….
    For the record, I have no problem reading the whole book of Genesis as a historical record. Seems to me that that is the way it was intended. There’s even a very clearly stated genealogical record that extends from Adam to the sons of Joseph. The great Christian historian Luke follows the same genealogy and extends it down to Jesus.
    While attending the liberal seminary that I graduated from, I closely examined all the arguments for Genesis 1 and 2 being incompatible accounts. I found them to be quite flimsy and easily refutable….based on simplistic non sequitirs.
    Speaking of non sequitirs….just because these passages have a theological intent, does not make them ahistorical. It would be difficult (if not impossible) to find a historical account that does not have a theological or philosophical intent.
    In fact, the very effort to discredit the Bible’s history (including theories of evolution) has its roots in philosophical intent–not scientific evidence. In the late 17th Century, the Bible came under increasing attack (which has not let up until the present). This was not because of new scientific findings or greater historical methods. This was simply due to a philosophical position that was developed to undermine the Bible–because many came to realize that it was the abuse of the Bible’s authority that was leading to continual religious wars.
    Thus, atheists and deists began to attack the Bible, believing that if the Bible was discredited it would no longer have authority. And they were right (to a great extent, at least).
    I’d love to elaborate further, but this post is already very long….and I need to make a sandwich for my lovely wife. :) Peace.

  • http://mikerucker.wordpress.com mike rucker

    brad wrote,
    the very effort to discredit the Bible’s history (including theories of evolution) has its roots in philosophical intent–not scientific evidence. In the late 17th Century, the Bible came under increasing attack (which has not let up until the present).
    please. talk about non-sequitors…
    while there may have always been intentions in some men’s hearts to “discredit” the bible, to say that Satan is behind all of the science of the past 200 years is just the type of statement people outside the church expect us “stupid Bible believers” to make.
    darwin held back on publishing his findings for years doing experiment after experiment; he wasn’t trying to say “the emperor has no clothes!” – he was doing what scientists do.
    also,
    I closely examined all the arguments for Genesis 1 and 2 being incompatible accounts. I found them to be quite flimsy and easily refutable.
    brad, i read and enjoy a lot of your comments here, so i’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that this statement wasn’t meant to be as arrogant as it reads. :)
    the bible is not a science book. genesis 1 and 2 are not scientific accounts. further, they certainly provide no backdrop for ID, which is the latest flavor du jour of creationism being held up as science.
    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa

  • Scott M

    Hmmm. Since I saw it above, I thought it worth mentioning that ‘catholic’ does not mean universal. The word for that is ecumenical. Catholic is perhaps better translated as the wholeness of the church. One of the older descriptions of the catholic or whole church was (I think) by Irenaeus. As I recall, the picture he gave was of the bishop (of a place) surrounded by his priests, his deacons, and all the saints (the royal priesthood of all believers). That was the whole or catholic church. Now, in order to be whole, it also did need to believe the same thing believed by all everywhere. And where difference and disagreement arose, it became the responsibility of the bishops to resolve the matter in an ecumenical or universal manner. In ecumenical meetings, bishops spoke for the catholic or whole church of a place. Of course, a bishop had to be accepted by those in that place. And there were certainly times when false bishops were rejected by the people holding to the faith they had received.
    That picture is probably what bothers me most about the situation in which we find ourselves today. Pick any place you want in the US, however large or small. Where is the catholic or whole church of that place? Point it out. Anywhere.

  • Brad Cooper

    Mike,
    I never said that “Satan is behind all of the science of the past 200 years.” Far from it. But thanks for providing a good example of a non sequitir. ;) (Okay, I know that wasn’t nice…but I couldn’t resist!)
    In fact, in 1692, Isaac Newton and some other brilliant men began the Boyle Lectures (instituted in honor of Robert Boyle, generally considered the father of modern chemistry). The Boyle Lectures were originally to be funded from Boyle’s estate and based on his wishes. They were to be annual lectures to defend the Bible against the attacks of the “infidels.”
    So far from thinking that all science for the last (actually) 300+ years is from Satan, it is quite clear to me that numerous founders of modern science were quite dedicated to Christ.
    My point is simply that a philosophical presupposition against the Bible (and against revealed religion in general….and ultimately against any supernatural intervention) came into the play as a matter of bias and not because of evidence. Over time, people with these kinds of biases have taken over our academic institutions (even many of our seminaries, including the one I attended…..and I have seen first hand how this power is used). They have used their power to control who is let into positions of influence and to control the types of information that fill our public schools, universities and media.
    I’ve not only seen this first hand, but I have read many books and articles documenting these things. The latest one being: HISTORICAL CRITICISM OF THE BIBLE: METHODOLOGY OR IDEOLOGY?….REFLECTIONS OF A BULTMANNIAN TURNED EVANGELICAL by Eta Linnemann. This lady studied under Bultmann and Fuchs, attained a position as a professor, was inducted into the Society for New Testament Studies, and wrote a best-selling book from this perspective before realizing how misled she had become. She gave it all up and literally threw her best-selling book and other writings in the trash. She goes into detail on all of the points that I have made. And there are many more books that do the same.
    Cornelius Hunter–among others–has done a good job of providing some of the philosophical/theological bias behind Darwin’s work. And Darwin, BTW, is not the originator of the theory of evolution or even natural selection–contrary to the story spun by contemporary evolutionists. The whole scheme can be found in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans, which the atheists and deists of the 17th to 19th Century turned to for “inspiration.”
    Well, I’ve got to go work on a cage for our 4.5 foot iguana…. :) Peace.

