A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Evolution and Faith

My stab at creationism has generated more discussion than I thought it would. In response to Jonathan, who has debated me the last few of weeks I thought I'd post on evolution and it's effects on Christian faith.

Evolution means that creation is not only a past event but a present and continuing process. Thus God has to be ever present in the unfolding of life. Deism died with Darwin's origin of species, replaced by Calvin's view that God upholds the world moment by moment.

The need for salvation isn't contingent on Genesis. It's an observable moral fact about the world we live in. Reading a daily paper makes the need apparent. Genesis is a very insightful response to that need but not it's source. I think the temptation is to flip those around.

If we thought of a soul as that which makes us us, our personality, histories then yes other animals have souls. And they partake in God's salvation story as well. The Bible assumes as much. For instance in Hosea, God makes a covenant with the animals.

We shouldn't think of the image of God as based on some criteria that humans have or share because if it's something we have, you'll shortly find that there is somebody who doesn't have it. And they lose out in our society. Rather to say that we are made in the image of God should be indicative of God's posture towards us.

I don't see how sin, redemption, soul, or imagio dei are nullified by evolution. I think some of these concepts are actually strengthened with the story. The one thing that could changes are views about mortality. And that issue I'll save for another post.

8 Comments:

At 2:07 PM , Blogger Jonathan said...

You know what's amazing? Someone actually respondes to a post condmening creationism as scientifically unbased, and no response is given.

Not to cloud things here, as I am more than comfortable talking about the theological aspect of this (very important), but you can't in any sort of honorable way attack a viewpoint and then ignore the agreeing response.

The amount of scientific information supporting creation is boundless. It's out there, and it's obvious! But I am sure you guys would much rather have fun blogging against creation with no one to actually respond to your statements. In fact, I see that now.
...
"The need for salvation isn't contingent on Genesis. It's an observable moral fact about the world we live in. Reading a daily paper makes the need apparent. Genesis is a very insightful response to that need but not it's source. I think the temptation is to flip those around."

You are avoiding the very reason why sin and salvation are founded on the happenings of Genesis, and that is the very beginning of sin. You say we need to look at the newspaper to find why we need salvation, but that doesn't answer the problems of Evolution.

It contradicts the Bible by saying Death and Disease entered and manifested itself before sin. It contradicts the perfect creation of man, the need for salvation, and the monumental dillemna of the FIRST sin. Why would that first sin cause so many problems (all of the curses mentioned in Gen 3) if there was already so much pain and suffering. Why would God call a destructive world good when he first created it?

You say we flip it around, but in actuality it is you doing the flipping here. Genesis comes FIRST. It is the reason we need salvation. It illustrates the downfall of humans, and why Christ came to save us from that action and the sins we commit today. Without a literal view of Genesis, the rest of the Bible doesn't make all that much sense.

"If we thought of a soul as that which makes us us, our personality, histories then yes other animals have souls. And they partake in God's salvation story as well. The Bible assumes as much. For instance in Hosea, God makes a covenant with the animals."

The covenant you speak of is Hosea 2:18 only illustrates the way humans and animals were originally created to live together, and how they will live together during the 1,000 year reign of Christ. But that doesn't prove anything. In fact, humans and animals are still seen as seperate, since humans are seperate participants in the covenant.

Animals are not part of the salvation story. Period. Jesus Christ did not come to save animals, because they were not created in the image of God, and were not under the penalty of sin. They are simply animals. The only part animals have ever played in salvation and forgiveness is the role of sacrafice by the Hebrew nation. But to say that Christ came to save Bamby is rather silly and pretty ignorant on your part just to make a point.

And just for the record, our soul isn't just about personality. It's the spiritual dimension of human beings, particualarly able to communicate with the Holy Spirit in both recieving and speaking. Even saying that animals have personalities is very arguable, but again, personality does not equal a soul.

"We shouldn't think of the image of God as based on some criteria that humans have or share because if it's something we have, you'll shortly find that there is somebody who doesn't have it. And they lose out in our society. Rather to say that we are made in the image of God should be indicative of God's posture towards us."

And God said, "Let us create man in our image, in our likeness." That's pretty straight forward. If you feel comfortable enough twisting that into something other than what it says, then that's perfectly fine.

If you aren't, then listen. It says right there in the chapter that we are created in the image of God. Not the "animals of the field" or "birds of the air." Not monkeys. Man was made in the image of God.

You can't lose that or find it...we ARE created in the image of God, period. We simply are. I would love to hear the explanation as to who "doesn't have it" and who does.

