Biological Mongenesis and theological constraints of various streams of Christianity

(Christy Hemphill) #1

No I didn’t. I said Catholics had theological constraints. I said Evangelicals had theological constraints. I said we aren’t all operating with the same theological constraints. I still don’t see why you had such a problem with such an obvious observation.

"Do you not have other “theological constraints” than Roman Catholics?"

Does biology need the theory that all life shares a common ancestor?

Is that how you interpret your response: “Yes, I would imagine so”? To me that’s a half-answer that dodges responsibility after having pointed out in the first place undetailed “theological constraints” that supposedly biased an article on human origins by a Catholic writer.

Rather than simply yes/no, to be more specific with the question: which “theological constraints” (as BioLogos moderator & linguist/anthropologist Christy words it) or lack thereof do evangelical Christians have on the topic of human origins? Could you please name some? References to sources would be appreciated, if possible.

You make it sound like monogenesis is not an evangelical teaching, like it is not even a historical Christian teaching. It is you, Christy, and not Ken Kemp who have aimed to make it sound that way. You suggested Kemp is compelled to believe in monogenesis strictly because he is a Catholic Christian. Otherwise if he were Orthodox Christian or evangelical Christian, would he not be so compelled?

Is Christy hinting here at something special for evangelicals or non-denominationals about how to interpret human origins in Scripture? Are evangelicals not compelled to believe anything about human origins via their particular interpretation of Christianity? That interpretation is how Christy’s comment strikes me.

“evolution has to be situated within the constraints of that encyclical.” – Christy

Rubbish. Obviously you don’t know much about Catholic Christianity.

You write: “Not all Christians care about monogenesis, biological or spiritual. It is of particular concern to Catholics.”

This is a misunderstanding. Spiritual monogenesis is a core teaching of ALL Abrahamic religions. If you are going to deny that with a kind of Jack Kerouac “not all Christians care” attitude, Christy, then respectfully, I’d like to ask you please not to comment on any more of my comments on this topic.

You have said your piece and that is “not everybody cares.” And for people who don’t care, they don’t have to post. For those who do care, let us reason together and sharpen each other this way. I do care about human origins and processes of change, along with almost every Christian, Muslim & Jew that I’ve met to one degree or another, so please don’t throw your shade on our common care about human origins with some kind of boredom patrol.

Fine, you don’t care about monogenesis, Christy. It’s your (& BioLogos’) hinting that polygenesis would/could/might/maybe/should be considered an orthodox Christian view that I care about. It is a BIG problem that I think you don’t see. But you have said you don’t care about that and I can respect that you’ve said it and leave it at that.

Ken Kemp’s paper is clearer and more detailed to me about human origins and the possibility of accepting evolutionary biology and both spiritual and biological monogenesis within an orthodox or Orthodox, catholic or Catholic, evangelical or Evangelical worldview than anything I’ve read that come out of BioLogos. Strangely, BioLogos still won’t highlight or even acknowledge it, which is why it’s actually good that Christy referenced his paper here in this thread (a kind of backhanded compliment to ‘constrained’ Kemp). Dennis Bonnette’s work on human origins, same thing, but not shown on BioLogos, where Walton is the big evangelical exemplar.

(Lynn Munter) #3

…Wow. To sum up, @Christy recommended a paper to you that she thought you’d like, and you liked it. You proceed to object on the grounds that she did not phrase her recommendation as universal to all Christians, implying “supposed bias” in the paper, and you conclude by complaining (in the same breath!) that BioLogos does not acknowledge the paper and that @Christy’s recommendation of it to you was somehow “backhanded.”

Perhaps we might next review what “gracious dialogue” means, if you wouldn’t mind dismounting from that very tall horse you’re on.


No, that’s innacurate. I read Kemp’s paper near to when it came out. I don’t know where Christy learned about it; perhaps here by a non-Staff member. Christy recommended it to Dredge, who has apparently said he is a Catholic. Iow, she was recommending it to him because he is a Catholic.

You’ve misunderstood the “gracious dialogue” entirely, Lynn. In fact, I’m very pleased at Christy’s recommendation. = )) I simply asked about those supposed “theological constraints” Christy mentioned & here we are. It’s the “unconstrained” vs. “the constrained,” according to Christy’s terminology.

Since you have said you are not a Christian (please correct if that is mistaken), would you tell us what “theological constraints” means to you? Specifically as relates to this thread, do you have any “constraints” at all in your worldview when it comes to what you believe about human origins, e.g. in relation to monogenism & polygenism?

(Lynn Munter) #5

Oh, sorry for misremembering the original context!

“Theological constraints” seems to me to be simply descriptive, not intended to be insulting. Would the phrase “theologically rigorous” have been similar in meaning to you?

