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Can the universe be accounted for without a creator?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Plain Old Bill, Jul 26, 2005.

  1. David Ekstrom

    David Ekstrom New Member

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    Marcia, I didn't mean to imply that you were calling Mercury a heretic. I actually was putting in my two cents viz-a-viz some others on this board that love to jump to conclusions and hurl invectives. But you have led this thread with grace and tact, and as a result, much light has been shed. I just wish all of us would take a lesson from your example. When we're screaming at each other, we aren't learning anything.
    I really enjoy reading Mercury's posts. They are very insightful. HOWEVER, I do think that Mercury has problems. Bro., I think your view of Original Sin borders on Pelagianism. Rom 5 tells us that the very act of Adam's sin is imputed to us (immediate imputation). This is the paradigm for how Christ's righteousness is immediately imputed to us. In other words, we are not only burdened under Original Corruption but also under Original Guilt.
    Original Sin is not merely a bad example or a bad influence. We are born "in the flesh" and apart from regeneration, we are lost. Without a literal Adam, I don't see how Original Sin can be maintained.
    I also think that, while much of what you said about Gen 2-3 was excellent, you still seem to miss the part of the story that depicts the creation of man as a distinct act from the creation of animals. If your account is correct, Gen 2 is actually a misleading metaphor.
    You could save that by saying that God, in His providence, granted a human soul to a couple proto-humans that He was guiding toward humanity.
     
  2. Marcia

    Marcia Active Member

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    Hello, David. I hope I didn't sound accusatory when I told you I had not said Mercury's views on creation were heretical. I was just trying to clarify my position and didn't want anyone to think I had said that. I understand what you were doing now. Thanks for the clarification. [​IMG]

    Why, thank you! I am learning from experience on the BB to try to be less emotional , in most cases. :D Sometimes I slip up. It seems discussions go better when no negative personal remarks are made.

    I was thinking about that statement of his on sin. I think you are right.

    I hope people realize the above remarks and the rest of your post (which I did not quote here) is directed to Mercury.

    Thanks, David. [​IMG]
     
  3. Marcia

    Marcia Active Member

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    Okay, thanks. I am enjoying it as well.

    Oh, okay. Have to go back and look.

    I do believe God can work in these ways, but we don't know everything about how God works in situations except when he tells us so we can't be sure He is working is such a situation. He might be, but we don't know. My issue is not whether God can work through the natural so much as how I view Genesis.

    I am probably not being clear on what I've said on this. What I am saying, based on what you believe, is that one day pre-humans do not have the image of God and then suddenly one day they do. Somehow, this does not seem to be in keeping with how God reveals his relationship to man. I don't think I can articulate it yet as to why this seems wrong to me (other than it departs from the Gen. account). I also cannot imagine pre-humans who become human. Either a being is human or it is not.

    Although I agree that our physical body is not what is meant by the image of God, I think our physical body as God created it is highly significant. It is quite different from the bodies of lower life animals (including apes) and imo, more beautiful and complete in an aethetic way than the bodies of animals (not that there are not beautiful animals). So I think there is a special significance in the belief that God created man from the beginning with a human body and mind, and not from letting us evolve from animals, which is denigrating to humans, imo. (And I speak as probably one of the top animal lovers on the BB).

    I think you make some good thought-provoking points here. I think Gen. 1 and 2 are both accounts of creation from different viewpoints. I agree that not every detail is given but I do believe what is said to be a literal account.

    Here is another place we disagree. I think the parts of Revelation you are referring to are highly symbolic because they are about the future and are apocalyptic. I do not think Genesis is the same genre.

    Somewhere in there you asked if I thought you had been logically consistent. I think so, but I would need to re-read all your posts carefully and think about it to really answer, and I just don't have time for that. [​IMG]
     
  4. Mercury

    Mercury New Member

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    I don't think I've ever seen so many posts make a point of not calling me a heretic (I counted four). Thanks David and Marcia. [​IMG]

    I'm well aware that I don't follow Augustine's view on Original Sin, and I realize that view has become the standard even among many non-Catholics. However, I don't see that as too big of a problem because I actually had trouble reconciling that view of Original Sin with Scripture even before I got into the debate over the historicity of Adam and Eve. I don't think there's many other doctrinal traditions built on such a weak scriptural foundation as Augustinian Original Sin (well, I can think of one other, but I don't want to get even further off-topic).

