Re: [asa] (fall) biological evolution and a literal Adam- logically inconsistent?

From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
Date: Thu Sep 04 2008 - 15:42:15 EDT

Thank you -- I am indeed misusing the term "revelation" here. I think I
should be referring to grace, and specifically to "common grace."

Let my try to reframe it: God is the ultimate source of all true
knowledge. The discovery of, say, the antibiotic properties of penicillin,
was not news to God. Human "discovery" is rooted in our capacity and
commission to explore the world God created, and which He already fully
knows. Human "invention" includes the capacity to "create" (say, a new kind
of machine that never before existed), but the human capacity to create is
derived from the creaturliness of humans made in the image of the
creator-God and is subject to the ontological limitations of the universe
God created -- unlike God, humans cannot invent creation itself. Both human
"discovery" and human "invention" are aspects of the image of God. The
capacity to discovery and invent is a gracious gift from God.

Moreover, God is sovereign over human history. Human discovery and
invention can never run ahead of God's will; and God can, and has, in His
providence graciously allowed for the development of beneficial human
discoveries and inventions, nothwistanding human sin. (He also graciously
allows human beings to make choices about technology that are sinful).

The creation stories include the human capacity for technology as part of
the creational mandates, in the command to subdue the earth and to cultivate
the garden. Human beings in unbroken fellowship with each other and with
God could have managed their environment, and their exchange of scientific,
cultural, and technical information, in ways that would have enabled them to
carry out these mandates -- to build the shalom God offered them. I believe
this would have included the capacity to design social structures and to
create technologies that would have mitigated the effects of what we call
"natural evil."

While it's true that how this might be the case is speculative, I don't
think the incarnation of Christ belies it. The incarnation was for the
purpose of post-fall redemption. We are talking here about pre-fall
"could've been."

What I'm trying to get at is a theology of human technology considers the
ideal of technological progress without sin. Maybe someone has some better
resources on this.

