Skip to main content

I just came across a brief but insightful interview at the Collegeville Institute for Ecumencial and Cultural Research. Janet Kragt Bakker interviews Christopher Southgate on the how Christian faith engages theologically the harsh realities of evolutionary theory, namely extinction, suffering, and cruelty in the animal world. Southgate is a biochemist, poet, and Christian theologian. He is currently a research fellow at the University of Exeter in England. He addresses directly the question of non-human suffering in his 2008 book The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil.

The question of the “historical Adam,” which tends to preoccupy evangelical circles, is child’s play compared to the larger and well known philosophical/theological issues that evolution introduces to the Christian view of God, namely: why does God not simply “allow” animal suffering, but why is animal suffering an inextricable element of the evolutionary scheme that, as Christian evolutionists says, is God’s way of creating?

A couple of quotes from the interview:

So much attention, very understandably, has been given to the problem of human suffering, but the fact that the natural world that the good and loving God has created is nevertheless “red in tooth and claw,” has received very little attention, and it needs some hard thinking through.

…perhaps 99 percent of all the species that have ever existed have gone extinct. The evolutionary process has generated incredible value, but what might be termed “disvalue” is bound up with the value. This makes creation ambiguous.

I don’t believe that God is good and loving because of what I see in the natural world, but rather because of my own experience as a Christian and my convictions about the person of Jesus. My challenge is to reconcile the ambiguous picture of the natural world with the character of the good and loving God I know from scripture and experience. I need to be prepared for my view of God to be changed by my reflections. That’s the price of theology.

I’ve been quite clear in my contention that some of the traditional approaches to theodicy, especially with regard to animal suffering, simply don’t work. It doesn’t work to sentimentalize animal suffering through what I call “Bambi theology”, to pretend that animals don’t suffer, or to suppose that the suffering of animals doesn’t matter. Nor does it work to suppose that suffering is, in some way, the result of some sort of foreign event such as the human fall into sin.

I believe that God is very close to every living creature and every living creature’s experience. We get just a hint of the character of God’s suffering with the world when we look at the passion of Jesus, in which he suffered for the sake of others. This gives us a visual aid to help us understand what we can never fully grasp, God’s intimate relationship with creatures.

Anyway, be sure to go to the interview itself and read it in full. Whether Southgate has cracked the code or not is not for me to say, but I learned some things from reading it and suppose many of you may too.

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.

No Comments

  • Brian P. says:

    I often comment on this blog. Incidentally, I am a hunter and I have venison in the freezer. Last fall I was having a conversation with the guy who processes our meat. As he’s trimming still warm meat off bone, we’re talking. He tells me that some people when they shoot a deer they’re feeling all triumphant. He tells me what he likes to do is to silently go up to the animal and say a prayer of gratitude. I tell him I think similar thoughts. I have killed so that I might live. The gnostic modern supermarket’s abstraction does not change the realities of the world and we know this. This afternoon, I may make some venison chili in the crock pot. And that gratitude lingers still. And in many ways I know that my life is to be given in many ways just like that deer. If I don’t live for others, what’s the meaning of it? If I could attribute bad bambi theology to anything it would be the presence of the supermarket and the lack of understanding of evolutionary biology, the meaning of the incarnation, the meaning of death, and the meaning of life.

    • peteenns says:

      Great point, Brian.

      • Brian P. says:

        IMO, how we care for the flora and the fauna of the garden is not unconnected with how we appreciate the sacrificial death of Jesus of Nazareth and anyone else who dies for the benefit and life of others. If you ask me, every meal should be rich with Eucharistic appreciation.

        • Lars says:

          I agree that those are very interesting points. Brian, are you saying that you would have no problem, in the circle of life, being someone else’s venison? 🙂 While I’m not a steak-and-potatoes guy all the time, it’s difficult not to see Dr. Southgate as a vegetarian, given his empathy for non-human animals. My question is whether that empathy, in light of evolution, and the natural order of things in general, is misplaced. The cougar, who acts entirely on instinct, sees the deer as its next meal, period. It’s hard to imagine any second-guessing in the animal kingdom when it comes to the next meal. I wonder why we should feel any different, and if there might have been a time when we didn’t. Is our empathy for animals, or humans, also a result of evolution now that we no longer have to eat them to survive? In other words, is empathy inherent (being made in the image of God) or simply a by-product of gradual self-awareness?

          • Brian P. says:

            Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, someday I’ll be eaten by worms and I’m quite OK with that. Personally to me it seems likely that empathy is an emergent product or by-product of evolution. I see it (but then again I see “sin” that way too) as behavioral phenotype.

          • Lars says:

            Ah, but would you still be so gracious if the worms eating you had actually caused your death instead of just helping you decompose?? 😉

  • Andrew Dowling says:

    “I need to be prepared for my view of God to be changed by my reflections. That’s the price of theology.”

    Boy, ain’t that the truth!
    I like Southgate’s insights and his honest grappling with these very challenging issues. One thing though is that he talks about the “animal world” as if human beings are not a part of it. Since man’s evolution, despite being on the ‘top’ of the good chain, humans have been eaten by numerous creatures, wiped out by deep freezes, droughts, hurricanes etc. He seems to be assuming “well, humans can explain away all of this by the Fall” but by doing that one is basically ignoring the larger issue/rest of the argument; that pain and suffering have been a part of creation for all animals, including humans, since life existed. A literal Fall event makes zero sense amidst this backdrop.

    • Brian P. says:

      The sower sows. The sower tosses some on rocky soil, some on shallow soil, some in scorched places, some among the thorns, and even some on good soil. And the like beaks of finches and even evolution in our own time, these highly homogenous yet slightly mutated seeds are exposed to different environment. The seeds that survive in the rocky soil, they’ll be stronger for it. Or perhaps I should say more adapted to that particular environment. This is the force of natural selection. But take the seeds in the nominally “good” soil. Indeed, less will survive. As such, greater generic diversity will be present under lessened force of natural selection. One could almost say they are being made “weaker” in generations to come. They have become more and more dependent upon the goodness of their edenic environment. Give enough generations, and the soil will no longer be good but merely average for their genotype. Freezes and draughts create higher selective pressure, sure. Only if I am ego-centric about my or my kin’s DNA’s survival can I consider such ontologically evil. For me, an Ireanaen view of the fall seems more responsible than much of the, dare I say, non-biblical foundation here on which much of Western theology banks. Without environmental suffering, there is no emergent complexity. Without temporal death, there is no continued life. Without sacrifice, there is no meaning. Changing one’s view of God should not be a price; it should be a joy. As for me, I’ll not follow those frozen in their certain dead beliefs. I’ll follow those who die unto themselves, who live for others, and grow and change in journey of faithfulness. Much of Evangelicalism is under intense memetic selection. We needn’t worry–that is, if we believe the seed itself will thrive.

      • Andrew Dowling says:

        Just to clarify, I’m not saying that as any sort of value judgment of natural selection being ‘evil’ , , it certainly isn’t; it just is.
        Not only do I not belief in a Fall event or believe one is at all necessary for Christianity, but I’m certainly open to the idea of God not being omnipotent as is traditionally conceived. I do think the anthromorphized version of the interventionist supernatural deity present in so much of Western Christianity doesn’t really survive what we now know about the natural world . or if He does, ends up as a Being rather different than the God of Jesus (see new Calvinism)

        I think we come to a point where faced with this deluge of data and information about the history of the Earth and natural selection, one has to humbly embrace mystery to some extent (if they hold onto some sort of theism), and ultimately focus on the essentials of living a life based on love of fellow living beings, compassion, and mercy. Sounds flowery but ultimately involves making tough choices and self-sacrifice.

  • Nick Morris-Kliment says:

    This looks fascinating–
    where do I get the full interview?

  • jtw400 says:

    Hi there. Good post to interesting material.
    Can you please check the link provided? It just points to the ‘About Us’ section of the website for Collegeville Institute for Ecumencial and Cultural Research.

    • Jim Flom says:

      I consistently find your blogs thought-provoking, Peter. What I am trying to figure out is what your blog series is doing under the Patheos Evangelical subheading. At what point are you unashamedly, no harm-no foul, no longer an evangelical? The whole thrust of your work seems to be to deconstruct Evangelicalism. Mind you, I appreciate it. I admire and respect your efforts to wrestle with issues others cannot or will not wrestle with. But aren’t you more of an evangelical refugee?

      • Brian P. says:

        I think there’s a rule of etiquette that it’s best to call people, individually and as groups, by their preferred term of self-identification. If my friend wants to be called Jacob rather than Jake, it would probably be polite to do that. Or if Jacob self-identifies as a “Christian,” perhaps it might be polite to refer to him as such. There are a lot of bad words out there that refer to people as individuals and groups, ones that they’d rather not hear. Ostracization often involves saying, “you’re not a real [____] [like me/us].” Sometimes it reduces to referring to the outcast/other/outsider as something non-human, often a taboo animal. Over the years, the downcast, outcast, and downtrodden have been referred to pigs, dogs, and more. By dehumanizing the other, it helps us justify inhuman treatment, even it is is mere heartless dismissal. I would suggest, this is up to Pete. It’s up to him to consider his self-identifications. If he chooses to identify as “Evangelical,” that’s his call. Within Christendom, what it means to be [____] has varied and shifted (should I say evolved?) over the years. Rather than doubling down on the No True Scotsman’s fallacy, why not we just grant the human politeness and let each other person be addressed by the terms they prefer? And yes, you may have to share a label with someone you don’t like. But yes, you may find something of spiritual depth in this extension of grace.

        • Brian P. says:

          Or simply alternatively, Evangelicalism is something akin to a ring species.

        • Brandon says:

          With all due respect, I think you should rethink this approach to labels. Let’s say some does not believe Jesus was God, that he died, bit did not resurrect, that the Bible is not of particular authority, but they identify as Christian? Are they Christians? No. Jacob can be called Jake because it’s a name void of definition. Words, hoever, have definition. I cannot say I am painter if I don’t paint. I might enjoy paintings, I may have friends who are painters, but I, myself, do not fit the definition. So let’s start with the definition. What does it *mean* to be an Evangelical?

          • Brian P. says:

            Jacob means “to follow” or “to be behind.” Here’s one idea, Brandon. Christians are those who you think are Christians and Evangelicals are those who you think are Evangelicals. On my behalf, I give you authority to identify, who’s in, who’s out. You are most welcome to start with definitions on my behalf. And rather thank calling me Brian, would it be OK if you called me Daniel. It means “may God be my judge.”

          • Brian P. says:

            Incidentally John Byron posted an interesting one about how even when we pick our own labels to be called by others it’s not yet easy to get a good fit:

      • Jakeithus says:

        The way I see it, if a person attends an evangelical church and identifies as an evangelical, then they’re evangelical. By its very nature, I think Evangelicalism resists the imposition of clearly defined boundaries, although many both within and outside the movement have tried to impose them to make things neater.

        I don’t agree with all of Peter’s positions. I agree even less with many positions held by those who might be called the great “Evangelical champions”. To call me personally anything but an “evangelical” doesn’t make sense to me however. What I like is that I belong to a movement that allows for a variety of perspectives and opportunities for debate. Kicking people out of the tribe kills that debate, as it says “this person is no longer one of us, so we don’t need to take what they say as seriously”.

        • Brandon says:

          I totally understand what you’re saying, and I am not trying to argue for or against Evangelicalism. My only problem is allowing people to take on label’s simply because they identify, and not because they fulfill the sense of the word’s definition. Modern Christianity is in deep turmoil now because of this ambiguity. At what point do people wrongly identify with a group? When they breeched the defined and determine confines of that group. Whether Peter has done that or not is a different story.

          • Jakeithus says:

            I get where you are coming from, and I can be a stickler for good solid definitions from time to time. I just think that what it means to be an Evangelical is so hard to define, it becomes more about identity than anything else.

            I see people both inside and outside trying to define Evangelicalism as something more concrete and narrowing, and I don’t know that I agree with that goal.

          • Brian P. says:

            Here’s one: You’re an Evangelical if definitions are really, really important to you. 😉

  • Rebecca Trotter says:

    One of the things I explore in my own writing is exactly this topic of what happens to our theology when we accept that the world as it is is the way God made it. One important issue for me is that when God created the world he declared it “good”. We humans want to romanticize this as perfect, but that was never what God said. And even with all the suffering that goes on, I don’t think anyone can argue that the creation isn’t good. So some of the problem is our unrealistic expectations.

    Another issue for me is the role of redemption. As I understand it, only that which can be redeemed is allowed. So that’s a pretty broad standard.

    The third issue, which becomes much clearer once you accept evolution and a very old creation is that God plays the long game. We are so fixated on individuals that we often lose sight of the reality that the greatest honor and glory goes not to the one who lives a comfortable, enjoyable life, but to the one who moves the project of growth, development and survival forward.

