Eagle's Wings Community Church

Online Theological Book Club – Book 2

 

Click here for a quick YouTube video.

Announcement:

We’ve started an online theological book club!

I’m going to be choosing some books that may be a bit of a challenge for some but not so difficult that they would be overly frustrating. We’ll be reading the books and talking about them once per month to begin with.

I will start off each week by giving some background information, laying out various views and such, as a means of kicking off the dialogue. I do not plan to dominate the discussion nor do I plan to go into the discussions with an agenda as it relates to theology/doctrine etc.  I do hope that this may eventually be the groundwork for a church plant but involvement in that vision is not necessary.  In fact, we will almost assuredly have in attendance people from all over the country!

People can talk a little or a lot (within reason!) and should not be concerned about being called on to answer questions. Dialogue will be respectful and challenging.  It may get messy but people will be asked to remain professional.

Attendees should expect a variety of views to be shared. The theme of diversity of thought will remain a core value.

We’ll have webinar and conference call capabilities. I may at some point offer two time slots for the same discussion topic to help facilitate differing schedules.

The webinars will be the first Thursday of every month at 8:00pm Central time.

I hope to bring in some guests occasionally (theologians, etc.) and welcome the opportunity to allow others to lead the discussion.

We welcome all attendees to invite friends to join and there is no pressure to be present at every event. People of all degrees of theological experience are welcome.

I hope to see you there!

If you’d like to stay informed, please join our main Facebook page here for announcements.

 

Our second book is on hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is essential to a deeper study of scripture. You can purchase the book here.  Please let me know if you need monetary help with the cost of the book.  Our hope is no one would miss out on the fun due to finances. 

Here is the information for the webinar and conference call:

1.  Please join my meeting.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/321740445

2.  Join the conference call:
1-844-286-0640 – Code – 246-0430

Meeting ID: 321-740-445

Greg Boyd – Questions on the Scriptures

[If you’re new to this blog, we’d love it if you subscribed to our RSS feed or email updates to the right. Should you decide to in the future, unsubscribing is easy, too. If you like it and share via Twitter or Facebook that’d be almost as good as a Star Wars movie.]

Click HERE for an introductory YouTube video for Greg Boyd – Questions on the Scriptures

Click HERE for details on the Online Theological Book Club.

I’ve decided to try to type a prequel blog before each online theological book club meeting. So, here is the first. We’re going to be talking about Greg Boyd’s third section in his book Letters from a Sceptic covering questions on the bible. We should keep in mind the type of book this one is. This is not the type of book that goes into super great detail on any particular subject. While it contains theology, its main purpose is not theology. So, we don’t get a full reveal from this book alone on lots of theological topics. Through other reading of Greg’s works we can put together a more full treatment of topics. However, I will only be dealing with what I see in this text.

Greg makes mention of a few things that stand out. First, Greg, at least at this point in his life is a self-described evangelical. I’m curious to know if he still identifies in this camp. One reason for that is that already in this book he seems to be leaning away from what some would say is a test of evangelicalism (though not all would agree). He stops short of saying inerrant when describing the Bible. Instead, he uses the word infallible. He doesn’t likely feel the need to go into this with his father so it remains something that hovers in the text. Being near the end of Five Views on Inerrancy I can only speculate who Greg might resonate most with. I’m certain there are a couple he definitely does not identify with.

Another piece that stands out is the idea that scripture has a main purpose of helping people to get back to living in the image of God (salvation). Whatever disagreements we may have about a great many things, the Christian community has come to near consensus that this is the main goal of scripture and that the scriptures, in the form that we have them in, have been accomplishing that goal for centuries. Various groups, including Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants and so on, may have entirely different perspectives on how to approach the Bible, but we agree with Greg on this.

Those who know me, or have read many of my blogs know that I’m a big unity guy. Also, to me, unity won’t come by getting everyone to agree on everything. Rather, it will come some other way. One thing that will help that is brought out by inference by Greg is the need to see deeply into the reasons for our disagreements. Disagreements usually go very deep into an issue so that constant comments at the surface level won’t help. Only a big step back, looking deeply into the origins of a way of thinking will help. In this case, we can see the way the initial assumptions about the way to approach the scriptures (as the authority vs. an authority, as interpreted through various cultural lenses, or as reading through ancient lenses versus current lenses, for example) lead us into vary different places at the end of our theology. So, before we can make any progress in a discussion about the meaning of communion or baptism, for example, we would do well to address certain underlying issues first.

