Does Evolution Cancel Out the Fall of Adam? Depends on Whose Adam You Have in Mind

Does Evolution Cancel Out the Fall of Adam? Depends on Whose Adam You Have in Mind May 13, 2013

John Schneider (former professor of theology at Calvin College) recently posted an article online: “The Fall of ‘Augustinian Adam’: Original Fragility and Supralapsarian Purpose.” 

The title is a mouthful, but his basic point is whether Adam in any sense is compatible with evolution. His answer is yes, provided it is not the Adam the western church has inherited from the 5th century Augustine but the Adam of 2nd century Irenaeus. In other words, first humans as “comparable to innocent, but morally undeveloped children” (Irenaeus) rather than “endowed with superhuman gifts, and yet as so fragile as to fall” (Augustine) makes more sense not only within an evolutionary framework, but for other reasons as well (from the abstract).

Some of you will remember Schneider as one of two faculty members from Calvin College (the other being biblical scholar Dan Harlow), who in 2010 received national attention for the controversy that followed their comments on the literary rather than literal nature of Adam and Eve. For Schneider, one specific point that led to his choosing to retire was that the notion of a paradise lost, and therefore the fall of humanity, needs to be rethought in western Christian thought in light of evolution.

A common argument in favor of retaining an Augustinian Adam is that it lays the entire blame for sin squarely and solely on the shoulders of humanity rather than God, thus preserving God’s goodness, i.e., he is not the “author of evil.” That is why those who stand in the Augustinian Adam tradition “are urgently motivated to keep the character of Augustinian Adam on stage at all costs, even if the stage we approve is Darwinian” (p. 11). But, as Schneider argues, Augustine doesn’t get God off the hook, and Augustine’s Adam is an unconvincing reading of the garden story at any rate.

Many of us involved in the conversation concerning Adam and evolution have articulated the need not to abandon Adam but to (re)understand Adam in a manner that is more compelling exegetically, theological, philosophically, and scientifically. Schneider is very much a part of that conversation and has paid a professional price for doing so.

Feel free to leave comments here after reading his article and I will see if Schneider will be available to interact with them.


All comments are welcome–pro, con, or neutral–provided they are respectful and genuinely engage the post or a comment on the thread. Badgering comments will be deleted. Grandstanding and lecturing will be tolerated to a point, but if it gets out of hand, let me suggest you start your own website like I did. Also, rest assured I read every comment that is posted. I learn something new from many of them, as I’m sure others do, too. I wish I could respond more, and I will as time allows.



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  • David Pitchford

    This sounds similar to the conclusion I drew when thinking about the Fall a few weeks ago. I read Romans 8:17-25 and wrote in my Bible, “The road to glory in Christ is paved with suffering.” I think Schneider is on to something with his conclusion that God prefers a redeemed creation to an unfallen one.

    • I would go further and add that God prefers a creation that has the potential (realized, at the very least, in humanity) to genuinely love Him in return. A perfect creation with no potential for free decision making at any point would fail to achieve His goals. Of course, creation is not alone in suffering, as God entered the necessary suffering of His created order through the Incarnation. Jesus as the Second Adam has much more to do with humanity and the created order than serve merely as some sort of corrective tool.

      Suffering, then, is a necessary means to a divinely-intended end state.

      • David Pitchford

        I disagree with Plantinga’s theory that a perfect, sinless creation can’t also include free will. God COULD have made us with free will in a world that has always been “perfect” (in a static, Platonic sense). So I look at God’s decision not to do so and wonder what it is about going through evil and suffering that could be better than this. You are definitely onto something with the Incarnation!

        • Lars

          Well, so far, free will is 0 for 2 in establishing perfect, sinless creations. The angels couldn’t pull it off and neither could we. My theory is that perfection is just too damn boring, especially if you have to be like that forever. That’s one of the reasons I love the creation story so much – static perfection for, what, a week? A millennium? On their own, the first couple had no apparent interest in exercising their free will and an outside agent was needed finally to get the redemption story started. That said, I’m sure they would have failed completely on their own at some point but, myth or not, it feels like God simply got tired of all that perfect harmony and facilitated or allowed its demise for reasons we can only speculate on.

  • mark

    Quite simply, Augustinian thought amounts to the original sin of Western thought. It’s largely responsible for a millennium and a half of fruitless controversies fueled by a disordered theology of nature and grace, as well as for the disastrous and misguided dichotomy between reason and faith.

    • Andrew Dowling

      I voted your comment up but felt obliged to say you are ON THE MARK! 🙂

      If Pelagius had prevailed vs Augustine back in the 5th century (but Augustine’s theology spoke for the need of greater Church control since man was so depraved, and thus won Church support), how Christianity could have avoided many theological pitfalls.

      • mark

        I have to admit, I always thought I was fairly up on history, but going over the Pelagian controversy a few years ago was a real eye opener for me. Leszek Kolakowski’s God Owes Us Nothing was more food for thought. I was already convinced of the negative influence of Augustine’s Neoplatonic philosophy, but to have all my presuppositions re Pelagius exploded like that, well …

  • Ana

    I don’t really see how the Iranaen solution gets God off the hook as the author of evil. If he created the world with suffering, he seems to be stuck on the second horn of the dilemma.

    • John Schneider

      Ana: I replied earlier, but was thwarted by failure to “validate” my registration via e-mail. Your question is straightforward but the answer to it has to be complex (alas). But simply: I agree with those many philosophers and theologians who say that free fall explanations of evils cannot work for many reasons, some of which I discussed in the article. They (and I) say instead that the explanation must be “non-lapsarian” (no Fall as such) or Supralapsarian (no Fall unplanned by God). Roderick Chisholm, John Hick, and Marilyn McCord Adams, among quite a few others, have offered “non-lapsarian” accounts of God and evil. In shorthand: if God’s plan always was and is to “defeat” the evils God authorizes in a fashion that brings forth a world which is markedly *better* than any world could be without those evils (now integrated into its goodness, not left dangling, and merely “outweighed”), then God’s authorization of the evils is actually a *good* thing, not bad. Hard to accept, but now we face Job, and Paul in Romans 8-11, in support of the logic. Irenaeus provides a framework in which to see the Atonement and Resurrection as the *purpose* of creation in the first place as divine means of “defeating” and liberating creatures and things from evils. Jesus compared the emergence of the Kingdom of God to the agony of a woman giving birth. For me the really tough thing is trying to *believe* that the world will actually be *better* in the end because of things like the Holocaust, or the mass extinctions and suffering in nature by animals. That takes a lot of faith in any theory.

  • Elute Ogedegbe

    Reading the Adam story in the way described above doesn’t seem to be too much of a issue exegetically. But isn’t the real issue a soteriological one?
    Because if Adam didn’t fall from this high angelic type perfection to some kind of total depravity then a lot of people would ask ‘Then why do we need Jesus’?

