Your position here looks similar to that of Cardinal Robert Bellarmino in the Letter to Paolo A. Foscarini (which played a crucial role in the Condemn of Galileo Galilei). In this Letter the Cardinal puts Biblical statements concerning Humanity (as community created in the Image of God) and statements about physical phenomena on an equal footing, as you and @DennisVenema seem to do.
By this lack of distinction Bellarmino is led for instance to the conclusion that to say “that the sun does not circle the earth but the earth circles the sun” is equal heretical “as to say that Christ was not born of a virgin”.
The other way around you are led to the conclusion that removing the sharp beginning of Humanity as a community created in the Image of God (Genesis 1:26-28) is no different as denying the sharp beginning of the planet earth.
I apologize for insisting: There is no way to define the beginning of planet earth by physical means, as it is no way to define the beginning of any species or genus by biological means. By contrast God’s creation of Humanity in His image (Genesis 1:26-28) marks a sharp beginning of Humanity as a community of Image Bearers. If you remove this beginning you can remove the Incarnation as well.
Additionally, as I have argued in another post, there is no physical reality without free human observers: “All starts with our observations; the big bang is here” (as the quantum physicist John A. Wheeler puts it). Claims regarding what happened before free human observers appeared refer to activity in some invisible mind, which was thinking how the world should appear to us. Accordingly statements like “the universe started 13.79 billion years ago”, “life began 4.28 billion years ago” refer to times that should not be interpreted in an absolute way, as if a physical reality had been there independently of any human observer. In this sense such times are not less “figurative” than the 6 days of Genesis.
I don’t know if you already answered that in one of these 400+ messages on this topic, but just for the sake of curiosity. In your model about the start of “humanity/human beings” as the endowement of “humanity” by God to human-like animals, do you think that this “humanity” was transmited to the next generations by some physical mean (I.E. DNA) or by supernatural/Godly means? Is it sustained by physical changes in your opinion?
The elements to answer your question are contained in previous messages. You give me opportunity for putting them together and I thank you for this. My model works as follows:
God created Humanity in His Image by endowing human-like animals with capacity to freely love Him, which as a consequence includes also the possibility of rejecting Him and sinning.
This creation happened in several moments:
God first created a little population of Image-Bearers. This corresponds to the creation referred to in Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:22-24. Thus, at this moment only a little percentage of the whole population of human-like animals (individuals of Homo sapiens) becomes Image-Bearers. The descendants of these Image-Bearers were Image-Bearers as well.
Thereafter, and in addition to these descendants, God still created other Image-Bearers from human-like animals, according to Genesis 6:1-4, so that the percentage of Image-Bearers increased.
Finally, at a later moment God made the resting human-like animals (a large population living all over the world) to Image-Bearers. This corresponds to the God’s Decree referred to in Genesis 9:6. Since this moment and till the end of times all human-like animals on earth are Image-Bearers. In fact it is Humanity that prompts us to define the species “modern humans”.
The transmission of “humanity” (i.e.: the quality of Being Image-Bearer) to the next generations happens at the instant when God creates a spiritual principle (“soul”) to animate a piece of “flesh” (a fertilized egg or equivalent cell consisting in biological stuff originating through evolution) and a human personal body appears.
Accordingly, “humanity” (the quality of Being Image-Bearer) emerges at the very moment of the generation of each new person, and thus is transmitted through both by physical means (including DNA) and Godly ones.
The transformation of adult human-like animals into Image-Bearers is a purely spiritual transformation and happens without any observable genetic or anatomical change. The signs of such a transformation are rather achievements of Humanity demonstrating sense of law and accountability as we found at the dawn of civilizations.
Similarly the emergence of a human being in God’s image at the moment of fertilization or equivalent process does not involve any physical change other than the usual growth through cell cleavage and metabolism.
An important point in this respect is that Humanity as community of Image-Bearers is called to live according to moral rules and law, mainly the “Golden Rule”. And at the moment of implement this rule and assign rights the “observable Golden Basis” is the specific human body, the sign for belonging to Humanity. A human individual shares the status of a person, and personhood is inseparably united to Humanity. This principle means that the fundamental rights of a person cannot be established by belonging to a subgroup of humankind, be it by race, religion, stage of development, nation, or political class. Neither can one reduce the rights of humankind to the rights of the present-day generation. [see M&M, 16-1 (2013) 85]
Please let me know whether I have answered your queries or you would like further clarifications.
I think your response clarified them pretty well. If I understood you right, I can assume that:
1 - When you talk about the appearence of the Homo sapiens personalis as a “new species”, it is just an analogy with taxonomy, not an actual taxonomical claim. Since anatomical or genetic differences are required for making such a claim for any other species, and the presence or absence of souls is not a matter of biology or even science in general.