"I don't see how sin, redemption, soul, or imagio dei are nullified by evolution."

That's because you are ignoring my statements about sin, it's birth, and it's consequences.

You are equalifying animals with humans, even though that is in direct contrast to the Bible. It explicity defines humans as being different from animals, and even says we are created in the image of God.

 
At 9:38 AM , Anonymous Tim said...

Oh dear oh dear...

"It contradicts the Bible by saying Death and Disease entered and manifested itself before sin. It contradicts the perfect creation of man, the need for salvation, and the monumental dillemna of the FIRST sin. Why would that first sin cause so many problems (all of the curses mentioned in Gen 3) if there was already so much pain and suffering. Why would God call a destructive world good when he first created it?"

So you think there is some chronological ordering of actual historical events in the first three chapters of Genesis, from which you draw significance?

Why then do the first two chapters blatantly contradict *themselves* in the order of things being created?

Who do you think was there to witness either account of creation happening?

Do you realise that, with the oldest manuscripts of the OT dating from about 1500BC, that is an even longer period of uncertainty from point of creation in your world (say around 4500BC) to that first manuscript as from Christ at the start of the NT to the present day?

Do you realise that the bible does not state that the events in Genesis are a factual historical account? Where is the big banner over the passages saying "Hey, this is how it happened"? Hint: it's not in the bible, it's in YOUR head.

"Genesis comes FIRST. It is the reason we need salvation. It illustrates the downfall of humans, and why Christ came to save us from that action and the sins we commit today. Without a literal view of Genesis, the rest of the Bible doesn't make all that much sense."

Word to the wise. Taking the events in Genesis 1-3 literally is doing God a great disservice. The best you can do is take them metaphorically as statements such as `God exists; he's involved in the creation of the world; there is a relationship to be had between God and mankind', etc.

Failure even to identify the genre of material you're looking at, let alone recognize the history of its authorship, really just sucks.

 
At 10:12 AM , Blogger Jonathan said...

"So you think there is some chronological ordering of actual historical events in the first three chapters of Genesis, from which you draw significance?"

Absolutely. There must be for the events to remain significant. As I have stated before, the order of events in regards to sin means everything.

"Why then do the first two chapters blatantly contradict *themselves* in the order of things being created?"

They don't contradict each other. That is a weak arguement, and I would have though better coming from the readers of this respectable blog.

It is the wrong assumption to believe that the second chapter of Genesis is just a different account of creation to that in chapter 1.

It should be evident that chapter 2 is not just ‘another’ account of creation because chapter 2 says nothing about the creation of the heavens and the earth, the atmosphere, the seas, the land, the sun, the stars, the moon, the sea creatures, etc. Chapter 2 mentions only things directly relevant to the creation of Adam and Eve and their life in the garden God prepared specially for them. Chapter 1 may be understood as creation from God’s perspective; it is ‘the big picture’, an overview of the whole. Chapter 2 views the more important aspects from man’s perspective.

Genesis 2:4 says, "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens". This marks a break with chapter 1.

This phraseology next occurs in Genesis 5:1, where it reads "This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man."

‘Generations’ is a translation of the Hebrew word toledoth, which means ‘origin’ or ‘record of the origin’. It identifies an account or record of events. The phrase was apparently used at the end of each section in Genesis 2 identifying the patriarch (Adam, Noah, the sons of Noah, Shem, etc.) to whom it primarily referred, and possibly who was responsible for the record. There are 10 of these specific divisions in Genesis.

Each record was probably originally a stone or clay tablet. There is no person identified with the account of the origin of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1–2:4), because it refers primarily to the origin of the whole universe, not any person in particular (Adam and Eve are not mentioned by name, for example). Also, only God knew the events of creation, so God had to reveal this, possibly to Adam who recorded it.

Moses, as ‘author’ of Genesis, acted as a compiler and editor of the various sections, adding explanatory notes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (something I will get to in a minute). The toledoths acknowledge the sources of the historical records Moses used. This understanding underlines the historical nature of Genesis and its status as eyewitness history, contrary to the defunct ‘documentary (JEDP) hypothesis’ still taught in many Bible colleges. [Ed. note: for a refutation of this fallacious and anti-Christian theory, see Did Moses really write Genesis?.]

The differences in the toledoth statements of Genesis 2:4 and 5:1 affirm that chapter 1 is the overview the record of the origin of the ‘heavens and earth’ (2:4)—whereas chapter 2 is concerned with Adam and Eve, the detailed account of Adam and Eve’s creation (5:1,2).

