Friday, November 17, 2006

"Mainstream science"


“I believe the 'Adam and Evolution' post reflected either a) unfamiliarity with mainstream science or b) wholesale rejection of it, based on the understandings that mainstream science brings to the table on the question of (early) man's capabilities.”

Throughout his commentary the Evangelutionist will resort to the sophistical tactic of labeling as a substitute for argument.

In particular is the talismanic use of the word “mainstream” or “community.”

Other issues aside, Einstein, Bohr, Schrödinger, and Heisenberg were all out of the “mainstream” of the scientific “community” when they challenged classical physics.

As Michael Crichton has pointed out, consensus is not a scientific appeal. Consensus is only invoked when the disputant has run out of arguments—or never had any arguments to begin with.

“What do you believe is science's position on…”

This is yet another bit of sophistry. “Science” doesn’t have a position on these issues. *Science* is simply an abstraction for what *scientists* believe, which varies from one scientist to another.

But to continue:

“What do you believe is science's position on: 1. Increased brain capabilities for hominids in the last 1-2MM years; 2. Technological capabilities for hominids in the same period; 3. Social organization for hominids in the same interval.”

Short answer: I don’t believe in hominids.

I believe in human beings, and I believe in simians. I don’t derive the former from the latter.

These are distinct, aboriginal nature kinds, with a certain inbuilt potential for adaptive variation.

“Without requiring a treatise from you (It could be very high level summaries), we can see whether or not you are, in fact, ‘divorced from science’, as I suggested earlier. We can check what your ‘overview’ of these key survival features looks like against the testimony of the science community. But the fact remains, you, and many of your peers, stand in general opposition to the methods, findings and conclusions of mainstream science. In saying that man is a non-viable competitor on the survival playing field, you, you are manifestly departing from the fundamental understanding of the related physical science communities.”

I’ve already pointed out one essential problem with his appeal to consensus. Here’s another basic problem:

The Evangelutionist is in no position whatsoever to wrap himself in the mantle of “mainstream” science or align himself with the scientific “community.”

For the Evangelutionist is a theistic evolutionist. But theistic evolution is not mainstream science. It is not the position of the scientific “community” at large.

Among other things, mainstream science operates from the principle of methodological naturalism. Hence, theistic evolution is an oxymoron. Theistic evolution is pseudoscience.

For, by definition, any appeal to a supernatural factor runs in direct opposition to methodological naturalism, which is the modus operandi of mainstream science.

And let’s be frank about this: theistic evolution is an intellectual and theological compromise.

The Evangelutionist is trying to marginalize traditional Christians, as if his only opposition comes from the religious right, while he himself stands foursquare with the entire scientific establishment.

Nothing could be more transparently false. His opposition comes as much from the secular left as it does from the religious right, and the secular left represents “mainstream” science or the scientific “community.”

So there are two fundamental failings in his line of self-defense:

i) He is invoking an unscientific principle (consensus) to defend his position while deflecting his opponents, and:

ii) If his appeal to consensus were valid, the it would invalidate his own position, for theistic evolution is way out of the mainstream.

As far as mainstream science is concerned, the Evangelutionist is a squatter.

“It hardly helps matters to assault dating (relative or absolute) here regarding spears. Asking me for a treatise on the dating hermenuetic isn't fruitful as *I* wasn't the one doing the dating -- the researchers were. Whether I concur with the dating isn't meaningful. What's at issue here (I suggest) is that right or wrong, you are at complete loggerheads with mainstream science.”

More patent sophistry, piled layer upon layer:

i) He refers me to an article to support his position.

ii) Now he tries to put some distance between himself and the article he referred me to as if it doesn’t matter whether or not he agrees with it.

iii) The dating isn’t “meaningful”? The dating was a key component of his argument. He referred me to this article to bolster his own argument.

The question is how the article functions in his argument. He is the one who is putting this article to his personal use.

So for him to suddenly assume a noncommittal stance, as if he has no personal stake in the matter, is both duplicitous and disingenuous.

iv) I didn’t assault absolute dating. What I did was to quote from the very article he pointed me to where one of the researchers said the dating was in dispute because absolute dating techniques were not employed.

