Alejandro D’Brot here. I’m a lecturer in the Biological Sciences department at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas - essentially a secular institution with Methodist affiliation. I did my PhD and post-doc in genetics, development and disease at UT Southwestern. I’m Peruvian. Grew up agnostic. Have been on a journey with Jesus these last 20 years.
Thanks Josh Swamidass et al. for putting in the hard work to get this forum off the ground. Reading the conversations that have surfaced here around Adam and Eve reminds me of when I first became aware on theistic evolution. In both instances, I discovered there is a community of scientists and Christians who share many of my thoughts on these topics. Incredibly refreshing and encouraging to know you are not alone!
There are so many ideas I would want to discuss that deal more directly with biology and genetics, but I would like to start with one of the more recent theological/philosophical ideas I’ve been mulling over. This is the first time putting these ideas to paper, so bear with me.
Disclaimer: I am not trained in theology or philosophy. I am virtually certain these ideas are not new or unique to me (they may even be found on this very forum!); I am simply not well-read enough to be aware of those who have pioneered and expounded on them. I believe they may fit best with process theology but I’m not sure. I hope that someone can enlighten me and point me to existing literature :).
Proposal: God is limited and this helps make sense of creation, eschatology, and the problem of evil in the natural world.
All Christians and theists accept that God is limited to some extent.
Is God evil? No. Does God hate people? No. I think most Christians believe God is good and he is loving. Evil and hatred of people are contrary to his nature. This is reflected throughout the Scriptures.
“Can God create a rock so heavy he cannot lift it?” This statement is illogical and circular, therefore we cannot impose it on God. Most agree that God abides by the rules of logic. Thank you C.S. Lewis.
Open theism proposes that God is limited in his knowledge of the future.
My question is: can we extend God’s limitations to the laws of nature (mathematics and physics)?
If so, was God limited in how created the universe, the earth and humans? I think most of us think God is limitless in his creative abilities. He can create ANYTHING imaginable. If God CAN create anything conceivable, this implies this universe is the best conceivable universe, right? Why would he create anything less than that?
But maybe this universe is not the best conceivable universe. Maybe this is the best universe that God could have created given the limitations of the laws of mathematics and physics. In other words, our idea of what is possible is unrealistic and unattainable, even by God. So maybe the best universe God could have created necessarily involves the long arduous natural processes of birth and death of solar systems, evolution, natural selection, tectonic plate shifts, volcanic eruptions, flooding, earthquakes, etc.
I think to most people, this would imply that God is not omnipotent. But as we’ve seen, God cannot act contrary to his nature; he cannot act contrary to logic. Similarly, perhaps God cannot act contrary to the laws of nature. This does not necessarily mean these exist apart from God or outside of God. Maybe the laws of mathematics and physics, like goodness and love, are part of the very nature of God and, therefore, he cannot act contrary to them or outside of them. So perhaps, this is simply an extension of what it means to say that God’s power is limited by his nature.
Now, if this universe is the best God could have created given the limitations of the laws of nature, does this mean the universe is subject to an eternity of pain and suffering? No. I think creation is ongoing and still happening. I think this is alluded to in Revelation. Here comes the eschatological part.
The new heaven and new earth (which is really heaven coming down to earth) described in Revelation 21 and 22 appears to be a description superior to that of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 1 and 2. This implies that the universe is not simply being redeemed back to Eden, but beyond Eden. This implies an ongoing act of creation. Further up and further in, as C.S. Lewis put it.
I see God’s covenant with Israel and the incarnation of Jesus as two important milestones in God’s continuing process of creation. He has chosen to partner with humans to “redeem all things” or, in this view I am proposing, to “co-create” with Him. In the incarnation, he has chosen to enter into our suffering, open the fountain of forgiveness, and give us His Spirit to empower our “co-creation” with Him, our “reconciling” all things to Christ.
This is obviously pretty unorthodox theology. I know there are numerous problems that arise with this view. I think that one of the most glaring counterpoints to be made from an orthodox Christian standpoint is that God works via miracles throughout the scriptures. IF by definition a miracle is God suspending the laws of nature, then why could he have not done this at the point of creation? I don’t think this is necessarily a defeater and I’m sure this has been addressed by others when arguing for theistic evolution/evolutionary creation.
I hope some of you find these ideas to be interesting and worth discussing here. Maybe these ideas have already been expounded on by philosophers or theologians, old and new. If so, I would LOVE to be made aware of them so I can read up more! Regardless, it has been exciting to explore these ideas and I think they have important implications on the problem of evil and theodicy.
Any thoughts? Please discuss!