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Unread 05-01-2017, 11:31 AM   #16
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Chapter One: Human Origins - The Scientific Story

Falk lays out the scientific story of biological evolution in terms that a fairly educated religious person could easily grasp. He discusses the bone evidence in the geological records, the similarities and differences between the different human ancestors and related cousins, population sizes and migrations, etc. He also discusses a lot on DNA sequencing and variation and how changes in DNA can be fairly accurately traced over time. He does a fantastic job in illustrating this with something religious readers would be very familiar with - accuracy of copies of transcripts made by individual scribes.

He does a good job of shedding light on the scientific theory of evolution in a manner that is definitely more palatable for the religious crowd. I think this is important because in my opinion much of the current backlash from people against scientific evidence is due to semantics.

His closing arguments are decent, but again, I feel as though he had to gut a portion of the essay to make it fit. He basically says that the astronomical odds of humanity as we know it being the end result of biological evolution is evidence of the providence of God in the matter. Further, that issues surrounding the debate between religion and science are muddied because the very nature of science does not allow it to make the leap to explain WHY it happened the way it did and scientists that do so move from being scientists to "amateur philosophers" as he puts it in the essay. While I agree with him that science can explain a lot about what is but not about why it is, I couldn't shake the feeling that he was stroking the ego of the religious crowd in how he phrased all of it.

All that said, to bring some discussion topics to the table I'll post a few things it made me think about that may or may not be further on in the book.

Is it necessary to have a singular physical Adam and Eve? Biological evidence points to a chromosomal Adam and mitochondrial Eve that changed very small but evidently very influential populations that can be traced back to 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. Both existed at different times, however.

If there is no Adam and Eve as individual people, does that change our Adam-ness?

Could a very real, incarnate Jesus be the answer for a problem that is far more complex and therefore projected upon two "people" for lack of a better manifestation?

I guess I could rephrase that to ask this: Is a real, individual Adam and Eve only a necessity because of how we as humans created the equation?

EDIT: I just went back through the thread from the beginning and realized some of you guys are far more well-versed in this than I am and have already brought up some of these questions. I'll leave them up anyways, but you can ignore them if they're not adding anything to the conversation.


Last edited by Almost Enough; 05-01-2017 at 05:35 PM.
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Unread 05-02-2017, 10:43 PM   #17
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Taylor, what do you think Cavanaugh mean at 2:22 when he says, "Scientifically, it's not possible for someone to be both divine and human, but the Church Fathers came up with a way of talking about this which kind of created a sort of new path"? I found that statement very confusing. In the context, he's using Chalcedon as an analogy to what the authors are attempting to do. Maybe, knowing Cavanaugh's work, you can help me understand what he means. The words "scientifically" and "possible" are confusing in the context.

My best guess is that he's saying that the Incarnation is unique and mysterious or paradoxical, and therefore theologians attempting to bring clarity of thought to the theology of the Incarnation had to use language in innovative and surprising ways to describe it. The analogy would then be that discourse concerning Evolution and the Fall might also require the use of language in innovative and surprising ways. This isn't really a satisfying explanation though, so I wonder if I'm missing something.
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Unread 05-03-2017, 03:57 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Logan View Post
Taylor, what do you think Cavanaugh mean at 2:22 when he says, "Scientifically, it's not possible for someone to be both divine and human, but the Church Fathers came up with a way of talking about this which kind of created a sort of new path"? I found that statement very confusing. In the context, he's using Chalcedon as an analogy to what the authors are attempting to do. Maybe, knowing Cavanaugh's work, you can help me understand what he means. The words "scientifically" and "possible" are confusing in the context.

My best guess is that he's saying that the Incarnation is unique and mysterious or paradoxical, and therefore theologians attempting to bring clarity of thought to the theology of the Incarnation had to use language in innovative and surprising ways to describe it. The analogy would then be that discourse concerning Evolution and the Fall might also require the use of language in innovative and surprising ways. This isn't really a satisfying explanation though, so I wonder if I'm missing something.
Let me re-watch and give this a thought.