That is not an assault on absolute dating. Rather, absolute dating was never in play.

v) Did I launch a general assault on relative dating? Once again, we need to set the record strait:

a) What I did was to ask if the article is alluding to ice core dating.

I then cited a couple of articles from “secular” sources on the vicissitudes of ice core dating. Indeed, on of these sources is from an anti-ID, anti-creationist site.

b) I didn’t take any position on relative dating in general. And I didn’t say the spears were misdated.

What I did was to simply ask how, in fact, the spears were dated.

d) Remember, the date is a key issue for the Evangelutionist.

As I pointed out before, the date is not a key issue for me, for the purposes of this thread, because I’m arguing on internal grounds.

The Evangelutionist likes to talk *about* archeological evidence as long as you don’t ask him *for* archeological evidence.

He likes to talk about archeological evidence in the abstract. But as soon as you start posing a few concrete questions about the process by which a particular result was arrived at, he wants to change the subject.

“You may be right, and all of science wrong.”

Have I ever said, in the course of this thread, that all science is wrong?

When you corner him using his own criteria, the Evangelutionist resorts to hyperbole.

“Does that seem a fair way to proceed?”

What the Evangelutionist has demonstrated thus far is that the only way he can defend theistic evolution is to employ devious reasoning as he hopscotches from one expedient to another.

No, it doesn’t strike me as fair, but that’s fine with me. If he can only win by cheating, then even if he wins the game, he loses the argument.

So I thank him for exposing the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of theistic evolution more effectively than I could have done without his collaboration.


  1. It doesn't change the fact that you subscribe to YEC. You believe that the earth is 6,000 years old. Oh, also, you believe in a global flood, where Noah saved himself along with his family, and all the animals and dinosaurs, (at least the one's that couldn't swim!).

    Do you believe that the Bible is a science book? Is that one of it's purpose's? Do you like the world creation-science?

    Do you agree with Kent Hovind's YEC?

    Do you BELIEVE that God made the earth to appear as an old earth?

    Why? What proof do you have for this?

    I have to admit, it's an excellent escape hatch. After you make this assertion, the debate is over!

  2. I believe Steve has already pointed out that insofar as this particular thread is concerned, his own position (whether or not it's YEC) is irrelevant to the argument.

    Imagine an argument about what color the sky is. One person says it's green for such and such reasons. Another says it's purple for such and such reasons. Steve then points out the failings in both positions. Even if his own position is that the sky is blue, or whatever, it doesn't then mean there are now no longer any problems in the other two positions or arguments.

    Well, that's how I see it at any rate, but I fully grant that I could be misreading this since I'm by no means as sophisticated a thinker as many others are -- especially Steve and the other T-bloggers.

  3. Hi Steve,

    Apparently you didn't like that line of approach! Friday night's Bible Study Group night, doncha know, sorry this is late.

    1. One thing I'd like to point out is that science is consensus driven, but far from a popularity contest. It's a "bare-knuckle meritocracy", the likes of which is not to be found elsewhere. From Newton to Copernicus to Faraday to Darwin to Einstein to Feynman, science has been a dazzling string of revolutions and paradigm shifts. That works because of the meritocracy factor -- the facts and evidences carry the day. Science bows to no man because of his stature -- Newton, Darwin, and Einstein all had important ideas they proposed mercilessly dismissed because a better performing model arrived on the scene.

    When I talk about consensus, it doesn't prevent one scientist from singlehandedly upending the existing paradigm, Einstein being a good example, and Darwin another. The consensus comes from reasonable assent to the facts and data.

    If you publish a paper in a scholarly journal, it goes through a peer review process -- a "mini-consensus" on the basic integrity of the methods, maths and plausibility of the findings, performed by peers also expert in that discipline.

    2. I agree that "science" is an abstraction for what the constituent scientists understand, but that's precisely how I mean to use it. I don't suppose there aren't PhDs out there who believe in YEC -- I'm quite sure there are -- but I would suggest that these are distant outliers from the broad consensus view of experts in that field. Whichever field: geology, archaeology, cosmology, etc.

    It's something like the way Christians use "orthodoxy". Not every Christian ascribes to what we would describe as orthodox theology, but that doesn't change the broad consensus that is signified by the term. These are useful abstractions.

