GOD, REVELATION and AUTHORITY VOLUME VI: GOD WHO STANDS AND STAYS – delivered by Archbishop Uwe AE. Rosenkranz



Part Two


1.    Shall We Surrender the Supernatural?

2.    God’s Transcendence and Immanence

3.    The Resurgence of Process Philosophy

4.    Election: The Freedom of God

Supplementary Note: Contemporary Debate over Divine Election

5.    God the Sovereign Creator

6.    Creation Ex Nihilo

7.    The Six Days of Creation

8.    The Crisis of Evolutionary Theory

9.    The Origin and Nature of Man

10.    Angels, Satan and the Demons, and the Fall

11.    The Goodness of God

12.    God and the Problem of Evil

13.    Evil As a Religious Dilemma

14.    The Fatherhood of God

15.    The Holiness of God

16.    God’s Incomparable Love

Supplementary Note: On Finding Christ in Nonbiblical Religions

17.    The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

18.    The God of Justice and of Justification

19.    Justice and the Kingdom of God

Supplementary Note: The Christian and Political Duty

20.    God Who Stays: Divine Providence

Supplementary Note: Auschwitz As a Suspension of Providence

21.    God Who Stays: The Finalities



Shall We Surrender the Supernatural?

A major theological development of the twentieth century is the increasing avoidance by theologians and philosophers—except in Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestant circles—of the term “supernatural.” The word is conspicuously absent from many indices of recent books on the Christian religion; in its place, neo-Protestant writers use terms that convey only broken aspects of the traditional concept. Even the neoorthodox theology of transcendent revelation, or neosupernaturalism, as it is called, preserves the supernatural only in a conceptually ametaphysical way. The eight-volume Encyclopedia of Philosophy edited by humanist Paul Edwards carries no essay on the supernatural but lists an index reference only for a discussion of “reconstructions of supernaturalism.” Humanist Manifesto II, issued in 1973, declares the existence of a supernatural “either meaningless or irrelevant to the question of the survival and fulfillment of the human race” (Humanist Manifesto I and II, Buffalo, N.Y., Prometheus, 1976).

For John A. T. Robinson the supernatural God is “dead beyond recall” (Honest to God, p. 130); moreover, “the attachment of Christianity to the supranaturalist projection,” he avers, is “becoming less and less obvious” (Exploration into God, p. 31). He writes of “a growing gulf between the traditional orthodox supernaturalism in which our Faith has been framed and the categories which the ‘lay’ world (for want of a better term) finds meaningful today” (Honest to God, p. 8).

Influenced by the metaphysics of Kant, Hegel, Schleiermacher and Ritschl, Protestant modernism assailed orthodox theism and instilled in recent modern theology deep discontent over biblical supernaturalism. By increasingly assimilating miracle to divine immanence and natural continuity, liberal theology depreciated supernatural transcendence. Some theologians, in fact, made it their missionary concern to discredit the inherited Judeo-Christian view. American liberalism, as Edward Farley observes, shaped “a violent attack on supernaturalism and orthodox theism, which were misleadingly but frequently expounded as deism and spatialism,” that is, in terms of a God “up there” (The Transcendence of God, p. 23). Some modernists eagerly identified traditional supernaturalism with superrationalism and even with mere superstition.

Some present-day writers now avoid discussing the “supernatural” as too complex and technical. Others avoid the subject because of its everyday abuse, that is, because of its common reference to magic and myth, to the numinous in everyone’s experience, to the extraordinary and unknown, and its association, even in professional circles, with the paranoic (precognitive experience such as awareness of impending death); one would think that the supernatural is mostly a matter of spooks and goblins. Even anthropologists who use the term mainly in connection with the animistic spirits of primitive religion seem unaware that the ancient Hebrews rejected animism and polytheism as idolatrous superstition and proclaimed instead the one supernatural God.

The term “supernatural” actually has no Hebrew or Greek equivalent. But the Revised Standard Version and The New English Bible both use it three times in translating pneumatikos in 1 Corinthians 10:3–4 (the King James Version here has “spiritual”). The passage is not ontologically illuminating, however, except as it implies that God is the transcendent other, for it only concerns a gift coming directly from God’s sphere. According to Abbé de Broglie “the word supernaturalis appears … first … in the Latin translations of Pseudo-Dionysius” (c. 500); it came into general use with Thomas Aquinas; only later still, in the sixteenth century, does it appear in official ecclesiastical decrees (cf. Edward Brueggeman, “A Modern School of Thought on the Supernatural,” p. 6).

The well-known Great Books of the Western World (Robert Maynard Hutchins, editor-in-chief) nowhere include the terms “supernature” or “supernatural” among the “great ideas,” although the volumes do give extended discussion to “nature” and “God.” And even though Karl Barth spiritedly champions the reality of the supernatural, the indices of his monumental nine-volume Church Dogmatics list not a single reference to the term.

The Western world’s preoccupation with scientific empiricism has obscured the question whether man and the cosmos are related to a transcendent supernatural reality; instead, academic discussion has mainly debated whether human nature is fully reducible to cosmic nature or in some significant respects transcends it. Yet it is the verdict on the question of God’s relation to man and the world that determines man’s conception of his origin, life, work and destiny. Mortimer J. Adler rightly says in The Great Ideas, A Syntopicon of the Great Books of the Western World, “The most radical differences in man’s conception of his own nature follow from the exclusion of divinity as its source or model on the one hand and from the various ways in which man is seen as participating in divinity on the other” (Vol. 1, p. 543).

However difficult may be a precise definition of the supernatural and a precise definition of nature, such definitions are essential to any resolution of the issues in debate. “Few who speak easily of the supernatural have any idea how difficult of definition it is,” writes William Newton Clarke, “but those who have seriously tried to define it know” (The Christian Doctrine of God, p. 339). As the history of ideas makes plain, the characterization of nature is no less arduous a task. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (Unabridged) gives 15 meanings of “nature” and three meanings—with numerous submeanings—of “supernatural.” Actually the terms have a correlative significance: to define the one we must know what is included in or excluded from the other.

In the classic Western view nature and man are the work of God. JudeoChristian theology declares the universe—the cosmos and the whole world of creatures—to be God’s creation. It distinguishes God as the uncreated Creator of all else, and hence as supernatural; the term nature, by contrast, it applies to everything derived from God. No part of the created universe is to be considered supernatural. “What is really meant by the supernatural,” Clarke emphasizes, “is God himself.… The sole supernatural is that creative, inspiring life which is God himself” (ibid., pp. 340 f.). The order of nature consequently includes the spiritual creation—angels and other immaterial creatures—as well as human beings, lower creatures and the planetary universe.

Where philosophers do not know or where they ignore the biblical doctrine of divine creation they assign to nature either a larger or a lesser scope. The classic Greek philosophers identified the natural with the physical realm of changing material things, but declared ideas, forms, immaterial substances as well as all minds to be supernatural. The Stoics, Spinoza, Hegel and other pantheists, on the other hand, identify all that exists with God, and thus totally eliminate the contrast between the natural and the supernatural. Personalists consider nature a part of God while they view selves as a divine creation other than God.

In earlier centuries those who denied the existence of a supernatural being were called atheists. But the growing modern tendency to blur the supernatural into the natural has modified this characterization. Panentheists and pantheists, while they reject the absolute supernatural, insist that they are nonetheless theists. Yet usually even today the atheist who asserts God’s nonexistence means by God not the universe or some special aspect of nature but rather the transcendent supernatural being worshiped by orthodox Jews, Christians and Moslems. In other words, the term supernatural designates not simply the superhuman and the supercosmic but more precisely the uncreated personal deity who creates and transcends all else, the one infinite and perfect being who has life in himself.

This metaphysical emphasis on two realms, the natural and the supernatural, Eulalio R. Baltazar ascribes to the influence of Greek philosophy, particularly of Platonism, on the early church (Teilhard and the Supernatural, p. 39). As he puts it, “the tension felt by the modern Christian is the contradiction between his scholastically formulated concept of the supernatural (valid and significant for a medieval world) and his actually experienced world … for which scholastic formulations have become insignificant” (ibid., p. 70).

John A. T. Robinson rejects the idea of reality “divided mentally into two realms, a natural and a supernatural” as a “main-line Western” notion (Exploration into God, pp. 30, 80). The God “up there,” Robinson declares, is the byproduct of a pre-Copernican “three-decker” worldview in which the incarnate Christ could be described as “coming down” from heaven and then “ascending” into heaven after his resurrection. He considers these spatial images the incentive for viewing God as “metaphysically ‘out there’ ” (Honest to God, p. 13).

Many modern theologians seek to revise the idea of God as a supernatural Spirit and the Christian conception of his relations to the universe and to human history. They call for drastic restatement of all that the JudeoChristian community and the larger world it influenced have considered supernatural. Modern man’s inventory of reality, we are told, has no place for archaic conceptions of an absolutely supernatural deity. For such theological revisionists the chief task of contemporary theology becomes dissociating Christianity from “the supernatural God in heaven.”

Among the proposed theological alternatives are process theology (evaluated in chapter 2), the futurist theology of hope, and Tillich’s ontology. For a two-level theory of reality all of these would substitute a monodimensional view. For the God “out there,” as the orthodox deity is depicted, they deploy a God within, a God ahead, or a God beneath. They consider the absolutely supernatural God of evangelical Christianity as based unacceptably upon a misunderstanding of both God’s nature and his relationship to the universe.

Sponsors of “the new conception” all deplore historical biblical theism, complaining that its view of God’s transcendence requires a denial of universal divine immanence. They tell us that as a consequence of the “Hellenization” of theology, evangelical orthodoxy boxed its deity into a dualistic supernaturalism by which God, completely independent of the world, could intervene only sporadically in nature and history. But Gordon Kaufman properly protests as manifestly unfair representations of the biblical God of the Bible in terms of “spur-of-the-moment inspiration” by “an erratic being … who suddenly and unexpectedly rips into human history and existence” (Systematic Theology: A Historicist Perspective, p. 90). John Oman stresses that the Old Testament nowhere presents a theory of the supernatural that displaces interest in the natural but rather “an attitude towards the Natural, as a sphere in which a victory of deeper meaning than the visible and of more abiding purpose than the fleeting can be won” (The Natural and the Supernatural, p. 448).

Critics who have charged the biblical view with neglecting divine immanence divide sharply, however, over which of many competing reconstructions to adopt. Among the proposed options have been idealism, pantheism, personalism, panentheism, dipolar theism. All aim to show that the supernatural is not foreign to nature—an emphasis which, properly understood, evangelical theists would champion no less vigorously than do their critics. In stating the essence and content of Christianity, the “new view” in all its varieties really misrepresents itself as a majestic rediscovery of neglected Christian teaching. To amplify and intensify divine immanence it actually minimizes the supernatural divine transcendence that evangelical theology affirms. As E. C. Dewick noted, the new view replaces creation ex nihilo by a deity organic to the world, and views God’s incarnation in Christ and the gift of the Spirit as events belonging merely to the order of divine immanence and not to that of miracle (The Indwelling God, Humphrey Milford, pp. 232 ff.).

Neo-Protestant writers on both sides of the Atlantic shared in this revolt against the inherited theological view of two realities, the supernatural and natural, and advocated instead a one-realm reality. Whatever their other differences may have been, theologians united in a frontal attack on supernaturalism. In Germany Heinz Zahrnt and Herbert Braun dismissed as a stone of stumbling the view that God metaphysically transcends the world; so did their “death of God” counterparts in America. Zahrnt stressed that not two realms of reality but only one, one self-contained finality, surrounds us. In America H. Richard Niebuhr joined others in declaring that the supernatural is but a way of talking; it is the realm of secular events viewed from the dimension of religious values.

According to the Bible, God is the supreme and sovereign rational will, while nature is more or less a dependent form of that divine will. God is not an absentee sovereign but nature’s everpresent ground and administrator: nature is no closed, self-sufficient activity. Standing perpetually in providential relationships to man and the world, God is no less implicated in the falling of the rain than in the resurrection of the Redeemer. The Bible in no way qualifies the absoluteness or infinitude and transcendence of the divine nature, however. As Barth rightly emphasizes, “as Creator this God is distinct from the world” (Church Dogmatics, I/1, p. 368). He protests that if deity is assimilated to the world then God no longer remains free but “at best must become a partner, at worst a tool of the pious man” (ibid., p. 372). The supernatural God not only knows himself fully, but also, unlike Aristotle’s deity (cf. W. D. Ross, Aristotle, p. 183), knows all other things as well, including the knowledge of evil.

Contrary to Whitehead’s process philosophy in which God and the world are reciprocally interdependent and the finite universe becomes the medium of God’s own development, God is transcendent, omnipotent, personal creator ex nihilo of the space-time universe. And God is not, as in deism, simply the external creator of the world and the constitutive source of the independence of the universe; he is also its continuing ground through whom all things gain their individuality and live and move and have their being. Unlike Kant’s metaphysically postulated, and moreover metaphysically unknowable, divinity, God is the self-revealing, cognitively knowable source of the universally valid categories and content of knowledge and morality.

Neosupernaturalism avoided metaphysical claims and sought to promote the reality of God through dialectical internal confrontation. Partly by way of reaction a variety of countermovements emerged, most prominently the futurist “theology of hope” and process theology. The existential ingredient in the theology of Barth and Bultmann, and even of Tillich, as Carl E. Braaten notes, “let the dimension of the future slip into an eternal present” so that “the transcendence of God could only be viewed in vertical terms as ‘above us’ or … “below us’ …” (The Future of God. The Revolutionary Dynamics of Hope, p. 11). The “death of God” reaction, thinks Braaten, arose in turn as a retribution upon the “future-less eschatology” of the “God above us” theologians.

Tillich, to be sure, sought to balance existential analysis with ontological solution, and proposed to exchange the God vertically “up there” for Beingitself as the ground of all. George Thomas notes that most philosophers and theologians find the phenomenological analysis of being by which Tillich supports his metaphysics and natural theology to be rooted in speculation more than in reason. Tillich’s theory, he adds, “does not really do justice to the transcendence and otherness of God, since it views God as the Ground rather than as the Creator of the world who is distinct from his creatures” (Religious Philosophies of the West, p. 418). John A. T. Robinson endorsed Tillich’s call for “a third option between supranaturalism and naturalism, theism and atheism” without dependence on the notion of “a supreme Being, an almighty Person” (Exploration into God, p. 16). And even though the words are identical in meaning he prefers Tillich’s “supranatural” to the inherited term “supernatural” because it avoids emphasizing “the existence of a God or gods in some realms above or beyond that of everyday relationships” (ibid., p. 28); for Tillich the term supranatural in fact accommodates an immanent impersonal Ground of all being. Robinson’s distaste for orthodox theism led him first to Tillich’s alternative and then to that of Barth, so that, as Kenneth Hamilton observes, Robinson seems only to exchange the imagery of height for that of depth (Revolt Against Heaven, p. 29), while he detaches transcendence from supernaturalism (Honest to God, p. 56). There is little difference between belief in an objectively undefinable “supernatural up there” or “supranatural beneath here”; both notions contrast sharply with belief in a rationally definable God who, according to Christian metaphysicians, is both “out there” and “in here.” Along with God’s supernatural transcendence Tillich’s view sacrifices God’s personality and, because Tillich considers the Ground of one’s own being beyond doubt, presumptuously circumvents any need for evidential supports. Death of God critics then went a step further; by extending Tillich’s claim that all predications about metaphysical realities are symbolic they dismissed the objective claims that Tillich made for Being-itself. Tillich had declared the inherited view archaic on the assumption that biblical supernaturalism rests on a transitional worldview. His own alternative rests on a far less durable worldview, however, and moreover, he arbitrarily replaces biblical supernaturalism with secular metaphysical conjecture.

By their alternative to the existential “God above us” Pannenberg and Moltmann restored futurist eschatology. They did so, however, by refocusing the entire Christian message through this one lens. Futuristic concerns of technological society, awakening interest in biblical apocalypticism, and Ernst Bloch’s philosophy of hope (Das Prinzip Hoffnung) all accelerated this theological reorientation of eschatological concerns.

Judeo-Christian religion has always included a spirited, two-pronged eschatological emphasis on both the future divine consummation of all things, and the living God’s judging and renewing activity in past and present history. Over against the more nebulous “event”-character assigned by existential theologians to Jesus resurrection, Moltmann and Pannenberg underscore its historical significance and proleptic importance.

Pannenberg replaces the existentially experienced reality of the supernatural with the presence of the future. For Moltmann likewise the category of present and future replaces that of time and eternity, of natural and supernatural. Despite important differences Moltmann (Theology of Hope) and Pannenberg (Jesus—God and Man) both reject a two-level reality of supernature and nature and promote, instead, a one-level reality within which the transcendent future of God replaces the supernatural deity of evangelical theism. The category of eternity is dissolved into God’s historical activity, and instead of being a future supratemporal finale the Christian hope becomes ongoing expectation of the eschatologically new in the continuing temporal-historical process. Alongside God’s presence in the universe as the power of love, Pannenberg stresses God’s transcendence as the creative power of the future. Futurity is for him the mode of God’s being; divine transcendence is a future that God continually actualizes by the Spirit.

Both Pannenberg and Moltmann reject rational divine revelation; Pannenberg views the biblical disclosure as “doxological” and for Moltmann valid theological truth awaits the eschatological end-time.

The weakness of futurist theology lay both in its internal inconsistencies and in forfeiting the objectively valid divine disclosure for which it sought to compensate by escalating hope. Critics on the left stressed that hope truly distinguished from intellectually oriented faith shuns all objective dogmatic supports, and therefore has no need, contrary to Bultmann, to distinguish New Testament representations of Christ’s resurrection from sheer mythology. Critics on the right observed that if God’s objective revelation in history occurs only at the end-time, then Jesus’ mid-point resurrection must be relativized; but if his resurrection is accorded objective revelatory significance, then no reason remains for confining definitive revelation only to this isolated miracle-claim, or for locating valid knowledge about God only in the eschatological future. Futuristic theology lacked doctrinal power, moreover, to withstand the merely political versions of the future formulated by Marxists and proponents of a theology of revolution or liberation. Dwarfing of the supernatural realm to simply the transcendence of the future, a future whose eschatological components the theologians of hope developed much more vaguely than does the inherited biblical teaching, abetted a secular political theology whose championing of Marxist socio-economic particularities lends specificity to the dawning historical kingdom. Process philosophy projects yet another alternative to biblical supernaturalism. Like futurist theology, it, too, sponsors a monodimensional view of reality that evaporates the antithesis of supernatural and natural. Among the broad spectrum of process thinkers are those who try to expound a revised Christian metaphysics, and others who attempt to derive any and all assertions about God simply by inferences from the space-time process. Instead of articulating historic Christianity in terms of supernatural promise and fulfillment and centering on Jesus’ resurrection as the sign and seal of man’s final destiny, Whitehead’s panpsychism disregards any special role for Judeo-Christian miracle and revelation and is indifferent to personal immortality. Peter Hamilton, who projects a Christian theology based on Whitehead’s thought, observes: “My rather mathematical mind finds it in no way surprising that the more one emphasizes the uniqueness both of the person and of the Resurrection of Jesus, the harder it becomes to see his Resurrection as in any way analagous to ourselves” (The Living God and the Modern World, p. 231). Hamilton settles for Whitehead’s view that what survives death is not our personality but God’s, one which includes our concrete experiences (ibid., p. 141). In a comment more illuminating than he probably intended, Whitehead even connects belief in God’s personality only with uncritical supernaturalism; religious experience, he suggests, can in and of itself supply no conclusive intuition of God as personal (Religion in the Making, pp. 60, 66).

There are, to be sure, overlapping emphases in futurist theology and in process theology. Not least of these is the notion of “the unending future of God’s own creative becoming,” although this premise is interpreted and developed in different ways. Futurist theology’s insistence that the temporal natural and the supertemporal supernatural must be replaced by the present and future of God is, in its emphasis that time pervades all reality, much like Schubert Ogden’s assertion that “the chief category for finally interpreting anything real can no longer be ‘substance’ or ‘being’ (as traditionally understood), but must be ‘process’ or ‘creative becoming,’ construed as that which is in principle social and temporal” (The Reality of God, p. 58).

But process philosophy disdains supernatural theism much more boldly and blatantly than do futurist theologians. Ogden derides the historic biblical view as “supernaturalism that is no longer tenable” (ibid., p. 20). “Supernaturalism, at best,” he says, “is a maze of inconsistencies” (ibid., p. 50). For Ogden the New Testament is full of myths whose purpose is the promotion of human self-understanding, that is, of man’s inherent human possibilities. Rejecting its affirmation of supernatural objects in a realm of supernatural existences and activity, and its role for miracles, Ogden attributes these conceptions to an imaginative objectification of transcendence. The positivistic attack on knowledge of God he depicts as specially motivated by a justifiable hostility to supernatural theism not unlike that affirmed in the Hebrew-Christian Scriptures (The Reality of God, p. 17). The real purpose of the secularist denial of God, he says, is “to make fully explicit the incompatibility between our experience as secular men and the supernaturalistic theism of our intellectual heritage” (ibid., p. 25). The God of classical theism he thus views as indirectly responsible for modern atheism (ibid., p. 46). Ogden finds the major obstacle to recovering the reality of God to be the particular metaphysical conceptuality through which supernatural theists present God, one which, he insists along with Bishop Robinson, belongs to the past (ibid., p. 19). The excision of supernaturalism, he suggests, will enable us to do “greater justice to the insights of our religious heritage” (ibid., p. 20).

Process theologians repeatedly portray the Bible as presenting two realms that deistically “puncture” or “penetrate” each other. Whitehead and Hartshorne instead champion a nonsupernaturalist concept system, projecting God’s relationships to man in the context of one self-contained reality.

For Ogden, modern man’s self-understanding is independent of supernatural beings and powers. Scientific method, however much its hypotheses may vary from time to time, he considers decisive for the externally real world (“Bultmann’s Project of Demythologization and the Problem of Theology and Philosophy,” p. 156). He believes consequently that “God, like man, essentially exists as being-in-the-world [so Heidegger], with real internal relations to others, and that … his successive occasions of present experience each involve the same kind of relations to the future and the past exhibited by our own occasions of experience as men” (The Reality of God, p. 153, ital. sup.).

Baltazar tells us that atheistic communists and naturalistic humanists—who do not believe in a “supernatural beyond,” and for whom this world is all-important—”can heed the supernatural only if it is shown to be constitutive of nature, situated at the very core of it, and its highest perfection” (Teilhard and the Supernatural, p. 70). We are tempted to respond by asking for evangelistic statistics on the number of decisions for process philosophy made by Communist Party members. The fact is that the real basis of Marxist rejection of the supernatural lies elsewhere. What’s more, process theology offers no cognitive framework for vindicating the supernatural in its Judeo-Christian understanding, or in any other form.

Much like Barthian neoorthodoxy, Bultmannian existentialism and Tillichian pantheism, process philosophy has not significantly penetrated the secular academic community; its small constituency is gleaned largely from professing but biblically rootless Christians trying to avoid naturalism. Contemporary naturalists recognize the instability of process metaphysics no less than do traditional supernaturalists: by imputing two contrary and conflicting natures to the divine reality, process theology presents a deity less fully integrated and independent, who as such becomes just another postulated Homeric divinity. In the selfsame deity, process philosophers try to preserve both divine immutability and change; the distinct identity of a creator whose separateness from the world remains ambiguous is one whose infinity is in some respects snared in finitude, a divine reality whose potential alone is permanent while his intrinsic nature is in process.

Despite Ogden’s bald assertion that “for the tradition, God’s absoluteness entails the denial of his real relation to others” (The Reality of God, p. 156), evangelical orthodoxy by no means considers God’s absoluteness incompatible with his real relationships to others. At the same time Christian theism disallows intrinsically necessary divine relationships to man and the world, and insists on God’s essential independence. By turning the asymmetrical relationship between God and the universe into a mutual relationship in which they imply each other, process theology obscures God’s causal efficacy in relation to the universe.

Neither the Old or New Testament nor historic Christianity isolates God’s presence and activity from nature. But as scholars in the modern West viewed nature as fully autonomous and uncontrolled by divine being and as independent of divine power, the notion developed of God’s separateness from the universe. Concentration on secular space-time concerns went hand-in-hand with this neglect of the ultimate source of life’s meaning and security and destiny. The calls to a new understanding of God trumpeted by Barth, Bultmann, Tillich, Moltmann and Pannenberg simply echoed the problems caused by the modern view; although these efforts tried to cope with them, most actually involve in varying ways a basic compromise with process theology. Robinson’s plea in Honest to God for a view of the divine that remains honestly possible to modern man reflects the dilemma of the naturalistically conditioned intellectual, but presents no specially creative effort to resolve it. Robinson senses, however, that the main theme of theological discussion has been shifting from the question of myth and Geschichte which had largely preempted the neoorthodox debate with existentialism; now the broader question is to what extent Christian faith is bound to the reality of the supernatural (ibid., p. 42).

Dialectical, existential and futurist theologians had inherited from proponents of modern scientism an exaggerated concept of God’s separation from the universe, and perpetuated it in different ways despite spirited efforts by contemporary theologians to overcome this secular view. Many theologians today consider the world of nature as in some respect organically related to the divine and deny a comprehensive distinction between the supernatural and natural. But from the standpoint of historic Christian theism this approach merely substitutes one error for another, and at worst, replaces God by the deified human self; the New Testament sharply condemns such self-adulating paganism (Rom. 1:23). Such recent attempts to reinterpret the biblical supernatural have produced competing efforts to bridge the ontological contrast between supernature and nature, or to restate the issue in terms of nature and grace.

Some theories obscure God’s pure transcendence and the distinction between the supernatural and the natural; others deny the world is a totally natural realm and elevate the “sacred” and the “transcendent” to supernatural status. The Bible employs the term hieros (“holy,” “sacred”) with great reservation because of its pagan usage, and shows strong preference for the alternative term hagios (“holy”); modern discussions, however, do not discriminate between biblical and nonbiblical conceptions of the supernatural. They tend rather to view both as simply different varieties having a common denominator. With the loss of biblical supernaturalism religious discussion thus becomes merely a creative exploration of the span of conceptions of the transcendent from pagan mythology to Christian theism but with no attention to the question of idolatry. Robinson can thus declare that God is “the within of all things” (Exploration into God, p. 75), “the inner truth, depth and center of all being” (ibid., p. 90) and that “all things, all events, all persons are the faces, the incognitos of God” (ibid., p. 94). “God is in everything and everything is in God—literally everything material and spiritual, evil as well as good” (ibid., p. 92). For Western man stripped of metaphysical discrimination this universal presence of the divine or the sacred opens a new door to relationships even with what biblical theism considers the demonic world. To be sure, the biblical view of false gods is sufficiently broad to encompass such idols as wealth, sex, or self, objects that the secular West holds dear. But today’s emphasis on deity as a universal, if hidden, presence, creates a cultural context in which long repressed spiritual anxieties and desires emerge in novel gropings after the unknown god and readily fall prey to the demonic.

But modern confusion over the sacred, together with the further distinction of good and evil within the sacred, goes even further. In a perverse inversion of revealed religion, death-of-God theologians go so far as to view the supernatural Creator as demonic, and do so in order to connect God with a merely human Jesus. Altizer links the assertion of “a transcendent Creator who is an absolutely sovereign and wholly other transcendental Judge” with a demonic “evil and darkness” (cf. “The Future of Evangelism: Is the Concept Still Valid?,” Christianity Today, Vol. X, No. 7, Jan. 7, 1966, p. 46); this evil supernatural Creator he seeks to replace with the God who is spiritually present in Jesus. Altizer in fact identifies the supernatural Creator God with Satan (The Gospel of Christian Atheism, pp. 92–101).

In the Bible, as earlier indicated, God is the Supernatural, while all heavenly spirits, whether fallen or unfallen, belong to the created world. The work of the destructive powers or demons (daimones), moreover, is under the rule of God. In distinction from daimon, daimones, the Bible uses a different term (aggelos, aggelia) for God’s messengers to man. Unlike the term theos, daimon is general and is used broadly of simply a supernatural power (cf. Acts 17:22, 25:19 where, as Alan Richardson observes, deisidaimonia may be translated “respect or fear of the supernatural”) (“Superstition, superstitious,” A Theological Word Book of the Bible, p. 253). Prechristian writers, Werner Foerster observes, used daimonion in the sense of “the divine” (on daimon, daimonion, tdnt, 2:8). And in popular Greek thought references to the supernatural spanned the range from simply spirits of the dead to demons and to gods. But biblical usage cannot be reduced to such religious generalizations. The Old Testament, as the Septuagint attests, not only distinguishes angels from demons who are instruments of Satan, but also subordinates both to the one supernatural Creator.

By rejecting biblical theism and assimilating God to nature Whitehead prepared the way for a different concept of the sacred; in Process and Reality, in fact, he speaks of God simply as organism rather than as personality. Tillich, too, wholly eliminates divine ontological transcendence; he speaks of God not as “person” but merely as personal and does so in a symbolic phrasing required, he says, by person-to-person relationships. He writes: ” ‘Personal God’ … means that God is the ground of everything personal and that he carries within himself the ontological power of personality.… Ordinary theism has made God a heavenly, completely perfect person who resides above the world and mankind. The protest of atheism against such a highest person is correct. There is no evidence for his existence” (Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, p. 245).

Robinson asserts that our knowledge is in relationships only; we step outside these bounds, he contends, when we speak of God “as though he were another self” and thereby finitize God “by encompassing him in categories of our own selfhood” (Exploration into God, p. 72). In a colossal distortion of Judeo-Christian doctrine, he declares the affirmation that God is a personal Being, an idolatrous personification that violates the second commandment (ibid., p. 72). Yet elsewhere he approvingly cites Bultmann’s rejoinder to Barth: “I consider theology as anthropology, which means nothing else than that I consider theological expressions as expressions concerning existentz …” (Honest to God, p. 57).

For Robinson the term God refers not to an existence outside our experience but to an inner relationship. “Of what lies outside it or beyond it we can say nothing meaningful” (Exploration into God, p. 67). Here the cash-value of objective God-statements is reduced to the point of bankruptcy, since he erases any possibility of intelligible divine revelation. Yet Robinson insists that this relationship is truth-reflective: “We can trust the universe not only at the level of certain mathematical regularities but at the level of utterly personal reliability that Jesus indicated by the word ‘Abba, Father!’ ” (ibid., p. 68). God-statements are “statements about the veracity of this relationship,” not “about some supposed metaphysical entity outside or beyond it” (ibid., p. 68). God-statements do not describe God as a Person, says Robinson, (ibid., p. 70); we speak of God directly only as if (ibid., p. 70).

While some modern writers deliberately retain the term supernatural, they redefine it and consequently swamp its meaning in a morass of confusion. Schleiermacher, we may recall, outlawed the absolute supernatural but applied the term instead to the natural understood not empirically but superrationally and mystically (The Christian Faith, §13, Postscript). Henry Nelson Wieman championed “the new Christian supernaturalism” even though he was essentially a naturalist who tried to stretch nature to include “something upon which human life is most dependent for its security, welfare and increasing abundance” (Religious Experience and Scientific Method, p. 9). “Neosupernaturalistic” theologians use the term supernatural of vertical divine confrontation even though they deny the objective metaphysical significance of theological propositions and reject objective supernatural events in nature and history. Nels S. F. Ferré retains the term to describe what is unprecedented in nature (Searchlights in Contemporary Theology, p. 183). Existentialist writers transmute the term into a divine call to redemption or conferral of grace. A number of Roman Catholic writers similarly elaborate a theology of grace that subordinates the whole discussion of what is supernatural to simply the gratuity of the divine Given.

Unlike other process theologians, Teilhard de Chardin emphasizes the supernatural but like Baltazar insists that to be meaningful the concept must not be extraneous to the modern world but must have a real place in it (Teilhard and the Supernatural, p. 16). What are the implications of this approach? There is only one process, he tells us, a process which is neither natural nor supernatural in the traditional sense; consequently, we must no longer view the supernatural as supertemporal. Obviously it is little gain for theological clarity if cherished terms are retained but their character and intention are thus inverted. If the term supernatural sacrifices the presence of something transcendent and beyond the powers of nature to attain and involves only the notion that Christ and grace are wholly immanent in the world, and that the entire evolutionary process is soteriological, then there is no point in speaking of the ontological structure of the universe as “a being-towards-the-Other” (ibid., p. 320).

One consequence of conflicting expositions of the supernatural and the natural was the equal difficulty of defining nature and of identifying the truly transcendent. Without transcendence God no doubt becomes indistinguishable from the world; the concept of transcendence, however, often implies little more than the mystery fringe of nature. Apart from a clear view of the supernatural, or as Christian theism delineates it, apart from the self-revealing Creator-Redeemer God, all efforts to lift human perception beyond this fringe and more fully to the transcendent will sooner or later revert to nature. Robinson deliberately tries to find “a way of expressing transcendence which would not tie God’s reality to a supranaturalistic … world-view” (Exploration into God, p. 14). In so doing he cannot avoid, however, equating the meaning of God with statements about at least some aspects of the universe unless he appeals existentially to the reality of an internally experienced “Thou” this “Thou” obviously is incapable of objective metaphysical description.

Humanists reply that this “Thou” is merely the inner affirmation and projection of a reality beyond the sphere of universally shared human relationships. Robinson himself volunteers: “I believe, with Tillich, that we should give up speaking of ‘the existence’ of God” (ibid., p. 38); and again, “As for the images of God … I am prepared to be an agnostic with the agnostics, even an atheist with the atheists” (Honest to God, p.127). What remains is a nonsupernatural nonexistent “God” whose reality Robinson affirms solely on the basis of strenuous inner conviction. “There is a beyond … arrived at by negation … While it is impossible to define God it is always possible to point to him” (Exploration into God, pp. 52 f.). But while Barthian theologians were “pointing” to a personal supernatural God Tillichian theologians were “pointing,” on the other hand, to a nonpersonal, nonsupernatural Ground. And Robinson’s acknowledgment that he no more than Barth or Tillich could objectively know what he was pointing at suggested there was little point in anyone’s even pointing. If Robinson found comfort in declaring the God of classic theism “merely a cipher, a wraith” and “the word ‘God’ a strictly meaningless monosyllable” (ibid., p. 58), then his pointless pointing should have removed it. How from the standpoint of Robinson’s supposedly theologically superior option of existential relationship one can seriously criticize classical theism for failing “to establish a genuine reciprocal relationship” between God and the world is beyond comprehension. When Robinson insists that faith has no more necessary commitment to a metaphysical reality than to a mythological object, and urges that we discuss God only as a functional entity, he either implies that his own theological claims are just as culture-reflexive as the myths, or he claims something for which he can provide no basis, namely, a truth-status (and a veiled ontological identity as well) for a merely functional theory of God.

If by his verdict that “a God … who depends on ontological existence for his reality … is merely inviting secularism” (ibid., p. 37) Robinson thinks that secularism could be effectively resisted by a merely functional view of deity he has learned little from the swift deterioration of Protestant modernism and of religious humanism two generations ago. Loss of the supernatural led swiftly to eclipse of the transcendent as well, and efforts to substitute religious psychology for theology proved powerless to resist naturalistic counterattack. The modernist emphasis on God “within” Edward Scribner Ames dilutes to simply human values and goals (Psychology of Religious Experience). For Shailer Mathews God represents simply our idea of personality-evolving and personality-responsive activities in the universe (The Growth of the Idea of God).

Sidelining of the supernatural in favor of the transcendent soon led in turn to surrender of the transcendent and of the distinctly religious as well. Robinson had stressed that the supernatural had lost intellectual compulsion because vast numbers of modern people “no longer live” in such an ontological context (Exploration into God, p. 31). Now others pronounced the transcendent equally irrelevant to modern consciousness. As Peter Hamilton affirms, “the existence of a transcendent God is not intellectually essential; I doubt whether it ever was” (The Living God and the Modern World, p. 166). In keeping with the “death of God” mood William Hamilton claims that modern man has lost all genuine sense of transcendence; he doubts, moreover, that the God-dimension will much longer survive in the consciousness of ordinary people (“The Death of God Theology,” pp. 27–48). Another modern thinker, Paul van Buren, invokes the scientific empirical method to erode human significance for the transcendent (The Secular Meaning of the Gospel: An Original Inquiry).

To say that the concept of a supernatural God confines God to some remote ghetto and requires a deity peripheral to human life and the workings of the universe, a divinity unavailable in man’s daily existence and knowable only by existential response to an inner constraint or confrontation, one made ideally in a Bultmannian or Tillichian context, is so alien to biblical thought as to be a caricature. Such projection is, in fact, a neo-Protestant ploy to make Christians believe that escape from the civilizational burial of the God of the Bible is possible only if we exchange biblical theism for one or another of the latest philosophical reconstructions. Any serious student of contemporary history knows that modern man has not lost a vital sense of the transcendent supernatural. Secularists who write theology in shadowy academic cloisters may be oblivious to the fact that the mass media reflect at least some aspects of a surging interest in both transcendental religion and religious supernaturalism. Just because a few specialists concentrate on certain experiences does not make other experiences impossible, illicit, or extinct. Multitudes even in the secular West profess to live in daily relationships with the supernatural God of the Bible, and in America national news magazines have come to terms with an evangelical resurgence.

Typical of many neo-Protestant attacks on miraculous theism, that is, on the supernatural redemptive religion of the Bible, is their failure to recognize Christianity’s insistent emphasis on divine immanence, and their disposition, instead, to depict biblical theism as virtually a kind of deism. This they do in part because they disdain the miraculous, even if their antipathy was first nurtured by now outmoded notions of universal causality in nature. But Barth also fostered a misunderstanding of the biblical view; this he did by his early exaggeration of divine transcendence to the neglect of immanence, and by confining God’s activity to internal person-to-person confrontation rather than stressing divine activity in the external world. Since Barth defined revelation in nonpropositional terms and denied that theological dogmas are objectifying, he seemed to project a kind of qualified supernatural irrationalism as the best alternative to naturalistic humanism. But biblical Christianity has never been called upon to defend an “infinite qualitative difference” that promotes a super-supernatural, an antithesis between God and man that clouds even the imago Dei borne by man. Whenever theologians have sponsored such extremes, orthodoxy has also soon had to combat radical overcorrections. Except for Tillich the theological movement from Kierkegaard through the early Barth and then through Bultmann ignored God’s immanence in the external world. Tillich spoke of God existentially as the transcendent Object of our “ultimate concern,” yet as the immanent Ground of all being; in doing so he rejected the supernatural, however, and divine personality as well.

If straightforward reading of the Bible establishes anything, it is the absolute ethical personality of God, his supernatural transcendence of the spatio-temporal universe, and his immanence in it as creator, preserver and governor. The fact that antisupernaturalism is now entrenched as the megaview of Free World learning, and no less of the Communist World, largely explains contemporary man’s confusion over the traditional doctrine. Humanists increasingly deplore the fact that many historians still consider the sixteenth century as the time of the Reformation rather than as the beginnings of the Renaissance that finally enthroned a naturalistic alternative. Professing to speak for the liberal intellectual, Harold J. Laski finalizes the communist case against Christianity by reciting a number of personal prejudices: “The power of any supernatural religion to build that tradition of countless past generations has gone; the deposit of scientific inquiry since Descartes has been fatal to its authority. It is therefore difficult to see upon what basis the civilized tradition can be rebuilt save that upon which the idea of the Russian Revolution is founded.… It is, indeed, true in a sense to argue that the Russian principle cuts deeper than the Christian since it seeks salvation for the masses by fulfillment in this life, and, thereby, orders anew the actual world we know” (Faith, Reason, and Civilization: An Essay in Historical Analysis, p. 184). Here science serves not only as an instrumentality for controlling nature but also supplies a gnosis for the modern rejection of God. A full stomach becomes the only reality that transcends the present moment.

The degree of divine transcendence, if any, that secular metaphysicians preserve for divine being and activity depends upon how they conceive God’s relationship to the world. Where the self-revealing God is unknown as supernatural creator and perpetual preserver and governor of the universe the alternative possibilities are legion. But in the history of philosophy there are four major theories that in rival ways have formulated God’s relations to the world.

1. God as efficient cause shapes the cosmic process from preexistent matter and forms. This is Plato’s view as stated in the Republic (597).

2. God is the source of the cosmic process which arises as an inner self-manifestation or emanation from the divine Being. This view with different nuances is held by Plotinus, Spinoza and Hegel. For Plotinus all reality consists of a series of necessary emanations from the One as their eternal source. For Spinoza the universe arises by logical necessity from the divine nature and is itself God (Ethics, 1, prop. 33). And for Hegel the universe is a dynamic logical evolution of the Absolute Spirit.3. God is the ever-changing final stage of the ongoing cosmic process and not its efficient cause or ground. According to Samuel Alexander, in its evolution from primal space-time the world is ever on the move toward an infinitely perfect goal; while it perpetually strives toward this goal it never attains a state of absolute perfection.

4. God is the final cause of the cosmic process. Aristotle views matter as uncreated and eternal, as did Plato, but considers God not only the efficient cause but also the final cause that as its end or goal induces change in the world. Whitehead modifies this approach. He rejects God as efficient cause or creator but instead considers God as the final cause that brings order into the world.

From and between these major views stem all the divergent mediating positions now proposed by creative metaphysicians. But not one of these secular representations properly or adequately reflects the self-revealing supernatural God of the Bible, the God who is eternally perfect and not in process of development or growth; all do violence to the God who created all things ex nihilo and is not himself the substance of the universe, the God who is at once sovereign lord of the cosmos and the chief end of man. In the radical cultural and intellectual climate of their age the rationalistic alternatives to supernatural theism may seem an improvement over more drastic views, or may even seem to preserve an interest in Judeo-Christian positions; the fact is, however, that they profane the self-revealing God attested by Scripture. None of these theories expounds the central thesis of the Bible, namely, that God and God alone is supernatural, the sovereign eternal creator, the lord and judge of the whole space-time process.

The sharp conflict between recent modern schools of thought—Barthian, Bultmannian, Whiteheadian, Tillichian, Moltmannian, and so on (all of which aim to settle the tension between the supernatural and the natural)—reveals the fact of a shared underlying concession, one that actually precludes any resolution of the central problem. We may and do indeed agree that neither the vaunted intellectual force of logical positivism nor the arrogance of humanism’s correlation of truth solely with empirical scientific method can justify eradicating God from contemporary life; the point needs to be made again and again that if one takes for granted that nothing but what can be verified by sense experience is real then one arbitrarily assumes in advance that only space-time things and events are real.

The fact is, that not a single factor of man’s knowledge of the natural world gained through laboratory experimentation, or of his physical dependence upon natural conditions or of his comfort and convenience born of a technological advance bears decisively on the question of a supernatural realm of reality. But almost all recent modern theologies have nonetheless denied objective metaphysical knowledge of the living supernatural God of revelation. Their devastating concessions seek to maintain the supernatural in the absence of valid cognitive knowledge; to herald the transcendent without the supernatural; or to postulate a unitary reality upon which they selectively impose distinctions inherited from a very different, uncongenial worldview that therefore yields but a distorted and inadequate manifestation of the nature of ultimate reality.

To say that the great contribution of neo-Protestant theologians lies in their reinterpretation of supernaturalism in terms of another kind of transcendence, overlooks the fact that if theism destroys the supernatural there can be no logical antithesis but naturalism. Either nature is considered self-sufficient and independent of any contrasting supernatural reference, or we must distinguish between the supernatural and the natural. Even when ventured by so prestigious a theologian as Tillich, any effort that sponsors a metaphysics “beyond naturalism and supernaturalism” ends up sacrificing one to the other; in modern times nature in some complex form is what usually devours the supernatural. The only logically consistent alternative to naturalism is supernaturalism. Corliss Lamont focuses the issue clearly: “Humanism believes in a naturalistic metaphysics … that considers all forms of the supernatural as myth and that regards Nature as the totality of being” (The Philosophy of Humanism, p. 12). Denial of the supernatural means that everything necessarily collapses into nature, that nature is the only reality and the only source, moreover, of meaning, purpose and value.

Those like Robinson who seek a bridge between theism and atheism, between supernaturalism and naturalism, have two alternatives: they must either turn back at midpoint to preserve their sanity or must resort to private mysticism that has no philosophical significance for mankind generally. To say that the supernatural falls within the natural, or that the natural falls within the supernatural, is but a juggling of words. Pantheism perpetrates a cruel hoax when it deifies the natural world and honorifically calls it God; it was this gigantic illusion that opened the door to all the lesser myths that deify one or another aspect of reality. What then sets out to be a transcendent mediator between God and man, a tertium quid, a cosmo-theos, ends up as a metaphysical centaur, half man and half beast, and completely hostile to the divine.

“The issue of supernaturalism versus anti-supernaturalism,” Kenneth Hamilton observes, “is no mere matter of presenting Christianity in contemporary dress, but involves the very nature of the Gospel itself” (Revolt Against Heaven, p. 46). The concept of nature is so firmly entrenched in the history of ideas and so deeply embedded in our cultural heritage that, says Hamilton, not to speak of the supernatural when referring to the transcendence of God who speaks from heaven “would seem artificial and intolerably pedantic” (ibid., p. 64). S. V. McCasland’s comment that “the concepts of natural and supernatural … were not characteristic of biblical thought” (“Spirit,” Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, IV:433a) is true in the sense that Scripture does not confine God’s actions to miraculous interventions, but surely not in the sense of approving a one-layer view of reality.

Present confusion over the transcendent often clouds a distinction between the merely supraempirical, which may rest on epistemological factors only, and the ontologically transcendent—which need not of course be regarded as supernatural. Even such antitheses as nature and grace, or creator and creation, need not reflect the contrast of nature and the supernatural unless the content and relationship of the terms is stated in such a way as to avoid fusing one into the other.

While the term supernatural may have come into use only gradually it nonetheless carries serviceable biblical meanings and overtones; to reject it confuses rather than clarifies essential elements of the scriptural view of God. Neither the term transcendent nor the term sacred is adequate, moreover, since both words can be used in a naturalistic perspective that excludes the God of the Bible.

Yet biblical religion gains nothing from a blanket endorsement of the term supernatural if the word is no more than undefined symbol. Different religions and philosophies perceive the supernatural in different ways and the term therefore implies also different plans of redemption. Anthropologists may speak of a vague force in nature that primitive religion identifies as supernatural, polytheists may view the supernatural in terms of multiple spirits that supposedly rule different parts of nature, pantheists may speak of nature in its wholeness as supernatural; all these approaches crudely misapply the term to what is merely natural. To identify the supernatural with the general idea of an Absolute or the Unconditioned does violence to the names of God and to the Christian religion.

Hamilton generously labels antisupernaturalistic theology of the recent past, which by its reconstructions claims to make Christianity meaningful to the modern mind, as “the theology of meaningfulness” he quickly adds, however, that “by begging the question of a criterion of meaning … [such reconstructions] throw up a smokescreen hiding the fact that the supernatural character of the Gospel is the vital issue” (Revolt Against Heaven, p. 181). Hamilton, unfortunately, distinguishes the biblical supernatural from the metaphysical supernatural in a way that onesidedly connects revelation with bare faith and minimizes the cognitive ontological significance of revelation (ibid., p. 51). He would not only commendably “reject the Greek philosophico-theological element in Thomism … and … accept its emphasis upon revelation as a supernatural gift” (ibid., p. 65), but regrettably would also shun an apologetic theology. This approach leaves unresolved the question of intelligible relationships between biblical theological and nonbiblical philosophical claims about the supernatural. If truth is one, there need be no absolute discontinuity between philosophical and theological ontological affirmations.

George F. Thomas notes that Plato was the “first in the history of philosophy” to present “the rational grounds for Theism” and to sharpen “the issue between it and every form of Naturalism” (Religious Philosophies of the West, p. 24). Plato indeed incisively analyzed the cognitive weaknesses of naturalism, and in an orderly systematic way presented the first thoroughly reasoned argument for supernatural theism. But it was the inspired Old Testament writers, long before the rise of classic Greek idealism, who affirmed the personal God of theism and did so in view of divine self-revelation; what’s more they avoided the inconsistencies that invited swift philosophical counterstatement to Plato’s view.

Even primitive man has an awareness of a realm beyond mere nature; as the apostle Paul emphasizes, through nature the eternal divinity of the transcendent God is everywhere known. The higher religions especially insist on this distinction and build upon it. In emphasizing the ontological gulf between the Creator and the created universe revealed religion rules out any possibility of nature’s emerging or being transformed into the divine. But adrift from the biblical heritage, modern Western man perpetuates the illusions that man and nature participate immediately in the life of God, or that God is simply a synonym for some or all of the space-time universe.

Besides misunderstanding the essential nature of God, the numerous neo-Protestant alternatives to the historic Christian view not only vie with each other, but also embrace disabling logical inconsistencies and contradictions. Barth, for example, insists on a supernatural triune God of whom we are denied propositionally valid information. Bultmann stresses transcendent divine confrontation in Christ yet considers experience to be not theologically but only anthropologically informative and Moltmann, alongside the claim that Jesus’ resurrection alters the cosmic balances, maintains that valid truth must await the end times. Tillich, despite a knowledge-theory that excludes literal metaphysical predications, champions a literally changeless and nonrelative Ground of all Being, and Ogden in his process theology tries to tell us exactly who and what God is but makes change and process a part of God’s very being. Van Buren, who believes that “nothing essential” to Christianity is lost if we retain only the agapē that Jesus exemplifies in serving others, imposes selected values upon external reality that are no more verifiable by empirico-scientific criteria than are the elements of biblical supernaturalism that he disavows. And there is secular theology; while obliterating both what is the holy and the gravity of evil it yet presumes to speak in acceptable modern terms for the Judeo-Christian heritage.

None of the many theories of transcendence that deny the supernatural can properly express what the Christian means by divine transcendence. This is the case even though modern theories amid their agreements (Marx and Moltmann, for example, both hold that the future is transcendent) nonetheless differ in basic emphasis. It is also the case, whether we speak of Bultmann’s view that collapses miracle into myth, or of Tillich’s in which the all-inclusive Ground which while it transcends all, yet is not independent of the beings it incorporates. The agreement that developed among their disparate disciples sprang in part from the fact that both Bultmann and Tillich considered not the supernatural but the transcendent to be the essential element. While process theologians, to be sure, held that part of God’s being is exempt from change and time, they nonetheless assimilated his nature to a larger all-embracing reality. The view of a growing and changing God—whose nature therefore is still incomplete and cannot as yet be finally defined—seemed less intelligible to secular humanists than the notion that all complex entities emerge from impersonal space-time processes. In atheistic existentialism man alone becomes the creator of values by dispensing with every transcendence except man’s self-transcendence and neighbor concern. The radical Mainz theologians Herbert Braun and Manfred Mezger disavowed even the nonsupernatural transcendent espoused by Bultmann and others, and reduced divine-human agapé to simply our love of neighbor.

Recent attempts to replace interest in the supernatural with merely secular concerns substitute a phantom metaphysics for the more articulate kind. Nobody, least of all logical positivists who imply one, can wholly escape metaphysics, nor can even social activists who deplore interest in the transcendent as an inexcusable deflection of social energy. The modern ecclesiastical preoccupation with public affairs has left an unfilled vacuum in the life of the masses; “ordinary people,” and that includes most of us, are unable to shake the conviction that God has made us for himself and that, as Augustine said, “our hearts are ever restless until they find their rest” in him. So-called “mood” theologies that for Christianity’s traditional supernatural referents substitute a veiled metaphysics in which social change preempts energies in behalf of the goddess “progress” have little staying power.

Earlier “supernaturalistic” counterproposals to biblical theism—notably pantheism, idealism, personalism and then dialectical neoorthodoxy—retreated to make room for later mediating alternatives like Bultmannian existentialism, Tillichian pantheism, and Whiteheadian panpsychism. Now these, in turn, flounder for life in the hands of supposed beneficiaries who wantonly dissipate their philosophical inheritance. More and more the bleak shadow of Ludwig Feuerbach envelops these efforts; more radically than even Bultmann surmises theology is wasting away to anthropology. For Feuerbach all reality, internal and external, is but a sensorially experienced space-time world described by the sciences; on the basis of a prejudiced psychological and historical analysis he not only rejects the objective existence of God but also dissolves all discussion of religion into self-projection. Feuerbach’s naturalistic bias registered influentially upon Marx and Engels, and aspects of communist ideology still reflect it. Feuerbach paves the way for the emphasis of process theology on a monodimensional reality, but instead of accommodating the universe to a divine creative principle, he declares that “Nature needs man as man needs Nature” (The Essence of Christianity, pp. 276 f.). Ogden writes of “a reality which is through and through temporal and social” (The Reality of God, p. 64); Feuerbach understands Nature to be the very stuff of the really real.

Contrary to every effort to retain transcendence as a pale shadow of traditional supernaturalism, John Dewey espouses reality beyond that of the scientifically accredited physical world; champions of a threadlike transcendence he considers no less deceived than champions of orthodox supernaturalism (A Common Faith). Because Christian theism leans on supernatural redemption to advance the good life rather than wholly on social intelligence Dewey declares it to be not only inconsistent with the modern scientific worldview, but restrictive also of social progress. Dewey’s basic assumption is that the scientific method alone attains real knowledge. And since scientific observation and experiment do not (and cannot) verify the supernatural, scientific experiment offers no grounds for belief in transcendent Being. Dewey proposes substituting “the religious” (which he equates with an attitude of devotion to ideal ends) for Christian supernaturalism, and replacing the reality of God by “natural piety.” But since only special pleading could extract from raw naturalism Dewey’s “factors in existence that generate and support our ideas of good as an end to be striven for” (ibid., pp. 52 f.), a very thin line indeed is here drawn between humanism and naturalism. Dewey’s naturalism absolutizes scientific method; even if he moderates the method where it serves his purpose, he arbitrarily considers it the only means of discovering and verifying knowledge. The naturalistic view of reality, and of man as completely a part of nature, presupposes a restrictive epistemology that can neither undermine the case for biblical supernaturalism nor validate Dewey’s alternative theory.

Contrary to Dewey’s notion that Christianity frustrates nature and the good life, we need to stress that the Bible does not demean the natural. Harry Blamires remarks: “The Christian sets the highest value on the natural precisely because its vocation is to be transfigured by the supernatural—and because the natural can become dangerous to us if this transfiguration is not effected. The Christian sees the highest significance in human culture and civilization precisely because these achievements are meant to be vehicles by which God’s purposes are worked out here in time—and because, if they are not so used, they become the furniture of Hell” (A Defence of Dogmatics, p. 43).

The most formidable foe of biblical supernaturalism is not the transient, evershifting halfway alternative to Christian theism but rather the philosophy of radical secular humanism. It is this humanism or naturalism that launches the deepest, most thorough, and logically most consistent denial of supernaturalism; moreover, since it can justify no objective meaning for man’s life in society it is the last stage of religious decay short of nihilism. Its observational premises can imply no normative conclusions.

Neo-Protestantism shelters virtual polytheism in its swiftly changing succession of ruling god-concepts and transcendence-motifs, a situation that ecumenism frequently defends under the theme of theological pluralism. This proliferation of rival god-postulates lends unwitting point to Jean Lacroix’s exaggeration: “The great merit of contemporary atheism is that it has achieved a scouring out of the human intellect by abolishing all idolatry” (The Meaning of Modern Atheism, p. 62). Along with the idols, the naturalistic fallacy “scours out” Jehovah as well, however, encourages a new view of man as lord of the cosmos, and reinforces a biased knowledge-theory that in principle isolates and seals off the soul of modern man from supernatural reality.

Peter Berger pleads for “a rediscovery of the supernatural” in terms of “a regaining of openness in our perceptions of reality” (A Rumor of Angels). This emphasis is crucial and valid, for every person’s experience includes from the outset an awareness of some larger supernatural environment. But Berger concentrates too much on suggestions of the transcendent in commonplace experience; he tries, as it were, to raise a ladder to heaven on the ground of natural theology. The risk here is that the higher one ascends into the mysterious unknown the less certain one is about having actually reached a fixed point, or for that matter, about recognizing the final destination. The path through the invisible world is crisscrossed by conflicting metaphysical detours and displays conflicting claims about God’s relationships to the world and man, and even about the very nature of God. Without a genuinely cognitive element that experience cannot provide of itself, without supernatural revelation and some normative identification of transcendent Being, faith has no intellectual force. If God is not dependent on nature, but is independent of it, then he has priority over it. Instead of veiling God’s person with transcendent mystery or mere probabilities, the Old Testament and New Testament alike offer and define divine revelation and authority as their hallmark. One weakness of both neo-Thomism and process theology is their inability to effectively resist radically secular counterattack, since at the crucial point of choosing intellectually between the gods they, no less than existentialism, must rely on a volitional response.

To bring about significant face-off between Christianity and secularism Christianity must reaffirm its claim of the self-revealed supernatural. Like the ancient Greeks and Romans before them moderns recoil before such biblical claims; Scripture exposes them for the rebellious sinners they are and calls them to moral and spiritual commitments that they resent and resist. The self-revealing God may be rejected as logically incompatible with main tenets of modern culture and, beyond that, with the ultimate presuppositions of human thought. But the God of the Bible is still alive, waiting for wise men of the West no less than of the East to acknowledge him as the truth and as the supernatural source of all truth.

In view of the self-revelation of the living God, Judeo-Christian religion challenges contemporary theology to break its silence concerning the supernatural. Recognition of the self-revealed supernatural calls for more than just the study of man’s religiousness, however; it requires reinstating God as man’s supreme intellectual concern. Involved as they are in substituting naturalistic ultimates for the truly Ultimate, scientifically oriented investigators must realize that the living God is not one among the many idols. God’s revelatory initiative must be acknowledged as more decisive for truth and the good than meticulous empirical observation of ever-changing space-time tentativities. The fact should sober us that, as eternity will disclose, modern scientism for all its probing of the universe actually compressed the parameters of reality by deflecting interest from Supernature.

Harry Blamires remarks that “supernatural orientation” is “a prime mark of the Christian mind.” “Modern secular thought … treats this world as the Thing.… Whenever secularism enters the Christian mind, either the Christian mind will momentarily shake that (this-worldly) rootedness, or secularism will seduce the Christian mind to a temporary mode of converse which overlooks the supernatural.… The Christian mind, thinking christianly, cannot for a moment escape a frame of reference which reaches out to the supernatural” (The Christian Mind, pp. 67 ff.).

For Judeo-Christian religion the Supernatural is the one and only personal Supernatural, the living God. The inseparable concomitants of evangelical affirmation of the Supernatural therefore include at one and the same time creation ex nihilo; intelligible divine revelation and redemptive faith; the incarnation and resurrection of the Logos; reconcilation and the ethics of agapē; a final and universal judgment as the prelude to the triumph of righteousness. The Supernatural of Scripture is ontologically distinct from all other being. As the personal and free creator and preserver of the universe he is immanent throughout the cosmos; he fellowships with “his own,” moreover, although even in the most intimate relationships with his creatures he retains his independence of space-time realities in whole or in part.


God’s Transcendence and Immanence

“It is now widely assumed,” writes G. F. Woods, “that the transcendent is beyond the limits of our possible experience … beyond the forms and categories [of understanding]; it is really ‘a meaningless word’ for a doctrine whose long-postponed death has come” (“The Idea of the Transcendent,” pp. 45 f.). If this is true, the consequences for Christian theology are devastating, for man would then be incapable of comprehending a transcendent revelation, no events could be confidently identified as supernatural, and the canon of Scripture would lose its power to unveil the eternal world. What remains would then be only private mystical experiences that can exert no validity-claim over against others’ contrary and contradictory views.

The Bible affirms that God is transcendent creator, redeemer and judge of the space-time universe. The Old Testament focuses on his sovereign creation of man and the world and on his divine deliverance of the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage. The New Testament emphasizes the incarnation, resurrection, exaltation, and end-time return of the divine Savior, Jesus Christ. Scripture teaches throughout that the living and eternal God is personally present and active in the universe by preserving it and by working out his sovereign purposes in and through it.

Originally the verb “to transcend” meant to climb over or across an obstacle; its related terms have since acquired many analogous uses. The religious sense of transcendence is that of God’s being “beyond” or “above” in contrast to “within.” This formulation of God’s transcendence is often caricatured by those who reject orthodox biblical theism as spatially localizing God on a cosmic map. But, as Will Hordern comments on such parody of the omnipresent Spirit, Judeo-Christian religion does not “picture the universe as a spatial box with God overflowing it or standing outside it” (Speaking of God, p. 121). According to the Bible God both transcends the created universe and is pervasively immanent in it.

To gain proper perspective on God’s transcendence and immanence has long been one of the most difficult problems facing secular religious philosophers. Sometimes, as in eighteenth-century deism, they have stressed divine transcendence to the exclusion of immanence; at other times, as in nineteenth-century pantheism, they have emphasized immanence but bypassed transcendence. One difficulty is that the conceptions of both transcendence and immanence can be elucidated in either a profoundly unbiblical or a genuinely biblical way. And to substitute oblique phrases like “the Ground” for the transcendent personal God only further complicates and confuses the situation.

The history of philosophy is full of conflicting expositions of transcendence and immanence, and often manifests a diplomatic adaptation of these important conceptions to prevailing fashions of thought. One exaggeration, whether of transcendence or of immanence, encourages another by way of reaction and counterreaction. Distorted emphasis on transcendence that erases all significance for God in the natural world is just as faulty as a radical divine immanence that erodes the distinction between the infinite and the finite. Naturalists who sought to free man from entrapment in Hegel’s Absolute did so not simply by eliminating the Absolute, but by uncritically dismissing the God of the Bible as well. When Hegel absorbed man into the Absolute he also indirectly encouraged both Kierkegaard’s exaggeration of transcendence that related God and man only in terms of inner dialectical confrontation, and Feuerbach’s repudiation of transcendent ontological being.

Extremely vague depictions of a universal divine presence and providence in nature and history characterized both secular prechristian and post-Enlightenment views. By his ill-conceived alternative of radical divine immanence Hegel sought to overcome this imprecision at great cost to biblical representations. Unless Christian scholars now lay bare these metaphysical illusions they will accommodate the formulation of theological doctrine on false premises and in improper ways and accommodate also the current “fatigue of reason” that when confronting metaphysical problems simply pleads the cause of mystery, myth or private decision. In the absence of revelational considerations secular and nonbiblical characterizations of divine transcendence often seem merely a matter of “paying metaphysical compliments” to deity. Unfortunately the self-revealed role of the divine creator, redeemer and judge has been routinely obscured except among proponents of revelational theology. But it is folly to speculatively storm the secrets of God’s working if the self-revealing God of the Bible is known only on the ground of his own intelligible activity and representations.

Biblical characterizations of divine transcendence are in no sense vague or conjectural, but clearly and concretely depict God’s activity and relationships as creator, preserver and governor of the cosmos and man. In both Old and New Testaments God is seen as “above” the world in that he is its self-disclosed creator (Acts 4:24, 17:24), preserver (2 Pet. 3:5–7) and ruler (Rev. 10:6). No exposition of divine transcendence and immanence is therefore to proceed on the basis of data sealed within nature and man, for its decisive content must issue from what God discloses about himself, about his own character and deeds.

The self-revealing God is creator ex nihilo of the cosmic process, the ultimate cause of all that is. He is ontologically other than the created universe. All things continuously owe their being to his power; if heaven is God’s throne, earth is his footstool (Matt. 5:34 f; Acts 7:49; cf. Isa. 66:1 f.). He also transcends the universe epistemologically and morally in that he is the stipulator and source of truth and good. In general or universal revelation the Creator declares his transcendent glory (Ps. 19:1–4) and his eternal power and divinity (Rom. 1:19–20); the scriptural representations characterize his nature and work even more comprehensively (Rom. 15:4). God’s transcendent activity is in the forefront of the apocalyptic writings which speak not only of God’s dramatic end-time consummation of human history but also of his purposeful activity in the present. The Bible not only affirms transcendent divine creation but warns of transcendent divine judgment as well. And it declares transcendent divine redemption, together with man’s personal decision in respect to salvation in Christ, to be crucial for human destiny.

Emphasis on divine authority, on Christ’s authority, on the authority of the Bible, on the authority of the Christian religion, on authority truly objective and external to man himself, is in the last analysis a consequence and corollary of divine transcendence. As the absolute transcendent Being, God is independent of all compulsory relations to anything and anyone outside himself; he is the ultimate source of all reality and of all authority, the creator and preserver of the finite universe. “I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things” (Isa. 45:6b, 7b). God is the God of covenant: “For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure” (Ps. 135:4). God is the God of history and of judgment: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:2). As the living and eternal center of the moral order, God is the source of the ethical monotheism proclaimed by Moses and the ancient Jewish prophets. Prophecy and miracles, the inspiration of the Bible, the incarnation of the Logos all presuppose divine transcendence. “God, Who … spake … by the prophets, hath … spoken … by his Son …” (Heb. 1:1, 2). “All Scripture is God-breathed …” (2 Tim. 3:16, niv). “The Word became flesh …” (John 1:14, rsv). All the great theological creeds of the church unequivocally affirm the transcendent God’s creative and redemptive initiative. If it is anything, the Christian life is a life under transcendent divine authority; its new spiritual reality is made possible by Christ’s atonement for our sins and by the Holy Spirit’s renewing of a renegade humanity.

Modern philosophy progressively stifled the biblical doctrine of divine transcendence and all but strangled it. First it obscured special revelation and Immanence and detached discussion of divine transcendence from God’s incarnation in Christ and from any significant doctrine of divine creation. The reality of the transcendent had already been weakened by the dilution of revealed theology into natural theology, for on the basis of natural theology God could be known only as an inference from the not-God, and not in terms of his own self-disclosure. Well-meaning efforts to make the idea of transcendence intelligible by an appeal to only analogical arguments from supposed similarities between the known and the unknown confused rather than clarified the matter of divine transcendence. To project from what human beings experience in order to establish the factuality of what their experience does not itself incorporate, that is, divine transcendence, cannot decisively confirm the existence and nature of such transcendence. The more one means by the transcendent, the one and only God, the more analogies lose their usefulness.

Gordiano Bruno (1548–1600) considered a free, transcendent creator to be irreconcilable with the order of nature and with the evidence of our knowing powers. His philosophical successors diminished and compromised divine transcendence by exchanging the biblical doctrine of voluntary divine creation for a theory of eternal emanation of the universe that God’s nature supposedly requires. Kant spoke of God only in regulative terms, not of an existing deity with identifiable relationships to the world; he encouraged the emphasis that God completely eludes any rational conceptions we may have. Hegel’s Absolute also differs fundamentally from the God of Scripture; Yahweh the transcendent God, totally distinct in being from the world of finite things, he replaces with a wholly immanent Spirit that unites infinite and finite in itself. Transcendence therefore becomes but a relative function within the immanent totality of the Absolute. Hegel even depicts evangelical belief in a personal, transcendent God as one phase of a dialectical process in which the mind inevitably replaces a supposedly pictorial portrayal of God with the metaphysical Absolute of idealism. Post-Hegelian naturalism felt no constraint to completely contradict Hegelian pantheism; it shares and exploits certain aspects of Hegel’s view, even if conflicting and ambiguous, postulating the same free existential relationships between man and God that Hegel espouses, importing the cosmos into the divine life-process, and absolutizing human nature.