But, maybe Almost Enough has some insight here, since he has the book.

My first thought would be that this is pointing to the "unique" nature of the incarnation, which you pointed to as a possible, though perhaps non-satisfying, possibility.
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Unread 05-03-2017, 12:36 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Logan View Post
Taylor, what do you think Cavanaugh mean at 2:22 when he says, "Scientifically, it's not possible for someone to be both divine and human, but the Church Fathers came up with a way of talking about this which kind of created a sort of new path"? I found that statement very confusing. In the context, he's using Chalcedon as an analogy to what the authors are attempting to do. Maybe, knowing Cavanaugh's work, you can help me understand what he means. The words "scientifically" and "possible" are confusing in the context.

My best guess is that he's saying that the Incarnation is unique and mysterious or paradoxical, and therefore theologians attempting to bring clarity of thought to the theology of the Incarnation had to use language in innovative and surprising ways to describe it. The analogy would then be that discourse concerning Evolution and the Fall might also require the use of language in innovative and surprising ways. This isn't really a satisfying explanation though, so I wonder if I'm missing something.

Here's a quote from the book. Hope it clarifies what they're attempting to do. And hopefully I am not breaking any rules by posting this amount of it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by William T. Cavanaugh & James K.A. Smith "Evolution and the Fall"
In contrast to this "Galilean" framing of the issues, we believe that Christian scholars can find an older model and paradigm in the ancient resources of Chalcedon. As Mark Noll has argued in Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, Christian scholarship is not rooted in merely "theistic" claims - and should certainly not be rooted in a functional deism. Rather, the proper place for Christians to begin serious intellectual labor "is the same place where we begin all other serious human enterprises. That place is the heart of our religion, which is the revelation of God in Christ." Noll's point isn't just pious invocation of Jesus; rather, as he goes on to show, what's of interest in Chalcedon is the way the church navigated contemporary challenges with a theological imagination that was able to retain core Christological convictions while at the same time taking seriously the "science" (natural philosophy) of the day. A "Galilean" approach might have simply said: "Look, based on our current philosophical knowledge, it's impossible to affirm that someone is both human and divine. So you have to resolve this tension in one direction or the other: either Jesus is human or he is divine. He can't be both." But of course that is just hte approach that Chalcedon refused. Instead, feeling the tension and challenge, the Council of Chalcedon exhibited remarkable theological imagination and generated what is now one part of the heritage of the church: the doctrine of the hypostatic union - that in the one person of Christ subsist two natures, divine and human. This is not a theological development that could have been anticipated before the church worked through the issues.

What if we thought of ours not as a "Galilean" moment, but a :"Chalcedonian" opportunity For some - often those who pose the question in "Galilean" terms - the choice seems clear: if humanity emerged as a result of human evolution, then there couldn't have been one Adam. And perhaps even more importantly: if humanity emerged from primates, then it seems that there could never have been a "good"c creation or "original righteousness" - which would also mean that there was no "Fall" from a prior innocence. If we are going to affirm an evolutionary account of human origins, it would seem we need to give up on the doctrine of sin's origin and original sin.

But are things so clear? Have we yet created the space to exercise our theological imaginations on these issues as they did at Chalcedon? Have we properly appreciated what's at stake in these questions - how the threads of orthodox Christian theology are woven together, and how pulling on a loose thread might mar the entire tapestry? Could there be ways to think our way through this "cross-pressured" situation that, like Chalcedon, affirms the parameters of orthodoxy while taking seriously contemporary challenges? The goal is not to solve or escape the tensions and cross-pressures via a strategy that simply eliminates one of the elements of the challenge (whether the relevant science or traditional Christian doctrine). Rather, we embrace the cross-pressure as an impetus for genuine, yet faithful, theological development.
I just finished James K.A. Smith's essay "What Stands on the Fall?" and I think he basically lays out the premise in more detail. Often in the book they speak of the "book of nature" that science studies, but epistemologically science is unable to come to the same conclusions that theology can, and that it should be the Church that finds how current science can fit within the Biblical narrative authentically.
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Unread 05-03-2017, 04:35 PM   #20
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On a sidenote: Cavanaugh is actually going to be giving a public lecture sorta close to me. I may, if I can rake u the funds, make it over to where he is going to be at. Would be a rime opportunity to probe him with more questions
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Unread 05-04-2017, 05:45 PM   #21
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I'm going to skip the second essay by Celia Deane-Drummond entitled "In Adam All Die?" for now. Mainly because true to most RCC writings I've read, I spent more time looking up references and citations of past authors, decrees, books, whatevers than I did reading the essay. Don't get me wrong, it was thought-provoking and worth discussing, but I think the third essay is more pertinent to the waning discussion here.

