Theology & Science – Part 5
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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.
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.