I felt the need to look up ‘monogenism’ right before reading this comment, funnily enough. Apparently it means “common descent for all human races,” and although it was a big debate a century or two back, it is actually a topic on which Darwin, modern science, and the Abrahamic religions agree, at least in the broad sense that we are all descended from the same gene pool, whether it was two people or a population.

I’ve actually been thinking about starting a topic related to this. It seems to me that Genesis does not describe Adam and Eve as the first humans, but that there is a long tradition of conflating Genesis 1 & 2 into the same story. I wonder if this was driven by the moral desirability of emphasizing that all humans are related and no group is inherently ‘better’ than the others. And having asked that question, can we then ask if we need to continue to tell each other that Adam and Eve were the sole progenitors of the human race in order to not be racist (bleep)s to each other? This is perhaps a ‘constraint’ of the sort you are asking about, I suppose. What do you think?

(Christy Hemphill) #6

I don’t have to interpret my response. I said it, I know exactly what it means. Filling in all the ellipsed information for you:

“Don’t you have other theological constraints than Roman Catholics?”

Yes, I imagine I do have other theological constraints than Roman Catholics.

Are we clear now?

What? And make a generalization and presume to speak for all Evangelicals? Surely you’d be all over my case for that. As I said before, different Evangelicals (and Catholics for that matter) have different theological constraints. Are you asking me about my personal beliefs?

It’s not a core teaching, though it is a belief many if not most Evangelical’s hold. The core Evangelical commitments are belief in the inspiration of the Bible as God’s Word written, belief that every true Christian has had a conversion experience, belief in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the whole world through missions and evangelism, and belief in Jesus’s atoning death on the cross is the only means of salvation.

Yes, because there is a papal encyclical that sets it out as Catholic belief. Evangelicals, as you may have noticed, have no pope, sometimes barely recognize the historic creeds, and have hugely variant beliefs. Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, baby.

Again, please don’t attribute motivations or attitudes to me. That is a violation of our gracious dialogue guidelines.

Biological monogenesis is not essential to my theology. That is what I meant by “I don’t care about it.” That does not mean I don’t care about the topic in general or think no one should discuss it.

Ha! I referred people to it, specifically because I thought it would be helpful and instructive. So, the way I see it, you did pretty much see it here. You’re welcome. There was nothing backhanded at all about my linking it. It’s clearly a helpful paper for a lot of people. It has been discussed here often, feel free to do a search.

Do languages really "evolve"?

Hi Lynn_Munter,

No worries on the misremembering. It happens sometimes and we should all be ready to forgive when someone openly apologises. Thanks for caring enough to allow yourself to be correct(ed)!

Yes, I concur with your view that putting “theologically rigorous” beside “theological constraint” would have been helpful. Kemp’s theological rigour on the topic seems obvious in the article he wrote and from having heard him speak live and having spoken privately with him, this rigour is confirmed. ‘Not caring’ about the topic would suggest less rigour usually from a person, but that might somehow not be considered a constraint either.

“if we need to continue to tell each other that Adam and Eve were the sole progenitors of the human race in order to not be racist (bleep)s to each other” … “I’ve actually been thinking about starting a topic related to this.” - Lynn_Munter

Please feel encouraged at least by me to do this. If you are a member of any of the Abrahamic faiths, you will have many resources about Adam and Eve available at your disposal. I’m glad, Lynn, that even though you are not a Christian, you care about monogenesis. It’s not just about not being racist bleeps to each other, though that’s not a bad reason to carefully consider polygenesis the way the Abrahamic traditions teach, not as certain new types of woolly liberal thinking might try to nudge us to believe.

Living their lives in an orthodox Christian way may not be something some/many/most evangelical’s strive for - they may even have little respect for orthodoxy - but one must pause to consider that the only reason BioLogos exists is because of evangelicals who have lost their way. It would likely be a howling affair at the annual general Baptist or Pentecostal meetings of America if a kind of “new evangelicalism” was put forth that meant not caring about spiritual monogenesis and instead actively hinting that spiritual polygenesis should become the “new kosher”.

That’s what I read from this kinda stuff:
“Evangelicals … [unnecessary flack] … have no pope, sometimes barely recognize the historic creeds, and have hugely variant beliefs. Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, baby.”

Imagine, Lynn, trying to de-convert someone from YEC to “theistic evolution” and having no orthodoxy (right teachings) about human origins on which to lead them. That’s a difficult predicament for the loosely coupled Protestant with no Pope or Academy of Sciences to face. And it is also likely one of the main reasons that evangelicals lag so far behind on the topic of human origins compared to their Catholic and Orthodox Christian sisters & brothers.

