Home » Intelligent Design » Philo and Origen are not your friends, Dr. Alexander: A short survey of what two Biblical allegorists taught about Adam and Eve

Philo and Origen are not your friends, Dr. Alexander: A short survey of what two Biblical allegorists taught about Adam and Eve

Dr. Denis Alexander, who is the Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at Cambridge University, is an eminently qualified molecular biologist with a very odd combination of theological beliefs. In a recent article in The Guardian (December 23, 2011) entitled, Evolution, Christmas and the Atonement, he rejected belief in a literal Adam and Eve and an historical Fall, on the grounds that it was totally incompatible with scientific discoveries over the last few decades, which clearly indicate that “we last shared a common ancestor with the chimps about 5-6 million years ago, and humans have been gradually emerging through a series of hominid intermediates ever since.” Dr. Alexander had no time for belief in an immaterial soul, either: in his view, it is our complex brains that endow us with free will.

But in the same article, Dr. Alexander affirmed his belief in the Christian doctrine of the Atonement: he declares up-front that “Jesus was born to save us.” And during a discussion chaired by Professor Bob White on 2 March 2004, following a lecture given by Professor Colin Humphreys, entitled, Can Scientists Believe in Miracles?, Dr. Alexander went even further in affirming his traditional faith: he defended the doctrine of the Virgin Birth (more accurately, the virginal conception) of Jesus, arguing that “it’s not a problem for Jesus to do anything – He can do what he wants.” An earlier paper by Dr. Alexander entitled, Cloning humans – distorting the image of God? (The Jubilee Centre, Cambridge Papers, Vol. 10, No. 2, June 2001), leaves no doubt as to his views: there he explicitly states (see footnote [8]) that Jesus “was born of a virgin” and that according to the usual Christian understanding of the Virgin birth, Jesus was “miraculously bestowed with a full genetic complement so that he might share fully in our humanity.”

Intelligent Design Theory has nothing specific to say about the details of human origins, apart from affirming that human beings, as organisms exhibiting a very high degree of specified complexity, are the product of an intelligently guided process. Like Dr. Alexander, I happen to believe in common descent – although unlike him, I believe that our evolution was intelligently guided along its path – but I have to say I find it very odd that someone who believes in the Virgin Birth would balk at belief in a literal Adam and Eve. Perhaps Dr. Alexander might respond that he can at least envisage what kind of miracle would have taken place in the Virgin Birth, whereas it is difficult to even do that, in the case of the miracle required to reconcile belief in a literal Adam and Eve with the range of genetic diversity we find in human beings today. That would explain why, in the 2004 discussion chaired by Professor Bob White following Professor Humphreys’ lecture, Dr. Alexander boldly suggested that some Biblical miracles were “potentially soluble from a scientific perspective,” and went on to argue that “our greater understanding of reproductive mechanisms has shed some limited light on the possible mechanisms involved in a virgin birth.” He even added that “with the virgin birth we can come up with pretty good models about how virgin births can happen.” But if Dr. Alexander meant naturalistic models, then he was evidently mistaken. In 2006, the Christian biologist Steven Jones wrote an excellent little post, explaining why from a naturalistic perspective, “the Virgin Birth of Jesus has become more miraculous than ever,” and would therefore, in Jones’ view, require an act of intelligent design in order for it to occur (as he believes it did).

What’s more, the evolutionary biologist and Gnu Atheist, Professor Jerry Coyne, has already identified the kind of miracle that would be required in order to reconcile Adam and Eve with the findings of genetics, in a mocking online post on the Multi-Germic Theory, which was proposed by a reader of his Website, named Drew. The theory won first prize in a wacky contest announced by Coyne for his (mostly atheist) readers: “What is the best way to reconcile the Biblical story of Adam and Eve with the genetic facts?” Professor Coyne judged Drew’s entry to be the winning answer, for overall theological and biological plausibility. Readers can draw their own conclusions about Drew’s “Multi-Germic Theory,” but as Coyne is a respected biologist, I’ll accept his verdict that if you’re going to believe in Adam and Eve, the Multi-Germic scenario he describes would probably be your best bet.

The reason why I am mentioning all this is to make a simple point: both the Virgin Birth and the descent of all human beings from an original couple could only have occurred through supernatural intervention, if they actually took place; also, the kind of miraculous intervention that would have been required can be specified equally well in both cases. Thus if the story of Adam and Eve is deemed incredible (as Dr. Alexander evidently thinks it is), then it is hard to see how belief in the Virgin Birth could survive.

I would also like to point out in passing that Dr. Alexander’s gradualism regarding human origins clashes with his belief in free will, which is necessarily a capacity that you either have or you don’t. Free will is not like baldness: it doesn’t come in halves. There are of course degrees of freedom, and one could argue that some humans have a much greater degree of moral freedom than others. But there is a vast and infinite gulf between a being with zero degrees of moral freedom, and a being with one. If we have the capacity to choose freely, then at some point in our past, there must have been a first generation of hominids possessing free will. These hominids would have been the first human beings. (Current scientific findings indicate very strongly that there were several thousand of them, but if you are prepared to posit the kind of supernatural intervention described in the post described by Professor Coyne above, that won’t be a problem.)

Finally, the fact that there were “countless deaths over thousands of generations” prior to the appearance of the first human beings does not conflict in any way with the doctrine of the Fall, which is meant to explain why human beings die, and not why other animals die. This suffices to refute Dr. Alexander’s argument, in his article for The Guardian, that if the traditional doctrine of the Fall is correct, then there is “clear incompatibility with evolution.” But I digress.

Philo and Origen to the rescue?

Although Dr. Alexander rejects the idea of an historical Adam and Eve, he believes that the Bible can be rescued by a figurative understanding of the Genesis narrative. He claims that this figurative understanding of Genesis goes back 2,000 years, in both the Jewish and Christian traditions:

The tradition of interpreting the early chapters of Genesis figuratively – as a theological essay, not as science – goes back to two great thinkers from Alexandria: the first-century Jewish philosopher Philo, and the third-century church father Origen. In 248 Origen wrote that Genesis references to Adam are “not so much of one particular individual as of the whole human race”. Figurative understandings of the Genesis text have been part of mainstream theology ever since.

The first mention of Adam in the Bible is clearly referring to humankind (Genesis 1:26-27) and the definite article in front of Adam in chapters 2 and 3 – “the man” – suggests a representative man, because in Hebrew the definite article is not used for personal names, with Eve being the representative woman.

Dr. Alexander chose his authorities well: Philo and Origen are about as allegorical as you can possibly get. If you’re looking for Jewish and Christian authorities from antiquity who favor a figurative interpretation of Genesis, then you won’t find any better friends than these two learned men.

Dr. Alexander is certainly right in claiming that both Philo of Alexandria (20 B.C. – 50 A.D.) and Origen (c. 185-254 A.D.) interpreted the book of Genesis quite figuratively. For example, both of them held that the description of Paradise in Genesis 2 was a figurative one.

What’s more, the Jewish philosopher Philo pointedly rejects a literal interpretation of the Biblical account of Eve’s formation in his work, The Second Book of the Treatise on The Allegories of the Sacred Laws, after the Work of the Six Days of Creation:

VII. (19) “And God cast a deep trance upon Adam, and sent him to sleep; and he took one of his ribs,” and so on. The literal statement conveyed in these words is a fabulous one; for how can any one believe that a woman was made of a rib of a man, or, in short, that any human being was made out of another? And what hindered God, as he had made man out of the earth, from making woman in the same manner? For the Creator was the same, and the material was almost interminable, from which every distinctive quality whatever was made. And why, when there were so many parts of a man, did not God make the woman out of some other part rather than out of one of his ribs? Again, of which rib did he make her? And this question would hold even if we were to say, that he had only spoken of two ribs; but in truth he has not specified their number. Was it then the right rib, or the left rib? (Italics mine – VJT.)

Likewise, the Christian theologian Origen, in Contra Celsum, Book IV, chapter 38, argues that the words of the Genesis narrative describing the formation of Eve from Adam’s side “are spoken with a figurative meaning.” In Contra Celsum, Book IV, chapter 40, he adds that “in the Hebrew language Adam signifies man; and that in those parts of the narrative which appear to refer to Adam as an individual, Moses is discoursing upon the nature of man in general.”

Nevertheless, as I will show below, both Philo and Origen clearly affirmed in their writings that Adam and Eve were real, historical individuals, and they also taught that the existence of an historical Adam was a point of religious doctrine, and not just a matter of theological opinion.

What did Philo of Alexandria (20 B.C. – 50 A.D.) teach about Adam and Eve?

Philo describes the formation of Adam by God in his work, A Treatise on the Account of the Creation of the World, as Given by Moses:

XLVII. (136) But the original man, he who was created out of the clay, the primeval founder of all our race, appears to me to have been most excellent in both particulars, in both soul and body, and to have been very far superior to all the men of subsequent ages from his pre-eminent excellence in both parts. For he in truth was really good and perfect. And one may form a conjecture of the perfection of his bodily beauty from three considerations, the first of which is this: when the earth was now but lately formed by its separation from that abundant quantity of water which was called the sea, it happened that the materials out of which the things just created were formed were unmixed, uncorrupted, and pure; and the things made from this material were naturally free from all imperfection. (137) The second consideration is that it is not likely that God made this figure in the present form of a man, working with the most sublime care, after he had taken the clay from any chance portion of earth, but that he selected carefully the most excellent clay of all the earth, of the pure material choosing the finest and most carefully sifted portion, such as was especially fit for the formation of the work which he had in hand. For it was an abode or sacred temple for a reasonable soul which was being made, the image of which he was about to carry in his heart, being the most God-like looking of images. (138) The third consideration is one which admits of no comparison with those which have been already mentioned, namely, this: the Creator was good both in other respects, and also in knowledge, so that every one of the parts of the body had separately the numbers which were suited to it, and was also accurately completed in the admirable adaptation to the share in the universe of which it was to partake. And after he had endowed it with fair proportions, he clothed it with beauty of flesh, and embellished it with an exquisite complexion, wishing, as far as was possible, that man should appear the most beautiful of beings. (Italics mine – VJT.)

In the preceding passage, Philo affirmed that Adam was:

(a) the original man (i.e. an historical individual);
(b) the primeval founder of the human race;
(c) created out of the finest clay;
(d) made with perfectly proportioned parts; and
(e) far superior to all other men, both in the excellence of his soul and of his body.

In an earlier paragraph in the same book, Philo describes the formation of Adam as a two-stage process: firstly, as a prototype, or abstract idea in the mind of God; and second, as an individual man, who was formed out of a lump of clay, into which God infused a soul:

XLVI. (134) After this, Moses says that “God made man, having taken clay from the earth, and he breathed into his face the breath of life.” And by this expression he shows most clearly that there is a vast difference between man as generated now, and the first man who was made according to the image of God. For man as formed now is perceptible to the external senses, partaking of qualities, consisting of body and soul, man or woman, by nature mortal. But man, made according to the image of God, was an idea, or a genus, or a seal, perceptible only by the intellect, incorporeal, neither male nor female, imperishable by nature. (135) But he asserts that the formation of the individual man, perceptible by the external senses is a composition of earthy substance, and divine spirit. For that the body was created by the Creator taking a lump of clay, and fashioning the human form out of it; but that the soul proceeds from no created thing at all, but from the Father and Ruler of all things. (Italics mine – VJT.)

The language Philo uses here is most emphatic: “Moses says,” “he shows most clearly,” “he asserts.” We are not dealing here with one commentator’s private opinions. Rather, Philo is claiming that the human author of Genesis (whom Philo identified with Moses) explicitly teaches that God formed the body of the first man, Adam, by fashioning it from a lump of clay; and that this lump of clay was endowed with a Divinely infused soul. For Philo, this is not an opinion, but a religious doctrine.

In a subsequent paragraph, Philo dismisses the notion that God might have used the body of an animal to make Adam, in a passage which suggests that he would have taken a dim view of theistic evolution, had it been proposed to him:

XLVIII. (139) And that he is superior to all these animals in regard of his soul, is plain. For God does not seem to have availed himself of any other animal existing in creation as his model in the formation of man; but to have been guided, as I have said before, by his own reason alone.(Italics mine – VJT.)

Philo goes on to describe Adam’s role as God’s vice-regent on Earth, having been bestowed by God with a power of dominion over all the animals:

XLIX. (140) The first man, therefore, appears to me to have been such both in his body and in his soul, being very far superior to all those who live in the present day, and to all those who have gone before us. For our generation has been from men: but he was created by God….

(142) And we shall be only saying what is the plain truth, if we call the original founder of our race not only the first man, but also the first citizen of the world. For the world was his house and his city, while he had as yet no structure made by hands and wrought out of the materials of wood and stone. And in this world he lived as in his own country, in all safety, removed from any fear, inasmuch as he had been thought worthy of the dominion over all earthly things; and had everything that was mortal crouching before him, and taught to obey him as their master, or else constrained to do so by superior force, and living himself surrounded by all the joys which peace can bestow without a struggle and without reproach….

