Greg Cootsona: "Mere Science" and Adam's Empty Chair


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

On August 8 - August 10, we will be holding office hours with @Cootsona.

Greg Cootsona is Lecturer in Religious Studies and Humanities at California State University at Chico and directs Science and Theology for Emerging Adult Ministries (or STEAM), a $2 million grant funded by the John Templeton Foundation and housed at Fuller Theological Seminary. STEAM is designed to catalyze the engagement of faith and science in Christian ministries with 18-30 year olds. This is the funding source for the Inquiry into Common Ground, that funded some of my efforts this last two years.

Mere Science and Christian Faith

His recently published book will be one topic of conversation. In this book, he kindly references the genealogical Adam:

And so we come to position two, which falls somewhere between YEC and a typological but nonhistorical Adam and Eve. In summary, this view takes in modern scientific consensus on the age of the earth and development of hominins but says, “Hey, wait! We can’t simply jettison Adam and Eve as real, his- torical people. There are biblical and theological commitments that are wrapped up in this.” Position two is convinced that Adam and Eve are in some ways historical figures (this is the view of John Walton, S. Joshua Swamidass, C. John Collins, and Tim Keller), but generally sets out a period of time for common descent with other primates and then designates a point when God decided to set Adam and Eve apart as the first and original image-bearing Homo sapiens. The period of time between Adam and Eve and us varies. Swamidass, professor of labo- ratory and genomic medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, has called attention to genealogical science, which demonstrates the plausibility that we all share common genealogical ancestors very recently. (He also concludes that there is no evidence against the special creation of Adam, ancestor of us all, within a larger population.)

This section is notable for two reasons. First of all, @Cootsona is one of those people I affectionately call a “no-Adam Christian”, even though he would probably prefer “figurative Adam Christian.” No-Adam Christian has a ring to it though, so we’ll use that. Any how, @cootsona has been one of several people who have been stable dedicated supporters of my work (@TedDavis is another) even though they do not personally affirm a historical Adam. They have been fair, and advocated for positions not their own. This deserves our respect and admiration.

Second, the work I put forward on genealogical science first became clear to me on a STEAM retreat, two summers ago. Greg @Cootsona was among the first few people that saw the figure I made that week in Catalina, which eventually ended up in my Sapientia article: http://henrycenter.tiu.edu/2017/06/a-genealogical-adam-and-eve-in-evolution/

I want to talk to @Cootsona about his book, but also about what values are driving his effort to seek peace in the Creation Wars.

The ASA Workshop on Reworking the Science of Adam

The second thing for us to discuss is the upcoming Workshop on the Science of Adam. At the time of this discussion, it will have completed. @Cootsona is one of the participants in this workshop, and we should both have stories to share.

If you are going to be at the ASA workshop too, be sure to join us.

Looking forward to the discussion!


Announcing the ASA "Reworking the Science of Adam" Panelists
The Creation Project Recognizes Peaceful Science
Maybe Livestreaming ASA Workshop
(S. Joshua Swamidass) #3

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #4

Conversation starts in a just a few hours. I’ll kick us off with a few questions to @Cootsona.

  1. Why do you think your book, “Mere Science and the Christian Faith”, is important right now? What are you hoping will happen through it?

  2. In addition to being scholars, you are more connected to campus ministries and young adult ministries than most scholars in the origins conversation. In what ways does that connection influence your approach and thoughts? What are the most important lessons from the trenches that other scholars should take to heart?

  3. You are a no-Adam Christian, but you also have been among my most consistent and stable supporters over this last two years as I’ve brought forward The Genealogical Adam. Why? Why make space for a position not your own? Why do you advocate for The Empty Chair?

  4. Many people have been asking about the ASA workshop on “Reworking the Science of Adam,” in which you were panelist. What can you tell us about what happened. How would you describe it for those who weren’t there?

  5. In addition to theology and science, you and and I have also discussed race. You were gracious enough to let me retool my whole STEAM grant around race last year. In ways could we become better at engaging with race, segregation, and injustice in the science-theology conversation?

A lot of questions, I know. @Cootsona, it would be great if you could work through them one by one. I’m sure you will get a lot of additional questions from the crowd. The forum has become very lively lately. I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts. I’m also aware you are in the West Coast, so you might join a bit later in the morning.