    3. OK, you don't believe in hominids. This begs the question stemming from the article I pointed to: what do you make of those 400,000 year old spears. You said you weren't disputing the timeline, and here you're saying there are only humans and simians as available choices. That seems a conundrum for you, then.

    To which group do you suppose the spears belonged? Humans or simians? I really can't venture to guess which way you'll answer, as each seems to present significant problems.

    4. Science is agnostic with regards to metaphysics. It doesn't affirm the existence of God. It doesn't deny the existence of God. If you doubt this, then I'd ask you to produce some scholarly work that suggests that science includes any assertions, or even guesses about metaphysical truths.

    Richard Dawkins is the mirror image of YECs in his contempt for science. For Dawkins, science is a weapon to hurl at faith, to foment an atheist metaphysic. That's no more scientific than simply saying "science is a hoax".

    You're apparently unhappy with science's epistemic foundation of methodological materialism, the same epistemic that flourished from the time of Newton and so many other God-fearing men of science. It's precisely this axiom of MM that keeps science right in its box where it belongs. MM restricts science from wandering into areas where it has no foundation.

    Because of this, theistic evolution doesn't have a quarrel with the facts and evidences of God's creation. TEs make a positive statement for God's existence and active participation in the world and the lives of mankind. Atheists and agnostics do not. These are distinct metaphysical assertions, based on a shared view of the physical evidences and data.

    On the whole then, theistic evolution agrees with mainstream science. Or, if you're aware of scientific arguments that split TEs away from mainstream science, you'll have to point them out.

    Metaphysically, I don't suppose the consensus of scientists is theistic, although I'm finding there a lot more Christians in scientific fields than seems generally understood. But the metaphysical differences between TEs and agnostics and atheists are just that -- metaphysical differences, not scientific differences.

    Because of the nature of science, God will not, cannot be disproved, even in principle. It's not the perview of science to even entertain such questions. To ask such of science would be like asking you what the color "nine" smells like. It's a badly formed question.

    Anyway, it's clear that you new to theistic evolution. I hope I can maybe straighten some misconceptions out for you. I'm no authority on TE -- I'm not sure there is such a thing as a recognized authority on TE -- but I have come to know a good many Christians who ascribe to it (we're generally dissatisfied with the term 'theistic evolution'), and find it to be quite compatible with the best principles and epistemology of science, and with a faithful, harmonized view of scripture and the Gospel.

    Just to take up one point here from your comments, you said:

    For, by definition, any appeal to a supernatural factor runs in direct opposition to methodological naturalism, which is the modus operandi of mainstream science.

    To my knowledge, TEs do not appeal to supernatural mechanisms in scientific questions. For instance, I believe God created the universe, but I don't have any scientific evidence at hand that conclusively establishes that. Isaiah tells us "the whole earth is full of His glory", to which I say "Hallelujah". But that's a truth I understand by intuition, reason, and faith. This understanding isn't reducible to a naturalistic mechanism I might submit to the peer review process.

    So the atheist sees the wonder of creation, and is awed, even though he knows no the Creator. I know the Creator, but I walk by faith, not by my (naturalistic) sight. I don't offend God's creation by pretending it's something it's manifestly not (YEC), but neither do I maintain that scientifically I can prove to a skeptic that all the universe is the dominion of a sovereign Creator.

    5. Compromise. I find neither theological or scientific compromises that have to be made in my position. I was born and raised a YEC, and definitely "compromised", if that's what you want to call it, in deference to God's creation, God's general revelation to man. I came to understand that YEC interpretations of the word were contemptuous of God's creation, willfully dismissive and ignorant of what God made.

    To be sure, a good amount of my YEC theology was abandoned, but so much for the good, toward a serious view of God's word as true in *real* way, not in some gnostic, mystical way that my YEC framework had bound me to.

    6. Opposition from the secular left. You're absolutely right, I get as much hostility from the fundamentalist left as I do the fundamentalist right. As I said, both badly abuse science and the witness of God's creation, and depend on each other for validation. YECs raise money on quotes from Richard Dawkins, a caricature of science if there ever was one, and the infidels raise money off quotes from Ken Ham and Kent Hovind. They both validate the existence of the other.