The rise of modern nontheistic views soon completely clouded these last dim vistas of transcendence. Deity itself became a superfluous hypothesis as critics spoke increasingly of the silence or death of the gods. For Nietzsche there is no transcendent God but only the race-transcending Superman. He emerges as the secular prophet of those who discard all gods and who strip the transcendent of anything supernatural. Once human beings see themselves as complex beasts with no destiny beyond the grave, life is seen to lack enduring meaning or even survival value. In such a world, as Kornelis H. Miskotte comments, “… The Word of God points to no future.… The ‘Word’ has become a metaphor, a simile of the ultimate direction of our reflection … our self projection” (When the Gods Are Silent, p. 14).

In some circles transcendence was now acknowledged only as an unexplored mystery fringe of science. Finally it came to be identified with man’s own larger possibilities and his subjective vision of reality; existential anxieties were said to explain man’s probing of “the beyond.” Existential theologians spoke of divine revelation as higher dimensions of human “self-understanding,” that is, of the self’s discovery of authentic being. For Bultmann the biblical transcendent is mythological, a primitive or prescientific “objectification” of the “nonobjective reality” that man supposedly experiences as the ground and limit of both his self and of the world. The biblical “myths,” he said, arose to reflect man’s conviction that freedom from despair and selfishness depend on transcendent powers. For the logical positivist, A. J. Ayer declares: “The sentence ‘There exists a transcendent god’ has … no literal significance” (Language, Truth and Logic, p. 38). Speaking for radically secular theologians Paul van Buren reduces the concept of transcendence simply to a way of viewing anything ordinary with awesome wonder, and questions contemporary man’s need for even retaining the notion (Theological Explorations, “Is Transcendence the Word We Want?,” pp. 170 ff.). Political theologians meanwhile concentrated theology on man’s this-worldly neighbor rather than on the other-worldly Father.

The biblical view strikes hard against secular misconceptions of divine transcendence and divine immanence. It rules out notions that the world is necessary to God’s being, that God is the world-Substance or the indwelling world-Soul, that the universe is a mode of God’s being, that nature is a phase of the divine life or a part of God, that the causal determination of nature is God’s thought and power, that the Absolute is man’s inmost nature, or that the Absolute is in process of becoming the diverse forms of finite being. One can no more be a Christian and dethrone the deity than be a Christian and deify the universe.

The Bible also rules out many theories of transcendence, among them, for example, that God is incomprehensible or unknowable; that God is beyond all possible relationships to man; that God is wholly remote from nature; that God is superpersonal; or that his being the “Other” wholly precludes any possibility for human beings to bear any aspects of the divine image.

The scriptural revelation calls into question every nonbiblical conception of both divine transcendence and immanence. It rejects translating assertions of God’s transcendence into mere affirmations of divine mystery. It sweeps aside all attempts to formulate God’s nature and his relationships to man and the cosmos solely by empirical or observational considerations. It disavows theories that would pole-vault to the Transcendent by means of anthropological leaps. It rejects using “as if” postulatory statements to evade cognitively significant claims about deity. It disallows a kerygmatic exposition that suspends the reality and relationship of God upon inner existential decision. The biblical doctrine of God’s transcendence and immanence rests on revelationally given knowledge about the supernatural; it cannot be tapered to theories that speak of transcendence in terms only of conjecture, postulation, or trust. It resists every philosophic ploy to advance a confession of faith in divine transcendence even while it obscures the objective existence of the transcendent God. Rejection of the objective transcendence of the God of the Bible would, in fact, mean a disavowal of revealed religion.

Even neo-Protestantism, by its warped emphasis on universal and/or special revelation, vulnerably compressed discussion of transcendent deity; its dialectical and existential theology promulgated a “wholly Other” said to be known in inner volitional response and not in revealed and sharable propositional truths. Divine disclosure, it was alleged, conveys no objectively valid information about God’s nature and operations, but functions, rather, to arouse spiritual response and to evoke a right attitude of obedience. The suppression of rational revelational content fostered noncognitive relationships between man and the transcendent that could grant only symbolic value to the affirmations of orthodox theism.

When the Bible speaks of creation of the universe by the instrumentality of God’s powerful Word it professes to tell us about an objective relationship between the Creator and the cosmos; it is saying much more than simply that man internally stands in interpersonal faith-relationships to the Creator. Divine transcendence and immanence involve continuing external relationships in which God stands to the entire space-time creation. When the Gospel of John affirms that Jesus came “from the Father” and returned “to the Father,” it asserts not a change in our inner emotions or a faith-commitment to myth, but an ontological fact that preserves the singular uniqueness of Christ’s person. Any lesser view violates what the Gospels mean by divine transcendence.

Much of the current plea for a nontranscendent this-worldly theology gains its impetus from an infatuation with Marxism. Roger Garaudy, the Roman Catholic Marxist, writes: “I think that … the Marxist dialectic, when lived in its fulness, is ultimately richer in the infinite and more demanding still than the Christian transcendence” (From Anathema to Dialogue: A Marxist Challenge to the Christian Churches, p. 96).

Some expositors profess to find the roots of secularization in the Bible. Harvey Cox, for example, expounds God’s separation from nature in the creation narrative, the desacralization of politics in the Exodus, and the deconsecration of values in the Sinai Covenant. Secular man, he tells us, is ignorant of the transcendent, yet Cox bases The Secular City (New York, The Macmillan Company, 1966) on the Bible even though he relativizes Scripture in other respects.

Secular humanism underlies many spirited contemporary assaults on the theology of divine transcendence. Edmund R. Leach considers human survival a bleak prospect indeed unless scientists aggressively make the moral decisions long left to God by theists (A Runaway World). But like the merely conventional wisdom of a pragmatically motivated society, the new wisdom of scientific humanism is also subject to repeated revision; nor can it persuasively resist the radical deployment of scientific achievements and human conventions for revolutionary alternatives. Scientific omniscience and omnipotence cannot fill the void created by the eclipse of divine transcendence unless it pretentiously considers all reality within its scientific grasp and control, and unless it overlooks spiritual estrangement as an essential part of the human problem.

Peter Baelz writes critically of theologians who propose to solve “difficulties raised by what we may call the systematic elusiveness of ‘God’ … by concentrating exclusively on the human condition” (Christian Theology and Metaphysics, pp. 6 f.). He thinks it lamentable to become infatuated with the secular spirit of humanistic culture in the name of Christianity and to commend it as the norm by which one is to judge the Bible; it is reprehensible, says Baelz, to approve virtually every secular revolution as biblical while relativizing revelation under the guise of Christian theology. Attempts to reduce statements about God to statements about man Kenneth Hamilton similarly criticizes as issuing in a “theology of meaninglessness” (Revolt Against Heaven, pp. 23 ff.). Secular theology offers no real answer either to the problem of death or to the deep problems of life, including suffering, meaning, and above all, sin and guilt. Secular theology is, in fact, a theology of capitulation and not of proclamation; it sanctions modern man’s repudiation of transcendent deity as if such repudiation were great gain for the cause of revealed religion.

Theology must not only cope with secular misunderstandings of transcendence but, within Christendom itself, with distortions also of biblical transcendence. Already in postapostolic times both Gnosticism and neo-Platonism here and there influenced thinkers who professed to speak for the Christian view; medieval Scholasticism fell into extensive speculation about transcendent divine Being. Today some modern religious humanists presume to speak as Christians simply because they retain vague conceptions of divine transcendence notwithstanding that they dissolve all reality into impersonal processes and events; this was essentially the case with Henry Nelson Wieman, who called himself an empirical theist. Recent neo-Protestant kerygmatic theology has replaced transcendence as an objective ontological fact by an inner existential reality supposedly experienced in faith. Process theology which insists on objective divine transcendence at the same time compromises it and in important respects modifies historic evangelical theism. Tillich’s notion that God is the Ground of personality but is not himself transcendent personal being (Systematic Theology, Vol. I, pp. 244 f.) represents still another reconstruction of the scriptural view. Many neo-Protestant theories would agree in saying that the biblical emphasis on God who wholly transcends the world is not a theological asset but rather a “stone of stumbling.”

Neoorthodox theology raised the category of transcendence to decisive importance. Yet, as Robert Funk remarks, for many younger scholars in this movement it became “the most questionable category of all.… Neoorthodoxy taught that God is never object but subject, with the result that third generation neoorthodox theologians have been forced to wrestle with the nonphenomenal character of God. They are unwilling to settle for God as noumenon … which means that for them God does not ‘appear’ at all. Consequently, there is a tendency to focus on ‘the phenomena’ (e.g., Jesus, faith, language of faith, tradition)” (“Colloquium on Hermeneutic,” p. 303).

The transcendentalism of Karl Barth’s early writings goes beyond even neo-Platonism, let alone Augustine and the Reformers. While the early Barth depicts God as the supreme Sovereign of the world, he nonetheless disjunctively separates him from all human thought and experience and declares him cognitively unknowable. Neoorthodoxy saw only the dangers of liberal immanence, which were legion, but not the perils of exaggerated divine transcendence. By totally rejecting the competence of human reason in relation to spiritual decision Barth is impelled to both deny general revelation and distort special revelation; his compromise of intellective divine disclosure leads, moreover, to disavowing the finality of any and all theological propositions. Yet in the New Testament theiotēs (divinity) (Rom. 1:20) is used to emphasize the fact that revelation penetrates the human mind universally with a knowledge of God’s eternal power and “divinity”—that is, as Hermann Kleinknecht comments, with “that which shows God to be God, and gives Him the right to worship” (on “theiotēs,” TDNT, 3:123).

Even though existentialists used the language of transcendence, they no longer referred it to ontologically transcendent being. To advance its positions, however, existential transformation of the transcendence doctrine often unjustifiably included an appeal to Scripture. Bultmann writes, for example: “The transcendence of God is not thought of in the Bible in terms of the spirit which is beyond the sphere of the material and the sensible, as timelessness in contrast to coming to be and passing away, but simply as authority, the indisposability and constant futurity of God” (Glauben und Verstehen. Gesammelte Aufsätze, p. 157; cited by Walter Schmithals, An Introduction to the Theology of Rudolf Bultmann, p. 24). Transcendence, in other words, is no longer understood in terms of spatial and cosmic relationships, but comes to mean simply what is not at man’s disposal. Reference to God as creator signifies nothing about divine causal relations to man and the world, but only that God encounters me and makes possible a new and authentic existence. Bultmann says: “The affirmation that God is creator cannot be a theoretical statement about God as creator mundi in a general sense” but “only … a personal confession that I understand myself to be a creature which owes its existence to God” (Jesus Christ and Mythology, p. 69). Representation of God as creator does not concern “a cosmological theory which professes to explain the origin of the world and its existence as it is. Rather, it is a proposition that concerns man’s existence” (Theology of the New Testament, pp. 228 f.)

For all the secular rejection the doctrine of transcendence continues to fascinate modern theology and philosophy; academic discussion of the subject repeatedly forces us to consider dimensions of relationship and response that currently reigning prejudices have prematurely foreclosed. But not every exposition of transcendence can be welcomed as constructive illumination of the eternal order. The recovery of transcendence, or of “the sacred” as it is now sometimes designated, is not necessarily an unmitigated gain for biblical theology. The transcendent can be not only a catchword for costly misconceptions of the God of the Bible; it can even function in human life in idolatrous and demonic ways. Contemporary discussion of transcendence inverts the fundamental affirmations of revealed religion.

Modern philosophies of existence, like those of Bultmann and Martin Buber, which emphasize that man stands out (existentia) from the world as a free moral agent, project this exposition as an acceptable alternative to the historic Judeo-Christian doctrine of divine-human transcendence. By their analysis of the structure of human existence they intend to preserve the concept of transcendence “just when it appears to be losing its traditional meaning of an objectivity of things in the world,” observes Peter Baelz. “We might, perhaps, call this new meaning a ‘transcendence within,’ in contrast to … the older … ‘transcendence without’ … Man’s being as the subject of his own moral actions may itself throw up the notion of transcendence. Thus ideas of transcendence may be tracked back to man’s subjectivity, and it may perhaps be possible by reference to considerations such as these to give … meaning to the notion of the transcendence of God. For instance, it may be said that God is not an object at all, but rather the Ultimate Subject encountered by man through his own subjectivity” (Christian Theology and Metaphysics, pp. 39 f.)

The primary departure from biblical representations in this revision of the inherited view is the loss of the Bible’s emphasis on God’s objective ontological transcendence of the universe. For this it substitutes relationships asserted within the believer’s subjective experience, relationships which cannot be distinguished easily if at all from psychological projection. Bultmann dismisses as mythological the biblical representations of God’s objective supernatural existence, his ontological transcendence and also his activity in the world; these tenets he reinterprets in language borrowed from existential analysis of human experience.

The existential affirmation that transcendence includes God’s personal reality—both Buber and Bultmann insist on this—progresses beyond Kant’s philosophy, but retains Kant’s thesis that the limits of experience rule out any and all cognitive knowledge of God. Kant affirmed God as a postulate from the moral law inherent in man’s rational nature, an inference mediated by reason. Yet he denied not only man’s capacity for conceptual knowledge of God, but also man’s capacity for immediate apprehension of God as a reality given in man’s experience. The religious existentialists limit man’s rationality even more: they insist that man is circumscribed by ultimate irrationality; God’s reality, they maintain, is to be located in man’s assertion of freedom and also in man’s transcendence of nature which, too, is the realm of God’s transcendence. This assertion that God, although stripped of objective ontological transcendence, remains a reality existing apart from faith and distinguishable from subjective, psychological experience could easily evaporate into a mere inner event. To avoid such dilution Bultmann asserts the radical difference between faith and psychological experience. But atheistic existentialists insist that this distinction only imaginatively psychologizes the data. And since Bultmann maintains that the relation between faith and its religious object cannot be objectively proved, he can present no reasons for distinguishing faith from psychological experience. Traditional theism is not embarrassed in the twentieth century by its doctrine that divine transcendence is a relationship outside man, for Bultmann’s attempt to lock God’s transcendence within human experience collapses into mere subjectivity. There is more to the Christian view than simply that the cosmos-transcending God lives and acts; it affirms also that in the distinctives of their existence humans are as fundamentally related to God as to the world. When mankind is unrelated to the ontologically transcendent God one obscures the essential truth about human beings no less than about God.

Edward Farley notes that “contemporary theology has come to more or less of an impasse between kerygmatic and metaphysical types of theology” (The Transcendence of God, pp. 40 f.). This impasse, we might add, is reflected also in the continuing tensions between kerygmatic and apologetic statements of the content of revealed theology. But what we mean by God’s transcendence cannot imply two different things in theology and philosophy. In gaining a rational view of man and reality a sound theological witness to God’s action in Christ will not be found to be incompatible with a proper philosophical exposition of the objective being of God. The way scholars propose to relate the philosophical and the kerygmatic views of transcendence is therefore of great importance. By emphasizing internal decision kerygmatic theology avoids theological metaphysics. It says as little of ontological transcendent being as do naturalism and humanism. Bultmann views propositions about the other-worldly as mythological and therefore as devoid of objective cognitive significance (“New Testament and Mythology,” p. 10, n. 2). For existentialists transcendence means “inner awareness” of one’s existence in relation to all reality, and therefore contrasts with affirmation of God’s external objective transcendence of the space-time universe. Evangelical theists, on the other hand, insist that God is a personal being who transcends spatio-temporal realities. Novel modern notions of transcendence, they say, are projected mainly to help man meet psychological and social needs, and inevitably encourage the skeptical notion that transcendence is merely a human conceptualization. To speak of a “reality” beyond the human subject, a reality arrived at by theological reflection on inner relationships lacking cognitive supports, imaginatively restructures the meaning of transcendence beyond any agreement with the Christian revelation of God. To translate the Bible into something other than a source for understanding transcendent ontological being, say orthodox evangelicals, is to misunderstand the Bible.

Pascal’s “God of the philosophers,” to use a much overworked characterization, is Being, the Absolute, First Cause, Ground, the One, or some other such entity. Some designations, as Farley observes, deal with modes of the Transcendent as the Beginning, others as the End, some as the Depth, and others as the Height, that is, as the Other (The Transcendence of God, pp. 194 ff.). Such terms do not necessarily coincide with God even in the generic sense, for transcendence and divine being do not perforce imply each other. The biblical revelation speaks of God, however, not only in seeming generalities like “high and lifted up” (Isa. 6:1); God is the Transcendent in that he is the personal self-revealed creator, redeemer and judge. But is the self-revealed God in any respects the Absolute, First Cause, Being, Ground, the One—in brief, does the self-speaking “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” the God of Paul and the other apostles, coincide in certain respects with the Transcendent of whom secular philosophers speak? Or should the question be reversed? Is the God of the Bible in any respects identical with the ontological reality, or does he at all fulfill the specific functions, that philosophers assign to the Transcendent?

Farley’s verdict is that “kerygmatic theology is … correct epistemologically, but apologetic theology is correct ontologically” (ibid., p. 217). But can the issue be disjoined in this way? Does not an objectionable epistemology prevent kerygmatic theology from doing justice to the ontological elements in the biblical disclosure of God? It was one thing for neoorthodoxy to say that God is not ontologically continuous with man’s being, or even that God epistemologically eludes philosophical reasoning. It was quite another to hold that God is discontinuous with the forms and content of human rationality and is not known in human consciousness. In that case God’s transcendence implies that knowledge of God arises only as a private inner response or decision; the cognitive content of what we mean by the Transcendent can therefore exert no truth-claim against secular philosophers or anyone else.

Much that philosophers say about the Transcendent is doubtless conjectural and beyond biblical legitimacy; the speculative systems in which they contextualize doctrinal affirmations, even when these are verbally similar to the scriptural statements, tend to import a biblically alien meaning. Nevertheless, insofar as they consider the Transcendent to have a creative or preserving or governing role and to be the purposive objective toward which all history moves; and insofar as they speak of the holy before which man knows himself to be unrighteous and guilty, and speak of a personal source or support or sanction of the right and the good; to that extent—formally at least—philosophers are dealing with intellectual issues that the Bible illumines in its revelation of the transcendent Elohim, Yahweh of the prophets, the Word incarnate in Jesus Christ. Elsewhere we have emphasized that, over against the divergent and conflicting philosophical systems that expound the Transcendent, human beings universally stand in direct relationships to the Logos of God through the created imago Dei and through the larger general revelation shared by all mankind.

Theological interest seems to be focusing in a new way on the significance of christology for the reality of the Transcendent. The word of the Nazarene, “I am the way (unto the Father)” (John 14:6), thus gains special relevance. Modern preoccupation with a functional rather than essential or ontological trinity has long obscured study of the larger metaphysical aspects of the person and work of Christ. But recently the ontological implications of Christian faith in Jesus of Nazareth are once again receiving sustained attention. Donald MacKinnon, for example, writes, “When we ask what, if anything, is meant by speaking of him in the concreteness of his human existence as the Truth, we face not only paradoxical innovation in the use of the notion of truth: we face the question of the sense in which a concrete individual may not simply teach or reveal what is true … but be the Truth. And if this is not the same question as reflection on transcendent metaphysical speculation raises, it has analogies thereto” (Borderlands of Theology and Other Essays, pp. 27 f.). MacKinnon affirms, moreover, that the problem of the resurrection is “crucially one for historian and metaphysician at the same moment. In a way it is an abstraction to speak of Jesus Christ apart from his description as the one who died, and who was raised again. As a matter of historical fact, belief that he was raised was the sufficient, necessary condition of the early Christian mission. But who was it who was thus believed to have been raised? And what of the relation of his rising to what he was and to what he is? It is here we … [bring] out the extent to which in Christology such questions are inextricably woven together with the facing of issues touching the relation of the temporal to the eternal” (ibid., pp. 31 f.)

Ray S. Anderson thinks that the contemporary “crisis of transcendence” can be resolved christologically (Historical Transcendence and the Reality of God—A Christological Crisis, p. 11). Transcendence, and not immanence, he says, is the bond between the absolute and the concrete; creation, he maintains, is the divine response to creaturely nothingness, and divine incarnation in Christ a divine response to human estrangement. Just how a personal being—even God—can “respond” to nothingness is somewhat of a mystery; likewise how the Lamb slain from eternity can be viewed primarily as a divine “response” to man’s predicament is equally enigmatic. But mystery and enigma are constituents of both existential and dialectical theology more than are reason and logic, and Anderson’s exposition has an activist, dialectical character.

God’s transcendence is “his action” whose “inner logic” Anderson proposes to deduce from God’s interaction in the incarnation. In words that recall John MacMurray’s concept of The Self as Agent, Anderson affirms that transcendence is “an action of a personal agent … which imposes its categories of understanding upon our rationality” but which in relation to its incarnational “shape and style” can be expressed only in terms of “an act of faith” (Historical Transcendence and the Reality of god—A Christological Crisis, p. 13). All this is rather nebulous. What is clear, however, is that divine transcendence, as Anderson sees it, is not to be propositionally defined through the biblical teaching; it is an inference that we ourselves make, not indeed a valid cognitive inference but a faith-response in the context of the incarnation of God in Christ (for knowledge of which, he does not bother to stress, we must depend upon the propositional teaching of the New Testament writers).

God’s “historical transcendence,” Anderson contends, takes place in absolute solidarity with man through the life and person of the incarnate Logos and thus becomes in Jesus of Nazareth a “lived transcendence.” He considers the reality of God problematical if it is dissociated from personal participation in this divine act of historical transcendence. Scripture is a testimonial to man’s place in the life of God in Jesus Christ, says Anderson, and becomes the channel through which the Spirit grounds faith in the rationale of divine transcendence. “Historical transcendence,” he asserts, “creates the ‘kenotic’ bond of community between man and God, while lived transcendence through the Spirit creates the ‘ekstatic’ bond of communion between creaturely existence and the life of the triune God.”

Anderson uses the term historical transcendence to depict a “meaningful concept of transcendence in terms of an historical understanding of existence” (ibid., p. 2, n. 1). Yet this approach would seem to perpetuate the nonobjectivity of God, something that Anderson claims to resist. It is noteworthy that the phrase, historical transcendence (cf. J. G. Hamann, London, Collins, 1960, n. 98), was first used in a chapter by Ronald Gregor Smith titled “This-worldly Transcendence”; in it he develops Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s rather sparse remarks about transcendence (Letters and Papers from Prison, pp. 43, 123, 165) into a theology of transcendence as historical experience. Bonhoeffer speaks of historical transcendence from his very first writings. Anderson asserts that in the incarnation “the reality of God imposes on us its own historicality” (Historical Transcendence and the Reality of God—A Christological Critique, p. 5). The meaning of historical transcendence is not derived from man’s own self-understanding, he contends, but is forced upon us by the relationship between history and the reality of God—in T. F. Torrance’s words, it has an “inner logic” of its own. If this is so, then one person’s faith-response need not predecide another’s, and Torrance’s logic, and Anderson’s, and ours, need hardly coincide.

What truths about divine transcendence are, in fact, derived peculiarly from incarnational theology? The Bible conceives God’s transcendence in metaphysical terms, that is, God is the sovereign personal cosmic power, ontologically distinct from all earthly phenomena. The New Testament progresses notably beyond the Old especially in the confidence of the believing community in God’s transcendence. To the Jews who had mistaken the theology of redemption for a political theology, the Babylonian exile had come as a severe blow. Despite restoration of the captive Hebrews to Jerusalem, messianic expectation had nonetheless continued to decline until at the birth of Jesus of Nazareth it was at very low ebb. But Christian acknowledgment of the incarnation and revelation of God in Jesus Christ; his bodily resurrection; the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church and the Spirit’s assurance of personal participation in the benefits of Christ’s redemption lifted believers, as Ethelbert Stauffer notes, to “a certainty of victory which not only goes beyond anything in the OT but which also gives an answer to the extreme urgency of the ancient search for God.… The New Testament has overcome both the cosmic anxiety of the world of antiquity, and the very concept of fate itself” (“Theos: The Uniqueness of God,” tdnt, 3:117 f).

Are we free, however, to declare, as Stauffer does, that the tension precipitated by the Christ-event as the decisive encounter between the heavenly world and the earthly “bears no relation to the metaphysical antithesis between phenomenon and idea, the finite and the infinite, time and eternity, which is a theme of Hellenistic philosophy” (ibid., p. 117)? To protest misunderstanding of the Christ-event in terms of the alien conceptions of ancient religious philosophy is commendable indeed since entrenched metaphysical preconceptions all too often excluded the very possibility of special divine incarnation. Stauffer is also right in stressing that 1 John 4:2 f “makes serious acceptance of the message of the historical incarnation of the eternal Logos a yardstick of the divine authority of a theology” (loc. cit.); 2 John 7 does not hesitate, in fact, to apply the term antichrist to the “many deceivers.…, [who] confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” But has this affirmation of the incarnation of the Logos in Jesus of Nazareth “no relation” to the philosophical problems of “the finite and the infinite, time and eternity”? Can such metaphysical concerns be wholly evaded unless one mistakenly reduces the reality of the incarnation to only an inner existential or suprarational commitment, options that Stauffer seems strenuously to resist by his emphasis on “the historical incarnation of the eternal Logos”?

P. T. Forsyth insists that if we seriously seek the way to the Father in the Son’s glorification of him upon the earth and in the Father’s glorification of the Son in raising him from the dead, then our ideas of the Absolute must reflect the full significance of christocentric transformation. The New Testament presents not only the plērōma or fullness of God in Christ, but also the kenōsis or self-emptying of Christ Jesus; Paul, in fact, ventures to speak of an even larger role than this for God in Christ (1 Cor. 15:22 ff.). Yet “the admission of the sovereignty of Christology,” writes MacKinnon, “is not, for the philosopher, any sort of escape from his own special problems; still less is it a device whereby he is able to say that theology has its own place, its statements their own special logic, and that it is enough for him to point out this uniqueness and to defend it against those who would impugn or criticize it” (Borderlands of Theology., p. 60). “We need … the category of radical contingency in order that the shock of the claim which Christ makes shall not be blunted.… The ministry of Jesus is not an instance or an example of the love of God, but rather its very substance; a point of which in the New Testament itself the epistle to the Ephesians offered a classical exposition” (ibid., pp. 61, 68).

If God is eternal, transcendent being, how, it may be asked, can he act in the world? The answer given by biblical theism is that God acts by predestination and that he is immanent in as well as transcendent to his created universe. For Christian theology, divine transcendence and immanence are corollary conceptions. God is not a divine being who acts only behind, outside or between cosmic and historical processes; he is present in these processes and works in them. The universe does not exist without his support and concurrence. God both acts on the events of nature and history from without and is purposefully and meaningfully engaged within the universe as well. He is not indifferent to the world and to man. The Psalms frequently speak of the operations of nature as the very operations of deity: thunder is God’s “voice,” lightnings “his arrows,” earthquakes “his doings.” Without dwelling on secondary causes the biblical writers here attribute the phenomena of the creation directly to the Creator. Yet in a world where many pagans eagerly worshiped nature-gods or heavenly bodies it was the living God’s self-revelation that preserved the ancient Jews from pantheism. That the Hebrews had no natural distaste for pantheism is clear from Alexandrian Judaism, from the Cabala (or theosophic interpretation of Scripture to which some rabbis were prone), from medieval Jewish pantheists, and from the modern Jew Spinoza and his followers.

Emphasis on divine immanence is only a partial answer, however, to the question of how God acts in the world. To stress the world’s dependence on the Deity in no way addresses the question of how God injects himself into the ongoing causes that reflect his creative activity, if indeed we may speak of secondary causes at all. Is creation’s dependence on the Creator causal or noncausal? It is tempting to pontificate about the biblical view only to risk needless indebtedness to fashionable scientific theories that cannot escape revision and tentativity. The notion of causality is now so tangled that it may serve only to introduce confusion. Aquinas and Kant differed greatly in their conceptions of causation; Kant made every cause an effect, and vice versa. Yet to do without causality seems to invite ambiguous synonyms. God’s thoughts and will are the ultimate cause of the creation, one that has a view to the future as well as to the past and present. Are all God’s actions causal processes? Must everything be explained by known preceding conditions? Historically most modern religious thinkers have assigned causal sequences that some claimed were fundamental in God’s relationships to the world. But in the Bible creation is not a mechanistic causal reality; it involves, rather, a constant reenactment of God’s presence and power. It is important to distinguish voluntary from involuntary causation, and to emphasize that in his activities God always has the eschatological end in view.

Aquinas said that “God is in all things, not, indeed, as part of their essence, or as a quality, but in the manner that an efficient cause is present to that on which it acts” (Summa Theologica, Ia, 8, 1). The basic premise of Thomism is that every event has a cause, and on this premise it argues from events to God as their First Cause. Either this premise is true by definition (only effects that are causes are “events”) and therefore tells us nothing about the real world, or it is an induction from the world and open to disproof. Inasmuch as the quantum theory of physics does not employ the principle of causality it seems to imply that subatomic events are not to be causally explained. Scientists accordingly appeal to this theory to indicate that causality does not apply to all events, and that causality is not, in fact, a necessary truth.

To say that emphasis on divine transcendence over immanence leads to unworthy notions of God and accommodates a magical priestly clan or other professional intermediaries, echoes present-day philosophical infatuation with divine immanence. To be sure, the history of religion is full of superstitious rites and functionaries presumably able to penetrate the infinite mysteries. But these phenomena are associated as much with a misconceived divine immanence as with a misconceived divine transcendence. The living God of Scripture discloses himself transcendently and defines the nature of his immanent presence and activity in the universe. To dwarf his transcendence by exaggerating his immanence, as did modern theology, gains nothing for the worship of the one true God. On the other hand, to overemphasize divine transcendence, as did so-called neoorthodoxy, distorts divine disclosure and compromises the cognitive aspects of revealed theology.

God’s transcendence means that nature is always and everywhere open to his purpose, a purpose that he expresses freely either in repetitive cosmic processes and events, or in once-for-all acts. Hence God discloses his purposive presence equally in both the regularities of nature and in what is exceptional or miraculous. As opposed to mechanical determinism, evangelical theism emphasizes teleological law. Even though we do not now know God’s purposes in detail, they are reflected in cosmic events and in historical acts, and are biblically stated.

It is remarkable that modern personalism, while rejecting the mechanical view of nature and holding to the possibility of miracle, nonetheless took a critical and even skeptical view of the biblical miracles. Its dual emphasis that nature is a part of God and that the order of nature is itself God’s purpose need not have led in this antimiraculous direction, for empirical observation is fragmentary and we cannot know the complete pattern of nature until all cosmic details are finally accessible. Yet personalism contended that in relation to nature, terms like “supernatural” and “transcendence” mean that God is more than what is revealed in nature; it assumed, however, that God’s orderly way excludes once-for-all revelation and miraculous redemptive acts. But miracle does not violate nature. It is an activity of the same creative power that is at work in the moral and historical realms but which in cosmic processes scientists seek to chart in terms of repeatable sequences. If the New Testament writers mention the name of God many times in the context of prayer, it is no less significant that they also mention God’s name many, many times in the context of miracles that are said to have occurred in the world of nature. Luke, for example, mentions God’s name fifty-eight times in the context of the virgin birth narratives.

The Bible at the very beginning emphasizes that God is not merely an acting God of deed-revelation, but a speaking deity also who shapes language as a medium of intelligible communication with man made in his image. Words are the means of transmitting ideas from person to person: it is not centrally in symbols and visions, but especially in words, that the Old Testament focuses its account of divine-human relationships. Moses the lawgiver reports the Word of God; the prophets impart the revealed Word of Yahweh. The Gospels record three occasions on which the invisible God spoke from heaven to acknowledge Jesus as his unique Son: at his baptism (Mark 1:10; cf. Matt. 3:16 f.; Luke 3:21 f; John 1:32 f.); at his transfiguration (Matt. 17:5; cf. Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35; cf. 2 Pet. 1:17); and shortly before the crucifixion (John 12:27–39). Jesus Christ, moreover, commissioned disciples to “preach the word” (Matt. 10:7, 20, 27:20; John 6:63). The secret of Christianity’s expansion was growth of the apostolic word (Acts 6:7, 12:24, 19:20). The orally proclaimed biblical truth, together with the subsequently published Gospel of Christ or teaching of the Bible, was the message of the early Christian church (Rom. 10:17; Gal. 3:2 ff.); the authoritative source of that message was, is and forever remains the transcendent God (1 Thess. 2:2, 13; Gal. 1:11 f.).


The Resurgence of Process Philosophy

Although many Western thinkers disavowed metaphysical knowledge, process philosophy has reemerged as a metaphysically affirmative view that in some respects rejects the Judeo-Christian heritage but in others professes to champion it.

I believe biblical theism tumbled from ontological significance in the twentieth century because of several philosophical and theological developments. Among these were metaphysical counterclaims by absolute idealists, personalists and panpsychists; insistence on empirical verification by logical positivists and linguistic philosophers; concessive modernist views that denied the literal significance of scriptural representations of God’s being; phenomenological emphasis on the creative contribution of the individual knower; and neoorthodox denial of the objective metaphysical importance of special revelation. In some erstwhile Christian circles positivism deliberately, and neoorthodoxy unwittingly, encouraged an atheistic trend, one nurtured by such prejudices as that neither theology nor philosophy possesses objectively valid truths about God himself, and that no metaphysics is implicit in Hebrew representations of Yahweh.

Over against recent modern attempts to eliminate metaphysics as meaningless or beyond the possibilities of human knowledge, process theology tries to sustain intelligible interest in superempirical entities. It rejects the antimetaphysical stance of Kantian criticism, Barthian dialectical theology, Bultmannian existentialism, logical positivism and much analytic philosophy. Dialectical and existential theology had concentrated the case for the reality of God in internal divine-human confrontation; decline of this approach gave process theology a propitious opportunity to reassert its own particular claims. Having dismissed objective ontological concerns, neoorthodoxy and positivism forfeited the task of descriptive metaphysics to Marxists, neo-Thomists and a somewhat harassed vanguard of evangelical philosophers and theologians.

In promoting a philosophical alternative, process theory linked God to nature and history, and appealed to objective reason. Contrary to the neoorthodox notion that the Christian faith is an internal commitment devoid of implications for external nature and history, process philosophy stressed anew the fact that religious reality is important for all life and existence; it resisted both the “God is dead” trend and neoorthodox emphasis merely on an existential living God. Finding in common human experience the basis for affirming the divine it therefore shifted interest from special revelation to natural theology as the framework for resolving metaphysical disputes.

The breakdown of various neo-Protestant views produced a theologically neoliberal vacuum into which a scholarly vanguard influenced mainly by Alfred North Whitehead tried to squeeze process theology as the metaphysical system most appropriate to Christian faith. Unlike neo-Thomism, process theology rejects Aristotelian categories of substance and enthrones modern scientific categories of process and becoming. By correlating an evolutionary universe with a religious reality that guides the developmental process but yet is inseparable from it, process theology incorporates the creative process into the divine life and deprives deity of absolute transcendence.

Whitehead’s view of a creative principle with antecedent and consequent natures whetted much of the American interest in the theory. It was after coming from England to Harvard in 1924 that Whitehead wrote his philosophical works; there his protégé was Charles Hartshorne who in turn influenced Bernard Meland, John Cobb, Jr., Daniel Day Williams and Schubert M. Ogden. In place of widely current antimetaphysical theories, but still in opposition to classic Christian theism, these men promoted schematic dipolar theism that denies miracle and for biblical supernaturalism substitutes a one-layer theory of reality.

Yet any impression that process theory is specially contemporary is wrong; process metaphysics is neither new nor modern (cf. C. F. H. Henry, “The Reality and Identity of God,” Christianity Today, Vol. XIII, No. 12, Mar. 14, 1969, pp. 3–6, and Vol. XIII, No. 13, Mar. 28, 1969, pp. 12–16) although its recent form incorporates some novel aspects. In a vigorous effort to align it with twentieth-century science and the contemporary secular revolt against the supernatural its proponents declared process theology specially congruous to the leading motifs of the day. The fact is that the theory has noteworthy roots in ancient Greek thought, and its diverse modern versions have in some respects been emerging for several centuries. Consensus hardly characterizes even current statements of process theology. But because a number of vocal contemporary scholars support the view in general, it has the semblance of a movement or school.

Earlier in this century process philosophy was espoused by Henri Bergson (Creative Evolution), C. Lloyd Morgan (Emergent Evolution) and Samuel Alexander (Space, Time, and Deity). (An evangelical critique appears in the present writer’s Remaking the Modern Mind, pp. 119–171.) Bergson’s vitalism involved a constantly changing divinity, neither omnipotent nor omniscient and limited by the universe; Morgan’s view was quasi-pantheistic, Alexander’s, quasi-naturalistic.

All three thinkers contributed in some respect to the thought of Whitehead who was to become the seminal mind and formative influence in contemporary process theory. Interest in Whitehead’s Gifford Lectures on Process and Reality was reduced in both England and America, however, by the growing impact in the mid-thirties of two antimetaphysical perspectives, namely, logical positivism which focused on physics more than on biological processes, and Barthian transcendence which considered evolutionary immanence inappropriate as a Christian model.

Charles Hartshorne’s Man’s Vision of God and the Logic of Theism and The Divine Relativity kept interest alive in Whitehead’s metaphysics, however, by projecting a bipolar deity intimately involved both in the universe and in the life of man. While process philosophy avoids pantheism with its direct identification of God with the universe, it nonetheless tries to interrelate God more closely with nature, man and history than does biblical theism. It considers God an aspect of everything that is, yet in some respects also transcendent to everything. Hartshorne calls this pan-entheism, that is, all is in God, in contrast to pantheism which says all is God. For process theory, in other words, even though God is more than the universe, the universe is as necessary to God as God is to the universe.

As logical positivism collapsed and dialectical-existential theology faltered, the view of Whitehead and Hartshorne gained academic influence in defining the nature of God; process theorists vigorously sought to penetrate and capture the intellectual frontiers. Aggressive American proponents of process theology included John Cobb, Jr. (A Christian Natural Theology. Based on the Thought of Alfred North Whitehead), Schubert M. Ogden (The Reality of God and Other Essays), and Daniel Day Williams (The Spirit and the Forms of Love). W. Norman Pittenger crossed the Atlantic to Cambridge, England, where he extended his earlier American interest (“A Contemporary Trend in North American Theology: Process Thought and Christian Faith,” pp. 500–510) by contributions in book form (e.g., Process-Thought and Christian Faith, Welwyn, Herts, James Nisbet, 1968; New York, Macmillan & Co., 1968) and with Peter Hamilton (The Living God and the Modern World) sought to restate Christianity in terms of process theory. In France, meanwhile, Catholic priest and biologist Teilhard de Chardin had projected a rationalistic evolutionary mysticism that views the universe as a christologically guided movement toward perfection (The Phenomenon of Man).

Process theology soon gained fresh vigor and became a rallying point for American postliberal theology. Offering an escape from the orthodox emphasis on miraculous supernaturalism and on an eternal Trinity in the Godhead, it appeals to experience and philosophical reasoning rather than to special revelation. It not only allies itself with evolutionary development but also considers the universe necessary to God, thus professing to take time more seriously than does evangelical theism.

Current process theology differs from its earlier philosophical statements, including those of Whitehead and Hartshorne, by trying to make Christianity—even if in a modified form—somehow credible to the contemporary mind. Unlike earlier approaches, more oriented to speculative argumentation, some later theological versions frequently invoke Scripture, project an overriding christology, and accord considerable scope to existential trust. Whitehead and Hartshorne, by contrast, sharply criticized biblical theism. Whitehead pointedly rejects “the Semitic concept of God,” and Christian theism and Mohammedan theism also; all three, he says, depict deity as standing outside a relationship of mutual dependence with other actual entities in the universe (Religion in the Making, pp. 68 ff.). Son of an evangelical Anglican clergyman, Whitehead abandoned early theological studies and for a time became agnostic. He deplores the traditional emphasis on divine omnipotence, omniscience and immutability; in fact, the idea of God is almost an afterthought in his metaphysics and undergoes considerable revision. He perceives God as one entity among others; God and the world are necessary to each other, he states. He views God no less readily as an impersonal creative principle than as a person. One searches the philosophies of Whitehead and Hartshorne in vain, moreover, for any significant christology. Most process thinkers in fact reject Lionel Thornton’s effort to reconcile aspects of Whiteheadian thought with orthodox trinitarianism (The Incarnate Lord). C. J. Curtiss, for example, while he discusses the implications of process thought for twenty-five different Christian categories, nowhere deals with the central concerns of the Cross, atonement and vicarious substitution (The Task of Philosophical Theology).

Although Whitehead and many followers vigorously attack Christian theology in order to commend process thought, some scholars now consider process philosophy the best metaphysical conceptuality for presenting Christianity.

In Living Options in Protestant Theology: A Survey of Methods John Cobb, Jr., for example, insists that we need a Christian natural theology and recommends Whitehead’s philosophy as the best available option. “I believe,” he says, “that in Whitehead we have an excellent philosophy unusually free from the tensions with Christian faith characteristic of other philosophies that Christians have tried to employ” (ibid., p. 270). Cobb considers Whitehead’s philosophy “Christian, in the sense of being deeply affected in its starting point by the vision of reality” (ibid., p. 268). But James Collins reminds us that “Whitehead uses the language of the Incarnation, but without accepting an immanent-transcendent creator or the doctrine of the Man-God. The theory of bipolarity trails off just at the point where the questions of whether God is good, personal, and personally related to man can be posed” (God in Modern Philosophy, p. 322). To be sure, while Cobb would reformulate Whitehead’s positions somewhat, he would always do so congruently with Whitehead’s principles, and not in the interest of “a hybrid of philosophy and Christian convictions” (Living Options in Protestant Theology, p. 269). In the closing chapter of his A Christian Natural Theology Cobb promotes “a Whiteheadian Christian natural theology” (ibid., p. 252).

In Process Thought and Christian Faith Norman Pittenger likewise maintains that of all available perspectives process theology does the most justice to the biblical symbols. Pittenger writes: “There is a remarkable correspondence between the biblical insistence on the Living God who is active in nature and in the affairs of men, and the recognition by process-thought that the world is a dynamic process of such a kind that whatever explanatory principle or agency there may be … must be dynamic and processive” (ibid., pp. 20 f.). He adds: “If ever … a philosophy … took seriously the kind of portrayal of God in relation to his world which we find in the biblical record, it is the philosophy of process” (ibid., p. 30).

Lewis S. Ford elaborates Whitehead’s view in his volume, The Lure of God. A Biblical Background for Process Theism. Process theism, he insists, best illumines “our understanding of biblical and Christian traditions” (ibid., p. 1). Ford points to recent efforts to develop the theory christologically. He sees nature as a series of emergents, and regards Jesus as “carrying man beyond himself” and as decisively actualizing God’s creative Word (ibid., p. 47). But why the process of emergence must stop with Jesus, or why, if even God needs fulfillment, God cannot be carried beyond himself in a process context, is not fully clear.

Paul R. Sponheim commends Christian faith and process metaphysics as making “better sense together” (Faith and Process. The Significance of Process Thought for Christian Faith, p. 386). His welcome of process theology leaves many historic theological commitments in midair; while he rejects a “double truth” theory (ibid., pp. 261 ff.), he nonetheless puts many Christian dogmas outside the scope of metaphysical dialogue.

No exponent of process theology is trapped more ambiguously between the alternatives of biblical theism and process theism than is Schubert Ogden. Ogden rejects the supernatural, ignores the reality of the Trinity, disavows the miraculous—including the once-for-all historical incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ—and repudiates a Word of God mediated solely through Christ. Bultmann holds that Christian faith is not possible on the ground of the historical event of Jesus Christ, and postulates instead a non-demythologized “Christ” existentially necessary for salvific response. But Ogden goes even farther: he eliminates Christ as the sole mediator through whom God speaks his Word. “There is not the slightest evidence,” says Ogden, “that God acted in Christ in any way different from the way in which he primordially acts in every other event; and even if it could be established that he had, it is clear that such an occurrence would not be of the slightest moment to me as an existing self who must win or lose himself in decision here and now” (“Bultmann’s Project of Demythologizing and the Problem of Theology and Philosophy,” p. 165).

Since process theology’s rejection of the supernatural involves denying orthodox christology, one would expect Ogden to think twice about commending process theology as a Christian view. He nonetheless insists that Jesus of Nazareth is the normative revelation of the ultimate truth about our existence before God. Although Ogden rescues the Nazarene from the historical skepticism to which Bultmann abandoned him, he does so for his own purposes. He makes Jesus a pawn in the context of process theology, and commends process perspectives as a theological witness to God’s concrete action as revealed in Jesus Christ (The Reality of God, pp. 65 f.). “It is my belief,” he writes, “that the conceptuality provided by this new philosophy enables us so to conceive the reality of God that we may respect all that is legitimate in modern secularity, while also fully respecting the distinctive claims of the Christian faith itself” (ibid., p. 56). Ogden quickly dismisses the notion that “it may appear strange and even suspicious” that “a form of theism … genuinely possible for secular man should turn out to be … conformable to Chrisitian faith” (ibid., p. 69).

Process philosophy has gained considerable following in American theological circles, particularly in the Western states. Many major centers elsewhere, however, ignore it, either as a vague dilution of biblical theology, or as a mediating effort that lacks logical power and stability; they see it as an unpromising effort to revive a metaphysical outlook whose essential features were already championed unsuccessfully earlier in this century. Has the movement made its case either as a credible alternative to Christian theism or as the preferred metaphysics for expounding the Christian world-life view? Is process philosophy more deeply rooted in the fashions of contemporary thought than in the categories of biblical theology? Does it confer Christian sanction on a speculative philosophical theory that basically obscures the reality of the biblical God? Much current discussion assumes that historic evangelical theism disadvantages and misrepresents the Bible and that process philosophers are indeed true to essential biblical conceptions.

Some theologians insist that revealed religion is committed to no specific worldview. Dialectical dogmaticians contend, moreover, that divine revelation is not propositional and Scripture therefore has no interest in worldviews. Karl Barth asks: “Is it our job as Christians to accept or reject world-views? Have not Christians always been eclectic in their worldviews—and this for very good reason?” (Church Dogmatics, III/2, p. 447).

To be sure, no finality attaches to any secular worldview. Some conceptualities more than others accommodate emphases on which Judeo-Christian revelation insists. But no conceptuality can pit itself against basic elements of the biblical revelation and still profess to be ideally or acceptably Christian. To elaborate a supposedly Christian worldview on the basis of secular philosophy by advancing points of contact congenial to biblical theology, and merely excluding whatever scriptural doctrine is uncongenial, makes a mockery of intelligible divine revelation. The truths that structure the biblical revelation are capable of systematic correlation and supply a foundation on which a Christian world-life view can and should be erected.

Cobb recognizes that “no philosophy can be regarded as philosophically absolute” and that Christian choice of a preferred conceptuality from among a variety of philosophies is therefore in a culturally and historically “conditioned situation” (A Christian Natural Theology, p. 271). Whitehead viewed the relativity of philosophies as not unlike the relativity of scientific theories (Process and Reality, pp. 20 f.). In science, he noted, later revision does not discredit the validity of an earlier hypothesis in relation to the particular data on which it was predicated; in metaphysics, likewise, we do not operate with absolutes but commute between partial truths. Cobb thinks this view is “surely … not entirely wrong” (A Christian Natural Theology, p. 273, ital. sup.). But what room is there for culture-conditioned certainties? Whitehead himself recognized the relativity of his own philosophy (Essays in Science and Philosophy, p. 87). What Cobb seems not to recognize is that any decisive correlation of Christianity with Whitehead’s metaphysics, moreover with any culturally relative philosophy, erodes the finality of revealed religion. While Cobb is willing to concede that his Whiteheadian natural theology is not universally binding, he does so only on the premise that, similarly, one “can be no more sure of the truth of the claim that the absolute has shown itself [e.g., in the Word of God that breaks into the relative] than of the truth of the philosophical analysis” (ibid., pp. 275 f.). Indeed, Cobb thinks that the West should rethink its faith “in the light of the reality of the great religions of the East” (ibid., p. 283). How useful, then, is a Christian natural theology? “The Christian,” to be sure, may claim that “the universal answer is to be found” in Jesus Christ (ibid., p. 284). But what of the nonchristian? In the interest of Whiteheadian conjecture Cobb seems to hurry over objective evidence for the self-revealing God and combines philosophical reasoning with appeals to personal faith and inner assurance (ibid., p. 277), appeals that can impose no validity claim upon other people.

Our objection is not to Whitehead’s contention that speculative philosophy must endeavor “to frame a coherent, logical and necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of our experience must be interpreted” (Process and Reality, p. 4). Ontological predications are proper and necessary. But where do we start when we affirm these claims? Whitehead relies not on biblical disclosure of the self-revealing God to decisively indicate the nature of ultimate reality and its relationships to the universe, but on philosophical conjecture. As Whitehead well recognizes, to displace transcendent revelation by philosophical tentativity replaces the Judeo-Christian God also, and with him creation ex nihilo, and much else.

In every actual entity Whitehead presumes to find both a physical and a mental pole, the mental involving prehension and feeling, but not necessarily conscious activity. This bipolarity Whitehead applies to God whom he views as the decisive principle of limitation, concretion and relevance or value. For Whitehead God’s mental pole is his “primordial nature” and his physical pole his “consequent nature,” a source of fresh depths of significance and vision in the world.

While Whitehead holds that “God is not to be treated as an exception to all metaphysical principles invoked to save their collapse,” but rather as “their chief exemplification” (Process and Reality, p. 521), it seems clear that he does, in fact, insist on basic differences between God and all temporal entities, even if some projected distinctives are profoundly unbiblical.

God alone, says Whitehead, completely comprehends eternal objects, he alone incorporates objective data without their vanishing into the past, he alone is imperishably durable without depending on an other than himself, his mental prehensions are not conditioned on physical feelings, and his consequent nature is more a transmutation of time than it is temporal.

Yet Whitehead finds God necessary as the principle of limitation or concretion that actualizes the forms of particular entities, an emphasis that recalls Plato’s dualism of an antecedently given medium not created by God but to which the Demiurge as divine architect imparts intelligible form. He also views God as the source of the purpose and inspiration of the ideals to which temporal actual entities aspire, and as conserver of values if ideals realized in time are to be fulfilled and not lost.

Such projection not only modifies Christian theism, but also expressly rejects the orthodox view of God’s nature. To “solve” the tensions of eternity and time and of election and history Whitehead grounds them both in God but does so by dividing the divine nature into “primordial” and “consequent.” Historic Christianity declares God to be infinite and perfect, without limitation of being, knowledge and power, and independent of the world. Whitehead’s God needs the world, however, to make him complete; Whitehead reinterprets orthodox theism by ascribing potentiality to God. The qualities of change and development in God’s nature and of succession in his experience, Whitehead attributes to God’s “consequent” nature; his “primordial” nature Whitehead regards as absolute, independent and unchanging. But since the “primordial” nature is but one aspect of God’s being, thus to ascribe potentiality to him compromises God’s transcendence.

In the Bible the transcendent God is intimately related to man and the world without in any way compromising his infinite perfections. To be sure, John Courtney Murray singles out as “the central problem of Christian philosophy … the problem of the coexistence and coagency of the infinite and the finite, the necessary and the contingent, the eternal and the temporal, the absolute and the relative” (The Problem of God: Yesterday and Today, p. 92). And George F. Thomas observes: “The problem of the relation between permanence and change, actuality and potentiality in God’s nature has yet to be worked out in a satisfactory way.” Then he adds: “But it may be predicted that the Theism of the future will not abandon the Greek and medieval emphasis upon the eternity, immutability, and perfection of the transcendent God …” (Religious Philosophies of the West, p. 387). Thomas makes partial concessions to process theology, however, when he declares it hardly reconcilable with the biblical view when Aquinas describes “God’s perfection as complete actuality, without potentiality of any kind; His eternity and immutability as excluding all succession in time and change; His knowledge as including even future contingent events; His will as the ultimate cause of all events, even contingent and evil ones; and His power as limited only by absolute impossibility” (ibid, p. 385). Thomas thinks that philosophers will eventually reinterpret and synthesize such convictions with the modern insistence on God’s intimate relations to the world and its profound effects on him. Most evangelical theists insist, however, that to contradict or to constrict divine omnipotence, transcendence, and independence, undermines a meaningful concept of God. A proper and adequate view of deity rejects any equivalence between God and the activities of the universe.

Whitehead’s emphasis on ideals and values, moreover, has no explicit relationship to the Judeo-Christian recognition that God’s revealed will is the foundation of moral distinctions. By insisting instead on aesthetic inspiration Whitehead virtually reduces morality to but an instrumental role, to a means for achieving aesthetic values. George Thomas incisively protests that, unlike the ethical theism of the Bible, Whitehead does not seem to regard the general moral principles he adduces “as belonging to a moral order based upon God’s will, nor does he speak of them as moral demands which are universally binding upon men” (Religious Philosophies of the West, p. 388).

Whitehead’s depreciation of divine power is no less disconcerting. He rejects divine omnipotence, claiming that it deprives temporal actual entities of their freedom, and thus makes God responsible for evil. The fact is, that the alternative of an omnipotent God’s self-limitation would avoid this objection and would escape the problems raised by imposing external limitations on God. Daniel Day Williams suggests that a God whose role is reduced from any use of force to the use only of persuasion, as by Whitehead, has no tangible power in the world, and implies a God who only listens and does not “speak”; divinity becomes merely a final cause that is neither Creator nor Redeemer in the biblical sense (The Relevance of Whitehead’s Metaphysics, pp. 365 ff.). Thomas observes that Whitehead is “closer to Platonic than to Jewish and Christian Theism.… His conception of God lacks something of the majesty of the transcendent God of the Bible, who combines love for men with the moral demand for justice and mercy and uses His power in history and beyond history to fulfill His purpose for the creatures He has made” (Religious Philosophies of the West, p. 389).

Whitehead, moreover, does not consider personality a basic category for comprehending ultimate reality. Failure to insist that God is personal thus sets him apart not only from traditional theists but also from modern personalists and theological modernists. Whitehead himself admitted that he had never fully worked out his doctrine of God, and in the preface to the second edition of her work on Whitehead’s Philosophy of Organism Dorothy Emmet voiced uncertainty as to whether God’s reality is really integral to Whitehead’s view of the world. Some critics consider the notion of a personal God simply a religious or emotional overtone that process metaphysicians attach to a cosmic theory. Whitehead’s conception of God as object—in his words, a superject—is no improvement on Greek-inspired medieval notions of God as pure being which concealed the self-revealing God and prompted the equally extreme counterreaction, that of overemphasizing God as Subject. But Whitehead’s alternative is no better. God’s primordial nature, or mental pole, Whitehead considers a unity of pure conceptual feelings but which “apart from complex integration with physical feelings, are devoid of consciousness in their subjective form” (Process and Reality, p. 521). For Whitehead God is therefore impersonal and unconscious in his primordial nature, even if other metaphysicians try to associate with conscious life certain functions that Whitehead assigns to the primordial nature. Only through his consequent nature, that is, only as finite and in process, is Whitehead’s God conscious; in his primordial nature he is impersonal, unconscious and deficiently actual, and therefore religiously unavailable.

Process theologians consider the historic Christian doctrine that God is supernatural, absolutely timeless and immutable, but a carbon copy of the immovable static Being of secular Greek philosophy. The evangelical view of God, Schubert Ogden charges, combines “elements of classical Greek philosophy with religious insights derived from the Hebraic-Christian Scriptures” (The Reality of God, pp. 16 f.). Ogden declares God’s reality to be the central issue of contemporary theology and considers supernaturalistic theism more objectionable than even the atheistic claims mounted by radical secularism in the aftermath of logical positivism. The basis for his complaint that evangelical orthodoxy merges “the conceptions of classical metaphysics and Holy Scripture” is that because it affirms an absolute God classic Christian theism necessarily deprives God of “real internal relations to the contingent beings of which he is the ground” (ibid., p. 140). Ogden depicts the turbulent history of modern philosophy from Spinoza through Hegel as a quest for a more acceptable theism, a search that failed either because it retained too many aspects of orthodoxy or because it developed insufficiently revised conceptions of deity. The ideal neoclassical alternative, he says, is process theology.

Instead of biblical theism’s monopolar or entirely absolute God and its two-level reality of the supernatural and the natural, Ogden promotes a dipolar or intrinsically two-sided God at once absolute and relative, who stands in inseparable living interaction with the universe. In process theology the exposition of transcendence and immanence is double-edged—there is God’s transcendence and immanence, and also the world’s supposed transcendence of and immanence within God. Whitehead put it this way: “It is as true to say that the World is immanent in God, as that God is immanent in the World. It is as true to say that God transcends the World, as that the World transcends God” (Process and Reality, p. 528). For Whitehead transcendence is but a generic notion and not one uniquely distinctive of God: “Every actual entity, in virtue of its novelty, transcends its universe, God included,” he says (ibid., p. 143), and “every actual entity, including God, … transcends the rest of actuality” (ibid., p. 135). He means by this that it is in special ways that God transcends and is transcended, since it is he who draws all actualities into comprehensive and inexhaustible unity. God’s ultimacy, in other words, is viewed in terms of creativity, but not in terms of self-containedness and self-sufficiency. For Whitehead divine aseity and independence of the universe are impossible notions.

According to Ogden God is absolute in his inclusion of all reality; that is, the universe is his body. And God is absolute in his relations to human beings and nature; they are aspects of his body and of his love. God is also absolute in knowledge since at every stage of development everything exists in relationship to him, and God is absolute in temporality since he exists in time unlimited by beginning or end. By the same token, God for Ogden is neither absolutely transcendent nor absolutely omniscient; he is neither absolute creator and preserver of the universe nor absolutely above time; in short, God is not supernatural, he is not supertemporal. For Ogden God is a growing god, a god who changes.

In Norman Pittenger’s words, “If the world is a world in dynamic movement, then God as its chief principle of explanation will himself be in dynamic movement; if ceaseless adaptation to novel possibilities is found in the order of creation, the meaning of creation will itself include a factor which in the highest degree is adaptable.… For process-thought deity is not understood,” he writes, “as if God could be said to ‘exist’ without the continuing relationships and the ceaseless activity which in another way we see reflected in the world” (Process-Thought and Christian Faith, pp. 26 f.). Pittenger therefore denies that God is ontologically independent and essentially distinct from the universe, and that the properties of the created universe need not characterize the Creator.

Lewis Ford contends that if we conceive the eternal order as “absolutely actual in its unchangeableness … then the world becomes an unnecessary appendage to God, a strange reduplication in time of that which is already unchangeably actual in God” (The Lure of God, p. 47). But to argue that anything besides deity is “a strange reduplication in time” because all perfection is already actual in God, rebuts the very complaint. While what God creates is unnecessary to his being, it is indeed ontologically strange or “other” than his being, and it is “in time,” and a reduplication in reality of what God eternally decrees to create. The argument is unpersuasive that a deity conceived as self-giving love requires in its reciprocal interrelationships that the universe be an aspect of the divine life. In classic Christian theism the Trinity of persons within the eternal Godhead serves this purpose very adequately. Depicting divine interpersonal relationships apart from trinitarian doctrine buttresses the argument that God requires a universe as an object of his love. Whitehead’s theory arbitrarily makes a social Trinity impossible. The conjectural and complex dipolar theory of God is no improvement on, and no more acceptable than the modernist reduction of orthodox trinitarianism to an abstract monopolar theory of God.

What basis is there, we may ask, for the notion voiced by Ogden and other process theorists that God is “first of all, the eminently relative One” whose absoluteness is “simply the abstract structure or identifying principle of his eminent relativity” (The Reality of Cod, p. 65)? Does it really follow, as Ogden contends, that “the most truly absolute Thou any mind can conceive” is “the Thou with the greatest conceivable degree of real relatedness … to all others”? Or is this an unwitting invitation to pantheism? If the idea of “the greatest conceivable” being is intended to recall the ontological argument, surely Anselm did not find therein any support for a primarily “relative God.”

In view of their insistence on divine potentiality it is no surprise that process thinkers concentrate their criticism of orthodox theism on traditional representations of God’s immutability, eternity, omnipotence and omniscience. But to revise and rearrange the divine attributes to satisfy a bipolar theory of God imposes restrictions upon deity that are foreign to the God of the Bible. Whitehead had declared that the two concepts of permanence and fluency totally contradict each other; Ogden tries to reconcile them by differentiating existence from actualities or mere states. We are therefore presented with a schizophrenic God who embodies radically opposed modes of reality, a deity absolute in some aspects of his nature, but relative in others. Mere semantic manipulation of the metaphor of polarity will not bridge the logical difficulties, however, nor will it obscure the violence done to the nature of the Judeo-Christian God. The divine commandment against imaging God in space-time realities (Ex. 20:4) declares that God is not to be confused with the universe. Jesus Christ stressed, as does the Old Testament, that God is spirit (John 4:24), that is, immaterial and invisible. The apostle Paul’s exhortation that we come to God directly rather than by means of material objects (Acts 17:29; cf. Rom. 1:25) strikes hard against the notion that God is an aspect of all reality. On Mars Hill Paul speaks concerning the omnipotent creator who needs nothing outside himself. “as if he needed anything” (Acts 17:25, niv). The Greek term prosdeomi repudiates any suggestion that God stands in any need whatsoever; he is unlike heathen idols that owe to human hands their very reality and continuance. Paul, in other words, presupposes God’s self-sufficiency: “It is not because he lacks anything that he accepts service at men’s hands, for he is himself the universal giver of life and breath and all else” (Acts 17:25, neb). There is no hint here of process theology’s notion that the universe is necessary to God.

F. R. Tennant stresses that love belongs to God’s primordial nature and is not simply a matter of his relationships to others. Karl Barth likewise insists on God’s self-sufficiency when he writes: “God would be none the less God if he had not created a world and man. The world’s existence and our existence is in no way essentially necessary to God, even as the object of his love” (Church Dogmatics, I/1, p. 158). “It is not part of God’s being and action that as love it must have an object in another who is different from him. God is sufficient in himself as object and therefore as object of his love.… God does not owe us either our being, or in our being his love” (II/1, pp. 280 f.).

Whitehead rejects God’s temporal priority over the world and divine creation-out-of-nothing in order to accommodate a continual bringing into being: “God is not before all creation but with all creation” (Process and Reality, p. 521). This emphasis obviously compromises divine transcendence, for God is seen as involved in time and change and as affected by the world. We must not confuse Whitehead’s view with that of Hegel, however, since they differ in important respects: Hegel considers the universe the history of God’s becoming, the self-evolution of Absolute Reason in time and space; for Whitehead, on the other hand, the universe is the history of God’s becoming in only certain aspects of his nature.

Process theology asserts that God transcends temporal actual entities in the sense that God’s primordial nature is eternal, aboriginal and independent of them, and that temporal entities never exhaust the infinite multiplicity of eternal objects conceptually visualized by God. Whitehead spoke of God as “Co-creator of the universe” (a phrase attributed by Lucien Price in Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead, p. 297). But to say that God is the chief causal principle is quite different from saying merely that he is the only ultimate cause. If every new event is partly a product of the efficient causation of prior events, partly a product of self-causation, and partly a product of final or teleological causation, then is not the entity itself just as causal as any other causal factor? A divinity whose “self creation” in creative becoming motivates our decisions and is advanced or retarded by our decisions and deeds seems to have something for everyone; it leaves us unsure, however, just what it has and for whom. No clear discrimination emerges between divine influence, cosmic law and human spontaneity. As George Thomas remarks, “Whitehead’s conception of God’s transcendence is very different from that of biblical Theism, which stresses God’s majesty and holiness and the complete dependence of the world upon Him. This is most obvious in Whitehead’s explicit denial that God is the creator of finite actual entities” (Religious Philosophies of the West, p. 372). While on process premises God may be said to form a causal unity of order he can hardly be regarded as creator ex nihilo of the universe, for his causal relationships to man and the world are obscure indeed.

If God is in fact a growing God, if God does change in important respects, can we any longer confidently and truly say what God in truth is? If it is argued that to establish what God is we need to know only that he is eternal and omnipresent, then the dipolar distinction is not essential to the divine being. Process theorists may rightly caution Christians against interpreting biblical passages about God’s changeless character (Mal. 3:6; James 1:17) in terms of a remote and immovable Absolute; they have no basis for eroding God’s omniscience and omnipotence, however, by misconstruing passages about his “repentance.” If God is not sovereign and omniscient but growing, can not his own ability to tell the truth also expand, and if so, have we any basis for regarding even divine revelation as unsubject to revision? While Ogden in the index to The Reality of God lists perhaps a dozen references to divine revelation, including “decisive revelation” and “the revelation of revelations,” he nowhere introduces revelation as cognitively significant. Not revelation but philosophical conjecture is his source of truth about God. But can Ogden’s assertions about God coincide with what God knows himself to be if God is changing and also limited in knowledge? If God’s reality is changing, can his creatures know anything unchanging (whether ontic or epistemic) about him? In place of the self-revealing Sovereign who voluntarily creates man and the world, Odgen’s god is a dipolar deity with an incomprehensible “absolute” nature and a “contingent” nature unworthy of worship.

Bergson correlated process philosophy with the conviction that our conceptions do not truly represent reality. But on what basis can current process theory affirm eternally valid conceptions any more properly? Might not a better approach emerge for communicating the truth if, despite his changeable nature, the one dipolar God should ultimately discover what he really is? And suppose—horror of horrors for process theologians—God should truly become the absolute sovereign and immutable deity of biblical theology?

The notion of God as partly nonexistent and yet capable of existing fully is a speculative monstrosity; no philosopher could seriously have proposed such a concept unless he had imbibed modern evolutionary theory too long and too much. As Anselm long ago observed in his Reply to Gaunilo, a reality that does not exist in its totality can in fact be conceived not to exist at all. An ontologically necessary being, he argues in the Monologion, derives its existence solely through and from itself (Ch. 6). If God’s ontic independence is to some extent denied, so that some aspect of his being or nature depends upon external causes, then these causes could just as readily destroy as constitute his reality. If God’s nature depends in part upon external considerations, then his reality—unless determined by external necessity—depends in part upon chance and need not even have come into existence. To the extent or in the degree that the nonexistence of God’s attributes is conceivable, to that extent or in that degree he exists either by chance or because of some external circumstance. It is, in fact, meaningless to describe a “self-existent being as coming to exist” (cf. John H. Hick and Arthur C. McGill, eds., The Many-Faced Argument: Recent Studies in the Ontological Argument for the Existence of God, p. 347). If God is, he is God as the eternal, unlimited reality without any external cause for his being and perfections. Being that God acquires or perfections that he adds would be neither logically nor ontologically necessary to his reality; they are logically and ontologically dispensable, if not logically and ontologically impossible. Anything that is contingently nonexistent is never potentially divine.