However, Greg wisely avoids getting too in depth on these issues in his letters. He’s familiar with his audience and knows he only needs to help with general plausibility of the metanarrative.

Online Theological Book Club

 

Click here for a quick YouTube video.

Announcement:

I’m going to be starting an online theological book club!

I’m going to be choosing some books that may be a bit of a challenge for some but not so difficult that they would be overly frustrating. We’ll be reading the books and talking about them once per month to begin with.

I will start off each week by giving some background information, laying out various views and such, as a means of kicking off the dialogue. I do not plan to dominate the discussion nor do I plan to go into the discussions with an agenda as it relates to theology/doctrine etc.  I do hope that this may eventually be the groundwork for a church plant but involvement in that vision is not necessary.  In fact, we will almost assuredly have in attendance people from all over the country!

People can talk a little or a lot (within reason!) and should not be concerned about being called on to answer questions. Dialogue will be respectful and challenging.  It may get messy but people will be asked to remain professional.

Attendees should expect a variety of views to be shared. The theme of diversity of thought will remain a core value.

We’ll have webinar and conference call capabilities. I may at some point offer two time slots for the same discussion topic to help facilitate differing schedules.

The webinars will be the first Thursday of every month at 8:00pm Central time.

I hope to bring in some guests occasionally (theologians, etc.) and welcome the opportunity to allow others to lead the discussion.

We welcome all attendees to invite friends to join and there is no pressure to be present at every event. People of all degrees of theological experience are welcome.

I hope to see you there!

If you’d like to stay informed, please join our main Facebook page here for announcements.

 

Our first book is an easy read but has some interesting ideas.  We’ll be discussing Greg Boyd’s book Letters From A Skeptic.  You can purchase the book here.  Please let me know if you need monetary help with the cost of the book.  Our hope is no one would miss out on the fun due to finances.  (FYI – We will not always be reading books within my own theological preferences, but for a number of reasons I thought this book would be a nice place to start.)

Here is the information for the webinar and conference call:

1.  Please join my meeting.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/321740445

2.  Join the conference call:
1-844-286-0640 – Code – 246-0430

Meeting ID: 321-740-445

God of Anger – God of Love

Click here for an intro video.

I found out recently that scientifically, neurologically, human beings have one of two ways of thinking about God primarily.  When thinking about God, people tend to focus on either God’s love or they tend to focus on God as an angry fella.  So, I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately.

Apparently, there are many benefits to thinking about God’s love during prayer and many consequences on the body to thinking about God’s anger.  I’ll provide a link to the article I found soon.  But, before we get there, what are my thoughts theologically regarding this recent discovery?

First, I’d like to say something about the distinction when it comes to God regarding love and anger.  There are certainly texts regarding God getting angry.  However, anger is not depicted as an essence of God.  Love is.  God is love. 

I wouldn’t say, “God is anger.”  I do say, “God is love.” 

God doesn’t have love or do acts of love.  No, that would be the many gods Genesis takes aim at.  All the other gods out there may have certain roles to play and may occasionally perform loving acts but the God of Abraham declares that love is in His very essence.  For all eternity, God has been love and has shown love within the Trinity and He continues to show love and be love today.

[Side Bar – I don’t have the space here to defend my idea (and many other theologian’s idea) that God is love against various competing thoughts.  My theology here is simply that overall, good Bible theology teaches that God is love.]

Lastly, I’d like to say a word about apologetics here.  I’ve become much more cautious about any appeal to the Intelligent Design apologetic lately.  For example, appeals to the complexity of the human eye as proof that there must be a designer have some real scientific problems that I’ll save for another day.

However, it is interesting to read about the health benefits of meditating on God’s love verses the adverse effects of meditating on God’s anger.  The lowering rather than raising of blood pressure, the increased focus, and the increased ability to forgive are all great benefits of concentrating on God’s love. 

So, science is showing that there are health benefits to praying with a focus on the love of God and thinking about God as primarily a loving God.

Now, that just might be the beginning of a design argument I can get behind!

Click here for the article “How Your Brain is Wired for God”

 

Theology & Science – Part 9

[If you’re new to this blog, we’d love it if you subscribed to our RSS feed or email updates to the right. Should you decide to in the future, unsubscribing is easy, too. If you like it and share via Twitter or Facebook that’d be almost as good as a Star Wars movie.]

