April 2, 2020

What Would That Say about God?

From Within Creation, Arrieta

By Chaplain Mike

If an evolutionary model should turn out to best explain the way the universe works from a scientific perspective, what would that tell us about God? How would our view of God change? What would we have to adjust in our thinking about who he is and how he works?

These are huge questions, and important ones. RJS is doing a series giving people an opportunity to contemplate and discuss them on her blog and at Jesus Creed, responding to a book called, Theology after Darwin. I encourage you to read her ongoing posts as a resource for your own study

The following video from BioLogos, featuring their Program Director Kathryn Applegate, gives another brief take on these questions. I present it here today to follow up on Garrett League’s fine post, so that our thinking and discussion about how Christians come to grips with science and faith issues may continue.

As for Applegate’s own perspective, it is summarized in what she answered in response to a commenter who posted after viewing the video. She wrote:

I don’t see evolution as mindless and purposeless at all – rather God is intimately involved in the process by His providential upholding of creation, just as He is in our lives.  I believe the Spirit of Christ is with me daily, though I don’t see burning bushes or hear voices.  A thoroughly God-centered view of evolution is elegant, beautiful, and intellectually satisfying.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made!

Comments

  1. >> If an evolutionary model should turn out to best explain the way the universe works from a scientific perspective, what would that tell us about God? <<

    I don't think it wouldn't tell us anything new about God's nature. He'd still be the One who created all things, and He'd still be who He tells us He is.

    We're required to believe that God created the heavens and the earth, and an "evolutionary model" that was instigated and supervised by God would maintain Him in the role of Creator. The process of evolution would be just one more thing He created and that shows forth His glory.

    • Change that to:

      I don’t think it would tell us anything new about God’s nature. He’d still be the One who created all things, and He’d still be who He tells us He is.

  2. I think it portrays a grander plan behind Creation that humankind should be the outcome of the physical and biological processes that characterize the universe, instead of a “hm, this place is missing something” ex nihilo intervention occurring 14 billion years after the Big Bang.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      SciFi Catholic once said of eschatology, “Your eschatology should at least pass the ‘cool test’ — ‘Is it Cool?'”

      And a 13.7 gigayear-old, gigaparsec-plus-sized Cosmos (cue Carl Sagan standing in awe) does pass the Cool Test a lot better than a 6000-year-old, ending-tomorrow-at-the-latest, Earth-and-some-lights-in-the-sky one.

  3. It might tell us more about our own nature and how we respond to God the Creator, rather than telling us about God’s nature.

    The mode in which creation occurs (a long process of evolution over billions of years) would be – is – fruitful ground for reflection, but on the other hand, we already know “For a thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday, which is past. And as a watch in the night, things that are counted nothing, shall their years be.”

    I know that a favourite argument of rationalists/skeptics/atheists is “Isn’t evolution a terribly wasteful process? Isn’t it cruel, this long struggle? Why would a creating God use such a method?” but I think “Why not? To have free will, this may be the only type of universe which can accommodate it. And if you give freedom, you always run the chance of bad choices and the choice of evil.”

    And I’m going to go ahead with a Chesterton quote (come on, you knew it was coming) from the last chapter of “The Man Who Was Thursday”:

    “Syme sprang to his feet, shaking from head to foot.

    “I see everything,” he cried, “everything that there is. Why does each thing on the earth war against each other thing? Why does each small thing in the world have to fight against the world itself? Why does a fly have to fight the whole universe? Why does a dandelion have to fight the whole universe? For the same reason that I had to be alone in the dreadful Council of the Days. So that each thing that obeys law may have the glory and isolation of the anarchist. So that each man fighting for order may be as brave and good a man as the dynamiter. So that the real lie of Satan may be flung back in the face of this blasphemer, so that by tears and torture we may earn the right to say to this man, ‘You lie!’ No agonies can be too great to buy the right to say to this accuser, ‘We also have suffered.’”

  4. I think it would tell us that anything worthwhile takes time (God operates on a longer timescale than we do) and that things which seem random actually aren’t (God is behind it in so subtle a way He often seems absent).

  5. Considering how vast the universe is, I personally question how the Creator of such vastness (who must, of necessity, be greater still) could somehow be made small because He used a process that has taken 14 billion years to arrive at the universe’s current state.

    The key, of course, is that any view of an “evolutionary model” must be “thoroughly God-centered,” at which time I would agree that is it “elegant, beautiful, and intellectually satisfying.”

  6. There are many problems with the evolutionary (old earth) model. The main being:
    1) The problem of suffering and death
    Are these things the result of human sin, or not? If not, then they are demonstrations of God’s attributes…

    2) Do human behaviors considered sinful, which have analogues in the animal world represent some back propagation of sin into the animal world? Or, is something sinful for humans but acceptable for animals (which are, again, demonstrating attributes of God)?

    • 1.) Yes, they are the result of human sin. An evolutionary model (or quasi-evolutionary model, whatver we call it) simply states that the Fall happened AT SOME POINT, when humanity, created by God, became capable of choosing ourselves instead of God. I think this framework is completely faithful to the Genesis 1-4 narraive while avoiding crass literalism that does violence to other elements of the text.

      2.) I’m having a hard time thinking of any scripturally-based behaviors that have an ACTUAL (and not simply apparent) analogue in the animal world. Could you be more specific?

      • Hello Frank,
        1) The problem is, you have suffering and death for 400 million years before the appearance of anything resembling a man. That means God is forward charging creation with the penalty of sin (sort of like “future crime” from Minority Report).

        2) There are many documented cases of animals where a new father will murder the children of his deposed antecedent. Also, possible cases of homosexual behavior. A recent report on chimpanzees murdering their neighbors and stealing their land. Etc.

        • I’d answer number 2 simply by saying that when humans fell, all of creation fell. I believe this is a longstanding teaching in the church and has a lot to merit it. I’d add to that the proposition that all of God’s creation is probably more interconnected than most of us modern western humans realize, and that this too is a reflection of God’s glory and complexity.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I’d answer number 2 simply by saying that when humans fell, all of creation fell.

            And that all this, backdated to the Big Bang from 4004 BC, resulted in an instant when Adam & Eve ate the fruit, like some cosmic version of Schrodinger’s Cat? I’ve heard that idea seriously proposed, and have always had trouble with it.

          • Agree HUG, it seems to make the universe into some sort of hologram.

          • HUG, in short, no.

            I’m not nearly enough of a literalist to be that worried about the timeline. I just think that it’s one plausible explanation that as the creatures who uniquely carried the image of God turned away, other things may have gone awry as well. Doesn’t preclude the possibility of Satan’s fall earlier and his meddling. And it won’t solve all the questions on an issue where no one really knows all the details.

        • Is there really “suffering” in those 400 million years and is death itself for natural creatures actually something having to do with sin? Why can’t the rise and fall of temporary, non-human, material world creatures be something good or at least neutral? Man has an eternal spirit so his death is actually something unexpected, unlike the death of dinosaurs or mammoths or jellyfish. Why can’t the effect of sin be in man’s abuse of creation rather than in the appearance of natural death of animals?