Good wishes formulating your title & thread!

(Christy Hemphill) #8

Only that wouldn’t have been my meaning.

Here is how I am using the phrase “theological constraint.” (I never meant it to be pejorative.)
Every person of faith has certain commitments to a priori truth claims that form the basis for their beliefs. These are the things that are foundational to their worldview, and which they are not willing to negotiate, because to do so would change the very core of their faith. All information and facts about the world are interpreted through the grid of these foundational commitments. If information seems to contradict or challenge one of these fundamental truth claims, then it must be reinterpreted until it fits or it must be rejected as not really true or comprehensible.

Rigor doesn’t have anything to do with it, since a person can be wholeheartedly committed to truth claims that were not arrived at by a process that involved any rigorous investigation or explanation or examination.

One of my personal theological constraints is that the Bible is the true and inspired revelation of God and everything in it is authoritative. So, if I come across something in the Bible that seems to contradict information or facts about the world presented to me in other places, then in order to accept the truth of those facts, I am theologically constrained to find an exegetically responsible interpretation of the apparently contradictory Bible passages, one that maintains the Bible’s authority and inspiration but allows room for the facts. The constraint does not allow me to simply dismiss some biblical passages as “wrong,” “mistaken,” “irrelevant to today,” “racist,” “sexist,” etc.

(Lynn Munter) #9

To be meticulous, I did not suggest that @Christy should have done this, I just asked if it would have had similar meaning (i.e. not had negative connotations) to you. But I think she has exhaustively clarified at this point.

I was pretty confused after reading this post, and after I googled ‘spiritual monogenesis’ and the first result was the paper by Kemp that (I think) started this whole thing, I figured I’d better try to read it after all. It did help one aspect of my confusion: on the first and second pages, it gave entirely different definitions of monogenesis and polygenesis than I had found when looking them up on Wikipedia. Kemp uses them to mean descent from an original pair. The Wikipedia definitions more closely match Kemp’s definitions for monophyletic and paraphyletic: common descent from a single population vs. from multiple sources.

I wonder how most people understand the terms?


Hi Lynn_Munter,

Yes, we’re not saying @Christy “should” do anything. :blush: Gentle is the hand that doesn’t act on instinct-alone.

I’m still not aware of a single concrete “theological constraint” any particular branch (not getting personal with her) of evangelical Protestants have beyond their own personal conscience regarding human origins that she has named, after several times being asked.

It doesn’t seem like anyone (other than myself) is interested to engage your questions or comments here about spiritual monogenesis rather than simply biological monogenesis. The thread even steers away from that, as if biology-alone regarding monogenesis is the basis for the “real” conversation here at BioLogos. It’s not like having “biology” in the title requires avoidance of important human issues involving theology, science & philosophy interface.

Kemp’s paper, “gave entirely different definitions of monogenesis and polygenesis than I had found when looking them up on Wikipedia” - Lynn_Munter

Yes, it does sometimes seem that people use Wikipedia to argue & then are surprised when it isn’t always built on good scholarship.

“Kemp uses them to mean descent from an original pair. The Wikipedia definitions more closely match Kemp’s definitions for monophyletic and paraphyletic: common descent from a single population vs. from multiple sources.” - Lynn_Munter

Hmmm, it is curious then that nobody at BioLogos wants to engage with you, given you’ve expressed interest in Christian views about this topic!

I really don’t have an evangelical Protestant writer who has addressed the topic as clearly and thoroughly as Kemp to offer you, Lynn_Munter, otherwise I would gladly do so. That is why I have challenged Christy, and now call out all of the BioLogos staff to assist her: where are these Protestant views about human origins that have been built on a strong base?

My position is very clear & basic, open & honest based on sound historical scholarship and mainstream religious teachings, compared with the open theology, soul-fuzzy, epic/gospel of evolution, religious naturalism stuff coming from some people (e.g. Rev. Michael Dowd & Connie Barlow): spiritual monogenesis is a core teaching (or, if you prefer, ____ fill in the blank ____ ) of ALL Abrahamic religions.

If anyone should disagree, could they please explain why?

A.Suarez's Treatment on a Pope's Formulation for Original Sin's Transmission!
A.Suarez's Treatment on a Pope's Formulation for Original Sin's Transmission!
(Christy Hemphill) #11

My theological constraints regarding human origins:

God intentionally created humans.
God initiated a unique relationship with humans that no other creature was offered.
God created humans to be his image bearers and gave them authority over creation that is unique among all his other creatures.
God offered the possibility of immortality to humans.
God created humanity in two spiritually equal complementary (i.e. not interchangeable) genders.
God created humanity to flourish best in relationship with himself and other humans.
God instituted marriage as the basis of kinship and family.
From the very beginning of humanity’s calling by God to bear his image, humans have chosen of their own free will to reject their calling to faithfully bear God’s image and therefore bear the destructive consequences of their disobedience and failure; broken relationship with God and fellow humans, inability to rule creation well, and societies and cultures that are inherently corrupted.