The wording of 2:4 also suggests the shift in emphasis: in the first part of the verse it is ‘heavens and earth’ whereas in the end of the verse it is ‘earth and heaven’. Scholars think that the first part of the verse would have been on the end of a clay or stone tablet recording the origin of the universe and the latter part of the verse would have been on the beginning of a second tablet containing the account of events on earth pertaining particularly to Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:4b–5:la).

Genesis was written like many historical accounts with an overview or summary of events leading up to the events of most interest first, followed by a detailed account which often recaps relevant events in the overview in greater detail. Genesis 1, the ‘big picture’ is clearly concerned with the sequence of events. The events are in chronological sequence, with day 1, day 2, evening and morning, etc. The order of events is not the major concern of Genesis 2.

In recapping events they are not necessarily mentioned in chronological order, but in the order which makes most sense to the focus of the account. For example, the animals are mentioned in verse 19, after Adam was created, because it was after Adam was created that he was shown the animals, not that they were created after Adam.

Genesis chapters 1 and 2 are not therefore separate contradictory accounts of creation. Chapter 1 is the ‘big picture’ and Chapter 2 is a more detailed account of the creation of Adam and Eve and day six of creation.

The final word on this matter, however, should really be given to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In Matthew chapter 19, verses 4 and 5, the Lord is addressing the subject of marriage, and says: ‘Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?’

Notice how in the very same statement, Jesus refers to both Genesis 1 (verse 27b: ‘male and female created he them’) and Genesis 2 (verse 24: ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh’). Obviously, by combining both in this way, He in no way regarded them as separate, contradictory accounts.

"Who do you think was there to witness either account of creation happening?

Do you realise that, with the oldest manuscripts of the OT dating from about 1500BC, that is an even longer period of uncertainty from point of creation in your world (say around 4500BC) to that first manuscript as from Christ at the start of the NT to the present day?"


This is where arguements end. If you don't see the Bible as the Word of God, then this is a pointless arguement. I know that Moses was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the Penateuch. If you don't agree with that, then that's fine.

The fact that the Bible is the most proven and tested book in history should alter that view, but it's up to you in the end.

"Do you realise that the bible does not state that the events in Genesis are a factual historical account? Where is the big banner over the passages saying "Hey, this is how it happened"? Hint: it's not in the bible, it's in YOUR head."

Quite the trip up here, Tim. You see, the only times the Bible will title actions as metaphorical or not is when Jesus or someone uses a parable.

The Bible is MEANT to be taken literally unless stated otherwise. Is that simple. I don't know how you can misinterprety "this is the account of the creation" or "God created the heavens and the earth."

It is actually in YOUR head that these titles are originating from. You have found a comfortable way to answer your own questions by twisting the Bible into what the World would like you to think. That's dissapointing.

"Word to the wise. Taking the events in Genesis 1-3 literally is doing God a great disservice. The best you can do is take them metaphorically as statements such as `God exists; he's involved in the creation of the world; there is a relationship to be had between God and mankind', etc.

Failure even to identify the genre of material you're looking at, let alone recognize the history of its authorship, really just sucks."


That's a pretty comical statement. No proof, no reasoning, just a foolhardy approach to discredit me personally rather than argue your point.

What reason do you have to believe the Genesis account is metaphorical? What verse can you point to that says it is a metaphor, as Jesus would when he told a story to his followers?

How can you explain Jesus, who REFERENCED these very items we speak on in his statements on marriage?

 
At 6:04 PM , Anonymous Tim said...

I'm going to skip most of that monologue from Jonathan and cut to the chase.

"What reason do you have to believe the Genesis account is metaphorical? What verse can you point to that says it is a metaphor, as Jesus would when he told a story to his followers?"

The simple fact that the universe gives concrete scientific evidence of its age to be far FAR greater than the paltry ~6000 years your own interpretation of scripture leads you to believe, and contains far more entities than are listed in any reference to creation (I'll say entities because I mean everything from quasars to the /acer palmata/ I put in my back garden over the weekend and whatever species of aphid is eying it up).

Really, the evidence of carbon-dating and other mechanisms used within their known tolerance, blows your creationism out of the water. No ifs, no buts, just honest evidence. And not only that, your creationism does not make any predictions, so it's not *even* a theory.

`I don't know how you can misinterprety "this is the account of the creation"'

I didn't. I told you you'll not find that in any mythical Genesis 1:0, because you won't.

And on the topic of `Moses wrote the Pentateuch': so, he lived to be 400-odd and documented his own death, presumably posthumously, did he?