          • If animal suffering is neutral, it should be permissible. We should be against the ASCPA. If it is good, then we should practice it ourselves…

          • Great point, JeffB. Research suggests that invertebrates do not experience pain, so I’m not sure whether “suffering” has anything to do with evolutionary history until the appearance of higher order animals, who may very well play a larger, more individualized role in God’s plan than we tend to consider possible.

            As for man having an eternal spirit, I’d actually disagree there. I think the gift of God is eternal, physical, bodily life, but I don’t think humans have an eternal spirit in some sense totally unique from other creatures. The idea of an eternal spirit is more a Hellenistic invention than a Biblical one, it seems.

          • leadme.org,

            With regards to your comment about the “eternal spirit in some sense totally unique from other creatures”, do you know of any writings (literally, anything…from church fathers to medieval mystics to modern evanglicals) to support this? I’ve recently come to think this way myself, but for the life of me I can’t find anyone who can help me see why I came to this conclusion.

            Thanks!

            Matt

          • Matthew, are you asking whether there’s any Biblical/Church History support for the idea of conditional immortality? I’d say, yes, there’s quite a bit. Two quick Biblical examples:

            “The wages of sin is death,” not eternal conscious torture in hell.

            “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and live forever.” (Implying, in other words, that immortality is a special gift of God, not something inherent to humanity.)

            Look into the idea of “conditional immortality.”

          • Great, thanks for the help!

            Matt

        • “The problem is, you have suffering and death for 400 million years before the appearance of anything resembling a man. That means God is forward charging creation with the penalty of sin”

          If you want to look at it in a strictly linear fashion, you could say that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was “back dated” to cover those who came before.

          Just to be clear, I think there will be holes in any model(OEC, YEC, Theistic Evolution). I just don’t see this particular thing as one of those.

    • Hi Nedbrek,

      A few thoughts:

      1) Wouldn’t you say that Satan’s fall pre-dates (in some loose sense) humanity’s fall? Couldn’t Satan have been wreaking havoc in the cosmos long before humans came onto the scene?

      2) I’m not sure animals are all that different from humans in this sense. Humans may be the fullest expression of the image of God here on earth, but is that necessarily to say that animals (particularly higher order animals) have no share whatsoever in the image of God? In other words, animals may have a larger role to play in God’s plan than we humans tend to realize, and they may very well be capable of genuine “good” and “evil,” even if those must be understood in a slightly different sense from the way we understand those concepts as humans. Scripture seems to place a very high importance on how we humans treat animals, and it even alludes several times to animals being held accountable to God for their behavior.

      • “Wouldn’t you say that Satan’s fall pre-dates (in some loose sense) humanity’s fall? Couldn’t Satan have been wreaking havoc in the cosmos long before humans came onto the scene?”

        A very important point. The serpent in the creation narrative seems to indicate that, at least to some extent, evil was present in the cosmos prior to the fall (if a literal fall actually occurred, that is).

      • 1) The problem is authority. God gave authority for creation to Adam (who then turned it over to Satan).
        2) I don’t think an animal can be evil (although that is what I appear to be saying! :). My point is, when I look at it; I say, “that’s wrong”. These things say something about someone (it is a proclamation). Now, either it is a proclamation of God’s character (“this tells me more about God”), or it is a proclamation of sin (“this tells me about the sinfulness of sin”).

        • 1) If you’re willing to concede, for the sake of argument, the evolutionary narrative, then in what sense can humans have had authority over creation before humans even existed?

          2) Not sure I’m following…
          To the extent that higher order animals may be capable of love, it doesn’t seem a stretch to me that they may also be capable of evil (in some sense), that doesn’t mirror God’s will or character.

          • 1) That’s a good point. I’m was justing granting the point to you… the relevant passage is at Gen 1:26 (also, the naming in Gen 2 indicates authority). What do these passages even mean in an old earth context?

            2) Whether or not animals are capable of good or evil, there is a statement being made. A YEC can say, “this is a statement about sin”. I’m not convinced an OE can. He must say, “this is a statement about God’s character” – which is a frightening thing.

          • 1) Well, I suppose one could still say in an OE context that with the arrival of humans on the scene, God established a new covenant, overturned Satan’s authority over creation, and granted that authority to humans. To say that humans were given authority over creation, which they then surrendered to Satan, is not therefore to imply that Satan could never have previously had such authority, before God’s new covenant with humans. Is this making any sense? These are not necessarily my own views, so I might not be fleshing out the argument as well as I could be.

            2) Still not following…why must an OE say that? I’m trying to argue that higher order animals may very well be capable of “good” and “evil,” in which case the statement is about sin, not about God’s character. Or at least, whether or not animals are capable of “good” and “evil,” it seems they can at least be corrupted by evil (Satan), and so the statement is about Satan’s evil rather than about God’s character.

  7. Is it just me or does it feel like if we embrace evolution we are embracing a Deistic theology and not a theology that holds to a Creator who is infinitely engaged. If I understand evolution correctly, its pretty much a self sustaining system. Wouldn’t that point to a god who created then walked away as opposed to a God who is continually active? I ask honestly.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Have you considered the possibility that the Deists were half-right but went too far? That God might have set up the physical Cosmos to run on automatic so he could do ther things (like interact with us)? Kind of like how an operating system handles all the mundane tasks of running a computer for the users, leaving the users free to do things like post comments on blogs without worrying about all the ones and zeros?

      • Good point HUG but then the video makes no sense. How would creating a self sustaining system point to an intimate God? It may prove a wise God, a God of organization, a thoughtful God…but intimate? That seems like a stretch.

  8. “If an evolutionary model should turn out to best explain the way the universe works from a scientific perspective, ”

    I’m going to assume we’re talking about “the way the universe works” in biological terms here since evolution has nothing to do with the rest of it… in which case… “if?”

    That’s rather like asking “If it turns out the world is round…” we are well past hypotheticals on the matter. Evolutionary theory is still undergoing fine refinement, and it almost certainly always will be, but the odds of it ever being overturned at this stage in the game are too infinitesimal for me to express. Do you appreciate the weight of evidence that would have to be completely invalidated for that to happen?

    “I don’t see evolution as mindless and purposeless at all – rather God is intimately involved in the process by His providential upholding of creation, just as He is in our lives”

    And that is a perfect illustration of how faith and science don’t mix. Someone explain to me what knowledge that statement has conveyed to me? What greater insight it has given me into evolutionary processes? *Anything* it has done besides express a completely unverifiable opinion that sounds like it makes the issuer happy about the whole thing? How does this contribute to my understanding of the world around me in any way more substantive than if I said evolution happened because the DNA fairies were hard at work?

    I am not being facetious and I am not trying to be insulting, I am simply trying to illustrate a point. Can anyone tell me anything substantive I am supposed to derive from the quoted statement?

    Because what I see is science doing 100% of the work in figuring out how evolution happened, and then religion coming along and tacking on “because God” on the end, apparently just for the heck of it. What, exactly, did I need that last part for?

    • “If an evolutionary model should turn out to best explain the way the universe works from a scientific perspective, ”

      This is misstating the problem. The true question is, “if the present is the key to the past” – which is an assumption which cannot be proved (and is probably wrong, given 2 Peter 3:4).

      • I’m sorry, I’m not sure I follow what your point is.

