This week, we will finish up Chapter 2: “Roads Not Taken” of The Groaning of Creation.
We will examine the doctrine of the Fall and see whether or not it comports with evolutionary theory and the theology of Andrew Elphinstone.
Please answer one of the following:
- In Section 2.6 “Doing Without a Fall from Paradise”, Southgate writes in reference to the Fall: “[D]espite its complete lack of congruity with the scientific narrative of the unfolding of the biosphere, a sense that human sin is responsible for factors in the natural world quite beyond our power to influence remains strong.” In other words, even though science gives ample evidence that there was suffering and death (or “sin”) before the arrival of humans, why is there still a prevailing or lingering sense that human sin is still responsible for all the death and suffering that happens in the world in our collective conscious? Are we responsible for all the sin that has happened? Or is this a collective guilt that has been placed upon us by religion? Is it justified or unjustified to put the blame on us? Why is this sense still prevalent among many of us, even for believers who do not believe in the Fall?
- In Section 2.6, Patricia A. Williams believes that the Apostle Paul was misreading Genesis 2-3 “in order to provide the ‘catastrophe’ from which the Christ-event is our ‘rescue.’ She notes that what many commentators on the Hebrew Bible have noted, that there is no ‘fall’ tradition elsewhere in Old Testament texts that builds on Genesis 3.” Do you agree with her assessment here about Paul misreading the text? Was he playing “fast-and-loose” with Genesis 2-3? Or was he correct? State your reasons as to why or why not. What was Paul’s main reason for referencing Genesis 2-3 in the first place? If there was no “fall” then does that negate or nullify Jesus’ salvation (or ‘rescue’ mission) on the cross? Does the Old Testament reference original sin? State your reasons as to why or why not.
- In Section 2.6, Southgate writes: “A belief in an original dispensation lacking predation or violence is very influential on those advocating vegetarianism. Such thinkers tend to suggest that much of humans’ cruel and exploitative treatment of animals stems from the altered state of relationships after the Fall. Also there is among many Christians a fear that questioning a doctrine as central as the Fall would destabilize the faith and render it liable to further depredations by secularly minded scientists.” What do you make of this belief? Does the creation story advocate vegetarianism? Did we originally have a peaceful coexistence with animals? Is the Fall an essential doctrine of the Christian faith? Would Christianity collapse if the Fall was rendered false? Why or why not?
- In Section 2.6, state Southgate’s response to Martin Lloyd’s position that “If there was no fall…then nature is as God intended and there can be no redemption.” Furthermore, “Lloyd also notes the pastoral difficulty of having to admit to those who suffer that God might have intended a world in which there is suffering.” What is Lloyd’s overall argument for there being a cosmic Fall and why does he believe it is necessary for Christian theology? Do you agree with Lloyd or do you side with Southgate as he outlines his own position? Explain why or do you agree with neither of them.
- In Section 2.6, summarize T.F. Torrance’s position that “evil has ‘infiltrated these functions and features of nature, thereby giving them a malignant twist which makes them ‘disorderly’ in an irrational way.” What is his view on the Fall and the activity of Man afterwards? How does the Cross of Christ fit in with his theological viewpoints? Explain Southgate’s critique of Torrance’s theology. Do you agree with Southgate’s assessment? Why or why not?
- In Section 2.6, discuss Clark Pinnock’s statement that there might be a “demonic” power or force behind natural evil in this world. Do you believe in spiritual warfare? Why or why not? Can natural evils like earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and tornadoes, be attributed to demonic forces or malevolent spirits?
- In Section 2.7 “Freedom, Suffering, and Love”, Southgate introduces Andrew Elphinstone’s theology. According to Southgate, Elphinstone believes that the doctrine of the “wickedness of man” leads to “an exaggerated sense of depravity of humans.” Do you agree that this doctrine places too much blame upon humans? Is there some good left within mankind, or is he/she hopelessly lost? Also, was the sending of Jesus by God the Father a contingency plan just in case the creation screwed up? Or was sending Jesus God’s plan all along since the beginning? (i.e. was Jesus “Plan A” or “Plan B” for God?) State your reasons, or explain why you neither agree or disagree with either of them.
- In Section 2.7, do you agree with Elphinstone’s position the “we [humans] never evolve in any meaningful way beyond the humanity that was in Jesus, so the Christ’s playing a part in human affairs must mark the end of evolution’s capacity to effect meaningful change in humans”? In other words, do you agree with him that in Jesus we see the apex of human evolution in all possibilities? Explain his position and whether or not you agree with him and why.
- In Section 2.7, Southgate states his view on the role of humans in God’s grand view of creation. Do you agree with him that “God’s purposes with creation are not wholly bound up with humanity” or that “the whole of God’s long loving creative engagement with the universe was solely aimed at humans”? Is it plain hubris to claim that God loves or values humans more than, say, a butterfly or wasp? Or does God place equal amount of love on both or love all beings in creation equally? If humans were to disappear or had never came to being, would God’s love for creation remain the same or would it be different? If so, did God become more loving with the arrival of humans? Explain.