    As the effect of the fall is such a big part of the story of salvation in western Christianity accepting this Iranaen Adam would require a re-writing of that whole story (Or at least a significant change to it).
    To me that seems to be the real problem when attempting taking another look at Adam

    • John Schneider

      Elute: “if Adam didn’t fall from this high angelic type perfection to some kind of total depravity then a lot of people would ask ‘Then why do we need Jesus’?” The short answer would simply be because we are all in bondage to powers of sin and death. As I think Pete Enns has written many times, it really doesn’t matter so much *how* we got into that human condition as does the importance of Christ getting us *out* of it.

    • John Schneider

      Elute: Most of that rewriting has been done already, it’s just that few evangelical Christians have been introduced to the alternative Christian scripts. IMO the pluses of getting Augustine’s character of Adam off the stage far outweigh the costs of labor involved.

    • Phil Miller

      Because if Adam didn’t fall from this high angelic type perfection to some kind of total depravity then a lot of people would ask ‘Then why do we need Jesus’?

      I hear this line of reasoning quite frequently, and on the surface I can understand it, but the more I think about it, the less it makes sense. It seems rather odd to me that we feel the need to prove the humans are sinful or have a sin problem. It should seem that this is a readily observable fact by, well, just about anyone. If someone goes to a doctor with a broken arm and says, “I broke my arm falling down the stairs”, it would be quite odd if the doctor would say something like, “well, I was talking to your wife, and she says you didn’t actually fall down the stairs; therefore your arms not really broken… Have a nice day!”

      The question for the doctor isn’t really one of how your arm got broken (at least not the primary question). The question is what can be done to repair your arm.

  • John Schneider

    I will be checking in on this thread off and on the next couple of days and very happy to interact with you and your questions or comments.

  • James

    In connection with the ‘moral undevelopment’ of Irenaeus’ Adam, I wonder if John thinks the evolutionary transition from animal humanoid to morally conscious human accounts in large part for the entrance of sin into human experience. It seems to me we are all ‘fallen’ (morally bankrupt) due to natural tendancy coupled with personal choice. So, the ‘guilt’ God carries in this regard is the gift of creaturely free will operating in the presence of moral accountability. When morality is mixed with the natural desires and instincts of lower life forms, explosions of evil typically occur that have echoed down through the halls of humanity to the present day.

    • Rick_K

      You said: “When morality is mixed with the natural desires and instincts of lower life forms, explosions of evil typically occur that have echoed down through the halls of humanity to the present day.”

      Why is nature/evolution blamed for all of humanity’s bad traits and God credited with humanity’s good points? I see tenderness and sacrifice in societies have never known God and even in other species. Isn’t it just possible that some of what we call “good” morality is provided by eons of biological and cultural evolution? Isn’t it possible that the increasing levels of peace and tolerance that we enjoy today is a result of combining ancient, inherent human traits with modern global travel and communication?

      • John Schneider

        The matter of agency is analogous to states of affairs in the weather, for instance, about which we commonly say, “thank God for the rain,” but by which we mean to distinguish between primary and secondary causes. I evolution was God’s means of creating species and us, then God gets “credit and “blame for all of it, ultimately, and we get those moral qualities on a secondary level. How much moral freedom do we have–at age 12, for instance, growing up in a ghetto, or in a mansion? That’s another matter. God judges the heart, we are to suppose, and we can’t.

        • Rick_K

          I hear you.

          But humanity has such a long and illustrious history of perceiving agency where there is none: from Zeus’s lightning bolts, Pele’s volcanoes, Newton’s certainty that a dive hand spun each planet into motion, the demon causing schizophrenia or the angel causing epilepsy. With such powers of invention, is it wrong for a wary human to ask for some foundation before committing heart and intellect to a given divinity?

          Yet without fail when we dig deep for the clear evidence of the divine hand it fades away, replaced by another step forward in our growing understanding of nature. God goes to great lengths to cover His own tracks and to make our lives and our world appear unguided and untended.

          At what point does God, in His zeal to avoid detection, become so tenuous that the merest flick of Occam’s blade severs Him completely from the Cosmos?

      • James

        The way I see it, we don’t blame evolution per se for humanity’s bad traits but somehow the mix of natural desires and instincts with God given freedom of choice elevates the possibility of the occurance of evil to near certainty–in all of us. Also the potential for moral good as you note well. And as John notes, God is expert at transforming evil into ultimate good. So, love wins in the end as Rob Bell would say.

        • Rick_K

          So how do you tell the difference between a good outcome created by God and a good outcome created by naturally evolved human empathy? For that matter, how do you tell the difference between a good outcome created by God and a good outcome created by pure chance?

          How do you tell the difference between a God that exists in reality and a God that exists only in the minds and stories of people?

          • James

            Truth be told, all outcomes ultimately find their source in God for he is Creator. We posit a good God and everything else falls into place. Now we’re talking in circles.

          • John Schneider

            see my edited post below to se if it breaks the circle for you.

      • John Schneider

        evolutionary anthropology attributes bot “proto-virtues” and “pro to-vices” to ancestry.

    • John Schneider

      Well said.

  • Excellent article, Prof. Schneider. If I had read it 25 years ago, I
    might not have prematurely abandoned my faith… I have excerpted a
    number of paragraphs and will comment on them, below…

    [Willam J. Abraham, building on the pioneering works of James
    Barr on the Bible’s authority, proposed that evangelical
    hermeneutics (and the prohibitions against embracing science and
    historical criticism) have grown from confusion on the concept of
    inspiration, 4 which they have unconsciously treated as a species of
    divine speaking (Barr 1980, Abraham 1981). To this day, that
    proposal still awaits the attention it deserves.]

    Such a simple distinction–one which will eventually be noticed, I’m sure!

    [But furthermore, the course of this history has included vast
    amounts of apparently random waste and seemingly pointless suffering
    for both human and non-­‐human animals. Evolutionary thesis (7), the
    Darwinian World, depicts the planetary and biological past as one in
    which entire biomes have come and gone in apparently purposeless and
    brutal fashion, and reveals that ours is merely one of them. In his
    recent book, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, Murray ably describes the
    deep conflict that this depiction creates for Christian theism. Was
    this wrought by a loving and kind God? (Murray 2008, 1-­‐9).]

    I think this portrayal of nature dovetails nicely with the idea that the
    body of Christ ultimately extends to the whole of creation which is simultaneously a Divine incarnation and revelation and which ultimately comes to light as the dwelling place of God among human beings: One Body — Many Members — Bound Together in the Unity of the Spirit.

