No, this is absolutely NOT what I believe. Unless astronomers are totally mistaken, (@dharsma) this Universe contains many billions of stars and probably five times as many planets. Surely more than this one earth evolved with the capability of supporting Life. I like to believe that God expected that any Life that began on another planet would eventually evolve the consciousness and conscience to become His Image Bearer–BUT not necessarily in the form of a primate we call Homo sapiens. Furthermore, from the very beginning, He knew that such a potential Image Bearer(s), because they possessed free choice, would need His guidance--indeed His actual presence (as His Son)–and so He was prepared to enter their world wherever in the Universe life appeared. (Assuming evolution operates the same throughout the Universe–somewhat selfishly.)
IMO, this is what supports Jesus’ claim to be the Christ, the Messiah who was promised to deliver us from sin; i.e.from the selfishness of our evolutionary roots. I see no reason why God could not have sent a Messiah to other planets (“other mansions”) that may have needed more (or less) help for redemption than we humans have.
What happens when you put your faith in a relic which is then shown to be a fake? The relic cult historically became out of hand. Martin Luther wondered why 18 of the 12 apostles were buried in Spain alone.
Well, the image on the cloth is symmetrical, has all the details present, is one big piece of cloth apparantly draped over a a body instead of what you would expect of having cloth wrapped circularly around, the facial image is that of what you see in Italian paintings rather than of a typical middle eastern man, the cloth is too intact to be compatible with a 2000 year old cloth.
I would expect authentic burial cloth from 2000 years ago to be essentially gone, and if it survived, would see only tatters, lots of rotten places, etc.
I suppose you could say that it was miraculously preserved as well, but when you include miracles, I guess normal observational things go out the window.
It seems to me that regarding things on planet Earth we are stating about the same in the end. For the sake of clarity my position is:
Evolution (as we know it) has brought about a sharp distinction between a particular living form (humanity) consisting of people possessing free choice and accountability, and called to behave according to moral rules and law, and all other extant living forms consisting of non-accountable creatures and behaving selfishly. As said in other posts evolution did produce this sharp distinction through elimination of intermediate varieties and thereby lay the groundwork for assigning rights.
From God’s perspective this sharp distinction means (as you rightly state) that God’s Son was prepared to become human and so help humanity with “His guidance and actual presence” to overcome selfishness and act according to the “Golden Rule”.
Thereby God established a radical difference between humans and other animals as it is proclaimed in Genesis 9:3,5-6 through the prohibition of homicide.
Interestingly, in the second century the pagan Celsus reproached Christians for an idea that he considered foolishness and delusion, namely, that God created the world for mankind, giving human beings especial dignity: "If we look down to Earth from the heights of heaven, would there really be any difference between our activities and those of the ants and bees?“
As we have seen the answer to Celsus’ question is:
There is NO difference from a mere biological perspective. If we give up the teaching of mankind in God’s Image founded on the fact of God’s Incarnation there is no criterion for discerning what makes humanity precious and unique.
In other words humanity exists first at the moment referred to in Genesis 5:1-2:
When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created.
It is God who defines humanity and thereby motivates first the introduction of the category “human species” or “anatomic modern humans”, and thereafter of all the other taxa. From a mere biological perspective categories are arbitrary or (in Mark Thomas UCL wording) “useful nonsense”.
“To deliver us from the selfishness of our evolutionary roots” means “helping us to live according to the Golden Rule”. But this requires obviously an observable basis to define the “others”: The available evidence is that this basis is the human body.
Suppose now personal Aliens would exist that are anatomically as different from humans, as humans are from chimps. Suppose God would allow them to meet us: The observable basis for assigning rights would disappear! If we assign personal rights to such Aliens, we should consistently do the same with all other animals. This means that if God exists there cannot be Aliens capable of meeting humans unless they have an anatomical human body; and if God doesn’t exist and mankind is not in God’s Image then, I apologize for repeating, there is no criterion for discerning what makes humanity precious and unique.
This said it is clear that if there are Aliens that are anatomically like humans, then they would need the same help for Redemption through Jesus Christ as we humans need: The same way that it is not necessary that God let His Son incarnate in “other countries”, it is not necessary He let Him incarnate in “other planets”.
This sheds also light upon the question of whether “human beings are still evolving“.
If we assume that one day humanity will split into two living forms which are anatomically as different from each other as humans are different from chimps today, then we are blurring the foundation of law and supporting racism in the end.
