Ethical implications of God using Evolution

Thank you for raising this issue Christopher and for all those who have contributed above. Your responses have been very helpful. God’s character is an important issue. I am really hesitant about posting this as I know I’m making some assumptions but I guess I am applying your question regarding this issue to the world in general. I just hope it’s helpful here.

I think the trite answers that Christians give to difficult issues such as suffering are one of our biggest downfalls. It’s easy to speak in generalities (sin is the cause of suffering, etc.) but what can we say to someone who is dying or whose loved one is enduring great suffering and losing the battle to live? Words fail and so they should. We can but sit with them, maybe hold their hand and be there and pray.

From great theologians such as CS Lewis who have struggling with God on this issue, there are no easy answers. The Dark Night of the Soul (by John of the Cross, 16th century monk) explores the times when it seems God abandons us despite our desperate need for him. It seems that God wants to strip us of our certainty, our control, our answers, etc. He wants us to find ourselves in him. He is the answer to what we desire most, eg hope, faith and love or if you prefer ‘needs’ such as security, self-esteem, etc.

There is nothing wrong with doubt, fear, questions, anger, etc. God can take it all. There is no easy answer to the issue of how God ‘allowing suffering’ reflects on his character. But Jesus prevents us from seeing God as an uncaring dictator who allows his subjects to suffer for no reason. Jesus, God, has suffered for us. The Roman use of crucifixion was one of the most horrible ways to die, yet Jesus took that course of action for us. This is, of course, a matter of faith. God asks us to trust him through the good and bad, through the questions and doubts. We don’t know why God chose suffering as an aspect of evolution and he has chosen not to give us the answer. We can question but we still need to walk by faith.

There are of course many other questions with no easy answers. It is so sad to see how many people have fallen away from faith in Jesus because they put their questions first. By putting Jesus first, we get our priorities right. Many of our questions will still be there but they don’t rock the boat as much as when we put our questions before our relationship with Jesus.

I read what I have written and think, “How trite am I?” Faith in Jesus? Easier for some than others. A loving God who allows suffering? Tell that to a world where many are suffering because of disease, war and starvation. I am certainly not going to tell that person that they are suffering because they are a sinner. I have loads of questions and this forum is a great place for exploring difficult issues but in the end, as so often happens, I have to admit, I don’t have the answers. When it comes down to basics, all I can do is point towards God who suffered for us on a cross. Isn’t that the best introduction to his ethical character?

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I agree. And any “answer” won’t help someone really suffering.
In the past I’ve seen suffering in the YEC framework – There is disease, death, hurt, brokenness, because we live in a fallen world. The feeling that “this is not how it should be” is actually correct. God made a good world but sin has corrupted all us and all creation. But someday he will make all things new and there will be no more sin, death, disease, cancer, depression.
This still isn’t adequate when someone is suffering. And it isn’t fully intellectually adequate (why did a Sovereign God chose to curse all creation in a way that a tsunami will kill 100,000’s and childhood diseases strike so many, etc. from one man’s sin) , but it is a framework.
From an EC perspective the framework seems less clean. Death, disease, cancer, starvation, brutality of man, are not a corruption of God’s plan, but seem to be a necessary part of it. We can say that these things we see as bad, are not as bad from an eternal perspective and that God uses them for good. Somehow this is far less than satisfying.

I think it is interesting that Jesus did not point to the “fallen world” idea when discussing suffering in Luke 13:1. He does not give any reason why some suffered and corrects his disciples from thinking they were any more sinners than anyone else. I think if there was an easy answer that human could understand, Jesus would have told them.

I’ve got to run. Sorry for the half-finished thoughts.