        Is it that you think/suspect we’re unable to determine past conditions from present states? If so, that would require discarding basically the entire body of the laws of physics as they are currently understood.

        • We are unable to roll our models back through a supernatural event (a miracle). What was the mass of the Earth before Jesus created the food to feed 20k people?

          • Uh-huh…

            I’m unsure whether you’re trying to make a serious point about the reason we reject supernatural hypotheses irrational and detrimental to any attempt to understand the world around us, or if you’re just trolling.

            If the former, bravo. Exactly right. We do not entertain the supernatural as an explanatory hypothesis because it renders all attempts at understanding the world we live in futile and pointless, and that does not just go for trying to “roll back” models. That goes for every single last thing you are currently experiencing or ever will experience. Sure, we *might* have evidence gravity exists, or maybe that’s all a big trick being played on us by Loki the trickster god…

            Sure, you *might* think you have a family, but I say they’re really dopplegangers from fairy land…

            etc… ridiculousnes ensues.

            (If the latter… find an easier target. I’m not biting.)

          • “We do not entertain the supernatural as an explanatory hypothesis because it renders all attempts at understanding the world we live in futile and pointless”

            Only if you assume supernatural events are ongoing.

          • Soory ned, you can’t just introduce supernatural agencies as plausible explanations when you wanna then arbitrarily declare them out of bounds when you feel like it., either they are a valid possible explanation for observations or they are not.

            If they are, then they become impossible to rule out under any circumstances and ALL tests become meaningless.

          • You’re ignoring special revelation.

            If God says “I did this”, and we believe it, then that impacts our understanding.

            Now if we don’t believe God, then we are lost.

          • I’m not ignoring anything. I am pointing out a simple consequence of permitting the supernatural to be considered a valid and plausible explanation for anything.

            “If God says “I did this”, and we believe it, then that impacts our understanding.”

            Well, yes. And if Loki tricks you into thinking God said that *and you believed it” that would “impact your understanding”. and if you DO believe it you are lost! And if a sorcerer cast a spell on you to make you think God did something *and you believed it* that would “impact your understanding”. and if you DO believe it you are lost!

            Which is the kind of ridiculous situation we have to deal with if you let the supernatural into the game.

          • “Which is the kind of ridiculous situation we have to deal with if you let the supernatural into the game.”

            Well, that’s interesting. How do you account for reason, logic, and meaning without the supernatural?

          • “Well, that’s interesting. How do you account for reason, logic, and meaning without the supernatural?”

            I’m sorry… that made exactly as much sense to me as if you had asked me how I design a circuit pathway without vanilla yogurt.

            What in the world are you talking about?

          • Well, for example, I assume you believe you are the result of natural selection and random mutation.

            Why would an object that is the result of random mutation and selection be capable of logic?

          • “Why would an object that is the result of random mutation and selection be capable of logic?”

            Because neural networks that develop more robust data analysis capabilities enjoy significant advantages over those that don’t. Next you could ask me why an object that is the result of random mutation and natural selection might be a fast runner… or have environmental camouflage? The answer is always going to be the same though…

          • A neural network is basically a big pattern matcher. It gives a confidence level based on how closely the inputs match the learned value. It has no notion of absolute truth (which I take it, you reject).

            This leaves you with the dilemma that you don’t really know anything for sure (you have an empty epistemology). You then try to compare your views to Christian epistemology, which does have certainty.

          • “It has no notion of absolute truth (which I take it, you reject).”

            Correct. Without exception every claim of an “absolute truth” I have ever encountered has fallen severely short of the advertising.

            “This leaves you with the dilemma that you don’t really know anything for sure”

            Considering that I have spent the last day explaining to people on this site over and over that people don’t know things for sure, people know things with relative levels of confidence… how about you tell me what the dillemma part of this “dillemma” is?

          • PS:

            “You then try to compare your views to Christian epistemology, which does have certainty.”

            Claiming certainty and having certainty are not the same thing.

          • “You then try to compare your views to Christian epistemology, which does have certainty.”

            Huh? What evidence has produced this certainty?

          • cermak_rd says: “Huh? What evidence has produced this certainty?”

            I trust in God, who doesn’t just tell the truth, but is the very definition of truth. I agree that I am not the source (or judge) of truth, I must receive it.

          • Grant C says: “Claiming certainty and having certainty are not the same thing.”

            Very true. But you are in no position to determine that – your presuppositions forbid it (more later).

          • Grant C says: “Without exception every claim of an “absolute truth” I have ever encountered has fallen severely short of the advertising.”

            Read your statement carefully. “You have encountered”. You are not the judge of truth. You admit this yourself, you cannot know absolute truth, you cannot determine it.

            Consider this:
            There is a bug in the “software” of your brain. It prevents you from knowing certain things. It even prevents you from realizing the fact (introspection failure).

            ““This leaves you with the dilemma that you don’t really know anything for sure”
            Considering that I have spent the last day explaining to people on this site over and over that people don’t know things for sure, people know things with relative levels of confidence… how about you tell me what the dillemma part of this “dillemma” is?”

            You are certain that you can’t know anything for certain?

          • “Read your statement carefully. “You have encountered”. ”

            Ummm… yes. As opposed to what? Me declaring that claims I’ve never become aware of don’t hold up to scrutiny? Because me being able to know *that* would be a neat trick.

            “You admit this yourself, you cannot know absolute truth, you cannot determine it.”

            Uh-huh… were you perhaps claiming you can? Otherwise this is going nowhere and I’m standing by my original statement as being entirely accurate.

            “You are certain that you can’t know anything for certain?”

            Cute attempt at trapping me in a paradox but it isn’t going to work. No, I’m not certain of that fact,. All I am is in possession of decades of observational evidence that without exception support that conclusion and, in the contect of this conversation, I’m wagering your complete and total inability to refute it. But by all means prove me wrong by presenting that you have absolute certain knowledge of something and backing it up.

            Otherwise somehow I will just have to live with the fact that the only thing I have to support my claim is all the evidence in the universe I have ever come into contact with. It may keep me up nights but I’ll muddle through somehow.

          • Grant, thank you for your honesty.

            Can I know absolute truth? Absolutely (sorry 🙂

            1 John 5:13 “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

            So that you may know… First John is full of these kinds of statements (eye witness accounts of physical phenomena):
            “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;” (ch 1, v 1)

    • Hi Grant,

      That’s a great point, and I would absolutely agree with you that theology doesn’t add anything to science in the sense you’re getting at. For us Christians to say, “because God” isn’t to add anything of scientific value to the question. Science and theology are two separate disciplines, with separate epistemologies. If you hold that the theological epistemology is worthless, I suppose that’s a whole other discussion.

      • I would hold that I have to have demonstrated what that worth is… but yes, seperate discussion. Of concern right now is the unfortunate tendency among people to try and “reconcile” science and religion to attempt to show that their religious beliefs somehow “work with” science.

        • Again, great points, Grant!