    Of course, neither is interested in a Christianity that harmonizes God's special revelation to man (the Bible) with God's general revelation to man. Young earth creationism is the most effective weapon atheism has ever had in proving Christianity false (YECs are more than happy to latch their theology to the whole of Christianity, in my experience. If YEC interpretations are wrong, Christianity is disproved, etc.)

    It won't do for the fundamentalist atheist to have Christianity making peace with the facts of God's creation. Dawkins would be delighted to see all of Christianity chain itself to young earth creationism, and go down with that ship, the lot of us, as every new bit of evidence from God's creation further falsifies the YEC interpretation.

    So, yes, I have no sympathy to enjoy from the unbelieving, secular community. I don't expect such, nor covet it. We can agree on the facts, because facts are facts, and all truth is God's truth. The fact that earth goes around the sun is something atheist and TE can agree on. Who made the universe containing that sun is a metaphysical position, and a point where we violently disagree.

    7. The article. I stand by the article, and haven't retreated from it. This article alone puts a large hole in the idea that early man was defenseless against the threats of his environment. I have an understanding that accomodates this evidence -- the same understanding advanced by the researcher doing the actual science here. If I understand you right, the spears which have been found are 350,000 years old and were made by....? You'll have to answer that, because simians making spears seems a big problem for you, and humans making spears 350,000 years ago puts away the idea that (early) man was left to clawing as best he could with his fingernails to survive, at that point at least.

    When you begin to question the dating technique, a regressive cycle begins that inevitable ends in: how does science know anything? What if the speed of light changed? Wouldn't radiometric dating be way off then? Etc. If that's the way you want to go, then we can declare a dead end on that point. It's a non-starter.

    As it is, though, you've agreed to the 350,000 years, so I'm content to revisit the article and re-assert that it puts weapons in the hands of man a very long ways back. That's not something you accounted for in your original argument.

    Even if you are to come back with "simians" as the creators of these spears (!), I'd say that if simians have established spear-making facilities, I should think it quite reasonable to assume humans were at least as capable. Right? If so, I think that seriously damages the idea of man as shrinking violet in the pre-historic world.

    8. Dating is a key issue for the Evangelutionist. Huh? I'm fine going with 350,000 years versus 400,000. I don't see a problem with any particular date here. The article doesn't support this, but if we assume it was 75,000, or a 1,075,000 years ago, I think it does the same damage to your argument, just by itself.

    As for other archaeological evidence, I pointed to a piece on enhanced brain size and hearing capabilities, and you assert authority as an archaeological expert, dismissing the witness of these researchers. I can send you as many links as you want, but save me the time if you think you are more qualified than they to understand what the evidence says. Your dismissal of this was a good illustration of your divorce from science. Maybe you *do* know better than these archaeologists, and have better insight into what the evidence they've worked with suggests -- evidence you are reading about through an internet article. But the bottom line is, you've shown, and declared that you know better than the archaeologists what the evidence in the ground is, and what it means.

    I can supply you with a good long stream of citations -- just a quick Google Scholar session on your own will prove the number of available items out there to look at. But it's a fools errand on my part if the testimony of the scientists involved is dismissed outright, because you believe you simply know better.

    Just for an additional piece of science to work on here (maybe this will be a step forward), here's a press release from the University of California at Berkeley from 2002 regarding the discovery of skulls and stone cleavers and axes in Ethiopia:

    This article puts the fossils at 1 million years old, based on dating of the stratigraphic layer the fossils were found in. It provides the name of the layer -- the "Dakanihylo Member". I believe if you investigate that, you will find this is dated via radiometric methods, methods based on isotropic decay.

    This article, then, describes archaeological findings that place cleavers and axes in the hands of (proto-)humans one million years ago. If we have axes and cleavers at 1Mya, and spears at 350,000ya, would you try to convince me that we should suppose that they had not tools/weapons to survive and hunt with in between, and since?

    What do you make of this article? Are these archaeologists nuts? Hoaxers? What?

    Thanks for your feedback. I appreciate the effort.


  4. First caveat: I'm not a scientist.

    Second caveat: I've not followed quite all of this ongoing discussion.