In the third essay by James K.A. Smith entitled "What Stands on the Fall?" I felt like Smith really laid out the premise of the book in a very organized manner that would be easy to summarize here.

He makes the thesis statement here:

Quote:
In its (relatively) long encounter with evolutionary science, Christian theology has demonstrated a remarkable ability to absorb and accommodate new scientific consensus about cosmology, geology, and even human origins. However, the traditional or orthodox doctrine of the Fall has proven difficult to reconcile with the picture of human origin that emerges with evolutionary accounts of human origins [...] More recently, scholars have concluded that, in fact, the traditional understanding of the Fall and original sin are simply incompatible [...]
In this chapter, I will argue that such claims are hasty at best, and more likely mistaken, resulting from a lack of theological imagination and a failure to appreciate just what is at stake in the traditional doctrine of the Fall.
He then goes on to point out two expounded questions:
Quote:
First - What's at stake in the doctrine of the Fall? [...] I will argue that what's at issue in the traditional doctrine of the Fall is not just an account of our "sinfulness" but also an account of the origin of sin, particularly when coupled with the historic doctrine of creation ex nihilo. [...] There are also eschatological issues at stake...

Second, this project also requires some thinking about the nature of "history" in any notion of a "historical" Fall. [...] ...any such "event" would have to be something that happens in space and time.
He maps everything out with a few main ideas that he expounds on:
Quote:
Narrative Context: The "Plot" of Creation, Sin, and Redemption

...Christian theology isn't like a Jenga game, an assemblage of propositional claims of which we try and see which can be removed without affecting the tower. Rather, Christian doctrine is more like the grammar of a story held together by the drama of a plot.
That would be:

The Goodness of Creation
The Irruption of Sin
A Gracious Redemption and Eschatological Consummation

He then asks these questions:

Does faithfulness to this plot require the affirmation of one historical couple as the origin of all human beings? To which he says possibly not.
Does faithfulness to this plot require that humanity was originally "perfect"? To which he says good, but not perfect.
Does faithfulness to this plot require that the Fall is a temporal, historical "event"? To which he says:

Quote:
...At stake on this front was the very nature of God. As a result the Augustinian doctrine of the Fall and original sin has at least these two aspects:

(a) An affirmation that goodness precedes evil - and more specifically, that humanity was originally righteous before rebelling and falling into sin. The priority of this "goodness" is not only logical and theological, but also chronological: humanity is created "good" and then temporally "falls." Let's call this the "priority-of-the-good"thesis.
(b) A radical account of humanity as sinful, incapable of willing the good, and hence the necessity of an equally radical and unmerited grace as an action of divine initiative for redemption. Let's call this the "necessity-of-grace" thesis.

[...]

My suggestion is twofold: that the Augustinian package is essential precisely because it is integral to the plot of the scriptures as disclosed in the grammar of christian theology and that we could imagine affirming the evolutionary picture of a larger human population at the origin and still affirm both theses.
He then retells the story of Creation and the Fall, but replaces two individuals in a garden with a small group of chosen hominids (not dissimilar to the chosen people throughout other parts of Scripture) and replaces the punctual event of the fall with a period of time (noting the lack of a punctual time in Gen. 3 - was it when Eve took the apple? When Adam ate too? When they lied to God?). EDIT - I totally butchered this summary, but don't have time to fix it. Maybe I'll do a quoted summary tonight or tomorrow.