    I think my perspective on Original Sin (and I'm certainly not the first nor the only one to hold it) makes better sense out of what the Bible says about the destructive influence of sin, how it is passed down since Adam, how creation as a whole is in bondage because of it, and how Jesus shares fully in our human nature and temptation, yet without sin. As such, I don't see it as a fault with my view on Genesis 2-3. It's another of those things that I would continue to believe, even if I found out that my perspective on creation was wrong.

    I only have the most basic understanding of what Pelagianism is. I guess I should study that. From my understanding, Pelagius believed that Adam's sin affected Adam alone, and so each newborn begins in the same state Adam was in. By contrast, I believe that every person's sin affects the world by adding corruption to it, and every child is born into a world where the corruption from past sin lingers on and negatively influences them. The first humans lived in a world that was morally perfect. We do not.

    Pelagius also argued that the nature of humanity is inherently good, and that God's grace is not necessary for one to be saved. I disagree on both counts.

    I'm not a Pelagian, but I'm also not a Calvinist, and I think that may be why you object to my view. If you were to say that my view is incompatible with Calvinism, I would agree. (And as an Anabaptist, I don't see that as in any way problematic. ;) )

    Aside from the word "couple", that's pretty much my view.
     
  5. Mercury

    Mercury New Member

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    I completely agree with that. This is why I think the term "supernatural creation" wouldn't encompass God's work in creation, since that term seems to limit God's actions to what defies nature, while the Bible gives God credit for far more than that.

    Can you explain the "somehow"? I don't see how this is a problem. God endowed his image in pre-humans when he chose to. That made them human. That's no more arbitrary than how God chose to covenant with Abram at a certain point in time, or how God became flesh in the person of Jesus at a certain point in time. God reveals himself in time, in history.

    I have trouble imagining a lump of dust becoming human, but I don't think my lack of imagination is a good reason to doubt that such a thing is possible, especially when one keeps God in the picture.

    While I sympathize with you not being able to imagine my scenario, I don't see that as a problem for my view. I define being human as being a physical creature endowed with God's image, so to me it is not hard to imagine.

    That's a very subjective argument, and I'm not sure how to respond to it. I disagree with how different our bodies are from apes -- the main differences are brain size and posture. Our bodies also have vestiges that only make sense if we share ancestry with other mammals, such as the way we get goosebumps when we're cold or scared: a useful function for an animal with thick body hair, but just a source of amusement for humans. All that said, I still think the human body is a masterpiece. I think God's other creatures are masterpieces too, and even more masterful are the mechanisms God designed to bring about these masterpieces.

    As for the aesthetic argument, from my perspective (as a male), the human female form is more beautiful and complete in an aesthetic way than the male form. I think there's some plants that are more aesthetically beautiful than most animals. High magnifications of certain crystals are also very beautiful to me. I don't think aesthetic beauty indicates superiority. Since God made all these things, I think he is the ultimate source of all that beauty, and he's also the source of my ability to appreciate it.

    The only way that would be denigrating is if what makes us special is more than the image of God in us, since we agree that is not a physical image. I believe sharing God's image is entirely what makes us special. As such, I do not consider it denigrating to compare our bodies to other animals. (After all, scientists and doctors use these comparisons every day to further medical knowledge.)

    Not the same genre, but similar. Early Genesis is an apocalypse of the past the way Revelation is an apocalypse of the future. (And by "apocalypse" I mean an account that reveals momentous actions and events both on earth and in heaven through symbolic imagery. I don't mean a cosmic cataclysm that is necessarily destructive.) Neither the creation accounts in Genesis nor the book of Revelation claim to be eyewitness historical accounts.

    [ August 07, 2005, 01:28 AM: Message edited by: Mercury ]
     
  6. Marcia

    Marcia Active Member

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    I have trouble with the whole concept of a non-human becoming human. I see no biblical basis for it, and it seems to go against common sense. I realize the latter is subjective, but there it is. I think that although the human body is not the image of God, it is connected to it because God made us as a body/mind/spirit unity. So I don't divide the part of us that is the image of God from our bodies. And I don't think it can be divided. That thinking, imo, takes us towards a gnostic/New Age body-spirit duality.
     
