Blog Archives

The Lady Gaga Project

Because I live for the applause….  I do like it when I get traffic here and it’s great when my posts make people think, actually, but as to this post, some explanation:

Way back in the early part of my series on the Fall, I put a picture of Lady Gaga at the top of a post on theology and titled it by quoting “Bad Romance”, purely on a whim and the humorous notion that it might drive blog views.  I doubt it did that very much, but I got a kick out of it, and as it turned out I worked more ideas from the song into later posts.  I’m not exactly one of Lady Gaga’s “little monsters”, but I have a moderate fondness for her music (though the latest album is distressingly weak), and somehow I find “Bad Romance” compelling.

Anyway, I just finished my fifth post themed from “Bad Romance” and I decided I’d put them all here (in addition to the series to which they properly belong and under which they’re already listed).  The topics are not directly connected, but they circle around the Fall of Man and universalism, with a bit on dualism and the Bible, too.  Perhaps after reading some, visitors may be interested in looking back at previous posts in the sundry series.  In any case, enjoy!

Synthesis, Part 1:  I Want Your Ugly, I Want Your Disease

Synthesis, Part 3:  I Want Your Horror, I Want Your Design

Dualism:  I Want Your Drama, the Touch of Your Hand

I Want Your Psycho, Your Vertigo Schtick–Lady Gaga, Open Theology, and My 1500th Post!

I Want Your Love and I Want Your Revenge:  Hell

Short for Wednesday Morning: Adam and the Dog

A nominee for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short, and a beautiful little film.  h/t Jordan Bloom.

Whither Hence?

where-are-you

In the previous post in this series, I discussed some essays I’d come across dealing with the subject.  So far, nothing that I’ve read by those defending the idea of a more or less literal Adam and Eve has made me rethink the basic thesis of this series–that is, that Christian theology must be significantly revised in light of what we know of human origins based on modern science.  If anything, they’ve confirmed me in the belief that the standard theology simply is inadequate.  I don’t claim to have a final answer as to the nature of sin, Original or otherwise, the Atonement, and how it all works.  I don’t think anyone else has a tenable answer either as yet.  I do have faith in Christ as Redeemer and Savior of mankind; this rethinking hasn’t led me to abandon Christian faith.  It just means that I no longer adhere to any specific theory of how Jesus saves–just that he does so.

The most significant defect in many of the authors I’ve read over the course of writing this series is a dogged insistence on adherence to dogma–be it the Bible or Papal documents–above all else.  It’s like the famous saying by St. Ignatius Loyola (one of the most ignominious and least respectable points of one of my favorite saints), “That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if she shall have defined anything to be black which to our eyes appears to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it to be black.” This is the exact attitude that led to increasingly complex and desperate attempts to preserve the geocentric model of the cosmos as more and more information made it appear steadily more untenable, and ultimately to the sentencing of Galileo to house imprisonment for life.  When I read authors such as Feser parse Papal documents down to the nth degree (or his Protestant counterparts do the same for the Bible), it drives me nuts.  They are basically saying, “Well, as long as I can interpret Encyclical X in such a way and making enough intellectual contortions as to indicate that white isn’t necessarily in so many words to be held as being black, then it’s probably OK to call it white.”  As if I need Papal (or Biblical) permission to say that white is white!

At least I can respect the late Pope John Paul II’s acknowledgement that there is indeed a problem here for traditional theology and the Church at large for keeping its mouth shut.  Really, it needs to do a lot more in terms of bringing the issue up front and center, and revising the theology; but I suspect that there are a lot of recalcitrant prelates who’d be unwilling to open the door to polygenism and re-thinking Original Sin and the Fall.  Thus, better for the Church to stay silent than to shoot itself in the foot again à la the Galileo debacle.

I think the best approach to the whole thing is exemplified by Einstein (stay with me here!).  For decades, the idea of the luminiferous ether–the invisible, intangible, and generally undetectable medium through which light supposedly moved–was regnant.  When Michelson and Morley’s famous (and clever) experiment failed to find evidence of the ether, the physics world was thrown into turmoil, with ever more complex, more elaborate, and more ad  hoc theories being proposed to save the idea of the ether.  Finally, the young patent clerk Albert Einstein took the obvious but at the time startling step of cutting the Gordian knot and saying, “There is no ether.”  Simple as that; and from there, everything fell into place with his Theories of Relativity.

