Daniel Deen and Joel Oesch: The Lutheran Voice and Crosswise Institute

We are Lutheran enough to have had two children baptized as Lutherans though we take projects in new locations every year and usually find other churches more accessible than Lutheran ones when you are not a long-time member of the community.

I’d like @Philosurfer and Joel Oesch to comment on how acceptably “Lutheran” it is to consider the idea that no matter how long the six days of creation were there is an unspecified amount of time Before the First Day.
The idea goes like this…

A careful reading of the text shows that the first “day” does not begin until verse three. God does not create the heavens and the land on “day one”. Rather, on day one He separates darkness from light in a universe which had previously been created, as is stated in verse one. Therefore the universe had existed for an unstated amount of time prior to the first day.

I support that claim based on two things. First, in verse one the Hebrew word translated “created” ( bara ) is in the “Qal perfect” form. That form is used to indicate completed action. That means it is talking about something which had already happened. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The text moves on from there to say that the earth was formless and void “and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters”.

So verses one and two are like a “set-up” of the account of God’s intervention on the earth, which starts off “formless and void”. These two verses are not a part of the first “day”. Instead they are setting the scene for the account of the days, each an intervention of God in some area, which follow.

Just look at the structure of the other days. Each one starts with “And God said”. God makes a statement, creation responds, the text describes God doing something related to His statement, and then the text says (in all but the seventh day) that the “evening and the morning” of this process was day “X”. Here is the pattern of the six days….

  1. God speaks…

  2. Creation responds (sometimes recorded only as “and it was so”)

  3. God acts (sometimes only “seeing” and sometimes more direct action)

  4. Day is summed up: The evening and the morning, day X.

Each of Creation’s days starts off with “And God said”. To fit the pattern, this would include the first day. The first “And God said” is found in verse three. Therefore verse three is the beginning of the first “day”. The first two verses then can only be referring to things which occurred before the first “day” occurred.

Ok, it’s clear from the structure of the six days that day one does not start until verse three. That leaves us with “in the beginning” as something before that. “The beginning” started before the first days of creation started. How long before that? One might be tempted to ask “how long does the beginning take”? Actually I think that is asking the wrong question here.

Young earth creationists often point to Mathew 19:4 and Mark 10:6 to show that Jesus considered the creation of mankind to have occurred “in the beginning of creation”. Their thinking is that since the creation of the cosmos was also “in the beginning” then the heavens and the earth could not have been created billions of years before people. So even if heaven and earth were created “before the first day” they assume they were made in a very brief period of time.

This argument does not make sense logically. Jesus said male and female were made “at the beginning of creation” when the text shows they were made at the end of the creation “week.” So either Jesus is referring to the beginning of the creation of men and women, or He considers the beginning of creation to be when the creating is finished on the end of sixth day. Either way makes no statement about how long it took to create the heavens and the earth or how long the earth stayed formless.

In earlier versions of this work I also had more speculative textual answers to that objection. But I now think the better answer is to keep it simple. We are the ones bound by time, not God. We are the ones who have trouble with the idea that “the beginning” can take immense amounts of time while the middle and end of the story are wrapped up in a comparatively brief time. To us, it should not take vastly more time to create a world than that world is scheduled to last. But that’s us. The whole objection is based on the idea that God views time the same way we do, but that idea is explicitly rejected in scripture. 2nd Peter 3:8 says…

“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

Peter asks believers not to be ignorant about just one thing, but apparently that’s too much for us! We are so wrapped up in ourselves that we just can’t get out of our own time-bound skin to appreciate things the way that God sees them. God is not bound by time. He has no problem taking fifteen-billion years to set up a story that plays itself out in tens of thousands of years. Nor to Him does the set up necessarily take any longer than the playing out. That we have trouble grasping this is no limitation on Him, it’s our limitation.

Haven’t you see elaborate patterns of dominoes which have been set up just for the purpose of watching them fall in a particular way? It may have taken hours for the creator to set up a series of dominoes which fall in a matter of seconds. The first six dominos to fall may be the “beginning” of the story playing out- but it took a lot of time to even prepare that beginning. So even we humans, made in His likeness, sometimes have a penchant for similar things. The joy comes from the setting up of the event as much as the event itself. The beginning of the event comes long after the set-up for the event. The life of the event takes much less time than the set-up.