2 - The utility of the elimination of intermediate species is to give us humans an easy way of knowing who is a image-bearer or not, since it would be dificult to discriminate that otherwise, given that we can’t access other people’s internal subjective experiences (we don’t have to worry about intermediate species being image-bearers or not, which we could never really know for sure without accessing their inner experiences).
YES, you have perfectly understood!
After reading your post I feel me rewarded for my work.
Your appropriate remarks stimulate me to some further thoughts:
The “appearance of Homo sapiens personalis” marks the moment when God endows the first human-like animal(s) with capability to freely love Him, that is, makes Humanity in God’s Image (Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:22-24).
God did this at a moment when Evolution achieved its job:
To create a big gap between the bodies God considered appropriate to become Image Bearers and the genetically and anatomically nearest live-forms. In this job the elimination of intermediate varieties was key.
This divine intervention has at the same time taxonomical significance; God’s act lays the groundwork for defining taxa:
The taxon Homo sapiens means the live form consisting of bodies like those He makes to Image Bearers.
Taxa for animal species mean all other animal life-forms.
In other words we can define species because today there is a clear distinction between humans and other extant forms of life, but this distinction is only possible because a huge number of intermediate varieties between them disappeared in the past.
There is a sharp beginning of Humanity at a precise time defined by God’s endowment of an animal body with His Image.
However, there is no sharp beginning of the evolvingspecies Homo sapiens, the evolving genus Homo, or any other evolving taxon.
In these claims you are apparently using the term “gradually” with two totally different meanings:
In evolutionary terms, the origin of the earth, moon, planets, sun, or stars goes back to the plasma of elementary particles produced by the Big Bang.
God made the “human race” to Image Bearers in different steps:
In a first moment, say time T, only a little percentage of “anatomically modern humans” (human-like animals) became Image Bearers.
Thereafter this percentage increased: on the one hand because the descendants of Image Bearers are Image Bearers, and on the other hand because God made more adult human-like animals to Image Bearers.
At the latest when the Bible was written the percentage of Image Bearers in the “human race” was 100%.
With the evolutionary Meaning 1 you cannot establish any sharp beginning in time other than the Big Bang.
By contrast, with Meaning 2 you assume a sharp beginning of the Image Bearers population in time: The first Image Bearers appear on earth at a precise time T through an act of God. This is the moment referred to in Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:22-24.
When you speak about the beginnings of evolving Homo sapiens, evolving Homo genus, or whatever other evolving biological taxa you are assuming Meaning 1. And then the only possible sharp beginning you can establish for these taxa is the Big Bang.
Accordingly I am arguing as follows:
If you do not distinguish between the evolving species of “anatomically modern humans” and the increasing population of Image Bearers then:
Either you are led to assume that God’s act for creating Image Bearers occurred at the Big Bang, and then you could as well state that the Incarnation occurred at the Big Bang;
Or you assume that the beginnings of the earth and Homo genus are as sharp in time as God’s creation of Image Bearers or Incarnation, and then you are led to deny evolution, as YECs do.
The only “sharp beginning” is the Big Bang. See Genesis 1:1.
After this sharp beginning God used a gradual process to create the earth, create homo sapiens, and then create image bearers from the homo sapiens. I see no need to postulate a “sharp beginning” for any of these creative acts. And in fact the evidence says there isn’t one.
I don’t overlook the point. I don’t think it’s theologically mandated by Genesis. The term in Hebrew for humans becoming “a living being” i.e. nephesh - is also applied to non-human animals. I’m comfortable with God using gradual processes, and the biological evidence we have is for gradualism. If one wants to state that humans have a punctate theological beginning that is certainly one of the options, but I don’t think it is the only one. YMMV.
However the references you provide support that humans who are capable of presumptuous sins may sometimes do wrong in ignorance. By contrast they do not support that there are humans doing wrong in ignorance who are NOT capable of knowledgeably breaking God’s law in rebellion. In this respect Romans 1:18-32 is highly eloquent.
“Doing wrong” without accountability toward God’s law is what animals like lions do when they take over and kill cubs, or the Lisbon earthquake and tsunami in November 1755 did.
Consequently if non genealogical descendants of Adam in your model are supposed to be capable of doing wrong, they are capable of presumptuous sinning as well, and therefore are Image Bearers. Thus the marriage of genealogical descendants with non-genealogical ones (key in your model) is marriage between Image Bearers who should respect the commandment about sanctity of marriage: “What God has joined together, man must never separate”, in accord to the teaching of Jesus Christ (Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9).
All genealogical descendants of Adam and Eve are Image Bearers, but there are Image Bearers who are NOT genealogical descendants of Adam and Eve.
As far as one keeps to both the Revelation of Jesus Christ and the available scientific data on Evolution it is not coherent to claim that “God created a single couple Adam and Eve as first Image Bearers, and all other Image Bearers of all times are genealogically descended from Adam and Eve”
Thanks again in advance for any suggestion to improving these formulations.