    Finally, I find it helpful to think of life as a game. I don’t think it’s an accident that we are so crazy about games and even animals play. And what fun is a game without peril, challenges, setbacks and even loss? A friend of mine posited once that there is predator and prey because sneaking up on a cabbage isn’t all that fun. The problem seems to be that we are so immersed in the game, we forget it’s just a game and there’s a much bigger, safer reality waiting for us when our turn is done.

    • Brian P. says:

      Maybe the world was created good in the sense of the ancient Yahwist’s goodness, not in the sense of Plato’s. And maybe we’ve had theological amnesia over the centuries about from where our foundationalisms have come. Rebecca, also, perhaps you’d enjoy rabbit hunting. They’re a lot of fun to sneak up on.

  • Bev Mitchell says:

    Don’t remember if I’ve said this here before but here goes anyway 😉

    Biologically speaking, it’s helpful to think of life (God’s great idea continuously accomplished and sustained by his Spirit) as undefeated. The life we know resides on the thin skin of a planet in a rather large place and may even be unique. The vast majority of resources available for life are, at any moment, tied up in things that are living or have recently been alive. Add some inorganics in the soil and air, some rays of sunshine, and you have the sum total of all those resources. Even while we live, the proteins in our bodies all turn over roughly every three weeks. Yet, in spite of limited resources, for billions of years life leads to death which leads to life. Life wins.

    I think there is something in this fact that should be incorporated into our very individualist evangelical theology. It should be possible to do this without missing the fundamental message of our individual need for God, for redemption and for restoration. As Rebecca said, it’s not perfect but it sure is a marvellous wonder.

    P.S. Do you know that in order for water molecules to be split in the first step of photosynthesis, five metal atoms (four Manganese and one Calcium) must be held in perfect relationship to one another by a protein that has a very ancient lineage? This is necessary so that the water molecule can be oriented perfectly for efficient splitting by light (photons). The resulting hydrogen (protons), and high energy electrons are used for making food (glucose) and the oxygen is released to provide the oxygenated atmosphere that we need to get the energy back from the same glucose. All leaves on all the green plants of the planet have this little five-fingered marvel in untold quantity working whenever there is enough sunlight.

  • Bev Mitchell says:

    Thanks for pointing to this. There is very much that is very good in what Southgate says. His biologist’s view makes me cheer him on, since so many Christians do not have an adequate understanding of today’s biology to get the full effect of what Christian biologists are talking about, and excited about. He also says some very important things about the closeness of God (I would be more specific and say the Holy Spirit) to every creature. God’s Spirit, Christ’s Spirit, is indeed active in a loving, protective and guiding way for creation.

    However, I think any theodicy that blames God for any kind of suffering or evil misses the mark, despite the answer that Southgate gives. I’m delighted to see that he denies the conclusion that “my model of God is a god that authors and licenses violence”, but I don’t see that his necessitarian explanation gets him off the hook. Yes, recycling of the resources for life is necessary, because of the extreme lack of resources and the need for reproduction if evolution is to proceed. But why are resources so limited?

    It may well be that a theodicy that does not recognize the fundamental spiritual conflict so often, and so clearly mentioned in the NT, simply does not have enough horsepower to close the circle. God is opposed, spiritually speaking, otherwise why do we and creation need spiritual and indeed physical redemption? This spiritual opposition will not win (we are not accepting dualism, nor is the NT), but it surely can make a mess. I will admit that one problem with this spiritual warfare view, when thinking of non-human biology, is that we are tempted to do the butterflies and Bambi good, parasites and poisonous snakes bad thing, which is a non starter.

    As you say, we are not going to “crack the code” right away, but Southgate has a great deal to offer and we should cheer his efforts. More, many more theologians need to begin thinking about these things for they are, as Southgate says, near the top of the list for the 21st century.

  • Susan_G1 says:

    Wow, that is a good interview. Thanks for the post; it’s something I’ve struggled with since I accepted evolution as a Christian.

    I believe that if a good and loving God, the sort of God I see
    illustrated in the life of Jesus, could have contrived an amazing array
    of stunning creatures without the process of evolution involving
    millions of years of suffering, then God would have chosen such a world.

    I’ve heard this before. Does this challenge the omnipotence of God? Truly, a God who can create the universe is limited in His ability to come up with a better way? Or, that a God who is omnibenevolent chose this way?

    Pete, I really appreciate this post. I feel like a bulldog with a bone (or, with more suffering, a pitbull with an arm). Is God Omnibenevolent, Omnipotent, and Omniscient?

    • Dan F. says:

      This seems to be a rehash of Leibniz dressed up in modern biology and evangelical terms. “The best of all possible worlds” and all that. Voltaire’s Candide comes to mind. …

      • Susan_G1 says:

        indeed. Skull #5 – the 1.8 million year old skull giving evidence that Homo habilis, Homo ergaster and Homo rudolfensis were not separate species but probably all Homo erectus – was found deep in a big cat cave. I imagine if Leibniz told him, as the cat was bringing him down, that this was the best possible world God could have made, 5 would have had a different idea.

        Is pain and suffering a physical evil? Many theologians would actually say no. So here we have one who says, I think correctly, yes, they are evil. But they exist because God couldn’t have possibly done any better. Yet He is omnipotent.

        I see it, I hear it, I get it, I just can’t agree with it. And I feel like I’m a bad person, as though I shouldn’t be questioning the goodness of God when people say, “He couldn’t help it!”

        I do love, though, the idea of a pelican heaven.

        • Luke Breuer says:

          In my thinking and discussing on this issue, I’ve come to believe that God could have done it a different way, but only by sacrificing something. For example, he could have included quantum (that is, incredibly improbable) leaps forward, at the cost of human ability to understand how we got here. It seems like such a cost would be too high.

          • Susan_G1 says:

            What’s a little mystery compared to the suffering and death of millions of millions of sentient beings? Probably most of the world doesn’t understand how we got here. That means all that evil was for the benefit of the few who understand, and the few who will understand before we finish the job of ruining His creation? Sorry for the cynicism. That price is too high.

          • Luke Breuer says:

            Why is the suffering and death of “millions of millions of sentient beings” worse than the suffering and death of one? Here’s where I’m going with this: what if at some point, humanity learns to take care of both humans and other life forms, and this continues for billions of years? Will that somehow make things OK?

          • Susan_G1 says:

            LA (is that OK?),
            Philosophically, your question has merit. Yet… Do you have children? Is the suffering and death of two of them worse than the suffering and death of one?

            Your question is addressed at the end of Job, when, after Job’s suffering, he is gifted with more children, including beautiful daughters. The implication is that they will multiply his number and bring him honor. Did that settle the thoedicy issue with you?

            One difference between us is that you believe mankind will continue for a long time, and continue improving for as long a time. And you’re a very intelligent guy who understands science.

            I am an intelligent woman of science who believes we have ravaged the earth and are on the brink (as mankind) of paying for this. I see in our future global wars for protein, arable land, and clean water. A return to a second medieval age at best, the extinction of man at worst.

            We do not share great optimism for the future. So I find projected scenarios of millennia of happiness as comforting as I do Job’s restitution.

          • Luke Breuer says:

            LA is fine, or ‘Luke’ 🙂

            I don’t have children, but surely if I were forced to either have one die or two, I would pick one. I’m not sure where you’re going with this line of questioning.

            The thing I’m most sure of is that God is just, merciful, etc. How he accomplishes this in detail, I do not know. I do know that he would prefer to be the coworker of humans (1 Cor 3:9). The end of Job does not provide any sort of theodicy I’d accept. But I don’t need a theodicy I can fully understand; I’m more convinced that those who will listen to God and follow Christ are the theodicy, after the pattern of Jesus.

            I get the idea that after God makes things right, he’ll bring our alleged standard of good and evil to bear on ourselves. For example, if someone said he/she believed that human trafficking was wrong but didn’t do a comparable (to strength of belief) amount to fight it, it would make sense for him/her to be forced to see the consequences of holding to that hypocrisy—of what such hypocrisy does to a world. I like to say that if more people really had a problem with evil, there would be less evil. Too much of such discussions pass the buck to God.

            One of my very good friends accepts that we’re going to bring about a climate disaster, and has set on doing the requisite research to fix the damage once it’s done. It’s similar to Hari Seldon’s Foundation project (have you read Asimov’s Foundation series?). Perhaps you are doing something similar?

          • Susan_G1 says:

            Luke, 🙂

            Where I’m going with the children thing is that it is, of course, the suffering of two beloved children is immensely worse than just one. (You had asked, “Why is the suffering and death of “millions of millions of sentient beings” worse than the suffering and death of one?”) While philosophically it might not be worse, experientially the suffering of millions of millions is worse. It’s like saying, is the trafficking of one million children more offensive to God than the trafficking of one? Philosophically, the offense to God is immeasurable with one. So the 999,999 others don’t really matter.

            I do admire your faith, and your outlook. My search for an acceptable theodicy if evolution is true made me realize that I was holding God to a higher standard than myself. If God’s allowing of physical evil is wrong, then mine is, too. When I realized that, I stopped eating sentient beings, and started being an activist for factory raised food-animals. My life is changing. I do what I can about other issues; mostly I agitate for change. A lot. I try to follow Christ but I do it very imperfectly. I used to run a free clinic for the uninsured poor, a free depression clinic, and a free drug rehab clinic. I do what I can do with my degree (MD). But I don’t do enough.

            I used to be an avid scify reader and loved Asimov, but somehow never read the Trilogy. ik, big loss, but I don’t like scify anymore. I have it, started it, but can’t get through it.

            Theodicy kept me from becoming a Christian, ’til God stepped in, so I know the truth of God’s love. As Job did. But that didn’t stop him from demanding a hearing with Him when he suffered. For decades I lived with cognitive dissonance. I don’t want to anymore.

          • Luke Breuer says:

            Philosophically, the offense to God is immeasurable with one. So the 999,999 others don’t really matter.

            Precisely. This is precisely what I was fishing for. Arguments are only interesting if one’s position changes on whether they are true or false. How many fewer people would be complaining about “nature red in tooth and claw” if our evolutionary history were less than one million years instead of over one billion years? It would still be immeasurably wrong for God to have done it that way.

            I do admire your faith, and your outlook. My search for an acceptable theodicy if evolution is true made me realize that I was holding God to a higher standard than myself. If God’s allowing of physical evil is wrong, then mine is, too. When I realized that, I stopped eating sentient beings, and started being an activist for factory raised food-animals. My life is changing. I do what I can about other issues; mostly I agitate for change. A lot. I try to follow Christ but I do it very imperfectly. I used to run a free clinic for the uninsured poor, a free depression clinic, and a free drug rehab clinic. I do what I can do with my degree (MD). But I don’t do enough.

            I only have one thing to say: I hope that what you mean by “I don’t do enough”, is that you are always welcome to God doing more with you than he is currently doing—not that you are not doing enough for God. I believe that God holds us to impossible standards, but only because he is the one who helps us move toward them.

            Theodicy kept me from becoming a Christian, ’til God stepped in, so I know the truth of God’s love. As Job did. But that didn’t stop him from demanding a hearing with Him when he suffered. For decades I lived with cognitive dissonance. I don’t want to anymore.

            In this case, it seems like the cognitive dissonance is coming from things you think you know that you don’t. There’s a critical difference between cognitive dissonance and dealing with apparent paradoxes. Science has plenty of apparent paradoxes—like quantum mechanics and general relativity not meshing—which aren’t problems because we know that paradoxes are often fruitful areas of research.

        • aedgeworth says:

          You want to be a pelican?

          • Susan_G1 says:

            that’s a very strange question. Why do you ask? Is it theologically insightful?

          • aedgeworth says:

            I asked the question obviously because you stated you loved the idea of a pelican heaven.

          • Susan_G1 says:

            I have never said this to anyone before because I do not like to descend into name calling, but you, sir, are a troll.

          • aedgeworth says:

            Sorry Susan, I obviously misunderstood the context of your original statement about pelicans. I have nothing against there being a pelican heaven. My understanding of scripture is there will only be humans in heaven, and I could certainly be wrong. I guess I am a troll in your eyes because I do not share the same interpretation of scripture that you have concerning heaven. I trust you don’t call everyone that who might happen to take a different view of things that you do.

          • Susan_G1 says:

            Not so. I called you a troll because you seemed to be egging me on for no reason. You don’t have to agree with me. You could just ignore me. But instead, you asked if I wanted to be a pelican. I saw snark in that remark. I asked for clarification, and you gave none.

            Thank you for your gracious apology. I am sorry we had this conflict. Please accept my apology.

            I have never called anyone a troll before. Many disagree with me. I have absolutely no problem with differing theologies. I was once an inerrantist, fundamentalist, young earth creationist myself, so far be it from me to throw stones at you. But we ought to be able to disagree with love and without condescension.