    Third caveat: I've not necessarily got much background in all of (a) the science, or (b) the philosophy, used in this discussion.

    With that in mind, a couple questions for a theistic evolutionist.

    - What does one make of Paul's seeming to consider Adam a real individual, the original federal ahead of humanity? This is important, as well of course, in the various genealogies. Saying that Adam was some hominid back along the line would not seem to comport well with most concepts of the doctrine of Original Sin and its effect on the rest of creation (except maybe Arminian free-will concepts of original win in which the mere existence of free will apparently guarantees sin).

    - The idea that a universe that "appears old but isn't" would make God guilty of lying once seemed strong to me, especially with respect to, for example, the speed of light, size of the universe, and thus the requisite age thereof. However, now I don't see that to be the case. Man can and will come up with all sorts of his own ideas of what is and isn't. Clearly, God can foresee all of those, but that doesn't obligate Him to fix the situation.

    That is, assuming that God made man once able to see the truth due to sinlessness (regardless of supralapsarian or not), and man fell from that position, God is certainly not obligated to arrest the fault. God could justly allow man to continue to devise all of his own schemes and imaginations--which would clearly make sense to man, otherwise he wouldn't bother with them--and dig his own grave.

    To posit an absolutely completely hypothetical and imaginary scenario: Suppose God made the light from distant stars expressly as they are for the specific purpose of guiding man in his early attempts at navigation. That man then determines, "Hey, the universe is really old!" based upon his interpretation of the facts would neither (a) make that true, nor (b) convict God of deception. The deception lies in the heart of man, as some OT prophet said.

    Well, I clearly went off-topic a bit here, sorry 'bout that. Triablogue dudes, thanks for a fantastic and fascinating blog. Perhaps one of you will deign to visit lowly Legendary Truth some day.

  5. Hi Scrape,

    You said:
    - What does one make of Paul's seeming to consider Adam a real individual, the original federal ahead of humanity? This is important, as well of course, in the various genealogies. Saying that Adam was some hominid back along the line would not seem to comport well with most concepts of the doctrine of Original Sin and its effect on the rest of creation (except maybe Arminian free-will concepts of original win in which the mere existence of free will apparently guarantees sin).

    I can't speak for all TEs -- I'm not aware of a consensus position, if there is one on this point -- but speaking for myself. I'm inclined to identify Adam as a real individual, but there's challenges to overcome in seeing Adam as either a specific person, or as a metonym for mankind -- a single standing for the whole.

    We don't have sufficient knowledge to say conclusively either way. I'm inclined toward a real Adam, simply because it makes sense of imputation of sinful nature through lineage. The witness from God's creation has humans fanning out from somewhere in Africa starting anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 years ago. That's a non-trivial obstacle, as if Adam was "the original man endowed with soul" 4400 years ago, what becomes of all the aborigines in Australia? Are they less than human? Do they have souls too?

    YEC mysticism waves all the hard evidence away, preferring to embrace either the "God made it *look* old" idea, or "Science is the greatest hoax every foisted on mankind" response. If you're unwilling to be satisfied by either of those, then the evidence in the ground demands an answer.

    So, just to sum up, I don't know when Adam lived, but I affirm that Adam, as a real individual or as a metonymic abstraction of all mankind at the time was the real and effective cause -- the willful rebellion -- of man's Fall. The theological implications of Adam's fall (as per Paul in Romans 5) remain completely in force, indistinguishable from the implications of an Adam that lived 4400 years ago.

    You said:
    - The idea that a universe that "appears old but isn't" would make God guilty of lying once seemed strong to me, especially with respect to, for example, the speed of light, size of the universe, and thus the requisite age thereof. However, now I don't see that to be the case. Man can and will come up with all sorts of his own ideas of what is and isn't. Clearly, God can foresee all of those, but that doesn't obligate Him to fix the situation.

    I don't subscribe to the "poof" idea -- the idea that God simply "poofed" into an existence that appeared and behaved exactly as if it were billions of years old. However, since we are dealing with an omnipotent God, it's impossible to rule out. It *could* be. Moreover, I'd resist calling it lying or dishonest if that was God's will. Just is as Just does. Who are we to fault Him for such a strategy?