However, there are plausible models that do not make those “outside the garden” Image Bearers too. See @Jon_Garvey’s work.
Instead, I would say that:
As far as one keeps to both the Revelation of Jesus Christ and the available scientific data on Evolution it is not warranted to insist that “There is no one outside the Garden, with whom Adam and Eve’s descents eventually interbreed.”
Sorry to be so critical, Antoine, but the comparison you make here obfuscates rather than clarifies the true picture. The difference is much greater than comparing apples to oranges. As it applies to the second situation, your sentence reads: “Doing wrong” without accountability towards God’s law is what the Lisbon earthquake and tsunami in November 1755 did". That makes no sense whatsoever, no matter how one reasonably defines “doing wrong”; i.e. “causing harm or suffering”.
IMHO we live in a Universe where true creation often (almost always?) entails suffering/destruction. Call it “collateral damage”, if you will. Plate tectonics was responsible for the ever-changing environments that hastened the creation of life forms that were more capable and more complex. Theologians should see that as God’s Will. The Lisbon earthquake/tsunami resulted in much suffering and death, mostly of good people whom God loved. Am I wrong in concluding that God accepts this as “collateral damage” that is an intrinsic and unalterable result of the methods He chose for creation?
One can ask: “Why was the Lisbon earthquake (and the suffering it caused) inevitable? Couldn’t God have caused it to happen somewhere it would not do so much harm?” The only answer I can give is that God values freedom, and He imparts it to the creative forces in Nature as well as to humankind. Micromanaging each detail, each occurrence, would take away the ‘newness’ of each event, making it NOT truly a New Creation. I see a God who suffers along with His creation. I see that in Jesus who accepted suffering and death to lead us into a new life–a spiritual life unchained from the animal instincts from which we originally sprang.
Thanks Dennis for this valuable contribution to this debate.
I agree that the same term ‘living nephesh’ (‘living creature’) in the immediate context of Genesis refers clearly and repeatedly to non-human animals: these and ‘Adam’ are made from the dust of the ground, and are each a ‘living nephesh’. “It is not man’s possession of ‘the breath of life’ or his status as a ‘living creature’ that differentiates him from the animals”. [Wenham, G.J. 198, p. 102]. Thus Genesis 2:7 can be read in correspondence to the gradual appearance of the species Homo sapiens in Africa, that is, “with a time depth that stretches back into the middle Pleistocene” (about 500,000 years ago) [Stringer C. 2016], very much like you suggest.
Nonetheless the term for humans being created in the Image of God, as male and female (Genesis 1:27) called to respect the commandment: “What God has joined together, man must never separate” (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6, and Mark 10:6-9) is not applied to non-human animals, and refers to a sharp beginning of “humans as spiritual beings”.
So one can’t help acknowledging “as theologically mandated by Genesis” that at certain moment God made the “nephesh” (Genesis 2:7) to an Image Bearer (Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24) called to freely love God, with sense of law, and capability to sin. Since this divine intervention happened at the spiritual level there is obviously no observable biological (genetic or anatomical) discontinuity.
In my view it is the option Jesus Christ takes by resolutely calling himself “the Son of Man”.
Actually it is God’s Incarnation which defines the specific body God wants for “His visible Image” Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15) and thereby establishes the precise moment in human evolution when He considers this body prepared to be made “in God’s Image” (Genesis 1:27).
That “humans have a punctuate theological beginning” seems to me also supported by Luke’s Genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:23-38), going back generation by generation to Adam, with a precise list of 76 generations, and calling Adam “Son of God” in the end (Luke 3:38).
The sharp beginning of Humanity as the community of Image Bearers through an act of God seems to be “theologically mandated by Genesis” according to the teaching of Jesus Christ.
So, if you don’t want to jeopardize the meaning of Incarnation and Redemption it is wise to keep in mind:
Denis Alexander’s claim:
“there is no need to keep theology in a watertight box, in isolation from the materiality of the created order.”
Point 10 of BioLogos, What We Believe:
We believe that God created humans in biological continuity with all life on earth, but also as spiritual beings.
But Jesus is also said to be “the Son of David,” including by his inspired biographers (Matt. 1:1; 21:9; Mark 10:47-48). Surely this doesn’t mean David needs to be another sharp beginning?
Only the way that Paul’s statement would seem to indicate a punctuated theological beginning at David: “…the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 1:3-4; see also 2 Tim. 2:8). This is especially interesting since Paul does have things to say about Adam, but he resists connecting Jesus to Adam as if he descended from him (e.g. the discontinuity in 1 Cor. 15:47 and the “type” rather than descent language of Rom. 5:14). For Paul, Jesus is Adam’s superior alternative, not descendant.
I don’t think we should read genetic or biological beginnings into what Luke says about Adam or Paul says about David. Genetics isn’t what they were given insight into, or what they aimed to speak about.