I understand spiritual monogenesis to mean that one human pair was initially given immortal souls that were corrupted by sin and this spiritual corruption was inherited by all their offspring. Many people link spiritual inheritance with biological ancestry. Some traditional teachings on original sin and the fall do require this belief. Other traditions, including my own, teach that although “the fall” (human sin and rebellion entering the world and corrupting relationship with God) was a real historical event in redemption history, humans do not inherit Adam’s guilt. Rather they are born into sinful human community and identity (they have a “sinful nature,” a human propensity to sin and disobedience), but all humans by their own free choice sin against God and are held accountable for their personal rebellion.

I am not convinced that any of my beliefs about sin and the fall require an original pair of humans who were given the first souls from whom all human souls trace their ancestry. I think the whole construct of immortal souls is imposed on the biblical text in many places, and while it is a useful construct in some cases, I think of humanity as more holistic beings who function in both physical/material and spiritual dimensions.

(Curtis Henderson) #12

I’ll not suppose my position on everyone else here, but I can give you my perspective. I have not been trained in theology and to my shame, am simply not well-prepared to engage in a large number of difficult theological discussions. It is MUCH easier to give answers to questions that can be studied scientifically than those questions that cannot.

It’s not that I don’t care about these issues, I simply don’t have the ability to contribute in a positive way.

(Christy Hemphill) #13

Unfortunately among people who have been trained, “theological discussions” too often turn into things that remind me of my stereotype of what people do at Star Trek conventions - a bunch of people arguing over minutia that the average person doesn’t know or care about and wandering so far afield from the main points we are supposed to be excited about and inspired by. I could highlight a few discussions on this very forum as examples, but I will refrain, so as not to appear judgmental of the theology Trekkies among us. Everyone has their hobbies.


Have you at least read the Kemp article in question? He appears to be quite well trained in theology and gives due attention to “questions that can be studied scientifically” as well.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #15

Thanks. Maybe I could start up something to convince you all that the reason we never see bathrooms on the Enterprise is that they are always having the transporter empty their bladders every time they beam somewhere – or remove a couple extra pounds while it’s at it so they can fit into those suits.
You MUST admit, though, that Dr. McCoy’s insistence that the transporter kills every human uses it for the first time since there is no way it could transport the soul along with the matter; --that makes for a wonderful theological reflection. We need to all be clear about these profoundly important things, and I would be glad to answer any questions.

But you would probably insist I use another thread … or another site …

(Christy Hemphill) #16

And that you compose your post in Klingon.


Merv & Christy, let’s treat this topic un-seriously & get a moderator to further take it off topic to boot?

(Christy Hemphill) #18

You don’t like our friendly banter? You don’t have to read it.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #19

Sorry that my interjection looked like mockery of the whole topic. It was not, and laughter is sometimes the best reminder to myself (and perhaps others) not to always take ourselves so seriously.

Re-reading back through the posts in this thread, I’m still not exactly clear what the bee in your bonnet is all about. I gather that you want it fleshed out if or how poly-genesis should/could be seen within an orthodox, scriptural framework; or is it mono-genesis of a spiritual kind; and you want to know where Biologos stands on all this. Is that a fair assessment of your agenda here? Christy, I think, has given a clear answer where she stands, and I thought it a good collection of constraints. Had I composed a set for me, it probably would have looked very similar. None of us though represents the whole of Biologos in this discussion, though Christy would come closest as an official moderator. I do think it a worthy discussion to the extent that the issue has become a stumbling block for you or others. Sometimes one can address stumbling blocks by helping people recognize they need not navigate that path with said block at all, and that a closer straighter path gets us where we need to go and avoids the issue altogether.

But you aren’t interested in “other paths”. You want this puzzle solved and this particular “stumbling block” addressed. Right? (And that isn’t just a rhetorical query – I want to know if this all is way off base). It sounds like you already have ample resource (Kemp) to feed into this quest. I’ll confess I have no intention of picking up a whole book over it, but I don’t mind reacting over any salient points from sources that you want to bring here. I’m too tired to think about throwing books on the heap right now, but not too tired for the occasional quip, banter, or even serious dialogue. Thanks in advance for your patience.

Edit: Okay – I see it was a paper, not a book. Still not much more likely I’m going to wade through it, though. Beyond the abstract, if you or Lynn want some specific claim engaged or some paragraph of that work reacted to, I’ll do my best.

(system) #20

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