This is why I respect Peter Enns, whom I discussed last time.  He has pretty much done in theology what Einstein did in physics.  Rather than going to heroic lengths to save a more or less literal version of Genesis and the origin of mankind, he pretty much says, “Look, that’s the wrong way to look at it.  This is not what Genesis meant, and Paul was using the tools he had to discuss the Atonement.  Thus, let’s just toss out the traditional view of Adam and Eve as the First Parents whose Fall condemns us all, and look at it from a different angle.”  In short, he  tosses out the ether of an untenable theology rather than doing mental gymnastics to save it.  If I read him correctly, he does not (at least not in this book) come up with an overarching theory to replace the old one, though he does seem to point out some possible avenues.  Still, the first step of coming up with a new system–in theology or anywhere else–is often having the courage and integrity to jettison the old one.

This is where I’m moving.  It seems almost certain that a view of a discrete, specific moment of Original Sin, passed down to future humans, whether by a Primal Couple or a Primal Group,  is incorrect.  In effect, there was no Eden.  Better, perhaps, Eden might be a metaphysical reality–the world as God intended it to be–but never a historic one actually instantiated in the cosmos that actually exists.  This leans me a bit more towards Evagrian theology, but at this point I don’t claim to have a systematic view as to the exact nature of the Fall, sin, and Atonement.  These are still issues on which I need to think.  I’ll probably be posting on this topic a little more frequently than I have been; but it’s still going to be a long haul, and I’m beginning to see “Legends of the Fall” as much more open-ended than I’d previously thought.  In any case, we’ll see where it all leads!

Part of the series Legends of the Fall.

Adam, Eve, and Monogenism: More Perspectives (and more of the same)

australopithecus_family

It’s been some time since I’ve written on the Fall.  Partly, I got a bit burned out on the topic after the many, many posts I did.  Another factor was that I changed my mind on some aspects of the issue.  Finally, after fifty-four posts, I concluded that I didn’t have a conclusion yet.  I still don’t, quite.  However, in the process of surfing about the Internet, I ran across some articles discussing just this issue–to wit, how does one square modern knowledge of human origins with the (apparent) Biblical requirement that all humans descend from a single priaml couple–and I thought it worthwhile to point them out and briefly discuss them.

It’s interestingly appropriate, given the content and image for today’s Rubá’í of the Day.  Since I schedule the Rubá’í of the Day posts months ahead of time, I rarely remember what the specific verse for the day is or what image I selected for it until it posts.  I was thinking about this post last night, and when I decided to write it today, lo and behold:  there were Adam and Eve in today’s rubá’í!  I certainly can’t ignore such a synchronicity, so on we go!

Read the rest of this entry

More News on Polygenesis

f85e3eba4914

This past summer came news of possible interbreeding between early Homo sapiens (modern humans) and other groups, possibly of different but related species.  This is in addition to the possible and much-disputed hybridization with Neanderthal Man.  Admittedly I’m a little late on this–I was deep into “Legends of the Fall” at the time, and somehow overlooked this fascinating news, which I should have incorporated at the time.  Oh, well–better late than never.

The first story indicates a possibility of mixing between modern humans and the so-called Denisovan hominin.  Denisovans were discovered only four years ago, and the remains are still fragmentary.  Nevertheless, DNA analysis indicates the Denisovans to be distinct both from modern humans and from Neanderthals, though they seem more closely related to the latter.  This analysis also indicated Denisovan DNA exists in modern populations, too, especially Melanesians and Australian Aborigines.  This would indicate some interbreeding between early modern humans and Denisovans.

The second story indicates hybridization between early modern humans and one or more unknown species or subspecies in Africa.  In this case there are no physical remains such as bones; rather, patterns of DNA unlike any other human (or Neanderthal) DNA have turned up in some African populations.  This is interpreted as indicated hybridization with some other unknown group or groups–quite likely, given the large number of early hominids in Africa.  What is surprising is the relative recentness of this interbreeding–as recently as 20,000 years ago, long after other populations had already left Africa.

This is still more evidence that while all humans today have common ancestors in the relatively recent past, there were nevertheless many different groups that contributed to the human genome, and not all original populations necessarily had a single origin.  More and more we see the need to rethink traditional theology in regard to the Fall and the origin of humanity.

Part of the series Legends of the Fall.

Also part of the series Polygenism Revisited.