    [see “The Manifold Appearance of Reality” at Yeshua21.Com]

    If the sufferings of creation are understood to be, on another level,
    the suffering of the creator, the problem of evil is ameliorated. Jesus
    on the cross is an archetype of God, immanent in creation. Consider
    these line by Hermann Hesse:

    “[Each human being] represents a unique and valuable experiment on the part of
    nature . . . the very special and always significant and remarkable point at which the world’s phenomena intersect, only once in this way and never again. That is why every [person’s] story is important, eternal, sacred; that is why every [person] as long as [he or she] lives and fulfills the will of nature is wondrous and worthy of every consideration. In each individual the spirit has become flesh, in each [person] the creation suffers, within each one a redeemer is nailed to the cross. Each [person’s] life represents a road toward [himself or herself], an attempt at such a road, the intimation of a path. No [person] has ever been entirely and completely [himself or herself]. Yet each one strives to become that–one in an awkward, the other in a more intelligent way, each as best [he or she] can.” –from
    the Prologue to Demian

    [For Christians to make the existence of sin God’s “fault” would of
    course be theologically wrongheaded and a religiously irreverent
    thing to do. Only a very misguided or perverse Christian would 12
    knowingly do it, we suppose. Unfortunately, trying to use the
    Augustinian script and character of Adam in order to thwart the
    impropriety in defense of God’s goodness only makes things worse.]

    Indeed, it must be acknowledged that even if our fall into sin is due in some
    sense to the free will of human beings (in Adam), it is nevertheless God
    who, in the beginning, chooses to create in such a way that leaves the
    door open to the possibility of sin and perdition. It certainly appears
    that the “good” of creation, from the beginning, necessarily involves
    the damnation of some— if not most —of the souls thus created. As such,
    if we accept an “orthodox” account of sin, salvation and judgment,
    either God’s “goodness” or his “power” must be called into question—i.e.
    either he was not powerful enough to create as glorious a
    creation apart from the eventual sin and perdition of many, many souls;
    OR, he preferred this possible outcome to any other possible alternative
    that could have been just as glorious, but without any souls being
    ultimately lost. [see “Critical Reflections on Bible Based Belief Systems” at Yeshua21.Com]

    In fact, I first attempted to articulate my thoughts in this regard in
    during a seminar on Augustine and Plotinus at Marquette University 20
    years ago, this fall… I wrote a paper, then, entitled, “Beyond the
    Problem of Evil”. It attempts to come to terms with many of these same
    issues, but defers, in the end, to Spinoza and Nietzsche. If I had
    known about Irenaeus, I might have gone a different route! 🙂

    [For Christians to make the existence of sin God’s “fault” would of
    course be theologically wrongheaded and a religiously irreverent
    thing to do. Only a very misguided or perverse Christian would 12
    knowingly do it, we suppose. Unfortunately, trying to use the
    Augustinian script and character of Adam in order to thwart the
    impropriety in defense of God’s goodness only makes things worse.Two
    points arise already in the model’s disfavor. One is that it depicts
    God as having put non-­‐ human and human animals through the brutal
    formative history of evolution, and all God got for the “cruciform”
    price of their suffering was a semi-­‐human anatomically modern
    hominid. In order to get a fully human person none of this
    sufficed—God had still to intervene, God still has to get out the
    “fairy dust” in order to get creatures capable of the spiritual
    things that God was aiming at all along. I think all the animals and
    humans who suffered excruciatingly along the way, most all of them
    to extinction, would be right to protest in the way Young Earth
    Creationists, like Henry Morris, have done. If God was going to
    create miraculously anyway, what could conceivably justify the
    unfathomable amounts, kinds, and distributions of suffering, not to
    mention the unimaginable waste? (Morris 1970).]

    Once again, if we recognize ourselves– indeed, all sentient beings –as
    being the dwelling place of God, we circumvent this problem and become
    ministers of reconciliation! We are God’s offspring — in Him we live
    and move and have our being. Our body (the body of Christ) extends to
    the whole of creation!

    [In The Problem of Pain, Lewis invites us to imagine that God
    selected two (or perhaps more) biologically human beings and
    awakened them to awareness of themselves and to spiritual and moral
    realities. (Lewis 1962, 77) God endowed this Paradisal Man with
    supernatural powers—“he was all consciousness,” like a “yogi,” had
    “full control of his bodily functions, he chose his appetites, the
    length of his life may have been up to his own discretion, he
    possessed powers of command over animals” (Lewis 1962, 77). Further,
    Lewis proposes that “God came first in his love, and in his
    thought,” so that his constant experience was “perfectly enacting in
    joy and ease of all the faculties and the senses that filial 16
    surrender which our Lord enacted in the agonies of the crucifixion.”
    (Lewis 1962, 79) In other words, the Paradisal Man was Christ-­‐like
    in love for God, fellow human beings, and for all things.]

    Best not to get caught up in trying to insist on literal, historical
    parents in this regard. Both Adam and Jesus are archetypes. And we are
    destined to embody the life of both (as we have borne the image of the
    earthy, we shall bear the image of the heavenly). Whether or not Adam
    and Eve ever actually existed– and whether or not
    the gospel accounts are historical in every respect –these traditions
    ring true inasmuch as they reflect:

    1) our innocence in the garden of God (cf. infancy and early childhood)

    2) our eating the forbidden fruit (cf. the formation of the egoic mind,
    our perception of duality, and our growing sense of alienation)

    3) our egoistic pursuit of happiness and/or security in some combination of:

    * sensual indulgence
    * material prosperity
    * social recognition
    * legalistic (and/or ascetic) ideals

    4) the possibility of a moment of clarity that reveals the emptiness and/or futility of # 3

    5) the possibility of our recognizing the light of the world which reconciles us to God and reveals the Way, the Truth, and the Life

    6) the possibility of finding perfect peace and rest in “aware presence” and “alert stillness” (cf. the peace of Jesus)

    7) the possibility of participating fully in the flow of life, here and now (one life, transcendent and immanent… A new creation that is at once holy human and wholly Divine).

    [see “A Myth is a Story…”]

    [It is that in order to fall in the fashion supposed, the first
    human beings had to have been spiritually fragile in some key
    respect. Augustine also understood this much, and he speculated,
    along the lines of his mature theology of predestination, that
    God created them in that fragile (albeit good) condition knowing
    they would fall, and that this would create a whole population of
    humans worthy of damnation. This in turn would set the stage for
    divine election, and the creation of another, better kind of human
    being—one that could not sin. In so doing, God would have occasion
    to display both aspects of God’s glory—his justice in punishing the
    damned, and his mercy in blessing the selected saints (Augustine
    1982, chs. 7-­‐11). Unless we think this explanation depicts the
    character of God as ontologically and morally good, it looks like
    the like the logic of the Augustinian story leads to making God the
    “author of evil,” after all, which of course defeats the entire
    religious and apologetic point of the plot in the first place (so
    Smith, Collins, and others).]