LII. (148) And with great beauty Moses has attributed the giving of names to the different animals to the first created man, for it is a work of wisdom and indicative of royal authority, and man was full of intuitive wisdom and self-taught, having been created by the grace of God, and, moreover, was a king. And it is proper for a ruler to give names to each of his subjects. And, as was very natural, the power of domination was excessive in that first-created man, whom God formed with great care and thought worthy of the second rank in the creation, making him his own viceroy and the ruler of all other creatures. Since even those who have been born so many generations afterwards, when the race is becoming weakened by reason of the long intervals of time that have elapsed since the beginning of the world, do still exert the same power over the irrational beasts, preserving as it were a spark of the dominion and power which has been handed down to them by succession from their first ancestor.
(Italics mine – VJT.)

The reader will notice that in the above passage, Adam is referred to as “the first man,” “the first created man,” “the original founder of our race” and our “first ancestor.” Philo also declares that “Moses has attributed” the giving of names to the different animals to “the first created man.” It is hard to see how Philo could have been more explicit in affirming Adam’s existence as an historical individual, as a religious doctrine.

Philo now comes to the creation of Eve. The reader will recall that Philo declared himself unable to take literally the Biblical account of Eve’s formation from Adam’s side (or rib). In the account of Eve’s formation, Philo provides few details, except to say that woman “also was created” and that she had “a kindred formation to his own”. Unfortunately, Philo’s account of Eve’s creation is tinged with a sense of foreboding, coupled with a Hellenistic disdain for the desires of the flesh, which is completely absent from the joyful, earthy narrative of Genesis 2:

LIII. (151) But since nothing in creation lasts for ever, but all mortal things are liable to inevitable changes and alterations, it was unavoidable that the first man should also undergo some disaster. And the beginning of his life being liable to reproach, was his wife. For, as long as he was single, he resembled, as to his creation, both the world and God; and he represented in his soul the characteristics of the nature of each, I do not mean all of them, but such as a mortal constitution was capable of admitting. But when woman also was created, man perceiving a closely connected figure and a kindred formation to his own, rejoiced at the sight, and approached her and embraced her. (152) And she, in like manner, beholding a creature greatly resembling herself, rejoiced also, and addressed him in reply with due modesty. And love being engendered, and, as it were, uniting two separate portions of one animal into one body, adapted them to each other, implanting in each of them a desire of connection with the other with a view to the generation of a being similar to themselves. And this desire caused likewise pleasure to their bodies, which is the beginning of iniquities and transgressions, and it is owing to this that men have exchanged their previously immortal and happy existence for one which is mortal and full of misfortune. (Italics mine – VJT.)

Dr. Alexander writes in his article for The Guardian that “Nowhere does the Bible teach that physical death originates with the sin of Adam, nor that sin is inherited from Adam, as Augustine maintained.” I have no intention of defending the Augustinian doctrine of the Fall in this post; and I am also well aware that Judaism does not have a doctrine of original sin. However, I would like to note that Philo clearly regards physical death as a consequence of sin. At the end of his work, The Third Book of the Treatise on The Allegories of the Sacred Laws, after the Work of the Six Days of Creation, Philo discusses the meaning of the verse of Genesis, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” This, according to Philo, means that the foolish man, who fails to live according to reason, always craves earthly things. It also means that in the end, the foolish man will perish, after a life filled with pain and injuries:

(251) … [T]he life of the foolish man is very full of distress and very burdensome, since he is always aiming at and greedily coveting the things which give pleasure, and all such things as wickedness is wont to do. (252) And how long shall this last? “Until,” says God, “you return to the dust form which you were taken.” For is he not now ranked among the things of the earth, and among things which have no consistency, ever since he deserted the wisdom which is from heaven? We must consider therefore to what point he is coming back; but may we not consider whether what he says has not some such meaning as this, that the foolish mind is at all times averted from right reason, and that it has been originally taken not from any sublime nature, but from some more earthly material, and whether it is stationary, or whether it is in motion, it is always the same, and desirous of the same objects. (253) On which account, God adds that, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” And this is equivalent to what has been said before. Moreover this sentence also signifies, the beginning and the end are one and the same thing. For there hadst thou beginning in the perishable bodies of the earth; and again, thou shalt end in them, during the interval of your life, between its beginning and its end, passing along a road which is not plain and easy, but rough, full of briars and thorns, the nature of which is to tear and wound thee. (Italics mine – VJT.)

In paragraph LX, section 167 of his work, A Treatise on the Account of the Creation of the World, as Given by Moses, Philo describes the other consequences of Adam’s Fall in fairly conventional terms: the woman is sentenced to receive “vehement pains, … especially with reference to the bringing forth and bringing up of her children, … to an extent that utterly deprives her of her freedom and subjects her to the dominion of the man who is her companion,” while the man in his turn “endures toils and labours, and continual sweats, in order to the providing of himself with necessaries, … and he is subjected to a state in which he lives in incessant labour, for the purpose of seeking for food and means of subsistence, in order to avoid perishing by hunger.”

Philo then goes much further. In his discussion of the consequences of the Adam’s Fall, Philo declares that by rights, the entire human race should have been wiped out on the spot, but that God mercifully spared it from this fate:

(169) Therefore, the race of mankind, if it had met with strict and befitting justice, must have been utterly destroyed, because of its ingratitude to God its benefactor and its Saviour. But God, being merciful by nature, took pity upon them, and moderated their punishment. And he permitted the race to continue to exist, but he no longer gave them food as he had done before from ready prepared stores, lest if they were under the dominion of his evils, satiety and idleness, they should become unruly and insolent. (Italics mine – VJT.)

There you have it: according to Philo, the entire human race deserved to be destroyed as a result of the Fall. I will leave it to my readers to decide whether the gulf between Philo’s account of the Fall and that of St. Augustine is as great as Dr. Alexander would have us believe. But of one thing we can be certain: Philo taught as a matter of doctrine that Adam and Eve were real, historical individuals, and that they were formed by God.

What about Dr. Alexander’s other authority, the Christian theologian Origen?

What did Origen (c. 185-254 A.D.) teach about Adam and Eve?

It might surprise Dr. Alexander to learn that Origen also taught that Adam was a real, historical individual. In the Preface to his work, De Principiis, Origen summarizes the central points of Christian doctrine, as taught by the apostles:

4. The particular points clearly delivered in the teaching of the apostles are as follows:—

First, that there is one God, who created and arranged all things, and who, when nothing existed, called all things into being — God from the first creation and foundation of the world — the God of all just men, of Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Enoch, Noe [Noah], Sere [Serug], Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve patriarchs, Moses, and the prophets; and that this God in the last days, as He had announced beforehand by His prophets, sent our Lord Jesus Christ to call in the first place Israel to Himself, and in the second place the Gentiles, after the unfaithfulness of the people of Israel. This just and good God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself gave the law and the prophets, and the Gospels, being also the God of the apostles and of the Old and New Testaments.

Secondly, that Jesus Christ Himself, who came (into the world), was born of the Father before all creatures; that, after He had been the servant of the Father in the creation of all things — for by Him were all things made — He in the last times, divesting Himself (of His glory), became a man, and was incarnate although God, and while made a man remained the God which He was; that He assumed a body like to our own, differing in this respect only, that it was born of a virgin and of the Holy Spirit: that this Jesus Christ was truly born, and did truly suffer, and did not endure this death common (to man) in appearance only, but did truly die; that He did truly rise from the dead; and that after His resurrection He conversed with His disciples, and was taken up (into heaven).

Then, thirdly, the apostles related that the Holy Spirit was associated in honour and dignity with the Father and the Son. But in His case it is not clearly distinguished whether He is to be regarded as born or innate, or also as a Son of God or not: for these are points which have to be inquired into out of sacred Scripture according to the best of our ability, and which demand careful investigation. And that this Spirit inspired each one of the saints, whether prophets or apostles; and that there was not one Spirit in the men of the old dispensation, and another in those who were inspired at the advent of Christ, is most clearly taught throughout the Churches. (Italics mine – VJT.)

Origen was writing before the ecumenical councils of Nicea (325 A.D.) and Constantinople (381 A.D.) had been held; hence his vagueness regarding the Holy Spirit.

Notice that in the passage above, Origen describes God as “the God of all just men, of Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Enoch, Noe [Noah], Sere [Serug], Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve patriarchs, Moses, and the prophets.” Since Origen is giving a summary here of the essentials of Christian teaching, and since he clearly regards the other individuals named as historical characters, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that for Origen, the historicity of Adam was an essential Christian teaching.

In Book II, Chapter 3 of his work, De Principiis, Origen discusses the beginning of the world, and attacks the view of those philosophers who hold that everything goes around again and again, in a never-ending cycle. Origen contends that such a view would make a mockery of free will:

4. And now I do not understand by what proofs they can maintain their position, who assert that worlds sometimes come into existence which are not dissimilar to each other, but in all respects equal. For if there is said to be a world similar in all respects (to the present), then it will come to pass that Adam and Eve will do the same things which they did before: there will be a second time the same deluge, and the same Moses will again lead a nation numbering nearly six hundred thousand out of Egypt; Judas will also a second time betray the Lord; Paul will a second time keep the garments of those who stoned Stephen; and everything which has been done in this life will be said to be repeated – a state of things which I think cannot be established by any reasoning, if souls are actuated by freedom of will, and maintain either their advance or retrogression according to the power of their will. For souls are not driven on in a cycle which returns after many ages to the same round, so as either to do or desire this or that; but at whatever point the freedom of their own will aims, there do they direct the course of their actions. (Italics mine – VJT.)

Once again, the reader will notice the reference to Adam and Eve. Since Origen is making a point about actual choices made by actual individuals in time past, he clearly intends to affirm the literal historicity of Adam and Eve. For if he did not, then what about Moses, Judas and Paul? Are they mythical too?

But wait, there’s more! In Book I, chapter 22 of his Commentary on the Gospel of John, Origen declares that Wisdom is Christ’s fundamental characteristic: Jesus is the Wisdom of God, who was sent into the world in order to redeem it. Origen writes that Jesus is called the light of the world, because men, who are spiritually darkened by wickedness, need the light. Likewise, Jesus is called the first-born from the dead, because He had to rescue those who had died. Origen explains that this was necessary only because Adam and Eve fell and failed to attain the goal of freedom from bodily death and corruption, that God had originally planned for them:

Now God is altogether one and simple; but our Saviour, for many reasons, since God set Him forth a propitiation and a first fruits of the whole creation, is made many things, or perhaps all these things; the whole creation, so far as capable of redemption, stands in need of Him. And, hence, He is made the light of men, because men, being darkened by wickedness, need the light that shines in darkness, and is not overtaken by the darkness; had not men been in darkness, He would not have become the light of men. The same thing may be observed in respect of His being the first-born of the dead. For supposing the woman had not been deceived, and Adam had not fallen, and man created for incorruption had obtained it, then He would not have descended into the grave, nor would He have died, there being no sin, nor would His love of men have required that He should die, and if He had not died, He could not have been the first-born of the dead. We may also ask whether He would ever have become a shepherd, had man not been thrown together with the beasts which are devoid of reason, and made like to them. (Italics mine – VJT.)

In the above passage, there can be no doubt that Origen believed in a real Fall, in which one woman (Eve) was deceived, and one man (Adam) fell from grace. Had it not been for the Fall, man would have escaped the grim fate of bodily corruption, which is our lot. In other words, Origen taught that human beings would not have died had Adam and Eve not fallen. Contrary to Dr. Alexander, Origen clearly believed that the Bible teaches that physical death originates with the sin of Adam.

Origen, discusses some other consequences of the Fall in Contra Celsum, Book VII, chapter 28, where he writes that “the earth … was originally cursed for the transgression of Adam.” He goes on to explain:

For these words, Cursed shall the ground be for what you have done; with grief, that is, with labour, shall you eat of the fruit of it all the days of your life, were spoken of the whole earth, the fruit of which every man who died in Adam eats with sorrow or labour all the days of his life. And as all the earth has been cursed, it brings forth thorns and briers all the days of the life of those who in Adam were driven out of paradise; and in the sweat of his face every man eats bread until he returns to the ground from which he was taken.
(Emphases mine – VJT.)

In his article written for The Guardian, Dr. Alexander maintains that for Origen, Adam is Everyman. Alexander even contends that Scripture supports this view, since “the definite article in front of Adam in chapters 2 and 3 – ‘the man’ – suggests a representative man.” But we can see from the above passage that Origen’s point is quite a different one. Precisely because Adam is the original man, he is a type or symbol for the whole human race. Hence, in Adam, every man died. And in Adam, every man was driven out of Paradise. There is nothing in the above passage that Augustine would have disagreed with.