          • aedgeworth says:

            Hi Susan, sorry about the misunderstanding. I meant no harm in my pelican question. When I read your statement it confused me and I thought you envisioned one heaven only consisting of pelicans, I never even considered you just meant to include other living animals along with man. I totally understand your response.

            Could I asked what caused you to change your position from an inerrantist, fundamentalist, young earth creationist? Did you have a born-again salvation experience before that change? Would you mind sharing with me the type of church you were in? I’m always curious about what brings about such change in a Christians life. I’ve read many accounts of someone leaving an evolutionary old-earth position because of a genuinely born-again experience, I’m not sure I’ve ever had anyone explain the opposite happen. Thanks.

          • Susan_G1 says:

            Sure, thanks for your interest. Btw, that’s a very amusing idea about me wanting to be a pelican in heaven. I can understand your confusion.

            I’m sorry this is long. I was a molecular biologist who marveled at the complexity of life, which seemed to me to be too beautiful and vastly complex to have arisen spontaneously, so was fairly certain intellectually that there was a God. I resisted Him because of theodicy issues. But God is gracious, and I experienced His love in a way I could not deny. When I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior, I was attending an Evangelical Free Church that was largely YEC, and fully believed it’s doctrine. I was also in residency in Medicine. I married and raised a family in the EFCA, even homeschooled my children. We had our share of difficulties, but my faith deepened and I know to my core of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice. I knew Scripture and thought I understood it. My kids’ beliefs changed in college, though, and we discussed our respective beliefs often.

            About two years ago, I thought if my children didn’t believe in inerrancy, I needed to study it further to prove it (as I had now sufficient time.) As I did so, I realized the Bible was not inerrant, and didn’t need to be to continue to contain the Truth I knew about God. Once I realized that, all the verses that had troubled me, that I had submitted to His sovereignty, I started re-examining. I had compartmentalized so many. I allowed myself to integrate all the science I had studied in graduate and med school and realized I could believe in evolution without losing my faith. In my searching, I found Dr. Enns’ blog. I read Francis Collins, Dr. Enns, Rene Girard, other theologians, philosophers, and started on theodicy issues. And here I am. I can’t say I’m not ashamed of my fear to look into these issues. I am. But I’m grateful for the honesty and freedom to explore my relationship with God.

            There are a few things that I absolutely know to be true: that God exists, He loves me, He is everywhere, that Christ was the perfect sacrifice for *all* of us, it is through Him that God sees me, and that some of that will remain a mystery to me. There is much more that I believe. I believe the Great Commandment supersedes and encompasses the OT, and I believe I need to obey the great commandment better than I do.

            I hope you have found your answer in my long response. I hope you can see that I am still a Christian. I was born again, but I no longer believe in all the doctrine of the EFCA. I’ll study Scripture (Old and New), keep reading theologians’ blogs, ordering books, takling to my new pastor, etc. What parts of Scripture are interpreted in different ways, I will need to come to some conclusion on. But I won’t necessarily believe what I am told I need to believe to be a true Christian anymore, because I already am.

            Thanks for reading this.

          • aedgeworth says:

            Thank you for sharing your testimony Susan, that was interesting. I don’t agree of course on the Bible’s inerrancy part. Do you remember exactly why you came to believe it had errors in it? I haven’t found any. I understand your desire to fit your evolutionary teaching into scripture. That is certainly understandable.

            The thing that concerns me most today is there are almost like four major aspects to the theory of evolution, if you really think about it. I don’t believe life coming from non-life and dead chemicals is a viable scientific hypothesis. There is the Law of Biogenesis for one thing, which I believe if rightly interpreted is saying: Life only comes from other life, not non-life. It hasn’t been observed, it isn’t reproducible, and goes against a known law of science.

            I also do not believe the Big Bang theory is a viable scientific hypothesis either. For example, Alan Guth describes it as: In a moment of time, in a spot no bigger than a dime, a vacuum fluctuated and produced a giant explosion that brought into existence space, time, matter, and energy. First off it couldn’t happen in a moment of time because time didn’t exist yet. A spot the size of a dime might be little but it is still space when none supposedly existed. A vacuum is the absence of matter, but it also requires the existence of matter, when none existed. For any kind of fluctuation to take place would require energy when none existed. I believe the idea of a God that can speak things into existence out of nothing is a better fit, don’t you?

            The idea that things change, speciation, and of natural selection, when you think about it, are not denied by anyone. Should this actually be referred to as “evolution”? No one disagrees with it. The only thing in dispute is if those little changes over time can take a life form beyond the species or kind level. Of course part of my objection is because Genesis one indicates that life forms will only reproduce “after their own kind.”

            I believe if evolution has been going on for 600 million years, we should be able to look at a life form clearly in transition today. It is as if the process stopped. The argument is made that we just don’t know what it is evolving into. But we don’t have to. It just has to be changing from what it clearly always has been. I don’t see any evidence of that.

            I believe the idea that the fossil record proves it happened in the past has some serious question marks. When you take into consideration polystrate fossils running up through several layers, not all of which have been able to be explained away. Human artifacts have been found in every strata, all the way down to the Pre-Cambrian. Look up “Ooparts” on the internet. Some of these have no explanation for. There are missing layers, and reversed layers, etc. I believe a much better explanation is a great flood. It appears to fit all the evidence, and you don’t have to attempt to explain evidence away.

            Take a look at the typical geologic column chart from any geology book. If you factor in habitat, body density, and the ability to survive, a great flood fits the chart perfectly. Think about it, 80% of the earth’s crust sedimentary layers, mostly laid down by water in straight lined layers, that appear to be the result of hydrologic sorting. The bottom 20% is igneous rock formed by heat and pressure, and the Bible seems to indicate a lot of volcanic activity was going on during the flood.

            Sorry, my response has been a little long too. Just a couple things for you to consider of a religious nature. I was saved while attending a Bible Protestant Church, spent 10 years in a Wesleyan Church, then many more years in Baptist churches. In studying church history I found that every religious denomination was started by some man or woman in the last 1700 years. Only one group of believers can trace their beginning back to the time of Christ.

            In the Bible Version issue, in studying the history of the Bible, I found there appear to be two distinct line of manuscripts, one of which was corrupted by Constantine in the 4th century. Only one Bible today is completely translated from the uncorrupted line of manuscripts, without changes made based on the corrupted line. That is the one I use.

            Anyway, just thought I would add that. Gotta go right now. Perhaps we could discuss this more later

          • Susan_G1 says:

            I will discuss only some points here; I’ve already taken up more than my fair share of space.

            The Law of Biogenisis was developed by Pasteur to refute the theory of spontaneous generation. When people saw maggots appear on rotten meat, they thought maggots were formed from rotten meat, not fly eggs. If they saw mudfish crawl out of a mud puddle, they assumed fish arose from mud. That’s spontaneous generation. It is a very old concept that arose from sincere ignorance. Louis Pasteur, in a beautifully devised set of experiments, put that theory to rest. That you would misappropriate such a law to apply to evolution shows a lack of clear scientific thought.

            You, Mr. Edgeworth, are made up of roughly 7 octillion non-living things: atoms. Does that mean you are roughly not alive? Water is non-living; you are 60% water. Does that mean you are only 40% alive? This is the level of sophistication you bring to your scientific thought on life and evolution.

            As a molecular biologist/physician with a modern understanding of biology, I see no problem in my theology with evolution. Not all of the science of evolution is known. We don’t know how the first functional cell was formed, nor the first multicellular organism. But evolution is the theory that best falls in line with modern (not medieval) science.

            Also, please know that the Big Bang theory was formulated by a Christian, a Jesuit priest, Georges Lemaître, a contemporary of Einstein (who held to a static universe). Lemaitre believed in expanding universe (he was correct.) Pope Pius XII wanted to use the Big Bang theory to explain God’s creation of the universe, but was dissuaded by Lemaitre, who did not want to mix science and religion.

            So, no, I have no problem with life coming from non-life, nor do I have a problem with evolution or the Big Bang. That Guth disagrees with Lemaitre doesn’t bother me; so did Einstein. There is nothing to say that God didn’t speak the universe into existence. I believe He did, and that Lemaitre was simply studying that. We still are. That is science.

            Your scientific understanding is limited, as is mine. I don’t understand the physics of the Big Bang, but that doesn’t mean I must deny them. You choose to allow your limited understanding shape your beliefs; so do I. The difference is that yours counter most good science we have; mine agree. Your understanding of transition is flawed. You are surrounded by species not only in transition, but also headed toward extinction.

            No one has a Bible from the original writings today. If you did, it would be largely unintelligible to you, unless you are a scholar of ancient languages. No one has the original writings. Also, you cannot trace your denomination to Christ’s death.

            You believed I wanted to be in “pelican heaven.” I suspect you did not read the interview on which this post was based. Those who did understood the concept of “pelican heaven.” Though you believed, you were in error. You hold beliefs about your denomination, your Bible, your scientific understanding. That does not make you correct, any more than your belief of my pelican envy based on your lack of information.

            I didn’t mind sharing my testimony, but you hardly needed it to expound on your beliefs. I thought you would understand that I am still a Christian, an heir and follower of Christ. I don’t know your position on this because you didn’t address it. But no matter. I believe you will one day be surprised by who is covered by the blood of Christ.


          • aedgeworth says:

            Let me address the Law of Biogenesis first. You stated: “That you would misappropriate such a law to apply to evolution shows a lack of clear scientific thought.”

            Here is a quote from the American Heritage Science
            Dictionary: “The theory of spontaneous generation for larger organisms was easily shown to be false, but the theory was not fully discredited until the mid-19th century with the demonstration of the existence and reproduction
            of microorganisms, most notably by Louis Pasteur. Also called abiogenesis.”

            Merriam-Webster does not give a definition for spontaneous generation, but links from a search for it to abiogenesis, which is defined as follows: “the supposed spontaneous origination of living organisms directly from lifeless matter . . .”

            The Collins English Dictionary states: “a theory, widely
            held in the 19th century and earlier but now discredited, stating that living organisms could arise directly and rapidly from nonliving material. Also called abiogenesis.”

            I’m sure you are familiar with Dr. George Wald, Harvard
            University biochemist and winner of the Nobel Prize in 1954. Wald said: “One has only to contemplate the
            magnitude of this task to concede that the spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible. Yet here we are — as a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation. When it comes to the origin of life on this earth, there are only two possibilities: creation or spontaneous generation (evolution). There is no third way. Spontaneous generation was disproved 100 years ago, but that leads us only to one other conclusion: that of supernatural creation. We cannot accept that on philosophical grounds (personal reasons); therefore, we choose to believe the impossible: that life arose spontaneously by chance.”

            Spontaneous generation was proved wrong, so it was taken out of the science textbooks. Then they changed the name to chemical evolution (abiogenesis), and put it back in the textbooks and are basically teaching it as a fact, when in effect it is in direct opposition to a known Law of Science, Biogenesis. Biogenesis states that life only comes from other life. The obvious conclusion is that it also means it does not come from what? Let me help: non-life. Life is more than dead chemicals. You indicated that yourself.

            Why is the universe expanding? Was it a big explosion from nothingness, or because God said in 17 different verses of the Bible that He created all the heavenly bodies in closer to the earth, then moved them out to where they are now. Man would always have to be able to see them, so He would have to leave a trail of light coming back to the earth at the speed of light, thus giving the appearance they are always moving away from earth.

            Susan, would you consider something for just a moment? Let’s set aside whether God did use a big explosion to bring everything into existence or not. Satan is the master counterfeiter. He said in Isaiah 14:14: “I will be like the Most High.” I believe everything God is, has, or does, Satan will try to counterfeit that. The Bible indicates in 2 Peter 3:10 that before God creates a new heaven and a new earth, the old elements will all pass away with a great noise. Isn’t it interested that just the opposite is being promoted for how they came into existence?

            I have a list of 47 different ways that I believe Satan has used to try to counterfeit God today and “be like the Most High.” “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” 2 Corinthians 2:11

            I believe the Big Bang theory being promoted today violates at least 5 known laws of science.

            Although we cannot go back and observe the evolution of one life form into another, assuming that did happen, you stated: “You are surrounded by species not only in transition, but also headed toward extinction.” I understand the concept of thousands or millions of small changes amounting to one big change, a reptile changing into a bird for example. Or some dog-like land creature changing into a whale. But let’s say we could go back and photograph the different stages those life forms went through in transition to a completely different life form. We then would arrange those photographs to indicate 20 different stages they went through. Let’s say photos 18-20 are when we clearly see the final transition into a completely different life form. This supposedly has been going on for 600 million years. Name one life form today we can observe in stages 18-20, changing into something completely different than what it always has been in the past. Small changes within a species are not proof of that type of change.

            You also stated: “No one has a Bible from the original writings today. If you did, it would be largely unintelligible to you, unless you are a scholar of ancient languages. No one has the original writings. Also, you cannot trace your denomination to Christ’s death.” I disagree on both points.

