God overcoming Satan & Chaos: A Theological Theory of Evolution

I’ve been thinking a lot about YEC vs old earth vs theistic evolution recently, and one of the strongest arguments I’ve seen for YEC is the argument from systematic theology = death cannot exist before the Fall, and that animal death should be included in that and it takes some serious mental gymnastics to explain it in any other way. It devalues the gospel and what Jesus came to do in defeating death, if death already exists.

However I’ve also read Keller (here) which argues that the text of Genesis does not say that the world at the time of Adam and Eve was perfect or without any violence. And that in fact the story begins with the earth ‘formless and void’ which he argues can be interpreted as ‘chaotic’ - and God’s acts of creation bring order out from the chaos.

In this view, the Garden of Eden was a foretaste of what the perfect world could be, but it was an underdeveloped world that still needed to be ‘subdued’ and ‘cultivated’ as God instructs Adam and Eve to do so with him.

Further complicating this is the acts of Satan and his demons, and how they may have been active before the Fall in trying to thwart God’s plans.

This is what I’ve been thinking about: and trying to avoid some form of universal dualism of God vs Satan, what if a lot of the chaos of the uncreated world was due to some primeval fall and acts of Satan and his demons?

And when God brings order out of chaos, Satan tries to thwart him and destroy it.

The extinction event at the end of the Permian. The Triassic extinction. Jurassic extinction. The extinction of the dinosaurs. The extinction of the Ice Age. Asteroids, volcanoes, climate change, anything to stop whatever it was God was doing.

But in the words of Jeff Goldblum - “Life finds a way”.

And in every act of violence and chaos and extinction, life springs up once more, hope springs out of darkness, and resurrection springs out of death. Like a mustard seed - life grows from nearly nothing to a flourishing, diverse Kingdom, as numerous as the stars in the sky.

N.T. Wright comments in this video, “To begin with, if creation comes through the kingdom-bringing Jesus, we ought to expect it be like a seed growing secretly. That it would involve seed being sown in a prodigal fashion in which a lot went to waste, apparently, but other seed producing a great crop. We ought to expect that it be like a strange, slow process which might suddenly reach some kind of harvest. We ought to expect that it would involve some kind of overcoming of chaos.”

Satan had no idea what God was ultimately planning, but he tried as hard as he could to stop him. But he couldn’t stop him, after billions of years of struggle, death and life, from seemingly weak and foolish beginnings that are almost reminiscent of the growth of the Church today - intelligent hominids developed, as God breathed his very image into them. But Satan was not done, as in one great act of temptation he led these new image-bearers to rebel against their Image-Giver. And the Fall was huge in a way the universe had not seen before, it now looked darker and more hopeless than ever. Natural evil was compounded by the horrors of human moral evil, as these new image-bearers were now not simply destined to physically die but be eternally banished into the outer darkness.

But God was not done either. After billions of years it all came together just as the Creator intended - as he stepped into his own Creation as a human, taking all of the chaos and darkness and judgment for sin that they deserved upon himself and banishing chaos forever, triumphing in the resurrection and guaranteeing the New Creation to come.

Now you may say - thinking about this is kinda pointless because we can’t possibly know. And you’re right - it is a mystery. But it’s fun, and potentially can help us think theologically about what was going on for all of those billions of years.

Interested to hear people’s thoughts.

(Disclaimer: I’m still actually undecided on the whole YEC vs OEC vs TE debate but have been thinking about it from multiple angles, and I’ve found this an interesting one.)

Welcome to the forum, Witan.

And thanks for sharing yours.

I agree with what (I think) you suggest in all this - that the scriptural narrative is richer with possibility and depth to ponder than what simplistic readings would give it credit for. And there are many here who love to explore those depths … whether in wayward, unproductive directions, or in faithful and fruitful directions. May you experience the latter in your exchanges here, and with your continued growth in God’s word.