Whichever way you look at it: If we consider humanity merely an evolving biological category and overlook it is mainly a community of Image Bearers called to live according the “Golden Rule”, we are implicitly justifying social Darwinism.
Antoine, I trust that you will agree that it takes a great deal of chutzpah to state: "From God’s perspective…" I suppose a true evangelical Christian is absolutely certain that the thoughts that are inspired in the mind of today’s reader of Scripture are the exact same thoughts that God transmitted when he inspired its writer. That would truly be from God’s perspective. But I prefer to believe that some erroneous thoughts could have crept in during the human process that transmitted it to me 2,000+ yrs later. Furthermore, Scripture does NOT specify just which exact qualities God expects in one of his creatures to rate the title: Image Bearer. What would these essential qualities be from your perspective? Upright stance? Binocular vision? Opposable thumb? Physical form? I think not. It is my belief that the ONE essential quality is a mind capable of abstract thought. This is why I cannot accept your reasoning in the following:
On what observable basis do we assign rights to creatures here on earth? The basic right to life (protection against extinction) is granted because life is so wondrously complex and all of it takes a part in the intricate web, animate & inanimate, that supports us all. (Admittedly it is difficult to justify the malaria spreading mosquito.) We grant further rights to animals, especially primates, whose behavior is much like our own. We grant the topmost rights to Homo sapiens, creatures who are able to realize they have a purpose in life beyond procreation and staying alive to do so. Ideally they should want to know their Creator to whom they should offer worship. What observation can we make that sets them aside? Not their body form. I believe that for the first 150,000 yrs Homo sapiens did NOT rate the title, Image Bearer. That came with the Great Leap Forward that produced the Noosphere, the sphere of abstract thoughts. In the Biosphere, only the possession of power ‘granted rights’.
If (when?) we are introduced to alien life, it would not take long to ascertain whether or not they were capable of abstract thought–just as we can do so for dolphins, dogs, or chimps. If aliens travelled here to earth, we would be almost positive they knew more of creation and appreciated it more–i.e., were Image Bearers as much, or more so, than we are. How can you better interpret John 14:2: “In my Father’s house are many mansions…”?
Thanks for giving me opportunity to formulate my position more accurately.
The concept of “intelligent being” has multiple meanings: Angels are intelligent beings, certain animals are also considered to be smart and share intelligence, and today the concepts of “artificial intelligence” and “intelligent machines” are becoming ubiquitous.
My position is as follows:
I definitely support the idea that in other planets there can be creatures that are accountable and called by God to behave according to the “Golden Rule” and overcome evolutionary selfishness. These creatures I call Aliens.
My point is that to grant the possibility of a coherent moral and legal order God can allow such Aliens to enter in contact with us only if they share a body like our body, that is, if they are human beings as we are. In other words, God acts according to Genesis 9:3, 5-6, where He establishes that each human being is in God’s Image, and for this reason proclaims the universal prohibition of homicide, what amounts to condemn “social Darwinism”.
Undoubtedly you (as well as I) have conversed with ‘hard scientists’ (chemists & physicists) about the phenomenon referred to in Scripture as “angelic hosts”. What is your guess as to what percentage of these scientists actually believe these are individual beings acting independently? Just curious. Most of the colleagues with whom I have discussed the subject think pretty much as I do: Such spiritual, angelic action, when acknowledged at all, is really a manifestation of God’s power directly. It is possible that independent angels exist, but with no real evidence (other than Scripture) to support the concept of separate beings, Occam’s razor suggests that God’s direct action is a safer bet.
This topic has been addressed in this Forum, but I think it could use further attention. When A.I. has reached the point where, when it is unseen, a human cannot distinguish between it and another human, does it have an immortal soul? Would that mean we should re-think the concept of Soul? I for one would be reluctant to do so, even if the computer should seem to possess a Mind. Can there be anything like empathy & love that is not anchored in flesh & blood?
Personally, I think that a disembodied brain residing in a glass tank is more apt to be realized than computerized A.I. Something like “Donavan’s Brain” Carl Siodmak (1942)
In Genesis 9: 3, 5-6 God clearly condemns the killing of human beings but not the killing of other animals. Thereby He establishes the human body as the observable basis of law. The basic piece documenting and granting your rights is your body: your “abstract thoughts” are not visible. If one would take “abstract thinking” as basis for assigning rights one would open the door to all sort of arbitrariness an easily fall into racist behavior.