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Yes, and well said. Jesus also cried from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” If Christ could feel abandoned by God, we certainly shouldn’t feel ourselves exempt. I always find myself returning to Tomas a Kempis’ take on suffering:

Arrange and order everything to suit your will and judgment, and still you will find that some suffering must always be borne, willingly or unwillingly, and thus you will always find the cross. Either you will experience bodily pain or you will undergo tribulation of spirit in your soul. At times you will be forsaken by God, at times troubled by those about you and, what is worse, you will often grow weary of yourself. … The cross, therefore, is always ready; it awaits you everywhere. No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it, for wherever you go you take yourself with you and shall always find yourself.

If you carry the cross willingly, it will carry and lead you to the desired goal where indeed there shall be no more suffering, but here there shall be. If you carry it unwillingly, you create a burden for yourself and increase the load, though still you have to bear it. If you cast away one cross, you will find another and perhaps a heavier one. Do you expect to escape what no mortal man can ever avoid?

How trite am I? (On second thought, don’t answer.)

I agree the YEC framework is much more tidy. But in my experience, life itself isn’t very tidy. Nothing ever seems to go according to plan. I suppose that’s why I like heist movies. Ocean’s Eleven. The Italian Job. They come up with the most intricate, detailed plan imaginable, and somehow it all works. Reality is much more messy than that. So is the Bible. We’re all just muddling through, it seems.

On the “natural evil” front, attributing it to Adam’s sin is problematic, as you said. I always thought the “cost of creation” argument made sense. Here’s an old post on it by @Jonathan_Burke:

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Hi Christopher,
Hope you have had a good week (or so). I read this article today and thought of you. Has lots of helpful insights into the topics we’ve been discussing on this thread.

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Thank you Michelle. I have read through the article and been thinking about it’s points. It is quite a helpful perspective. I’m still working through how I understand Genesis … at the moment I’m still seeing it as much more what I’d call “theologically and culturally influenced history” rather than actual pure, factually accurate history. This obviously carries some bearing on a historical Adam & Eve. Some really good points were raised in that article though.

Good to hear from you again, Christopher,
I posted this on another thread. It might also be of interest to you as you work through your thoughts on how to understand Genesis. I just bought myself a copy, because I’m also considering new perspectives (although, as opposed to very figurative interpretations, I have a preference for finding a way to reconcile human evolution with a historical Adam and Eve)

This is another book on the topic of the Genealogical Adam and Eve hypothesis that recently published:

Wipf and Stock Publishers

The Generations of Heaven and Earth | WipfandStock.com

From what I read online, unlike the Joshua Swamidass book, The Genealogical Adam and Eve, this book by Jon Garvey seems to go into less detail about the science, and more into the theological implications of the theory. Here’s a summary from the publisher about the points made in the book:
https://try.wipfandstock.com/the_generations_of_heaven_and_earth/

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Hi everyone,
For what it’s worth, I’m just letting people know I have started working on a full summary of this thread, aiming to incorporate all the various views raised here. I’m slowly going over each and every post in this thread and organising the ideas raised therein into sections. I’m also slowly reading each article posted etc.

The final summary will be GIGANTIC - possibly one of the longest posts ever on a BioLogos post! So please, be patient with me and maybe be sitting when you see it and start scrolling down … and down and down. ‘Be not afraid’ upon its sighting
:worried::flushed::grimacing::nerd_face::exploding_head:

My aim is to really break it all down into relatively bite size chunks and hopefully order it all coherently, so that will at least make it easier to read🤞

Anyway, if anyone reading this has been mulling over some final thoughts they feel perhaps haven’t been considered yet - please add them in. I’ll be tagging/mentioning a lot of people in the summary post. I imagine I’ll get to posting it in 3-4 days or so …

Till then

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3) Ethnology suggests that man before Adam, created in God’s image, may have worshipped the true God by nature, but remotely

From yet other books like Captivating History – Australian Mythology, I understand that virtually all human groups, from Australian Aborigines to the Greeks before Paul (and even Gnostics) to Amerindians and on around…

all had a sense of “The Great Spirit”, the highest & most ultimate Heavenly Power

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Hi @Trunyon90, thank you for your earlier comments. I’ve been going over this whole thread in the hopes of summarising the main ideas and have just finished reading that article you posted where Dr Laing and Dr Scholoss discuss the issue of death in evolution from different perspectives.