Click HERE for an introductory YouTube video for Theology & Science (Part 9)

This blog series will cover my final exam for my recent Theology & Science class.  Here is the third question and part two of my answer.

Click HERE for Part 1.              Click HERE for Part 2.              Click HERE for Part 3.              Click HERE for Part 4.

Click HERE for Part 5.              Click HERE for Part 6.              Click HERE for Part 7.              Click HERE for Part 8.

Exam Question: Describe the various ways in which the field of ethics intersects with the problem of evolutionary suffering and explain how practical ethics informs and/or is informed by answers to that problem (such as you may have given in #4).

Finally, let’s now take a look at the pragmatic aspect of all of this. What are we to do about the suffering in nature? We will examine whether or not we should respond to animal suffering in the same way that we respond to human suffering since this is one of the greatest ways that the reality of evolution intersects with ethics. Additionally, we have to consider the part hermeneutics plays in this, even though it isn’t called out in the question. The reason for that is because of the change in the meaning of suffering when we go from a worldview that denies evolution to a world where we admit it.

If we deny evolution, we may think the meaning is wrapped up in the perfect plan of God, for example. Or, maybe creation suffers because of the Fall. However, when we realize that suffering is the very thing that brings about the advancement of life, maybe the meaning of suffering is linked more to God working with broken things through His own love infused guidelines, like my view claims.

So, some ethic systems seek to leave nature alone at all costs. This is the view of Tom Regan. Starting now, we should all do everything we can possibly do to leave nature alone. In some ways, this makes a lot of sense. We can all think of examples when we’ve meddled too much in nature and we’ve done a lot of harm to it. The problem with this view is that we have already meddled. So, if we carry out this ethic to its extreme, we should release the pets. The trouble is, I don’t think our little Toda (puppy) would last long in the wild.

Furthermore, this view is criticized by Sideris based on where we should draw the line in our practical efforts to carry this ethic out to its fullest conclusion. Here is my example based on her thoughts. Should we advocate for no more digging? Digging in the ground to locate fresh water for humans constitutes an interruption by humans of nature. Regan gets around this, or tries to anyway, by distinguishing between creatures that are subjects of a life and those that are not. So, Sideris criticizes Regan by asking once again, where we should draw the line. Essentially, one of the other major problems with this ethic is that while it likely started out as an attempt to draw no lines, actually, as an attempt to never need to ask where to draw the line (no interference in nature), it ends up consistently in a position of being unable to tell exactly where the line should be drawn.

Like me, Southgate proposes a different ethic. His seems to me to be acknowledging that humans are a part of this creation, and as a part of it, we will sometimes be responsible for the suffering of non-humans. Also, like me, he sees in the world a need for a certain kind of healing. Finally, like me, he sees no reason to attempt to have any game-changing influences on the relationships between predators and their prey. Believe it or not, there are ethicists that call for humans to attempt to do just that.

The issue that many of these ethicists seem to have is that they don’t seem to worry much about the implications of carrying their ethic out in full. It sounds great to say Christians should be advocates for the dolphins, but we have to ask ourselves why we should stop there and why we started there in the first place. This is where I veer from Southgate and his ethic on extinction. He wants to work against extinction even if it is wholly from nature, if that is even a possible scenario anymore. However, as Sideris has pointed out, what usually happens in actual practice is that non-humans that are most like humans are the ones that really do get saved. No one cares about the valuable ugly beetle. We’d rather save the pandas. An ethic is not a good ethic unless it can be applied with consistency.

This is not to say that we don’t take in the different contingencies of various situations into account. What it is saying is this. Natural selection cares nothing about whether a being is like or unlike human beings. If you can’t cut it in this world, this world may just cut you down. That is the ethic of the land and the appeal of the land ethic of Sideris.

But, it is not without its holes. For example, the land ethic seems to be lacking in its account for the way that humans are a normal part of nature, one that operates on cause and effect just like the rest of the natural world. So, a land ethic has little ability to distinguish between normal and non-normal ways that humans negatively affect the world. As Sideris teaches us in her most salient point of her book, our ethics have to take seriously the reality of evolution by natural selection. For her, if we follow a land ethic, we will accomplish that.