1 Like

Welcome to the forum and thanks for posting. I enjoyed your thoughts. While I have not really thought it through, I think chaos is just an intrinsic property of the universe, what it is in its natural state without the power of God intervening to create order. Much like a lump of clay awaiting the potter to form something of it. As such, it is not good nor evil, it just is. That goes along with Walton’s ideas of God ordering the universe in the creation story.

That then reminds me of how we see God’s power. I have been reading a blog discussing how we think of God’s power, and it goes into how we tend to anthropomorphize God and make him a Thanos type comic book character, but in reality his power pervades creation and is the power behind all power and creation, with what we see just being its manifestation. That idea seems related to how God uses evolution as a means of creation, or perhaps more accurately, of ordering creation, which to me is one of the big questions in Evolutionary Creationism: Where is God in the process of evolution?
In any case, here is a link to the discussion on God’s power if you are interested, link is to part 8 in a series of a book review, so will have to back up to read the rest if interested:https://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/

One argument against YECism is teleological, about why God created us in the first place:

I wouldn’t consider this an argument for YEC. It’s an argument against YEC. There is no doubt that there was death before humans arrived on the scene. If YEC entails no death before the fall then YEC is demonstrably false.

3 Likes

Thanks for your reply and the welcome!

Very interesting blog post around the God’s power = energy analogy.

However I would ask, how would you respond to those who would say the sudden destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah, the Plagues of Egypt, the sudden deaths of Ananias and Saphira and the story of the Flood itself all suggest to them a much more Thanos-like God rather than the one described in your link?

I love the drama of your ideas, great read.

I would like to give Satan and his demons rather less say in the physical processes! Here is where I have got to so far -

I think that if you look at the very physical laws that God chose to create, these have led to what we might think of as violent processes including great extinctions, whilst it still being a ‘very good’ creation. These laws led to the elements being formed in hot high pressure stars, through high energy explosions of supernovas, the bombardment processes that formed our sun, planets, and the earth including processes that we would think of as natural disasters. This has all provided the very building blocks and environment for life including us to evolve in all its glorious extravagance through selection including the great extinctions. Yet this feels a violent world to us and includes physical death with all its pain and feeling of finality. But I think God included physical death deliberately within His very good creation – Paul said so in Romans when he wrote ‘The created universe……was made subject to frustration , not of its own choice but by the will of him who subjected it, yet with the hope that the universe itself is to be freed from the shackles of mortality and is to enter upon the glorious liberty of the children of God’ (Rom 8 v19-21 REB). This says to me that Paul thought the man-God relationship to be so important to God that He chose the very form of the universe to reflect a problem, a future breakdown and the need for reconciliation. So, as well as seeing pain in the natural world and wondering why, painful consequences are experienced by us physically from bad moral choices e.g. murder leads to physical death. This is designed to hit us hard because we are actually hugely desensitised to our spiritual danger and need awakening to our true spiritual plight – as spirit and matter, we need the impact on us of the physical too. The universe being this way, I think, shows the supreme importance of man to God.

Good question, and I do not have the answers, but do accept that God is not only the underlying power and sustainer of the universe, but also directly intervenes outside of expected material events, call it miracles if you wish, though I sort of prefer “signs and wonders.”
To not see God as intervening, would limit him to little more than the god of Deism or the god of Naturalism. I think the God as energy idea, as stated in the article, is just a way to see one aspect of his power, and is a finite way of looking at an infinite God. We relate to God on a personal basis, and I think the Bible reflects our limitations of understanding.

1 Like

What signs and wonders jpm?

I wouldn’t call Incarnation Deism or Naturalism.

Certainly, that is the ultimate sign and wonder, though perhaps incarnation and resurrection are unique in their scope.
I am on the side of God intervening in the normal course of events, though perhaps often times by timing and circumstance. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the parting of the Red Sea may well have been natural events, notable by their timing. However, some on the more liberal side of interpretation may even see the resurrection as being explainable by natural means (mass hysteria and the like) which to me moves their belief into moral philosophy rather than Christianity, and thus more related to naturalism.

