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

From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
Date: Thu Sep 04 2008 - 17:47:02 EDT

Well, this is an interesting hermeneutical question. First, I don't think
that the story is *merely* another Golden Age myth even if it draws on
existing Golden Age myths. See, e.g, Von Rad's commentary on how the
narrator "succeeded in making a new entity from earlier material . . . It
can be seen how the narrator was concerned to subordiante hte older material
to a mjch broader theme and to incorporate it into a new whole" (p. 100).

I think a notion of having productive work to do is present in the text in
the concepts of dominion and cultivation, and I think this notion is and
always has been very important to a Christian theology of work and vocation
(and I suggest of technology). If the extant Golden Age myths involved
human beings lounging around and not working at all, then I would suggest
that this one goes further in adding a dignity to work. And even if this
notion was not originally present in the mythos on which the story is based,
I would suggest that it is hermeneutically appropriate to see it there now
when the text is taken as scripture -- that it is a latent notion perhaps
drawn out in the course of the Church's encounter with the text.

On Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 4:40 PM, Bethany Sollereder <bsollereder@gmail.com>wrote:

> David,
>
> I think there is still a problem in terms of understanding how an ancient
> "Golden Age" myth works. There was no need for antibiotics because you'd
> never get sick. There would be no need to develop technology to aid in
> cultivating the garden because it would not be hard to cultivate in the
> first place. It would be absolute paradise. The "pre-fall could have been"
> would have been perfect unending bliss with no death, no tears, etc. Keep
> in mind that Revelations 21 is drawing on Gen 2, recycling the motif. The
> Garden of Eden was 'not of this world'. You can't simply try and read back
> the realities of this world into the idyllic age - it is inappropriate.
>
> Bethany
>
>
> On Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 12:42 PM, David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>wrote:
>
>> 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
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>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>> To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
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>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> --
>>>>>>> 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
>>>>
>>>
>>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>

-- 
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
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Received on Thu Sep 4 17:48:00 2008

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