In Contra Celsum, Book VI, chapter 36, Origen criticises the pagan philosopher Celsus for mocking a Christian doctrine which he does not understand: the doctrine of the resurrection. Origen affirms in passing that “death was in Adam”:

Celsus, moreover, has often mocked at the subject of a resurrection,— a doctrine which he did not comprehend; and on the present occasion, not satisfied with what he has formerly said, he adds, And there is said to be a resurrection of the flesh by means of the tree; not understanding, I think, the symbolic expression, that through the tree came death, and through the tree comes life, because death was in Adam, and life in Christ. (Italics mine – VJT.)

It would have been easy to overlook this passage if I had not previously highlighted other passages where Origen explicitly declares his belief in a literal Adam. But now we can see that Origen probably understood the saying, “death was in Adam, and life in Christ,” in a fully orthodox Christian sense.

Now we can address the celebrated passage in Contra Celsum, Book IV, chapter 40, where Origen seems to affirm that Adam is a purely symbolic figure. In this passage, Origen is replying to an objection made by the pagan philosopher Celsus, that if God were truly omnipotent, then surely one insignificant man, Adam, could not have thwarted his purposes by sinning at the very beginning of human history; for an omnipotent God could have simply prevented Adam from succumbing to temptation. Origen replies that the consequences of the sin of Adam apply not to one human being but to the entire human race:

For as those whose business it is to defend the doctrine of providence do so by means of arguments which are not to be despised, so also the subjects of Adam and his son will be philosophically dealt with by those who are aware that in the Hebrew language Adam signifies man; and that in those parts of the narrative which appear to refer to Adam as an individual, Moses is discoursing upon the nature of man in general. For in Adam (as the Scripture says) all die, and were condemned in the likeness of Adam’s transgression, the word of God asserting this not so much of one particular individual as of the whole human race. For in the connected series of statements which appears to apply as to one particular individual, the curse pronounced upon Adam is regarded as common to all (the members of the race), and what was spoken with reference to the woman is spoken of every woman without exception. (Italics mine – VJT.)

Origen is not arguing here that Adam is Everyman, as Dr. Alexander thinks. Instead, he is arguing that precisely because the name “Adam” means “man in general,” the consequences of the historical Adam’s Fall must affect the whole human race. Origen is employing typological reasoning here: he is arguing that because Adam’s name has a certain significance (“man in general”), his actions have a mystical (one is tempted to say, magical) significance for the whole of humanity. The same goes for Eve.

Origen was surprisingly literal in his interpretation of Genesis

In the very next chapter, Origen goes on to interpret Genesis in a way that should make Dr. Alexander blush with embarrassment. Yes, Dr. Alexander’s theological hero believed in a literal global flood and an Ark! In Contra Celsum, Book IV, chapter 41, Origen addresses head-on the objections of the pagan philosopher Celsus, who scoffed at the notion of a Deluge covering the entire earth, and of an Ark that carried the survivng humans and animals. Origen argued that the Ark was the product of one hundred years of careful construction by Noah, who was also assisted by God, according to the book of Genesis. Moreover, Origen maintained that the Ark would have been quite big enough to hold all the animals, if the Biblical cubits were Egyptian cubits, which were several times longer than standard cubits. Finally, Origen reasoned that the animals would have been perfectly secure inside the Ark, as it was specially designed by God:

After this he [Celsus] continues as follows: They [Jews and Christians] speak, in the next place, of a deluge, and of a monstrous ark, having within it all things, and of a dove and a crow as messengers, falsifying and recklessly altering the story of Deucalion; not expecting, I suppose, that these things would come to light, but imagining that they were inventing stories merely for young children. Now in these remarks observe the hostility — so unbecoming a philosopher — displayed by this man towards this very ancient Jewish narrative. For, not being able to say anything against the history of the deluge, and not perceiving what he might have urged against the ark and its dimensions — viz., that, according to the general opinion, which accepted the statements that it was three hundred cubits in length, and fifty in breadth, and thirty in height, it was impossible to maintain that it contained (all) the animals that were upon the earth, fourteen specimens of every clean and four of every unclean beast — he merely termed it monstrous, containing all things within it. Now wherein was its monstrous character, seeing it is related to have been a hundred years in building, and to have had the three hundred cubits of its length and the fifty of its breadth contracted, until the thirty cubits of its height terminated in a top one cubit long and one cubit broad? Why should we not rather admire a structure which resembled an extensive city, if its measurements be taken to mean what they are capable of meaning, so that it was nine myriads of cubits long in the base, and two thousand five hundred in breadth? And why should we not admire the design evinced in having it so compactly built, and rendered capable of sustaining a tempest which caused a deluge? For it was not daubed with pitch, or any material of that kind, but was securely coated with bitumen. And is it not a subject of admiration, that by the providential arrangement of God, the elements of all the races were brought into it, that the earth might receive again the seeds of all living things, while God made use of a most righteous man to be the progenitor of those who were to be born after the deluge?

That’s how Origen defended the Biblical account of the Flood. This is the Christian theologian whom Dr. Alexander lauds for “interpreting the early chapters of Genesis figuratively – as a theological essay, not as science”? Surely you jest, Dr. Alexander.

But I haven’t finished yet. In Contra Celsum, Book I, chapter 19, Origen declares himself to be a young-earth creationist:

After these statements [assailing the Mosaic narrative - VJT], Celsus, from a secret desire to cast discredit upon the Mosaic account of the creation, which teaches that the world is not yet ten thousand years old, but very much under that, while concealing his wish, intimates his agreement with those who hold that the world is uncreated.

There you have it. According to Origen, Genesis actually teaches that the world is less than 10,000 years old!

Let me hasten to add that I believe, with Dr. Alexander, that the world is much, much older than 10,000 years. I see no reason to doubt the evidence of science, which suggests that the universe is about 13.7 billion years old, and I’ve read so many different interpretations of the “days” in Genesis that I think it would be foolish to insist that the human author of Genesis intended to declare that the world was only a few thousand years old – especially as some Church Fathers interpreted the “days” in a non-literal manner. But on the subject of Adam and Eve, there is a theological unanimity among both Jewish and Christian teachers and religious authorities from antiquity: all of them insisted that Adam and Eve were real, historical individuals. Yes, even Philo and Origen. We cannot rewrite the past to suit our whims. Facts must be faced.

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88 Responses to Philo and Origen are not your friends, Dr. Alexander: A short survey of what two Biblical allegorists taught about Adam and Eve

  1. I would also like to point out in passing that Dr. Alexander’s gradualism regarding human origins clashes with his belief in free will, which is necessarily a capacity that you either have or you don’t. Free will is not like baldness: it doesn’t come in halves. There are of course degrees of freedom, and one could argue that some humans have a much greater degree of moral freedom than others. But there is a vast and infinite gulf between a being with zero degrees of moral freedom, and a being with one. If we have the capacity to choose freely, then at some point in our past, there must have been a first generation of hominids possessing free will. These hominids would have been the first human beings.

    What? Why? Do chimps have absolutely zero free will? They never make any kind of choice? How about dogs? How about children? 2-year olds? 1-year olds? The mentally impaired? The criminally insane? Why exactly is free will necessarily an all-or-nothing thing?

    But on the subject of Adam and Eve, there is a theological unanimity among both Jewish and Christian teachers and religious authorities from antiquity: all of them insisted that Adam and Eve were real, historical individuals. Yes, even Philo and Origen. We cannot rewrite the past to suit our whims. Facts must be faced.

    But did they all insist that Adam and Eve were the *only* humans living at the beginning? Even the Bible text suggests that they weren’t.

  2. No sir. The Bible does NOT suggest that Adam and Eve were 2 among many humans living at the time.

    It is clear that Adam and Eve were the first people. They were specially created in God’s image and Adam was created directly from the dust of the earth, while Eve was created from a rib taken from Adam’s side.

    All the genealogies go back to Adam, the son of God. Eve is called the mother of all living in Genesis 3:20.

    Any other view requires added interpretation and assumptions.

    I’m assuming you are referring to chapter 4here where Cain marries and the text does not tell us who he married. Since Eve is the mother of all living, then it is obvious that he married his sister. Everyone did in the beginning and there were no genetic problems with it or even moral problems with it because that is the way it had to be. The prohibition against marrying a sibling came later after genetic problems had built up in the population which would have made it a risk to marry a sibling. The prohibition was less of a moral thing in and of itself, rather a rule made to protect us from harm. Also, by that time, there was no need to marry a sibling as the population had greatly increased.

    This is an assumption, but if they were created perfectly, then Adam and Eve probably were probably quite prolific as everything was working well. So it seems safe to assume that they would have had lots of children. After all, God told them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. I’m assuming that they would have done exactly that.

  3. Ew. Gross.

    And, if you’re going to be that rigid about interpretation, then the Bible’s been proven wrong. There is way more allelic diversity in humans than can be packed into 2 diploid genomes*. Game over.

    Anyway, what you are presenting is the modern young-earth creationist fundamentalist view, not a review of opinions throughout the history of Christian and Jewish interpretation.

    (* and it’s allelic diversity shared with chimps, so even if you up the mutation rate you can’t explain it, unless God caused post-Adam human mutations to converge on chimp mutations, or something…)

  4. Dr. Matzke,

    Thank you for your posts. In response to your questions about chimps, children and the criminally insane, you fail to advert to the following distinctions:

    (1) the distinction between the question of how many degrees of free will someone has (which may vary from person to person) and the question of whether someone has any free will at all;

    (2) the distinction between the ontological question of whether a capacity is present or not, and the epistemological question of whether I can know it is present or not. I might be 70% sure that a young child has some degree of free will; that does not mean that it has 0.7 of a capacity for free choice; and

    (3) the distinction between the capacity to make free choices and its exercise. The fact that there may be some indeterminacy about the latter does not imply that there is indeterminacy about the former.

    I might add that being a card-carrying Darwinist does not commit you to the notion that free will, or any other mental capacity, appeared gradually. You could suppose, if you wished, that a mental Rubicon was crossed when a critical level of brain complexity was reached in our evolutionary past, and that children exercise the capacity for free choices when they cross the same Rubicon in their neurological development.

    Regarding your arguments from allelic diversity, please have a look at this post by Professor Jerry Coyne on the Multi-germic theory:

    http://whyevolutionistrue.word.....e-contest/

    Got to go now; I’ll be back later.

  5. Do chimps have absolutely zero free will? They never make any kind of choice? How about dogs? How about children? 2-year olds? 1-year olds? The mentally impaired? The criminally insane? Why exactly is free will necessarily an all-or-nothing thing?

    1. Yes
    2. No
    3. No
    4. Yes
    5. Yes
    6. Yes
    7. Yes
    8. Yes
    9. If you can’t figure that out on your own then I can’t help you.

  6. Dr. Matzke,

    Further to my comments about free will: we don’t sue chimps, and we don’t jail them either. Chimps sometimes do horrific things, like ripping people’s faces off and cannibalizing infants of their own species. But as they are completely unable to explain, either to themselves or to each other, why they act the way they do, and as they are unable to exhort each other to change their ways by invoking even the most primitive moral reasoning (e.g. “Don’t do that. You wouldn’t like it if someone did that to you”) then I would maintain that the ascription of free choices to them is meaningless.

    The reason why free will is an all-or-nothing capacity is that it is entailed by possession of the following capacities, which again seem to be all-or-nothing:

    (i) the ability to follow a rule or norm. There are of course some complicated rules that I might find hard to follow, but if you take a simple rule, either you can follow it or you can’t;

    (ii) a theory of mind: specifically, an ability to think of other agents as beings with beliefs and desires which may differ from your own;

    (iii) the ability to use symbols (e.g. words) to denote concepts, including fairly abstract concepts such as “human being” (or “person”) and “rule”, so that you can understand the binding force of the Golden Rule, which is about the simplest genuinely moral rule that there is.

    The unanimous view of Jewish rabbis and the Christian Fathers was that Cain married his sister. The Jewish Book of Jubilees, composed around 135 B.C., even purports to give her name. That might sound gross; but it was what was taught, down the ages.

    Regarding the question of whether belief in a literal Adam and Eve is on a par with young earth creationism: here you raise a substantive question. I would answer that a hypothesis becomes irrational to hold when it requires too many ad hoc assumptions in order to maintain it. In mathematical terminology: the irrationality of a proposed miracle increases with the Kolmogorov complexity (i.e. shortest possible description) of the full suite of supernaturally produced changes that must have taken place, if the miracle occurred. High-level (macro level) descriptions of the changes that would have been required are OK, so long as the required low-level details can be deduced, in principle, from the macro-level description given.