            You stated: “a Bible from the original writings.” Of course we don’t have the original manuscripts, no one is saying that. Have you ever read about the diligent care with which the copies of the originals were copied to make sure there was no room for error? If even a curve at the end of a letter might be misunderstood at a later date, they would destroy the page and start over? To say we have no faithful copy of the originals today in our language is quite a statement and a huge assumption on your part. I’ve studied this issue off and on for over 40 years.

            I’ve studied church history also. Church historians have traced one group of believers back to the time of Christ. I would suggest reading a book entitled “Trail of Blood.” I believe you can find a copy online.

            I’m not sure what I said that led you to believe I might not consider you a true Christian and on your way to heaven. I certainly didn’t think that nor intend to convey that idea. I really enjoyed your testimony. I can see you are also very closed-minded about your current belief system and do not wish to consider other possibilities so I will close our conversation. Good bye Susan. I wish you the best.

          • Susan_G1 says:

            When people try to change my understanding of science by quoting the dictionary, you are correct, I will not engage on that level.

            Peace to you, too.

    • aedgeworth says:

      According to scripture suffering is because of human sin, God provides victory over the sin problem, and will one day restore the earth. I would rather trust God’s answers than man’s reasoning. The verse at the exact center of the Bible is Psalm 118:8: “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” Evolution is an invention of the human mind to try to explain things without a God involved. The evidence does not speak for itself, it must be interpreted. A supernatural worldview without evolution fits the scientific evidence better.

      • Lars says:

        Of course, there are some who might say “God is an invention of the human mind to explain the unexplainable.” That’s why the supernatural worldview is such a good ‘fit’, it’s never stymied because it can create any answer it needs.

      • John W. Morehead says:

        Thank you for sharing your view. Of course, if you’ve spent much time at Dr. Enns blog you know that this young-earth view is contested as biblically unwarranted, not in keeping with an ancient near eastern context, and in conflict with good scientific evidence. Contrary to young-earth assertions, evolution can also be understood as a good explanation of what we see in nature, and one that is not in conflict with a supernatural worldview. I’d recommend the work of Conor Cunningham as a compliment to Enns and in the interests of critical self-reflection on the young-earth:

        • aedgeworth says:

          I could recommend a number of good websites that would disagree with that, but I doubt you would view the evidence with an open mind. I have written a commentary just on the first chapter of Genesis and have over 40 years of research, but it comes down to what your worldview is on how you view the evidence. You obviously have a theistic evolutionist philosophical worldview and would view all the evidence in that light. Worldview glasses are problematic. We usually don’t believe we have them on, and react negatively if someone else tries to remove, just like a pair of sunglasses.

          • John W. Morehead says:

            I object to your assumption that given my perspective I wouldn’t look at the websites you have in mind with an open mind. We all have our biases, and I haven’t made that assumption of you. The idea that only young-earth creationists are open minded and objective is biased and inaccurate. Years ago I held to old earth creationism and rejected evolution, but after reassessing the evidence biblically and scientifically I changed my views. So I’ve been in a position close to where you are in terms of advocating a creationist view. I have a Christian worldview that understands Genesis and its creation stories in their ancient near eastern context. You have a Christian worldview with a different set of understandings, and these inform our differing interpretations of the scientific evidence. As a scholar working in religious studies I am fully aware of worldview considerations, and that we often fail to recognize their operation.

            But I doubt we’ll persuade each other in this forum. I would remind you again that this blog holds a very different view than the one you espouse, and you might take another look at past postings on the topic to see what you think. But regardless, the original post that prompted these comments referred to a theology of creation and animals that touched on evolution but it wasn’t a post on whether we should accept evolution or not. I return to my original comments and note that Christians need to rethink this theology, not only to account for natural “evil,” but also to the overly anthropomorophic perspectives that make animals and creation merely objects to be used and abused by those called by God to be good stewards. On that see Wilkinson cited previously, and others like the late great evangelical John Stott:

            Thanks for the conversation.

          • aedgeworth says:

            Interesting you refer to the literal account of Creation in Genesis as creation stories. From those I’ve conversed with in the past who are theistic evolutionists, I’ve never found one that took the Creation account literally. It wouldn’t make sense to take what it says about how to have eternal literally either would it?
            I didn’t say that only young-earth creationists are open minded and objective, that was your assumption. I’ve dealt with many that share your views and have never found any to be open-minded and objective, and from your comments I assumed you would be the same. I would expect that you don’t really see yourself as ever changing from your current position.
            I’ve changed my positions over the years because I have a passion for truth. I hate untruth in whatever form it resides. It doesn’t matter to me what is popular or convenient, I hope you are the same. I just recommend one site for you to check out, my own: Have a nice eternity.

          • John W. Morehead says:

            Of course a good hermeneutic takes into consideration things like cultural context and genre, so when this is done the ANE context of the Genesis creation stories indicates that they are theological rather than material in nature, and that a literalism is a modern imposition on the text, and hence a misreading. Similar concerns for context, genre, and proper hermeneutics must be applied to those biblical passages that relate to “how to have eternal [life]” as well. So there is no inconsistency on my hermeneutic. And of course I have a concern for truth too, and have changed my position accordingly. We just ended up in different places. Thanks for the link recommendation. To reciprocate I’d recommend

          • aedgeworth says:

            Hi John, I checked out the biologos site. I have just chosen to believe what the Bible says about itself in regards to inspiration, instead of man’s attempts at rationalization, or reconciling it with the theory of evolution. There is something I have wondered about though. Would you mind sharing with me your personal thoughts on eternal life and what you are basing your hope for eternal life on? I am interested in your viewpoint on that. Thanks.

          • John W. Morehead says:

            What you fail to recognize is that when you say that you choose to believe what the Bible says about itself, you are bringing an interpretation to it, just as those are who hold different views of inspiration, revelation, as well as creation and evolution. You have certain assumptions and followed evidences to arrive at your view, just as those Christians who disagree with you, from old-earth creationists to Intelligent Design adherents to theistic evolutionists. And yet you don’t recognize this, and assume that yours is the only position representing orthodoxy. This is an unfortunate and narrow mindset that I’ve seen all too frequently among young-earth creationists. Perhaps if you took time to work through the essays on the Biologos site, and read authors like John Walton and Conor Cunningham and many others, while you no doubt would not be persuaded, at least you might be less dogmatic.

            As to your question, while I appreciate the concern, there is also something alarming about it. It would seem to imply that salvation implies a young-earth view, and can only be found and understood by those who hold to such a view. I hope you know that is incorrect. It would never occur to me to ask you such a question. Views on the length of time and mechanisms of creation are not a part of the gospel, and I wouldn’t assume you are not a Christian because you hold YEC views. I believe you are seriously mistaken, but as a brother in Christ.

            If you poke around the Internet and learn more about me, you might find that I have confessed Christ in his work at reconciling God to humanity through the cross and resurrection since I was 19. Since then I have served as a pastor, missiologist, and Christian scholar for many years. My Lord, as well as my friends and colleagues seem content with the various aspects of my testimony. I hope you can too.

          • aedgeworth says:

            John, when the Bible says “All” scripture, what part don’t you understand about that? All means all, and that is all that all means. When the word for inspiration means “divinely breathed in,” I can’t make the word mean anything other than it does.

            This really isn’t as much a case of interpretation, but of whether scripture can be taken literally or not.

            When you state: “Views on the length of time and mechanisms of creation are not a part of the gospel,” that is correct. However, Exodus indicates God’s creative work was done over 6 literal days. The Hebrew word for “day” in Genesis chapter one, when used in connection with a number (first day, second day, etc.), always, without exception, means a literal 24 hour day. There are no cases where it ever means anything else.

            Jesus Himself said: “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”

            If you don’t believe Moses, why would you literally believe the rest of the Bible, especially concerning eternal life?

            2 Peter 1:20-21 says: ” Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
            For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” The word “moved” means to be carried along” by the Holy Spirit”

            The Bible says God spoke everything into existence out of nothing. I believe that. The Bible also says that each life form will only reproduce after there own kind. I believe that also. You choose not to believe that, you have the right to make that choice.

            That is fine if you don’t want to share your personal testimony with me. I was just curious as to what you could possibly base your hope of eternal life on if we can’t take the Bible literally. If we can’t take Genesis literally, as Jesus said, why would you feel you could take the rest of His word literally?

          • John W. Morehead says:

            Aedgeworth, as I’ve said previously, we aren’t likely to persuade each other in this forum, and since in my view I don’t think my responses are being considered in much depth this will be my final contribution to the conversation. You are free to have the final word.

            I’ve noted previously, and I’ll say it again, when you make the statement that “the Bible says…” you are bringing an interpretation to the text. On top of that, you assume that yours is the only correct one and fail to recognize that there are a range of hermeneutical possibilities.

            Of course all Scripture is inspired. But the question is what does this inspired text mean? You are unfortunately equating a particular interpretation with inspiration, thus, yours is the only accurate view. The broad history of the church in interpreting Genesis 1 and 2, with the young-earth view being very recent, is an indication that your equation of these two is faulty.

            Of course not all Scripture can be taken literally as there is the ancient near eastern cultural context to consider, various genres of literature, etc.

            I’m familiar with your line of reasoning for a young-earth view, and I find it unsupportable on any number of levels, the most glaring being that the creation stories fit within the theological cosmologies of the ancient near east, showing similarities as well as differences, but demonstrating that the ancients were discussing theological function not material origins, and certainly not addressing scientific questions of a future modern age in terms of the “how” and “when” of creation. You are imposing your assumptions on the text without recognizing that’s what you’re doing.

            Finally, I’m content to accept Jesus’ call to rest in him and find no conflict in my approach to hermeneutics.

            Our exchange has been interesting, to say the least, but has been an unfortunate reminder for me of the narrow mindedness and anti-intellectualism that is frequently associated with young-earth advocates. I wish you well.

          • aedgeworth says:

            The things you are accusing me of regarding inspiration, you are doing the exact same thing.

            The claim that various Church Fathers or other ancient authorities wrote things that suggested they did not hold a ‘young-earth’ view is not correct and has been refuted.

            When ancient chronologies are researched, we find that many cultures, not just those based directly on the Bible, attest to an age for the creation of thousands of years. It seems that no serious scholar believed in the old-earth fashion of today. It is very much a modernist invention.

            Young’s Analytical Concordance of the Holy Bible, 1879 8th Edition,1939—entry under ‘Creation’ says: ‘Dr
            Hales, in his work entitled, “A New Analysis of Chronology and Geography, History and Prophecy,”? (vol. 1, p. 210 [published in 1830]), remarks: “In every system of chronology, sacred and profane, the two grand eras—of the Creation of the World, and of the Nativity of Christ—have been usually adopted as standards, by reference to which all subordinate epochs, eras and periods have been adjusted.”? He gives a list of 120 dates, commencing B.C. 6984, and terminating BC 3616, to which this event has been assigned by different authorities, and he admits that it might be swelled to 300. He places it at BC 5411. The date commonly adopted is BC 4004; being that of Ussher, Spanheim, Calmet, Blair, etc., and the one used in the English Bible [KJV].’

            I shall list 10 references for a young earth chronology:

            1. Josephus (1st Century Jewish Historian) gave an approximate date of 5402 BC.

            2. Megasthenes, (c. 340–282 bc) gave an approximate date of 5369 BC. A Greek historian from Iona, Megasthenes was Ambassador to India for King
            Seleucus I. He published Indika in four books.

            3. The Hebrew (Masoretic) text gave an approximate date of 4161 BC.

            4. Martin Luther (1500s) gave an approximate date of 3961 BC.

            5. According to Playfair, Kepler (1571–1630), a Lutheran and a great scientist who discovered the laws of planetary motion, gave an approximate date of 3993 BC.

            6. According to Scaliger, Joseph (1540–1609) A French
            classical scholar, the Alexandrine Septuagint gave an approximate date of 5508 BC.

            7. Albufaragi recorded the Septuagint (LXX) gave an
            approximate date of 5586 BC. Based on the Greek
            translation of the Old Testament originally published in Egypt c. 250 BC.

            8. Bruce (1700s) recorded the Chronicle of Axum, Abyssinian, gave an approximate date of 5500 BC.

            9. In the 1200s Alfonso X of Spain gave an approximate date of 6484 BC. Brevarium Chronologicum Book IV, 3rd edition, 1699 in English.

            10. In 1760 Gentil, a French astronomer gave an approximate date of 6204 BC. Bailly, Jean Sylvain

            If anyone is interested in doing research on what the early church fathers said regarding the age of the earth and Genesis, an electronic edition of their writings is available at:

            Eunice Graham has researched these early writings and wrote: “I found that the church fathers unequivocally believed in a young earth and a literal interpretation of Genesis 1. Only one, Origen, MAYBE believed in a different interpretation of “days,” but he definitely believed in a rapid creation and a young earth.”