  7. David Ekstrom

    David Ekstrom New Member

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    Marcia, I do appreciate your sense of body/mind unity. But I would have to disagree with you that our bodies are part of the image of God.
    Mercury, I appreciate your candor in saying that you do not accept the Augustinian view on Orig Sin. At least you're consistent and, obviously, have given much thought to your position.
    I can't accept it, however, because I do believe that Calvinism, for the most part, seems to explain the bible better than other systems (albeit I count Calvinism as a partial theory). Orig Sin is not distinctively a Roman Catholic doctrine. The Reformers accepted it as well. (From your post I gather that the Radicals may not have.) I can't see how Gen 2 actually supports your position, taken metaphorically or not. God creates the animals from the ground. Then, in a separate act, He creates man from the ground. The account of Gen 2 is a window to that actual events, whether its metaphorical or literal.
    I guess I must show my hand here. I think that Gen. 1 is entirely metaphorical. It doesn't even follow a chronological order because it is not making that kind of point. I see Gen 2 rather literal, although not in a YEC way, or even a way that precludes micro-evolution. Be that as it may, I can't see how even a metaphorical interpretation of Gen 2 can support a human continuity with animals.
    I do agree that the claim that animals didn't die before the Fall is bogus. The prophecy about the lion eating grass like an ox is metaphorical. Lions are carnivorous predators from the tip of their nose to the end of their tail. The threat of death to Adam would be threatening someone with something that doesn't exist. Adam would have had no clue as to what God was talking about. It would be like me saying to my daughter, "If you don't obey, then you're going to ubbley-doubly bimberslip."
     
  8. Gold Dragon

    Gold Dragon Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG] Marcia, Mercury, David.

    Great discussion with multiple dimensions, biblical truth by all sides while acknowledging and being respectful of differences. Also found is a sincere desire to understand each other's perspective and most importantly, God's truth.
     
  9. David Ekstrom

    David Ekstrom New Member

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    This has been one of the most helpful threads I have experienced. I learned a lot.
     
  10. Marcia

    Marcia Active Member

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    Same here.

    Gold Dragon, thanks for your comment.
     
  11. Mercury

    Mercury New Member

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    Marcia and David, I apologize for my long break from this thread. My mom came to visit me and other family members who live nearby. She stayed for a little over a week, and I didn't have time to post to the board. We had a great mini-vacation, by the way. I'm going to try and tie up some loose ends here, although this may just result in a few more knots. ;)

    I still think you are defining non-human differently than I do when I say the same thing. To me, the only difference between these non-humans and humans is that God had not endowed his image in them. Whatever physical differences existed between them and us are inconsequential (maybe they were shorter, hairier, etc.) -- at least inconsequential as far as defining humanness goes.

    I don't either, but I think there was a time before God endowed his image in earthly creatures. Once it was given, it was inseparable from the rest of each person. It was that change and not any mutation or mutations that made humans more than beasts.

    You'll get no argument from me on that. You may have noticed that I consistently avoided using the word "soul" or "spirit" to refer to God's image. That was intentional because I wanted to avoid the implication of gnostic/Hellenistic duality. I think God's image emerged in humans when God revealed himself to them and allowed them to relate to him. I agree that our body/mind/spirit forms a unit that cannot be divided, or if it could, it would be far less as parts than it is in sum. (I do of course believe that we will some day be translated into new bodies that are far different than our present bodies.)

    I think this hinges on a difference in what we think Genesis 2:19 is literally saying: "So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens...". You take that as a single act. I take that as a summary of many acts, all of which follow the template given in Genesis 2:7. God formed an elephant from the ground and breathed life into it, and the elephant became a living creature. God formed a lion from the ground and breathed life into it, and the lion became a living creature. God formed a poodle from the ground and breathed life into it, and the poodle became a living creature. Instead of the author repeating this ad nauseam, he summarizes it. He already outlined how God formed a creature from the ground earlier, so there was no need to be repetitive.

    A while ago I baked cookies. After mixing the batter, I took a spoonful of it and placed it on a cookie sheet, then used my fingers to smooth it out. Then, I filled the rest of the pan with spoonfuls of batter. Just as the rest of the cookies were made in the same way as the first one -- even though I didn't describe them in detail -- I also think the Genesis 2 account is conveying the picture of all the animals being formed the same way Adam was formed.

    Of course, I think this is a picture of creation, not a literal, historical summary. (And because of this, I can take the details more literally than you do, such as the order of God forming Adam first, then forming the animals and birds in a search for a suitable partner for Adam.) The account shows how the animals and humans are made from the same stuff that the earth is made of, and how their life comes from God. Humans are set apart from animals, but the difference is relational (Genesis 2:20), not in how their creation is described. The Genesis 2 account does not reveal how humans are made in God's image the way Genesis 1 does, but it does show how God deals with them in a special way.

    By the way, I realize I'm contradicting what I said in the last paragraph of [this post]. I now think that God breathing into Adam is meant to convey that Adam became a living being, not that he became a being sharing God's image. You've shown me some inconsistencies in my view and so I would now word that paragraph differently.
     