Process philosophers who affirm God’s creative becoming can avoid a wholly contingent God only by philosophical postulation; since on their premises God’s past or future nonexistence was or is a possibility, the permanent reality of their deity is neither demonstrated nor necessary. A God whose perfections do not have necessary existence as an entirety is a God whose existence is partially dependent on what is not-God. In that case God’s secure existence does not depend entirely on his own unique being; without the universe he could neither have existed at any time, nor would he have “grown” and, moreover, without the universe he would presumably perish. While on the premises of process philosophy God may be a radically exceptional being, exalted above all others, and worshipfully supreme, his eternity is not affirmed as in revelational theism and can not be deduced from a definition of divinity. And insofar as potential for growth is affirmed, the God of process philosophy is neither the best conceivable being nor in fact, deserving of worship. A deity who can exist in a greater state than he actually does, whose existential actuality is in part suspended upon future contingencies, and who is not in all respects infinite, absolute and forever complete, is an inadequate object of religious devotion; such speculation marks a retreat from the revelational theism of the Bible.

Does it not confuse things, moreover, to borrow the language of monotheism in order to speak of a dipolar divine principle? What pan-en-monotheistic need is there for referring the coherence and order of a changing world and the sense of human worth and meaning to one and the same principle rather than to pan-en-polytheism? And would not the equal ultimacy of Chronos and Physis or some other divine Jekyll and Hyde be more coherent than a God with a split personality, or rather, with contradictory attributes? Unless one clarifies God’s causal relations to the world, it is just as incongruous to speak of the universe as alive (hylozoism) or as merely consisting of personal values emerging at the frontiers of an evolutionary matrix, as to speak of God as simply an axiogenetic or axiosoteric aspect of the universal process. If, after all, what primarily sustains the idea of a dipolar God is my conviction of personal worth and meaning, may not the process deity be but a literary symbol for whatever appears to preserve man’s zest for life? Is not the deity of process theology such a part of and so reciprocally involved in the world process, and even more so in subjective human thought and decision, that its transcendence is merely imagined and imaginary?

Making process or change or growth an ultimate perfection is one of the prime weaknesses of process philosophy. Its exponents hesitate, of course, to speak of potential growth in terms of added perfection since that would imply an imperfect God, whereas, Ogden stresses, God is at every stage “completely perfect” (The Reality of God, p. 60 n. 97). Ogden rejects Hartshorne’s statement that God is “perfect and complete in some respects but not in all” (Reality as a Social Process; Studies in Metaphysics and Religion, p. 155), but at the same time seems to abandon the idea of a fixed perfection. (Calvin spoke of progress in this life as the highest perfection of the godly; modern theologians impiously transfer this necessity to the deity.)

Whatever else may be said for the new theism, its god is not the God of the Bible. Psalm 90 declares: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world … thou art God” (kjv). Hence it is inaccurate to contend, like Ogden, that rejection of pantheism is the “real motive” of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo (The Reality of God, p. 62).

Langdon Gilkey observes: “If in the event of creation finitude is brought into being and exists, then the divine act of creation is a totally unique act. The process of creation, however we may try to comprehend it, cannot be exactly like any natural or human process with which we are familiar” (Maker of Heaven and Earth. A Study of the Christian Doctrine of Creation, p. 53). F. R. Tennant defends creation ex nihilo as safeguarding an “act of will” that is indispensable to theism (Philosophical Theology, pp. 123 f.). Despite Whitehead’s fascination with evolutionary notions of nature, Lionel Thornton insists that genuine religious experience “will never give up its treasured truth that God is the eternal and unchanging Creator, who utterly transcends the changing drama of the present world and all that it contains” (The Incarnate Lord, p. 112).

The God of the Bible is absolutely sovereign and omniscient. He at least has the advantage of knowing who he really is, since change and process do not apply to the Godhead. The living self-revealing God is eternally self-sufficient, the voluntary creator of the universe and sovereign monarch of all. He is the source of all substance and structures of existence, the metaphysical ground of the true and the good, the God of election-love who enters into personal covenant with the ancient Hebrews and incarnates himself in Jesus Christ. He is the God who will one day consummate earthly judgment and redemption through the returning risen Redeemer. Emphasis on divine concern, and on God’s relatedness to the world and man, could hardly come at a more propitious time than amid the overwhelming civilizational problems of the late twentieth century. Jesus of Nazareth left no doubt that human fortunes and misfortunes are of great concern to God and that our decisions and deeds make a difference not only in world affairs but also in God’s attitude and actions toward us.

Ogden nonetheless criticizes classical theism because its God “is lacking in all real internal relations to the contingent beings of which he is the ground” (The Reality of God, p. 124), a criticism that stems, in part, from his insistence that God’s changing relationships to man and the world ontologically describe his being. Ogden’s picture of evangelical theism is prejudiced and distorted and in some respects even a caricature. The fact is that neither metaphysical actuality nor logical consistency requires the verdict that a deity whose nature is defined by immutability, aseity and immateriality cannot as sovereign personal God voluntarily create and intimately relate himself to finite space-time realities. The absolute God of the Bible, who is unchanging, is not on that account aloof from his voluntary creation; he is no lofty Absolute disinterested in the affairs of his creatures.

John Cobb, Jr. correlates scriptural with process theology representations in order to compare the God of the Bible and the God of the philosophers; he concludes that “the philosophers’ God was impassible and immutable whereas the Biblical God was deeply involved with his creation and even with its suffering.… No principle inherent in reason … demands that philosophy will always conclude that God is impassible and immutable and hence, unaffected and uninvolved in the affairs of human history” (A Christian Natural Theology, p. 260). Such an inference imposes on both the Bible and philosophy the notion that a God who is unchanging cannot be significantly involved with his creation and its suffering or in the affairs of history.

Process theologians err twice over when they league evangelical theism with an immovable and uncompassionate Absolute and when they depict biblical writers as champions of a changing God who in some respects depends upon the universe. J. V. Langmead Casserley deplores as an “extraordinary perversion of history” the philosophical misjudgment now common among twentieth-century scholars that “Greek and classical Christian thought … was obsessed with static ideas of being” and that “the ultimate metaphysical reality precluded any possibility of becoming” (In the Service of Man. Technology and the future of human values, pp. 134 f.). Such a prejudiced version of the history of thought, says Casserley, “treats all Greek philosophers as though they were Parmenides, entirely ignoring the extent to which the central problem in Plato and Aristotle is that of the intelligibility of change.” This prejudice does even greater violence to Christianity, moreover, for according to the Bible the living God is both eternally active in self-revelation and eternally involved in the plan of creation and redemption; by these activities he proposes to lift a finite and fallen humanity to spiritual life and to display his sovereign glory through the cosmos and human history.

Several considerations make it clear that process philosophers misidentify the God of biblical theism and evangelical orthodoxy with the immovable divinity postulated by certain Greek philosophers and other more modern thinkers.

Unlike Greek views that forfeit the reality and significance of time and that consider space an undisputed eternal factor, biblical writers, on the other hand, correlate the eternal God with his active role in the created spatio-temporal universe and in human history.

Unlike ancient views that matter is intrinsically evil (Plato) and that deity is disinterested in the world (Aristotle’s self-thinking thought), New Testament Christianity, by contrast, affirmed from its very beginnings a supernatural creator personally and universally active in nature and human affairs and specially manifested in the election-love of the Hebrews and in the incarnation, atonement and resurrection of the Logos.

The Protestant Reformers rejected medieval scholastic attempts to expound the God of the Bible in speculative categories of abstract Being.

And today, like the biblical writers and the church fathers and the Reformers before them, modern evangelical theologians consider Scripture’s insistence on God’s active relation to the universe and his redemptive activity in history no less valid than Scripture’s emphasis on God’s absoluteness, eternity, immutability, omniscience and supernatural transcendence.

It becomes clear that process thinkers misconceive the God of the Bible and of evangelical theism as the remote, immovable Absolute of past and present secular philosophy. On the basis of its own revelatory supports Christianity can correlate a sovereign God whose eternal essence excludes all contingency with the fact of his free creation of a contingent and non-necessary world; it can correlate a divine perfection that excludes further self-realization and whose essential glory is unaltered by the universe, with the fact that man is to glorify God through obedience to biblically revealed commands; it can correlate the absolute Creator whose relation to the world is transcendent, with the reality of the Father who in love revealed himself in Jesus Christ and who governs and guides the universe to its final goal. While it is true that some speculative medieval thinkers made concessions to secular philosophical notions of Being, evangelical theists have consistently rejected any amalgam of the biblical view of God with conjectural pagan views. The contradictions that process theorists impute to evangelical theism rest on speculative imagination and not on factual record. The alternative offered by process theology to biblical theism and illicitly advanced as the definitive Christian view is conjectural; it is rooted not in theistic revelation but in philosophical postulation.

John Hick rightly observes that “it was to the biblical writers psychologically inconceivable—as we say colloquially, unthinkable—that God might not exist, or that his nature might undergo change. They were so vividly conscious of God that they were unable to doubt his reality, and they relied so firmly upon his integrity and faithfulness that they could not contemplate his becoming other than they knew him to be” (The Many-Faced Argument, p. 344). A changing god would in biblical perspective be no god at all.

Process philosophers object to much more than just the orthodox Christian doctrine of God’s perfections. They assail also the traditional insistence on God’s triune nature, on divine decrees and election, on creation ex nihilo, on miraculous redemption, on biblical eschatology. In place of divine decree and foreordination, they stress divine persuasion, and subordinate history and eschatological finalities broadly to the endless love of God.

For process theology God is essentially and emphatically love. This basic Christian affirmation is not to be denied, of course, albeit not all that passes for love is divine, nor is every human exposition even of God’s agapē authentically biblical. Norman Pittenger considers God as love because he is infinitely related to his creation in necessary interdependence, and transmutes evil into good by absorbing it into his own nature (Process-Thought and Christian Faith, p. 33); from this it appears that Pittenger not only reduces the moral quality of love but also misunderstands the very nature of divine agapē. If God “creates” out of inner necessity, and is motivated by eros rather than agapē, his relationship to space-time realities is not that of the Judeo-Christian God. The New Testament nowhere portrays the climax of God’s love as divine-human interdependence or as divine absorption of human wickedness; Scripture declares it, rather, to be God’s costly redemption of sinners from the penalty and corruption of their evil ways, a redemption available only to those who turn to the Savior. The God of Judeo-Christian revelation is the God of loving kindness whose redemptive action in behalf of man, writes Gordon Kaufman, “is not called forth by the merit or value of man and the world, but simply because he loves. Far from deserving God’s goodness, men are ‘sinners’ and his ‘enemies’ who trespass against his will and seek to thwart his purposes” (Systematic Theology, p. 88).

Strangely enough, many aspects of process theology seem to revert to pre-Christian Greek thought, even if in the name of Christian metaphysics process theologians protest vociferously against that very philosophical perspective. Already in Hesiod’s Theogony, for example, Eros appears as first among the gods. And in Empedocles Philia is the efficient cause of every union of cosmic forces, an idea that reappears in nineteenth-century theories of cosmic love. But what Christianity means by love is decisively and uniquely published in Jesus Christ. It is not uncharacteristic of secular religious philosophy to try to restate biblical agapē in terms of a metaphysical eros. Democritus, the ancient naturalist, also spoke of the gods—those finer atoms in a universe of atoms in motion—as having an “eternity” and “indestructibility” of sorts, simply because other combinations of atoms disintegrate more quickly. And Aristotle defined the process of being as an eternal movement without beginning or end.

Process philosophy’s defection from biblical theism is evident in other respects as well. Ogden ignores the self-revelation of the triune God and like Whitehead and Hartshorne locates the primary warrant for propositions about God in experience and in the general structure of actual entities. Again like Whitehead, Ogden makes the human self a model of reality; from this model absolute idealists and personalists formed conclusions about God far different from those of process philosophy, however. Process theologians infer that God is social and temporal, yet they find in him in the midst of his supposed growth a definite unchanging identity that synthesizes every moment of experience. Ogden writes: “God is … the unique or … perfect instance of creative becoming, and so … the one reality which is eminently social and temporal” (The Reality of God, p. 59). “God is now conceived not as simply identical with the Absolute, but as the supremely relative Self or Thou who includes the Absolute as the principle of his own concrete identity” (ibid., p. 61). Such a dipolar God, Ogden contends, solves the problem of synthesizing in himself the infinite and the finite.

Since he argues simply from experience and existential response, however, Ogden has no reliable standpoint from which to speak with finality about God. Indeed, in a cautious moment Ogden remarks: “I have not the slightest question that the metaphysics of Whitehead and Hartshorne may one day be superseded, and I would dispute the claim that it is even now the only place to which one needs to look for philosophical resources significant for the theological task” (ibid., p. 59).

Process philosophy not only begins with the self in its existential, psychological and epistemological situation, but also considers the experimental basis of that self’s fundamental concepts to be definitive for reality. Since the human self is both in a process of change involving distinct modes of past, present and future, and is related dependently to the world and to other selves, its paradigm of reality sees God as a temporal and social being who stands in necessary as well as free relations to man and the universe. “Process” or “creative becoming”—construed as socio-temporal—emerges as the basic category for interpreting all reality according to the analogy of finite selves.

Even if we assume that man’s being is in some respects like God’s—a premise of classical theism—what aspects of the self shall we analogously apply to God? Like Ogden, Daniel Day Williams relies on analogy in a highly selective way; he wavers, for example, on the question whether agapē is exclusively divine or also a human distillate (The Spirit and the Forms of Love, pp. 204, 260 ff.). Williams emphasizes that “erotic and emotional satisfactions, … the ecstatic or emotional fulfillment of familial or sexual experience” are never asserted to be the key to God’s experience (ibid., p. 70). To the extent that Williams exempts God’s nature from structures found in finite experience, e.g., that some aspects of God do not suffer at all, to that degree he refuses to invoke analogy but leans on unacknowledged debt to revelational theism; to the extent that he limits the nature of God to human structures, however, to that degree he compromises the God of the Bible. Ogden affirms that suffering is part of God’s “becoming” (The Reality of God, p. 64). Since man not only lives and suffers, but comes also into existence why, then, should not God also? Since man manifests evil no less than good characteristics, why should not God also? If we take seriously the fundamental concepts given in human experience should God not also be seen as subject to moral failure, and as vulnerable to affliction and death? If anything is fundamental to our temporal and social existence, surely it is the serious limitation of our creative becoming. The argument from analogy, Langdon Gilkey concedes, can accommodate only novel origination but not unique, miraculous creation (Maker of Heaven and Earth, pp. 53 f.).

In any case, Whitehead views the primordial nature of God as impersonal, unconscious and deficient in actuality; not only does this approach provide no basis for a significant religious relationship between man and God, but it also undercuts much of the emphasis by other process thinkers on the human self as a prototype for God. To define the nature of God as a reflex of human relationships is to open a pandora’s box of problems, not least among them Feuerbach’s view that all notions of the divine are man’s self-reflection in the mirror of imagination. Naturalists like John Dewey question the propriety of conceiving not only God but nature also, as do process theologians, in terms of mental and physical poles in man. Indeed, behaviorists have no more interest in a dipolar man than in a dipolar deity, for all reality for them reduces to but impersonal processes and events. Process theology offers no adequate way for avoiding such reduction.

Simply projecting our socio-temporal reality supremely upon God does not enable us to pick-and-choose like process theorists. Even the suggestion that we find eminently in God the love that we find in the world—just where, we may ask, do we so self-evidently find it?—ignores the fact that phenomenological analysis considers other forces more fundamental and persuasive for human decision and the social history of humanity. Christianity, moreover, finds agapē uniquely mirrored only in the life of Jesus of Nazareth; the rest of mankind is not ruled by love but is expressly exhorted by the Great Commandment and its corollary to love God and neighbor. The light view of sin and the sentimental view of love imputed to deity by process theory carries subjective overtones. Modern thinking reflects diverse sociological premises, including the one that mere incompatibility justifies divorce; the implications of this particular premise for God’s relationship to the world would surely lend a dramatically new dimension to process speculation.

Modern evolutionary thought considers man to be a self who has risen from non-selfhood. If evolution is taken seriously, who knows whether man may not once again become insignificant? What presupposition confidently underwrites the speculative expectation that the presently existing human self analogically and permanently delineates the eminent image of the divine? Edgar S. Brightman earnestly wrestled with the possibilities of an irrational “given” in the nature of God by appealing to experience. But if human nature is evolving and God’s nature is projected as a generalization from human experience, may not divine reality embrace potentialities for change far beyond anything we presently know? And in that event does not God become as subject to change as an airline schedule?

There is, moreover, an almost dialectical ambiguity in the way process theologians depict God’s nature as at once both eternal and unchanging and temporal and changing, as perfect and yet growing. Ogden says: “If God is the eminently temporal and changing One, to whose time and change there can be neither beginning nor end, then he must be just as surely the One who is also eternal and unchanging … the immutable ground of change as such, both his own and all others.… That God is not utterly immaterial … but, on the contrary, is the eminently incarnate One establishes a qualitative difference between his being and everything else.… His only environment is wholly internal, which means that he can never be localized in any particular space and time but is omnipresent. Hence just because God is the eminently relative One, there is also a sense in which he is strictly absolute … the absolute ground of any and all real relationships, whether his own or those of his creatures” (The Reality of God, pp. 59 f.). To climax his discussion Ogden assures us that a God who is growing is “infinitely more perfect” than a God who already completely actualizes all possibilities of being and value (ibid, p. 60, n. 97). After severely condemning classical metaphysics for an unacceptable emphasis on God’s absolute and relative attributes, Ogden curiously justifies the dipolar nature of the process deity; he calls it an expression of an authentic Protestant dialectic of “difference and identity” grounded in ultimate love (ibid., pp. 68 f.).

Since Ogden declares it “clear at least in principle” that process theology surpasses traditional theism in “theoretical coherence,” the reader is justifiably surprised that he withholds logical demonstration of that claim (ibid., p. 65). More is needed, however, than simply verbal assurance to validate the verdict that process theology shows “how maximum temporality entails strict eternity; maximum capacity for change, unsurpassable immutability; and maximum passivity to the actions of others, the greatest possible activity in all their numberless processes of self-creation” (ibid., p. 65). One is tempted either to call such statements a colossal fiction or to assume that God has acquired incomparable ambivalence; alongside its promise of a coherent view, process theology offers us as well a theology of squiggle.

The logical difficulty of process representations is that they try, if unconvincingly, to escalate quantitative differences between human selfhood and a Superself into qualitative differences. In doing so, while they attempt to preserve literally such traditional metaphysical attributes of God as eternity, immutability, impassivity and immateriality, they actually redefine them within the requirements of process theory and preserve them only by linguistic obfuscation. Moreover, they substitute abstract philosophical projections for the concrete perfections of the self-revealed God and forfeit the Creator-creature relationships preserved by biblical theism.

Process philosophy therefore does not offer an accurate or appropriate view for expounding the scriptural revelation of God; its proposed alternative to historic Christian theism is unacceptable on both internal and external grounds. It is little gain if some ingenious neoclassical theory claims to overcome the “death of God” implications latent in antimetaphysical approaches if, in turn, such a theory nurtures a grotesque and cumbersome cosmic leviathan who is not really the self-revealed God at all. Ogden concedes that “no theology can possibly be adequate unless, within the limits of a given situation, it is an appropriate interpretation of the scriptural witness” (The Reality of God, p. 122). He declares: “Nothing can be validated as ‘Christian,’ unless it can be shown to be congruent with the representation of God in Jesus Christ as attested by Holy Scriptures and, less directly, by the special tradition of the Christian Church” (“The Possibility and Task of Philosophical Theology,” p. 278). Elsewhere he writes: “The danger in any existentialist theology is that it may fail to observe the priorities of Holy Scripture itself” (The Reality of God, p. 220). Odgen does not introduce Scripture as epistemically authoritative, however; he invokes Scripture only after undermining its comprehensive cognitive worth. He champions Scripture wherever it supports the isolated features of biblical theism that process theorists wish to retain. Wherever he finds the Bible distasteful, Ogden pursues demythology as eagerly as Bultmannians pursue existentialism; like them, he mythologizes Scripture while professing to demythologize it. He invokes myth in the modern sense of wanting to eliminate its dichotomy with truth but the way Ogden applies myth to Scripture strips the Bible of the very cognitive meaning that the inspired writers originally intended.

Because he appeals to Scripture, we must consider his every deviation from it a matter of internal inconsistency unless, of course, by a rational process of selection he makes not Scripture per se but only a preferred segment of it his norm. In practice Ogden not only accepts Bultmann’s program of demythologization, and even extends this to invalidate New Testament christocentrism, but also substitutes the mythology of process theology for rational theism; this he does on the presumptive premise that the meaning of Christianity can be grasped only on the basis of dipolar panentheism. By contrast, Whitehead once remarked: “I consider Christian theology to be one of the great disasters of the human race” (quoted by William A. Christian, An Interpretation of Whitehead’s Metaphysics, p.174).

One process thinker after another readily invokes special aspects of Scripture, not to establish metaphysical foundations on the basis of intelligible divine self-disclosure, but to lend a kind of sacred credence to ontological postulations ventured on pure conjecture. Process theologians appeal to Scripture only after first rejecting what is incompatible with their own views. This arbitrary approach both forces on the Bible a view that Scripture opposes, and robs Scripture of cognitive revelational significance; it reduces what Scripture affirms as truth to myth or speculation and projects process-myth instead as the truth of Scripture.

Process theology lacks not only the authority of Scripture, but also the commendation of rational consistency and coherence and the full support of experience. The same criterion that Ogden invokes against Bultmann, “the test of logical self-consistency” (Christ Without Myth, p. 19), becomes Ogden’s own undoing. Quite apart from the question of Christian adequacy and judged simply on its philosophical merits, Whitehead’s theory, on which later process thinkers build, has too many ambiguities and difficulties to be welcomed as sound metaphysics. It is mostly an effort to amalgamate major currents of modern thought—scientific, philosophical, ethical, religious—into one grand metaphysical thrust. Its supporters fail to show, however, that process theology gives a necessary reading of reality, adequately interprets the world around us, is objectively grounded in contemporary or universal human experience, and authoritatively defines transcendent being.

But even far less is process philosophy a desirable framework for presenting the claims of biblical theology. Better than many of his successors Whitehead saw that its premises mark a fundamental break with historic Christianity. For good reason Carl E. Braaten finds in Whitehead, no less than in Heidegger, not a “Christian natural theology” but rather a “secularized Christian theology” (The Future of God, The Revolutionary Dynamics of Hope, p. 172, n. 2). Whitehead criticizes Aristotle because his deity is not religiously available, yet Whitehead’s alternative divinity in his primordial nature is just as religiously unavailable (cf. S. E. Ely, The Religious Availability of Whitehead’s God); in God’s consequent nature—if for the sake of discussion we adopt this distinction—process philosophers indulge in a “Baalizing” of God by confusing him with elements of the universe. For a Heilsgeschichte they substitute a Kosmosgeschichte or salvation by benign evolutionary process tinged with a halo of divinity. Process theology ascribes two natures not to the God-man Christ Jesus but to the essential being of God. It substitutes religious theosophy for biblical theology. While the Bible does indeed affirm a “becoming” within the Godhead, it does so on its own terms and in its own way: the eternal Logos becomes flesh (John 1:14), that is, becomes the God-man by assuming human nature in the incarnation.

Signs of a slackening interest in process theology, except in a context of criticism, are now not difficult to discern. It remains unrepresented in prestigious Eastern seminary faculties; other campuses elsewhere show less interest than they once did. Some professors, like Royce Gordon Gruenler, have publicly championed it only to forsake it and return to evangelical orthodoxy.

The biblical world-life view remains the only authoritative and tenable option open to man, one that neither the repudiation of metaphysics nor the exploration of new conjectural alternatives can eclipse. Not only does the Bible demand that God be related to all reality, but also that thought and language exert distinctive ontological claims. The Hebrews, to be sure, never used the conceptual formulas of Greek philosophy to expound ultimate reality, but like the later Christians they nonetheless presented their claims about God and his relationships to man and the world in intelligible categories; a rational metaphysics underlies their depiction of the nature of reality. That view is as distinct from the Greek views of a remote and indifferent deity as from Anglo-Saxon theories of an ever-restless and changing divinity.

While controlling features of biblical metaphysics have received more attention in earlier generations than in ours, many of its aspects have been discussed in this century by such evangelical scholars as G. C. Berkouwer, Edward John Carnell, Gordon Clark, Herman Dooyeweerd, Arthur Holmes, Alvin H. Plantinga and Cornelius Van Til. Particularly Clark, Dooyeweerd and Van Til have sought to address all areas of knowledge in terms of biblical categories. Neglect of biblical metaphysics on its own terms creates a dangerous vacuum that nonevangelical scholars stand ready to fill with inauthentic correlations of selected biblical tenets and ontological principles alien to Judeo-Christian revelation. Patient fresh analysis of the metaphysical claims and implications of Judeo-Christian scriptural revelation could inaugurate an exciting new era of metaphysical research and Christian vitality.


Election: The Freedom of God

Surely it seems presumptuous for mere mortals, even for Christians on speaking terms with God, to pontificate about the eternal divine decrees. Since the Bible focuses primarily on God’s historical disclosure, and centrally on the crucified and risen Jesus, do we not leap into uncharted realms and incur great theological vulnerability by delving into divine decrees and supernatural election? Are we not disregarding the warning of the Canons of Dort against prying into “the secret and deep things of God” (I, 12)? Does not a discussion of God’s election of humans introduce a concern that is more speculative and mystical than scriptural, one that can be spiritually paralyzing? Do not even the clergy now hesitate to preach on predestination and not least of all those in professedly Reformed circles that have historically championed the doctrine? Does the silence of the churches suggest that the doctrine of election is dispensable to basic Christian beliefs? Has it become an embarrassing intrusion into the church’s confessional documents?

The fact is that the Bible itself thrusts upon us this theme of divine predestination. Calvin considers it a defrauding of believers to withhold from them what Scripture says about their predestination (Institutes, Book III, 21:3); ignorance of the doctrine, he avers, detracts from God’s glory (ibid., xxi. 1). Even Emil Brunner insists that “Election constitutes the center of the Old and the New Testament” (The Christian Doctrine of God, p. 303).

At the heart of the election doctrine throbs God’s freedom. God is not bound by any necessity of nature to the universe, to mankind or even to the church. He is free to create if and as he wills, free to provide or not to provide salvation for fallen creatures, free to covenant or not to covenant with the Hebrews or any other peoples or with no one at all. He is free also, if he wills, to graft Gentiles into the plan of redemption, to call out a penitent church for global witness concerning his ready forgiveness in Christ, and even to consummate history by final judgment on all men and nations.

The biblical references to God’s eudokia, his “good pleasure,” cancel any notion of a mechanically necessary connection between God and all these aforementioned options. As Gottlob Schrenk observes, the term eudokia appears for the very first time in the Greek Bible and thereafter almost exclusively in Jewish and Christian literature; it is found nowhere in nonbiblical koine (on eudokia, tdnt, 2:742) except perhaps in Philodemus in the first century b.c. Origen, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Jerome considered the term a construct first applied by the Septuagint in many Old Testament references to the will (ratson) of God.

Jesus declares the fact that the Father has disclosed to the unlearned a knowledge of the Son that is hidden from the wise to be God’s sovereign decree or “good pleasure” (Matt. 11:26; Luke 10:21). The apostle Paul likewise describes God’s will as eudokia or divine “good pleasure” both in Ephesians 1:5–11 where he speaks of the divine plan of redemption, and in Galatians 1:15 where he refers to his own apostolic calling. The free God of the Bible binds man to himself by divine choice, a choice which includes his revelation of a scripturally attested redemption that involves Christ’s incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection. By his free choice Yahweh elects Israel from among the nations to be his family (Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I called my son”). He also freely chooses particular prophets: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5); “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name” (Isa. 49:1). New Testament passages refer similarly to the choosing of individual believers. Jesus rejects the notion of universal salvation; his portrayal is awesome of those whom God takes for redemption and of those whom he leaves for destruction: “Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left” (Matt. 24:40 f.; cf. also Luke 17:34), “I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left.”

Ever since Augustine’s time Christian theology has given a prominence to predestination that some scholars consider disproportionate to the rather few occurrences in the Bible of such terms as determine, determinate, predestinate, and foreordain. But most of the biblical references do indeed refer expressly to divine determination. And an impressive array of related concepts—choose, decree, elect, foreknow, know, ordain, reprobate—brings to theological discussion of divine determination a much fuller scope and meaning than one might expect.

If the whole biblical panorama were compressed into a single week we would see God continually making very specific choices and instructing his people, moreover, to rely on those choices in the world of nature and in human history. As Norman H. Snaith remarks, “Either we must accept this idea of choice on the part of God with its necessary accompaniment of exclusiveness, or we have to hold a doctrine of the love of God other than that which is biblical” (The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament, p. 139). In this respect there is no more striking contrast than that between the God of Aristotle and the God of the Bible. For Aristotle the fact that God is perfect being beyond the world precludes his willing anything; as Aristotle sees it, if God willed anything he would be less than perfect. But the Bible presents God as the all-perfect omnipotent One who fulfills his divine purpose in creation and redemption by ordering both nature’s movements and human affairs.

Scripture speaks of divine decrees in more than merely a theoretical or speculative way by exhibiting their external implications and consequences for the history of the ancient Hebrews and for the existence of the Christian church. In biblical theology everything that God does is the outworking of his sovereign decree. In this respect man is no different from the stars or from the sands of the sea; that humans stand at a definite place in history is no more an accident than that the planets move in their orbits and that the nations have their given bounds.

The Bible depicts divine predestination, moreover, as involving more than simply a temporal and historical election.

What the Bible affirms is God’s pretemporal, superhistorical eternal election. The universe is not just the result of an unforeseen big bang but has come into being by contingent necessity. Its existence is suspended on the eternal plan of the unchanging God who is free to decree as he pleases and who in his “good pleasure” decrees a space-time matrix that by his willing becomes as necessary as is God himself. God’s decree is preceded logically by his intrinsic self-knowledge, unless it be the case that his decree and his self-knowledge are identical or that the decree is part of his self-knowledge. God’s decree precedes all else, since the external universe is itself God’s implementation of his purpose. The divine decree is not, however, identical with the external events, since God’s thoughts become creative only through an act of divine will. God creates neither by logical nor volitional nor external necessity; he was free not to decree a universe. The God who decrees from eternity remains free in that he himself is unnecessitated by any external causal principle; his compulsion to decree is entirely a matter of internal self-determination. But this internal compulsion does not govern God’s productive activity as a kind of deterministic divine causality. Although God had sufficient reason for creating the present universe, he might indeed have created a different one, or even two or more dissimilar universes. The bottom line for Christianity is always that God’s decrees imply no limitation on his powers; moreover, the transcendent God’s freedom is what accounts for space-time realities.

Not even God’s proffer of forgiveness to the penitent is a divine necessity. As Emil Brunner remarks, we have no right “to expect that God will forgive us as a matter of course” (The Mediator, pp. 447 f.). God is not obliged to forgive sinners; we have no right or claim to forgiveness as a divine due.

But the Bible leaves no doubt that although not obligated to do so, God in determinate mercy provides redemption for some fallen creatures. According to critics, however, such divine foreordination or election casts God in the role of an arbitrary despot indifferent to human choice. This complaint usually issues from Western secular humanists and atheistic existentialists who consider man himself and not God personally determinative and creative in regard to truth, morals, and human destiny; a God sovereign over human affairs they consider a threat to human freedom and responsibility. Secular theorists recognize full well that to accept this modern alternative requires repudiation of transcendent truth and values, and especially rejection of a supernatural deity who enunciates fixed doctrine and divine commands. Humanism’s test of whether one is an intellectually literate modern centers in one’s willingness to disavow revealed truths and ethical finalities, and to substitute for them man’s own revisable insights and moral projections. This inversion repudiates evangelical insistence on a sovereign supernatural deity and on transcendent truth and ethics that obligate all mankind. On naturalistic premises reality is ultimately reducible to nothing more than impersonal processes and events; all cognitive claims are culture-relative, and man is an autonomous creature who alone decides what is true and good.

But such emphasis by existential atheism and humanism on human autonomy and unqualified human freedom is soon brought to terms by the evident limits imposed by nature and history on the self’s determination of its acts. Even Paul Tillich postulates freedom and destiny to be polar ontological elements and affirms their interdependence (Systematic Theology, Vol. I, p. 182). The insistence of secular humanism on personal autonomy is clearly at odds with its own promotion of the ultimacy of impersonal processes and with its emphasis on the culture-relativity of philosophical and moral claims. The problems of evil, moreover, and the problems of meaning and truth and of death sooner or later frustrate every doctrine of human autonomy. Those who scorn discussion of predestination as an irrelevant detour around the basic values of earthly endeavor are unaware of how frequently questions over chance and necessity and over freedom and determinism intrude into serious conversation not only in the so-called Christian world but also in the Moslem world and in secular circles.

For all the current Western emphasis on human self-determination, much of the modern world remains captive to deterministic views of reality and life. World leaders increasingly ask whether human history may not perhaps be ruled by alien forces that even the most powerful nations cannot contain or control. Sudden changes in the fortunes of world history—shifting international power balances; decline of democracies devoted to individual rights alongside extension of totalitarian nations and powers; the worsening plight of the poor; the energy crisis; economic and monetary inflation; the drift of technocratic civilization toward nuclear confrontation, to name but a few—suggest to many observers that human affairs are controlled by nonpurposive if not irrational forces. Is it possible, some ask, that strange cosmic and perhaps even demonic influences determine the elements of human existence? While masses of destitute and unemployed see themselves as helpless pawns in the monolithic machinery of government, others in the interest of preferred political alternatives use the same mechanisms of government to destroy its character. Thousands pursue astrology on the premise that man and his world are governed by the stars. In short, much of today’s mood, however confused, harbors the possibility that men and nations are hurtling toward a destiny whose nature is beyond human resources to control.

Secular rejection of predestination has not therefore automatically brought victory for the doctrine of human free will; what such rejection has done, rather, is to substitute for predestination various forms of an improvident determinism. The neglect or rejection of divine foreordination on the ground that it destroys the importance of human decision, has opened wide the door to alternative doctrines of necessity that cancel significant voluntary relationships not only to the living God but also to mankind.

Such deterministic theories eliminate divine decree; that is, they detach the certainty of events from the free will and eternal plan of a personal, holy and gracious God. The doctrine of God’s eternal decrees is what distinguishes the biblical view of predestination from mechanical determinism. Christian theology separates God’s intrinsic nature (known on the basis of his self-revelation) from his works—creation, preservation, providence, redemption, and so on—by delineating the decrees. These decrees relate only to realities and relationships outside God, that is, to whatever depends optionally on his will.

Herman Bavinck observes that, “Neither pantheism nor materialism leaves any room for a divine decree; they leave room only for unconscious fate, blind nature, and alogical will” (The Doctrine of God, p. 367), a point well-illustrated by the materialism of the Greek atomists and the pantheism of the Roman Stoics. Democritus, for example, allows only for mechanical causation, and Epicurus who adduces chance gives less attention to the reality of God than to man’s conceptions and consciousness. When God’s will is surrendered or denied as an independent power, notions of reality emerge that reflect man’s will, desire and imagination more than external ontological considerations. Stoic pantheism, for example, denies God any independent role and equates him with the world.

For the early Greek poets fate—an impersonal albeit sometimes personified influence—ruled all of life. And at about the time Buddhism arose, the sect of Ajivikas in India developed a nebulous notion of determinism; changing states are due to destiny, it was said, and nothing depends on one’s own or on anyone else’s efforts. A sense of blind and inexorable fate pervaded also much of the ancient Arab world, a fact reflected in the deterministic nexus of Islamic will. Wherever or however it develops, fatalism leaves no room for freedom either in God’s acts or in the course of nature and history; moreover, it dissolves the significance of human choice.

The Roman historian Tacitus withholds judgment on whether an unchangeable necessity or mere chance, that is, whether primary elements and natural causes or “wandering stars,” control the order of events. While the pagan idea of “fortune” (chance) suggests that not everything is ruled by necessity, it no less than the idea of absolute necessity implies the insignificance of human decision. Polytheistic mythology gave theological even if legendary overtones to the ideas of fate and fortune and personified both (cf. the goddess Fortune, the three Fates, the three Furies).

No basis exists in the doctrine of predestination for “resigning one’s self to one’s fate,” a mood that reflects fatalism. The idea of fate involves an unintelligent complex of causes and consequences; it excludes a purposive end to which all experience relates, leads to a denial of ethical distinctions, and invites despair. “Whatever will be will be” is not a scriptural concept. Providential divine will and personal moral responsibility are both central to biblical teaching. To present election as an arbitrary divine decree that embraces all existence in a vast net of divine causality and that evaporates the importance of human decision makes it a caricature in which fatalism replaces the living God. Gordon H. Clark reminds us that “a Mohammedan doctrine of predestination would differ from the Christian doctrine because Islam and Christianity have two different concepts of God” (Biblical Predestination, p. 7). One of the church’s most obvious tasks, observes G. C. Berkouwer, is “to make clear in her preaching that Christian faith in Election and the Mohammedan doctrine of determinism have nothing, absolutely nothing, in common” (“Election and Doctrinal Reaction,” p. 13).

Modern philosophy discusses necessity and chance only in the context of natural causes and with no reference to the supernatural; it deletes even the broken remnants of divine will retained in the polytheistic myths, such as the idea of propitiation of the gods. The Roman materialistic Lucretius anticipated modern scientism when he declared that nature does all things spontaneously “without the meddling of the gods.”

Augustine rejects a theological use of “fate” to designate the will and power of the Judeo-Christian God; he does so because of the term’s popular association with astrology and other speculative schemes for which the universe is but a comprehensive mechanism devoid of both divine direction and human choice. In contrasting the pagan view of fate with divine predestination and providence, Augustine repudiates any worldview that denies faith in a free divine activity of creation and providence, and that dissolves human responsibility. But rather than forego divine foreknowledge, he prefers to speak of a special kind of fate (De civitate Dei, V, i; V, ix.).

The early modern loss of the Judeo-Christian perception of reality spawned numerous philosophies that regard all nature and history as well as moral choices to be in the grip of inexorable necessity. Denial of God’s transcendent mind and decree and of his free creation and universal providence, stimulated conjectural theories that make nature subject to impersonal necessity and reduce human participation to mere resignation. Such discussions of necessity once again inject the ancient concept of fate into the sphere of space-time change and historical events. Stressing inflexible determinism by the supposed natural laws of motion, the new philosophies of nature incarcerate man in a purely mechanistic arrangement of events. Spinoza affirms the universal reign of natural necessity; nature is God, he declares, but God—really the mathematical order of nature—acts not from freedom of the will but from the necessity of the divine nature to exist and to act in a given way. While Hegel scorns the notion of a merely general Providence, as well he might, he does not restore the biblical view; he propounds instead a pantheistic philosophy of historical determinism. Although Marx retains Hegel’s notion of historical necessity, Marx does not place the unfolding immanent Absolute at the center of evolutionary development; Marx gives that centrality rather to dialectical materialism which presumably will lead to inevitable triumph of the proletariat. For Marx the orthodox doctrine of divine omnipotence is nothing more than psychological compensation for man’s capitulation to economic injustice; he is unconcerned that his own doctrine of a classless society dwarfs man’s will in the collective mass. Moreover, with its implicit historical determinism, the communist dogma of dialectical materialism assumes the dependence of mental processes on purely material factors. Freud considers determinism an essential postulate of science, one that governs everything including mental life. John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner in their behaviorism reduce mental phenomena to chemical processes, exclude all reference to consciousness, and confine psychology to the objective study of behavior. But if physics and chemistry give rise to human volitions, beliefs and desires, then not even the behaviorists can assert the objective truth-significance of their views, nor can they vindicate an objective good.

Christian theology clearly distinguishes the biblical view of election from scientific, philosophical and even religious doctrines of determinism that erode moral responsibility and significant human choice, and that obscure divine election of both Jesus Christ as the messianic substitute, and of sinners in Jesus Christ their Savior. The living God of revelation is not bound, of course, either by the imagined determinism ascribed by religionists to would-be nature-gods or history-gods, or by the restrictions that secular philosophers impose on their imagined deities. Nor is the God of the Bible the sole volitional agent that pantheism projects. If divine omniscience is said to mean that God makes the only decisions and is the only volitional agent, then human decisions and deeds become totally irrelevant to man’s final destiny. The fact is that even the most predestinarian passages of Scripture (e.g., Acts 2:23) emphasize man’s accountability for his actions.

If we eliminate election from the Bible we may as readily eliminate creation, or the special status of ancient Israel, or the incarnation of the Word, or the existence of the church as Christ’s body; we may equally well dispense also with the Sinai commandments and the Sermon on the Mount as ethical norms. No indispensable need would then remain, moreover, for Jesus Christ as Savior of the world, as fulfiller of the prophetic promises, as Lord of All and Coming King; nor need we accommodate any absolute distinction between heaven and hell to define man’s possible destinies. If divine election is myth then all this, too, namely, Israel’s supernatural deliverance from Egypt and the ancient theocracy; true prophets and apostles contrasted with false prophets of false gods; Jesus the incarnate Logos now risen from the dead; the glorified Christ implementing his universal purposes in the history of nations and soon to return to usher in the eschatological finalities, is myth. The singular uniqueness of Judeo-Christian revelation rests upon the governing premise of divine election; the truth of revealed religion stands or falls on the factuality of that election. Like the earlier election of the Jews, God’s election of the Gentiles is a matter of his free grace toward them and not of reward for their pursuit of righteousness, for they pursued none. As for the Jews, they fall short of God’s grace because they seek a legal righteousness rather than one through justification by faith. If God’s plan, his decrees, and his election are eliminated from biblical theology then all other distinctives give way.

Karl Barth warns against the assumption in eighteenth-to-twentieth-century theology that the church can survive on piety and organization alone, its interest in election being connected only with the issue of which version of christology contemporary theologians themselves prefer (Church Dogmatics, I/2, p. 350). In so doing the church’s religious philosophers become electing arbiters. Even the “I found it” emphasis of the Jesus-people on a human choice of Christ reflects something of this naïveté, although they remain at least broadly in the orbit of biblical christology. While confession of Jesus’ name is and must indeed be a human decision and choice (cf. Matt. 16:13 f.; John 6:67 f.), its very possibility reflects Yahweh’s prior choice.

Divine election has virtually disappeared from recent religious textbooks, a fact that reflects both the prevalent humanist confidence in self-salvation and fallen humanity’s distaste for the doctrine of absolute divine sovereignty. Many Christian traditions now predicate predestination simply on divine foreknowledge and view divine election as conditional. Protestant modernism forsook the doctrine entirely. Wolfhart Pannenberg says the modern emphasis on human equality and pluralism represents the secular alternative to the doctrine of divine election; by losing the transcendent, he observes, man not only replaces God as ruler but also welcomes civil religion and even nationalism as the essence of the doctrine.

Expounding the divine decrees under the rubric of salvation rather than prior to the doctrine of creation, orthodox Lutheran theologians emphasize the comfort and assurance that election affords believers. Calvin in the Institutes likewise discusses election in connection with justification and salvation, as does Charles Hodge in his Systematic Theology (Vol. 2, pp. 313–352), although both men stress its theological more than its anthropological significance. In Reformed theology God’s sovereignty is the ground of predestination and election, and God’s glory the chief goal of his decrees. At what point theologians expound predestination is actually not as important as whether they assign to it an anthropological or a theological foundation and orientation. If election is merely inferred from personal faith and conversion and this explains why nonbelievers do not respond to divine grace, then the doctrine loses much of its theological power as the rationale for all God’s blessings to the redeemed. Salvation does manifest the decrees, for salvation is indeed a mirror of predestination. In Romans 9–11 the apostle Paul begins with sin and grace and reasons back to election, and in Ephesians 1:3 moves back similarly from grace in Christ to election. Elsewhere Paul associates election with the doctrine of God, however, because of its theological rather than merely anthropological significance. Systematic theology does not discuss topics only as they enter Christian experience; if it did, it would always begin with salvation and indefinitely postpone crucial epistemological considerations.

The divine decrees coalesce in God’s one sovereign purpose; his plan is a comprehensive unity, something the Bible speaks of as God’s eternal prothesis (purpose, counsel). If God’s plan achieved what he did not purpose, if parts of it conflicted and competed, if his purpose itself requires constant revision, then God would be neither all-wise nor all-powerful. God’s decrees will eventuate with certainty whether they come to pass solely by his own causality or through the agency of his creatures. God, moreover, implements his divine purpose throughout the course of human affairs and not just sporadically or in isolated events. All history reveals the certainty of events decreed by God.

Three objections are raised against this doctrine that God foreordains the entire course of world and human events.

One is that comprehensive divine foreordination is inconsistent with human freedom.

Strictly speaking, not God’s decrees as such but only their actual execution, could interfere with creaturely agency. Yet all Christians, whatever doctrine of election they hold, insist that God preserves man’s responsible moral agency and that divine election in no way transforms human beings into robots. Scripture affirms that God foreknows human actions as aspects of his plan; while these actions are certain as to their future occurrence, human beings are nonetheless ethically responsible for their personal actions (Gen. 50:19 f.; Acts 2:23, 4:27 f.). Christian theologians have repeatedly resisted secular theories of determinism that eclipse human moral responsibility.

The notion that God’s foreordination destroys human choice is countered by the emphasis that God’s foreordination actually makes possible whatever agency man has ever had and now retains. Were it not for God’s eternal decree, man would not even exist as a morally responsible creature.

Nearly all scholars who oppose predestination by emphasizing responsibility offer no theory of human responsibility. The fact is, that man does not have, nor has he ever had, the freedom to decide and act in a manner that contradicts all his indicated decisions and deeds. What defines human nature is not the power of arbitrary decision and unpredictable action, but rather man’s ability to act in view of reason and motive and hence in accord with character. To define human freedom as the power to act arbitrarily would equate freedom with unrestrained, capricious and random action. Humanity defined in terms of the Pelagian “liberty of indifference,” that is, of man’s ability in each action to totally reverse his course and to be today the living contradiction of all that he was yesterday, reflects an abnormal and subrational rather than normative human existence. That sort of “free will” would make responsibility impossible. Responsible free agency consists in rational self-determination. To be morally responsible man needs only the capacity for choice, not the freedom of contrary choice. Man is accountable for the choices he makes even if his sinful nature vastly restricts that range of choices. Human beings voluntarily choose to do what they do. The fact that God has foreordained human choices and that his decree renders human actions certain does not therefore negate human choice.

Christian theology distinguishes the capacity of Adamic nature to obey God before the fall from its incapacity after the fall to fulfill God’s will. Unlike Adam before the fall, fallen man is not free to do the good; he lacks power to do it. In view of this incapacity the gospel of the substituted righteousness of Jesus Christ comes as good news. To share in salvation fallen man requires not simply human decision and action but divine enablement. Scripture declares: “no man can come to me, except the Father … draw him” (John 6:44, kjv); “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you …” (John 15:16, kjv); “… As many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:8, kJV).

Some scholars try to escape the correlation of human choice with divine predestination by grounding the certainty of human acts in divine “foreknowledge.” Many Arminians affirm merely “class predestination,” that is, divine election of all believers collectively to God’s service; this election they predicate upon divine advance information as to who will believe.

One counterargument to this proposal is that in Scripture the term foreknowledge does not bear a merely secular sense, that of ordinary advance information; what it signifies is a special and affectionate divine choice (cf. Rom. 8:29, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be confirmed to the image of his Son”). The terms “foreordain” and “foreknow” are used synonymously in the Bible; God’s foreknowledge is a divine foreordination or election of Christ or of his people. The King James Version translates proginōskō as “foreknow” in Romans 8:29 and 11:2, and as “foreordain” in 1 Peter 1:20. Divine foreknowledge in the sense of election occurs in both the Old Testament (Gen. 18:19; Amos 3:2; Hos. 13:5; Jer. 1:5) and in the New (1 Cor. 8:3; Gal. 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:19).

Another consideration is that foreknowledge, in the sense of prior knowledge, marks future events as certain no less than does predestination. If the certainty of an agent’s actions in advance of that agent’s subjective self-determination does not destroy human freedom, then why would foreordination do so?

In the interest of supposed human freedom some Arminian writers deny also God’s advance knowledge of contingent events. This approach erodes the certainty of future events. Ancient prophecies about the Messiah and even about eschatological finalities would in those circumstances be suspended on the possibility of contrary human determination. The Bible teaches, however, that God is the God of predictive prophecy, that he foreordains even contingent events (cf. Gen. 45:8, 50:20; Prov. 16:33) and knows and appoints even the duration of our lives (Job 14:5; Ps. 39:4). The alternative would be a universe in which God is as uninformed and as uncertain about what will happen from moment to moment as are human beings.

A further objection to divine predestination is the argument that foreordination makes God the author of sin.

The fact is, however, that the inspired writers who affirm God’s foreordination also affirm that God does no evil and, in fact, abhors and punishes it; God’s law condemns all sin. God does nothing inconsistent with his perfections: he does not deny himself (2 Tim. 2:13); he does not lie (Heb. 6:18); he is not tempted (James 1:13). God’s power cannot be divorced from his wisdom and righteousness. And although his decree renders certain not only good acts but wicked acts as well (Prov. 16:4; Acts 4:27 f.), God is not a sinner (Ps. 92:15; 1 John 1:5) and himself effectuates no acts as sinful. God, moreover, does not even stimulate evil desires in man. As Louis Berkhof comments, he does not “work in man ‘both to will and to do,’ when man goes contrary to His revealed will” (Systematic Theology, p. 105). Virtually all sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Reformed theologians and creeds such as the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dort expressly deny that God is the cause of sin and unbelief.

The Arminian complaint that God is unrighteous if he renders evil acts certain, and the insistence, instead, that God permitted but did not foreordain such acts, is double-edged, for God, had he so willed, could surely also not have permitted such acts. The distinction between permissive will and efficient will is not very helpful. The traditional doctrine that God decrees all acts, thinks James Daane, cannot escape making God the author of sin. But Daane’s alternative, that God uses sin to effect human salvation (The Freedom of God: A Study of Election and Pulpit) faces the same problems of how God then escapes complicity. When the inspired writers emphasize the implicit certainty of the divine decree and of man’s responsible acts they are not conscious of any “contradiction” that requires “reconciliation.” The certainty of events that God decrees includes man’s sinful no less than righteous acts, a fact seen in Scripture’s report of the most heinous of all deeds, namely, man’s willful crucifixion of the Messiah of God: “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23, rsv). This passage emphasizes both divine foreknowledge and human responsibility.

A third objection to divine predestination is the claim that it undermines all human motive for exertion. Arminians often say that divine election of individuals would lead to spiritual inertia and evangelistic apathy. But spiritual inertia and evangelistic apathy are not peculiar to Calvinists; many Calvinists, in fact, are spiritually and evangelistically zealous. Daane believes that decretal theology displaces the assurance of faith by “wretched anxiety” over one’s status before God (The Freedom of God, p. 180); the fact is, however, that whereas nonelectionist churches deny eternal security and Roman Catholicism anathematizes the doctrine of assurance, it is in the very context of predestination that perseverance of the saints flourishs as a tenet of faith. Karl Barth tries to escape the problem of uncertainty of salvation in the Reformed doctrine of election but runs headlong, instead, as G. C. Berkouwer suggests, into the problems of unbelief (The Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Karl Barth, p. 287). Between the ontological impossibility of unbelief that Barth asserts and a universalistic outcome that he hopes to avoid Barth inserts the profoundly unbiblical notion that the church is to proclaim the divine election of all humans to salvation as an already accomplished fact. Such assumption makes neither personal faith nor assurance decisively important.

Stated in the interest of a dynamic Barthian view of election, Daane’s charge that the doctrine of eternal election “tends to kill the missionary impulse” (The Freedom of God, p. 176) elicits Norman Shepherd’s reply that precisely where the neoorthodox doctrine of election prevails is where a dramatic decline in missionary effort is seen (“Election as Gospel,” review of Daane’s The Freedom of God). The fact that God has elected some persons undergirds the divine imperative to proclaim the redemptive good news universally; it assures us also that some will indeed respond to the preaching of salvation.

Only after receiving Jesus Christ as personal Savior can one have inner assurance of divine election. This truth accounts for the distinction that some evangelicals make between teaching election to believers but not preaching it to the world; the lost, they say, should have preached to them, rather, the good news of the gospel. Surely, a doctrine of election that saps preaching of joy—as if Christianity is a message mainly of doom—is not the biblical good news. But there is no reason why election should not be preached as well as taught. “In the Bible” notes Berkouwer, “election … is always set to the tune of a doxology. In the great Romans 9–11 passage, Paul works up to a crescendo of jubilation.… It is amazement at the ways of divine grace” (“Election and Doctrinal Reaction,” p. 13). Unless the gospel is central to the proclamation of election that proclamation is less than Christian; embraced in the New Testament message of election is a universal call by the eternal God to eternal communion with him.

Apart from personal faith the fact of divine election does not of itself guarantee participation in the benefits of redemption. Scripture correlates divine predestination with the indispensability of personal spiritual decision and faith in the Savior. Amos, Hosea, Jeremiah and other prophets warn against drawing from the concept of election a false assurance that inures one to the prospect of divine wrath and judgment.

Recent neoorthodox theology has challenged the inherited exposition of predestination. While the traditional view has sharply divided theologians over the logical sequence of the decrees and over the issue of divine reprobation of the lost, it has nonetheless consistently viewed God’s predestination as an eternal prehistorical decision by which only some human beings are designated for salvation in Christ. Over against this emphasis Barth and Brunner projected a “dynamic” alternative which Thomas F. Torrance, G. C. Berkouwer and James Daane also promoted.

Before examining this neoorthodox view a brief survey is in order of theological agreements and differences in the traditional supralapsarian and infralapsarian schools. (The terms supra and infra stipulate whether the divine decree to elect some to salvation comes logically before or after the decrees to create and to permit the fall.) Both schools insist that the divine decrees are immanent in God rather than in history; moreover, in discussing the ordo salutis or order of salvation they consider only a logical and no temporal succession to be at stake since the decrees are equally eternal. Both schools agree, moreover, that the fall of man is more than just a matter of divine “foreknowledge”; while the divine decree renders the fall certain, yet God is not the author of sin (although supralapsarians consider the decree as the efficient and positive cause of sin). The differences between supra- and infralapsarianism concern the logical order of the decrees; they also involve the question whether God already in the divine decree to create had elect individuals in view or whether he decreed their election after the decree to create and permit the fall. The following comparison of these two Reformation perspectives, and of how the later Amyraldian view modified them, epitomizes the main issues:







1. To elect some, consign others to perdition

1. To create

1. To create

2. To create both

2. To permit the fall by self-determination

2. To permit the fall by self-determination

3. To permit the fall

3. To elect some

3. To provide salvation for all

4. To justify the elect, condemn the nonelect

4. To bypass the others in their self-determination

4. To apply salvation to some

R. T. Kendall, contrary to the usual understanding, insists that Beza’s and not Calvin’s view became the theology of the Synod of Dort (1618–19), of the English Puritans and of the Westminster Confession of Faith, and that Calvin taught, moreover, that Christ died not simply for the elect but for all (Calvin and English Calvinism, p. 210). Although Calvin does write in numerous places of Christ’s death for all, at least on one occasion he declares explicitly that Christ did not die for unbelievers; Calvin does so, moreover, in a passage which seems to imply that he pervasively presupposes limited atonement. In criticizing Tileman Heshusius’ view of the Lord’s Supper, Calvin says: “I should like to know how the wicked can eat the flesh of Christ which was not crucified for them, and how they can drink the blood which was not shed to expiate their sins?” (Calvin: Theological Treatises, p. 285).

The infralapsarian view outlined above became the view of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and then in 1908 of the Christian Reformed Church. Although by way of the Second London Confession (1561) the theology of the Westminster Confession largely shaped the outlook of English Baptists, including that of John Gill (Body of Divinity, 1839), it was the view of Moses Amyraldus (1596–1644) which at least in some respects influenced Baptist theologians in America, among them A. H. Strong, W. T. Conner and E. Y. Mullins. A notable exception on the American scene is Roger Nicole.

Sharp though the conflict was between supralapsarians and infralapsarians, both groups championed God’s sovereignty and his free grace. All groups, moreover, recognized the reality of divine election. They gave no countenance to sentimental notions that God exists and acts only for man’s sake—either for mankind as a whole or for particular human beings—and rejected any thought of individual self-gratification with divine help. Such notions would have been as abhorrent to the Reformers as the now current humanist insistence that man himself is lord of nature and history, and that he must and can save himself.

Supplementary Note: Contemporary Debate over Divine Election

Karl Barth tries to supersede the tensions posed by the ordo salutis. He contends that supralapsarians and infralapsarians framed their controversy within common presuppositions that preclude any satisfactory solution, especially by specifying particular human beings as the object of predestination. Barth therefore calls for a reinvestigation of the elect, the object of predestination, as the only way to repair the shattered unity of theological agreement over predestination (Church Dogmatics II/2, p. 139).

Barth commends supralapsarianism over infralapsarianism because it begins with God in his freedom. But, says Barth, because supralapsarianism makes evil a constituent aspect of the divine world-order as originally decreed, it runs the risk of making God the author of sin and of relativizing the problem of evil. He therefore commends infralapsarianism because it considers God’s decree to create the universe a very different matter from the decree to permit evil since in creation God does not yet foreordain anyone for evil. While the two decrees are one in God, they are not to be deduced from each other. Since it detaches the decrees to create from that to redeem, infralapsarianism, Barth thinks, more clearly illumines the reality of evil and shows redemption to be an ethical triumph.

Yet Barth also criticizes infralapsarianism but unjustifiably so: it leads to an objectionable “cleavage between natural and revealed theology,” he says, through its interest in the works of creation and providence apart from the specific mercy and justice of God in the work of salvation (ibid., p. 136). Barth’s prejudiced rejection of general revelation is what in part underlies this hostility; in the infralapsarian insistence on a divine decree to create the universe and to permit the fall prior to a decree to save some, that is, in the emphasis on man in his twofold destiny of creation and redemption, Barth needlessly finds an invitation to natural theology (ibid., p. 138). On balance Barth sees greater merit in supralapsarianism because it considers God’s basic purpose in creation to be the revelation of his justice and mercy. He proposes to detach supralapsarianism from its traditional postulates, however, and to correlate it rather with the revelation of the glory of “a God who in His love is sovereign” (ibid., p. 140); in short, God’s love dominates all other divine perfections.

Barth restates the doctrine of election by substituting a dynamic historical election for the traditional doctrine that emphasizes an eternally fixed decree. A pretemporal decree is deistic, he contends, and compromises the livingness of the living God. The doctrine that God’s predestination involves an immutable pretemporal decree that pledges God to act in time in an irrevocable way toward every human being, he considers heathen and not Christian. Calvinism was “pagan rather than Christian,” he says, because “it thought of predestination as an isolated and given enactment which God had decreed from all eternity and which to some extent pledged and committed even God Himself in time.… In predestination God became His own prisoner” (Church Dogmatics, II/2, p. 181). Presumably in the interest of divine freedom Barth declines to interpret God’s decreeing as in any way inviolably fixed or unalterable. He disowns predestination in terms of an absolute decree involving “only the one prospect of the fulfilment of a course already mapped out either one way or the other” (ibid., p. 137). He fulminates against “the eternal setting up of … (a) fixed system which governs all temporal reality,” an over-all determination involving “unshakeable fixity” (ibid., p.140). He rejects a divine predestination that “implies the setting up of a fixed system which the temporal life and history of individuals can only fulfil and affirm” (Church Dogmatics, II/2, p. 134).

To challenge the inherited doctrine of a fixed divine predestination, some recent theologians appeal to biblical references concerning God’s “repentance.” Over against Calvin’s view Peter Barth, for example, emphasizes that God is “free at every moment to make his decision.… The concept of God’s repenting cannot be thought away from the biblical presentation of God’s thinking and action. According to the testimony of Scripture, God always reserves to Himself the freedom to put forth His own superior power in unforeseen and astonishing developments” (“De l’élection éternalle de Dieu,” pp. 70 f.).

The controversy over predestination has recently been polarized as a conflict between those who hold to a “mechanistic” view of the divine will and those who deny God’s “hidden decree” and stress his continuing freedom to act as he wills. Some dogmaticians distinguish between what exegesis requires and what theology requires in its formal systematization of biblical teaching and refutation of heresies; they justify the doctrine of predestination on dogmatic more than on exegetical grounds. Still other scholars dichotomize God’s will; they hold in tension the emphasis that God on the one hand is immutable in his eternity, but on the other is in temporal relations supposedly capable of repentance and change. This is the view of Auguste Lecerf (An Introduction to Reformed Apologetics. An Introduction to Reformed Dogmatics, pp. 66 f.).

Barth characterizes as evasive any theological acceptance of contradictory positions that distinguish between God’s will in eternity and time. He asks: “If the Scriptures make statements about the self-actuated will of God which are valid only in the temporal sphere, in what sense are we to take these statements seriously when we set them against the eternal reality of God?… On what authority, and from what loyalty to Scripture, may the dogmatician … use a quite different doctrine of God’s eternal predestination to bracket and relativize and call in question his own exegetical findings as they relate to the manner of God’s dealings with man in time?” (Church Dogmatics, II/2, p. 189). Barth strenuously opposes the doctrine of an antecedently fixed enactment to which man’s will and acts are subject; he opposes a rigid divine decree that is “static,” one by which God from eternity proposes to save only some; like Peter Barth, he emphasizes instead, the living, progressive nature of God’s decrees. At the same time Barth stresses also God’s sovereignty; he insists on divine predestination, one that is neither arbitrary nor conditioned by creatures. He rejects any appeal either to a “hidden decree” or to “mystery”; no less does he reject any mere internalizing of the issue in a complementary existential human decision, or any tapering of predestination to simply God’s insight or foreknowledge of man’s individual decision (ibid., p. 190).

Barth’s activistic christomonism—involving as it does a nonpropositional dynamic encounter between Christ the Word and the encountered individual—by necessity deprives theology of all objective ontological knowledge of a decreeing God. Barth therefore dismisses earlier views of predestination that affirm sharable metaphysical information about the God who is transcendent to the world and man, that is, information about God’s fixed and unalterable purposes.

Barth rejects the supralapsarian thesis that God’s predestination “infallibly inclines and guides a certain fixed number of individuals to election, and … [that] the justice of God infallibly inclines and guides a certain fixed number to perdition,” God thereby being “glorified equally in the eternal felicity of the elect and the eternal doom of the reprobate” (ibid., p. 134). Barth is on firm ground both when he warns against preoccupation with a hidden God, instead of with God known in his revelation, and when he rejects constructing a doctrine of election as an independent dogmatic consideration alongside or behind the revelation in Christ the Word. But to leap from these very proper concerns to rejecting pretemporal decrees and to exclude any and all sinners from divine wrath is a very different matter. As we shall see, Barth deflects into Jesus Christ as the only Elect One the emphasis on eternal divine election and reprobation and then automatically includes all human beings in Christ’s election.

Emil Brunner charges that the traditional doctrine reduces history to determinism and personal decision to illusion, and thus destroys responsible free-willed action. He calls for replacing the inherited view of election with a dialectical dynamic alternative. The divine Predeterminer and Promulgator of a “decretum horrible,” says Brunner, could hardly be the loving Father of all (The Christian Doctrine of God, p. 306). He does not espouse Barth’s implicit universalism, however, but prefers an equally objectionable “second chance” theory.

Berkouwer echoes many of these criticisms. What Scripture teaches, he contends, is not a doctrine of election but rather a free electing God (Divine Election). This emphasis, he claims, lifts us beyond the antithesis of determinism-indeterminism to the higher plane of doxology: Scripture does not teach God’s election or rejection of individuals from eternity, that is, an “all-determining” divine counsel which cannot be followed by “a decisive significance of history.” The intention of the Synod of Dort, says Berkouwer, was to stress the doxological character of grace, not to formulate a doctrine of election in causal categories (Vragen Rondem de Relijdenis in gerefoormeerd Theologisch Tydschrift, pp. 1–41).

In his books on The Providence of God (1952) and on Divine Election (1960) Berkouwer elucidates the thesis that proper doctrines of providence and of election can be expressed only in teleological or doxological terms and not in traditional causal categories. He acknowledges that it was neoorthodox theologians who pioneered this reinterpretation of the doctrine of grace. To this approach Hendrikus Berkhof protests that Berkouwer replaces deterministic categories by ethical or doxological categories not only in respect to sovereign grace but also in respect to Scripture as Word of God (“De Methode van Berkouwers Theologie,” pp. 37–55).

Dialectical theology shifted the entire focus of theology away from divine revelation in the external world to interpersonal relationships; the consequence was a curious neoorthodox superstition that spiritual enlightenment requires abandoning all conceptions of causality when we expound theological themes. Dismissing causal categories as mechanical, impersonal, and arbitrary, neoorthodoxy then restates the doctrine of predestination and election in personal categories. We must, of course, beware of construing divine election in terms of physical forces. But to imagine that by avoiding causal references we can wholly escape the kinds of issues raised by the inherited views of predestination is inexcusable and appears itself to be an evasion and not an intelligible alternative. Causality is a complex subject in the theological no less than in the physical realm, but to simply dispense with it in order to advance personal factors creates as many problems as it solves.

An activist predestination, Barth concedes, “stands just as much in the air, and under the twofold threat of determinism and synergism, as does the traditional counter-thesis” (Church Dogmatics, II/2, p. 190). Barth’s solution is to view predestination as election and rejection in relation to God’s redemptive work only, specifically to the divine relationship to Israel in the Old Testament and to Jesus Christ in the New. In other words Barth connects predestination only with christology and soteriology; all God’s work ad extra, that is, outside himself, he centers in God’s redemptive activity. “If it is presupposed that predestination is identical with the election of Jesus Christ,” he writes, “the activist thesis is put on a basis against which no objection can be brought and is made secure from misunderstanding” (ibid., p. 191). On this view, according to Barth, predestination occurs “in the bosom of God before all time, but … for this very reason it happens and happens again before every moment of time”; it “does not antedate time and all that is in it” although “it precedes time as a living act in the Spirit.… The election of Jesus Christ … is God’s eternal will before all time, and also the eternal will of the living God in time” (ibid., p. 191).