    Yes–the fall is a “felix culpa” — OR, as the Sufi’s say, “I was a
    secret treasure and I longed to be known and so I made the world!”

    [In this way of thinking the goodness of the original creation does
    not consist of an original perfection, and maybe not even complete
    freedom from disorder and natural evils, so called. The original
    goodness of creation consists in its teleological place as a part in
    a historical-­‐eschatological cosmic whole. Moreover the goodness of
    God in authorizing such a world consists in the great good of the
    world in its eschatological totality as a finished work…]

    Yes–and even that exchatological end need not be thought of as the end
    of history in a temporal sense, but it’s purpose and goal — accessible
    to each and every human being at all points along the way. T.S. Eliot
    says it wonderfully:

    With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this

    We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.
    Through the unknown, unremembered gate
    When the last of earth left to discover
    Is that which was the beginning;
    At the source of the longest river
    The voice of the hidden waterfall
    And the children in the apple-tree
    Not known, because not looked for
    But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
    Between two waves of the sea.
    Quick now, here, now, always—
    A condition of complete simplicity
    (Costing not less than everything)
    And all shall be well and
    All manner of thing shall be well
    When the tongues of flame are in-folded
    Into the crowned knot of fire
    And the fire and the rose are one.

    ~ Four Quartets, “Little Gidding”

    • John Schneider

      Your comments are quite moving. I will address your post tomorrow. Bless you my friend.
      John S.

      • John Schneider

        I love Little Gidding

      • Much appreciated!

    • John Schneider

      I have little to add to or subtract from your comments. You pull out the salient parts of my article and apply them in your own terms. The only part I resist is on the suffering of God. The concept may be appropriate, but I agree with Marilyn McCord Adams that it would have to be “God-sized suffering,” and not handwringing at unexpected bad outcomes (another reason we shouldn’t take Genesis 1-11 too literally. It leads to a poor depiction of God (as Origen warned way back when.)

      • Prof. Schneider,

        Thank you for your replies to my comment. You wrote, “The only part I resist is on the suffering of God. The concept may be appropriate, but I agree with Marilyn McCord Adams that it would have to be ‘God-sized suffering,’ and not handwringing at unexpected bad outcomes…”

        Please note the very suffering that you are discussing above (with Susan and Nancy, et al) are the God-sized suffering that I have in mind. If the whole of creation is understood as the dwelling place of God — an incarnation of God, if you please — then God is no longer wringing his hands from a distance, but is participating in our suffering– not just in the life of Jesus or in the life of human beings, generally, but in the life of all sentient creatures (the greater the degree of sentience, the greater the suffering). Obviously, this stretches the limits of orthodoxy as heretofore understood, but it dovetails nicely with the idea of our having been created in the image of God — i.e. in Christ (construed as “logos ” or as the “I Am” presence). Consider, also this paraphrasing of John 3:16:

        “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son [to the world] that whosoever trusts in and relies on Him will not perish but will have eternal life.” Christ is said to be the “logos” — i.e. Reason or Spirit in the broadest sense of the Word; or, more simply, he is associated with the gift of “aware presence” in which we live and move and have our being (I Am). He is the light of the world in whose light we see light — the image of God in which we are created — in the beginning with God… [“the beginning is near”, I like to say, inasmuch as we are ontologically rooted and grounded in the Divine intelligence–“he is nearer than our jugular vein, the Qur’an says–“closer than hands and feet”, writes Tennyson]. According to Paul (as reported) in the book of Acts, this is the One in whom we live and move and have our being:

        “Indeed he is not far from each one of us. . . . as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring’” (Acts 17:27-28).

        All this– both the gift of God and the suffering of creation –is represented, archetypically, in the life and passion of Jesus. This is a world historic revelation of something that has always and everywhere been true (before Abraham was, I Am).

        There would be no suffering, apart from this gift of aware presence, but at the same time, there could be no life. This light of awareness– the “light of the world” — is “God with us” (Immanuel). God is participating in our suffering — we are participating in His life — One life Divine…

        Our apparent fall is the result of our misunderstanding of who we are (a misunderstanding which coincides with the formation of the egoic mind). We misidentify ourselves with this “bag of bones — this body/mind — and we are especially attached to our our personal “story” or “autobiography”). As such, we attempt to evade the cross and secure our life and happiness as discrete individuals–separate from God, from Nature, and from one another. Such attempts put us at loggerheads with God/Reality which, through the school of hard-knocks, continuously encourages us to repent — i.e. to turn back to Him/it (Here & Now). Finally– by the grace of God –there is a moment of clarity in which our union with God, with Nature, and with one another is realized. And, indeed, the grace of God has appeared to all men through the light of awareness that is hidden in plain sight. Whosoever will may come and drink of the water of life freely!

        P.S. Thanks again for the great article and for joining in on the discussion.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Dr. Schneider,

    I appreciate your willingness to engage us on Dr. Enns’ blog. And Pete, thanks for highlighting this paper. It is very helpful. A summary with a few elaborations follow. Hopefully I’ve not strayed too far from the core message, but these are the basic implications for me.

    A partially extemporaneous reaction to John R. Schneider’s Zygon paper “The Fall of ‘Augustinian Adam’ ”

    The Christian starting point is the fact that the Creator became creature. He is continually making everything (creation and redemption) in perfect love. From a Christian perspective, the singularity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man, is the very heart of creation as well as the essential beginning of the gospel. The Incarnate Son and the Resurrected Lord are the apex of creation while also being the source through whom creation flows. The sending and real presence of his Spirit is a continuance of this theme.

    We get off track as soon as we separate creation and redemption. Our view of the whole thing needs to be dynamic. At least some interpretations of the Augustinian view are too static making it difficult to fully embrace ideas such as emergence, development, growth. Salvation itself needs to be seen as a developmental process, a spiritual formation. Paul himself can be read in this way. A soteriology that is static misses this. We are saved by grace and are being saved by grace. We can daily yield to the Spirit and have his work continue to be perfected in us. This is not works righteousness, it’s an ongoing sanctification or spiritual formation, as well as a working out of our salvation.

    And, we cannot overlook the fact that Scripture tells us there is indeed an adversary and that we, acting alone, are powerless against him and have been so from the beginning. Because of our inborn inability to resist the temptation to not do the right thing (a consequence of our incompleteness apart from Christ), our Creator as Servant voluntarily suffers with us. In fact, suffers maximally and ultimately, participating even in death for us. But our Creator/Servant did nothing that should lead to death; he accepted it on our behalf – a willing sacrifice. Then our Creator/Servant, in a glorious continuance of his creative work, rose from the dead in a glorified body – a victorious King. Scriptures call him the ‘first-born’ from among the dead because he is indeed a new creation – the Creator/Servant/Perfect Sacrifice/King, our Lord. In his victory lies the hope of our ultimate completion, and the completion of creation itself.

