Telling Our Story (RJS)

The first comment on my post last Thursday was a thought provoking one – John Frye suggested the importance of story in wrestling with the conflict at the core of the interaction of science and faith. From his comment:

Maybe we need to have, also, a heart for truth and a mind for God. You offer the scientific evidence, theologians like Waltke offer biblical, exegetical evidence and it looks like [the] Stott [quote] attempts to marry the two. As an observer, the biblical creation story seems, from the viewpoint of faith, to be vandalized by the idea of God implanting “the image of God” into an “already existing hominoid.” This, then, brings us back to hermeneutics and the ANE mind in writing creation stories. I am totally with you that Genesis 1 – 2 are *not* intended to be viewed as scientific documents of *how* things were ordered, but *that* things were ordered (after chaos).

I would encourage you and your believing colleagues to create accessible faith-informed scenarios that help the average Jane and Joe Christian to not feel the fierce jolt to the Creation Story that they feel by your take on evolution and humanity and the *imago Dei.* For example, using the imagination, take us to and let us ‘see’ that moment when the already existing hominoid was touched, infused with, received the *imago Dei.* If the phrase “the dust of earth” allows for the animal side of the evolutionary story, unpack that creatively and then correlate as much of Genesis 1 and 2 as you can.

He concludes with an important insight: Exegetes and scientists will not be the persuaders of Jane and Joe. Story-tellers will be.

This comment is dead-on. We need to tell our story – the Christ-centered story told in scripture – in an accessible and faith-informed fashion. I will come at this puzzle from several different directions in an occasional series of posts. But we can start with a simple question:

How does our story begin?

We cannot conjure this our of thin air of course – so the question really becomes:

How is this beginning told in scripture and how is it told in the church?

Here is a common framework of the narrative as told in at least some of our churches:

Genesis 1 tells of God as creator – maker of heaven and earth, of everything visible and invisible. The common refrain in Genesis 1 is that as God created He  saw that it was good. Genesis 1:31 concludes creation with the words: God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. The idea that creation was “very good” means perfect -  total perfection, no death, no dying, no pain, no injury, (no rain and no carnivores).

Humans were created, male and female, in the image of God, in a state of innocent perfection.

Satan took the form of a serpent, tempted Eve, who in turn tempted Adam to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This deliberate rebellion destroyed God’s perfect creation, brought death, pain, suffering, and evil into the world.

Evolution undermines this narrative. No question about it – evolution requires a cycle of life and death complete with carnivores and pain preceding the appearance of humans capable of understanding evil and capable of turning to God. If this is the narrative of the Church, the narrative of Scripture, it is hard to reconcile evolution – or even an old earth and progressive creation – with our faith.

This narrative is – or at least can be – consistent with scripture read in a particular fashion. But is it really the scriptural narrative? I suggest  that the problem with this narrative is not, first and foremost, the conflict with science. The most significant problem with this narrative is that this is not the Genesis narrative, the story of creation told in scripture. This narrative can be made to fit scripture, but only, I suggest, by some rather imaginative contortions. I think most Old Testament scholars, including evangelical scholars holding a high view of scripture and a deep faith in God, would agree with this. In other words – it seems to me that the Bible itself undermines this version of a primeval perfection narrative.

This is not my area of expertise – and I am open to listen to contrary opinions. What do you think?

Does this narrative reflect our story as you’ve heard and learned it? How would you tell the story?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net

  • pds

    I thought John’s comment was helpful as well. I have thought much about how we frame the issues in a way that people feel free to develop the story that makes sense to them. There is a lot we don’t know, and because of that, there are several versions of the story that fit Scriptural teaching and also fit the scientific evidence.
    That is also one of the big lessons of the Waltke video clip controversy. I hope everyone knows about the statements Waltke and RTS have now made:
    http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/statements-by-bruce-waltke-and-rts-on-biologos-video-and-waltkes-resignation/
    It was not Waltke’s theological position that caused the problems, but the words used (suggesting others were a “cult”) and the lack of context. Waltke wishes he had been permitted to tell his whole story. (“All ‘would haves’ due to the poor way in which the video was handled by BioLogos and me.”)
    My observations from Saturday are here:
    http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/2010/04/10/observations-on-the-bruce-waltke-biologos-video-and-his-resignation-from-rts/

  • RJS

    pds,
    The CT story with Waltke’s statement is here: http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2010/04/bruce_waltke_he.html
    Please don’t derail this conversation onto peripheral and unrelated issues of gossip and conspiracy.
    Dr. Waltke is a man of grace, he has acted in the fashion he feels best for the church and for all those involved. Shall we follow and actually hold the kind of discussion he advocated in his video? He – like John – has a pastor’s heart in the matter.

  • pds

    “Shall we follow and actually hold the kind of discussion he advocated in his video?”
    Yes, absolutely. Let’s learn from the past too.

  • http://ancientevangelicalfuture.blogspot.com David Neff

    The church fathers didn’t hold to the idea of a perfect mature creation but to a good creation that was supposed to grow and develop. Irenaeus, for example, sees the fall in terms of the original pair wanting some things before they were ready to have them. Thus they acted immaturely. But it was not a fall from *perfection* as such.