    Now think of the idea of a global Flood, and try describing what God must have done either during or after the Flood, in order to account for the strange features of the fossil record which don’t fit with a global deluge. You’ll end up with a very long description – probably book-length, as it’ll have to cover assorted phenomena like escaped heat, iridium layers, polystrate fossils and the presence of about 20 distinct periods in the fossil record. I would therefore say that it makes no sense to continue believing in a global Flood in the 21st century.

    Now ask yourself what God must have done, on a genetic level, to bring about (say) a Virgin Birth of a normal human male from a normal human female. My guess is that the required feat could be described at a macro level, in 100 words or less. That’s not too long, so belief in a Virgin Birth remains epistemically rational.

    Now consider what God would have had to have done in order to produce the current range of human genetic diversity from an original population of two people. The Multi-Germic hypothesis described on Professor Coyne’s page (see above) doesn’t look very long; so in my opinion, it remains tenable. (You mentioned a point about allelic diversity being shared with chimps. I’m not sure how much of a problem this is, as I don’t know how many other possible alleles there are of the genes in question, and I’m not sure precisely how many of our alleles overlap with those of chimps.)

    So that’s my method of distinguishing between miracles it makes sense to believe in and those which it doesn’t make sense to believe in. If anyone has a better idea, then I am all ears.

  7. Anyway, what you are presenting is the modern young-earth creationist fundamentalist view, not a review of opinions throughout the history of Christian and Jewish interpretation.

    Steady on brother Matzke, firstly the only thing that’s modern about it is our understanding of genetics which simply compliments the biblical account.
    Secondly the young-earth view is no more of a fundamentalist outlook than claiming the whole of reality just happened to pop into existence from nothing for no particular reason, you know, like magic.

  8. vj,

    By that criterion, it makes even more sense to believe that the virgin birth never happened. No divine intervention is required to bring about a non-virgin birth, so the Kolmogorov complexity is zero.

  9. Hi tjguy,

    Why no mention of Lilith in your post? First were Adam and Lilith but Lilith refused to obey so out she went (even from the Bible) and in came Eve.

    And allegedly Lilith was Cain’s wife.

  10. Nick:

    And, if you’re going to be that rigid about interpretation, then the Bible’s been proven wrong. There is way more allelic diversity in humans than can be packed into 2 diploid genomes*.

    Only if one relies on the mechanism of accumulations of random mutations.

    However if one relies on a well-written genetic algorithm, then given recombinations, there is more than enough time/ generations to account for the diversity observed.

    As for chimp similarities well a common design explains that rather nicely- as does convergent evolution.

    So Nick all you have is a strawman and an ignorance of genetics. Sweet…

  11. Stu7-

    EMERGENCE- that is the new catch-word. A lot of stuff happens and other stuff emerges from that.

    The earth and solar system emerged from the complex interactions of gravity on a vast multitude of particles.

    Nice a smooth (sounding)-> sciency even.

  12. Hi champignon,

    Of course, you are correct regarding Kolmogorov complexity. The test I was proposing was not meant to decide whether a miracle occurred or not, but whether, given some evidence that it occurred, we should believe it, or judge it incredible. My point was that if believing it required us to posit an extraordinarily long series of “ifs” and “buts”, then we shouldn’t believe it. Thus the purpose of my proposed test was not to decide which miracles we should include in our belief-set, but which ones we should exclude.

  13. Hi Joe,

    Thank you for your post. According to Wikipedia, the oldest form of the story of Lilith as Adam’s first wife only goes back to the 8th to 10th centuries A.D. That’s pretty recent.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.....f_Ben_Sira

    As for Cain: according to the Jewish Book of Jubilees, written c. 135 B.C., the name of Cain’s wife was Awan.

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/jub/jub16.htm

    The book is still centuries younger than Genesis, but at least it was written over 2,000 years ago. Make of it what you will.

  14. Suppresion does that. Meaning if the Lilith story was suppressed then of course it will take time to come out.

    But I don’t know. Does the Bible actually say Adam and Eve were the only people?

    However I should stay out of Bible discussions as it is clear many people here know more about than I do.

    My bad for repeating what I heard and read without further checking.

  15. Regarding your arguments from allelic diversity, please have a look at this post by Professor Jerry Coyne on the Multi-germic theory:

    You do realize that was all a a nasty joke by Coyne et al. against the creationists, right? It would be simpler to just say Genetic Diversity is Explained By [Insert Stupendous Miracle]. The minimum population size to explain the allelic diversity is thousands, furthermore much of the diversity is shared ancestral diversity. You have to insert all kinds of additional special pleading into multigermic “theory” to explain these data.

    the distinction between the question of how many degrees of free will someone has (which may vary from person to person) and the question of whether someone has any free will at all;

    You have offered no particular evidence that the zero-degrees-of-free-will vs. one-or-more-degrees-of-free-will line exists between e.g. humans and animals. You’ve already admitted that free will is a matter of degree, why not rate it on a scale of 0-100? Your typical adult mammal has maybe a 30 — lots of instinctual responses, but also substantial ability to make choices based on interests, weighing the situation, etc. (go watch some videos of dogs, lions etc. hunting, or chimps doing whatever, if you don’t believe there is some thinking going on).

    Young children would be similar. Something like a crow might be a 20, a lizard a 10, and an insect or some such a 1. In development, humans would cross from 0 to 1 around the time they are able to respond to sensory input by suckling and crying, probably at 7 months pregnant or whatever. They would rapidly advance until reaching maximum free will at about adulthood.

    There is evidence all around that this isn’t an either-or thing, but instead a matter of degree, IMHO.

  16. To Nick Matzke,

    Recombinations fueled by a genetic algorithm can easily account for the diversity observed starting with two and including many generations.

    Your problem is taht you are trying to pin your position’s mechansims onto Creation. That dog don’t hunt, Nick.

  17. Your post is too long. I guess I can’t believe it then. Maybe you could try compressing it?

  18. Further to my comments about free will: we don’t sue chimps, and we don’t jail them either.

    chimps (or their estates) could be sued, assuming they owned property or money. It would be no different from suing a mentally retarded person, from a legal standpoint. I’ve heard of people leaving money to pets, so I suspect it’s possible.

    We certainly do hold animals accountable for violence and damage, and we certainly do jail them. We do this pretty much on a case by case basis, just as we do with humans.

    In general we do not hold trials for animals, because they don’t have the legal right. But fiction is full of animals accused of crimes and being judged (and defended).

    Wizard of Oz comes to mind. And the old (very old) robin Hood TV series had an episode involving a goose on trial.

  19. There’s also HGT. If evolutionists can use it anytime they want to explain away the major issues with the quickly blurring branches on the tree of life, why can’t creationists use it to explain early genetic diversity?

  20. Yeah it could be that HGT was more common (in humans)- viral insertions and transposons offer more mechanisms of change.

    So when taken all together we would have insertions, deletions, HGT, VIs, transposons, recombinations, frame shifts, point mutations- plenty of mechanisms for a GA to utilize.

  21. vj,

    By that standard the resurrection of Jesus should surely be excluded from our beliefs. Imagine the reams of paper it would take to describe how to fully restore a three-day-old corpse to life!

  22. Hi champignon,

    According to my proposal for how to evaluate the credibility of a miracle, the length of the description applies to what was allegedly done, not how it was done. Sorry for not making that clearer. As for the resurrection: the “what” is easy to specify: re-start the genetic program regulating the genome of Jesus Christ. (Remember: according to the Gospels, Jesus’ body didn’t decay in the tomb, so that makes it very easy to describe.) That would give us resurrection from the dead, but not resurrection to everlasting life. To get that, you’d need to also stipulate that the newly resurrected body would come under the laws of physics governing embodied beings in Heaven (whatever that is), so that it would never die.

  23. Hi Nick,

    Thank you for your post. I have a keen interest in animal cognition, and of course I’m aware of claims which have been made on behalf of animals – e.g. Betty the New Caledonian crow; Alex the parrot; caching and retrieval in scrub jays; Tomasello’s experiments with chimps; and even recent claims of anticipatory cognition in chimps. Suffice it to say that my background studies (my Ph.D. was related to the subject of animal minds, although I mainly focused on the so-called “dumb” animals like worms and flies) have instilled in me a sense of caution regarding inflated claims for animals’ mental capacities. You might like to read Stephen Budiansky’s book, If a Lion Could Talk, if you haven’t already, for a highly readable discussion of the philosophical issues involved in assessing these claims.

    Reasoning is about means and ends, and I have seen no convincing evidence that any non-human animal is capable of performing a task in order to obtain a distant goal. Proximate goals don’t necessarily require reasoning; trial-and-error learning might do the trick, particularly in an animal (such as the crow) which is good at forming associations.

    I have also yet to see any good evidence that chimps, or any other non-human animals, possess a theory of mind in which they are aware that other individuals have beliefs that may not coincide with their own. They may be aware of what other animals want, but they don’t necessarily know what other animals think. In the absence of this ability, I fail to see how genuine freedom gets a toehold.

    And that brings me to my point about the definition of freedom: liberty of choice (which, I would argue, is unique to human beings) is distinct from mere liberty of spontaneity (which other animals possess). No-one is claiming that the behavior of dogs or cats is pre-programmed; but can they justify their choices? Can they supply reasons for what they did? Do they have the notion of a means or an end? Do they understand that there are other minds? If they don’t, then I don’t think we can speak of genuine freedom in their case. Of course, I may be wrong, and we’ll know a lot more about what they can do in ten or twenty years.

    Regarding Professor Coyne’s Multi-Germic post: I acknowledge that much of the diversity we share in our DBR1 genes seems to be shared ancestral diversity. The question I would ask is whether the alleles we share with chimps in this region are ones which confer additional fitness on an individual in the environment which humans would have experienced two million years ago (that’s when I think we became rational) or whether they were neutral and hence more likely a random selection from the gene pool. If the latter turned out to be the case, then of course it would count against monogenism. I’d also want to know how many ways these genes are capable of varying.

    Just a few thoughts.

  24. vj,

    Even with that proviso, I’m afraid your criterion still leads to absurdities. “Created the universe” is adjudged more plausible than “created a new rhododendron hybrid”, and “rose from the dead” is on par with “made a coin disappear”.

  25. Petrushka,

    Thank you for your post. Please have a look at this article on mens rea and ask yourself if it could possibly apply to a chimp:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mens_rea

    I put it to you that chimps lack the required mental wherewithal to commit a crime.

  26. Hi everyone,

    I have just received a very irenic email from Dr. Alexander in which he suggests that he and I might be closer in our respective positions than my blog might suggest. He also states that his views are more fully elaborated in his book, “Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?” (Monarch, 2008) – see here:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Creati.....1854247468

    I seldom buy new books these days, but if anyone has read Dr. Alexander’s book, they are welcome to comment. In the meantime, I would like to thank Dr. Alexander for his courteous response.

  27. They can’t.

    They can onlly “use it” if it explains the data.

  28. I really have an tough time understanding why some, will believe some parts of the bible but not other parts. You either trust what the bible says or you don’t. Can you believe in a God that only gets parts of the bible correct, but not all of it? Is it inspired or not? Are some trying to have one foot in each place hoping no matter what happens, you could be accepted? Actually what happens is that you not accepted by either.
    So if you believe in creation and God did that, why would it be hard to understand a virgin birth? Did not God also design, reproduction capabilities, in life and man? He would certainty need to know how to do it.
    Actually we are told some major ideas about God, creating life.
    In humans for example, we are told humans were made from the dust of the ground ( or materials). Are not the scientists trying to do the same thing? They say the precursors for life are here. If they succeed will that prove creation is true? It certainty doesn’t show that it could happen on its own. One other thing about this is that, if the scientists actually do create life, is that magic or supernatural?
    Isn’t it really just a matter of knowing enough of the science to do it? We are also told that Eve was created from Adam, not just by DNA but actual materials from Adam. Would this also explain the Creative Patterns we see today in all life? * Also we are told that animals were created in ‘kinds’ of life. The scientists say there are many species. So what the bible says is correct, the scientists, are just following, what already has been done.

    It was mentioned about Cain marring his sister. Well we are also told man would live forever, never to die. That would mean a perfect body. A perfect body would not be under the same imperfections we see today. We also have records of man living almost a 1000 years, at that time. Even in human nature we see today, we can tell this is real. People to not want to die. They will go to great lengths to keep living. Some will even freeze themselves. Others want to leave a legacy.( in a temps to be remembered.) It really is unnatural for man to die. We think it is a waste to learn all your life and then its gone.

    The real problem is because someone that has a Doctorate, that in itself is supposed to hold some credibility. But in this case, neither is he correct on the science, or the bible.
    * Patterns of Creation
    can be found here:
    http://patternsofcreation.weebly.com/

  29. Joe,

    Thanks for your post. I didn’t mention Lilith for two reasons. One, that name never appears on the Bible and two, I had never heard of Lilith before. Thanks too to VJ for enlightening me on the source of that name. Who knows whether it is dependable information or not? It is possible that it could have been passed on through oral tradition and accurately preserved, but we really have no way of knowing.