  12. David Ekstrom

    David Ekstrom New Member

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    I would point out that in 2:19 it does not say that God breathed the breath of life into the animals. There is a difference there between the creation of the animals and the creation of man.
    I wasn't very clear when I said that I took chap. two more literally. I would agree that 2:19 is a summary state of the various acts of creation of the animals. NIV uses "had formed," implying that the translators saw this verse as a flashback.
    Be that as it may, I still see the creation of man as depicted as a distinct act.
    BTW, in Paradise Lost, Milton gives a really neat picture of horses pulling themselves out of the ground. It seems clear that Milton didn't take the passage literally.
     
  13. David Ekstrom

    David Ekstrom New Member

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    Mercury, you and I hold very different paradigms. I can only understand mine but I'd like to try to understand yours.
    I've got two theological problems with your view. The first is Orig Sin. It's not clear to me how, in your view, I am born in sin. It's not clear to me what "the flesh" is in your view. Is there a part in us that is inherently evil? If there is, is it a universal condition of mankind? If so, did God create it? If God didn't create it, and it is univeral to all mankind, then it was acquired somehow. If it was only acquired at the individual level then it couldn't be universal because, hypothetically, there'd be those who didn't acquire it (unless God ordained it, which I strongly doubt you would hold). It seems that an acquired, universal condition of mankind must be traced back to a common source. That common source has got to be a unity, that is, quite literally, one man who is the father of all humanity.
    I'm not even sure what you believe "sin" is.
    Let me spell out my problem. Pelagius taught, if I'm not mistaken, that people are sinners by choice, not birth. Adam may have provided a bad example and his descendants may have created a bad environment, but the individual is free to sin or not to sin. If he is a sinner, it's because he sins. (In contrast, I would say that he sins because he's a sinner.) It seems to me that if one held Pelagianism, he would have to concede that, at least theoretically, a person could be born, live, and die without ever sinning. Such a person apparently would not need Christ as Savior. Whether or not such a case ever occurred, it seems to me that a Pelagianist would have to grant the possibility. Hypothetically, a person could be saved on his own merit apart from the work of Christ.
    One who doesn't believe in a literal Adam might be in a position to out-Pelagius Pelagius. But what is your view?
    A second problem is with Federal Headship. Christ is said to be our Second Adam. All humanity stands as sinners in Adam. Believers stand as righteous in Christ. Just as we are guilty in Adam, we are righteous in Christ. Just as we died in Adam, we are made alive in Christ. But if we are not really guilty in Adam, then how can the analogy of our righteousness in Christ work? If our standing in Adam is metaphorical, then is our standing in Christ metaphorical?
    You're probably chuckling and saying, "This guy just doesn't get it!" That's because I'm looking through my own paradigm and I can't reconcile what you're saying with it.
     
  14. Marcia

    Marcia Active Member

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    Do you think God's image includes intelligence and the ability to reason abstractly (sp?), which animals do not seem to do? If so, were humans at one time unable to do reason abstractly?

    So what were humans before God endowed his image? Were they exactly like beasts? If so, how does this jive with the explicit statement that God creates man separately from animals? It seems you are taking the creation of man to mean something else, i.e., that God endowed some beasts with his image.
     
  15. Mercury

    Mercury New Member

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    I think it is strongly implied, even though it isn't explicitly stated. What was the result of God breathing into Adam?

    "[T]hen the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." (Genesis 2:7)

    The Hebrew words translated "living creature" are nephesh chayah. Those same words are used to describe the animals:

    "So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name." (Genesis 2:19)

    Adam was formed from the ground and became a living creature when God breathed into him. The animals were also formed from the ground and became living creatures. While the text doesn't explicitly duplicate the entire process, the process for each animal starts the same (with ground being formed by God) and ends the same (with the ground becoming a living creature). If the ground didn't turn into a living creature because of God's breath, then how did it become alive? I think within the account, the plainest and least speculative interpretation is that the process was the same and God's breath brought life to man and the beasts and birds. (This also accords well with Psalm 104:29-30 which shows how this process is still ongoing, and not just something in the past.)

    I don't (any longer) see the breath from God as something unique that only Adam and not the animals received. If so, the stated result of the breath would not be something shared by Adam and the beasts and birds. What made Adam special was having the image of God, not having breath or being a living creature.

    I'm pretty sure that the only reason the NIV does that is to iron out an apparent contradiction with the order in Genesis 1 (the NIV tries to smooth out apparent contradictions far more than most translations). As far as I'm aware, from a Hebrew standpoint, there's just as much contextual justification for rendering verse 19 as "Now the LORD God had formed..." as rendering verse 18 as "The LORD God had said..." or verse 15 as "The LORD God had taken..." or verse 21 as "Now the LORD God had caused...". It's always a possible rendering due to the ambiguity of Hebrew tenses, but there's no reason to prefer it over a more straight-forward, sequential rendering that translates the connective the same way in each verse.

