Thanks again for your detailed response, I’ve been enjoying this conversation.
I agree with you that it is fairly implausible that there is a logical impossibility involved for God to obtain specific creatures via evolution. That was probably my weakest option. The only way I could see of possibly defending it would be to say that perhaps in conjunction with human affairs there might be a logical restriction on what creatures could be obtained. To use your example with elephants, perhaps for God to actualize certain results in human history, elephants were needed. But it might be that it is somehow logically impossible to have both elephants and some other set of creatures (like elephant-eating gerbils that inhabit the same region). This might still be a case of what you called a “physical impossibility” but it might be logically impossible as well. Of course this is all speculation at this point.
To go completely the other way though (rather than arguing that elephants were necessary) perhaps elephants weren’t the only creatures that would have resulted in the history you described. Perhaps over-sized rabbits could have gotten the job done as well. (Unfortunately though that’s an option that is unknowable from our vantage point.) So again, maybe God was fine with certain broad categories of creatures that free human agents could and would use to accomplish certain events in history.
There are some theologians that believe that it is a logical contradiction to have both human free will (in the truest sense) and have a God that fully knows and is fully in control of the future. Since they believe it is a logical contradiction to have both, it follows that it wouldn’t be a failure of omniscience / omnipotence to not be able to fully know and or control the future. That probably isn’t the best articulation of that position though and whether it can be squared away with the language of the Bible is another matter altogether. (I remain somewhat noncommittal with regards to how true human freedom can coexist with divine knowledge and control). That being said I can’t imagine a way in which God can micromanage the smallest of details and still allow for human freedom. That’s not to say it can’t happen but it will probably always be a mystery along the lines of the trinity. As with the duality of the nature of Christ, the danger appears to be in prioritizing one aspect over another. At the same time I feel like everyone has a tendency to internally pick one aspect to prioritize (however subtly) and it seems almost impossible to reconcile positions held that differ on that starting point. I’ll admit that my tendency is usually to prioritize human freedom…
Anyways, just a couple comments in regards to the passages you mentioned in Genesis and Job. From what I’ve understood of your view thus far, it seems that you would not be inclined to try harmonizing the accounts in the OT with modern science in that they have very different purposes and epistemologies. For myself, I’m still trying to nail down just how much weight to give claims made about the world in the Bible. My inclination is to think that the Biblical authors were not given advanced scientific information but were instead guided by the Holy Spirit to relate truth about God and his nature and give absolute moral guidance. As Galileo said (more or less), “the Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” So in that sense, sure, authors in the OT may have said that God created specific animals and man himself but the main point they were trying to convey was something more like the reality that God is the ultimate origin of everything as we know it. Not that God is only sovereign if those particular creatures were specifically planned from the origin of the universe by him. It might also be that in relation to man, God created his spiritual nature and so distinguished him from the other animals. In that sense God specifically “created” man but again, I don’t see how the specific anatomy and physiology of Homo sapiens matters all that much ultimately.
By the way, although I’ve heard of John Polkinghorne and George Murphy, I haven’t read anything by either. Can you recommend any of their books?