Toward a Theology of Astronaut Beavers


(system) #1
There is a divine lure at the heart of creation.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/toward-a-theology-of-astronaut-beavers

(Casper Hesp) #2

Thanks for the post, @Bethany.Sollereder. I didn’t know what to expect with such a title!

I’m glad that God allows all of us to color outside the lines now and then… Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to contribute anything to His plan. Often we can see how God incorporates those gross mistakes into the larger picture. I guess that’s a prayer right there. I pray that God may help all of us to see that greater narrative, as we color without fear of making mistakes. And let Jesus be our example in all our coloring.


(Bethany Sollereder) #3

Amen! I think it is best when theology ends in prayer!! Thank you!!


(Doug B) #4

The perfect ending to a great series!


(Brad Kramer) #5

But wait, there’s more! Stay tuned :wink:


(Phil) #6

Delightful post! Though I wonder about transitional forms…


(Craig R. Tavani) #7

Somewhat troubling to read “God shares” and then be given the illustration of a childish, not child-like, understanding of sharing. The daughter in the illustration was demanding, not sharing. Such a thing is something a more mature person would not do. The mother could not come up with a way to teach the child the difference, but instead gave in. This is NOT an adequate illustration of God’s grace. God did not just “give in” to humanity’s selfish whining demand that God “share” his glory; according to Paul in his epistle to the Romans, it was not even “sharing” that happened, but an exchange that denied God’s glory altogether. Human demand for dominion proved to be deadly. Despite this deadly disobedience, our gracious God gave Himself to us freely so that we may have the opportunity to share in His glory through God in Christ.

As for improvisation, I think of actors sharing the stage and improvisationally developing a scene together. Neither demands one’s own will be done, but both will do whatever tells the story well for the sake of the audience before whom this play is being performed. Theologically, this is an audience of One and no other. This One happened to decide to join the actors on stage to play a part as well in telling the Story which this very One began to tell, continues to tell, and will bring to an end when that One wills it to come to completion. Yes, there is a sense of sharing, but the story is shaped (or, as in the illustration, the picture is drawn) according to One Will, and that will is neither mine nor yours but His to whom all glory is due.

Hmmm … this seems to speak of some sort of Design, does it not?


(Bethany Sollereder) #8

Dear Symmimex,
Thank you for those response. I agree with you that the analogy is not perfect… it is simply an illustration, and anytime we press it too hard, it will fail. Interestingly, I thought it failed on quite a different reason: I thought that the mother’s initial reluctance to share was where it didn’t actually reflect God’s heart. God, I think, is delighted to give good things to His children, and would never have kept back the notebooks in the first place. The daughter’s deeply appropriate response of “if you can’t share, you shouldn’t have it” seemed spot on. But this is a rebuke that God would never need to hear–so the illustration fails.

The second contribution you make about actors on a stage is one I like a lot. In improvisational dramas, the director does set the scene and gives rough outlines for where the scene should go, but then lets the actors take it from there to work out the goal in whatever way seems best to them. I have no problem with design in this broader sense, but I do have a problem if the director is actually feeding every line to each actor secretly, or forcing them to react to a situation in a certain way. The problem I find with the director/actors analogy is actually that is does not allow God enough scope to be at work. Jesus joins the actors for a short while, but the rest of the time, God is just the audience? No, I want God to be vastly more involved than that, more involved than just “directing”.

Thanks for helping me tease out these strands of nuance!


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #9

@Bethany.Sollereder

How can the Unselfish God create life based on the Selfish Gene and call it good.

You have created a beautiful theological picture of God gives humans life and shares God’s Love with us, but it fails to explain the scientific facts of how God created us through evolution.

I have always said that the problem with evolution is not that it happened, because it did and there is no reason why God could not create humans using an evolutionary process. Yet both Darwin’s and Dawkins’ understanding of Natural Selection are contrary to our understanding of how the Father created the universe using the Logos as a template and some basic scientific facts.

Your parable brings our the conflict between the theology and the scientific theory behind evolution. We need to fix the science of evolution before we can say that theology and evolution are compatible.


