Friday, October 04, 2013

Christian nihilism

I argue in The Evolution of Adam that sin and death are undeniable universal realities, whether or not we are able to attribute them to a primordial man who ate from the wrong tree. The Christian tradition, however, has generally attributed the cause to sin and death to Adam as the first human. Evolution claims that the cause of sin and death, as Paul understood it, is not viable. That leaves open the questions of where sin and death come from. 
Likewise, in an evolutionary scheme death is not the enemy to be defeated. It may be feared, it may be ritualized, it may be addressed in epic myths and sagas; but death is not the unnatural state introduced by a disobedient couple in a primordial garden. Actually, it is the means that promotes the continued evolution of life on this planet and even ensures workable population numbers. Death may hurt, but it is evolution’s ally. 
So, I repeat my point: evolution cannot simply be grafted onto evangelical Christian faith as an add-on...
An obvious question this raises, although it seems to elude Peter Enns, is whether his embrace of evolution dooms a doctrine of the afterlife. After all, if death is natural and inevitable, then is there life after death? Is there a future life? 
Traditionally, Christians espoused the immortality of the soul, which grounded the intermediate state–as well as the resurrection of the body, which grounded the final state. More recently, you have some professing Christian physicalists who ditch dualism. And that, too, is consistent with evolution, which is a physical process. 
Having repudiated the immortality of the soul (the existence of which they deny), they pin their remaining hopes on the resurrection of the body. That's their fallback. 
If, however, death is a natural and necessary part of the evolutionary process–indeed, an essential component of population control–then isn't continued faith in the afterlife just an "add-on"? A relic of an obsolete theological paradigm? 
If Enns going to be a consistent evolutionist, then don't we suffer the fate of all other animals? Isn't human mortality irreversible? No hope beyond the grave. We watch our pious parents and grandparents pass into oblivion, without recall. We are replaceable and recyclable. Reducible to our raw materials. Nothing lasts, except the perennial cycle of life and death.  


  1. For decades I've leaned toward (Hugh Ross' and Fazale Rana's) Reasons To Believe's testable creation model. Unfortunately, in the past year or so the "science" seems to be making their creation model regarding human origins less and less tenable (assuming that the science they're relying on is generally accurate). For a while, the science seemed to be confirming their model. But not so much anymore. In fact, they're now in the process of revising their book "Who Was Adam?"

    I'd be more open to Pre-Adamitism, or Co-Adamism, or Polygenism but for passages like Gen. 3:20, 1 Cor. 15:21 and (especially) Acts 17:26 which would seem to preclude those options (assuming Scripture's infallibility and inerrancy).

    Some of the ways people like me (who supported the RTB creation model in the past) could respond is to wait for more conclusive scientific data that will confirm the RTB model. Another is to go (or return) to the Young Earth Creationist model. Another is to hold to an anti-realist understanding of science (e.g. Gordon Clark's Operationalism). I'm not sure about operationalism, but I'm already a scientific anti-realist. Another is to affirm that Paul was mistaken in his understanding that all human beings originated from Adam and Eve. While the Apostles themselves weren't infallible and could hold to erroneous views on some subjects, they couldn't do so on important matters of dogmatic and apostolically accepted and/or received theology. Also, Paul's view of the singular origin of humanity is recorded in inspired inerrant Scripture. So, that's not really an option for a Christian.

    Anyway, here's a LINK to my blog were I list links to some of the articles and podcasts on Reasons to Believe that dealt with human origins down through the years as they responded to cutting edge scientific news.

  2. RTB prided itself in "sticking it's neck out" (an actually used phrase by RTB folk) by providing a testable, falsifiable, creation model that made predictions and actually named the intelligent designer (i.e. the God of the Bible). Whereas ID doesn't name the intelligent designer(s) and one of ID's biggest criticisms is that it's non-falsifiable. At most ID is able to make predictions (e.g. the recent [seemingly] confirmed prediction that Junk DNA is much more functional than was originally thought).

    Unfortunately, RTB's long held model of (specifically) human origins seems to be on its way to being falsified by the newest scientific "findings/discoveries." Either RTB is going to have to revise/re-adjust their model on human origins or be even more critical and wary of the procedures of science that touch on this issue.