God establishes the prohibition of homicide at a moment when evolution produced a sharp distinction between humans and other extant forms of life. And the reason He gives is that humankind is created in God’s Image. Thereby He clearly links the fact of possessing a human body to the fact of being Image Bearer. So we can ask: What makes the human body precious and unique, and gives it likeness with God? For me the obvious answer is: The Word (God’s Son), became human flesh and made his dwelling among us.
I dare to insist once again: Before God said “let us make humankind in our image” it does not make sense to speak about humankind or human species, because humanity cannot be defined in mere biological terms. But as soon as God said this word, the human body by itself reveals God’s Image. And how can we ascertain the moment when God makes humankind in His Image? By means of signs revealing awareness of accountability and sense of law: In my view the cut-off criterion for this is Writing. In any case I fully agree with you: Creatures living 150,000 yrs ago “did NOT rate the title, Image Bearer”; but then they cannot coherently be called “humans” either.
Additionally it is important to stress that the clear distinction produced by evolution between the live form God selected to be in His Image and called humankind, and all other extant forms of life (the same distinction we observe today between humans and non-humans) is the standard calibration we use for defining what is human: we define “human DNA” on the basis of analysis of tissues coming from bodies we acknowledge as belonging to the “human species” before we perform the analysis. If we go back in evolution this gap disappears and so disappears the concept of “human” as well.
Once again, if we give up the teaching of God’s Incarnation there is no criterion for discerning what makes humanity precious and unique, and “only the possession of power” becomes the criterion for granting rights.
I am not sure we can deny dolphins or chimps any kind of “abstract thought”, are you? By contrast we are sure they have neither law, nor courts, nor trials. It would have been a mess if God had allowed that creatures without human body have sense of law. So if Aliens traveled here to earth, we can be confident they would look like us and be Image Bearers as much we are: Undoubtedly “in my Father’s house” there would be mansions also for them.
As a matter of fact you can only experience your own Self-awareness, Conscience, and Spirituality. You do not acknowledge rights to the friend you meet for a coffee because you directly access her Self-awareness, Conscience, and Spirituality. You acknowledge such rights because the friend you meet exhibits a body like your body and makes the same king of bodily movements you perform when you want to express your feelings or claim for your rights.
So in any community with law the very observable basis of law is the spontaneous movements of the human body.
I also loved District 9 because it makes plain the impossibility of founding a coherent common legal order for life forms with different specific bodies. The good human guy at the end becomes transformed and acquires an Alien’s body!
This would be also a possible coherent solution if Aliens from a different planet meet us: We acquire the Alien’s body!
However we acknowledge that God became a human being and made humankind in His Image.
Therefore we should reasonably conclude that Aliens evolved on a different planet will look like us.
Notice that this would be a clear proof that evolution fulfills the standard repeatability criterion of experimental science.
Antoine, if I follow your line of reasoning, the word, Image (in image bearer) must be of something physical. One cannot make a physical Image of God who is Spirit. Thus when the world began God foresaw that the perfect Image Bearer, who was to become mankind’s Savior, would have to take the physical form of a Homo sapiens, since that was to be the first earthly creature capable of knowing Him.
As I see it, the only way to avoid inconsistency in the use of the word, human, is to allow biologists and theologians to have different criteria to define that term. Biologists tell us that the Homo sapiens that lived 150,000 yrs ago were essentially identical to us today–they had the same genome. But they had not invented writing or a culture of laws and courts or any accoutrements of an advanced society. And so, as you say, they were NOT human. I conclude (theologically) that what makes us human, and Jesus human, is NOT our bodies but rather our spirits–even though that cannot be captured in physical form as an image. As you noted above: “humanity cannot be defined in mere biological terms”.
I find this concept becomes more fruitful once one accepts Teilhard’s proposal that the Cosmosphere began with a Big Bang and grew more complex (evolved?) for 10 billion years before the first life appeared on earth; this ushered in the Biosphere which evolved into much more complex forms until, finally, about 50,000 yrs ago, ushering in the Noosphere (of Mind & Ideas). Only in the Noosphere can power be granted to the weaker. We will never untangle the human enigma until we fully accept the fact the we ‘have a foot’ in two spheres, each of which is evolving according to slightly different principles. As a Christian by Faith and a scientist by choice, I believe God sustains–but gives a degree of freedom-- all three spheres.