    The Bible does not specifically say that Adam and Eve were the only people, but it does say this in Genesis 3:20: “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” This would seem to indicate that Adam and Eve were the only two living humans at that time. All the genealogies in the Bible that go back to the beginning end with Adam as well.

    God created humans on the 6th day of creation and in chapter 2 of Genesis, we are told how he did that. We are also introduced to the first couple in this chapter.

  30. Denis did a series on BioLogos early this year on the various approaches to a historical Adam, including his own preference. He actually got some stick there for promoting a historical Adam, so it’s a bit sad if he gets clobbered here for not doing so. His scholarly essay on the matter (best source for a serious assessment of his views without reading the book) is here:

    http://biologos.org/uploads/pr....._paper.pdf

  31. vjtorley:

    Dr. Alexander is a real gentleman in argument, a pleasant change from so many American TEs, who are frequently condescending, belligerent, or both.

    His references to Origen and Philo in the book are mainly found on pp. 155-157. He appeals to Augustine a few times in the book as well, almost entirely based on a standard TE proof-text from De Genesi ad Literam. His statements only scratch the surface of the thought of Origen and Augustine, and are in my view irresponsible generalizations about the thought of those thinkers, based on what appears to be a very sketchy acquaintance with their thought. Your writing here is a model of text-based scholarship which he and other TEs would do well to emulate.

    In the thousands of pages of TE writing which I have digested, I have never seen a treatment of primary texts as thorough as what you have presented here and in your wonderful series on Aquinas. There is nothing at all like it in any of the writings of Miller, Ayala, Collins, Giberson, Falk, Venema, Isaac, Alexander, Ard Louis, Oliver Barclay, etc. The TEs seem simply unwilling or unable to engage in deep and lengthy analyses of primary theological texts.

    At one point in his book (p. 157), Alexander makes this claim:

    “A figurative understanding of Genesis 1 was the dominant
    approach to the text amongst both Jewish and Christian commentators until at least into the fourteenth century.”

    It is typical of TEs to make such claims without documentation. Alexander gives no reference for this claim. And it is a false claim; the literal reading of Genesis 1 was far more common. Of course, on individual points, such as the length of the creation days, we find some theologians (e.g., Augustine) opting for a non-literal reading, but even there, it is never the majority. And if we take Genesis 1 overall, it is grossly misleading to write what Alexander has written. It is what TEs would like to be true of the tradition, but it is in fact false.

    The TEs are right to say that extreme ultra-literalism is a modern phenomenon, but they fail to acknowledge the fact that most of the great pre-modern theologians — Patristics, Medievals, and magisterial Reformers — were pretty darned literalistic most of the time. They weren’t Ken Ham, to be sure, but they weren’t John Haught or Howard Van Till, either. They were in fact, though it pains me to admit it, closer to Ken Ham than to the sort of modern liberal theologian that is generally showcased on sites like Biologos.

    I would have fewer objections to TEs if they had the courage to say: “Augustine, Calvin and Luther all believed that Adam and Eve were the physical parents of the human race, but their view has been proved wrong by modern science.” But what the TEs do instead is say: “Of course, most of the great traditional theologians adopted non-literal readings of Genesis, so they would never have made the literalist interpretations that silly American fundamentalists do, and that means that Darwin and Genesis go together just fine.” That won’t wash. In fact, though Augustine, Calvin and Luther were certainly more refined and intelligent and cultured and nuanced than American fundamentalists, they shared with the fundamentalists a pretty close to literal reading of most of the events recorded in Genesis.

    Thus, ironically, whereas the TEs accuse the YECs of “lying for Jesus” in denying the scientific evidence for evolution, the TEs themselves “lie for modern liberal Christianity” when they pretend that the classical, orthodox Christian readings of the Bible were mostly non-literal. Creation/evolution/design dialogue cannot be fostered by this sort of dishonesty. And even if there is no conscious dishonesty, even if what is going on in TE-dom is just plain lazy and uninformed scholarship, it is still colored by the wishful thinking of the TEs. They read into the historical record what they want to see there.

    Thankfully, we have writers like Vincent Torley who actually take the time to read the texts and counter the historical misrepresentations. Of course, it will not matter over at Biologos, since the columnists there never take any notice of the many refutations of their thought that have been posted here. Nor are the Biologos columnists the slightest bit interested in serious theological and historical scholarship, but only in liberal scholarship which cherry-picks from the tradition what is required to keep Darwin and Dobzhansky seated on their thrones. But there are open-minded readers out there who can see the difference between proof-texting and true exegetical technique, between generalizations based on very few texts from a scattering of authors and a tight argument based on many texts from a single author. Those readers will see that TE writers are not interested in presenting a detached, objective view of the Christian tradition, but are rewriting the Christian tradition for their own purposes.

    T.

  32. In what possible sense can modern genetics “compliment [sic] the biblical account”?

    As Nick says, there is way too much genetic diversity to be accounted for by the theory that all humans are descended from two individual (max four alleles for every gene each) especially when you consider that there was a second bottleneck (allegedly) at the flood, when the male line was reduced to 2 alleles for each gene.

    And the explanation that the diversity was supplied by a vast increase in spontaneous generation of new alleles is belied, as Nick says, by the fact that those alleles are largely shared with chimps. Did the Intelligent Designer make sure that every new allele he created in the descendents of Noah were also duplicated in chimps?

    In what sense does this complement the biblical account? It stretches it even further beyond incredulity than it already is.

  33. “with the virgin birth we can come up with pretty good models about how virgin births can happen.” But if Dr. Alexander meant naturalistic models, then he was evidently mistaken. In 2006, the Christian biologist Steven Jones wrote an excellent little post, explaining why from a naturalistic perspective, “the Virgin Birth of Jesus has become more miraculous than ever,” and would therefore, in Jones’ view, require an act of intelligent design in order for it to occur (as he believes it did).”

    Virgin birth is simple. Sperm cells are vigorous little beasties and if they are deposited at the entrance to the vagina, they can easily crawl past the hymen, which remains intact, up the length of the vagina, into the uterus and the fallopian tubes, where they will find that little egg cell and nail it. The resulting pregnancy is entirely naturalistic and the baby can be of either sex.

    Even simpler is to remember that none of the Gospel writers were there when Jesus was born and stories of miraculous births were almost inevitable in that day and age.

    In my opinion, all of the stories of Jesus’s birth and childhood are fictional.

    If anybody ever invents a time machine that can actually go back to those days and let us see what happened, I will bet everything I own against a bent nickle that nothing miraculous happened and Jesus had a perfectly natural birth and life.

  34. In what possible sense can modern genetics “compliment [sic] the biblical account”?

    Recombinations, insertions, deletions, frame-shifts, etc.

    As Nick says, there is way too much genetic diversity to be accounted for by the theory that all humans are descended from two individual (max four alleles for every gene each) especially when you consider that there was a second bottleneck (allegedly) at the flood, when the male line was reduced to 2 alleles for each gene.

    Unfortunetly Nick is not a genetics expert. Not only that he doesn’t seem to understand any of his oppenents’ positions.

    And the explanation that the diversity was supplied by a vast increase in spontaneous generation of new alleles is belied, as Nick says, by the fact that those alleles are largely shared with chimps.

    Most alleles are for the every day sustaining of the cells. Therefor we would expect some degree of similarity throughout life.

    Recombinations fueled by a genetic algorithm can easily account for the diversity observed starting with two and including many generations.

    Your problem is that you are trying to pin your position’s mechansims onto Creation. That dog don’t hunt.

  35. It never appears in the Bible because it was censored out. That is the whole point- the Bible is not an include-all- meaning it is selective as to what was included.

    I do not hold the Bible as any kind of authority basically because I know and understand that humans had a hand in it.

  36. If anybody invents a time machine I doubt they will have much interest either in everything you own or the bent nickel.

    Just as it’s unlikely your unsupported opinions about the birth narratives will gain as many supporters as those narratives have had for the last 2000 years.

  37. dmellunix: I will bet everything I own against a bent nickle that nothing miraculous happened and Jesus had a perfectly natural birth and life.

    What d’you got?

  38. VJ: Not that I disagree with anything you’ve written here, but I am happy to hear about Alexander’s irenic reply. Remember, Augustine focused on the great truths of Genesis, which is still by far the most profound and incisive diagnosis of the human condition devised by man. I would agree with you that it is better to proceed AS IF the story of the Fall were literally true and not waste any time on accommodation, but my own two cents would be that it is probably wise to avoid literalism as well. There’s enough there without it.

  39. dmullenix

    This is typical of some scientists, they make up their own stories. Just like ‘abiogenesis’ and ‘evolution’. I hope you didn’t bet on those. You would have to give up twice what you own. Back in those days sex and children were extremely important. They were not lacks, about this, like today. So you would have to make up, another story about how and why they would put sperm on her. Who did that, and why? What was the motive? How did the ones doing this, know that Jesus would become such well known figure even to this day?
    Do you see how one story means you have to make up many other stories to cover the first one that was made up.

    http://patternsofcreation.weebly.com/

  40. Hi allanius,

    Good point. I don’t wish my post to be seen as an argument for literalism, but rather as an argument against historical revisionism – and in particular, the practice of invoking Jewish and Christian authorities who lived 2,000 years ago to support a new and radically different interpretation of Scripture by citing them out of their proper context.

    St. Augustine certainly wrote very profound words of wisdom regarding the Fall, and I would agree with his focus on the larger questions relating to the human condition. In that connection, my own favorite quote on Original Sin is from Chapter 5 of Newman’s Apologia pro vita sua:

    Did I see a boy of good make and mind, with the tokens on him of a refined nature, cast upon the world without provision, unable to say whence he came, his birthplace or his family connexions, I should conclude that there was some mystery connected with his history, and that he was one, of whom, from one cause or other, his parents were ashamed. Thus only should I be able to account for the contrast between the promise and the condition of his being. And so I argue about the world;— if there be a God, since there is a God, the human race is implicated in some terrible aboriginal calamity. It is out of joint with the purposes of its Creator. This is a fact, a fact as true as the fact of its existence; and thus the doctrine of what is theologically {243} called original sin becomes to me almost as certain as that the world exists, and as the existence of God.

    I hope you have a happy New Year.

  41. Hi dmullenix,

    Just for the record, there are no cases of virgin births in pagan mythology. There are many pagan myths about gods assuming a human or animal form and impregnating a woman with divine seed, but that’s not what Christians believe. For instance, Christian apologist J. P. Holding notes that Livy’s story describes how Rhea Silvia, the mother of Romulus and Remus, was miraculously impregnated by the Roman god Mars. Comments Holding: “This is a ghastly and crude notion compared to the subtle and miraculous creative power and overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.”

    I would also suggest you have a look at Glenn Miller’s article, Was Jesus Christ just a CopyCat Savior Myth? which discusses the Virgin Birth in some depth.

    I’d like to wish you a happy New Year.

  42. vjtorley wrote:

    “I don’t wish my post to be seen as an argument for literalism, but rather as an argument against historical revisionism – and in particular, the practice of invoking Jewish and Christian authorities who lived 2,000 years ago to support a new and radically different interpretation of Scripture by citing them out of their proper context.”

    Yes, and this is my position as well. It is not the non-literalness of TE interpretations of Genesis that I object to; it is the serious lack of accuracy in their historical presentation of the Christian tradition. Whether this lack of accuracy in each case is caused by ignorance, sloppy research, hearsay, wishful thinking, or deliberate misrepresentation, is often hard to determine; I suspect that in most cases more than one of the above causes is involved. But what cannot be forgiven is that, when these inaccuracies are pointed out, the TEs do absolutely nothing about it. They neither accept the corrections and withdraw their statements, nor refute the corrections with better historical research. They simply ignore the criticism, and go on repeating the same things in their books and articles and blog posts, thus spreading false information despite the best efforts of ID people and others (YEC, OEC, etc.) to correct that information. Thus, while there might not be dishonesty in the original errors, there is at least some element of dishonesty in the repetition of the errors. This intellectual dishonesty makes TE a disreputable position, and not one I would ever associate with.

    What is needed to make TE respectable in my eyes is for the honest TEs, the ones with scholarly integrity, to call out their proof-texting brethren, and demand an end to shoddy and inaccurate historical statements about what the great Christian writers of the past believed. (Just as Gould called out his atheist neo-Darwinist brethren regarding Haeckel’s faked embryo drawings, and told them to stop putting them in biology textbooks.)

    T.

  43. Joe said: “It never appears in the Bible because it was censored out. That is the whole point- the Bible is not an include-all- meaning it is selective as to what was included.”
    “I do not hold the Bible as any kind of authority basically because I know and understand that humans had a hand in it.”

