Atheistic Meteorology or Divine Rain?

(Benjamin Kirk) #41

No, it isn’t captured at all!

You conflate the set of theories about evolutionary mechanisms with the phenomenon of evolution itself.

Again, it makes no sense that if you view evolution and evolutionary theory as an existential threat from which you need to protect your children, that you could ever be content with such a shallow misunderstanding of both. How do you justify not knowing what you are talking about?


Yes, it is captured.

(Charles Alexandre Roy) #43


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?

(Benjamin Kirk) #44

No, it isn’t. For example, what does “change in alleles” mean?


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(George Brooks) #46


What you are describing is not Yahweh … but the “Zeus-like” God of Heaven and Earth.

Lots of power … but not totally omniscient.

I believe Evangelicals are more likely to accept millions of years of Evolution long before they accept the idea that God is not omniscient.

Ironically, I prefer an Omniscient deity with limited powers than the reverse scenario you propose.

(Chris Falter) #47

I highly recommend The Polkinghorne Reader as a nice introduction to his writings on a variety of subjects. It provides many jumping-off points to subjects discussed in greater detail in his other volumes. (Polkinghorne is a prodigious writer!) I reviewed the Polkinghorne Reader at length on its Amazon page. I hope you find the review useful.

(Charles Alexandre Roy) #48


Thanks for taking the time to answer my question, I’ll definitely check out that book and your review!

(Charles Alexandre Roy) #49


Thanks for your comment. I’d say that if anything I was more mentioning how some theologians have decided on a more nuanced definition of omniscience and omnipotence. One in which God cannot perform logical contradictions. So rather than saying that God isn’t fully omniscient / omnipotent, (which is somewhat poor wording on my part) it could be said that he is omniscient and omnipotent to the extent that it is possible which is simply a more careful / nuanced description. Most Christians unthinkingly assume that omnipotence simply means “God can do anything at all” but that immediately raises issues in terms of things like whether God can both exist and not exist or whether God can do evil and the like. So describing omniscience and omnipotence in this way isn’t simply a way for “liberal” theologians to somehow get off the hook or try to fully explain God or something. In his book, “God, Freedom, and Evil” Alvin Plantinga has a section where he deals fairly convincingly (in my opinion) with the question of whether it is a logical contradiction for God to both fully know the future and for human freedom to exist. (He answers that question in the negative).

Anyways, as I said lower in that paragraph, I personally remain fairly noncommittal as to whether this is the best description of omnipotence / omniscience or not and whether it can be reconciled with the actual language used in the Bible. That being said, if we are expected to apply our minds to God in order to love the Lord with our minds, surely God must be consistent with logic at some level. After all, he made our minds the way they are and it would seem strange if God made us in a way that we are totally incapable of understanding anything but the most basic aspects of his nature.

(George Brooks) #50


Nice posting. You remain noncommittal. I am strongly compelled to see in God, as a Cosmic mind, omniscience. But for whatever reason, I find myself uninterested in whether he is omnipotent, in any sense of the word.

Something for me to keep pondering though!

(Charles Alexandre Roy) #51


Thanks again for responding. I would say that this has been a fruitful exchange.

Although it is possible that human free will might not be violated if God fully controlled evolution up to the creation of man I feel somewhat resistant to this type of reasoning. It would sort of imply that there is a discontinuity in the process of evolution before vs after mankind “arrived”. As though God controlled evolution up to a point and now lets it run on it’s own. If evolution is still occurring and God is still controlling it, then it would seem that it doesn’t violate human free will. At the same time, if evolution is still occurring and God isn’t trying to obtain specific creatures now, it seems that it wouldn’t be necessary that he was before either. Just broad categories might suffice.

With regards to general human events as opposed to specific individual free will perhaps specific creatures (like elephants) were needed. At the same time though whether elephants were present or not would have affected the choices available to those people at the time so it seems almost impossible to fully separate human free will and the course of evolution. Then again, perhaps as I said in another post, general categories of creatures would have still more or less resulted in the same history as we know it and allowed for essentially the same availability of choices for people throughout time.

Your jump from thinking that having either blue jays or green jays is inconsequential to saying that it matters a lot that mammals and apelike primates were envisioned by God seems like a bit of a non sequitur to me. Why were those lifeforms with their particular anatomy so important? If you were you with all your thoughts, personality, and etc but had the body of a platypus, would that make you not worthy of a soul? Could it not be that when the Bible mentions specific creatures as being made by God that the Holy Spirit was accommodating information about who God is to the understanding of the people who were receiving the message? So if we aren’t trying to match up the descriptions of the natural world found in the Old Testament with the findings of modern science, what is the incentive for saying that if God didn’t orchestrate pretty specific sets of creatures through evolution, his complete sovereignty is in doubt?

If it could be shown that God controls every little detail of natural and human history then I guess I’d have no choice but to accept it :wink: Perhaps there has been a “softening” in the notion of Providence since Augustine, Aquinas, and Etc but maybe it’s a step back in the right direction. I don’t know. But Augustine didn’t get everything right and many other thinkers were influenced by Aristotle and so forth. In other words they were also products of their culture and the thinking of their time that unfortunately didn’t have the findings of modern science at it’s fingertips. Who knows what Augustine would have believed had he been born in this day and age. Of course I want to avoid the fallacy of saying they were nothing but men of their time and can be safely ignored but at the same time, they were missing some pretty big pieces of the picture (as we probably are now).


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(Charles Alexandre Roy) #53


Sorry if what I was arguing wasn’t super clear. I have a bad tendency to argue both sides at once or be skeptical of the very thing I’m advocating as I advocate it. I need to avoid that if I want to have clear writing in the future haha.