God has indeed determined and ordered his will in relationship to Jesus Christ as the exclusive ground of the salvation of sinners. But how does this truth, we must ask, translate into Barth’s novel doctrine that Jesus Christ is the only subject of God’s election and reprobation? Barth insists that “only by an adherence to this rule” that God’s predestination is identical with the election and rejection of Jesus Christ can activist predestination be maintained (ibid., pp. 191f.); unless we identify God’s predestination with the election and reprobation of Jesus Christ, he writes, “it is hard to see how this relationship of God to His creature can possible be thought of except as the relationship of a player to his plaything, a relationship which takes on this or that form according to the whim of the moment” (ibid., p. 192).

Barth acknowledges that the Reformers never viewed predestination in this way. He concedes, furthermore, that while “Calvin and the classical exponents of the doctrine failed to progress beyond a “static understanding of God’s eternal will,” they nevertheless did not “lack … a sufficiently ‘living’ notion of God’s working—in the last analysis Calvin could never be accused of that” (ibid., p. 191).

These comments are of special interest. Surely the Reformers considered predestination from eternity a living predestinating and electing, one, moreover, that in no way cancels the urgency and indispensability of daily human decision. The sovereignty of divine decision, the absolute decree of God which occurred in eternity past, reflects itself in a living sovereignty that continues moment by moment. God’s decree guarantees the very nature of individual freedom and of human responsibility. But except where God has chosen to reveal it, we do not know in detail the content of that absolute decree.

God’s predestination in eternity, says Barth, channels into Jesus Christ. In the history of the fulfillment of this election, he writes, “God’s will is unequivocal” and yet in himself “God is free and … remains free.… He decrees that [main’s] rejection should be lifted from man and laid upon himself” (ibid., p. 192). Since Barth holds that all humans are elect in Christ, the sinner’s salvation therefore is not conditioned upon evangelistic decision; as even now elect in Christ, the sinner needs only to be apprized of the good news of a salvation already in effect.

Besides noting this striking deviation from biblical orthodoxy, we must also ask whether Barth’s theory of the divine election of Christ does in fact escape the governing principles that he considers so objectionable in the traditional view of election. Has he achieved anything more than a theologically confused verbal alternative when he associates election only with Jesus Christ and vigorously rejects “static” alternatives in favor of activist predestination? If as Barth stresses, “It is God who elects man” and “man’s electing of God can come only second,” if “the realization of this foreordination of man is, of course, willed in such a way as to make man himself fulfill all the history which is the content of the divine will for him,” and if the sovereign purpose of God decrees the sure doom of evil and the triumph of righteousness through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, then does not predestination as Barth applies it to Jesus Christ retain all the elements that he finds unacceptable in the traditional doctrine of a fixed eternal decree?

We find nothing objectionable when Barth comments: “If we say that God’s eternal will is not left behind by time but precedes every moment of time, if we say that God whose will is this history is not the prisoner either of Himself or of the historical process once and for all ordained by Him, it is utter folly to understand it [predestination] to mean that man cannot know how he stands with God or what he may expect from Him, as though in and with the historical process God were merely playing a game with man” (ibid., p. 193). But if Barth’s hostility centers in the divine election of specific persons, how does the incomparably specific election of Jesus Christ relieve that problem? And if the election of Christ is admissible only because all are elect in him, then does not Barth overcome the scandal of particular election by destroying the very idea of election, that is, by implying universalism?

When Barth rejects any view of predestination as eternally fixed and unalterable on the ground that God himself is then temporally bound to it and that individuals cannot alter it (ibid., p. 134), we must ask why Barth in view of these objections so unhesitatingly affirms Jesus Christ as the eternally Elect One. Surely God’s sending of his Son is decreed from eternity and is unsubject to human revocation. Barth even writes that “this foreordination of elected man is God’s eternal election of grace, the content of all the blessings which from eternity and before the work of creation was ever begun God intended and determined in Himself for man, for humanity, for each individual, and for all creation” (ibid., p. 142). If the pattern of redemption is thus fixed, and if this unalterable fixity does not erode personal decision on the part of Jesus of Nazareth, on which Barth elsewhere insists, then why is the same formula not applicable to sinners who are eternally predestined to salvation?

Barth’s meaning is also unclear when he objects to asserting predestination “merely as a general truth of Scripture and not in specific and concrete relation” to the election of Jesus Christ and when he contends that its espousal “even as a biblical generality” must lead to some form of divine-human synergism in the correlation of divine election and human decision (ibid., pp. 193 f.). If, as Barth insists, “there is no synergism of any kind in the election of Jesus Christ” (ibid., p. 194), then why need there be in the election of others? That divine predestination is a truth objectively taught by the Bible is a fact, even if Barth finds revealed truths distasteful. The further fact that biblical truths are sometimes misapplied provides no basis, whether the misapplication is Barth’s or ours, for sweeping aside the propositional revelation. The attempt by Barth and other neo-Protestant theologians to dismiss the inherited view of predestination by appealing to divine “repentance” is unpersuasive.

Moreover, if the view of a necessary fulfillment of what God has determined in advance is obnoxious and pagan are not the consequences equally devastating for future eschatological events—including the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, the victory of righteousness and the doom of Satan and evil and the whole prospect of an eternity involving man and angels and other heavenly hosts—that Barth comprehends as the eternal purpose of the sovereign God? Can Barth consistently accept eschatology as the sure outcome of God’s eternal plan if he finds eternal fixity objectionable in regard to predestination? However much Barth objects to any rigidity of divine determination, he nonetheless insists not only that the final outcome of the course of events is shaped by God’s will but also that it is ultimately beyond human decision.

The question arises whether Barth attributes the reality of the fall and the presence of evil in the world to God’s eternal will and counsel. Even if he does not consider the existence of evil a means by which God implements election and reprobation, is not the stark reality of evil a part of God’s eternal purposeful determination?

More than this, does not Barth himself insist that the creation of all things is a voluntary act of the sovereign God? He writes: “Because all things are His creation, because He is the Lord of all things,” the primal and basic purpose of God to impart and reveal Himself and His glory in relation to the world “is the beginning of all things, the eternal reality in which everything future is already determined and comprehended. And in this purpose … God does not will at random. He wills man: not the idea of man, not humanity, not human individuals in the mass or in particular; or rather all these, but in concreto and not in abstracto” (ibid., p. 140).

On these aspects borrowed from the earlier doctrine of predestination Barth imposes only his limitation of election to Jesus Christ as God’s elect man and as God’s reprobate man: “In this man, but only in him, He wills humanity and every individual man and what we may describe as the idea of humanity” (ibid., p. 141). Need anything be added to Barth’s own emphatic word when he writes: “No despite can be done to the sovereignty of God as the first and last Word in all matters concerning the relationship between Him and us” (ibid., p. 142)? If this is to be taken seriously how can Barth then so hurriedly impose the further limitation that “this sovereignty is to be thought of as the sovereignty of … the God who is judge just because He is merciful” (ibid., p. 142), that is, who must be conceived through a special agapē-oriented theory of the nature of God? In this context Barth then develops the idea that salvation is provided for all in Jesus Christ the elect man and that no one is reprobate. Barth’s avowed reason for rejecting an eternal decree of predestination is that its “picture of the absolute God in Himself who is neither conditioned nor self-conditioning” is “not the picture of the Son of God who is self-conditioned and therefore conditioned in His union with the Son of David; [it is] not the picture of God in Jesus Christ” (ibid., p. 134). The established doctrine does not begin with “the concrete biblical form” of justice and mercy and “of God himself” (ibid., p. 135). But Barth’s drastic “correction” of it proves to be not only a radical alteration but in fact a distortion, if not an annulment of the doctrine.

Since Barth’s time it has become fashionable to deplore as “abstract” the traditional doctrine of election, whether it be in the form given it by Aquinas, Beza or Calvin. Many contemporary theologians voice this same complaint even though their alternative proposals are no less “abstract” or conceptual. Their real complaint against the inherited doctrine is actually that it detemporalizes and individualizes God’s decree.

Wolfhart Pannenberg tries to sidestep the modern reduction of the election-motif to human equality and pluralism. Over against not only this secular erosion of election, but also Barth’s doctrine of universal election, as well as the traditional emphasis on individual predestination, Pannenberg advances the idea of a divine communal election of Israel by which, through the Abrahamic covenant, God anticipates a universal mission. Pannenberg thinks pluralism and equality can be preserved from secular distortion only by overcoming the tension between universalistic and individualistic theories of election. His own theory of divine election centers in a societal belief and value system given initially as a religious conception to the Hebrews chosen to witness to the world concerning the blessings of serving Yahweh, and after Christ’s resurrection to serve as a guide to secular society concerning the qualities that God’s kingdom proclaims as decisively crucial for the destiny of all humanity. While this reconstruction enables Pannenberg to adjust the doctrine of election to his theology of history, it revises the biblical view of a specific individual election and incorporates features no less “abstract,” and in some respects even more so, than those he protests in the classical doctrine.

Process theology proffers still another alternative. For the biblical doctrine of election it substitutes the much diluted notion of divine persuasion. It exchanges the biblical view of a sovereign supernatural God who foreordains the course of space-time history for a view in which, as Whitehead puts it, “each temporal entity … derives from God its basic conceptual aim, relevant to its actual world, yet with indeterminations awaiting its own decisions” (Process and Reality, p. 317). Peter Hamilton thinks this idea “closely corresponds to the Christian doctrine of the ‘prevenience’ of God” (The Living God and the Modern World, pp. 159 f.). Actually it has less in common with the biblical doctrine of election than a horseradish has with a horse.

The obvious distortions and exaggerations that color neosupernaturalist and neoliberal representations of the traditional doctrine of election should not go unchallenged. Despite Barth’s protest against a “hidden” absolute decree, the fact is that Calvin expounds election in terms not of a hidden but of the revealed God. For Calvin the will of God, whether revealed or hidden, poses no threat to the certainty of salvation, and that certainty the Reformer finds, moreover, not in a knowledge of God outside the revelation in Christ but solely and completely in and through the biblically revealed redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Institutes, III, xxiv, 5).

Contrary to what Barth would have us believe, a past divine decree to redeem fallen mankind that is executed in time does not imply deism or compromise the livingness of the living God, any more than does a past divine decree to create man and the world that is implemented in time. For Barth God’s election continues in the present as his living action, as an ongoing predestinating decision and activity, and not as the execution of an already completed decree (Church Dogmatics, II/2, pp. 181 f.). In the sense that we speak properly of continuous creation we may indeed speak properly also of ongoing election. Just as the daily preservation of the universe involves the continual presence and activity of God who called it into being, and without whose present relationships space-time realities would collapse again into nothingness, so also God’s election is worked out daily in history by his immanent presence; it does not function in some deistic way that envelops human events by causal necessities, necessities that totally cancel the importance of personal decision in relation to man’s destiny. The knowledge of election is itself impossible except on the basis of proclamation of the Word of God in historical time. God still wills what he willed in eternity past, although now he wills the effects of what he willed in the eternal decrees; and in all that he wills, he remains, moreover, the living God. Herman Bavinck long ago stressed that divine predestination must not be conceived deistically as if it were unrelated to history and human decision (The Doctrine of God, p. 370). But Berkouwer overstates the case when he criticizes and dismisses the Synod of Dort’s use of causal categories to describe God’s sovereign work.

Contrary to Barth, the present implementation of election provides no basis for rejecting an eternal divine decree. Even Barth emphasizes that Christian election is an election that “has already taken place” and is “not bound to any human or even Christian possession” (Church Dogmatics, II/2, p. 350). It is neither the Hebrew nation nor the Christian church that elects, nor is it the pious individual; it is God who elects.

The God of the Bible is still the predestinating and electing God who eternally decrees his purposes. But his thought and activity are not to be existentialized into contemporary confrontation. It is semantic obfuscation to declare that we are “only a short step to the denial of the existence of God” if we do not reconstruct the doctrine of election along Barth’s preferred lines (II/2, p. 182). To transmute the meaning of eternal election into the constancy and reliability of God’s free love, as Barth does, either requires universalism on the premise that love is the eternal core of God’s being, or poses for love no less than for the traditional view of election the same dilemmas regarding eternity and time that disturb Barth. In the last analysis Barth’s doctrine of election is anchored less in the freedom of God than in a prejudiced view of a love-dominated divine nature that ontologically determines the direction and outcome of election.

When James Daane represents neoorthodox antidecretal theology as “biblical” and speaks by contrast of the “Greek rationalistic determinism” and of the “scholastic view,” one wonders why he shuns careful exegesis of the relevant texts, whether he really understands what Reformed writers are saying, and just how the first-century writers could have been influenced by twentieth-century dialectical and existential emphases. Daane criticizes Turretin (Institutio Theologicae Elencticae, New York, 1847) for holding that the divine decree is determined by God’s essence and cannot therefore be other than it is. Charles Hodge no less than Turretin rejects the view that God decrees by a necessity of nature (Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, p. 539); he unfortunately seems to imply, however, that God cannot act purposefully if he decrees according to his nature. Daane’s complaint that “in decretal theology God is a decreeing God in terms of his ontology, not in terms of his freedom” (The Freedom of God, p. 60) is confusing and implies that if God acts by his nature he is subject to ab extra influences. God’s sovereignty is in fact an aspect of his ontology, and it is God in his total being who decrees, and does so freely, that is, free of all external constraints. To say that God acts according to his nature is a virtual tautology; if God did not do so he would not be God.

When Daane moreover writes that “decretal theology has always had difficulty with the event-character of Christianity” (The Freedom of God, p. 75) he voices an antiintellectual prejudice that regards propositionally revealed truths as the enemy of historical revelation. Norman Shepherd observes that decretal theologians, notably Geerhardus Vos, have actually been among the profoundest contributors to a theology of the history of revelation (“Election as Gospel,” p. 318).

Daane, whose debt to Barth is apparent in this respect, emphasizes God’s freedom in the interest of divine indeterminacy and in opposition to an eternally decreed election of individuals. Instead of relating God’s freedom to his eternal decree, Daane connects it with an open future. Daane’s exposition of God’s freedom requires revision not only of the biblical view of election, but also of the biblical view of divine freedom.

As we previously emphasized, the message of divine predestination echoes through the Bible as a message of joy, and not of horror and dismay. It bestows privileges conditioned not on merit or race but solely on God’s will, grace and purpose. The classic New Testament text on election, Ephesians 1:1–12, identifies God’s grace in predestination to be Jesus Christ, that is, we are chosen in Christ. God’s gracious determination centers exclusively on Christ; outside of Christ the sinner can expect nothing. “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace” (Eph. 1:4 f., kjv).

Whatever their differences over predestination, all Christians relate divine election one way or another to the mediatorial work of Jesus Christ; divine election is fulfilled in him and through him. Christians also affirm, although not always with the same nuances, that Christ is himself the elect Son of God. Predestination has no biblical meaning unless it refers to the Mediator and his mediation by way of inclusion or exclusion. Correlation of the doctrine of election with Israel, Christ and the church, an emphasis lost by modernism but revived by Barthian theology—albeit in an untried way—is a familiar theme in the writings of the Reformers; so also is the theme of Christ’s divine election, one which appears as well in the later theological writings from Turretin to Hodge.

According to R. T. Kendall, limiting Christ’s atonement to the elect as did Beza and the English Puritans who followed him “robbed reformed theology of the simple idea that Christ alone is the mirror of election” (Calvin and English Calvinism, p. 210). The traditional view of election presents Christ as representative of only those persons elected to salvation, and no others. On the same assumption of divine sovereignty and grace Barth reinterprets election as christological monism; he connects election with Jesus Christ as its only elect and reprobate subject who achieves the salvation of all. By means of selective quotations Daane tries to make Calvin and Herman Bavinck forerunners of the Barthian view and declares “Barth … correct when he said that election is the sum and substance of the gospel, and that at the heart of the gospel stands Jesus as God’s elect” (The Freedom of God, p. 13). But, as Fred H. Klooster observes, Barth’s exposition of Christ as the elect differs radically from Calvin’s (Calvin’s Doctrine of Predestination, p. 49, n. 95). Barth not only rejects the supralapsarian emphasis on divine reprobation of a number of human beings as being inconsistent with divine election in Christ, but also substitutes a doctrine of election in which Jesus Christ alone is divinely elected and reprobated; all persons are included in this election of the Substitute. Brunner charges Barth with expounding election in a christomonistic way, one that leads “to the view that the Son is the subject of the eternal Election, … one in which the idea of judgment is ignored, and the possibility of being finally lost is eliminated” (The Christian Doctrine of God, p. 315).

Barth alters the doctrine’s content so that predestination is the mode of all Christ’s work and not merely a mode of Christ’s work in salvation (Church Dogmatics, II/2, p. 210). Grace, he says, spurs all God’s works—of creation and redemption—and is expressed in Jesus Christ as its reality and revelation (ibid., pp. 96 ff.). Election is therefore a salvific possibility and privilege not simply for those who believe in Christ, but takes place for everyone and is executed in Christ as the electing God. Since in this way all men are divinely comprehended in the elected Substitute, Christ becomes the “mirror of salvation” in an inclusive sense never intended by the Reformers. Barth expounds Ephesians 1:4 to teach that Jesus Christ is more than simply the implementor of election; as the only elected and rejected One, he is its very foundation; in him all mankind is destined to salvation.

Christ is the elect One as attested by Isaiah, declares Barth, and as the substitute for sinners Christ is necessarily the divine elect. Barth sets these affirmations in a broad context, however; he insists that since all revelation is in Christ we cannot go behind Christ to make statements about what precedes election in him. To the doctrine of election Barth adds the interchangeability of the election of Christ with the election of all men, that is, he refuses to limit the connection of Christ’s election to but some elected persons as a selective elect rather than including all mankind. In Christ, says Barth, all humans are elected to salvation; Christ is reprobated as their substitute. He subscribes to the Arminian Remonstrance statement that election is wholly in relation to Christ. “Since Jesus Christ came to save men,” comments Klooster, “Barth concludes that God’s will is the election and not the rejection of man” (The Significance of Barth’s Theology, p. 15); the implication, although Barth resists it, is that under no circumstances can any human being be lost. Historic Reformed theology embraced no such universalism. In orthodox Christianity the fact of Christ’s election is enduring good news only for those sinners who by faith identify themselves with the redemptive work of Christ Jesus.

Barth claims that the traditional doctrine of eternal predestination heralds God’s free grace not “as glad tidings” but rather “as the neutral impartation of the message that from all eternity God is gracious to whom He will be gracious, and whom He will He hardeneth, and that this constitutes the limit within which each individual must run his course” (Church Dogmatics, II/2, p. 134). Barth calls for “total revision of the dogma” of predestination; the inherited doctrine’s hidden divine decree, he complains, holds fearful overtones of reprobation fully as much as a promise of redemption (II/2, p. 373). In this call Barth shifts the balance of Reformation preaching for which God’s election is indeed good news—as it surely is also for Barth—albeit in a more specific nonuniversalistic way. The Reformers never doubted that election’s good news is that God is for and not against us. But they never believed that a decree implying universal redemption is the only way to remove fear and uncertainty over one’s human destiny.

Although Barth emphasizes reprobation and double predestination, he completely identifies God’s rejection of sinners wholly with the elect and rejected man Jesus Christ who suffers in the sinner’s stead. “Seen from the viewpoint of His election there are outside of Him no rejected ones,” says Barth (II/2, p. 389). “With all their contrariness they are unable to bring anything into being against the election of Jesus Christ—or against their own election—that would prove to have any final binding power; nothing that would make of none effect the love of God in Jesus Christ …” (II/2, p. 231). If this is true, then our being finally rejected on the ground of sin is no longer possible and is only a matter of misbelief and unbelief (II/2, p. 184). In commenting on Barth’s notion of the impossibility of God’s final rejection of the sinner, Berkouwer observes that “the rejection of man has a place in Barth’s doctrine of predestination only in the sense that it is carried, put away and destroyed by Christ” (The Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Karl Barth, p. 107).

It is far from clear, however, why good tidings should be thought to vanish because God is gracious to some rather than to none. And Barth’s denial that God hardens and rejects some persons clearly runs counter to what Scripture itself teaches. Although Barth professedly makes one’s reading of the Bible and the Bible’s witness to election crucial for the proper doctrine of election, his erroneous christomonistic starting point skews this scriptural framework toward universal salvation. Universalism is clearly implied when the election of Christ and election in Christ merge with a doctrine of substitution that automatically embraces all human beings. If all persons are identified in the Substitute it becomes difficult to resist the idea that everyone is saved. On the surface the theory of universalism may seem like good news, but since it has no biblical support it is only a false rumor of hope.

Barth rationalizes his implicit universalism by criticizing past theologians for resorting to hidden mystery or to rationalistic expositions of the ordo salutis. He is hardly the best judge of rationalization of doctrine, however, for his own alteration of election in the interest of a nonthreatening assurance of salvation is achieved at great cost. Berkouwer asks, and rightly, whether Barth’s emphasis on unqualified grace does not consistently and inevitably lead, but without scriptural certification, to the doctrine of the salvation of all (The Triumph of Grace, pp. 111 f.). “If the real reprobation consists in the rejection of Christ in contrast to the rejection of others, is it possible,” asks Berkouwer, to escape this outcome (ibid., p. 112)? “Would not any other conception of reprobation infringe upon the completeness of the triumph of grace” (ibid., p. 112)? Indeed we might even ask—though Berkouwer does not—whether a radical triumph of grace might not preferably have cancelled even the suffering and death of the God-man, and whether Barth’s effort to connect the doctrine of the primacy of grace with a doctrine of election of his own preference does not plunge him into insuperable difficulties. What happens, moreover, asks Berkouwer, to the urgency of human repentance and the decision of faith if God’s decision in Christ is effective before and apart from individual belief or unbelief (ibid., p. 112)? For all Barth’s emphatic disavowal of universalism—he insists that unbelief is the recurring witness to the guilt that makes grace necessary, and that a grace which must inevitably and finally embrace anybody and everybody would not be sovereign divine grace (Die Botschaft von der freien Gnade Gottes, p. 8)—it seems nonetheless to be the logical implication of his view of election. What unbeliever could nullify a divine decision that makes the reprobation of others “an objective impossibility” and that renders unbelief a futile denial of our election in Christ? Berkouwer’s verdict is therefore sound: “Considered from the viewpoint of Barth’s doctrine of election, it is far from plain what right of existence the rejection of apokatastasis can have” (The Triumph of Grace, p. 116; cf. Barth, Church Dogmatics, II/2, pp. 295, 417, 422, 476).

In objecting to the traditional view of predestination with its individual election of some but not all, Barth reinforced an alternative that implies the condemnation of none and the salvation of all in the one elect and reprobate Christ. Instead of developing election in keeping with the biblical teaching, his theory aligns itself with the universalistic trend in neo-Protestant theology. It becomes apparent that, for all its expressed interest in the doctrine of election, contemporary theology in many ways reflects a deterioration even from positions taken earlier by Arminius who, appealing to biblical theology, held a deeper view of human depravity than do many of his present-day successors and who, moreover, expressly repudiated universalism (cf. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Roger Nicole and H. Orton Wiley, “The Debate Over Divine Election,” pp. 3 ff.). While Barth reinforces a biblical view of election, insisting that the divine election of human beings to salvation is an accomplished fact that the church must proclaim, he views all sinners as elect reprobates who share in God’s grace; not even Judas can undo the decision of gracious election in Christ (Church Dogmatics, II/2, pp. 476 f.). This emphasis on the divine election of all in the election of Christ follows from Barth’s prior insistence on love as the essential core of God’s being.

But the Bible speaks of election and rejection in ways far different from Barth’s theory. That Christ alone is divinely reprobated is not what Scripture says. When Barth expounds the election and reprobation of Jesus Christ in terms of “the demonstration in time, the creaturely sphere, of His eternal self-differentiation” (II/2, p. 142), we can only ask in what sense Christ was actually a reprobate before the incarnation. It is upon sinners—and not upon the Savior-that reprobation falls first of all. Despite the fact Christ is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8), those who do not believe in Christ are even now condemned (cf. John 3:18, “… he that believeth not is condemned already,” kjv). Even if we insist with Barth that all divine revelation is given through Christ, a principle that Barth unjustifiably exhausts in internal confrontation, does it follow that the revelation given through Jesus of Nazareth excludes the final doom of the wicked? Is Barth really true to the Bible when he declares that the Old Testament revelation of the wrath of God against men is transcended by the New Testament (II/2, p. 212)? And even if the doctrine were a matter only of the Old Testament would not even that call into question Barth’s view of inescapable grace?

To be sure, Barth refuses to declare for universalism. Despite the divine decision in Christ and the claim that God’s judgment has already been executed upon Jesus Christ, he emphasizes the open situation of Gospel proclamation (II/2, p. 739). This approach notably reintroduces into his election-framework some of the same shadowy uncertainty over individual salvation against which he protests when rejecting supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism. Although he disavows the received view of election as devoid of good news-it supposedly leaves all persons to speculate about their own election and to contemplate the possibility of reprobation-the question needs to be asked whether the Barthian alternative constitutes good news. If predestination is, as Barth portrays it, a “truth of the eschaton,” so that despite the conclusiveness of God’s decision in Jesus Christ “we cannot and must not now come down either for or against universalism,” then do not God’s hidden purpose and the uncertainty of salvation cloud the history of reconciliation? Even though he insists on the victory of grace, so long as Barth holds universalism somewhat at bay he suspends the certainty of salvation at least for some persons.

Moreover, if human unbelief cannot frustrate what God has decided from all eternity, then belief or faith likewise lacks power to alter what God has decided. Barth indeed reduces the significance of human decision for Christ to only a tardy noetic awareness of God’s decision of salvation already previously made in Jesus Christ. In principle, only the decision of God in his sovereign decree, and not human decision, is for Barth significant for salvation. If what here makes God’s sovereign decision acceptable to Barth is the added ingredient of divine grace, then Barth seems to place advance restrictions upon God’s sovereignty.

If there is no election of individuals, election can hardly be personal good news. That is true all the more if eternal election in Christ precludes any transition from condemnation to salvation through the instrumentality of personal faith. To say that all humans, presumed to be already saved in Christ, need simply to be informed of their salvific status, would be a matter of divine predetermination no less than the fact that they are constituted sinners in Adam; it would be simply a declaration of the condition of all humans as they presently exist. This is far different from the good news of the Bible, which offers not simply a removal of ignorance about one’s spiritual condition but personal transition from God’s wrath to divine grace through repentance and faith. Unless Christian proclamation reaches the sinner as a condemned and doomed person to whom God offers redemption it is not the good news intended by the New Testament. And if election does not in fact automatically include all human beings redemptively in Christ, then Barth’s message violates the truly good news even though it presumes to present biblical good tidings. The scriptural good news is not an eternal salvific election of all mankind in Christ that no one can resist or annul; it is the fact, rather, that the holy Lord has chosen some who despite the wickedness of humanity can through personal faith in Christ experience forgiveness of sins and renewal.

As we have seen, Barth, like many modern theologians, finds repugnant the doctrine of an eternal individual salvation that embraces only some of those who have fallen into sin. In transforming the doctrine of predestination as “the idolatrous concept of a decretum absolutum” he aims “to remove completely … the thought of an individual purpose in predestination” or “the foreordination of a rigid and balanced system of election and reprobation” as he calls it (II/2, p. 143). Barth declares “most dangerous” this doctrine of an absolute decree of election and reprobation, one from which Roman Catholics, Lutherans and many Reformed spokesmen themselves understandably recoiled (II/2, p. 140) because of its irresistible foreordination of certain persons to hell in a world made for this express purpose. “The Supralapsarian God threatens to take on the appearance of a demon,” he comments. Barth sharply denounces supralapsarianism as driving the triune God’s outreach toward the world and mankind to the one goal of “bringing individual x to heaven and … individual y to hell”—of projecting for this objective “the monstrous apparatus of the creation of heaven and earth, the sinister contrivance of a permitted fall and the resultant dominion of evil in the world, the appearance of Jesus Christ in the world, and His work, and the founding of His Church, and all the operations of effectual calling and hardening which are involved in redemptive work,” and doing this, moreover, to manifest God’s glory (II/2, p. 136).

But Barth’s objection is directed no less vigorously against the infralapsarian view that God elects some individuals to salvation and leaves others to their self-determination. Divine predestination of sinners, says Barth, resolves the “whole relationship between God and man into a kind of natural process which admits of no contradictions” (II/2, p. 140).

Reformed theology connects the election of Israel and of the church with the election of individuals; it is precisely this election of individuals that Barth repudiates, for the only elect individual, he affirms, is Jesus Christ. Unlike Pannenberg, Barth does not, however, elaborate the election of Israel or of the Christian church alternatively as an elect community or collectivity. Underlying Barth’s rejection of individual election (except for Jesus Christ) is the notion that not a certain number but all mankind is elect in Christ. Instead of a numerically oriented election (“number has nothing to do with the nature of election,” echoes James Daane in The Freedom of God, p. 173, n. 7) Barth offers a dynamic revision of the idea of election. The whole concept of election and reprobation he channels into Christ rather than into a distribution of election among different individuals.

But, we must ask, does Barth’s identification of Jesus Christ as the very specific object of God’s election and rejection repeat what he finds objectionable in the traditional view? Does the fact that Barth gives predestination a christological direction escape the difficulties he protests, especially since Barth combines the christological with the anthropological, whereas traditional views combine the anthropological with the christological? Does not Barth, too, even if he tendentially correlates God’s justice and mercy and questionably channels election and reprobation into Jesus Christ alone and then implicates all mankind in Christ’s election, also insist that before the created universe and human history there was in the eternal purpose of God both the electing God and the elected man? Does christological monism really and completely avoid the individualistic end of predestination?

If Barth considers the alternative against which he inveighs to be dogmatically rigid, perhaps Barth’s own scheme is no less so. Barth, after all, speaks of his own doctrine of election in terms of divine “self-determination” and “primal decision” that reaches back “before the beginning of everything that is to be said about God’s dealings with his creatures” (II/2, p. 89); moreover, he focuses election and retribution in an even more highly individualistic way than does the classic approach.

Against the view of individual predestination of some but not all persons critics often range a number of biblical texts. Matthew 18:14 states that “it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” John 3:16 affirms that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (cf. 3:15). John 3:17 states: “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” Second Corinthians 5:14–15 states: “If one died for all, then were all dead: And … he died for all” (kjv). First Timothy 2:4 declares that God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” and 1 Timothy 2:6 speaks of Christ “Who gave himself a ransom for all” (kjv). Hebrews 2:9 states: “… That he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (kjv). In 2 Peter 3:9 we read: “The Lord is … not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (kjv). First John 2:2 affirms: “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (kjv). First John 4:14 goes on to say: “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world” (kjv).

To explain the terms “world” and “all” in these verses as meaning “all the elect” seems contrived. Such exegesis obviously is more appropriate to some verses than to others; an example of the former is 2 Peter 3:9 where the text, controlled by “God’s promise” and “to usward,” has in view only the elect and implies neither universal election nor universal redemption. R. T. Kendall notes that Calvin in his commentaries (cf. on Isa. 3:12, Mark 14:24, John 1:29, Rom. 5:19, and Heb. 9:28) holds that Christ died for all men, whereas Luther in his Lectures on Romans (p. 252) speaks of Christ dying only for the “many” or the elect.

Exegesis of Hebrews 9:28 seems to require that Jesus Christ’s death covers everyone’s guilt in Adam; in that event final condemnation would concentrate on each impenitent’s individually committed sin. This view that Christ died for the guilt and penalty of all who are racially in Adam but bore the guilt and penalty for the active individual rebellion only of the elect, resolves some but not all problems. It accommodates the salvation of children below the age of accountability; some theologians argue on the other hand that just as children before accountability are guilty in Adam without committing any personal sin of their own, so they are reckoned justified in Christ without exercising any personal faith of their own. Even if the indicated verses require the view that Christ’s atonement in fact covers both the racial and the personal sins of all human beings, no automatic inference requires the view that all persons are therefore elect. Since God’s action is often strikingly munificent, the objection need not be fatal that, in view of the election of only some to salvation, an unlimited atonement involves divine inefficiency in the outworking of the redemptive plan.

But any argument that God’s election and provision of atonement automatically means universal salvation is without basis. Verses that imply God’s sincere and strong wish for human salvation are not necessarily inconsistent with the divine election of only some to eternal life. Those who contend that it would impugn divine love and justice were God to elect only some fallen creatures without extending the same prerogatives to all are mistaken. Scripture gives no hint that the electing God provided divine salvation for the fallen angels; the fact that he provided salvation only for fallen humans does not reflect adversely either on divine love or on divine justice. God shows his love in electing some undeserving human beings to salvation and his justice in redemptively passing over others who are equally undeserving. The argument from fallen angels will not impress secularists who believe neither in God nor in angels, nor will it impress universalists who vouch for the salvation of all angelic and nonangelic creatures; it should carry weight with others, however, who take scriptural representations seriously.

God’s election of only some does not imply that he ceases to be providential lord of all the universe. “The Lord is good to all” (Ps. 145:9); “… He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). What the Bible affirms is man’s hopeless moral and spiritual condition apart from God’s election and God’s provision of salvation in Christ. But while God’s sovereignty is absolute it is not tyrannical; he does not use his power unjustly and he coerces no one into personal salvation apart from individual decision for Christ. That God has gone the last mile without destroying the need of human choice is clear; on the other hand human unbelief cannot and will not frustrate God’s election of some. Only because of God’s covenant and election is Israel’s unfaithfulness unable to cancel God’s fidelity (Rom. 3:3), and only because of God’s election does the sinner escape condemnation; that election is ineffective, however, without individual repentance and faith in Christ.


God the Sovereign Creator

The Bible begins with God the Creator. The initial statement of the Apostles’ Creed affirms “God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” Calvin assigns the first book of the The Institutes to “the knowledge of God the Creator.” Karl Barth devotes some 400 pages to “The Work of Creation” (Church Dogmatics, III/1) and in two additional volumes expounds its significance and implications.

The question of the ultimate source of the universe brings human experience and reasoning to a standstill that only revelation from without or above can overcome. As James M. Houston rightly observes, creation “has to be a statement of faith, not an empirical deduction” (I Believe in the Creator, p. 72).

Is this faith in a divine Creator credible? Is the humanistic evolutionary alternative rationally preferable? Or is evolutionary dogma itself burdened by immense and insuperable difficulties? The issues are debated today no less vigorously than a century ago.

“Creation cannot be tested by the scientific method,” notes Warren H. Johns, “because the scientific method can deal only with repeatable events. No scientific experiment can be constructed to test the probability or even the possibility of Creation” (“The doctrine of beginnings,” p. 20). Science can have no theory of an origin; it must cope with a given cosmos, and therefore tends to assume an everlasting universe, past and future.

What then can or should be said for the historic Judeo-Christian view, namely, that divine revelation answers the question unresolved by empirical inquiry and does so, moreover, in an intelligible and reasonable way? “Through faith,” Scripture declares (Heb. 11:3), “we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (kjv, italics mine).

By focusing attention on natural development, chance variation, and contemporary observational data both modern scientific empiricism and evolutionary theory deflected interest from the transcendent Creator and his dependent creation. Widespread academic endorsement of this evolutionary explanation of the universe and of all forms of life by immanent development factors shunted discussion of supernatural creation out of the public arena and into the religious colleges and churches; but even here the issues are less than fully faced and debated.

In some circles today anyone who mentions divine creation is likely to be reminded of Archbishop Ussher’s projected creation date of 4004 b.c., a date once incorporated into the margin of the King James Version and preserved by the first edition of the Scofield Reference Bible. There will be scornful reminders, too, of a “young earth” created in six literal twentyfour-hour days, and of identifying the divinely established “kinds” of life in the Genesis account as the modern “species” and insisting on their absolute fixity.

The fact is, and it is often forgotten, that scarcely a century ago almost everyone—scientists and other scholars as fully as the rank and file of people, nonchristians no less than Christians—held such “traditional” views. On the matter of species, moreover, it was actually scientists and not theologians who in the nineteenth century first encouraged the understanding of the created kinds or families of life in the narrow sense of species. When theologians then espoused this view they were challenged by scientists who had moved on to argue for the fluidity of species.

If high penalties attach to saying that the Genesis account teaches more than it actually does, no less severely do they attach to diluting or misrepresenting what the creation narrative affirms. The present confused situation calls for assessing and exhibiting in a balanced way the cognitive claims of both creationist doctrine and evolutionary theory.

What Genesis teaches about man and the world as a divine creation differs remarkably from the other ancient views of origins. The tendency of Religionsgeschichte scholars to minimize the differences between Genesis and so-called nonbiblical “creation” accounts found in other religions of the Near East must not be allowed to obscure certain very real and important dissimilarities. Over against the comparative religions approach Gerhard F. Hasel argues that “the Genesis cosmology represents not only a ‘complete break’ with the ancient Near Eastern mythological cosmologies but represents a parting of the spiritual ways brought about by a conscious and deliberate antimythical polemic which meant an undermining of the prevailing mythological cosmologies” (‘The Polemic Nature of the Genesis Cosmology,” pp. 81–102). Even if the creation story may have been first revealed to Adam and antedated pagan cosmologies its implicit indictment of the later religious myths would be no less striking. Sumerian and Egyptian creation stories are not only polytheistic but they also incorporate capricious and immoral elements, are quasi-pantheistic, and at times are exasperatingly ambiguous and in some respects superstitious and even magical. The Enuma elish, or Babylonian account, for example, reads: “On the day (when) above not named were heavens, below earth a name was not called”; the contrast here with the straightforward Genesis affirmation that “In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth” is obvious. In the Babylonian account gods and goddesses personify diverse aspects of nature, and the universe results or emerges from a conflict between the gods.

In a world given to worshiping the sun, moon or stars, or to referring the fortunes and misfortunes of life to astral determinism or to cosmic forces, the Genesis writer dares to emphasize that God created the heavenly bodies and that Elohim and Elohim alone is worthy of worship. “Even the polemical avoidance of naming the luminaries is deliberate,” comments Houston; “they are just ‘great lights,’ candelabra set in the sky, without the terrifying powers of fate men ascribed to them. The biblical writer adds laconically and almost parenthetically that God made ‘the stars also,’ as if to deny any primary potency in astrology” (I Believe in the Creator, p. 65).

The Bible sweeps aside strange misconceptions of an original nonbeing, of primal darkness or chaos or undifferentiated matter; it denies notions of a world sprung from an original seed or hatched from a cosmic egg; it routs myths about polytheistic gods that cooperate with fate or destiny, yet also strive against it; it puts to flight philosophical speculations about eternal processes and impersonal forces or about a demiurge contending against recalcitrant matter. The Genesis creation account confronts and challenges these and many other conjectures.

Interestingly enough even the ancient polytheistic traditions often single out a supreme Creator-God who has precedence over “other divinities” both as begettor and ruler of the gods and as the begettor also of humans and all matter. Even amid their alterations these corrupted traditions of the primal creation preserve a kind of witness to the transcendent creation of the universe by an act of personal divine power, even though in the absence of a comprehensive cosmic rationale they readily correlate this creation with magical notions. In the Babylonian Enuma elish Marduk attests his divine power by commanding an object to appear and then permitting it to vanish. But there is nothing magical about the creative word of the biblical Elohim; Elohim’s power lies in himself, not in an innately magical word.

At the center of the scriptural creation narrative, as at the center of the entire Bible, stands the living God. If we turn to Genesis 1 for information first and foremost about the cosmos and man we miss the center of its focus. The subject of Genesis is not quarks or quasars, but God. The biblical subject of the Hebrew term bara (to create) is invariably God whose transcendent sovereign will is presupposed by all existence. “In the beginning God.…” Elohim is there before the universe existed, he is there as the sovereign source of all contingent possibilities. More than 40 times between the initial declaration that “God created” (1:1) and the statement that he “rested” (2:2) Genesis names God as the subject of decision and deeds: Elohim “created,” his Spirit “hovers” over the waters, he “says,” “calls,” “sees,” “makes,” “blesses,” “gives,” and much else; not least of all he declares his creation to be good.

The sustained impression given by the account is that the living God creates voluntarily according to his sovereign pleasure—that is, he creates first and foremost for his own glory. This fact is attested by later writers as well. The Psalmist for example affirms (19:1; cf. Isa. 43:7, Rom. 1:19 f.) that “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork” (kjv). Nowhere does the creation account suggest that God was externally motivated or prompted to create, or that he was internally required to do so. The universe is a wholly contingent reality, not a product of divine necessity. Divine creation is not motivated by some inner divine need or lack. The Creator’s own transcendent majesty, divinity and eternity are attested by the created universe; so also are his wisdom and omniscience (Ps. 104:24; Job 28:24 ff.; Prov. 3:19, 8:27; Jer. 10:12).

The God of the Bible is declared to be the everlasting inexhaustible God (Isa. 40:28–31), the sovereign lord of all creation and of universal history (Isa. 40–55). His covenant embraces the behavior of nature and the direction of history and overrules all chaos and calamity. Whether in Genesis or in the Psalms or Isaiah or elsewhere, bara designates God’s incomparable creative activity not only in the cosmos but also in history and in the redemptive renewal of sinners (cf. Ps. 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God”). One and the same term is used for God’s originating activity in fashioning man and fashioning the world (Gen. 1:1, 21, 27, 2:3 f., 5:1 f., 6:7; Deut. 4:3; and often in the Psalms and in Isaiah) as well as for God’s shaping of history (Ex. 34:10; Nu. 16:30; Jer. 31:32; Isa. 45:7, 48:7, 65:18). The New Testament continues this emphasis.

If we turn to Genesis mainly for hidden information about geological ages we shall miss out on the main drama of the ages. The mystery “hidden for ages” in the Old Testament but now unveiled (Col. 1:26) concerns not twentieth-century geological ages but Christ in and through and for whom all things were created. He is “the mystery of the ages” now revealed as the one in whom God deals with the world, including both Jews and Gentiles in his messianic salvation. The secret of the ages that the Church is to relay to the world concerns the disclosure of Christ, not concealed geological ages. The author of Hebrews finds in the seventh-day creation rest of God an anticipation of the “rest in Christ” proffered to the people of God. The Bible correlates the Creator God not only with primal creation but also with a coming new creation (Isa. 65:17 f; Acts 3:21; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1–8) and with the regenerative recreation of penitent mankind (2 Cor. 5:17 ff.). The eternal Christ, the mediator of divine creation, is openly manifested in the incarnation as the one through and for whom God made the universe and through whom God redeems rebellious mankind and the disordered cosmos (John 1:1–3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2, 10). Dale Moody therefore criticizes as theologically unacceptable the ascription of the work of creation solely to God the Father by the Apostles’ Creed and more recently by Barth (The Word of Truth. A summary of Christian Doctrine Based on Biblical Revelation, p. 126). The “whence” and the “whither” of the universe cannot be divorced; in Christ the whole creation has its basis (Rev. 3:14) as well as its final goal (Heb. 1:11 f.)

Genesis chapters 1 and 2 portray the primal creation of the universe, man’s original dignity and role, and his subsequent fall into sin. In recent centuries intense conflict over the interpretation of these chapters has aligned those who accept the account as factual against those who do not.

A so-called pictorial approach views the six days of Genesis as six days of revelation rather than creation. Originally advocated in the nineteenth century by the Scottish geologist Hugh Miller, the theory has been revived in the present century by P. J. Wiseman (Creation Revealed in Six Days) and others. According to this theory God in a period of six literal days presented to the inspired writer a pictorial view of the orderly divine creation of the cosmos and man. God here applies names (day/night, sky, seas, etc.), says Wiseman, that make sense only in the context of divine conversation with man, and does this during a six-day pictorial presentation. The creation account, therefore, would require neither a universe of relatively recent origin nor creation in literal twenty-four-hour days. But if God’s communication to man requires nonfactual revelation, as this approach suggests, then divine revelation is of very limited value to Judeo-Christian religion.

As Derek Kidner notes, the pictorial view rests largely on a misunderstanding of the term “made” in Exodus 20:11 (“for in six days the Lord made …”) (Genesis. An Introduction and Commentary, p. 54); it takes the Genesis emphasis that God “made” to mean simply that God “showed.” The view is roundly criticized by those who insist that no basis exists for imposing on Genesis 1–3 a hermeneutical scheme strikingly different from that required by the remainder of the book and who contend, moreover, that the Genesis account does in fact make chronological claims (Gen. 2:4) which intersect modern evolutionary theory. While the view does evade a decision on the conflict between creation and evolution, it has won little support except among some interpreters who reject the literal sense of Scripture. Calvin emphasizes rather that the first six days of creation belong to history, even though creation is more than history inasmuch as it includes the ontological structures of existence in space and time.

The Bible, Bernard Ramm tells us, aims to narrate Who created and Why, rather than How (The Christian View of Science and Scripture, p. 219). The Bible does indeed emphasize the divine Who and Why, and in connection with the Why goes considerably beyond a broad intimation that God creates primarily to manifest his own glory. Besides this primary intention the creation narrative informs us also of God’s subordinate and secondary purpose: to manifest his glory by actualizing a good universe where man, made very good, would reproduce and fill the earth and exercise dominion as God’s viceregent (1:26 ff.). Within that intention we are told that God placed lights in the firmament of the heavens “to separate the day from the night” and “for signs and for seasons and for days and years” (1:14); and “to give light upon the earth” (1:15) he made the sun “to rule the day” and the moon “to rule the night” (1:16) and “to give light upon the earth” (1:17) and “to separate the light from the darkness” (1:18); God created green plants, moreover, as food for beasts and birds and creeping things (1:30) and created plants and trees to nurture humans (1:29).

But Ramm does not stop with an interest only in the Who and Why of Genesis: he insists that the How of Genesis is a matter for scientific resolution (The Christian View of Science and Scripture, p. 219).

William A. Schmeling somewhat echoes Ramm’s approach: “The Bible speaks its truth in the revealed answers to the great ‘who’ and ‘why’ questions of life,” whereas science, as the pursuit of empirical knowledge, “has its truth in the demonstrable answers and theories concerning the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of things” (Creation Versus Evolution? Not Really!). Scripture is not to be consulted for an accurate description of “the methods and stages of the origins of things and of mankind.”

Gordon Clark concurs that Genesis does not discuss the how of creation, but for a very different reason: there is no how to creation, says Clark. How suggests a process, and hence it projects upon the creation account a prejudiced interpretive stance. Creation is instantaneous fiat. The question how merely introduces confusion.

Schmeling expounds the who and why of creation existentially, that is, he considers the Genesis account factually false but experientially true. “The theological purpose of the creation stories is to lead us to a knowledge of God, to an understanding of ourselves” and “to a loving relationship … and to a working relationship under Him.” “The Genesis description of the cosmos is not accurate. But the point it makes is absolutely true!” Schmeling deprives the Bible of all relevant comment on the cosmic processes—for very different reasons than Clark does—but at the same time credits science with “demonstrable answers.” Everything that Genesis says about divine creation of the universe Schmeling channels into internal existential considerations.

But if God can convey authoritative cognitive information about himself and his relations to man, it is unclear why he cannot also convey—as the creation account on the surface implies—reliable knowledge, however limited, about man and nature and their interrelationships. If God can commend truths about himself, why must he tell falsehoods about the universe and his relationship to it?

Discussion of God as the Who, the towering Who’s Who, of Genesis must not reduce the doctrine of creation simply to one of interpersonal relationships. Individual confession of God as creator as a testimony of personal faith, a confession that provides us with a deeper insight into the unity of life and experience, is one thing. But does this confession involve a cognitive claim that others should also make, and if so, on what basis? Is God related only to me in my inner response, or is there also some logical basis for faith in the Creator that lays claim upon human reason universally?

Does the fact that Genesis 1 precedes Genesis 2 and 3, and that John 1 precedes John 3, indicate that the doctrine of creation has logical priority over the doctrine of redemption? Does intelligible revelation exhibit God as actively engaged in the creation of man and the world? Is he causally related to the universe and, if so, how? Does the biblical doctrine of creation bear intellectually on philosophical representations that exaggerate either divine transcendence or divine immanence or that otherwise depict God’s relation to his creation in ways alien to Scripture? Has the sovereignty of God significant cognitive implications for theories that depict the universe as independent of God in whole or in part, or as divine in whole or in part?

It is true, of course, that the creation account was not written with a scientific intention; it is nonempirical in the sense that it does not offer laboratory observation and verification as the ground of its affirmations. Yet in another sense it is both profoundly scientific and broadly empirical. It is scientific in the classic sense that it gives a comprehensive and orderly statement of data. It is empirical in the sense that it employs a linguistic content readily intelligible to persons in all ages and places. It does not use the specialized vocabulary of the philosophy or science of some one particular period; were it cast in the technical terms of one scientific era it would in every subsequent age seem dated and outmoded.

Genesis 1 insistently affirms that God created the heavens and the earth (1:1), light (1:3), the firmament (1:6 f.), vegetation and trees (1:11 f.), the heavenly lights (1:14 ff.), living creatures and birds (1:20 ff.), cattle and beasts (1:24 f.), humankind both male and female (1:26 f.). Yet it is surely the case that the creation account does not tell us what light is—whether a wave or a corpuscle. Nor does it assert or deny that space and time are independent frameworks (Newton) or interdependent (Einstein).

The notion that the creation account tells us the who and why of creation but not how God created needs careful examination. God’s method is surely that of divine fiat—that is, Elohim creates by the instrumentality of his powerful word (1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 29). A fiat need not entail a how. The how of God’s creation is his authoritative word or command. God creates, nonetheless, in an orderly time-sequence. Whatever duration the term day may signify, the days of Genesis are time periods identifiable sequentially as first, second, third, and so on. The created universe, in short, does not appear as a single completed act. Furthermore, God’s creation involves both once-for-all and repetitive patterns of action; created realities of the earlier days are at least in some respects established presuppositions of subsequently created novelties: God distinguishes the earth from the seas and then creates living creatures appropriate to each, as well as vegetation and trees that yield seed or fruit according to their kind. Finally he makes man to rule over all created life that nature sustains—makes him, as Genesis 2 adds, of the dust of the earth by breathing into him the breath of life (2:7).

If the details of the creation account have no factual bearing on God’s method of creation, would it not then be a matter of indifference if God created by depositing a cosmic egg from which the universe hatched, or if he called everything into existence simultaneously, or if he created in sequences that introduced man before the earth and before vegetation and other creaturely life?

What Genesis says about the how may not be extensive or comprehensive, but it is not on that account either negligible or irrelevant. What it says may bear significantly on empirical realities and hold scientific implications as well that either accord with or dispute scientific theories of man and the world. The content of the creation account intersects concerns of empirical science in only limited respects, but it is these apparent clashpoints that provoke some interpreters to simply surrender the how of creation to scientific determination.

This circumstance of apparently factual elements that differ from scientific theory is what encourages those holding a pictorial day theory to modify it, as Ramm does, in terms of “moderate concordism,” that is, to emphasize only certain particularities that coincide with the claims of modern science. Ramm declares: “The theologian knows that God is Creator.… The geologist knows the how and when …” (The Christian View of Science and Scripture, p. 226). “By moderate concordism we mean that geology and Genesis tell in broad outline the same story … that the earth was once in … a chaotic condition … that certain cosmical conditions had to be realized before life could begin, e.g., the need for light, dry land, separation of waters and atmosphere … that the simple is first and the complex later … that the higher animals and man were the last to be created … that man is the latest and highest of all forms of life” (ibid., p. 226).

By imposing the grid of empirical science on the Genesis account Ramm abstracts certain elements from the narrative as a whole that unlike other elements are to be regarded as factually significant. But this method of interpretation necessarily suspends what is or is not to be considered factual upon the changing theories of science; it provides no firm basis, moreover, for excluding the factual significance of other elements. And it offers no consistent hermeneutical procedure for selecting from the data of Scripture, or for interpreting Scripture where it adduces once-for-all phenomena whose miraculous or nonmiraculous nature empirical science is not competent to decide. Ramm’s harmonizing of Scripture with geology by correlating the pictorial-day theory, moderate concordism and progressive evolution seems more a wedding of convenience than an orderly claim that the creation account makes upon its readers.

Ramm’s concordism holds that man is the latest and highest form of life. Some recent paleontological researchers seem to question that man is the latest among living forms; some contemporary geneticists claim to shape new forms. Can empirical investigation really establish that man as we know him is the highest form of life? May not dinosaurs or some other species wholly lost to the fossil record have been more complex? While science begins with a chaotic cosmos, moreover, Genesis speaks of the divine creation of a formless reality to which Elohim subsequently gave shape. Is this representation also to be considered merely pictorial? Nothing in the Genesis creation account encouraged subsequent biblical writers to accept it as other than a factual record of God’s creation of the universe (cf. Ex. 20:11; Ps. 33:6–9; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:13 f.; 2 Pet. 3:5). Jesus as well treats it in this manner (Matt. 19:4 f.). Every New Testament writer refers to the creation narrative, and every such reference proceeds on the clear assumption that the account is to be understood factually, not mythically or symbolically. Although some of the Bible’s most lofty teaching is cast in poetic form, the Genesis account is straightforward prose.

That is not to say, however, that if any facets of the biblical account of the creation and of man’s fall are to be retained as literal, it follows that all elements must be interpreted literally. If proper principles of hermeneutics are observed, there is no reason why a distinction between literal and figurative sense cannot be made within the creation account. God’s “speaking” or “saying” does not involve laryngeal utterance, for example, and in any event man was not present before the sixth day to “hear” the voice and Word of God in creation. That God creates by his Word is expounded by the Johannine prologue to mean that God sovereignly and intelligibly created through the instrumentality of the eternal Logos (Word). A sovereign immaterial Spirit, though lacking a creaturely larynx, can moreover make himself “heard” not only by Adam in the garden but also “overheard” by the inspired writer to whom he subsequently discloses the sacred account of creation, fall and redemption. God does not speak literally as humans speak, yet he nonetheless literally spoke and speaks; his divine speaking and speech cannot be dismissed merely in terms of poetic representation or myth. The reality of divine revelation is related in the Bible to the fact that God truly speaks his word and that the representations of the scriptural writers are not their own but rather a divine word that they report.

The recent tendency to contrast scientific fact with religious myth is currently yielding, and remarkably so, to an age in which science now more candidly considers its own projections as tentative models and creative myths. Some of this change of perspective stems from the fact that earlier scientific dogmatisms have fallen upon hard times. Past claims to scientific finality frequently have had to be revised. There is no good reason to think that the claims presently in vogue are exempt from similar alteration or reversal. Interestingly enough, the Bible mentions not a single scientific law, yet scientists who long spoke dogmatically of a uniform causal network of nature, have had to forsake their insistence on fixed external causality.

Despite its computerized knowledge of changing empirical realities, modern science still does not know how life originated. Limitations of the scientific method preclude it from proving the theory of evolutionary beginnings. Its formula of present observational verification of hypotheses, requiring as it does repeatable processes, disqualifies empirical science doubly from ever giving a sure verdict about once-for-all events in the remote past. Since origins are not empirically accessible, the naturalistic scientist cannot by empirical evidence prove the correctness of his theory that life evolved from nonliving matter. Richard Spilsbury calls attention to the obvious limitations confronting scientific method, that is, its inability to reproduce past evolutionary sequences at will under controlled conditions. These limitations, he says, make the testing of an evolutionary theory much less exacting and conclusive than the testing of a nonhistorical or metaphysical theory. This uncertainty and indecision in turn allow greater scope for the prevailing scientific mood to influence a verdict on the significance of evidence (Providence Lost. A Critique of Darwinism, p. 21). The evolutionist makes “a leap of faith”—not faith in the Christian sense of belief grounded upon authoritative divine revelation, but rather faith ventured in the absence of observable primal data. Evolution remains an unproved and unprovable faith. Scientific experimentation cannot demonstrate either that primal origins did or did not occur as the Bible says or as science claims. Neither evolution nor creation is a matter of pure science; belief in creation or in evolution reflects a struggle between good faith and bad faith; both views have religious overtones. Yet it will not do simply to declare that creation and evolution are divergent faiths about empirical observational data. The data of science are not the only data relevant to the discussion. The biblical data, presenting as Scripture does a special view of God and of man and of God’s purpose in creation, also exert a relevant faith-claim.

The truth of Christianity, moreover, does not depend upon a scientific demonstration that Darwinism is wrong; it depends rather on the trustworthiness of the scriptural revelation. Biological evolution, a revisable theory that has already undergone much revision, is in some respects a useful theory even if it should be untrue. Gainful predictive premises have in fact not infrequently been a byproduct of theories that have later had to be abandoned. The assumption of man’s emergence from an animal ancestry has led to medical experiments of immense benefit to humanity. To be sure, morphological and to some extent even psychic parallels could provide a basis for medical experimentation even if similarities were postulated on the basis of the divine creation of all creaturely life rather than of evolutionary development. But ingenious scientific visions about the external world need not be deplored as vicious. Loren C. Eiseley speaks of science as projecting “fairy stories” upon nature, “… stories to which nature seems to conform.” Science can be wrong and yet be scientific in the sense of facilitating the predictability of future events.

The Christian challenge to current evolutionary theory therefore need not imply a repudiation of empirical science per se. Science has openly unmasked numerous superstitions for what they are, namely, a misreading of reality in terms of credulity. Much scientific research has bettered physical health and living conditions and has facilitated human comfort and convenience. Science has important but limited justification. Its limits are such that it can never traffic in absolutes. Only when scientists trespass the boundaries of empirical observation and lay claim to finalities; when they venture to speak definitively of what cannot be decided by their methodology; when they assume the objective truth of their inferences concerning external reality; when they channel the whole meaning of rationality into scientism; and when they profess to identify the good on the basis of observation or utility, then and then alone must Christians dissent, and must do so, moreover, in view of the Word of God itself which is able to spur science to rise above its prejudices.

What is crucially at stake in the creation account is a distinctive worldlife view. It openly repudiates the metaphysical and moral outlook of a world that warships the physical forces of the universe and in so doing loses the sovereign Creator of the world, and man as God’s special image. The issues of astrology and naturalism and the dignity and worth of man are no less critically in debate today than in ancient times; the Genesis creation account remains as relevant now as it was then.

For secular society the eclipse of God the Creator has meant the loss of both an orderly nature and a purposeful history except as man himself imposes direction and values upon a thoroughly manipulable chaos. In the Bible the formless chaos belongs only to the primal past, however, and even there it is not an antecedent preexistent given with which God himself must cope; rather it is creation underway in its inital stages. In its emphasis on the divine ordering of creation the Genesis creation account stands, as Dale Moody says, “in majestic contrast to the chaotic instability of the Enuma elish” or polytheistic Babylonian account of beginnings (The Word of Truth, p. 144). To any observer but God the first stages of creation might have seemed orderless and aimless; the creation account tells us, however, that even the primal and as yet formless creation was part of a planned totality. Man is created in a cosmic context in which God’s purpose comprehensively encloses him; that man, at the height of technological genius, considers the cosmos and history chaotic and purposeless apart from the values that he himself insinuated into external affairs and events, mirrors the depth of his rebellion against the Creator.

Involved in the current crisis of evolutionary theory, therefore, is not only the role of God but the self-understanding of modern man as well. As Étienne Gilson observes, a startling contrast exists between both the ancient myth-symbolism of the pagan world and Greek conceptualism with its vague and conflicting representations of the maker of the worlds and the nature of their origin, on the one hand, and Judeo-Christian thought, on the other; Judeo-Christian belief in the Creator and in creation is predicated solely on divine manifestation in history and nature and on the revelation of “He who is” (God and Philosophy, pp. 42 ff.). The Greek philosophers energetically pondered “origins” but got no farther than First Cause and Demiurge; modern philosophers have fallen back into nature, and into colossal confusion, indeed even into chaos, in seeking to chart the origin and meaning of things. Their bleak inheritance is a direct consequence of their failure to posit the God of the Bible, on the basis of the Creator’s self-revelation, as the supreme source and cause of the space-time universe.

Although the passage is not found in Aristotle’s extant writings, Cicero ascribes to the great Greek philosopher the following commentary on the ultimate source of the universe: “Suppose there were a people living underground, …—suppose, too, that though secluded in their subterranean abode, they had heard of some strange power on the part of some unknown supernatural beings that were named ‘gods’—suppose then that the earth should open to these people, and that they should come forth from their darkness into the light of day—then assuredly we must suppose, when all of a sudden they saw the earth and the sea and the sky, and the great cloud-musters moving in the air and the mighty sun in the glory and beneficence of his all-pervading brightness—or when again, it was night and they saw the bespangling stars and the moon that wanes and waxes in her gentleness and all those movements immutable on their appointed courses from eternity—then assuredly, as we must suppose, they would think that there were gods, whose handiwork all these wonders are” (De Natura Deorum, II, 37, translated by J. H. Stirling, Philosophy and Theology, the initial series of Gifford Lectures).

You would think, we are told, “that there were gods, whose handiwork all these wonders are.” “Appointed courses from eternity” and “the gods and their handiwork”—the summary is in fact ambiguous enough to remind us of the ancient Near Eastern myths. The Genesis writer proffers a dramatically different view on the basis of the intelligible revelation of the self-revealing Elohim: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.…”

The doctrine of creation is the bedrock foundation of every major doctrine of the church. On this doctrine, for example, rest the biblical Sabbath (Heb. 4:3 f.), monogamous marriage (Matt. 19:4 ff.), and the universal brotherhood of man (Acts 17:26). The consequences of neglecting the creation account are therefore just as serious for Christians as for nonchristians and worldlings. As Robert E. Webber pointedly reminds us: “The failure to affirm the doctrine of creation results in an inability to come to grips with history and the meaningfulness of life” (Common Roots. A Call to Evangelical Maturity). Such failure, moreover, perpetuates a misunderstanding of God and of the eternal world, with inescapable consequences for the temporal realm.


Creation Ex Nihilo

If the Christian doctrine of creation contains one central emphasis on how God created, it is that God created by the instrumentality of his Word and, moreover, that he created ex nihilo. Scripture does not align God side by side with preexistent matter or with eternal chaos; rather it presents the Word or Wisdom side by side or face to face with the Father. If any characteristic captures the mood of Elohim’s activity as reflected in the biblical account of creation it is that of God’s magnificent composure or, as Robert Davidson puts it, his “absolute and effortless sovereignty” in creating the universe (Genesis 1–11, The Cambridge Bible Commentary on The New English Bible, p. 15).

That God creates by his Word (Gen. 1; Isa. 41:4, 48:13; Amos 9:6; Ps. 33:6; cf. John 1:1–3) means not only that the universe is neither an ultimate necessity nor an inevitable divine emanation, but also that it is no act of sudden impulse or arbitrary will. Creation is the work of the omnipotent God who acts consciously and rationally.

That God, moreover, is the Lord of all existence means that only he has aseity; alongside God nothing has an independent reality. He is the absolute creator and sustainer of the universe. All else gains its substance and form alike from his decree and deed. His sovereign will alone calls all finite realities out of nonexistence and continually keeps man and the world from reverting into nothingness. Without his creative will all else would vanish into the nonbeing from whence he summoned it and preserves it.

James Houston stresses creation per verbum above creation ex nihilo and that, to be sure, is where the biblical emphasis falls. If the Bible is allowed to set the agenda on this theme, he emphasizes, then one must and can only affirm the priority of the Word of God in divine creation (I Believe in the Creator, p. 51).

But Houston emphasizes more than simply the priority in creation of divine Word and Wisdom. He thinks it “perhaps wiser to recognize that the biblical affirmation of creatio per verbum is the only reliable affirmation to make” inasmuch as the conception of creation ex nihilo has led to serious misconceptions; in some expositions it has even revived the very dualism that its original predication was intended to rebut (I Believe in the Creator, pp. 51, 274 f.).

Quite apart from these considerations, some critics doubt or deny that Scripture firmly supports ex nihilo creation; for others it is not even conceivable.

Ex nihilo creation is inconceivable, they say, because absolute creation like absolute destruction falls outside our experience. Since creation is the first moment of time it stands at the beginning of the time sequence, something that is unavailable to us. Actually, the real reason we cannot locate absolute creation in our time sequence is the fact, rather, that we cannot measure the age of the created universe. But is what is conceivable to rational man limited only to what we can experience? If this were the case, we would have to forego many articles of the historic Christian creeds. Who of us has experienced virgin birth, for example, or bodily resurrection, or universal providence, or the pangs of hell?

Creation ex nihilo, as Gilkey says, is “a totally unique act.” “Creation cannot be like any natural or human process with which we are familiar,” he adds. “Any attempt … directly and precisely to describe creation in terms of our experience will inevitably fail in its object” (Maker of Heaven and Earth, p. 54).

But although creation cannot be an object of scientific inquiry, there is no need on that account to ground it as does Gilkey on internal existential considerations. Gilkey circumvents basing his belief in creation on truths revealed to and by the inspired biblical writers (ibid., p. 270) by resting it instead on a paradox-streaked faith born of inner encounter. It is this encounter, he avers, that quickens inferences drawn supposedly from historical divine revelation in concrete events (ibid, pp. 280 ff.). The theological idea of creation, moreover, is not to be considered “literally and objectively true,” says Gilkey; it is only mythically significant and as such foregoes logical consistency (ibid., pp. 282 ff.). Creation therefore reduces to an expression merely of one’s personal relationship to the Ruler of all existence (ibid., p. 286). “The myth of creation,” we are told, “gives a religious, not a scientific or philosophical, answer: that the God who created us is our Lord and Redeemer” (ibid., p. 287). If this is the case, then surely the Genesis account is a highly circumlocutious way of making the point.

The idea of creation of the universe was unknown in ancient times except in Judeo-Christian revelation. In Jainism, one of the three major religions of India, the world has always been perceived as infinite and uncreated. And in Greek philosophy anything like a total creation or production of the material world was unknown. Like their modern counterparts, secular ancient philosophers conceived the relation of the divine to the universe in ways radically different from those of Scripture. The doctrine of absolute creation has always distinguished theists who emphasize divine transcendence from pantheists who view the universe as a mode of divine being; today it distinguishes them also from process metaphysicians who deny the supernatural in deference to a one-layer reality within which they postulate aspects of transcendence and immanence. For emanation theorists the universe manifests God’s own substance. Under Hegelian influence absolute idealism saw the universe as such an externalization of God; in personal idealism, by contrast, only nature and not man is an aspect of God. But, as Alfred C. Knudson remarks, a created world “has an existence distinct form that of God so that is cannot in itself or in any of its parts properly be indentified with him.” (The Doctrine of Redemption, p. 28).

Mary interpreters consider the doctrine of creation a later ecclesiastical imposition on the Bible; Arnold Ehrhardt thinks the Eleatic philosophers were the first to conceive of the idea. It is sometimes urged that Genesis 1:2 depicts an original formless context or content out of which Elohim brought order. But what the entire creation account actually emphasizes is that God’s fiat alone accounts for all that is; not even the unordered chaos of Genesis 1:2 is to be exempted from God’s creative activity. Serving as a comprehensive introduction to all that follows, Genesis 1:1 traces everything to Elohim’s creative act. Unlike Plato in the Timaeus, the Bible nowhere presents God merely as the artificer of an already existent world.

