Re: [asa] Humanity and the Fall: Questions and a Survey

From: George Murphy <gmurphy@raex.com>
Date: Wed Apr 30 2008 - 09:31:01 EDT

David et al -

I'm not going to have the audacity to state precisely what the magisterial RC view on human evolution is. Rome tends to be quite circumspect about such statements &, kind of like our supreme court, seldom pronounces broad & sweeping decisions but limits them to particular questions at issue. I would say though that the Roman position on evolution is constrained by the requirements of (a) monogenism and (b) the special creation of the human soul. From Humani Generis, para.36:

"For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter - for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God."

BTW, I just finished a book which is relevant to this topic, Amir Aczel's The Jesuit and the Skull, about the career of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Unfortunately it's of little use for the present discussion. While the author does, I think, give a good picture of Teilhard's scientific work, centering on the discovery of Peking Man, his treatment of theology is very superficial. In spite of ongoing references to Teilhard's struggle with Jesuit authority and the Vatican, nothing is really said about the official Roman view of human origins & original sin or about Teilhard's distinctive theology. There's just a simplistic picture of mean old obscurantist biblical literalists versus a nice guy.

Shalom
George
http://web.raex.com/~gmurphy/
  ----- Original Message -----
  From: David Opderbeck
  To: Terry M. Gray
  Cc: AmericanScientificAffiliation
  Sent: Wednesday, April 30, 2008 9:07 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Humanity and the Fall: Questions and a Survey

  For Terry and David -- so to blend an orthodox understanding of the Adam and the fall with the scientific data, insofar as possible, is one required to reject the population genetics data, or to find some other explanation for that data (were Adam and Eve chimeric genetic multiples, like the story I heard recently on NPR of a woman who has two sets of entirely different DNA resulting from an absorbed siamese twin?)? Or is orthodoxy flexible enough to permit that if the population genetics data are firm, "Adam" may represent a group of newly fashioned humans?

  For George, re: the Roman view (or for anyone else who understands this): Pope Pius XII, in the 1950 Encyclical Humani Generis, permits belief in evolution, but rejects human polygenism explicity (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html, paragraphs 36-37). Pius also rejects a non-historical reading of Gen. 1-11, in language that would be acceptable in any evangelical seminary today (paragraphs 38-39). Does anyone know what the status is of an Encyclical in the Catholic teaching authority? I know John Paul II affirmed the validity of evolutionary science, but I don't think JPII or any other Catholic teaching superseded Humani Generis.

  On a more personal note -- I guess some people find it a little easier to deviate from received orthodoxy in discrete areas. All of us do this in a way if we aren't YEC because of our views about death in the initial creation. Yet we all have to draw lines in the sand at some points (if nothing else, for most of us I think, on the resurrection of Christ) and I'm guessing that for many of us Adam and the fall is or is close to one of those lines. So we might have to take a YEC-like stance at some point, right -- "I see that data, but it can't be right, because scripture says otherwise...."

  On Wed, Apr 30, 2008 at 12:57 AM, Terry M. Gray <grayt@lamar.colostate.edu> wrote:

    Gregory,

    I've stayed out of most of these discussions recently because I really have nothing new to add. But, I have to say at this point that I don't think it's fair at all to say that most TE/EC positions are against such an idea.

    This may be where George is and where Denis L. is, but many of us are quite comfortable with the notion of "circumventing the evolutionary process at a critical point". I find my view similar to that taken by David Campbell in his post. At this point many will say that we're no longer TE/EC but are embracing a form of special creationism. So be it, if that's the case. Personally, I reject those semantics and consider myself in the TE/EC camp on most of the scientific and theological questions...but up the critical point of the origin of the humanity in the image of God in covenant relationship with God. The question of whether or not homo sapiens as a biological form existed up to this point in time is largely irrelevant to the discussion.

    This is a tact that many evangelicals friendly to biological evolutionary ideas have taken since the days of Darwin. To be frank about it, in my opinion, orthodoxy is on the line with respect to an historical Adam and Eve and an historical Fall. However, ASA is broader than my narrow conservative Reformed orthodoxy.

    TG

    On Apr 29, 2008, at 3:29 PM, Gregory Arago wrote:

      Is fair to say that most TE/EC positions are against the idea of, as George puts it, "circumventing the evolutionary process at a critical point"? In other words, everything is 'always already' contained withIN that evolutionary process itself, which is used by the SuperNature/Creator to continue (the) Creation in, through and beyond time.

      David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com> wrote:
      George said: What we know of the process of evolution in general, & what we can infer from the behavior of our nearest surviving primate relatives, indicates that the first humans would have been prone to sinful behavior - even thought they would not have been compelled to sin. Thus the claim that the first human(s) was/were "morally perfect" is problematic.

      I respond: But isn't there a difference between being prone to sin and sin being inevitable? For example, if Christ truly was tempted in every way as we are, in some sense he must in his humanity have been prone to sin -- otherwise the temptation is meaningless. Yet for the "new Adam" sin was not inevitable, since he did not sin. Maybe moral "perfection" means making right choices even in the face of very real temptations and limitations?

      George, you mention traditional RC theology. I remain confused about exactly what the Catholic church's official teaching is here. I know JPII acknowledge that evolution is more than a theory, and I know the RC Church generally permits a range of views on the interpretation of Genesis. But, my understanding is that human evolution remains officially or at least semi-officially verboten, because of a strongly Augustinian view of how original sin is transmited (monogenism).

      On Tue, Apr 29, 2008 at 2:58 PM, George Murphy <gmurphy@raex.com> wrote:
      If it were just a matter of God selecting a particular couple & communicating with them then evolution wouldn't pose any great threat to the traditional "fall" scenario. But the problem goes deeper than that - in particular, to Strimple's claim that there was "a first man specially created by God, morally perfect in knowledge, righteousness and holiness." What we know of the process of evolution in general, & what we can infer from the behavior of our nearest surviving primate relatives, indicates that the first humans would have been prone to sinful behavior - even thought they would not have been compelled to sin. Thus the claim that the first human(s) was/were "morally perfect" is problematic. This can be avoided if one postulates that God did something outside the ordinary course of natural processes to add some spiritual & moral capabilities to some hominid in order to create humkanity in the theological sense. This in fact is what traditional RC theology postulates - that what humanity lost in "the fall" was not any natural capacity but this added supernatural aspect, the donum superadditum. That is why Rome can accept human evolution up to a point. But adopting this approach means circumventing the evolutionary [process at a critical point.

      Shalom
      George
      http://web.raex.com/~gmurphy/

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Received on Wed Apr 30 09:34:14 2008

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