  • Phil

    John has picked up on my feelings exactly. The theologians and believers in science have not reached Jane and Joe. AIG and YEC has, and has deeply. As an associate pastor in a conservative church, I’m the only elder who does not hold a YEC position, and feel the sting and questions from others if it comes up. There is no material accessible to others.
    The story does convince me. Realizing dispensationalism was recent caused me to change my view there, realizing that YEC wasn’t even one of the 5 fundamentals further supports listening to the historical wisdom of the church, which we tend not to do.
    Phil

  • http://russellaroberts.blogspot.com Russell Roberts

    What evolution and science do, it seems, is undermine a narrative that apparently results from a misreading of scripture that fails to take into context the culture in which it was written. Does it present some problems? Yes, it does. But the problems are illusory. Maybe the problem results from elevating a story to a place that God never intended it to hold. Bibliolatry is rampant within Christianity in America. What we need is a new perspective of scripture and how God is using it to redeem creation.

  • Rick

    RJS-
    “The idea that creation was “very good” means perfect – total perfection, no death, no dying, no pain, no injury, (no rain and no carnivores).”
    I think you touch on an important point there. Our mindset towards this story is largely shaped by how we look at that term. Interpretations of that need to be worked out for a new narrative.
    I will take a stab a the new narrative, borrowing from some EO teachings since they express more open-ended (open to interpretation) wording:
    “Everything which exists besides God was created by Him…however, did not create everything individually and all at once… He created the first foundations of existence, and then over periods of time (perhaps millions of years, see 2 Pet 3:8) this first foundation of existence-by the power which God had given to it — brought forth the other creatures of God… He acts gradually in time and by means of things previously made by Him to which He has given life-producing potencies and powers….”
    “…everything that God makes is “very good”: the heavens, the earth, the plants, the animals, and finally man himself (Gen 1:31). God is pleased with creation and has made it for no other purpose than to participate in His own divine, uncreated existence and to live by His own divine “breath of life” (Gen 1:30; 2:7)….”
    “…man failed in his God-given vocation. This is the meaning of Gen 3. Man was seduced by evil (the serpent) into believing that he could be “like God” by his own will and effort.”
    “….man’s potency for eternal growth and development in God was turned instead into man’s multiplication and cultivation of wickedness and his transformation of creation into the devil’s princedom, a cosmic cemetery “groaning in travail” until saved once more by God (Rom 8:19-23). All the children of Adam, i.e. all who belong to the human race, share in this tragic fate. Even those born this very minute as images of God into a world essentially good are thrown immediately into a deathbound universe, ruled by the devil and filled with the wicked fruit of generations of his evil servants.”
    However, the “deathbound” term may present some problem in the new narrative, as might the heavier EO emphasis on the devil.

  • Randy G.

    I agree with the importance of story. In fact, I have long said that Christians have the best stories, whether Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Tamar, Rebekah, Ruth, or Esther or David or Peter, or Mary and Martha, or Jesus’ parables, or the stories in Acts.
    This week our college group began a study of Ruth. Blessedly I found a great “commentary” to aid my study. Ellen F. Davis’ book “Who Are You My Daughter: Re-Reading Ruth Through Story and Text,” (illustrated with woodcuts by Margaret Adams Parker)provides the kind of commentary I love, that which provides the perspective of the characters, in this case vulnerable peasant women “…in the age of the Judges.”
    Davis shows us how Naomi’s relationship with Ruth changes dramatically over the course of the story. Most interestingly, Davis under-interprets the story at points — sharing two or three possible interpretations, rather than selecting one as more “true” than the others.
    Additionally the book is illustrated with woodcut prints. It also presents 1-4 verses on the left hand side with commentary on the right. This provides a sense of leisurely reading and inhabiting the text, rather than the usual “full page” book that constantly goads us on to read the rest.
    Peace,
    Randy G.

  • Justin

    “Evolution undermines this narrative. No question about it – evolution requires a cycle of life and death complete with carnivores and pain preceding the appearance of humans capable of understanding evil and capable of turning to God.”
    Couldn’t someone argue that when Scripture says that when death entered the world through Adam, it is referring to death for human beings only? Even if animals didn’t eat other animals before the Fall, they (presumably) still would have eaten plants, which are also living organisms. So there still would have been death involved.
    Just a thought.

  • http://www.TheFaithLog.com Jeff Doles

    If God actually wanted to created the first man directly from the dust of the earth and then breathe life into him, instead of “implanting the image of God into an already existing hominid,” what would that story look like, and how would it differ from the account in Genesis 2?

  • Jeff Doles

    Justin, I don’t think the Hebrews regarded plants as living, the way we do today. People and animals were considered living because of the breath of life in them, but no so plants. They were a different category.

  • MatthewS

    Yes, that reflects the narrative as I understand it. God created a world without shame (“naked and unashamed”), without pain. All was good. Man rebelled, sin enters the scene, and with sin, shame, pain, death (Adam and Eve now hide from God, play the blame game).
    This fallen world is the one into which my brother with Downs Syndrome was born. It’s the fallen world with its shame and sinful selfishness that plays host to abuses and abusers of all kinds to damage and wound so many victims. Jesus entered this fallen world as a suffering Savior and brought reconciliation and redemption with him. There will yet be a world without shame, without pain, where God will wipe our tears away.
    This narrative makes sense for me of a world that is now engulfed in shame and pain but was not always so. Like Pilgrim in Pilgrim’s Progress, we are travelling through, looking forward to That City.
    Without this narrative, I don’t understand atonement, I don’t understand why my brother would be born Downs, why all the other pain in this world: divorce, child abuse, slavery, genocide, etc. etc. With this narrative, I see God as creator, Adam (representing all of us) as screwer-upper, and Jesus as restorer, but so much more, bringing new life.
    In sum, creation-fall-redemption explains a lot, and I’m not sure how that fits with a world that evolved through processes of life and death. Perhaps I’m not playing with a full deck but I think that is the present state of my understanding.