(Bethany Sollereder) #10

Dear Roger,

I have written on the problem of suffering before in evolution (if you follow the link in the third from last paragraph, you will find those pieces). I actually think that freedom is precisely why you can end up with a “selfish gene” (if such a thing exists). God gives us the pencil and we sometimes use it selfishly. God also offers (and offered) pencils to bacteria, to bats, to dinosaurs, and elephants. All of them are contributing to the picture by living their lives within the freedoms available to them. Freedom of agency (though not moral freedom) is available to other creatures too. But this brings us perfectly to my next article which will be published next week and is precisely dealing with your question!


(Jo Helen Cox) #11

Love your way of thinking! God likes playing with his thick sculled children and bossy. It is our distorted perspective that thinks beaver tails and astronauts should not be combined. Very much too adult.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #12

@Bethany.Sollereder

Please use the @Relates code so the computer knows with whom you are corresponding.

I am not interested in the problem of suffering. I think we have already discussed this before.

What I am concerned about is your understanding as to how your theological scheme corresponds to the science of evolution. If I understand you correctly, it does not, but I hope not.


(Bethany Sollereder) #13

@Relates

Dear Roger,
Did I do that right? I have no idea what a relates code is or how to use it… you will have to teach me that in very simple terms! (I am of the generation of digital natives, but have as yet only managed to get the basics of Facebook…)

Anyway, to get to your question: I think my scheme is perfectly consistent with evolution. God sets the project of creation up: gets stars burning and planets spinning, etc. God ‘pencils in’ the whole universe of matter. But when life first emerges, when that first cell emerges, God (this is metaphorical language… so allow some room here…) hands over a little pencil to that life form, and it begins to make its own contributions to the picture, alongside the work that God continues. Each subsequent creature adds its own “agency” to the picture until you get the full-blown moral choice of humans. Evolution by natural selection is the description of the process of the variety of life competing for limited resources. Nothing in my system contradicts the idea that each creature can use its own ‘agency’ (such as it may be) to compete with others. So as long as you have reproduction leading to variety, and you have creatures that have enough agency (of whatever type) to compete, you can have Darwinian evolution. God’s unselfishness is shown in giving real freedom to life, even if that freedom results in the “selfish gene”.

I’m not sure what you mean by “using the Logos as a template” and perhaps this is where our disagreement really stands.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #14

@Bethany.Sollereder

Look at my first message. Use the @ to indicate to whom you are responding. Your friends at BioLogos should have made sure you knew hw to use the blog.

Look at John 1:1-3
1 In the beginning was the Word (Logos,) and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
John 1:14
14 And the Word became flesh, and made His dwelling among us, and we beheld his glory, glory of the One and Only of the Father, full of grace and truth.

This the New Testament Creation Story, which is certainly as important if not more important than Gen 1.

The question is: Is human nature selfish or not selfish? If humans were created by God as selfish, this contradicts Gen. 1 which says that God’s Creation was “good.” It also means that Gen 2-3 are dead wrong.

It also means that humans do not need to be saved from sin, but saved from their human nature which God created as God’s Image.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #15

Bethany has written a beautiful piece for our benefit here, Roger (@Relates). And even as somebody outside your conversation here, I can see perfectly clearly who addressed whom – so there is no need for condescension on this.

Thanks for this, Dr. Sollereder! I can’t wait for my wife to get home tonight to show her some of your linked collaborative art work. (She has a master’s degree in art therapy). --Not to worry, though. We just enjoy great art! I know there are those among us (myself included at times) who push back at just how all this freedom works among God’s creatures in concert with God’s sovereignty. This is all good metaphoric fuel for these conversations, complete with the inevitable limitations that such language entails, as you acknowledge.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #16

@Mervin_Bitikofer, I agree that it is a beautiful piece. The problem is that the Theory of Evolution claims that life is not beautiful, but ugly. I am concerned that we criticize Creationists because they their theology does not agree with science because they allow their theology to over rule science., while we overlook others whose theology disagrees with science, because they allow science to over rule their theology.


(Bethany Sollereder) #17

@Mervin_Bitikofer
Thank you! I hope you and your wife enjoy. Metaphorical language is a tricky game, since it can evoke more meaning than can be reduced to propositional language, but it can lead astray as well since no metaphor or analogy is perfect and therefore will have elements of not being like the imagery either.