I also received word that Gary Fugle (@fuglega) might join in too, a BioLogist and author of this book.

Gary is another one who has been trying to find a way forward in the Creation War. If he comes, I’d like to ask him about seeking peace. Gary, your desire and call for peace is admirable. How does that compare and contrast with how we have been pursuing peace here? (see here: The @Swamidass Model. What is “seeking peace”?). How do you think we will find peace in the cases where we cannot agree?


Thank you for joining us. We look forward to learning from you both. Peace.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #5

This topic was automatically opened after 35 days.


(Greg Cootsona) #6

Josh,
Thanks for inviting me to be in conversation about this important topic of the historical Adam and Eve (A & E).

As you know–and it’s worth repeating here–I set out three basic positions in Mere Science and Christian Faith that essentially revolves around the question of whether Adam and Eve are solely typological (or archetypical), both typological and historical, and amenable to the insights of mainstream science. Here they are.

  1. Position One: YEC asserts both a typological and historical A & E, but does not take in mainstream science.
  2. Position Two: Many (Keller, Swamidass, Fugle) conclude that mainstream science does not disprove an historical Adam and Eve, and they also assert that the two are both typological and historical.
  3. Position Three: Others (C.S. Lewis, Collins, Lamoreux, me) hold that Adam and Eve and typological but not historical.

So that’s the main topic, and now to your questions. And by the way, note that Gary Fugle, whom you mention, is like you, a Position Two thinker.

  1. I think the book is important right now because it addresses the integration of science and faith for Christian ministries that serve emerging adults (age 18-30), who, according to the the research of David Kinnaman, are leaving the church in some measure because they see congregations as “antiscience.” (They are five other reasons as well.)

I hope my book will give emerging adults and their Christian ministry leaders ideas and strategies on a range of topics such as the proper use and understanding of technology, the age of the earth, interpreting the Scripture, New Atheism, and many others. I also write for the church, and we don’t have many books that take this approach. (We do, however, have excellent academic resources in science and theology.)

  1. Let me answer this question by way of a paper I’m presenting at the annual American Academy of Religion conference in November, “Bringing Science to Church.” Here’s the abstract, and please note the changes that scholars have to make in speaking to the public.

“This paper analyzes the author’s experiences of integrating mainstream science and Christian faith with a constituency often recalcitrant to this integration, evangelicals. It first outlines the involvement as principal investigator on three grant-funded projects designed to bring together Christianity and mainstream science in congregations, second, collaboration with social scientist Elaine Howard Ecklund on her REAL CHANGE project, third, participation on two advisory boards (DoSER, BioLogos), and finally, twenty years of teaching science and theology in evangelically-oriented mainline congregations. Next, it presents a method for public engagement of science and religion based on Robert Russell’s Creative Mutual Integration, which is set in contrast to Intelligent Design and Creation Science. It concludes with reflections on alterations scholars would need to make: (1) employing simplicity in language, (2) countenancing a generally low level of science and religious literacy, (3) utilizing new modes of web-based communication, (4) and engaging group influencers and identity.”

I hope that helps outline how to work in the trenches.

I’m going to take a breather and answer the other three questions in another post, and I look forward to discussion.
Greg


(Greg Cootsona) #7

Ok, I finished breakfast. Now back to these questions…

  1. You are a no-Adam Christian, but you also have been among my most consistent and stable supporters over this last two years as I’ve brought forward The Genealogical Adam . Why? Why make space for a position not your own? Why do you advocate for The Empty Chair?

As I argue in the book, Christian orthodoxy, and particularly salvation through the God-man Jesus Christ and belief in his bodily resurrection, doesn’t depend on an historical Adam and Eve. Though I am a proponent of a typological and non-historical Adam (I like “type,” by the way because it is the word Paul uses in Romans 5:14), I’d be happier if an historical Adam made the best sense of the biblical, theological, and scientific inputs. An historical Adam is not, however, (and others) the inference to the best explanation (to use Peter Lipton’s term) or most fitting (Thomas Aquinas). So, Josh, keep working at this, and I’ll maybe I’ll be convinced!

  1. Many people have been asking about the ASA workshop on “Reworking the Science of Adam,” in which you were panelist. What can you tell us about what happened. How would you describe it for those who weren’t there?

