Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Does Jesus know more than science?

I'll comment on this doozy by Peter Enns:

I believe that evolution explains human origins, even if there is always more to learn. I believe this for the same reason I believe the earth is round and billions of years old, the universe is immense and billions of years older, that there are atoms and subatomic particles, that galaxies number in the billions with billions of stars in each, that it takes light from the sun 8.3 minutes to reach us. And so on.

Even supposing that evolution is true, the evidence for evolution is quite different from the evidence for the rotundity of the earth, the existence of subatomic particles, or the speed of light. The direct reasons for believing these things are independent of each other. So they can't be the same reason. Not in terms of reasons for the claim itself. 

I believe that evolution is one of the things that science has gotten right, along with many other things we take for granted every day, because this is the resounding conclusion of the scientific community, including Christians trained in the sciences.

There's nothing inherently wrong with appeal to expert witnesses and the argument from authority. But secular science preemptively discounts divine agency as a legitimate explanation, even if that's the right explanation. So, by process of elimination, only naturalistic explanations are even considered. That's like proving all marbles are white by first removing all the black and blue marbles. Sure, that's what you end up with, by discarding evidence to the contrary. 

The stories of origins in Genesis (Chapter 1 and chapter 2) are not competing “data sets” to scientific models of cosmic and human origins. These stories were written somewhere between 2500 and 3000 years ago, and clearly reflect cultural categories older still. I don’t expect Genesis or any other Bronze or Iron Age text to answer the kinds of questions we can answer today through calculus, optical and radio telescopes, genomics, or biological and cultural anthropology.

That's very logical…if you're an atheist. If you deny the existence of a revelatory God. If you operate with a closed-system worldview. 

If, on the other hand, Gen 1-2 were revealed by a timeless God, then it doesn't matter how long ago it was written. What difference does the first or second millennium BC make to God? If God is outside time, and God is the source of Gen 1-2, then the antiquity of Gen 1-2 is irrelevant to its veracity. If God disclosed the origin of the world to a Bronze Age narrator, the narrator's time-frame is secondary to God's timeless perspective. 

However we define these terms, the Bible is not something dropped out of the sky. Rather these writings unambiguously reflect the various cultural moments of the writers. The Bible speaks the “language” of ancient people grappling with things in ancient ways, and therefore what the Bible records about creation or the dawn of humanity needs to be understood against the cultural backdrop of the biblical writers. Any viable notion of the Bible as inspired or revealed needs to address the implications of a culturally situated Bible.

That's such a canard. For instance, Warfield didn't think the Bible dropped out of the sky. He articulated the organic theory of inspiration. 

True, Jesus alludes to the Adam and Eve story (Genesis 2:24; see Matthew 19:5), and in doing so seems to take that story literally—at least some would argue that. I do not think this allusion establishes anything of the sort, but even if it did, Jesus’s words still do not trump (forgive the poor word choice 2 weeks before election day) evolution as being true.

i) Really? He honestly doesn't believe Jesus thought Gen 1-2 was historical? Christ's argument against lax divorce laws is based on a contrast between the Mosaic Law, which represents a postlapsarian concession–and the creation of Adam and Eve, which represents a prelapsarian standard of comparison. If, however, there was no first couple, then that cuts the ground out from under his argument. Christ is contrasting the status quo with the prototype. But if the prototype never existence, there's no basis of comparison. 

ii) Moreover, how can you argue for monogamy from evolution? Does Enns think hominids were monogamous? If evolution is true, surely our protohuman ancestors were promiscuous. Indeed, Darwinians are wont to say that men are naturally promiscuous while women are naturally monogamous. Men are programmed to mate with many women to up the chances that at least some of their offspring will survive to sexual maturity and repeat the cycle. Women are programmed to seek a dependable mate who will stick around to protect and provide for the mother and kids, as well as to helping raising them. So you have this tug of war between competing instincts. 

Expecting the words of Jesus to settle the evolution issue shows an insufficient grappling with the implications of the incarnation. Actually, it betrays how uncomfortable and “irreverent” (to borrow C. S. Lewis’s description) a doctrine the incarnation is—ironically, including for Christians.
For Jesus to be fully human means not abstractly “human” but a human of a particular sort, fully participating in the Judaism of the 1st century. The incarnation leaves no room whatsoever for the idea that Jesus in any way kept his distance from participating in that particular humanity. That means, among other things, that Jesus was limited in knowledge along with everyone else at the time.

i) I don't know if this is just tactical, or if Enns is really that dense. On the one hand, he may just be saying that to put faithful Christians on the defensive. Turning tables on them by pretending that they are the ones whose orthodoxy is suspect. It's a transparent ploy, but it's the best he can do.

On the other hand, maybe he's really that superficial and uncomprehending. It's funny how, when people like Enns talk about the Incarnation, they always talk about it in this one-sided fashion. But the Incarnation doesn't accentuate the humanity of Christ. According to the Incarnation, Christ is equally divine and human. So there's no differential stress one way or the other. The Incarnation doesn't emphasize the humanity of Christ while deemphasizing the divinity of Christ. It's not as if Jesus is two parts human to one part divine. 

