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


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #50

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

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #51

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?

(Daniel Deen) #52

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:

(Daniel Deen) #53

Having more potlucks with marshmallow jello molds of course!

I honestly have no idea.

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #54

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

(Paul Elliott) #55

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.

Is All YEC Really Pseudoscience?
Literal Interpretations and the Genealogical Adam
(S. Joshua Swamidass) #56

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”.

(Mark M Moore) #57

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.

(Paul Elliott) #58

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?

(Daniel Deen) #59

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?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #60

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #61

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.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #62

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 @Revealed_Cosmology 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.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #63

The Two-Population Model and Traditional Teaching on Adam?