Comment on Revisiting God, Sky & Land by Fritz Guy and Brian Bull by Ron.
Here is a summary of our discussion so far.
I think we have agreement
1. that Seventh-day Adventist’s can, and that most in fact do believe that the processes that Darwin described are true, and valid, and demonstrable in our world today.
2. Darwinian processes do not have to preclude the presence of God or the existence of a six day creation week.
(I am going to coin a new term. For me, Darwinian processes are pretty much the same as evolution, but evolution to most people has the connotation of a process that excludes God. So when I use the term Darwinian process, I am specifically referring to a process that was described by Darwin, but does not assume that God is absent from the process. I am hoping we can leave the historic baggage behind.)
3. The outcome of Darwinian process may be positive or negative. It is possible that it is positive at one level and negative at a higher lever such as in cancer. It may also be negative at one level and positive at a higher level such as with programmed cell death. (Actually, I am not sure programmed cell death is a good example, but you get the idea. Maybe you can think of a better example.)
4. Darwinian processes are generalizable to disciplines other than biology.
5. The principle of natural selection would have the effect of selecting against detrimental genes, and would help in removing defective genes from the gene pool.
As such I believe Darwinian process is consistent with the action of a loving God that wants to prolong the viability of His creation in the face of sin.
Sean is concerned that Darwinian processes may create more problems than they solve and may contribute to the burden of sin.
1. How immanent is God in his creation? Is his direct action required, as Mrs. White seems to indicate, for the continued existence of every atom, or is that really a poetic statement, and once God created, he left the universe to operate independently?
My position is that what we call natural law is only a scientific description of God’s ongoing activity.
I understand Sean’s position to be that the natural law functions independently of God.
2. When we talk about Intelligent Design, what exactly do we mean by intelligence and how do we distinguish it from natural processes.
an amorphous rock: We claim that it was intelligently designed by God, but where is the stamp of intelligence that is somehow distinct from a natural process?
A watch: has a level of design and informational complexity that we generally accept as requiring intelligent design, and the out put from the watch is intelligent, i.e. it tells the time. But if we define natural as anything operating within its design limits, then the intelligent output from the watch becomes defined as natural, not intelligent. How can we clarify the boundaries between an intelligent process and a natural process?
Humans: Sean has defined as “natural”, the output of any intelligently designed object operating within it’s design limits, then presumably human’s are intelligently designed objects working within their design limits (for the purposes of this discussion we will ignore any effects of sin). Does that mean that their output is natural, and not intelligent?
Complex biologic systems: If we consider the output of humans as being intelligent, then why not consider the output of other complex biologic systems as intelligent?
Supercomputers? Are supercomputers intelligent? They beat humans an Jeopardy and Chess.
3. What is the significance of intermediaries? God created humans, human’s created supercomputers. Does that imply that God had NO role in creating supercomputers, or did God create supercomputers, using humans as an intermediary step in the process?
4. What are the operational parameters for Darwinian processes?
Sean’s position is that Darwinian processes are incapable of generating a new gene greater than 1000aa.
My position is that this is outside the disciplines of theology/philosophy, and that while I have some knowledge, and I am willing to discuss it, I don’t think that I am a strong enough opponent to really bring the level of clarity to the issue that is needed.
I think Sean needs to prove his case in the peer reviewed literature, and that until he does, and his view is generally accepted by the larger scientific community, it is premature for the Seventh-day Adventist church to sanction science teachers for not teaching it. I don’t mind them promoting the ideas, and encouraging science teachers to teach them, but sanctions for not teaching it are something else. That goes too far.
I also do not think that any church committee, even the General Conference can define what is or isn’t scientific truth. They can define theology. And while I don’t think it is wise, I guess it is OK for them to enforce their theology on theology teachers, but they cannot define scientific truth, and it is immoral for them to censor science teachers for teaching science just because the current science seems to contradict their theology.
Having said that, I have my doubts about the 1000aa limit. We know a lot about genetics and biology, but I am not sure we know enough to safely say that biology can’t do something. And just like the supercomputer, I am pretty sure God could, and perhaps did build a super smart biology that can develop genes with greater than 1000aa limits.
I am concerned that anytime you say something can’t happen, you run the risk of simply being ignorant. Kind of like at the beginning of the evolutionary argument. Traditionalists argued that everything from creation was fixed, or limited to Mendelian variation, and then Watson and Crick discovered DNA, and we now know that there are incredibly complex systems that seem to be designed specifically to control and modify DNA. It’s like DNA was designed to change.
So I am not saying I necessarily disagree with Sean, but I am not really convinced either. I am anxious to hear arguments on both sides of this issue.
5. I would be interested in exploring the boundary between nature and supernatural. Sometimes the difference is obvious, sometimes it isn’t. For example, someone is in the Intensive Care Unit. The doctor believes that they are at high risk of dying. The whole church prays for them, maybe they are even anointed. If they continue to struggle for several weeks, but eventually survive, is that a miracle, or is that natural?
Is it possible for us to have any expectation of a supernatural intervention?
When I was nine, my father died of a broken neck. When he was in surgery I prayed for him, and as a child, I had perfect faith that God would answer my prayers. In fact, I went out and played with my friends, because I knew God would heal him.
In 30 plus years of medial practice I have never, even once seen any prayer from any family of any faith answered in what appeared to me to be a miraculous way. It seems obvious to me that our faith is completely irrelevant to whether God will chose to perform a miracle. Perhaps it is a necessary prerequisite to a miracle, but it surely isn’t sufficient to establish an expectation.