I thought the interactions were at a very high level of scholarship, especially among the scientists. The theological panel ran out of time, and there are significant biblical and theological concerns that we need to take up. (Thankfully, I have more training here.) Finally, it seems like it was good to bring in voices that are sometimes silenced by the consensus mainstream science.

  1. In addition to theology and science, you and and I have also discussed race. You were gracious enough to let me retool my whole STEAM grant around race last year. In ways could we become better at engaging with race, segregation, and injustice in the science-theology conversation?

There’s so much to say here, and I have much to learn, both in terms of scholarship and in experience since I’m a white, middle aged, male. (I could add more, but I’ll stop there.) My primary hope is that we’d have many more people around the table to discuss faith and science. Too many look like me! First of all, what are the topics that Asian Americans think are important? Secondly, how do African Americans relate to the scientific establishment in light of the horrible history of the racist use of science as in the Tuskegee syphilis experiments. In addition, we need to take on the science of race and its legitimacy.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #8

Thanks for joining us @cootsona, I’ll let others jump in woth questions of their own before I ask some follow ups. Also feel free to share anything esle with us on your mind or even ask us a question.

@jongarvey, @deuteroKJ, @jordan, @T.j_Runyon, @TWReynolds, @Ashwin_s, @AllenWitmerMiller,@philosurfer, @dga471 or anyone else, do you have any questions to add into the mix?


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #9

Had a moment to add some thoughts…

Historical Adam

I could not agree more.

For all the work we are doing on historical Adam, it is critical to remember the Church is defined by a confession that we believe Jesus rose from the dead, not that Adam is historical.

It is not our goal to convince no-Adam Christians to change. Though I commend you on your open-mindedness. Can you help us understand you some more here?

  1. You say you’d be “happier” if Adam made best sense of the scientific and theological and biblical inputs. Why would that make you happier?

  2. Why specifically do you think the inference to best explanation is not to a historical Adam?

Once again, the goal is not to start a debate here on this, but to understand how you are thinking about this. I also thank you again for your support to us here.

We put forward The Three Stories on Adam at the workshop:

  1. Story One: Ancient Sole-Genetic Progenitor Adam
  2. Story Two: Genetic-Interbreeding Adam
  3. Story Three: Recent Sole-Genealogical Progenitor Adam (The Genealogical Adam)

Which of these three models do you think is going to be most important in the long run? What do you think are the most important concerns to address for that model. You do have much more training than I, so I am listening closely.

Race, Faith, and Science

I want to call out two key points you’ve made…

That is the key. It will only happen if we begin to think beyond our personal questions, and get beyond our own starting points. You model immediately how we can start making headway: questions…

We also need to also address the things we already know are important too:

I’d also emphasize we need to start working out how Original Sin and the Fall interact with concepts like injustice and racism. A quote from my recent ASA peice (thank you @sygarte) is:

In our current moment, liberal theology is uncomfortable with the corporate guilt of “original sin,” but often echoes secular discourse on social justice and systemic injustice. Similarly, conservative theology affirms the doctrine of “original sin,” but resists naming anything but individual actions as sinful.** Coming to a common language, perhaps working out the corporate nature of original sin might give us a better account of the segregated world. Instead of echoing or opposing secular rhetoric, we might recover a theological voice on injustice.
https://godandnature.asa3.org/essay-grieve-the-segregation-of-science-by-s-joshua-swamidass.html

There is much more to say. I don’t want to give this short shrift. We’ve talked about this at length a few times. Could you tell us more how your thoughts are developing? What you been coming to understand?

On question comes up too. You ran the Scientists in Congregations program. How did you deal with the disparity in African American Churches there?

One study found that none of the science PhD’s in one year were awarded to blacks in a large number of scientific fields[1]. Among the general populace, there is also a gap in scientific knowledge [2], but the deficit in black science PhDs means that most black churches, for example those in Saint Louis, have never benefited from a scientist in their congregation.
https://godandnature.asa3.org/essay-grieve-the-segregation-of-science-by-s-joshua-swamidass.html


(Greg Cootsona) #10

Just a few thoughts on this question to start:

It is not our goal to convince no-Adam Christians to change. Though I commend you on your open-mindedness. Can you help us understand you some more here?