  • dopderbeck

    David Neff (#4) — exactly right — and I’m very glad you’ve chimed in with this here.
    I think a better, and more Biblical, way to frame the story is in terms of “relationship.” This is also something that resonates in our culture. The picture we have by the end of Genesis 2 is one of right relationships. Humanity is in right relationship with God, with each other (man and woman), and with the rest of the material creation. There is a tremendous potentiality here because with this set of relationships in harmony humanity is poised to fulfill gloriously the mandate of Gen. 1:27 to manage the creation.
    What would the world look like today if humanity from its earliest spark of knowing God would have lived out this kind of perfect fellowship? It would have looked like the peace of that Garden in every aspect of society and culture. But humanity almost immediately went in a different direction — a direction away from God, away from fellowship, a “fall” from the goodness and grace of God. The “place” and “time” of that initial moment of right relationships isn’t really the point of the story — it’s not something really knowable to us today, something “lost,” a sort of waking dream, symbolized by the Cherub’s flaming sword that guards Eden. But as much as the dream is the whisper of something past, it is also the breath of future hope, when “God will be all in all.” The real point of this story isn’t for us to pine for what was lost, but to look forward to what will be and participate in what is becoming.

  • dopderbeck

    Matthew (#12) — I hear what you’re saying about your brother with Downs Syndrome. I have a son with a serious neurological disability. But, I think God knew from eternity past that my son would have this “disability.” I don’t think my son is the product of a cosmic error. He is as much a “good” creation of God as you and me and any other “able” person.
    I don’t know if people with disabilities such as Down’s Syndrome or my son’s neurological condition would have experienced those conditions absent the effects of sin. I don’t think the fall changed genetic history or human biology in some dramatic way, so if such disabilities wouldn’t have existed absent sin, this would have to involve some other aspect of what it means to be in close and unbroken fellowship with God. Perhaps God as He “walked in the garden in the cool of the evening” would have healed all such “defects” directly. Or perhaps not. Perhaps the difference would have been in the way we view and relate to people like my son — not as burdens but as blessings. I don’t know. There is a mystery here.
    But my son is not a bitterly twisted monster of the fall. He is just the person God from eternity past knew he would be.

  • David Anderson

    There’s a good new book out on science v. religion by William Brown who teaches at one of the major seminaries in Georgia discussing the various creation stories in the OT (he counts 7) titled The Seven Pillars of Creation. Slightly academic reading, but some thought provoking material.

  • RJS

    David,
    I have a copy of that book and will be discussing it after I finish Adam’s Ancestors (a few weeks). If any one is interested in getting a copy here is the link:The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder

  • MatthewS

    dopderbeck, now that you mention it, I recall that you have a son with a disability. Certainly I do not see my brother or your son as twisted monsters. I have a type A personality which is affected by sin and I have needed glasses from when I was a child. I see all of these things as affected by a fallen world, different from “what would have been” (whatever that might be) in Eden and what will be in the new heaven and new earth.
    If God made all things good, whence disabilties? I’m sure he knew they would happen, but I don’t think he would have ordained them in a world without sin. I don’t see them as part of original creation – I see them as interaction between God’s good creation and the intrusion of the Fall.
    This isn’t meant as a push-back, just thinking out loud.

  • http://krusekronicle.typepad.com Michael W. Kruse

    Scientists tend to tell their stories in a decidedly linear fashion … Here is the issue I addressed; here is what everyone else has said about the issue; I theorized about the implications of the issue; I ran experiments which gave me X, Y, and Z findings; here are my conclusions. Theologians frequently follow similar patterns. My sister, who is a business consultant, will tell you that this way of telling a story is deadly in business and in communicating to public. You begin with the conclusion (sometimes preceded by a brief context piece) and then move into a discussion of how that conclusion came to be. Waiting until the end to finally reveal the conclusion will cause readers to become increasingly anxious until they reach the conclusion. This may be great for a mystery novel but when trying to communicate vital information about real life it causes people to resist and rebel against the narrative, if it seems at all unfamiliar, for fear of where it is going.
    Maybe a linear story that goes from creation to consummation isn’t the right approach. Peter Enns notes that the Israelite story was about Israel’s prominence as God’s chosen people, revealing who God is to the world. The Talmud began to emerge in the years after Israel’s exile, largely as an effort to make sense of what had happened in light of the fact that God had remained seemingly inactive for so long. Similarly, he suggests the that the New Testament was the community of Jesus followers trying to make sense of the O.T. in light of the astonishing resurrection of Jesus.
    Reading the Christian story is like reading a novel that only makes sense when you get to the end. Go back and reread the novel and you begin to see how other pieces fit into the ending that you did not perceive at first. Enns says you can’t understand the O.T. until you encounter Jesus and the resurrection. It changes everything. But you can’t understand what Jesus was doing until you understand the O.T. because his whole mission was in relation to the O.T. narrative. (And isn’t it interesting that Christians rearranged the writings Jewish Testament to point a coming messiah.)
    I’ve read books and watched movies that begin at some midpoint in a timeline. The story then flashes back to retell how we came to the midpoint. Then the movie concludes by telling the story of what follows the midpoint. I’ve wondered if our story might not better be told by starting with the resurrection of Jesus. Then, you back up to creation and the events leading to Jesus. Then you go to the early church down to today and on to the consummation.
    Telling the story this way helps Christians immediately connect with the fact that you have not compromised the centrality of Jesus and the resurrection. That makes it easier for them to hear what is to follow that may be contrary to the narrative they have learned. For non-Christians, this approach points to the defining movement in history and interprets everything through that moment.
    Jesus is the answer > Here is the question Jesus was the answer to > Here is the significance of that answer to you.

