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

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Wed Apr 30 2008 - 19:07:41 EDT
Hi Dave!

You illustrate the difficulty with labels and technical terms, which I try to avoid. They are supposed to be for convenience as shorthand, but rarely convey the same meaning to two people. That's why I tried to connect only loosely to the notion of "panentheism" as illustrative, but which looseness I did not make very clear.

Heat death is a very long way away. But there is that possibility of another local asteroid collision or even human-caused calamity of self-destruction. I sometimes have trouble with talking with most others in this general turf, basically because our theological thinking about Creation is usually so specifically and focally anthropocentric. But as I see it, we humans could blow ourselves to smithereens, and the purpose and course of Creation would likely not even be jarred the slightest amount off course. It is mind-bogglingly immense, and I think it unlikely that such immensity serves any purpose other than insurance, incorporating redundancy into the system to ensure that whatever intent and possibilities have unfolded in mankind (along with the possibility of self-destruction), may unfold as well elsewhere - in some form - with a variety of different outcomes (no alternate universes required).  I don't know if the foregoing speculation is right, but I do have a strong sense that we are inclined to think too small and too myopically when speculating about the purpose and functioning of Creation. Folks fuss about our God being too small, but there is a counterpart error in thinking about our universe being too small as well.

Finally, much of Christendom is persuaded that God can somehow "disconnect" one part of Himself from another part of Himself called Jesus. That being the case, I would think there would be room for the Creator to allow something that He "suffuses" - for lack of a better term and image - to exist with "disconnection" such that (for example) a physical (as we know it) Creation can run without attention or direction. Or did I miss your point?

Regards - JimA

D. F. Siemens, Jr. wrote:
If you try panentheism, the material universe is an eternal part of deity. This also requires that the deity has to persuade matter to do as it anticipates, but without any assurance that stuff will. Unless it is incredibly lucky, somewhere along the line what it wants will be so thwarted that the universe will come to a bad end. This is certainly predicted in its heat death, if no earlier catastrophe overtakes it. Indeed, what the only beings to recognize a deity are now doing may precipitate their extinction much more quickly. Assuming that the disorder/disaster does not destroy it, it has the debris to reform into a new "creation." That means that the stuff we now encounter came from an earlier failed universe. So the probability is that the deity has not been successful in the past, and we are the last stage in an infinite series of universes. Indeed, unless the deity-stuff had a beginning, we must be no more than a lucky state in an infinite series of failures.
Dave (ASA)
On Tue, 29 Apr 2008 22:19:29 -0700 Jim Armstrong <> writes:
I've been tracking much of this conversation. I recognize that our present understanding has us "packaged" in a space-time entity we call the universe or "Creation". That sort of invites at the outset a mental model of some sort of bubble existing within a greater domain of existence, native to the Creator. I am troubled by the idea that our temporalness is something distinct from Creator's existence or experience, based admittedly on human experience that artists and technologists and such inescapably embody what they know of in their Creations, though what they know may "pieces" that have never been integrated in that particular form and function. I cannot conceive how it might be possible to create something from that which we know nothing of.

On the other hand, those difficulties seem to go away if one takes a more panentheistic view rather than the "remote Creator" notion. Within our apparent sphere of existence, there are many experiences that we as humans know little of, the 3-dimensional acoustic realm of a dolphin, the 3-D electrical field realm of catfish, the subsonic communication of elephants, the magnetic migration maps of the arctic terns, the chemical communication among trees, and so on.

While all of these are hosted in creatures of our space-time existence, it is not impossible to my (highly speculative) way of  thinking that those things that we loosely associate with "spirit" are perhaps artifacts of other aspects of being and sensing that we may possess only in small or underdeveloped(?) degree. Perhaps what we sense are part of a domain of existence that transcends the space-time  constraint, or perhaps they amount to "projections" onto our constrained existence.

At any rate, this seems to me to pretty much harmonize with (at least do no great violence to) your "intersection" language.

JimA  [Friend of ASA] wrote:
Hi Bethany,

Thanks for the interesting post.  I agree with your observations about resurrection bodies, but I don't think it disagrees with my thoughts on spacetime.  (I want to emphasize again that I realize I'm speculating and I know that I can't prove these ideas, but I find them attractive.)  Here's an analogy:  eyes interact with electromagetism; ears interact with acoustic waves; noses interact with chemicals.  It would be redundant if all these organs interacted with only the same thing.  Analogously, the body interacts according to the dimensions of physics (what we call spacetime).  It would be redundant if the purpose of the spirit is likewise to interact according to the same dimensions of physics.  Why have both a spirit and a body if they serve to interact in the exact same sphere?  So if they are not redundant, then what does the spirit interact with?  I don't know, but I'm guessing it's not spacetime.  But that doesn't negate the need for a body -- even after the resurrection -- to interact with spacetime.  If spacetime still exists, then we'll need a body.  The ear doesn't negate the need for the nose or the eye, and v.v.

