Re: [asa] Introducing Sin (once again)

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Wed Oct 07 2009 - 16:45:22 EDT

Hi Schwarzwald,

I think I'm at the last post for the day...

I don't hold any furious disagreement with anything you write - largely because (just between you and me) I don't think it matters very much.

My bottom line is (I think) that God is well capable of setting whatever requirements on salvation he sees fit and that the critical issue, in the end analysis, is whether the individual takes accountability for the degree to which they meet those requirements according to their own capabilities (cf. the parable of the talents).

Frankly, I find all this talk of defining "human" to be a bit of a distraction - unless, of course, one has a particular agenda for NEEDING to posit a "first human" (which certain correspondents on the matter clearly do).

Personally, I'd happily give it up and go read Kierkegaard - and those who understand the idea that existential response trumps abstract philosophical speculation will, I think, feel where I'm coming from!

I'll only add that I think Keith Miller was right to suggest that relationship (with God, one another, the created order) is the primary theme of Gen 2 and that the entire sweep of redemptive history is (whether one is an evolutionist or other) to bring all things into their appropriate relationships with one another (cf. Colossians 1:15-20 et passim). And note that I say "all things into appropriate relationships" because God's purposes are NOT simply about human beings, but about ALL things - so why we need to define "human" off against "non-human" doesn't seem to me even an interesting question to address, let alone a necessary one. It's blatantly clear that all things "relate" to their environment (and to God) according to their capabilities - the only question, really, is whether they seek to do so or not. Whether they are human or non-human things seems to me to be an entirely secondary question.

Oh, and I should affirm your final point: certainly none of this takes place in a vacuum - but perhaps the most important aspect of discussion such matters is not that we finally arrive at "the truth" but that we uncover our errors, perhaps develop some epistemic humility, and then throw ourselves upon the one who knows all things - "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief..."

Again, I'm off-list for the day!


Schwarzwald wrote:
> Heya Murray,
> I'm more than willing to grant that what makes a human "human" is a
> tremendously complicated topic. There are biological considerations,
> mental considerations (including those heady topics of philosophy of
> mind, soul in its various forms, what the ultimate nature of matter is,
> etc), social considerations, spiritual considerations, relation
> considerations, and so on.
> So I'd agree that there may be no clear "scientific delineation". I'd
> also point out that, at least for myself, that's not much of a concern
> anyway. Say that defining "human" in so particular a way is ultimately a
> metaphysical question - again, I'm quite fine with that. I'd simply
> stress that this sort of categorization can really be done, one way or
> the other. I don't even need to personally be privy to the moment, the
> method, or even the standards for defining that category - affirm that
> God only knows, or that we can grasp such things but only imperfectly,
> etc. At the end of the day, with whatever qualifications are made, we
> still have (or more precisely, 'can have') a human defined, and
> therefore we open the door to talk of first human(s).
> While I'm writing this, I see Bernie has amended his question from
> whether or not there was a first human to whether or not there was a
> first human 'biologically speaking'. My own response would be that this
> invites the question of what it would mean for there to be a first human
> "biologically speaking" one way or the other. I imagine one could ask
> if, atomically speaking, humans have ever existed whatsoever - and
> answer in the negative (on the grounds that there is no 'human' at the
> atomic level. All things are just collections of atoms and quanta, and
> anything above that is a mere useful fiction or worse, some sort of
> delusion.) If I qualify my question such that, atomically speaking, I
> mean atoms in a given form or of a given development, with whatever
> collection of properties or attributes or emergent qualities
> instantiated at once, I can answer in the positive. However, with
> similar qualifications I could answer the 'biological' question in the
> positive as well (again, back to "the first to have all these given
> biological or (etc) traits in tandem").
> Perhaps the big lesson here is that these questions don't really exist
> in a "science vacuum" - the philosophy and metaphysics, unspoken or
> spoken, never really goes away.
> On Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 3:07 PM, Murray Hogg <
> <>> wrote:
> Hi Keith,
> I'm glad you raise this point of defining "human" as it's really
> critical at two levels;
> First, it should be obvious that some traits we consider fundamental
> to our identity as "human" - and I'm thinking here particularly of
> language and all the physiologial, neurological, psychological, and
> social adaptations required in its development - simply don't allow
> of a clear _scientific_ delineation of the sort I think many people
> are hoping to discover.
> Second, it needs to be acknowledged (as you do) that we are making
> reference to _scientific_ delineations here. Even with such
> delineations we are still no closer to answering the theological
> question as to the fundamental essence of humanity.
> I don't know that I have anything more to add on the subject except
> to express my thanks for such concise expression of a fundamental
> issue which, in the discussion so far, remains by-and-large unaddressed.
> PS. I like that you take "image of God" in relational terms as that,
> in my view, constitutes the primary theological message of the
> Genesis 2 story.
> Blessings,
> Murray
> Keith Miller wrote:
> The question is whether it is appropriate to define "human" in
> biological terms, sociological terms, or something else.
> From a biblical perspective I think that the proper context is
> the meaning of the "image of God." I do not think that this has
> anything to do with biology, sociology, or even psychology. I
> understand the "image of God" as fundamentally relational. It
> has to do with our relationship to God, to one another, and to
> the rest of creation. It is these relationships with which the
> Bible is concerned, and it is these relationships that are
> damaged in the story of Adam and Eve's disobedience.
> Now it is entirely consistent with all scientific evidence to
> argue that God was revealed to a single pair of individuals to
> whom the "image" was imparted (who were first placed consciously
> in relationship to God.) This is not a position that I think is
> demanded of the text, nor one that I currently hold. However,
> it can be held without doing any violence to the scientific
> evidence. In this case there would be a first "human" in the
> theological sense.
> I really think that this is fundamentally a theological
> questions not a scientific one. That which makes us in the
> image of God is not something accessible to science - again, it
> is relational.
> Keith
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Received on Wed Oct 7 16:47:51 2009

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