The Incarnation doesn't mean Jesus has finite knowledge rather than infinite knowledge. Rather, it means both are true. Yes, in one respect the Incarnation means Jesus doesn't know everything, but in another respect it means Jesus does know everything! This is, after all, a divine incarnation. Enns singles out the human side of the Incarnation while blanking out the divine side of the Incarnation. But who or what became Incarnate? The divine Son. It isn't simply God Incarnate, but God Incarnate. God united to a body and a rational soul. The Incarnation entails something that's distinctively divine as well as something that's distinctively human. The result of the Incarnation will have properties of both. 

Is Enns so theologically inept that he doesn't grasp the rudiments of orthodox Christology? Even if he doesn't believe it, he should be able to accurately state the idea. 

ii) In addition, although the divine and human natures are metaphysically separate and compartmentalized, the two natures are not epistemically separate and compartmentalized. On the one hand the divine nature knows everything the human nature does. On the other hand, the divine nature shares some of its supernatural knowledge with the human nature. In the Gospels, Jesus sometimes exhibits superhuman knowledge. He has natural human knowledge, but even in his humanity he also has a degree of supernatural divine knowledge. He knows some things that only God would be in a position to know–even in reference to the human mind of Christ. That's because the divine mind imparts some of its supernatural knowledge to the human mind. (For convenience, I'm casting this in terms of a two-minds Christology. I've offered more detailed analogies elsewhere.)

So in that respect, they're not equally balanced. Rather, it tilts in a divine direction. 

iii) Incidentally, I'm not convinced that Enns even believes in the Incarnation or Resurrection. To begin with, why would he still believe in greater miracles when he rejects lesser miracles? How can greater miracles be believable when lesser miracles are unbelievable? If, moreover, he ceased to believe in the Incarnation and Resurrection, he'd have a lot to lose if he said so in public. 

That may sound irreverent or offensive, but it is an implication of the incarnation. Jesus wasn’t an omniscient being giving the final word on the size of mustard seeds…

It's striking how many people trip over that little mustard seed. Yet as Gundry noted in his commentary, "The mustard seed was the smallest seed of Palestinian seeds that could be seen with the naked eye and had become proverbial for smallness" (267). In his commentary, Keener supplies documentation from Jewish and Greco-Roman sources (387-88).

Does Enns think Jesus should reference an invisible seed to illustrate his point? How would a seed so tiny that no one could see it illustrate his point? They wouldn't know what he's talking about! 

Enns has no categories for hyperbole or proverbial expressions in his conceptual toolkit. Does he bring the same exquisite sensitivity to other comparative idioms like "light as a feather," "flat as a pancake," "a stone's throw," "a day late and a dollar short"?  

…mental illness

That's an allusion to Gospel accounts of Jesus as an exorcist. Enns insinuates Jesus was mistaken in believing that they were possessed. Yet the Gospels treat the exorcisms of Jesus as evidence of his messiahship. 

…or cosmic and biological evolution. He was a 1st century Jew and he therefore thought like one.

According to the Incarnation, although Jesus was a 1C Jew, he wasn't just a 1C Jew. He remained the antemundane Creator of the world. In one respect he thought like a 1C Jew. In another respect, he thought like God. 

1 comment:

  1. Peter Enns

    "I believe that evolution is one of the things that science has gotten right, along with many other things we take for granted every day, because this is the resounding conclusion of the scientific community, including Christians trained in the sciences."

    Is Peter Enns referring to "Christians trained in the sciences" like many of the signatories of A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism?

    What about secular scientists who take serious issue with modern evolutionary theory such as over at The Third Way of Evolution?

    "Expecting the words of Jesus to settle the evolution issue shows an insufficient grappling with the implications of the incarnation..."

    If evolution is true, then why couldn't Jesus be a more highly evolved species of humanity? Perhaps a Homo divinus?

    If so, then how can a more highly evolved species of humanity's death be efficacious for a lower species of humanity?

    Further, if it's possible Jesus is a more highly evolved species of humanity, then why isn't possible the future will have an even more highly evolved species of humanity than Jesus?

    "...mental illness"

    If evolution is true, and if the mind is reducible to the brain, if "we are our genes," then is there such a thing as mental illness? Can't at least some mental illness be chalked up to genetic variation? If so, who's to say one genetic variation is the norm while another is not?

    If a majority of the population have the same genetic variation, then why can't that be the norm? In fact, perhaps a genetic variation expressing itself as "mental illness" (e.g. sociopathy) even reflects an evolutionary advantage.

    "or cosmic and biological evolution. He was a 1st century Jew and he therefore thought like one."

    Enns conflates the "evolution" of the universe with the evolution of life. Why? They're separable subject matters.