Comments: creationism in Britain

"There are twe lessons in particular that we learn from Darwin. The first is that belief in God and evolution are compatible. Secondly, in a time when debates about evolution and religious belief can be aggressive and polarised, Charles Darwin remains an example of 'how to disagree without being disagreeable'". - Paul Woolley -

In these concluding remarks by the Director of the 'Theos' research project undertaken to find out the attitude of Britons to the current debate on Creationism in Britain, he points to a finding that could well be emulated in the controversies in the Church about women and gays in ministry - that: 'Charles Darwin remains an example of how to disagree without being disagreeable'. Also that 'belief in God and evolution are compatible.

If only that could be borne in mind by the different parts of the Church that are presently at loggerheads on issues of gender and sexuality. There is hope, though, when even the Bishop of Rome has now declared that belief in evolution is not incompatible with faith in God'.

Perhaps some new discoveries in the social and biological science fields could now be found to be supportive of the LGBT community and of women's place in the ordained ministry, in a way that would be recognised by the Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 9:50am GMT

Fr Ron

It strikes me that the biggest problem most Creationists have with Darwinism is that evolution implies that we have been created as we are, and that we are still developing. That can be interpreted as negating the Fall.
If there was no perfect creation - what does it say about the creator?
If there was no perfect creation from which we fell by our own disobedience - why did we need Jesus to atone for our sins?

It casts huge questionmarks over the Incarnation and over many people's understanding of Atonement, Redemption and Salvation.

Maybe it would be helpful if those who find it easy to reconcile evolution with traditional Christian doctrine didn't merely treat creationists as less intelligent people, but if they took their deeper concerns seriously and explained just how traditional Christology can be reconciled with evolution.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 10:39am GMT

Erika - Evolution (or Darwin's theories) doesn't imply anything about the perfection of creation. It takes as its starting point the observation that the earth and the life upon it have changed over time. Darwin and his successors have provided an explanation for the way life has evolved, they haven’t changed anything about creation but our minds!

If you want: the perfection lies not in a static state of creation, but in the way it can evolve; the creation is fallen because things are not right (just look around, Darwin hasn’t changed anything); we still need a Saviour for humanity and creation.

For any who believe in a Creator, the current version of Darwin’s theories is the best explanation we have for the way that the Creator goes about her business. Sure it shows up the poverty and inadequacy of earlier static notions of creation, but that’s reality.

Posted by PeterM at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 2:54pm GMT

Erika:

It's nice for you to find reasons for the Creationists to think as they do, but the thinking is still faulty. It means they read the Genesis story as fact, rather than as myth, parable or allegory.

Man's "fall" occurred the first time he did something that his conscience--God speaking to him in his mind--told him was wrong. That was the first sin. I've read many attempts--good ones, ones that speak directly to your question--to reconcile evolution with the fall and redemption. Most boil down to what I've written here. Yet, the Creationists reject them, because they are not literally what the Bible says.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 3:10pm GMT

What shook Darwin's faith was not his scientific studies but the death of his deeply loved daughter.

I'm glad to know what I am, a theistic evolutionist. Never saw the term before and while not terribly comfortable with the historic uses of the term theism find it intersting.
Columba Gilliss

Posted by Columba Gilliss at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 3:36pm GMT

Excellent post, Erika, with which I largely agree, except for your first sentence, which I think inaccurately formulated.

Evolution:

(a) forces us to say there was never any ideal state;

(b) forces us to admit that the created world is necessarily a rough old place;

(c) kicks a big hole in any notion of original sin;

(d) at least raises the possibility that man isn't/won't always be 'the pinnacle of the creation';

(e) forces a major redefinition of the trad. 'sin narrative'. We still need a 'sin narrative' but have to admit that any such narrative doesn't explain all the ills of the world.

(f) should encourage us to say that the resurrection is at least also about showing that there's something better than this creation.

Christianity can cover this, but not easily and not without major tweakings. There are of course Christian theologians who do this (my favourite of course being K Ward), but, e.g., the Pope, Tom Wright, etc. manifestly do not.

Posted by john at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 5:07pm GMT

PeterM and Pat

thank you. They are not my questions, they are the questions I have heard people ask many times.

