John adds All human knowing involvesperception from aparticular point of view, which will offer opportunities for insightbut be bounded by its inherent limitations. I certainly do not thinkthat this implies that we are unable to get beyond misleading tricks ofperspective, but it does mean that we have to be careful. Nicholasquoted Michael Polanyi (a very helful writer on this subject) whoemphasises that science is precarious (it does not trade inunquestionable proof) but also reliable (it affords usverismilitudinous knowledge). One place where you could find my take onthis is Chapter 2 of (CUP). I wouldextend thiscritical realism to theology also (see (Yale UP) Chs 2 and 5). I am sure that God is notlessmerciful than we are inclined to be.
I do not think everyone's eternal destiny is fixed at death - think ofthose whose geographical or historical situation prevented theirhearing the gospel, of those whose response has been crippled byexperiences like child abuse. Yet wittingly to turn from Christ in thislife is spiritually very dangerous and I think that is what the sternNT language about judgement is principally intended to convey. For amore detailed discussion see (Yale UP) esp. ch 11.
In the evangelical tradition,there isa lot of emphasis placed on the spiritual realm; that is, thatEphesians 6:12 battle against the powers of darkness. We're taught thatthere is a literal Heaven and Hell, that there are real angels anddemons, and that there is a real Devil (especially made apparent duringChrist's 40 days in the wilderness). I've read much of John's discourseregarding his thoughts on the afterlife (a divine memory of personalityculminating in eventual resurrection, dual-aspect monism, etc.), but Ihaven't really seen him comment on these matters relating to the spiritrealm. Do you or John not believe these to be literal places/beings, oris it simply that it doesn't bring much to the arena ofscientific/theological discussion, and thus doesn't warrant attention?
: Demonsand the Devil clearly exist, and they are clearly spiritualbeings rather than physical. Exactly how and in what mode they exist issomething of which we know pretty well nothing, and about whichspeculation seems pointless.
Heaven and Hell clearly exist, and they are clearly spiritual statesrather than physical places. In whichJohn co-authored with other members of the Doctrine Commission of theCofE they state (p199) "Hell is not eternal torment, but it is thefinal and irrevocable choosing of that which is opposed to God socompletely and absolutely that the only end is total non-being... IfGod has created us with the freedom to choose, then thgose who makesuch a final choice choose against the only source of life, and theyhave their reward. Whether there be any who do so choose,onlyGodknows."
What I would add to this is that this final choice of separation fromGod is objectively worse, from the PoV of the 'damned' than beingroased on fires etc.. and the traditional images of Hell. Ultimateloving communion with God is an infinite good, so being deprived ofthis is an infinte loss. The image Jesus repeatedly uses ofending uponto the municipal rubbish heap outside Jerusalem (Gehenna) "where thefire is not quenched" and where there is "wailing and gnashing ofteeth" is (of course!) absolutely right and a far better description ofwhat is really at stake than foolish stoical talk about "going into thenight" The choice of ultimate rejection of God is likechosing tobean abortion rather than to be born into a life far more wonderful andabundant than anything we can now imagine.
PS It is highly probable that Adam and Eve existed - there must havebeen an initial fully morally conscious Man and Woman (resp.) it isseems extremely probable that they were a couple and that they werealso the first to sin. It is clear from the Bible that therewereother members of the around, but presumablythese werenot yet morally conscious enough to be capable of sin. AlsoDarwin andEvolution should not be confused with the ultra-Darwinists (likeDawkins and Haeckel) who hijack(ed) good science to make ill-digestedcod-theology.
:What I think aboutHeaven and Hell is set out at some length in (Yale/SPCK). For animaginative picture of these matters, see CS Lewis's .
When one considers an evil event such as the holocaust, one can seehuman and societal factors that helped to bring it about, but there issuch a weight of evil involved that I think we would be unwise todismiss the possibility of evil spiritual forces also being at work(demons and the devil). Why and how they exist and are allowed tooperate is, of course, a deep and perplexing question. What Ithink wecan affirm is that the ultimate victory lies with God and Christ.
On Adam and Eve I am less confident than Nicholas that they wereidentifiable unique historical beings. I see them as symbolisinghumanity after the almost unimaginable, but certain, event of themergence of self-conscious, God-conscious beings that occurred with ourhominid ancestors.
So John & I agree that theyexisted, but hepoints out that they might be sets of people (symbolised by anindividual member of each - quite standard in Hebrew) rather thansingle individuals.
