Paul Bruggink is probably the most wide-read on the topic of Christianity and evolution of all the readers of this blog that I know. He has created a helpful twelve-page chart surveying the of various views of a large group of Christian thinkers on the historicity of Adam and Eve (which he has permitted me to post here). We hope you find this chart helpful and if you have any contentions with it let us know in the comments!
Books (General), Creation, Creation/ Evolution, Scholars/ Theologians/ Pastors
No kidding! And I thought I was doing something big reading two authors on the topic. 🙂
Not that this directly deals with this question, but I am in the middle of a ‘series’ on what historians do and how its done. It may be of use for a quick read to sort of get a catch up in modern historical methodologies. It can be read here:
Most the names here don’t surprise me. But it is interesting to see the diversity in reasons as to why. I haven’t read William Dembski’s End of Christianity yet, but if I’m not mistaken, he raises the possibility of backward causation…which is a very philosophically weird position to take.
Thanks for sharing the link. What is “backward causation?”
Backwards causation is where you ’cause’ something to happen in the past. In Dembski’s case (if the interview I saw reported his position in the book), when Adam and Eve sinned, God somehow placed the effects of the sin in the past, prior to Adam and Eve’s actual existence. So, prior to Adam and Eve’s sin, death does not exist, and all the animals were living happily for who knows how many years before man showed up. Once man sinned, death now exists—but how does a Creationist account for the deaths that pre-date man? Well Dembski posits that God took the effects of their sin and applied it to the past prior to them!
Also, I think he does tries this move because of verses like 2 Timothy 1:9
That seems like quite a gymnastics like experiment in hermeneutics!
William Dembski does indeed discuss backwards causation in his book “The End of Christianity,”. He has five chapters on the “retroactive effects of the fall.” The following is from my Amazon review of his book:
Dembski’s hypothesis is that viewing natural evil as a consequence of the Fall is entirely compatible with mainstream understandings of cosmic and natural history. At the heart of his view is the idea that the effects of the Fall can be retroactive as well as proactive, much as the saving effects of the Cross stretch not only forward in time but also backward, saving, for instance, the Old Testament saints. He suggests that his view is compatible with young-earth creationism, old earth creationism and theistic evolution (evolutionary creationism). Dembski traces the history of his view back to 1846 (J. Jay Dana) and 1851 (Edward Hitchcock)and suggests that it didn’t catch on then because no one developed a coherent theory of how God could act across time.
The heart of Dembski’s book is Chapter 20, where he finally gets around to discussing his kairological (time measured by purpose) interpretation of Genesis 1-3 and retroactive natural evil. “A kairological reading of Genesis preserves the young-earth creationist emphasis on tracing all evil in the world to human sin: God creates a perfect world, God places humans in that world, they sin, and the world goes haywire.” However, “it must also account for how the world could go haywire before human sin. . . . An infinite God who transcends time can redeem a botched performance by acting across time. In particular, God could make effects of the Fall evident in creation so that these effects, though attributable to the Fall, come temporally prior to it. In other words, the effects of the Fall can be retroactive.”
In Dembski’s own words: “Genesis 1 describes God’s original plan for creation. The Fall and its consequences, in subverting that plan through human rebellion, elicits no radically new creative activity from God. . . . God’s immediate response to the Fall is therefore not to create anew but to control damage. The challenge God faces in controlling the damage resulting from this original sin is to make humans realize the full extent of their sin so that, in the fullness of time, we can fully embrace the redemption of Christ.” To do this, “God does not merely allow personal evils to run their course subsequent to the fall. In addition, God allows natural evils to run their course prior to the Fall. Thus, God himself wills the disordering of nature, making it defective on purpose . . . to bring humanity to its senses by making us realize the gravity of sin.”
” If we accept that God acts to anticipate the Fall, then, in the chronology leading up to the Fall, the world has already experienced the consequences of human sin in the form of natural evil. This seems to raise a difficulty, however, because humans who have yet to sin come into a world where natural evil is already raging. . . . The Garden of Eden, as a segregated area in which the effects of natural evil are not evident provides the way out of this difficulty. . . .The drama of the Fall unfolds in a segregated area. Genesis 2:8 refers to this area as a garden planted by God (i.e., the Garden of Eden). Now, ask yourself why God would need to plant a garden in a perfect world untouched by natural evil. Any why, once humans sin, must they be expelled from this garden and live outside it, where natural evil is present?”
Thank you for sharing. I presume one could argue that this is theologically possible (just like Mohler’s point that God made Adam as an adult and he made the universe as if it had existed for some time), but it seems to come out of the blue. I don’t get the motivation for such an elaborate argument.