Further, we don’t even know if God considered the set up as “taking more time”. The amount of time one perceives passing depends on the position of the observer- and remember no humans were around to observe the events of Genesis chapter one until the very end of it. From our view setting up the dominoes was a lengthy process. To Him, the falling of the dominoes may be the lengthy process. And we were not around!

In the next three chapters I am going to communicate some pretty heady stuff about time and perspective. By the end of it I hope you will see that the argument being used from Mark 10:6 is based on a flawed assumption about God and time.

To be clear, I am not advocating for the old Scofield “Gap Theory” which postulated a long gap in time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 during which a prior creation populated the earth and was destroyed. I am just saying that the test allows that there was a large interval of time between the creation of the heavens and the earth and the start of the first “day” in verse three. I am not claiming there is a missing story there.

My point is simply that the text shows that Creation’s first day does not begin until verse three. So regardless of how long the “days” of chapter one are, verses one and two happened an undetermined amount of time beforehand.

I also want to point out that the heavens are something which God creates, not something He is contained within or bounded by. 1 Kings 8:27 et al point out that “ the highest heaven cannot contain Him. ” God is not constrained to exist “in” Heaven. He is beyond the heavens. He may be “in” heaven in the way that I sit “in” a chair. I am not within the chair. As it is written (Isaiah 66:1) “ Heaven is My throne and the Earth is My footstool ”. Later on, a person of the Trinity does enter within heaven, but I get ahead of myself.

Another thing I want to point out is the condition of creation prior to God filling it with Light. It was not a good place to be. The initial conditions are not good, in any realm of creation. They are dark and foreboding. When it says “the deep” in this passage, the Hebrew word “ tehom ” is used. This term also means “abyss”, and can refer to subterranean waters. It is thus comparable to the Greek term used to describe the place where the spirits who left their proper abode are kept in chains (Jude 1:6), or the place in Revelation from which such creatures emerge (Rev. :11). In Luke 8:31 the demons who possessed a miserable wretch begged Christ not to send them to “the deep.” The word here again refers to an abyss.

The initial conditions of creation were like the realms where the very worst spirit offenders are kept in custody, like some sort of other-worldly super-max facility. Perhaps the “abyss” spoken of in later scripture is a realm or void where things have been left exactly as creation was at this point. It is a space utterly lacking in the light of God’s wisdom, judgement, personality, or word.

Even vice enjoys the fruits produced by virtue, and even evil spirits dread to be confined to a place where the light of God has in no way entered. They don’t want too much of it to shine, they wish to lurk about in the evening shadows. Despite this, they dread the deep and utter darkness.

So did God create the universe as a place of evil? Consider what evil is. He created it as a place of darkness- a place which lacked His Divine light. This is not because He made creation evil, but because He had not at this point illuminated it with His own Word. Evil is not a thing in itself, it’s the absence of good in a thing. It’s the absence of God, or more precisely (since God is omnipresent) an absence of His Word. When He made something outside of Himself, it could not help but be dark until His Word was injected into it.

I know that a lot of people are convinced that God created an unfallen universe which was in a state of perfection comparable to that of heaven at its holiest, but that is not what the text says. The text says that when God creates something outside of Himself it is an undesirable place to be- until He begins to put His Word and His actions into it.

I should also mention something about Exodus 20:11 while I am on this subject, and it is a verse which I will have more to say about later. It says that “For six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth” as well as what is in them. Though the King James Version says “For in six days….” we find that the word “in” is not a part of the original text. Plus the word translated “made” here, and in Genesis, is different from the word translated “created” in Genesis 1:1.

I will go into more detail in a bit but my point is that you cannot equate Exodus 20:11 with Genesis 1:1. This is because 1) Genesis 1:1 speaks of the creation of the earth and the universe before God spoke the first day into existence in Genesis 1:3 while Exodus 20:11 speaks of God’s work on the heavens and the earth during the six days of Genesis chapter one. And 2) the word “in” is not in the text. It is not saying that God created the world “in” six days. Rather He worked on His creation for six days. He created it “in the beginning”.