  • http://awaitingredemption.blogspot.com Matt Edwards

    If we are talking about essentials to orthodoxy, I would agree with Scot #9 and part of Rick #12–the sinfulness of mankind, i.e. something is wrong with us.
    However, I might want to edit it–”Something is wrong with us, but we weren’t created that way.” I would want to avoid Gnosticism.

  • Brad Cooper

    BTW, Mike,
    Please don’t just repeat the same old lame rhetoric about ID. Give me a logical argument or scientific evidence. But just repeating the same tired derision barfed up by the evolutionists does not impress me. I’ve read way more than enough of their writings to know that it all boils down to rhetoric–not logical argument or scientific evidence.

  • Robert E. Mason

    Regarding science, miracles, and the Bible, science neither proves nor disproves. A scientist with a sophisticated epistemology will only claim that science approaches a verisimilitude—never an absolute proof or disproof. This holds for claims about nature, too.

  • Brad Cooper

    One more thing, Mike (#17),
    Calling my conclusions “arrogant” is not much of an argument either. It merely reveals your own predisposition on the issue….

  • Brad Cooper

    As for essentials,
    I think that the issue of the historicity of Genesis is important and that rejecting it in favor of evolutionary philosophy/mythology does have a detrimental effect on theology. (As illustrated above, the issue of the Fall and the decay of creation is involved.) But I hardly see it as a matter of salvation or even a test for fellowship.
    The same goes for the innerrancy of Scripture.
    I believe that the essentials are what Paul gives in 1 Cor. 15:1-5ff: “as of first importance”….Jesus death for our sins according to the Scriptures and his ressurrection from the dead according to the Scriptures….and by implication, his deity (or if you prefer, John 8:12-58, esp. 8:24b: “….if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins”).

  • http://bobbyorr.wordpress.com MatthewS

    As to Genesis and creation:
    I found it very interesting a while back to read through a book of creation myths. If I recall, many of them are something like some creature singing a song and the earth and all of its animals becoming material from that song. It stood out to me that while there were points of similarity, they were quite different from Genesis 1, which seems rather sober and factual by comparison.
    I take RJS at her word that there is sound scientific reasoning to question the Genesis account. I wish I understood more of what her concerns are.
    I am pretty much in agreement with Brad in that I read Genesis as literally as possible. I will believe in 7 literal days (which does not necessitate a young earth) until I am convinced otherwise. A Hebrew prof in seminary once stated that he had read a great deal of extant semitic literature and that he was familiar with documents that were intended to be mythic and those which were sober fact, and that Genesis is written as sober fact. A different prof stated Genesis 1 is clearly intended to be doxological. They are both intelligent, studied, recognized scholars and godly men.
    A side comment – two things in nature point me to a creator: 1) The stunning array of sea life. Man, there are some crazy things down there. 2) The creativity of humans. People all over the world are creative. Where did that come from?

  • Nancy

    I’m drawn to this thread on religion and science. As a person with a PhD in Philosphy and an individual trained in a “scientist/practitioner” model of psychology, I have long dealt with these kinds of schisms. Even in my own branch of science, there is this concern with merging established scientific relationships between things (the data) and the more intuitive and artful process of applying such “knowledge” (the clinical application of data). I was trained up in managing to intermingle both. Perhaps that has colored my view of religion and science for I’ve never understood the seeming adversarial relationship between the two. I know it has existed but I don’t think it is helpful to further the process along. I see them as complementary, able to inform the other, as it were.
    When it comes to my approach to the Bible and whether I view it is an historical account or metaphorical text, I don’t look at it as either/or. I think Genesis can be approached as BOTH containing historical record AND myth/poetry. I like how some authors (eg, John Eldredge) do not write off myth as “false” information or simply fairy tale but suggest that we find consistent themes in our “stories” because the desires and conflicts embedded in them reflect a part of our reality, the truth about our existence. Whether there was an original couple (and DNA evidence recently has suggested there could have been) is not all that important to me. I experience our “fallenness” and need for help on a daily basis. How we got there is less relevant for me. My faith does not depend on it. And I do not need to know the exact mechanism outside of the sacrifice Jesus made for us all, to believe in the redemptive work in process within me and others.

  • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com/ Peggy

    WARNING — detour ahead! (Just wanted to give you a moment to slow down and change gears….)
    It’s kind of sad to see the conversation-killing turn being taken on this thread and some others. I have an observation, based on my own struggles with even wanting to comment (and those of you who know me know that I don’t usually shy away from throwing something out there on the table 8) ):
    I am so appreciative of the engagement Scot (and RJS, with other invited from time to time) has with books and authors, and that he wants to share with us and invite us into a good conversation. But there’s a few challenges, as I see them:
    1. The original post usually covers a lot of ground in the book that really gets us thinking. That’s great! But then, right at the end, there comes a question (or series of questions) that seems to change directions … like turning a corner. Some of us don’t correct well enough and run off into a ditch. Others of us refuse to even see the turn and keep on going in the original direction.
    2. When there is a big turn without a signal, it seems like only those who have been reading along with the book have thought enough about the particular issues to be ready to turn away from the “facts” presented to processing underlying and resulting implications.
    3. When there are lots of things talked about in a post, and especially when a whole slew of questions are asked, it just seems like too much information — like justice isn’t being done to any of the questions.
    So, showing my hand as one not usually reading the books being discussed, maybe this is done as a shotgun kind of thing … not knowing what might strike folks fancy, a lot of things are thrown out there.
    I can understand that … and I’m hoping folks don’t hear this as whining … it just gets confusing to have so many card games playing across the same table. :(
    Thanks McK (#9), for leaning in and throwing out a card for the game I thought we were playing, trying to get back on track. Good to have you back at the One T, partner.
    …I must need a nap. Maybe I need to just take in the air from the porch for a spell…. ;)

  • RJS

    Peggy,
    I am not sure exactly what you are getting at but…
    I am probably the one who introduced the abrupt turn — but only because I think that this is where the real conflict is. Keller made a number of good points, but stopped short of mentioning the Big One.
    Many are willing to tool along until we get to the theological implications of the Fall —and then we run into problems.
    I will interact on any of the points in the post, but I also think that we need to discuss all of the issues, not just the relatively easy ones.

