Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Fall

I'll interleave one of the papers from Todd Wood's review with the Biologos stuff, because it's all relevant.

I'll state up front that Wood wins the short and sweet summary, "This is basically a summary of standard liberal biblical scholarship".

There's a lot here (page 1):
"Modern science has amply demonstrated that phenomena such as predation, death, and the extinction of species have been intrinsic and even necessary aspects of life on earth for billions of years"
"the biblical Adam and Eve and their early offspring are portrayed as figures living in the Neolithic period, around 9,000 to 7,000 BCE, which is some 30,000 years later than the earliest archaeological evidence for religious behavior and culture among humans."
I appreciate his straightforwardness here. No need to dig up his presuppositions.

He also seems to grasp the nature of sin, which I am often frustrated trying to communicate to TE's (page 2):
"a range of evidence establishes that virtually all of the acts considered 'sinful' in humans are part of the natural repertoire of behavior among animals"
That is, what Christians call "sinful", biologists call "natural". This raises the question of where our nature comes from (and is it good).
  1. Good, (presumably from God) - there is, therefore, no sin (no deviancy)
  2. Evil, from God - God is the author of evil
  3. Evil, altered - this is original sin
I just had to grab this chunk (page 4):
"the characters have symbolic names and act like stock figures; the episodes look prototypical"
This reminds me of the spoof "History Channel Produces bad SciFi".

Also, an oddity (page 4 again):
"nakedness as a symbol of primitive life, clothing of civilized life"
Not sure where he gets this idea. Nakedness was a symbol of right standing before God (who sees everything). Clothing is a symbol of shame (attempting to hide from God).

Ok, skip a lot of mumbling in the middle, lots of juicy stuff near the end!

Page 13:
"we share a transtemporal and universal biological and cultural heritage that predisposes us to sin."
"They [George Murphy] and others have proposed that original sin is a biologically inherited state, a byproduct of billions of years of evolution."
Interesting. So, he is going with #2. God made us be evil. Let the spinning commence! (still page 13):
"Yet selfish behavior did not become sin (culpable wrongdoing) in human beings until the evolution of their self-consciousness (and God-consciousness) allowed our remote ancestors to override their innate tendency to self-assertion by the exercise of their free will."
Sneaky, but fail. He is claiming that stealing, lust, and hatred are only sins because we know it's wrong (else it is good). But which is God's character? That which He creates or that which He commands? Harlow is making God out to be schizophrenic.

And the conclusion, page 14 (I'm thinking I need to start reading these things back to front...):
"To put the issue in these terms is not to blame God
for human sin. As Karl Giberson puts it, 'By these lights, God did not "build" sin into the natural order. Rather, God endowed the natural order with the freedom to "become," and the result was an interesting, morally complex, spiritually rich, but ultimately selfish species we call Homo sapiens.'"
"We must trust that God created the kind of world that he did because an evolutionary process involving selfishness, suffering, and death was the only way to bring about such creaturely values as novelty, complexity, and freedom."
There it is again. God's creative power being limited by man. Ultimately, everything comes down to God-centered vs. man-centered.

Bonus points:
"Once the doctrine of original sin is reformulated [i.e. gutted], the doctrine of the atonement may likewise be deepened [i.e. gutted]. But the new understanding of sin requires that we now favor theories of the atonement like the Christus victor model or the moral influence theory, instead of the theory of a ransom paid to the Devil or a satisfaction paid to God’s honor [nice slam on propitiatory atonement]. Better, to privilege Paul’s soteriology, we must elevate the truth of a new humanity inaugurated in Jesus Christ, whom God sent into the world in suffering solidarity with a groaning creation—to be the vanguard of a new creation full of new creatures destined to be transformed and drawn up into the life and fellowship of the triune God." (emphasis added)
Nice Darwinian reference to the superman there...

And for double bonus points:
"For Christianity to remain intellectually credible and culturally relevant, it must be willing to revise— and thereby enrich—its formulation of classic doctrines"
"The task of Christian theology in every generation is not simply to repeat or paraphrase the tradition"
Yes, syncretism is always the only way forward. Relevance, always relevant. 2 Timothy 2:2 anyone?

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