This fits a lot better with the context of the verse, where it is arguing that man should rest from his own labors on the land for one day out of seven because the Lord Himself did the same. He worked for six “days” and on the seventh He rested. Farmers do not “create” the earth they farm, but they do make it into something productive. That is mostly what the Lord did during the so-called “Creation Days.”

No problem.

Sounds like some student has a dissertation topic ready in hand if they are interested!

I always wonder about claims such as this one when it seems that the enhancement always are followed by new negative experiences, and I’m not talking about learning curve anxieties, but deeper problems. For instance, social media and depression. And we don’t need to get into a conversation about correlation, causation, confounding variables, experimental reproducibility etc… I am making more a comment that all enhancement seems to come with new problems for human experience. What are the markers of actual or true enhancement then?

Ah yes… the always rib poking @Patrick at his best!

I’m going to hand this off to @pmcelliott for perhaps a bit more careful linguistic analysis if he is able. I’ll read and comment on anything that jumps out at me, but this is a bit above my pay grade!

Could this in any way be related to Augustine’s view of creation where it ALL happened at once? If it is, you might have a position that is something a “Lutheran” can explore, meaning it is not heretical, but not something that would be actively promoted within Lutheran circles.

Total agreement, but how might this insight also work against what you are suggesting?

Does the notion of “good” even make sense at this stage of creation?

Except that He is omnipresent… yes?


That is a bold unsubstantiated statement. Because we are living longer more enjoyable lives we have some new problems to solve like

To the Lutherans here, what could be the most salient contributions of the distinctives of your theology to the larger conversation? What do you think non-Lutherans might most benefit from in your voice?

I am surprised to hear that might be tolerated in Lutheran circles since that would be LESS time than six literal 24 hour days. I don’t see it is connected to what I am curious about. A close look at the text, both here and in Exodus 20, describe a situation where God worked ON a previously existing creation for six days before resting on the seventh. So verses 1 and 2 are talking about what the world was like before the first day and there is no specified amount of time given. It could have been created 15 minutes before the first day or it could have been 15 billion years (except that the objects by which we measure those units of time and not been set in their orderly position and authorized for use to track time until day four).

What I am really suggesting about time is more complicated than what I am asking about here. When you lay it all out how long something takes depends on the position of the observer. In this case the observer is creation itself and so applying our view of what a “day” is does not really apply in either direction. But lest I get side-tracked…

No. Because the illumination of His Word had not yet entered the cosmos. If there was something good about it then it would make sense to use it. The language we have points to things NOT being good prior to the intervention of His Word. (This is going to wind up pointing to Christ in a way other creation models don’t, which ought to be right up the Lutheran Alley). There was darkness, and we know on day one that only the LIGHT was good. On day two when light and darkness were separated so that darkness remained nothing was mentioned as being good. The word for “deep” is the same one used for the very unpleasant place called the “Abyss”. So the text is pointing a direction here. It is not describing a place where everything is wonderful. It is describing a place where “good” does not apply because conditions are not “good”. It is a place which could be good once God’s word brings order and illumination- IOW just like us. This is a creation designed for beings like us.

Omnipresent because even there His spirit was brooding, but being present is not the same thing as intervening. It actually brings God and His Word (and Christ is the Living Word) more glory if creation stewed about for ages unable to pull itself up by its own bootstraps until He spoke than it is for Him to bring forth a creation that He ordered immediately so that creation never had a chance to see how it could do without Him. Creation itself longs for God to speak and order it with the illumination of His Word.

That is the progressive spirit! We can call them “new problems,” but any advance comes with “new problems.” At what point do the problems simply become the reality?

Tolerated is the right attitude. Our early post-Reformation theologians suggested Augustine’s theory of creation was not something to keep him OUT of the faith, even as they rejected it as the correct interpretation of Genesis.

Alright, well I hope that one of our more language gifted guys can spar with you a bit about it. The last time you’ll brought @deuteroKJ in on these sorts of questions, I learned a ton.