    Now, one could make the case that the NIV's reading is still the right way to translate the text because it does help smooth out the difference in order between Genesis 1 and 2. But, I doubt you would be the person to argue for that, since you've already said that you don't think the order in Genesis 1 is historical. Based on that, what reason do you have for preferring a scrambled order to Genesis 2? Without looking to Genesis 1, I see no reason to even consider such a rendering.

    I do too -- and I also think verse 19 is a summary of the distinct acts to create each beast and bird. They were each formed out of the ground by God, just like Adam. (But, as Psalm 104 indicates, I think this is true about the first animals in the same way it is true about each animal today -- they are formed by God from the ground and given life, but this does not discount what we see on National Geographic. Neither Genesis 2 nor Psalm 104 is a scientific account of animal life cycles.)

    I enjoy that book too. [​IMG]
     
  16. Mercury

    Mercury New Member

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    Oh boy, while I was responding to the first post, two more were added! I only have time to respond to one right now. I'll get back to you on your second post later, David.

    I think having the image of God allows us (a) to create, (b) to reflect, and (c) to relate. We are creative beings in that we can write poetry and perform plays where we make our own imaginary worlds. Birds can create nests and monkeys can spatter paint on a canvas, but I don't think that is the same type of creativity we are capable of. We are also able to reflect ourselves in what we make. Just as God reflected his image in his creations, we too can reflect ourselves in our artistic and creative work. We can also reflect in the other sense of the word: reflecting on the past, or on hypothetical situations. This too involves creating of a sort -- we bring something that did not exist into existence in our mind by thinking it. Finally, we relate to other people and to the rest of creation in a way far more profound than the other animals. We are even able to relate to that which transcends our physical world, and especially to the One who made us. He has enabled us to do so.

    Now, all three of these properties require intelligence, but intelligence alone does not necessarily lead to them. I don't think that animals become closer to having the image of God based on their intelligence. I would say that some intelligence and reasoning ability are necessary prerequisites for the image of God. God's image in us allows us to use what we already have (our physical body including our brain) in deeper ways.

    They were exactly like the one beast that God was about to endow his image in. This beast would not be like any other beast any more than a cat is like a hippo. But, it would not yet be human because it did not yet have the image of God, which I believe is the defining characteristic of humanity.

    I think I explained this somewhat with my comments to David. The difference between man and the beasts and birds in Genesis 2 is relational, not in how they were created. They were all formed from the ground, all made alive by God. Genesis 2 doesn't even mention the image of God, though it demonstrates it in how God relates to Adam in a way different than the animals, among other things. (Oh, and excuse the nitpick, but the word's jibe -- jive is a dance. ;) )

    As you know, I don't take the Genesis 2 account historically. I read it about the same way I read Psalm 104. I think that "the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" is anthropomorphic language the same way as "when you open your hand, they are filled with good things" (Psalm 104:28). God's hand formed Adam and feeds modern lions, but this is not a physical description. It is still very real, and we'd do wrong to write off either passage as "mere poetry". God really is involved in both how humanity came about and how every creature is fed.

    I think what you may be struggling with is how I acknowledge that Genesis 2 speaks of God literally breathing into Adam, yet I don't think that historically describes how the first human came about. Again, this is the same thing I do with the other passage where I acknowledge that Psalm 104 literally says that animals are fed when God opens his hand, yet I don't think that contradicts with how animals prey and forage. God really provides my daily bread too, even though I work and prepare that food myself. I don't see a problem with acknowledging that Genesis 2, Psalm 104 and the Lord's Prayer are all very true, even though they are not meant to be literal, physical descriptions of what happens. They are much more than physical descriptions, since they show God's involvement in matters where we can only perceive the physical dimension. We don't need Scripture to reveal the physical side of these things, since that we can study ourselves. God has revealed that which goes beyond what we can naturally study, and this is a reason why the Bible is so much more valuable than any science textbook or encyclopedia.
     
  17. Mercury

    Mercury New Member

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    We are born in a sinful environment. Sin is all around us, and without God's revelation and grace, we would repeatedly succumb to it. With each sin we'd further our bondage to it and increase sin's bondage on others as well.