  • John Walton

    I think that two important points need to be made. One reiterates what I have said in print–sometimes the story is a problem because we confuse what story is being told. I have contended that Genesis does not contain a story of material origins for either the cosmos (the story in Genesis 1 is functional) or for Adam and Eve (the story in Genesis 2 is archetypal). If Genesis does not contain a material narrative, we can look to science to provide it–there is no conflict.
    The second aspect of story relates to the nature of the OT. Too often we think of Genesis 1 or 2 as a story told to Adam and Eve and think of them as the audience for it. The text makes no such suggestion. Even the most conservative views of Genesis consider it as Moses telling the story to the wilderness audience. This makes sense of talking about the cosmos as a temple. It also raises interesting difficulties concerning elements of the story that make sense in an ancient Near Eastern context (nature of serpents, gardens in sacred space) that have meaning to Moses’ audience, but would have no meaning to Adam and Eve.
    So how do we think about the Genesis story as told to its original target audience? On both these counts thinking in terms of story is important and we need to keep disucssing in these terms. Stories are selective in both their content and perspective. Stories impose parameters on events that have a point. Let’s keep talking.

  • dopderbeck

    Matthew (#17) — define “good.” Maybe there is a problem with this narrative: “disability” = “imperfection” = “bad.”

  • Phil

    #18 Michael, great point, I do believe everything needs to be framed and even apologetics needs to be targeted at Resurrection. Keep the main thing the main thing.
    #19, Dr. Walton, absolutely we need to remember that Genesis, all of it, was God through Moses to the Israelites, explaining how they got where they were.
    In this light, it makes controversies and certainty seem foolish and wearying.

  • MatthewS

    dopderbeck, in your opinion, will my brother still be unable to speak clearly in Heaven (new heavens and new earth, eternity future)? Will I still need glasses?
    My understanding of “good” includes not struggling against limitations against what the body and mind seem designed to do. Also, no shame, no blame, and no tears.

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    RJS #2,
    “Please don’t derail this conversation onto peripheral and unrelated issues of gossip and conspiracy.”
    This really saddens me. John Frye’s quote was made in a discussion of Bruce Waltke. His quote specifically references Waltke. Over the weekend people “gossiped” and jumped to conclusions and unfairly attacked RTS. I post a comment that agrees with John’s quote, tries to set the factual record straight, and suggests some lessons we might learn, and this is the way you respond?
    Let’s “follow and actually hold the kind of discussion he advocated in his video.” Indeed.

  • http://www.bakeracademic.com James Ernest

    Interesting thread. For any who want to pursue early Christian interpretation of the Genesis creation narratives, may I recommend a book? –Peter C. Bouteneff, Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings of the Biblical Creation Narratives (http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com/Book.asp?isbn=978-0-8010-3233-2)

  • MatthewS

    I also appreciate the necessary reminder of the original audience. And the story was not left behind by the early church; I love the new creation themes that appear in the NT.
    I don’t know if this is significant or related, but isn’t it the case that the creation story in the NT was most often in a context of exhortation to believers rather than a polemic to unbelievers?

  • RJS

    James Ernest (#24)
    Bouteneff’s is an excellent book. I posted on it – oh a year ago or so and should probably come back to it again. He has some very important points looking at the way Gen 1-3 is dealt with in the Jewish and early church contexts.
    Part Four
    Part Three
    Part Two
    Part One
    By the way – the series on John Walton’s book can be found here.

  • James Moon

    This question is for anyone… I’m wondering, was physical death brought upon because of the fall?
    If Adam and Eve brought in physical death into this world as people may argue for from Romans 5 and 1 Cor 15, and Jesus’ death and resurrection purports to reverse this pattern, by being victorious over physical death, thus, inaugurating a new Kingdom that when fully consummated, there’ll be no death and pain ….
    but how can Jesus be reversing death that Adam brought upon when it was already happening before Adam through evolution?

  • dopderbeck

    Matthew (#22) — good question — but in a way, I think a misplaced question. In the new heavens and new earth, we will be “raised incorruptible.” What will the “resurrection body” be like? In what ways will it have continuity and discontinuity with the present body? I honestly don’t know. If the appearances of Jesus after the Resurrection provide any clues, there may be some curious continuities — remember, Jesus showed Thomas his scars. In a Platonic “heaven,” would you expect a resurrected body to bear the scars of torture and execution?
    But this is speculation. Your brother, my son, will be “raised incorruptible” (1 Cor. 15:52) in the new heavens and new earth where there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21). The “design” of their lives, in God’s sovereignty, involved the “limitations” you speak of during this life. How that “design” relates to the completion of their redemption in the eschaton is a mystery.

  • http://www.TheFaithLog.com Jeff Doles

    Reading Genesis Creation in terms of Temple motif is interesting but does not seem to me to exhaust the meaning of the text. For example, if it is about temple or sacred space, then why is it presented with very definite chronological elements?
    And how did, say, the Jews of the Second Temple era understand it? Did they take it as Temple motif? Or did they take it as history? Or did they disavow it as history?
    Also, since I’m here and asking questions — If God “implanted” His image in a pre-existing hominid, then why did He not simply say that He did that instead of presenting it as if He formed first man fresh from the ground in His own image?
    I can certainly see the value, and even the necessity, of processing the Creation story in our own story. But it seems like it could very easily slip into replacing God’s story of Creation with out own, instead of letting His story enlighten ours. Might we not end up, then, making God into our own image instead of letting Him reveal His image in us?