  • http://www.virtuphill.blogspot.com phil_style

    On the subject of ‘the fall’ can I george murphy’s paper at ASA: link ->
    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2006/PSCF6-06Murphy.pdf

  • http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com steve martin

    RJS #8,
    Sorry, I didn’t mean to be flippant in #6. I agree we need to face the difficult questions head-on. However, I think we also need to be able to admit that, even collectively, we “Really don’t know” in some instances. And the Fall may be one of those issues. I definitely appreciated Denis Alexander’s presentation at the last ASA meeting. See my post “Reconciling the Fall and Evolution” at http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/2008/02/reconciling-fall-and-evolution.html
    for some brief reflections on this presentation, and links to the audio, powerpoint, and handout.
    (BTW: Are you a member of the ASA? If not you should be. Yes, I am a member – so full disclaimer.
    Phil: That paper by George Murphy is indeed very good, but its probably not the first thing I’d recommend to someone approaching this subject for the first time. I
    read that
    paper 3 times & decided to put it down for a year because I just couldn’t connect the dots.
    But even Murphy would admit that his work on “Original Sin” and “The Fall” is a research project that is still work in progress.

  • Scott M

    The problem is not the problem.
    That was running through my head and I just wanted to say it. 8) More seriously, when you make something like “the fall” of first importance, you shape everything you might say about God, about the nature of man, and about the substance of reality in terms of the problem. The problem then becomes the lens through which you view and understand the world. That strikes me as less than healthy and by its very nature distorted.
    Is it not perhaps a little better to focus more energy on the goal? On the reason for being human? Yes, the man and the woman failed. But at what did they fail? They failed to move forward toward life and union with God.
    So yes, it is a problem that we are infected by death and ruled by our passions. But the goal is not simply to conquer the passions or to escape death. The goal is, now just as it was then, life in complete union within the dance of God.
    I think it’s a little silly to find some sort of theological “problem” in the question of whether or not there was a man named Adam or not. (Technically, in the accounts in question in Genesis 1-3, that’s not even a proper name anyway.) After all, each of us recapitulates Adam’s choice just as Paul points out.
    It strikes me that we would have always needed God to become one of us, to come near, and ultimately to tabernacle within us for us to achieve that ultimate goal. It’s because we chose death and violence that the Cross of Jesus was necessary.
    As Christians, we must always read Genesis in light of and through the lens of Jesus of Nazareth, not try to read Jesus through the lens of Genesis. That’s just backwards. But it’s why I sense some have a problem with various ways of reading Genesis. It seems to me that when I return to Genesis again and again through the lens of Jesus, I find many ways to read the text, not just one. There are so many levels on which it reveals or points to Jesus that it’s like an onion with infinite layers.

  • RJS

    Steve (#30),
    I am not a member – and hadn’t even heard of the organization until about five or six years ago. I have heard quite a bit about it since.
    Scott M (#31),
    I like your emphasis on reading Genesis through the lens of Jesus rather than vice versa — I need to think about this.

  • Rick

    Scott M #18-
    That was Ignatius.
    Scott M #31-
    Good comments. Your point is was I was attempting to hint at in #5, but you stated it much better (and clearer).

  • Scott M

    Thanks Rick. A different ‘I’ name. Ah well.

  • Mairnéalach

    Imagine the first Christian evangelists traveling outside the Mediterranean. The weird barbarians they encounter have creation myths quite different than the ancient near eastern ones. They share some themes, but, overall, are different.
    What do you suppose the preacher does? Pull out the Torah and start preaching from the beginning? I surely hope not.
    No, he tells of the cross, and the son of man who hung upon it and died. Then he tells of the son of man who came back, with holes in his hands, and appeared to five hundred people. Then he tells them what this event means for them–their salvation by a loving creator. Then he reaps souls as they come forward in repentance and faith, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    The groundwork for the gospel message is laid by an existential awareness of our sin, regardless of our creation myth. I think all myths hint at this, and help confirm it to us personally, but the call for repentance is an immediate and personal one, and may be undertaken by someone with no creation myth at all, methinks.

  • Brad Cooper

    I think Scot makes a very important point:
    To make sense of Christianity, to make sense of the call to follow and have faith in Jesus, is to admit there’s something wrong with me and with everyone. To say Jesus is Messiah, of course, only says that Jesus is the long-expected king; to say Jesus is Savior, which is what the Gospels and Epistles clearly teach, is to say there is something wrong.
    Christianity only makes sense when there is something terribly wrong that it resolves.