          I absolutely agree that the worth of the theological epistemology must be demonstrated–we can’t just claim such worth without any evidence. Now I think such evidence is going to be intuitive in nature much more than plainly demonstrable, but I do think there’s very compelling evidence to support the theological project. To head off a possible objection, I hold that rationalism and empricism are blisteringly powerful tools that Christians, unfortunately, too often neglect to take full advantage of. That said, though, I’m convinced that rationalism and empiricism ultimately fall far short of providing a full account of human experience. Anyway, like you said, separate discussion…

          When you speak of “reconciling” science and religion, are you speaking of concordism? For example: “God said, ‘let there be light.'” = big bang? If so, I share your concern. But I would hold that science and religion are congruent–that is, science doesn’t “rule out” religion. Unfortunately, religious institutions too often have not been as responsive to scientific findings as they should be, but that isn’t to discredit religion itself, in my opinion.

          • “When you speak of “reconciling” science and religion, are you speaking of concordism? For example: “God said, ‘let there be light.’” = big bang?”

            Well, that would be part of it certainly but my problem is actually a litttle more general than that.

            If you are going to take the basic principles of the scientific method seriously they are simply incompatible with adopting any form of “faith based” beliefs or worldviews without invoking special pleading. In order to perform science properly certain facts need to be recognized, among them being that an unfalsifiable hypothesis lacks any explanatory power or informational content and should be rejected out of hand as a pointless waste of time and effort to even consider as an explanation for anything.

            “God exists and created the universe through unfathomable supernatural means”… that would be an unfalsifiable hypothesis. There is no conceivable test result that could ever shed light on whether that statement was true or false. If you were going to honor scientific mehodology you would reject it out of hand… and yet people are constantly claiming religion and science get along fine as long as they both stick to their own “areas”.

            And how do we define what religion’s “area” is? As far as I can tell it’s wherever we want to believe in something science would come down against. Then we call that thing a religious belief, which is somehow the equivalent of a “get out of science free” card, it is declared that this is exempt from scientific inquiry, and I’m supposed to accept that this is all perfectly legitimate and rational because… well, just because.

            It drives me just a little nuts to be perfectly honest.

          • Grant, I hear you, and I’m with you to a large extent. However, to say that if one truly takes the scientific method seriously he/she will necessarily reject any form of faith, simply will not hold up. For example:

            How do you know that I exist as an objective being (in other words, that I am more than just a figment of your imagination)? You certainly can’t prove it scientifically, even if you were to meet me face to face. And yet are you irrational for believing that I do, indeed, exist?

            How do you know the external world exists as you perceive it? How do you know you’re not just a disembodied brain in a vat (think “The Matrix”). You don’t, you can’t prove it. And yet, are you irrational for believing that your perceptions are at least generally congruent with objective reality?

            How can you say with certainty that only falsifiable hypotheses ought to be considered? That statement itself is an unfalsifiable hypothesis, that you ought to reject out of hand. Of course if a hypothesis is unfalsifiable, it’s not a scientific hypothesis, but there are many questions which science is not suited to address.

            The “get out of science free card” drives me nuts too. If any of our beliefs (religious or otherwise) can be falsified, then we ought to reject them. That said, though, it seems to me that there genuinely is a place for theological inquiry–specifically, those questions which science is not suited to address (the question of God’s existence being chief among these).

          • “Grant, I hear you, and I’m with you to a large extent. However, to say that if one truly takes the scientific method seriously he/she will necessarily reject any form of faith, simply will not hold up. ”

            Which is quite possibly why I never said that.

            I said “faith based” beliefs.

            “How do you know that I exist as an objective being”

            I don’t. That concerns me not in the slightest. See following…

            “You certainly can’t prove it scientifically”

            Because science doesn’t prove anything. Ever. It doesn’t try.

            I do know however that the weight of the evidence supports the contention that you exist, which is all that I require. I have written a great many posts on the subject of science not proving things but rather establishing conclusions of the highest achievable confidence given available data in the discussion of the “Guest Post” that preceded this one on this site if you are interested in the long version.

            “How can you say with certainty that only falsifiable hypotheses ought to be considered? That statement itself is an unfalsifiable hypothesis, ”

            No, it is not. It is a definitional statement of the scientific method. It is tautologically true. Definitional statements are not unfalsifiable, they simply *cannot be false* which is a completely different consideration. It’s a simple matter of the law of identity, things are what they are. The scientific method is what it is and says what it says. And that’s what it says.

            “Of course if a hypothesis is unfalsifiable, it’s not a scientific hypothesis,”

            Exactly. And as I was saying that *the scientific method* tells us that such hypotheses be rejected (for very ample and well established reasons I might add) you have just confirmed my statement’s accuracy. Thank you.

          • Fair enough, Grant, nicely said!

            In my opinion, the weight of the evidence supports the contention that God exists. We’re probably not going to be able to hash all that out in this blog forum, though, and I certainly wouldn’t try to beat you up or call you names for disagreeing with me (or, I might add, lobby congress to force “Christian” legislation on you).

            Peace!

          • “In my opinion, the weight of the evidence supports the contention that God exists. ”

            There cannot be a meaningful “weight of evidence” in favor of an unfalsifiable hypothesis. All evidence is always consistent with an unfalsifiable hypothesis by definition but that means nothing.

            Are you claiming that “God exists” is *not* an unfalsifiable hypothesis?

            If so, do explain the manner in which it might be falsified.

          • Grant, you’re right. I can’t give you any kind of rigorous, falsifiable, non-intuitive evidence for God’s existence. I can share with you why God’s existence feels true for me, but not in any way that will hold up against the type of skepticism you’re proposing.

            BUT…

            I let you off a bit too easy a few responses back. Are you a solipsist? If not, why not?

            You were correct to point out that science cannot and need not *prove* anything, but unless I’m missing something obvious, science is unable to provide ANY evidence that might discredit solipsism, let alone a preponderance of evidence. Scientific inquiry must pre-suppose that our perception of the universe is at least generally congruent with objective reality. Can you prove that you’re not just a brain in a vat? No, nor do you need to. But can you at least provide SOME evidence to the contrary? No, you cannot. At least nothing that will hold up to the type of rigorous skepticism you’re proposing.

          • “I let you off a bit too easy a few responses back. Are you a solipsist? If not, why not?”

            No I am not, in large part because it is a pointless hypothetical and I don’t waste my time on entertaining pointless hypotheticals.That would be just as bad as wasting my time on unfalsifiable hypotheses.

            To demonstrate… let as assume for the moment that solipsism was actually true. NOTHING exists except my own mind, all else is some form of illusion/imagination/simulation being run on my brain in a jar/whatever…

            Now what?

            Am I going to alter my conduct in the tiniest degree because I believe this? Will I walk out in front of a truck because I don’t think it’s real? I happen to know this “illusion” thing can confer pain on my very real brain so I think not.

            Am I going to just lay down in bed and refuse to get up or eat or interact with the world because I don’t think it’s really there? Alienate everyone I “know” in this dream world I am forced to exist in by refusing to ackowledge they really truly exist? See above.

            So my options basically boil down to believe the universe is real and act accordingly… or don’t believe the universe is real and still act as if it was real anyway.

            If I have to act as if the world is real either way what the heck is the point in refusing to believe it?

