27 April 2011

Land of the Lost, part 9

Homo Habilis
THE RUMBLINGS CONTINUE around the topic of the historicity of Adam and Eve. It so happens that today's Proposition from John Walton's The Lost World of Genesis One nudges up against that question. Suffice to say, not everyone associated with BioLogos can be accused of denying the actual existence of a single first pair (see, e.g., Tim Keller's somewhat recent paper).

Proposition 16: Scientific Explanations of Origins Can Be Viewed in Light of Purpose, and If So, Are Unobjectionable
  • Genesis 1 was never intended to be an account of material origins but rather one of functional origins in relation to people in the image of God viewing the cosmos as a temple.

    Homo Erectus
    Thus, while "the Bible upholds the idea that God is responsible for all origins (functional, material, or otherwise), if the Bible does not offer an account of material origins we are free to consider contemporary explanations of origins on their own merits, as long as God is seen as ultimately responsible. Therefore whatever explanation scientists offer in their attempts to explain origins, we could theoretically adopt it as a description of God's handiwork" (p. 132).
  • This cuts to the heart of the matter, incidentally, since, according to Walton, many arguments against affirming modern scientific explanations of origins center on the notion that they are somehow godless. But this reveals more about the one with the problem—he/she is demanding, like Job, why God would create in this or that manner, which appears to them to be, in some way, discordant with God's nature. Walton responds by reminding his readers of their limited knowledge with respect to their understanding of God's ways:
    "God in his wisdom has done things in the way that he has. We cannot stand in judgment of that, and we cannot expect to understand it all. . . . Our question then cannot be whether one model or explanation of the cosmos and its origins is reconcilable with the nature of God. We don't have information to make that assessment. We can only ask what the Scriptures requires us to defend." (p. 134)
    Obviously, this is precisely the point for young-earth creationists, who think the Scriptures do require us to defend, in detail, their view. Equally obvious is the fact that the less the Scriptures require us to defend on this particular point (how God created), the more open we can be to modern scientific explanations regarding origins (presupposing God as creator, of course). Convenient? You tell me.
  • Walton again reminds us of the theologically unsound bifurcation between the natural and the supernatural (which did not exist in the ancient world) and then launches into Psalm 139:13 to illustrate this point (each child being the creation of God while we, at the same time, know in great detail the embryology of the development of a child). I would add to this, maybe ironically, John Piper's great discussion about how the raindrop falls. There's no either/or here; it's both/and.
Homo Antecessor
  • Most of us treat the study of history this way; why do we have such a big problem when this same approach is applied to the science of origins? In other words, we are unable to see God's hands clearly in the course of historic events (i.e., unable to make pronouncements about the intricacies of God's hand in them—unless you're a Falwell or a Robertson), and none of us object to purely naturalistic cause-and-effect explanations of such events. Why, then, do we object when the same is done in, say, the narrative of biological evolution on earth (the barking of materialists who suggest a choice must be made between God and science notwithstanding)?
  • Walton then goes on to face the three most common objections to biological evolution by those who take the Bible seriously: (1) Theology (evolution pushes God out of the picture; (2) Genesis 1 (it demands a YEC interpretation); and (3) Genesis 2 and Romans 5 (imago Dei, the nature of sin, and the historicity of Adam and Eve).

    The latter point concerns me most, because the first two, to my mind, are not significant objections (i.e., they're answered easily). Many voices out there in the blogosphere are suggesting that the historicity of Adam and its attendant issues are a fault line within evangelicalism right now.

    Adam & Eve, Lucas Cranach
    the Elder (1528)
    Some attempt to resolve apparent contradictions between the creation narrative and the anthropological fossil record by suggesting that somewhere along the line in the evolutionary process, humans became endowed with the image of God and then disobeyed God's command, which constituted the fall and initiated our sin nature. Some argue that this occurred through a historical "first pair" (the first pair to bear God's image), while others argue that Adam and Eve symbolize the first humans (the first image bearers), corporately speaking.

    I've often wondered about the validity of the first option, and first heard of it from George Murphy. Walton, however, takes umbrage with both (the latter more than the former). The Scriptures speak clearly as to the historicity of Adam and Eve, he writes, as indicated in their role in genealogies. His final thoughts on the matter are typically ambiguous, but they affirm everything they need to in this matter, in my opinion. It's worth quoting in full:
    "Whatever evolutionary process led to the development of animal life, primates and even prehuman hominids, my theological convictions lead me to posit substantive discontinuity between that process and the creation of the historical Adam and Eve." (p. 139)
Whatever that looked like, I guess. What about you—do you think any explanation of origins scientists offer could be (theoretically) adopted as a description of God's handiwork? Is holding on to a special, intervening creation of homo sapiens sapiens necessary (as opposed to seeing them simply fit into the evolutionary chain)?

And then, Part 10.


Anonymous said...

Defeaters to evolution here:


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