    To me, this is where capitulating to an evolutionary interpretation of origins is most detrimental to theology.
    If evolution is true, then how can we say that there is anything wrong? More than that, how can we say that people are to blame?
    If evolution is true, we have arrived here as a matter of selfishness and conflict and murder and death and that is how God planned it: survival of the fittest and natural selection through hundreds of millions of years of “nature red in tooth and claw.”
    What kind of God does this and then brings judgment on the creatures that he “created” for being the way that he created them? If the way that nature is is the way it has always been and the way God created it, then God is to blame. Who can blame people for stealing or lying or coveting or even killing? This is survival of the fittest. There’s nothing wrong with it at all. It’s the way we evolve. It’s the way we become better……
    One other problem with this capitulation: If the evolutionary interpretation of origins is true, then God is not only not so good, he’s not so great either. He is really no more intelligent or more powerful than what we will be when we evolve for another 100 years. If it really took him 3.5 billion years to create humans “from scratch,” then I am not impressed at all. I’m tempted to say that he is just a pretty good genetic engineer, but then that’s more credit than evolution would give him. He’s really only a moderately good breeder. I would say that a good genetic engineer would probably be able to create a human being in much less than 3.5 billion years. (That’s a lot of R & D!)
    Let me add a third observation: If the prevailing evolutionary interpretation of origins is even remotely true, then God is either not very honest or he’s just a terrible communicator. Genesis is either a very serious misrepresentation or God just wasn’t able to communicate through Moses very clearly. And we can’t just blame it on “God was doing the best he could with ancient world views, blah, blah, blah”…. The ancient Greeks expounded visions of evolution that came much closer to the present evolutionary interpretation of origins than anything revealed in Genesis. So either God is dishonest or just incompetent.
    BOTTOM LINE: The god of evolutionary theory is not very good or very great. He’s just very old.
    That certainly is not the God revealed in the Bible. That is not the God I have learned to trust and follow. Not the God I have put my hope in nor the God I lay everything down for.
    As for me, in my 30+ years of studying the issue–both from the works of creationists and evolutionists, and critically examining the evidence presented by both–I have found that the scientific evidence is firmly against the evolutionary mythology.
    The evolutionary myth is a 14 billion year timeline of scientific impossibilities….
    ….from the Big Bang (lucky we only had one!)
    …to the random collection of particles into finely tuned atoms of different elements
    …..to the assemblage of stars and planets and solar systems and galaxies into precise orbits
    …..allowing for a planet that stays finely tuned for life for 3.5 billion uninterrupted years
    …..to the chance assembly, survival and reproduction of the first living cell (the complexity of which we are only beginning to understand)
    …..to a myriad of major additions to the genetic information (for which the only evidence that we have is that genetic information is constantly degrading; that is, loss of genetic information is a well-documented fact. Each person that is born brings into the world no less than 300 new deleterious mutations. There has never been any evidence of any means for introducing new information. The evidence is that our genome is headed towards meltdown not a new evolutionary step)……
    All of the so-called evidence for evolution that was given in my high school biology textbook has been shown to be patently false. The one evidence given that I actually found to be somewhat compelling (Haeckel’s line drawings of embryos) has turned out to be completely fraudulent (yet perpetuated by evolutionists for more than 100 years after it was shown to be fraudulent).
    I could go on…..but I have probably already gone on way too long already. But considering the nature of the comments in this thread, I guess I felt compelled to give a serious response. I hope I have not missed my cue.
    Peace.

  • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com/ Peggy

    RJS (#28),
    Sorry to be gone so long … very busy day … and I realize that you “took the turn” to ask the big question, but my point was only to say that sometimes these conversations get so complicated because we (me and the mouse in my pocket, that is 8) ) can’t wrap our brains around ALL the questions that seem to get asked in the original post.
    So, as in the times of the judges, everyone does what is right in their own eyes … and sometimes this results in less than stellar circumstances for the more difficult conversations. I wonder whether more focus (fewer, but more targeted, questions?) would help?
    Or not … I certainly don’t want to have anyone “control” the conversation, necessarily. Just voicing something that I see and feel frequently.

  • Ranger

    Brad,
    Good response. I’m not a scientist, so I’ll leave the scientific stuff to RJS and others. I, like you and everyone else on this board, am a theologian and would like to comment on some of your more theological points.
    “If evolution is true, then how can we say that there is anything wrong? More than that, how can we say that people are to blame?”
    I don’t think anyone here would argue against humanity having a will. Furthermore, I don’t think most of us would argue against that will being significantly free. We all agree that we live in a world where humanity has a significantly free will, and where we are called into relationship with God (I think we all agree on that as well), and where people have transgressed the relationship with God (nobody will argue that either will they?). If that world is a given, then neither evolution, nor young earth creationism, nor intelligent design factors into the theological discussion of the reality of something being wrong, because none of the three views challenge those points, do they?. Furthermore, if God has called us into relationship and we willfully reject that calling causing problems in our world, then we can clearly say that we are to blame.
    “If the prevailing evolutionary interpretation of origins is even remotely true, then God is either not very honest or he’s just a terrible communicator. Genesis is either a very serious misrepresentation or God just wasn’t able to communicate through Moses very clearly.”
    Could you discuss this some more? My understanding of evolution is very simplistic, and I’m not sure where I fall scientifically (and probably never will because I’m not qualified in that field), but from my understanding evolution says our current situation came through mutations over long periods of time. If that is evolution, then I don’t see why it is incompatible with the God of Genesis.
    Moreover, I’m fairly confident that you do not mean that “Genesis is a serious misinterpretation,” but specifically that the first chapter of Genesis is a misinterpretation. As someone who very deeply loves the Scriptures, and strongly believes in their authority and power, I must simply disagree that the first chapter of Genesis speaks to this issue. I haven’t made a decision on scientific origins, but I can confidently say that the first chapter of Genesis is unclear on this regard simply because it doesn’t have science in mind. It’s one of the more beautiful passages in Genesis, but I simply can’t force it into speaking about scientific matters. Furthermore, if it is speaking about scientific matters, it’s only then that I would make your point that God “is a terrible communicator.”
    If you get a chance could you take the time and explain why you think Genesis 1 (or Genesis) speaks to this issue at all? Thanks!