The doctrine of ex nihilo creation is for all that more implicit than explicit in Genesis 1:2, and even here, unfortunately, the Septuagint translation is compatible with creation from invisible matter. The phrase creatio ex nihilo, moreover, is nowhere found in the inspired Scriptures and first appears in the apocryphal work 2 Maccabees (7:28). Nor does Hebrews 11:3, which claims that God “formed the world” of “thing that do not appear” absolutely require creation out of nothing. The doctrine is implied there, however, no less in Romans 4:17. Knudson considers creation ex nihilo “a natural inference from the biblical conception of divine omnipotence” (The Doctrine of Redemption, p. 39). But inferences are not infallible. Has the doctrine firmer support than this?

What the Shepherd of Hermas (c. 150) unambiguously affirms—that God “made all things out of nothing”—reflects, over against Greek dualism, the Judeo-Christian emphasis both on the uncompromised sovereignty of God and on montheism. It avoids the difficulties of Plato’s view in the Timaeus which accounts for the universe by postulating three coeternal beings, namely, Divine Mind, the Demiurge, and a recalcitrant Receptacle. The phrase ex nihilo, says Theodore Haering, is “the strongest conceivable way of denying that matter has any sort of existence independently of God” (The Christian Faith, p. 373). The doctrine, Peter Bertocci observes, denies “the existence of any other Being co-eternal with God, or any world identical with God.… God creates what was not in existence and could not exist unless God created” (“Creation in Religion,” pp. 572 f.).

Donald Bloesch insists that the doctrine of ex nihilo creation “is certainly anchored in the scriptural witness as a whole” (Essentials of Evangelical Theology, Vol. 1, p. 25). In Genesis 1, as Werner Foerster remarks, creation “arises out of nothing by the Word of God” (on ktidzō, tdnt, 3:1010). While human beings can command what stands ready to obey or disobey and can call forth only what exists, God alone “calls forth what does not yet exist. He commands it, and in obedience to this command creation takes place.” He who called forth creation out of nothing has power also to reduce it again to nothing (Deut. 32:39; Ps. 102:26 ff., 104:29). Hence any notion of passive resistance to the ultimate purpose of God must give way; the creaturely is but a vessel in the potter’s hands (Jer. 18:1 ff.; Isa. 29:16, 45:9) and can neither hide nor escape from him (Ps. 33:14, 94:9, 139).

The two conceptions—creation by God’s Word and creation out of nothing—therefore go hand in hand. Creation by the sheer Word of God, that is, by fiat, implies ex nihilo creation. The biblical view is not creation from something but creation from nothing by the Word of God (Gen. 1:3 ff.; Ps. 33:6–9). The plain teaching of the book of Hebrews is that empirical realities—contrary to what many evolutionists affirm—did not ultimately originate from simpler forms of the same reality: what things are “seen” were not “brought into being” by “what is visible” but “the worlds were framed by the word of God” (Heb. 11:3, kjv).

Yet Houston’s complaint is surely right that the phrase ex nihilo has been abused into many misconceptions. Even Augustine projected the “nihil” as a metaphysical something with adverse implications that interpreted evil as an ontological defect rather than the rebellious perversion of God’s good creation. John Scotus Erigena and also Avicenna and Averroës interpreted the phrase as God creating “out of himself.” Modern philosophers have translated the nihil into all kinds of strange notions, some of which bring to mind the Platonic “possibilities” and Aristotelian “potentialities.” The nihil seems to gain a quasi-ontological status in the writings of Nicholas Berdyaev, Martin Heidegger, A. N. Whitehead, Paul Tillich and Karl Barth, among others.

John A. T. Robinson inverts the orthodox doctrine to mean precisely what it denies, namely, that God is the creativity immanent in all reality. For Robinson creation ex nihilo means only that “nothing in the whole range of experience … cannot be interpreted in terms of God or … requires any other grounds”; it does not mean, he says, that a supernatural being made the world out of nothing “though he might not have” (Exploration into God, p. 102). Besides transcendence, Robinson’s modern “creation doctrine” affirms also “an immanent creativity, a purposive spontaneity on the ‘inside’ of things, from the beginning—so that consciousness, freedom, and personality are but making explicit what was ultimately implicit” (ibid., p. 102)—what Whiteheadians call “an ‘appetition’ running right through creation” (ibid., p. 103). But Scripture contains no suggestion whatever of the ancient Platonic or modern process notions of an ontological structure that involves God and the world in an irresolute interaction of persuasion and resistance.

John Macquarrie appeals to the Genesis phrase “let there be …” as the key to Judeo-Christian creation but then prejudicially imports into the words the idea of emanation (Principles of Christian Theology, p. 214). Macquarrie insists that there is no Being without beings. But such notions, F. R. Tennant remarks pointedly and properly, are inconsistent with creation (Philosophical Theology, Vol. 2, pp. 123 ff.).

In contrast to the theory that God created man and the world out of “the stuff of his own being” Judeo-Christian theism—and even Muslim theism—affirms divine creation from nothing: creation was neither “out of God” nor “out of matter” but “out of nothing.” This emphasis rules out any metaphysical principle or entity of equal ultimacy with God—be it chaos, darkness, matter or anything else. God is both the only source of created existence, the one sovereign Lord alongside whom nothing eternal exists or is “given” in eternity; he is also the Creator whose created work is unconditionally good and hence free of intrinsic evil. The Christian doctrine of creation is that God’s creation is the absolute origination of all finite elements, both in their form and matter.

The fact that the doctrine of ex nihilo creation can be misunderstood or misrepresented is no more reason for avoiding it than is the vulnerability of any other doctrine to misunderstanding. Creatio per verbum can be misconceived just as easily as creatio ex nihilo, a fact attested by pagan notions of a magical divine word that focuses less on deity as the real creative agent than on the word and its inherent power. Some commentators contend, moreover, that in the Bible creation by divine word refers not to the original act of creation but only to the subsequent ordering and direction of preexisting chaos. It is obvious that instead of simply subordinating or even eliminating the biblical positions, we must define them properly against misunderstanding, and employ them fully. The Bible leaves no doubt that the agent in creation is the divine Logos, and that this Logos was active in a creation that extended to “all things” and excluded “not anything” (John 1:3).

The philosophical options concerning the origin of the universe reduce to three: either the universe has always existed, or it is self-caused, or it exists through an independent being who made it. For Bertrand Russell the universe was “just there, and that’s all” (Bertrand Russell and F. C. Copleston, “The Existence of God,” pp. 174 ff.). Before Georges Lemître enunciated the big-bang theory in 1927, astronomers commonly held the view that the universe is neither self-caused nor created, but is eternal.

Then, just over a half century ago, building on earlier findings by Edwin Hubble and Harlow Shapley suggesting an expanding universe, Lemâtre championed what has come to be known as the big-bang theory. According to this view the universe was at one time in the distant past merely a contracted single point—a small and intensely hot primeval superatom—that through a fiery explosion expanded outward and even now continues to expand. At first the theory had little support because the age which geologists assigned to the earth was greater than that suggested by the big-bang hypothesis. But the midcentury upward revision of extragalactic distances returned the view to favor, and today big-bang cosmology is considered almost a matter of scientific orthodoxy.

Accordingly, the present expanded universe is said to have come into being at some theoretically definable moment in the past through a violent explosion and expansion of a highly compressed primordial fireball. Present (1982) estimates locate the initial explosion 17–18 billion years ago, with expansion of the universe beginning about 1–2 billion years later when galaxies began to form from hydrogen and helium; these elements supposedly condensed out of the original fireball when it cooled down from its original temperature of perhaps 100,000 million degrees. The resulting homogeneous material containing matter and energy had continued and still continues to expand; meanwhile galaxies and stars have formed through condensation.

Big-bang cosmologists spoke of the contracted primordial atom as a point of “infinite density.” If one reversed a motion picture of the cosmos, it was said, the expanded universe would be seen to contract—exhibiting an implosion rather than an explosion—until the entire content of the universe would at some finite time in the past compress into infinite density and temperature.

A rival approach to big-bang cosmology has been the steady-state theory. Its foremost proponent, astronomer Fred Hoyle, insisted, to the contrary, that matter is being created at a rate that maintains constancy in the mean density of matter throughout the expanding universe. “Infinite density” Hoyle equates with the universe “shrunk down to nothing at all,” that is, with “nothing” (cf. William L. Rowe, The Cosmological Argument, p. 122) on the ground that if such an entity involved any mass whatever it would not be infinitely dense.

On the edge of verbal exchange between supporters of either big-bang or steady-state cosmology, the conceptions of both “creation” and “creation from nothing” soon entered the modern debate. Hoyle championed steady-state cosmology in part because he rejected the doctrine of creation, and many scientists still assume the eternity of the elementary particles. But by its banter about a primal “nothing” scientific discussion established at least a verbal connection with the theological concept of ex nihilo origination of the universe.

Contrary to steady-state cosmology, the big-bang hypothesis supports an orderliness of the universe that no known laws of physics could have engendered. Although it does not expressly do so, the big-bang theory could accommodate a view that energy and matter emerged ex nihilo. Edmund Whittaker in fact remarks: “There is no ground for supposing that matter and energy existed before and was suddenly galvanized into action.… It is simpler to postulate creation ex nihilo—Divine will constituting Nature from nothingness” (The Beginning and the End of the World). Raymond Chiao, astronomer at the University of California-Berkeley, contends that difficult as it is to contemplate creation out of nothing “and still avoid violation of conservation of energy and matter … the observations themselves tell us there has to be such a violation at the beginning. So there is an ex nihilo creation of all things” (lecture given at Northwestern University, Spring, 1977).

Steady-state cosmology was supported at midcentury by scholars who postulated that the universe has existed from eternity; while it is always expanding, they insisted, it nonetheless maintains a constant average density. In its strictest form, steady-state cosmology rejects beginnings and, as did Kelvin and Helmholtz, assumes unbroken sequences that stretch back into the infinite past. Sir James Jeans had first ventured the theory in 1920; in 1948 Hermann Bondi and Thomas Gold espoused it in revised form. The theory affirmed that matter is being continuously created to form new stars and galaxies at the same rate that the old ones disappear because of expansion of the universe. For steady-state proponents, the universe has neither a beginning nor an end in time; galaxies of all ages are intermingled, and their average arrangement and density is the same from any sighting point. Hoyle avoided the problem of a singular beginning by postulating that the density of the universe has always been everywhere the same.

Critics have countered that, contrary to the notion that past and present are the same (as steady-state theory requires), anyone who looks into vast distances is, in fact, looking into the past. Scientific investigation of galaxies that emit radio waves shows that more such radio sources existed in the past than presently exist. The universe, moreover, was once very hot and very dense. Hoyle revised the steady-state theory to cope with such objections. But the 1965 discovery by Penzias and Wilson of remnants of fireball radiation and more recently, the calculation of the light elements helium and deuterium from nucleo-synthesis in the cosmic fireball have worked against the theory. As Ivan R. King comments, “the steady state theory has been laid to rest” (The Universe Unfolding, p. 462).

While Hoyle has conceded that direct evidence exists for big-bang, he still considers the steady-state theory to be viable. Hoyle doubts that the universe’s unwavering steadiness can be carried back to an infinite past. He regards the universe as evolving. But this evolution, he contends, occurs over a period much greater than the timespan postulated by big-bang cosmology. Hoyle considers the steady-state theory “now in much better fettle than its detractors over the past fifteen years would have one believe” (Fred Hoyle and N. C. Wickramasinghe, Evolution from Space, p. 149).

A third theory, that of the oscillating model, had been projected to accommodate a view of the universe that, in John Gribbin’s words, “expands, collapses back again, and repeats the cycle indefinitely” (“Oscillating Universe Bounces Back,” p. 15). According to this approach, present expansion of the universe is logically compatible with both past and future contraction. Instead of denying the eternity of the universe the oscillating theory accommodates an eternal cyclicity.

If, as Stanley L. Jaki contends, the steady-state theory was motivated by anticreationist impulses (Science and Creation, p. 347), the oscillating theory completely avoids the theological issue of what or who “was there before” the big-bang.

The big-bang theory has generally been considered “verified” since the 1965 discovery of signals that confirm intense heat and radiation tens of millions of light years away. Two discoveries in 1979 have posed problems, however. One is the announcement by the High Energy Astronomic Observatory that a huge gas and dust cloud envelops the whole universe and contains more mass than that of the known universe itself; if assembled (say into a million-billion suns) the very weight of these gas and dust components might halt further expansion of the universe. The second problem centers around a National Science Foundation report that the Milky Way alone is inhabited by 5000 or more gas and dust clouds—some as large as 100-million suns in mass—that are controlled by gravity. It is possible, therefore, that the universe could fall back into itself through sheer gravitational force.

Irving Segal has made a further observation. By using a curved geometry of a “conformal universe” to explain the red-shift of distant light galaxies, mathematical cosmology, he says, does away with the big-bang theory (Mathematical Cosmology and Extra-Galactic Astronomy).

While some harmonists hope to reconcile big-bang cosmology with the Genesis account, for secular theorists it represents the vanguard of an atheistic ontogeny or germ-theory.

“Whether the earlier expansion had been going on forever, or was preceded by something else, or simply started from nothing,” comments Charles W. Misner, “is, and will probably for long remain, a scientific mystery” (“Cosmology and Theology,” p. 94). Misner nonetheless declares himself “prepared to believe the impossible on occasion” because “in physics we have discovered that this is a very rational thing to do—believe in things that are impossible” (ibid., p. 97).

Astrophysicists refer more and more to the “singularity” before space, before time, and before matter, and hence write of ultimate origins. Yet exactly where Scripture is most precise these specialists tend to be most nebulous. David Burns, in a review of two recent works (John Gribbin, Genesis: The Origins of Man and the Universe; Eric Chaisson, The Origins of Matter and Life) comments that “the beautiful myths and the imaginative fables of creation have given way to newer models” (The Washington Post, p. B–6). But not even modern mythology can hope to endure for very long as simply an awesome literature if in place of a significant view of deity it speaks only of the “primordial soup.”

In criticizing steady-state and oscillating models, William L. Craig contends that not only scientific evidence for an expanding universe but evidence from thermodynamics as well runs counter to theories of a perpetually existing universe (“Philosophical and Scientific Pointers to Creatio ex Nihilo,” pp. 5–13, p. 9). According to the second law of thermodynamics, he observes, processes in a closed system tend toward a state of equilibrium. In other words the universe will run down in time and will expire either as a hot fireball or in a cold freeze. But, it may be countered, if the universe did not in fact begin in time but has always existed, as steady-state theorists insist, then why has it not already expired?

This dilemma has forced some physicists to concede that while the universe may have an infinite future it has only a finite past, or that, to use P. C. W. Davies’ words, as energy ” ‘put in’ at the creation as an initial condition” is progressively used, the universe is running down (The Physics of True Asymmetry, p. 104). The second law of thermodynamics, moreover, which some scholars invoke to prove creation, is compatible also with a plotting of energy on a sine curve that postulates previously existing worlds.

According to some of its critics, the oscillation model contradicts scientific evidence that an open universe does not contract. Big-bang expansion, they insist, will not shrink and contract before consecutive expansions and contractions precipitate another big-bang as part of a cyclical series. Robert Jastrow, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, affirms that according to the latest measurements there is now 10 times too little matter in the universe “to exert the gravitational pull … needed to halt the outward movement of the galaxies” (“Have Astronomers Found God?,” p. 22). The expansion of the universe will continue forever, he avers, “until all is space and emptiness. It appears that there was only one beginning, and there will be only one end” (Until the Sun Dies, p. 38). Raymond Chiao agrees with Allan Sandage who insists that the universe has happened only once, that it is an open universe, and that its expansion will never stop or reverse (cf. Allan Sandage and G. A. Tammann, “Steps Toward the Hubble Constant. VI,” p. 276; Sandage, “The Redshift Distance Relation VIII,” pp. 563–82). Chiao considers the evidence now conclusive for an open universe with a unique beginning, that is, an explosion that occurred but once and involves infinite expansion.

Jastrow is avowedly agnostic. He declares that the final answers must come through revelation or through special insights that he has not had (“A Scientist Caught Between Two Faiths,” interview by Bill Durbin, Christianity Today, Vol. XXVI, No. 13, Aug. 6, 1982, pp. 14–18).

For Jastrow the essence of recent developments in astronomy “is that the universe had a sharply defined beginning—that it began at a certain moment in time.” “Was the creative agent,” he asks, “one of the forces of physics” or was it the “almighty hand” of God? “Science has proved,” he contends, “that the universe exploded into being at a certain moment. It asks, What cause produced this effect? Who or what put the matter and energy into the universe? Was the universe created out of nothing, or was it gathered together out of pre-existing materials? Science cannot answer these questions,” says Jastrow, because “according to the astronomers, in the first moments of its existence the universe was compressed to an extraordinary degree, and consumed by the heat of a fire beyond human imagination. The shock of that instant must have destroyed every particle of evidence that could have yielded a clue to the cause of the great explosion. The scientist’s pursuit of the past ends in the moment of Creation” (“Have Astronomers Found God?,” pp. 49–53, p. 53, reprinted from New York Times Magazine). Jastrow depicts the scientist as conquering barrier after barrier as he moves back in time, only to be “greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” The theologians, he says, “have always accepted the word of the Bible: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

Modern cosmology suggests that what is now usually called matter—electrons, protons and so on—originated by a quantum-mechanical creation of particles as a byproduct of the “anisotropy energy” of the early universe’s swift expansion. It considers this creation a creation in empty space, however, and not a creation ex nihilo.

The big-bang theory, moreover, by assuming that the expansion or creation of the universe is a presently continuing phenomenon, aligns itself with theories of continuous creation that run counter to Scripture. Biblical creationists may disagree about whether the universe was created in the remote or recent past, about whether there was a specific cyclic creation or whether creation implies a steady-state cosmology (cf. R. C. Sproul, Primal Myths: Creating the World). If they are biblical creationists, and not simply theistic evolutionists, however, they will insist that creation is not now in process.

The big-bang theory also leaves unanswered the question of how the complex order and structure of the universe resulted from the immense explosion that it postulates. Some scientists, among them E. A. Milne (Relativity, Gravitation and World Structure, Chapter 8) call the beginning of the expansion in big-bang models of kinematic relativity an instant of creation. It is at this point, George L. Murphy tells us, that a creation of order occurs since the laws of physics and the patterns of the universe would not become effective until then (“A Positive Approach to Creation,” Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, p. 233). But some astronomers speculate that “in the first billionth of a second following the Big Bang when the universe was unimaginably hot and dense, quarks rather than the composite elementary particles would have been the only form of strongly interacting matter” (“Looking for a Needle in the Haystack,” Science, p. 1030). Does this mean then that we are to invoke God and creation only when and as a structured, orderly universe appears? If so, on what basis? The Creator that Genesis affirms is living and active before composite elementary particles, before quarks, and before any “infinitely dense” fireball.

Raymond Chiao argues that the fireball explosion was not a cosmic accident but a purposeful creation. He does so on the ground that the primal big-bang was not a local explosion (with the earth at or near its center) but occurred simultaneously throughout the universe at every point in space. In other words the whole universe was once a fireball; every single point in it underwent explosion. For Chiao the isotropy of the universe, that is, its exhibition of the same properties when measured along axes in all directions, could not have arisen internally from the universe itself but must have been caused by an outside or transcendent agent; its orderliness, moreover, cannot be accounted for by any known physical law. Only supernatural agency could have synchronized the universal explosion so that it occurred simultaneously in all places: “Somebody must have coordinated, synchronized, caused … the order …,” says Chiao. A common instantaneous origin, he adds, “argues very strongly … that we are not here by chance.” The universe was not “a hodgepodge” creation; “all things came into existence at one unique time in the beginning.” The source of that explosion, moreover, was “one unique source of all things.” “There exists one unique order on the largest scale.… The whole universe bears testimony to the one unique God that created it” (lecture given at North-western University, Spring, 1977).

Over 100 billion stars may comprise just one galaxy and in the open universe we have countless billions of such galaxies. In short, the big bang requires a Big Banger, and the Big Banger more and more reminds us of the omnipotent, intelligent and purposive Creator portrayed in the Genesis account.

Speaking for six-day “scientific creationism,” Henry Morris declares that the argument for big-bang from the isotropic background radiation has recently been undermined, however, by evidence that the radiation is not isotropic but anisotropic in all directions. All observed changes (e.g. novae, comets), he emphasizes, are disintegrative, not integrative. There is now some talk, in fact, of a “lumpy big-bang.” This change would, of course, compromise also the oscillating-universe and the steady-state theories. Morris affirms an ex nihilo creation of the universe essentially as it is.

Hoyle reminds us that questions of the origin of matter and of the expansion of the universe take us “outside the range of scientific discussion” (Astronomy Today, p. 166). Although still not a theist, Hoyle now postulates an anomalous cosmic ‘intelligence’ that preprograms the evolution of lifeforms (Evolution from Space, p. 143).

Since science consists of mathematical equations, the supernatural is wholly outside its sphere of investigation. The question of what happened before the zero of cosmic time, however, before the so-called big-bang or beginning of the explosive process, is one that not science but the Bible illumines, and does with no commitment to any contemporary theory of cosmology. There is no need in fact to account for the universe by but a single explosion, even if scientists now tend to insist on one such primal universally expanding fireball. Indeed, no necessary connection prevails between the conceptions of cosmic explosion and divine creation ex nihilo; all that the terms have in common is their suffix. “Infinite density” cannot in actuality be nothing at all; does the argument based on it therefore really help the cause of ex nihilo creation? Only if such a primal explosion, or series of explosions, was governed by the will and word of God can the conception of creation apply.

The big-bang model ventures to recover the past by assuming that the past history of the universe conforms to what is presently observable. The biblical view, on the other hand, deals with what is unobservable and depicts God’s creation of the world and man on the premise that his present action in the cosmos is not identical with his action in creation. God is related to the universe today in ways that differ significantly from his relationship to it at its primal creation.

The big-bang theory is already being challenged by proponents of a big-bubble theory of origins that, instead of a single expanding universe precipitated by an explosion, postulates separate universes evolving like bubbles in a tepid cosmic soup. This theory exploits weaknesses of the big-bang hypothesis, especially its difficulty in accounting for almost uniform background radiation by a single immense explosion, and its assumption of an initial point of infinite temperature and density to which the known “laws” of nature are inapplicable. Alan Guth and other cosmologists project instead the eruption of many universe bubbles precipitated by an initial fiery chaos, whose cooling energy separated into electrons, protons and other particles. If proponents of natural theology should be inclined to utilize Guth’s further emphasis that “it is very tempting to assume that the universe emerged from nothing, or from almost nothing” (“The Big-Bubble Theory,” Newsweek, June 7, 1982, p. 83), they should be forewarned that the theory that our universe is but one among many has even less reconcilability with Genesis than does big-bang. Not only does the big-bubble theory view man as an incidental accident, but it also visualizes our universe as but one of an indefinite number of universes. The biblical view, by contrast, sets out from the sovereign creative providence of God who governs the origin and development of a singular meaningful universe in which man is divinely assigned a rational-moral role in relationship to his Creator and Lord.

Unlike other formation theories, the biblical view of creation has significant theological implications for the origin of the universe as a dateable event that began and was completed in the past. The Bible teaches that God created the world at a definite point in time, not that he is still creating it. Alfred C. Knudson finds eternal creation just as acceptable as temporal creation (The Doctrine of Redemption, pp. 41 ff.; cf. The Philosophy of Personalism, p. 286); L. Harold DeWolf is similarly noncommittal and says only that the universe may have begun at some point in time. To say that the eternal timeless God is temporarily prior to the world poses difficulties, but we can unequivocally say that time had a first moment, that the universe has a finite past history, and that the creation days depicted in Genesis belong to a dateable period of that past.

According to George L. Murphy “modern physics does not allow us to make any clean separation between matter and the laws which (in inadequate classical terminology) ‘govern’ matter”; he proposes therefore that instead of emphasizing creation ex nihilo, Christians should ground the laws of physics in creation (“A Positive Approach to Creation,” p. 231). Murphy holds to the free divine creation of a contingently rational mathematical structure of the universe, one that as an open system does not preclude divine intervention. But his proposal is confusing; for one thing modern science long ago stopped speaking of matter except as a conceptual model to make subatomic or elementary particles intelligible as theoretical entities in the world of nature. Furthermore, if the so-called laws of physics were, in fact, grounded in creation, then scientists would not need to alter or even abandon these laws with every new edition of their textbooks. If one makes no distinction between creation and preservation, and speaks of creation in Genesis in the sense of a continuing relationship of cosmic dependence on divine activity, that is, if creation is not seen as a dateable event at a particular time, then such passages as ” ‘Let there be light’ and there was light” (Gen. 1:3) and God “rested from all his work which he had done in creation” (2:4) collide head-on with the theory. The Bible conceives of divine creation in relation to physical nature as an activity already completed.

The decisive turn against the biblical doctrine of creation took place before the rise of modern science when modern philosophy projected a revelationless doctrine of God. Giordano Bruno (1548–1600) early anticipated the intellectual rebellion of the Renaissance when in contrasting philosophy and theology he insisted that the philosopher can recognize no first principle distinct from the infinite universe, and hence no transcendent creator. Therefore, while theologians were free to affirm a free transcendent creator, their teaching was denied philosophical significance and imposed no validity-claim upon mankind generally. Given this circumstance, it was but a matter of time before secular philosophers pressed their own validity-claims upon those theologians who had timidly reconciled themselves simply to a compromised intellectual survival. Hegel for one regarded the Creator God as a religiously inadequate substitute for the philosophical Absolute; the enlightened intellect, he said, must abandon the doctrine of a transcendent, freely creating deity. For Marx, who considered Hegel’s dialectical Absolute but a half-hearted departure from Christianity, the Absolute no less than Elohim could be the opiate of the people. Marx saw in every religious attitude a detrimental estrangement of the human spirit from its essence, and considered revolutionary social transformation the only key to eliminating human alienation in the finite world.

In contemporary secular scientism a tendency survives to speak of creation but not about God. But creation is impossible without a Creator, a fact ignored by both natural science and political science. Scholars who on the one hand speak readily of human rights that are transcendently vouchsafed, on the other ignore the so-called mythology of the American charter political documents, that is, their references to the Creator. Whether or not the conception appears in the Bible or in any other document conditioned by the Bible, e.g., the Declaration of Independence (“all men are created equal, … endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights”) creation logically requires a Creator who is independent of and not identical with the universe. The emphasis of Genesis on the Who of creation contrasts sharply therefore with science’s preoccupation with the how.

In Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe Stanley Jaki sees in the erosion of values by twentieth-century science the dark omen of a shift toward belief in a cyclical view of cosmic history. As a notable example, he singles out the theory of an oscillating universe: “It is hardly a coincidence,” he writes, “that this wholesale wavering about basic values should approach a crisis point at a time when in the most comprehensive part of science, cosmology, one witnesses a pronounced option for the oscillating universe, this scientifically coated modern version of the Great Year” (ibid, p. 355). “Revealingly enough,” he adds, “the impotency of science to provide norms and goals in addition to tools is dawning on humanity at a time when modern scientific culture is defiantly discrediting faith in the Creator as an anachronism from a naive age.”


The Six Days of Creation

The creation account exhibits a controlling framework and within it a dramatic pattern of events.

Its overarching framework has three emphases:

1. The sovereign creative work of the one God: “God said, ‘Let …’ and there was.…” It is Elohim who in his sovereign purpose fashions and governs all that exists. The imperative “Let …” that introduces the creative command (1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14 f., 20, 24, 26) and is crowned with the terse phrase “and it was so” (kjv) (“so it was,” neb), conveys the sense of immediate and unimpeded fulfillment.

2. God’s verdict on the acts of creation: “God saw that [it] was good.” God brings the good with him; he is himself the source and criterion of the good. He knows and declares what is fit for his purposes and adequate to his ends; he is the one and only standard of the good to whom the whole creation answers. God pronounces approving judgment at every stage of creation (1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25) except on the second day (where the Septuagint adds it) because certain facets begun on the second day are not completed until the third day. After man is created the earlier repetition of “and God saw that it was good” is replaced by an all-inclusive retrospective verdict: “and God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (1:31).

3. The sequence of evening and morning: each of the six successive days of the creation account is marked off in this way (1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). The space-time universe was not created in its entirety instantaneously. The term day in Genesis has no consistent chronological value. The sun is not created until the fourth day (1:14 ff.). In one passage (1:5) day is used both of the light day apart from darkness, and also for a dayspan that includes the cycle of both light and darkness. In another (2:4b) it is used comprehensively of the entire creation: “in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.”

Yet nothing in the account suggests that the writer has expressly in view the extensive geological timespans that modern science identifies as evolutionary aeons. The verses focus rather on God’s sequential creative activity, an activity punctuated by the transition, “evening came, morning came”; each new dawn signals the beginning of yet further transcendent divine activity.

But why the sequence “evening/morning” rather that “morning/evening”? In ordinary Hebrew thought the day was seen as comprised of day and night; in Hebrew religious cultic observance, however, the day began at sunset (Ex. 12:18; Lev. 23:32). Perhaps more important for the creation account is the fact that day is the consequence of God’s creation of light. In Genesis, as James Houston observes, “light is created before the luminaries, just as the days of creation begin with the sunset, for God is not bound by and does not emanate from natural forces such as the sun” (I Believe in the Creator, p. 65). The cosmic rhythm of night and day reflects the creative sovereignty of God; all that happens in time, in its evening-and-morning sequences of creation and in the night-and-day sequences of human history, carries a dramatic reminder of the orderly creative purposes of the sovereign and good Creator.

Once we press through this main archway of controlling motifs we are face to face with the six successive days of creation week in which God gives shape to the formless void (1:2 ff.) and which he crowns on the seventh day with creation rest (2:1–3). What sequential significance, if any, are we to assign to the events of the days of creation?

That Genesis depicts God as creating sequentially is disputed by the socalled framework theory proposed by A. Noordtzij and Nicholas Ridderbos and supported by Meredith G. Kline (“Because It Had Not Rained,” pp. 146–157). This view regards the days of Genesis not as chronological time periods but as symbolic representations not unlike the numbered sequences of visions in the Book of Revelation. A parallelism of subject matter is noted in the first three days and the fourth through sixth days: days one and four deal, respectively, with light and light-bearers; days two and five, with waters and firmament on the one hand, and water-dwellers and firmament-dwellers on the other; days three and six deal first with land, and then, in turn, with land-dwellers. Since the framework theory eliminates temporal sequence it is considered compatible with views either of the earth’s antiquity or of its recency. But its removal of temporal sequence from Genesis 1 seems to do less than full justice to the creation account; even these distinctions retained by the theory imply certain sequences.

The Genesis account reveals an unmistakable creation-sequence countdown: “first day … second day … third day … fourth day … fifth day … sixth day … seventh day.” Is this chronological pattern of creative activity to be regarded simply as poetry? Or does it involve a validity-claim that intersects modern scientific views?

Assailing the Genesis account of the very first day, proponents of naturalistic evolution unhesitatingly declared the biblical record unscientific and untenable. At few points was the creation account so denigrated in the recent past as for its insistence that God created light on the “first day”—before he created the sun and other luminaries on the “fourth” day—and that vegetation was created on the intervening “third” day and apparently survived in the absence of photosynthesis (Gen. 1:3–19). A major upheaval in scientific theory has reoriented discussion of the creation account, however, because light now appears to be a far more complex phenomenon than scientists had thought.

Recent abandonment of steady-state cosmology and predilection for the big-bang theory instead have focused on the existence of universal cosmic light before sunlight and moonlight. We mention the essentials of this noteworthy turnabout not to suspend the credibility of Genesis on the validity of the big-bang hypothesis, but to emphasize that major scientific theories can and do change and even reverse longstanding tenets. Recent studies have shattered a great deal of modern astronomical theory about Saturn, for example.

In The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe the Harvard physicist Steven Weinberg, winner of a Nobel prize, stresses the priority of light in the primal formation of the universe: “It was light that … formed the dominant constituent of the (early) universe” (ibid., p. 30). Before matter existed, before atoms or molecules existed, Weinberg contends, there was light. He speculates: “In the beginning there was an explosion … an explosion which occurred simultaneously everywhere, filling all space from the beginning, with every particle of matter rushing apart from every other particle.… At about one-hundredth of a second, the earliest time about which we can speak with any degree of confidence, the temperature of the universe was about a hundred thousand million (1011) degrees Centigrade. This is much hotter than in the center of even the hottest star, so hot, in fact, that none of the components of ordinary matter, molecules, atoms or even the nuclei of atoms could have held together. Instead, the matter rushing apart in this explosion consisted of various types of the so-called elementary particles, which are the subject of modern high-energy nuclear physics” (ibid., p. 5). These “elementary particles” Weinberg identifies as “electrons, positrons, neutrinos and photons” or light particles. “The universe was filled with light” (ibid., p. 6). The “dominant constituent” both in the early universe and in the universe today, Weinberg holds, is energy in the form of light. By light the Nobel prize winner means much more than just “visible light” which represents but a very narrow band within the entire spectrum of electromagnetic radiations. Light includes also infrared rays, ultraviolet rays, X-rays, gamma rays, microwaves. In addition to such beams that are distinguished according to wave length there are laser beams (in theory there could be infrared lasers, ultraviolet lasers, and so on) and other forms of light yet to be discovered. Although much work already has been done on nonvisible photochemistry, the significance of nonvisible light for biological photosynthesis largely remains to be explored.

The term “light,” as S. Tolanky remarks, “has curiously different meanings” and innumerable properties and subtle features still defy explanation despite the nineteenth-century discovery that light is to be regarded not only in terms of “rays” but also as a form of wave propagation of energy (Curiosities of Light Rays and Light Waves, p. 1). At the end of the last century the electromagnetic theory of light seemed to explain all the empirical data; then earlier in this century the wave theory and quantum theory were applied in separate realms at the expense of a single theory of light.

Light energy is indispensable to both plant and animal life. Some organisms react to light wavelengths that are invisible to man; others react to invisible light properties. Bacteria and simple plants could have used nonvisible light in wavelengths down to that of ultraviolet light, and could thus have absorbed enough nonsolar light to provide the energy transfer required for the so-called microevolution of plants. Some biochemists, among them R. David Cole of the University of California-Berkeley, see no reason why nonsolar light might not have included visible light.

The theory now most widely held by astronomers is that the sun and its planets originated five billion years ago or less in a universe now perhaps eighteen billion years old. Green plants require photosynthesis, a process which captures and transforms light energy and produces oxygen; their cycles of germination and flowering, moreover, respond to changes in daily light periods, or rather, to the duration of darkness to which they are exposed. Animals, in turn, depend on plants for food; their reproductive cycle, moreover, responds to variations in the length of daylight.

In big-bang cosmology what distinguishes the first stage of the radiation era that immediately follows the explosion of the primordial fireball is the fact that photons constitute the form of nearly all energy. Even now most of the photons comprising cosmic background radiation are thought to be derived not from stars and galaxies but from stages of the universe that predated their existence; as remnants of these stages they have been traveling through the universe from a very distant period.

Einstein’s theory of relativity in which the speed of light (299, 729 kilometers per second) is the basic constant, also stressed the dominant role of light in the universe. In the famous equation (E = mc2), first given by Hermann Minkowski, “c” represents the speed of light: we determine the potential energy of any particle by multiplying its mass (m) by the square of the velocity of light (c). To this equation Einstein added the corollary that no signal in the universe can exceed the speed of light.

The light that shattered darkness on the first day of creation was not light emitted by heavenly luminaries (these were created on the fourth day, 1:14–19); it was, rather, the light mandated by Elohim to negate the darkness of chaos when he initiated an orderly universe. The representations in Genesis of the first day of divine creative activity offer no reason to insist that the account is merely mythical and in no way factual.

It would be of little help, however, and perhaps even confusing, to try to review all the interpretations of the creation account that have marked the years from the time of the early fathers up to the present. We mention but several examples. Ancient Latin theologians identified the first three days of creation (Gen. 1:3–13) with the work of division and the last three with that of ornamentation (Gen. 1:14–31). Contemporary typological exegetes talk of a “ktisiological pattern” and find in all the “redemptive events of history” a reflection and renewal of “the six days of creation” (cf. Lionel S. Thornton, The Dominion of Christ, p. 48). For Barth the creation story is saga—something of the nature of history that cannot be recorded in historical form because no human observers and participants were present; this saga, says Barth, has significance in the dimension of inner response but no bearing whatever on scientific method and conclusions. Eulalio R. Baltazar fancifully expands evolution into the grand design of creation. Old Testament prophecy, he asserts, stands in relation to Christ much as Pauline cosmology stands to evolution: “Paul, without the concept of evolution, could not realize that the redemption of material creation was going to be accomplished only by men participating in the affairs of this world” and by deploying science and culture to build a new earth (Teilhard and the Supernatural, p. 38).

If the only theological consensus the Christian church can offer on the basis of the creation account is that the universe is not self-existent but that God created it out of nothing so that it is subject to his will and dependent on him, then Christians sacrifice and overlook much that the Bible intends us to know concerning the origin and nature of created reality. It is simply not true that Christianity’s only concern is to subordinate matter to divine will and power; the nature and structure of created reality have also great theological interest and importance. We must, to be sure, openly acknowledge our ignorance of many matters and exhibit humility amid all that we profess to know; after all, the theologian’s access to a great deal of data is no whit better than that of the contemporary scientist whose methodology permits only tentative and revisable inferences concerning much of the space-time universe. The sting of the caricature, “And God said ‘Let Darwin be,’ and all was light,” is not lessened by simply replacing Darwin by Heidegger or (heaven help us) by Henry. But that is no reason, under the pressures of imperious empiricism, to cast aside the values supplied by revealed truth whenever Scripture and science intersect each other.

Mediating evangelicals eager to avoid controversy easily gloss over discussion and dialogue by the broad assertion that no conflict exists between religious and scientific views of origins. Or they may speak of two perspectives or levels of explanation without indicating just how these levels are to be related or synthesized. Scientific theory and theological interpretation make claims on many issues that cannot be logically synthesized; unless one or the other is declared wrong, or both are, we find ourselves left with either a double-truth or a no-truth viewpoint.

The creation account in Genesis precedes chapters that profess to be history, history that contrary to critical dismissal of it as legend is being increasingly attested by archaeology. But the creation story is prior also in a logical way, one that in some respects clearly claims to be no less factual (Gen 2:4) than the chapters that follow it. The remainder of the Bible, moreover, presupposes that the account of man’s creation and subsequent fall is historical and therefore factual. The Sabbath-command of the Decalogue, furthermore, points back to God’s resting on the seventh day.

As usually understood history involves humankind, whereas the first twenty-five verses of Genesis deal with matters prior to the advent of man. To designate this period Reijar Hooykaas prefers the term “protero-history” to “pre-history”; the latter usually refers to cultural activity that antedates written records, whereas by protero-history Hooykaas specifies a time frame prior to that of man’s appearance on the scene (The Principle of Uniformity in Geology, Biology, and Theology, p. 146).

The Bible, asserts Hooykaas, does not speak of scientific matters per se, but speaks of them rather in phenomenological terms. He allows to science and to other extrascriptural sources a role in scriptural interpretation. As he sees it, the central message of Genesis 1 is that all contingent reality is the creation of the one living God, that man stands in a special relation to the Creator, and that the sun and moon and other aspects of the creaturely universe are not to be worshiped as divine. The Hebrew words for sun and moon were used also as names for pagan sun and moon deities; Hooykaas thinks it significant, therefore, that the writers speak of these heavenly bodies only as the greater and lesser lights.

But what internal hermeneutical principle allows us to dismiss everything except a few elements as phenomenological, or to insist on the factuality of these and not other elements?

Three referents have notably influenced the verdict concerning the cognitive significance of the six creation days of Genesis, namely, authoritative Scripture; philosophical reasoning; scientific empiricism. Multiple combinations and adjustments of these referents emerge as various interpreters favor one or another approach. In Christendom the modern conflict over origins has in recent generations centered around biblical creationism as against naturalistic evolution; the former rests on the conviction that Genesis is an authoritative account that discloses the creative activity of the self-revealing God while the latter stems from the empirically oriented philosophy of naturalistic scientism. In repudiating the Christian worldview dialectical materialism appealed to Darwinian evolution as an ally; Marx corresponded with Darwin and expressed sincere admiration for him.

Viewed abstractly, a sovereign deity could, of course, have resorted either to fiat action as the means of creation or to evolutionary process. Darwinism, the theory that all complex forms of life emerged from simpler forms by slow and almost imperceptible change influenced by chance variation and natural selection, gave rise to numerous speculative correlations and combinations of theism and evolution. Seeking to defuse naturalistic inferences from evolution, some English and American theologians argued that the very idea of evolution stems from the biblical concepts of creation and salvation history, and that evolution, therefore, poses no threat or contradiction to the biblical view of origins.

When historico-grammatical exegesis of the Genesis record was accommodated to scientific perspectives a significant and ominous turn took place in fixing the meaning of the biblical text; what may be called scientifico concept exegesis gradually replaced historico-grammatical interpretation. The literal meaning that later biblical writers attached to the Genesis account was dismissed as a matter of culture accommodation, while allegory and metaphor gained a larger role in expounding the creation narrative. Reluctant on the one hand to break completely with the biblical importance of cosmic and human beginnings, and equally reluctant, on the other, to dispute the scientific view of the origins of the earth and man, more and more clergymen professed to discern an evolutionary hypothesis in the scriptural record.

When scientific theory was allowed to define the way in which the Genesis creation account is to be understood, the revelational significance of Genesis came to mean simply that the sovereign living God originated the evolutionary process detailed by empirical science, and that he achieves his ends by means of that process.

Neal C. Gillespie notes that Darwin neither ceased to be a theist, nor did he reject divine creation (Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation). Darwin did, however, reject teleological creation, that is, the idea of God’s control of the natural laws that supposedly govern all processes and events. Gillespie’s review surveys the scientific transition that took place between nineteenth-century theological creationism and materialistic positivism with its concentration on secondary causes, and therefore on transformational process and not on origins. For Darwin miracles were totally irrelevant and in no way constituted a providential means of divine action. Darwin’s emphasis on the development of species by chance variation and natural selection set biology in a context that eliminated purpose and rationality, two essentials in any discussion of a personal creator. The end of the nineteenth century saw the rejection of theological providence and the victory of positivistic scientism. Although Darwin himself had clung to an attenuated theism, his successors completed the total disjunction of scientific concerns from theological and religious referents.

What followed in reaction to the naturalistic view of origins was a variety of theological correlations of science and religion: deistic evolution placed God transcendently at the beginning of the developmental process but excluded all miraculous divine activity; pantheistic evolution viewed the evolution of nature and man as an aspect of the divine life; theistic evolution distinguished God from nature and emphasized both transcendence and immanence but minimized the miraculous in deference to continuity and process. These theories, in turn, subdivided into still other philosophic forms; reflecting personalism, panpsychism, process metaphysics, and other perspectives, each sought to vindicate a role that connects divine creativity with scientific explanation of the universe, so that evolutionary process in time overshadowed confidence in an original or intermediate creation. As the transcendent miracle-working God was made to retreat, the various correlations of evolution with theism tended to give way to naturalistic evolution, since deity’s function in the ongoing process was little more than semantic or simply lent a mystical aura of benevolence and fortuity.

Since God was said to fulfill his cosmic purposes by secondary natural laws, the hypothesis of theistic evolution encouraged more and more scientists to pursue all empirical research on atheistic premises, and to leave theistic claims simply to private faith (cf. Ronald L. Numbers, Creation by Natural Law). The marriage of theism and evolution seemed more and more incompatible; in a nontheistic universe evolution appeared able to account for all phenomena, whereas to achieve his aims God, if he existed, had no absolute need of a naturalistic mechanism.

Gillespie recognizes the influence of the two conflicting epistemic principles, positivism and creationism, in shaping the outcome of the evolution controversy in Darwin’s day; this conflict of naturalistic and theistic world life views still permeates the debate. Darwin prized theism, as Gillespie notes, for its assurance that “the laws of nature and the universe which they described were a genuine world,” something that “positivism alone” could not demonstrate (Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation, p. 145). Although the natural laws formulated by positivistic science cannot account for the origin of the universe, Darwin seemed to be unaware that the pursuit of external natural causes to explain the universe had replaced one metaphysical view with another. And his positivistic contemporaries never dreamed that their enthroned empirical methodology would soon put in question the very claims that laboratory researchers had elevated to scientific orthodoxy.

Christian theologians and scientists have always resisted naturalistic evolution. In trying to merge the teaching of Genesis with the premises of evolutionary science, both Roman Catholic and Protestant scholars have given wide support to theistic evolution; orthodox evangelical scholars have continued to insist, however, that the formation of Adam in the divine image is a de novo creation and involves no dependence upon prior animal life.

Most of the 1200 members of the evangelically oriented American Scientific Affiliation affirm a theistic evolutionary harmonization of the days of Genesis with evolutionary ages; they nonetheless place the sovereign Creator-God at the beginning of the process, insist on his transcendent creation of new families or kinds of life, and usually affirm a discontinuity of the developmental process in the appearance of homo sapiens (cf. Russell L. Mixter, ed., Evolution and Christian Thought Today).

In secular circles where scientists have tended to promote evolutionary theory without theological referents the big-bang theory has revitalized interest in theistic evolution. Big-bang cosmology does not require either divine origin of the so-called fireball or divine governance of the cosmic explosion it supposedly precipitated. But to correlate big-bang cosmology with Genesis 1 implies theistic evolution as an explanation of the orderly expansion of the universe.

There is a second evangelical response to Darwinian evolution, however, one that denies to empirical science the right to elucidate the content of the Genesis account of creation; it insists, rather, that the sense of the narrative is properly derived from historico-grammatical exegesis alone and independently of scientific consensus or philosophical conjecture. Unlike many of the members of the American Scientific Affiliation, an alternative group of evangelical scientists in Creation Research Society, some seven hundred of whose members hold postgraduate degrees, contends that theistic evolution is scientifically unjustifiable and involves needless compromise of premises integral to the Genesis creation account. Creation Research Society rejects also the big-bang theory because it implies theistic evolution rather than fiat creation.

The main point of difference in theistic theories of origin concerns the recency or antiquity of the earth’s beginnings. Proponents of “scientific creationism” insist that the earth and all living things were created during the six successive twenty-four-hour days at the commencement of a timespan that goes back no more than 10,000 to 15,000 years. The entire work of creation, they insist, was finished in a single week of seven standard solar days, each day marked by one complete rotation of the earth.

An ironic development has been the discovery that the age of rocks on the earth is not much less than that of quasars; whether one follows big-bang cosmology or six-day creationism the earth is almost as old as cosmic energy. Big-bang cosmologists regard the universe as perhaps 18 billion years old, whereas six-day creationists consider its age to be little more than 10,000 years old.

We tend to speak of things millions and billions of years ago, say creationists, as if we were all but there, and as if no colossal assumptions are involved, assumptions that are quite capable of being wrong or even inverted. Scientists are continually changing their views of both the age and size of the universe. Across a span of twenty years astronomers have doubled the size of the observed universe from five to ten billion light-years; 25 percent of the increase occurred in the short six-year period from 1964 to 1971 through revision of an earlier estimate of about eight billion light-years. Some astronomers still place the big bang eighteen million years ago; the most recently identified galaxies—whose light is estimated to take six billion years to reach the earth—are said to reach back halfway. Adding to the confusion is the fact that a supposed miscalculation has led some astronomers to cut in half the age of the universe from eighteen billion to nine billion years.

Six-day creationists point also to revisions in dating techniques not to mention the limitations of such methods. In corrections of the first edition (1955) of his Radiocarbon Dating, Willard F. Libby notes unresolved difficulties. Although the present method is held to be reliable for computing from a few hundred to more than 30,000 years, the previously used black carbon method is now considered obsolete. Libby contends that the weight of confirmatory evidence makes erroneous computation a low possibility (ibid., p. 147); contamination of curatorial samples remains a problem (ibid., p. 44).

But evolutionists maintain that dating procedures for the universe establish beyond any doubt that the cosmic processes now in operation go back billions of years. A gross error, even of a few billion years, or even of the magnitude indicated by Hubble, they say, does not change the basic requirement of an earth vastly older than that indicated by six-day creationists. The quantitative discrepancies over datings projected by evolutionists run twofold or less; those required by “creation science” involve differences varying up to 100,000-fold.

It should be pointed out that the doctrine of the recency of the universe, in contrast to modern scientific views of its staggering antiquity, was the view not only of Christians generally but of most people, including scientists, before the nineteenth century. Augustine’s view, that Genesis is compatible with a theory of successive chronological ages, is very much the exception. It is fair to say that six-day creationists, and not theistic evolutionists, reflect what may be taken as the Christian tradition before the rise of modern science, and that theistic evolution represents an adaptation of the traditional view.

Creation doctrine has taken several forms. Some expositors eager for harmony with contemporary science differ little if at all from versions of theistic evolution that give full scope to the miraculous in expounding the creation-days or ages of Genesis. Progressive creationism, a view popular among many evangelical scientists, can therefore also be considered a variety of theistic evolution, yet one which holds that major steps in developmental advance have resulted from fiat creation that sporadically penetrated long ages of comparatively gradual change.

So-called scientific creationists insist that a literal twenty-four-hour day interpretation of the Genesis creation account is fully compatible with the assured results of modern science (cf. Henry M. Morris, et al., A Symposium on Creation). Henry M. Morris, a founder of the Creation Research Society, contends in The Genesis Record that many of the generally accepted views of science are too ill-founded to warrant our disavowing the Genesis account.

Scientific creationists are charged with going beyond the express teaching of Genesis in some respects and of violating established scientific results in others. The divine creation of millions of species of life, say critics, is required not by the Genesis account per se, which speaks rather of the creation of “kinds” or broad families, but rather by insistence on literal twenty-four-hour creation days. In Bernard Ramm’s view root-species were divinely created but change and development have occurred through evolution. The Institute for Creation Research (composed of scientific creationists) allows for genetic variation, but charges that contemporary scientists use the term far too loosely when they speak of creating new “species” of life; species in the biblical intention, they point out, tend to revert to type when crossbred. The reply to this charge, in turn, is that the paleontological or fossil record evidences life forms reaching back millions of years and contradicts dating species as of recent origin. But, say creationists, the “differences, discrepancies and discontinuities” in historical geology are so extensive that no scientific certainties exist to invalidate the premise of a 6000-year-old universe.

This controversy has led to an emphasis now sometimes called “apparent age” creationism, since creationists contend that organic life and even inorganic minerals were divinely created with an apparent, or appearance of, age (cf. John C. Whitcomb, Jr. and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood, p. 233). As Frank L. Marsh tells us, Adam presumably was created “a mature man at least in his twenties, a man of marriageable age. Fruit bearing trees appeared … several years old. The great aquatic animals … appeared to be sixty to one hundred years old. And the … landscape … appeared to be millions of years old” (Life, Man and Time, p. 69).

The argument that God created Adam with a navel, so that Adam though miraculously made, gave the appearance of physical birth, dates back to Philip Henry Gosse (Ompholos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot). This approach was extended and applied to the origin of trees that from the first moment of creation would exhibit apparent annual growth rings; indeed bark and green leaves, ordinarily dependent on chlorophyll, would be an aspect of created tree life. After all, say more serious champions of the view, rings are an integral aspect of trees; to associate tree rings only with an aging process is a purely human decision; what’s more, the modern correlation of datings with periods of billions of years in the past is also simply a human determination.

Though at first glance such projections may seem ludicrous, the question whether the first trees had rings, or whether Adam and Eve were created with a navel, is not at all in a class with the question, “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” Navel or no navel, Adam was a man, not a baby, and even if created a baby, the baby would look as if he had been born. Even Bertrand Russell acknowledged that nobody can “prove to me that the universe wasn’t created a second ago with its built-in narrative memories.”

“What kind of a Creator,” asks Isaac Asimov, in referring to the apparent age theory, “would produce a universe containing so intricate an illusion?… It would mean that the Creator … supplied human beings with an enormous amount of subtle and cleverly consistent evidence designed to mislead them and cause them to be convinced that the universe was created 20 billions of years ago and developed by evolutionary processes.… Can it be that the Creator is a cruel and malicious prankster, with a vicious and adolescent sense of humor?” (“The ‘Threat’ of Creationism,” p. 96). To this line of argument six-day creationists reply that God is not a prankster but the Creator of humans who in their rebellious condition reason illogically, refuse to take seriously the doctrine of creation, and impute their own stupidity to God.

But Warren Johns notes appropriately enough that “there is no explicit scriptural support for appearance-of-age creationism; its only support lies in the mind of the biblical exegete who wishes to harmonize the Bible record with the findings of geology indicating a longer time period than six thousand years. It often confuses the issue of what God could do with what God did do” (“Strategies for Origins,” p. 28).

Some fiat creationists hold that modern radiometric dating methods should not quickly be rejected out of hand. The antiquity of inorganic minerals they correlate with the possibility that the earth existed in a moonlike condition for some 4.5 billion years before the Creator—in the relatively recent past—created all living forms of life. Yet in dating any past living form some fiat creationists accept no date beyond 10,000 or in some cases perhaps 15,000 years. All members of the Creation Research Society and constituents of the Institute for Creation Research appeal to the Noahic flood, which they consider worldwide, to account for almost all geological phenomena including the fossil record.

Some creationists who insist on origin of the universe in six successive twenty-four-hour days make a major concession to the scientific demand for the earth’s antiquity by inserting geological history between the opening verses of Genesis, that is, between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:3. Unless one dismisses scientific datings as wrong and opts instead for the divinely given “appearance of age” in a 6000-year-old earth, it becomes necessary to invoke catastrophe to compress the geological record. Supporters of the so called gap theory argue that Genesis 1:2 refers to a destruction of the primal creation; the subsequent six-day activity of Genesis 1, they say, involves a relatively recent recreation of the original universe that existed billions of years ago. To support their view the “catastrophists,” as they are sometimes called, invoke the fact that Genesis begins with a statement about a transition from an undifferentiated state (“the earth was formless and empty,” Genesis 1:2, niv) to a comprehensively ordered universe. Genesis 1:1–2, they contend, depicts a primal creation engulfed by a prehistoric fall; the remainder of that chapter portrays God’s recreation of the despoiled earth and of man.

But if this interpretation is correct, then Genesis records two beginnings but no significant account of creation. The catastrophe theory has many difficulties, moreover, on scientific no less than on theological grounds. The attempt to connect the fall of Lucifer and of rebellious angels (Isa. 14:12) with a prehistorical, pre-Adamic fall and with judgment upon a primal creation had some support among nineteenth-century Christians through the influence of G. H. Pember (Earth’s Earliest Ages); in the twentieth century it was popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible and by Harry Rimmer (Modern Science and the Genesis Record) but today it has no following except in a few Bible schools and churches. It rests upon contrived Bible exegesis and interpretation (cf. Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture, pp. 199 ff.).

Besides the gap theory there have been several other proposals that correlate the six literal creation days with evidences for the apparent antiquity of the universe. One such theory projects numerous creations, each one followed by a catastrophe; the latest of these creations is identified with the most recent recreation of the universe, that recorded in Genesis 1. Georges Cuvier, the noted paleontologist, and the naturalist Louis Agassiz, who projected the theory of ice ages, were the first ones to consider earth history as a succession of catastrophes involving massive destruction of plant and animal life, each catastrophe being followed in turn by a new creation. Noah’s flood, considered to be the last of the global catastrophes, was not, however, followed by a new act of cosmic creation.

An alternative theory, sometimes called the “multiple-gap theory,” regards the creation days as twenty-four-hour days in which each new stage in the origin of the world and of man results from the transcendent activity of God; every creation day is separated from the next by whatever time periods may prove to have been the case. In short, while the Genesis account leaves room, it is said, for whatever process and development actually occurred during whatever timespans may have been required, the creation acts themselves depicted by Genesis are the miraculous activity of the Creator; he is the sovereign source of the pattern of creation, of its distinctive levels of being, and of its qualitatively different “kinds” or orders of life (cf. “Science and Religion,” pp. 278 ff.). The difficulties of the multiplegap theory are that Genesis does not distinguish the antiquity of the world from the creation days nor does it locate geological periods between the days. Futhermore, the same difficulties confront this view as well as the geological-age theory in regard to the chronological sequence of creation events; there is the problem, too, that the multiple-gap theory requires the simultaneous fashioning of man and all animal forms.

The difficulty that the Genesis account of the third-day creation of plants raises for an age theory is not simply that of the later appearance of solar light, but the problem of symbiosis as well, that is, of a mutually beneficial relationship between different kinds of life. While the problem of light is moderated by the big-bang insistence on primeval nonsolar light, plants cannot do without energy in forms that they can use. While in principle plants can adapt, high temperature energy would destroy them. Reproduction of some plant species depends on the habits of certain birds or insects and some birds eat only insects. Yet birds were not created until the fifth day (1:20 ff.) and insects until the sixth (1:24 f.). Unless very different life and reproductive patterns prevailed, such phenomena can be reconciled far more readily with a literal-day than an age-theory of creation.

Despite its multiple meanings even in Genesis 1:1–2:4, six-day creationists do not believe the Hebrew word yom implies six geological ages of indeterminate duration; such meaning would only have confused readers prior to modern scientific times. The twenty-four-hour-day view, they argue, is much more compatible with the surface sense of “evening and morning” days. Yet even within the report of the six days the term day has no fully consistent chronological value (cf. 1:3, 5, 19). To be sure, “day” and “night” are most often used in a way that refers most naturally to a twenty-four-hour light and darkness period; Genesis 1:14, in fact, expressly distinguishes days from seasons and years. But the light source of Genesis 1:3 is clearly distinct from that mentioned in Genesis 1:14. Although periods of alternating light and darkness (1:4–5) and cycles of “evening and morning” (1:5, 8, 13) precede the creation of the sun and moon on the fourth day, it is gratuitous to insist that twenty-four-hour days are involved or intended. In testimony at the Scopes trial even William Jennings Bryan thought it doubtful that “day” in the Genesis creation account “necessarily means a twenty-four-hour day”; he personally, in fact, thought the days were periods and emphasized that “it would be just as easy for the kind of God we believe in to make the earth in six days or in 6 million years or in 600 million years.”

In principle, the multiple-gap view distinguishes successive periods inaugurated by sporadic divine transcendent creation within a comprehensive process in which divine activity functions only immanently. As an alternative to theistic evolution and to recent creationism Albert C. Newman and Herman J. Eckelmann, Jr. propose a “modified intermittent-day” view that considers each of the days as the beginning of a creative period (Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth). In their scheme the sixth-day period accommodates the later appearance of man among the animals. This view avoids conferring finality on contemporary scientific datings but differs from so-called scientific creationism by not insisting on the recency of the earth; it insists only, as does Scripture, that the pattern of the universe and its graded orders of being are the transcendent work of God, achieved with or without the use of secondary causes. Other creationist theories presume to tell us the age of the earth, and insist upon its recency, claiming that the Bible specifically teaches a young earth.

Once the further step is taken of scattering God’s creative acts throughout geological ages, whether in the same or some other sequence as in the six creation days, we approximate theories of theistic evolution that insist upon miraculous divine intervention in an evolutionary process, at least at some stages of it in the long ages of geological time. Progressive creationism, as Bernard Ramm expounds it in The Christian View of Science and Scripture, insists that the order within the fossil record is not one of chance but of divine design, even though its sequence cannot be equated with the chronology of Genesis; the Genesis sequence, as far as that goes, is considered visionary and not historical. Yet even so eminent a scholar as W. F. Albright views the “sequence of creative phases” in Genesis to be “so rational that modern science cannot improve on it”; on the other hand, “modern scientific cosmogonies show a disconcerting tendency to be short lived,” Albright says, “and it may be seriously doubted whether science has yet caught up with the biblical story” (“The Old Testament and Archaeology,” p. 135). Davis A. Young insists that the correlation of the geological record with the order of events in Genesis is entirely possible on the day age theory approach (Creation and the Flood; An Alternative to Flood Geology and Theistic Evolution).

Warren H. Johns has helpfully compared and contrasted various creationist and evolutionary theories as to how they deal with the theme of transcendent divine activity and what scope they give to a literal understanding of the Genesis account (“Strategies for Origins,” pp. 26–28). Deistic and theistic evolutionists, for example, subscribe to the Bible’s insistence that God is Creator, but leave to science the description of how God created; that is, they both espouse an evolutionary process of natural selection and chance variation, although theists adjust evolution in various ways to divine intervention. Creationist theories accept as literally true both the days of creation and the transcendent activity of the Creator that attaches to each species a unique character. Followers of so-called progressive creationism and concordism, on the other hand, view the six days of Genesis symbolically, as representing lengthy geological ages. An essential turning point, observes Johns, is that while creationists insist that the Bible is not a textbook on science, they nonetheless maintain that it implies a philosophy of science and that it includes, even if in nontechnical terms, doctrinal teaching of scientific relevance and importance (ibid., p. 27).

Richard Niessen, a spokesman for scientific creationists, lists twenty-nine divergences between evolutionary theory and theistic creationism (“Significant Discrepancies Between Theistic Evolution and the Bible,” Christian Research Society Quarterly, pp. 220 ff.)



1.    Space, time and matter are eternal.

1.    The space-time universe is not eternal (Gen. 1:1–3; Heb. 1:2).

2.    Primal atmosphere gradually changed from reducing to oxidizing type.

2.    Atmosphere was created quickly and is always essentially the same (Gen. 1:6 ff.).

3.    Plant life produced the atmosphere.

3.    The atmosphere preceded plant life (Gen. 1:6–12).

4.    Life initially evolved in the sea, then moved to land.

4.    Life was created on land before life (Gen. 1:11–13, 20–23).

5.    There is continuity between all plant life.

5.    Plants were created as distinct “kinds” (Gen. 1:11 f.).

6.    Plants evolved gradually.

6.    Plants were originally created bearing seed and fruit (Gen. 1:11 f.).

7.    Simple creatures emerged into complex animals.

7.    Highly developed mammals preceded so-called lower forms (Gen. 1:21).

8.    Reptiles evolved into birds.

8.    Creation of birds antedated creeping things.

9.    All animal development shows continuity.

9.    Species and kinds of animals are distinct creations (Gen. 1:21).

10.    Ape-like animals and man are similar.

10.    Man is a uniquely created kind (Gen. 1:24–27).

11.    Fossil records show that death prevailed naturally from the outset of life.

11.    Death is a consequence of the Fall.

12.    Man developed in the image of the apes.

12.    Man was created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26 f.).

13.    Evolutionary process covers billions of years.

13.    Creation occurred in six literal 24 hour days.

14.    Evolution is a continuing present day process.

14.    God has rested from his work of creation (Gen. 2:1–3).

15.    The present is the key to the past (uniformitarianism).

15.    God’s activity is repetitive but also miraculous (Gen. 1, 2, 6–8).

16.    Early animals were carnivorous.

16.    Early animals were herbivorous (Gen. 1:29 f.).

17.    Rain has always been a cosmic phenomenon.

17.    There was no rain prior to the Noahic Flood (Gen. 2:5 f.; Heb. 11:7).

18.    Man emerged from a lower animal.

18.    Man was divinely formed from dust (Gen. 2:7).

19.    Man is a living animal that acquired a complex psyche.

19.    The first man was a nonliving entity into which God breathed life (Gen. 2:7).

20.    No primal individual can be singled out as Adam.

20.    Adam was a specific individual whom mankind derives (1 Chron. 1:1; Luke 3:38).

21.    Agriculture is a late development in human history

21.    Adam tended the Garden (Gen. 2:9 ff.) and Cain was a farmer (Gen. 4:2).

22.    Language was a gradual development.

22.    Man was endowed with language as a divine gift (Gen. 2:18–24).

23.    Adam’s psyche was essentially like that of higher animals.

23.    Man is physically and emotionally incompatible with animals (Gen. 2:20).

24.    Woman, like man, evolved from an animal ancestry.

24.    Eve was made by a direct divine act of special creation (Gen. 2:21 ff.).

25.    Marriage is a culturally-developed institution.

25.    Monogamous marriage was divinely instituted (Gen. 2:24).

26.    Man has existed only during the last 1/200th of the timespan of animal existence.

26.    Man has existed almost from the beginning of organic life on earth (Matt. 19:4; Rom. 1:20).

27.    The Garden of Eden is a myth.

27.    The Garden of Eden was a literal place.

28.    Cain and Abel were mythical persons.

28.    Cain and Abel were historical persons.

29.    Early man was quite primitive and technologically immature.

29.    Early civilizations arose within a few centuries of Adamic creation by means of relatively advanced technology (Gen. 4:21 ff.).

Niessen has here identified important conflict areas in the contemporary debate between creationists and evolutionists. Fundamentally at stake is a struggle between biblical theism and scientific naturalism. One approach places at the beginning of all finite existence the living God who by his sovereign fiat fashioned out of nothing and in an orderly way the space time universe in which man specially bears the image of his Maker for a unique life and destiny. The other affirms that in the beginning there existed some elemental form of space-time-matter, or perhaps hydrogen gas, or an infinitely dense fireball, from which evolved the planets and stars and all plant and animal life including man.

To be sure, the theistic alternative has taken various forms. Theists who do not hold to divine creation in six successive twenty-four-hour days would insist on certain modifications in Niessen’s summary. The Institute for Creation Research, for example, is noncommittal on the question whether creation occurred in actual or in “symbolic” twenty-four-hour days. Many Christians, moreover, see no need for immediately identifying the “kinds” of created life mentioned in Genesis with the millions of existing “species,” an identification more necessary to the twenty-four-hour creation day hypothesis than strict exegesis requires and, in fact, one not even technically essential by the former.

The fact is that neither theistic evolution nor scientific creationism has significantly influenced the reigning scientism in American education. However much the Gallup Poll may indicate that most Americans believe in a personal deity of sorts, and that God in some nebulous way is creator of all, it is secular humanism that nonetheless most readily influences the public schoolroom and does so in a way that promotes evolutionary theory devoid of any theological referent. While many denominational colleges may retain loose religious connections they quite often give God short shrift in science courses; even in religion courses the deity at times ekes out an uncomfortable existence.