Whether the answer is convincing or not, isn't it true that the conversation is rarely heard?

Or maybe I'm moving in the wrong circles :-)

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 6:26pm GMT

Erika,

I don't have time for a long answer, but I suggest looking at the first "theistic evolutionist": St. Paul.

When Paul wrote (para.) "I want to do right---but I don't do right. I don't want to sin---but I do sin. {Argh!}" he didn't blame Adam&Eve for his condition. He was simply describing WHAT IS.

THIS is "The Fall" we need saving from: our sinful selves, not some supposed criminal incident of pre-history.

Is it possible we Homo sapiens could evolve out of sin? Maybe---but who cares? I need a Savior now!

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 6:42pm GMT

The arguments for and against the fall and atonement theology are well documented.

Pat: You stated," Man's "fall" occurred the first time he did something that his conscience--God speaking to him in his mind--told him was wrong. That was the first sin." I would content that our definition of sin has over timed changed. Look how Paul saw sex as a necessary evil ("But if they have not continence (i.e., they cannot exercise self-control), they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn." (Hell vs. passion interpretations). My understanding is most of our present sexual repression comes from Anthanasius. Over the years our perceptions of sex have changed. That means our understanding or definition of sin has changed.
My guess would be to support your thoughts that maybe it's stems from the literal reading of the bible.

Posted by bobinswpa at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 6:42pm GMT

The problem really is that evolution shows a world founded on pain and loss. The underlying assumption is that many genetic mutations are ired out, and found to be wanting, and die away. And believing in evolution we can no longer believe that the tiger's taste for meat arises from the sin of two humans at the dawn of time. A theistic evolutionist must believe that God made the tiger and the less-appealing parasites, too. Those who burrow into childrens' eyeballs and bind them. Parasitic wasps who eat out the interior of their hosts, and emerge. The latter horrified Darwin, and while his daughter's death was one factor in his loss of faith,the cruelty and nastiness of much of the natural world was another.

However, to look on the cheerful side, anything which puts anointer nail into the coffin of substitutionary atonement is welcome to me!

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 7:18pm GMT

"If there was no perfect creation - what does it say about the creator?"

But what is a perfect creation? For me, the Fall was something in our evolution that changed us and our relationship to each other, the rest of creation, and God. We, as a result of the Fall, have a different relationship with sin and death than others of God's creatures. So, I don't believe that evolution implies that there was no perfect creation. Animals killing one another according to the laws of nature don't commit murder, for example, German animal rights industrialists to the contrary. So, prior to us, no sin as we understand the term, thus, what existed before us WAS a perfect creation, because it unfolded according to God's plan. There are issues with this. First, underlying the theology of the Fall and Redemption is the idea that humans are the pinnacle of Creation and representative of all of Creation, so when we fell, Creation fell with us. I haven't yet reconciled that to what I said above. Second is the nature of the event that brought about the Fall. I don't worry about that too much, since it is a mystical thing. I don't believe it was a one time thing. I think it relates to our own human selfishness, our need to be right, our need to impose our will on others, our constant tendency to put our needs first. So, while I do feel that whatever the event that caused the Fall, it was not just a long time ago, but is a part of what we are, and from which Christ calls us away. We have used words like 'infection', 'defect', and such to describe it. We all know it exists, we affirm it every time we say "nobody's perfect" which to me is a good definition of Original Sin. Now, if your understanding of the Fall is that it was nothing more than some crime committed in the dim distant past for which we are all guilty and we needed God to send a perfect victim to torture so He could calm down enough to let us get away with our crime, I can see why a person'd have problems reconciling that with Evolution. I don't see it that way, so no problem for me.

Posted by Ford ELms at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 7:34pm GMT

"If there was no perfect creation - what does it say about the creator?" - Erika -

Erika, this question is almost as tricky as the one about the chicken and the egg: 'Which came first' - except that we who believe in God as Who/what used to be called 'The uncaused Cause', have sufficient faith in both the Creator and the reality of a continuing evolution of the Creation, to understand that science is merely knowledge, and to us mortals, our knowledge is continually expanding - about the Cosmos, and the possible intention of God in the ongoing Creation.