    Hi Joe. Just wondered how you “know” this? It is true that the Bible is selective as to what was included. That is true of every book ever written including scientific studies. From a believer’s perspective and according to the Bible itself, it is selective in that the Holy Spirit led the writers as to what they should write. The selection was done by the ultimate author, God Himself. It’s a good thing there was some selection that was done. Imagine how long it would be if none had taken place. It would be a never ending book! Perhaps Lilith’s name wasn’t included because it wasn’t deemed important or wasn’t true. These are also options that deserve to be considered.

  44. The Christian religion as understood by St. Paul and all Christians throughout history:

    Through the disobedience of the one man, Adam, the many were made sinners

    The Christian religion as understood by Contemporary Theistic Evolutionists:

    The “many” were not made sinners through the disobedience of Adam. Quite the contrary, the many brought sin into the world collectively. simultaneously, and through collusion, in which case individual free will did not play a role–or by multiple sins committed by individuals over an unspecified period of time, in which case God decided not to be offended for a while and withheld judgment until everyone involved had decided to get in on the act.

  45. How do I know that humans had a hand in creating the Bible? I was unaware that was ever in any doubt.

  46. vj

    I question your logic on free will above.

    The reason why free will is an all-or-nothing capacity is that it is entailed by possession of the following capacities, which again seem to be all-or-nothing:
    (i) the ability to follow a rule or norm. There are of course some complicated rules that I might find hard to follow, but if you take a simple rule, either you can follow it or you can’t;
    (ii) a theory of mind: specifically, an ability to think of other agents as beings with beliefs and desires which may differ from your own;
    (iii) the ability to use symbols (e.g. words) to denote concepts, including fairly abstract concepts such as “human being” (or “person”) and “rule”, so that you can understand the binding force of the Golden Rule, which is about the simplest genuinely moral rule that there is.

    1) I am not sure that Free Will is entailed by these attributes. “Entails” means that if these attributes are present then free will is present.

    2) Even if this is true, surely at least two these attributes are matters of degree (in my opinion all three are). A baby can neither follow a rule nor use symbols in the way you describe. Yet these attributes are not suddenly switched on one morning. They develop gradually.

    3) Even if all three attributes were all or nothing free will might still be a gradually developed thing. To say A, B and C entail X is to say that in combination they are sufficient for X, but it is not to say they are necessary. For example, the time being between 10:00 and 16:00, the latitude 50 degrees, and the month May entails that it will be daylight. They are all binary conditions. But daylight itself is a gradual affair.

  47. Sorry – I obviously got the blockquotes wrong.

  48. Yet the fact that Adam and Eve did sin, tells you they had free will. They were perfect, their sin was disloyalty. They had many direct dealings with God, none with Satan. They choose Satan rather than God. Because of that, their children, inherited that, knowledge of good and bad. That’s what we see today.
    God set a predetermined time, for man to go his own way. We see the results today.
    The reason God allowed this is because we have free will. So in the future no one can say it could have been OK for man to go his own way. But now we know it does not work. Man has tried every government and even science, but in the end we will ruin everything, even ourselves.
    This now is answered for all time.
    This is what free will, is about. There are consequences to our actions. But we do have free will.
    God could have forced us to follow him, or created us as robots but he didn’t.
    We have free will.

    http://patternsofcreation.weebly.com/

  49. I will try and keep this as concise as possible, but I really tire of discussions of free will vs. not free will because of how obviously wrong the “not free will” side is. But because they refuse to see it, I will try and show it to their satisfaction.

    First let’s decide on what we want to show. I seek to reasonably demonstrate that there must exist some beings that can take actions that are neither random nor based on the current initial conditions. This is a tighter more testable definition of free will.

    1. First we must understand in this context what quantum mechanics demands. It places finite limits on the phase space of possible initial conditions. This limits the available probability space available by purely natural means to a future event. Indeed this is how QM first was discovered. Scientists realized if any arbitrarily defined low energy state was available to a photon emitted from a black body, that this would require the black body to have infinite energy. The only rescue from the “ultraviolet catastrophe” was the realization that the energy values available were finite. They were quantized, and the number of available states was limited by the size of the quantum step, and the finite value of the energy.

    2. We must also understand the miracle of encoding. Encoding – decoding allows the encoder – decoder team to defeat the limitation on initial conditions. By the use of quantized symbols that are independent of the medium they are expressed in, encoding/decoding allow a current event to precisely determine a future event, even though precise definition of initial conditions followed by only natural events could never work to determine that event. Thus, ( assuming evolution ) the encoding for a particular protein millions of years ago determined that protein’s existence and shape today, even though without encoding, no natural initial conditions could have been specified precisely enough, to demand this.

    3. We also have to understand the significance of the human ability to encode time. When I demand that something is to occur 10 seconds from now, I have encoded a time. It does not matter that the time is measured by the passage of physical events – the period of orbit or rotation of the earth, the vibrations of a quartz crystal, the frequency of light emitted from an atom – I have provided an encoded demand on future events. Independent of the passage of events. My watch may be broken, and I may measure 10 seconds incorrectly, but it does not obscure the fact that I can demand the event occur in 10 seconds, and other humans can tell me my watch was actually slow.

    4. We must understand that available evidence is that animals can’t do this. They can be trained to correlate certain events with naturally occurring circadian rhythms of internal or external nature, but they can’t be told feeding time is at 10 AM GMT and will not be changed due to daylight savings time. On the other hand even a small child who has just learned to tell time can be told that he needs to be at lunch at noon. Then he can choose or not choose to believe it and obey it.

    So given these four facts we can investigate the following possibility. I stand before a class at a university in a room. I will instruct certain members of the class to create a large sequence of characters at a given time. I will give them all written (encoded ) instructions. Given all the initial conditions of the room at the time, QM demands that the phase space of possible resulting sequences and their times started is finite. It may be very large, but it is finite. Given the explosion of possible sequences and times I can control with willing students, I must be able to exceed this probability space simply by choosing the number of students, symbols, and times. In other words, since through the miracle of encoding, the phase space of possible sequences can be chosen to exceed the size of the phase space of initial conditions, there MUST be sequences drawn by certain students at certain times that ARE not probable.

    But the possibility that there are some sequences which are excluded does not make sense. After all, it is only reasonable that some of those excluded sequences have Mary beginning her sequence of 600 arbitrary characters precisely 30 seconds from now with the Capital letter ‘A’ the 359th letter. But I could easily include that in the instructions. This is a contradiction. Every sequence is possible, only because of the existence of some beings who are not dictated by the QM demanded finite number of sequences available at the start of the experiment.

    The only “out” is to demand that given the initial conditions of the room, I could only write certain instructions. But this goes against all practical experience. Initial conditions can not determine the symbols I put on the paper. This is not circular reasoning – proving free will by assuming free will. It is pointing out by thought experiment the contradiction that comes about by assuming not free will, and proving that the limitations it puts on phase space of possible future events can be overcome by deliberate encoding. Thus QM + encoding of time and characters – yields a thought experiment which can only result in the conclusion that there must exist some beings whose actions are neither random nor controlled by the initial conditions. This is really obvious to anyone, the point about the students, the times, and the sequences, was just to make it clear.

    The above thought experiment makes it clear that free will most probably exists. There are certainly those who can not understand it. Others however will deny its simple conclusions. These poor souls actually give more evidence for the existence of free will in that despite clear evidence, they exercise their free will to disbelieve. Actually, however, it is my contention that many of these ones are not exactly free. They have been deceived by an intellect higher than their own.

    Comments?.

  50. Interesting essay. Yes I have some comments.

    I will try and keep this as concise as possible, but I really tire of discussions of free will vs. not free will because of how obviously wrong the “not free will” side is. But because they refuse to see it, I will try and show it to their satisfaction.
    First let’s decide on what we want to show. I seek to reasonably demonstrate that there must exist some beings that can take actions that are neither random nor based on the current initial conditions. This is a tighter more testable definition of free will.

    I don’t find this very tight, because you don’t provide a definition of “random”, a word that is notoriously loose in meaning. But I’ll let that pass for now :)

    1. First we must understand in this context what quantum mechanics demands. It places finite limits on the phase space of possible initial conditions. This limits the available probability space available by purely natural means to a future event. Indeed this is how QM first was discovered. Scientists realized if any arbitrarily defined low energy state was available to a photon emitted from a black body, that this would require the black body to have infinite energy. The only rescue from the “ultraviolet catastrophe” was the realization that the energy values available were finite. They were quantized, and the number of available states was limited by the size of the quantum step, and the finite value of the energy.

    I don’t dispute this (I’m not in a position to) but nor do I think it is at all relevant. If free will depends on being “independent of initial conditions” I don’t think that quantum uncertainty (if that’s what you are getting at) give us any “free will” although it may well make our behaviour non-deterministic. But I am no free-er when I act according to the toss of a fair coin than I am when I act according to the toss of a two-headed coin.

    2. We must also understand the miracle of encoding. Encoding – decoding allows the encoder – decoder team to defeat the limitation on initial conditions. By the use of quantized symbols that are independent of the medium they are expressed in, encoding/decoding allow a current event to precisely determine a future event, even though precise definition of initial conditions followed by only natural events could never work to determine that event. Thus, ( assuming evolution ) the encoding for a particular protein millions of years ago determined that protein’s existence and shape today, even though without encoding, no natural initial conditions could have been specified precisely enough, to demand this.

    Hmm. Not at all sure about this. What do you mean by “precisely determine a future event”?

    3. We also have to understand the significance of the human ability to encode time. When I demand that something is to occur 10 seconds from now, I have encoded a time. It does not matter that the time is measured by the passage of physical events – the period of orbit or rotation of the earth, the vibrations of a quartz crystal, the frequency of light emitted from an atom – I have provided an encoded demand on future events. Independent of the passage of events. My watch may be broken, and I may measure 10 seconds incorrectly, but it does not obscure the fact that I can demand the event occur in 10 seconds, and other humans can tell me my watch was actually slow.

    Now I’m on home turf :) What do you mean by “demand that something is to occur 10 seconds from now”? Demand of yourself? Demand of someone else? But I certainly agree that we can encode time – in many different ways. It’s not a uniquely human ability though, by any means. It’s pretty well essential for any mobile organism. I do agree that it is key to the issue of free will, though.

    4. We must understand that available evidence is that animals can’t do this. They can be trained to correlate certain events with naturally occurring circadian rhythms of internal or external nature, but they can’t be told feeding time is at 10 AM GMT and will not be changed due to daylight savings time. On the other hand even a small child who has just learned to tell time can be told that he needs to be at lunch at noon. Then he can choose or not choose to believe it and obey it.

    I’m not sure of your point here. Animals can certainly predict the timing of events, very precisely, and not necessarily by use of “circadian rhythms”. Brains are full of all kinds of oscillators, some of which appear to be phase-set by events. So they can predict, for example, that if they press a lever now, a treat will follow after, say, 10 seconds. Obviously non-linguistic animals can’t be told that “feeding time is at 10 AM GMT” and have it mean anything to them, but that has nothing to do with their time-telling ability. And an animal can certainly decide not to turn up for lunch.

    So given these four facts we can investigate the following possibility. I stand before a class at a university in a room. I will instruct certain members of the class to create a large sequence of characters at a given time. I will give them all written (encoded ) instructions. Given all the initial conditions of the room at the time, QM demands that the phase space of possible resulting sequences and their times started is finite. It may be very large, but it is finite. Given the explosion of possible sequences and times I can control with willing students, I must be able to exceed this probability space simply by choosing the number of students, symbols, and times. In other words, since through the miracle of encoding, the phase space of possible sequences can be chosen to exceed the size of the phase space of initial conditions, there MUST be sequences drawn by certain students at certain times that ARE not probable.

    What do you mean by “not probable” in this context?

    But the possibility that there are some sequences which are excluded does not make sense. After all, it is only reasonable that some of those excluded sequences have Mary beginning her sequence of 600 arbitrary characters precisely 30 seconds from now with the Capital letter ‘A’ the 359th letter. But I could easily include that in the instructions. This is a contradiction. Every sequence is possible, only because of the existence of some beings who are not dictated by the QM demanded finite number of sequences available at the start of the experiment.
    The only “out” is to demand that given the initial conditions of the room, I could only write certain instructions. But this goes against all practical experience. Initial conditions can not determine the symbols I put on the paper. This is not circular reasoning – proving free will by assuming free will. It is pointing out by thought experiment the contradiction that comes about by assuming not free will, and proving that the limitations it puts on phase space of possible future events can be overcome by deliberate encoding. Thus QM + encoding of time and characters – yields a thought experiment which can only result in the conclusion that there must exist some beings whose actions are neither random nor controlled by the initial conditions. This is really obvious to anyone, the point about the students, the times, and the sequences, was just to make it clear.

