Re: [asa] TE The Future

From: Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Wed May 20 2009 - 14:50:10 EDT

David,

I recommend for your study the works of John Polkinghorne (esp his book,
"The God of Hope and the End of the World," but also "The End of the World
and the Ends of God," written with Michael Welker) and Robert Russell
("Cosmology from Alpha to Omega"). Both P and R greatly admire N.T.
Wright's book, "The Resurrection of the Son of God," perhaps R even more
than P. As you may know, Wright argues that, according to the understanding
of second temple Jews (i.e., Jews at the time of Jesus), the resurrection
meant the eschatological future. The person is given a new, glorified body
(like that of Jesus following the resurrection) when the new heaven and
earth are brought into existence. Jesus is thus the "first fruits of them
that slept," in this quite literal sense: we will become like him. This is
a general resurrection of all individual believers, unless I have
misunderstood something somewhere.

I do not see TE as necessarily involving such an interpretation of our
resurrection hope. Indeed, if Wright is correct, this was the view of the
early Christians, none of whom (I assume) was an evolutionist. However--a
point whose significance seemed entirely lost on my friends in the ID
movement when I talked about this a number of years ago--it is a view held
by some of the leading TEs today (I just gave two examples), and it is also
held by some of the leading Christian thinkers in neuroscience (Nancey
Murphy, I think, holds this view, and so does Malcolm Jeeves to the best of
my knowledge). What the neuroscience people like about this view is that it
emphasizes the body/soul unity (their view) as the "biblical" view. (Murphy
and Jeeves are also TEs, thus two more examples.) The point often missed
here, relative to TE, is that those TEs who hold such a view clearly have a
very high view of divine transcendence: you need an omnipotent God to
accomplish either of those things. The God of process theism can't get
there without "coercing" nature, and that God isn't in the business of
coercing anything. (This is one of those subtle but very important things
that is obscured when Gregory Arago describes TEs generically as "process
oriented." That terminology as a generalization is misleading at best, if
made out of ignorance--an example of the kind of ignorance of modern
theology on the part of ID proponents that I've talked about. If not said
out of ignorance, than it's either sloppy or at worst it's deliberate
distortion.)

Again, David: I would never couple this view with TE in some necessary way.
 Barbour, almost certainly, would reject such a view of the future. And,
lots of people who have believed something like this have not been
evolutionists at all. However, it is significant (IMO) that some of the
leading TEs today do believe this. It's a crucial point of contact with
biblical Christianity and a crucial denial of metaphysical naturalism. If
Johnson is right, that accepting MN really commits one to accepting atheism,
then very smart and very honest Christians like those identified here should
not exist.

David and fellow ASA members: Russell will be speaking about this very
topic (eschatology and evolution) at Messiah this November. I will announce
details later this year, but you may want to save the date: Saturday, Nov
14.

Ted

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Received on Wed May 20 14:50:57 2009

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