The problem with the 'Creationists', as far as I can gather, is that they want to imprison the process of creation within the understanding of the biblical writers - a prospect that is at odds with what the Holy Spirit might still be teaching us in the complexities of the world of today.

The same might be said of those who want to imprison the understanding of gender roles and human sexuality within the 'wisdom' of the books of the Bible - forgetting that God is still at work in the Church and the World of today, as Jesus promised to his immediate disciples: "When the Spirit comes, he/she will LEAD YOU into all the truth - about me, about sin," etc. This should warn all of us that there are still many things to be learned about God's relationship to humanity - as well as God's purposes in creation.

To deny that knowledge of the world and of the Creator is still unfolding would be the same as saying that 'God is dead' - a theory most of us believers would have difficulty with.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 8:34pm GMT

'Traditional Christology' has had its day, so it may not be essential to reconcile it with evolutionary theory afterall. (Unless you would enjoy the project).

Btw It may be worth bearing in mind that there is no 'Fall' in Judaism.

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 8:35pm GMT

We have no dearth of serious, productive efforts to demonstrate how following Jesus of Nazareth is harmonized with science in general, and volutionary models more particularly.

Just one example of many? See: http://www.salon.com/books/atoms_eden/2008/07/01/saving_darwin/

We also have plenty of traditional believer stuff, misreading evolution and science, in favor of a more literalistic than not reading of the scriptures. The whole debate is not really so much an inquiry into science or evolution, or a test of Darwin, as it actually is a test of the more literalistic than not readings of the scriptures. The business is complicated. On one level the traditionalists are patting themselves on the back for holding their own, which amounts to winning in their self-perceptions. Yet on the meta levels implicit in their consistent mistaken glosses of science and evolution, those very believers are losing the intellectual battle.

Thanks, too, for posters who discern the implicit other test going on, in which penal religionists are being tried and found wanting - old doctrines of penal atonement and som partial core implications for original sin, fall, and penal views of metanoia and redemption are inevitably going to be illuminated in all too glaring lights as the good but failed tries of past believers to come to grips with what God in Jesus is doing among us.

Like the huge controversies over the end of the flat earth and its related traditional cosmologies - this, too, shall pass. Slowly, slowly, slowly. Excruciatingly slowly.

Posted by drdanfee at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 9:01pm GMT

Columba, I too am intrigued by the phrase "theistic evolutionist". I have often cheekily stated I agree with the concept of Intelligent Design. Except that, while God is the Intelligence, God's Design is evolution!
Erika, define "perfection" or "perfect creation". Maybe Creation is unfolding exactly as God intended, with its evolving species. I feel the notion that, because two members of the species homo sapiens sinned against God, therefore all of the tens of billions of life-forms on this planet, the tens of billions of life-forms that may exist on planets throughout the Universe, the tens of billions of galaxies, each with their tens of billions of stars -- all of Creation -- has become imperfect, corrupted, “fallen”, is the height of human arrogance.
If people fail, that says something about humanity, not about Creation or the Creator. If people fail, that says something about the need for God's forgiveness and grace, not God's condemnation of everything else in God's Creation. If I am cheated by a shopkeeper, that does not mean that I should regard all shopkeepers as cheats and scoundrels.
Evolution, our modern understanding of Creation, in no way negates Christian concepts about the nature of Jesus and his crucifixion and resurrection.

Posted by peterpi at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 9:01pm GMT

Thanks everyone yet again.
I would like to stress one more time that these are not my questions but questions people have asked me.

So if I take what you all said:
We have fallen because we have been given a free will which we then use to do wrong, knowing that it is wrong (when we go against our conscience). Therefore we need Jesus as saviour.

But without a lot more explanations, this doesn't work.
As peterpi says, maybe Creation is unfolding exactly as God intended.
And that includes our still evolving brains and sense of what is moral and what isn't.

And while some people do wrong knowingly, and all of us do wrong knowingly some of the time, it also has to be said that a lot of the sorry state of our humanity is due to people making the wrong choices with the best intentions, people choosing between two impossible options, people not understanding the vast complex consequences of the choices we make, individually and collectively.

That is nothing we can truly feel guilty for, because it lies within the constraints of our evolving brains.