I don't like the idea that God's eternity is timeless because i can't imagine God being frozen like a statue.  I can't imagine a personality existing without time.  This bothers me about Augustine's answer to 'what was God doing before the creation of the world?"  I think Augustine made a mistake believing there are only two alternatives:  time or no time.  There could be some dimension besides time, which we can't even imagine in our physical brains, which give meaning to personality in perhaps a way that is far richer than what mere time affords.  For that matter, there could be an infinite number of these dimensions.  "Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, all that the Lord has in store for those who love him."

I'm not disturbed by the questions about Hell because I imagine that Hell would be indescribable in terms of time since it does not exist in time, and hence it is something that our brain could never begin to apprehend.  That's why (as George pointed out) Jesus used imagery.

One could make the claim that even in this universe general relativity puts evil into a dualistic position with goodness because evil will always have ontological status "in the past."  The passage of time (according to the view of most physicists, I think) is merely a mental state and the past is never annihilated.  It always exists as the next-door-neighbor to the present, as does the future.  But God sees this past evil, always existing in spacetime, through the cross and through his future judgement, and he is always in the position of being Lord over his creation (never dual to any part of it), so I think these are the real reasons (not a supposed annihilation of the past) that keeps evil from being dual to goodness or God.  Likewise for Hell as it exists in its own dimensions, whatever they are, I would suppose.

God bless!

-----Original Message-----
From: Bethany Sollereder <>
Sent: Tue, 29 Apr 2008 2:55 am
Subject: Re: [asa] Humanity and the Fall: Questions and a Survey

Hey Phil,

While I appreciate your discussion on space/time issues, I think it ignores the strong indications that we will have resurrection bodies, not simply be disembodied "spirits" floating around.  While, if we take Jesus as our only example, the resurrection body does seem to have capabilities that ours do not, it does not at all negate the fact that it is a physical existence.

Also, concerning hell, I wonder if Jesus was perhaps accommodating to the "theology of the day", after all, there is no hell in the Old Testament.  Beyond that, (and this is getting a little off topic), if hell is eternal, doesn't that create an eternal dualism between good and evil?  Between heaven and hell?  Does an eternal hell force us into dualism?


On Mon, Apr 28, 2008 at 8:10 PM, <> wrote:
Christ said quite a bit about Hell, far more than He did infant baptism.  ;)

Another reason I think the human spirit must be non-extended is because the spirit survives the body.  If the spirit is not tied to the organization of particles in spacetime, then there is no reason (other than prejudice) to believe it is limited in the dimensions of those particles.  From a positivist point of view, spacetime means nothing except relationships between particles.

Also, particles and spacetime are part of the same physics.  They are aspects of the same ontological entity.  Spirit is not composed of particles and so we have no a priori reason to think that an aspect of physics (spacetime) would be an aspect of spirit.

Our brains are tied to spacetime and we see everything from the viewpoint of spactime, and I'd guess we have been allowing that to prejuduce our thinking about spirits and about God.  Why impose on spirits or on God the properties of spacetime, which as far as we know apply _only_ to physical particles?


-----Original Message-----
From: Alexanian, Moorad <>
To: George Murphy <>;
Sent: Mon, 28 Apr 2008 8:41 am
Subject: RE: [asa] Humanity and the Fall: Questions and a Survey

I think I know what Hell is. On this side of death, there is doubt about whether God is or is not. On the other side of death there is certainty. Hell is knowing for sure that God is and that you denied Him.
From: [] On Behalf Of George Murphy
Sent: Sunday, April 27, 2008 8:22 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Humanity and the Fall: Questions and a Survey
Since we know next to nothing about hell, we're in a rather precarious position if we try to base any anthropological arguments on it.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, April 26, 2008 10:15 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Humanity and the Fall: Questions and a Survey

I forgot to include this reason why I think the human spirit may be non-extended in space and time:  Hell.