    Which verses do you think teach that we are created with sin within us? In Psalm 51:5 the psalmist says that "I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." I take that as a similar expression to Psalm 58:3 where the same psalmist says that "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies." I think it's pretty clear that both of these verses are employing hyperbole to make their point. Less exaggerated language is found in Genesis 8:21 where God says that "the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth."

    In Romans 5:12, Paul says that "just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned". Paul doesn't say that Adam's sin spread to all humans, but rather that death spread to all humans because they all sin. And, verse 14 clarifies that death also reigned over those who didn't sin by breaking a law. The consequence of Adam's sin was that humans die: we no longer have access to what the tree of life and the garden of Eden represent; we are separated from God's perfect sustenance. This affects babies who have not yet sinned themselves as well as mature humans, all of which have sinned.

    > It's not clear to me what "the flesh" is in your view.
    Flesh isn't our body. In many cases, "the flesh" and "the world" and "human wisdom" are interchangeable in Scripture. They refer to knowledge and desires that are set against God or refuse to acknowledge God.

    > Is there a part in us that is inherently evil?
    No, there's no flaw in how we are created, but our autonomy gives us the capacity to do evil, and left to our own devices, sooner rather than later we will. It is only by God's revelation and grace that we can submit our will to God's. Our ability to respond to God (even if we choose not to exercise it) is evidence of the goodness of our creation.

    > If there is, is it a universal condition of mankind? If so, did God create it? If God didn't create it, and it is univeral to all mankind, then it was acquired somehow.
    I think our ability to reject God was acquired when God endowed his image in humans. Before that, we were not capable of rejecting God. But when God revealed himself, it happened:

    "For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen." (Romans 1:21-25)

    They claimed to be wise (metaphorically, they had eaten of the tree of knowledge), but the knowledge they gained was futile when separated from God. They proceeded to serve their own desires, rather than serving their Creator.

    > If it was only acquired at the individual level then it couldn't be universal because, hypothetically, there'd be those who didn't acquire it (unless God ordained it, which I strongly doubt you would hold). It seems that an acquired, universal condition of mankind must be traced back to a common source. That common source has got to be a unity, that is, quite literally, one man who is the father of all humanity.
    Or one community. Falling short of God is an inevitable consequence for those with a free will who lack perfect knowledge.

    > I'm not even sure what you believe "sin" is.
    Sin is us going against God and in some way falling short of God's will for us. It's not something we're born with, but rather something we do (even if just by thinking).

    > Let me spell out my problem. Pelagius taught, if I'm not mistaken, that people are sinners by choice, not birth. Adam may have provided a bad example and his descendants may have created a bad environment, but the individual is free to sin or not to sin. If he is a sinner, it's because he sins.
    I agree with him that we are sinners because we sin, but aside from God's revelation and grace, we would have no hope of being rescued from our sins. And, as I said above, sinning is inevitable for every human who has freedom and yet lacks God's wisdom.

    > (In contrast, I would say that he sins because he's a sinner.)
    I think that passes the buck for our sinfulness both back to Adam, and back to our Creator. I think we are personally responsible for our sin. That also makes Jesus' sinlessness far less amazing: he couldn't sin, because he wasn't a sinner! By contrast, Hebrews says that Jesus was made like us in every way, was tempted as we are, and as a result is a high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 2:14-18, 4:15). That does not make sense if Jesus lacked the nature that would make the temptation real.

    > It seems to me that if one held Pelagianism, he would have to concede that, at least theoretically, a person could be born, live, and die without ever sinning.
    Yes, and that's exactly what Jesus did! He was human just like us, tempted just like us, but without sin. Now, it's also possible that an embryo or baby could be killed before they ever sinned. I realize that. The Bible doesn't provide a lot of details about those cases, but (un)fortunately, none of us who discuss these kinds of issues are in such a predicament. We've all sinned. Sinning comes naturally (yes, I believe that too), and we haven't managed to do what Jesus did in perfectly submitting to his Father's will.

    > Such a person apparently would not need Christ as Savior.
    Such a person (an embryo or baby who had not yet sinned) would also not have any way to consciously accept what Jesus has done for them. I think Jesus has a way of granting eternal life to them too, but it isn't clearly defined in the Bible. (Perhaps for good reason -- fetuses and babies can't read.)

    > Hypothetically, a person could be saved on his own merit apart from the work of Christ.
    Jesus conquered death and Hades, and that benefits both those of us who have sinned, and those who did not live long enough to be able to sin. Neither group is saved by their own merit, but rather by Christ's work. I don't see how the other option is more palatable. Others say that babies are sinful from before birth, but that they aren't yet accountable for their sinfulness, so they somehow are treated as though they were righteous in God's eyes. If a person really took the sinfulness of babies seriously, then they would believe in infant baptism (it's no coincidence that the doctrine of Original Sin was formulated in a church that practiced infant baptism).