            On the above website there is A compressed ZIP version of many of these quotes (about 27 page long) HTML file.

            In The Epistle of Barnabas on page 146 it reads: “And
            God made in six days the works of His hands, and made an end on the seventh day, and rested on it, and sanctified it.” Attend, my children, to the meaning of this expression, “He finished in six days.” This implieth that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a thousand years. And He Himself testifieth, saying, “Behold, to-day will be as a thousand years.” Therefore, my children, in six days, that is, in
            six thousand years, all things will be finished.

            There are some amazing free books offered online to be
            downloaded at: Some in other languages. Books such as The Predicament of Evolution written by George McCready Price in 1925, the works of Josephus Flavius 37-100 AD, along with many more recent books.

      • Susan_G1 says:

        Yes, and I believe the canon was formed around exactly which verses were going to be in the exact middle, don’t you? Scientific evidence of the fundamental truth God wants us to know.

  • John W. Morehead says:

    This is great. I had a colleague of mine take issue with another friend of mine who is actively involved in animal rights as a Christian. His argument was that animals only appear to feel pain. Why do we minimize the creation, and especially animals? Although this moves in a different direction, there is the view of Dark Green Religion with more pagan sensibilities that Christians also need to be aware of and engage. See the past issue of Sacred Tribes Journal where we did just that:

    • aedgeworth says:

      As I posted earlier, everything God made up until the end of day six of the Creation week was for man’s benefit. He then created man in His image. The same is not said of the animal or vegetable kingdom.

      • John W. Morehead says:

        This is a very literal, and perhaps young-earth view, and even assuming that to be correct, the interpretation of the passage must keep God’s call for human stewardship in the creation (recognizing that humanity is also part of that creation) must be held in tension with humanity’s place as imago Dei. The view that everything in the creation is for humanity is extremely problematic that makes the creation utilitarian and only for our use and (frequently) abuse. There are more careful, nuanced, and balanced interpretations, such as those by my colleague Loren Wilkinson’s “Caring for Creation in Your Own Backyard.” A video lecture on his book is available in two parts via YouTube:

        • Susan_G1 says:

          Good video! Careful, thoughtful speaker.

        • aedgeworth says:

          That was an interesting video. When it comes to deniers, it has many faces. Purely naturalistic evolutionists deny there is evidence of design in nature. The majority of them deny a God even exists. There are some 20,000 scientists or more that believe the evidence from the last 20 years indicate we are headed toward global cooling and not global warming. They are not suggesting we all drive SUV’s to correct the problem, but that is an environmental concern for them.

          When we say that those who do not believe we are headed toward global warming are in denial, the same could be said for those who do not believe we are headed toward another ice age. There is a large group of astronomers that say humans are having very little affect on the environment as concerning global warming or cooling and it is directly related to solar activity, and they believe they have the statistics to prove that.

          I believe a large segment of the global-warming crowd have a political agenda as well, as could be also said of those that oppose global-warning. Those who believe that everything was created basically as it is about 6,000 years ago believe those that state the earth is billions of years old are in denial concerning the young earth evidence. It could probably be said that everyone is in denial about something.

          I believe the scientific evidence supports a young earth and that solar activity has more to do with warning or cooling than human activity does, but it grieves me the way big business and human activity have hurt the environment in other ways. But I believe there is an element in our society that wants to bring humanity down to the level of the rest of creation, and nothing more than an evolved animal because of a personal agenda and a hatred toward God. They have even stated as such.

          One thing that stood out for me about the video though was his mentioning the connection to depression and suicide among extreme environmentalists. Possibly because they are not looking forward to the time God will clean up the environment completely and restore it to its original condition. They are not trusting that the God of Creation is in control. According to the book of Revelation environmental conditions are going to get much worse before God steps in and restores it. If the Bible is true, then perhaps we should spend more of our time trying to reach a lost and dying world with the saving gospel of Christ, and put a proper priority on the eternal destiny of man’s soul, rather than spend so much time and energy in saving the earth. In reading scripture I find that is God’s priority, so I try to line up my priorities with His.

          • Andrew Dowling says:

            “There are some 20,000 scientists or more that believe the evidence from
            the last 20 years indicate we are headed toward global cooling and not
            global warming.”

            You sir are lying.

          • Yeah, where in the heck did that 20,000 number come from? Have any documentation, aedgeworth?

          • aedgeworth says:

            Hi Andrew,
            Here is one statement by the BBC:
            It’s the sun
            “Over the past few hundred years, there has been a steady increase in the numbers of sunspots, at the time when the Earth has been getting warmer. The data suggests solar activity is influencing the global climate causing the world to get warmer.” (BBC)

            A NASA video in August of 2013 said: “NASA’s dramatic video of a black-topped sun on the verge of flipping its
            magnetic polarity has captivated people. Friends of Science say the current low solar sunspot activity, not seen in 200 years, is a pattern that historically
            preceded global cooling and that the sun is the main driver of climate change, not carbon dioxide.

            Here are some websites concerning solar activity and its
            affect on the warming or cooling of earth:






            These are just a few. I’m sure an apology is forthcoming.

          • Lars says:

            OK, maybe you’re not a troll but you can come across as awfully arrogant!

          • aedgeworth says:

            Sorry about that. I try to be gracious and respectful of others opinions, of course when we believe we have figured out what the truth is, it sometimes causes us to come across that way. I try to be understanding when evolutionists come across that way.

          • Andrew Dowling says:

            No an apology is not forthcoming. You took that 20,00 out of thin air and that solar activity has some influence on climate is not news to climate scientists. The data remains, as does the scientific consensus, that human activity is also a major driver of our warming climate. Try some sources from actual climate scientists rather than cherry-picked ramblings from whatsupwiththat .com . . .

          • aedgeworth says:

            I didn’t really expect an apology Andrew. I got the 20,000 quote from another source that I trusted as being reliable. If NASA scientists say solar activity is the main driver of climate change and not carbon dioxide, I give that some credibility. The scientists in the BBC seem to be saying the same thing. They are more likely not to have a political agenda in our country.

            You may not agree with my sources and choose to believe selective data from other sources instead, but that is not the same as calling someone a liar, when they are quoting other sources. Of course you are not going to call the scientists at NASA and in the BBC liars, so I guess you turn your aggression toward me instead. I’m just the messenger.

          • Andrew Dowling says:

            The argument of climate change is not that humans are the “main drivers” of it . .say you have a glass of water filled up to the brim with water from glasses A, B, and C, which are all empty. And then you put in just a little from glass D and it starts to overflow and make a mess. That glass D is the human impact of CO2 production. As a percentage it’s a relatively small amount, but that small amount makes a BIG difference. Practically 100% of scientists who study the climate or anything related to climate concur with me. I’m sorry you prefer to reside in willful ignorance.

          • aedgeworth says:

            Like I said Andrew, I didn’t expect an apology for calling me a liar. Many scientists have said the activities of mankind have little affect on our environment concerning warming and cooling. That is the only thing being discussed. The scientists at NASA, in the BBC, or others of course are not liars, but I am if I believe or quote them. When just the scientists at NASA and in the BBC alone disagree with you, how exactly is that almost 100% agreement? Have a nice eternity Andrew.

    • Preston Garrison says:

      I had a philosophy professor at a Christian college who honestly believed that all animals are automatons and feel nothing. I was baffled by the guy.

  • James says:

    The medical team who implanted a baby baboon’s heart into Baby Fae’s heartless chest cavity observed a moment of gratitude as they took the animal’s life. Medical ethics were put to the test on a number of fronts and the experiment failed after 21 days. It is said the mother was glad they tried. It seems there is necessary hierarchy in the created world and humans are at the pinnacle–self and God conscious beings that we are. But we need more respect for all kinds of life and appreciation for the full scope of God’s handiwork that culminates in new creation.

    • Susan_G1 says:

      Their gratitude was absolutely appropriate. One animal gave everything it had for another.

      This should be the case as well before every meal. I often hear, “Bless the person who prepared this food” as part of the blessing, but rarely (usually my kids will say this) “Thank you, Lord, for the animal who died so that we could eat.”

      This is why I became a vegetarian after starting down this path of integration of knowledge with faith. How can I, in good faith, ask God why he allowed millions of years of animal suffering, calling it evil, if I kill animals for food? Then, am I not guilty of evil as well? I think it’s a fair question for all Christians. The only answer I can come up with involves the animal’s quality of life and death. The norm in this country is that farmed animals are raised in horrible conditions and slaughtered inhumanely. That’s why Ag-Gag laws are being proposed in all states and being passed in some.

      Yes, there is a necessary hierarchy, but we are supposed to be caretakers of God’s creation. This involves not only conservation, etc., but also to care about the animals we eat. Most of us don’t, or don’t want to know.

      • dangjin says:

        The baboon didn’t give anything, he or she had no choice or say in the matter. the heart was taken from it as well as its life.

        • Susan_G1 says:

          True enough. But we do have a choice to kill or not to kill, and we should be aware of what we’re doing to creatures God gave us power over. We’re suppose to be caretakers.

      • aedgeworth says:

        Everything God created up until the end of day six of the Creation week was for man’s benefit. But He created us just for Himself. We are created in His image. The same is not said about any other creature. It is wrong to attempt to bring man down to the level of animals.

        • Susan_G1 says:

          Sir, there are creatures in heaven, non-humans, surrounding God’s throne. Maybe they are the souls of animals. You don’t really have all the answers; you just think you do. It must be a constant comfort to those around you.

          • aedgeworth says:

            I don’t claim to have all the answers, nor do I think I do, but I do believe what is revealed to us in scripture, and I don’t understand all of that. I do have confidence in the Bible to be infallible, but God doesn’t reveal everything to us. The Bible never indicates that the animal kingdom have eternal souls, it seems to indicate they don’t, but if you want to believe that they might, that is fine. You could be right. I didn’t mean to indicate that wasn’t possible.

  • dangjin says:

    There are NO harsh realities of the evolutionary theory. That process doesn’t exist. Extinction comes from man’s cruelty to God’s creation. Man’s lusts, greed selfishness causes extinction not some imaginary process.

    If a person claims to be Christian, then they are declaring that they are servants of God. If God said he create din 6 24 hour days, which he did, then His servants have no choice but to declare the same thing. If they don’t then they should not consider themselves Christian or servants of God.

    • aedgeworth says:

      I completely agree. Plus the Bible clearly states that all the suffering in the world came about because of the human fall into sin. Romans 8:21-22 There is no need to blame God in any way.

    • Susan_G1 says:

      I thought we were not to judge each other’s hearts. That job belongs to Christ alone. We are CHRISTians, not followers of scripture. Scripture is not Christ.

    • Agni Ashwin says:

      “If God said he create din 6 24 hour days, which he did….”

      Uh…(1) He didn’t; and (2) Moses did.

  • Lobezno says:

    Not sure why the “ignoring animal suffering” theology is called Bambi theology – Bambi is a very sad movie.

  • Rick_K says:

    This is all so much easier to reconcile if we just admit that, while smarter than most, we are animals too. And more contradictions vanish if we just admit that the gods of today are no more real than the witches of the 1500s. You can still choose to follow the teachings of Jesus the philosopher without cloaking him in a fiction of divinity.

    • aedgeworth says:

      Why would you follow His teachings if you don’t accept what the Bible clearly says about His nature and character?

      • Rick_K says:

        So you would only follow the teachings of a philosopher who was divine? Nobody else’s teachings are worth following?

        “Love your enemy” and “help the poor” are only meaningful if you believe Jesus was divine? Really?

        EVERYBODY cherrypicks what they believe. You cherrypick which verses in the Bible you adopt into your worldview and you ignore or reject others. And you add bits of wisdom and life lessons from other teachers as well.

        I’m merely pointing out that if you choose to accept Jesus as a mortal, moral philosopher with some good ideas, then the problem of theodicy vanishes. What I’m saying is nothing new – just crack open the Jefferson Bible to see what I mean.

        • aedgeworth says:

          Hi Rick,
          Which verses in the Bible am I ignoring or rejecting? Be more specific. Aren’t you the one that is choosing which verses of the Bible to ignore or reject, and which you want to adopt into your worldview? Didn’t you just state that is what you are doing? I believe the whole thing. Are you sure you don’t have things slightly switched around in your thinking?

          • Rick_K says:

            Really? You follow all the teachings of a book that condones slavery, sexism and genocide? You attend a church where the women are silent and wear no jewelry? You beat your children? You stripe your slaves? Revelation, John and Titus all teach the evils of Jews – do you as well?

            It is foolish to say you do not select which parts of the Bible you adopt and which you do not. It is precisely that selective adoption (and interpretation) that separates the many branches of Christianity.

            But I won’t keep you longer – I’m sure you have an altar to cleanse and a sacrifice to select from your livestock.

          • aedgeworth says:

            My, my Rick a lot of hostility there. From what you have said I would say you are probably basing what you believe about God and the Bible from what others have written or said. You may have had a bad religious experience yourself.