I agree with you that “lower creatures” probably don’t have anything along the lines of free will. They are probably more-or-less advanced automatons. I think that it is only with a soul that humans are capable of free will and maybe only with a regenerated soul. Anyways, I was mainly just trying to point out that in controlling evolution down to the most minute detail before man arrived on the scene, that might affect man’s free will in some way, not that of the lower creatures. Going with your elephant example, if elephants hadn’t existed, their use in warfare wouldn’t have been an option for human to choose and therefore human free will would be affected in a sense. It would be affected in that the range of freely choosable options open to them would be different. Whether this is even cogent and whether it would make controlling evolution clash with free will and therefore be a logical impossibility I leave open. I was mainly just mentioning this as one possible avenue someone could use to argue that it wouldn’t be a failure of omnipotence and or God’s sovereignty if he couldn’t control evolution down to the finest detail.

I very much agree with you that at a more fundamental level, theology and different views on God / Christianity are the primary motivating elements in the debate. For myself I wasn’t able to give up on Young Earth Creationism until I had most of my theological questions answered with regards to how various doctrines would be affected if I went with Theistic Evolution. It was kind of like Khun’s description of the Structure of Scientific Revolutions worked out in micro in which I was fine with holding to a particular worldview that had some problems until another better one came along that accounted for all the problematic areas. For Young Earth Creationists in general, I don’t think that they’d even bother with the so-called scientific arguments for creationism if their theology could be proven without a doubt as being right or wrong. I feel like the “creation science” they advocate is more-or-less just a prop that they put up to legitimize their understanding of theology in a world that cares much more about science. For myself, all the “scientific” arguments of creationism came to mean nothing when I realized that their entire enterprise was based on a flawed understanding of the key passages in the Bible. Of course there are other fundamental elements to their beliefs that they hold without even realizing like a commitment to the philosophy of foundationalism and so on as well.

I tried to see which of the two types of Christians you described that I would be and I came up kind of in the middle. I don’t think that Christianity needs to be seriously modified in light of Historical Biblical Criticism, Enlightenment philosophy, and modern science and yet I think that some theology could and should become more nuanced in light of modern scientific findings. There are some elements in science that should rightly be resisted by Christianity. Take Freudian psychology or certain elements of Sociobiology and the like for example. On the other hand, theology can be helpfully corrected in some cases by science. Prior to Galileo for example, certain Biblical passages were taken to mean things that turned out to be bad interpretations and any theology that hinged on those interpretations was consequently wrong or in need of nuancing. I think that science can continue to refine (but not seriously modify) theology in our times as well.

I do agree with you that there should be more discussion of the theological implications of accepting evolution. It would be nice to have more articles discussing the passages and topics you mentioned. I feel like many TE/EC people steer clear from this because they aren’t trained theologians and don’t feel like they have the expertise to really comment on those issues. I like reading Denis Lamoureux since he has training in both areas. Also, the book from which this article was taken, “Paradigms on Pilgrimage” is written in two parts with the first section by a scientist trained in paleontology and the second section by a Biblical Scholar who addresses more of the theology. I think the other reason sites like Biologos don’t go into a ton of depth on the theology is because of the fact that in Protestant circles, it is still practically heresy to say one “believes” in evolution. In other words, as a beleaguered organization in American Christianity they are still trying to carve out space to breathe and legitimize the basics before getting on the more in-depth aspects. (Although getting to the more in-depth theology might be more persuasive to people in the long run).

(Chris Falter) #54

Well-stated! But it’s worth pointing out that the scientific community itself has come to realize that the data do not support much of Freudian psychology and sociobiology.

(Charles Alexandre Roy) #55


Absolutely! What I had in mind though was more the metaphysical claims that were often (inappropriately) married to those sciences. If the science was in many ways based on metaphysical claims that clashed with Christianity, and if Christianity is true (or right in those respects), then it follows that science would eventually correct or reject those fields. (Since science is also aimed at finding out what is true about the world and not settling on dogmatisms). I think something similar could be said of eugenics and a lot of the “scientific racism” of the last century. So when science makes inappropriate metaphysical claims that go beyond the bounds of science, I would say that it is right of Christianity to resist those claims even before the science is eventually discredited (or the metaphysical components are abandoned). And it sounds like you’d agree with that :slight_smile:


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(Chris Falter) #57

I agree wholeheartedly. As a Christian, I must resist unscientific and ungodly claims made by scientists.

(Charles Alexandre Roy) #58


I’d say I pretty much agree with everything in your last post and in general it seems like we are likely to agree on most things. I also think that YEC has the odd positive feature, such as its resistance to unwarranted metaphysical claims made by secular / atheist evolutionists.

At this point it looks like we’ve more or less reached the end of the exchange as far as evolution goes in relation to divine action and God’s sovereignty.

As for demon possession vs mental illness and the like I think it’s a both-and situation and I think that even the Bible makes the distinction between the two. I’ll check out the other column on that topic. If you’re interested, the author of the second half of the book, “Paradigms on Pilgrimage,” (from which the article that spawned this conversation was taken) has a blog in which he discusses demon possession vs mental illness in a scholarly and I think sound, way. I commented on his article on that topic and you can read the article and my comment at the following link.

You can also read a detailed question I asked (with links to articles that answer each part of the question) about various aspects of the relationship between science and theology on that blog at the following link:

I believe you can still ask questions through that blog to the author of the book but I would recommend reading the book before asking questions as the book itself answers several of the sorts of questions we have been discussing.

Thanks again for the interesting exchange and I’m sure we’ll end up interacting at some point on the site in the future!

(Jon) #59

I would be interested in reading that discussion. Where is it happening?

(George Brooks) #60

I believe Eddie means this thread (link below). But I see you found the thread already …