    I’m afraid it’s not obvious to me! But I think your initial formulation is the problem. Can you define “random” and “initial conditions” more precisely?

    The above thought experiment makes it clear that free will most probably exists. There are certainly those who can not understand it. Others however will deny its simple conclusions. These poor souls actually give more evidence for the existence of free will in that despite clear evidence, they exercise their free will to disbelieve. Actually, however, it is my contention that many of these ones are not exactly free. They have been deceived by an intellect higher than their own.
    Comments?.

    Like you, I consider free will is perfectly real. But not for the reasons you give! I think it’s much simpler than that. To will something is neither to do it because of some random quantum fluctuation, or to do it because no other action is possible to you. So to have “free will” you have to be able to entertain alternative course of action, and select your action based on the relative evaluation of the likely outcome of each alternative. So you require three abilities: to be able to simulate the results of your action prior to execution (“forward modelling”, which does indeed require a concept of time); to be able to evaluate those outcomes; feed that evaluation into the process by which one of those actions is executed and the others rejected. We know very well that all these three abilities are functions of the human brain, and we even know a fair bit about how they work (what neurotransmitters and brain networks are involved, for instance). Ergo, in my view, we have free will.
    And I didn’t need quantum physics at all :)

  51. Yes, the Virgin Birth trope never caught on, which is perhaps not too surprising given the competition.

    Personally, I note that Joseph was right there and reason to the best explanation, one with the lowest Kolmogorov complexity I’m aware of.

    Happy New Year to you and yours.

  52. “So you would have to make up, another story about how and why they would put sperm on her. Who did that, and why? What was the motive?”

    Sex education is really poor in this country. No wonder we lead the world in teen pregnancy. Google around a little with SafeSearch turned off and your questions will be answered.

    Happy New Year to all.

  53. Hi Elizabeth
    And I didn’t need quantum physics at all :)
    ———————————————
    I have been trying to get scientists to think like this.They seem to be happy with their head in the ground and butt in the air, and miss the real happenings going on around them. I enjoyed that comment.:)

    The truth is no one needs to know any science, to see if life was created or not. Human nature tells us about the creator. The scientists are really just a distraction. It is like a big puzzle the 1500 piece kind. Science is just a few pieces in the grass and a few in the sky. You don’t need them, to see what the picture looks like. But at the same time the sky and grass pieces, have to fit.
    Today, people have many pressures. And may be forced in choices,that are not free will.Governments also force a religion on some, for others it is family. For others it is peer pressure.
    The point is that God only wants people that follow him, because, even though it maybe against outside pressures, and may cause internal pressures,.. they want too. That is free will. Some people will make that choice.
    I think, you think, ‘evolution’ is correct, but you are correct on the idea of free will.

    http://patternsofcreation.weebly.com/

  54. Typically, if having a baby out of wedlock and the groom is the father, I’m pretty sure the wedding is just hurried up. No contemplation of divorce like we see with brother Joseph. But whatever, it’s your imagination. Go wild! ;)

    - Sonfaro

  55. MrDunsapy, I’m a scientist. My conclusion and reasoning were based in science. I don’t think science is a “distraction”.

    Although I don’t think science is everything either. I was a musician before I was a scientist :)

    Anyway, a happy new year to you! I’m glad we agree about free will, anyway!

  56. Hi Elizabeth,

    Happy New Year. You write that “to have ‘free will’ you have to be able to entertain alternative courses of action, and select your action based on the relative evaluation of the likely outcome of each alternative.” But if the evaluation process is “hard-wired”, then I see no reason why one should describe it as free. And if it is not hard-wired, then your list of conditions for free will is insufficient: you need to stipulate extra conditions relating to the nature of the evaluation process.

  57. Happy New Year. You write that “to have ‘free will’ you have to be able to entertain alternative courses of action, and select your action based on the relative evaluation of the likely outcome of each alternative.” But if the evaluation process is “hard-wired”, then I see no reason why one should describe it as free. And if it is not hard-wired, then your list of conditions for free will is insufficient: you need to stipulate extra conditions relating to the nature of the evaluation process.

    What do you mean by “hard wired”?

    I don’t think the evaluation process is “hard-wired”. Indeed I regard it as axiomatic that the brain is plastic, and, if it were not, learning, memory, and therefore informed decision-making – willed action – would be impossible.

    And we know that it is.

  58. Oh, and a happy new year to you!

  59. Hi Elizabeth
    Well I personally am very interested in science. But I was saying you don’t have to be. Most people especially in the past didn’t know very much about it.
    You are a musician ( even though you are doing science now).
    Which is interesting in that , being a musician or painter or mathematician, or scientists, have nothing to do with ‘evolution’. In fact because we have these pursuits and interests, and the need to know, and explore, supports creation. This can give man an interesting life. You don’t need to know physics, to understand that.
    This is what I meant, when I said science is just an distraction.
    Actually science and creation are the same thing. Creation was done with science. It is the interpretations, of the science from the scientists and many religions, you have to watch out for.

    http://patternsofcreation.weebly.com/

  60. Of course. There’s always more than one way to explain the data though. Just depends on how many epicycles you feel like using.

  61. –Mr. Dunsapy: “Yet the fact that Adam and Eve did sin, tells you they had free will. They were perfect, their sin was disloyalty.”

    Yes, of course. The point is that the TE formulation is anti-Christian when it argues [a] that original sin could have been a collective act of disobedience OR [b] that it could have been the cumulative effect of many sins.

    [a] rules out individual free will and individual guilt and [b] trivializes the seriousness of the first sin. Neither position can be reconciled with the Christian religion, yet TE’s happily embrace either position without a qualm.

  62. Hi Elizabeth,

    Thank you for your comment. Let me ask you another question: fruit flies are believed by some researchers to make use of forward modelling. See this article: http://homepages.inf.ed.ac.uk/.....ompact.pdf
    (Webb B. 2004. “Neural mechanisms for prediction: do insects have forward models?” In Trends in Neurosciences 27:278-282.)

    I’m quite sure these forward models are quite plastic, too. Would you call flies free?

  63. vj

    Happy New Year – I have not had much chance to comment recently but your posts are always worth a look. Elizabeth has pretty much nailed it in 16.1.2.1 but I wanted to add a a question.

    If by hard-wired you mean there is some underlying material process in the brain which is the evaluation process then on what grounds is that incompatible with free will? Unless you define free will as a process that it not material then what other characteristic of free will can you indicate that is incompatible with it being a material brain process?

    PS Also did you by any chance see my comment 4.3 above on your argument that free will is binary phenomenom (either present or not present)

  64. Not very free. I think it’s a continuum. My preferred term for free will is “freedom from immediacy”. I don’t think fruitflies are very free from immediacy.

    I think human beings are orders of magnitude freer from immediacy than any other animal, by virtue of our capacity to manipulate symbols and representations of time – past and future, and are thus released from the “eternal present” in which most organisms operate.

  65. StephenB
    Yes and they are also looking at this world we see now, with out an understanding, what is really going on. On the surface, it does look like man, is forced to do many things that is not free will. And that is true. But in perfection, that is not the case. It was just a matter of choosing God or something else, with no pressure. All Satan did was ask a question, he didn’t force or pressure them to do anything. Today we are pressured from all sides. But we still can make, our own choice. So even now we still have free will.

    http://patternsofcreation.weebly.com/

  66. Indeed, determinists (and compatibilists) refute their own philosophy each time they visit this site to argue against the existence of libertarian free will. Without the reader’s freedom to embrace one course of action and reject another, there could be no such thing as persuasion.

  67. Stephenb – A compatabilist believes that they do have the freedom to embrace one course of action and reject another. So how is exercising that freedom refuting their own philosophy?

  68. The real hard part about this is, why do we choose one way over another? People bring ‘baggage’ with them every time they make a decision. Everyone does this to some extent. The difficulty is to know what is real open mindedness and what is what we want, the answer to be.
    So when talking to some scientists, it is difficult to just talk about the science, and expect them to change, it really is about the motive.
    If you use the flood account, only 8 people survived that. That means all the rest, had wrong motives. There were maybe millions on the earth at that time. That means even in Christendom, with their many different religions,it shows that people have different motives. What is the reason you pick one over another?
    I have talked to scientists that think if you look at religion, and they are supposed to represent God, then I want nothing to do with that. So are they looking to science to show a God is not needed? You could see how ‘evidence’ is over looked, or misinterpreted.
    I see the scientists are looking for a ‘God gene’. The fact they are doing the experiment, tells you, that we are interested in a God. Were we designed with that need?
    Many have free will to try to ignore that.
    That is why when you show evidence you go banging your head against a wall, because it is so obvious, and yet they will not respond. It is motive.And maybe on your side as well.
    That is why you need all the pieces to fit.
    You don’t need much scientific knowledge, to find the answers. Most people do not have any, or had any, in times past. The bible says there is no excuse, not to know. Its not dependent on your knowledge of science.

    http://patternsofcreation.weebly.com/

  69. One of the most frustrating things about UD is how quickly the comments wander from the subject of the opinion column. Someone makes a side-point about something, and then someone else who has a strong opinion about that side point jumps in to object, and before long the discussion has completely departed from the original subject, never to return. It is as if some people are just looking for a place to have an argument about a pet issue.

    Here we have a column about TE Denis Alexander and his misuse of Philo and Origen. Some logical extensions of this subject would be: (1) other aspects of the thought of Denis Alexander; (2) other aspects of the thought of Philo and Origen; (3) the history of Biblical interpretation regarding Genesis literalism; (4) Biblical hermeneutics more generally; (5) TE exegesis of Genesis; (6) TE Biblical hermeneutics more generally; (7) the relationship between TE hermeneutics and TE metaphysical and epistemological assumptions.

    But look where this thread has got to — a wrangle about free will. Alexander, Philo, Origen, the relationship between Genesis and modern science — have all been forgotten.

    This happens often here, and on Biologos, and on many other internet sites connected with evolution, creation, and design. Is there something about these subjects that causes discussions to rapidly drift off-topic, or is this a general feature of internet discussions based on opinion columns — that the original piece of writing gets quickly drowned in the interests of the people who make the comments?

    I’d greatly prefer it if people would exercise more discipline, and save their comments on off-topic issues for columns where those comments would be more pertinent. Some of us prefer to have a focused discussion on a single topic. But possibly I’m in the cranky minority.

    What do the other UD regulars think? Should we try, whether as columnists and as commenters, not to lead threads off topic, and not to allow them to be led off-topic? Or should we just let the discussion drift wherever it goes, and not worry too much about the original opinion piece?

    T.

  70. Timaeus wrote

    What do the other UD regulars think? Should we try, whether as columnists and as commenters, not to lead threads off topic, and not to allow them to be led off-topic? Or should we just let the discussion drift wherever it goes, and not worry too much about the original opinion piece?
    —————————————————
    I understand what you are saying, but there were so many ideas mentioned in this post by vjtorley, that we have not nearly , covered them all yet. Besides, this subject of the origins of life include science, religions, atheism, etc.
    And what is really taught about Adam and Eve, does include free will. That is what allowed them to make a choice. We were just exploring that a little. Many people wonder if there is a God why is the world like it is? The answer is, man has free will.
    But if you want to bring us back on track, please do so.

    http://patternsofcreation.weebly.com/

  71. Come on Joe. Read my post. No one is claiming that humans did not have a hand in writing the Bible. Even the Bible itself verifies that.

    “How do I know that humans had a hand in creating the Bible? I was unaware that was ever in any doubt.”

    I must not have been clear with my question. My bad. What I meant to ask was this:

    How do you “know” that Lilith “never appears in the Bible because it was censored out?”

  72. Mark:

    As you shouild understand, the problem is in the meaning of the words “have the freedom to embrace one course of action and reject another”. Would you agree that it means that, depending on your choice, the course of events will change? But that would be libertarian free will.

    And if that’s not what it means, what doesit mean? The answer is simple: nothing. Compatibilists play with words, and that’s all they do.

    There is no freedom if there is no libertarian free will. It’s as simple as that.

  73. Gpuccio. Compatabilists do believe that depending on your choice the course of events will change. They just believe that the act of choosing is a material event which may itself be determined. But that does not prevent it being a genuine choice.

  74. (1) the distinction between the question of how many degrees of free will someone has (which may vary from person to person) and the question of whether someone has any free will at all;

    (2) the distinction between the ontological question of whether a capacity is present or not, and the epistemological question of whether I can know it is present or not. I might be 70% sure that a young child has some degree of free will; that does not mean that it has 0.7 of a capacity for free choice

    Yup. The “gradualist” theory of free will is implicitly ascriptivist about free will. This sort of position relies on confusing the distinction between degrees of freedom and existence of free will, as well as the distinction between ontology and epistemology with regards to free will. Like the related ascriptivist position with regard to intentionality, this position is illogical, results in a vicious regress, and ultimately implies that free will doesn’t exist.

