Re: Evolution and Salvation

From: Jim Armstrong (
Date: Wed Sep 17 2003 - 14:54:58 EDT

  • Next message: Michael Roberts: "Re: Post-Empiricism Science: A little surprised"

    Well-stated. At one level, I am a little surprised at the lack of
    interest in (resistance against) considering a viewpoint like RFEP, at
    least for its intrinsic value as a valid alternative perspective.

    One contrary view posits that God is actively and constantly involved
    with Creation in direct agency without which natural laws would lose
    their dependability and perhaps even cease to have meaning.
    Another posits that God put his Creation into motion, but still
    interacts with it episodically to achieve his purposes.

    In contrast with these ideas, RFEP suggests that the natural physical
    world might not even need God's interaction at all in order to achieve
    his objectives in the natural physical world aspect of his creation.
    I hope I phrased this preceding sentence carefully enough to connect it
    with the next consequential point.
    RFEP and similar ideas shift the spotlight from God's activity in the
    physical world to the non-physical domain, offering instead the idea
    that God's ultimate objectives, those that are the substance for his
    intent and hope in Creation, lie outside the physical domain.

    Wow! What a strange thought! :-)

    We in Christendom hold in common (I think) an idea that God is
    transcendent with respect to the physical world. The present state of
    humans is that we have either a unique or at least a higher capacity to
    abstract, think about and discover that which transcends the physical
    world. Is it too peculiar an idea to think that this transcendant
    domain is where God is primarily (if not completely) active, that the
    physical world has done (is doing) its job with complete competency, and
    that God needs nothing particularly of the natural physical world other
    than to serve as a medium for the creation of a being with these capacities?

    Any purpose and activity in the spiritual realm is not at risk with
    RFEP. What is at risk is our understandable desire for order and meaning
    in the natural physical world, and for there to be a supernatural
    active advocate for our physical well-being.

    On the one hand, we speak pretty uniformly about God's ultimate
    objectives being spiritual in nature. But are we consistent in that
    regard in needing assurance that he is concerned and a
    continuously-active agent as well for the physical? Perhaps more to the
    point, why do those LARGE questions persist with respect to reconciling
    our concepts of the attributes and activities of God with observations
    about evil, pain, hunger, injustice, etc. in our physical world?

    RFEP says those questions are valid and challenges us to stay on track
    with the former, ... to think more deeply about the natural but
    non-physical aspects of our being and purpose.

    That seems like a good thing, and a good basis for giving RFEP and
    similar ideas serious consideration, and acknowledging it as a valid
    alternative perspective - even if it "ultimately" proves too
    uncomfortable to embrace.

    That said, the fact that RFEP derives in part from taking a steely-eyed
    look at our own experience is a complicating factor in such a
    consideration. It is pretty difficult to set aside (to the best of our
    ability) the many factors that color our interpretation of experience,
    and think of those events and circumstances of life more in the sense of
    uninflected data. That difficulty alone will make the consideration of
    RFEP difficult for many, ...perhaps impossible for some.

    - JimA wrote:

    >Regarding your question to Howard below, let me try to explain in general
    >terms how I (and I think also other Christian evolutionists) understand and
    >appreciate Howard's RFEP. The Robust Formational Economy Principle (RFEP)
    >considers that part of what makes God's creation "very good" is that he
    >didn't have to specifically make certain things happen in a particular way
    >after his first act of creating the universe (or the basic laws
    >matter/energy). God gifted his creation with the properties that make it
    >"fruitful" in its chemical and biological evolution. God certainly
    >delighted in watch the "unfolding" and "coming into being" of all levels of
    >structure and complexity that arose in his creation work. That this
    >fruitful creation eventually gave rise to life, and then to humans, was
    >also a delight to him. Perhaps it was inevitable that it would do so,
    >considering the giftedness of his creation. But this does not mean that
    >God necessarily constrained the outcome to produce exactly what we see
    >today (e.g., human that stand erect with two arms and legs, etc.).
    >Certainly, if something more similar in resemblance to dolphins or
    >something we've never seen the likes of were the life form that evolved a
    >consciousness capable of contemplating meaning and its relationship to the
    >Creator, that wouldn't necessarily be a problem, would it? Nevertheless,
    >in our particular world, we humans are the God-aware creatures.
    >Once we evolved to the point of God-awareness, it seems that God has
    >approached us over time to make his character known more and more fully.
    >There is a sort of Sacred Romance by which God progressively reveals
    >himself and interacts with us. Scripture in its simplest and most reverent
    >sense is the story of how God has graciously (i.e., not too much all at
    >once, but clearly nevertheless) revealed himself to us. Certainly we
    >occupy a special place in God's affections because of we are recipients of
    >this sacred revelation. I hold a fairly conservative view about scripture
    >being a case of God's special revelation (God actually intervening on
    >occasion to work form-confering miracles and deliver his Word to us through
    >his prophets and ultimately in Christ); in the last couple of years, Howard
    >has been exploring a less orthodox view about how the God-World
    >relationship has progressed.
    >Regardless of differences along this orthodox-process theology spectrum,
    >many of us Christian evolutionists very much appreciate the RFEP as a good,
    >sound, and theologically defensible approach to understanding how
    >scientific understanding about the formative history of the universe
    >(including the evolution of life, including humans) is compatible with
    >theism in general and Christianity in specific.
    > <richard@biblewh
    >> To: <>
    > Sent by: cc:
    > asa-owner@lists. Subject: Re: Evolution and Salvation
    > 09/16/03 01:27
    > PM
    >>Re: "Evolution is nothing like this. There is no specific "end result."
    >>That's an interesting assertion (and a pretty commonly held notion). But
    >>just for argument's sake, how do you know that?
    >>Another perspective suggests that creation is toodling along just finem
    >>guided generally or specifically (your choice of flavor) by a plan and
    >>processes put in place from the outset.
    >> From inside that plan, we would likely have no way of "divining" the
    >>outcome or even a reasonably full picture of the objective(s). JimA
    >I can't say that I "know" it, but neither can I imagine an alternative. The
    >theory of evolution is based on non-directed processes like random mutation
    >and natural selection (rm+ns). If your suggestion is correct, then it seems
    >like it would take fine tuning to an entirely new level where the intial
    >conditions would need to be specified to such an extent that the whole
    >mechanistic/deterministic cascade of causes and effects that led to the
    >apparently *random* result of the appearance of man in the evolutionary
    >chain would in fact be inevitable.
    >This seems like a bit of a stretch to me. And that's why I asked Howard to
    >fill in the gaps in his RFEP which seems very vague when it attempts to
    >accomodate the Christian understanding of God and Creation. The Bible
    >declares that God formed man. The RFEP seems to be saying that God formed
    >the universe in such a way that things *like* man would be an inevitable
    >consequence. But if I am reading him correctly, it seems like he denies
    >God *specifically* formed us since the RFEP seems only to assert that some
    >sort of creatures would evolve, while not specifying exactly which
    >Is this correct Howard? Or do you believe that God specified exactly which
    >creatures would evolve when he created the world?
    >Richard Amiel McGough
    >Discover the sevenfold symmetric perfection of the Holy Bible at

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