I’ve marked your text as something to read as I remember you pushing the Christ-centered nature of it all in other threads.

Okay, I think this is starting to help me to understand your view a bit more clearly and I really like the idea of God speaking being the crux of it with creation’s, as well as our own, longing to hear God/Christ speak. But I would need to read the entire argument. The Lutheran way is to start with Christ’s resurrection and then move backwards to creation. As @CPArand mentioned in his post earlier, exegesis and doctrine have a more complicated relationship within Lutheranism than is typically understood by Lutherans themselves! Thus, I would be very hesitant to make some sort of judgment as to your work’s acceptability within Lutheran circles. You mentioned that you often attend Lutheran churches when they are available in your area. Have you ever run these ideas past your pastors to get a sense of their thinking on it?


What do you call it when a non-Lutheran does the same?

Let’s get to the elephant in the room.

You said earlier that the Lutheran Church is seeing falling numbers like most mainline Protestant Churches in America. I am assuming that the losses are especially acute among millennials who have morals, ethics and values far more liberal than previous generations. What is your governing body doing to make Lutherism more attractive to young people to come back in or not to leave?

I suppose it would simply be called Christocentric theology or something to that nature. I do not think that the Lutherans have complete market on this one. In fact, if I remember correctly, @deuteroKJ mentioned in an earlier thread that he leans Christocentric in certain OT exegetical contexts recently. Lutherans, however, ought to be laser focused on this says the philosopher who doesn’t do any of the original languages :smile:

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Having more potlucks with marshmallow jello molds of course!

I honestly have no idea.

Thanks for being honest. My guess is that they have no idea either.

The Genealogical Adam argument seems to run into its greatest trouble on the topic of pre-Adamic (or non-Adamic) humanity. While I am not ready to declare pre-Adamism to be heresy just yet, it is certainly far outside of the mainstream readings of Genesis. I would put the notion under two tests.

  1. Is there any indication that pre-Adamism falls within the bounds of acceptable thought in early Christianity and Judaism?

  2. Does pre-Adamism pass the essential test of the Rule of Faith?

For the first question, I have certainly found evidence that early Christians and Jews felt a certain discomfort about some of the background characters in the first several chapters of Genesis. This arises most often with regard to the quaestiones of where Cain got his wife and who was trying to kill Cain. Jubilees 4:9 invents a sister for Cain, named 'Awan, whom he marries. As is the modus operandi for the author, details are invented when there is some sort of difficulty in explaining the text. Philo, Quaestiones in Genesim 1.174, recognizes this as one of the standard questions that arises in the study of Genesis and provides multiple explanations for those who might try to kill Cain: nature, wild animals, or Adam & Eve. It is Philo’s tendency to provide as many interpretive options as possible. It is interesting that he either does not know or has rejected the tradition that these people are siblings and other close relatives of Cain. Pseudo-Philo, Jewish Antiquities 2.1-2, invents a wife for Cain named Themech but does not explain her origin. Josephus makes allusion to this debate in two places. In Jewish Antiquities 1.59, he mentions Cain’s fear of the wild animals, perhaps revealing that he knew the same tradition as Philo. In Jewish Antiquities 1.52, he also mentions daughters born to Adam and Eve, showing that he knew a tradition similar to that in Jubilees. He may have avoided discussing the tradition directly, for fear that his Roman audience would be appalled by such incest. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan 4:1 (8th century CE, but likely preserving older material) claims that Cain is the son of the angel Sammael and Eve. He later marries his half-sister (born of Adam and Eve). As you can see, this question was certainly under discussion in this time period, and there is not a single, dominant interpretation. A wide range of speculation was considered within the bounds of what was acceptable, but none of that speculation (as far as I know) ever led specifically to a pre-Adamite hypothesis. In the rare cases where a non-Adamite is involved, it is a supernatural being rather than a human one. A similar study could be made of early Christian approaches to the same question, but I have not gotten deep enough into it to reach any more than preliminary conclusions.