  75. Deuce

     

    One of the more interesting comments – although I don’t get the logic at all.

    1) “The “gradualist” theory of free will is implicitly ascriptivist about free will.”

    Why? I am not even sure that “ascriptivist” makes sense (see below) – but all sorts of capabilities and properties are both gradual and very clearly objective properties e.g. whether an organism is mobile.

    2) “This sort of position relies on confusing the distinction between degrees of freedom and existence of free will, as well as the distinction between ontology and epistemology with regards to free will.”

    I don’t see this at all.  Presumably you do not ascribe free will to a single fertilised cell.  Yet at some stage that cell becomes a fully fledged adult.  You might assume that at some point in this journey that person suddenly has free will – but that is nothing but an assumption.  All the evidence is that this is a gradual process as the person becomes more and more able to make conscious decisions.  Or do you remember that moment when you suddenly free will? (I don’t)

     

    3) “Like the related ascriptivist position with regard to intentionality, this position is illogical, results in a vicious regress, and ultimately implies that free will doesn’t exist.

    Looking at the item you link to I think you have Dennett quite wrong and it is you who are failing to think clearly.  When he talks about the intentional stance he is not saying that treating something as having intentions is an arbitrary choice which we could do for any object. He is saying that some objects behave in ways where it makes sense to think in terms of intentions.  It is a productive way of describing their behaviour.  Just as it makes sense to describe the details of weather in terms of fronts and depressions. But they have to behave in a way that merits that description.  The fact that we ourselves need to behave in a way that is intentional in order to do this is no more circular than saying we cannot talk about language without using language.

  76. Mark:

    Well, I apologize. I had expressed the wrong nonsense. Now you have corrected me with the right one :)

  77. Mark:

    More seriously, a question. Why “may”? Doubts, or there is something in the theory that I am missing?

  78. Gpuccio

    More seriously, a question. Why “may”? Doubts, or there is something in the theory that I am missing?

    I guess you are referring to my statement:

    “They just believe that the act of choosing is a material event which may itself be determined. But that does not prevent it being a genuine choice.”

    May be determined because possible there is a random element involved – that’s all.

    I get slightly irritated by claims that compatabilists are just playing with words. Do you really think I am being frivolous or have not thought about this deeply? I may be wrong – but I am sincere (and actually I am right)

  79. Timaeus wrote
    3) the history of Biblical interpretation regarding Genesis literalism
    ——————————————————-
    People have interpreted the Genesis accounts , with many different interpretations. Some say there are 2 different accounts of creation in Genesis. Some have said that creation was done on a time frame of 6 literal days ( earth days of 24 hours). Some say 6,000 years, going by a day for 1,000 years mentioned in the bible. The example God said about Adam, is that he would die in the ‘day’ of his eating of the tree. Adam lived 930 years, just under the 1,000 years. The bible says a year can be 1,000 years.
    The reason that the bible does not conflict with the guesstimate of time lines the scientists use today, is that, the bibles first verse just says:

    Genesis 1:1-4

    21st Century King James Version (KJ21)
    Genesis 1
    In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

    No length of time is mentioned at all. And the second verse is a separate thought. The second verse is the start of the first ‘day’.

    2The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters.

    The word ‘day’ can mean many different things. For example, you could say in the’day’ meaning when you were young. Or a ‘day’ can mean daylight hours. Or a work ‘day’ meaning 8 hrs. Or a ‘day’ can also be used as a measure of distance. It took a ‘day’ to get there.

    In verse 2 it also says, the ‘face’ of the waters. Well, we know it doesn’t mean a literal ‘face’.

    So many interpretations have been used over time, but the science known today actually, gives us more incite to the amazing creation we see.
    Science and creation are the same thing. The creation was made by the use of science.What the scientists are doing, is trying to figure out how it was done by reverse engineering. They are not learning anything new, they are just learning what already has been done.

    http://patternsofcreation.weebly.com/

  80. Mark:

    You are sincere, I have no doubts about that. But you are not the originator of compatibilism, just a follower.

    Let’s say that Dennett plays with words, and you believe him. After having thought about this deeply. And wrongly.

    Let’s say you are playing with words, even if you believe in your play. I am sorry that you are irritated, but that’s exactly what I think.

    Let’s say, with friendly respect for the person and cognitive antagonism for the idea, that you are using your intellect badly, and even if you believe in what you say, still you have some responsibility for using your intellect badly.

    You know, it’s a question of free will…

  81. Gpuccio

    But I am not a compatabilist because I believe Dennett. I was delighted to discover that he articulated and added vastly more detail to what I already believed.

    I suspect that “playing with words” means that you dismiss it as absurd and therefore are not inclined to make the effort of understanding it properly. About 10 years ago I had much the same feelings about ID (which I still think is deeply mistaken but I have made considerable efforts to understand it)and about 40 years ago about compatabilism. It was Bernard Williams, not Daniel Dennett, who made me realise compatabilism should be taken seriously – which is odd because he was not known as a compatabilist.

  82. Presumably you do not ascribe free will to a single fertilised cell. Yet at some stage that cell becomes a fully fledged adult. You might assume that at some point in this journey that person suddenly has free will – but that is nothing but an assumption. All the evidence is that this is a gradual process as the person becomes more and more able to make conscious decisions. Or do you remember that moment when you suddenly free will?

    All you’ve done here is repeat the mistake of confusing epistemology and ontology. Our certainty about when a developing human has free will, and our ability to remember it, have no bearing on when it exists. If it objectively exists independently of whether we think it does or not, and isn’t simply ascribed by us, then there must be a point in time when it comes to exist.

    He is saying that some objects behave in ways where it makes sense to think in terms of intentions. It is a productive way of describing their behaviour.

    Wrong. He’s additionally trying to use this “as-if” intentionality to account for the real thing in us. If you disagree, write an email to Bill Vallicella (the guy who’s blog I linked to).

    The fact that we ourselves need to behave in a way that is intentional in order to do this is no more circular than saying we cannot talk about language without using language.

    We don’t “behave in a way” that is intentional. We *are* intentional, and the intentional behavior follows from that. If you disagree, then you’re an eliminativist.

  83. All you’ve done here is repeat the mistake of confusing epistemology and ontology. Our certainty about when a developing human has free will, and our ability to remember it, have no bearing on when it exists. If it objectively exists independently of whether we think it does or not, and isn’t simply ascribed by us, then there must be a point in time when it comes to exist.

    We are not debating whether free will exists. We are debating whether it is an all or nothing phenomenon.  You are saying that the available evidence over whether this is true is irrelevant to whether it is true! 

    So how do we decide whether it is true or not if we cannot use evidence?

  84. Wrong. He’s additionally trying to use this “as-if” intentionality to account for the real thing in us. If you disagree, write an email to Bill Vallicella (the guy who’s blog I linked to).

    It would be much quicker if you provided a reference to the part of Dennett’s writing that convinced you of this.

  85. We don’t “behave in a way” that is intentional. We *are* intentional, and the intentional behavior follows from that. If you disagree, then you’re an eliminativist.

    Fair enough I will rephrase and enlarge my paragraph:

    The fact that we ourselves need to have intentions in order to do describe other people having intentions is no more circular than saying we cannot talk about language without using language.

  86. The pregnancy and divorce stories are from Jesus’s infancy when nobody knew the family. They’re the typical wonderous stories that tend to get attached to notables in that period. There’s no real reason to think they’re accurate.

    Notice that Joseph is basically a no-show during Jesus’s adulthood. His mother makes an appearance, as do some of his siblings (unless you’re Catholic), but Joseph isn’t there.

    And Jesus goes directly against scripture to forbid divorce. Curious, no?

  87. Timaeus,

    In my experience, TEs avoid dialogue with competent design thinkers, while Darwinists search for peripheral issues to distract attention from the main subject. True to form, no TEs have bothered to defend Dr. Alexander’s anti-historical comments, as articulated by VJT, or dared to challenge my characterization of their perverse exegetical formulations. Meanwhile, Darwinists labor over a side issue.

    The fact remains that TEs cannot provide a rational defense for their illogical theological formulations, which is why they feel the need to link these ideas with earlier Christians. No one in antiquity ever believed that original sin was, or even could be, collective or cumulative. That ridiculous posture belongs exclusively to Contemporary Christian Darwinists.

    But to provide a straight answer to a straight question, I think that we should respond to irrelevant comments by bringing the discussion back to its main points, a task that has been made much easier with the new format that allows us to begin anew at the left hand margin, leaving discussions of side issues for subsections and indentations which, which, if continued, will not disrupt the momentum of later comments.

  88. VJ said:

    “Good point. I don’t wish my post to be seen as an argument for literalism, but rather as an argument against historical revisionism – and in particular, the practice of invoking Jewish and Christian authorities who lived 2,000 years ago to support a new and radically different interpretation of Scripture by citing them out of their proper context.”

    I’m sorry for being a thorn in the flesh, but I do appreciate that YECs are also allowed to post and interact here on this ID forum.

    As a YECer, of course, I too am against historical revisionism. I too have read numerous times from numerous TE and OEC supporters the same type of claim. I have read it on Biologos as well. When Biologos first went on line, they had a page on the history of the interpretation of Genesis and it was way off. They had a place to post comments and I wrote a long comment with quotes and all showing that they were presenting false information. The comment was never published.

    Even in the comment section here, I found this post by Timaeus: “The TEs are right to say that extreme ultra-literalism is a modern phenomenon”…

    I resent the insinuation that a normal plain reading of the book of Genesis is “ultra-literalism” and I disagree with the idea that it is a modern phenomenon as well. He too is making the same mistake he is accusing others of. The evidence clearly supports the fact that the normal plain reading of the text, a historical reading of the text, was the most common interpretation of the text of Genesis. This even seems to be true of Jesus Himself. Even when allegory was used, the writers almost all believed that a literal historical event was being described – they just allegorized the meaning of the event.

    So all that to say, yes, I agree that historical revisionism is to be fervently rejected, but I also think that it is quite significant that the great majority of early writers, both Jewish and Christian, did take the normal and plain meaning of the words to be the intended message of Moses(who was probably editing written records left for him by the patriarchs themselves – Adam, Noah, etc.) I think this fact and it’s ramifications deserves more consideration. I understand that you don’t want to argue for literalism, but this fact does seem to support a normal plain reading for the text.

    Since this was the majority position of the Jews and Christians up until a few hundred years ago, I guess I have a problem saying that finally, thanks to people like Hutton and Lyell and Darwin, thanks to their anti-biblical interpretation of geology and biology, that now we finally have the right understanding of Genesis – meaning long days, maybe common descent, etc.

    Thanks to evolutionary ideas, we finally now know that the days of Genesis were long ages and that the creation account of chapter one is just a myth that needs to be read in light of what we now “know about evolution”?

    Somehow, this doesn’t seem like that is how God would have written His Word. If He knew that His people would have been mislead by the text for almost all of history, and if He knew that it would take godless men like Darwin to give us the right understanding of the text, don’t you think He could have found a different way to communicate His truth, a more accurate, easily understood way? I do.

    Jesus says that God’s Word is truth and that “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” If this is the true meaning of Genesis, can we really say that the Bible is God’s truth? because that is clearly NOT what the Bible says happened. And I think we are kidding ourselves if we claim otherwise.

    So, aren’t we guilty of spiritual revisionism here or scientific revisionism here when we try and harmonize modern evolution ideas into the creation account of Scripture?

    Don’t we also do that when we take the record of the global flood and claim it was either myth or just some kind of a local flood? We think the geological record interpreted from a uniformitarian perspective is more trustworthy than God’s Word, which claims to be an eyewitness account of the flood?

    The first 11 chapters are the foundation of the whole Bible. If they are not true, we really have nothing because the foundation upon which the whole of Christianity is built would be faulty. Also, when we reject the clear meaning of the text in Genesis 1-11, we cause other interpretation problems throughout Scripture when these passages are quoted and referred to as historical events. Another problem is that we cast God in a bad light. We end up making God responsible for the death, disease, suffering, and bloodshed that we see in the world today, when Genesis teaches that these things entered creation after man sinned as part of God’s curse on the earth. It truly is hard to understand how a world filled with these terrible things could be declared to be “very good” by God. That just doesn’t fit his character, His glory, or His love.

    So, although OECers don’t want the fact that a literal interpretation of Genesis was by far the normative interpretation of early Jews and Christians, can you see how it could be an argument for that?

    I know there are all kinds of modern approaches to Genesis, and I cannot 100% rule out that these must necessarily all be wrong simply because they are modern, but it does make them suspect in my view because of the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture and for the reasons I mentioned above.

    There are also the grammatical reason for taking the normal plain meaning of the text as the intended meaning of the inspired author as well, but that is for another day.

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