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

From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
Date: Fri Sep 05 2008 - 13:12:59 EDT

I'm not sure what you're saying now: "there was a real human fall" and
"[n]ot taking the fall literally." Maybe we are talking past each other a
little.

When I hear "taking the fall literally," to me that means "there was a real
human fall": the fall "happened" in a discrete period of time in human
history, and is not merely an allegory of every person's struggle with guilt
and sin. To me, "taking the fall literally" doesn't mean all of the
trappings of Milton's Paradise Lost, or even necessarily a literal, physical
"garden." The story we are given may not be "literal," but there is a real,
discrete, historical event(s) underlying the story. It seems to me a
heremenuetical question, but not a theological problem, to argue that the
literary form of the story is not "literal" if there are underlying "real"
events.

However, if there was a "real human fall," that means there was a "real
human pre-fallen condition." The "garden," literary device though it may
be, describes / represents a real state of shalom, and, I think, a real
potential for the spread of shalom beyond the "garden" and throughout the
creation over which "Adam" was given dominion. In my view, it's important
to Biblical theology that the "garden" also reflect something real --
otherwise I wonder, "what's the point -- not just of this story but of the
whole Story?"

Maybe this will illustrate where I'm coming from:

"The two lovers spread tables before them and feasted on the delights they
had prepared. They lacked nothing and were filled with songs from morning
until night. They saw visions of the days before them, of children as
numerous as the sands, of adventures and sunsets and glories beyond
imagining.

And the woman said to the man, 'eat and be satisfied with all of the fruits
I have prepared for you, but vow that you will not eat the fruit of any
other woman.' And the man made this vow.

But the man was tempted by the fruit of another. And the woman searched for
him, and found him at another's table, and shut up the door to her house,
and shut him out. The man wept bitterly, and hid his face from the woman,
and fled to the ends of the earth.

Yet the woman loved the man. So she called out to him, 'return to me, O
man, and I will forgive your transgression, and restore you to myself. We
will put away our tears, and our children shall be as numerous as the sands,
and we shall enjoy adventures and sunsets and glories beyond imagining.'"

Or, I could say, "two people got married. They enjoyed a peaceful
relationship until the man had an affair. But they reconciled and enjoy a
peaceful relationship once again."

On Fri, Sep 5, 2008 at 11:46 AM, Bethany Sollereder
<bsollereder@gmail.com>wrote:

> David,
>
> You said: Missional theology is a narrative in which something is truly
> ontologically wrong in the creation that will be made truly ontologically
> right because of God's gracious inbreaking into human history.
>
> How is this disturbed if I say there was no garden of Eden, but that there
> was a real human fall that happened in a large population over time? There
> still remains something ontologically wrong: human sin. And there still
> remains the redemption and new creation of God - seen in the resurrection of
> Christ. Not taking the fall literally does not mean you don't think the
> world is messed up through human sin. Ironically, the incarnation (God's
> greatest act of accommodation) is also our most concrete portrayal of who
> God is and how he works. This is not affected by a rejecting historical
> concordism in Gen 1-3.
>
> Bethany
>
>
> On Fri, Sep 5, 2008 at 8:26 AM, David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>wrote:
>
>> That's a major problem for me. I think taking accommodation *this far*damages Biblical theology almost beyond repair. This is a key reason why I
>> can't accept the law (or fallacy, I think, in this instance) of the excluded
>> middle concerning the Fall. Biblical theology, IMHO, is *missional*theology. Missional theology is a narrative in which something is truly
>> ontologically wrong in the creation that will be made truly ontologically
>> right because of God's gracious inbreaking into human history. I don't
>> think this requires a flat heremeneutic on historical-critical questions, or
>> questions about the genre of apocalyptic literature. Sure, the "garden" and
>> "fall" are cast in terms of a local ANE origins myth, and sure, the
>> "heavenly city" is cast in terms of Second Temple Jewish apocalyptic
>> rehtoric and symbols, but the presence and promise of pre-Fall shalom were
>> "real" just as the presence and promise of shalom in the Kingdom of God are
>> and will be "real." Otherwise, it seems to me, we're not doing much here
>> other than discussing some interesting examples of early Jewish literature,
>> to be given no greater meaning than any other spiritual / religious texts.
>>
>>
>> On Fri, Sep 5, 2008 at 11:01 AM, Bethany Sollereder <
>> bsollereder@gmail.com> wrote:
>>
>>> David,
>>>
>>> Great question, and a very important one. My thoughts on the matter are
>>> that we can't know: not for sure. While the garden did not happen
>>> historically, the account still tells us that God created us, in his image,
>>> etc. and these things are true. I think the account in Revelations is, in a
>>> large part, accommodation to the people of their time but the message of
>>> faith that God will bring us into a place that is infinitely wonderful, that
>>> there will be no death, tears, etc. is to be believed - though it may not
>>> look like a garden-city dressed as a bride.
>>>
>>> We trust in the character of God, understanding that he had to make his
>>> message understandable to the original audience, and indeed has to continue
>>> to accommodate to our knowledge.
>>>
>>> Bethany
>>>
>>>
>>> On Fri, Sep 5, 2008 at 7:53 AM, David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>wrote:
>>>
>>>> Beth said: In fact, take a look at the late chapters of Revelations
>>>> and we see a recycling of many of the same things, only it is a garden-city
>>>> in Rev, not just a garden.
>>>>
>>>> I respond: if the "garden" is not "real" in any sense, why should we
>>>> have any confidence that the "heavenly city" will be real in any sense? How
>>>> do we know that the Bible's description of the final state of believers
>>>> isn't also merely accommodated myth, such that in fact the "real" final
>>>> state will involve suffering and death?
>>>>
>>>> On Fri, Sep 5, 2008 at 10:48 AM, Bethany Sollereder <
>>>> bsollereder@gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>
>>>>> Gordon,
>>>>>
>>>>> Actually, if you look in the LXX, Gen 2:8 uses the word paradise (*
>>>>> paradeison*) to describe the garden of Eden. But the word just means
>>>>> an idyllic place or state - in fact when I just looked it up, paradise was
>>>>> defined as "the abode of Adam and Eve before the Fall in the biblical
>>>>> account of the creation: the Garden of Eden". It was a place where the
>>>>> forces of chaos had been dealt with by the acts of creation. Humans had a
>>>>> task, but it was one they were well able to do. They were in need of nothing
>>>>> - there was no sickness, no tears, no pain, no death. And to top it all
>>>>> off, God walked in the garden with them.
>>>>> In fact, take a look at the late chapters of Revelations and we see a
>>>>> recycling of many of the same things, only it is a garden-city in Rev, not
>>>>> just a garden.
>>>>>
>>>>> Hope this helps.
>>>>>
>>>>> Bethany
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>> On Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 9:46 PM, gordon brown <
>>>>> Gordon.Brown@colorado.edu> wrote:
>>>>>
>>>>>> Bethany,
>>>>>>
>>>>>> I am not sure how to evaluate your statements about the Garden of Eden
>>>>>> being a literal paradise but that that was impossible, without knowing what
>>>>>> your definition of paradise is. The literal meaning of Eden is delight.
>>>>>> Paradise, a Greek word of Persian origin, occurs exactly three times in the
>>>>>> New Testament: Luke 23:43, II Corinthians 12:4, and Revelation 2:7.
>>>>>>
>>>>>> Gordon Brown (ASA member)
>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>> On Thu, 4 Sep 2008, Bethany Sollereder wrote:
>>>>>>
>>>>>> Merv,