Legends of the Fall: Unraveling the Sweater

When I began this series over five months, forty posts, and (conservatively) 30,000 words ago, it seemed as if it would be a short, straightforward series.  It seemed to me that the Genesis narrative of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the Fall of Man, given our knowledge of biology, archaeology, anthropology, and so on was obviously  mythical.  It also seemed to me that conservatives who insisted on the literal, historical accuracy of the account were being hysterical and over-the-top when they argued that not just abstruse points of theology but Christianity itself hung on the account being really historical, and not mythical.  The argument was that if you reduce the story of the Fall to myth, all the rest of Christian theology unravels, as when one pulls a bit of yarn from a sweater.  I still think the Genesis account is mythical.  However, I have changed my mind on the second issue.  I have decided that the conservative critics of a mythical genus are actually correct.  Christian theology as we know it–as it has traditionally been understood–actually does depend on a more or less literal Adam/Eve/Fall narrative.  They were right; I was wrong.

Now there are two things this does not mean.  It does not mean that I have embraced Biblical literalism.  Far from it–the more I study the relevant areas, the less likely it seems possible to understand large parts of the Bible–particularly Genesis–in anything like a literal fashion.  If anything, I have reduced the number of things I’m willing to take (or which I think it necessary to take) literally to one–the Resurrection.  I’ve discussed that at much greater length in “The Pretty Good Book“.  On the other hand, all this also does not mean that I have lost faith, rejected Christianity, or even tossed out all concepts of a Fall (of some sort) and Atonement.  I think that the traditional theology on these issues cannot be maintained; therefore, I think we need to adopt a new theology.  I don’t see this happening in official venues any time soon; but that’s no reason not to put in some small effort in that direction here.

Read the rest of this entry

The Apple and the Multiverse

Last time we looked at the framework against which the traditional view of the Atonement is set.  Now I want to dig a little more deeply into this framework.

Recall the schematic of the Atonement in orthodox thought:

1.  After creating the Pleroma and the physical cosmos, God, at some point, creates the human race.

2.  Humans are initially innocent and free from sin.  Humans, like the angels before them, and like all created intelligences, have free will.

3.  The human race is given a test of obedience, mythologically symbolized by the command to Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

4.  Humans fail the test through the abuse of their God-given free will.  Mythologically, this is depicted as the temptation of Eve by the Serpent (interpreted as Lucifer/Satan), who eats the Forbidden Fruit and gives it to Adam.

5.  As a result of this, they and all their descendants are stained with Original Sin.  Among other things, this means that future humans are not innocent, and even under the best conditions tend towards wrongdoing and evil to some extent.

6.  Also as a result of this, the human race is alienated from God, and incapable, on their own initiative, of pleasing Him or being in communion with Him.

7.  To remedy this, God sends His Son, Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, to take human form.  Christ becomes incarnate, is born, lives, teaches, and ultimately dies on the cross.  Three days later, he rises from the dead.  Through this death and resurrection, he atones for the human race and makes it possible for humans to be reconciled to God. Read the rest of this entry

The Atonement: Index

The Atonement

Some Theories of Atonement, or Love, not Honor or Substitution  This post, by Father Nathan O’Halloran, S. J., is reblogged from Vox Nova.  I’ve touched on the idea of the Atonement in the course of this series insofar as it has implications for the concept of the Fall and the interpretations of the Fall which I have been discussing.  Thus I’m adding this as a sort of guest post that goes into more detail on that particular aspect of the issues I’ve been dealing with here.  Update:  Since I originally reblogged this, Vox Nova has moved to Patheos; thus, the reblogged link no longer works.  I’ve deleted the reblogged post from this blog, and put the link to the original post by Fr. O’Halloran at the new Patheos site in the link above.  Thus, clicking there will take you to Patheos, not to my blog. 

How Not to View the Atonement

Atonement Theology  This post was reblogged from the blog Triangulations, and gives an excellent summary of various schools of thought on the Atonement.

Saved from What?

The Atonement:  An Overview of the Traditional Perspective

The Apple and the Multiverse

Hell’s Angels and Looking for God in All the Wrong Places

Original Sin:  Is the Fault in the Manufacturer?

Penal Substitution

Legends of the Fall: Index

I originally said that the “Legends of the Fall” series has finally come to a close.  As can be seen by the increasing number of posts after the “Addenda” heading below, and as I discuss in “Adam, Eve, and Monogenesis”, and “Whither Hence?” I was wrong, and the series is likely to be open for some time.  I’m not even sure if I think it can be brought to a satisfactory close, even in the short term.  In any case, for those who have come to it late, or read only parts, or who want to read it all over again (who knows–there may be some of you out there…), the links to every post in the series, from beginning to end, are given below.