While distinctly evangelical institutions preserve a more vital role for God in their classrooms, that role is often defined less precisely in the sciences than in other disciplines. In fact, two significant mindsets now characterize the evangelical academic stance vis-à-vis today’s regnant evolutionary ideology. On the one hand, many evangelical colleges that for generations have heralded exposition of a Christian worldlife view as their major distinctive, have sidestepped open conflict with evolutionary theory to preserve secular educational respectability. In discussing theism and evolution, their interest has centered more on reconciliation than on critical analysis and evaluation. (Seventh Day Adventist colleges and universities are an exception.) An appraisal by Albert J. Smith shows that no well-defined institutional stand exists even among schools in the Christian College Consortium other than to emphasize man’s special origin and dignity and God as Creator; while ethical factors may be stressed, scientific debate is definitely avoided (“Creationism and Evolutionism As Viewed in Consortium Colleges,” pp. 5 f.). Smith’s conclusion is that alongside their desire to avoid dogmatism most evangelical colleges interpret “the belief that all truth is God’s truth” to imply that “science is a valid source of revelation.… Instructors insist on a personal God who is creator and sustainer in a manner largely unknown but somewhat revealed in nature through science.” Professors are inclined “to present all viewpoints with or without the personal testimony of the instructor.… Students are encouraged to make up their own minds.” The verdict seems unavoidable that such a stand or nonstand can hardly hope to articulate a Christian worldlife view that significantly illumines the current debate over evolutionary theory. Such disengagement, moreover, compromises the larger academic duty, namely, that of compellingly expounding the Christian alternative to the secular world of learning.

On the other hand, the Creation Research Society, which espouses literal six-day creationism, and the Institute for Creation Research, which considers twenty-four-hour day creation an “open question,” have actively challenged the teaching only of evolution in public schools. Fully aware that the argument for theistic evolution has exerted little influence on the naturalistic climate of contemporary learning, they formulate their challenge not in terms of evolution with a qualifying adjective but in terms of theistic creation as the viable alternative to naturalism.

The creation-evolution conflict in public schools centers in the tendency of educators to present evolution as valid scientific truth, that is, as established dogma, and creation as myth. In April, 1980, the Iowa Academy of Science declared that ” ‘Creationism’ is … ‘religious’ metaphor clothed as ‘scientific fact’ ” and depicted evolution as “consistent with the weight of demonstrable evidence.” Creationists object to the public schoolroom teaching of evolution as a scientifically demonstrated dogma rather than as a theoretical model or empirical theory projected by scientists. Such inculcation of metaphysical belief, creationists contend, involves not only teaching a particular ontology that escapes being identified as a religion, but also propagating humanism, and of doing so, moreover, at government expense.

Humanistic educators who had long opposed the public school teaching of biblical creationism on the ground that separation of church and state excludes religious indoctrination, now suddenly found themselves open to the same objection in their teaching of evolutionary philosophy. Just as evolutionists fifty years ago complained that the dominant culture of that day disallowed teaching any alternative to creationism, so creationists today protest that evolutionists disallow teaching any metaphysical alternative to evolution, and supernatural creation especially.

Humanistic educators and the secular media have caricatured courtroom challenges to public schoolroom indoctrination in evolution as a revival of the 1925 “Scopes trial.” The issues are different, however. Scopes was fined for breaking the law by teaching evolution in the classroom; the charge today is that humanists break the intent of the law by suppressing creationism but promoting evolution. The controversy has at least focused national attention on the fact that humanistic educators tend to regard evolution as validated belief; so deep is their antagonism to biblical cosmology that they object to presenting theistic creation in the classroom even as a theory.

Refusal of many biology teachers to mention biblical creation even as an alternative to evolutionary origins led in 1981 to a California court challenge by creationists that resulted in changing the method of teaching evolutionary theory to one with “undogmatic” intent. Since that time legislation has been introduced in at least fifteen states, with varying results, to rectify present instructional imbalances. Creationists have not tried to ban the teaching of evolution, they have not sought “equal time” or even theological exposition of Genesis in science classes; they have asked simply that creation be presented as an alternative “model.” Wendell R. Bird questions the constitutionality of teaching only one view and no other (“Freedom from Establishment and Unneutrality in Public School Instruction and Religious School Regulation,” pp. 125–205; cf. “Freedom of Religion and Science Instruction in Public Schools,” pp. 515–570). Besides such efforts the Creation Science Research Center is considering seeking a Supreme Court verdict on whether the teaching of evolution in public schools violates the First Amendment by promoting a secular humanist religion. Some creationists contend that public schoolroom teaching of evolution both “establishes” a religion, in violation of the Constitution’s nonestablishment clause, and also violates guarantees of the individual’s right to practice a preferred religion.

Some humanists insist that theories like Darwinism which involve no theistic referent do not violate the First Amendment; they consider creationism such a violation, however, for they regard it as a religious theory or religious instruction. This maneuver to force creationists to prove that creationism is a nonreligious theory—a futile prospect—has not obscured the fact that evolutionary humanism is no less a metaphysical theory; its propagation in the public schoolroom would therefore violate the nonestablishment clause. The fact is that evolutionary humanism is a more rigid orthodoxy than is biblical religion: while professing to be empirically neutral it often views any who challenge its dogmas as heretics and tries to silence them as academic illiterates. Restrictions and prohibitions placed on the classroom teaching of some creationists and actual dismissal of others from their teaching positions, have aggravated the creation-evolution controversy. In most public schools evolution is taught as fact; it is presented as a prestigious, consistent, scientifically supported view, and one to which no challenge or alternative is offered, and in many cases even permitted. What kind of academic freedom is it, ask creationists, that requires exposing classroom students to evolutionary science but not to theistic creation except as it surfaces in the nation’s charter political documents?

It is significant that the public challenge to secular humanism did not come from within the traditional evangelical colleges, many of them given to rather ambiguous and tolerant correlation of evolution with some basic theistic fundamentals. Nor did it stem from within the American Scientific Affiliation, most of whose members are theistic evolutionists, and many of whom teach in secular colleges and universities as well as in religious colleges. It was primarily evangelical scientific creationists, who insist that creation be taken more seriously than merely as an effort to correlate Genesis and evolution, who turned public attention on the classroom inculcation of evolution as a fact, and in an academic milieu, moreover, that while requiring the teaching of evolution disallows the teaching of creation. The fact is that a number of secular scientists are now asking more pointed questions about Darwinian evolution than are faculties in some church related colleges.

The creationist counterattack shows less interest in reconciling science and religion than in exposing far-reaching philosophical and worldlife differences that inhere in the alternatives of naturalism and creationism. Donald Oppewal’s evaluation of biology textbooks used by more than 50 percent of American high school students—volumes produced with public funding under National Science Foundation grants at a cost of $7 million—shows the viewpoint of these texts to be clearly antitheistic (“Humanism as the Religion of Public Education: Textbook Evidence,” pp. 7 ff., 31 f.). Evolution is considered established fact; the key premises, taught not as theory but as dogma, are “origination of the universe and earth through natural processes, naturalistic development of life from non-life, evolution of present living forms through mutation and natural selection, and evolution of human beings from ancestry common with apes.” As textbook evidence cited by Oppewal shows, secular humanism pervades much of the instructional curriculum in American public schools. Oppewal warns against shaping national perspective by indoctrinating young people with humanist beliefs, especially the view that values have no permanent and universal normativity but are grounded in and limited to a specific and changing culture.

What is widely overlooked today is that a worldview based on naturalistic evolution can provide no reasonable foundation for either the universality or the permanence of human rights; it was precisely such naturalistic theory that underlay the Nazi repudiation of the inherited biblical morality of the West. It is well to recall that Hitler opposed Christianity, as Gilmer W. Blackburn remarks, because, despite the weakness of its churches, it resisted the exploitation, enslavement and elimination of presumably “inferior” races (“The Portrayal of Christianity in the History Textbooks of Nazi Germany,” p. 345). Hitler’s program aimed at destroying especially the Confessional Churches, a major means toward that end being the denial to the churches of any role in educating the younger generation. While Germany’s National Socialist schoolrooms ignored Christianity in the lower grades, they attacked it in the upper levels and promoted social Darwinism. Medieval, Reformation and early German history were rewritten to show that the ideas of self-abnegation and love for all mankind are what had weakened German genius. Anti-Semitic spokesmen castigated Christians for worshiping the same God revered by Jews. Hermann Rauschning recalls Hitler’s comment: “The Ten Commandments have lost their validity.… Providence has ordained that I should be the greatest liberator of humanity.… We must trust in our instincts.” The emphasis on “a tremendous revolution in moral ideas and in man’s spiritual condition,” notes Rauschning, was a major part of Hitler’s rhetoric (The Voice of Destruction, pp. 24, 222).

History as studied in the German schools, Blackburn points out, “served a metaphysical purpose, and those who prepared the history textbooks served as priests of the Nazi Weltanschauung, a creed whose basic tenet, whether pseudo or real, repudiated the anthropological unity of the human race. Such a repudiation was compatible with the Nazis’ hierarchical view of the races of mankind as well as a necessary prelude to the domination of the world by a superior species.… The new textbooks pressed adherents of the new Germanic creed into combat with those of the traditional faith” (“The Portrayal of Christianity in the History Textbooks of Nazi Germany,” p. 445).

This kind of academic conditioning of the young German mind by totalitarian atheists may illumine the incredulity experienced by author-humanist James A. Michener that “a nation that led the world in such thoughtful people and such intelligent people could go down the drain the way Germany did” (cf. Priscilla Lowell, “Michener in Maryland,” p. 4). In his autobiography Watergate prosecutor Leon Jaworski, who had also been chief prosecutor for the Nazi war crimes trials, details how in the land of Luther “seemingly God-fearing, well-meaning humans,” once they neglected spiritual commitments, eagerly gave themselves to Nazi nationalism and deteriorated into “vicious beasts” (Crossroads, p. 208).

It would be odious, of course, to see in the present creation-evolution controversy focused on textbooks in the American public schools any parallel that misrepresents the stance of American politics as deliberately totalitarian, that depicts the scientific establishment as anti-Christian, or that labels the evangelical community as antiscientific. The controversy over creation history does, however, involve highly conflicting worldviews and values. It is accelerated, moreover, by debatable notions as that quasi-official secular humanism is the preferred classroom position in a nation that observes separation of church and public institutions, or that creation-doctrine has no place in public learning because of the assumed scientific factuality of the evolutionary alternative. Insisting that no intellectual basis exists for presenting creation doctrine in science courses and that evolution alone has scientific validity, humanists dismiss supernatural creationism as archaic legend; creationists meanwhile dismiss naturalistic evolution as mere myth. The century that opened with a World War to make our planet safe for democracy has climaxed in an intellectual assault to make the universities a breeding ground of positivistic prejudices and to make them unsafe for supernatural theism. The American Declaration of Independence has powerful world relevance through its theistic presuppositions; its insistence on inalienable rights with which the Creator has endowed mankind cannot effectively survive, however, in an academic milieu that presents Creator and creation as mythology.

The battle for scientific creationism, theistic evolution and other views of a supernatural origin of the universe may give the impression that interpretation of the Genesis account is in considerable disarray, and in some respects it is. For this reason a number of evangelicals engaged in science tend to speak of God only as the Who of Genesis, or speak of “creation models” versus “evolution models” and thus treat all explanatory theory as tentative and revisable. While biblical hermeneutics should be ventured in humility and with full recognition that our understanding of Scripture is always subject to correction by Scripture, we should not forget that revealed religion claims to offer what empirical science does not, namely, a transcendent cognitive revelation that conveys at least some objective truth about origins, that is, information that is beyond the range of observational methodology. Nothing in the Bible presumes to offer scientific teaching on the basis of empirically validated hypothesis. The diversity of evangelical interpretation of the Genesis account stems largely from efforts to adjust the creation narrative to modern scientific theory. And because scientific explanation is tentative and revisable, such correlations of Scripture and science are likewise vulnerable to continuing change.

James R. Moore remarks that despite the passage of more than a century “the struggle to come to terms with Darwin has not ceased” (The Post Darwinian Controversies: A study of the Protestant struggle to come to terms with Darwin in Great Britain and America, 1870–1900, p. 351). While Moore writes about the role of “Christian Anti-Darwinism” (Charles Hodge), “Christian Darwinisticism” (Henry Drummond) and “Christian Darwinism” (Asa Gray), he makes no effort to characterize the present ambivalent situation.

Diversity today badgers not only evangelical interpretation of the creation account; it engulfs scientific evolutionism as well. Secular scholars are raising serious questions about the evolutionary hypothesis and challenging longstanding assumptions at the very heart of the theory. For Christians the issue remains one of scripturally attesting what the Creator has done, and not of attempting to correlate those representations with the claims of empirical science made in 1850 or 1900 or 1950 or even 2000. Science as a discipline, remarks Hooykaas, is far more embarrassed by its early history than is Christianity as a religion; scientific textbooks go out of fashion in less than a decade, but the Bible remains a best seller. In any event the very same data that science adduces can in theory always be reconciled with a case for creationist origins rather than for naturalistic evolution. But what, precisely, are the scientific unanimities with which a theology of origins must cope today?

Unlike mediating evangelicals who let evolutionary theory determine how Christian creationism should be adjusted, Cambridge anthropologist Edmund Leach, in his 1967 Reith Lectures, pleads with contemporary scientists to consciously and systematically tamper with nature and give it new direction. Instead of divine interventionism or determinate natural patterns, both of which he repudiates, Leach proposes dramatic interference by scientific humanists: “All of us need to understand,” he writes, “that God, or Nature, or Chance, or Evolution, or the Course of History, or whatever you like to call it, cannot be trusted anymore.… We must somehow see to it that the decisions which have long term consequences are taken by men who understand what they are doing …” (A Runaway World, p. 6). The displacement of “a benevolent personal deity called God by a benevolent impersonal deity called Evolution” (ibid., p. 5) needs now to be crowned, says Leach, by enthroning the omnicompetent scientific humanist. This scientific humanist must stand unapologetically ready to change the lifespan of individuals, to alter the genetic endowment of human beings, and to restructure the balance of competition between all living things.

By eliminating the six days of creation and the day of divine rest, scientific humanists consider themselves free to impose upon history a new purpose, to redirect the processes of nature and to manipulate the course of destiny. “One of our fundamental troubles,” Leach says, is that we think that “there is something intrinsically virtuous and natural about law and order” (ibid., p. 9), that the order of nature was “fixed once for all by a single act of divine creation which has ordained, from the start, that the human species should be uniquely different” (ibid., p. 11).

In place of Elohim who “said … and so it was” this modern man, like the Serpent in the garden, asks “hath God said?” (Gen. 3:1, kjv) and like Adam proposes to consume the tree of knowledge and to independently chart an ideal world of his own. Leach projects only its outlines, but what scientific humanism declares “good” is sufficiently disconcerting to suggest just how far-reaching is the projected inversion of the values that human civilization has esteemed thus far: “the family,” we are told, is “the source of all our discontents” rather than “the basis of a good society”; communal life may be preferable to monogamous family life (ibid., p. 45). “Morality is specified by culture,” says Leach (ibid., p. 48). “I do not think that anyone has yet met with a society in which it is considered proper for a man to have sex relations with his mother,” he adds, “but universal morality gets no farther than that” (ibid., p. 49).

The six days of creation here yield to the mirage of an apostate recreation, to the arrogance of a self-nominated creator whose vaunted new order can lead only to the dehumanizing of man. Leach’s rhetoric smacks of Hitler who declared the Decalogue no longer valid and himself “the greatest liberator of humanity.” Like Nazi totalitarianism such humanistic totalitarianism presages more than just the end of a great world power; it invites the self-destruction of all civilization.


The Crisis of Evolutionary Theory

Those who regard evolution as an intellectual fallout from the Christian view of origins, or as merely a speculative modern alternative to it, may be surprised that the theory reaches back to pre-Christian times. Evolution is a very ancient theory, one that has existed in many forms. Even today many scholars disagree over evolutionary explanations, and their divergencies continue to widen.

Already in the fifth century b.c. Empedocles declared earth, air, fire and water to be the primary elements, and Confucius held that all reality unfolded gradually from a simple single entity (cf. T. T. Chen, “Twenty-Five Centuries Before Darwin,” pp. 49–52). Some early Buddhist teachers as well believed that all living forms evolved from a prior unitary nature (cf. Ninian Smart, Doctrine and Argument in Indian Philosophy). Ancient Taoists denied “the fixity of biological species” (cf. Joseph Needham, “Science and Civilization in China”). Among early Greek philosophers Anaximander and Anaximenes held that the sun’s warmth generated all living forms by acting on a moist primeval element; Anaximenes believed, moreover, that plants, animals and humans were generated in that order (cf. Thomas A. Gouge, “Evolutionism,” p. 175).

Evolutionary naturalism was impeded and in fact arrested in the West for 2000 years, first by the Greek idealistic emphasis of Plato on the logical priority of mind and of Aristotle on the continuity of species, and then by Judeo-Christian theology which stressed supernatural creation ex nihilo. But modern philosophy of science, by diverting attention from special creation and miracle to natural processes, revived interest in the ancient theory of evolution. The modern evolutionary projections antedated Darwin. Hegel’s notion that all reality is a progressive externalization of the Absolute, a logical manifestation of the divine Mind (although Hegel seems to have denied biological evolution), appeared in the first half of the nineteenth century. So did the views of certain philosophical materialists who stood Hegelianism on its head and held instead that the mental and spiritual emerge from the physical. Yet, as Sir Peter Medawar observes, although evolutionary theory had been “adumbrated very many times … it was Darwin’s ability to propound an acceptable theory of how evolution might have come about that brought the subject into public discussion and extensive inquiry” (“Evolution,” p. 219). The “rational” form that Darwin gave to earlier evolutionary speculation lay in his asserted scientific verification that all complex species arise slowly by chance variation and natural selection from simpler forms.

Focusing on repetitive processes, geologists and paleontologists ascribed changes in the earth’s surface to uniformitarian factors rather than to the flood, insisted that the earth is much older than the commonly accepted date, and declared that the fossil record exhibits very ancient relics of even some now extinct species. Belief in progress that connected natural processes and human history with confidence in a gradually emanative utopia did much to accelerate acceptance of various evolutionary possibilities as a crown of man’s supposed emergence from the amoeba. Herbert Spencer, for example, viewed evolution as the law of universal development, an approach that borrowed from the biblical motif of the future triumph of the kingdom of God but denied the biblical insistence on man’s fall and need of redemptive renewal. This kind of speculative optimism encouraged the idea of upward progress even in evolutionary theory that banned God from any significant role in the cosmic process (cf. C. F. H. Henry, Remaking the Modern Mind, pp. 31 ff.).

Stephen Jay Gould observes that Darwin shunned such ready association of evolution with inevitable progress and in fact avoided use of the terms “higher” and “lower” in describing the structure of organisms (Ever Since Darwin. Some Reflections in Natural History, p. 13). Darwin interprets nature solely in terms of material forces. Evolution for him presupposes no cosmic purpose; mutation is directed to individual survival, not to progress. In short, Darwin considers evolutionary process to be purposeless and materialistic.

Current criticism of evolutionary theory by scientists no less than by theologians has opened a new chapter in creation-evolution discussion, particularly from the perspective of science. There is mounting interest in virtually all aspects of the Darwinian controversy. Recent attempts to correlate the big-bang theory with a theistic view of origins, and growing admission of extensive gaps in the fossil record that long was held to justify the theory of the gradual emergence of all complex forms from simpler forms, are but two noteworthy developments. Not only are theistic or naturalistic interpretations of commonly shared data in debate, but the very data themselves are also in dispute. Comprehensive cosmological theories are currently undergoing tension and change, and at numerous frontiers scientific inquiry is probing new alternatives to long entrenched dogmas.

Princeton scholar James E. Gunn comments on the “vastly different” conclusions concerning cosmology made by contributors to Cosmologie Physique (Roger Balian, Jean Audouze and David N. Schramm, eds., Amsterdam, North-Holland, 1980), an impressive work that surveys the unification schemes now projected on the early universe. The problem of divergency, Gunn observes, “pervades the field … and must account in large part for the fervor exhibited by many of the leading lights for their particular views” (“The Early Universe,” p. 154).

Aware of the weaknesses and contradictions of rival doctrines, scholars in earlier generations were far less enthralled by certain of these proposals than has been the present generation. Not a few of the “latest scientific insights” into the nature of reality contemporary writers flaunted as the grand achievement of modern learning prove on closer examination to be little more than restatements of anciently held theories. That the reigning resurrected dogmas are now again being called to account is a noteworthy sign of the times.

Jacques Monod, for example, refers the whole space-time universe to blind chance and in doing so recalls the dictum of Democritus that “everything that exists in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity.” Monod asserts: “Chance alone is at the source … of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, is at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution: this central concept of modern biology is no longer one among other possible or even conceivable hypotheses. It is today the sole conceivable hypothesis, the only one compatible with observed and tested fact” (Chance and Necessity, p. 110).

Richard Spilsbury rightly declares this to be merely “the statement of a Credo” (Providence Lost. A Critique of Darwinism, p. 115), and not a rationally credible one at that. Experimental research in molecular genetics which shows the random nature of different kinds of mutations—the only basis Monod offers for his judgment—”does not justify the dogmatic assertion that these constitute the only possible source of genetic variation. Even the confident belief that all inherited characters are transmitted by DNA may need qualification in the future” (ibid., p. 115).

For Spilsbury, Monod’s view is “not so much Neo-Darwinism as Neo-Lucretianism, or if one prefers, Democritean Darwinism” and implies for the religious domain “that the gods derive from certain formal myth-prescribing mutations in DNA at an early stage of human evolution. This is a neat reversal of the view that God made DNA.… Speaking of myths, it seems not unfair to describe this as a piece of molecular mythology, in all probability. To seek a molecular explanation of everything,” observes Spilsbury, “is the unique déformation professionnelle of the molecular biologist” (ibid., p. 120).

If man’s own thinking powers derive from random molecular events, then how, asks Spilsbury, do we achieve “true insight about our evolutionary past? By what process of ‘angelization’ could men have become cognizant of their random origins and spectators of all time and existence, as though from some superior and independent vantage-point? Do the Neo-Darwinians, like many other system-builders, desert the system of which they are the authors, claiming special cognitive principles that cannot be justified within the system?” (ibid., p. 116).

In brief, Spilsbury protests, neo-Darwinism ventures to invest DNA with transcendent powers, bestowing upon it “the status almost of a scientific ikon, representing the creative source of life … powers that exceed those of the most complex known physical system, the human brain” (ibid., p. 121). It requires a staggering inferential leap, he remarks, to ascribe to the innate mutability of the DNA molecule, aided by selection, the inexhaustible richness of life. “Never was so much owed to so little. In thus elevating one molecule above all others, Biochemistry has, as it were, reached the monotheistic stage of its development. This molecule is endowed, like God, with potential creative powers still greater than those exhibited in the realized world and the actualized evolutionary sequence.” Neo-Darwinism implies that through the random mutability of DNA different environmental conditions could by selection have resulted in “an unspecifiable variety of possible evolutions, of which the actually realized one is the one best adapted to the actually encountered conditions of life” (ibid., p. 121).

While positivists blatantly dismiss all interest in theistic creationism as unscientific and essentially irrational, the intellectual supports of the evolutionary theory they espouse instead are today being declared—and not least of all by competent scientists—as gravely deficient because of both theoretical and evidential inadequacies. E. F. Schumacher notes that hardly a glimmer of the present conflict being waged over evolution by scientists can be gleaned from the article on Evolution in the New Encyclopedia Britannica (1975). We read there simply that “… objections to evolution have come from theological and for a time, from political standpoints.” Schumacher asks: “Who would suspect, reading this, that the most serious objections have been raised by numerous biologists and other scientists of unimpeachable credentials?” (A Guide for the Perplexed, p. 114).

Not only theologians, and they often all too timidly, but also and especially philosophers and scientists, now express disenchantment over long-entrenched explanatory conceptions. Kenneth E. Boulding, president in 1978 of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has called for a massive reconceptualization of evolutionary dogma (Ecody-namics: A Theory of Societal Evolution). More and more scholars with little express religious interest are disputing the so-called closed case for evolution.

It is therefore deplorably inaccurate from the standpoint of science itself to champion evolutionary theory as an incontrovertibly established dogma that one questions only on religious grounds. The notion that deep doubts about evolutionary theory are confined to an enclave of fundamentalists who are “dying for the day” when Darwinism is discredited is sheer prejudice. To dismiss objections to evolutionary theory as a kind of vestigial reverence for the Bible, rather than to recognize legitimate scientific and philosophical countercriticism, betrays ignorance of the increasingly broad front of scientists who are boldly challenging long-regnant tenets of the theory. Some scholars, in fact, are questioning the entire evolutionary life sequence from amoeba to man because of unresolved theoretical inadequacies that have plagued the Darwinian hypothesis since its projection over a century ago. Darwinism, critics insist, has been too much represented as science when in truth it should be spoken of rather as metaphysics. Many theists claim, moreover, that evolutionism places a greater philosophical strain on reason than does creationism.

The German scholar Adolf Portmann declares evolution merely an explanatory model, and not at all an established dogma (Biologische Fragmenta zu einer Lehre vom Menschen, pp. 15 ff.). Karl Barth remarks that “the theologians … probably went too far in their basic recognition of the idea of evolution” and often went dogmatically beyond what even more cautious scientists were affirming; he also notes, however, that “the arrogant majority of the scientific confraternity” tended to stifle scientific dissent from their projections (Church Dogmatics, II/2, pp. 87 f.).

As a lawyer appraising the evidence, Norman Macbeth contends (Darwin Retried. An Appeal to Reason) that not even its most respected advocates present a well-supported case for Darwinian evolution. He notes not only the creeping doubts of Anglo-American scholars, but also the uncertainty of professional French, German and Russian biologists over the validity of classical Darwinism. The vast majority of French biologists still reject Darwinism; in the United States and in England new controversies about the theory show that evolutionists have failed to achieve universal synthesis or even consensus on many important aspects.

The philosopher Huston Smith writes of “rumblings in the very foundations of evolutionary theory … the most influential teaching of the modern age.” Neo-Darwinism he characterizes as “a theory that claims to explain while standing with one foot on tautology and the other in an explanatory void” and he declares the theory now to be “in trouble” (Beyond the Post-Modern Mind, p. 170).

Tom Bethell unhesitatingly declares Darwin’s theory to be “on the verge of collapse” (“Burning Darwin to Save Marx,” pp. 31–37, 91–92). Edward O. Wilson speaks of the theory’s “severe structural weaknesses” (quoted by Bethell, ibid., p. 92). John Hadd affirms the need of “a substantive alternative to traditionalist evolutionary doctrine” (Evolution: Reconciling the Controversy, p. 15) and projects, as in his earlier work (The Direct Connection: Rescue From Onrushing Global Catastrophe, pp. 93–101), a fresh look at the creation doctrine. John Davey reports that “orthodox Darwinism, the biological faith of our time, is … under siege from within the profession” (“What If Darwin Were Wrong?,” pp. C-1, C-3). The prestigious British Museum of Natural History recently drew fire from evolutionary hardliners when it issued a pamphlet that included the cautious wording, “if the theory of evolution is true.”

“Most scientists took the correctness of Darwinism to be axiomatic,” say Fred Hoyle and N. C. Wickramasinghe, “and they simply argued that any hypothesis needed to make Darwinism work had to be true” (Evolution from Space, p. 15). “Authors of texts in biology are often so convinced” that connections have been discovered between the higher taxonomic categories of plants and animals “that they cannot refrain from drawing an evolutionary tree with all the life-forms … derived by a system of branches from a single ancestral trunk. Indeed, if one believes in Darwinism it has to be so and in many peoples’ minds this puts the matter beyond all doubt” (ibid., p. 80). But “one should not be deceived” into thinking that such art work “proves the existence of an evolutionary tree. What is shown is that if a tree existed then it was like this” (ibid., p. 84). The diagrams of vertebrate evolution include “many divergences which have not been proved by the fossil record, so that if they occurred the transitions must … have been rapid. The diagrams are therefore highly conjectural.… Through the device of presenting such diagrams with the presumed connections drawn in firm solid lines … the general scientific world has been bamboozled into believing that evolution has been proved. Nothing could be further from the truth” (ibid., p. 87). “There are so many flaws in Darwinism,” Hoyle and Wickramasinghe add, “that one can wonder why it swept so completely through the scientific world, and why it is still endemic today” (ibid., p. 133).

University and college professors generally concede that many students voice personal doubts about evolutionary theory and that a vigorous minority still affirms belief in creationism. Most academicians tend to dismiss this fallout from evolutionary faith, as does paleobiologist Norman Oswell at the American Museum of Natural History, as a consequence of “naïveté, falsehood and pseudoscience” (“New Battle over Teaching of Evolution,” U.S. News and World Report, Vol. 86, No. 22, June 9, 1980, No. 22). Peter Medawar, the Nobel laureate in medicine, simply declares that “anti-evolution is of the same stature of flat-earthism.” The fact remains, however, that a growing circle of scholars candidly admit that evolutionary theory is beset by too many scientifically unfilled gaps to be accepted carte blanche. A recent poll indicates, moreover, that 57 percent of the older clergy in America and 70 percent of the younger clergy (ages 18 to 29) believe the Genesis account of the divine creation of Adam and Eve, as do 40 percent of the general public (G. Gallup, Jr. and D. Poling, The Search for America’s Faith, pp. 134 ff.).

Darwinian evolution arose in a highly charged philosophical atmosphere and many assumptions then taken for granted are now disputed. Michael Ruse reminds us, in fact, that the development of science has been conditioned as much by theological, philosophical and social beliefs and attitudes as by empirical data and consequent inferences (The Darwinian Revolution. Science Red in Tooth and Claw). Darwin was a deist when he wrote The Origin of Species and his religious views influenced his scientific perspective and conclusions. Even though Darwin resorted to ridicule to attack the doctrine of special creation, theological considerations colored his biological science, says Neal C. Gillespie, no less than they did that of his contemporaries (Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation). Confidence in divine special creation was yielding to origin by law that embraces transmutation, and Darwin therefore sought to adjust prevalent scientific theory to the widening abandonment of the idea of miracle.

Darwin assigned to natural selection the fundamental creative role in evolution. Evolution, he said, is a process of chance variation and natural selection; it involves small variations that precipitate the gradual appearance of new species and account for the disappearance of others.

By the early 1940s this theory had become firmly entrenched as the creed of modern evolutionary orthodoxy.

But during the past generation scientists representing different disciplines have increasingly questioned and criticized Darwinian theory until now a spirited challenge has emerged to its almost half-century dominance of evolutionary biology. The present-day revolt repudiates the so-called modern synthesis—a descriptive term used by Julian Huxley in 1942—which affirms that all species originate by a slow process contingent upon gradual genetic changes; natural selection, moreover, or the survival of variants best adapted to their environments, assertedly determines the direction of such change. The “modern synthesis,” John Davey notes, is “for a growing group of critics on both sides of the Atlantic … becoming an emperor who is actually wearing very few clothes” (“What If Darwin Were Wrong?,” p. C-3). Stephen Jay Gould, the Harvard fossil expert, has declared the synthesis “effectively dead.”

In what Science magazine calls “one of the most important conferences on evolutionary biology for more than 30 years,” held in Chicago in 1980, geologists, paleontologists, embryologists, molecular biologists, ecologists and population geneticists debated anew the mechanisms that underlie the origin of species and their supposed evolutionary relationships. Some observers declared the 1980 meeting “a turning point in the history of evolutionary theory.”

The Chicago conference refused to explain the origin of new species and higher taxonomic patterns—that is, macroevolution—by the principle of slow, gradual and almost imperceptible change long dominant in microevolution. More than a century after Darwin the sharply conflicting views now extend to the tempo of evolution, to the mode of change, and to limits on the physical form of new organisms.

The attack on entrenched evolutionary dogma is gaining a vehemence unprecedented since the turn of the century, with the noteworthy exception that today it is not theologians and clergy but rather scientists who are in its vanguard.

“It is not hard to find writings,” comment astronomers Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, “in which the myth is stated that the Darwinian theory of evolution is well proven by the fossil record” (Evolution from Space, p. 147). Paleontologists have for a century or more, they add, been confronted with evidence that the slow evolutionary connections projected by Darwin “did not happen.” Despite many acknowledgments of vast vacuums in the fossil record, paleontologists as the acknowledged experts “have not been able … to make much of an impression on consensus opinion” (ibid., p. 148). The conspicuous absence of intermediate forms in the fossil record attests that if earth’s life-forms evolved from a common form, the major disjunctions were quantum leaps that occurred rapidly; if such branchings occurred at all, moreover, it is now clear that they involved significant genetic differentiation. Both these options are intolerable to Darwinian theory; in fact, as Hoyle and Wickramasinghe remark, they “dispose of Darwinism,” which insisted on slow evolutionary change and disallowed rapid changes (ibid., p. 94).

Paleontologists now routinely concede that the fossil record fails to confirm an array of life forms constantly changing across millions of years, but has a character of stasis more than of change. Gould contends that “for millions of years species remained unchanged in the fossil record and they then abruptly disappear, to be replaced by something that is substantially different but clearly related” (cf. Roger Lewin, “Evolutionary Theory Under Fire,” pp. 883–887). In short, individual species remain virtually constant for long periods that are interrupted by the sudden appearance of new species whose physical and other features are but secondary qualifications of a fixed species. Species stasis, according to Gabriel Dover of Cambridge University, is “the single most important feature of macroevolution.” The generations-long effort initiated by Darwin himself to fault the fossil record in order to explain the lack of transition forms between known species has worn thin. As Gould emphasizes, the “jerkiness” of the fossil record “is not the result of gaps, it is the consequence of the jerky mode of evolutionary change.”

While Gould concedes that “much of what passes for evolutionary theory” is “vacuous” and is surrounded by “hogwash” (Ever Since Darwin, p. 40), he nonetheless seeks to minimize the defection from Darwin’s theory of natural selection and chance variation; the theory’s failure to emphasize genetic factors he considers simply “a logical error” in an otherwise “great and influential theory” (ibid., p. 39). Granting that the essence of Darwinism lies in its claim that “natural selection creates the fit” and “directs the course of evolutionary change” (ibid., p. 44), Gould sees no reason, for all that, to speak of a burial of Darwinism. Tom Bethell, however, in concluding his article on “Darwin’s Mistake” (Harper’s Magazine, pp. 70–75) observes that “Darwin … is in the process of being discarded, but perhaps in deference to the venerable old gentleman, resting comfortably in Westminster Abbey next to Sir Isaac Newton, it is being done as discreetly and gently as possible, with a minimum of publicity.” As Gertrude Himmelfarb reminds us, natural selection was for Darwin not a corollary of the “theory of descent”; on the contrary, descent was said to be the corollary of natural selection (Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, p. 312).

The conflict between evolutionists since Darwin wrote The Origin of Species is mirrored by the volume, The Evolutionary Synthesis: Perspectives on the Unification of Biology (Ernst Mayr and William B. Provine, eds.). While Darwin projected natural selection as the main mechanism of evolution, some geneticists already at the beginning of the present century insisted—to little avail—on heredity as an alternative. By the mid-1930s a number of biologists combined Mendelian genetics with Darwinian selection in a synthesis directly encouraged by Theodosius Dobzhansky’s Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937) and somewhat indirectly by the earlier contributions of Sergei Chetverikov, the Russian geneticist. The unifying emphasis was that species are not uniform but include genetic variation enforced by natural selection. In Mayr’s earlier Systematics and the Origin of Species from a Viewpoint of a Zoologist geographic speciation is projected, that is, the view that new species come about when populations are isolated under novel conditions. Mayr singles out, as the crucial transition of thought that Darwinism espoused, the abandonment of “essentialism”—that is, of the view that distinct species embody a discrete underlying “essence” (The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1982). What was fundamentally at stake, however, was not a metaphysical theory of substance, but the existence of fixed orders of created life. The dogma that no fixed biological families exist in nature, and that all forms and species of life are fluid, is challenged not only by the Genesis account but by the fossil record as well.

Gould picks up Charles Lyell’s almost forgotten emphasis in Principles of Geology (3 vols., 1830–33) that the earth is steady-state and therefore has the same components now as at its formation—that is, mammals would be found in the earliest fossil beds (Ever Since Darwin, pp. 151 f.). Lyell (d. 1875) doggedly opposed the notion that fossils disclose a gradual progression from lower to ever higher forms of life. By noting the early presence of mammals in the fossil record, and by challenging naturalistic theorists to adduce a vera causa for the production of new species, Lyell indirectly prompted interest in natural selection. It seems futile to imply, as Gould seems to, that Lyell’s departures from uniformitarianism, or the view that present processes can wholly explain past events, constituted a deviation that was widely recognized as a legitimate alternative to Darwin’s formulation.

John C. Greene observes that almost all writers who advanced one or another theory of natural selection from 1800 to the 1860s were British and that the cultural ethos of political and industrial England during this period was one in which competitive struggle was prominent (“The Switch to Evolution,” pp. 294 f.). But if we are to infer that metaphysical theory is a product of cultural determinism, then Green’s conclusions have as little objective validity as Darwin’s.

Maintaining that geology must seek a new reconciliation between the novel and the repetitive, Stephen Jay Gould tries to combine natural selection with saltation. He insists that “the fossil record does not support” the belief “in slow evolutionary change preached by most paleontologists” (and encouraged, admittedly, by Darwin); instead, “mass extinction and abrupt origination reign.… Gradualism is not exclusively valid (in fact, I regard it as rather rare). Natural selection contains no statement about rules. It can encompass rapid (geologically instantaneous) change by speciation in small populations as well as the conventional and immeasurably slow transformation of entire lineages” (Ever Since Darwin, p. 271). To escape any commendation of special creation, many evolutionists who concede swift evolutionary transition rather than slow Darwinian change now speak only, as do Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, of a transition “too fleeting to be imprinted in the fossil record,” that is, one requiring only “thousands of generations” and not “millions of generations” (Evolution from Space, p. 99). Hoyle and Wickramasinghe want it both ways: while they project a sudden invasion of the earth by preprogrammed life-forms, that programming then undergoes terrestrial adjustment; they want nothing to do with theistic creation, however.

Evolutionary defenders of Darwinism claim to hold to the fundamentals of Darwin even while calling for substantial modification. They insist that the central emphasis of Darwin’s theory—chance variation and natural selection—is not in question. What is in debate, they hold, is whether all species have but one origin or have multiple origins. Contemporary concepts related to the emphasis that molecular mechanism produces new species were not, of course, among Darwin’s pronouncements; so-called microevolution, which is now considered experientially demonstrable and is unchallenged as a developmental mechanism, was not part of Darwinism. With the discovery in the 1950s of the molecular structure of genes and their protein products some scholars naively held that a gradual accumulation of changes is sufficient to account for evolution, but this is now sharply debated. The big evolutionary issue today is over gradual or spasmodic change, with the spasmodic clearly winning the field. Pro-Darwinian scholars project several theoretically possible harmonizations of gradual microevolution and episodic macroevolution; e.g., they stress that definition of species is vastly more complicated than definition of individual molecules, or they base explanations of jerkiness in evolution on population genetics. But such explanations nonetheless compromise the Darwinian insistence on gradualism.

Gould concludes that “Darwin … has been vindicated in his cardinal intention: Cambrian life did arise from organic antecedents, not from the hand of God.… The patterns of the Cambrian explosions seems to follow a general law of growth.… Whatever limited the antecedent prior virtually guaranteed the later explosion as well” (ibid., pp. 126 f.). But the fact is that Darwin and his followers vigorously fought the emphasis on discontinuities and saltations (The Origin of Species, p. 194) and correlated such phenomena with theistic creationism and with a theistic explanation of nature. To say that the collapse of natural selection as the creative factor in the origin of species is compatible with a vindication of Darwinism in its primary intention is surely an oblique maneuver, one that obviously intends to correlate a positive verdict on Darwinism with alternative views that he would have disowned. Instead of predicating evolution, as Darwin did, on survival of the fittest in a struggle for life, many theorists now emphasize cooperation within and between species, and attribute this group cooperation either to reciprocity or to genetic kinship (cf. Robert Axelrod and William D. Hamilton, “The Evolution of Cooperation,” pp. 1390–1396). Students of genetics and behavior increasingly insist that innate deterministic factors are more important for the history of the species than are environmental factors such as Darwin espoused.

Although Gould and others hold that genetics and natural selection are collaborators in evolution (genetics produces changes and natural selection preserves characteristics suitable for survival), the neo-Darwinian version of the evolutionary thesis is now widely correlated with genetics rather than with natural selection in a growing acknowledgment that classic Darwinian theory lacks credibility. Nor does the contemporary controversy stop there. Although many nontheistic scholars seem devoted to “evolution as a fact,” come what may, two converging lines of criticism call for comprehensive reappraisal. On the one hand, proevolutionists are well aware that the contemporary controversy concerns not only the pace of evolution, that is, the dramatically sudden rather than gradual appearance of new species, but also the mode of evolution and indeed the boundaries of evolution. On the other hand, theistic creationists emphasize how extensively evolutionary theory in any form that is currently proposed turns, in fact, upon metaphysical presuppositions rather than upon empirical demonstration.

The subject of the mode of evolution is just as riddled with problems as is that of the pace of evolution. Scholars find themselves unable to identify the genetic changes that precipitate developmental novelties and new species. As Lewin comments, “if theories on the tempo of evolution are contentious, then the question of mode is certainly no less so.… It is now clear that many possibilities of genetic change exist” (“Evolutionary Theory Under Fire,” p. 885). Geneticists are probing alternatives that range all the way from simple mutations through jumping genes to chromosomal alteration. Lewin quotes Harvard developmental biologist Pedra Alberch as saying: “Even if we knew every detail of genetic change through time, we would still have no idea how the phenotype [the physical form] would alter.”

But the issues in debate are even more extensive than this. The evolutionists, Norman Macbeth insists, have not been able to explain either the origin of species, the disappearance of species, or the survival of species unchanged through vast periods of time (Darwin Retried, pp. 118 ff.). In a notably open-ended statement Ernst Mayr remarks: “Paleontologists have described many lines that remained unchanged, completely stabilized, for 120,000,000 to 140,000,000 years, and then suddenly broke out during a new evolutionary outburst: Just what can cause such a loosening-up of tightly knit systems is something I think we should work out if we can” (panel on “The Evolution of Life,” p. 141).

Ever since Darwin’s day evolutionists have appealed to fossil findings to elucidate the mechanism of taxonomic and morphological development. G. G. Simpson projected a notable synthesis of evolutionary theory and paleontology nearly a half century ago, in the 1930s and 1940s. Now paleontology has gained further interest through acceptance of the continental drift, new dating techniques and their implications for stratigraphy, and advances in molecular and ecological studies. The symposium edited by A. Hallam (Patterns of Evolution As Illustrated by the Fossil Record, Developments in Paleontology & Stratigraphy) surveys the role of paleontological projection in evolutionary studies and reflects this current revival of interest.

If Darwinian theory is correct, then the fossil record should show a predominance not of fixed but of transition forms. This observation was noted by Oswald Spengler who already in 1922 and with far greater force than many subsequent critics of Darwinian evolution pinpointed the dilemma of the appeal to the fossil record. Concerning the obvious absence of transition forms Spengler wrote: “There is no more conclusive refutation of Darwinism than that furnished by paleontology. Simple probability indicates that fossil hoards can only be test samples. Each sample, then, should represent a different stage of evolution, and there ought to be merely ‘transitional’ types, no definition and no species. Instead of this we find perfectly stable and unaltered forms persevering through long ages, forms that have not developed themselves on the fitness principle, but appear suddenly and at once in their definitive shape.… What unfolds itself, in ever-increasing richness of form, is the great classes and kinds of living beings which exist aboriginally and exist still, without transition types, in the groupings of today” (The Decline of the West. Perspectives of World History, p. 32).

When first challenged by the fact that transition forms are not found in the fossil record, evolutionary gradualists attributed this dilemma to gaps which, they said, would soon be filled by findings in rock strata of the different geologic ages. But after having now found rock layers from all divisions of the last 500 million years on their own datings, geologists have still not located the expected transition forms. Instead of confirming the view that all complex forms of life have emerged from simpler forms by slight and gradual change, the paleontological record of many complex plants and animals shows no evidence of intermediary or transitional forms.

According to Roger Lewin, mammallike reptiles supposedly dominated the animal world for 125 million years before the dinosaurs arrived and presumably gave rise to the first primitive mammals. He concludes his article on “Bones of Mammals’ Ancestors Fleshed Out: Clues emerge for the transition from reptiles to the first mammals,” however, with the surprising acknowledgment that “the transition to the first mammal … is still an enigma,” and speculates, moreover, that it “probably happened in just one, or at most, two lineages” (p. 1492). Lewin might better have said that no hard evidence exists that it happened even once. Less than three months after publication of Lewin’s article, Harvard paleontologist Farish A. Jenkins announced discovery in the Arizona desert of fossil remains of a new form of mammal, dated at the earliest dawn of mammalian life, and suggested that more than two mammal families existed simultaneously at the beginnings of that species (“Jawbone Mystery,” p. 1).

The sudden presence of billions of animal fossils so highly developed that many evolutionists themselves estimate that a two-to-three billion year timespan would be required for their evolution is attested by the Cambrian strata (570,000,000–500,000,000 years ago). There is no significant evidence that any of the major invertebrate types of life found in this strata derive from a common ancestry or that the vertebrates evolved from invertebrates during a timespan of more than 100 million years. G. G. Simpson calls the absence of pre-Cambrian transitional fossils the “major mystery of the history of life” (The Meaning of Evolution, p. 18). So significant is the controversy over the fossil record that Simpson added a Supplementary Note about it. Another scholar, geneticist Richard B. Goldschmidt, acknowledges that “practically all orders or families known appear suddenly and without any apparent transitions” (“Evolution as Viewed by One Geneticist,” American Scientist, Vol. 40, 1952, p. 97). “The recourse to an organic soup … to explain the origin of animals,” say Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, “is evidently a blatant recourse to the spontaneous generation theory which Pasteur claimed to have destroyed. Nevertheless, most scientists, even to this day, have been satisfied to accept it” (Evolution from Space, p. 37). Duane T. Gish observes that “the fossil record is remarkably in accord with predictions based on the concept of direct, special creation but contradicts predictions made on the basis of evolutionary theory” (“The Rocks Cry ‘Creation’!,” p. 22).

Daniel I. Axelrod writes of diversified multicellular marine invertebrates in Lower Cambrian rocks, but finds no forerunners for them in pre-Cambrian rocks (“Early Cambrian Marine Fauna,” pp. 7–8). Fish are considered to be the first vertebrates, yet in the fossil record they are found full formed. Errol White told the Linnaean Society of London that “whatever ideas authorities may have on the subject, the lungfishes, like every other major group of fishes I know, have their origins firmly based in nothing” (Proceedings of the Linnaean Society, Vol. 177, No. 8, London, 1966). For all that, G. L. Stebbins and F. J. Ayala, following the lead of E. H. Colbert (Evolution of the Vertebrates), repeat the sweeping claim that fish (rhipidistians) evolved “into amphibians, reptiles, and, finally, birds and mammals” (“Is a New Evolutionary Synthesis Necessary?,” p. 967). Thomas J. M. Schopf criticizes A. J. Jeffreys for miscalculating by 130 million years the appearance of birds and by 60 million years the appearance of mammals when Jeffreys affirms that “birds and mammals diverged about 270 million years ago” (in Genome Evolution, ed. by G. A. Dover and R. B. Flavell, New York, Academic Press, 1982). “In fact,” contends Schopf, “the oldest mammals date from about 210 million years ago and the oldest birds from about 140 million years ago; what Jeffreys means is that the split among the reptilian stocks that subsequently led on one branch to mammals and on another to birds was about 270 million years ago (technically, 320 is more likely). It would be clearer and more accurate to say that birds and mammals last shared a common ancestor 320 million years ago” (“Evolution from the Molecular Viewpoint,” Science, Vol. 217, No. 4558, 30 July 1982, p. 439).

But other scholars energetically question this supposed common ancestry. As Duane Gish observes, while birds “are alleged to have evolved from the reptiles, … no one has ever found a single fossil showing a partial wing and partial forelimb.” The occasional appeal to Archaeopteryx as a transitional form is disqualified by the fact that it is a contemporary of modern-type birds, Gish notes, and not, as evolutionary theory requires, a form that preceded rather than was contemporary with a species of which it supposedly was an ancestor (“The Rocks Cry ‘Creation’!,” pp. 22–23; cf. Lecomte du Noüy, Human Destiny, p. 58, and A. Feduccia and H. B. Tordoff, “Asymmetric Vanes Indicate Aerodynamic Function,” Science, Vol. 203, 1979, p. 1021). Gish points out that while flight in creatures is said to have evolved four times independently—in birds, in now extinct flying reptiles (pterosaurs), in insects, and in mammals such as the bat—”… no fossil forms are found attesting such evolution” (“The Rocks Cry ‘Creation’!,” p. 22). W. E. Swinton candidly admits: “The origin of birds is largely a matter of deduction. There is no fossil evidence of the stages through which the remarkable change from reptile to bird was achieved” (in A. J. Marshall, ed., Biology and Comparative Physiology of Birds, p. 1).

The absence of intermediate insect forms in the fossil record can be explained in one of two ways: either the different orders of insects originated separately or their divergence from a common ancestry occurred with dramatic suddenness. Yet, as Hoyle and Wickramasinghe note, “only the second of these possibilities [divergence from the common stock] is consistent with Darwinism, yet rapid evolution is just what Darwinism cannot achieve” (Evolution from Space, p. 87). Hoyle and Wickramasinghe conjecture that preprogrammed insect life arrived on earth from outer space on stellar light waves (Evolution from Space, pp. 58 f.), a remarkable tour de force to escape creationism.

Concerning a still lower level of organic life E. J. H. Corner comments, “I still think, to the unprejudiced, the fossil record of plants is in favor of special creation” (cf. A. M. MacLeod and L. S. Cobley, eds., Contemporary Botanical Thought, p. 97).

David B. Kitts puts the matter succinctly: “Evolution requires immediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them” (“Paleontology and Evolutionary Theory,” p. 46). The plain fact of the fossil record is that highly complex as well as less complex forms of life emerge without transitional ancestors; this is true of plant, invertebrate and vertebrate life.

William T. Keeton grants that the modern definition of species “cannot be applied strictly to fossil forms, since it is obviously impossible to use the criterion of interbreeding when comparing a form with its ancestors of a million years earlier. All that paleontologists can do when comparing forms from different time transects is to use morphological criteria and classify two forms as separate species when they differ to about the same degree as related forms known to be species on reproductive grounds. For practical purposes, paleontologists usually regard gaps in the fossil record as breaks between species, even though they are fully aware that no gaps actually occurred in the lineages of the organisms” (Biological Science, pp. 807 f.) Noting that evolution involves deriving new species from prior species, Everett C. Olson acknowledges that the fossil record does not establish “an equivalence between ‘fossil’ species and ‘living’ species.”

The value of the paleontological record as an index to the gradual evolution of biological life today is being challenged also on the premise that a cosmic catastrophe—other than the Noahic flood or the judgmental destruction of an earlier creation—has complicated and disarranged the data. The sudden disappearance supposedly some 65 million years ago of dinosaurs and perhaps of half the other then existing animals and plants is increasingly attributed to the impact of an asteroid; a number of physicists and chemists insist that geochemical evidence for such an impact is mounting. Paleontologists place the disappearance of species ranging from microscopic floating organisms to dinosaurs at the boundary of the Cretaceous-Tertiary period some 65,000,000 years ago; micropaleontologists have long suspected a catastrophic cause for the sudden disappearance of many species at the end of the Cretaceous period. But any appeal to sudden extraterrestrial causes of gaps in respect to the origin or disappearance of species has been assiduously resisted for two centuries. Paleontologists therefore try to assimilate even the latest claims with an emphasis on gradual environmental change; geochemical anomalies they view as byproducts of extinctions and not as evidence of origins (cf. Richard A. Kerr, “Asteroid Theory of Extinctions Strengthened,” p. 514). Paleobotanist Leo Hickey of the National Museum of Natural History concedes that the fossil record confirms the extinction of 70 percent to 80 percent of plant species in western North America, especially in Alaska and Canada, and in northeastern Siberia; he contends, however, that the survival and prevalence of delicate tropical plants argues against the theory that asteroid dust covered the earth. He contends instead that gradual climactic changes and stresses over a 10-million year timespan would more convincingly account for the data. Other researchers disagree; they consider the extinction of marine microfossils and of dinosaurs to have been instantaneous and not gradual. Discoveries of supposed chemical traces have continued to prod geochemists, sedimentologists and other specialists into postulating the impact on earth of a massive 10-kilometer-wide asteroid that caused a devastating interruption of sunlight. University of California-Berkeley researchers speculate that asteroidal dust would block out sunlight for several years, thus impairing food chains in the sea and on land; the result would be extensive starvation and extinction of planktonic plants and animals from microscopic marine life to huge reptiles. While many plants could have been regenerated later from seeds, spores or roots, surviving animals would meanwhile have had to change their eating habits. Some researchers see no need to invoke a catastrophic asteroid; others perceive problems with such an approach, noting that high amounts of iridium, adduced as evidence of asteroid impact or extinctions, can be found in other paleontological contexts as well. Recent study of fossil sequences at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary indicates that these extinctions were not sudden after all, so the asteroid theory may soon be abandoned. But the very fact that the asteroid theory is projected, indicates the inadequacy of earth-oriented explanations to account for the fossil record. By insisting that paleontological gaps are due to the incompleteness of the data, and not to superterrestrial intervention, Darwinists strip away the possibility of verifying their supposedly scientific claims.

One scholar after another now considers paleontology, long regarded by evolutionists as attesting the boundaries of evolution, to be “in an uproar, in ferment,” as does J. William Schopf, or in “conceptual flux,” as does David Pilbeam. For the last 15 years cladism—a classification system used by paleontologists and evolutionary biologists—has had to accommodate the view that evolution proceeded by saltation, that is, by sudden leaps and spurts rather than by Darwinian continuity and gradualism. Some Marxists even deploy this approach to promote the revolutionary insistence that abrupt change is rooted in both nature and society. Creationists criticize both views by rejecting unqualified evolution and by attributing discontinuities to divine interposition of new and fixed kinds of life.

Douglas Dewar notes that Darwinian paleontologists were guilty of special pleading: the presence in the fossil record of extinct forms of life they invoked as proof of natural selection, but to the absence of transition forms they allowed no significance on the ground of the record’s supposed incompleteness (The Transformist Illusion, pp. 13 ff.). “Not a single fossil of vital importance for the support of the theory has come to light,” Dewar insists. “The fossil record shows that the earliest fossils of each class and order are not half-made or half-developed forms, but exhibit fully developed, the characteristics of their class or order” (ibid., pp. 13, 58).

In the opening chapter of the Hallam symposium previously mentioned, Gould notes the conflict still unresolved between paleontologists on the one hand and evolutionary biologists and ecologists on the other. For paleontologists morphology and diversity exhibit directional change rather than steady-state variations on established themes, internal rather than external factors constrain or direct the supposed course of evolution, and evolution occurs by episodes or rapid change interspersed by periods of stasis. Evolutionary biologists and ecologists by contrast lean to steadystate variations, externalistic influence acting on a malleable genotype, and evolution by gradual change. In reviewing Patterns of Evolution as Illustrated by the Fossil Record, Robert E. Ricklefs remarks that the volume fails to provide “the cogent exposition of evolutionary paleontology that it promises”; noting the fossil record’s inadequacy for many purposes he calls for interchange between paleontologists and evolutionary biologists to promote synthesis (“Paleontologists Confronting Macroevolution,” p. 59). “Fossils do not reveal the details of speciation or extinction at the population level. More often than not, they fail to record morphological transitions between higher taxonomic groups,” Ricklefs comments. “The time scale of these events may be too brief, the geographic setting too finite, or the fossil sample too poor.” Ricklefs’ readiness to postulate evolution even in the absence of persuasive evidence permeates these suggestions. He notes, however, “the potential biases of widespread gaps in time, distribution and habitat sampling and the degree to which interpretations depend on the taxonomic level considered”; he acknowledges, moreover, the need to correlate data anew with now accepted continental drift and climate patterns, and for reconciling data with new theories of macroevolution. While a special branch of paleontology called taphonomy has arisen in recent decades to cope with the incompleteness of the fossil record due to supposed ecological factors (cf. Anna K. Behrensmeyer and Andrew P. Hill, eds., Fossils in the Making. Vertebrate Taphonomy and Paleocology), conclusions still remain incomplete and highly tentative.

The debate being waged over the ancestry of tetrapods or four-footed animals between scholars who emphasize the fossil record and those who emphasize anatomical factors reflects much the same professional disagreement (cf. A. I. Panchen, ed., The Terrestrial Environment and the Origin of Land Vertebrates, Systematic Association Special Volume No. 15). Any reader would be misled, observes Hans-Peter Schultz, if he expected a definitive discussion of tetrapod origins from the papers of this 1979 symposium. He stresses, moreover, that “The coincidence or noncoincidence of fossil forms in the geological record and the sedimentological context in which they occurred are matters of inference. The conclusions become all the more tenuous when dependent on a description of a 200-to 400-million year old habitat that necessarily has been derived from our knowledge of the ecological requirements of recent forms” (“Tetrapod Origins,” pp. 657 f.).

To be sure, many evolutionary biologists still reject saltation and favor the more traditional synthetic or gradualist view of speciation. Some note that although Darwin attributed adaptive changes to natural selection or gradualism, he did not rule out sudden transitions in the fossil record, inasmuch as our observance of changes occurs only at periodic intervals and the initial evolution of new adaptations may have occurred in one place before spreading elsewhere. But scientists do, after all, presume to appeal to the presence of observable data, and not to its absence in a supposedly imperfect fossil record. Under the impact of available fossil data more and more evolutionists are now emphasizing that new groups arise suddenly through major mutations. Almost a half century ago O. H. Schindewolf had argued that paleontology leads to the thesis of macroevolution in an explosive way within but a short geological timespan; paleontologists, he said, often sought for missing links that never existed (Palaeontologie. Entwicklungslehre und Genetik). That was the emphasis of geneticist Richard Goldschmidt in The Material Basis of Evolution when he wrote of the occasional birth of deformed creatures as “hopeful monsters,” and on this basis anticipated such phenomena, for example, as a reptile that might lay eggs from which a bird is hatched. In 1972 Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge developed the theory of “punctuated equilibrium” which projected “a jerky or episodic, rather than a smoothly gradual, pace of change” (“Evolution as Fact and Theory,” p. 36). According to Eldredge the data available to us do not demonstrate the smooth transition from one form of life to another assumed by Darwinian evolution. The search for missing links, such as that between apes and humans, says Eldredge, was ill-founded, since distinct transition types were and are nonexistent.

The punctualists have reinterpreted the role of natural selection; instead of declaring it the creative cause of speciation they assign greater importance to chance than did Darwin and hold that natural selection occurs in association with rapid formation of independent species by splitting lineages into reproductively isolated populations. Gould maintains that new species “usually arise” not by slow, steady transformation of entire ancestral populations but by small populations that split from an unaltered ancestral stock (“This View of Life: A Quahog Is a Quahog,” pp. 18–26). But even so, says Gould, hundreds of thousands of years are necessary for species to originate by such splitting.

Laurie R. Godfrey emphasizes that “nothing about punctualism supports the creationist viewpoint” (“The Flood of Antievolutionism,” pp. 5–10). But this observation is diversionary; it alters not only the focus of the debate but also its center. The fact is, there is nothing in the way of empirical data to support punctualism. Hoyle and Wickramasinghe insist that the odds are prohibitive against any earth-grounded derivation of life-forms by chance emergence from an organic soup. Evolutionists nonetheless increasingly refer the question of supports for the evolution of the different kinds of life from one area of research to another.

In a single decade gene cloning and rapid DNA sequencing have opened up vast new research frontiers in molecular biology that by sophisticated computer techniques can now probe the structure of eukaryotic genes as readily as bacterial genes were once investigated. Richard C. Lewontin insists, however, that despite the immense theoretical structure of contemporary science we still know very little about evolutionary genetics. He italicizes the point so no one can miss it: “in larger part we know virtually nothing about the genetic changes that occur in species formation” (The Genetic Basis of Evolutionary Change, p. 159). “To the present moment no one has succeeded in measuring with any accuracy the net fitnesses of genotypes for any locus in any species in nature” (ibid., p. 236). Some sociobiologists already contend that the factors once derived from natural selection—including cooperation between communities and devotion to peace—are genetically derived; critics reply that such mechanical derivation of personality from the chemistry of genes relieves humans of behavioral responsibility and strips sociobiological claims of validity.

Since genome charateristics erect biological barriers between one species and another, molecular and evolutionary biologists are asking whether the fact that genomes are in some respects fluid has implications for evolution. Biologists concede that a surprising conservation of the disposition of structural genes exists in even distantly related organisms. Roger Lewin comments that “the genome can therefore be viewed as relatively stable islands of structural genes immersed in a steadily shifting tide of changing repeated sequences” (“Do jumping Genes Make Evolutionary Leaps?”, p. 635). Under these circumstances evolutionary projection has no direct evidence, is highly speculative and is sometimes barely distinguishable from science fiction, as when Gabriel Dover hypothesizes “long periods of evolutionary stasis, when repeat families are steadily turning over and being maintained by concerted evolution, interspersed with bursts of change, when a mutation is driven through an isolated population” (ibid., p. 636).

Would the fact that the protein structure of humans is 98 percent similar to that of apes prove descent, even if the proteins were species-specific, or would it prove only close correspondence of protein-coding genes? In higher organisms biologists now comprehend only protein-coding genes that represent little more than 1 percent of the DNA. Even the argument that descent of species is attested by the fact that portions of DNA are interchangeable between different species depends, as John N. Moore remarks, on some prior evolutionary assumptions, namely, that morphological similarity implies common ancestry and that the extent of similarity establishes closeness of kinship (Questions and Answers on Creation/Evolution, p. 34). As Sir John Eccles emphasizes, neither the genetic code nor natural selection can or does explain the origin of consciousness and of mind, or the origin of human life.

The view of Genesis is that God created distinct kinds of life propagated by natural generation, a propagation that preserves a normal condition or fundamental likeness within which variations occur. Ever since Darwin the scheme of biological classification has been predicated on the assumption of common descent of all organisms from a single ancestor. To be sure, this modern classification rather effectively serves the interests of morphology and not simply of postulated descent. Theodosius Dobzhansky notes the pragmatic character of the present classification, however, as have others, and readily acknowledges that another classification would be quite possible (“Species as Natural Units,” in Genetics and the Origin of Species). While the Genesis account leaves no doubt about the divine creation of graded orders of life it does not imply that God originally created distinct species identical with the now regnant scientific classifications. Linnaeus distinguished species, genera, families and orders, but even these taxonomic categories are flexible; the best equivalent of “kind” in Genesis may be something akin to “family.” Mayr emphasizes that the categories above the species level are arbitrary, since experimental supports for the distinctions cannot be adduced (Principles of Systematic Zoology).

David B. Kitts acknowledges that “every paleontologist knows, that most new species, genera, and families, and that nearly all categories above the level of families, appear in the record suddenly and are not led up to by known, gradual, completely continuous transitional sequences” (“Paleontology and Evolutionary Theory,” p. 467). G. L. Stebbins and F. J. Ayala similarly concede that “living beings … are … grouped into species: arrays of populations between which intermediates are rare or absent” (“Is a New Evolutionary Synthesis Necessary?,” p. 967). Moreover, as James W. Valentine and Cathryn A. Campbell note, paleontologists must cope with the appearance in the fossil record of “several classes of a phylum, orders of a class, and so on … at approximately the same time, without known intermediates” (“Genetic Regulation and the Fossil Record,” p. 673).

Since evolutionists have not adduced compelling evidence that divergent life forms derive from common originals, G. H. Harper insists that the real choice is between a belief in evolution or in a “steady state theory of species” (“Alternatives to Evolutionism,” School Science Review, p. 16). There is no need to deny progression in some species or retrogression in others, or in view of this to deny the emergence of new “species” scientifically so-called. The creation account emphasizes a classification much broader than assumed by those who would insist on a divine creation of millions of wholly independent species. God’s third-day creation of organic life, or fresh growth, distinguishes different kinds of plants, such as self-propagating cereals, from fruit trees whose fruit contains their seed. The creation of different kinds of living creatures on the sixth day, each appropriate to its assigned environment—birds for the sky, fish and sea monsters for the water—is marked by a divine enablement to reproduce the gift of life that each kind has received. The sixth day devoted to the formation of creatures that live on the earth’s surface distinguishes different kinds of wild animals, domesticated animals and reptiles, and then focuses supremely on man made expressly in God’s image.

Even on the creationist view living forms may be more divergent than Darwinian evolutionists had thought on the premise of evolutionary multiplication and diversification of a common ancestor. Until recently scientific interest in now inaccessible species has focused largely on the abrupt and mysterious disappearance of dinosaurs. Evolutionists have attributed the extinction of these monsters to a considerable variety of possible causes: comet impact, magnetic field reversals, supernovae explosions, severe temperature and climatic changes; more recently, evolutionists have proposed the theory of asteroid collision. But marine researchers now postulate that scientists may be remarkably unaware of many living species that presently exist on our very own planet. A research ship operating near the Galapagos Islands off South America reported, for example, that near hot water geysers found at a depth of 9000 feet it discovered six-foot “tube worms,” foot-wide red clams with white shells, jellyfish-like plants called dendelions, and other hitherto unknown varieties of sea life.

But the subject of the boundaries of evolutionary expression, which paleontology had been thought to have established, has now again become a flashpoint of evolutionary controversy. Instead of holding that the sizes, shapes and forms of species are due to utilitarian adaptation to environment, scholars increasingly think that basic or intrinsic forms limit the range of species morphology. The fact that a cow has a head only on one end of its body is held to be due to other than adaptive considerations. The implausibility of either slow or sudden intrinsic emergence, and simultaneously, of such complexities as a living cell that metabolizes food and reproduces itself, of a heart to pump blood throughout a body, of eyeballs with requisite nerve connections, and of muscles coordinated with brain control, would seem to call for directive intelligence of vast power.

Despite the fact that biological evolution is the central thesis and unifying concept of modern biology, and despite the fact that Dobzhansky has said that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” and its insistence on biological independence, G. H. Harper argues that modern biology would be virtually unchanged even if Darwin were unknown. Most scientists who are unreservedly committed to evolutionary origins tend unnecessarily to view any serious questioning of the theory as a threat to modern biological science which, in their view, depends for its comprehensive intelligibility upon the doctrine.

The fundamental issue of the origin of life thrust upon our generation as a fresh scientific concern is weighted with increasing uncertainties. For much of this century evolutionists believed that some new clue to this mystery, unsolved by experiments focused on life on earth, might be provided by neighboring planets. But instrument-laden spaceships have multiplied doubts as much as data. Several decades ago a poll of world leaders showed that more than half of them believed that extraterrestrial civilizations exist. Enormous antennas were erected to detect signals or other evidences of intelligence, but to no avail. Despite the work on Intelligent Life in the Universe by Carl Sagan and Russian astronomer I. S. Shklovsky the considerable speculation of a generation ago over superhuman intelligences on other planets has now given way to infatuation with electronic computers which are said to “think better” than man as we know him. The notion that extraterrestrial humanlike civilizations may exist, and even the more modest theory of intelligent life on other planets, has fewer and fewer advocates. A computer analysis of hypothetical planets by Michael H. Hart concludes that civilized life is apparently exceedingly rare, and that life on earth may in fact be the only instance of it. Creation of life and evolution of an advanced civilization, Hart argues, requires as planetary preconditions moderate temperatures that prevail for the time supposedly elapsing—which Hart projects at 3.7 billion years—between the origin of life and an advanced civilization. His conclusion is: “I think ours is the only advanced civilization in the universe and almost certainly the only one in our galaxy” (cf. Malcolm W. Browne, “Life May Exist Only on Earth, Study Says,” The New York Times, April 24, 1979, pp. C-1 f.).