  • DRT

    Folks,
    Question – was the language back in the days of the OT capable of expressing emotion as we know it today, or were they forced to use actions and descriptions?
    I could contend that the creation story of the bible is actually trying to communicate emotion (or relationship) but unable to do so effectively because of the language.
    Heck, despite how articulate many of you are, we still really do not have adequate words to express what I feel in relatinship with God.
    Dave

  • RJS

    James Moon,
    I don’t think that there is any reason to view the death of Romans 5 as encompassing all biological death – including animal death. Sin may have damaged creation – but it did not take a timeless existence and turn it into a temporal existence. After all – the animals were commanded to be fruitful and multiply, the humans to be fruitful, multiply, subdue the earth and rule it. Existence with progress has some renewal and redistribution which must include death – in growing plants, in bacteria, in animals.
    Even John Calvin, who viewed creation as perfect and the fall as introducing inclement weather and human disease, seemed to see a time line for existence, including human existence, in the original creation. The difference is that people would have passed to a better life without death and dissolution. In his commentary on Genesis he notes: Truly the first man would have passed to a better life, had he remained upright; but there would have been no separation of the soul from the body, no corruption, no kind of destruction, and, in short, no violent change.
    No “death” before the fall simply doesn’t seem consistent with any part of the story.

  • DRT

    What are we going to do when we finally realize that animals are sentient beings like us and discriminating against them is evil…..That’s really going to mess the whole story up.
    Or, for me to be further relagated to the loony bin, when we find life on another planet.
    Dave

  • James Moon

    RJS, thanks so much. Sorry, I got 4 questions. You can email me if you want. jpmoon82@gmail.com if you’ve got time to answer.
    1. So if death was present before the fall, what did Jesus’ death and resurrection restore in the physical sense for humans and for all of creation?
    2. Also if evolution was the means to which God used to populate the earth before Adam and Eve, how would this look like? Were there carnivores? Did the human ancestors of Adam and Eve, via cycles of death and life, experience pain and struggle to survive and those best adapted were able to pass their genes on?
    3. Or did Jesus’ death and resurrection dealt primarily with our relationships with God and others (which consequently does effect the physical world. E.g. if we love others, we don’t kill each other).
    4. If diseases and decay resulted from the fall, would it be accurate to say that Jesus’ death purchased our healing from diseases because that’s how it was like before the fall… essentially disease free?
    Any feedback will be appreciated.

  • Rick

    James Moon’s questions are good ones, and ones that we always seem to end up with at the end of the posts/series RJS presents. Much good has come from these posts/series (the conversation of Dr. Walton’s book/theory is an example), but they still seem to stall (or gets vague at best) at Adam, Paul, and Romans.
    It is difficult to produce a new way to tell the story if the connection to the NT has not been worked out.

  • MatthewS

    dopderbeck, how fascinating to think that “no pain” does not equal “no memory of pain” or the absence of scars or other reminders.
    My mind wandered to the book “As We Forgive” which has a metaphor of a Rwandan victim’s scar as a place where justice and mercy meet, stitched together by forgiveness. I find it moving to think that God’s perfect future is not necessarily a place of no scars (scars is a negative word, I just mean it in a general sense) but a place where his story truly ends happily ever after, where scars bear testament to temporary pain replaced with enduring joy.

  • R Hampton

    All animal life feeds on other life to survive. Even the smallest cells in our bodies must eat other cells to live. Only plant cells capable of photosynthesis can feed without killing. There is no other reason for animals to have mouths, digestive tracks, stomachs, gall bladders, livers, etc. Physical Death has always existed and has never has been a punishment.
    The Death that entered the world after the Fall, therefore, was strictly Human and strictly Spiritual. Because Man disobeyed God, Man fell from a state of Grace in which he lived in complete harmony with God. The consequence of this rejection was the isolation of Man’s soul, so that when Man died in such a state, he would be cast outside God’s love for all eternity, a.k.a. condemned to Hell.
    But to this day, Christians believe all other life is incapable of disobeying God, incapable of sin, and for it the state of Grace continues. Only Man needs a Savior, for only Man needs saving.

  • Travis Greene

    Michael @ 18,
    The suggestion of starting with Jesus’ resurrection and working backwards (the literary term is in medias res) is a brilliant one.
    Because the primary problem with framing the story a different way is that for many, Genesis 1-3 is told not only in a literal way that inevitably conflicts with evolution, but in a deliberately anti-evolutionary way. You will frequently here the narrative peppered with asides like “and that’s why we didn’t come from monkeys” and so forth.
    Acceptance of evolution, or at least non-hostility to it, are a prerequisite before finding a better reading of Genesis. Starting with an undeniable assertion of God’s power and creative energy, as well as a strong endorsement of what’s usually called the supernatural, might end-run around this problem.

  • DRT

    #35 R Hampton
    So the creation of man is also strictly spiritual….

  • RJS

    Travis and Michael,
    I agree completely. This is why I framed the question – just before the jump – as a need to “tell our story – the Christ-centered story told in scripture – in an accessible and faith-informed fashion.”
    I think we tell the creation story starting with John 1

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. … And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

    From this we can go to Paul’s discussion in Romans 5 and back to Genesis 1-4.
    But in the telling and in the connection to Romans and Genesis we need the central part of John 1 – the part in my elipse about that relates the truth of the Light John came to proclaim:

    There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.

    This is the key passage for the fall – mankind did not know God tried to become like God, strayed from God – Father and Son (presumably Spirit as well – but this isn’t in the passage).
    And we continue ..

    He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

    The incarnation – when the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us – now we unpack this.
    But the primeval perfection narrative related in my post – in this narrative Christ is almost an after thought, a sacrifice, not eternal creator and center of the story.
    So after John 1, and only after John 1, do I start to worry about the nature of death in Romans 5 and the theological truth of Genesis 1-3.