However, I think Southgate’s ethic is more in line with mine in some ways, though I agree with a lot of what Sideris has done. First of all, my meta-theology absolutely is centered on the resurrection. It is the resurrection that is the center of my apologetic, the center of my worship, and the center of my ethic. It is the resurrection that shows me that at the darkest hour, when things can’t seem to look worse for the ultimate fate of humankind, God pulls out the “deep magic” that C.S. Lewis faithfully tells us about. So, when I’m trying to solve the mystery of theodicy, I can at least have some hope that God will somehow, some way pull out some unexpected thing when it seems like nothing could be done to make things right for all the creatures that were ever torn apart by the lion.

To me, this is an improvement on all those theologians, including Moltmann, that are doing their ethic with the cloudy details of the eschaton in mind. It still allows for the element of hope that Moltmann and Wright want to display but it does so on something that I feel is more tangible and real in its details.

If we have then the idea that someday things will be better, what should we do now? Should we do nothing and let God sort it all out? Even worse should we act recklessly in the world so that we do it great harm while we count on the return of Christ? No, God forbid. God may grant us His grace but we should not abuse it. So, my ethic may tend to have lots of grey area lines. Maybe even as many as Regan. The difference is that I’m not trying to eliminate those lines from the start. I’m trying to embrace those lines. There is no great panacea to get rid of all the grey. As Sideris has said, there are a lot of tough choices to be made in ethical decisions.

To the dismay of my fundamentalist friends, it’s not all right there in black and white. In this way my ethics is informed by my theology, and even my theology with evolution in mind. I’ve attempted to be intentional about including evolution in the mix of the conversation but I’ve admitted that there are still some grey areas, such as how exactly God “works” in the process of natural selection. I’m no clearer here than I am about how He actually “works” in my tough circumstances without affecting free will and all that. So, my theology makes space for grey areas, and correspondingly my ethic ends up with grey areas.

Russell talks extensively about ethics and the idea of “best possible world.” Like my theology, my ethic doesn’t assume that this is the best of all possible worlds. Theologically speaking, I would say that the best possible world is one where God creates creation with limited freedom and limited possibilities and in turn that creation continuously “chooses” to get its life from God. So if God did create the best possible world it no longer exists. Additionally, even if He did create the best possible world it would still be finite so it would still fall short. So, even if that happened then the best possible world is gone and God is now working within something less than the best of all possible worlds. The great news is that God is always working with something less than the best when working with creation.

My proclivity is to think that my ethic shouldn’t inform my theology in any arena, much less in regard to evolution. It seems closely related to saying my culture should influence my theology. We know it does do that but it doesn’t feel like we should allow it to do so uncritically. It seems like my theology should always influence my ethic. If it is done the other way around, it seems like my ethic would have had to come from somewhere other than my theology and I would deem that to be something less trustworthy. For example, say I believed that animals had no souls and so, therefore we could torture them and cause them to suffer. If I allowed that to influence my theology I’d miss all mention of justice in scripture and I would never correct my ethic. However, even a theology like McFague’s, if it is informing her ethic doesn’t wind up in such a distasteful crude place as this. I’ve previously made a case to jump back and forth between hermeneutics and epistemology but I can’t make that same case to jump back and forth between theology and ethics. It seems perspicuous to me to allow that flow only from theology to ethics. Selah.

Theology & Science – Part 8

[If you’re new to this blog, we’d love it if you subscribed to our RSS feed or email updates to the right. Should you decide to in the future, unsubscribing is easy, too. If you like it and share via Twitter or Facebook that’d be almost as good as a Star Wars movie.]

Click HERE for an introductory YouTube video for Theology & Science (Part 8)

This blog series will cover my final exam for my recent Theology & Science class.  Here is the third question and part two of my answer.

Click HERE for Part 1.              Click HERE for Part 2.              Click HERE for Part 3.              Click HERE for Part 4.

Click HERE for Part 5.              Click HERE for Part 6.              Click HERE for Part 7.

Exam Question:  Given how you answered #3, give your answer to the problem of this course.  In other words, given the problem of evolutionary suffering how can the Gospel still be considered to be “good news”?

[The Solution]

So, how can we now go about the topic of the way in which the gospel remains the Good News in light of evolution? In my view, very little needed to change for me here. I’ve never claimed to have the clear picture regarding the eschaton so I didn’t need to do a lot of adjusting there. I do somewhat follow Moltmann’s eschatology over and against Left Behind or other escapist proposals so I do see that there is something in creation that needs to be “put to rights.”