1 Like

They are mythic events Phil. They didn’t happen and they couldn’t happen naturally if they did. I want Incarnation (validated by resurrection) to be true. If there were scientific evidence for God the Killer then that would certainly raise questions of God’s moral philosophy, more so than His non-intervention outside Incarnation.

And is it liberal to be rational? Is it rational to use historical-grammatical method?

Even mythic events can have a historic basis. And earthquakes and volcanic activity and be interpreted as God’s judgement in retrospect. It does lead to your very valid question of what we do then with God who kills the innocent, the unborn and children. I probably do not fall too far from your view in that, but lack your certainty.
As to your question on liberality and rationalism, certainly I consider myself rational, yet conservative in many respects. In the end, conservatism in interpretation means seeing the text as meaning what the authors were trying to communicate, and that rarely was history, and most often ideas, which may well best be done using myth.
Is it rational to use the historical-grammatical system of interpretation? In some places, yes, but often it is not only irrational but liberal as it changes the meaning away from the intended message and overwrites it with the interpreter’s anachronistic and predetermined worldview, reading something into the text that is not there.

Santorini doesn’t explain two million people crossing the Red Sea. Tsunami don’t work that way. Especially where there’s no connection by water. The only ‘natural’ event that could have wiped out the five Cities of the Plain without leaving a trace is a Tunguska level one. Those are typical miracles in that God completely covers them up as if they didn’t happen. Like YEC. Are there any non-Jewish myths of this magnitude that have been accepted by science?

Your second para is EXACTLY what I meant : ) there are many rational conservatives. Political-economic conservatism has as high rationality as any other ism. I’m a raving left wing loony. And realist. There won’t be much to choose between us. Agreed on myth, but historical-grammatical method is easily hijacked by literalists. Look at this site.

Again you use liberal to mean an intellectually invalid approach. Why is that? I’m as rationally liberal as they come in my epistemology and avoid such delusion as you describe fiercely.

I think the problem is in defining liberal. Liberal politically these days is pretty well defined. Liberal from a theological perspective is different, in that basically it means taking liberties with the original intended meaning, and interpreting it in light of current times and knowledge. A liberal reading of scripture may be pretty conservative, and often a conservative reading is not only liberal but radical.

1 Like

What liberties? Please cite. Where does von Harnack do what you pejoratively say?

[I am not infected with Spongiform Theolopathy. When it comes to Incarnation, it’s that and / or nothing. Even though the gospel accounts are late, second hand and of unverifiable authorship and predominantly from one source, Q. The early letters of Paul are for real. The early church is for real. And the disciple whom Jesus loved - John writing about himself in the third person - is most authentic. I see the Spirit at work throughout the Bible despite it. Because I want it to be so. Thanks be to God, that Spirit. In tears.]

I come at it completely different. For me these are the considerations I make within the text.

  1. I don’t see any scriptural reason to believe Satan was the one that caused any of that. He’s an angel, not a evil equal force to God and I also don’t have any reason to believe Satan fell then. Rev 12 states that Satan and Michael went to war after Satan tried to kill the King that would be King of Kings while he was a infant. That’s Jesus. Throughout the Torah we don’t see demons tormenting anyone and having to be overcome but we see it all throughout the gospels. There is a reason why Jewish people don’t read the Tanakh and conclude Satan is evil. They don’t believe he’s evil because in the old
    Testament he’s not evil. He marched with the other angels and tested the faith of mankind. Many did. Scripture seems to indicate that the Hosts of Heaven plays a role in workings of humanity. So I don’t have any reason to believe Satan kept thwarting anything like mentioned.

  2. Humans don’t have a immortal soul. Nothing is immortal except God. God gives eternal life to those who he chooses and destroys those he chooses. Adam , even before sin, was not a immortal being in the story. Why would a Immortal being need a Tree of Life that grants immortality? If he’s immortal he does not need it and if he only needs it if he sins and becomes mortal but then is not allowed to eat it then it makes it completely pointless. Adam was , and all humans, mortal from the start. The Tree of Life in the story sustained Adam. ( It’s why Jesus is symbolically refereed to as the tree of life we are grafted into and it even plays a role into his being a Nazarene which means place of sticks.