  1. You say you’d be “happier” if Adam made best sense of the scientific and theological and biblical inputs. Why would that make you happier?

First of all, it doesn’t put up a point of controversy with those people who read Romans 5 and believe it necessitates an historical Adam. I’d also be happier because the theological tradition is based on an historical Adam. I truly love and learn from the tradition, but sometimes it’s wrong. Essentially, the views on the historical Adam and a space-time fall began to change in the latter half of the 19th century as theologians and biblical scholars worked harder with an non-historical Adam and Eve. Trying to come up with a revised systematic theology without an historical Adam is hard work. I’ve done some in my books, as have others. Nevertheless, the historical Adam has presented its issues too theologically, primary among them being does this make God responsible for sin if God created the perfect being who was still able to sin?


(Gary Fugle) #11

Good morning (at least it’s morning here in California).

Josh, first thing to clarify is I am not really a no-Adam Christian. In fact, Greg uses me as an proponent of a historic Adam in his book, and I still lean that way. Let’s just say I am very cognizant of the good arguments and challenges for both positions.

(Before I go on, I don’t prefer the “no-Adam” label. Even those who believe he is a symbolic figure understand the profound significance of Adam in Scripture and theology. I guess it seems a bit severe. :slightly_smiling_face: )

I give important reasons in my book why a literal Adam and Eve need to be retained. Key among them are Paul’s clear reference to Adam as a real individual (Rom 5:12-21, 1 Cor 15:12-22). Paul develops crucial foundations of Christian faith by directly pairing the fall of humanity through Adam with the salvation provided through Jesus. There are challenges here if Adam wasn’t real; we either have to explain how Paul knew Adam was figurative but wrote clearly as if Adam was historic (which is possible, of course) or we argue that Paul was ignorant to the figurative nature of Adam. Conservative Christians have real concerns that if Adam is figurative then we can argue that Jesus was too. And if Paul was inaccurate about Adam does that mean he’s perhaps inaccurate and fallible in his other insights?

Second, I’ve long been intrigued by the core biblical themes of redemption and restoration. These terms primarily mean a return to a state that once existed but was lost. They do not typically mean improvement or correction from an inherent negative condition that was always present. Some form of the “fall” by a historical Adam that needs to be righted fits the redemption narrative better than salvation from an inherent universal “fallen” condition shared by all humans.

On the other hand, I also point out in my book that there are very strong arguments for seeing Adam and Eve as an incredibly accurate expression of the nature of all humans, essentially telling the story of what we would all do in their place. I also understand how our need for Jesus as Savior is the focal point of our faith and does not depend on the historic nature of Adam. Of particular importance to me, a historic Adam is making decreasing sense to me as I sense arguments for preserving him getting increasingly convoluted.

Josh, I love your question about peace among Christians in the arena of science and faith. First over all, is respectful dialogue. I think a key admonition is that we should each be able to accurately describe an argument different than our own before we have any right to critique it. In direct discussion with a person, it would be wonderful if we first took the time to articulate what the other is saying until they acknowledge our sensitivity and understanding. We all know a major problem is heavy criticism of a poorly understood position.

That said, I don’t agree with the Swamidass model (as far as I understand it) that we can or should strive to keep science theologically neutral. Instead, I believe that continuing scientific revelations in God’s natural creation necessarily affect our theology. Instead of resisting this, I think the Church is healthiest and most vibrant as it is open to new ways God is speaking to us. There is a strong tendency among evangelicals to favor church tradition and fit science into established frameworks. A hugely important discussion needs to occur about how much we believe that our knowledge of God’s revelation and intent will be continued to be revealed.

This means that I don’t believe there is a peace that can be achieved by trying to keep science neutral. In fact, I’m concerned that this approach allows some theological positions to be maintained in spite of strong scientific information that refutes it. I am very concerned (along with Greg) about the vitality of the Church and the witness of Christ’s body to the rest of the world. So, respectful dialogue and unity in One Spirit among Christians is our starting point, but we are also going to have some strong disagreements.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #12

Welcome @fuglega, it is so good to have you here. Sorry about getting your position wrong! I just changed it in the OP.

You are going into some of my central values. Can we dialogue deeper on this?

Once again my goal is to understandand be ubderstood, not to persuade you. For example, Im not sure we’ve achieved this yet:

Want to see of we can get to that point in 2 days @fuglega?