Don't bother answering; I won't stand for your insulting jibes any further.

 
At 9:07 AM , Blogger Jonathan said...

"Really, the evidence of carbon-dating and other mechanisms used within their known tolerance, blows your creationism out of the water. No ifs, no buts, just honest evidence. And not only that, your creationism does not make any predictions, so it's not *even* a theory."

Evolution is far from the factual pedestal you put it on.

The dating methods Evolutions love to trumpet out there are actually pretty unreliable. Carbon dating, for example, will date a 5$ towel from Wal-Mart at over 100 years old. It's incredibly innacurate.

There is certainly a science to carbon dating, but in reality things are not quite as simple to predict as you might think.

First, plants discriminate against carbon dioxide containing 14C. That is, they take up less than would be expected and so they test older than they really are. Furthermore, different types of plants discriminate differently. This also has to be corrected for.2

Second, the ratio of 14C/12C in the atmosphere has not been constant—for example, it was higher before the industrial era when the massive burning of fossil fuels released a lot of carbon dioxide that was depleted in 14C. This would make things which died at that time appear older in terms of carbon dating. Then there was a rise in 14CO2 with the advent of atmospheric testing of atomic bombs in the 1950s. This would make things carbon-dated from that time appear younger than their true age.

Measurement of 14C in historically dated objects (e.g., seeds in the graves of historically dated tombs) enables the level of 14C in the atmosphere at that time to be estimated, and so partial calibration of the ‘clock’ is possible. Accordingly, carbon dating carefully applied to items from historical times can be useful. However, even with such historical calibration, archaeologists do not regard 14C dates as absolute because of frequent anomalies. They rely more on dating methods that link into historical records.

Outside the range of recorded history, calibration of the 14C clock is not possible.

The amount of cosmic rays penetrating the earth’s atmosphere affects the amount of 14C produced and therefore dating the system. The amount of cosmic rays reaching the earth varies with the sun’s activity, and with the earth's passage through magnetic clouds as the solar system travels around the Milky Way galaxy.

The strength of the earth’s magnetic field affects the amount of cosmic rays entering the atmosphere. A stronger magnetic field deflects more cosmic rays away from the earth. Overall, the energy of the earth’s magnetic field has been decreasing, so more 14C is being produced now than in the past. This will make old things look older than they really are.

Also, the Genesis flood, which I believe to have ocurred, would have greatly upset the carbon balance. The flood buried a huge amount of carbon, which became coal, oil, etc., lowering the total 12C in the biosphere (including the atmosphere—plants regrowing after the flood absorb CO2, which is not replaced by the decay of the buried vegetation). Total 14C is also proportionately lowered at this time, but whereas no terrestrial process generates any more 12C, 14C is continually being produced, and at a rate which does not depend on carbon levels (it comes from nitrogen). Therefore, the 14C/12C ratio in plants/animals/the atmosphere before the flood had to be lower than what it is now.

Unless this effect (which is additional to the magnetic field issue just discussed) were corrected for, carbon dating of fossils formed in the flood would give ages much older than the true ages.

Also, volcanoes emit much CO2 depleted in 14C. Since the flood was accompanied by much volcanism, fossils formed in the early post-flood period would give radiocarbon ages older than they really are.

In summary, the carbon-14 method, when corrected for the effects of the flood, can give useful results, but needs to be applied carefully. It does not give dates of millions of years and when corrected properly fits well with the biblical flood.

As supposed to iodine testing, which will date the earth right around 6-7 thousand years old. Again, there is speculation needed, but I bet you've never heard about that form of dating.

 
At 9:31 AM , Blogger Jonathan said...

"The simple fact that the universe gives concrete scientific evidence of its age to be far FAR greater than the paltry ~6000 years your own interpretation of scripture leads you to believe,"

Ha. Do you not know of all the issues surrounding Evolution? Let's start from the top:

*Fossils: Too many discrepancies to count! There are no transitional forms. There is not even one piece of evidence for the drastic change necessary for fish to evolve to mammals, mammals into birds, and so on. Not one transitional form can be found. The only thing close has been the pre-men samples, but in each case those fossils have been proven to be entirely ape, entirely human, or entirely man made/false.

This was one of Darwin's greates fears...in fact he even stated in The Origin that if there were none found (since, back in his time obviously there were none as well) his theory would crumble.