    That said, however, it must be said that this is a form of pure mysticism -- the universe is an illusion, and nothing is what it seems... it's all a big test to see if we can be a Christian "Neo" in the matrix and rise above the illusion of reality, clinging instead to the truth of the "plain and obvious" meaning of Genesis 1.

    YECs can believe anything they want, but I suggest there's *nothing* more desperate epistemically than suggesting God rigged the entire universe to be an illusion, just so one can maintain one's deathgrip on an otherwise manifestly untenable interpretation of God's word.

    If you are comfortable with the idea that the speed of light is just a matter of imagination, or isotope decay, or starlight from billions of lightyears away was put there "just so", revealing the story of stars and supernovae that never really were. If all this is just vain imagination, then the YEC interpretation is one you might entertain.


  6. Perhaps it was not clear, but my intent was not to posit the idea that the natural world appears old is a result of God having made it that way to test our faith, get us to cling to mysticism, or whatnot.

    My intent was to point out that man can and will generate all sorts of hypotheses about why things are the way they are, and these may or may not comport with reality. Some people believe that the characteristics of the time we live in absolutely correlate to the so-called End Times (or at least their understanding thereof). If these times are not the Dispensational end times immediately before the Rapture or whatever, that doesn't mean that God somehow set things up to look that way to test our faith or somesuch--it just means that sinful man has a tendency to go and view things the way he wants to.

    Ditto, potentially, with evolutionary science. We see light all the time that reveals stories that "never really were", and we recognize that it exists to serve a very specific purpose. We don't consider it dishonest, nor do we see it as driving us toward mysticism. In this case, of course, it's generally for education/entertainment (ie TV, movies). And before I get slammed for saying the cosmos is a big cosmic TV, obviously that's not what I'm saying. (Though it is a better show than what's on most networks, eh?)

  7. In an evolutionary universe, with man descended from apes, is physical death a result of sin? Or does sin only cause spiritual death, and if so, now who's talking mysticism?

  8. Hi Scrape,

    Sorry for not reading that more carefully. I understand what you are saying now, thanks.

    The "cosmos as TV" idea is not so far fetched as you might suppose. If YEC suppositions are true the starry sky at night out on your back porch is something very much like the Ultimate Plasma Screen(tm) -- playing a 'history' of the stars and galaxies that never was, for our enjoyment. Something like a galactic screensaver, I suppose.

    So yes, it could be that way. An omnipotent God can do anything He wants. I understand your point about man seeing what he wants to see, and while I affirm that tendency, the constraints of science are such that wishful and willful thinking don't get one very far -- if it doesn't match the observations and data, it's torn to shreds merciless by the rest of of the scientific community.

    That is, unless the science community is pulling of a conspiracy of untold proportions. ;-)


  9. Scrape,

    I missed your second message about sin and physical death. Adam's fall brought *spiritual* death to mankind. That's a metaphysical dynamic, but not a mystical one. Or, if it *is* mystical, it is mystical in precisely the same way as the consequences of the fall are mystical.

    When I use "mystical" in relation to YEC understandings, I'm pointing at the dissonance between the *entertained* reality, given the YEC interpretation of Genesis, and the reality of the measureable, observable world around us. YEC cosmology doesn't connect with real-world cosmology at all -- unless there is some kind of "messing with reality" on God's part, creating an illusory universe that just looks ancient, etc.

    Spiritual death as the consequence of Adam's sin implies metaphysical consequences, but it doesn't require any "messing with reality" - a mystical view of world around us.

    Good, thoughtful comments! Thanks.


  10. as an atheist, I am certainly enjoying two honest christian voices in this sea of philosophical hackery known as the triblogue. A true honest person asks questions, lets the evidence lead him to solutions, and figures out his position based on that. Witness Touchstone and witness Scrape (applause).

    I wish all christians were more like you guys. Thank goodness (or God) that many many are.

  11. Touchstone,

    Hm. I would not be comfortable with the idea that physical death was not one of the wages of sin. My reading of both the Old and New Testaments leads me to believe that the authors therein all consider both physical and spiritual death to be results of the Fall. The Resurrection overcomes physical death and is a sign of things to come when the New Heavens and New Earth are consummated. Believers for now (with the OT fulfilled but not necessarily consummated) have received victory over spiritual death, and look forward in hope to victory over physical death: both of which exist because of sin.