Here, I am out of favor with Sideris and Rolston. However, they are correct to point out that Moltmann has failed to truly account for evolution by natural selection. I’ve also had to do little overhaul of my theology in regards to what the Good News is for humans. For humans, it is a freedom from the bondage of sin, among other things. However, my thinking regarding what the Good News is for nature did have to change quite a bit.

I will lay out what I so far see as the minimum changes that I had to make as a result of taking this class regarding the Good News for creation. This does not mean I’m unwilling to make further changes. It just means these are the changes I’ve thought of so far that need to be changed.

Firstly, I see it at least as a freedom from bondage but not a bondage to sin. What that bondage is to, I’m not sure yet. Some, like Boyd or Southgate may introduce the idea of bondage to fallen angelic beings here. I’d probably lean this way if I had to presently. However, I’ve not had the time to study the topic in any depth yet. From a bird’s eye view I see lots of reference to angelic beings in scripture although I also recognize that mentions of fallen angels in scripture, if that’s even the proper reference here, are extremely vague and speculative.

Maybe nature is simply in bondage to its own nature. This would be a non-anthropocentric view since humans can never say the same thing. We can’t say we’re in bondage to our own nature without any involvement with sin. Every way we can describe our bondage includes sin. But maybe nature, which cannot sin, by definition, but which can only fall short by its own finiteness, can be in bondage to its own way of doing things. Maybe the lion is so in bondage to its own nature that he/she never sees other options.

It’s impossible to imagine, because we’re all so entrenched in the way things are now, but somehow, in the escaton, there will be a new heavens and a new Earth. In my view that will include no suffering for humans and for non-humans, if they are around. It’s at this point that I have to take the stance that there is much in the eschaton that we will never fully understand until it comes. For example, will animals be a part of the new creation? If not, could we really say they were “put to rights?” I believe there may be ways for God to accomplish that without granting eternal life to them. However, I also see this possibility as less likely than the possibility that all of God’s creatures go on, and things are put right.

Theology & Science – Part 7

[If you’re new to this blog, we’d love it if you subscribed to our RSS feed or email updates to the right. Should you decide to in the future, unsubscribing is easy, too. If you like it and share via Twitter or Facebook that’d be almost as good as a Star Wars movie.]

Click HERE for an introductory YouTube video for Theology & Science (Part 7)

This blog series will cover my final exam for my recent Theology & Science class.  Here is the third question and part one of my answer.

Click HERE for Part 1.              Click HERE for Part 2.              Click HERE for Part 3.              Click HERE for Part 4.

Click HERE for Part 5.              Click HERE for Part 6.

Exam Question:  Given how you answered #3, give your answer to the problem of this course.  In other words, given the problem of evolutionary suffering how can the Gospel still be considered to be “good news”?

[The Problem]  (The “Good News” to follow in Part 8)

So, how do we answer to this challenge of theodicy? First of all, let me start by saying that in my epistemology, I hold that all roads, no matter how smooth, have some potholes. There is no perfect theory. However, there are better and worse theories. For example, in the previous essay, I quickly and resolutely dismissed the position of Miller. To me, that position is a worse position than say, Jensen. Each of them has holes but Miller’s has many more and larger holes.

I say all this to say that my position here is a developing position largely because I’m a rookie in what is for me a terra incognita, as the science part has never been my area of interest or skill. I have however, long been fond of the philosophy of science with its falsification theories and such. There are a few prefaces to declare that will assist in understanding what I’ve developed as my final answer.

First, I see God as a God that has allowed for a partially open future from the beginning of creation. I considered whether it would be best to abandon that idea in light of evolution by natural selection. However, what I found was that a partially open future assisted me in thinking along the lines of theodicy. I didn’t see any of the authors we read for class display hints of this theology underlining their thinking. Perhaps the closest was Russell and his talk of chance and law (125). However, Reynhout illustrated a few times some theology that came the closest to my view, although it was not exactly the same.

I suggest the possibility that God created a world with natural laws that aligned just so, so that there existed in the world, a set of limited possibilities. Within that set of limited possibilities existed the possibility for creation to go astray from what God hoped for from His creation. It may be that this part happened almost instantaneously. Why? Because even while God called His creation good, it was still finite. By definition, anything finite falls short. I hesitate to use words here like, finite things fall short of perfection, because the word perfection brings along with it a whole mess of baggage that I don’t want to deal with here and I don’t want that baggage to distract us. For now, it’s enough to be thinking that the creation, almost instantaneously falls short.