Yes, we do need a saviour!
But the traditional model of Jesus dying for our sins to reconcile us to the God who has created us just like that doesn't really work. Once you take away the concept of "it's all our fault that we spoilt God's perfection", the idea that someone sinless had to atone for us just doesn't make sense at all to many people.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 5 March 2009 at 8:19am GMT

"Once you take away the concept of "it's all our fault that we spoilt God's perfection", the idea that someone sinless had to atone for us just doesn't make sense at all to many people."

Of course, it doesn't. It isn't meant to. God's love for us is beyond our ken. It encompasses sacrificing his son for our sake, to bring us closer to God. Sure, we wouldn't do it...but we're not God.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Thursday, 5 March 2009 at 11:23am GMT

"Second is the nature of the event that brought about the Fall."

But how about the "placing" of the Gnosticist Idea of a "Fall"?

Why is it put in Genesis 3 and not in Genesis 4?

Isn't that the real question?

(which put more questions about the influences we read into the Bible)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 5 March 2009 at 11:27am GMT

Pat
"It encompasses sacrificing his son for our sake, to bring us closer to God."

That, precisely, is what many don't understand.
Why would it need a sacrifice to bring God's creation, that is precisely as he has created it, closer to him?

And it's not "oh, he does this for us, see how much he loves us", but it's "died for our sins"....

The crux remains. If evolution means that these "sins" are part of our process of growing up, then we need all kinds of help to recognise God, but we don't need someone to die to "reconcile" us to him.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 5 March 2009 at 12:47pm GMT

Erika,

Why not like this:

We need a God who suffers with us. Jesus fulfils this requirement.

We need Jesus' death as exemplary of all that is bad (what we do bad, what is intrinsically bad in the universe).

We need the resurrection (anticipatory of our own) as a sign that everything will eventually be well.

We have to go for kenotic Christology.

That's not too far from the traditional Christian narrative (which I - unlike, say Pluralist - want to hang on to in some form). It should enable traditionalists and liberals to co-exist. In practice, few of the always Anglican churches I've attended in my nearly 6 decades have banged on about sin, except in so far as it's an inevitable part of the traditional liturgy. But that liturgy has a lot to be said for it: paradoxically, it gives people space. The flexibility/elasticity/pick-and-mix comes in the sermons.

John.

Posted by john at Thursday, 5 March 2009 at 2:12pm GMT

"Isn't that the real question?"

I'm not sure what you're talking about here, Goran, but I'm sure I'd be interested if I did. I love this kind of approach that reminds us that the only reason we give Scripture the authority it has is because of what we believe it to be. In their day, the writings some now consider infallible were just some of a whole bunch of stuff, some of it incredibly bizarre, that was being written as "Christian". We, especially the fundies who seem to think God got up one day, said "Moses take a letter" and that was that, that people 2000 years ago, even Christians, saw them quite differently. You place great importance in the authorship of the different books of Scripture, especially the "definitely Paul, possibly Paul, definitely not Paul" group. I don't as much because if we consider the Scriptures which have been handed down to us as part of the Tradition, and as having been perceived by the Church as being inspired by God because they are consistent with the Gospel we were also given, then does it really matter if Paul actually wrote some of the things given his name? In some respects it does, but I don't see it as at that crucial an issue. Is the meaning of the passage "love thy neighbour" any less because it might not have been written by the person to whom it is attributed but was added some time later? And if that verse is not lessened as a result of that, you really need a good reason to discount other passages on that same basis. It can be done, and in some instances probably should be, but it isn't an absolute that just because someone put words into Paul's mouth those words must therefor be wrong. It is the Scriptures we consider "God breathed" not the people who wrote them down.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 5 March 2009 at 2:57pm GMT

John
Absolutely!
But not many Christians are actually saying that.

And I believe that many creationists are so worried that, if they had to breathe some life into their tight beliefs, the whole edifice would crumble. Better not to breathe and to deny the difficult science altogether.

Many of the 92% non churchgoers (in Western Europe) don't often hear that kind of explanation being preached either.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 5 March 2009 at 4:10pm GMT

What I mean dear Ford, is that Genesis 3 is a story about 2 moving trees, which has been overlaid with a great many alien pre-suppositions of a Fall, "sex", disobedience...

