Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Genesis And Theistic Evolution: Part 2

Continuing from the previous post: TheoPoetic Musings: Genesis And Theistic Evolution: Part 1---the second issue to look at is the contradictory creation accounts in Genesis. The first account is:
First Account (Genesis 1:1-2:3)
Genesis 1:25-27
(Humans were created after the other animals.)

And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image.... So God created man in his own image.

Genesis 1:27
(The first man and woman were created simultaneously.)

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

In technical terms, the first account is considered to be the general universal creation account, whereas the second account is considered to be a local account. Here is the second account:
Second Account (Genesis 2:4-25)

Genesis 2:18-19
(Humans were created before the other animals.)

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

Genesis 2:18-22
(The man was created first, then the animals, then the woman from the man's rib.)

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them.... And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

Notice all the differences in both accounts. Here is a good summary of questions for bible literalists:
Rev. James W. Watkins
Creationists call us to believe the Biblical creation story as a literal account of historical events. However, Genesis contains two distinctly different creation accounts. Which creation story are they calling us to "literally" believe? For generations, serious students of Scripture have noted stark divisions and variations in the age of the Hebrew, its style and language within Genesis. As we have it now, Genesis is actually a composite of three written primary sources, each with its own character, favorite words and distinctly different names for God. Such differences all but evaporate when translated into English, but they are clear in the ancient Hebrew text.

The first creation account, Genesis. 1:1 to Genesis. 2:4a, was written during or after the Jews' Babylonian captivity. This fully developed story explains creation in terms of the ancient near eastern world view of its time. A watery chaos is divided by the dome (firmament) of the sky. The waters under the dome are gathered and land appears. Lights are affixed in the dome. All living things are created. The story pictures God building the cosmos as a supporting ecosystem for humanity. Finally, humanity, both male and female, is created, and God rests.

The second Creation story, Genesis 2:4b to 2:25, found its written form several centuries before the Genesis. 1:1 story. This text is a less developed and much older story. It was probably passed down for generations around the camp fires of desert dwellers before being written. It begins by describing a desert landscape, no plants or herbs, no rain; only a mist arises out of the earth. Then the Lord God forms man of the dust of the ground, creates an oasis-like Garden of Eden to support the "man whom he had formed." In this story, God creates animal life while trying to provide the man "a helper fit for him." None being found, God takes a rib from the man's side and creates the first woman. These two creation stories clearly arise out of different histories and reflect different concerns with different sequences of events. Can they either or both be literal history? Obviously not.

(Read more: Here).

As a Moderate Progressive theologian who'd be labeled a theological liberal by inerrantists because I do not believe in the absurdity of biblical inerrancy, I'm a firm believer in progressive revelation of which the above is consistent with. Tying this post back to the Phillip Johnson book, here are a few more thoughts:
Yet according to fundamentalists like Phillip E. Johnson in his book Reason in the Balance, the case against Naturalism in science, law, and education, and other Christian fundamentalists, the child roasters and cat killers were correct after all and science has everything all wrong. Everything we know of modern science is wrong, as he hints at some evil atheist conspiracy to lock out God in the science community. His proof is simply the fact everything that happens isn't contributed to some supernatural theme as opposed to it just happened.

As fundamentalist religion and New Age mysticism consume millions, our nation is falling into a bottomless pit of mediocrity and irrational thought that dominated the Europe for over 1000 years. The fact is that many people just don't have the knowledge to understand what separates issues of faith and humanity from the natural world. What is worse, they don't want to know because they have withdrawn from reality.
Debunking Myth

Most people would be shocked to know that the ancient Greeks invented concepts of reason, modern science, modern history, and democracy 2500 years ago. They knew the world wasn't flat and even touched on evolution knowing the world wasn't 6000 years old. Even the church fathers such as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas figured out the earth was not only very old, but life also sprang from a common source.