For almost a generation chemistry textbooks traced life on earth to lightning charges that penetrated a primitive atmosphere of methane and ammonia to produce complex organic chemicals. Early in the 1950s Harold Urey and Stanley Miller had shaped the theory accepted until recently that organic life arose in a hydrogen-rich atmosphere after an electric charge produced compounds such as amino acids. While more and more geochemical evolutionists now believe that except for the absence of oxygen at that time earth’s primordial atmosphere was much like that of today, quite a number of scientists now postulate an oxidizing atmosphere right from the beginning. The oldest known rocks, dated at 3.8 billion years, contain carbon minerals that presuppose an atmosphere of carbon dioxide rather than of methane.

Henry Quastler considers it improbable that natural selection can be invoked to account for the initial formation of a living organism (The Emergence of Biological Organization). Hoyle and Wickramasinghe reject an earth-centered evolutionary explanation; our planet, these astronomers emphasize, is “from a cosmic point of view nothing but [a] tiny patch of land on the edge of the small pond we call the terrestrial ocean” (Evolution from Space, p. 30). But neither could the larger universe, taken simply as a haphazard mix of elements, have accounted for living forms, they say; life, they insist, did not arise from random soup either on earth or within a larger cosmic context. Even in a universe that scientists now consider 100,000,000,000 times more vast spatially than did medieval scholars, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe contend, the possibility of chance formation of biochemical systems from simple organic molecules is “exceedingly minute to a point indeed where it is insensibly different from zero” (ibid., p. 3). The chance of random emergence of the 2000 known enzymes is 1040,000—or 10 followed by 40,000 zeros—”an outrageously small possibility that could not be faced even if the whole universe consisted of organic soup” (ibid., p. 24). Not even a “bigger and better cosmic soup,” not even one coextensive with the entire space-time universe, they reiterate, can produce acceptable odds of chance origination (ibid., pp. 30 f.). The theory of an earthly origin and evolution of life is reduced to absurdity by its massive improbability; no less ridiculous is the implication that “chance mutations also produced genes which were to prove capable of writing the symphonies of Beethoven and the plays of Shakespeare” (ibid., p. 103). “No matter how large the environment one considers,” they stress, “life cannot have had a random beginning. Troops of monkeys thundering away at random on typewriters could not produce the works of Shakespeare, for the practical reason that the whole observable universe is not large enough to contain the necessary monkey hordes, the necessary typewriters, and certainly the waste paper baskets required for the disposition of wrong attempts. The same is true for living material” (ibid., p. 148).

R. L. Wysong likewise insists that the probability of the origin of life by natural development is so small as to be virtually unthinkable. Experts ascribe impossibility to events with a probability range of only 1/1030 to 1/1050, but the odds against the emergence of a single L-amino acid protein—the kind which comprises living organs—he puts at 1/10114. A simple one-celled bacterium, R. coli, contains DNA information units that are the equivalent of 100 million pages of Encyclopedia Britannica. Wysong puts the odds against the simultaneous emergence of protein and DNA, which depends on preexisting protein, at 1/10167,626, and even then survival, in turn, would be suspended on a compatible environment. The materialistic theory of the chance formation of life, he says, collides with the fact that life and its environment are “a highly ordered integrated system, one that calls rather for a vast directive intelligence” (The Creation-Evolution Controversy, pp. 216 ff.). The odds against life emerging by chance are therefore so great that no gambler with even the wildest gaming instincts would risk his fortunes on the possibility. It is not surprising, as knowledge of the complexity of energy and life multiplies, that books again appear bearing titles like James E. Horigan’s On the Origin of the Universe. Chance or Design?. Nor, in view of the staggering improbabilities of chance origin, is it surprising that the theory of chance evolution should be declared, as by John Hadd, “unqualified blasphemy.” Hadd observes that not a single element of Christianity demands as much faith for acceptance as do recent secular theories of the origin of life and of species.

The collapse of Darwinism is opening the door to new waves of irrationalism, to highly speculative alternative theories of origins devoid of both empirical verification and rational credibility. The theory’s inability to explain the properties of various life-forms encourages thinkers who doggedly resist biblical theism to propose dramatically imaginative substitutes.

Hoyle and Wickramasinghe project the possibility—discussed also by F. H. C. Crick and L. E. Orgel (“Directed Panspermia,” Icarus, p. 341–46)—that life arrived on earth from outer space. Large stores of genetic material, they suggest, were frozen and preserved at the outer edges of the solar system at its formation. Genes are cosmic, they affirm, and “arrive at the Earth as DNA or RNA, either as fully-fledged cells, or as viruses, viroids or simply as separated fragments of genetic material. The genes are ready to function when they arrive” (Evolution from Space, p. 31). From the fact that certain life-forms (insects, peas and beans, and micrococci) possess genes that apparently cannot be related to their earth environments, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe conjecture that “the genes were derived from some kind of pre-existence” (ibid., p. 22). They affirm an extraterrestrial source of biochemical information.

“Life had evolved already to a high information standard long before the Earth was born,” Hoyle and Wickramasinghe assert (ibid., p. 8). Cosmic and universal factors generate life wherever it takes root: “the laws of physics and chemistry” (which they do not stipulate) contain the information required for forming DNA and other phenomena.

Riding on the pressure of light from the sun or on the light waves of stars, genes arrive on earth continuously but not necessarily steadily, and are potentially immortal. The number of earth-arriving “germs” may run 1020 a year; once on earth they collect into functioning biosystems. Living cells, we are told, could journey from star to star, galaxy to galaxy, in tails of comets, with possible “soft” landings on the atmosphere of Earth, Mars, and other planets (ibid., pp. 58 f.). Life on earth, it is speculated, probably had many abortive beginnings (ibid., p. 76).

Hoyle and Wickramasinghe project a supraterrestrial principle of intelligence, one somewhat more than human yet less than ultimate and absolute and hence not a personal God (whom they consider merely an abstract infinite limit) (Evolution from Space, pp. 8, 33; cf. Lifecloud, Dent, 1978; Diseases from Space, 1979). “Prior information was necessary to produce a living cell. But information from where?” (Evolution from Space, p. 148). “The requisite information came from an ‘intelligence,’ the beckoning spectre” (ibid., p. 105). There is an intelligence superior to man, an intelligence “which designed the biochemicals and gave rise to the origin of carbonaceous life,” but that is not all there is. Far beyond this superhuman intelligence is “another still higher level of intelligence, that controlled the coupling constants of physics” (ibid., p. 143).

Hoyle and Wickramasinghe affirm, moreover, that the cosmic factors operative in the origin of life-forms are purposive. Purpose they define as “an attempt to control events in the world according to some consciously thought-out policy” (ibid., p. 33). “The arrival at the Earth of living cells and of fragments of genetic material more generally is a continuing, ongoing process that directs the main features of biological evolution” (ibid., p. 51). But the connection between the superhuman intelligence and purpose that the astronomers affirm is not clearly worked out in relation to directive personality. God is the universe at its idealized limit.

The authors recognize that many biologists rejected special creation because creation of life-forms by a divine intelligence was thought to exclude all adjustment and development in the created kinds of life (ibid., p. 130). Insisting as they do on developmental connections between some forms, evolutionary biologists discredited special creation theory per se. Nature alone was therefore considered explanatory of all inorganic and organic processes, and Darwin’s formula welcomed as definitive of the mechanics of evolution. According to Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, the wide scientific preference even today for Darwinism above Christian theism reflects a lingering resentment of medieval Catholicism’s proscription of all dissent (ibid., p. 133). “Darwinism could not be denigrated, since Darwinism … had destroyed the hated rival, Christianity” (ibid., p. 136). Today, they note, Marxism has succeeded to this role of imposing intellectual bondage on the academic community. But it is evident that the distaste of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe for biblical theism cannot be attributed altogether to a disdain for medieval censorship; contemporary science has its own iron dogmas.

Their theory of a cosmic intelligence may be discounted, the astronomers note, because even “a computer can act on information”; indeed, they admit “the possibility that the unseen face of our ghost might be a computer console” (ibid., p. 150). That possibility, they observe, “would transpose the problem of the origin of life to the problem of the origin of computers.” This comment recalls Robert Jastrow’s incisive remark about contemporary infatuation with electronic computers. Says Jastrow: “The line between the original and the copy gets blurred. In another 15 years or so—two more generations of computer evolution, in the jargon of the technologists—we will see the computer as an emergent form of life.… In the 1990s … the compactness and reasoning power of an intelligence built out of silicon will begin to match that of the human brain” (“Toward an Intelligence Beyond Man’s,” p. 59).

The instructions that program the activities of living cells, say Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, may be located or stored in the nucleolus region of the chromosomes. The DNA itself is inert, however, and the manner of overall control is “quite unknown” (Evolution from Space, p. 105). “The advantage of looking to the whole universe … is that it offers a staggering range of possibilities which are not available here on the Earth,” they remark. “For one thing, it offers the possibility of high intelligence within the universe that is not God. It offers many levels of intelligence rising upwards from ourselves” (ibid., p. 31). The formula they offer for origins differs vastly from that of Genesis and involves the following pattern: “… →?????→????→???→??→?→man→ …” (ibid., p. 145). What precede and follow man are sequences that have only an idealized limit. “It is this idealized limit that is God, and God is the universe” (ibid., p. 143).

The subtheistic character of this proposal is evident. Hoyle and Wickramasinghe acknowledge that they postulate “a grey form of religion” whose God as an idealized limit is never realized. While they declare their view to be “in a sense a return to the concept of special creation” (ibid., p. 147), they are but playing with words. In an appendix they stress that “historical truth” on an issue “must of necessity be relative”; from this they conclude that no absolute answer can be given to the question whether it really matters that our ideas about the past are right or wrong (ibid., p. 151). Theistic creation, to the contrary, has its own valid and adequate supports.

Hoyle and Wickramasinghe invoke intelligence to escape the ridiculous odds against chance origins. Instead of subhuman intelligences postulated by Darwinists as antecedents in the evolutionary process, they propose superhuman but subdivine intelligence. They compound their problem by substituting a bogus divinity for the self-revealed Creator whose formation of distinctive life-kinds from their beginnings on earth is both attested in Scripture and congruous with assured scientific data. When Hoyle and Wickramasinghe affirm their theory to be “so obvious” that the only reasons it is “not widely accepted as being self-evident … are psychological rather than scientific” (ibid., p. 130), they stretch blind faith to the breaking point. To say that Earth is not itself adequate to explain the origin of life and the appearance of divergent species, can hardly be counterbalanced by transferring that explanation to outer space and to other finite factors whose existence is undemonstrated, whose character is logically ambiguous, and whose operation is fanciful. The idea of tiny insects almost immune to gravity who feed on themselves and who ride the light waves and winds from another world to Earth has all the drama of Superbug if not Superman. To frame the problem of origins in a galactic context involving far greater unknowns does not solve the enigma of life but only complicates it, especially when in support we are offered more theory than evidence.

The origins of the earth and of the solar system are no nearer scientific explanation than is the origin of life. That these arose from a rotating gas and dust cloud from which divergent rings condensed into planets is, in the nature of the case, an unverifiable hypothesis. That later condensations are thought to be observed does not allow for more than hazardous inferences. Some astronomers postulate that all known planets arose from such condensation inasmuch as denser substances comprise the planets closest to the sun (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) than is the case with “outer” planets. For all that, marked diversity exists in the constitution even of the “inner” planets.

The 1978 spaceship landings on Venus, a planet which receives about the same energy from the sun as does the Earth, disclosed surface temperatures nonetheless of 850°F and, moreover, a surface pressure 100 times greater than that on Earth. Scientists were surprised by the discovery of considerable atmospheric oxygen because evolutionary projections usually postulate the occurrence of chemical evolution only in an oxygen-free atmosphere. Since scientists hold that both Earth and Venus arose from the same primordial gas cloud, they must now contemplate the possibility—which evolutionists had swept aside—that the primordial atmosphere of both Earth and Venus contained oxygen.

On the premise of the big-bang explosion, moreover, scientists reasoned that at least the inner planets of the solar system would be chemically similar. But on Venus the ratio of Argon 36 to Argon 40 was 200 to 300 times higher than the ratio on Earth. Since Potassium-Argon dating has been the most popular dating method, and was used for dating both the moon rocks and the Leakey skulls, the implications are understandably disconcerting. Although some discrepancies remain, the radio-carbon dating range is now held to be generally reliable to some 75,000 years ago (cf. P. M. Grootes, “Carbon-14 Time Scale Extended: Comparison of Chronologies,” pp. 11–15).

Biblical theists lay no claim to special information about processes governing the solar system. They do insist, however, that a theistic view of origins will guard science from hasty and false assumptions of naturalistic development. A sovereign Creator is able to fashion vastly dissimilar planets, even as he is able to fashion vastly dissimilar kinds of vegetable and animal life. For the theist that very dissimilarity, while a stumbling block to scientific uniformitarianism, is a reminder of the sovereign creative power of a Creator who preserves order in a universe of far greater complexity than scientific reductionism is prone to admit.

The planet Mars has likewise shown itself to be alien to uniformitarian processes. It is not like the moon, as was once thought, nor like the earth, as it was next thought to be. Scientists are cautious in interpreting its history and processes because every new discovery seems in fact to exhibit some hitherto unknown horizon. Some scientists concede that if life does exist on Mars its chemical basis must be quite different from that of all earthly forms. Nothing prevents there being forms larger than microbes on Mars, we are told, yet no evidence is available that they actually exist.

Thousands of scientists have now studied fragments of the 842 pounds of moon rocks brought to earth in 1969. Their consensus is that the moon was formed 4.6 billion years ago in a hot condition that continued for some 500 million years, and was then pelted by asteroids for 200 million years; it then oozed molten lava for 800 million years before it began to cool down some 3 billion years ago. Earth’s history and that of the entire solar system are thought to be much the same, except that the moon lacks water, oxygen and life and is thought to have been formed 100 million years after the earth and at higher temperature.

The uniqueness of the earth within the planetary universe, and of life in its many earthly forms, focus attention not—as evolutionists would have it—on uniformitarianism and gradual development, but rather on the once-for-all. The physical relationships that are hospitable to life in the earthly setting are so overwhelmingly improbable that they require a verdict of either an incredible cosmic accident or of providential origination. Located 93 million miles from the sun, earth’s temperatures have supported life at all levels of both simplicity and complexity. If the earth were only one percent more distant from the sun, glaciation would turn it into a planetary desert. If the earth were five percent nearer the sun, temperatures approaching 900°F would prevail. The research ship Melville, reporting the discovery in 1977 of fields of hot water geysers at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean off South America, indicated that the temperature of geyser water ran as high as 750°F. The number of stars, moreover, is estimated at 1020; many say 1025 or more. Billions of these stars are thought to resemble the sun, but none is known to have a planetary system like our earth that accommodates the appearance of life and the origin of man.

No indication of extraterrestrial life has been found; the few meteorites from outer space that contain amino acids are not to be confused with molecules of life. No persuasive scientific evidence has been found for life beyond or outside of the earth.

G. A. Kerkut emphasizes that all seven basic assumptions on which evolutionary theory rests are “by their nature … not capable of experimental verification” (Implications of Evolution, p. 7). The assumption that “non-living things gave rise to living material … is still just an assumption” (ibid., p. 150). The assumption that “biogenesis occurred only once … is a matter of belief rather than proof” (op. cit.). The assumption that “Viruses, Bacteria, Protozoa and the higher animals were all interrelated” biologically as an evolutionary phenomenon lacks definite evidence (ibid., p. 151). The assumption that “the Protozoa gave rise to the Metazoa” has no basis in definite knowledge (ibid., pp. 151 ff.). The assumption that “the various invertebrate phyla are interrelated” depends on “tenuous and circumstantial” evidence and not on evidence that allows “a verdict of definite relationships” (ibid., pp. 152 f.). The assumption that “the invertebrates gave rise to the vertebrates” turns on evidence gained by prior belief (ibid., p. 153). Although he finds “somewhat stronger ground” for assuming that “fish, amphibia, reptiles, birds and mammals are interrelated,” Kerkut concedes that many key fossil transitions are “not well documented and we have as yet to obtain a satisfactory objective method of dating the fossils” (ibid., p. 153). “In effect, much of the evolution of the major groups of animals has to be taken on trust” (ibid., p. 154); “there are many discrete groups of animals and … we do not know how they have evolved nor how they are interrelated” (ibid., p. 7). In short, the theory that “all the living forms in the world have arisen from a single source which itself came from an inorganic form,” says Kerkut, has insufficiently strong evidential supports “to consider it as anything more than a working hypothesis” (ibid., p. 157). He thinks “premature and not satisfactorily supported by present-day evidence,” therefore, “the attempt to explain all living forms in terms of an evolution from a unique source,” that is, from a common ancestor (ibid., pp. vii. f.).

It is therefore understandable why commentators speak more and more of a crisis of evolutionary theory. Establishment science’s long regnant view that gradual development accounts for the solar system, earth, life and all else is in serious dispute. Not in many decades has so much doubt emerged among scientists about the so-called irrefutable evidence that evolution is what accounts for life on planet earth. Although it was still taught long thereafter in high schools, Ernst Haeckel’s “biogenetic law” that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” had collapsed already in the late 1920s. The absence in recent texts of evolutionary charts depicting the common descent even of trees from a single form is noteworthy. Darwin’s insistence that nature makes no leaps, and that natural selection and chance adequately account for change in species, has lost credibility. Paleontologists and biologists are at odds over the significance of the fossil record, while gradualists and episodists disagree over the supposed tempo of evolution or whether the origin of species is consistent with microevolution or only with sudden gaps in the forms of life.

Gould, for example, opts for natural selection and, remarkably, combines it with saltation. He grants that “the fossil record does not support” the belief “in slow evolutionary change preached by most paleontologists” (and projected by Darwin); instead, “mass extinction and abrupt origination reign.… Gradualism is not exclusively valid (in fact, I regard it as rather rare). Natural selection contains no statement about rates. It can encompass rapid (geologically instantaneous) change by speciation in small populations as well as the conventional and immeasurably slow transformation of entire lineages” (Ever Since Darwin, p. 271). Natural selection here becomes an elastic phrase that can accommodate to everything while requiring no significant empirical attestation.

University of Glasgow scientists Chris Darnbrough, John Goddard and William S. Stevely indicate problem areas that beset evolutionary theory: “The experiments demonstrating the formation of a variety of organic molecules from presumptive prebiotic soups,” they write, “fall far short of providing a pathway for chemical evolution. Again, it is self-evident that the fossil record leaves much to be desired and few biologists recognize the dependence of the geological column on radiometric dating methods based on questionable assumptions about initial conditions. The whole history of evolutionary thought is littered with the debris of dubious assumptions and misinterpretations, especially in the area of fossil ‘hominids.’ To come up to date, protein and DNA sequence data, generally viewed as consistent with an evolutionary explanation of diversity, are invariably interpreted using methods which presuppose, but do not demonstrate evolutionary relationships, and which use criteria that are essentially functional and teleological. Finally, there is a collection of isolated fragmentary pieces of evidence which are usually dismissed as anecdotal because they are irreconcilable with the evolutionary model” (“American Creation” [correspondence], by Chris Darnbrough, John Goddard and William S. Stevely, Nature, pp. 95 f.).

From ongoing conflicts and readjustments it is apparent that there never was nor is there now only one theory of evolution. Many nontheistic scholars, to be sure, insist that evolution is and has always been “a fact.” Laurie R. Godfrey affirms that “there is actually widespread agreement in scientific circles that the evidence overwhelmingly supports evolutionism” and quotes Gould as saying that “none of the current controversy within evolutionary theory should give any comfort, not the slightest iota, to any creationists” (“The Flood of Antievolution,” pp. 5–10, p. 10). If, as Godfrey insists, even the most sweeping revisions and reversals of scientific theory ought to be viewed not as weaknesses in evolutionary claims but rather as reflections of ongoing differences that inhere in “doing science—posing, testing and debating alternative explanations,” then the emphasis is proper only if Godfrey refuses to attach finality and a universal validity-claim to anticreationist evolutionary theses.

The history of evolutionary theory is far from complete and its present status ambiguous. Hampton L. Carson notes the difficulty of integrating the dual lines of study pursued by biological evolutionists when on the one hand they project the course of evolution that is held to produce contemporary organisms, and when on the other they analyze supposed evolutionary causation. Carson notes, moreover, that presentation of new approaches even to student audiences now requires an understanding of sophisticated computer techniques and an awareness of complex and sometimes esoteric theory; he ventures the bold observation that “new mutations and recombinations” of evolutionary theory will themselves “be subject to natural selection” (“Introduction to a Pivotal Subject” [review of Evolution by Theodosius Dobzhansky and others, and of Organismic Evolution by Verne Grant], pp. 1272 f.).

Yet most secular evolutionists continue to assume that evolution is a complex fact and therefore debate only its mechanism. Appealing to consensus rather than to demonstrative data, G. G. Simpson states that “no evolutionist since [Darwin has] seriously questioned that man did originate by evolution”; he insists, moreover, that “the problem [the origin of life] can be attacked scientifically” (“The World into Which Darwin Led Us.” pp. 966–974). Simpson’s advance confidence in naturalistic explanation exudes a strong bias against theistic premises.

But Thomas S. Kuhn considers the physical sciences to be grounded less on empirical facts that on academically defined assumptions about the nature of the universe, assumptions that are unprovable, questionable and reversible (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). His approach differs somewhat from Michael Polanyi’s assault on the objectivity of human knowledge (Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy), a view that Christian theism disputes on its own ground. Yet both Kuhn’s emphasis and Polanyi’s tend to put a question mark after absolutist evolutionary claims.

Advance commitment to naturalistic evolution continues, however, to characterize hard-core scientific theory. Bernard Rensch tells us: “While many fields certainly need further analyses, the general lines of thought in the field of evolution are, on the whole, well established.… Even in cases of evolutionary gaps we can be sure that the enormous multitude of forms is the product of one continuous phyletic tree.… As we have seen, this process of animal transformation is to a large extent necessitated” (Evolution Above the Species Level, pp. 358 f., ital. sup.). It is a personal matter, he adds, whether one coordinates this data with “a general theistic concept, or adheres to Spinoza’s ‘deus sive mundus’ or Goethe’s ‘God-Nature,’ or contents himself without these or any similar solutions of cosmic regularity” (ibid., p. 359). Evolution is for Rensch the surety; metaphysics—as if there were no overlap!—a matter of private preference only. What Rensch fails to recognize is the predeterminative character of his evolutionary faith.

Despite its unstable supports evolution has in effect become the humanistic religion of those who advance it dogmatically. The biologist Edwin G. Conklin accurately observed that the concept of organic evolution is for many biologists “an object of genuinely religious devotion, because they regard it as a supreme integrative principle” (Man Real and Ideal, p. 147). In an introduction to the 1971 edition of Darwin’s The Origin of Species L. Harrison Matthews states fairly and objectively the present status of evolution as a faith: “The fact of evolution is the backbone of biology, and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded on an unproved theory—is it then a science or a faith? Belief in the theory of evolution is thus exactly parallel to belief in special creation—both are concepts which believers know to be true but neither, up to the present, has been capable of proof” (ibid., p. x).

Richard Goldschmidt remarks that “with all biologists we assume that evolution as such is a fact” (The Material Basis of Evolution, p. 4). What he does not volunteer is that today more debate surrounds the “as such” than at any time since the beginning of the century. Indeed, Goldschmidt specifically notes his own disagreement with the viewpoint of many textbooks “that the problem of evolution has been solved as far as the genetic basis is concerned.” In deference to “a completely new anatomical construction” emerging “in one step” (ibid., p. 386) he challenges the Darwinian view that tries to explain evolution by the slow accumulation of mutation (ibid., p. 6).

“The fact—not theory—that evolution has occurred and the Darwinian theory as to how it has occurred,” writes G. G. Simpson, “have become so confused in popular opinion that the distinction must be stressed” (This View of Life, p. 10). The reason for this confusion should be clear. For almost a century professional scientists insisted, on the ground of Darwinian claims, that evolution is a fact. To say that the Darwinian supports are unpersuasive but that the theory holds firm in view of genetic considerations that remain to be adduced hardly vindicates the facticity of evolution.

At the conclusion of a panel on “The Evolution of Life” Sir Julian Huxley remarked: “We all accept the fact of evolution” yet “there is also a certain amount of disagreement about what we know, and a great deal of agreement that there is a lot we do not know” (in Evolution After Darwin, Vol. 3, Issues in Evolution, p. 139). He summarized: “I think if Charles Darwin had been alive for this panel, he would have been bewildered by the many new problems, new terms, and new ideas that have come up.… I am sure that if we were to assemble one hundred years hence, we should be equally excited and equally bewildered; but we certainly have a wonderful field full of problems for biologists to follow up” (ibid., p. 143). Huxley deplores dogmatic assertions that this theory “must be correct because there is nothing else that will satisfactorily take its place” (ibid., p. 157).

In a foreword to Rensch’s Evolution Above the Species Level Dobzhansky warns that no one should infer that “the theory of evolution is now complete except for some emendation. On the contrary, radical changes and major upsets are not only possible but almost certain to occur” (Evolution Above the Species Level, p. v).

David M. Raup of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History concedes that the fossil record is not nearly as Darwinian as even many well-trained scientists think; this misimpression, he says, is compounded by oversimplification in low-level textbooks and semipopular articles (“Evolution and the Fossil Record” (Letters), by David M. Raup, p. 289). Doubts about evolutionary explanation that prevail in higher learning are seldom reflected at the lower levels. Secondary school teachers tend to be uncritical of scientific dogma, and textbooks that students are required to know tend to indoctrinate. Most teachers in high schools today venture instruction on the premise that evolutionary theory is “established” and teach man’s evolution from the animals as fact. The rapidity with which scientific theory has at the high school level become scientific “fact” embarrasses scientists who keep abreast of their fields. Neil K. McBride of Queen Elizabeth College, London, observes that, despite disavowal of such views, “the absurdity of recapitulation and the half-truth of horse evolution are still incorporated into school textbooks as an irrefutable fact” (“Room for Faith” (correspondence), by Neil K. McBride, p. 96).

Richard Levin (“The Future of Science,” p. 639) has criticized Nicholas Rescher’s recent work, Scientific Progress, because his emphasis on “first-rate findings” begs the question of a definition of scientific progress. Levin notes that “it has become orthodoxy among philosophers of science that scientific advance is not merely a matter of generalizing older theories to encompass a broader range of phenomena; often new theories annihilate older theories, changing utterly the context in which phenomena are perceived and interpreted.” Stephen Jay Gould likewise remarks that “New facts collected in old ways of thought under the guidance of old theories, rarely lead to any substantial revision of thought. Facts do not ‘speak for themselves’; they are read in the light of theory. Creative thought, in science as much as in the arts, is the motor of changing opinion” (Ever Since Darwin, p. 161). Gould admits that unfortunately science and not only religion has “persecuted dissenters, resorted to catechism,” and that science has “tried to extend [its] authority to a moral sphere where it has no force.” He nonetheless prejudicially connects “science and rationality” but arbitrarily considers biblical theism to be nonrational (ibid., p. 146, cf. p. 141).

If scientific progress means anything, scientific learning can still expect many unforeseen surprises. Modern science has seen spectacular changes before, and its times of greatest change are considered its periods of greatest progress. Einstein’s theory of relativity originally represented almost as much of a rupture of entrenched suppositions as would a turnabout from evolution to creation as a metaphysical model. Not long ago the entire scientific community assumed the cosmos to be structured by a universal network of laws; today science avoids the idea of causality and speaks more modestly of predictable sequences. When science sees no need to progress beyond its current commitments we should remember that although they often struggle hard for perpetuity, scientific fashions, like social fashions, are short-lived.

R. Clyde McCone notes that substituting a cultural worldview for scientifically useful models in studying the empirical world easily results in labeling an unwelcome dogma as “ignorant, fundamentalist, higher superstition, or Judeo-Christian bias” (“Anthropology of Beliefs,” p. 249). On the other hand an accepted scientific tradition, approved by contemporary specialists, is considered “the basis of credibility.” A professional gnosis guarantees that the world emerged billions of years ago—give or take a few billion with every significant revision of estimates—and that man came from an animal ancestry that has accommodated an unending series of updated reconstructions that would in itself require a series of minor miracles. Even professionals who hope to develop new forms of life with almost miracle-like rapidity by genetic engineering based on immanent factors and by ecological planning disallow miraculous divine origination. Creating new forms of life suddenly is considered mythology if God did it, whereas the modern scientist who merely reduplicates the same activity is considered a candidate for eternal glory. The very generation that was taught to scoff at biblical miracles performed by an omnipotent deity exults in “miracle” drugs produced by fallible mortals. The unfair verdict that creationists are simply trying to “abort evolution down a gap in the fossil record” conceals the fact that what is really at stake is a conflict over the gods, that is, over ultimate explanatory principles.

Many scientists now consider horrendous the idea of “tying science to divine interventionism.” But science has no evidence that establishes the absolute causal continuity of events, or the gradual derivation of the divergent kinds of life from simpler causes, or even the existence of causes. The thesis that God upholds all the processes of nature and that they would collapse without divine preservation is as fully compatible with observational data as is any alternative. And the scientist’s concession of gaps or gulfs between the kinds of life is as compatible with the biblical theist’s referral of the graded orders of being to divine agency as is the naturalist’s insistence on step-evolution. Any verdict on the original source and method of beginnings cannot in the nature of the case be based on empirical observation and verification. The biblical theist professes to speak about origins on the basis of divine revelation; the scientist can only speculate by retroactively imposing hypotheses conditioned by observation or much later phenomena that involve no absolute and independent origination. The founders of modern science—Boyle, Newton and many others—assumed an intelligent omnipotent Creator of all and found nothing in science to dissolve that conviction. Not only is the thesis of special creation consistent with the scientific data but it is attested also by scriptural representations of the self-revealing God.

The credentials of evolution as a valid scientific principle have been disputed since Karl Popper declared that in order to be scientific a theory must be testable, that is, falsifiable: “I shall certainly admit a system as empirical or scientific only if it is capable of being tested by experience.… Not the verifiability but the falsifiability of a system is to be taken as a criterion of demarcation” (The Logic of Scientific Discovery, p. 40). Since empiricism in view of its limitations cannot actually verify any thesis, Popper insisted that falsifiability should be made the test for distinguishing genuine empirical theory from sheer metaphysical dogma. Evolution can therefore be considered an empirical theory only if it has predictive value.

But the fact is that the unrepeatable events postulated by evolution cannot be tested or evaluated on the basis of prediction and consistency. Evolutionary theory differs methodologically from much of scientific theory because it is more metaphysical than empirical, inasmuch as it provides no significant predictions of future events. Astronomy predicts eclipses, but what does evolutionary science predict?

The thesis of evolutionary “survival of the fittest,” crucial to Darwinian natural selection, illustrates the difficulty. Popper declares the concept not only unverifiable but tautological, that is, circular; so do the geneticist Conrad H. Waddington (The Strategy of Genes, p. 65), Murray Eden (in Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution) and R. H. Peters (“Tautology in Evolution and Ecology,” p. 1). Speaking at the Darwin Centennial at the University of Chicago in 1959 Waddington said candidly that “natural selection … turns out on closer inspection to be a tautology” (“Evolutionary Adaptation,” p. 385). Darwinism begs the question of survival of the fittest, say Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, because the argument can be inverted; survival is possible for every species in a worsening situation, in which a species can afford to decline (Evolution from Space, pp. 6 f.). Theists have long noted that the evolutionist can define the “fittest” only as those who survive. But the “fittest” would survive if species were divinely created no less than if they evolved. No experiment has demonstrated that survival of the fittest can establish a new species. The insistence of some evolutionists that small changes under given conditions are indeed testable hardly meets the main issue, namely, testability of the general theory or mass idea of evolution. The earlier dogma that morphological similarity implies physical descent was fully as untestable and as tautological as the notion of survival of the fittest due to natural selection.

Robert Root-Bernstein of the Salk Institute considers evolution to have scientific credentials because it “postdicts certain immutable trends of progressive change that can be falsified.” By way of example, Root-Bernstein says that any discovery of human fossils in geological strata containing dinosaur bones would surely falsify the theory, as would also a discovery of bird fossils in strata preceding the origin of fishes. He adds: “In the absence of evolutionary theories any chronological ordering of the fossil record would seem to be a possibility, and no means would exist to choose one order over the other” (“Views on Evolution, Theory and Science,” p.1446). The implication that a rejection of evolution issues in paleontological chaos simply disregards the logical alternative of orderly theistic creation. Assuming that the strata have not been disturbed, the order of the fossil record may be accepted without drawing unlimited conclusions. The order does not answer the question of the process of origin. Raup and others now deny that any definitive order can be inferred from the fossil record.

Root-Bernstein brashly contrasts reason (scientific evaluation) with revelation and contends that creation theories do not and cannot qualify as scientific because they are “neither predictive nor postdictive” and “have not even accrued epistemological validity” (ibid., p. 1447). Yet every Bible student is aware that the Old Testament prophets declared nonfulfillment of prophecies a sign of false prophets. Scientific authoritarianism is hardly to be preferred to revelational authority. The fact that scientific reasoning is subject to continual revision hardly establishes its superiority. Revelational creationism is not conditioned on empirical observation. Its transcendence of empirical limitations is not a liability but an asset, since past origins fall outside empirical observation and present empirical conclusions are subject to change.

Ernst Mayr’s suggestion that classification of organisms on an evolutionary pattern is an “art” (Evolution and the Diversity of Life, p. 411) would, as Ariel Roth suggests, “remove the problem altogether from the arena of science” (“Science and Religion,” p. 21). The extent to which imaginative theory tends to create history is apparent in Rensch’s emphasis; although evolutionists do not know the origin of life, he says, the study of viruses has enabled scientists to arrange nonliving molecules in a model series that involves various levels of organization and vital characters, a series that might provide a link to living substance or organisms proper (Evolution Above the Species Level, pp. 311, 315). Norman Platnick puts it bluntly: Evolutionary biologists must either “agree with Mayr that narrative explanations are the name of the game, and continue drifting away from the rest of biology into an area ruled only by authority and consensus, or we insist that whenever possible our explanations be testable and potentially falsifiable and the evolutionary biology rejoin the scientific community at large” (Review of Mayr’s Evolution and the Diversity of Life, p. 224). The tendency of evolutionists to refer phenomena to theory rather than to empirical confirmation or disconfirmation constitutes a situation, says Platnick, that “makes of evolutionary biologists spinners of tales, bedtime storytellers instead of empirical investigators.”

The scientist is indeed a metaphysically conditioned human being. Goldschmidt remarks incisively: “I think that all theories of evolution tend to reflect the scientific trends of their time. I have lived to see the purely morphological period of biology with its evolutionary corollary, the construction of phylogenetic trees, invention of missing ancestors, and a philosophical outlook variously termed mechanism, materialism, monism” (The Material Basis of Evolution, p. 397). No one has ever discovered a living scientist—either in Russia or in America—in a “chemically pure” state.

But, replies Niles Eldredge, both the conventional sense of evolution—how life evolves—and the historical proposition that life has evolved entail experimental procedures within the hypothetico-deductive approach (cf. N. Eldredge and J. Cracraft, Phylogenetic Patterns and the Evolutionary Process). “Were we to find no order, we would have to reject the notion of geneological relationships among organisms: the notion of evolution,” Eldredge notes, whereas “all forms of life have RNA, all eukaryotes discrete nuclei, all vertebrates backbones, and all mammals three inner ear bones” (“Evolution and Prediction,” p. 737). Moreover, Eldredge adds, the predictive element is evident in animal experimentation, for it is conducted on the premise that the closer the phylogenetic relations are to man, the more significant the implications are likely to be for human medicine.

The creationist hardly finds here a confirmation of evolutionary theory. The existence of morphological similarities does not invalidate the claim that a God of intelligible order created differing levels of life, any more than morphological identity proves that a child “evolved” from its parents; the utility of medical information derived from similar forms of life is fully as compatible with a creationist as with a noncreationist view of origins. There is no basis whatever for looking to empirical science for illumination on supernatural or on moral concerns, or even for an unrevisable verdict on physical relationships. As William T. Keeton observes, “No theory in science is ever absolutely and finally proved.… The idea that there is a God working through the natural laws of the universe is not testable, and hence cannot be evaluated by science. Science can neither confirm nor refute it.… And science cannot make moral judgments.…” (Biological Science, pp. 2 ff.). Keeton would be more accurate had he gone on to state that although the reality of an invisible immaterial God cannot be tested by empirical laboratory methods, Christianity adduces a verifying principle appropriate to its object of knowledge.

The open-ended character of science can hardly be made a basis for excluding theistic creation and for entrenching naturalistic evolution, since the metaphysical issue really falls outside scientific observation and experimentation. Making fragmentary empirical observation into established fact or scientific finality invites a day of judgment even in empirical affairs. An unjustifiable dogmatism based on observational research precipitated one astonished scientist’s comment that the discovery of braiding in planet Saturn’s rings “defies all the laws of physics as we understand them.” So, too, scientific rejection of the divine origin of life and of the divine creation of all living families of life defy principles arbitrarily legislated upon the real world.

The question of truth in science is therefore bounded both by limitations of method and by the philosophical predisposition of the scientist. “What scientific men mean by truth,” writes mathematician J. W. N. Sullivan, “is, in the last resort, convenience” (The Limitations of Science, p. 41). “Truth, … in science, is a pragmatic affair” (ibid., p. 158). “There is, in science, a certain amount of useful myth” (ibid., p. 157). The mathematician, Sullivan tells us, assumes that his “readings refer to various qualities of the external world, but all we know about these qualities for the purposes of exact science is the way they affect our measuring instruments” (ibid., p. 141). Sir Arthur Eddington had put the matter even more graphically: “our exact knowledge is of the readings, not of the qualities. The former have as much resemblance to the latter as a telephone number has to a subscriber” (“The Domain of Physical Science,” in Science, Religion and Reality, pp. 193–222). The limits of science are such, adds Sullivan, that it cannot invalidate a religious view of reality. “No scientific principles are sacrosanct; no scientific theory is held with religious conviction.… Science is still an adventure, and all its ‘truths’ are provisional” (The Limitations of Science, p. 162).

Yet there are many instances, and none more imposing than the insistence on evolution as an ultimate explanatory principle, when scientific claims are made to serve trans-empirical beliefs. The scientific cause has been periodically embarrassed by such tendential slanting of data. And one need not point only at Russian scientists, who have allowed Leninist or Marxist theory to prejudice their conclusions. The recent volume on The Social Context of Soviet Science edited by Linda L. Lubrano and Susan Gross Solomon, notes that tension between Marxist “philosophical” interpretation of science and more objective evaluation is still an issue. But even in the United States federal agencies have charged grant recipients with preparing biased research reports in order to attract funding; according to the Food and Drug Administration, thirty researchers faked data or otherwise slanted experiments.

The most notorious instance of scientific fakery was, of course, the Piltdown hoax. To dismiss the entire history of fossil interpretation under its shadow is obviously inexcusable. But it is no tribute to paleontologists that the artifacts taken from a Sussex, England, gravel pit in 1910 and hurriedly adduced as Darwin’s “missing link” between ape and man were not conceded to be fraudulent until after 1953 when J. S. Weiner reported the facts (The Piltdown Forgery). The weight of proevolutionary assumptions had here not only prejudiced a fair reading of the evidence, but had even inspired nonexistent evidence. No less prominent an anthropologist than Richard E. Leakey tells us that “… the Piltdown forgery illustrates the sometimes independent eagerness with which scientists will accept what they want to believe” and reminds us that “researchers today are not exempt from this weakness …” (Richard E. Leakey and Roger Lewin, Origins: What New Discoveries Reveal About the Emergence of Our Species and Its Possible Future, p. 33).

Quite apart from such periodic misrepresentation of experimental data, the fact remains that a way of knowing that can never arrive at unrevisable truth, or really know that any of its tentativities do, in fact, coincide with it, can justify its commitments only on the basis of utility. Scientific operationalism defines truth not as objective validity but as usefulness. The possibility that nature “complies with” a theory does not mean that the theory may not be intellectually preposterous, even if useful.

The aim of such comment is not to invalidate scientific investigation or to reduce respectable research effort to merely a storage of information. The protest against a claim to finality in scientific matters is evoked not by most research-minded professors or by practicing scientists as much as by their popular interpreters, including writers of elementary textbooks, secondary school teachers and second-rate college instructors. The situation is helped little when religionists make revelatory counterclaims in behalf of theories for which biblical supports cannot be properly invoked.

What is objectively true need not be scientific and what is scientific cannot on the basis of the scientific method be shown to be objectively true. While empirical contradiction may invalidate a theory, science cannot establish any final truth or a final system of explanation.

Nor can the physicist prove that a real affinity exists between his theories and the objective order of nature. The Christian may indeed know that nature “conforms” to some scientific theories because science at times unwittingly borrows certain elements of the biblical view of the external world. The doctrine of creation supplies a basis for believing that some rational overlap exists between explanatory images and the objects of experimentation, since it affirms a transcendent basis for the unity, orderliness, stability and intelligibility of natural processes. But the empirical quest for unity is always limited by but fragmentary observation and is vulnerable therefore to tendential interpretation.

Thomas Kuhn notes that while its great founders—Einstein, Planck, Bohr, Heisenberg and Schrödinger—precipitated “a crisis in the foundations of modern science,” the “central question” raised by contemporary science remains unanswered, namely, what must characterize a world that man can know? (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, p. 172). In his 1975–76 Gifford Lectures, The Road of Science and the Ways of God, Stanley L. Jaki contends that all major scientific advances rest on an epistemology germane to the view that the realm of things and persons constitutes a pointer to their Creator. Jaki avers that science “invariably appears to have been deprived of its solid foundation” whenever it resists the indispensable basis that Christian theism alone can supply (ibid., p. vii.).

Whatever defects may mar rival scientific theories, it is misleading to imply that Christianity depends upon the demonstrable wrongness of all such theories. Scientific theories become vicious only when they presume to be more than theoretical models and claim to depict the actual constitution of the externally real world. When scientists give the impression that they are not merely seeking truth, but have actually found it and presume unqualifiedly to define it for all time, they invite refutation. But if all accounts of reality are infinitely flexible, then surely modern science can pose no significant problem for creation, and creation need pose no problem for science. The Christian concern for truth intersects all claims made by contemporary scientists, even if scientists are at odds with each other.

There is no reason, as Christian apologists sometimes have done, to think that the case for the supernatural is best preserved by emphasizing only a “God of the gaps.” Unless the God of the Bible is in and above all, he is but a fantasy. It is untrue that science has gradually eroded the domain of God’s activity and that, had evolutionary theory not been challenged, divine activity would have been reduced to zero. Richard Spilsbury comments that “the view that religion can be invalidated by laboratory work seems to be on a par with the alleged remark of a Soviet astronaut that he had caught no glimpse of God in outer space” (Providence Lost, p. 119). Communism encourages the myth that science is destructive of the supernatural. To reply that science proves the supernatural or to fear that a naturalistic theory can of itself eliminate God merely allows atheism to set the dialectical agenda.

The Christian can be truly open-minded about biological evolution as simply an explanatory model and should be able to test its claims objectively in relation to both empirical and scriptural data. But what is precluded to the Christian is a naturalistic philosophy and a theistic dogmatism that postulates, when the Bible is silent, how God must have acted in various details. The limitations of revelational method need attention no less than do the limitations of scientific method. The creation account does not expressly say what physical components entered into the origin of the universe, nor does it state much else that is of proper concern to science. The effort to discern a sequence of events that God may have ventured in the past is therefore far from wrong, even though to cite evolutionism as a synonym for naturalism is, inasmuch as Scripture affirms just the opposite.

Steven Weinberg is among those who view the universe as having “evolved from an unspeakably unfamiliar early condition” and as facing “a future extinction of endless cold or intolerant heat”; “the more the universe seems comprehensible,” he adds, “the more it also seems pointless” (The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe, p. 154). If all reality is simply a cosmic accident, then surely it is little more than a tragic joke. In that event, no process of rational interpretation can hope to impose on it even a glimmer of objective intelligibility.

E. F. Schumacher’s comment, that materialistic theories saddle us “with a view of the world as a wasteland in which there is no meaning or purpose, in which man’s consciousness is an unfortunate cosmic accident, in which anguish and despair are the only final realities” (Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, p. 84) is wholly apropos. Naturalistic evolutionists seem not seriously to have contemplated the resultant reality, had an accidental existence ensued reflecting the chaos inherent in an almost infinite probability of highly destructive DNA combinations. The burden of faith that rests upon naturalism in view of its substituting evolution ex nihilo for creation ex nihilo is staggering. Colossal belief is required that falls outside “the canons of scientific proof,” not least, as Wysong notes, “a faith in L-proteins that defy chance formulation; … in the formation of DNA codes which if generated spontaneously would spell only pandemonium; … in a primitive environment that in reality would fiendishly devour any chemical precursors to life.” It would require faith in much else, moreover, such as “in mutations and natural selection that add a double negative for evolution” (The Creation-Evolution Controversy, p. 419).

Hard-core evolutionists notwithstanding, humanities professor William Irwin Thompson suggests that pressures on the evolutionary worldview are now so intense that the contemporary outlook may be on the brink of a major perspectival shift. Thompson writes: “The Darwinian theory of human evolution by natural selection, which triumphed in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, may fall apart into newly structured pieces in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries” (At the Edge of History. Speculations on the Transformation of Culture, p. 135). “All in all,” Thompson adds, “when one takes into account the problems that are not honestly faced and questioned in our notions of evolution, primitive culture, and archaeology, he can see that the specialists are retreating from the problems and burrowing more deeply into the security of minutiae. If one lifts his gaze to take in the whole historical horizon of man, he can see that our present world view is being put under a strain” (ibid., p. 151).

Creation as an alternative was considered untenable, notes Himmelfarb, because it was “obviously not bound by the usual canons of scientific proof” and lacked the geologic, especially paleontological, evidences to which evolutionists appealed (Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, pp. 350 f.). Today such judgment falls rather on naturalistic theory, not only in the matter of scientific evidences and rational credibility, but of its consequences for personality and culture as well.

While Christians differ in their views of fiat creation and progressive creation, they do agree against naturalists who would make the universe and life simply matters of chance. Christians insist that the biblical account of origins and science’s assured results are wholly compatible, that God created graded orders of being and life, that the human race derives its being from a primal Adam and Eve divinely endowed with the forms of rationality and morality, that the fall of the original pair involves the whole human race in sin and guilt. While differences occur among evangelicals within these mainline agreements, they concern mostly the nature and timing of the continuities by which the Creator achieved and continues to achieve his cosmic goals. The debate focuses primarily on the age of the earth and on the time and nature of the creation of man.

If biblical theists were asked to reconcile their views with evolutionary science, they would face the problem of identifying incontrovertible scientific conclusions. The flux of evolutionary theory, and the disposition of many advocates to insist on the evolutionary fact even while supportive data remain in dispute, together with the readiness of others to accept evolution simply in lieu of what they would welcome as a viable alternative, prompts A. E. Wilder-Smith to ask: why are so many evangelical Christians so eager to harmonize their beliefs with a “working hypothesis” that is so deficient in scientific evidence of an experimental nature? (Man’s Origin, Man’s Destiny. A Critical Survey of the Principles of Evolution and Christianity, p. 307).

In the present metaphysical debate the burden of proof should not be thrust upon the creationists. Today as in the Scopes trial a century ago, secular educators and the media spend more effort in caricaturing fundamentalist beliefs than in providing conclusive scientific data for naturalistic evolution. If the evangelical dialogue with evolutionists is to be conducted not on Darwinian grounds but on alternative premises, then both neo-Darwinian and post-Darwinian scientists must clearly delineate their positions. If a non-Darwinian model of evolution now displaces the Darwinian model, if the theory that all earth’s life forms are naturalistically related by a common ancestry and by genetic continuity is to be more than a cultic faith, then we need to be told the factual basis of that faith. If, as Laurie R. Godfrey indicates, we must “not rule out the logical possibility that life could have arisen independently on more than one occasion on the earth and in the universe” (“The Flood of Antievolution,” p. 6), then it would be exceedingly helpful to intelligible discourse if logical supports were adduced for at least the one occasion when such life is believed to have arisen on earth.

If orthodoxy appears synonymous with heresy because it refuses to identify itself with prevalent scientific beliefs, then contemporaries should be reminded that to identify with such beliefs runs the high risk of historicizing and temporizing orthodoxy. To consider biblical creationism only as one scientific theory among others demeans it to the level of probabilistic empiricism. To represent the Genesis account simply as a “scientific model” overlooks its revelational source and its absolutistic claim.

On the purely theoretical level of postulating conflicting explanatory principles it is wholly legitimate to probe which alternative most consistently explains the available data. The comprehensive premise of universal evolution is not derived from empirical science but is postulated by faith; Christians are wholly free to invoke a different governing principle, even if naturalists dogmatically exclude a revelationally based alternative. As C. Leon Harris observes: “If the neo-Darwinian theory is axiomatic, it is not valid for creationists to demand proof of the axioms, and it is not valid for evolutionists to dismiss special revelation as unproved so long as it is stated as an axiom” (“An Axiomatic Interpretation of the Neo-Darwinian Theory of Evolution,” p. 179).

We are not therefore abandoned to a choice between myths, however. An intelligible and intelligent faith asks which postulate most comprehensively fits the data and bequeaths the fewest problems. Both creationists and evolutionists must state the nature of their claims precisely and indicate logical supports for those claims. Christian theists can hardly be expected to harmonize the Genesis account with modern scientific theory at points of possible conflict unless they are told exactly what evolutionary premises its advocates consider beyond revision. If the fossil record gives no evidence of an upward evolution of all life during prehistory, and if no current illustrations of present evolution are or can be adduced, then on what factual basis are we to believe in evolution?


The Origin and Nature of Man

Central to the creation-evolution debate over man stands the question of who and what man is. What most divides theology and evolutionary philosophy is the comprehension of man’s essential nature, a disagreement that inevitably involves and complicates the question of human origins.

Probably no terms have been more misused and misunderstood than the terms “human” and “manlike.” Behind man as we know him today and the biological species Homo sapiens of recorded history, evolutionary theory projects an ancestry of hominid or hominoid fossil types that reach back fifteen to twenty million years. What criterion shall we use for the authentication of man?

Dale Moody comments that if “religion were the criterion, the Neanderthals could possibly be called the first men, but if the use of tools is the criterion, the date could be pushed back to Australopithecus or Homo habilis” (The Word of Truth, p. 209). The use of fire as a criterion would qualify so-called Peking man.

But Genesis does not speak of man in the context of “religion” in general; it speaks rather of Adam made specifically in Elohim’s image and responsibly assigned to tend the garden of Eden. In the Bible what remains the determining constant of essential human nature is the presence in man at least in some respects of the divine likeness. In scriptural revelation the imago Dei underlies man’s continuing confrontation by his Maker and his ongoing moral duty to all fellow humans.

In evolutionary theory, on the other hand, morphological similarities to other mammals are the crucial factor in contemplating the human species.

The study of mankind, writes Mortimer Adler in The Great Ideas. A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Western World, “is the only study in which the knower and the known are one, in which the object of the scientist is the nature of the scientist himself” (Vol. 2, Chapter 51: Man, p. 1). When man studies ape-men is he then truly studying himself or is he only examining fossils to which the term man is applied? When anthropologists contemplate fossil skeletons they tend to do so with little or no reflection on spiritual, moral and social concerns that surround the origin of man. Yet this kind of investigative myopia does not of itself eliminate the question of so-called pre-Adamic man. As J. W. N. Sullivan remarks, the value of the scientific man’s own example to mankind “is limited by the fact that, in his work, the scientific man is not completely a man” (The Limitations of Science, p. 175). Can empirical inquiry really perceive the essence of man, be he prehistoric or contemporary? Has man really existed for untold millions of years? Is the biblical account of human origins a myth? How shall the Christian respond to evolutionary claims?

Not only is the identity of man in dispute today, but the very existence of universal or pancultural human nature is in question. The existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre rejected the concept of human nature, yet he surreptitiously assumed the universality of his own view. William C. Shepherd challenges claims that we must speak no longer of pancultural human nature but rather of many varieties of human nature (The Social Construction of Reality). A universally applicable idea of human religion, says Shepherd, precludes extreme cultural relativism in comprehending human nature (“Cultural Relativism, Physical Anthropology, and Religion,” pp. 159–72, pp. 159 ff.). Shepherd insists on a biologically fixed substratum that shapes human activities panculturally and considers conceptual relativism a consequence of an erroneous tabula rasa epistemology in which the total content of human minds is derived from cultural imprinting.

Robert C. Solomon declares all philosophical discussion of the “human” to be “a pretentious fraud, a glib generalization parading as an essence” (History and Human Nature, A Philosophical Review of European Philosophy and Culture, 1750–1850, p. 359). Solomon assures us that we can reject this “transcendental pretense,” which he labels “one curious set of myths among many,” without imperiling human rights, human dignity, and other humanitarian advances. He does not tell us, however, just how he achieves these imperatives apart from transcendent information.

In striking contrast to evolutionary scholars who hypothesize human nature and theoretically project it upon prehistory and are interested mainly in chemical and biological similarities, theologians and philosophers have focused instead on whether man is innately selfish (Hobbes) or virtuous (Rousseau), or whether man was once the latter or the former and now is or is gradually becoming the former or the latter. The anthropological debate centers not so much in questions of morphology as in probing whether linguistic structures are biologically innate (Chomsky), whether Jews are but dubious instances (Hitler) and fetuses but dispensable instances (a million Americans) of humanity, and whether God confronts the human species as an inescapable given. The question whether Jesus of Nazareth exhibits human nature at its best remains decisive for the fortunes of the race. Almost every major problem of modern society turns on the question of man’s ideal nature; the answer affects every aspect of anthropology. Scientism invites us to examine man as a mechanism; the Genesis account focuses rather on God-man relationships and warns that to sacrifice the theological concept of man leads inevitably to a profound misunderstanding of his nature. Man concerned only with phenomenal man never truly answers the question, “What is man?”

The modern notion that the history of mankind is to be understood in terms merely of rival myths has been projected also upon the Genesis account of human origins. For some critics Genesis 1:1–2:4 and Genesis 2:5–22 represent competing accounts that are based presumably upon different mythological traditions. But whether one views the book of Genesis, as do critics, as the work of a redactor, or as essentially the work of Moses, as do conservative scholars, it is unlikely that any editor or author would have conjoined without comment two accounts that were thought to be logically contradictory. The insistence that the creation narrative reflects rival traditions has been largely discredited. Contrary to what critics once contended, Elohim and Yahweh, the differing names for God, do not require distinct documentary sources. Some apparent divergences are capable of ready harmonization (e.g., in Genesis 1, God produces vegetation, earth is saturated with water, man and woman are created together, whereas in Genesis 2 vegetation is dependent on rain, the earth is an arid wilderness and man’s wife is formed later from man’s side; in Genesis 1 man is created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth, whereas in Genesis 2 he is formed of the dust of the earth and placed in the garden). Other apparent differences can be resolved if we recognize that the purpose of Genesis 2 is more topical than chronological (the sequence in Genesis 1 is vegetation, beasts, then man; in Genesis 2 it is man, and then vegetation and beasts). Genesis 2:5 f. need not necessarily refer to the creation of vegetation; the reference may be only to shrubs and plants of the field that require both rain and cultivation. Genesis 2:8 f. refers to plant life in the Garden of Eden and is not a detailed account of the third day of creation. The course of Genesis 1 climaxes in man fashioned in God’s image; Genesis 2:7 is a more specific account of this creation of man in the divine image. If Genesis 2 were chronological in intention man would not be created before there was a place to put him and God would not station man in the garden twice. The second creation story emphasizes man under God and in and beyond the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 2 and 3 we see man first under divine assignment, then disobedient, and then as a consequence expelled from paradise.

The biblical view of man involves two decisive anthropological referents: primal Adam and Jesus Christ, or the First Adam and the Second Adam. Man as he exists today falls far short, therefore, as an ideal representation of the human species; Adam as God fashioned him was in numerous respects superior to the fallen race of mankind, and not until fallen man is conformed to the image of Jesus Christ does he once again reflect what God intended by creation. Evolution concentrates on man before the First Adam, while theology concentrates upon man’s possibilities through the Second Adam. In the interval between the First and Second Adam Scripture exhibits man’s unique dignity by creation, the terrible consequences of the fall, the prospect of divine redemption, and humanity’s destiny of either heaven or hell. In the Bible the terrible truth about man is not an ape ancestry and a consequent inheritance of brute instincts but, rather, the fact that as a sinner in revolt against his Maker man constantly lives on a doom-laden collision course with the holy. Likewise the good news of the Bible is not that man is the lofty climax of an evolutionary process but that, despite shameful moral and spiritual rebellion, his sullied image of God can be renewed in a life that reflects the divine pattern for human existence and that will finally be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ, the truly obedient Divine Son and Redeemer.

Darwin projected The Descent of Man (1871) as an account only of human biological origins. But the evolutionary theory quickly encouraged and spawned nonbiblical and contrabiblical analysis also of man’s nature and destiny. As I. G. Barbour notes, Darwinian biology was swiftly invoked to challenge divine design, human dignity, the transcendent ground of morality and the relevance of Scripture (Issues in Science and Religion, pp. 80 ff.). Darwinian emphasis on “natural selection” instead of on divine design challenged biblical insistence on the fixity and immutability of divinely graded “kinds” of being so that man came to be seen not as a unique and special creation among mammals but as a product of evolutionary process.

For modern scholarship the projected animal ancestry of man posed two basic problems, one theological, the other scientific. The theological problem is whether the Genesis account lends itself to evolutionary interpretation; the scientific problem, whether scientific research confirms evolutionary theory.

Even today many theists who accept microevolution, that is, change resulting from minute variation, insist that macroevolution—and in particular man’s evolution from lower forms—remains unproved. They include, among others, the Catholic apologist Arnold Lunn (Revolt Against Reason, chapters 11 and 12), neoevangelical theologian Bernard Ramm (The Christian View of Science and Scripture, ch. 7), the German philosopher Karl Heim (The World, Its Creation and Consummation, pp. 38 ff.) and the Dutch zoologist J. J. Duyvene deWit (A New Critique of the Transformist Principle in Evolutionary Biology). Many thinkers contend, however, that an evolutionary view even of man does not undermine biblical revelation or cancel teleology or divine purpose in creation; they advance theistic evolution somewhat as a Protestant natural theology. The Anglican dean W. R. Matthews (The Purpose of God), the Anglo-Catholic apologist E. L. Mascall (Christian Theology and Natural Science), the Dutch zoologist Jan Lever (Creation and Evolution) and more recently American process philosophers take this course.

No emphasis shines through the entire creation account more emphatically, however, than that man is a special creation of the living God (“so God created man … he created him … he created them,” 1:27), is made in God’s image (“in our image, after our likeness … in his own image, in the image of God,” 1:26 f.), is a unity of male and female (“God created man … male and female created he them,” 1:27), and is divinely made not only to worship and serve God but also to rule over other created life (“let them have dominion,” 1:26; “have dominion,” 1:28).

The evolutionary effort to comprehend man’s uniqueness simply in biological terms focuses only on physical components and in so doing, strips the term uniqueness of rational, moral and spiritual categories. While every creature’s physical aspects are indeed highly interesting, yet every distinct species’ morphology differs in some significant respects from that of another species.

While man’s upright posture, to be sure, is but implicit in the Genesis account we know that Adam had hands capable of tilling and dressing the garden (Gen. 2:15). According to Freud the evolution of upright posture reoriented the species, unlike other animal life, to sight rather than smell as its primary sense; this change, said Freud, accounted for continuing sexuality among humans, an impetus to which he then traced the drive for a fixed family structure. This fanciful interpretation accommodated the Bible to Freud’s theories which obviously were anything but biblical. Later evolutionists correlated man’s upright posture not with the senses but with an altered mode of life that emphasizes intellection, that is, with the fashioning of tools and weapons. Ernst Haeckel postulated the human ancestor as upright, speechless, small-brained and apelike.

Stephen Jay Gould reminds us that human beings are in fact among earth’s largest animals. He observes that “more than 99% of animal species are smaller than we are. Of 190 species in our own order of primate mammals, only the gorilla regularly exceeds us in size” (Ever Since Darwin, p. 179). Yet neither in his size nor in his posture does the Genesis creation account center man’s uniqueness.

It is more than a century since Darwin postulated the dogma of survival of the fittest by natural selection. In all that time no adequate explanation has yet emerged to account for the fact that man has a brain which, as William Irwin Thompson notes, is “a hundred times more complex than that needed for survival” (At the Edge of History. Speculations on the Transformation of Culture, p.133), an organ comprised of some ten million elements organized into some three million modules. Neurologist Tilly Edinger remarks, “If man has passed through a Pithecanthropus phase, the evolution of his brain has been unique, not only in its result but also in its tempo. Enlargement of the cerebral hemispheres by 50 percent seems to have taken place, speaking geologically, within an instant, and without having been accompanied by any major increase in body size.” Quoting Edinger, Loren Eiseley recalls that Darwin considered it offensive when his colleague A. R. Wallace asked why, if natural selection was the mechanism of evolution, man acquired “so large a cerebrum” (The Immense journey, pp. 86, 94). Although man’s brain at birth is only a little larger than that of a baby gorilla, in the very first year of life it triples in size; this astonishing fact, Eiseley notes, is unlike anything we know in the animal world (ibid., p. 109).

Yet it is not man’s brain, whatever its size, that accounts for his uniquely human qualities, but rather his attributes of intelligence including conceptual thought, propositional speech and ethical judgments. G. K. Chesterton remarks, “It is the simple truth that man does differ from the brutes in kind and not in degree; and the proof of it is here: that it sounds like a truism to say that the most primitive man drew a picture of a monkey and that it sounds like a joke to say that the most intelligent monkey drew a picture of a man” (The Everlasting Man, p. 15).

Man is of “more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7), of more value than even the immense dinosaurs and other species that God allowed to perish, or than any other earthly species of life. And yet, as the Noahic flood and its forewarning of man’s dual destiny attests, man is not of infinite value. Man’s value, according to the Bible, exists in relation to the holy purposes of the Creator; any attempt to buttress human self-esteem and dignity on any other basis is therefore self-defeating.

The Darwinian concept of evolution, writes Richard Spilsbury, is “inadequate to account for the uniqueness of man,” especially in view of “his acute self-awareness and world-awareness, his capacity for cultural development, his linguistic and creative powers, and his sense of values” (Providence Lost. A Critique of Darwinism, p. 7).

Noam Chomsky comments on “the extent to which human language appears to be a unique phenomenon, without a significant analogue in the animal world.” He adds: “In fact, the processes by which the human mind achieved its present stage of complexity and its particular form of innate organizations are a total mystery.… It is perfectly safe to attribute this development to `natural selection,’ so long as we realize that there is no substance to this assertion, that it amounts to nothing more than a belief that there is some naturalistic explanation for these phenomena” (Language and Mind, pp. 59, 83). Naturalists who contend that human language originated in sense experience through early man’s assignment of words to physical objects or space relations cannot explain how such physical meanings came to be extended into psychic referents or how spatial referents came to be altered to designate spiritual entities. Nor can the behavioral notion that language is a physico-chemical reaction precipitated by man’s environment explain man’s use of words in defiance of physical causality; it cannot save significance for even the language theory of behaviorists.

Many scholars dispute F. G. Patterson’s contention that “language is no longer the exclusive domain of man.” H. S. Terrace, L. A. Petitto, R. J. Sanders and T. G. Bever are among a considerable number who insist that their study of animal utterances yields “no evidence of an ape’s ability to use a grammar” (“Can an Ape Create a Sentence?,” p. 891). Observed instances of presumed grammatical competence by apes can be explained by simple nonlinguistic processes. According to Terrace and others “apes can learn many isolated symbols (as can dogs, horses, and other nonhuman species), but they show no unequivocal evidence of mastering the conversational, semantic, or syntactic organization of language” (ibid., p. 901). Experiments with chimpanzees who “talk” in sign language, observes Sir John Eccles, show that they can signal for things and get them, but “they don’t describe.… They don’t argue.… They have no value system. They don’t make moral decisions.… They don’t know they’re going to die.… We must never judge animals as if they were just badly brought up human beings” (“Photons, Philosophy, & Eccles,” The Washington Post, Mar. 15, 1981, p. F-1).

But to probe distinctive possibilities of the human phenomenon only in the context of biologico-psychological factors unjustifiably limits discussion within the range of higher animals. Even here, however, at the level of man’s natural being, there is reason to question the naturalistic exhaustion of the biological; not even human idiots “relapse” to apelike characteristics. Yet by a different scale of values other mammals or indeed lower creatures such as fish that live in the sea and birds that fly might be seen to have excellencies which humans lack. It is true that as a biologically organic phenomenon man differs in remarkable respects from the animals as a supermammal. If, indeed, man descended from manlike forms they must have been very different from any so-called hominids or primates now known to us. Man’s biological singularity—his sustained upright walk, the coordinated use of his hands, his lifespan twice that of anthropoid apes, his manufacturing of tools, his dressing of himself and ornamentation of his body—all these aspects are too much ignored in the evolutionary intention to establish likeness to lower animals. But what we must focus on to reflect man’s humanity is his ineradicable God-consciousness. In the context of the God of revelation, the matter of human differentiation involves considerations very different from simply natural features observable by scientific empiricism. Efforts to establish human uniqueness in the context of man and the animals diverts attention from the crucial factor, namely, the imago Dei; it is this that distinguishes real man from all other creatures. The imago involves moral and rational factors that link man alone to the realm of spirit, and that enable his formulation of general ideas and principles, capacity for propositional speech, sense of moral duty, awareness of history, and devotion to social and civilizational concerns.