-- 
David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
On Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 2:15 PM, Bethany Sollereder <bsollereder@gmail.com>wrote:
> David,
>
> You said: But I understand all true human knowledge, discovery, and
> invention to be in a sense revealed by God (general revelation).
> Again, there is a mix up in terms.  General revelation means that the
> creation reveals the attributes and personhood of God, not that God reveals
> knowledge to us about the natural world.
>
> You spoke about God having other purposes in the Bible, apart from
> revealing technology.  I agree.  And would say, that seems to be the
> universal case in terms of man-God relations.  We have no evidence that the
> contrary is true, and to try and say it would have happened if man were
> sinless is not only contradicted by the incarnation, it is also complete
> speculation on your part.  God never has revealed technology to anyone.  And
> while I agree that in an indirect sense, the ability to acquire knowledge
> about the world around us is from God, you cannot term that to be God's
> revelation to people.  As soon as God is revealing something it would be a
> type of special revelation, as opposed to the creation testifying to God's
> existence and character (which is general revelation).
>
> Bethany
>
>
> On Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 10:59 AM, David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>wrote:
>
>>  Bethany said:  The problem is, he doesn't.
>>
>> I respond:  I don't agree.  True, he doesn't reveal any of this in
>> scripture.  But I understand all true human knowledge, discovery, and
>> invention to be in a sense revealed by God (general revelation).
>>
>> Bethany said:  Why, in the Bible, didn't he reveal how to make
>> penicillin?  Or the cure for cancer?
>>
>> I respond:  the primary purpose of the Bible is to reveal other things,
>> and particularly to point to Christ.  A better question, perhaps, is why
>> didn't God "reveal" -- allow people to discover through general
>> revelation -- penecillin much earlier in human history?  I am not going to
>> try to say "sin" is a simple answer to this, but I'm convinced it is part of
>> the equation.
>>
>> Bethany said:   shouldn't Jesus have come through with those things...
>>
>> We could just as well ask, I guess, "shouldn't Jesus have appeared right
>> after sin entered the world, and avoided all these problems in the first
>> place?"  Why initiate redemption through a marginal bronze age tribe who
>> would never get it right?  Or, when Jesus finally was born in Bethlehem, and
>> died and rose again, shouldn't he have enacted final judgment right then?
>> Why thousands more years of massive human suffering and a plan that involves
>> the often pathetically flawed institution of the Church?  Why this waiting
>> and groaning and waste before the new heaven and new earth?  I don't think
>> there's an answer to this.  The fact is that God's plan of redemption
>> involved the kenosis, becoming incarnate in a nondescript Jewish family in a
>> pre-technical, mostly pre-literate society.
>> Bethany said:  Also, if we were looking at the story of the fall, the only
>> thing that could be termed 'technology' (clothes) comes after the fall, not
>> before.
>>
>> I respond:  The ideas I'm floating don't involve a realy "literal" reading
>> of the story.  In any event, the commands to subdue the earth (Gen. 1:28)
>> and to cultivate the garden (Gen. 2:15) were pre-fall commands, which I
>> think are commonly taken to include the development of the necessary culture
>> and technology to accomplish these ends, and which therefore provide the
>> theological foundation for Christian environmentalism.  The stories of the
>> first technologists in Chapter 4 I think represent God's grace in allowing
>> certain technolgies to develop despite human sin -- I don't think they
>> suggest there would have been no need of technology absent sin.
>>
>
>
>> On Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 1:32 PM, Bethany Sollereder <bsollereder@gmail.com
>> > wrote:
>>
>>> David,
>>>
>>> You ask some great questions.  It might seem reasonable to think that God
>>> should reveal technology to people (just as it seems reasonable to YEC's
>>> that he should reveal scientific facts in the Bible).  The problem is, he
>>> doesn't.  Why, in the Bible, didn't he reveal how to make penicillin?  Or
>>> the cure for cancer?  Of course, sin may have gotten in the way of our
>>> communication with God, but then shouldn't Jesus have come through with
>>> those things?  He had perfect communication with God, and revealed God
>>> perfectly, and yet he did not ride around Palestine in a newly invented
>>> emission free car made entirely from durable yet biodegradable substances.
>>> Nor did he advance medicine, geology, cosmology, or any other "science" of
>>> his day.  He simply told us who God is and what he looks like.
>>>
>>> Also, if we were looking at the story of the fall, the only thing that
>>> could be termed 'technology' (clothes) comes after the fall, not before.
>>>
>>> Bethany
>>>
>>>
>>> On Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 10:10 AM, David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>wrote:
>>>
>>>>  Someone told me I'm misunderstanding "natural evil" here.  A car
>>>> skidding off the road is "natural evil" if it is not the result of intended
>>>> human action.  The specific question, though, was about a tire exploding.  I
>>>> think of that as the result of intended human action because the tire is
>>>> manufactured to certain specifications.  It's probably possible to make a
>>>> tire that would never explode, but we choose to accept the risk of some
>>>> number of explosions because completely safe tires are too costly to make
>>>> (and product liability law and insurance exist to manage that risk).  As to
>>>> the car skidding off the road, I guess that depends on whether the driver
>>>> was acting negligently or recklessly -- e.g., driving too fast on a snowy
>>>> day.
>>>>
>>>> In any event, let's say the driver was acting perfectly reasonably, the
>>>> car hits some black ice, and skids off the road.  This would be considered
>>>> the result of "natural evil."  Ice was ice before the fall and the laws of
>>>> physics, we assume, haven't changed.  Following my speculation about