Even more shocking to many people in America today is the gifts the Arabs would transmit to the modern world. They would not only preserve the great discoveries of the Greeks, but would greatly expand them. They would invent algebra (an Arabic word), and transmitted from India the base 10 number system (the concept of zero did away with the cumbersome Roman system), and expand science and math far beyond even Greece. Greek philosophy, destroyed or lost by the Catholic Church, would be brought back to light by contacts with Arabs in Spain. Arab writers in the 10th century even knew that mountains were formed by rain, wind, and land upheavals over a long period of time and figured out what Christian Europe rejected until the age of Charles Darwin.

The Christian churches knew of all of this, but rejected them for political reasons and mindless dogma.
So what is the problem with Johnson and other fundamentalists? To quote Johnson himself, "Rational beliefs are those that are consonant with reality." (P, 10) Because science doesn't attribute everything to supernatural micro-management of God and leaves some elements to chance, he feels it undermines the Bible. Sorry, science works on reason and verifiable proof, not revelation. The other fact is science/reason actually produces results, something the claims of magic have always failed to do. Science at the same time doesn't address the matter of God at all. It comes down to a literal Genesis and the Adam/Eve story and original sin, which Jesus never mentioned, but was created by the Apostle Paul.

How revealed religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam derive truth is by divine revelation. That is direct communication either directly from God via voices visions, etc. or by angels and other divine massager. All we have is the word of the founder, because Christians (as an example) claim angels can't be seen. This revealed "truth" can't be disputed and all other ideas must be derived from it. So anything "observed" must be seen in the light of revelation. To quote Tertullian of Carthage: (150-225) "Divine revelation, not reason, is the source of all truth."

Phillip Johnson is a law professor and lawyer and knows little about the workings of science. Science is based on naturalism and thus deals only with what can be observed. Johnson considers naturalism a religion. (He uses other terms such as modernism and liberal rationalism, etc.) As a lawyer he plays a deceptive game of words mixing liberalism, rationalism, etc. then claims they have no relation to nature. (Which he says is God) What he really object to is a marginal treatment of Christianity; "the establishment of a particular religious philosophy does not imply competing philosophies are outlawed, but rather they are relegated to a marginal position in private life"

On a California textbook policy change, "this policy encouraged textbook publishers and teachers to give much greater emphasis to accepted scientific doctrines and to relegate any consideration of nonscientific subjects such as divine creation, ultimate purpose, and the ultimate cause of the physical universe to literature and social studies classes." (P. 40-43)

Science does not deal in questions of God or ultimate purpose to begin with. Even he admits these are nonscientific subjects, thus they don't have any place in the science classroom. The facts are only 5% of the population is atheist, 95% believe in God. Over half believe in evolution as fact, but over 80% of those believe in theistic evolution or evolution as the work of God. What they don't buy is his particular Protestant Evangelical religion. To Johnson and other fundamentalists, he is in a cosmic battle of good and evil. There is no in between and he means literal six-day Creationism and a historical Adam.
What is more important is Darwin never invented any "Theory of Evolution." He promoted the hypothesis (oh, that word again!) that species evolved by random mutation and random chance. Modern science provided the proof he was basically right and thus it accepted by many as fact today. The "fit" would survive by some natural advantage and the least fit wouldn't. Does that mean if the bubonic plaque wiped out the human race that the decease was more intelligent (fit) than man? Of coarse not, that is an element of chance.

Today most scientists know evolution works within known parameters but there is also an element of chance as well. Darwin did not use fossils or radioisotope dating (radioactivity would be discovered in the 1890's after his death) nor did Darwin ever apply natural selection to civilized human beings. To quote Darwin himself: "Under civilized conditions the social and cooperative virtues were useful characteristics assisting in survival, so that we may expect that virtuous habits will grow stronger, perhaps becoming fixed by inheritance."