(Gary Fugle) #13

Hi Josh, I believe we have a lot in common simply by emphasizing gentle and constructive dialogue about science and faith conflicts. But I think we will remain in disagreement on one key thing: I am absolutely trying to persuade you. :slightly_smiling_face: The implications of scientific discoveries and how we incorporate them into our theology are hugely important to our true understanding of who God is, how we live out our lives, and how we reflect Christ to the rest of the world. This is important stuff!

I can bring up one example to illustrate that we’ve discussed. I don’t believe a de novo creation of Adam’s physical body is supported by reading Scripture on its own, and especially when it is combined with the total scientific picture (the impartation of “image” is a different topic). I think this is true even if your genealogical model allows for it. I see an acceptance of evolutionary history for organisms, including humans, as the only reasonable conclusion. Humans are biologically united in almost every possible way with other living things. To me, the only reason to maintain the de novo creation of A&E is to hold onto a favored traditional reading of Gen 2, but it’s not worth the rejection of science.


(Daniel Deen) #14

Could you explain this a bit more for me. In terms of inference to best explanation (IBE), could you quickly map the data points leading to the Non-historical Adam inference? Also, I was intrigued by your mention of space-time fall. What is the ontology (epistemology?) of the fall when it isn’t linked to hisotical Adam? Thanks!


(Daniel Deen) #15

Yes, thoughts similar to this are driving at my clarifying questions @Cootsona. Although, my initial thought/concern was not so much a figurative Jesus, but a “no need for Jesus.” Crudely, Figurative Adam = figurative sin = no need for Jesus, hence my interest in what sin’s ontology looks like under Greg’s view.

I think we can all agree that any conversation is geared at changing people’s minds. We all think too much is at stake to not engage in the various questions raised on this blog and attempt winning people over so to speak. However, I think one of the key goals is to have a public record of conversations concerning controversial subjects that illustrates fruitful interdisciplinary dialogue. The dialogue may not terminate in a consensus or correct view, but it happened in the public square and was not hijacked or given over to the black abyss that is most internet discussions. The public record of “peaceful” conversations is fruit enough as a model of what ought to be more broadly possible. Cheers!


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #16

@fuglega thanks for engaging.

Sure, I can give permission to try and persuade me. I will consider very carefully everything you post. Make your best case.

However I am not sure you know my position. Ill give two examples from the last post.

Im not sure I agree. What you are describing here sounds like a cheap and inauthentic peace. Civility is not an end goal to work towards in my view. I instead focus on truthfulness (even if it leads to conflict) and living in family (even though proximity breeds conflict). Perhaps we mean different things by constructive dialogue, because I observe the most constructive conversation are not always civil. The most civil conversations are not always honest.

This brings me to a bewildering comment by you that seems to demonstrate you do not understand me…

The de novo Genealogical Adam is 100% consistent with the common descent of man. I also affirm the common descent of man. Why would you set up these two claims as if they are in conflict?

Using the same syllogism, we could also object…

I don’t believe in the Virgin Birth, even if your genealogical model allows for it. I see an acceptance of evolutionary history for organisms, including humans, as the only reasonable conclusion.

Or also…

I don’t believe in the Bodily Ressurection, even if your genealogical model allows for it. I see an acceptance of evolutionary history for organisms, including humans, as the only reasonable conclusion.

Of course you dont go there, This is a reducto ad absurdum. The logical leap between those two sentences is both the definition of a non-sequitor, and is easily perceived as an aggressive misrepresentation of science.

I get you personally see no Scriptural warrant for de novo Adam. That is fine. I am not trying to change your mind. What, however, gives us any of us the right to imply a conflict with science that is non-existant? Such subservience of science to theological agenda undermines peace, does it not?


(Greg Cootsona) #17

To Philosurfer,
Sorry, I’m not sure what IBE, please clarify.

In shorthand, I’ll use Darwin (thus about 1859 with his Origin ) as a boundary, which we could certainly nuance. After Darwin, theologians began to work at ways in which Adam and Eve as the first humans had to be reworked. It appeared that human beings had descended from a lineage of hominids and therefore that there was never a first pair created directly by God (thus they had no human parents), and theologians began to work out a theological system, derived from the Bible, in which sin is in the world and in which Christ came to save, but didn’t depend on this first couple.