@Relates
Dear Roger,
I think I understand a little more clearly your concerns, and the image I have used here is not the best one to unpack those concerns. Let’s see how to approach these:
All things are made “by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.”

  1. This passage (and all Scripture) is not describing creation in scientific terms. We should not expect it to outline a theory of evolutionary change (or any other scientific theory such as gravity either!). So I think this can be consistent with evolution in so far as we can affirm evolution as Christ’s process for creating. E.g. Gravity is Christ’s process for creating stars and planets, and evolution is Christ’s process for creating life. In this sense, both planets and pigs were “made by him”.
  2. This brings us to the second problem you raise that it seems at odds for a loving Christ to use an ugly process. That is precisely what I try to answer in my other articles on evolution and suffering: that the ugly process is a result of the freedom grounded in love. So, love’s creation will always be freedom-granting, and therefore result in ugliness (as well as beauty) along the way.
  3. You ask: " Is human nature selfish or not selfish?" I would answer “yes.” The evolutionary process does not instill one or the other of these outcomes, but a mix of selfish and unselfish elements intertwined in highly complex ways. May I also point out that “good” (tov) does not necessarily mean “perfect” (in the way that ‘shalom’ might imply). So the use of ‘tov’ and ‘tov meod’ might be highly significant in Genesis 1 implying that creation was made to work toward an outcome of “perfection” rather than starting at a point of perfection that was meant to be maintained. (A more Irenaean than Augustinian approach…) Similarly, if you adopt the idea that God made Adam and Eve perfect from the start, and totally unselfish, you run into problems when Adam and Eve are vulnerable to temptation from envy and pride. A perfectly good human (like Jesus) would have been tempted but never have given in. So the question you raise is not just a problem for an evolutionary narrative, but is a question raised within the classical Augustianian tradition as well.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #18

I don’t think the proper (i.e. the scientific) theory of evolution makes any sorts of value judgments about beauty. You would have to import larger non-scientific philosophies into the science to get those sorts of judgments. So this would only become a problem then for those who accept those particular philosophical imports.


(Christy Hemphill) #19

Oh, don’t be rude, Roger. If someone directly replies to your post, they don’t need to @ you as well. You will get a notification and everyone can see who the reply is directed at by looking in the upper right hand corner. Just because Bethany hit the wrong reply button once doesn’t mean she needs a lecture, and people who use the reply button underneath your post to reply to you don’t have to also @ your name.


(Peaceful Science) #20

Very nice original post about God’s participation with us. I love it. Reminds me of AXE COP. Have you heard of it? It is a webcomic that was turned into an animated series on FOX.


The Tale of Axe Cop, Created by Two Brothers Ages 5 & 29

The AXE COP saga began on a Christmas visit to see my family. My Father, a man with very healthy loins, has managed to produce a variety of children, ranging from me, a 29 year old comic book artist, to my 5 year old brother Malachai, a 5 year old boy genius, with four other siblings in between. During the visit Malchai was running around with his toy fireman axe and he said he was playing “Axe Cop.” He asked me to play with him, and I asked what my weapon was… so he brought me a toy flute (actually a recorder). I told him I would rather be Axe Cop then Flute Cop, and he seemed just fine with being Flute Cop. The story that followed became more and more brilliant, until I couldn’t contain myself and I had to draw the whole thing into a one page comic. From there the saga continued, and over the course of my week-long visit we cranked out the first four episodes of AXE COP. I posted the comics to my blog and on Facebook and they got great responses. I decided to give AXE COP a home on the internet here and attempt to continue the saga as often as I have time to draw them, and I can get Malachai to write them.

The writing process is basically just me quizzing Malachai as he develops the saga. I’ll just try to pry all the details out of him and write them all down until something like a complete little story has been formed. Everything in AXE COP started in Malachai’s head, all I do is sort it out and draw it. Here is a video of the writing process. So enjoy these comics, they are a fun slice of the mind of a 5 year old boy processed through the pen of a 30 year old comic artist.