"…intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed, must be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly doest not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory." -Charles Darwin, Origin of Species

*The Geologic Column:
One of the bedrocks of Evolution actually has very little basis to support this broken theory. Did you know you cannot find the column anywhere in the world in it's entirety? Did you know that in several areas of the planet, including the Swiss Alps and the Colorado Rockies, the column sections are in reverse order or mixed up al together? Did you know that fossils have been found to cover over anywhere from 2 to 5 layers of strata that should be seperated by millions of years?

The column, because of all of these issues, may possibly be thrown off of the theory because of all the problems it owns.

*Magnetic Field: According to Thomas Barnes, Scientific observations since 1829 have shown that the earth’s magnetic field has been measurably decaying at an exponential rate, demonstrating its half-life to be approximately 1400 years. In practical application its strength 20,000 years ago would approximate that of a magnetic star. In other words, under those conditions many of the atoms necessary for life processes could not form, clearly demonstrating that earth’s entire history is young, within a few thousand years. Evolution doesn't work that way...Interestingly though, Creation does.

*Flood: There is quite a bit of proof for the global flood, the Creationist explanation for layers of fossils and fossils themselves:
--There are hundreds of flood traditions handed down through cultures all over the world.
--M.E. Clark and Henry Voss have demonstrated the scientific validity of Noah's Flood by providing the sedimentary layering we see on every continent.
--Secular scholars report very rapid sedimentation and periods of great carbonate deposition in earth’s sedimentary layers.

And there are still current problems arising as time progresses. Many scientists have begun to run from the theory because it has too many issues, and are looking for answers.

They can be honest with these problems. Can you?

"..and contains far more entities than are listed in any reference to creation (I'll say entities because I mean everything from quasars to the /acer palmata/ I put in my back garden over the weekend and whatever species of aphid is eying it up)."

I am not sure what you point is here. God through Creation pretty much covered everything, including plantlife...

"Don't bother answering; I won't stand for your insulting jibes any further."

I fail to see these insulting jibes you are referencing, when in fact it is you that has been insulting my intelligence and person since your first comment.

I am not afraid of open conversation about this subject. There are many unspoken problems with evolution, and if you would rather avoid them, then that's fine.

But do realize that Evolution is far from proven, and that there all kinds of issues with it.

 
At 11:48 PM , Blogger Virginia said...

Jonathan,

Can you tell me some of the problematic claims of creation science? Just a few, please? I'm always trying to get my students to think critically about science. For those who have their apologetics books open ready to attack evolution and read me the passages about the inexactness of science, I expect them to be equally critical of "creation science" and be able to tell me about its flaws. For those who readily gobble up anything in an academic textbook as Truth, I expect them to learn how to read studies and identify potential biases, find potential errors, and compare theories to competing theories. So while I acknowledge there are unresolved issues with evolutionary science (not all that you have mentioned here, but this is no place for a full on lesson in methodology), I would like to know if you are aware of any critiques of creation science you would consider legitimate.

 
At 10:41 AM , Blogger Dwight said...

I apologize for not responding to this thread or the Islam post. This week and the next number of weeks will be a bit hectic because I'm in the process of trying to move, find a job, and find out what I'm doing this fall since the position at my campus ministry is ending. So sometimes I don't always follow up.

But in terms of the creationist arguments I wasn't sure what to make of them. Your theological arguments interested me more.

For instance, I don't know how it's possible to have a perfect location to view the universe when we've only seen a tiny fragment of it. And all fossils are transitional. And ou can look at a horse and see scores of transitional animals that led to the modern horse.

A few questions: what is it in us that marks as being made in the image of God? What quality do we have, that other animals do not have, which separates us in the way you believe that we are?

As for animals and salvation, Paul speaks of the whole creation groaning in anticipation of it's redemption. In Isaiah salvation is seen not just because humans live in peace but also animals (the lion and the lamb laying down together)

As for Mosaic authorship. It's not in the text. And too many assumptions in the text are inexplicable if written by Moses from descriptions of goings on in an established Israel kingdom as well as language which suggest that Moses was a long ago past historical figure, etc.

The one thing that you're right on is that I don't see death as "entering" the world, and therefore it can't be the cause or the result of sin (though it often can be). How can evil be required for the development of life?

I'm nervous trying to ascribe evil to natural categories. I'm also apt to trust Augustine that there are wider forms of good than how ever it might be defined from the perspective of the human. Forest fires are destructive and yet can lead to the revitalization of that forest. So we ought to be humble in measuring good and evil and sin itself.

I've appreciated all those people who have been writing and adding to the discussion. Even when I don't show up to post, I get a lot of ideas and encouragement from those who do.

 

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