I also believe that God knew that this was extremely likely to happen. Although, to be consistent, I’m willing to say there was a possibility that it would not happen. But it did. So, in God’s first display of being a God who works on Plan B, in the midst of a mess that He would prefer not to have taken place, God allows and begins to work in the world and eventually in evolution by natural selection. I don’t see that there is any need to appeal to demons, nor do I claim to know the details of how God works and natural selection works at the same time. However, I do claim that God working and natural selection working in a situation need not be mutually exclusive, as Sideris would suggest. In fact, I see lots of scripture supporting God working in the negative (death) to bring about a positive (life).

There is a great deal of work that I have to do to answer to suffering in nature, that I don’t have to do if all we’re talking about is suffering in humans. I have covered those in the previous essay so I won’t rehash those here. However, I will say that I have to do more work in regards to the creation story and certainly more work regarding the story of the fall in light of evolution. So, now we have a creation with possibilities and what I would say a falling short rather than a fall.

The fall is generally a reference to sin but I’ve previously stated that I don’t think nature can sin. But it did fall short in that it is not infinite. At this point God adapts and adjusts to the then present situation and allows for evolution. Over the course of millions of years life develops and evolves, largely due to the harsh realities of nature and animals arriving on the scene. How’s that for some real science-like language? Animals from the start wage war on one another and the ones able to adapt survive. Those that do not adapt quickly enough go extinct.

Eventually humans arrive on the stage. I have no idea if humans evolved from primordial slime or a miraculous work from God and I don’t think it matters for our task here. I actually don’t think it matters much at all, but I digress. Humans come on stage and, like the beginning of creation, almost immediately fall short. God had big intentions and mankind blundered it up in no time flat.

So there’s my description of an open view of creation that attempts to take evolution by natural selection and the revelation of scripture seriously. I think I’ve seriously thought through extensively the doctrine of God (Open Theism being a large part of that), I think I’ve seriously incorporated the true science of evolution, and I think I’ve taken the Bible seriously. Seriously!

What if someone were to say, regarding the creation story in Genesis, “I just believe what the Bible says?” I’d say, “Me too!” I’d go on to say that we never just believe a thing. We always believe a thing in a particular way. I see Genesis as a very poetic work. This does not mean I see it simply as poetry. In fact, I see Genesis as one of the greatest, genre diversified, unique work of writing that I’ve ever encountered. Being also a poetaster, I’m careful to claim Genesis to be largely poetic. However, I would like to remind anyone looking at its verses about one of the fundamental characteristics of poetry, and that is that poetry is succinct. Poetry says a lot in a little space. The best poetry is able to pack in an enormous wealth of insight into few words. So, what better poetry than Genesis, which compacts the enormity of creation along with the deepest reflections on the truest nature of man into just a few chapters?

So, my explanation involves the full creation by the infinite God, even though the days in my view are not 7, 24 hour days. My view includes Adam and Eve, even though they may have been types rather than particular persons. Finally, my view includes natural selection, with all its values and disvalues, though it was not necessarily the way God would have preferred things.

Now, there may be a number of objections at this point. I’ll have time to deal with one of them that I can anticipate before moving on to the Good News. The question, when it comes to humans that is asked, regarding the problem of suffering is, “Why didn’t God just make a world where there was no suffering?” The answer usually goes along the lines of, “God is love so He needed to make a world with free choice. Without free choice we can’t actually love nor can we actually receive love.” Well, this line of thinking works well if we’re just talking about humans. However, if we’re talking about nature, we don’t have the “free will” out. Or do we? Is there something in nature, even on a subatomic level that operates with a certain kind of free will? Not the kind of free will that we think about with humans, for nature is non-human. But, could we say that God created nature with a free will that is labeled as such with a kind of anthropomorphic style similar to the way humans talk about God anthropomorphically? It’s tough to give a definitive yes to this question but it’s also tough to completely dismiss it by claiming complete knowledge on the subject.

Theology & Science – Part 6

[If you’re new to this blog, we’d love it if you subscribed to our RSS feed or email updates to the right. Should you decide to in the future, unsubscribing is easy, too. If you like it and share via Twitter or Facebook that’d be almost as good as a Star Wars movie.]

Click HERE for an introductory YouTube video for Theology & Science (Part 6)

This blog series will cover my final exam for my recent Theology & Science class.  Here is the second question and part three of my answer.

Click HERE for Part 1.              Click HERE for Part 2.              Click HERE for Part 3.              Click HERE for Part 4.