            That all said, there is also the matter of the weight of evidence and levels of confidence we have been discussing all this time. Yes, logically the possibility that solipsism is true cannot be ruled out (nor can we logically rule out *any* unfalsifiable hypothesis) but in order to believe that that hypothesis is more plausible than the alternative you have to do some pretty serious violence to Occam’s razor. What you are effectively saying is that every scrap of evidence you have ever analyzed in your entire life… is some kind of giant cosmic trick being played on you for some reason you can’t really explain. I can’t think of any way to justifiably argue that we should have higher levels of confidence in that proposal than the alternative. Can you?

            “But can you at least provide SOME evidence to the contrary. No, you cannot. At least nothing that will hold up to the type of rigorous skepticism you’re proposing.”

            On the contrary, I believe the explanation I just provided demonstrates how “the type of rigorous skepticism I am proposing” leads quite clearly to a rejection of solipsism. There can be neither evidence for nor against the concept of solipsism,”

            Chaplain Mike actually just quoted a relevent comment of mine in his latest posting on the site, “the Linchpin”. I will reproduce it here…

            “Things are either evidentially supported as likely to be accurate…or not. And it is not all that difficult to make that evaluation. Either the evidence is consistent with the hypothesis you are examining or it isn’t. Either the hypothesis you are examining is validly constructed to enable you to meaningfully evaluate it, or it is not.

            Solipsism is *not*.

          • Well, Grant, that’s exactly my point.

            I, personally, am convinced that if there’s anything in this life worth striving for, it looks like the radical, self-sacrificial love manifested in Jesus Christ, as presented in the gospels. Can I demonstrate to your satisfaction why I am not being irrational for holding to such a conviction? No, likely not. But putting on my skeptic’s shoes for a moment:

            The question of God’s existence and Jesus’ divinity is fundamentally irrelevant to my position. Let’s assume that Jesus is God. In this case, I will strive to model the example of Christ. Let’s next assume that Jesus is not God, and further, that God does not exist. In this case, I will still strive to model the example of Christ.

            To borrow your words: So my options basically boil down to believing Jesus is God and acting accordingly, or not believing Jesus is God but still acting as if he were. If I wish to live as if Jesus is God–whether or not he happens to be–what’s the point of refusing to believe it? You might just find, if you look hard enough, that there are Christians for whom faith has little to do with alleviating the fear of eternal torture in hell (surely a sick, indefensible concept if ever there was one!).

            I don’t want to overstate my case here. I’m not claiming that acceptance of Christ is on the same evidential footing as the rejection of solipsism. But I do think, from my own perspective, that the difference is one of degree more so than of kind. You, doubtless, will disagree, at which point we’ll have to agree to disagree.

            Which raises a question in my mind: What are you hoping to get out of this? I see from some of your other posts that you’ve been engaged in these types of discussions for 15 years or so, and that you’ve never yet seen any valid theistic argument. Are you here because of a nagging suspicion in your mind that if you just keep looking, you might finally bump into that one elusive argument that will convince you of theism’s value? Or are you here because you feel it’s your duty to convince us theists of how irrational we’re being? Why do you care whether we “compartmentalize”? Everyone–theists and non-theists alike–compartmentalizes to one degree or another.

            Because religion is evil, or something like that? Certainly plenty of evil has been done in religion’s name, just as plenty of good has. But it seems to me that someone of your considerable intelligence and stamina might better apply your efforts to encouraging Christians to be more Christ-like. Or perhaps better yet, agitate for the abolition of that great engine of oppression (religiously-framed or otherwise) and mass murder: the state. It seems to me that your efforts are wasted on arguing the value of theism with an anarchist, borderline pacifist such as myself, vehemently disinclined, as I am, to any attempt to force my beliefs on others.

            Thanks for the discussion, though. It’s been challenging and stimulating!

          • “Well, Grant, that’s exactly my point.”

            No, reading through the rest of your post it really isn’t.

            I was presenting a clear illustration that the solipsist hypothesis was *irrelevent*. It had *zero impact* on any possible day to day activity whether it was true or false and thus was a complete literal waste of time to spend resources exploring because it simply *does not matter* if it is true or false in *any* practical consideration large or small… and beyond that it requires you to adopt, with absolutely no justification, the idea that you are the victim of the most vast cosmic conspiracy/scam/practical joke conceivable for reasons unfathomable and that every single piece of evidence you have ever been presented with in your entire life is somehow being fabricated for your benefit for reasons that cannot be explained and in general it’s just a ridiculous thing to even think about.

            On the other hand…

            “The question of God’s existence and Jesus’ divinity is fundamentally irrelevant to my position. Let’s assume that Jesus is God. In this case, I will strive to model the example of Christ. Let’s next assume that Jesus is not God, and further, that God does not exist. In this case, I will still strive to model the example of Christ.

            ….

            So my options basically boil down to believing Jesus is God and acting accordingly, or not believing Jesus is God but still acting as if he were. “

            Ahem… you are glossing over a few fine details here if you are attempting to imply that is equivalent to the complete and total irrelevence of the solipsist hypothesis. Like, the part where if Jesus is God then you would have to accept him as your lord and savior… and the part where if God exists supernatural forces are at play in the world we are living in… and the part where if Jesus is God then we have to accept his contention that men are sinful by nature and *incapable* of redemption except through him whereas if Jesus and God do not exist there is no such thing as “sin”, just morality…. and need I continue? There are rather significant and clear cut differences between how you deal with the world if that hypothesis is true and how you deal with it if it is false. There are literally NO diffferences in how you deal with the world if solipsism were true or false. The two aren’t remotely the same in this respect.

            “Which raises a question in my mind: What are you hoping to get out of this?”

            It’s amazing how often I get asked that question by people on the other side of this debate, and I’m always confused why they feel the need to ask. It has always seemed to me that the value of engaging differing viewpoints is self evident and the question should be if you spent all your time only discussing things with people who already agree with you about everything anyway what are you getting out of *that*?

            A fundamental principal of that scientific method we’ve been discussing is you *never* assume you’re right and you *always* subject your conclusions to destructive testing to see if they continue to hold up. Diving into discussions like this one is a way of doing that. If you’re not doing that you’re just copping out and hiding from the possibility that you’ve committed an error in a little self-reinforcing bubble of your own construction.

            And I don’t think religion, in a general sense of the word, is “evil”. I think it is detrimental to reason however, which gives evil more room to maneuver so to speak.

        • God’s existence is relevant to my perceptions (and relevant to the question of life after death), but it’s irrelevant to my overall course of action, during this life. How is this different from the question of solipsism (other than the bit about the afterlife, which itself is irrelevant to the discussion at hand)?

          I do believe it is only through the grace of God working in me that I begin to mirror the example of Christ. But again, framing the issue skeptically, this is merely an issue of perception.

          • Sorry, replied in the wrong thread.

          • “… but it’s irrelevant to my overall course of action, during this life.”

            I really rather doubt you can reasonably support that contention.

            If you didn’t think God existed you would STILL accept Jesus as your Lord and savior with the expectation that you would be receiving eternal life as a result? That does qualify as part of your “overall course of action”. The actual afterlife part bviously isn’t “during ths life”, but the expectation of it’s receipt and the actions taken to secure it is.