But that Genesis 4 portraying Cain's murder of his brother Abel, would in all respects be a more worthy candidate for a theology of fallen humanity...

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 5 March 2009 at 7:14pm GMT

"That's not too far from the traditional Christian narrative"

Except that it misses completely one of the central aspects of whole myth, which is the Fall of all Creation with its subsequent resoration in Christ. It is why we are made a "new creation" at our baptism, it is why representational art is acceptable in Christian devotion, it informs sacramental theology, it is why the day of the Resurrection is called at times "the eighth day of Creation", it is why we speak of Creation "groaning in her travail" yearning for her perfection. In this light, the Christ event is not a legal transaction to let the guilty off with their crimes, neither is it a simply a good example of how to live and how living according to the Gospel brings on the wrath of the world. It is instead nothing less than God taking back to Himself all of Creation that was separated from Him at the Fall. The idea that we are restored to Grace, that all of Creation is made new, is why we believe death and sin have no more power over us. They can only have power over the old creation that fell, not the one restored to perfection in Christ. The big mystery of this, of course, is that Creation is still manifestly not perfect. But the kingdom is here, we just can't perceive it, because we are still in a sense betwixt and between. It is a mystery, but the Gospel is about the perfection of matter, and is in that sense a profoundly materialistic document. Created matter, Gnostics and modern fundies to the contrary, is a good thing. It is so good that God used it as the means by which He restored all of Creation, after all. One assumes that, being God, He could just have done it without all that hullaballoo. So why did He do it the way He did? I'd prefer to think about the answer to that question than just junk the whole Creation resotring aspect of the Incarnation because of discomfort over the implications of the difference between our human fallibility and the perfection of God.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 5 March 2009 at 7:53pm GMT

"Why would it need a sacrifice to bring God's creation, that is precisely as he has created it, closer to him?"

Because it isn't "precisely as He created it". It was damaged at the Fall.

"we need all kinds of help to recognise God, but we don't need someone to die to "reconcile" us to him."

Why not? We were created perfect, then, because of some mystical act that includes our own free will, we fell from that perfection. How can you say that restoration to that state of Grace doesn't require sacrifice? I get the feeling you don't like to think of yourself as a sinner. If you consider that to mean some kind of innate criminal who must grovel before God for pardon or be roasted forever, then I don't blame you. But being a sinner in this sense just acknowledges our obvious imperfection considered in the light of the perfection of God. You know you have done things wrong at times. Well, the Christian myth is that you were not created that way. Your tendency to imperfection is what separates you from God. The entire Christ event bridges that separation, and God did that because He loves you so much just for being Erika Baker, warts and all. We all have sins in our lives we can't atone for. Redemption means we don't have to let the knowledge of that weigh us down and prevent us from living the Gospel. Some need to understand it as the kind of legal transaction I make fun of, others, like yourself, and me, don't find that Law based model informative. But it is a profound mystery and open to multiple interpretations, enough that everyone can find the understanding of it that speaks to them. It is this mystical component that is so attractive to me, which I guess is why I come out with it at every opportunity. This idea of Christianity as nothing more than moral code to live by, whether rooted in some masochistic self loathing or in this "I'm OK, you're OK" just do good and it'll be all right leaves me cold.


Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 5 March 2009 at 8:06pm GMT

Incorporating evolution and aspects of modern biological knowledge into faith might also have implications for a view of the soul: for instance, as humans evolved from something that did not have a soul, where is the point at which they acquired it? Or is it a continuum - can you have some kind of continuing essence which is not a soul, at some point before consciousness and self-awareness? Does this affect debates on experimentation on highly evolved animals or on abortion, for example?
(I'm finding the discussion on creation/fall/incarnation fascinating)

Posted by joan_of_Quark at Friday, 6 March 2009 at 12:23am GMT

Ford
"Except that it misses completely one of the central aspects of whole myth, which is the Fall of all Creation with its subsequent restoration in Christ."

Indeed, that's what I'm saying.
It has to miss it out. Because if evolution is going exactly as planned, then the consequences of our evolving free will are also part of the plan. And therefore, restoration is not needed.
And if evolution is not going as planned, then free will was a design fault for which no sacrifice on our behalf is needed to restore us to God.