  • RJS

    Brad,
    Thanks for weighing in – and there is too much there for one response so I am not going to begin to try to do it all at once.
    By this time you also know I have a different perspective on most of it —except (and this is the big one) — the centrality of the fall in orthodox Christian theology. Original sin is one of those doctrines that should be self-evident to anyone who really looks at the world in which we live and the history that we have.
    In addition, I do not think that life as we have it is merely the result of long random chance. More importantly mankind is created “in the image of God” profoundly different from anything else. What makes an agglomeration of atoms formed into molecules human? What gives us the ability to think about quantum physics, relativity, the origin of the universe, and the structure of the genome? What gives us a sense of purpose, meaning, despair, joy, and beauty? I look at creation and see the hand of God.
    But, let’s just start in one place toward the top — your question – What kind of God does this and then brings judgment on the creatures that he “created” for being the way that he created them? I don’t think that this a problem with a theistic evolutionary view of origins – but with theology in general. However God created, even if it was on one day out of dust then rib – he created humans capable of rebellion against God and subsequent evil toward our fellow man. Apparently he knew we would rebel. Why did he create us this way and then bring judgment for being the way he created us? I have thoughts on this – but the question has nothing to do with the method of God’s creation.

  • http://bobbyorr.wordpress.com MatthewS

    About essentials – I believe that a story akin to this abbreviated one is essential:
    God created life on this world and things were good – relational shame, anger, abuse, etc. did not exist and mankind had open fellowship with God. Man made a rebellious choice. Relationships now had shame, anger, abuse, etc. and mankind did not have open fellowship with God in the same way as before. Later, God appeared to Abraham and made him a promise that all people would be blessed through him. Later still, God presented Moses with his law, which described a community and a way to live in harmony with God. The bad news is, the law curses anyone who does not obey it. Eventually Jesus was born, lived, died, rose again, ascended back into heaven. He absorbed our curse by his death and made a new relationship with each other and with God possible for us. Those who respond in faith, similar to Abraham’s response, are redeemed and made right with God and given his Holy Spirit. This is the blessing that God intended in his promise to Abraham.
    I am aware of more than one way to read Paul and Galatians. But I think that this basic story line is present in Paul’s thinking in Gal 3:1-14. There’s more to the story, but these are some high points of it.

  • Scott M

    RJS said:

    Original sin is one of those doctrines that should be self-evident to anyone who really looks at the world in which we live and the history that we have.

    Interesting. I suppose it depends on what you mean by “original sin”. If you have in mind the exclusively Western and rather late-developing notion that we all inherit some sort of state of sin when we are born, then I would utterly disagree with your statement. There is nothing that demonstrates that to be true in the world or history around us. People do good things. And people do bad things. And the more innocent are generally the younger. Further, unless you approach scripture having already decided that’s the lens through which you will read it, there’s nothing self-evident in scripture that would lead you to that conclusion.
    Not having been raised within that perspective, I know that for certain. I never could see in scripture or in the world around me what was so ‘self-evident’ to all the Christians I was around. That’s why it was a huge relief to me to discover (in part through Scot) that the entire Eastern tradition of Christianity has never viewed the problem that way. If my perspective is strange, at least it lines up with a huge (and arguably oldest) tradition of the Church.
    Hmmm. As I reflect on it, maybe that’s why it doesn’t bother me at all if we aren’t all descended from some single individual who was later named ‘Adam’ and who was, along with a particular female named ‘Eve’, the progenitor of the human race. I don’t need to trace my sinfulness back to some distant ancestor as some inherited thing. In my fear and isolation, I’ve found myself fully capable of recapitulating the story of the Fall. The Fall is not some distant past event. Rather, we actively participate in it every time we choose death instead of life.

  • Rick

    Scott M-
    Interesting you should mention that. Last night I was reading a paper by Steve McCormick on John Wesley and John Chrysostom, and read the following that touched on that:
    “Chrysostom’s optimism of grace would not let him formulate a pessimistic view of humanity.102 As humanity was created provisionally for the purpose of becoming “sons of God,” not even the fall and original sin can deny that potential. The overriding theme of theosis defined Chrysostom’s view of creation, anthropology and hamartiology. And these enter into the optimism of his anthropology, though, as is seen in his exposition of the fall and original sin, that anthropology is determined more specifically by his incarnational understanding of grace. More narrowly yet, his optimistic anthropology is derived from the prevenience of grace, as depicted in creation. The idea of deification predominates in such a way as not to allow for a pessimistic anthropology derived from certain understandings of the fall.103″
    The whole paper (although it does not deal specifically with creation and sin) is here:
    http://cache.search.yahoo-ht2.akadns.net/search/cache?ei=UTF-8&p=wesley+chrysostom+orthodox&fr=yfp-t-501&u=wesley.nnu.edu/wesleyan_theology/theojrnl/26-30/26-3.htm&w=wesley+chrysostom+orthodox&d=GrV3kTWxQnhd&icp=1&.intl=us

  • RJS

    Scott M,
    I must admit that I have not read enough here and am not qualified to comment on the various positions that have been taken, eastern, western, or modern or the nuances of these…except to say that I see no evidence in the world for an optimistic anthropology apart from the grace of God through Christ. This is what I mean by the self-evident observation that all (no exceptions) are fallen.

