Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

From: Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Date: Tue May 19 2009 - 00:50:06 EDT

Mike:

Thanks for your comments.

You asked:

"Isn't that [the creation of specific individuals] what Christianity
teaches?"

I would answer that hesitantly, because, as I've said to George,
"Christianity" can mean hundreds of different things. If you would state
what you take to be the basis of Christian doctrine -- say, the Gospels, or
the New Testament alone, or the Bible in its entirety, or the Apostle's
Creed, or a particular historical confession, or the writing of a particular
theologian, e.g., Augustine, it would be much easier for someone to answer.
But "Christianity" in the abstract does not speak with one voice throughout
all times and places -- or if it does so, it does so only on a very few
issues, and I'm not sure that this is one of them. However, I will give you
a tentative opinion, which you should by no means take as authoritative or
as a final statement of the orthodox Christian view -- if there is an
orthodox view -- on the subject.

I always like to at least start from Genesis (though George and others might
reasonably argue that Genesis by itself is not a complete account of
Christian doctrine). The conception in Genesis is precisely the one that
you don't like, i.e, that God created "man", i.e., the species, divided into
male and female, in his image and likeness. "Adam" ("man" in the sense of
"human being", anthropos, homo) is a generic concept in Genesis 1. There is
no discussion of individuals. Even in Genesis 2, Adam and Eve are clearly a
generic man and woman, in the sense that their individual personalities are
not relevant to the point of the story. And in Genesis 3, their "fall" (a
word not used in the text) is something that all of us as human beings would
replicate under the same circumstances; it is not, as in Greek tragedy, an
action connected with a particular "flaw" of either one of them as an
individual.

Further, the production of children is not described, as the story proceeds,
as an action of God. (Eve's unique statement about Cain is difficult in the
Hebrew, and doesn't unambiguously indicate a divine role in Cain's birth --
outside of Eve's interpretation.) Generally births are represented as
"natural"; the father "begets", the woman "bears", etc. The children in
some cases are said to be in God's image (Genesis 5), but they are not said
to be created -- as individuals -- by God. I am not arguing that
individuals are not important to God, or that God does not care for them
(note God's special care for Cain, and for Noah); I am merely pointing out
that the story does not speak of them as being created directly by God.
They are, rather, "natural" productions, following from the acquisition of
human "knowledge" (Genesis 4:1).

So if Genesis 1 (or more broadly, 1-11) is all that we had to guide us, I
would say, no, God does not create individuals. God creates man, i.e.,
human beings, male and female, in the image and likeness of Himself, and
then human beings reproduce naturally, but in such a way as to retain, at
least partly, the divine likeness. If all we had to go on was Genesis, I
would say that God did not directly create Ted Davis, but that God created
the common humanity that Ted Davis shares with all the rest of us, and that
Ted Davis, like the "Adam" of Genesis 1, partakes in the image and likeness
of God; but I would add that God cares for Ted Davis as he cares for the
whole human race (which he spared from the deluge, in the person of Noah,
who is in a way a second Adam). And I would say (again speaking only for
Genesis), that the infinite value of Ted Davis comes not from his direct
creation by God, but from his partaking, through his human form, in the
image of God (see Genesis 9 regarding the explanation of the "death
penalty"). Whether that is a full statement of even the Old Testament view,
let alone the Christian view, is a question that would require the
consideration of other texts. But such an account does teach the "infinite
value" of each human individual, without requiring the awesome front-loaded
necessitarianism that I described in my previous post.

Cameron.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Nucacids" <nucacids@wowway.com>
To: "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>; <asa@lists.calvin.edu>
Sent: Monday, May 18, 2009 8:19 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