>>>> technology, perhaps a mode of transportation could be invented / discovered
>>>> that avoids dangerous contact between tires and ice -- an automated air
>>>> system? perfectly automated trains?  transporter beams :-)?  Or if there is
>>>> perfect fellowship between God and humans, perhaps God or his angels give a
>>>> warning over the Onstar system.  Or maybe we have a society in which rapid
>>>> travel by car isn't widely needed?
>>>>
>>>> The point is, it seems to me, that concerning the impact of "natural
>>>> evil" on people, the focus needs to be on the environmental management
>>>> responses that would be available to people in a world of unbroken
>>>> human-human / human-Divine fellowship.  Given the amazing things we take for
>>>> granted today that didn't exist even 20 years ago -- the world wide web,
>>>> bioengineering -- it seems not unreasonable to me to include technology as
>>>> an important component here.
>>>>
>>>>   On Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 9:50 AM, David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com
>>>> > wrote:
>>>>
>>>>> I don't think this is a queston of "natural evil" per se, as a car
>>>>> isn't natural.  But your concern obviously is valid.  My approach to this is
>>>>> to wonder what technology would have been like absent the fall.  We tend to
>>>>> think of technology as a sort of "discovery" or "invention" -- someone
>>>>> discovered the uses of fire, someone invented the wheel -- but there is a
>>>>> sense in which technology is also "revelation" -- everything we learn and
>>>>> discover is already known to God, and nothing we invent surprises God.  Why
>>>>> is it that, during most of human history, people lacked technologies that
>>>>> today we consider basic and life-saving, such as antibiotics?  In some
>>>>> sense, I think this is a result of sin.  I believe technologies like
>>>>> penicillin would have been available to humanity much sooner and easier in
>>>>> the "garden," whether that is "literal" or a "figurative" theological
>>>>> construct.  If humanity were in perfect fellowship with God and each other,
>>>>> what would, say, our transportation technology look like?  I'd speculate
>>>>> that it would be green, efficient, and safe -- not because the laws of
>>>>> physics would be different, but because unbroken human fellowship with God
>>>>> and with each other would have produced such technology.
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>> On Wed, Sep 3, 2008 at 5:47 PM, Dehler, Bernie <
>>>>> bernie.dehler@intel.com> wrote:
>>>>>
>>>>>> Another natural evil example is if your tire blows out and the car
>>>>>> crashes killing everyone in the car.  Was the fall responsible for that?  If
>>>>>> ones says yes, then it seems like if there was no fall, there would be no
>>>>>> death.  In that case, Adam could have climbed the tallest tree, dived into a
>>>>>> rock (headfirst), and wouldn't have died... probably not even a bruise?
>>>>>>
>>>>>> ...Bernie
>>>>>>
>>>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>>>> From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu]
>>>>>> On Behalf Of Keith Miller
>>>>>> Sent: Wednesday, September 03, 2008 2:33 PM
>>>>>> To: AmericanScientificAffiliation Affiliation
>>>>>> Subject: Re: [asa] (fall) biological evolution and a literal Adam-
>>>>>> logically inconsistent?
>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>>  Randy posted the following quote from Bube:
>>>>>>
>>>>>> >
>>>>>> > "It is precisely in Genesis 1-3 that the Christian finds the
>>>>>> > biblical basis for this approach to evil. One of the basic
>>>>>> > revelations given to us in these chapters is the emphasis upon the
>>>>>> > goodness of God's creation. The creation "as it comes from the hand
>>>>>> > of God" is good and free from evil. The evil that we see around us,
>>>>>> > real moral or natural evil, is due to man's sin or to natural
>>>>>> > causes, and is not intrinsic in the creation purpose of God. Unlike
>>>>>> > many other major religions, Christianity rejects the concept that
>>>>>> > evil finds its ultimate cause in matter, finiteness, or in
>>>>>> > individuality. It is not intrinsically necessary for matter,
>>>>>> > finiteness or individuality to result in moral and natural evil.
>>>>>> > The biblical record tells us that the evil around us is something
>>>>>> > outside of, contrary to, different from, and an aberration on that
>>>>>> > kind of world which would correspond to the creation purpose of God.
>>>>>>
>>>>>> While I fully accept that "the creation 'as it comes from the hand of
>>>>>> God' is good and free from evil", I have a problem with the inclusion
>>>>>> of "natural evil" in the statement above.   The implication is that
>>>>>> "natural evil" is somehow independent of God's creative activity.
>>>>>> Events such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions,
>>>>>> etc are part of the dynamic processes through which God is
>>>>>> continually active in the creation.  They are part of the creative
>>>>>> processes that have made the life-sustaining creation that God
>>>>>> declared good.  Similarly the cycle of life and death that is part
>>>>>> and parcel of the web of life on Earth is essential for the
>>>>>> sustaining of that life.  That cycle of life and death is also
>>>>>> explicitly a part of God's  upholding of creation (see Psalm 104).
>>>>>>
>>>>>> Keith
>>>>>>
>>>>>> To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
>>>>>> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>> To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
>>>>>> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
>>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>> --
>>>>> David W. Opderbeck
>>>>> Associate Professor of Law
>>>>> Seton Hall University Law School
>>>>> Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
>>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> --
>>>> David W. Opderbeck
>>>> Associate Professor of Law
>>>> Seton Hall University Law School
>>>> Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
>>>>
>>>
>>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> David W. Opderbeck
>> Associate Professor of Law
>> Seton Hall University Law School
>> Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
>>
>
>
To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Thu Sep 4 15:42:31 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Sep 04 2008 - 15:42:31 EDT