  • http://www.TheFirstScandal.blogspot.com Robert Hagedorn

    Eden garden sex?
    The lyrics stink.
    But the scandal’s about evidence.
    So forget about lyrics that stink.

  • RJS

    James Moon,
    Important questions – but with respect to the first: what did Jesus’ death and resurrection restore in the physical sense for humans and for all of creation?
    Do you think that the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection are God’s response and solution to a plan gone wrong – or part of the plan from the beginning?
    I think this is one of the key issues we must have a handle on first.

  • http://www.jesustheradicalpastor.com John W Frye

    RJS and others,
    Thank you for citing my thoughts about the need for story and story-tellers as we continue the science and faith conversation. I have learned much from the comments on this thread. My original thought did not include starting with Jesus or the End and working back, but I see great wisdom in that, i.e., to keep the story Christ-centered. I had in mind some narrative fiction that would imagine what it was like for the the hominoid to receive the “image of God.” The creation story of Gen 1-2 does assume death for the animals and humans were herbivores…so plants died (when eaten as food). But someone pointed out that in the ANE mind plants did not have *ruach*/breath as humans and animals do. So plant death may be viewed differently. If Christian writers can write about “heaven” (new creation consummated) with sanctified imagination, why can’t we have imaginative, story-like presentations of origins?

  • R Hampton

    So the creation of man is also strictly spiritual….
    Man the animal was created as all other life, through the process of evolution. But God ensouls Man – the very first two recipients being Adam and Eve. The parents of both Adam and Eve, although of the same species, were not divinely blessed. Souls do not evolve nor are they bestowed by reproduction. This is what it means to be in God’s image.
    The distinction between a simple living being and a spiritual being that is capax Dei, points to the existence of the intellective soul of a free transcendent subject. Thus the Magisterium of the Church has constantly affirmed that “every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not ‘produced’ by the parents – and also that it is immortal” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 366). This points to the distinctiveness of anthropology, and invites exploration of it by modern thought.
    Pope Benedict XVI

  • Brad

    This may be a silly question, but how does the Roman Catholic Church deal with the narrative? How does it handle the questions under discussion? I ask because the RCC officially accepts evolution (right?) and has no problem with any of the science. Surely the church has dealt with these issues? One would assume that the everyday catholic believers did not accept an old earth, evolution, etc. merely because of an issued edict by the pope. Despite the radical difference in structure compared to the evangelical protestant church, is there an example in the Roman Church that we can follow?

  • RD

    A lot of very good comments and questions. I think James Moon has asked some very important questions and would love to hear more response to those.
    I’ve also been thinking about the idea of how scripture and science might be reconciled with regard to the Genesis narratives (or whether it’s really even important if they are reconciled). I heard two Hebrew scholars discussing Genesis some time back and they made this observation with regard to the Hebrew construction of the language in Genesis 1. Most modern translations offer something like, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the deep….” A more literal translation is, “When God began creating the heavens and the earth the earth was formless and empty….” The difference is subtle but striking. In our common translations God CREATED (zap!) and things “became”. In the original language, God was CREATING which denotes an ongoing enterprise (evolution?) that is still ongoing even today.

  • R Hampton

    Brad,
    The Church’s acceptance of Evolution and Science in general is presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but other relevant documents are also available at the Vatican’s web site like Pope John Paull II’s encyclical letter, Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason).
    The difference is that, from the beginning, Catholics have maintained that Natural Revelation – which is known through the application of Reason (Science) – is the equal of, and full partner to ,Special Revelation. American Protestants, who were already suspicious of the concept of Natural Revelation in the 18th and 19th centuries, dismissed it entirely in the mid 20th century (mainly because of Karl Barth). From the Catholic perspective, Protestants have deliberately blinded themselves to half of God’s Revelation.

  • RJS

    John (#41)
    I think we do need some creation narrative stories and story-tellers, and we need to include image of God and hominoids – any such story will be a mix of biblical narrative and fiction (imagination). But we don’t want wishful thinking – or stories not founded in “The Story” – as you’ve said in the past. So on some level I think we need to consider this first – before considering evolutionary creation in particular.
    I think the points John Walton makes in #19 are important as well – we need OT scholars to sketch out a faithful and defensible reading of Genesis through the eyes of the ANE – the original audience. Genesis 1-4 is a story of origins, the origins of Israel and our origins as the people of God, but it is not science or “just history.”
    There have been many good thoughts today. I’ll come back to this again with a slightly different angle.

  • James Moon

    RJS,
    Do you think that the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection are God’s response and solution to a plan gone wrong – or part of the plan from the beginning?
    I think the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection was to ultimately restore us to back into harmony with God and each other that was broken due to the fall. So, Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection were a response to put it this part back right… not saying it was a state of perfect order, but at the very least our relationships were put back right.
    But if indeed there was a fall, is this what caused the physical death, disease, and decay we see today, and did Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection do anything to restore and reverse this disease, death, and decay? And if so, how do you reconcile that with evolution that may suggest that disease, death, and decay are the very means used to get to Adam and Eve?

  • Phil

    But aren’t we missing the point the Fall was part of the plan from the beginning. Do we really think God was surprised by Adam’s Sin.

  • RJS

    Phil,
    I think that the Fall couldn’t have been a surprise. That strains credulity. This factors into my still developing thoughts on the narrative of creation.
    Humans fell, bear the guilt and suffer the consequences. But the narrative of an innocent perfection ripped to shreds by original sin and an angry God just doesn’t make sense. The story has to be more involved than this.
    If we look at the overall plan – which foresaw rebellion and included incarnation – evolution as a method of creative growth isn’t such a stretch.