            The Bible indicates the Jewish people are God’s chosen people, and it was only because of their rejection of Christ that allowed us Gentiles to have an opportunity to be saved. You can trace the rise and fall of nations based on their treatment of the Jewish people.

            I would say you probably don’t understand what the Bible says about Christ’s body, the Church. It is clear you don’t understand how God chose to work in the Old Testament and why, and how it relates today in the age of grace. If you really want to better understand the Bible and put it all into perspective though, I would suggest entering into a relationship with the Author of it. It really helps understanding any book when you know the author intimately.

          • Zeke says:

            When you claim to believe the whole thing, I trust that you simply haven’t read it all. Human sacrifice, genocide, slaveholding, and misogyny are consistently celebrated. Of course, God’s counsel to parents is refreshingly straightforward: whenever children get out of line, we should beat them with a rod (Proverbs 13:24, 20:30, and 23:13–14). If they are shameless enough to talk back to us, we should kill them (Exodus 21:15, Leviticus 20:9, Deuteronomy 21:18–21, Mark 7:9–13, and Matthew 15:4–7). We must also stone people to death for heresy, adultery, homosexuality, working on the Sabbath, worshiping graven images, practicing sorcery, and a wide variety of other imaginary crimes.

            For the sake of your family and the community in which you live, I hope you reject these vile teachings.

          • aedgeworth says:

            Hi Zeke. The strict Old Testament laws were given to the nation of Israel for a purpose. I agree they were very harsh and should be considered vile in and of themselves, but God has a plan for mankind, and only He knows what it will take to accomplish that plan. It’s not easy sometimes just trusting that God has perfect understanding of all things and He is in control.

            The New Testament indicates we should act in a very different way. Keep in mind God knew when He gave those laws to the Jewish people they would not fully keep them. The strict laws were actually given to the Jewish people to prove to them they wouldn’t be able to keep them. I don’t know of anyone alive today that keep the 10 Commandments. Jesus pointed out that just having lust or hatred in our hearts is breaking the spirit of those laws.
            Galatians 3:24-25 point out that those strict laws were to prove our inability to live good enough to be acceptable to God. It was to prove to mankind their need of a Savior.

            That is where the Deity of Christ is very important. If Jesus were just a man He would have sins of His own to die for, our sin debt requires a sinless sacrifice. Only God in human flesh could die for sinful man. I don’t claim to have all the answers, and I’ve struggled at times with some of the same things that bother you. Our reaction though is related to our view of God.

          • Rick_K says:

            “I agree they were very harsh and should be considered vile in and of themselves, but God has a plan for mankind, and only He knows what it will take to accomplish that plan.”

            Ah – ok.

            Assume God.
            Assume he has a plan.
            Rationalize away evil lessons, evil behavior or inconsistency based on the knowledge that God has a plan.

            Why is this convincing for you?

          • aedgeworth says:

            Hi Rick. I could ask you basically the same only in reverse. You apparently assume there is no God and He doesn’t have a plan, and you are unwilling to accept that there is a reason why God did what He did to accomplish His plan for man. Why do you refuse to consider these possibilities?

          • Rick_K says:

            Why do you interpret my conclusions as a “refusal to consider”? How presumptuous of you. Is your lack of belief in the frequent abductions of humans by space aliens or in the mischievous pranks of leprechauns due to the fact that you “refused to consider” them?

            If we remove “God” from the equation, nothing in the world changes. There is no apparent difference in how the world operates if your inscrutable, sometimes genocidal, always distant God exists, or if he is just a human-created illusion.

            I’ve considered your arguments, and they sound like post-hoc rationalizations designed to shield your belief system from the reality and evidence of the world around you. I’ve considered them quite carefully. And I’ve rejected them as unconvincing, just as I reject as unconvincing my neighbor’s assertion that she can talk to dead people, or my other neighbor’s assertion that Barack Obama is planning to make America a Muslim nation.

            So please tell me – how are your arguments NOT just rationalizations to defend your belief? What evidence do you offer to differentiate your belief in God from someone else’s belief in witchcraft? Believe me – I can be convinced by evidence. I can change my mind. But it takes evidence. What do you offer?

          • aedgeworth says:

            Hi Rick,
            You say: “If we remove ‘God’ from the equation, nothing in the world changes.” Which God are you referring to? Are you referring to the “always distant God who is a human-created illusion” that you perceive Him to be? If that is who God really is, you would probably be correct.

            However, if the real God spoke everything thing into existence out of nothing, created everything we see in the enormously complex world around us, and He designed this world for a purpose, and has always been active in the affairs of man, then your statement would be incorrect.
            It partially comes down to our perception of who God is, but more importantly who God is in reality.

            Man believes there are three basic pathways to truth: religion, philosophy, and science. These are three different ways of searching for the truth about our world. If all three eventually arrive at absolute truth, it will be the same truth. Absolute truth is based in reality. Both science and religion seek truth through sources that are external to the human mind. Philosophy, on the other hand, seeks truth within the human mind.

            In contrast to religion, science attempts to apprehend truth through the natural realm, that is, the physical universe. The scientific method of apprehending truth is built around the five human senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting.

            All three disciplines seek the same ultimate truth. Thus, if science ever arrives at absolute truth, that truth cannot be different from the absolute truth at which religion or philosophy has also arrived.

            Many argue that the supernatural realm simply does not exist. Carl Sagan once said: “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” Was he correct? It almost sounds as though Sagan was claiming to be omniscient. He made a statement about something he couldn’t possibly have knowledge of. He can believe that if he desires to, but shouldn’t state it as fact.

            The only way we can acquire accurate information about the supernatural realm is if beings in the supernatural realm choose to reveal themselves to us. I believe God has given us a written revelation of Himself and His plan for mankind and this world we live in. He also offers man the opportunity to learn of Him through personal relationship. He explains how mankind can enter into that personal relationship with Him through His written revelation, but also became man and walked among us.

            The God and Creator of the universe entered into our physical realm in the Person of Jesus Christ. He became a part of our physical world in order to carry out His plan for mankind and reveal His love for us as the crown of His Creation. We can choose to either receive or reject Him.

            Does your perception of God reside in reality, or just in who you perceive Him to be in your mind? I submit to you that your perception of God is the product of your mind, and is not based in the reality of Who He really is.

          • Rick_K says:

            “I submit to you that your perception of God is the product of your mind”

            Just like you.

            Your god is completely consistent with the deities dreamed up by a hundred other cultures. If the Israelites didn’t have written language, like Incas or New Guinea highlanders, your god would simply not exist.

            As for religion, science and philosophy: science is philosophy with a testing lab. Religion is philosophy set loose from the restrictions of logic, rationality or the need for evidence.

            Religion has never given us a single definitive truth about anything. All it has provided is motivation for some people to seek truth, but while religion may prompt the search for truth, it never provides the answer. You think it does, but your belief in the literal truth of Biblical magic is no different than people who believe Hogwarts actually exists.

          • aedgeworth says:

            Hi Rick,
            I would like to ask you how in your mind, I am only the product of my own mind, but I’m almost afraid to hear your answer.

            I think we have about reached the end of our conversation Rick. I’m not sure you are capable of many rational thoughts at this point. I think you do believe in absolute truth, but to you that begins and ends with your own opinions, which are not based in reality. I think that is where your search for truth ends.

          • Rick_K says:

            Oh, and what does this mean: “our sin debt requires a sinless sacrifice.”?

            I’m finished with the idea of human sacrifice. I don’t think it was ever a good idea, and was never actually effective in changing the course of the world for the better.

            Why do you still accept it as a good thing?

            Oh, and should your child be punished for your crimes? If yes, I don’t think you are fit to be a parent. If no, then the whole idea of Original Sin is an absurd falsehood. Just another rationalization in an attempt to give meaning to the meaningless “Jesus died for our sins” story.

          • aedgeworth says:

            Hi Rick,
            I already explained why our sin debt required a sinless sacrifice, no need to repeat it. But thank you for sharing your opinion that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sin against a Holy God wasn’t a good idea. That is probably because in your mind you reject the idea that you have sinned against a Holy God, and will not have to stand before Him in judgment some day. Personally I think that is a bad idea.

            If you think a child should never be corrected in any way for bad behavior, you are not fit to be a parent. Do you feel that humans should not be corrected in any way for their crimes against society either? Perhaps the reason many people are in prison today is because of having parents who held to your same beliefs. Correcting children for bad behavior and explaining the difference to them early in life concerning right and wrong behavior is not why our prisons are filled today.

            I’m sorry you feel Jesus dying for your sin is meaningless. But after hearing your belief that children should not be corrected in any way for bad behavior, or taught the difference between right and wrong, I can understand why you feel as you do about sin and its consequences.

          • Rick_K says:

            I said “should your child be punished for YOUR crimes”.

            Original Sin = punishing children for the crimes of the father = irrational, immoral nonsense.

            But it is much easier to respond to what you want me to say than to what I actually said.

          • aedgeworth says:

            Hi Rick,
            Sorry, when you said “your” sins, I didn’t know you meant mine personally. I thought you were speaking of my concept of sin. I’m not sure what you are referring to when you say: “Original sin = punishing children for the crimes of the father.” How exactly do you think my children are going to be punished for my sin? Each person is responsible for their own sin debt, so right now I have no idea what you are talking about. How exactly am I responsible for my father’s sin? You are not making any sense.

          • Rick_K says:

            I appreciate your concern for my feelings, and I admire how your response so deftly avoids addressing my point.

            Do you agree with the Bible’s instruction on proper slave behavior?

            Do you agree that no woman should teach or have authority over a man, and should remain silent in church?

            Do you really love Jesus more than you love your children?

          • aedgeworth says:

            Hi Rick. My response to Steve addresses most of that. If God would have given Commandments that were easy to keep, the Jewish people would have believed they could be right with God through their own works or good deeds. Galatians 3:24-25 point out the laws were given to teach them their need of a Savior. None of us could do enough good works to save ourselves.

            Women were not forbidden to teach or have authority over man except in the Church. God indicates the man should take the lead in those areas, just in the Church. I just trust God’s wisdom in that. I know that doesn’t set right with some folks and I understand that. Not all churches abide by that, and that is their choice, I try not to be judgmental about their decision, I hope you will respect the right of churches who do abide by those guidelines.

            The idea of loving Christ more than our children is actually for their benefit. I don’t know if you have seen the little acrostic that says the secret to real J-O-Y is
            If we put Him first then we should always treat others in a way that would please Him. He has their best in mind. Let’s face it, we are basically by nature self-serving at times. The New Testament instruction is to always put the good of others ahead of ourselves.

            There are a lot of abuses of the instructions God has given to us in how we ought to live and treat others. I hope you won’t judge all Christians by the acts of some. By the way, a correct understanding of New Testament scripture does not forbid women to wear jewelry. That is my understanding.

          • Lars says:

            Wait, isn’t the Bible based on what others have written or said? Are you not doing the same thing yourself? I would have to question the kindness of a God whose chosen people had to reject His own son so that non-chosen people could have eternal life. Talk about feeling used!

          • aedgeworth says:

            I believe God used human instruments to pen His words. Daniel even asked God what some of the things meant that God asked Him to write. God is Sovereign, but man also has a free will. When given a free will, God knew ahead of time the decisions they would make. Out of all the possible plans God could have chosen He knew this was the best.

            Israel’s rejection of Christ as the Messiah was known by God before God even created the world. I know a lot of folks think they could have come up with a better plan than God did. I would not presume that about myself, considered our limited knowledge and intelligence. It is okay to ask God why He did certain things, and sometimes He will indicate why through scripture. The other times I simply trust His judgment. He doesn’t have to answer to me anyway.

            Acts 17:24 says: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth…” What that is basically saying is: “If You make it, You are the Boss, and You get to set the rules. He is Lord of heaven and earth, that means the Boss.

            2 Timothy 3:16-17 says: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” The word “inspiration” means
            “divinely breathed in.” Notice it says “All scripture.” To not believe in an Omniscient God is your choice. To not believe in the divine inspiration of scripture is your choice. For some people their view of God seems to come down to the type of God they want, rather than the God as He is revealed in scripture.

  • Andy says:

    For me, Greg Boyd’s ‘Evolution as Cosmic Warfare’ view makes the most sense of the problem of animal suffering and natural disasters in light of the reality of evolution. I am interested to hear what you feel about his perspective.

    • As I responded to an atheistic video about the problem of evil, the demonic causation was not an option for me.
      This was the case because the large majority of natural evils have all the features of randomness and lack of purpose and intention.

      • Andy says:

        I can’t watch the video now but i am interested why you feel that randomness (i.e. chaos) doesn’t reflect at least an aspect of the enemy. For me I like how Boyd links chaos with the ‘sea’ in OT. For me I have grown to see God’s wrath as primarily withdrawing his presence and leaving us to the chaos that we have chosen.
        Also when death and suffering are mentioned in the Bible they are generally seen as intruders

        • “For me I have grown to see God’s wrath as primarily withdrawing his presence and leaving us to the chaos that we have chosen.”