            Do you currently pray? If so, would you continue to do so in the alterrnative scenario?If so, why and to whom?

            etc…

          • Grant, I think we might be crossing wires somewhat, and that might be due to a lack of semantic precision on my part.

            I do pray. Of course you’re right that if I came to believe that God did not exist, I likely would cease to pray, have any expectation of life after death, etc. I do not think, though, that it would change the overall, externally evident course of my efforts during this life. Because in my mind, from my perspective, in my opinion: the radical love exemplified by Jesus Christ is a good in and of itself, to be pursued whether or not God exists and Jesus is God. If my reason for pursuing Christ is all about trying to earn God’s favor/escape the tortures of hell, then of course if I come to believe that God does not exist, I will abandon my efforts.

            How is this fundamentally different from rejecting solipsism? If you actually came to believe that the world around you was a lie, how can you seriously say that it wouldn’t affect you, internally? You might still choose to go about your business anyway, but you don’t think it would affect your relationships, if you knew they weren’t real? “Like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad” to do a little geeky quote dropping.

            Of course you’ll say, “But I have no good reason to believe my perceptions are deceiving me.” To which I’ll say, “exactly.” It’s not as if I see Jesus left and right, day and night, but to quote CS Lewis, “I believe in [Christ] as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see [him], but because by [him] I see everything else.” And I certainly have my disagreements with Lewis, but he expressed that thought rather beautifully.

            To which you might rightfully respond, “How do you know your spiritual perceptions are right, and everyone else’s are wrong?” Well I don’t know that, and I wouldn’t ever say that. I am an evangelical Christian (if by that, one means that I believe Jesus is God and the source of our salvation). But I don’t think God limits himself to working within Christianity, and I think one can have a deep and saving relationship with Christ, even if one doesn’t know him by that name.

            Anyway…

          • Sorry for the delay responding, had some preperations for a business trip sidetracking me…

            “I do not think, though, that it would change the overall, externally evident course of my efforts during this life.”

            See those qualifiers and hedges? Overall… externally evident…?

            THAT is how this differs from rejecting solipsism. There aren’t any of those when we’re talking about solipsism. Whether you accept or reject the hypothesis that God exists alters how you interact with the world. Whether you accept or reject solpisism doesn’t.

            It is *literally* a *completely* pointlesss hypothesis to even consider. You cannot, as a Christian, seriously be trying to argue that whether God exist is a trivial pointless totally irrelevent aspect of your worldview.

            “If you actually came to believe that the world around you was a lie, how can you seriously say that it wouldn’t affect you, internally?”

            I believe I already laid that out in some detail.

            And as for the evidence issue, there is a spectacular difference between dealing with solipsism, which requires that *every single piece of evidence you have be assumed FALSE*, and you saying that you don’t see a reason not to trust your “spiritual perception” above those of others whichcontradict it.

    • Grant,
      This thread kind of wandered a bit, but I’ll try to give some type of reasonable response to the question you originally asked: What does “because God” add to the discussion?

      I think science and faith work hand in hand to help us make sense of our existence. Science is the easier thing to grasp, perhaps, because it deals mostly with the empirical. However, this doesn’t give us a complete picture. Faith is a lens thru which we view science in order to understand its relevance. When we tack on “because God,” I think we are just indicating that we’re using that lens.

      Science can give us information, but that information is worthless without a broader context. The universe is made of atoms. Gravity makes the planets revolve around each other. Our genes determine the color of our eyes and hair. So what? Why should I care about any of that? Ok, we can apply our scientific knowledge to be healthy and live longer, entertain ourselves, make life easier, etc, but again, why are those things important? Why should I want to live longer? Why should I seek entertainment, or knowledge, or love, or anything instead of just looking for something tall to jump off of? Is my life sacred? Is anything sacred? Is there any point to the question in light of the fact that at some time in the future, our sun will burn out, our earth will die, and everything we’ve accomplished will pass away, and all memory of us will be forgotten? Science can tell us only that this is our inevitable destiny. It’s up to us to figure out what to do about it.

      The lens of faith provides us the needed context to make sense of this reality. For instance, we can look at our universe that now exists, but at one time did not, and hypothesize that it was cause to exist by an entity or force that is eternal. We can look at the complexity of DNA and infer that this entity is not only eternal, but intelligent. We can also study ourselves and observe that we have an understanding of right and wrong, which are scientifically unquantifiable, and wonder why it matters to us. If we have considered the possibility that there is an eternal, intelligent force at work in our universe, we can postulate that that force might also be concerned about morality. If we can examine the evidence and conclude that Jesus Christ was the physical embodiment of that force, then we can conclude that the fundamental nature of our creator is love. And in light of that love, we can interpret the entire universe as a manifestation of that love. The beauty of a nebula or a rainbow, the complexity of a spiderweb or snowflake, the mystery of animal migrations, the majesty of a blue whale or the grand canyon – thru the lens of faith, these phenomena point to a deeper truth that we are loved. That our destiny is to be in relationship with our loving creator – not to pass away into meaningless oblivion.

      Can this be proven thru experimentation? No. But these are reasonable inferences based on the evidence.

      However you view science, you view it thru lens. You must simply choose the lens that gives the most clarity.

      • “So what? Why should I care about any of that?”

        Based on what you’ve wirtten after that… assuming that the ability not to be living in a situation equivalent to the middle ages doesn’t qualify as a reason to care about any of that? Transportation… medicine… energy… communication… the technological foundations of all of modern civilization…

        You mean besides all of *that* why should you care?

        Besides the desire not to live your entire life in ignorance of the manner in which the world you exist operates why should you care?

        Honestly, I’m stumped. Perhaps you lack a survival instinct and like living in hardship and misery and can’t think of a single reason why you might desire to avoid those things, I really don’t know. I however DO possess a survival instinct, a sense of curiosity, and have a strong impules to avoid things which are incredibly unpleasant so I have plenty of reasons… just speaking for myself you understand. And amazingly enough I don’t need a supreme supernatural entity to provide me with any of this.

        “Is there any point to the question in light of the fact that at some time in the future, our sun will burn out, our earth will die, and everything we’ve accomplished will pass away, and all memory of us will be forgotten?”

        I fail to see the relevence to what we do today of events that will not occur for millions or billions of years. Do you seriously go through life evaluating the meaning or meainglessness of your actions by thinking about how people are going to look back on them a billion years from now? Because FYI… whether we have eternal life or not the answer to that particular question is going to be that they’re not looking back on them at all, nobody will remember anything you did either way. It’s a billion years for cripes sake, I can’t remember what I had for lunch last Tuesday. So if that is what you need to give your life meaning… that’s unfortunate and I would suggest a change in perspective.

        “We can also study ourselves and observe that we have an understanding of right and wrong, which are scientifically unquantifiable, and wonder why it matters to us. ”

        How much time exactly would you expect to spend “wondering” about something that self evident? You cannot seriously suggest that a social group having developped standards of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour is something that mystifies.

        ” For instance, we can look at our universe that now exists, but at one time did not, and hypothesize that it was cause to exist by an entity or force that is eternal. ”

        Yes… you could. If you wanted to ignore that the “that at one time did not” is an unsubstantiated assertion and the “caused to exist by an entity or force that was eternal” has as much evidential support as “caused to exist by a magic cat”.