My favourite part of the article was actually the first section. Dr Laing’s truly brilliant description of God being presented in the Bible as life bringer, and how this seems so much to contrast with evolution was for me, perfectly articulated. I found myself constantly agreeing with what he was saying!

At first, the response Dr Schloss sounded like it was setting itself up for something really special - he was so good at acknowledging the perspective of Dr Laing and so natural in sharing his own challenging experience of the pain associated with death. The tone of the article at first had a certain confident hope to it. The “I can certainly hear what my friend is saying” sentiment to my mind translated to “therefore what I’ll be saying in response will be a sufficiently corresponding answer”. Sadly, for me it wasn’t. And Schloss himself acknowledges at the end that while his points are hopefully useful, there is a certain lack of sufficiency to them, finishing from there with comments about one day being able to see clearly by God’s revelation (somewhat ironically, I think he is meaning in a generic sense after we die).

His points nonetheless were worth considering - how the Bible never explicitly says non human death is an evil for me being the most important point. But I was hoping for something more which I didn’t find, nonetheless I of course respect Dr Schloss’ attempt.

For my own sake I’m trying to sift through the many puzzle pieces around this issue and configure them into something of a picture - to that end I’ve been meticulously trying to summarise all the ideas raised in this thread, from the comments but also from the articles etc. I feel there are actually several lines of thought raised in the collective wisdom here that will add to Schloss’ arguments. Hopefully that will help me (and I hope others) when I finally lay them all out. I’ve made reference earlier in this thread to the puzzle pieces of Theistic Evolution or “Creationary evolution” (whatever term we want to use) forming a picture that to my mind has to include emotional elements of the famous “scream” painting. It of course contains other, much more beautiful elements also … but to my mind, to minimise the emotionally terrifying aspects of what evolution is and has done through history that can be summarised by that painting is unfair. I still struggle with God’s hand creating that scream, something Dr Laing so clearly describes.

I won’t go on (I’ve don’t that already) but want to say thank you for including an article that so closely addressed my primary issue of concern in this post, I appreciate it.

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Hi Jay, thanks for your thoughts and sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. I like what you say about the complexities of language as connected to theory of mind - and humans being far more developed on that scale than chimps/other animals. Thinking about it and reading part of that “order without law” article (which I actually quite enjoyed the part I read - there’s something oddly intriguing, even dare I say strangely reassuring reading about Chimpanzee social behaviours … I don’t fully know why haha, maybe because it makes more sense of some of the more primal and often stupid things we humans do). Anyway, in thinking about these things, I consider there is indeed a huge gap between animals and humans with respect to language, morality and relationships.

I tend to think though, as you said in relation to the concept of language, that humans are just more developed on a sliding scale of those concepts … rather than possessing them entirely apart from other animals (not sure if you were ever saying that in the article your wrote - well done by the way on that, no small thing to have an article out there). I guess this idea (that humans possess these qualities only to a greater degree than animals rather than uniquely?) then makes it hard to tease out the specific point where the unique human soul is born. It’s an interesting area to think about :face_with_monocle:

On all that, I had a bit of a look into Nietzsche’s “Will to Power” concept you mentioned, (only a 10 minute or so look via some videos, so I might be a bit off on exactly what it means). Um, I actually think it is this Will to Power that indeed is a very key aspect of what makes us uniquely human! What I mean is (here we go, double Dutch warning) … the internal expression of a will in the form of a promise that can remain a force in itself while holding together concepts of past memory, current experience and future likelihood … and then the ability and strength to follow through on that will/promise despite what that future might bring … that’s significant. Animals can’t do that (I’m not completely sure about chimps but I think they can’t either [I didn’t meticulously read the Order without law article but don’t recall it dealt with such concepts]).