As far as I know, the earliest instance of Christians or Jews speculating about pre-Adamism is found in the Judaism of medieval Spain. Yehuda Halevi and Maimonides both discuss the hypothesis, but the topic may have arisen under Islamic influence. Within some fringe Muslim groups (like the sufis) a pre-Adamic speculation existed. The fact that pre-Adamism is not seriously considered apart from Islamic (and heretical Islamic at that!) influence raises several red flags for me.

The second question is whether a pre-Adamic doctrine would violate the Rule of Faith. In other words, is any part of the clear and universal doctrines of historic Christianity contradicted by a belief in a pre-Adamite humanity. This is more difficult to answer because the idea is so new to me that I have not yet traced out all of its implications. I know that @swamidass takes great pains to show that the possibility of pre-Adamic human beings does not necessarily undermine the historicity of Adam or the doctrine of original sin. If he had not done so, then I would have certainly rejected the notion. I would be very interested to hear the reflections of others on this question.


Thanks for your thoughts here.

First of all I should strongly insist that we do not use the term pre-Adamite, which is associate with polygenesis, a falsified and heretical theory of origins.

The question is about reproductively-compatible beings outside the garden, who are not the mankind of Scripture, and about whom Scripture is silent. An important theological analogue is intelligent life on other planets, or in other universes. Scripture does not speak of them, so it is hard to understand them as in conflict with historical readings.

It seems that a key demand of orthodoxy is that we affirm the unity of mankind “to the ends of the Earth.” There would be hints about people outside the Garden in the past, as you have very helpfully detailed. Cains wife is a great example of this. As you point out, there was no single dominant interpretation.

This seems like strong evidence that the text itself suggests this, even though it was never explicitly worked out. I argue that traditional interpretation consider this a big question mark, a place where there is mystery, and many theories are freely considered, as long as the unity of mankind (by descent from Adam) in the present day is affirmed.

This is the key question.

You and me both. Thank you for carefully engaging this proposal too. I look forward to seeing how this plays out in the coming years. Though, once again, let’s move back from the term “pre-Adamite”.

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Me too. I was very pleased with the dialogue.

Thank you I appreciate you saying so. Once you get past the “newness” of it (which is not a Lutheran habit), I think what I am saying is a very very Lutheran way to look at it. I have mentioned before, and bring to your remembrance, that the LCMS position on early Genesis seems to disagree with Luther on such issues as physical death before the fall. To me the way the Lutherans in America are treating early Genesis does not “fit” with the way they treat the rest of the text, which is beautifully Christ-centered.

Exactly. And that’s what the Christ-centered model does, but the focus is on the resurrection not the length of the days. So for example, in the Christ-centered model the seventh day, the real Sabbath, is not a 24-hour period in the life of Adam. Indeed I show from the scriptures that the morning of the seventh day did not occur until the Resurrection. The first Sabbath is both History and Prophecy.

I believe as I was on my way out of Toledo in early 2017 I got a version which still needed work to Mark Love and Ryan Kleimola of Trinity Lutheran in Toledo. I don’t know if they ever even read it. It was Ryan who put me onto the idea that Martin Luther himself did not hold to the no-physical-death-before-the-fall view but he didn’t know what to make of it. In typical LCMS fashion he just kept on doing what he was doing.

After that we were home for a good stretch of time and attended the little LCMS church where we live in Arkansas. The elderly pastor there is about at retirement age, or past it really. He is a very good preacher and an even better pastor. Very easy-going. But I don’t consider him a theologian and I kept my mouth shut.

Since then we have had a couple of short-term projects and while the preaching in evangelical churches is dreadful and infuriating once you have sat under people who do the Law-Gospel framework right, we have wound up going to other churches for these temporary sojourns so far.

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I apologize for the misuse of the terminology. I did not intend to use a pejorative term. This Genealogical Adam debate is very new, and so I am not sure of the best way to describe things. Is there a better shorthand than “reproductively-compatible beings outside the garden”? Perhaps, “extra-Edenites”?

Rather than pursue this tangent deeper at the moment, I would like to draw it back into the main topic of the thread.