        Actualy, I can show you a cat. So the latter arguably has more evidence in favor of it.

  9. I’m probably going to get a fair amount of flak for saying this…but…

    The whole evolution/creation debate strikes me as a rehashing of the Galileo/Catholic Church debate. We had an interpretation of Scripture that based theology on an understanding of the literal nature of the physical universe. In other words, we developed a theology that depended on an inferred cosmology. Then the preponderance of scientific evidence comes along, and its best answers for how the universe works are at odds with the centuries-old cosmology.

    It seems to me that the best answer is let the scientists be scientists, let the theologians be theologians, and let both be humble enough to not make sweeping, authoritative dismissals of fields they don’t study. Of course, that’s vastly simplistic, because scientists have to have some kind of functional theology, and theologians need some kind of understanding of the nature and history of the universe.

    All that is to say: last time Christianity pitted its understanding of the physical universe based on an interpretation of Scripture against science’s best answers for how the universe works, we were wrong. I think that’s what’s happening again.

    • The geocentrism analogy usually comes out, there are a lot of problems with it:
      1) There are no theological overtones for the heliocentric viewpoint (discounting the “my interpretation is infallible” point, which is a good one to object to)
      2) Heliocentrism was later overturned by relativity, which argues that there is no preferred reference frame (so, there is a valid geocentric frame)

      • “Valid” for certain definitions of the term valid that include “ridiculously irrational and unnecessarily complicated but *technically* not incorrect.”… but sure, if you want to call the view that the planets are constantly looping and swooping and changing directions for no reason relative to the frame of reference you’ve decided to establish as “valid” you can….

        • Only complicated if you are working on the movement of stellar bodies. For measurements of Earth and near-Earth bodies, it works great.

      • Well, yeah, relativity does make geocentrism valid once again. I guess. But, as a friend of mine once said, “You can have the earth as the center of the universe if you want to, but you have to be willing to do the math.”

      • There are no theological overtones to the heliocentric viewpoint…anymore. But back in the day…

        It implied that Earth was just another planet floating in space, no more special than any other. Geocentrism implied that Earth was the center of everything, as a reflection of God’s special relationship with humanity and as Earth’s location as the seat of God’s redemptive activity. Geocentrism was also central to the medieval understanding of the structure of heaven. Not to mention the immutability of the heavens.

        Those aren’t concerns anymore, but they were pretty important when that whole kerfuffle was going on.

        • Yes, but another point about the mediaeval understanding of geocentrism is that Earth, as the centre, was not the most important part, but the furthest from the seat of God in the Empyrean.

          The reason the influences of the stars could be conceived as raining down on the Earth was because it was ‘down’ in that frame of reference; we were at the very bottom of the well, if you like to think of it like that. Above us wheeled the sempiternal courses of the heavens, and beyond the crystalline spheres, outside of space and time, the eternal presence of God – and we were down here in the middle, the furthest away at every point from the light and glory.

          “Centre” does not automatically equate “most important”, and that’s where moderns fall down in their thinking: “Oh, they thought Earth was at the centre because they thought Earth was the most important.” No, they didn’t.

          • Hmm. Would this have anything to do with Dante’s circles of hell? Farther and farther away from God?

          • Thanks to Martha for the correct explanation of medieval thought. Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo are glad you’re here.

          • See, that’s one of the reasons I love this blog. I vaguely remember something about the significance of earth’s location at the center of the medieval universe, but remember it incorrectly, and there is an intelligent person who can correct my ignorance. Thanks Martha. 😀

          • Andy Z, I accept your validation with hugs and kisses. However, me, Copernicus and Galileo, as European Catholics, will be ganging up on Kepler, the lone Protestant. We’ll make cutting remarks about his mathematics and beat him up for his lunch money 😉

            Gentlemen, I cannot accept the plaudits; I learned it all from C.S. Lewis’ “The Discarded Image” and the notes to Dante’s “Divine Comedy” (plug, plug and once again, plug: I swear, if I were Pope, after launching the Secret Plan for World Domination, I’d make it compulsory that everyone read Dante and Chesterton. Aren’t you glad the Catholic Church, in its wisdom, has forestalled the possibility by not permitting the ordination of women?)

          • Ted, yes, that’s correct. Lucifer is trapped at the centre of the earth because this is the lowest point in the entire universe and he can fall no further; he is eternally at the greatest separation from God.

          • Martha writes (tongue in cheek), ” Aren’t you glad the Catholic Church, in its wisdom, has forestalled the possibility by not permitting the ordination of women?”

            Actually, Martha, although you cannot be ordained as a priest, there is nothing to stop the Pope from appointing female Cardinals. So, I say, let’s promote the appointment of Martha from Ireland as the first female Cardinal!

            I think it would be very cool if before I died to see that at least three women were made Cardinals.

      • You’re talking about WILDLY different things when you talk about “no preferred reference frame” in relativity, and a “no preferred reference frame” which allows a predictable mathematical equation for universal movements from a stationary-Earth frame.

        The only things similar between the two concepts is the similar sort of phrasing about reference frames.

        Einstein’s relativity is discussing the consistency of physical processes no matter velocity (for special) or acceleration/gravity (for general).

        The “no preferred reference frame” used in geocentric terms is discussing the ability to make a predictable mathematical model of movements from any point of view.

        The two aren’t even vaguely similar. Heliocentrism isn’t overturned by relativity any more than the color orange is overturned by cats – the two things aren’t related to each other.

        • I think that’s my point exactly. People were so sure the Sun was the center, but it turns out there is no center (at least, that is the current belief – always subject to change without notice).

          • Wait, you said that relativity makes geocentrism valid again and that heliocentrism was overturned by relativity.

            I replied that you’re talking nonsense when you said those things.

            And now you replied that I’m right, and that what I just said was your point exactly?

            Color me confused.

          • Strict heliocentrism is overturned. Heliocentric and geocentric frames are both valid.

          • Well, if you say so, I guess. Maybe you have some way to say those are valid frames.

            But if you think they’re valid because of “relativity” you’re talking nonsense. Relativity doesn’t have anything to do with helio/geocentrism. The two concepts don’t intersect.

  10. I’m trying to get to the crux of what you are asking.

    I’m not an biological evolutionist, in the full sense of the thinking, but I have several good Christian friends who are and I respect their position.

    What difference would it make to me, personally? Maybe, I would see the character of God as more methodical, patient and precise. So when I ask Him, “God, help me to love people a little better.” He answers, “Okay.” Then He puts me on His 50 year plan to achieve that goal.

    • I like this comment, j. Michael Jones. I guess if I am on the 50 year plan too, I will also be developing patience along the way. Or not!

    • Ha, that’s funny and yet isn’t that the picture of sanctification? The life long plan toward holiness. Heck God put mankind on at least a 5k year plan for redemption.

  11. Q: “If an evolutionary model should turn out to best explain the way the universe works from a scientific perspective, what would that tell us about God?”

    A: I don’t know what it would tell us, but It could tell us that God is more creative, more patient, more full of grace than we had ever imagined.

  12. It tells me that God created something so fantastic and awe-inspiring, that I could never cease to marvel. It also tells me that God is incredibly gracious, in that He humbled Himself to become one of His own creatures, who in the distant past where but tall primates on the savanna etc etc.