    As an absolutely unrelated aside... GreaseMonkey in FireFox rocks... I have a cool userscript that allows me to subscribe to comments on individual posts as RSS feeds, which is quite handy for keeping track of various conversations around the web in which I'm engaged!

    Back from the aside... I freely admit that I am willing to let theology drive all else. That is not to say we don't come to a better understanding of things sometimes, but if it's not rooted in Christ, it's Not Good (tm). And, I don't mean "blessed" by having the name of Christ associated with it somehow, but actually rooted in the self-attesting God of Scripture (to borrow a Van Til-ian phrase, I believe).


  12. Hi Scrape,

    RE: Spiritual death vs. physical death, I certainly understand that people do emerge from studying the relevant passages and see both physical death and spiritual death implied together throughout. That's what I was taught in my Baptist Sunday School, so it's quite familiar.

    I won't digress to far into that here, but I will touch on exegetical points that served to incline me toward an interpretation of spiritual death. First, in Genesis 2:16-17 it says:

    Of every tree of the garden surely you may eat;
    but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
    not you shall eat from it;
    in the day of your eating from it
    surely you shall die

    (emphasis mine, obviously)

    If you look into the Hebrew in your trusty interlinear on your desk, do you see that Strong's #4191 is repeated there for "surely you shall die"? That's the Hebrew device for emphasis. My Hebrew teacher translated this as "dying thou shalt die" (don't ask why he translated into quasi-KJV). If you think about this passage then from a *literalist* perspective, the Hebrew really re-inforces the idea that you can glean from the English, if you take the words at face value; as soon as you eat from the apple, you die. Period.

    If that's the case, then Adam & Eve living for a good many years beyond this doesn't make sense. That is, it doesn't make sense if you are bring the assumption that 'die' here implicated physical death. If you view this passage as speaking of death in the *spiritual* sense, the tension is immediately resolved; Adam and Eve really did die (spiritually) at that point, exact as God promised!

    So there, I think a natural and literalist reading works right against the 'physical death' understanding.

    That's far enough to maybe give you an view of where I'm coming from here, and I'll add another insight that struck me from a Bible study long ago: In Matt 8, Jesus says "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."

    Again, if you read that at face value, Jesus Himself is speaking of the physically living as 'dead'. How does that work out? If you believe that death in this case is spiritual death, then there's no conflict in the words of Jesus. However you read it, I think it's hard to avoid the understanding that here Jesus is assigning all the importance on one's spiritual "vitality", and none on one's physical vitality.

    I certainly understand you can respond with your own proofs and exegetical scaffolding along the lines of the couple nuggets I've thrown out here. I'm happy to hear your understanding on that, but would say I beat you to the "off topic" line here (ha!), and maybe that would be a thread better pursued elsewhere, and also, I'm not trying to persuade you so much as reflect a little of the exegetical approach I'm bringing to the table here.

    And of course, there's the 800lb gorilla sitting in the room called "Creation", which I've not incorporated into the picture on this question yet. Once you include the witness of God's creation, I think it's pretty lopsided, unless (again) you want to avail yourself of a swim in deep and fast waters of mystical views of creation. Physical death is a strongly supported phenomenon for all manner of organisms going back many millions, and even billions of years.

    How you resolve that is up to you, but I don't suppose its something that can just be ignored. Either you embrace creational mysticism, or you look for an interpretation that avoids the cognitive dissonance of YEC views of the Fall.

    As for theology driving everything else, I'd say the same, and don't think that's anything to retreat from. I think maybe where we part company is decided what is "rooted in Christ". When Galileo pled for heliocentric astronomy, that "truth" I would identify as fully "rooted in Christ", as all truth is God's truth. If we find skulls in the earth in layers of rock that have isochrons dating them at 1MM years old, I see that fact as "fully rooted in Christ", for the same reason.

    And, putting it that way, it seems sort of hard to avoid owning and integrating these truths. For if these truths aren't "fully rooted in Christ", then who or what are those truths rooted in? Is there something or someone else that God has to compete with for marketshare on truth?

    Thanks for the comments, I hope this substantial satisfies your questions.