He argues that:

Quote:
First, on this scenario, the Fall is still historical, temporal, and even "evental," though it is something like an episode in process. [...] Second, this model resists "ontologizing" the Fall.
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Unread 05-05-2017, 11:33 AM   #22
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If there is no Adam and Eve as individual people, does that change our Adam-ness?

Could a very real, incarnate Jesus be the answer for a problem that is far more complex and therefore projected upon two "people" for lack of a better manifestation?

I guess I could rephrase that to ask this: Is a real, individual Adam and Eve only a necessity because of how we as humans created the equation?

EDIT: I just went back through the thread from the beginning and realized some of you guys are far more well-versed in this than I am and have already brought up some of these questions. I'll leave them up anyways, but you can ignore them if they're not adding anything to the conversation.
I don't think a literal Adam and Eve are necessary to mankind's identity and relation to God, but that the idea of it has given man something easier to relate to, making it easier to understand the core of the problem of sin; I don't think the specific origins of sin are important in light of the Incarnation and the resurrection. I think either a) God revealed the problem of sin to Moses in the story of "Adam" and "Eve" to simplify a more complex issue to an ancient mind or b) man "created" an Adam and Eve to have a sort of scapegoat for the problem of sin (Adam sinned, blaming Eve, who blames the serpent).

Just my thoughts on this.
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Unread 05-10-2017, 11:51 AM   #23
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I'm going to continue to beat this dead thread for a bit.

Is ‘adam “Adam”? | Dr. Michael Heiser

I have no idea who the dude is who wrote the link above, but instead of typing out lengthy posts regarding what was brought up in the book, I thought I'd post a link to the first somewhat reputable site I found via Google that discusses the topic.

One of the issues brought up in the 4th essay by J. Richard Middleton is in regards to Hebrew grammatical rules and the lack of an "Adam" in the Genesis text until the end of the Fall narrative or the beginning of Genesis 4 with the birth of Cain and Able. I went back through and looked re-read Genesis 1-3 in my ESV Bible and realized that every interaction is between God and "the man" or "the woman" until late in the Fall narrative (v 20), and even then there is a subscript that says it's actually translated "the man".

I'm not saying that that makes the argument, but it's always funny to see how much we read into the text versus how much we simply take from the text.

Is there anyone who has studied Hebrew who can comment on this?
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Unread 05-10-2017, 12:16 PM   #24
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I'm going to continue to beat this dead thread for a bit.

Is ‘adam “Adam”? | Dr. Michael Heiser

I have no idea who the dude is who wrote the link above, but instead of typing out lengthy posts regarding what was brought up in the book, I thought I'd post a link to the first somewhat reputable site I found via Google that discusses the topic.

One of the issues brought up in the 4th essay by J. Richard Middleton is in regards to Hebrew grammatical rules and the lack of an "Adam" in the Genesis text until the end of the Fall narrative or the beginning of Genesis 4 with the birth of Cain and Able. I went back through and looked re-read Genesis 1-3 in my ESV Bible and realized that every interaction is between God and "the man" or "the woman" until late in the Fall narrative (v 20), and even then there is a subscript that says it's actually translated "the man".

I'm not saying that that makes the argument, but it's always funny to see how much we read into the text versus how much we simply take from the text.

Is there anyone who has studied Hebrew who can comment on this?
My own study of Hebrew was super limited so I'm not going to get into the translation bits. But the idea of "humankind" instead of a specific "Adam" is more what I tend to think of Genesis. Which means the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not literal, but metaphorical, and that eating the fruit of the tree could be a metaphor for partaking in whatever the tree was meant to symbolize. I don't know what it means; but I don't think the traditional story of a literal, physical Adam and Eve, a literal garden and a literal tree is accurate or adequate in the face of modern evidences that our species is older than the traditional understand of Genesis would suggest.
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