Click HERE for Part 5.

Exam Question:  This entire course has been aimed at addressing the particular problem of evolutionary suffering. As precisely as you can, describe this problem in relation to evolutionary theory (its cause, its range, its challenge, its distinctiveness, etc.).

[its cause and its range] The question assumes that evolution is true, and I agree that it is, so it is here necessary to show the difference in the way someone who assumes both the reality of evolution and the existence of a good God and how they would answer to the problem of suffering in nature. This is the cause, isn’t it? Suffering in nature is not the same for the creationist described above for the aforementioned reasons and it may not be much of a problem at all for the Atheist who doesn’t have to hold to a good God. The atheist can simply say that nature and its creatures suffer and that’s just the way it is. But this will not do for the Christian.

Another idea that Southgate shows will not do for the Christian comes from Kenneth Miller. His idea is that this whole issue is just a failure of perspective. We’re all giving this much too much thought. Everything hangs on if we’re looking from the perspective of the predator or the prey. That relationship is just a fact of nature. I agree with Southgate when he says that we can dismiss this case without much effort. I’ll make an epistemological sin and say, I just don’t buy that argument. It’s an argument by ignoring which to me makes it an ignorant argument. To quote Forest Gump, “That’s all I got to say about that.”

So, the Christian is faced with skepticism from interlocutors who press the famous question “How could a good God allow so much suffering in the world?” Pat answers like, “Well, it’s all a mystery” or “God has a plan that we just have to trust” may work for a good number of people, but not for me. In my way of thinking, these kinds of answers may not be the cause of the problem of suffering, but they certainly enhance it.

The second one in particular puts God in the place of being the cause for the suffering. However, it seems to me that God can’t be both all good and the cause of suffering. So, in terms of the range of the problem, it ranges as far as it is able to because it extends out far enough for some to question the very existence of God. Specifically in regards to range and the concept of evolution, I think there are a few paths a person could consider when it comes to the reality of God, suffering, and evolution in terms of a solution.

A person could consider the idea that God set up evolution from the start, or that God set up laws that allowed for the possibility for evolution and it then came to be. Further dialogue on the ramifications for those answers should be reserved for question 4. However, I point them out to show how deep and wide this question can get. Certainly, the range can go as far as the doctrine of God to ask what kind of God would create a (physical) nature with evolutionary suffering. However, I think it is sufficient to show that if the range can go as far out as the furthest possible place, by my definition the existence of God, that that is enough for our purposes here.

Brian Bram November 22, 2014 3 Comments Permalink

Theology & Science – Part 5

[If you’re new to this blog, we’d love it if you subscribed to our RSS feed or email updates to the right. Should you decide to in the future, unsubscribing is easy, too. If you like it and share via Twitter or Facebook that’d be almost as good as a Star Wars movie.]

Click HERE for an introductory YouTube video for Theology & Science (Part 5)

This blog series will cover my final exam for my recent Theology & Science class.  Here is the second question and part two of my answer.

Click HERE for Part 1.               Click HERE for Part 2.               Click HERE for Part 3.               Click HERE for Part 4.

Exam Question:  This entire course has been aimed at addressing the particular problem of evolutionary suffering. As precisely as you can, describe this problem in relation to evolutionary theory (its cause, its range, its challenge, its distinctiveness, etc.).

[its challenge] If one believes in a literalistic interpretation of scripture, with a 24 hour day and 7 day week of creation found in Genesis, in spite of the many clues for the necessity to include other interpretive frameworks on the piece, and an Augustinian “Fall” of mankind that sent a curse upon all humans as well as on all of nature, there will be a particular way of framing this question. However, if a person has moved away from this angle on scripture they would likely frame things completely differently from the start.

Usually the people in the literalistic camp will at some point go to ideas regarding the problem of suffering being simply the result of disobedient humans in Adam and Eve. Sideris has shown that holders of this view often hold to an idea that because God called creation good in the beginning, that there was a time that all the animals fed on plant life rather than one another. The escaton for them is then about God fixing everything so that things can go back to the way things were supposed to be all along. The lion will lay down with the lamb without feasting on the lamb. The way things are now is a result of the world being in a fallen state, according to this view.