  • Brad Cooper

    Ranger (#38) & RJS (#39),
    I have no doubt–having read many of both of your posts–that your faith is quite orthodox. And I also realize that my comments are directed towards you among others. This is not out of disrespect by any means. I have great love and respect for both of you.
    FIRST, the Fall/original sin: Fortunately, all three of us agree about the extent of sin. And we agree about the origin of sin: people. The Bible is much more specific than that, though. The origin if sin is Adam; and we all inherited that sinful nature from him. A minor point perhaps, but nevertheless one that is repeated in the New Testament. At the very least, we can all agree that God puts the blame for sin on people.
    However, if evolution is true, it is very difficult to see how the things that the Bible calls sin can be blamed on people. They seem to be the naturally inherited inclination of a nature produced by eons of survival of the fittest. People are acting according to the very scheme which God put in place and said was good. They are acting in accordance with what they see in nature all around them. Animals steal from animals all the time. Animals harm and kill other animals all the time, etc. And according to evolution, that’s the way things have always been and that’s how things got to be as good as they are. And if we adopt evolution into our theology, then we must say that God ordained it that way. So why–after billions of years of using this scheme and calling it good–does God suddenly change his mind and call it sin and then blame us for it? According to the evolutionary scheme, the origin of sin hardly seems to be humans. It existed for eons before humans even existed–and by God’s command.
    In other words, there is a difference between being created with the capability of doing these things and being created through the use of these things. And it hardly seems like rebellion if these are God’s ways.
    Furthermore, the Genesis account and several other places in the Bible make it clear that death/the creation’s bondage to decay is the result of sin. (See 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5, Romans 8, etc.) But according to evolution, death has been a part of life for billions of years.
    SECOND, the historicity of Genesis:
    I appreciate your love for the Scriptures. I also treasure them as a precious gift from our heavenly Father. More than that, I treasure them as his words to us.
    “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. Rulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word. I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil.” (Psalm 119:160-162)
    Ranger, Genesis 1 is clearly connected to Genesis 2 and Genesis 2 is clearly connected to the rest of the book of Genesis through its use of genealogies. Thus, I think that Genesis is a whole.
    The question of origins is not strictly speaking a matter of science. It is rather a matter of history. It is a matter of discerning what happened in the past.
    Genesis is certainly not a science book in the sense that it does not give us a lot of scientific information about the specifics of how things looked and functioned when God first created them. It simply says that God spoke and it happened. Although we might include the statement that God created things according to specific “kinds” and made to reproduce after their kind, as a somewhat general scientific statement.
    But Genesis is clearly a history book and the question of origins is a matter of history. Genesis gives us an account of how things came to be.
    Even my liberal professor of Old Testament in seminary (who called me an idolater for questioning the skepticism of the Biblical scholars that she loved so much) admitted that any honest scholar of Hebrew would have to say that Genesis speaks of 6 literal 24-hour days. The language is unambiguous.
    And it speaks very clearly of Adam as a historical person, a fact which is reiterated in numerous ways in the New Testament (perhaps the most notable being Luke’s inclusion of Adam in Jesus’ genealogy).
    My point then is that Genesis speaks of creation as an effortless and instantaneous event that God spoke into being with all the different “kinds” of plants and animals already formed and ready to produce after their kind. Yet according to evolution, that’s not at all how it happened. It should have been stated (and various ancient Greek sources do) that creation was a progression (one kind gave rise to another kind, and so on). Genesis should have used the term years instead of days (or perhaps ages, as in a certain Greek account of the creation of people). Perhaps even saying years as numerous as the stars or the sands of the sea (as with the number of Abraham’s descendants). And of course the whole order of the days is messed up. And it should simply state that God created people and Adam and Eve were among them–not presenting them as the very first and the parents of all, etc…..
    Well, I hope this helps to clear up what I was trying to say….
    May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus be with you both.

  • http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com steve martin

    Scott M (#31): Very well said. Thanks. And #41 is a good point to. In fact, the paper that Phil mentions in #29 does hint at the fact that those of us in the western tradition can learn from the eastern tradition on original sin.
    Brad: Actually, now that I take a look at Murphy’s paper again (#29), you may want to read that. It starts addressing a lot of your concerns in #36.
    All:
    The point that I believe RJS is making is that some of the evidence from modern science (eg. there is no single, recent human couple from which we are all descended) does fly in the face of what *might be* “orthodoxy” – certainly some people’s definition of “Evangelical orthodoxy” (eg. Chicago statement), also reformed orthoxy (eg. Westminister Confession), and some of the Church Fathers’ thinking (eg. Augustine). It is almost certainly true that the Apostle Paul believed in a “literal Adam and Eve” & that shows up in his inspired writing.
    This last one is of course the toughest. With all due respect to Brad’s points above, finding compatability between biological evolution and a high view of scripture in Gen 1 and 2 (and indeed 1-11) is not really that difficult. Paul’s use of Adam in his theology (eg. Rom 5) is difficult.

  • Brad Cooper

    Steve,
    Thanks. I’ll take a look at Murphy’s paper. BTW, love your movies! :) (OK, I realize that was not original…but couldn’t resist anyway….) Peace.

  • Brad Cooper

    Well, Steve, I read Murphy’s article. I found nothing substantially new here….just the usual smokescreens and sidestepping that I’ve seen many times before. Murphy affirms the problems of reconciling evolution with what the Bible tells us about the Fall (so at least we agree about that), but he does not solve any of the real problems.
    By smokescreens and sidestepping, I mean (1) allusions to accomodation (for which I have begun to show the inadequacy of that approach), (2) drawing attention to side issues while avoiding the real issues (which he never gets back to after bringing them up) and (3) providing answers that are not satisfactory (and in one case, I feel, simply not truthful: the idea that Adam and Eve are not presented in Genesis as historical people….not only is Adam presented in the geneaologies but they have multiple children with real stories, etc…..).

  • http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com steve martin

    Hi Brad,
    Since you believe that “allusions to accommodation” when discussing the interpretation of scripture is equivalent to sidestepping, we are probably not going to be able to come anywhere close to agreement here – so there is not much point in hogging RSS space. Accommodation has a long (although contested) history in reformed and evangelical thinking. I believe Peter Enns Incarnation and Inspiration> is a hugely positive step for Evangelicals grappling with scriptural interpretation (particularly Genesis); I suspect you believe is a dangerous step off the straight-and-narrow.
    However, I believe we share the same passion – proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom – which of course is the most important point. Peace.