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> I'd agree with you that we have a choice to make. And in light of
>>>>>>> the other
>>>>>>> literature speaking of the 'paradise when the world began', I think
>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>> Biblical author meant that it was a literal paradise, but I think we
>>>>>>> must
>>>>>>> say that (in light of modern science) there was never a paradise and
>>>>>>> thus
>>>>>>> the story is not literal. In doing so, we give up our addiction to
>>>>>>> historical concordism. A difficult, but necessary, step.
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> David, I think you can have perfect paradise, and still having
>>>>>>> 'work'. In
>>>>>>> fact I don't think it could be paradise without man to have something
>>>>>>> to do:
>>>>>>> we would be redundant without a task. But the task was not a painful
>>>>>>> one,
>>>>>>> not one that would strain man beyond the pleasantness of the paradise
>>>>>>> he
>>>>>>> works in. C.S. Lewis gives a nice imagining of what this could look
>>>>>>> like in
>>>>>>> *Perelandra*. Yes, man had a task. But it was paradise.
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> Bethany
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> On Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 5:10 PM, David Opderbeck <
>>>>>>> dopderbeck@gmail.com>wrote:
>>>>>>>
>>>>>>> Yes Merv, when I say "ontological reality," I don't necessarily mean
>>>>>>>> "a
>>>>>>>> verifiable 'historical' moment."
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>> BTW, I found an even better quote from Von Rad (p. 80):
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>> "[chapter 2, verse 15] indicates man's purpose in being in the
>>>>>>>> garden: he
>>>>>>>> is to work it and preserve it from all damage, a destiny tha
>>>>>>>> tcontrasts
>>>>>>>> decided with the commonly accepted fantastic ideas of 'Paradise.' .
>>>>>>>> . .
>>>>>>>> There is 'nothing here about abunded wonders of fertility and
>>>>>>>> sensual
>>>>>>>> enjoyment', but work was man's sober destiny even in his original
>>>>>>>> state.
>>>>>>>> That man was transferred to the garden to guard it indicates that he
>>>>>>>> was
>>>>>>>> called to a state of service and had to prove himself in a realm tha
>>>>>>>> twas
>>>>>>>> not his own possessio. in the ensuing divine address the
>>>>>>>> misunderstanding
>>>>>>>> of the garden as an Elysium for sensual enjoyment is completely
>>>>>>>> destroyed."
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>> On Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 7:48 PM, Merv <mrb22667@kansas.net> wrote:
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>> David Opderbeck wrote:
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> Merv said: That is the forced choice, is it not?
>>>>>>>>> I respond: I don't accept that. Binary thinking, in my view,
>>>>>>>>> usually
>>>>>>>>> betrays a lack of imagination. I think it's critical to Biblical
>>>>>>>>> theology
>>>>>>>>> that the Fall narrative refer to some sort of ontological reality,
>>>>>>>>> in
>>>>>>>>> whatever literary form it might be cast. Christ came into the
>>>>>>>>> world because
>>>>>>>>> something *really is* wrong; "evil" is foreign to God's good
>>>>>>>>> creation;
>>>>>>>>> and the new heavens and new earth will constitue a new ontology
>>>>>>>>> that is
>>>>>>>>> equally real.
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>> Not all binary thinking is deficient (though I note your word
>>>>>>>>>> *usually*
>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> with approval). Logic and the way we frame situations imposes such
>>>>>>>>> necessary logic in many cases. E.g. my student turns in homework
>>>>>>>>> late with
>>>>>>>>> all manner of valid or invalid excuses or extenuating
>>>>>>>>> circumstances. But in
>>>>>>>>> the end, I either award him full credit or I do not. Law of
>>>>>>>>> excluded
>>>>>>>>> middle.
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> Yet granted, in this situation perhaps binary thinking is
>>>>>>>>> inappropriate
>>>>>>>>> --I would certainly agree that the binary mode of argument often
>>>>>>>>> used to
>>>>>>>>> frame a religion verses science arena is impoverished in many ways.
>>>>>>>>> Yet we
>>>>>>>>> will continue to choose a new "frame" or arena where we too will
>>>>>>>>> make a
>>>>>>>>> binary choice --and rightly so. Would I be correct to infer from
>>>>>>>>> what you
>>>>>>>>> say above that you don't use the label "ontological reality" on
>>>>>>>>> anything
>>>>>>>>> that isn't a tack on a time line? To me this is another form of
>>>>>>>>> binary
>>>>>>>>> thought: that either something is ontologically "real" because it
>>>>>>>>> is an
>>>>>>>>> event that we could (in principle, with a time machine) dial in the
>>>>>>>>> correct
>>>>>>>>> era and then watch it unfold like a play; or failing that test, it
>>>>>>>>> is
>>>>>>>>> not. I think the E.C. side of what I framed has a wide array of
>>>>>>>>> orthodox
>>>>>>>>> possibilities to be explored that would acknowledge the reality of
>>>>>>>>> a fall no
>>>>>>>>> less real than someone biting a piece of fruit.
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>> --Merv
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>> --
>>>>>>>> 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.
>>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> --
>>>> 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 Fri Sep 5 13:13:27 2008

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