What a great treatment!!! Loved this old chestnut, being expanded upon, and supported by other insights offered in the article!
Augustine wrote (~1600 years ago):
It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian.
It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are.[Footnote 1: 1. God exists and possesses omniscient middle knowledge.]
I like it. It’s similar to mine. Though I’m open to direct interventions (such as causing a mutation or a geological event that causes isolation in a population that leads to speciation) and not just accomplishing things through the initial conditions of the universe and God’d Middle knowledge. My only issue is God inputting a soul in a homo sapien. This is because I still can’t even remotely figure out what a soul is or what it’s supposed to be and it doesn’t seem necessary for rationality (Tim I know you disagree here. I’m familiar with your rationality argument). Earlier hominids seem to have had rational thought as do some modern non-human animals. Do these guys have souls as well? (I’m thinking things like chimps and the other great apes and some cetaceans that seem to be sentient and self-aware). That’s been my biggest issue reconciling evolution with Christian Theism. The soul and how it fits into the evolutionary story as well. And substance dualism (I don’t hold to it and I know Christianity doesn’t entail it but that seems to be what you are suggesting here) How does it fit into the evolutionary story?
For one form of experimental investigation of self-awareness, see
I particularly like this:
“It occurred to me that if God’s WORD was silent on the age of the earth, then I was free to study God’s WORK (Psalm 19:1-2). Those who study the work of God are scientists. Some theologians study the WORD of God, other theologians study the WORK of God. Thus, all scientists are theologians if they realize it or not.”
A song which I think expresses well the principle that Christians should value (what they are supposed to believe is) the works of God over the words of men.
Hermeneutics is the science of getting to an author’s original intent. Not only do Bible scholars engage in this methodology, but so do those who study things like the United States Constitution. In fact, reading emails or text messages is an example of employing hermeneutics. Emoticons make it a little easier for readers to understand intent over the internet these days.
Would it be overly blasphemous to retcon Genesis with emoticons??
Don’t reply - I’m pretty sure I know the answer!
Thanks for the kind words T.j_Runyon! I think you and I probably have quite a bit in common. I have crafted several models which I keep on the table as possibilities. The specific model I offer in the above article is simply one that I like to offer to many of my fellow church-goers. Like you, I am open to “direct interventions.” However, I like to show the possibility of God accomplishing it all (or at least most of it) via the initial conditions (i.e., the Fine-Tuning Argument).
Regarding the “inputting a soul in a homo sapien,” I am open to other possibilities as well. In fact, if it were possible for God to accomplish this “naturalistically,” it seems to me that He could do this via the initial conditions. Be that as it may, I think the model above makes good sense and allows for a “special creation” of the first two creatures possessing a “human nature.” These first two “humans” are not to be confused with the entire population of physically identical hominids previously existing.
The “soul” is simply what I refer to as an “immaterial thinking thing in the image of God.” So, think about the rational inferences derived from the deductive conclusion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. This immaterial thinking thing – a mind with libertarian freedom, is the same kind of “thing” a being with “human nature” possesses. For more consider my following blog article:
That is what a “soul” is, but it allows for rationality because if one is completely causally determined via external forces, then one does not possess the freedom to evaluate evidence, data, concepts, ideas, premises, or arguments. Consider the “mad scientist” thought experiment in the following:
The “soul” would be an immaterial thinking thing FREE (in a libertarian sense) from the forces of nature.
You said: “Earlier hominids seem to have had rational thought as do some modern non-human animals. Do these guys have souls as well? (I’m thinking things like chimps and the other great apes and some cetaceans that seem to be sentient and self-aware).”
That’s a much different kind of “rational thought.” Means to ends reasoning is not the same as the ability to think of and about abstract concepts, the laws of logic, competing hypotheses – let alone the ability to evaluate and deliberate between them to infer the best explanation (without begging the question). Be that as it may, like J.P. Moreland, I do think animals probably do have an immaterial aspect of their existence (see his book, “The Soul”). However, as Moreland has said, this is not an “image of God” type of a thing. My argument for the soul might include an argument of “self-awareness,” but it is not required. Moreover, it is primarily focused on the ability to rationally infer claims of knowledge, which seems to require a level of intentionality (which is hard to make sense of on physicalism). My PhD dissertation (not yet available to the public) goes into this in depth and detail.
You said, “That’s been my biggest issue reconciling evolution with Christian Theism. The soul and how it fits into the evolutionary story as well. And substance dualism (I don’t hold to it and I know Christianity doesn’t entail it but that seems to be what you are suggesting here) How does it fit into the evolutionary story?”
Please remember that this model is primarily focused on showing Christians that they do not have to be opposed to evolution. I do think we have strong arguments for the existence of the soul. Be that as it may, Christians are free to be physicalists and also affirm libertarian freedom (see Peter van Inwagen), even if they cannot explain how we possess libertarian freedom (that seems more miraculous than possessing a soul). I simply think that the “soul in the image of God” is the inference to the best explanation. But I am always open to being wrong and changing my mind.
Bottom line, and to answer you final question, on this specific proposed model, the soul “fits into evolutionary theory” because God “specially creates” human nature by supernaturally suffusing a soul (likeness of God) with a physical living organism. However, as I noted above, I think Christians are free to be physicalists (as long as they do not reject the libertarian freedom of humanity), or one can contend that the “image of God” could also be incorporated into the initial conditions by a God possessing both natural and middle knowledge.
I hope that helps clarify my position. Perhaps I made things worse. Please let me know what you think, my friend.
You clarified it very well. Thanks for taking the time to do so!