That is, precisely, where traditional Christian understanding and science conflict.

You explain the doctrine very well. But you do not explain how it makes sense if there is no Fall from a perfect creation, but if that is how evolution shows the creator to have created us from the outset.

"Because it isn't "precisely as He created it". It was damaged at the Fall."

Again, that is doctrine.
That is not supported by evolution. You might as well speak of “the Rise” and think that we’re still at a very low level, toddlers in the game rather than adults.

You know that I don't believe in grovelling before God. I suppose you're right, I don't see myself as "a sinner", if that means the traditional thinking of constantly beating yourself up for being a slimy little worm.

What I do see myself as is failing, again and again, on a daily basis, and needing God's guiding love to show me that it's ok, that my "sins" are not what defines me and my life, but that they can be overcome in the sense that I can try again and again each day, knowing I'm held in God's love and forgiveness. If that’s not enough for you, I’m sorry. It’s all I can offer.

Please don't fall into the trap of either-or thinking. Not accepting all of traditional Christian thinking, does not automatically mean that Christianity is just a moral code to live by (although some here would probably say that means I'm not a Christian and that I should leave their pure church). I can be deeply drawn by the mystical without accepting every aspect of what people have been thinking about it.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 6 March 2009 at 6:47am GMT

"We have to go for kenotic Christology." - John -

John, I think you have hit the nail on the head right here. The concept of kenosis, which has been around for quite a while in the Church, has likely been left out of modern preaching - simply because it is not only difficult but unpopular.

We need to look at the attitude of the human being, Jesus, who, when confronted with his own death, was at first (humanly) appalled at what was awaiting him, then realised that he was the example - par excellence - of the only perfect human response to the will of God, that ALL should be redeemed from the tyranny of the self. This echoes, surely the theme of the 'Suffering Servant' passages of the Prophecy of Isaiah.

Kenosis - the act of putting one's self at risk for the sake of others - is at the very heart of the New Testament, and its Christological kernel. When we examine God's plan for humanity, we see that it is based on the community ethic. This was not only Jewish but also an intensely Christian philosophy. That we have been created to "love one another as Christ has loved us". And how has that love been shown? We all know the answer.

When the High Priest made the statement about Jesus and his mission, saying that it was important for one man to die for the people, he managed to enunciate a concept that was perhaps, at that precise moment, beyond his own cultural understanding - entirely different from the Jewish sacrifical system. The sacrifice of God's 'Suffering Servant' was not to placate an angry God, but rather to demonstrate to God's people the nature of kenotic offering that would bring about humanity's salvation.

In this mode, it can be recognised that God was demonstrating in Christ as a human being, man's highest avocation, which is to offer one's own life for the life of others - an example of kenosis that has been emulated by generations of faithful Christians throughout the history of the Christian Church. This is one of the most convincing proofs one can have of the uniqueness of Jesus as Redeemer of ALL - not just the sinless, but all who have been created on the image and likeness of God.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 6 March 2009 at 9:41am GMT

Reading back over all these discussions, I am led to the following conclusion:

Our understanding of the "Fall," like our understanding of everything, is limited by our human capacities. In some senses, our ongoing scientific knowledge increases our ability to understand it; in other senses, it obscures that ability. I think, again, we come down to the difference between empirical science and faith. We can never "know"--in a scientific sense--what it means to be part of a fallen and redeemed creation; we can only believe that we are and act accordingly.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Friday, 6 March 2009 at 11:36am GMT

Fr Ron
"Kenosis - the act of putting one's self at risk for the sake of others - is at the very heart of the New Testament, and its Christological kernel. When we examine God's plan for humanity, we see that it is based on the community ethic. This was not only Jewish but also an intensely Christian philosophy. That we have been created to "love one another as Christ has loved us". "

Amen to that!

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 6 March 2009 at 1:40pm GMT

"What I do see myself as is failing......knowing I'm held in God's love and forgiveness."

This is enough for me, Erika. You said you don't like to think of yourself as a sinner, but this statement is a pretty good definition of what it is to be a sinner. I agree with you about the business of beating yourself up like an unworthy worm. That's not metanoia, that's just guilt based self flagellation. Some need that to feel whole. But others, like us, don't. Put it this way, if you were to do something that put a separation between you and your partner, would you not feel remorse? That's not beating yourself up like a worm, that's just admitting that you failed. Well, God, in that sense, is the ultimate beloved. Feeling remorse for the actions that separate you from Him is not beating yourself up like some worm, whatever some people seem to think.

