God at War in Ithilien, Part 3

angel_of_entropy_by_jflaxman-d6iz278My thoughts here aren’t directly related to comments Tait makes in his series on Greg’s warfare worldview though I’m posting them underneath our series interacting with Tait’s review of Greg’s proposal because they have to do with Greg’s view. We’ll have some closing thoughts to make with respect to Tait’s series in a subsequent post.

Just today Greg posted an abbreviated version of a longer 2008 essay. There’s a lot to the essay, but I’d like here just to respond the following comments from it:

“A fourth possibility is the one I at present find most plausible. In his book Genesis Unbound (Multnomah, 1996) John Sailhamer presents a compelling interpretation of Genesis 1 that sees it as a historical narrative (viz. not mythic poetry) but that is nevertheless compatible with the standard scientific understanding that nature was full of violence and suffering for millions of years before humans arrived on the scene.

“To put the matter succinctly, Sailhamer argues that when people read the Genesis account as though it were an account of creation as a whole, they are reading the account anachronistically. When ancient people thought of the earth (eretz), they thought of the land they knew or of a particular parcel of land that was under consideration. They had no concept of the earth as a planet. Sailhammer further argues that the various things that are formed over six days of creation (light, sun, stars, vegetation, etc.) are spoken of phenomenologically – that is, from the perspective of one situated in this land. And it is the finished production of this specific land– not the whole of the cosmos –that is declared “good” by God. [Interestingly enough, a number of earlier conservative Bible commentators, such as Merill Unger, held this view].

“If this interpretation is accepted, we should see Eden as a newly formed beachhead of God’s rule on an otherwise corrupted planet. God populated Eden with newly created, non-carnivorous animals (Gen. 1:31) that reflect his creational ideal of non-violence. As his intended viceroys, he put humans in charge, commanding them to guard (samar) the garden (Gen. 2:15) and subdue (kabas) the earth. The goal was to gradually advance their rule by overcoming forces of evil and restoring creation. Our commission was, and yet is, to carry out God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). When the earliest humans rebelled, however, they opened the floodgates of demonic forces into Eden and it quickly became part of the corrupted creation. On this interpretation, this is what Paul refers to when he says sin and death entered the world (eretiz) through Adam.”

At this point I’m just thinking out loud to voice questions and problems I have with this:

(1) Greg holds to an evolutionary view of human origins. Given this much, he knows there is no single, historical pair Adam and Eve. The evolutionary origins of our race mean things are a bit more spread out (geographically and temporally). So the creation of human beings can’t be viewed as insulated from its violent/fallen context in a way that his proposal seems to ask us to imagine. So it’s difficult to see how this “beachhead” gets fashioned by God within and materially continuous with the fallen, infected world.

(2) Is not God in Greg’s (via Sailhamer) view as clumsy and bumbling a fashioner of the world and its creative capacities as is God in the views Greg levels this same criticism against? Eons of violent, predatory flesh-eating animals are a clumsy and unbenevolent way to go about it, but quarantining Adam and Eve and some non-violent animals in a garden in the midst of a violent planet confronting a cosmic intelligence of unspeakable powers who, in spite of the quarantined safety of the beachhead, has full access to Adam and Eve—this is not clumsy and inefficient? We’re supposed to believe that two pre-modern human beings in a garden in Mesopotamia had a fighting chance against a cosmic warring intelligence whose powers shape matter?

(3) Exactly how were human beings without powers at all equal to Satan’s supposed to subdue Satan’s powers and reverse its effects outside the garden? Just grow the garden? Expand the garden outwards into the violence and death that surrounded while always remaining within the protection of the garden? By what means, seeing that human beings don’t possess the power to “affect matter” on a molecular or quantum level in an abiding and permanent way as Satan supposedly does?

Consider the nature of Satan’s powers on Greg’s view. They extend to the molecular and even sub-atomic world. The 2nd law of thermodynamics itself is Satan’s work. He has the power to pervert nature’s God-given capacities for creative becoming on an evolutionary scale. Humans have only very recently discovered the molecular world and DNA, and even now our genetically modified organisms and cross-bred animal species don’t have the inherent power to procreate their changes naturally to the next generation. Exactly how were Adam and Eve and their children to arrest and subdue the decaying effects of Satan’s misused powers without equal or greater powers? By what natural endowments does Greg suppose human beings had the power to reverse entropy?

(4) Is there not an internal contradiction within Greg’s own premises? Consider—Satan was originally contracted to be CEO of all matter. And this covenant is inviolable (presumably) until the eschaton. And per Greg’s arguments, Satan’s contract extends to all matter, not just planet Earth. That’s how (Rom 8) “all creation” falls into decay and death with Satan when he falls. The problem here emerges in supposing God then refashions part of this fallen created order to exclude everything violent and all death and entropy into which he places Adam and Eve. On what contractual grounds did God wrest matter from Satan—the same matter whose maintenance God gave Satan in a covenant not even God can rescind before the end? And if God can refashion matter to its original goodness (i.e., void of violence, death, disease, decay and even free from the 2nd law of thermodynamics) without violating his covenant with Satan, then that covenant obviously has some major loopholes. God may intervene and restore matter, as he does in Genesis 1-2. But in that case the whole value of Greg’s proposal for theodicy (and theodicy is what this is all about) fails. Why not a bigger garden? Why not quarantine Satan (death, decay, etc.) and give humanity the main lot to work with? At least even the odds. There are conceivable scenarios that render Greg’s proposal implausible without having to abandon freedom and responsibility to embrace the Blueprint worldview.

(5) Lastly, the whole notion of an original blissful state which it was our job to ‘return to’ and which redemption ultimately ‘restores’ is, I think, a mistaken starting point. Creation was from the get-go not what it was intended to finally become. Our original primeval goodness was supposed to go somewhere, to become something. Our destiny, apart from sin and evil, was always in our future and always dependent upon the ultimate incarnation of the Creator. If creation is for incarnation, as we’ve argued, then only the Incarnate One could both be and fulfill creation’s telos. This rather weakens the appeal of Greg’s proposal which asks us to imagine human beings in their natural state endowed with inherent powers capable of healing the world and fulfilling it but falling into incompetency. On the contrary, even apart from our being sinful, we’ve always been a part of the world needing to be fulfilled.

There’s more to discuss, but we’ll have to leave it there for now.

(Angel of Entropy by jflaxman)

One comment on “God at War in Ithilien, Part 3

  1. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    There’s a real problem here that flows from Boyd’s progressive-biblicistic hermeneutic.


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