The Lutheran hermeneutic sets it apart from fundamentalism. I cannot claim to perfectly embody Lutheran hermeneutics (I would encourage my colleagues to evaluate my approach), but my understanding of it has informed my approach to the Genealogical Adam debate. Of course, the most important shorthand for the Lutheran hermeneutic is Sola Scriptura. However, I do not see this particular discussion as being a Sola Scriptura issue per se, since @swamidass has been intentional in grounding his assertions in the biblical text. Instead, we have an issue of what is the best way to interpret that biblical text–and more specifically, what are the bounds of acceptable biblical interpretation.

That leads to the principle that “Scripture interprets Scripture.” While this is foundational to Lutheran interpretation, Martin Luther surely did not invent it. I would argue that the practice goes back to the Apostles, and the principle is clearly articulated at least as early as Origen. That is why I made the appeal to the Rule of Faith, for by the Rule of Faith I mean a summary of the things that are clearly taught in Scripture. Those clear doctrines of Scripture are the criteria to which this notion must be submitted.

Moreover, the Lutheran Church is an historic church body. That is to say, it is a church body that considers the entire history of the Christian Church to be its own history. While the tradition is not valued at a level equal to Scripture, it is still valuable and can be a help in weighing these controversial issues. That is why I appealed to the early Church (and even early Judaism), since these predecessors of ours have already wrestled with so many matters of biblical interpretation, and we can benefit from their conclusions. I think that it is fair to say that a Lutheran does not feel bound by the conclusions of our spiritual forebears (except where these have been universally accepted in the ecumenical creeds), yet I would be hesitant to reject them without good reason.

I turn this over to my colleagues. Have I correctly modeled a Lutheran approach to evaluating an interpretative controversy?


This is a good questions and one that I hope some of the other cadre of characters can chime in on here. My gut on this one is that we will all pin-point different aspects of our tradition to emphasize as important.

If I could start with one recommendation for anyone out there thinking about Lutheranism, I would highly recommend reading Luther himself. For one thing, Luther is the de facto founder of all Protestantism. Thus, a reading of the primary sources might actually find much more similarities in thought than previously thought, as well as raise important questions for people thinking through their own traditions. LCMS Lutheranism is a building from the texts of Scripture and Luther and as any search on American Lutheranism will discover, there are all sorts of Lutheran denominations that bring Scripture an Luther together. I happen to think that the LCMS does the best job, even with all its wrinkles and not simply for payroll reasons :wink:!

With reading Luther in mind, I think three things are really keen to understanding Christ and culture issues generally and science and religion issues specifically.

  1. Epistemological Ordering:
    The first is that epistemological ordering that has been mentioned in this thread as well as the divine action thread. Lutherans have always been cautious with beginning times and end times. This is due to the fact that our epistemological method of knowing things Scripturally are always filtered through Calvary. It means, and this will sound rather weird to Christian ears including Lutheran, that Genesis is really not something that matters much as one is coming to faith! But hold on, let me explain myself a bit. Because the veracity of Scripture is secured by Jesus’ death and resurrection, and He speaks highly of Genesis 1-3, then I trust that Genesis is true and the rest of Scripture in its Christocentricity. I don’t need to make sure everything fits well with current science or not as the eternal Word of God will outlast any contingent scientific theory. It does mean, however, that we must tend carefully to the historical evidence for the resurrection, however, which is why I do not consider myself a fideist. I don’t start with the Bible being true, but discover it through Christ and back-up that revelation through the fact that it looks like it really happened in human history that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. I do believe that what scientists such as Swamidass are doing is very important, but will always get trumped by discussions of the resurrection. I think he would agree with me on this though. And if he doesn’t, he can always find a little comfort in that the philosopher is more often than not even further removed from the center of these conversations as our laboratories are the mind which are deeper and darker than any study of nature reveals :exploding_head::grinning:

  2. Freedom and Courage to Imagine:
    If Calvin was the god intoxicated theologian, Luther was the Christ intoxicated theologian. I suppose this makes sense as Jesus did turn water to wine… Anyway, due to the fact that Lutherans are so intoxicated by the forgiveness offered in Christ, we are free to serve our neighbors in radical ways. This is the insight of Luther’s “Freedom of a Christian” tract with the famous paradoxical statement,

A Christian is an utterly free man, lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is an utterly dutiful man, servant of all, subject to all.