  • http://bartramia.blogspot.com sam carr

    Brad,
    It may be overly simplistic on my part, but my literal approach to scripture demands first an acceptance of how the text itself is structured and the text’s literary purpose. I love Genesis and to my eyes the text of Genesis 1 and then 2 read as two different stories that have been put together for a particular purpose. I realise that we are now perhaps not discussing what this post actually intended and apologise for that.
    I do think that there are more ways (and biblically sound ways) of thinking about especially the fall from an evolutionistic perspective than you give credit for. For one thing arguing that we have to be saved because we fell is not perhaps the very best argument for the incarnation of our Lord – nor particularly biblical in itself. Relatedly Paul argues from nature that it is fallen. He also implies that a proper observation of the state of nature itself is the greatest evidence for God and is something that all people can instinctively accept.
    The point is not to somehow make the bible acceptable to those of a scientific bent but it is essentially a question of whether we are being true to the text, allowing the text to speak to us, and refusing to allow our own pet theories and suppositions cloud our full entry into what the text of scripture actually teaches – which has nothing at all (imo) to do with either evolution, or ID or any of the ‘creationist’ theories that I have run into so far.

  • MDOC

    Brad, (#21), how’s this for “evidence?”
    Scientists Who Believe (ISBN 0-8024-7634-1)
    Scientific Creationism (ISBN 0-89051-003-2)
    The Collapse of Evolution (2nd Ed.) (ISBN 0-8010-4384-0)
    Or are these books too old?

  • MDOC

    What are the essentials? Essentials of what?
    …But to answer anyway, for soteriological purposes, belief in creation isn’t necessary. But it becomes a necessary concept in the life of a true studious believer, because that “God is the creator of all things” is a sound biblical concept.

  • http://mikerucker.wordpress.com mike rucker

    brad cooper – i’d like to continue swapping thoughts with you, but i don’t want to weigh down the thread here with our tit-for-tat. feel free to email me at 5ruckers at bellsouth dot net.
    if it’s ok with you, i’ll also pull the emails between us into a post over at my blog. any of you here at Jesus Creed that have not had your fill of meaningless and unresolvable back-and-forth exchanges this presidential election season are welcome to stop by and read the dialogue…
    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  • http://attie.wordpress.com/2008/05/22/wetenskap-en-geloof/ Anonymous

    WETENSKAP EN GELOOF « Attie se koffietafel.

    [...] Daar is verskillende redenasies hieroor en Tim Keller het onlangs ‘n boek geskryf: The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. Ek dink die titel spreek vanself. Op Scot McKnight se blog Jesus Creed is daar tans ‘n bespreking oor hierdie boek. Die bespreking word gely deur RJS, ‘n Chemie professor aan ‘n bekende Universiteit in die VSA, en dus self ‘n wetenskaplike – sy kan nie haar naam en haar Universiteit bekend maak nie, aangesien sy die risiko sal loop om haar werk te verloor. [...]

  • RJS

    Brad,
    This post and the subsequent comments cover a big area. I sympathize with Peggy(#27). I rather think that it may be better sometime in the future to try to structure a discussion around more bite-sized chunks. We’ll see.
    The science isn’t easily dismissed. But mindless evolution as “grand narrative” or “ruling paradigm” is entirely unsatisfactory for some of the reasons you’ve given, and others.

  • Brad Cooper

    Steve (#48),
    It could easily be argued that some accomodation is inevitable in God communicating glimpses of reality to finite humans. For now that revelation is as seeing “through a glass, darkly.” But we cannot simply use accomodation like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card whenever we get stuck in our theology.
    As I analyze the issues, it just doesn’t add up for me. There seem to be very simple ways that God could have communicated the reality of origins in a way that resembled the long process of evolution rather than the quick and simple event found in Genesis. And it would not be necessary for God to communicate that Adam is a historical person if he is not.
    But to be honest, I would probably find the accomodation route more compelling if I found the evidence for the evolutionary scheme of origins in the least bit compelling. Having made a careful study of most of the important issues, I find the case for evolution completely lacking and I find the case against evolution very compelling.
    But perhaps some day we will meet each other on some golden street and you’ll say “Hey! Aren’t you that guy on Jesus Creed who couldn’t believe God would use evolution to create the world? I tried to tell you…..” :)
    In the mean time, I have to go with the evidence. Fortunately, no one’s salvation is at stake here. But I am convinced that the implications for theology and for world views are serious. And that’s why I take this issue seriously.
    But I do sincerely agree with you on this: “we share the same passion – proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom – which of course is the most important point.”
    Peace to you, also.

  • Brad Cooper

    Sam (#49),
    I disagree with you on some minor points. But I think we agree on the most important point that you make:
    The point is not to somehow make the bible acceptable to those of a scientific bent but it is essentially a question of whether we are being true to the text, allowing the text to speak to us, and refusing to allow our own pet theories and suppositions cloud our full entry into what the text of scripture actually teaches
    I don’t agree that evolution, ID and creationism have nothing at all to do with it, though. I think they inform our understanding and help us to evaluate our understanding of the text. Ultimately, though, I agree that I trust the revelation God gives in Scripture above the opinion of any human (evolutionist or creationist).
    Peace.