    My view is that Adam represents the first humans -- people just like the ones described in Romans 1:21-25. We have two templates to choose from. Adam is one template, and Christ is the other. We die in Adam and we fully live in Christ. Adam's sin causes our death while Christ's sacrifice makes possible our eternal life. As for our guilt, there's no need to look to a distant ancestor for that -- we need only look in a mirror. We personally are guilty before God. But, Christ has lived the perfect life, died for our sins, risen to show the defeat of death. In Jesus we have God incarnate revealing a different template for our lives than what we find in Adam. He's paid for our sins -- they no longer need to separate us from God. We need only to accept what he's done and make him Lord of our life. When we do, we'll be given a new life that starts now and lasts beyond the grave into eternity. We'll work with God to bring in his kingdom now while also anticipating his final triumph.

    To zero in on one verse, Romans 5:19 says that "For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous." I interpret both halves the same way. We're made sinners by what Adam did because we choose to follow his template (and aside from Christ, there's no other option). We're made righteous by what Christ did because we choose to follow him. I think that if one advocated an stricter approach to this verse that left out the choice, it would lead to universalism: in Adam all were made sinners, but in Christ all will be made righteous.

    Yes, but still real. We aren't literally, physically born of God. It's a metaphor. But, it refers to something real that is more than the physical metaphors, not less than them.

    Well, I'm thinking that our disagreement has more to do with how we feel about Calvinism than how we feel about creation and evolution.
     
  18. David Ekstrom

    David Ekstrom New Member

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    I don't see my objections to your scenario as being Calvinistic in nature. I'm not a very good Calvinist (I've been told that and I am willing to embrace it.) Catholics, Orthodox and Arminian and Reformed Protestants all hold to Original Sin.

    You mentioned the case of infants. Baptists posit a view known as Accountability. The idea is that the sacrifice of Christ is imputed to those unable to knowingly receive Him due to mental inability or defect. While the Scripture is silent on the subject (since infants can't read) I don't worry at all. My Father is far more merciful and compassionate than anything I can imagine. I trust my young daughter in God's hands. If she died today, she will be in the hands of my merciful God who gave His only Son to save us. No, I have nothing to fear.

    But Bro., you overlooked my hypothetical. It seems to me that, according to your view, it's a possibility that Bill Jones will be born, grow up and live to be 100 years old and never commit a sin. You maintain, I think, that the sin of Adam is merely a metaphor for the bad influence that humanity places around us. Since, by our own free will, we can and do resist that influence at times, the possibility remains that Bill Jones could resist it all of the time. In such a case, Bill will go to heaven apart from the sacrifice of Christ. It does no good to argue that such a case is not likely because I'm putting forth a hypothetical. Given your premises, it seems to me, that such a case is possible. It makes no difference to the point if such a case is ever actually realized.

    Of course "flesh" isn't our bodies. In Romans 7-8, Paul speaks of an inherent drive toward evil in us. In fact, in chapter 8, he makes the point that we are either in the Spirit (the Holy Spirit) or in the flesh. That is, there is a demarcation between those who have been born again and those who have not. Those "in the flesh" have a mind that is hostile to God, does not and cannot submit to God's law, and cannot please God. It is not a question of knowledge or awareness but of predisposition and ability. This does not seem to work at all with your system.

    Christ was sinless not because He was a man but because He was the virgin-born God-Man. I realize that the impeccability of Christ is a mystery to us. If He was sinless, were His temptations real? There's just no way for us to understand what it's like to be a God-Man. I agree with Millard Ericson, who points out that, since the Fall, we don't even know what it's like to be fully human!
     
  19. Marcia

    Marcia Active Member

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    The problem here is that Ps 104 and the Lord's Prayer are not presented as historical narrative, whereas the creation of the world (and of man and woman) is presented as such.

    Ps. 104 is clearly poetic.

    The Lord's Prayer to give us this day our daily bread is a petition. We don't need to say, "Please have me work today so that I can make enough so I can buy food to eat." Asking God to give us our daily bread is the simplest way to put something that varies for every person, depending on how God provides for them. It's meant to be a model for everyone.

    So I have to say that the analogy with Ps 104 and the Lord's Prayer is not a valid one.

    Why does God go to the trouble to tell us he creates man, apart from saying he creates the beasts, and that he then gives man the breath of life? If man came from beasts, why doesn't the account say so? Isn't it misleading of God to make it sound like the creation of man is separate from the creation of beasts?