Addendum:  As this series has meandered along into subsidiary but connected areas, it has spawned at least three sub-series.  As those series themselves have meandered along, they’ve ended up with some posts that I didn’t cross-post here.  Thus, I’m putting links to the series indices right above the posts proper for this series.

The Atonement

Polygenism Revisited

Universalism (What the Hell?!)

Religious Miscellany (This is not a sub-series of “Legends of the Fall”, but a series I use for any religiously oriented articles that didn’t fit obviously into the other series.  However, some of the posts there may be relevant at times, if only tangentially, so I’m linking to it here, also)

Legends of the Fall:  Posts

Legends of the Fall, Part 1

Legends of the Fall, Part 2:  In the Know

Interlude:  Evagrius Ponticus

Legends of the Fall, Part 3:  In the Between with Evagrius 

Interlude:  Blinding Me with Science

Legends of the Fall, Part 4:  Scientific Prolegomena

Excursus:  Hypotheses, Theories, and Squirrels

Excursus:  Evil, Part 1

Excursus:  Evil, Part 2:  Your Wicked Ways

Excursus:  Evil, Part 3:  Who’s in Charge Here, Anyway?

Legends of the Fall, Part 5:  Compare and Contrast

Interlude:  Pre-existence, or Déjà Vu All Over Again (I accidentally made another post on this topic somewhat later.  Having re-read this, I think it is better-written and does a better job of making the case.  Nevertheless, both posts argue from the same basic perspective)

Excursus:  Genesis–Mono or Poly?

Legends of the Fall, Part 6:  Laying Groundwork

Synthesis, Part 1:  I Want Your Ugly, I Want Your Disease

The Heart Sutra

Synthesis, Part 2:  Humans, Elves, and Mortality

Excursus:  Pre-existence (Again!)

Synthesis, Part 3:  I Want Your Horror, I Want Your Design

Synthesis, Part 4:  Hell Hole

Synthesis, Part 5:  Hell Hole (concluded)

Legends of the Fall, Part 7:  And on the Seventh Post (actually the 22nd!) He Rested

ADDENDA

The following posts are a follow-up miniseries addressing some issues I neglected in the original series.

Gödel and the Soul

Reincarnation:  The Ultimate Recycling

Neoplatonism

The Origin According to Origen

Reincarnation:  Haven’t We Been Here Before?

Polygenism Revisited:  Terminology

Polygenism Revisited:  The Theology of Cavemen

Polygenesis:  Breaking News

Reincarnation:  The Disadvantages

The Atonement

Some Theories of Atonement, or Love, not Honor or Substitution  This post, by Father Nathan O’Halloran, S. J., is reblogged from Vox Nova.  I’ve touched on the idea of the Atonement in the course of this series insofar as it has implications for the concept of the Fall and the interpretations of the Fall which I have been discussing.  Thus I’m adding this as a sort of guest post that goes into more detail on that particular aspect of the issues I’ve been dealing with here.  The original post at Vox Nova is here.

How Not to View the Atonement

Atonement Theology  This post was reblogged from the blog Triangulations, and gives an excellent summary of various schools of thought on the Atonement.

Saved from What?

The Atonement:  An Overview of the Traditional Perspective

The Apple and the Multiverse

Hell’s Angels and Looking for God in All the Wrong Places

Original Sin:  Is the Fault in the Manufacturer?

Legends of the Fall:  Unraveling the Sweater

Legends of the Fall:  Reflections

Hell, Salafis, Philosophers, and Playing the Odds

Out of the Closet

A Helluva Post on the Rectification of Names

Excursus:  John Scottus Eriugena

To Hell in a Nice Handbasket

Interlude:  Questions, Objections, Issues

An Analysis of Universalism

Defining Terms and a Recap

Universalism, I Presume?

Damnation:  Inside, Outside, Upside Down

Universalism:  Summary (for now)

More News on Polygenesis

Adam, Eve, and Monogenism:  More Perspectives (and more of the same)

Whither Hence?

Some Postulates

We Had to Destroy the Bible to Save It

Please Help Me, I’m Falling

Penal Substitution

Legends of the Fall: Let’s Get This Party Started!

Blinded By the Light

Talking Body

I Ain’t Got No Body: Embodiment (or not)

So Why Did God Make the World, Anyway?

Was It…SATAN??!!

The Best-Laid Plans (Do Not Require a Plan B)