John Q This Essay John Q and other 63,000+ term papers, ..
I care very much aboutscience and religion. (Christianity ismy native faith, and I am very devout though also rather heterodox.)
I tend to strongly favor strictevolutionary theoryover all forms ofcreationism, for example. I also tend to think of miracles -ifthereare miracles at all - as restricted to humanly-mediated healings, anddiscount other miracle stories as mythical or folkloric, etc.
However, I have a problem. Avery simplethought-experiment -- a bitof counterfactual history -- seems to put in grave doubt my basicassumptions, assumptions I believe I share with most peoplewhocaredeeply about both science and religion.
It is embarrassingly simple. Suppose that adestructive event, anasteroid strike for instance, were to occur at a very "inopportune"time for the unfolding of salvation history. Suppose thiseventoccurred during the life of Jesus but before His ministry. (Itcan belocated elsewhere, but for Christians this is a good place to put theevent). Suppose that this event either destroyes all humanlife,ordestroys all human life in Judea, or indeed, it is sufficient for aChristian to imagine a very localized event affecting the personof Jesus.
Such an event at precisely such a momentposesspecial problems that itwould not cause earlier or later. For instance, I amreconciledto theidea that life on earth (or human life) might have never arisen due tosuch an event; or having, arisen, might have been so terminated, inprehistory. God plainly appears to permit such lamentableeventsbothvery large and very small -- it is integral to the very structure ofthis universe that such events can and will occur, on all scales. Thiscan be reconciled to Chrstianity.
Likewise, as a Christian, I amreconciled, though toa lesser degree,to the notion that such an event might have occurred at any point afterJesus' career. I strongly prefer to think of humanity ashaving adestiny and of the modern world as being part of that destiny, but thisis not a particularly biblical view. Such an event in theyearsafterChrist would, I guess, be an acceptable biblical End of the World.
No, the problem is precisely with ahypothetical . Imagine, to give another example, a Judea-destroying asteroidoccurring after the Babylonian exile and before Alexander. Thisisscientifically entirely possible! And yet what remains of theveryidea of salvation history, what remains of the prophets, in the lightof such counterfactual history? It seems to mock them, andmockthemdevastatingly.
I believe that this modestthought-experiment, of such a humblegarden-variety sort that anyone who has seen a Hollywood disaster moviecan easily grasp it, casts grave doubt on the ways we, as people whoare committed to both science and religion, adjudicate their respectiveclaims. Either God can and when necessary will act to protectHisgrand project of salvation history -- giving us the sort of large-scalemiracle that is at odds with our scientific sense of things -- or, ifHe does not, the very idea of salvation history is irretrievably leftin tatters.
My apologies for posing my question atsuchlength! I pose it to thetwo of you because I trust that you will not respond glibly.
Argumentsfrom counterfactuals are rather dangerous, but I think theessence of your problem is that, having decided in advance forphilosophical reasons that God does not intervene in nature, you canhypothesise 'random' natural events that could have frustrated God'sdecisive intervention through Jesus Christ. But the essenceofChristianity is that God has intervened in nature through theincarnation and resurrection of Jesus. And I think theChristiananswer to your question is that if there had been such a meteorite, Godwould have deflected it, though I would add that He would probably havedone so by means of an infinitessimal adjustment a long time before theevent (indeed the moon and Jupiter both act to greatly reduce theincidence of meteor strikes on earth).
Of course we don't understand precisely Godinteracts withnature, but we know from our own experience that persons do interactwith nature and since we don't even understand how human persons doit's a bit much to expect to understand how God does. We doknowthatpractically all systems in nature are subjet to chaotic dynamics -cloud-like rather than clock-like and also subject to quantumfluctuations, so at a physical level the world is radicallynon-deterministic and does not exclude other causalprinciples. Johntalks suggestively about "active information" and suggests that in 100years time these issues may be a lot better understood. Afterallchaotic dynamics itself is a relatively new area and is much betterunderstood now than 30 years ago. Remember that real scienceisaboutwhat is imperfectly understood and un-known: the idea that sciencedeals in solved questions is quite mistaken.
Inthe life ofJesus, God's providential care ensured that its purpose was notfrustrated (the warningabout Herod), but part of that purpose was that the Son of God shouldin due course share to the uttermost the human experiences of sufferingand death, thereby bringing about our redemption from their bondage.