And, what is the trouble with "doctrine"? Of course it's doctrine, how can something like a mystical introduction of fallibility into God's perfect Creation be demonstrated by evolution anyway? It is an explanation for spiritual truths that are not even considered in evolution. It is mythic in the sense that it gives us a way to understand aspects of the human condition that are not even addressed by science, evolutionary or otherwise. There's no need to speak of a "rise", since we are understood to have been created in a state of Grace. There was no need to rise. Animals exist in that state. An animal can't murder, as I said, it can only survive. We are different because we have free will. Can I suggest that giving us free will was part of the plan, our choice to use that to further our own selfish interests is the "flaw" that brought about the Fall. I don't accept that God made us to hurt one another, kill one another, go to war against one another, manipulate one another, and so much more. These are products of the Fall, and it is pretty clear, I think, that to follow the Gospel is to reject these things as far as possible, knowing that when we fail, we can be forgiven and not be weighed down by our failings. I guess I find that so sublime and comforting, I can't understand the motivation for rejecting it just because a scientific theory that cannot possibly explain it is unable to explain it.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 6 March 2009 at 5:36pm GMT

Father Ron,

Thanks. I don't disagree with what you say. But I meant it rather in another direction. "Fully human, fully divine" is a very difficult doctrine. Paul's idea of 'kenosis' seems to raise the possibility of a temporary, partial, human-life, suspension of full divine knowledge. Trivial example: Jesus couldn't speak German (utterly implausible to claim that), though he could speak Aramaic (his first language), at least some Greek and maybe some Latin. The theological point is that the 'emptied-out' God as manifest in Jesus may be expected to speak in theological language which we know (yes, we do) to be partial or outmoded. Thus we can say that the NT understanding of disease (seeimingly fully accepted by Jesus) as caused by 'devils' is totally or at least largely wrong. We can also say that Jesus' almost exclusively 'sin' narrative takes no account of evolution, etc. But we can also point to John (wherever), when John says that Jesus wanted to teach them many things which they could not bear: these things can include evolution and (of course) full divine approbation of LGBT principled sexual relationships.

Posted by john at Friday, 6 March 2009 at 6:48pm GMT

John, re your latest; it seems to me perfectly understandable that Jesus in human form was in some way limited as to his divine perception. I can believe that his divinity at that time consisted in his unique relationship to his Father through the medium of the Holy Spirit - a paradigm wherein we might better understand our own connection with the Father and the Son.

I believe that the process of the Incarnation of Jesus involved that 'self-emptying' - kenosis - which was necessary if Jesus were to completely understand our common human frailty - which he shared during his earthly life. As purely divine, Jesus would have been of little use to us. As fully human, sharing our common humanity (and yet also divine in origin), Jesus was able to secure our elevation to the the state whereby we may, in the fullness of time, be joined to him through our Baptism and equipped to share in the life of God more fulsomely.

On this theme, I am mindful of the prayers at the offering of bread and wine at the altar before making Eucharist. At the co-mixture of wine and water, the priest prays: "By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself (kenosis) to share in our humanity". At this point I often remind the congregation that it would behove us all to make a resounding "Amen" - thus affirming our desire to be one with (and in) Christ at the Eucharist.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 8 March 2009 at 1:57am GMT

Father Ron,

Thanks again.

Best,

John.

Posted by john at Sunday, 8 March 2009 at 2:46pm GMT

"seeimingly fully accepted by Jesus"

Or perhaps accepted by the people to whom He was talking. I don't really think God Incarnate, in addition to all the rest He had come to do, had time to give first century Jews a crash course in modern pathophysiology. Better to talk to them in terms they understood. Who would have listened to Him if He started out saying that the leper He had just cured wasn't really cursed but actually had an infection caused by something they couldn't see? Or that the epileptic wasn't possessed, but actually was suffering from a disfunction of a force in that thing inside his head that no-one know what it was for?

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 9 March 2009 at 3:43pm GMT
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