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Theology & Science – Part 6

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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.