And evolution doesn't deal any deathblow to Christianity because most reasonable Christians (excludes fundamentalists) see the Old Testament as symbolic and reject Mosaic Law as done away with Jesus. I know several very strong church-going Christians who have no problem with evolution. Many fundamentalists today follow a cult known as Christian Reconstructionism that does away with Jesus (they refer to Jesus/Jews and their God as Satan) and prefer the Old Testament as the Law and themselves as the new chosen people. Followers of Jesus who actually believe in Him have no problem with evolution.

What really upsets many people is uncertainty, that the universe isn't really an orderly, predictable thing. Yes it is orderly within certain points; such as gravity will make a bowling ball dropped on one's foot painful. One could simply never bowl again or go near a bowling alley and be fairly assured that a bowling ball won't fall on their foot. If a meteor the size of a bowling ball hits you in the head, you are dead; there was no way to prevent it. That is random chance.

Life in reality is both, 50% random chance beyond our control, and 50% what we make it. Genetics plays the biggest part of all in cancer, so those who eat only brown, organically grown rice may die of cancer as easily as anyone may. One knows that not smoking tobacco lessons the chance one may get lung cancer, but sometimes we still can. Our choices in life only change the odds, but in the end we all die, nobody knows for sure beyond that.

I don't believe in modernism which says everything is relative and there is no right or wrong. Humans have intelligence and are not animals vulnerable completely to the whims of nature. To quote Einstein himself, "I shall never believe God plays dice with the world." We can make choices if we can separate what is certainly and stop wasting our time chasing phantoms. God gave us the ability to make choices for good or evil.

Life is uncertain as social, technical, and economic changes are a fact in today's world. Many people refuse to, or just can't handle the world around them, so they turn inward. In America this is made worse by an appalling education system that leaves millions in confusion unable to separate science from science fiction and religious faith from blind superstition and mysticism. All of this confusion limits many choices one could make.

Mr. Johnson's entire 245-page book never mentioned anything Jesus ever said, just his own frustration with the world. He wants his version of a spiritual world to be physical reality. Jesus clearly separates the spiritual from the physical world and is right on this matter as are many church fathers. I don't think these people believe what they preach, because if they did they wouldn't care what others think, and would be happy with life. The happy Christians, the ones who actually follow Jesus, who live as He says to live, aren't screaming at the world from the pulpit. I salute them.

The problem with fundamentalists like Mr. Johnson is we live in a technical and diverse world and they just can't handle it. Nobody tells any Christian in this country how to pray, when and where to go church, or what to believe. Nobody! They preach politics, power, and money, not God. If they want to remain ignorant and uneducated, that is their choice. If they refuse to read the Bible and substitute their own self-revelations and political nonsense over the words of even conservative Christian scholars, they are free to do so. If Mr. Johnson wants to write a book claiming some unfounded garbage that the science community is conspiring to destroy Jesus, he is free to do so. (I bought his book, which I'm certainly free to do.)

If these fundamentalists want to attack even their fellow Christians because they don't see the same flat, 6000-year-old earth they see, that's fine. If they choose to be beyond reason and live in some fantasy world, it is their choice.

But they can't force the rest of us to follow them or meddle in the personal lives of other people. I've been in the scientific and technical fields for over 25 years and the fundamentalists leave us only two choices: believe in their flat-earth world or atheism. They drive millions out of the Christian community and often into irrational New Age religion. There is a third choice.

Get an education and read the Bible for yourself. I'm glad I did or I'd be an atheist! Stops adding in things that are not there! The recent Y2K fiasco was the work of fundamentalists Christians (along with New Age technophobes) who thought they knew more than the Bible did. These people are preaching politics, not Jesus. The Bible is not a science book or was not meant as a history book.

The earth is not 6000 years old, evolution is accepted scientific fact, and the Bible isn't threatened by it at all if properly studied and considered. Most of all allow an element of reason into these discussions and stop hunting for Satan under every rock. Finally, if being a Christian produces only anger and resentment of others, go find a new church. There are plenty of good Christian churches around that don't act like cults or endlessly attack everything they don't understand or refuse to deal with. It is up to you!

(Read more: Here).

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