    • Rick_K

      “He is continually making everything (creation and redemption) in perfect love.”

      Statements like this always strike me as odd: nice-sounding but lacking any meaning in reality.

      My very dear friend, 42 years old, will not live another year. Did God create lymphoma in perfect love? Our family recently toured the ancient city of Pompeii in Italy. Did God create Mt. Vesuvius in perfect love? Did you happen to see the movie “The Impossible”? Did God create the tsunami in perfect love?

      Imagine a universe where God didn’t exist, where worlds and life evolved through natural processes and where God was just a popular idea that people preferred to believe. How would that universe be different than ours?

      Just curious.

      • Bev Mitchell

        Rick K,

        Your concern is why something like my third paragraph always has to be included. God’s love is always working against serious spiritual opposition, as from the beginning – see for example Levenson,”Creation and the Persistence of Evil” and Boyd, “Is God to Blame?” This message seems clear, especially in the New Testament. Even Jesus was tempted, and we must believe this temptation was very real as was his victory over it. A large part of ongoing creation (spiritual and material) can be seen as the working out of this conflict. The message of the resurrection is that God’s victory is assured. We are called to be part of this victorious family of God, but we are also living in the already but not yet time before Christ comes again. Without a real, spiritual opposition, any theodicy fails to gain traction, or so it seems to me. Yes, this view is open to the excess of dualistic thinking, just as all views are open to some excess or other. I do think that Boyd does as good a job as anyone at showing how this all may be working.

        I’m very sorry to hear about your good friend. May the peace of Christ be with him or her and with all those around.

        • Rick_K

          Ok so we have either:

          A) a universe where a good but largely incomprehensible God is beset by spiritual opposition, leading to the appearance of random, unguided events on Earth. Or

          B) a random, unguided universe.

          Without leaning on the crutch of faith (which provides equal support to every argument), how do you tell the difference?

          • Bev Mitchell

            Rick K,
            Very perceptive and, please don’t take this as flippant – but that’s why it’s called faith. And, to compound the “felony” it depends on revelation. Fortunately the revelation is available to whosoever will receive it. There is no material proof, despite the highly visible work of God. His fingerprints are not the revelation we look for. He appears to handle that in his own way, via the Holy Spirit, at least according to Scripture.

          • John Schneider

            I’m afraid Bev I have to side more with Rick on this one: I think of Job, in which the “opposition” is so completely subordinate to God that it has to ask permission before doing anything. I also think of Jesus in Mark ordering the “demons” about. I have a *lot* of trouble with Greg Boyd’s approach to this, which has driven him into a view of God as really not knowing what will happen next. If Open Theism is true, then IMO that God had no business creating sentient beings and risking the brutality of their suffering; nor can it know for sure that the “opposition” will ever quite quit.

          • Phil Miller

            It’s one thing to say that God leaves the future partially open (I find that people often neglect the “partially” part when referring to Boyd’s work), and another to say that God is powerless. Boyd does not believe God is powerless or unable to intervene in events. The way in which He does intervene is not always clear to us, however.That is why things like causal determination (asking why certain events happened) often leads to ambiguous answers. There are so many determining factors involved in some events, it would be nearly impossible for us to assign a clear cause.

            This is why Boyd says in his theodicy that we have to accept that there is such a thing as meaningless or random evil. So the statement that “everything happens for a reason” isn’t true. That doesn’t mean God can’t bring redemption out of any event. But it does mean that we should be careful saying that God caused or even allowed an evil event to happen so that something good may happen further down the road.

          • Bev Mitchell


            Thanks for the feedback, and for your good article.

            As far as I can see, you don’t have to accept open theism to accept the theodicy Boyd presents in, for example, “Is God to Blame?” The central question here concerns the opposing views (1) God in total control of everything (including all the evil things that happens) or (2) God stands against evil (and, victoriously so, as revealed in the resurrection).

            Boyd puts it rather provocatively in a footnote in “God at War” pg. 299 “The classical-philosophical omnicontrolling view of God that modern atheism rejects is neither biblically nor philosophically defensible, and hence should be rejected.”

            This is clearly not the place to debate open theism, and there are many more qualified than I to do so. I do, however, remain convinced that any defensible, biblical theodicy will identify a source of evil in opposition to God. Otherwise, we are left with, as Boyd puts it, “….the problem of locating a loving and good purpose behind evil events……an impossible task.” Attempts to do this always, necessarily, trivialize evil or leave us with a very questionable kind of God.

          • Lars

            Is there possible scenario within which God has any business creating sentient beings that can, and will, inflict so much pain and suffering on their fellow beings (and that’s before God gets His shot at inflicting the very same!)? I just don’t understand the concept where God chooses, arbitrarily, not to know the future in order to absolve Himself of any blame, and yet can still intervene when it suits Him. This is just a another attempt at explaining randomness (and getting God off the hook). And that – getting God off the hook – is what theistic religions are all about. That, and avoiding the unthinkable; that life is indeed largely random and any purpose and meaning are created by the individual.

          • Phil Miller

            This is kind of getting into issues somewhat far removed from the original post, but I’d say that without God, the problem of evil isn’t really a problem. Humanity can label something evil or good, but there’s no basis for doing so other than our collective preference as a species.

            I have never been convinced at all that atheists have a philosophical leg to stand on when they try to speak in terms of moral absolutes like good and evil. The arguments ends up being quite circular in nature. If the universe simply exists and we simply happen to have self-awareness through random chance, well, that’s great… It will be a short-lived fluke, so I guess we should enjoy it while we’re here.

          • Lars

            I don’t know, I’d say we’re still in the ballpark! Couldn’t we take the question one step further and ask “Does evolution cancel out God?” And I would never say that evil isn’t a problem. It is, and we should fight against evil every chance we get. Humanity has always labeled things things good or bad and always will, and societal preference has a lot more immediate relevance than a static sacred text, even where they align, because that preference is dynamic and consensus-driven (unless you live in a theocracy or a dictatorship). You don’t need to believe in God to know that killing and stealing is wrong. You just need to be a victim or know one and you have all the basis you need. Perhaps we are nothing more than a cosmic fluke, but I still want to be the best fluke I can possibly be.

          • Rob Burns

            Hi Phil,

            I’m not sure this argument works to disarm the problem. Couldn’t the atheist argue that the problem of evil is something akin to an immanent critique that proceeds via Christian premises, i.e. God’s actions in history (or God’s lack of action as the case may be) are inconsistent with the theist’s own notion of God’s goodness? In that case to say, “In order to even have a problem of evil you must presuppose the truth
            of Christianity as a basis for the moral law,” is, on reflection, only
            stating, “If you wish to show Christianity is inconsistent, you must
            appeal to the moral standards of the Christian to illustrate this.” Of course this is true, but it bares little on whether Christianity is inconsistent or not. I’ve been reflecting on C.S. Lewis’ version of this argument over on my blog. So if you’re interested in pursuing a more detailed discussion of this topic, here are the links.