Why would God send an unredeemable creature that is extended in space and time into Hell rather than simply annihilating him?  Annihilation means drawing a limit to the extension.  I won't pretend to have an answer, but if the creature is spiritual and that spirit is not extended in time, then perhaps annihiliation is not even an option.  Annihilation may look feasible only because we don't see the spiritual part of mankind that is beyond time.


-----Original Message-----
Sent: Fri, 25 Apr 2008 7:56 pm
Subject: Re: [asa] Humanity and the Fall: Questions and a Survey
thanks for the reply.  Perhaps there aren't any theologians saying that -- that's why I framed it as a question ("..., right?"). 

So I have to retreat to a weaker statement.  There are a number of reasons why I think it's at least plausible that humans have a spirit that is not extended in space or time.  I recognize that these arguments are insufficient to prove anything, but I think they point the way to a possible answer to David's question.  Like David, I feel the need for there to have been an original state of integrity.  Otherwise, it feels (to me at least) as though God set mankind up with an unfair chance of sinlessness.  I'd like to see the state of integrity somewhere, if not in spacetime.

I want to point out that I agree with your position on Adam entirely.  This proposal (put forward by CS Lewis in The Great Divorce) that humans may have an extra-temporal spirit only _adds_ one feature to your position.  AFAICT it does not disagree with anything you said to David.

One thing you said was,

"a realistic picture of evolution will not let us do is hold on to the idea of a 'state of integrity' in the classical sense."

This idea of man's extra-temporal provides for a 'state of integrity,' although in a non-classical sense.  It says man had a very real 'state of integrity' prior to the fall, but this state of integrity was spiritual and outside time and that's why we don't see it historically.  I used the words "prior" and "was" in the prior sentence because the state of integrity was causally prior to our fallenness although not temporally prior to our fallenness.

Here are some musings on the idea of a non-extended human spirit:

1.    Theologians do say that God is spirit and is not extended in physical spacetime, right?  (another question)  If so, then that is one example of spirit being not extended.  Extension in physical spacetime is therefore not a general property of spirits, at least.

2.   I think the idea of the wind -- "you don't know where it comes from or where it is going" -- is an excellent picture of God as one who is non-extended interacting with creatures who are extended.  We feel God like wind interact with us in the here and now because that is where we are, but the coming and going of that interaction is something we cannot follow from place to place or time to time.  It is a mysterious coming and going, seemingly from nowhere. 

3.  Similarly, interactions with angels must occur for us within spacetime because that is where we are, regardless whether they are extended in spacetime.

4.  The description of angels in the Bible that seem to imply extension could easily be anthropomorphic or figurative language.

5.   Really extension in spacetime means that we interact with particles according to the four known forces which have 1/r^alpha dependencies, alpha=2 for gravity or electrostatics, etc.  The existence of "r" in those laws is the modern meaning of "extension" for a human body and brain composed of particles.  Does a spirit follow those laws in interacting with the particles of this universe?  If not, then what could its extension in physical spacetime even mean?  From a positivist point of view, it may be meaningless nowadays to talk of extension in the physical universe if we don't define it in terms of particle interactions via forces.  The notion of "spacetime" is not so indefinite as it was 200 years ago.

6.   If angels are unextended, then that might explain why they appear to have no repentance, or why the devil seems to be not smart enough to know to stop rebelling, etc.  Their apparent inability to change their direction may be because we are seeing a _projection_ of their unextended decisions into spacetime; not the making of decisions within spacetime.

7.  The ultimate purpose of time may be so that Christ could enter into it and unite us to himself.  If so, the creation of this spacetime comes causally after the fall.

Again, I already recognize the inadequacy of these statements, but I think the idea is plausible and very interesting. 


-----Original Message-----
From: George Murphy <>
Sent: Fri, 25 Apr 2008 2:01 pm
Subject: Re: [asa] Humanity and the Fall: Questions and a Survey
Apropos 1 below, what theologians do you have in mind?  I don't know of any who say this, though of course that doesn't prove that there aren't any.  When Robert Jenson, e.g., in his introduction to the locus on "The Holy Spirit" in Christian Dogmatics says "Thus spirit is self-transcendence; the liveliness of each life is precisely its origin and end beyond itself," he is pointing in a quite different direction.  (He also notes that Greek pneuma & Hebrew ruach agree in picturing spirit as wind or breath, things that are extended.) 
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, April 25, 2008 1:15 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Humanity and the Fall: Questions and a Survey

1.  Theologians say that a spirit is something that has no extension in space, right?  When they say this, "space" refers to the ordinary space of our physical universe.

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