  • http://krusekronicle.typepad.com Michael W. Kruse

    RJS #47
    Let me get heretical here.
    We have the Genesis 1-4 story. After that Adam is not mentioned again in the O.T. except in terms of genealogical reference. (Hosea 6:7 is a possible exception although translators seem uncertain whether this was “Adam” or “men.”)
    In the N.T., outside of genealogical references, there are only three references: Rom 5:15, 1 Cor 15, and 1 Timothy 2:13-14. The 1 Timothy passage is used illustratively to address a teaching problem. That leaves the other two passages.
    This idea of Adam leading everyone to sin isn’t referenced anywhere else in the entire O.T. and yet this is the defining moment in human history prior to the cross?
    Take Peter’s example of Sarah in 1 Peter 3:5-6:
    “5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”
    The peculiar thing about this passage is the nowhere does Sarah call Abraham in master in the Genesis account. Peter Davids has suggested that Peter may have drawing on a popular fictitious story written in the First Century that portrayed Sarah in just this way. I don’t think the original readers of the Abraham story would have been able to see Peter’s idea in the text.
    We see the O.T. repeatedly paraphrased and reshaped to make points in the N.T. Was Paul in Romans 5 and in 1 Cor 15 innovating on the stock stories of the Jews in order to make a point? If Paul’s take was accurate, why do we seem to find no other hint of it in the O.T.?
    These are some of the questions I’m exploring.

  • EricG

    Here is my attempt at stating the narrative that I think can be told, which seems to me consistent with the theology of Genesis and theistic evolution:
    In a beautiful mystery that we do not have the ability to fully understand, from outside of our space and time God initiated our universe. In the same way that He lovingly knit each of us together in our mother’s womb without physically intervening, He also created plant, animal and human life as we know them without direct intervention. This created world is beautiful and reflects His goodness, as anyone who has watched a sunrise knows.
    Although He is able to create without intervening as to each new part of his creation, God was not a god who was content to simply wind up the universe to see how it would unfold. Instead, He sought to maintain his influence by creating humans with unique creativity and abilities intended to reflect Himself into his creation. He intended that we seek out and love Him in response to His love, which allows us to then turn toward His creation to act as His steward, reflecting his love toward all of creation and each other.
    But we have not reflected the full beauty and love of God. From the very beginning, our desires and actions are turned inward to satisfy our selfishness, so that we put our own interests above seeking Him and His design. From the outset, baked into our very DNA (e.g., survival of the fittest), we have the desire to put our own interests, and those within our own tribe, above all else.
    Despite our failures, He still wants us to seek Him, and to reflect Him. He has always had a plan to make things right, which our own flaws cannot thwart. That is where the rest of the Biblical narrative comes in.

  • Travis Greene

    I think C.S. Lewis has already done what John Frye is suggesting, in The Problem of Pain:
    “For long centuries, God perfected the animal from which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all of the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated [. . .] Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say “I” and “me,” which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past [. . .] We do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state. But sooner or later they fell. Someone or something whispered that they could become as gods [. . . ] They wanted some corner in the universe of which they could say to God, “This is our business, not yours.” But there is no such corner. They wanted to be nouns, but they were, and eternally must be, mere adjectives. We have no idea in what particular act, or series of acts, the self-contradictory, impossible wish found expression. For all I can see, it might have concerned the literal eating of a fruit, but the question is of no consequence.”

  • RJS

    Travis,
    I agree – and this section from Lewis’s The Problem of Pain (Ch. 5 The Fall of Man) is the first thing that occurred to me as well.
    But I do think we need more than this in our story – for one thing people (Jane and Joe) have to be convinced that this is the biblical story, or consistent with the biblical story, and buy into it. This is where I think we start with John 1 and a Christ centered beginning.

  • Travis Greene

    Agreed.

  • Brad

    R Hampton #46
    You say that from the beginning Catholics have maintained that Natural Revelation is equal with Special Revelation, but this isn’t strictly true is it? Hasn’t the Catholic Church also been through a very similar situation with the Galileo incident? At that time, people saw heliocentrism and the idea of an earth that was not the center of God’s universe as the threat rather than evolution, but aren’t the situations rather similar? It seems to me that there was some kind of change in the Catholic Church regarding how it viewed scripture and science. I could be wrong.

  • James Moon

    EricG,
    I like your that narrative.. however.. my question is:
    If God used evolution to create man, what did this evolution look like? Did it involve death, pain, and struggle? and when finally God breathed Adam and Eve, was there still death, pain and struggle? and then finally when Adam and Eve chose to rebel, how was the evolution cycle of life, struggle, and death altered? And then of course, how did Jesus’ atonement affect any of it?

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    Travis #53,
    “God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness . . .”
    I don’t think RJS or Biologos accept that God affected the physiology by direct action.

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    More misleading stories are being published about Bruce Waltke and RTS.
    http://www.genomeweb.com/blog/over-video-endorsing-evolution
    And not many are trying to get the full story out. Very sad.

  • RJS

    James,
    In Genesis 1:28 God tells man (male and female) to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
    How do you view this filling, ruling and subduing? Does it involve work and creative activity? Could Adam or one of his progeny have cut himself? Would it have hurt? Could they fall from a tree when picking fruit – or trip over a rock and break a leg? Would there be pain? Suffering?
    The fall broke relationship between God and mankind, between mankind and the earth, between people. The fall resulted in immediate spiritual death and alienation from God. How much was this “death” biological? – well perhaps it had a biological element, but I don’t think that biology was the main point. I certainly think animal death was part of the plan from the beginning. And as far as mankind and all relationships are concerned … Jesus Christ – from the beginning – is and was the solution to this brokenness.