          • The problem of evil is very much around with atheism. Atheists just don’t have a clear way to think about it. It is thus easier to bury and pretend that it does not exist. Christianity may well provide a crystal clear way of formulating the problem of evil, but it also gives a compelling answer. The atheist has no answer—”randomness” is no different from “I don’t know”, except that “randomness” is the more arrogant answer, the answer not based on evidence.

          • If we can figure out even some of that “largely incomprehensible God”, then would we not have more predictive power than your B?

            I would put B in the same class as “God did it therefore we don’t need to explore any more”. It’s a conversation-stopper and a research-ender. It is ignorance masquerading as knowledge. Isn’t science the continual hope that the universe is less B, and more law-abiding?

          • Rick_K

            Obviously I didn’t mean random as in lacking any laws – we can clearly see the universe is not random in operation. But that does not mean that there is a super-intelligent lawgiver guiding the universe any more than the existence of lightning means there is a god throwing lightning bolts.

            We HAVE increased our predictive power dramatically – not by interpreting God from scripture – but by following evidence in purely materialist scientific investigation. We can predict events from the decay of atoms to the interplay of gravity between Jupiter and its moons to the effect of vaccines on life expectancy.

            No endeavor in human history has improved the predictability of the universe than the simple act of shedding dogma and preconceptions, and humbly following the evidence to wherever it may lead.

          • Increasing the predictability of the universe is an awesome endeavor and I fully support it. Unfortunately for you, there exists the is-ought gap, also known as the Naturalistic Fallacy: science will never provide us with a teleology. A common atheistic answer is that since he/she cannot figure out said teleology using science, it does not exist! Well, that’s kind of the height of arrogance.

            It may behoove you to note that scientists were not the prime forces behind abolition of slavery, nor were they the prime forces behind the US Civil Rights movement. They were the prime force behind the eugenics movement in the late eighteenth century and the early nineteenth century. They weren’t doing science as you or I would define it, but they were drawing on their scientific credentials to give them authority. There can be abuse in the land of science just as in the land of faith, you see.

            Before you rail too much on Christianity, you might ask yourself whether the Roman Catholic Church was critical in allowing (indeed, in encouraging) the university system to start up Europe and England. Christianity was a force for stability, and this is only neglected by the person who prefers to repeat history instead of learn from and respect it. Merely remembering the negatives (“shedding dogma and preconceptions”) is very bad science and very bad history.

          • Rick_K

            Oh don’t play that stupid game. Yes, churches started universities and funded academics. The institutions with the most money have ALWAYS funded research and academics. You need money to have the necessary leisure, and before a commercial economy that left only kings and churches. And Christianity was used to promote and justify slavery for many more centuries than it was used to oppose it.

            So what if Christianity was a stabilizing force. So was agriculture. But at least agriculture isn’t dependent on us treating fables like Adam and Eve and the Flood and zombie saints as if they are actual historical events. That is no more worthy of respect than Joseph Smith’s “visions” or L. Ron Hubbard’s Zenu.

          • From what I see, you want to say that if Christianity had never risen, then we’d have science just like we have today, if not more of it. If you aren’t trying to say that, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say. Science requires a lot more than what you think—for example, stability.

            Stupid stuff comes with any ideological system, because people are not rational beings. For example, see the Eugenics movement in America. By picking on religion, you are really just scapegoating. Scientists had their logical positivism jaunt, and the shortness of that was likely due to the increase in speed of communication and travel.

            So yeah, I think it’d be helpful if you were to make a point, supported by evidence, and if you’d like to claim that some alternate history with some tweaks would have been better, that you support that in a reasonable fashion.

          • Rick_K

            Oh, and as for my question to Bev – if you believe the universe is indeed guided by a benevolent deity, how would human life and human suffering differ if the universe was indeed unguided and driven by materialism and chance?

          • If the universe were not guided by a benevolent deity, at some point I would (or would have) see reality deviating from my understanding of the Bible and Jesus in ways such that I can no longer reinterpret it and get something sensible which still has predictability. (If you do or observe X, Y will result.)

            Consider an analogous situation for you: if you believe the universe is perfectly rationally understandable, how would your experiences change if that turns out to be false? I suspect you’d give an answer very similar to mine.

          • Rick_K

            I didn’t say it was rationally understandable. As Haldane said, it may well be “queerer than we can suppose”. I said it was unguided. There is no evidence to the contrary, however you try to filter your inputs to maintain the illusion of a guiding hand.

          • What is the scientific experiment to discover this “guiding hand”? I know of none, because the definition of “guiding” could be infinitely complex. So all that one could possibly do is come up with a finite approximation and test it, at which point you’re back to science. Model, experiment, data. Let’s say the hypothesis is confirmed. Then, you can always claim that there is no infinitely complex ‘thing’ behind the phenomenon you’re exploring—or at least that ‘thing’ couldn’t be called “guiding”.

            You have set up the initial conditions such that you have won the argument. That’s just boring.

    • John Schneider

      You: “We get off track as soon as we separate creation and redemption.”

      This is the part of your piece Like like best.

  • PlayTOE

    The talking snake should have clued folks in that this was a myth.
    The one item in the ancient world propagated from a “rib” is the seedless fig tree, so the story is a planting mythology. There is no basis for “original sin” except to guilt trip people into the religion. Also, if you wish to forgive, then you don’t need to watch your son tortured and killed first, you can just forgive. It’s time Christians began learning morals.

    • John Schneider

      In my view the Cross more *expresses*that moral attitude of God (yours) than it *accomplishes* or creates it. The Cross is supposed to be a (living) symbol that helps us to frame our own moral attitudes, I think.

    • Forgiveness that is free trivializes the damage done to the person who was hurt. If true damage were done, then true sacrifice must be made to fix the damage—if indeed it can be fixed in this life.

  • Norman

    I believe we may be paying too much attention to “church fathers” that had less insight in the long run than they are given credit for. This examination needs to stay within the realm of realized NT theology and 2nd T investigations than paying our respects to those ancients not fully enlightened with the proper investigative tools. If you filter your examination of Jewish Theological Adam through Irenaeus and Augustine then you have likely complicated your work exponentially.

    Adam wasn’t constructed as a biological investigation even though the natural inclination even among the early western church was to pursue that direction. It still makes sense for us to pursue the issue of God the Creator’s motivation for bringing us via evolution to our present stage as it’s quite natural for us to do so. But Adam appears to be much more limited in scope from a Jewish perspective. At least he was during 2nd T times.