          That’s certainly one way to look at this. But if you do so, you have to give up Biblical inerrancy for there are verses were it is explicitely said that God brought about calamities which were not there.

          2013/11/17 Disqus

    • Bev Mitchell says:

      I agree Andy, but many are reluctant to go there. Theodicies that downplay serious spiritual opposition to God’s always come up short. The outlines for this spiritual warfare stance are fairly clear in the NT, but we really would like to downplay those too. Who, after all, would object if we could get rid of the devil by ignoring him?

      Along these lines, Jon Levenson’s “Creation and the Persistence of Evil” is a very scholarly, but easy to understand, treatment of this issue by a top Jewish biblical scholar. It’s available as a Kindle file and the four reviews of the book at Amazon are interesting as well.

      • Bev Mitchell says:

        Whoops. Should read “God’s will”

        • Bev Mitchell says:

          P.S. Should anyone take up my recommendation of Levenson’s book, please read his 1994 preface first. There he clearly says that he is not trying to offer a theodicy, but to encourage a view of God that is clearly expressed in Scripture. He contrasts “omnipotence as a static attribute” with “omnipotence as a dramatic enactment”. Yes, evil opposes God, but that is certainly not the end of the story. Instead Levenson encourages us to see omnipotence as “the absolute power of God realizing itself in achievement and relationship.” There is lots for a Christian to contemplate in this Jewish scholar’s approach to the reality of evil, and the victory of God.

  • “I just came across a brief but insightful interview at the Collegeville Institute for Ecumencial and Cultural Research. Janet Kragt Bakker interviews Christopher Southgate on the how Christian faith engages theologically the harsh realities of evolutionary theory, namely extinction, suffering, and cruelty in the animal world. Southgate is a biochemist, poet, and Christian theologian. He is currently a research fellow at the University of Exeter in England. He addresses directly the question of non-human suffering in his 2008 book The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil.”

    I believe that young earth creationism causes much more problems for a Christian theodicy than the alternatives.

    • Susan_G1 says:

      Not for me, it didn’t. Augustinian/Pauline theodicy is very nice and neat. We sinned, we fell, we caused the world to fall with us, we brought death and suffering into the world in so doing.

      • “We”? I never fell from an alleged perfect state. Did you?

        • Susan_G1 says:

          lothar, what are you trying to say? It sounds bellicose. Did I offend you in my response? If I have, I assure you, it was unintentional. Please forgive me if that is the case.

          I simply disagree with you that YEC theodicy is more problematic. It’s relatively black and white. God is O/O/O. The world was perfect before man fell. Adam fell, and death and suffering ensued. Before the Fall, dinosaurs lived peacefully alongside of humans. They ate leaves. Nothing died.

          With such a simple view, how complex can their theodicy be?

          • Okay, sorry if I raised such an impression :=(

            I don’t buy the Augustine idea that the first couple were created perfect, then fell away, and that all their descendents have been cursed by a sinful nature making evil inevitable, as I explained here:

            2013/11/17 Disqus

          • Susan_G1 says:

            Good, we’re ok.

            I don’t buy it either anymore. That’s part of my anguish.

          • Bev Mitchell says:

            It was clear to me that you were not defending YEC, you just backed into it a bit so misinterpretation was easy. I do recommend some combination of Levenson (see my response to Andy) and Boyd. As for Boyd, try his recent “Benefit of the Doubt” and his earlier “Is God to Blame?” If you wish, ignore the fact that Boyd is an open theist, it just doesn’t matter for this exercise.

          • Susan_G1 says:

            Bev, thanks for the insights. I was very interested in your response to Andy, and was actually going to buy the kindle version, but your PS made me hesitate. I’m stubborn; it’s hard for me to let go of an omnipotent God. I should try to be more open. I know this. But, here is where I stumble: if the God who created the universe is limited, what is He limited by? He created the Universe! I presume He could have made any universal laws he desired. I presume He could have designed a world where sentient creatures, whom He purports to care for, didn’t need to suffer physical evil. So I am told by theologians that pain, suffering, and physical death is not evil. Yet, if that theologian was being torn apart by a saber-toothed cat, I doubt he would pronounce it ‘good’.

            I’m being stubborn again, please forgive me my mini-rant. I will try your suggestions.

          • Bev Mitchell says:

            Hi Susan,
            Well, that makes at least two of us stubborn people. I expect Pete might be one too 🙂

            I think it helps to consider creation as started but not yet ended. Yes, the Holy Spirit sustains what already exists, but the being and becoming that the initial work of God began is still going on. This is most easily seen when considering topics such as growing in grace, sanctification etc., but it goes on everywhere. The same processes that made the world what it is today are still active.

            This is where Leventon’s thesis is so helpful. He asks us to consider a God who is still creating and who wants to do even more through relationships with us. Moving from this to Christian theology is not too hard. Christ came to deal with the problem of sin, to set us free, yes. But he sent the Holy Spirit to show us, embolden us, inspire us to continue the creative work of the Father. Clearly, this includes spreading the gospel that all might know, but it also means much more. We are called to work with the Holy Spirit to love, to care, to heal, to deliver, to protect ….. well, you get the message.

            The results, so far, are both amazing and discouraging. The Holy Spirit is willing, but we are weak. Also, the enemy is, sadly, strong. The Church (all followers of Christ) is called to this great creative work. The winner is not in doubt. The time it will take is in doubt. How the parousia (Christ’s official return as King) fits into this is another question for the theologians. I hope we don’t make such a mess of things that he must come to save us from ourselves. His Spirit did have to leave the temple (Ezekiel 10), but he has promised to never leave us of forsake us. In the meantime, there is much to do and we have a comforter, a counsellor, an enabler and a guide. Our mission is to follow him.

            P.S. I’m glad that you no longer let people tell you that God is the author of evil.

          • Ok. I still think that the YEC theodicy is awful.

            Two people sinned and God punished billions and billions of living things for a sin they are not coupable of.

  • Preston Garrison says:

    In trying to deal with the issue of “red in tooth and claw” and its extension with the long history of evolution, it seems that there is a tendency to move to some view of God and his action in creation that is unorthodox as far as historical Christianity and the Biblical perspective. You can say that God isn’t omnipotent and so is limited in his creative choices, or that God could have done things differently but chose to limit Himself and allow “freedom” to Nature (whatever that could mean.) The former seems to be Southgate’s choice and the latter that of many of the posters at Biologos. Another option is to attribute it to the Fall of Man (Dembski makes this retroactive in effect) or the Fall of some Angels. The trouble with these is that they really aren’t Biblical – the Bible pictures God as the one who created animals, called it good, and later in the Bible (see Job) takes credit that they are the way they are. (See the following for a Biblical argument that there was no Cosmic Fall.)

    If you accept evolution and want to stick with an orthodox view of God’s relation to creation, you have to just allow that He made things how they are, without regard to our feelings in the matter.

    A group of commenters have been raising this issue at Biologos for the last couple of years, without much response. One is Jon Garvey, who has dealt with it in various ways on his blog.

    • Lars says:

      It’s interesting how we keep moving God around and refining His place in this brutal history of life. He’s become Gumby. If you don’t like this position, try this one! But I understand the desire to do this as I continually struggle with where He fits in, as well.

      In this sense, I think it helps to hold to a young earth premise because it’s easier to get God off the hook by imagining no death prior to original sin if this all happened in a short amount of time. If it took billions of years just to get to humans, you’ve got a staggering amount of suffering to reconcile and it would be hard to call that process ‘good’ or fair unless you reframe your concept of God as Dr. Southgate seems to be doing, or trying to do, at least. I’ve not seen his particular approach before and wonder if it can be sustained.

    • Grotoff says:

      Essentially a significant number of very smart people are beating their brains to try and fit a round peg into a square hole. The deity of the Old Testament is one of myth and legend, no different from Zeus except in the scale of his creators’ ambitions. Trying to fit that imagination into the facts discovered under the purview of science was a quest destined for failure from the beginning.

  • Lars says:

    What an intriguing interview. I find myself in complete agreement one moment and saying ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ the next! I’m still trying to process pelican heaven for ‘victims of evolution’.

    I’ve read the interview a few times now and it feels like Dr. Southgate is trying really hard to graft his belief in a supernatural loving God onto an indifferent natural world and its inherent suffering (suffering that God has somehow deemed as an integral means to His perfect end because otherwise the world would not be this way).

    That’s a good trick to pull off and he’s admitted as much by saying he may very well have to change his view of God. I’m not sure it’s possible unless you believe God saves not only everyone, but everything; the second chick, the antelope that gets torn apart, or the cheetah that starves, as if that somehow justifies all the suffering. But if God can do that, why not just create herbivores? Why not instill a different instinct that welcomes a second chick? Would that world somehow be less beautiful? Maybe so. Maybe we wouldn’t have such awesome diversity (in spite of all the extinctions), but wouldn’t there also be less violence and suffering?

    I see no evidence that God is concerned with suffering in the here and now and plenty that He’s not. Asteroids crashing into earth, floods, ice ages, famine, disease, war, addiction, the list is virtually endless. I suppose He can intervene in the next life, and I’m not ruling that out, but in this one, He seems remarkably absent.

    • Susan_G1 says:

      Great comment, and I agree with your interpretation of pelican heaven. Also the right to question God’s abilities. I admire your intellectual honesty. And I might be in your shoes if not for one thing. I know God loves us. I know He cares for us deeply. That knowledge is unassailable in my mind and being for reasons I have posted before. So I experience a (? cognitive) dissonance when trying to work out that problem.

      If God is not Omnipotent, if the creator of this universe is not omnipotent, is there a higher power who is? Is Omnipotence a fallacy?

      • Lars says:

        Thanks, Susan. Dr. Southgate’s pelican heaven is a beautiful concept even if there’s no way to confirm its existence. Who hasn’t been that second chick at some point, crying out for justice? That would be most of the rest of the world, I suspect. It’s that universal longing for justice, that hope for a better existence that keeps me from being a full-blown atheist. But I can still appreciate, even envy on some level, your tentative certitude of God’s love. Having dispensed with God’s omniscience, is His omnipotence also at risk? I guess that all depends on how you define both God and omnipotence and if you can be content with that being a work in progress. It’s why I LOVE the image of the grubby little hand desperately clutching ‘the ticket’!

    • Luke Breuer says:

      I see no evidence that God is concerned with suffering in the here and now and plenty that He’s not.

      What would it look like for God to be concerned?

      • Lars says:

        It’s a great question! One I’ve asked often. Would I even recognize such evidence of concern if I saw it? In my mind, it’s a place where suffering doesn’t exist, like the Garden of Eden, or heaven. I’ve also wondered if those are simply recycled fantasies. Can paradise exist without free will, and can free will exist without suffering?

        Short of some utopia where we all just get along, it might take defying the laws of physics. As with the parting of the Red Sea, why can’t God just part the typhoon, redirect the hurricane? Allow Hitler to be assassinated, but spare Lincoln. Protect children from predators and against disease (or at least answer the prayers of those that believe and have devoted their lives to you).

        As it is now, things happen so randomly that it’s hard to see a divine hand at work. Plus, it’s far easier in hindsight to point out His inaction than it is to see where He may have acted. It’s possible, even probable, that God’s interventions are in the eye of the beholder and you have to be predisposed to seeing to recognize them. But He may need to be more obvious to get anyone else’s attention.

        Do you see present-day direct evidence of that concern, or is this visible only indirectly, through the actions of others? I understand that people can experience His concern individually but, again, to an outsider, that concern can appear random.

        • Luke Breuer says:

          One of the themes in the Bible is that the wicked do not see the calamity which is headed for them. Now, I generally take this to be human-caused calamity and not natural. But the principle is the same: if you don’t understand how reality works, it’ll appear random.

          Are you ever going to see something you would call ‘moral action’—vs. naturalistic occurrences—which comes from anything other than human agencies? If not, then you can either posit that God works through people, or admit that you can’t see God being concerned for suffering because you haven’t equipped yourself to see such things.

          All of a sudden, the “why didn’t God stop Hitler?” question strikes me as odd; we would never know, if God did. Who’s to say that God didn’t, for example, stop the Cold War from going nuclear? It’s not clear that this kind of intervention does anything to teach us to become more like God. I’m not saying God doesn’t ever do it—it’d be worth it for him to keep humanity going even if they couldn’t know he’d done that—but I’m inclined to say that he wants humans to do most of the work because he already knows everything, while for them it will be a learning experience.