All this I guess is something I’d like to think more about at some point - maybe there could even be a BioLogos post in the future “what actually makes us human?”. In the meantime, I’m trying to gather all my thoughts about the ethical implications of a traditional Christian perspective God - A. using evolution and B. not making it clear he did use evolution in his special revelation to mankind (the Bible). While doing so, I’m trying to reply to people’s previous comments hence this post :slight_smile:

Hi George, that perspective of the Eastern Orthodox Church’s view of sin sounds fascinating. Would you be happy to share any links to articles/videos etc that expand on it? I’d like to learn a little more. For example, would you say that the Eastern Orthodox Church believe in a literal Adam&Eve and that ‘sin entered the world through one man’s disobedience and death through sin” as Romans says? And if so, how is that reconciled with how you describe the Eastern Orthodox view juxtaposed against Augustine’s view of Original Sin?

The Eastern Orthodox communities believe Adam/Eve proves that God intentionally created humanity with the inclination towards disobedience.

They believe this was an important part of what humans had to learn from in order for humans to be worthy companions of God.

This is also consistent with the view that Adam/Eve were created as mortal beings … otherwise there would be no need for the Tree of Life.

@Sinner

Do some Orthodox googling… but make sure it isn’t Russian Orthodox. They appear to split the difference between Latin & Greek!

I’ve never read your interpretation being described. But maybe some E.O. out there thinks like you.

@Sinner

I find that discussions regarding “Theosis” don’t really engage the issues of Original Sin or Romans 5.

@Sinner

Yes, I can understand that viewpoint. In fact, there is a lot of interesting interaction in the medieval period between Greek and Latin spheres on the topic of theosis.

But if we are to acknowledge your “neophyte” status in this discussion, theosis fits rather well with a non-Augustinian view of sin.

Romans 5 talks about death through Adam & Eve … and this might be an allegorical reference to “death” - - OR:

… or it could be simply a logical statement that if the first humans were created MORTAL (in need of eating of the Tree of Life)… then all death comes to all the other humans because we are made on their imprint.

@Sinner

I was reading your opening post on a thread on Original Sin. You write:

“it is my understanding that you’ve just illustrated the Eastern Orthodox view of Original Sin, otherwise known as “Ancestral Sin”. The eastern view, as I understand it, is that sin is like an infection that affects everything it comes into contact with.”

If you mean this in the same way that “crazy people” tend to provoke crazy behavior from otherwise good people, then I would agree.

If you are saying that “sin” transferred mystically from Adam to the rest of humanity, then I would reject your interpretation - - as does most of the Eastern Orthodox community.

https://orthodoxwiki.org/Original_sin

NOTE:

This quote is easily found in the OrthodoxWiki article link that you provided in your earlier thread:

“The consequences and penalties of this ancestral act are transferred by means of natural heredity to the entire human race.”

This does not mean that “sin” transferred; it means that the nature of sinfulness transferred.

@Sinner

You can’t use the sentence as you write it:

“Thus if sin is ‘transferred’ in some way …”

The Eastern Orthodox are quite clear. The consequences of sin might be transferred … but not the sin itself.

Sin is not transferred. You can say, SINFULNESS is transferred… by means of heredity.

You said a lot of things … including “Thus if sin is ‘transferred’…”

Sin is NOT transferred.

@Sinner

Too subtle. You going to walk into a hallway of rotating blades.

The SIN is not transferred… period. If you are trying to focus on the different ramifications of this point, being NUANCED or SUBTLE about how you explain the foundation point is only going to cause confusion for other people who don’t realize you are being subtle.

@Sinner

Why are you bowing out? I’m not your boss. I’m not even a moderator or administrator. If I were your boss, I would tell you not to quit the discussion because you wanted to use quote marks.

But I’ve spent a little time on this question of Eastern Orthodoxy’s views on Original Sin. I only wanted to make it clear that you can’t argue that “sin is not transferred”, when you use phrases explaining what happens when “sin is transferred” in your follow-up analysis.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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