Neither do I. Perhaps it has something to do with promoting Intelligent Design over biological evolution?
I am really uncertain how something can effect something prior to that something…it really makes no sense. I think three problems arise out of this 1) It isn’t in the text; which is weird for those like Creationists who are trying to stick close to the text. 2) It really makes no logical sense (even though there is a list of top Christian philosophers who give his book a recommendation). What prevents actions any does now from happening retroactively? What in the world does this look like?! haha— I need to see some sort of analogy. 3) In what meaningful way can we speak about the fall then, and ‘prior’ to the fall things were ‘good’? I think Ockham’s Razor is a good guiding principle for this argument…
should read “anyone does”
Here is an article on ‘backward causation’ for the philosophically bold — http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/causation-backwards/
I do get it either. I need to try to read that Stanford entry!
“The notion of backward causation, however, stands for the idea that the temporal order of cause and effect is a mere contingent feature and that there may be cases where the cause is causally prior to its effect but where the temporal order of the cause and effect is reversed with respect to normal causation, i.e. there may be cases where the effect temporally, but not causally, precedes its cause.”
That paragraph is saying that how we understand C&E is a dependent feature (of what I am unsure—perhaps how we phenomenally understand ‘time’?); So we understand C&E like C(t1)—>E(t2) [with t=time]. This is saying that with backward causation it would look like this: C(t1)—> E(t2)—> C(t1) or maybe E(t2)—>C(t1). The last bit:”i.e. there may be cases where the effect temporally, but not causally, precedes its cause.”” I’m not sure what it would be worth then to label something as ‘backward causation’ if there is no causal relationship. I think the other problem is how could we ever know? We generally see the past as a C–>E so I am uncertain how we could see the E proceeding the C. I would think that we’d either believe it was the C to begin with, or believe it had nothing to do with that particular C—>E relation.
At any rate, I don’t see Dembski’s work here as contributing anything worthwhile to the discussion. It doesn’t illuminate any text for me, rather it complicates it; maybe heaven on earth is really Eden, I mean why not right ;-)? It also inserts an unpopular philosophical understanding of C&E, that seems to be worth its weight in only theoretical ideological ‘fixes’, rather than something seriously worth considering; again, how could we know? This would also seem to lean towards a Gnostic feel of the way things are…you couldn’t get at the truth of things without having this special insight— I mean, science tells us of death on earth for millions of years, as it turns out! That may not be the case, well sort of?
Great piece of work. Is it possible to download a pdf of this?
It is interesting to read the various opinions on the validity of Adam and Eve. I am a Scientist (Biologist) who follows the religious argument because as a Christian the subject interests me. A recent anthropological paper (I do not have the reference) suggested the human race began with a cohort of humanoids who evolved specific psychological capabilities. Upon reading(hearing?) this I wondered how the religious community would take this information. For me it challenged the historical accuracy of a single adam. What has alway bothered me is Gen. 4:17 ‘And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son – Enoch’ Where did this woman come from? Where did the people come to fill the city? Scripture is silent on this. If the above referenced article is reasonable in that there was a cohort of humans then there was a number of other humans around with which to pair up with. Also, if we read the scripture ‘literally’ there were no other humans around so who would harm (kill) Cain let alone marry? Please do not tell me that Gen. 5:4 answers that question. If that is your answer then there is a lot of explaining to do on why a family member would attack the eldest sibling.
Science tries to explain what it can measure. As a system of thought it is limited to answer questions that are measurable. Other systems of thought can address questions that Science is incapable of answering. Hence, the argument of backward causation is reasonable in philosophy but not the empirical world.
Paul would you be able to send John a PDF version or do you want me to send it?
I don’t have a PDF version of it. I only have it as the Word table that I emailed to you on April 25, which I would be happy to send to John if someone can send me John’s email address, or, alternatively, you can just forward it to John.
Many thanks Brian and Paul. My email is john(at)thebrands.org.uk
Thanks for this! Very helpful.
By the way, you could easily create a pdf version of your table using something like CutePDF for instance.
I’ll be teaching on this topic soon. Would I be able to reproduce this chart and hand it out for my lecture?
I am sure Paul won’t mind. He has shared it openly here.
Richard (and anyone else),
I’m glad that you have found the chart to be helpful. Please feel free to make use of it.
Would it be possible for you to send me the word file for your chart? richard(at)emmanuelphx.org
Could you please also email me a word file as well? RileyPowell(at)post.harvard.edu
I’d also like a copy. email: markoza(at)netzero.net. Excellent work. Very profitable.
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