We often pray for safety, but we recently had one of the young leaders in our church killed by a drunk running a stop sign. Only a fraction of a second in either direction would have saved his life. What does it mean when we pray? When we pray for safety, should we have an expectation that something will be different?
Now I will hasten to say, I have seen spiritual healing in the sense that the patient and family is more reconciled to death, and sometimes when I pray for wisdom, God will direct my thoughts to a solution, and perhaps praying for safety reminds us to be careful. These are all in the spiritual realm, but I have never seen anything that looked like a supernatural intervention in the physical realm.
Does prayer only function in the spiritual realm, or can we have some expectation of results in the physical realm as well?
Ron Also Commented
Revisiting God, Sky & Land by Fritz Guy and Brian Bull
I think what you say could only be true if God were not a loving God.
Revisiting God, Sky & Land by Fritz Guy and Brian Bull
Can you think of any metafore for God in the Bible where God would not in some way be responsible for our actions? The ones that come to mind for me are: sovereign, Lord, father, shepherd, a male lover. In all of these metafores God is responsible for either instigating the relationship as in the Song of Songs, or being an advocate, protector, or supervisor. I can’t think of anywhere in the Bible where God denies responsibility. I can think of lots of places where he claims responsibility and oundard explanation is, “Oh, he didn’t really mean that, He really just allowed some one else to do it,” Satan, Pharaoh, evil king etc.
“I’m not sure how many more times I have to explain this concept to you? Natural laws, created by God, work independent of God’s need for direct deliberate action.”
Sean, where do you get this idea that there is a natural law apart from God’s action? I don’t see that being taught in the Bible anywhere.
Recent Comments by Ron
La Sierra University Looking for New Biology Professor
Wesley, Please forgive me if I don’t follow what seems to me to be very tortured logic.
Truth is truth regardless of whether you believe it or not. In fact I once heard someone define reality as that which remains after you no longer believe in it.
I think you go astray in your logic when you assert that coercing belief in truth makes it no longer true. Coercion does not alter what is true, it just makes it impossible to independently verify truth. That in turn leaves us very vulnerable to the risk of deception.
For me, I would much rather take the risk of questioning and doubting truth, than the risk of believing in presumably true dogma because I believe truth will stand the test, whereas if I fail to question the truth because it has become dogma, I run the risk of unwittingly believing in the error of a well meaning clergy with no mechanism to identify the error. It is the intellectual equivalent of committing the unpardonable sin because there is no remedy.
Questioning truth has a remedy. Believing in a false dogma doesn’t. Turning truth into a true dogma doesn’t accomplish anything other than to increase the risk.
To quote Christ, “You study the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life”. It is possible that the Bible isn’t saying exactly what you think it is. The only way to know the truth of it is through questioning. Coercion prevents the questioning.
Changing the Wording of Adventist Fundamental Belief #6 on Creation
Bill, Science is only a formalized extension of your own logic and senses. If your own senses and logic are not at least equal to the Bible, then ultimately you have no way of knowing what is truth. See my comment to Kent below.
“they will see that their scientific reasoning can never bring them to a correct understanding of origins.” — This seems to me to be an unfounded assertion. Why do you believe such a thing? If this were true, your proverbial rocket would never be able to find it’s way back to earth.
Bill Sorensen: Many will stand in our pulpits with the torch of false prophecy in their hands, kindled from the hellish torch of Satan
Bill, It is Satan who is the “accuser of the brethren”. You might want to re-read your post with that in mind.
Bill Sorensen: And so they point out how “loving and tolerant” Jesus was, and refuse to acknowledge His direct challenge to the false doctrine and theology the religious leaders taught in His day.
Hmm . . . The only time I recall Jesus challenging doctrine, is when he explicitly contradicted the clear teaching of the Bible on how to observe the Sabbath. (Something to think about.)
The only time he really got angry was when the people were being robbed in the temple, when they were plotting his murder, and when they were condemning sinners.
I see the spirit of Jesus as being in direct opposition to the spirit of conservativism.
An apology to PUC
“If the goal of the course is “to prepare future pastors for dilemmas they may face in ministry while strengthening the students’ faith in the Adventist Church and its core beliefs,” we would think that there would be evidence within the lecture to demonstrate this was actually happening.”
The course did exactly what it was advertised to do. The fact is that the pastors are going to have to meet the scientific evidence as it stands. Dr. Ness nor any other biology professor can give evidence for our belief in a short creation and a world wide flood because there is no evidence.
If there is evidence we could stop with the polemics and discuss the evidence.
BobRyan: Is it your claim that if we reject atheism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Mormonism, etc and insist that our own voted body of doctrines be promoted “instead” that we have a “creed”?
Bob, The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that we should not reject Catholicism, Hinduism, Mormonism or any other “ism” out right. Certainly not on the basis of an extra-Biblical creed, but we should always listen to everyone with courtesy and respect remembering that Jesus was the light that lights “every man” who comes into the world, and Jesus has sheep who are “not of this fold”. So we should approach every “ism” with an open mind to find the truth that Jesus has especially revealed to the that community. We don’t have to accept everything they say, and we certainly don’t have to give up what we believe without reason, but we need to be open to what God might be trying to teach us through his other children. Light shines in both directions.