And this leads to your other question: The ontology then is one in which, with the emergence of self-consciousness (or simply consciousness), all human beings, like Adam and Eve could decide consciously to follow God or not. This is the shift in ontology. In this way, as many commentators on Adam and Eve in the intertestamental period worked out, every human being works out the sin of Adam and Eve. They are types for what all human beings do–we sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). And for that human crisis, Jesus of Nazareth, fully God and fully man, comes to bring restoration and salvation.

Does that answer your question?


(Greg Cootsona) #18

Josh,
I’m now returning to these questions…

Why specifically do you think the inference to best explanation is not to a historical Adam?

We see that in the Genesis 1-3 texts, the word adam is used both as a generic and as a proper name, or at least the name of a character in the text. Put another way, the word adam in Hebrew simply means “human” generically and is often used in these texts with the article, thus “the human.” Eve” means “mother of the living” or “life.” Thus that their proper names were not “Adam” and “Eve.” Their names are essentially “Human” and “Life,” or as New Testament scholar Scot McKnight—emphasizing different nuances in the original Hebrew—phrases it, “Dusty” and Momma.” Moreover, if this pair lived even six thousand years ago, it is improbable that they spoke Hebrew, which didn’t come into existence until at least a couple thousand years later. This signals that Adam and Eve don’t really come off as proper names, but as symbolic or typological ones. This is a signal the nature of the text indicates we shouldn’t interpret them literally. (Here I’m taking a natural over a literal interpretation.)

And respectively, I’m also surprised by a willingness of those who see an historical Adam and Eve in these texts then also eschew or ignore other clear features of the narrative. It strikes me as a position that lacks consistency, and even integrity, to affirm the historical Adam and Eve, but to cast out key biblical affirmations such their special creation by God ( Yahweh Elohim ) in Genesis 2:7 and that this occurs in the ancient near east in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:8, 1-14. How does a person decide to take some core elements of the narrative literally, but not others?

In terms of the science behind human development, I’m essentially convinced that science doesn’t entirely disprove the possibility of a first pair to which we are all geneaologically related. On the other hand, it certainly doesn’t prove that to be the case. Stated another way, the only reason that we are concerned with this original pair living in Mesopotamia around 6,000-10,000 is our biblical and theological tradition. Instead, and what is most fitting with the various sciences that bear, there appears to be a bottleneck of about 5,000-10,000, but not a single pair, many thousands of years before the time table of Genesis 1-3 (And yet, the problem is that the theological tradition has been built on that first, specially created pair 6,000-10,000 years ago.)

The inference to the best explanation (which I’ll just sketch here) is that Homo sapiens (or Homo sapiens sapiens ) evolved as a group from other hominins, and at some point, gained self-consciousness between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago. In this period, human beings were able to respond to God consciously and decided to rebel. This is what we read in Genesis 1-3. And thus we begin the story of humankind…

And, by the way, I’m happy to address other questions besides Adam and Eve that arise from my book, which is why the next questions—which are not in the book—are still welcome.

Could you tell us more how your thoughts on race are developing? What you been coming to understand? You ran the Scientists in Congregations program. How did you deal with the disparity in African American Churches there?

I would affirm again that, as a white male, I need to listen, listen, listen because too often white males have spoken with far too many self-assured answers. But, since you ask, I will speak: I am learning (as in conversation with your pastor and colleague, Brent Roam) that race is largely construct sociologically and not from primarily from natural science. And this construction has been to been used to oppress various people throughout the ages of human history. Consider that to the Greeks, all others are “barbarians,” which means that they sounded like “bar, bar, bar” when they spoke their “weird” languages (i.e., tongues other than Greek). For Jews, everyone else was a goy and sometimes a “dog” (and we need to remember that dogs were rarely pets in ancient times, but scavenger animals roaming through towns). In the Gospel, we know that it’s about breaking down walls (Ephesians 2:14), where there is neither Jew nor Greek (Galatians 3:28).