          • Lars says:

            That’s what I was afraid of – it’s my tenuous grasp of reality that’s screwing me up! 😉

            I’m not saying that God can’t work through people, I’m just saying it’s often hard to tell. Is it God or just a person being nice? Is it Satan, or just a person being a jerk? How does one equip oneself to know if one is witnessing a person being a puppet for good or evil, or if one is seeing the exercise of free will? Once upon a time I would have said that’s obvious because every good thing is from God and everything else is Satan. There was no gray in my life for many years. I’ve since learned there’s actually very little that’s black or white.

            Re: Hitler, you’re right! Suppose he had been assassinated, would we have seen that as divine intervention? Probably not since we could not have known the eventual outcome and assassinations are not uncommon. Still, the point I was trying to make is that this is an instance where God clearly did not intervene, or did not intervene in what we might consider a timely manner. The evidence is seen in the inaction, and only obvious in retrospect, but that just makes His action, if we can even identify it, seem more random or capricious. That’s the paradox. Unless a whirlwind reached into a bunker and sucked him into the heavens, or something else obviously supernatural, it seems impossible to know if God has acted or not.

            Maybe it’s true, but in such cases it’s also easy to think that ‘God has a plan, so why worry?’ If He wants me to act, I can’t stop Him, and if he doesn’t, He’ll just harden the appropriate hearts. But, if He doesn’t work that way, and my actions can thwart God, who is more powerful?? (That’s rhetorical, btw. I just witnessed a family of believers lose a young child to a brain tumor after months of fervent, but ultimately unanswered, prayer and it made me wonder about the flipside of theodicy – intercession on the sufferer’s behalf and if it has any effect, but that’s grist for another post.)

            I’m all for teachable moments, but when the lesson includes collateral damage, at least from my skewed perspective, it can be difficult to see the lesson’s objective (or its worth).

          • Luke Breuer says:

            Is it God or just a person being nice? Is it Satan, or just a person being a jerk?

            If you see someone become more Christlike over time, I think that is what most strongly constitutes evidence that God is at work. Who was it who said that he’d rather be one step away from hell headed toward heaven than one step from heaven headed toward hell? In terms of Satan acting, I tend to think in Screwtape Letters-terms: how would I pervert up a good thing? Perhaps the most compelling place to invoke Satan is when the evil is ‘non-local’. Consider the contractors who failed to let the government know that the Obamacare website wasn’t ready: if any single person had piped up, he/she would have been squashed/fired and replaced by someone who would toe the party line. The wrongness is encoded in the entire system, not in one or even a few individuals. I think Satan prefers to act this way—with no single person seeing where things are headed. God, on the other hand, tells people what he’s going to do before he does it. He’s more intentional, and wants people intentionally involved. Anyhow, here’s my > $0.02 on that matter. 😐

            His action, if we can even identify it, seem more random or capricious.

            I think the key is that God wants to work with people (I intentionally did not say through), not apart from them. Working apart from them is described in Habakkuk, and it ain’t pretty. You might like recalling that Jesus said, “I only do what I see my father doing.” Being able to discern what God is doing from what he is not is probably a helpful activity, because we do the same when we observe our fellow believers acting. Some of what they do will be of the flesh and some, of the spirit. Encouraging the spirit is usually more effective than criticizing the flesh.

            I’m all for teachable moments, but when the lesson includes collateral damage, at least from my skewed perspective, it can be difficult to see the lesson’s objective (or its worth).

            Agreed. Scientists have to see ‘through the noise’—see Hubble’s original data—likewise, I think when figuring out stuff related to morality, we have to deal with a lot of ‘noise’. Of course it isn’t noise, but when we can’t understand it, sometimes we have to treat it that way. It’s often not fun. 🙁

          • Lars says:

            By your definition of God’s being realized through one becoming more Christlike, I know many atheists and agnostics that fit that description very well. They are compassionate and philanthropic for no other reason than believing that this kind of behavior is better for society. I know Christians who do the same, for the glory of God and you wouldn’t know which was which unless you asked. You could say God was at work in both cases. Or neither.

            Just curious, when you say Satan is best seen through ‘non-local’ evil, do you also include natural evil in that, or along the lines of mass incompetence? FWIW, most of my evangelical family members would see GOD’s hand in the Obamacare roll-out, not Satan’s! Likewise, that ‘encoding’, whether it’s the gradual acceptance of same-sex marriage or the restricted access to birth control can be seen, depending on your perspective, as evidence of God’s influence or Satan’s. I see both as the fitful evolution of society, nothing more.

            Seems to me that madmen and prophets hear God more than anyone else so I’m very suspicious when someone tells me “God told me…” (God told a relative, in a dream, that I was gay and everyone prayed that I would be delivered! That’s just wrong on so many levels but I am now married with children, so there you go.) On a related note, I’ve also found that discernment can be an inexact science, though many think they’ve nailed it every time. That certainty of being right seems to be a hallmark of zealotry and as much as it makes me want to recoil, my curiosity compels me closer (I’m looking at you, aedgeworth!!)

            You’re dead-on with the ‘noise’, Luke, no matter what you believe or where you believe it. Life is noise, but the important stuff, like ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ somehow rings through. 🙂

          • Luke Breuer says:

            By your definition of God’s being realized through one becoming more Christlike, I know many atheists and agnostics that fit that description very well.

            Mt 25:31-46 contains no doctrinal test and the people who get admitted to heaven don’t know how they’ve served Jesus, which is evidence to me that maybe they didn’t self-identify as Christians! My best man is an example of the above; I’ve started calling him a ‘crypto-Christian’. 🙂

            Just curious, when you say Satan is best seen through ‘non-local’ evil, do you also include natural evil in that, or along the lines of mass incompetence?

            The question of natural evil is an interesting one and I haven’t come to any strongly held beliefs on it. About the only thing I believe is that humanity could fight it more and more effectively, such that the deaths due to it could trend toward zero. My best model of Satan’s work is that of getting people to contribute toward a bad end, without very many (if any) wittingly knowing what is coming about. Contrast this to Christians, who are called to be cognizant of what their actions are bringing about. “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph 5:17) I believe God has created humans to be ‘priests and rulers’; they hand this authority over to Satan when they fail to act with intention and knowledge.

            Seems to me that madmen and prophets hear God more than anyone else so I’m very suspicious when someone tells me “God told me…”

            Suspicion seems apt. I use the doctrine of closed canon almost exclusively to support this kind of suspicion. Communication is inexact and Satan masquerades as an angel of light. Ever-better discernment will forever be required!

        • Grotoff says:

          Free will definitely doesn’t require suffering. That’s nonsense. What is free will anyway? It can’t be total capability, because we don’t have that. I can’t will myself to walk on water or flap my arms and fly. That doesn’t necessarily limit free will. If I were physically incapable of rape or whatever, that wouldn’t impede my free will. I could freely will myself to do things that were possible.

          • Lars says:

            That was a nonsensical nod to the Garden of Eden story, where the free will to obey or disobey led directly to suffering, and before that to Heaven, where the free will to worship God or worship self had similar consequences for the angels. I find it very interesting that free will (leading to narcissism) is the common thread in the downfall of both creations. The other point was: can an automaton truly appreciate paradise (or worship God), or does that appreciation require the tension of sentient beings knowing one wrong move could cause the whole thing to collapse on itself?

            Another nonsense thought? I also wondered that about that the Trinity as well, and how they have managed to hold things together all this time. What did they do before creating angels? And can a thought exist exist outside of time? Can an action? A relationship, even? Was the creation of time, starting the clock, the real Big Bang? Then again, two margaritas for dinner always make me pensive…

          • Grotoff says:

            All nods to the myth of “Eden” are nonsensical, so I guess that explains it.

            The choice isn’t between total obedience or total disobedience. That’s a classic fallacious Christian binary. The question is why “disobedience” must necessarily entail such extreme evil. Why should rape even be physically possible?

            Not that “obedience” is the issue. Murder of infants is wrong whether your supposed deity orders it or not.

          • Susan_G1 says:

            free will necessitates evil. People have an inherent tendency towards selfishness, which means someone will suffer.

          • Grotoff says:

            That’s the all or nothing nonsensical monotheist perspective again. Selfishness (1) doesn’t have to be inherent. Who supposedly made our inherent nature again? And it (2) doesn’t imply that rape and genocide have to exist.

            Free will means that people must be free to do or NOT do good things, but that doesn’t imply that they must likewise be free to do great evil.

  • AHH says:

    It is worth noting that “nature red in tooth and claw” is an apt (if incomplete) description with or without Darwin. If you have the orthodox belief that God is the Creator of carnivores, then you already have to deal with the issue of animal suffering. Recognizing that animals developed via evolution doesn’t really add anything qualitatively different to that particular theological challenge, although maybe it makes the magnitude seem larger.

    • Susan_G1 says:

      Again, think of two loved ones. Is it any greater a physical evil if both suffer and die than if only one does? Yes, it hurts much more to lose two than one. It is significant, maybe not philosophically, but experientially. And a God who professes to care for the sparrow certainly cares about experiential pain.

      • AHH says:

        Sure, and that’s why I said qualitatively. Quantitatively these are different, and for example we should do our part to reduce the amount of suffering even if we can’t bring it to zero.
        But the blog post was about theodicy, and (to use your example) “Why did God allow my loved one to die?” and “Why did God allow my two loved ones to die?” are the same in terms of their challenge for Christian theology.

        If our theology can “handle” a smaller amount of animal suffering over thousands of years (say, victims of the carnivores God made), it can handle hundreds of millions of years of death in the evolutionary process. Conversely, if it can’t handle one, it can’t handle the other.

        • Susan_G1 says:

          Not easily if one’s theodicy was Augustinian/Pauline before. Death and suffering were introduced after the Fall. There was nothing about animals eating each other before the Fall. God created us (omnivores) but we were not to eat meat.

          There was comfort in knowing that “red in tooth and claw” was our fault, not God’s preference. God could retain His omnibenevolence.

          I can follow your logic intellectually, but it is harder for me to accept it experientially.

          • AHH says:

            Yeah, I’m not saying the theodicy part is easy, especially now that we know that there was animal death and suffering long before human sin (something that was known before Darwin), just that the non-easy problem exists with or without the evolutionary development of life.

            I’m not sure the sketch you draw, while many of us hear it especially if we have more fundamentalist backgrounds, should really be labeled “Augustinian/Pauline”. Certainly for Paul, in context his statements are about HUMAN sin and death and don’t say anything one way or the other about reasons for animal death and suffering. I don’t know enough about Augustine to say how he interpreted that issue. And the supposed vegetarianism before the Fall is an argument from silence. But even for a simple Biblicist reading, the fact that Scripture praises God for giving food to carnivores should give us pause in assessing that Sunday-school interpretation.

            Historically, I’d be interested to know whether the common “creationist” view that there was no animal death before the Fall has a long history in the church, or was a relatively recent invention of somebody like Ellen White. Any scholars reading who could answer that?

          • Susan_G1 says:

            I know little and realize I’ve assumed much. I do know that second millenium rabbis believed there was no carnivorous death based on Gen. 1:30,31. I tried to find Augustine’s position, and I can’t. Aquinas was clear that he thought man’s fall didn’t change the nature of animals.

  • rvs says:

    “Bambi theology”–this is a nice phrase. I also found myself thinking of Blake’s Tyger. Evil does not strike me as a natural phenomenon.

  • John W. Morehead says:

    Here’s a volume that directly addresses some of the issues raised in this post, and the major problem with the abuse of the idea of dominion over creation, some of which we’ve heard in comments expressed in this thread: The Bible and Ecology. A description: With his characteristic rigor and perceptiveness, Richard Bauckham embarks on a Biblical investigation into the relationship of human
    beings to the rest of creation. Bauckham argues that there is much more
    to the Bible’s understanding of this relationship than the mandate of
    human dominion given in Genesis 1 which, he writes, has too often been
    used as a justification for domination and exploitation of the earth s
    resources. Instead, Bauckham considers the ecological perspectives found
    in the book of Job, the Psalms and the Gospels, all of which, he
    determines, require a re-evaluation of the biblical tradition of
    “dominion.” Bauckham discovers a tradition of a “community of creation”
    where human beings are fellow members with God s other creatures, and in
    which true reconciliation to God involves the entire creation. Short,
    reliable, and engaging, The Bible and Ecology is essential reading for anyone looking for a biblically grounded approach to ecology.

  • Ryan says:

    This is why the Incarnation is so crucial – one cannot factor out the claim that God voluntarily subjected Himself to the world “red in tooth and claw” – to what end? It’s utterly transformative and distinctive of Christianity. I mean to read Domning’s “Original Selfishness: Original Sin And Evil in the Light of Evolution” sometime.

    On the subject of Leibniz (“best of all possible worlds”), I’ll just add that conventional critiques start with the assumption that this lump of space-time is all there is – nothing else is worth valuing. In contrast, Christianity seems to have something of a timeless/eternal focus that could alter the balance somewhat.

  • I don’t understand – how does a “traditional” view of Adam and creation in any way mitigate God’s implication in the suffering of the natural order?

Leave a Reply