Romans 11 and Geocreationism with Conclusion
I have consolidated, edited, and updated the preceding three parts of this series here. Since it has been a while in posting (mostly due to serious computer issues that have crippled my Internet access) it may help to familiarize yourself with what has come before this so that you will be up to date. As sometimes happens, in writing and researching this piece I have changed my mind about the necessity of no physical death prior to the Fall, I now believe that it is possible the Fall only brought on spiritual death. However, I am not at all convinced that God merely breathed a soul into Adam, who prior to that had evolved from the ground up (so to speak). I have made some changes in the articles to reflect this new conviction.
The seat of Mike’s argument is Romans 11, which he says is the model for God allowing changes to occur on their own without removing his meticulous sovereignty. Unfortunately, this is difficult to reconcile given its proximity to Romans 9, which is the premiere Bible passage teaching election/predestination and the Calvinist view of soteriology. The ultimate passage in meticulous sovereignty would never be placed right next to the ultimate passage for letting things go and coming back later to see how they worked out. Paul wrote the to the Romans his masterwork letter, and he plotted its structure far too carefully to let two such contradictory notions slide in side-by-side.
There is a way to reconcile these points with each other, and for that we need not go any further than our own logic.
Paul meant the tree he talks about in Romans 11 to be a metaphor. As such, the real thing referenced need not take on all of the characteristics of the metaphor. When I, for example, say that someone is “quick as the sunrise,” I am drawing a comparison between the speed at which the sunrise occurs and the speed that someone is either performing a specific task or the speed at which they got my last joke. We’ve all seen how long a sunrise lasts, we all know that my jokes are so dry they are practically brittle, and we all know that sometimes one has to think my jokes through since I’m very often not on the same page as anyone else in the room, so we all know that I mean that the person so described is not very quick on the uptake.
For this simile to work, the person need not execute nuclear fusion within their bodies to give off enough light and heat to sustain their own planetary systems.
A further example would be my earlier statement that my jokes are so dry that they are brittle. I’m referring to the general description of sarcasm and puns as “dry” humor. I tend to inject much more sarcasm into my jokes, and my humor tends further toward irony than most. Therefore, I can make the statement that my jokes are “so dry that they are brittle.”
For the metaphor to work, my jokes need not drain all of the saliva out of a person’s mouth, nor must they actually break easily when handled. Jokes, as abstract notions, can neither be handled nor tasted, so “dry” and “brittle” are therefore understood in a figurative sense.
One final example. When I state that “we are on the same page,” and I refer to the example above when I’m with a group of people and we are talking, that is understood to mean that we understand each other. We need no physical book present for that statement to work.
So, what does all this mean for Romans 11? Well, the tree that is spoken of would be God’s elect–the church, if you don’t believe in the Reformed position. Holding, as I do, to the Calvinist soteriology, I do not believe that the tree “grows” and God prunes it in response to its growth. Nothing in the text would indicate that to me. Rather, God sustains the tree and it grows in response to His pruning. Now, there is a subtle difference. Obviously, in real life, one would expect the former to take place. But, since this is a metaphor, and we have shown that in order for a metaphor to be fully understood it need not take on all of the characteristics of the thing to which it is compared, we conclude that the reverse takes place in light of Romans 9 and other passages that tell us that God grows His church, in His time, in His way.
This means that I do not endorse the alleged “Biblical precedent” on which Geocreationism is founded.
Geocreationism is a very well-thought out idea. It is, in fact, one of the best attempts to reconcile Scripture with science. However, since I cannot endorse the biblical foundation that Mike finds in Romans 11, nor can I swallow the idea of a gap, I must conclude that it falls short of being the right answer to the origins dilemma.
Overall, I think that too many competing theories are being reconciled using just this one.
Finally, I think my friend Brain from Laelaps said it the best, and I offer this as my conclusion:
. . . [E]stablishing correlation between a particular verse and a scientific fact does not prove causation or show us the “mind of God” as the “natural theologians” (i.e. Paley, Buckland, etc.) of centuries past tried to do. You might be right, you might be wrong, but it seems to me that there are far more inconsistancies between science and the Bible than there are things in common. Perhaps that is why God is not considered in scientific studies; as you say, if we’re dealing with a deity that could’ve done things “any way He wanted” then we’re dealing with motivation of a supernatural being that we do not have access to and that is beyond scientific testing, so it is more an issue of philosophy/theology than science. It might work on a personal level, but overall I think it’s fairly weak. (source, emphasis added)
Posted on August 23, 2007, in Bible Thoughts, Theology and tagged Calvinism, Creationism, Father, Jesus. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.
I appreciate the comments and the fairness with which you have treated Geocreationism. However, I was not drawing a connection between evolution and olive trees, but between evolution and the olive tree simile… a subtle difference. Look at 17 to 21:
17If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
So, you are correct that God does not prune the “church” olive tree in response to its growth. As stated in verse 20, the pruned branches were broken off because of their unbelief. Of course, branches of the evolutionary tree cannot believe or disbelieve, but like you said, the olive tree of Romans 11 is just a simile, and I meant it as such. My point was that God prunes the Church according to His will and grafts into the Church according to His will, allowing the church to be a product of both types of actions.
You stated that you “do not believe that the tree “grows” and God prunes it in response to its growth. Nothing in the text would indicate that to me. Rather, God sustains the tree and it grows in response to His pruning.” I agree entirely. (Did I say “in response” somewhere? If I did, then I didn’t mean it like that.) After all, why would God remove someone from the Church because they grew? He wouldn’t. However, a church member who rejects Christ is a branch that is not pleasing to God, and He will prune it. Have I removed the person’s predestination? Not at all. God pruned, precisely and intentionally, but the person is the one who disbelieved.
Now, what does this say about natural growth and evolution? Well, it says that the Church can produce a branch who must be pruned. So God prunes it… God also grafts branches in (He grafted you). And that’s the connection I make with evolution. Evolution produces some branches that must be pruned, and God grafts other branches in.
I hope that clarifies things.
One other point of interest. The reason I show how Geocreationism satisfies key elements of other theories is because of a realization that it was so… not because I sought that out. What it points out is the tendency of man to have a single insight and create an entire theology around it that ignores what’s been revealed to other people. Gap Theorists realized there was a large gap when creation was not taking place, but they neglect the literal nature of scripture. Day Age theorists realize creation days map to eras, but tend to neglect the non-overlapping nature of creation days. Young Earth Creationists realize both the non-overlapping days and the literal nature of the scripture, but reject what I think is good science. Theistic Evolutionists accept the science, but then reject the literal nature of the scripture. And so on. When I mapped the scripture to the science, it was an interesting observation that so many theories’ key concepts mapped to it… but it was never a goal.
I would invite you Cory to start considering where I have documented how the earth’s history maps to Genesis 1. Perhaps the reason my attempt at joining scripture and science is because I got some of it right and some of it wrong. Well, I am not married to Evolution. If it turns out that I have the rest of the science correct, but that God did something other than evolution to create the fossil record we have found, then I would not be heart broken. My goal is not to win the argument, or to prove evolution, but to find the truth, and to understand what God meant by it all, so I can help others who are in danger of losing their faith over it.
thanks for stopping by my blog, i appreciate your comments. i look forward to reading more of your posts!