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Home » The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil » Chapter 6: “The Call of Humanity” – Part I

Chapter 6: “The Call of Humanity” – Part I






Q: In Section 6.2, summarize the Orthodox view of freedom and the eucharist in contrast with the Western philosophical and theological understanding of both. Does the Orthodox view of both freedom and the eucharist hold more weight than the Western view?  Why or why not?



Western freedom is a moral or psychological capacity of choice.  Orthodoxy is affirming or denying anything involving their own existence or rephrased to affirm or deny the sovereignty of God.  Similarly, both have the ability to accept or reject God, but Orthodoxy is specifically in choosing to support God and His mission or not.  To affirm creation or deny it, be good or be bad.  Orthodoxy boils down the choice to its essence and ramifications.


The Western Eucharist is taking in God’s mercy and forgiveness of sins.  Orthodoxy is offering of self back to God.  Orthodoxy sees the Trinity as very self-giving and true freedom comes from being like God and giving.  The Western is almost passive while Orthodoxy is more active in its mentality as part of being, and forgiveness is to help and serve the community.


The Orthodox seems to focus more on community while the Western is tailored more to the individual in many aspects.  Even the worship reflects this, as the West has more emphasis on a good sermon that people can get out of while an Orthodox service has much participation and worshiping of God in unity, while the sermon is an almost afterthought.  The West seems more broad and open-ended, while the Orthodox is focused specifically on God, community, service and what to do about it.







Q: In Section 6.2, summarize the Orthodox view of freedom and the eucharist in contrast with the Western philosophical and theological understanding of both. Does the Orthodox view of both freedom and the eucharist hold more weight than the Western view?  Why or why not?



I don’t see a Western understanding of eucharist in chapter 6.2 to compare the Orthodox view of eucharist. It is the understanding of freedom that I can contrast between Western and Orthodox.


Regarding freedom, my impression is that:


1)    The Western understanding aligns more closely with “negative liberty,” ie freedom from interference to exercise a capacity of choice.

2)    The Orthodox understanding aligns more closely with “positive liberty,” ie freedom for or freedom to become what one could be.


Orthodoxy sees the exemplification of its understanding of freedom via the Eucharist.


In the Eucharist, the individual is offered, kenotically, back to God, and attuned to the self-giving life of the Trinity. “Rather than consumed by our own desires and fear of pain… we taste in communion the full glory of our freedom.“ (96)




I personally have a hard time assigning weight to the Orthodox view of freedom.


“Freedom for” assumes that their particular view of “what to live for” is normative to all humanity. But I am suspicious of such normative claims. What proof do you have that your claim is the correct one? And how can you prove that your claim over me isn’t just a power move?


Given my agreement with a “hermeneutics of suspicion” and the present-day emergence and interaction of various belief systems and the resulting relativism, I gravitate towards “negative liberty” instead – “don’t you impose your view onto me, especially if you have no empirical proof.”


My skepticism is perhaps also informed by my personal disenchantment with a similarly liturgical (though Western) Roman Catholic upbringing. I found the liturgy ineffectual in effecting ethical change in the people I knew growing up. This makes me skeptical of the metaphysical realities that the liturgies allude to.


For example, everyone took communion at the Sunday services, but that didn’t mean that people necessarily entered “the service of God and others.” (97)


And yes, I’m being judgmental, so please correct me as necessary, but another example is from my recent trip to Israel / Palestine.  At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, I saw what looked to be the Coptic Patriarch of Jerusalem taking selfies with some guests in front of the shrine housing the tomb of Jesus. It seemed like they were acting more like tourists and ordinary human beings rather than, I dunno, holy men.






Q: In Section 6.1, Southgate writes, “It is, as Paul’s language hints, a struggle that gives birth. It is a struggle in which humans and the nonhuman creation groan together … in giving birth to new possibilities of life.”  Would you agree with Southgate’s view that it was God’s plan all along to allow or have evolutionary struggle work itself out (with all its death and suffering involved) so that it would eventually produce free complex life, like ourselves, to emerge?  Must struggle be involved with complexity and ultimately the hope for a redeemed creation?



Having studied both evolutionary biology and Mendelian genetics in college I honestly  have to say that most scientists would agree there is much more to learn about the evolutionary process in spite of what we have come to discover over the past 150 years.  Genetic mutations don’t necessarily lead to evolutionary change or lead to complex organisms.  After all, ask anyone who has battled cancer and they’ll tell you the genetic mutations they experienced at the cellular level were necessarily beneficial.  At the same time, microbiologists have observed genetic alterations at the cellular level which lead to dramatic changes in micro-organisms, bacteria being the prime example of this.  So indeed, life is full of struggle, suffering, and death, but that does not necessarily point to an evolutionary struggle working its way out.