Out of this paradox to be free and serve, comes a unique sense of Lutheran vocation that may be helpful for larger Christendom. The idea is that God places us in contexts that require service. A young student may get intrigued by biology as a grade school student, then learns about evolutionary theory in high school, is committed to becoming a biologist but is constantly bothered by the fact that whenever discussion turn toward science at church, evolutionary biology is demonized. This is problematic because the church actually needs that student to be a biologist, even an evolutionary biologist. Who better to serve that community than that student as he/she becomes inducted into the guild of biology or philosophy or history or whatever… Yet, we get hung-up on the dangers of evolution, the scriptural problems, the materialistic implications. We do not have the courage nor the imagination to encourage our young to travel into the “lion’s den” of science, trusting that the Lord will preserve them.

I would like to submit to the larger American Christian scene that the epistemological ordering discussed in (1) and the paradoxical notion of freedom to serve (2), while specifically Lutheran, might better structure a Christian response and engagement with science.

  1. Freedom to Fail (Continual Need for Forgiveness)
    Bound up with my point (1) and my point (2) is the fact that failure is inevitable. The freedom and courage to imagine might entail crucifixion symbolically and in the historical cases literally! We cannot and avoid and will continually invite suffering into our lives as we live out our vocations. However, this again is the great insight of Lutheran theology, that everything that takes place in the world, under the Law, should drive us back to Christ. The “soldiers” that are sent into the world to freely and courageously serve their neighbors will constantly be rejected, harmed, abused, and need to be reminded constantly of their identity grafted into Jesus death and resurrection. The free forgiveness of sins, personally and existentially applied to the individual through the words “for you” carry more power than I think most of us Christians realize. Lutherans may get criticized for keeping things too simple by not wanting to stray too far from Christ’s death and resurrection, relentlessly iterating the same message over and over again. However, in that message of forgiveness is power, the power to move mountains. This is were I think the pastors are absolutely crucial to the relationship between science and theology, not so much as soldiers on the front line, but the medics that continually drag our broken bodies back to the cross. No more anti-evolution, anti-politcs, anti whatever screeds from the pulpit (plenty of Lutherans are guilty of this as well), I need to hear from the great physician daily and weekly that “it is finished” and that I am set free AGAIN to go and serve my neighbor with courage and imagination.

I’m not sure how helpful or different that is from other traditions, and, of course, these are forum thoughts not given the more scholarly attention they deserve from me. I should note as well that I am reading through some material from @CPArand that is relevant to this conversation and perhaps as it get published on the Concordia Seminary blog might be of interest for those looking at Lutheran distinctives. In the meantime, I’d be curious as to thoughts from Lutherans and non-Lutherans?


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No need for an apology. I’ve been saying “those outside the garden” but “extra-Edenites” works just fine too.

Your explanations here are really helpful…

So I see three principles here, that seem to collaborate into a healthy openness, that is wisely reticent to make changes that violate the Rule of Faith. Perhaps we might call it an “open-minded traditionalism”? Thanks so much for your contributions here @pmcelliott.

@Philosurfer thanks for this summary: (1) a Christ centered epistemology, (2) freedom bound in service and (3) fearlessness outside the essentials. I would add that Lutherans seem to have a solid idea of what is essential, and what is not.

I was particularly floored by this quote here…

What a great sentiment to be shared by an educator in the LCMS. I look forward to learning more from you as we continue to interact.

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This topic is now closed. Thank @Philosurfer, @CPArand, @joel.oesch, and @pmcelliott for your contributions, and message me privately if you have a final comment to add. Thank you @J.E.S, @Patrick and @anon46279830 for joining in too. LCMS is an important denomination, from whom I have learned a great deal. It has been a real privilege to have them here with us.

I want to thank them again for hosting me at Crosswise, and the image of peace they are showing us…

That is an image of the peace we are seeking here, a peace that does not depend on agreement.