  • Brad

    pds #59
    This topic (please correct me if I’m wrong, RJS) was not started up for the discussion of Waltke’s resignation from RTS. Would you please promote your agenda elsewhere?

  • RJS

    Brad,
    To quote the words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem
    There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven–
    This post is, I pray, a time to build up and think about our story – and to paraphrase from the preacher …
    May we think about the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. May we rejoice and do good in our lifetime; may we see good in all our labor–it is the gift of God.
    (I’m stuck on Ecclesiastes today)

  • R Hampton

    Brad,
    The Galileo affair was a failure of the Church to abide by the Catechism. The current child-sex scandal is another sad example. Behind both is a similar motive; Men were afraid to admit the Truth for fear the Church would lose influence and credibility. Denying the Truth only made it worse.

  • pds

    Brad,
    My post was about the continuing spread of misinformation and false reports. My “agenda” is trying to stop it. Others could help stop it too if it was a priority for them. Please join me.

  • Norm

    I think the story is really pretty simple in the broad scope. Without going into all the details Genesis is the beginning of the church. Yes the church; and that is where all of us have gone wrong in the past and makes the story so confusing. Adam is a stylized story about Israel who is the ancient church and Adam’s fall is Israel’s incapacity to uphold a legal covenant with God (see Roman 5-8). The message of Genesis and the entirety of OT scripture are focused upon one central theme and that is bringing a works oriented church/Israel into a Spiritual relationship with God in lieu of a human contrived attempt.
    The language throws everyone off unless there is a deep immersion into understanding it which is not as difficult as it may seem but we need leaders doing it correctly instead of trying to tiptoe around with a literal hybridization of interpretation.
    It is the same with Revelation which is the corollary fulfillment of Genesis as the church. Instead of reading Rev as a wide eyed pie in the sky account of Armageddon it likewise is the finishing revelation about the establishment of the church and has nothing to do with a destruction of planet earth. It is about a destruction of the old church works covenant and the fulfilled establishment of the new spiritual one in Christ. The problem is that everyone is afraid to point out that the typical church version has no clothes and so we all are responsible for continually propagating irrelevance and confusion.
    continued

  • Norm

    This understanding recognizes that Adam being from “the dust of the earth” is metaphor for coming out of mortal humanity at large. Bringing the animals for him to name is metaphorical for Adam looking over Gentile humanity to find commonality in regards to God. He found none from the ancient pagans so his companion the (church) came from within himself/Israel (the wife). This held forth until the messiah when at the fullness of time the Gentiles were ready to be brought into the fold as they had been prepared beforehand by the dispersion of the Jews/church amongst them for association with the one True God. That is what the book of Daniel is basically about and King Neb himself who had a change of heart and who was rendered with the mind of a (beast) was restored to a right mind when acknowledging the God of Israel. (and no King Neb did not literally eat grass as these are metaphors for partaking of the truth of God)
    Evolution fits this understanding well because humanity at large (Gentiles) is described as mortal mankind without immortality. The whole purpose of Adam as the church is to establish immortality within mortal men. This is where there is a great misunderstanding of what the Image of God is all about in Genesis 1. The declaration of the Image of God by the words “Us” in Gen 1:26 is messianic language pointing to the Temple finalization in which the Holy Spirit of God is imbued upon those who seek covenant with God (the church). God had already demonstrated his great compassionate care and worth for mortal mankind by establishing His church/Israel and then sending His Son under great pain to bring to consummation the full Image upon the church through the Holy Spirit. Man’s worth has been fully declared by God; we do not need to appropriate the Image of God from its proper and right understanding to demonstrate our worth. The Image of God is His stamp upon His complete works and it brings immortal life to those in the body of Christ the Church and that is why Heb 4 speaks of the seventh Day Sabbath rest as presently upon them as it was nearly complete once the Temple and sacrifices were removed.
    Eph 5:31-32 ASV For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. (32) This MYSTERY is great: but I SPEAK IN REGARD OF CHRIST AND OF THE CHURCH.
    The Story is easier to tell when we understand the big picture and its simplicity.

  • EricG

    James –
    I agree with RJS’s response to your questions. The way I tried to described my view of the narrative was intended to imply an answer to some of those questions. I think that death and struggle were baked into the universe from the “get go” (science confirms this in many ways, including evolution). The creation wasn’t some sort of platonic, perfect ideal (the Bible doesn’t say that), although of course it was very good.
    Among the things that our fallen nature changed is that we are not the stewards that we are supposed to be, and we do not reflect God’s love and goodness the way were are supposed to. That has very serious implications for both our spiritual lives and our stewardship over the physical creation (I think these are at least part of the “death” brought about by falleness).
    As for the other part of your question, my understanding of the narrative is that God didn’t let our fallenness thwart his plan for us. He formed a covenant with Israel, so that he could bless the whole world through it. That came to fruition in the incarnate Jesus, who is the faithful Israel. In some ways we do not fully understand, He suffered the curse brought on by our fallness and won victory over it, so that all who put their faith in Him can become (yes, now, but not yet fully) the creatures that he had planned. (Our best descriptions of what happened at the Cross and Tomb, atonement and victory, I think, are metaphors; that’s not to downplay them in the slightest, it just means to me that they are very deep metaphors that imperfectly describe — given the limits of our language and comprehension — a reality we don’t fully grasp).
    That’s at least the way I would try to respond to your questions (which I agree are the key, difficult questions), reading Genesis, Romans 5 & 8 alongside theistic evolution.
    RJS and PDS — I’d like to respond to PDS’s comments re: the problems at RTS, but will resist given RJS’s (understandable) request that we not create a distriction from the question in the post.


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