Re: [asa] Introducing Sin (once again)

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Wed Oct 07 2009 - 21:45:08 EDT

Heya Murray,

Believe it or not, I agree with you in large part. Meaning, I think having
an exacting, "scientific" account of the first human isn't necessary to
faith or salvation, etc. As you say, a good part of this is distraction. And
certainly I'd agree that Genesis 2 is talking in very large part about a
relationship man had with God, etc. When I defend there being a 'first
human', I'm not offering up some rapt, literalistic reading of Genesis (as
I've said - I affirm a real and primeval event, but not one we've been left
an exact documentary of), or even a tremendously specific story of any other
kind. If anything, I'm pointing out what I see are very reasonable,
defensible possibilities and little more.

All I'll mention is the following. First, while some may have a particular
agenda for 'needing' to posit a first human, the opposite is true - some may
also have a particular agenda for 'needing' there to never have been a first
human. Second, while I also agree that in the end we have to (to whatever
degree) simply trust in God - and that this is one of the paramount
teachings of Christianity - there still remains that pressure, from various
quarters, to not trust in God, or to place more trust elsewhere. I think the
fact that "faith" is in essence a dirty word in some areas of society speaks
to a modern problem we should be more willing to address. At the moment, in
fact, I think it's key.

Oh, and since I don't say it enough, thank you for these exchanges. I enjoy
them immensely, whether in agreement or disagreement.

On Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 4:45 PM, Murray Hogg <> wrote:

> 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!
> Blessings,
> Murray
> 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 <<mailto:
>>>> 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 21:46:54 2009

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