    If what you say were true, then God could have said that he created the beasts and then one day gave the image of God to a beast so that it became a man. But he doesn't do this.
     
  20. Mercury

    Mercury New Member

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    Great, another double-whammy. :D

    No, I responded to that. I said that only one person ever did that -- Jesus (except for the bit about living to 100). To further quote myself:
    </font>
    • "Sin is all around us, and without God's revelation and grace, we would repeatedly succumb to it."</font>
    • "No, there's no flaw in how we are created, but our autonomy gives us the capacity to do evil, and left to our own devices, sooner rather than later we will."</font>
    • "I agree with him that we are sinners because we sin, but aside from God's revelation and grace, we would have no hope of being rescued from our sins. And, as I said above, sinning is inevitable for every human who has freedom and yet lacks God's wisdom."</font>
    • "We've all sinned. Sinning comes naturally (yes, I believe that too), and we haven't managed to do what Jesus did in perfectly submitting to his Father's will."</font>
    • "We're made sinners by what Adam did because we choose to follow his template (and aside from Christ, there's no other option)."</font>
    Frankly, I'm not sure how you missed my answer to that. It was a thread present throughout my post. ;)

    I don't think you'll ever catch me using the phrase "merely a metaphor" since it's diametrically opposed to what I believe metaphors are for. Metaphors reveal things that go beyond the physical description. There are not "mere" at all. It would be more accurate to refer to "mere history" than "mere metaphor", since if an account is historical, it could be said that that is all it is. If it is metaphorical, it is more than what the metaphor literally means. If the description of God breathing into Adam was mere history, then it was just God physically, literally performing a type of CPR on a lump of ground he formed. If it is metaphorical, it represents something much more: God, who is the eternal I AM, endowing another creature with being. The words are far more evocative as metaphor than as history.

    With that clarified, I also never said that Adam's sin is a metaphor for a bad influence. I think Adam's sin represents the falling away of the first humans as described in the first chapter of Romans. The difference is in how I see their sin transmitted to us today. I believe you hold to the view that we all inherit that sin from Adam and so are sinners before we sin. I do not think Adam's sin is transmitted in that fashion, but rather every sin has a corrupting influence on our world, on cultures, on people. We are born into a sinful world, rather than being created with sin.

    As I said before, I think that hypothetical is not hypothetical: it really happened in the person of Jesus Christ. Nobody else has done so. Why not? Because the Bible says so. It doesn't just say that we're all sinners, but that we've all sinned.

    Nor does it work with a plain sense reading of Romans 2:14-16, without making the "now even excuse them" bit merely an impossible hypothetical. I think your view not only sets Scripture against Scripture, but does so within the book of Romans, written by the same person to the same people. This is part of what prompted my comments about Calvinism. Do you not see that this is tied to "total depravity", the T in TULIP? We could discuss this further, but we'd be discussing Calvinism/Arminianism, not creation. That's not a topic I have a great interest in, and those debates tend to not go well here.

    I didn't say Christ was sinless because he was a man, and I agree that he is the virgin-born God-Man. I said Jesus was fully human, "made like his brothers in every way", tempted like we are, and yet remained sinless. With your view, Jesus was made like us in every way, except in the one way that really matters: our having an "original sin" nature. The most you could say is that Jesus was made like Adam in every way, which is not as far as Hebrews goes. Think of what your view of Original Sin offers over mine. It ensures that every person is born with an inherent flaw that they derive from Adam. Jesus dies to remove that flaw along with the sins people were forced to commit because they had that flaw. With my view, we're all in the same position as Adam, and even though we all reject God, just as he did, Jesus still dies for us. Jesus doesn't die to correct a hereditary defect that slipped into the human race, but to reconcile people to him even though they've rejected him.

    This is what I think is the biggest weakness in your view. It cannot account for Christ's incarnation and temptation being real. It's easy to say "it's a mystery", and I agree, but I think my view is compatible with that mystery, while your view contradicts it. (But, you haven't explained your view in detail, so perhaps I'm just not understanding it.) Also, it makes our guilt against God less serious since it's not really our fault, but rather a problem with our nature. I'm not sure how much apologetics debate you've done, but in my experience, the concept of Augustinian Original Sin factors into about half of atheist arguments against God. It just doesn't seem fair; it seems like a setup, like God correcting a flaw within us that was Adam's fault and our Creator's fault, not our fault. By moving beyond Augustine and back to the Bible, I think it's possible to reveal a far more consistent view of sin that not only removes many of the logical problems in the traditional view, but also is more consistent with the nature of God.
     
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