    It would also mean that I can once again rejoice in the rationality of creation (though incomprehensible in the shear volume of data and relations and and..). I can rejoice that God gave us brains to use.

    As to the “no death before Adam” argument: I take that as spiritual death, which is the point Paul makes in Romans – a lieralist reading of Genesis, would lead us to literally reading Paul, which would lead us to abandon the faith the moment we learn that Paul died.

    • “As to the “no death before Adam” argument: I take that as spiritual death…

      Exactly. The notion that big fish didn’t eat little fish before the Fall just doesn’t hold, uh, water.

      I didn’t intend the pun. It just showed up.

    • RE: “no death before Adam”:
      God’s warning (“on the day you eat of it, you will SURELY die”) would make absolutely no sense to Adam, unless Adam was already familiar with the concept of “death”.

  13. Chaplain Mike,

    I don’t know quite how to say this without sounding stupid, superficial, snarky, or all three, but I don’t want to be any of those things.

    If I wanted to read Jesus Creed, I would go directly to Jesus Creed. I stopped reading it for nearly a year because, frankly, a steady feeding of RJS’s science diet was just too much for this layman to take day in an day out.. Nothing against her personally. Michael Spencer’s writings resonated with me much more than Scot McKnight’s crowd, which is oriented slightly differently.

    The Internet Monk community does not need cross-pollenization with Jesus Creed. Michael Spencer’s voice was unique in the blogosphere. Please keep it that way.

    If I need to repent in sackcloth and ashes, consider it done.

    • Bob, no need to repent. I respect your comment.

      However, we cross-reference many different blogs here, and Scot’s is one of them. He is a friend of mine and one of the main reasons we encouraged our son to go to North Park. One reason I keep up with what’s happening at Jesus Creed is that Scot has a voice among young people and in many corners of evangelicalism where iMonk isn’t that well known.

      We all have our different “circles.” Michael’s were a little different than mine. For example, you haven’t heard much about the Southern Baptists this past year. So I’m sure our different cohorts will influence IM in some new directions. I hope we’ll continue to give you the Jesus-shaped perspective Michael did, though.

  14. Now I’m not often (ever?) one to quote Charles Krauthammer approvingly, but on this account, I think he absolutely nailed it!:

    “How ridiculous to make evolution the enemy of God. What could be more elegant, more simple, more brilliant, more economical, more creative, indeed more divine than a planet with millions of life forms, distinct and yet interactive, all ultimately derived from accumulated variations in a single double-stranded molecule, pliable and fecund enough to give us mollusks and mice, Newton and Einstein?”

    • Dear leadme,

      I like many of Mr. K’s positions. On this one, I really like this part:

      “What could be more elegant, more simple, more brilliant, more economical, more creative, indeed more divine than a planet with millions of life forms, distinct and yet interactive, all ultimately derived from…”

      I would have to stop there, however, and finish with:

      “the literal explanation given in the first chapter of the Bible.”

  15. As a side bar, one of the top questions, which I “written out on my 3 by 5 card” for God (to ask Him on the other side), is “Who the hell were the Neanderthals?” Were they a mistake? A dead end? Did they have a redeemable soul? Were they really human–sons of Adam, daughters of Eve? I know, the question is trivial, but it is my great curiosity that drives the question.

    • Wow – that’s an easy setup for a great political joke. Lemme go back and work on a punchline…
      ; )

    • Cedric Klein says

      I’m thinking Neanderthals were proto-humans. My theistic evolution guess is that Adam & Eve were the first Homo Divinus out of a long line of Homo Sapiens. They may have even lived as recently as 6000 years ago. Of course, they also were the first Homo Peccatorum (I know I’m mangling the Latin or Greek or whatever). The Neanderthals were probably long gone by the time A&E were inbreathed with Divine LifeBreath.

      Down on my list of Qs for God are “Who was Jack the Ripper?” and “Where did those keys go?”

  16. Ahhhhh!~

    God made the earth in years and years and years & the flood only effected one tiny part of the entire world!!
    ……what next iMonk’s?

    Benny Hinn is a sound theologian?

    C’mon

    • *affected

    • Ahhhhh!~

      God made the earth in seven days & the flood covered the whole world!!
      ……..What’s next Matthew?

      Illness is caused by demons?

      C’mon

      In all seriousness, this is exactly the kind of response we do not need. I’m really tired of people just flinging mud and logical fallacies around instead of actually giving reasoned arguments. Sheesh.

  17. If evolution, then did God rest?

    • The significance, I think, of God resting is that creation was complete and perfected; it was finished. In the same way, we celebrate rest in the perfect completion of salvation through Christ. I don’t mean that as a criticism of evolution; I just don’t know how to put it all together. :-/

      • John Walton notes ancient near east parallels which suggest that God resting signifies him taking his throne in the temple he has just built. He rested from the acts of creating his dwelling place. Upon taking his throne, he began the work of ruling.

        • Chaplain Mike,

          Am I correct in thinking that your position is the same as the ancient near east parallels?

          It sounds like you are stating that God did not rest after the creation, but that He rested after creating His dwelling place.

          If this is your position, could you give a Biblical reference?

    • Could the Almighty have rested so that his creatures could have permission to rest? Much like everyone stands until the Monarch sits so a wise monarch will not stand overlong?

  18. The universe is very old.
    I am very small.
    God loves me anyway.
    That’s all I know….that’s all.

  19. “If an evolutionary model should turn out to best explain the way the universe works from a scientific perspective, what would that tell us about God?”

    Excuse me for not addressing your question, Chaplain Mike, but I am glad that you are using the word “if.” Atheists and some Christians call evolution a fact. I think such a comment is not accurate considering what we now know. A literal belief in the first chapter of Genesis is based on faith. I hope I am not putting words in your mouth and correct me if I am wrong, but your “if” communicates to me something I also think. It takes faith to believe in current evolutionary theory.

    An interesting article that may interest those who follow this subject was published today.

    It is a post by Albert Mohler. In it he states:

    “Writers for BioLogos have repeatedly made the case that we must relinquish the inerrancy of the Bible and accept that the biblical writers worked from a defective understanding of the world and its origins. They have asserted, for example, that the Apostle Paul was simply wrong in assuming that Adam was an historical person from whom all humans are descended. They have been bold and honest in rejecting the biblical account of the Fall as historical.”

    I would like to know if any imonkers can verify Mr. Mohler’s assertions, particularly the one about the BioLogos statement that “the Apostle Paul was simply wrong.”

    http://www.bibleprophecyblog.com/2010/11/no-pass-from-theological-responsibility.html

    • If I understand Pete Enns’ view: God spoke through Paul as a first-century human being with his limited understanding of Adam as the progenitor of the human race. That view should not determine our scientific understanding today. You can go to BioLogos and watch his videos.

      • Thanks for the I.D. Chaplain Mike. One question:

        It’s about the statement “That view should not determine our scientific understanding today.”

        Is that Mr. Enns’ view, your view, or both?

  20. It would tell us that God is, in fact, God and capable of creating a complete, integrated system and not just cardboard cutouts without interrelationship.