    I stand by Pauline thinking as I interpret his Adam and so I see an Adam who was primarily a type cast for Jewish covenant issues of getting the relationship aspects wrong. Not Adam’s personal sin per se. Paul said covenant Adam in the Garden was sinless even though sin was in the world until the perverting aspect of self-righteousness through the law came in and burdened Adam with his sin guilt again. Christ as the last Adam returns the Covenant people back to a Garden status of sin still in the world but not imputed. When we grasp Paul’s concepts there in Rom 5-8 then we can see how he really thinks and not how Irenaeus and Augustine thought.

    • John Schneider

      Norman: the Church Fathers’ views are in our historical genetics by now…we can’t avoid them, I think, even if we wish to do so, in some hermeneutically purified form.
      But I’m a bit unclear on the last part: this issue in the article isn’t about justification and the like, but about the question whether the Fall is a good explanation of “why evil?” Meanwhile it was Augustine and later Luther/Calvin who introduced the grid of concepts “imputation” and the like that you are using.

      • Norman

        I realize the church fathers are in our genetics but that doesn’t really impart special knowledge to them when analyzed from a purely investigative examination. One can choose to work through them and I understand that process but IMHO it’s not needed for evaluating the climax of 2nd T Judaism that became first Century Christianity. They only add bits and pieces in understanding the puzzle.

        My point is that the fall is grossly misunderstood because we do not understand Paul by and large, and neither am I saying it’s easy to get one’s mind around his Adamic ideas. However I also believe it’s doable and clears up a lot of the hand wrangling over biological concepts that have plagued the church historically. There really is no good Jewish explanation about why there is evil; that’s what Job is essentially about from a Jewish philosophical approach. The author of Job had no explanation and neither do we even with our extensive biological and physical advancements.

        First we need to understand how the Jews understand things such as Paul’s concept of the fall and then we can tackle that more difficult subject of why; which no one has really gotten a grip on. I essentially paraphrased Paul’s Romans 5 & 7 statements that expose his understanding of Adam/Israel in the Garden. There was this underlying rebellious Jewish idea that Paul is presenting; and that originally there was a better way of relationship with God in lieu of the Mosaic Law (works of the flesh). That was where “sin was in the world and they/Paul/Israel was alive until the command came and it all went south. It appears that the OT redemption story is essentially that simple from Paul’s standpoint. The church is the one who has misunderstood that simplicity because we all read as literalist without grasping full the Jewish genre of metaphor and analogy.

        • John Schneider

          I understand Paul to be saying something like this (and Job says this): from the beginning the human creature “sinned.” The interesting thing is that Job did not sin (as counted by the relevant community) and yet horrific things happened to him–for “no reason,” with God’s authorization.

          You are right about Judaism, which really had no Fall in the “Augustinian” sense, and no answer to the question, “why evils?”

          • Norman

            Thanks for the interaction.
            I think Paul saw two levels of sin. Generic sin (human condition) and “the Sin” related to Jewish Law Keeping.
            I believe he is saying that generic sin is not counted toward the faithful until “the Sin” the commandment came in.
            That is why he says sin was in the world but it was not counted until the commandment came in. He reiterates the same concept in Romans 7 when he says that he was alive until “the Sin” of the law came to bear. Paul is pushing toward a return of the pure Adamic Garden which he lays out in Rom 8 concerning the futility of the Creation until Christ arrived to removed what seperated Israel from God.
            It’s a much better story than what has been presented historically by literalist.

  • rvs

    Thanks for the great discussion and great article. All of this requires a rather peculiar concept of the Devil, or philosophy of the Devil, or whathaveyou. Defining terms: by “the Devil,” I mean the Devil, haha.

  • Susan Gerard

    Please, would you enlighten me on how I am misperceiving the issue of theodicy. As I see it, Pauline/Augustine theodicy: God must be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, He cannot be the author of evil (“God saw all that he had made and saw that it was very good”). Thus the Fall and its
    consequent effect on the world/nature, and the need for redemption.
    Accepting evolution means no sudden break, no sudden fall. In fact, the
    bigger problem is that nature is “fallen” long before man enters the
    scene. How could an Omnipotent/Omniscient/Omnibenevolent God then NOT be the author of evil (the fallen world before man)? You can have only any 2 of the three, but not all three, which is not acceptable (“Either God is not able to abolish evil or not willing; if he is not able then he is not all-powerful, if he is
    not willing then he is not all-good.”).

    One can accept that man enters evolution as a fallen being in need of redemption; we all know that if we were adam, we would have sinned as well. But it becomes harder to reconcile why we are already fallen with an O/O/O God. St Irenaeus, states that man was created in two steps. That before man, God created the world imperfectly so that imperfect immature beings who were created in his image could develop through a soul-making process into a ‘child of God,’ in his perfect likeness. So the ‘evil’ had to be there already for us to choose freely between good and evil as we proceeded from the image into the likeness of God. So, with Irenaeus, Natural Evil has the divine purpose to
    develop qualities such as compassion through the soul-making process. Harder to comprehend. God made Natural evil so we could choose when
    we came onto the scene. Then the argument goes, Natural Evil is good.
    It’s the Moral evil (man’s choice upon becoming the likeness of God) is
    all mans fault. Is this correct? The other option is to blame the Natural Fall on fallen angels.


    • John Schneider

      Susan: I think what you say is correct. The trouble gets to be that natural “evil” extends back into millennia of brutal suffering by innocent animals before the existence of human beings was even imaginable (were anyone there to imagine it.) I’m writing a book on this.

      • Susan Gerard

        Exactly! One solves the question of how an “O/O/O” God can be the author of such suffering by calling it good? Or by blaming fallen angels for it? My mind aches.

        Have you read the creation story in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion? It is absolutely beautiful. At God’s command to sing together, the angels are singing creation into being without knowing it, and Melkor, proud angel, wants to sing his own tune, disharmonious, louder. End result being that creation is fallen while it is sung into being.

        I’m about ready to throw in the towel and begin campaigning for The Silmarillion to be included in canonical works.

        Thank you. I look forward to your book!

        • John Schneider

          Beautiful it truly is…but as I say in the article, I have a hard time seeing God supervising such a disastrous “do-your-own thing” unless God in some sense wnted it to happen (sort of like Judas and the Cross.)