We can see then, that for all the publicity given by the populous over the issues of science and theology relating to our reading of the 7 day creation narrative, the real issue is tied more closely to the popular theology of the Fall. I won’t take the time here to directly show the problems with this line of thinking but I will state the reason for bringing it up. It is to show that the route one takes on the issue in the beginning has a direct effect on the position taken regarding the problem of suffering.

So, one of the major challenges with this problem is that if we don’t get the launching point of our theology correct, we will have created lots of problems for ourselves far down the road. Often, theologians don’t discover these theory holes until they are so far down the road that it becomes difficult, for reasons of pride, investment, stubbornness, etc., to abandon the theory and start over.

Another challenge that Southgate points out is that not only is natural selection, which includes sometimes seemingly horrible acts, a reality, but it is these very horrible acts that leads to the life we currently see in the world. Life forms evolve and adapt as a means of avoiding suffering, amongst other reasons. So, the question for some theologians is whether or not God purposely caused the suffering to allow natural selection to do its thing. Once again, since this essay is more about the setup and the questions, I’ll defer that part that seeks to answer these questions for now. What we can see by now is that if there is evolution, natural selection and an all loving God in the world, there is a challenge to figure out how to coalesce these streams at the brackish.

Theology & Science – Part 4

[If you’re new to this blog, we’d love it if you subscribed to our RSS feed or email updates to the right. Should you decide to in the future, unsubscribing is easy, too. If you like it and share via Twitter or Facebook that’d be almost as good as an ice bucket challenge.]

 

Click HERE for an introductory YouTube video for Theology & Science (Part 4)

 

This blog series will cover my final exam for my recent Theology & Science class.  Here is the second question and part one of my answer.

Click HERE for Part 1.

Click HERE for Part 2.

Click HERE for Part 3.

Exam Question:  This entire course has been aimed at addressing the particular problem of evolutionary suffering. As precisely as you can, describe this problem in relation to evolutionary theory (its cause, its range, its challenge, its distinctiveness, etc.).

[its distinctiveness] There seems to be a bit of a difference regarding the fact that there is suffering in the world of nature versus the fact that there is suffering in humans. Whether or not there should be a difference is the topic of another essay. However, one thing is certain. More work has been done theologically with the problem of suffering in humans than has been done with analyzing suffering in all the rest of creation.

This points to one aspect of the problem which is that humans are basically anthropocentric. So, it’s not surprising that we’ve looked at the human piece more than the other. I myself have spent most of my time studying the problem of evil in relation to humankind and almost no time in relation to nature. Even when I did spend time on nature it was usually things like natural disasters that had a disastrous effect on humans, usually ignoring the devastating effects on others in God’s creation.

However, I don’t think that the fact of selfishness is a distinctive feature. I see that in evolution there is rampant selfishness, as pointed out by Dawkins in Foster’s work. However, even though there is selfishness that has infected both humans and non-humans, it’s only on the human side that we should expect to see a rising out of this conundrum. More on that in a second.

One question we need to ask first is whether there is evil in nature? I agree with Reynhout’s assessment that to call disvalues in nature evil is a category mistake. I don’t see animals having the same moral ability and therefore responsibility as humans have. Because of this ability and responsibility humans also have the ability to sin. Sin is evil. However, animals can’t sin in my theology. So, when a lion brutally attacks, kills and eats a gazelle, or when an orca playfully kills its prey, I don’t think it is evil. That doesn’t mean I don’t think that there is something not right in all of that, though. I’m different in my thinking here than people like Rolston and Sideris. I am hopeful that someday those disvalues will no longer be a part of creation.

So, the most salient difference that I see between the human realm and the non-human realm as it relates to this question is the existence or the type of free will. Presumably, at least some, although not all, suffering in the human world can be attributed to human sin. But this can’t so easily be done in the animal kingdom, for example. Nor can it be done in a single celled ameba (I hope I’ve gotten my science right here!) It seems impossible to make a case that these forms of life have the same kind of free will, if they have any free will at all, as humans do. So, I suggest that the main difference in the suffering topic on the nature side is the existence or type of free will.

McFague, whom I criticize but whom I also regard as a person with great erudition, seems to have tapped into at least a bit of my idea of responsibility and accountability here. She says, “The only difference between us and the rest of creation is that the others reflect God, tell of God, simply by being, whereas we must will that it be so (The Dearest…, 113). She assumes here that both humans and non-humans are in a state that is not full, there is something missing, something that we are striving towards. However, humans have the extra responsibility, due to the extra capacity we have, to align our actions with the Trinitarian God’s character.