  • Brad Cooper

    MDOC (#50),
    I cut my teeth on Scientific Creationism about 30 years ago. Heavily documented from the scientific literature and logically presented.
    I’m only vaguely familiar with the other two, but they look good.
    I would recommend:
    Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe
    Not by Chance by Dr. Lee Spetner
    What Darwin Didn’t Know by Geoffrey Simmons
    Darwin’s God by Cornelius Hunter
    The Great Turning Point by Terry Mortenson
    In Six Days by Ashton
    Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells
    Evolution: Challenge of the Fossil Record by Duane T. Gish
    Bones of Contention by Marvin Lubenow
    Refuting Evolution by Jonathan Safarti
    Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
    How Now Shall We Live? by Chuck Colson
    and the DVD “Unlocking the Mystery of Life”
    Each of these is excellent and approaches this issue from different angles.

  • Brad Cooper

    Mike (#52),
    I’ll think about it and get back to you. Thanks for the offer. Peace.

  • Brad Cooper

    RJS (#54),
    I agree wholeheartedly with everything you say here. And thanks once again for taking on this very large but important task.
    May our Lord Jesus bless your efforts and fill your life with his grace and peace.

  • Brad Cooper

    RJS,
    By my comment in #59, I mean that I agree wholeheartedly with everything you say in your comments at #54. Obviously there are some things that we do disagree about, though they are not nearly so substantial as the things that we agree about. Peace.

  • http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog dopderbeck

    I’ve studied this intently over a couple of years, and now I’m a theistic-evolution-intelligent-design-old-earth-creationist. In other words — all of the various views one could take have some good and some bad points, IMHO. Which is why Keller’s point re: evangelism, I think, is basically right — it is not essential to an individual person’s salvation to hold one view over the other. However, we do need some better answers when people ask questions.
    I’d really love to see some creative evangelical theological work on what it means for us to say “something is very wrong” when we look openly at the scientific record particularly of human development. Maybe there’s neither a true synthesis nor a true opposition of the theological and scientific views of human origins; maybe at this point in history we have to speak of a dialogical relationship between differening levels of explanation.

  • http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog dopderbeck

    BTW, in terms of literature, I think you have to admire how Roman Catholics approach this question. See, for example, the excellent new volume, “Creation and Evolution: A Conference With Pope Benedict”: http://tinyurl.com/5nuj74

  • http://mikerucker.wordpress.com mike rucker

    I’ve studied this intently over a couple of years, and now I’m a theistic-evolution-intelligent-design-old-earth-creationist.
    well said. :)
    however, don’t be surprised when people start calling you a flaky moral relativist who doesn’t believe in absolute truth.
    just the voice of experience…
    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  • MDOC

    Brad (#57),
    Thanks for the list. Is the DVD captioned?

  • Brad Cooper

    MDOC (#64),
    You’re welcome…..some day I hope to get my own blog site set up and have bibliographies like this set up with brief notes about the contents of the books…..some day…. :)
    I’m not sure if the DVD is captioned. I can’t see anything about it on the case (and the kids are watching the tv)…..But this is one of the best things available in video on the subject.
    Also, I forgot a book I wanted to include. Just read it very recently. I think it is a very important book in the whole discussion (strong evidence that we are devolving and not evolving….If chimps we’re really closely related to us, we would have gone extinct long before we had evolved into humans….Our genome is in meltdown and we would be heading to extinction if Jesus didn’t come back first):
    GENETIC ENTROPY & THE MYSTERY OF THE GENOME by J.C. Sanford (a former professor of Horticulture at ivy league school Cornell University for 25 years and a genetic engineer with 25 patents including one of the most important processes used in horticulture today)….
    Peace.

  • MDOC

    OK, two questions:
    1) You’re aware of Genesis 1:11-12? Every seed produces its own kind. What things adversely and irrepairably affects our genome?
    2) You’ve said: “Our genome is in meltdown and we would be heading to extinction if Jesus didn’t come back first…” Are you saying Jesus has come back already (second coming)?

  • Brad Cooper

    MDOC (#66),
    No, I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness….Jesus has not come back already….just a very poorly worded sentence….
    I should have said that our genome is headed towards meltdown….could be within a century or two (according to the projections of certain geneticists that Sanford cites…though I may not be remembering the details 100% correctly)….I’m just saying that I assume that Jesus will come back before that actually happens (or at least before the consequences of it are final)….
    As for the things that are adversely and irrepairably affecting our genome…..each person that is born introduces 300 new harmful mutations into the genome….They are harmful in the sense that they are degrading the information in our genome but most of them are nearly neutral because of their actual effect….As these mutations build up within the genome they will eventually degrade the information in the genome to the point that the consequence will be genetic meltdown and extinction (as with so many species on the planet already).
    The book explains it much better than I am doing (although there is a fair amount of fairly technical information to wade through, Sanford accompanies this with very readable explanations and analogies to help you along the way).
    Hope this clears that up!
    Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

  • Brad Cooper

    MDOC,
    Maybe I should clarify further by saying that the degrading of information within the genome that is caused by this accumulation of mutations leads to genetic diseases and health problems. (Another interesting thing that Sanford points out is that each individual continues to accumulate more mutations as we grow older and that this is what results in aging.)

  • http://www.whiterose4jon.net Mike Mangold

    Ek dink die titel spreek vanself.
    RJS: What is essential for Christianity? Pretty much (1)the messiahship of Jesus, his fulfillment of the law, and the importance of obedience to his words; (2) “repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment;” and (3) the empowering of the body of Christ through the spirit of God . All of this other nonsense (and I’m speaking as a scientist and amateur theologian) is a study in doublespeak. And I know this first-hand: we are looking into a piece of property formed by the last glaciation in Wisconsin 10,000 years ago. The property owners, member of our own church, refuse to acknowledge this since this extends by 4,000 years their concept of the age of the earth.
    Does this address the issue of sin? Probably not unless you consider consciousness as a product of evolution. Some person, some day, way back when HAD to have said to himself: maybe I shouldn’t do this and then did. And like a good husband, he blamed his wife!


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