Re: [asa] "Evolutionary Creation" book comments

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Wed Sep 30 2009 - 13:15:44 EDT
That's pretty much it.
A) that's as I see it.

B) From one perspective, I suppose, but I don't think of it as "flawed" at all, rather in possession of a God-given asset, free will, a part of which is the capacity (and freedom) to make a "suboptimal" choice. If no free will, there is no meaning to a suboptimal choice, or any decision we might make with respect to relationship, etc.  If free will exists, then the God-given capacity to make "suboptimal" choices is present. Or is your thinking that Adam and all his successors could have chosen to make all positive half-plane choices if they wanted to? [Tick, tick, tick.....]

C) (the big one!) There was no "fall" per se, other than a particular instantiation of choice. If there is no free choice in this matter, then the act is meaningless. If there is free choice, then there might conceivably be a rationale for punishment, but the greater point is that the possibility/probability of this choice was built into Creation. Was it a test, or a trap, to see if Adam (or someone else - or all or us - would step into it? Else why present/create this option, and then impose such horrific consequence when it is chosen?

It simply brings into question why God would create the potentiality of "suboptimal" choice without the possibility or even expectation of Adam's exploration of that large and consequential behavioral space. I couple that with a question as to why God would let a state so profound as "corruption of all mankind" hinge about a single act/decision that He made possible, even probable as an element of Creation. And then punish the hell out of ...err...into(?) Adam and all his successors for this one volitional act (that is within the design parameters of Creation). That works as an illustrative story for me. I am disposed to think that strong tradition has muted these rather simple (so it seems to me) questions that accompany it.

Finally, would we be so quick to characterize any other part of God's mind-shatteringly awesome Creation as "flawed"?

In any case, I think we understand our differences at this point. Thanks!



Schwarzwald wrote:
Heya Jim,

You seem to be arguing A) Adam had a capacity to make the wrong choice before that choice was made, B) Therefore he was 'flawed' to begin with, and further C) this means Adam's fall is not the source of any flaws.

I think this confuses a capacity to do wrong with the results of doing wrong. Even if we accept that Adam was 'flawed' (Or, closer to my view, had the potential to flaw himself) prior to the act of rebellion, the act itself does constitute a particular change in the story. Adam sees the world in a different way, and a way he was not (yet?) intended to. Adam's relationship with God now differs - and the plan God had for Adam differs as well. There is a new relationship to go with Adam's new capacity, a harsher one, a different one, but still a relationship.

In other words, even if we take it that Adam had the capacity to make a wrong choice prior to the fall, there still was (or to put it more likely, can be) an actual fall, with real repercussions across the board. The fall is not simply Adam making a bad choice, but includes the particular repercussions of that choice. Along the lines of how, if someone takes an addictive drug, their problem is not just that they chose to take a drug - it includes the results of taking that drug (addiction).

On Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 1:43 AM, Jim Armstrong <> wrote:
Well, two out three isn't bad, "imperfect, fallen, flawed"." Imperfect" implies that there is a perfect, but that does not gibe with free will/choice. Fallen was sort of the point of my argument. Fallen, maybe, but not necessarily by the Adamic act, in which remarkably the act of a single first-creation man makes an available choice and shockingly (in light of a Creator invested in His Creations) queers the state of man's relationship of man for all of successor mankind. "Flawed" again makes an awful statement with respect to the omnipotence (or at the very least, transcendent creative power) of God. The capacity to make a "flawed" decision is created-in, else Adam could not make such a choice. That makes troublesome the assigning of "flawed" to that created-in capacity.

The story in light of this is not devoid of meaning at all. It is at least one of relationship and disappointment, for example. Nor does it take away from the (perhaps) dawning of awareness of God, and the awareness of concepts like fulfillment and thwarting of expectation and hope. It does not void the making of bad choices (and actions), constituting shortfall with respect to the potential we have to do otherwise.

I hear the discomfort and understand where you stand, but I don't hear how one might account for Adam's first sin without the designed-in capacity to do so. The severity of the corrupted-state consequence therefore seems at best a bit disproportionate.

I beg y'all's indulgence as this does not fit the affirmation common to members of ASA. But I come from much the same background as many of you - mainstream and technical - and this is one of the crunch points for me, and somewhat like Bernie, my "way" seems to be to test my understandings from time to time. This is one forum where my experience has shown that folks can and will push back from a fairly orthodox place of thoughtfulness, respect, and knowledge that I do not possess or possess only in part.


JimA [Friend of ASA]

Schwarzwald wrote:
Heya Jim,

I know you weren't specifically responding to me, but I'd disagree that the point of this story is "folk explanation of where bad things come from". Why things are the way they are is definitely part of the story, but far more seems to be in play - the purposes of man (particularly that there is and always has been a purpose, however frustrated by man himself), the state of humanity (not just why things are the way they are, but WHAT they are - namely, imperfect, fallen, flawed), the nature of our relationship with God (personal in some aspects, mediated in others), and so on.

I find it very hard to regard the story as "just a creation story", so to speak. Adam and Eve are, for lack of a better term, all too human. Again, I can see how the specifics can vary wildly and for this story to be true, and for it to be communicating something important. Man is fallen. Man resists God. Man makes bad choices. Man is in over his head and needs help. If anything it's shockingly real compared to most other stories of its 'type'.

On Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 12:03 AM, Jim Armstrong <> wrote:
NOT specifically responding to the post below... -

I suppose this is oversimplifying, and wouldn't claim any novelty, but it is very hard for me to buy into this real-or-not, or to-what-degree-real-or-not discussion.

It seems to me that this is a forest and trees problem. If humans truly have freedom to make independent choices, then there is automatically the capacity to make two categories of decisions, let's just call them "optimal" and "suboptimal".

Adam and Eve in the story pretty clearly had that capacity to make such choices, pre-"fall". Given our experience that we too apparently have that same capacity in our time, it would seem that nothing has really changed in this regard. So "real Adam or not" seems moot. It looks to me that any given degree of undesirability in choice is intrinsically part and parcel of free choice.

I recognize the difficulties that flow from this, but it's a simple observation (I think), and it seems to point to the story of the Garden as being a folk explanation of where bad things come from, if not from a capricious god.

JimA [Friend of ASA]

Schwarzwald wrote:
Heya all,

Since we're offering up various perspectives on how to consider Genesis (particularly with regards to Adam), I'll chime in with my own.

First, I'm never quite sure just where to consider the question of a "literal Adam" existing. If there was an Adam, a first human complete with a soul - but his biological parents were some kind of biological precursor, is that a "literal Adam"? What if the there was a command from God, an act of disobedience, and a subsequent and real spiritual fall for all humans thenceforth - but Adam functioned as some kind of leader or representative? What if there was a communal fall, but one man was chosen as representative of the story because - even if it was a 'communal' fall - the most important lesson was that of the individual acts?

I could go on with possible scenarios, many of which make questions of evolution superfluous, a non-issue, compatible, or otherwise. But for me, the greater point is that A) There are a wide range of reasonable possibilities that mesh with the grand theme of evolution, B) Most or all of them are still compatible with, ultimately, the same story we have, and C) It's not clear to me that these stories necessitate regarding either Adam or the fall as unreal. In fact, I lean towards the opposite view - I think there is this unfortunate, and often unexamined habit of thinking 'If Genesis 2 did not play out exactly the way as I personally interpret it to, there was no Adam and no fall.' Which I think is along the lines of thinking that, if we have the details of Socrates' personality wrong, then there was no Socrates. It's an illicit jump.

So I'd agree with Randy to a degree, except I'd put it this way: It seems reasonable to me, very reasonable, to regard Genesis 2 as describing a primeval event. Do I need to know the exact, specific details of that event? Honestly, no - no more than I need to know the exact action God engaged in when He formed the planets, the waters, etc. The repercussions are stated, and to a degree, rather obvious. The importance of that event, however allegorical or generalized or watered down from the fuller event, etc, is related to me faithfully. Sure, it leaves me with some questions - but all answers tend to do that anyway.

On Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 9:27 PM, Randy Isaac <> wrote:
I hesitate to do so, but may I draw another parallel, even though it's quite a stretch?
My wife enjoys theater of the absurd. So I go along and attend all these plays by Samuel Beckett, Ed Albee, Harold Pinter, and the like. I confess that, ever so reluctantly, I'm learning to appreciate this genre of theater. (not that I'll admit it to her!) These plays do live up to their moniker--taken literally, the script is bizarre and absurd. It simply doesn't reflect reality as we know it. These plays can only be understood and appreciated when interpreted through emotion and intuition. The acting, coupled with the script, portrays emotions with which the audience can relate. At least, if those of us who are scientifically inclined leave our scientific minds at the door and listen by feeling rather than by thinking. It's far beyond me to describe it but I can see where, at some level, it really works. But when after the play, I start asking, "did he really do x, y, or z?" then the understanding disappears. The questions about reality destroy the signficance.
In some sense, the script of the Bible is similar. (sorry, I can't even bring myself to actually write the same adjective in the same sentence as the Bible--you get the point). It doesn't match the reality (i.e. history and science) as we know it. There are, however, enough points of contact with reality (just as in the plays) to make you think, well, maybe it does reflect reality. Dick, for example, keeps reminding us that there are many common points with other ANE literature, whatever the accuracy may be of their portrayal or history. Yet, when read at a totally different level, the text resonates with emotion and powerful theology. If we can somehow check our scientific and historical brains at the door and listen to the Word of God at that emotional, theological level, through the lens of the cross and the risen Christ as George appropriately keeps reminding us, and keep from asking these history and science questions at all, then perhaps we can understand what is being said. But now, we (or at least I) always come back to, well, what really did happen? What came first? When did that event happen? And then the magic disappears and the meaning fades and it all seems, well, absurd again.
Am I saying that as scientists we have to check our brains at the door of the church? Yes and no. Definitely no if one means we have an irrational faith with no basis. Yes, if you mean we should not interpret God's revelation with the mind of a scientist or a historian. Again, this does not in any way deny points of contact with reality. The incarnation and resurrection are a couple of those crucial points of contact. Neither of those are understandable from our scientific perspective and yet only through their perspective do we gain understanding.

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