We didn’t do was much in specifically reaching out to African American churches in SinC (Scientists in Congregations), http://www.scientistsincongregations.org, but worked more with STEAM (Science and Theology for Emerging Adult Ministries), http://thesteamproject.org. Still, the talk of “science and faith” sounds off-putting to many churches that aren’t primarily white. Nonetheless, I did find that African Americans seem more interested in promoting STEM education—which is part of God’s calling to the sciences and various forms of technology. I also heard more about health care as an issue and how it, as a form of science, is justly or unjustly available. Those are a few notes. I hope to sprinkle more in future responses.

Thanks for the questions…


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #19

3 posts were split to a new topic: Side Comments on Greg Cootsona


(Greg Cootsona) #20

I’m going to step back a bit and see if I can move the topic in a slightly different direction–which still bears on the historical Adam and Eve–but also addresses how we do theology and science.

How do you respond to this excerpt from Mere Science and Christian Faith?

We know that God is not ultimately demonstrable through natural science. God’s fingers, as it were, won’t poke through a laboratory experiment. In fact, since I advocate for dual causation (which I’ll explain in a moment), I believe we want to keep a measure of independence between faith and science. As nice as many pastors are, scientist don’t need them in the lab sprinkling holy water on their experiments or providing 24/7 spiritual encouragement.

Though I advocate for integration, independence has a place. If God is going to work in the natural world, he will often do so through natural means. (Though obviously a miracle like the resurrection is a direct act of God without natural causes.) One tried-and-true way to understand this is dual causation. We can speak of an event through two means—God’s and the world’s. For example, when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, “Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land” (Exodus 14:21). Did God or nature do it? Yes—both are necessary to describe the event. Similarly, consider Psalm 139:13 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” When God knits us together in our mother’s womb, that divine work also occurs through natural processes. This is a useful perspective. We should not use science to prove God’s existence, and there is no uniquely Christian way to bring water to the boiling point or to map the human genome.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #21

The language that has been starting to make sense of for me is a juxtaposition. It is surprising, because the components seem disparate, but it is coherent because there is a hidden order.

Faith, Science and Injustice

The juxtaposition of these domains, and the connections between them, seem to be a welcoming entry point for non-white communities.

This juxtaposition illuminates. As one example the rhetoric and theology of injustice we find in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is grounded in creation theology, and particular conception of Original Sin and the Image of God. MLK also wrote often about the relationship between science and faith, as he navigated the rift between the modernists like Fosdick and fundamentalists like Bob Jones. To situation this historically, the ASA was founded one or two years before MLK was assassinated, by a group of white YECs more aligned with Bob Jones than MLK.

This year, the 50th year anniversary of MLK assassination, and not one faith-science organization I’ve seen has deeply engaged with MLK’s creation theology this year. Not one leading (white) scholar in this space has noted his passing and engaged the outsized influence of his work on the doctrine of creation. Of course, I stand to be corrected. Pleas show me I am wrong. What, however, are we to make of this disconnection from a real history.

At the ASA this year too, there were 5 plenary speakers: all where white. The topic was “Bioengineering,” not a topic that engages the questions of the black church. The only time MLK was mentioned was in a pre-conference e workshop by me. I’m not saying this to pick on ASA in particular. The YEC International Conference on Creation would be no different (http://www.creationicc.org/). I have to wonder, if some of the towering culture influence of MLK is ignored, who else is being ignored too? It certainly does raise questions about basic fairness, sensitivity, and…yes…justice.

The juxtaposition of faith, science, and injustice, it seems to bring this to the foreground. At least to me. I appreciate also your understanding that the name above the door itself “science and theology,” is exclusionary. It seems we need to do a deep reworking of our language here.

I do wonder if the answer might come from connections more than changing topics.

It is abundantly clear that questions about theology of Adam are almost entirely concerns of white Christians. One temptation is to abandon these questions, to focus instead on race. I wonder, instead, if a better approach would fearlessly work out the connection between original sin, the fall, and the racial injustice of the segregated world. This approach brings the esoteric concerns of a privileged community into dialogue with the pragmatic realities of a disempowered community. If we believe the true name of things in theology, we might even find resources in which to embody the language of God in the realities of a broken and unjust world.

As crazy as this might sound, I wonder if some of the conversations we are having about Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin might bring the Church together into a coherent, public, and theological voice on injustice. I might be through the reconciliation of these two understandings of creation that we find the Church’s message in our moment…

What are you thoughts on that @Cootsona?