          • Suesie

            Hi ..I just have to interject here, if you don’t mind. I’ve been struggling with these concepts for some time now as well, and I’ve come to the conclusion that God has to be in fact the creator of ALL, as it states in the Bible, and in being that created evil – for His purpose – which I greatly troubled over. The only conclusion I could come to was that it had to be for His purpose in showing perfect love, perfection itself, the opposite and defeating of same had to show forth. What way to show a finite human intelligence perfection but by showing the opposite. When they were told not to take from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, those things were already there, obviously, else they would not have been named by God as something that should be avoided (why he put that tree in the garden in the first place makes no sense to me in the first place – again I can only assume it was to show Himself in perfect light against the dark) and having eaten from the tree, sin was brought in by the act of now knowing of its presence, and of course by disobeying God. The thing is, He knew they would eat it in the first place, it was just a matter of when. God’s redemptive plan to overcome and do away with the harm that choosing evil causes in the world had already been put in motion.

    • John Schneider

      Susan: the phrase “author of evil,” often used, is pretty useless, because it is equivocal. The core concern is whether God has been the “agent” of evil, I.e. has done something morally wrong (evil) by creating the world via evolutionary processes. The answer is “apparently yes!” In reply, an “Irenaean” counter-argument is that God has good moral reasons for designing the world this way, and that the larger sense of the reasoning is desire for a world that matures via Christ. The trouble is seeing how all the evolutionary losses could be necessary, and in another thing I’m writing, I agree. So it must be that for the victims of suffering there is some sort of integrative “compensation,” or “making right” the wrongs they have been asked to endure (as Job makes clear, sometimes God does “authorize” evils that are unnecessary, in a logically causal sense. Maybe God has plans for extinct species in other worlds that we don’t know about yet, for instance–a planet full of dinosaurs perhaps!

      • Susan Gerard

        Thank you, John, the distinction is helpful. And I agree, the suffering and death of countless species/animals may have been necessary to prepare the earth, a morally good earth, for the coming of man. However, I still struggle with the origin and nature of (natural) evil. Did it simply come into being as part of God’s plan for a good earth? Was there an agent acting against God’s goodness but with in His will? It is difficult to imagine the eons of pain and suffering (there were carnivores, so there was violent death, as well as accidents, etc.) as “goodness” even if it was good for the earth He was creating for man. I’m sorry, I feel that I’m being obtuse.

        Furthermore, and here I can be definitely classified as “loony”, I’ve been wondering lately what sentience has to do with a soul. If a dolphin is sentient – it mourns it’s lost young, it has language, the ability to create (new actions/tricks), the capacity to sacrifice itself for another, and goodwill – how is it essentially different from humans? I know, that sounds ridiculous. But they are aware of physical and emotional suffering. There must have been death in sentient beings before man. It is hard to see this as morally good.

        Thank you, you’ve been generous in engaging with our responses. I appreciate that and your willingness to share your work.

        • John Schneider

          Susan: two things, too quickly. (1) I reject the views of those who say tat all the brutality and apparent waste of evolution through time is somehow “balanced off” by the mergence of human beings (so I share your skepticism, there. It seems massively arrogant, a;most like when the Puritans came to Massachusetts and praised God for its being vacant (the entire Indian pop. had died off from diseases that spread after a scouting expedition by a few Europeans prior to the famous landing at Plymouth.) (2) Even though animals are not made in the “image of God,” which I do believe means, at least, that each and every human being has a “value” that no other creatures have, I do think (and am writing on this) that sentient animals have significant moral value, and that (perhaps) the more closely they approximate the “image of God,” the more value they have and the more moral consideration they deserve. Dolphins (your example) are a prime case. This gets extremely complicated as we go scan the spectrum of animal species, but I do think that many kinds of animals have emotions attached to their pain (and also to their pleasure) and that in our treatment of animals in “advanced” western societies, we have vastly underestimated their moral importance.

          • Nancy R.

            I am rather perplexed by the notion that evolution is “wasteful,” as though God’s only priority in creation was to come up with the human race. This reflects some biases that we may hold without examination: a bias toward quick creation, a belief that life is without intrinsic value but must result in a perfect, eternal existence, and a belief that only current life has value (extinct species are a “waste”). We may be the only species created truly in God’s image, but when we are perplexed that he didn’t get around to creating us more quickly, perhaps we’re diminishing the value of the other species that came before us, and those that live alongside us.

            Do we expect that animals that live currently will be resurrected? If not, their existence is just as wasteful and pointless as those creatures that died out millions of years ago. And if we expect current species to be resurrected, then there’s no reason that creatures that went extinct long before us will be resurrected as well. I know, it’s pointless speculation; I just mean to point out the peculiarity of the notion that evolution is somehow wasteful.

          • Susan Gerard

            Excellent point.

          • John Schneider

            One way to think about it is in this way: the Tree of Life that God planted (assuming God planted the evolutionary Tree) is wholly dead except for one branch. Passing strange, and in need of pondering.

          • Lars

            I agree, there are no shortcuts in evolution. And “wasteful” is obviously a very subjective notion, one evolution would seem to have no use for. Life will perpetuate itself until it is unable to for whatever reason (asteroids, climate change, loss of habitat, disease, nuclear war, etc.). That same life is often taken without regard by every species but at what point is that act classified as ‘evil’ – when Black Widow spiders do it? Dogs? Chimps? Neanderthals? Or just us sapiens, with our ability to grasp the concept of death? When, or how, did instinct transition into evil? What I find fascinating about this conversation (and I too wish to thank Dr. Enns and Dr. Schneider for hosting and participating) is the desire to explain when God determined it was time to intervene in the evolutionary process and imbue humanity with an immortal soul as well as the knowledge of good and evil. Was there instant communication where God said “From now on, for you and yours, things are going to be different. Also, you can no longer touch yourself there,” – a figurative “Garden” period between us and God – or was there simply a moment in time that began God’s hand’s-on involvement once we were appropriately evolved? This is a much harder road to traverse than the YEC/literalists’ view of creation and the fall, but I’m glad an effort is being made to realistically reconcile science with scripture as much as possible.

          • John Schneider

            Why would God (like a good playground supervisor) not have a hand in the whole thing to prevent wasteful, pointless suffering. Those norms are not arbitrary if we accept normal moral norms: A good Being minimizes evils so far as it can, without causing worse evils or preventing important goods. Does anyone really believe that *God* was in this morally binding position? The choice to use evolution in order to create species (most of which are wasted) in order to bring about modern human beings, seems to me extremely hard to explain in moral terms. (I am familiar with BioLogos and their smoothing over this problem. But I think they are woefully mistaken.)

          • John Schneider

            Nancy, 99.5 % of all species of non-human living creatures, plus quite a few (ate least seven) species of human creatures are now extinct. If God is capable of creating the creatures God wants to exist without also “spending” these billions of living beings, then most people would not just call that waste. They would call it evil, esp. if those creatures suffered along the way unnecessarily. THe wastefulness of evolution is perhaps the worst problem Darwinism creates for theism, next to the problem of wasteful suffering…If these animals are *not* resurrected, and somehow compensated for their suffering, what would be the morally justifiable point of creating them in the first place? It looks like pulling legs off frogs, otherwise,