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?
I can see how one can envision vegetarianism from the Creation story where Adam and Eve lounge together lying in the grass against tree trunks, lazily eating grapes and whatnot. A perfect world with no violence so there would not be meat since that would require violence. I don’t think the Creation story actually advocated vegetarianism, but more of a lazy paradise of plenty against the harsh reality where most did not have enough to eat and had to work very hard and often went hungry.
I guess it would be difficult to portray a pig laying down and offering slices of itself as sizzling bacon speaking in a crisp accent as a maître de. It’s unlikely our ancestors didn’t eat meat. Our brains alone need a lot of protein to develop and work properly- very difficult on a strictly vegetarian diet.
The Fall is not an essential doctrine of Christian faith. It is very important to the Western church that we inherit original sin. It would be devastating to the western church if this was rendered false. That is one of the reasons why evolution is denied so strongly since it seems to contradict original sin. The Eastern church would weather it better because they don’t have original sin, they believe instead of fallen angels we are rising beasts. The danger of making something a cornerstone of faith when it could be disproved.
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.
It is of course difficult to truly understand or discuss the positions that Southgate summarizes in his review of previous work. Without reading the originals, we are limited to Southgate’s interpretations and his own emphasis. So, with that caveat, Elphinstone’s statement above is remarkable. I have never thought of Jesus quite in this way. Do I agree? Logically, as a Christian, I should. If this is not true, then what is the point of Jesus existing at all? But as was mentioned earlier today, logic is not necessarily truth. I agree with the first half of the quote, but stumble on the second. Did human evolution stop with Jesus, in a temporal way? In other words, can we trace the end of our evolution to that time and place? Scientifically, no. Does Jesus epitomize humanity? I don’t know about that either. If he does epitomize something in humanity though, it is its response to God and his creation, which is probably the most significant thing of all given God’s existence. I have the feeling that Elphinstone takes it to a biological understanding, but I could be wrong. If he does, I think he misses the point while managing to make it very compelling.
In Section 2.6, state Southgate’s response to Michael 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 this section, Southgate summarizes Michael Lloyd’s defense of the necessity of the doctrine of the Fall and the initial condition of sinlessness and seemingly perfect goodness (i.e. no death, disease, predation, suffering, etc.) in God’s creation. Lloyd rejects or, at the very least, is uncomfortable with the notion that the evolutionary process involving violence, suffering, and death to be intrinsic to God’s divine purposes. To him, it is almost unfathomable for God to use evolution to bring about long-term goals of beauty, value, and freedom in creation. The Fall is a way of preserving God’s goodness and preventing blame to fall upon God or his will for the existence of suffering (and one could also posit evil) in the world. Futhermore, as Southgate claims in regards to Lloyd’s views that, “Without [the Fall], he claims that there can be no convincing doctrine of salvation (since creation is as God intended)… [I]t is difficult to keep a high doctrine of creation – as very good and solely the work of God- in register with a doctrine of the need for the salvation of the whole creation.” Therefore, for Lloyd it is a soteriological and eschatological issue theologically speaking in upholding the doctrine of the Fall. Furthermore, there is a pastoral element in defending the Fall, in that, if God had intended to originally include suffering into his plan of creation, how would you console those who are currently suffering?
Southgate disagrees with Lloyd’s position where he states: “[I]t is possible to postulate that the creation has unfolded as God intended it to unfold, and yet is still in need of final healing and consummation.” Southgate takes the stand that God may have intended good features and values to arise only by means of self-conscious and freely choosing creatures suffering to attain them. He mentions Lloyd’s shortsightedness in not taking into account the possibility that God can suffer with and sorrow with creation in order that good may arise. In contrast with Lloyd’s soteriology, Southgate believes that a redemptive salvation is possible even with an imperfect creation, but it will come during the End Times or at a future eschatological point where God’s final plan will be consummated.
Personally, for me, I do not believe in a Fall or a point and time in creation where there was no suffering, death, extinction, disease, etc. This does not mean that I negate or do not believe in a doctrine of sin though if you define sin as being a state of imperfection and not just as being a state or condition of rebellion against God as it is more commonly thought of as. I agree with Southgate where he states earlier in the chapter that “far from the universe being fallen through human action from a perfection initially given it by God, I hold that the sort of universe we have, in which complexity emerges in a process governed by thermodynamic necessity and Darwinian natural selection, and therefore by death, pain, predation, and self-assertion, is the only sort of universe that could give rise to the range, beauty, complexity, and diversity of creatures the Earth has produced.” However, where I differ with him is his supposed belief or hope that at the end, God will consummate and ultimately heal all the brokenness and suffering we see in creation. I don’t believe that God is in any way, shape or form, somehow obliged to “set everything right” and recreate the world at some time in the future where death, suffering, disease, and extinction are no more for us. I regard it as a very noble and high hope, but it is just that, a hope and a belief. At the same time, I do not wish to denigrate those who believe in an ultimate eschatological restoration of creation from sin and death. But from what I can gather from current scientific analysis, about 7.6 billion years from now, our sun will swell into a red giant where it will more than likely swallow up the earth, or at the very least scorch it to the point where no life could possibly survive (barring of course other ways the earth could be destroyed much sooner such as a meteor strike, getting hit with a gamma ray burst, nuclear war, etc.). With that said, it could be possible that God could suspend the laws of nature and prevent the sun from dying and transform the laws of physics entirely so that the sun won’t die and the earth would be recreated, but I still hold a certain amount of incredulity in that truly happening. If that happens, praise God then. But even if the sun were to swallow up the earth, then that would not negate God’s goodness I believe. Even if that does happen, praise God regardless.
In regards to Lloyd’s beliefs, I can entirely sympathize with his beliefs and his desire to preserve God’s good intentions and place the blame on humans for all the problems the rest of creation experiences, but I believe on scientific and theological grounds as expressed in Southgate’s critique of his theology that Lloyd’s stance is in many respects untenable.