These are quite interesting thoughts and I comment on them with pleasure.
Evolution produced a clear distinction between the live form God declared to be in His Image and called humankind, and all other extant forms of life. This distinction concomitant with God’s declaration is the same we observe today between humans and non-humans. This distinction provides the standard calibration we use for defining what is human.
On the basis of this distinction we introduce the concept of “human species” and call “non-human species” any other extant form of life. We define “human DNA” on the basis of analysis of tissues coming from bodies we acknowledge as human before we perform the analysis. If we go back in evolution this gap disappears and so disappears the concept of “human” and “human species” as well. And it is worth asking whether it is still possible to grant a rational foundation for rights, if one totally disposes of the human bodily architecture as an observable basis for defining rights.
Rights originate from the will to grant to bodies of the human species that they respect (do not harm) each other. It is primarily because one wishes to explain human bodiliness and organize human society on the basis of rights, that one derives concepts like soul, animation and life, and one applies them subsequently and somewhat by analogy to animals, which are often characterized as organisms capable of spontaneous and voluntary motion.
The best way I can ensure that I am respected by others is to assume that spontaneous movements in a body of the human species reveal personal agency, and making this assumption the basis of my assigning rights to others. A human body that performs movements like the movements I make to express my feelings and rights-claims is a person I have to respect. Otherwise, I cannot rationally claim that she/he should presume to respect me.
Interestingly physicians declare someone dead when the brain capacity for performing spontaneous movements breaks down irreversibly. Such capacity, mainly for breathing, is located in the brain stem. Accordingly (in line with you) I support that idea that the brain activity underpinning spontaneous movements witness the presence of an immortal soul.
In conclusion, to ascertain whether or not some organism or cyborg deserves the status of Image Bearer and personal rights we have to find out whether it is moved by a human brain stem.
As you have pointed out, Homo sapiens is the only hominid remaining on earth, and so it should be easy for society to separate humans (who are granted special rights) from animals who are treated somewhat cavalierly. Even a layman could spot a Neanderthal or Denisovan in a crowd by their physical appearance, if any still existed. But are you sure that this provides a clear distinction that they could NOT be image bearers? You and I think that they probably were not, but we arrive at that conclusion by different routes.
Our differing views should be of little importance to the majority of Christians who just want to live their lives as closely as possible to the way God intends. It would only become important if SETI is successful. Would these extra-terrestrials have gained some knowledge of the universal Creator that would warrant a significant change in our Christian Faith? Seems possible–even if they resided in bodies quite different than ours–like ET’s for instance.
This is actually the idea I am trying to convey with relation to the Flood:
It was a miracle similar to the miracle of the sun in Fatima.
The people involved in the event miraculously experienced things as if they had been in a different “parallel” world where the ordinary regularities didn’t hold.
Nonetheless in the Flood there was a “normal observational thing” that affected the ordinary world: The disappearance of about 200’000 people.
I am led to this result by using jointly Scripture, theological reasoning, and historical scientific evidence:
According to my theological explanation the first Image Bearers were created by God about 3,500 BC, at the time writing appears in Sumer. @Kathryn_Applegate in her recent Essay gives a slightly different date: “I prefer to believe that Adam and Eve were a real couple in history who lived in Mesopotamia, among a larger population of people, perhaps around 6,000 B.C.” Nonetheless she does not explain her choice and claims: “I am open to changing my mind on the basis of further study and reflection.”
So, let us take 3,500 BC. On the basis of Scripture accounts (10 generations from Adam to Noah, according to Genesis 5) the Flood could have happened ca 3200-3000 BC, that is, 300-500 years after the creation of the first Image Bearers.
At this time the first city-states in Sumer may have reached a population size of several hundred thousand. This is a guestimate on the basis of historical scientific data reported in , , , and References therein. They are based on methods used in Urban Population Estimation as described in .
Accordingly, I conclude that at this time the population of accountable humans on earth consisted in about 200,000 living in Sumer. All of them (except Noah and his family) perished in the Flood. The disappearance of 200,000 people among 14 millions 6,000 years ago is possibly not detectable to available computational analysis of genetic divergence. However we can consider it credited by eyewitness accounts in Scripture (Noah and his family) and Revelation of Jesus Christ and His apostle Peter.