> Hi Cameron,
>
>
>
> "You assert that God creates individuals, e.g., Ted Davis."
>
>
>
> Isn't that what Christianity teaches?
>
>
>
> "And I gather that you wholeheartedly accept biological evolution and
> other natural processes (geology, stellar evolution, and so on)."
>
>
>
> Yes, that is what my fallible brain perceives.
>
>
>
> "Now how would God create Ted Davis, working through such natural
> processes? Let's say that Ted Davis is white (I don't know, because I've
> never met him, but it's just an example, so it doesn't matter), and let's
> say that God wanted Ted Davis to be white; God then can't have Ted's
> parents being Chinese or Watusi."
>
>
>
> Exactly. For then he would not be Ted Davis. His genetic identity, his
> experiences, his memories, his choices, would be all be different.
>
>
>
> "So God has to arrange for Caucasian ancestry for Ted. And it means more
> than this. In addition to general Caucasian features, Ted inherits unique
> traits from both parents. God therefore has to arrange for Ted's parents
> to marry. He also has to arrange for the marriages of *their* parents, to
> make sure that they have the right genes to pass on to Ted. In order for
> everything to work out, he has to arrange for genetic ancestries still
> further back, and for that to work out, he has to arrange for economic and
> social conditions which cause certain people to emigrate from certain
> countries to America at certain times, to meet exactly the right people
> in America, to fall in love, etc. So he has to have complete control
> over personal romantic tastes and over the social and economic history of
> Europe and America as well as over genetic makeup. And so on. When you
> work that out, God has to set up a chain of necessity all the way from the
> Big Bang forward, which will make it inevitable that exactly Ted Davis and
> not someone else will be produced. That's a degree of necessity beyond
> Conway Morris and even beyond Michael Denton. It's a necessitarianism
> that would do Calvin or Spinoza proud. Is
> this what you are saying is required by Christian theology? And if so, how
> does it fit in with your message of a few days ago, where you said that it
> didn't really matter how God created us (through Darwinian processes or
> front-loading or miraculous interventions or any other way)? It seems to
> me that, given your current concern, only the most stringent front-loading
> model could fit in with the claim that God created us all as individuals.
> And it's a model which appears to do away with human free will, since even
> one fickle moment in a young English immigrant lass's life might well
> spell the end of Ted Davis. (And none of us would wish to be without Ted
> Davis.)"
>
>
>
> It fits together just as my original posting explained. Again, since it
> is buried, I reposted it here:
>
>
>
> http://designmatrix.wordpress.com/2009/05/16/it-doesnt-matter/
>
>
>
> How would you, as a Christian, explain the existence of Ted Davis or
> yourself? Denying biological evolution or neo-Darwinism won't help erase
> the problem you just laid out. Even if Adam and Eve were brought into
> existence 6000 years ago, and just as Genesis literally describes, the
> problem you lay out remains.
>
>
>
> -Mike
>
>
>
>
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
> To: <asa@lists.calvin.edu>
> Sent: Monday, May 18, 2009 6:40 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?
>
>
>> Hi, Mike!
>>
>> I can't comment on Simon Conway Morris or the BioLogos site, but I find
>> your
>> line of argument here puzzling, in light of other things you've written
>> here.
>>
>> You assert that God creates individuals, e.g., Ted Davis. And I gather
>> that
>> you wholeheartedly accept biological evolution and other natural
>> processes
>> (geology, stellar evolution, and so on). Now how would God create Ted
>> Davis, working through such natural processes? Let's say that Ted Davis
>> is
>> white (I don't know, because I've never met him, but it's just an
>> example,
>> so it doesn't matter), and let's say that God wanted Ted Davis to be
>> white;
>> God then can't have Ted's parents being Chinese or Watusi. So God has to
>> arrange for Caucasian ancestry for Ted. And it means more than this. In
>> addition to general Caucasian features, Ted inherits unique traits from
>> both
>> parents. God therefore has to arrange for Ted's parents to marry. He
>> also
>> has to arrange for the marriages of *their* parents, to make sure that
>> they
>> have the right genes to pass on to Ted. In order for everything to work
>> out, he has to arrange for genetic ancestries still further back, and for
>> that to work out, he has to arrange for economic and social conditions
>> which
>> cause certain people to emigrate from certain countries to America at
>> certain times, to meet exactly the right people in America, to fall in
>> love,
>> etc. So he has to have complete control over personal romantic tastes
>> and
>> over the social and economic history of Europe and America as well as
>> over
>> genetic makeup. And so on. When you work that out, God has to set up a
>> chain of necessity all the way from the Big Bang forward, which will make
>> it
>> inevitable that exactly Ted Davis and not someone else will be produced.
>> That's a degree of necessity beyond Conway Morris and even beyond Michael
>> Denton. It's a necessitarianism that would do Calvin or Spinoza proud.
>> Is
>> this what you are saying is required by Christian theology? And if so,
>> how
>> does it fit in with your message of a few days ago, where you said that
>> it
>> didn't really matter how God created us (through Darwinian processes or
>> front-loading or miraculous interventions or any other way)? It seems to
>> me
>> that, given your current concern, only the most stringent front-loading
>> model could fit in with the claim that God created us all as individuals.
>> And it's a model which appears to do away with human free will, since
>> even
>> one fickle moment in a young English immigrant lass's life might well
>> spell
>> the end of Ted Davis. (And none of us would wish to be without Ted
>> Davis.)
>>
>> I'm not denying that God creates individuals, but it's unclear to me how
>> you
>> can insist that he creates very specific individuals on one hand, and on
>> the
>> other hand say that it really doesn't matter how God interacts with the
>> evolutionary process. If he interacts with the evolutionary process in a
>> purely Darwinian way (i.e., in plain language, does not interact at all,
>> but
>> keeps his hands off and watches the cosmic dice rolling), he not only
>> can't
>> guarantee Ted Davis, he cannot even guarantee the existence of any human
>> being at all. Are you backtracking on your earlier position, and
>> demanding
>> a rigorous determinism?
>>
>> Cameron.
>>
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Nucacids" <nucacids@wowway.com>
>> To: "Ted Davis" <TDavis@messiah.edu>; <asa@lists.calvin.edu>
>> Sent: Monday, May 18, 2009 12:43 PM
>> Subject: Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?
>>
>>
>>> Hi Ted,
>>>
>>> The page reads:
>>>
>>> "Simon Conway Morris presents a different perspective, arguing humans,
>>> OR
>>> A HUMAN-LIKE SPECIES, are actually an inevitable part of evolution."
>>> (emphasis added)
>>>
>>> "Or a human-like species means" that humans were NOT an inevitable part
>>> of
>>> evolution. If God's intent was to create a human-like species through
>>> evolution, and we humans exist simply because we happened to be among
>>> the
>>> larger class known as human-like species, the existence of Ted Davis was
>>> not intended by God (let alone any other member of our species). As far
>>> as God is concerned, a talking dolphin could have filled your shoes.
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> -Mike
>>
>>
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>
>
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