It’s doubtful Paul knew much about biology, evolution, genetics and natural selection when he wrote his letters.  Instead, he was most likely making a general observation about the harsh realities of life and he appears to reassure his readers that there is hope amidst of all the futility in the struggle.  Southgate makes a very broad general statement here about God’s plans and the fundamental problem I have with his views is that they are nothing more than just philosophical insinuations with little hard science to back up his claims.   No one with an objective and right-thinking mind will doubt that evolution does occurs.  However, if God indeed allowed the evolutionary process to work itself out, how is it that we as humans are the only complex life form on this planet that can transcend its own boundaries and physical limitations?  Is this an intended plan by God when he instituted the biological life process known as evolution?  The evidence is sadly lacking.  Again, this brings me back to the main point I stated the beginning of the first paragraph, which is there is more that scientists have to unpack and discover before theologians make any broad conclusions.


The struggles and complexities of life exist and perhaps its best we don’t waste too much time trying to make sense of it all because at the end of the day would it really make any difference in how we carry out our lives?  I’ll leave that for all of you to decide.






Q: In Section 6.1, Southgate distinguishes between “anthropomonism” and “anthropocentrism”. Distinguish between the two.  Which view comes close to what the Bible possibly advocates?  Should the creation’s main concern be about human interests and humankind being at the center?  Do humans play a unique role in the framework of creation in light of evolutionary history and its hopeful transformation, or can a new heavens and new earth happen without humans being involved at all?  In other words, is the new heavens and new earth dependent upon human involvement or is it meaningless to have a new heavens and new earth without human involvement?


In this opening section, Southgate discusses Romans 8:18-23.  He spots “the evident anthropocentrism of the passage” and distinguishes it from “anthropomonism,” borrowing from Lukas Vischer’s observation.  According to Vischer, in “anthropomonism” human beings are the only primary concern to God’s creation.  In “anthropocentrism” though human beings are of central importance to God’s plans, the rest of creation is still of value in eschatological terms.  When you read Paul’s words in Romans 8:18-23, there is a seeming interconnectedness between redeemed humanity (in the “sons of God”) and creation.  God’s ultimate salvation, from this passage, will not only be for humans but also the rest of creation itself.  There seems to be little to no indication of anthropomonism in the biblical passage.  Though Paul opens up the passage stating “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” as he is addressing his audience who is either facing persecution or hardships (therefore, somewhat anthropomonistic), the later verses deal with not only their particular suffering but also expands the scope to the suffering of the whole of creation, and the collective hope that creation’s “frustration” will end and that “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” So, from this passage, it seems evident that creation’s main concern is not about human interests being front and center of everything.


Southgate quotes Cherryl Hunt as she mentions Richard Bauckham’s statement that “human beings evidently do, de facto, have ‘unique power to affect most of the rest of creation on this planet,’ but also because it is human beings whom we address and to who we look for responsible action in relation to creation’s future.”  Furthermore, she sees a deep interconnectedness between humans and creation in that “Romans 8 … depicts creation, humanity and the spirit as conjoined in a chorus of hopeful groaning.”  So it is unhelpful and unbiblical to isolate humanity from the rest of creation, and redeemed humanity as “the children of God” bear the responsibility of not only sharing and participating in the groaning of creation but also to work toward to its liberation as it co-struggles with the rest of creation. I take it that because of our advanced brains and technology, we take it upon ourselves to use our unique resources to heal and undo much of the pain and havoc our species has wrecked upon the earth for the past 200,000 years of our existence and the way in which we have changed the creation to suit our own survival and purposes.


With that said, I am conflicted into thinking that a new heavens and a new earth could happen without humans.  If humans were to disappear from the face of the earth, the earth and oceans would replenish itself and heal itself eventually of all the pollution and human footprint left over, and get back to a more balanced state that it once had before humans became masters of the planet, then perhaps there is no need any more of a new heavens and a new earth.  However, the cycles of predation, death and suffering and then regeneration and new life would still be in effect as disease, droughts, volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, natural disasters, floods, etc. would still occur.  So that leads me to believe that a new heavens and new earth would still be necessary to deal with the suffering that entails natural selection and evolution even without the presence of humans.  If a new eschatological future does not happen because there are no human beings to experience it, then that would mean that anthropomonism is right and the biblical view that Paul espoused is wrong, and that creation and its re-creation was for our (that is for human) benefit for the most part.  Would animals need or even recognize a new heavens and a new earth even if it occurred?  Perhaps human beings are the only beings who could fully enjoy and understand the implications of a new heavens and a new earth.



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