  3. The story itself shows outside of Adam and Eve there was other humans already on the planet. When Cain killed Abel and was then drove off he was afraid of what the others outside the area would do to him. He met a wife, and built a city. Many try to say well Adam and Eve had other kids that he picked from. That’s contradicting to the tale. In the tale Eve only had those two sons and then after she gave birth to Seth it says she was happy because God replaced Abel. Seth was her next child after Cain and Abel and she had no other kids up to that point.

So within the text, not including science, there is plenty of points to show Satan was just a angel testing mankind, that humans were not immortal and that the earth had more humanity than just that in Eden.

As for chaos, as noted the waters were chaos. They use the same root words. The sea was chaos and is linked to it and it’s why in revelations it randomly tosses in that the restored heaven and earth would not have a sea implying no chaos.

Although Isaiah 65 in the section about the new heaven and earth posts some issues such as the new heaven and earth according to that chapter still includes death.

I’m obviously out of my depth. He is not Von Harneck, but good article for shallow readers like me I came across by Roger Olsen: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2013/10/what-is-liberal-theology/#disqus_thread

1 Like

The credit for those words go to Michael Crichton author of “Jurassic Park.” Jeff Goldblum is just an actor reading a script in the character of Dr. Ian Malcolm from the story written by Michael Crichton. The full quote from the book is: “ Because the history of evolution is that life escapes all barriers. Life breaks free. Life expands to new territories. Painfully, perhaps even dangerously. But life finds a way.

That is only a strong argument to a very small minority of people in the world even extended to the whole of human history – those with a strange new magical literal treatment of one portion of the Bible out of context of the rest of the Bible. For the vast majority, the very idea that death cannot exist before the fall of these two people in the Bible only 6000-10000 years ago is absurd.

There is no mention of demons in the OT. And the story in Revelations 12 having Satan thrown down and his angels with them has this event happening after the birth of Jesus. I certainly do not credit pseudopigrapha like the books of Enoch and Tobit which were rejected from inclusion in the Bible. So I quite agree with @SkovandOfMitaze that we have no Biblical reason to credit Satan as a rival to God with his own army to do his bidding. This is more the religion of Zoastrianism and fantasy novels like those of Susan Cooper.

These are what God was doing. The creation of life requires a pair of pruning shears to snip off the directions you don’t want things growing into.

The brutal realities of evolutionary history fits far better with dark necessities of what God had to do and command in the OT, than this unrealistic pretty fantasy picture you are painting over it. I mean think about what you are saying… that it’s ok for God to slaughter all but a few human beings on the earth but unthinkable that God would wipe out the dinosaurs?

YES! I don’t believe in this pagan notion of an immortal soul but in the spirit which requires relationship with God for eternal life! But I don’t believe in a whimsical god who grants and destroys life as you suggest. I believe in a God who sets up a rational system according to which things operate automatically. Just as He demonstrably did so in the physical universe, I think God has done the same in the spiritual also. And so hell is something people do to themselves.

I agree that people bring the judgement on themselves. Those that go to underworld eventually comes to the white throne judgement. Those without Jesus will be destroyed. I don’t think they destroy themselves, but their choices leads them to destruction.

Whereas I think that sin consists of self-destructive habits. It is because they destroy us that makes them sin. I certainly do not believe in a god who rules by fear like a mobster with a protection racket – making demands in order for you to be saved from himself. I believe in a God of love who is truly our savior, and is thus rescuing us from ourselves to cure us of this degenerative disease called sin. Is there no place then for a fear of God? Yes and no. On the one hand, He is love personified and only concerned with our best interest – we can trust in Him better than we can trust ourselves. On the other hand, for people growing up in world ruled by manipulation, God tends to be terrifying because He cannot be manipulated – there is no way to appease Him or buy Him off. He requires our absolute surrender to His will.

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

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.