Whereas evolutionary study of man is preoccupied with man’s likeness to the lower animals, the Genesis account speaks not at all about man’s similarity to the other creatures; it delineates rather man’s specially fashioned likeness to God (Gen. 1:27). The Bible declares the impossibility therefore of reducing man to the subhuman and nonhuman creatures or of comprehending and interpreting him solely in the context of the universe or of the earth. No helpmate for man is found in the other created kinds of earthly life (Gen. 2:20); he is unique from them by bearing his Maker’s image. The “animation” of man takes place only after the creation of all the animals and is in no sense a humanization of an animal. Man is not a product of natural succession, but exhibits a divine relationship by direct creation. While the predications used of living beings (“created,” “blessed”) differ from those used of nonliving matter (God “separated,” “placed,” etc.), only of man is the divine likeness affirmed. Man is defined, therefore, in a context not merely physical but fundamentally metaphysical; even the passages “be fruitful and multiply,” “have dominion,” “fill the earth and subdue it,” gain special significance because of humanity’s uniquely created selfhood. Despite the ways in which he is bound to the world by creation, man is stationed over it. Even though the sovereign Creator indisputably stands in the forefront of the creation account, there can be little doubt that the opening chapters of Genesis focus also on God’s election of man for a special role in cosmic history.

Nicholas Wade observes that even if biology could tell us about man’s complete molecular anatomy by computerizing and cataloguing the estimated 50,000 proteins produced as the working parts of cells in the human body (in which, moreover, a single chromosome contains some 500 million bases), it would be a reductionist fallacy to suppose that science had given us the whole story of man (“The Complete Index to Man,” pp. 33–35, p. 35). Bernard D. Davis, for example, voices awe “that life, evolving from inorganic matter, could develop … the unique intellectual, moral, and aesthetic capacities of our species” (“Frontiers of the Biological Sciences,” p. 89). This is, however, a colossal and unjustifiable assumption, even if in Davis’s view “the triumph of the mechanistic approach at the molecular level” need not reduce our appreciation of higher qualities that presumably evolve from it. Donald Mackay insists that if the brain were physically determined, as many nineteenth-century physicists held, we could not then “explain” either our acquisition of knowledge of the external world or our ability to make personal choices. If the brain’s operation were a matter simply of physical determination, then any denial of human freedom would be automatically mistaken, no knowledge on any subject would be valid, and the theory would be self-destructive. By enthroning molecular mechanism one undermines any claim for the validity of a mechanistic view of man and life.

But biblical theism does not rest merely upon a negation of its secular alternatives. As John Hadd puts it, “while man can be biologically related to several animal species for purposes of physiological comparison, he is unique as a special creation, the most special of all,” the “consciously honored offspring of the Creator” (Evolution: Reconciling the Controversy, p. 76).

Were it not for revelational factors, no one could simply on the basis of man’s structural complexity speak decisively or legitimately of man as a “higher” or “better” creature, let alone as the “highest” or “best” of all living forms. Gould reflects the rising doubt over man’s special role in the creaturely realm (Ever Since Darwin, pp. 37 f.). “The Western world,” he writes, “has yet to make its peace with Darwin and the implications of evolutionary theory” (ibid., p. 50). The “greatest impediment to this reconciliation,” he adds, is “our unwillingness to accept continuity between ourselves and nature, our ardent search for a criterion to assert our uniqueness.” That criterion, Christians know, is the imago Dei; loss of its affirmation has left a deep and unfilled vacuum in the human spirit and has cast a dark shadow over the special worth and dignity of human existence.

Four main views of the origin of man fix the perimeters of debate in the current controversy over human beginnings:

1. Naturalistic evolution: impersonal processes—e.g., natural selection, mutation, chance, or some combination of these—account for all forms and species of life so that man, whether emerging gradually or appearing suddenly, is the product of unthinking nonpurposive forces.

2. Theistic evolution: God as immanent agent sustains and directs the natural processes that shape the development of life from amoeba to man.

3. Progressive creation: God immanently supports and directs an extensive evolution of species but also acts transcendently at special stages of the evolutionary process to create the main biological taxonomical orders of being; man may be dependent physically on intermediate manlike forms but in distinction from the primates he is specially made in God’s image.

4. Fiat creation: all life-forms are created de novo by supernatural agency; no late orders of creation are dependent on earlier kinds of being; man is a totally unique creation fashioned from cosmic dust into a creature that bears his Maker’s moral and rational image.

While the fourth view reflects the immediate impression given by the biblical account, scientific representations of the antiquity of the earth, of manlike fossil forms, and of man himself, encourage theological sympathy for the third view.

The Old Testament uses the Hebrew term ādām in three senses: individual Adam (Gen. 1, 2, 4 and 5:3); collective Adam (Gen. 1:26, 5:2) and representative Adam (Gen. 2:4b–3:24; cf. 1 Cor. 11:2–16, 1 Tim. 2:11–15). The effort of higher criticism to relate these uses to different literary traditions is more confusing than helpful.

Individual Adam is Eve’s mate and the father of Cain. From the fact that Cain’s wife is not mentioned, that Cain feared he might be slain by other tribesmen, and that the law of vengeance was invoked against such possible revenge (Gen. 4:15), Dale Moody argues that Adam was but “one man among many” other humans who existed at the time of his creation (The Word of Truth, pp. 200 f.). But Adam and Eve had numerous children; Cain apparently feared his younger brothers (Gen. 4:14 f.).

Moody insists, however, that “evidence for the antiquity of human life in America, Europe, Asia and Africa” requires conforming the Genesis creation account to scientific anthropology and that Genesis must be accommodated to the “Three-Million-Year-Old Lucy” found in Ethiopia in 1974.

Moody inclines toward the view of E. K. Victor-Pearce who distinguishes between “pre-Adamite man” of Genesis 1 and the Adam of Eden in Genesis 2 and identifies the latter with New Stone-Age Man (Who Was Adam?). Moody argues from the fact that since other men have existed after Jesus Christ whom Scripture calls the Second Adam or Last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45–49), that other men existed before the First Adam also (Gen. 2:7) (The Word of Truth, p. 202). But Scripture speaks of the First Adam not only in the communal and representative sense, but also in the historical individual sense. Moody, however, thinks the scientific evidence for man’s antiquity on all continents cancels the possibility that Adam of Eden was the first human being who ever lived. While he concedes that man’s specific “ancestry” is uncertain, he subscribes to scientific affirmations of man’s “antiquity” and declares such antiquity to be compatible with the biblical account. Such reconciliation, he acknowledges, requires a critical documentary view of Scripture (The Word of Truth, pp. 212 f.). It “may be” that all humans have descended from a primal pair but nothing is lost, Moody volunteers, if man originated twenty million years ago (ibid., p. 172). He accordingly emphasizes the “profound symbolic meaning” of the Eden story (ibid., p. 187). While he insists on the literal sense and truth of certain aspects of Genesis 2:18–24, he considers the reference to Eve’s being “made from Adam” as symbolic and discusses the fall of Adam in terms of “picture” (ibid., pp. 272 f.). Eden was a place we know not where, and Adam sinned we know not when, says Moody, hence “the ancient primeval fact can be described only in symbolic language that applies to every man” (ibid., p. 198). Eden becomes a model of every person’s original unity with God and of the “sundering of that unity after the age of accountability” (ibid., p. 198). But theology is indeed in bad straits if symbolic language requires such circumlocution, for all language is symbolic. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s evolutionary theism apparently reads to Moody like Pauline theology commendably rewritten in modern scientific perspective (ibid., p. 257).

Despite the transitional forms predicated by evolutionists between supposedly manlike apes and Homo sapiens, fossil evidence is not only very fragmentary but extremely hypothetical as well. The major “proofs” adduced at midcentury of an animal ancestry for man—Piltdown Man, Java Man and Peking Man—are no longer invoked as missing links. In their stead candidates like Ramapithecus, Australopithecus and Homo erectus were nominated, and student textbooks routinely introduced them as progenitors of man.

But today, say Adrienne L. Zihlman and Jerold M. Lowenstein of “the case for Ramapithecus as an ancestral human,” “nothing is left but his smile” (“False Start of the Human Parade,” Natural History, p. 91). As for Australopithecus who for more than a generation had been declared an apelike human ancestor, he was acknowledged by an investigative scientific team to be the fossil of a creature that did not even walk upright and could not have been a transitional intermediary to man. British anatomist Lord Solly Zuckerman who led the review team, although himself not an advocate of the divine creation of man, contends that no fossil evidence exists of “steps” of a transformation of lower creatures into man (Beyond the Ivory Tower, p. 64). University of Chicago anthropologist Charles E. Oxnard, later dean of the graduate school of biological sciences at University of Southern California, confirmed the verdict against Australopithecus (“The Place of the Australopithecines in Human Evolution: Grounds for Doubt?” Nature, pp. 389–395). Elsewhere he declares it “somewhat unlikely that australopithecines … can actually have had very much to do with the direct human pathway” (“Human Fossils: New Views of Old Bones,” p. 274). Oxnard recalls “cases like Piltdown Man” as a warning against the hasty “eye-balling” of bone structures by paleontologists (the reference is probably to Richard Leakey and Carl Johanson who have been involved in most australopithecine fossil discoveries and whose conclusions many scholars consider hurried).

Edmund White and Dale Brown pronounce Homo erectus “the first man” (The First Man), as did numerous others before them. The case for Homo erectus as a human ancestor gained new interest because both Leakey and Johanson considered Homo erectus contemporary with Australopithecus and declared them to be not immediate descendants one of the other but as simultaneously existing parallel lines. Because of his erect walk and toolmaking skills Homo erectus was declared intermediate between apelike ancestors and present-day Homo sapiens, whose average brain size (1500 cubic centimeters) noticeably exceeds that of Homo erectus (900–1000 cubic centimeters). Actually the fact that brain size varies considerably among humans complicates the theory; Stephen Molnar reports moderns with smaller cranial vaults than Homo erectus yet whose intelligence is not at all inferior (Races, Types, and Ethnic Groups—The Problem of Human Variation, pp. 56 f.). Variation of brain size reflects neither superior nor inferior intelligence; the fact that elephants and whales have larger brains than does man does not make them mentally superior. Neurologists know that grossly abnormal human brain structure can exist without functional impairment. Medical literature records many instances of humans with greatly reduced cerebral mantles who manifested no intellectual liabilities.

So-called Cro-Magnon man, discovered in southwestern France in 1968, is usually connected with a culture of 25,000 to 40,000 years ago, one that saw the rise of primitive technology—of basketweaving, pottery, development of tools, weapons and clothing; no less important, Cro-Magnon man assertedly observed religious puberty rites and practiced burial customs associated with belief in an afterlife (cf. Tom Prideaux and editors of TimeLife Books, Cro-Magnon Man, pp. 27 ff.).

Attempts to link the Neanderthals, dated 40,000 to 100,000 years ago, with apes, and to regard such apes as the forerunners of man, have been assailed even by secular anthropologists, among them George Constable who criticizes the French paleontologist Marcellin Boules for such projections (The Neanderthals, p. 19). Practically all evolutionary anthropologists now acknowledge Neanderthal to be true Homo sapiens; distinct from monkeys, they were toolmakers and elementary artists and practiced religious rites even if these rites at times blurred into magic and cannibalism.

Long before hominid discoveries in the 1970s further complicated the problem of dating early man, W. E. Le Gros Clark observed that “phylogenetic interpretations based on a fossil record which is far from complete are, of course, meant to be no more than interpretations” and the conclusions reached cannot be regarded as “in any sense final” (The Fossil Evidence for Human Evolution, p. viii). Le Gros Clark depicts his own representations of hominid evolution as “a provisional interpretation” that accords, as he sees it, “reasonably well with the facts at present available,” and even these he concedes to be incomplete. The mood of his work contrasts strikingly with the dogmatic claims of G. H. R. von Koenigswald (The Evolution of Man), discoverer of the later Pithecanthropus skulls Meganthropus and Gigantopithecus, who speaks with unrestrained finality.

The straightline evolutionary model that prevailed until 1970, one which projected man’s origin in terms of “a progression from ape to ape-man to primitive man to modern man,” and affirmed the australopithecines to be intermediate creatures between apes and man, has collapsed, as Edward Lugenbeal observes, in a single decade (“The missing link is missing again,” Ministry, Mar., 1978, p. 25). It has done so, moreover, because of debatable assumptions and changing interpretations and acknowledged misinterpretations of fossil hominids.

As A. J. Kelso remarks, no fossil evidence indisputably links primates, the order in which evolutionists place man, with insectivores, their biologically indicated ancestors (Physical Anthropology, p. 142). Both in the Old World and in the New, monkeys appear as novel species who have no intermediary fossil forms that link them to a presimian ancestry (ibid., pp. 150 f.). But even more significant is the disagreement among evolutionists in articulating the supposed connection between manlike forms and man as we know him.

W. F. Albright commented on the reckless speculation of anthropologists for whom each additional fossil discovery indicated a new human species; he declared absurd any multiplication of species of hominids and emphasized that all races of man known to the Old Testament belong to Homo sapiens. “It appears more and more likely,” he wrote, “that all surviving types of man are races of Homo sapiens which developed their present peculiarities partly through intermixture … and partly through further local evolution” (“The Old Testament World,” p. 238).

It is no overstatement to say that Louis Leakey (died 1972) and Richard who continued his father’s work precipitated “a conceptual revolution” concerning the supposed “ladder” of human evolution as Gould and other contemporary paleontologists had pictured it. The 1972 Leakey discovery of Skull 1470 in Tanzania led to an intensive search for ancient hominid fossils. Forty-nine specimens were found by 1973–75 field expeditions, and except for a few classified as Homo Richard Leakey classified them mostly as australopithecines. In 1974 Mary Leakey’s work in the Laetolil beds of Tanzania yielded 1300 hominid specimens classified as Homo (not Australopithecus) to which radioactive dates were assigned ranging from 3.59 to 3.77 million years. Still more hominids, found in Ethiopia, were considered as of similar antiquity.

Among the Hadar finds north of Addis Ababa was the discovery by Donald C. Johanson of a skeleton 40 percent complete—a three-and-one-half-foot female australopithecine designated “Lucy.” In describing the find and its impact Johanson sees the need now of adjusting the definitions of hominids and apes, and of pushing back the date of human beginnings even further (Donald C. Johanson and Maitland A. Edey, Lucy: The Beginnings of Mankind). In 1975 Johanson and his field party stumbled on an entire family of hominid fossils, adults and infants, that were promptly designated Homo. Since then almost a hundred additional hominid finds have been made, supposed Homo fossils that are dated earlier than or contemporaneous with the australopithecine fossils.

Louis Leakey’s verdicts divided scholarly opinion. His son, Richard, contends that the Homo line is 5 to 8 million years old and that hominids walked upright long before extraordinary brain growth led to Homo. (Many evolutionists now consider brain growth less important than brain organization.) Johanson, on the other hand, holds that the crucial turn to modern man occurred only 2 to 3 million years ago. Each interpreter charges the other with many inaccuracies. Many scholars now disagree about the human “family tree” and not a few charge other scholars with unfounded theories of human beginnings and premature projections of new species.

The Yale paleoanthropologist David Pilbeam contends that without a better fossil record and much new data conclusions must be very tentative. Pilbeam holds that the oldest securely dated modern humans go back only 40,000 years. But Gareth Nelson and Norman Platnick (Systematics and Biogeography) date the first humans 80 million years ago and correlate the dispersal of the species with the splitting and drifting of the continents.

That humans go back perhaps no more than 35,000 years is held by others who note characteristics uniquely peculiar to modern humans in contrast to the hominids. Writing on “The emergence of modern man,” Gail Kennedy comments that “our increasing knowledge about very early hominids, such as the australopithecines, only serves to emphasize our lack of understanding of our own more immediate origins.” Kennedy notes “the long period of morphological stasis” in Homo erectus, from a time predating 1.5 million years ago to some 400,000 years ago, and some would say 100,000 years ago. Even supposed more advanced morphological characters are unaccompanied by apparent advances “in stone tool technology, subsistence efficiency, settlement size or duration of occupation. This suite of traits is conventionally thought not to occur … until 35,000 years ago” (“The emergence of modern man,” pp. 11–12, p. 11). Erik Trinkaus summarizes current research and reaches much the same verdict.

Confident earlier pronouncements that hominids possessing burial customs, clothing and also primitive technology (firemaking especially) constitute a transition species to modern man are now stalemated by the fact that these hominids are missing when Homo sapiens appears in the fossil record. How explain their absence? Some speculate that the elemental technology possessed by the advanced hominids could have constituted them a threat to Homo sapiens, and that Homo sapiens perhaps extinguished them. The biblical account notably contains no implication whatever that man invested with the imago Dei was menaced by and consequently destroyed subhuman forms of life.

The earlier confident identification of the australopithecines as the “missing link” from ape to man has therefore collapsed. Moreover, all the new finds, acknowledges Mary Leakey, leave early man still with “largely hypothetical ancestors” (cf. M. C. Leakey et al., “Fossil Hominids From the Laetolil Beds,” Nature, Vol. 262, 1976, pp. 460–466). Constance Holden calls the primary scientific evidence “a pitifully small array of bones from which to construct man’s evolutionary history. One anthropologist has compared the task to that of reconstructing the plot of War and Peace with 13 randomly selected pages” (“The Politics of Paleoanthropology,” p. 737).

The Leakey finds indicated the existence of numerous kinds of hominids—not just a few that in the quest for the “missing link” might be considered man’s physical precursor. Leakey spoke of side-branches that have no direct role in human evolution. So complicating for any clear picture of human lineage were the continually changing claims about manlike forms that Gould, reflecting on Leakey’s finds in an essay titled “Bushes and Ladders in Human Evolution,” revives the century-old claim of Georges Cuvier who rejected unilineal evolution and argued, in principle, that the stairway of life was “a bush, not a ladder.” Paleontologists find themselves in the position of having to abandon three generations of theorizing as they begin again on a different premise.

Gould writes: “… I cringe, knowing full well what all the creationists who deluge me with letters must be thinking. ‘So Gould admits that we can trace no evolutionary ladder among early African hominids; species appear and later disappear, looking no different from their great-grandfathers. Sounds like special creation to me.’ … I suggest that the fault is not with evolution itself but with a false picture of its operation … I want to argue that the ‘sudden’ appearance of species in the fossil record and our failure to note subsequent evolutionary changes within them is a proper prediction of evolutionary theory as we understand it. Evolution usually proceeds by ‘speciation’—the splitting of one lineage from parental stock—not by the slow and steady transformation of these large parental stocks” (Ever Since Darwin, p. 59).

This plea has all the earmarks of a secular faith concerning the origin of human life, an alternative faith to that of Darwin, yet one that also evades faith in a rational divine Creator. No incontrovertible evidence confirms the claim that man as we define man and as the Bible defines man lived upon the earth for hundreds of thousands of years. Nor does it confirm that his ontological being or morphological structure has changed drastically from their original character, or that this character reflects a gradual or a swift alteration of some prior manlike but subhuman condition. The cosmos, recorded history and Scripture witness not to a transformation of transitional forms into Homo sapiens, but to the moral and spiritual condition and social maturation or degeneration of the unique and ever irreducible creature that we presently acknowledge as humankind.

Yale anthropologist David Pilbeam is another who writes of hominid evolution as “no longer” (!) straightforwardly resembling “a ladder” but as being something diverse and subtle. He concedes that extinct hominids constitute a unique animal species. “Early species,” he writes, “are not simply pale copies of later ones … extinct hominoids were not particularly modern. They were … distinct animal species.… There is no clearcut and inexorable pathway from ape to human being” (“Rearranging Our Family Tree,” pp. 42 ff.). In a review of Origins (Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin), Pilbeam candidly comments that the data base evolutionists now have may be “too sparse, too slippery … to mold” a confident theory. He concludes that “the theories are more statements about us and ideology than about the past. Paleoanthropology reveals more about how humans view themselves than it does about how humans came about” (American Scientist, pp. 378 f.).

Gould says with equal candor: “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology” (“Evolution’s Erratic Pace,” p. 14). Gould concedes that the “modern synthesis, as an exclusive proposition, has broken down on both of its fundamental claims”—that is, gradualism as the principle of evolution, and natural selection as leading to adaptation (“Is a New and General Theory of Evolution Emerging?,” Paleobiology). A growing company of scholars, S. M. Stanley (Macroevolution, Pattern and Process) among them, share this conviction (cf. E. S. Vrba, “Evolution, Species and Fossils: How Does Life Evolve?,” South African Journal of Science, Vol. 76, No. 2, Feb., 1980, pp. 61–84). G. L. Stebbins and F. J. Ayala try to preserve the “synthesis” but plead for a more “pluralistic structure” of evolutionary theory (“Is a New Evolutionary Synthesis Necessary?,” p. 967); in the absence of sturdy empirical supports their effort seems actually to circumlocutiously replace the synthesis rather than, as they propose, to merely stretch its dimensions.

Le Gros Clark acknowledges that “the really crucial evidence for evolution must be provided by the paleontologist whose business is to study the evidence of the fossil record.” But if the fossil record is sporadic, and if indeed novel forms appear without intermediary transitional types, what compelling evidence of evolution can the fossil record provide? Does not the belief that man in fact originated by means of transitional or intermediary forms from a simpler animal ancestry in that case attest only the scientific naturalist’s refusal to weigh theistic creationism as a viable alternative? Gould states unhesitatingly that man has “evolved from apelike ancestors” (Ever Since Darwin, p, 54). Yet he affirms that “we are not likely to detect the event of speciation itself. It happens too fast, in too small a group, isolated too far from the ancestral range” (ibid., p. 62). This is about as near to a miracle as a nonsupernaturalist can get; it sounds curiously like Genesis without God and with the postulation of a hominid substitute for the dust into which God breathed the breath of life. If on the basis of the Creator’s scripturally given revelation Gould could bring himself to say, “it happens by fiat, as a once-for-all event,” he would stand firmly on the ground of evangelical theism.

Were the early hominids, if not human, truly manlike? The australopithecines had been classified as apes whose posture suggested a transitional role as “missing links.” The australopithecine Lucy assertedly walked upright (Oxnard considers this very doubtful) and her body proportions and dental characteristics were more humanlike than apelike. Yet there was no evidence that australopithecines had a cultural life style or even made tools.

An early view was that bipedal locomotion arose in tandem with brain development. Yet since 1920 anthropologists contended that the australopithecines, whose brain size was scarcely a third that of Homo sapiens, already walked upright (between 2.5 million to 1.2 million years ago). Now Donald Johanson argues that “Lucy,” dated by him at 3.5 million years ago, was already fully adapted to bipedality; Lucy he considers a predecessor of both australopithecines and humans. C. Owen Lovejoy holds that this discovery destroys the connection of bipedalism and brain development. Stephen Jay Gould calls the transition from quadrupedal to bipedal locomotion “the surprise … the great punctuation in human evolution.” Lovejoy suggests that males developed bipedality to carry food to their mates. But Rebecca L. Cann dismisses this notion on the ground that the female does most of the providing even in modern hunter-gatherer circles; she and Allan C. Wilson think, instead, that infant-carrying and infantfeeding females may have started bipedalism (cf. “Letters,” Science, Vol. 217, No. 4557, July 23, 1982). But beyond noting that such argumentation is based on scant data and lacks direct evidence, critics affirm that even Lucy’s footprint is no less compatible with tree-climbing than with walking. Michael Rose concedes that the origin of bipedalism is a matter of pure speculation.

Homo erectus fossil discoveries in Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia differ from the australopithecines in skull morphology, in brain size, and in manlike arm, hip, leg and foot features. While some creationists have sought to dismiss Homo erectus as merely a misidentified ape, others hold that the species belongs indeed to the genus Homo, that is, to true man, even if—compared to ancient Near Eastern civilizations and to other human fossil remains—significant differences exist from modern man including smaller body and brain size and marked antiquity. Leakey’s final verdict was that “man’s ancestral stock separated from that of the great apes more than 20 million years ago” and that “the time-span of psycho-social man—40,000 years—represents a moment compared with the 20 million years of hominid existence” (cf. Maitland A. Edey, The Missing Link, p. 114).

One reason why many scientists balk at creation doctrine, apart from the debate over transition forms, is the Genesis implication of man’s recency, a belief that conflicts with scientific claims for human antiquity. Even if one puts aside any insistence on Homo erectus as an intermediary form, and focuses only on Homo sapiens, we are told, it is impossible to reconcile the fossil data with a biblical view that places man’s origin at most at about 10,000 years ago.

Six-day creationists reply that any model of population growth involving the existence of manlike forms in antiquity would call for a very different human situation. If manlike forms have existed for a million years, they say, it is incredible that burgeoning population growth has only recently become a problem (cf. Henry Morris, ed., Scientific Creationism, pp. 167 ff.). The statistics of population expansion accord well with the conventional view that man is not more than 6,000 to 10,000 years old, but not with theories that extend human existence tens of thousands of years into antiquity.

Loren Eiseley’s comment is worth pondering for its insight into the desire of evolutionary theorists to postulate almost infinite timespans: “No theory of evolution can exist without an allotment of time in generous quantities.… The slow organic change postulated by … Darwin,” says Eiseley, “demanded time far beyond anything conceived in the Mosaic account of Creation” (Darwin’s Century, pp. 58, 233). It is not surprising, therefore, that six-day creationists view the variety of daring modern dating techniques as a response to this “demand” and vigorously dispute their infallibility.

Yet many geologists who in the nineteenth century suggested that the earth might be incredibly ancient were active Christians. As Davis Young observes, “the modern view that the Earth is extremely old was developed to a large degree by Christian men who believed whole-heartedly in creation and the Flood and were opposed to evolution” (Christianity and the Age of the Earth, p. 66). Many of the leaders promoting this idea (e.g. Lyell, Hutton, Buffon) were nonetheless not Christian but anti-Christian. Their various datings in any case disagreed from a few million to more than a billion years, and their methods of computation rested on patently unverifiable assumptions.

But the 1896 discovery of radioactivity opened a new prospect of more accurate geological dating. At the present time a variety of radiometric methods routinely and confidently date phenomena from millions to billions of years in the past. The age of the earth and of the moon and of meteorites has been independently computed at 4.5 to 4.7 billion years, and independent astronomical evidence suggests a similar age for the solar system. Young, who is an evangelical geologist, insists that “it is now possible for geologists to determine quite accurately the absolute ages of many kinds of rocks and of certain geological events” (ibid., p. 93). Scientists are now equipped for this task with radiometric techniques based on the radioactive decay of chemical elements like rubidium, potassium, uranium and thorium.

Aggressive reaffirmation of a young earth is nonetheless being currently ventured by a surprisingly large number of biologists, chemists, engineers, geographers and physicists, and even by a small number of astronomers and geologists. Many of them voice serious doubts about modern dating techniques. R. L. Wysong, for example, adduces 33 dating methods and indicators that are said to attest a young earth; he notes, moreover, that volcanic lava produced within the past two centuries has been misdated as thousands of millions of years old, moon rock samples have yielded datings from two million to 28 billion years, shells of living mollusks were dated as much as 23,000 years old, new wood from living trees at 10,000 years, and so on (The Creation-Evolution Controversy, pp. 151 ff.). He dismisses as rationalization the explanations that evolutionists sometimes give to account for adverse data that dispute their readings. When as in Montana, “preCambrian” rocks are found atop “Cretaceous” rocks supposedly 500 million years younger, Wysong comments, the appeal to “overthrusting” lacks force because physical indications that such overthrusting occurred do not exist.

Although geophysicists speak of nonradiometric and radiometric dating procedures that supply a broadly reliable index of earth history dating back 4.5 billion years, many scholars speak somewhat more cautiously of the dating of fossils because of chemical changes to which once-living forms are subject. Since the bone of human fossils remains physically and chemically active and is easily contaminated, Cesare Emiliani grants that “it is practically impossible to date it directly” (“Man as an Organism,” p. 163). Scholars tend to look most approvingly on datings of continental fossils that are correlated with glacial and interglacial stages. Many dates beyond 100,000 years are still questioned, and while some scholars consider radio-carbon dating reliable up to 75,000 years, others dispute the validity of such dating beyond a range of 4,000 years.

The circular nature of the scientific disposition to date fossils by rocks and rocks by fossils is acknowledged by J. E. O’Rourke who blames the difficulty not on faulty assumptions but on the limits of temporal knowledge: “The rocks do date the fossils, but the fossils date the rocks more accurately. Stratigraphy cannot avoid this kind of reasoning if it insists on using only temporal concepts, because circularity is inherent in the derivation of time scales” (“Pragmatism versus Materialism in Stratigraphy,” p. 54). Since the comprehensive theory of evolution and in fact all of scientific theory presumably labors under similar difficulties, the outcome of all empirical theorizing would seem to be either a total blank or a myth.

Whatever problems may confront the dating of strata and fossils, scientists who constantly work in this sphere insist nonetheless that a young earth cannot be accommodated. Donald England summarizes the matter as follows: “To get a value of 6,000 years for the age of the earth one would have to assume an error of 99.9998 percent for each of the major radioactive methods. Inasmuch as the different methods employ different techniques, and … different assumptions, an error of such magnitude as this is quite incredible” (A Christian View of Origins, p. 105). Davis Young likewise insists that criticisms of the three major techniques—the potassium-argon method, rubidium-strontium method, and uranium-thorium-lead method—do not lead to confirmation of a young earth. Contrary to Melvin Cook who considers the methods now in vogue to be invalid (Prehistory and Earth Models), Young believes that the discordant datings have given no comfort to champions of a young earth inasmuch as they coincide in their verdict against a young earth. He insists that the arguments of critics of radiometric dating are too flawed for geochronologists to take them seriously; evangelical scholars would better serve their cause, says Young, if they avoid arguments that try to destroy radiometric techniques in order to promote a young earth.

Without resorting to the theory of the antiquity of the earth, Henry Morris, director of the Institute for Creation Research, maintains that the Noahic flood as a universal castastrophe is quite sufficient in itself to account for all the ancient paleogeological data. Even the insistence that Homo erectus was true man, says Morris, is not irreconcilable with flood geology. Genesis records the existence of varieties of creatures that have not survived, the antedeluvian giants of Genesis 6, for example. Could there not have been pygmies as surely as giants? According to Morris, the hominid-bearing rock layers of the East African hominid finds are in keeping with a postflood environment.

Morris deplores “the premature rejection of catastrophism,” a view held by Nicolaus Steno, the father of stratigraphic interpretation, and by most early geologists and other scientists, including Isaac Newton. As evolutionary uniformitarianism came into dominance the emphasis on geologic catastrophism fell away. This came about in two stages, notes Morris: first, nongeologists like Georges Cuvier and William Buckland projected multiple catastrophes and new creations, each separated by a long period of uniformity; and second, the emphasis on uniformity became so strong as to virtually nullify the significance of catastrophe (The King of Creation, p. 148). Charles Lyell’s uniformitarianism supplies Darwinian evolution with the vast timespan needed to accommodate natural selection as the means of speciation.

Theistic evolutionists obliged this immense timespan by computing Genesis days as geological ages. Many evangelical scientists who accept this timespan consider the more primitive skulls and skeletons to be extinct species of primates that have nothing to do with human ancestry, and the manlike skulls and fossils as perhaps extinct races of Homo sapiens. But the latter option is obviously not a live possibility for creationists who insist on twenty-four-hour creation days. To account for the fossil data they look to the Noahic flood. Instead of contemplating the possibility that the flood was “local”—even if calamitous enough to destroy all then living humans and animals except those sheltered in the ark—they insist on a global inundation (cf. Henry Morris, The Genesis Record, pp. 683 ff.).

Davis Young attacks the professed appeal of young earth advocates to scientific confirmation. Uniformitarian geology and the earth’s antiquity, he contends, are compatible with all the data that scientific creationists insist bespeaks a world flood, e.g., fossil graveyards containing different orders of life; certain remarkably preserved fossils, including polystrate trees; coral reefs; evaporite, sedimentary, lacustrine and glacial deposits; desert environments (Christianity and the Age of the Earth, pp. 72–91).

Young denies that uniformitarianism necessarily excludes the miraculous and that it requires not only the “uniformity of processes through time” but also “uniformity of intensity or rates of processes through time.” While geologic phenomena, he emphasizes, disallow substantive uniformitarianism, they do not therefore on that account require the alternative either of a young earth or of a global flood. His position is that of methodological uniformitarianism—”the idea that the laws of nature are invariant in time and space” (ibid., p. 142).

Yet even Young’s more modest version contains the colossal assumptions that “natural laws” exist and that they are “invariant.” Young adheres to this perspective “for geological study,” he remarks, but not as “a complete philosophy of life,” for he believes “God has performed miracles in which He suspended His laws.” This notion of a God-of-the-gaps will hardly satisfy evangelical theism.

Since most creationists do not consider a global flood to have been strictly a miracle, the issue remains whether methodological uniformitarianism would in principle exclude it. Young insists, however, that even flood catastrophists routinely invoke methodological uniformitarianism in their own interpretations, and must do so, in fact, insofar as they presume to be scientific in their explanations. “The evidence of the rocks suggests strongly,” he insists, “that it took several billions of years for the Earth to form, and no amount of arguing about uniformitarianism as over against catastrophism, for that is a false dichotomy, can alter the fact” (ibid., p. 148).

Although methodological uniformitarianism has become entrenched in scientific analysis, Edgar B. Heylmun reminds us that neither uniformitarianism nor catastrophism has been decisively vindicated by evidence. “The fact is,” says Heylmun, “the doctrine of uniformitarianism is no more ‘proved’ than some of the early ideas of world cataclysms have been disproved” (“Should We Teach Uniformitarianism?,” p. 35). The catastrophe theory depends upon the trustworthiness of the biblical account of the flood and the validity of the creationist interpretation. Undergirding the uniformitarian model, on the other hand, is the assumption that present processes supply the decisive key to all past processes, and the confidence that radiometric datings confirm the geologic age system. Richard Spilsbury challenges the a priori prejudice underlying the notion that presently observed processes explain the origins of man or, for that matter, of the earth and of life. In view of our limited observation and of the limited data we observe, he writes, “it is almost as though some Martian historians or sociologists, after a month’s investigation of how changes came about in human societies during that month, should then pore over archaeological records and conclude that human history, from its earliest beginnings, has been determined by the same causal factors that they made out during that month” (Providence Lost. A Critique of Darwinism, p. 8).

Catastrophists believe that the geologic ages were dated not by radiometric measurement but by human arrangement of fossils in an order of complexity (with man at the apex); time periods were then read into this arrangement to accommodate supposed changes by natural selection and chance variation. Gareth V. Nelson says concerning the ancestry of species: “That a known fossil or recent species, or higher taxonomic group, however primitive it may appear, is an ancestor of some other species or group, is an assumption scientifically unjustifiable, for science can never assume that which it has the responsibility to demonstrate” (“Origin and Diversification of Teleostean Fishes,” p. 27). It is too severe, however, to disallow to scientists the use of assumptions for which they cannot at the same time devise an experimental test, but in the case of scientifically undemonstrated “evolutionary” arrangements it behooves the scientist to make clear the nature of his assumptions. Morris observes in respect to the dating of geologic ages: “The age does not depend on radiometric dating, as is obvious from the fact that the geologic age system had been completely worked out and most major formations dated before radioactivity was even discovered” (The King of Creation, pp. 151 f.). The fossils are not dated by rock formations, which actually exist in many diverse combinations; the rocks are dated rather by the fossils. O. H. Schindewolf agrees: “The only chronometric scale applicable in geologic history for the stratigraphic classification of rocks and for dating geological events exactly is furnished by the fossils” (“Comments on Some Stratigraphic Terms,” p. 394). As C. O. Dunbar puts it: “Fossils provide the only historical, documentary evidence that life has evolved from simpler to more and more complex forms” (Historical Geology, p. 47). In short, six-day creationists insist that remote datings for human forms rest on circular reasoning; the fossils are dated on evolutionary assumptions and are then invoked to attest evolution.

Morris contends, moreover, that fossiliferous rock—that in which fossils are preserved—is best accounted for by catastrophe, specifically by that of the Noahic flood, inasmuch as preservation of fossils requires rapid and undisturbed burial under unusual conditions. “The flood theory of geology,” he writes, “which was so obvious and persuasive to the founders of geology, is thus once again beginning to be recognized as the only theory which is fully consistent with the actual facts of geology, as well as with the testimony of Scripture” (The King of Creation, p. 154; cf. John C. Whit-comb and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood).

Two lines of argument are mounted against this view: one, that not even a catastrophe on the scale of a world flood can account adequately for the geological data, and two, that the Genesis account (Gen. 6–9) does not really demand a universal flood.

It may be debatable whether the Genesis account does or does not require that floodwaters covered the whole earth, but it does clearly state that the Noahic flood was sufficiently extensive to destroy all human and animal life except that preserved in the ark; the moral and spiritual context of God’s action seems to preclude anything less than this. To infer that some disarrangement of the earth’s surface was precipitated by the flood seems sounder therefore than to totally disregard the flood’s significance for geologic and paleontologic understanding. The capacious ark, as Morris notes, offered space the equivalent of “over 500 standard railroad stock cars” and floated over the highest mountains (their topmost elevation today is 17,000 feet) until it finally came to rest on Ararat (The King of Creation, p. 150). Bernard Ramm observes that the dimensions of the ark, essentially a rectangular box with a single door, were ideal for floating and that even modern ships have copied its approximate ratios (The Christian View of Science and Scripture, p. 230). Taxonomists today estimate the number of species of living mammals to be 4500 and of living birds 8650. Whatever massive problems an ark housing its colossal zoo must have posed, the fact remains that recent geophysics, insisting as it does on theories of continental drift, could hypothetically be coordinated with a cataclysmic universal flood. The question posed by Eiseley, “Where did all the waters go?” (Darwin’s Century, p. 67) is answered by flood expositors in terms of evaporation in the upper atmosphere that formed the earth’s cloud canopy and of floodwaters that remained at ocean levels or in ocean basins due to postflood tectonics.

Insistence on a global flood, critics reply, is just as embarrassed by a lack of supportive empirical evidence in the geological record as is the appeal to fossil data in the paleontological record. Although Christian tradition in the past considered the Noahic flood to have been worldwide and many persons still adhere to that view, W. U. Ault remarks that “lack of evidence for and the problems attendant on a universal flood” constrains “the predominance of qualified Christian scholarship” now to favor the theory of a local flood (“Flood,” p. 563). But scientific creationists consider such claims for “qualified Christian Scholarship” pejorative and arrogant. Many factors still favor a universal flood, among them the language of the Genesis account, the universality of flood legends attributing to the Noahic line the continuity of the human race, the global distribution of diluvian deposits, the sudden extinction of many woolly mammoths by choking or drowning and the consequent depletion of once-living species. The objections raised against universal flooding are mainly physical, such as the seemingly incredible amounts of water necessary to submerge “all the high mountains under heaven” (Gen. 7:19) and the logistics of housing and preserving so many species. Ault observes: “No bona fide materials, either archaeological or geological, … are known with certainty to derive from the Flood of Noah” (ibid., p. 551). Some scholars have therefore interpreted the Noahic account only phenomenologically, that is, a report of how events seemed to the observers. Or they have equated universal as coextensive with the total distribution of mankind in that day. Researchers once believed that alluvial deposits could be correlated with geological phenomena, and Morris and Whitcomb in The Genesis Flood still insist that the flood explains all geologic formations. But, say many scholars, conclusive evidence is lacking that a great flood ever stretched across the Fertile Crescent from Egypt to Ur and into the Indus Valley.

Recent discovery that 300-foot waves destroyed the Minoan civilization on ancient Crete cautions us against dogmatism, however (cf. Spyridon Marinatos, pp. 702–726). Many ancient civilizations, despite the inclusion of fanciful additions, preserve a flood-tradition that details the survival of but a single family. In Mesopotamia, where Noah lived and built the ark, Sumerian and Babylonian clay tablets contain flood accounts with remarkable similarities to the one in Genesis: the flood is a divine punishment, the animals are preserved, birds are dispatched, mankind is promised immunity from another flood. The main differences of the Genesis account involve its monotheism and its references to the holiness, justice and mercy of God; the dimensions it gives for the ark are credible, and it declares the duration of the flood to be much longer than do other accounts. In view of isotopic evidence, C. Emiliani and others argue that a massive flood caused by glacial melt-waters from the Mississippi River occurred in the Gulf of Mexico some 11,600 years ago; sea water rose so high that legends circulated about a world flood, “Paleoclimatological analysis of late Quaternary cores from the Northeastern Gulf of Mexico,” pp. 1083–1087). But critics argue that this theory assumes a swifter surge of sea water than a melting ice sheet would accommodate (cf. J. T. Andrews, “Glacial Surges and Flood Legends,” p. 1270). Even Plato mentions a catastrophic deluge and the submergence of Atlantis; Egyptian priests dated this occurrence 9000 years ago, but most archaeologists and historians question this date as probably involving a transcriptional error.

In the last quarter century, earth science has undergone a veritable revolution; from the view that the earth owes its topography and surface structure to vertical movements, the emphasis is now on the relative movement of continents that might have broken off from an originally unified land mass. An original supercontinent, Panagaea, is thought to have split into northern and southern sections called Laurasia and Gondwanaland; later, Laurasia divided into Asia and North America, and then Gondwanaland assertedly began splitting into Africa, South America and Australia. Sixday creationists concede that while their insistence on the recency of creation does pose some geological problems, the six-day creation/world-flood theory accounts for the data better than does the naturalistic alternative. Evolutionists, on the other hand, conceding that both their dating techniques and their claims about the fossil record are subject to refinement and revision, insist that it is impossible to harmonize scientific data with the supposed recency of the earth and with efforts to explain geological phenomena by a catastrophic Noahic flood.

The fact is that modern anthropological alternatives did not become popular until radical higher criticism derogated the revelational authority of the Bible. Naturalistic explanations sketched human origins with no reference whatever to theistic factors. Cosmic overviews and the scientific mindset became as decisive for interpretation as did external data; scholars passionately pursued so-called facts that supported their theories. John Hadd speaks of the determination of evolutionary theorists to “ungod the universe” and to enthrone no life form higher than man.

Comparative anatomy disclosed remarkable similarities between man and the anthropoids (gorillas, chimpanzees, gibbons, orangutans). All have the same number of bones, the same bony skeletal elements, the same basic brain convolutions, the same disposition of organs and muscles, the same number of teeth, similar hand and foot structure and similar periods of gestation; the hemoglobin of man and chimpanzee is almost identical.

Despite morphological similarity to early forms on which man was said to be dependent, evolutionists were constrained to differentiate man as he now exists and hominids by five features, namely, a remarkably expanded cerebral cortex, bipedal locomotion, reduced anterior dentition with molar dominance, material culture, and unique sexual and reproductive behavior.

The conventional evolutionary view found the sine qua non of human origin in the human species’ brain expansion and in material culture that depended on the use of tools. Jacob Bronowski, for example, held that the precursors of man gradually became man between two million and one million years ago; by a million years ago a biological change in the brain and hand of emerging man had taken place that enabled him to make and use tools for coping with an adverse environment and for sharing in community. The fossil record declared this view problematical, however, as did both demographic analysis and the behavior of primates. The earliest tools were dated two million years ago, but hominids, later considered to be related to man, were dated even four to ten million years earlier; some evolutionists have placed the first manlike forms at about fifteen million years ago. Tool use was connected also with pongids, the apes from which man was said to have descended. But it is now thought that tools were not a primary factor in hominization; the earliest hominids appear without tools, so apparently tools were not critical for their survival. Actually tools are not the cause of man’s special character but instruments that his enormous intelligence puts to work. Expansion of man’s neocortex, evolutionists affirm, is not attested until two to three million years ago, and like cultural development such expansion postdates hominid divergence by many years.

Bipedality is indicated four million years ago; quickly exhausting those who lack pelvic and lower limb adaptations, it is not well adapted to hunting, and is useless for effective escape from enemies.

Stages in the evolution of dentition are said to have extended across two to three million years.

William C. Shepherd proposes a graduated development that reaches back perhaps fourteen million years ago to the “earliest hominid line.” He affirms that “cultural changes in the pre-Homo sapiens primate line were the accelerators that produced the biological specimen we know as fully modern man” (“Cultural Relativism, Physical Anthropology, and Religion,” p. 164). Modern man’s “adolescence” he projects as occurring in the late Pliocene and Pleistocene eras, and views the Ice Age as forcing swift and cultural developments by means of physical changes up until 40,000 years ago when such changes were no longer necessary and cultural changes took over. The present view of some who believe that man evolved gradually from an animal ancestry is that the use of fire and furs, family association and division of work, enjoyment of sex for social as well as procreational purposes, all preceded the rise of the species Homo sapiens. Many clues to the enigma of human nature and human behavior are thought to precede the 40,000-year culture period of modern man. E. O. Wilson writes of the emergence of “a wholly new and enormously more rapid form of mental evolution” dating from perhaps 300,000 to 100,000 years ago (Sociobiology: The New Syntheses, p. 565).

C. Owen Lovejoy is among those who reject the prevalent view that material culture determined the origin and differentiation of primary hominid characters and who consider material culture and accelerated brain development as sequels or subsequent to “an already established hominid character system.” Lovejoy maintains that the early artifact record gives no conclusive verdict on the question whether material culture developed gradually, suddenly, or in a variety of ways (“The Origins of Man,” p. 348, n. 15). He thinks, moreover, that man’s earlier character included “intense parenting and social relationships, monogamous pair bonding, specialized sexual-reproductive behavior, and bipedality” (ibid., p. 348). For Lovejoy, man’s distinctive sexual and reproductive behavior is the key to the origin and differentiation of his uniqueness: bipedality enhanced man’s reproductive fitness and monogamous mating structure—or pair bonding—and encouraged material culture and a search for favorable habitats. Vernon Reynolds, on the other hand, attributes man’s special character to his intense social behavior (The Biology of Human Action).

For all that, many support the “critical point” theory that biological evolution suddenly gave way to modern man and cultural evolution (cf. Clifford Geertz, “The transition to humanity,” and The Interpretation of Cultures; cf. also David A. Baerreis, “Anthropology and the Nature of Man,” pp. 102–109). Tom D. White insists that the Tanzanian hominid finds require the replacement by alternative models of “older scenarios of human evolution that postulated a direct feedback mechanism between technology, brain expansion, canine reduction and bipedalism” (“Evolutionary Implications of Pliocene Hominid Footprints,” p. 176). Since these footprints look fully human, scientific creationists contend that only a debatable evolutionary dating justifies calling them hominids.

Discussion of the rise of human culture is complex enough without injecting such additionally complicating notions as that of Erich von Däniken who speculates that the sudden development of the human race results from unknown superhuman intelligences that invaded cosmic history and altered the genetic code (Gods from Outer Space, p. 26). Although von Däniken’s thesis has the ring of an extravagant daydream—that visits to this planet by superior beings arriving in space ships account for tremendous human achievements in the fourth and third millennia b.c.—he nonetheless focuses dramatically on the 2000-ton stone blocks of Baalbeck, the pyramids, astronomical data carved on ancient monuments, and on other astonishing achievements of the classic Mesopotamian Sumerian period and of the Old Kingdom of Egypt that preceded the flood.

Actually von Däniken’s theorizing is no more fanciful than that of existentially influenced expositors who, by resorting to internal divine-human encounter to project a harmony between Genesis and science, allow secular anthropology to write the history of man’s biological origins. Urs Baumann who gives an invaluable historical survey and analysis of the problems attending Adam, history, science and dogmatism, then proceeds to rely on Kierkegaard for an existential interpretation of the creation account (Erbsünde?: Ihr traditionelles Verständnis in der Krise heutiger Theologie.) In much the same spirit Dale Moody observes: “It may be that all men have descended from a primal pair, but it matters not if that was 20,000,000 years ago or more recently. The unity of mankind is found in the I-Thou dimension, not I-It” (The Word of Truth, p.172). Barth’s solution hinges on the concept of saga, a genuine piece of history that cannot be included in ordinary scientific history because it is the result of God’s doings; this distinction, unfortunately, threatens the historical character of all God’s revelatory acts.

Although the Genesis creation account does not rule out the existence of manlike forms prior to man’s creation, it provides no basis for postulating an animal lineage for man. Scripture depicts the vastly diverse land-based “living creatures” made on the sixth day as fixed “according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:24–25). If biology used the kangaroo or elephant as its referent instead of man it could readily make out a case for one or another species that is more kangaroolike or elephantlike than are others. Scripture leaves room for all sorts of imaginative models of morphological or other creature continuities or discontinuities. That some creatures are more highly sophisticated than others in certain respects—that animal bone structure or body size or brain size or bipedal mobility may in some species approximate or anticipate human features—is congruous with the diversity of animals; in other respects these same creatures would also be unlike man. If to prove the distinctiveness of created species God would have had to make each species totally unlike every other species the world of living forms would be a strange spectacle indeed. In any event, no biblical basis exists for regarding any animal species as the progenitor of man. Scripture does not identify the appearance of Genesis Man who is made in God’s image with earlier creatures whose distinction (viewed through anthropological lenses) is that they walked upright or resembled humans in other features. Skeletal resemblance no more establishes that pre-Adamic anthropoids were humans of the Adamic “kind” than does the fact that modern man tells lies prove that ancient hominids knew or told the truth.

Whatever one may say about the elemental “tools” found among primates, use of a stick as an extension of a hand is surely very different from the skill required to produce flint projectiles. Contrary to what Darwin’s early disciples thought, the contrast between gorillas and the most primitive humans is not something almost imperceptible, a matter only of slight degree, but involves a difference of kind and quality. Man alone has a complex culture and possesses complex language and propositional speech. “No anthropoid can formulate in a meaningful sentence even ten words from mankind’s vast vocabulary,” remarks evangelical anthropologist William J. Kornfield; “there is no ‘primitive’ language consisting of even three or four hundred words.” Moreover, man is bound by moral imperatives; he knows the distinction between good and evil, and that his destiny turns on ethical concerns.

Scripture declares man as bearer of the divine likeness to be a distinct “kind” of being. The “dust” into which Yahweh breathes “the breath of lives” (Gen. 2:7) was clearly not a living animal; the term “dust,” in fact, can mean clay, mortar, rubbish, ashes. Man’s chemical makeup is simply the 105 or so atomic elements that belong to inanimate creation. But into this dust God breathed the breath of life, even as he gave life also to the beasts of the field, and to reptiles and birds (Gen. 1:30).

The objection to the theory that God created Adam by transforming an animal or earlier manlike creature into man is not that all divine creation must be ex nihilo. Elohim can create with or without “secondary causes” or means; he can and does use previously created processes in later works. He says, for example, “Let the waters bring forth …” (Gen. 1:20); this does not mean that God created sea life out of water, but it does anticipate his creation of Adam by the divine breathing into and endowment of previously created dust or clay (cf. Leonard Verduin, Somewhat Less Than God: The Biblical View of Man, p. 13). Paul refers to the first man Adam as dust but to the Second Adam as the founder of a heavenly—not earthly—race (1 Cor. 15:47 ff.).

That Yahweh made man of the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7; cf. Job 8:19; Eccl. 3:20) reflects not only God’s sovereign power but indicates also that human nature is not to be comprehended in and through the prior animal creation. Man is clay that the sovereign Potter has fashioned (Job 33:6; Isa. 64:7; Jer. 16:8). If God withdraws the breath of life, man reverts not into animality but into dust; man is dust preserved by Yahweh that at death (Gen. 3:19; Eccl. 12:7) awaits the coming resurrection.

When Scripture deals with likeness in the context of creation, it does so not in terms of earthlike substance or of manlike apes but in terms of Godlike Adam. What specially distinguishes Genesis Man from all the animals is his creation in the image of God (Gen. 1:26 f.) and in consequence of this uniqueness he is assigned a special cosmic role and mission.

While the Babylonian account of human creation also reflects the fact of man’s creation from clay, it represents man as only an earthly menial of the gods, however; it ignores man’s distinctive relationship to God and his consequent dominion over the earth and other creatures as God’s viceregent.

Evangelical scholars themselves are nonetheless caught up in the controversy over the date of early man. While some insist that the biblical Adam is at most 6,000 to 10,000 years old, others contend that even on the premise of Adam’s special divine creation the fossil data require a considerably earlier date for the first man.

Robert Brow dates the Genesis man at 3900 b.c., and designates all earlier manlike forms subhuman animals (“The Late-Date Genesis Man,” pp. 1128 f.).

William Kornfield rejects the view that manlike forms before 3900 b.c. were subhuman; instead he considers them descendants of Adam and Eve and pushes back the dating of the divine creation of the first two humans (“The Early-Date Genesis Man,” pp. 931 ff.). Kornfield maintains the distinction between man and the other primates by emphasizing man’s brain size (more than three times that of the gorilla) along with his tool-making ability, complex language and culture. He contends that skeletal remains found in the New World, some dated 20,000 years ago, are those of fully modern man, and notes that the Neanderthal man of 40,000 to 70,000 years ago is considered to have been “intellectually as bright” as contemporary man (cf. J. B. Birdsell, Human Evolution: An Introduction to the New Physical Anthropology). Kornfield stresses that “decided unanimity” prevails “as to the completely modern nature of Cro-Magnon man” whose appearance in Europe is dated 35,000 years ago. Kornfield regards the datings of Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon man as beyond dispute, and considers not only morphological similarities but also the human qualities reflected by extant artifacts such as bone awls and needles, pressure-flaked tools and burial goods as corroborating. “Why couldn’t Adam have been a Neanderthal (who) lived 50,000 years ago?,” he asks, or “What about Cro-Magnon Man, who lived at least 30,000 years ago and whose every indication is 100 percent modern?”

“The concept of a pre-Adamic creature looking like man but not being man appears to be a way of avoiding the implications of all the fossil and cultural evidence for the existence of man early in time,” writes Kornfield. But just what is “all the fossil and cultural evidence”? And are not evolutionary scientists themselves at odds over the significance of the Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal forms? Is not the distinction between manlike forms and true man legitimate and necessary, and if so, where and how is the line to be drawn? “I find it most difficult to believe,” says Kornfield, “that God would make a being so very much like us physically and mentally, with a definite cultural tradition, along with a capacity to bury the dead in a carefully planned ritual manner, that yet was not created in His image.” But what expressly do Neanderthal or Cro-Magnon fossils tell us about mental endowment and cultural tradition, and does the Genesis account equate the imago Dei with something like a burial ritual that involved burying the dead? If, as Kornfield himself insists, “man’s uniqueness is best reflected in the fact that he alone was made in the image of God,” what elements of the data that he adduces justify the inference or implication that so-called Neanderthal man or Cro-Magnon man possessed the mental, moral and spiritual endowment that Adam had? Were they sinless? If not, did they have a sense of guilt? Was there a sense of human duty and monogamous love? And why did no creation account, let alone redemption account, issue from pre-Adamic man?

Brow contends that “whatever man-like apes, tool-using mammoth hunters, seed-planting cavemen … may have existed … must be classed animals, not as Genesis Man, made in the image of God. If bees can build fantastically complicated geometric hives, beavers can drop trees in the right direction to build dams, birds and fish can migrate and spawn unerringly after long journeys to rear their young in the right place, why should we be surprised if animals that stood upright and looked like us had skills like seed-planting?” (“The Late-Date Genesis Man,” op cit., p. 6).

James O. Buswell, who like Kornfield considers the late-date Genesis Man an untenable view, holds that evangelical Christianity can accommodate both views (“Creationist Views on Human Origins,” pp. 1046 ff.). He maintains that both anatomical and cultural evidence requires that the manlike forms be considered unequivocally human and geologically ancient; most creationists in the evangelically oriented American Scientific Affiliation, he says, support this position.

As Buswell sees it, the early or late date for the creation of Adam hinges on how one interprets the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11. Like other six-day “scientific creationists” Henry Morris emphasizes that the Genesis genealogies require a recent Adam (Evolution and the Modern Christian, p. 63). Even revered evangelical theologians like William Henry Green and B. B. Warfield discounted the serviceability of Genesis to establish a chronology from Adam to Noah to Abraham and thought that extrabiblical data might illumine the patriarchal and primeval history of man. Green argued from 1 Chronicles 6 and Ezra 7 that gaps in Scripture genealogy are quite commonplace (“Primeval Chronologist,” pp. 285–303).

Gleason L. Archer stresses, however, that Genesis hardly allows “a date for Adam much before 10,000 b.c.” and insists therefore that “we are compelled to regard all … early anthropoids as pre-Adamic.… These species, from the Cro-Magnon back to the Zinjanthropos, must have been advanced apes or anthropoids possessed of considerable intelligence and resourcefulness—but who completely died off before Adam and Eve were created” (“Please Explain,” Decision Magazine, Feb. 1980, p. 14). Scientific creationists like Morris, on the other hand, hold that Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon man and Homo erectus are post-Adamic and post-Noahic; all are found, they stress, either in Pleistocene or Pliocene sediments corresponding to the Ice Age. We should note that theoretical historians like Arnold Toynbee and many cultural anthropologists concede that human culture does not assuredly carry us back much more than 10,000 years.

A noteworthy parallel therefore exists between the geological and theological appeals concerning the date of the creation of Adam. Neither the scriptural record nor the paleontological record is complete, and significant future archaeological discoveries might require a considerable revision of prevailing opinion about the relevant data. To be sure, while it seems highly unlikely on the surface of things that the Genesis account of human beginnings can be stretched back to a date much more than 10,000 years ago, yet the insistence on geological uniformity could be remarkably modified by further evidence concerning a world flood. The dating of hominids is in considerable disarray, moreover, and the growing recognition that Homo sapiens appears suddenly and differs strikingly from earlier so-called manlike forms could greatly reduce evolutionary timespans for true man, no less than refined dating techniques may influence conclusions. In any event scientific projections must be locked into perpetual revision because of the fragmentary and frequently changing character of empirical evidence.

It would be a strategic and theological blunder of the first magnitude were evangelicals to elevate the current dispute over dating to credal status, or to consider one or another of the scientific options a test of theological fidelity. Faith in an inerrant Bible does not rest on a commitment to the recency or antiquity of the earth or even to only a 6000-year antiquity for man; the Genesis account does not fix the precise antiquity of either the earth or of man. Exodus 20:11, to which scientific creationists appeal when insisting that biblical inerrancy requires recent creation, is not decisive; while God’s seventh-day rest sanctions the sabbath day, Genesis hardly limits God’s rest to a 24-hour period. The Bible does not require belief in six literal 24-hour creation days on the basis of Genesis 1–2, nor does it require belief in successive ages corresponding to modern geological periods. It does not demand a date of 5000 b.c. or thereabouts for the origin of man on the basis of Genesis 5 and 11. Nor does the doctrine of a universal flood demand flood geology.

To any suggestion that a young earth precludes evolution and preserves Christianity, Davis Young replies that “Christians should not … attempt to disprove evolutionary theory by discrediting the antiquity of the Earth.… While evolution falls if the antiquity of the Earth falls, it does not necessarily stand if the antiquity of the Earth stands” (Christianity and the Age of the Earth, p. 66). Young moreover concedes the possibility—although he asserts the improbability—that future discoveries will lead the scientific community to abandon belief in the great age of the Earth (ibid., pp. 160 ff.) Yet he insists that Christian faith is unimpaired and the Bible uncontradicted by any verdict that the earth is billions of years old; he contends, rather, that the claim that the Bible teaches a very recent earth and that scientific evidence validates this is much more likely to undermine faith because its arguments are spurious. Six-day creationists emphasize, however, that theistic evolution and so-called progressive creationism have not nurtured the modern revival of creationism, whereas strict creationism is doing so, and now has the support of thousands of scientists. Young considers it wrong to impose on Genesis the view that the days of Genesis cannot be 24-hour days. The Bible must finally be interpreted, he insists, in terms of its own data, that is, by the text and analogy of Scripture.

Whatever view evangelical creationists hold on the tenuous subject of the date of Adam, a problem which the Bible does not precisely settle, they nonetheless remain wholly agreed on basic positions that range them squarely against modern humanism and naturalism. It would merely duplicate the error of scientism if evangelicals considered chronology the prime public issue at stake in the creation of man and demoted theology to private importance only. It is remarkable, indeed, that this great century of modern learning with its exploding frontiers of knowledge focuses the question of man’s origin and nature and destiny so totally in terms of the physical and anatomical and neglects the spiritual and moral. Even some Bible students seem more impressed with the fact that like the other living creatures man by creation was apparently vegetarian (Gen. 1:29) than with the fact that man cannot truly survive as man in any generation except by feeding on the Word of God (Gen. 3:1; Matt. 4:4).

Now as never before the timeless tenets of evangelical theism need to be affirmed and reaffirmed as the great central theme of the creation account, to wit: the First Adam or man is a creation supernaturally made in the image of God, an historical being divinely fashioned from the dust of earth and rationally, morally, spiritually, genetically and culturally different from any prior species of life. Irrespective of their disagreement over the antiquity or recency of Adam, all evangelical scholars insist on the special divine creation, historicity, distinctiveness and fall of Adam, and, moreover, that the hope of humanity lies in the divine promise and provision of redemption and in the relationship of renewed man to the Second Adam and King of the Cosmos.

Among many scientifically minded scholars today there prevails a new awareness of the limits of science, a sense of humility in the presence of cosmic data, and a curiosity if not even a desire to learn what theologians are saying and specifically what the Bible says about early man. Even if this were not the case, the plight and vastness of academic learning calls theologically minded scholars to an awareness of their own limits, to humility in the interpretation of the data of revelation, and to a spirit of dialogue and witness rather than of confrontation. If the scientist cannot be sure of the facts because these seem constantly to change, the theologian must be no less alert to the distinction between expository opinion and revelationally assured data. The biblical theologian may not, does not and need not have all the answers to the problems raised by science. It is sometimes enough that he carefully ask the right questions about the answers many scientists give, particularly about dogmatic verdicts based on limited empirical data or simply on partisan perspectives, or that he ask whether the proper questions are being raised.

While we may never learn the precise moment of Adam’s creation, the number grows of those who insist that the evidence of the fossil record sustains man’s more recent rather than ancient arrival and instead of half-made or half-developed forms of life discloses orders of life with characteristics fully developed except for differences within the natural family. Although Genesis puts the origin of life-forms on four different days and in a graded sequence, Scripture gives no detailed chronology for the period Genesis 1–11; the genealogies are selective rather than complete. While Genesis insists, moreover, on the longevity of the patriarchs, it makes no point of charting the timespan from Adam to Abraham. But does the open-ended scriptural record really justify speculations that Abraham may have been a contemporary 30,000 or more years ago of Neanderthal man, or Samuel Schultz’s verdict that “regardless of what date man may approximate for the beginning of the human race it is still within the scope of the scriptural account” (The Old Testament Speaks)?

Scripture has more than simply an interrogatory role, however. On the ground of transcendent revelation it vouchsafes certain sureties: man is not merely an animal or even a product of animal ancestry; man is a special divine creation made in the image of God who fashioned him from dust and enlivened him for a distinctive role in relation to God, the cosmos and his fellowman; man was made for lifelong union in monogamy and for lifelong duties to his neighbors; man was made a responsible steward of this planet.

In differentiating human social behavior from that of the animals, moreover, what is now often seen as man’s supreme excellence is culture; man has ideas and beliefs, language, propositional communication, values and religion, tools and art, institutions, and much else.

What needs equally to be said is that, however proud man may be of his cultural achievements, God is far less impressed by them. According to the Bible human culture is under divine judgment; its glories are vitiated by the consequences of man’s fall and spiritual rebellion.


Angels, Satan and the Demons, and the Fall

Behind man and his fortunes, the Bible tells us, there stands not only God his sovereign Maker and Lord but also the agency of a malevolent spirit called Satan. He is no apelike progenitor of man, nor fashioned from the dust of the earth. Rather he is a fallen spirit from the angelic world, a demonic creaturely intelligence who impinges dramatically on the course of human events. The Serpent influentially alters Adam’s understanding of ideal godlikeness and consequently plunges mankind into disastrous spiritual rebellion.

This view seems strange indeed to twentieth-century scientific technocrats. But as E. L. Mascall reminds us, the view almost universally held until recent years is that all evils—both moral and physical—derive from the initial rebellion against his Creator of a creaturely spirit endowed with reason (Christian Theology and Natural Science: Some Questions on Their Relations). To the astonishment of our secular age, moreover, spiritism, demonism and even Satan worship have revived in recent decades as a phenomenon of civilized society.

God did not create the vast space-time universe as a continuum populated by creaturely life only on planet Earth. Only where scholars negate the universal presence of God and ignore the fact of his creation of angelic hosts does the notion thrive that personality counts very little in the immensities of the universe. In Scripture the key to interpreting all of reality is the personal dimension. When Scripture speaks of the heavenly expanses it does so not in terms of purposeless fireballs, dead stars, burnt craters, moon rocks and planetary rings; it suggests rather that personal beings populate the universe, beings who are continually oriented to the plan and purpose of the Creator.

As Erich Sauer points out, the phrase “host of heaven” stands not only for the stars (Dt. 4:19; Isa. 34:4; Jer. 8:2), but also for the angels (1 Ki. 22:19; Luke 2:13; Rev. 19:4) and is frequently used for both at once (Ps. 148:1–6; Isa. 24:21–23, 40:26; Job 38:7) (The Dawn of World Redemption, p. 28). Sauer suggests that the angelic hosts may bear a relation to the star world similar to that of man’s relation to planet Earth. In any event God’s creation includes not only man at the apex of earthly life but other personal existences as well that inhabit the heavenly realms.

The doctrine of angelology fell into disinterest in the twentieth century because of scientific preoccupations. With its empirical and naturalistic orientation and its explanation of external reality by impersonal processes, Western thought eroded faith in any invisible spiritual world. Naturalism considers personality but a minority aspect of the space-time realm, more than that, only an accidental emergent from the impersonal. As for evolutionary theory, its interest focused primarily on the material universe.

Angelology, and especially satanology, suffered greater neglect than did theology proper. Quite apart from scientific preoccupation, there seemed to be good reason to discount reports about invisible spiritual realms. Polytheistic religions are full of tales about multiple gods, half-gods, strange spirits of the upper and nether worlds. The Persians had a developed angelology that higher critics wrongly identified as the source of biblical beliefs, beliefs which in fact long antedated the Persian religion and on the basis of revelation expounded the doctrine of angels in a significantly different way. But not only polytheistic religion is replete with religious imagination; secular philosophy as well has thrust conflicting and false god-concepts and other entities upon the invisible world. Leibniz, for example, peopled the universe with superhuman monads, and Whitehead with prehensions. Seen in the context of the long history of religious speculation such ideas seem not far removed from medieval witchcraft and credulity. Strange doctrines appear even in Judeo-Christian thought, that is, on its heretical fringes; Swedenborg, for example, held that angels were once men, and not a few nominally Christian parents encourage their children to think that good behavior will be rewarded with becoming angels in the world to come.

The fact is that Christian theology considers the modern repudiation of the reality of angels, and especially of Satan, as an aspect of man’s spiritual revolt. It is not surprising, of course, that humanists, who proclaim the idea of spirit intelligences completely unacceptable to their naturalistic prejudices, should reject an ontology of angelic beings just as vigorously as they reject the personal existence of God. Edward Scribner Ames speaks for them when he attributes belief in spirits to a failure to differentiate between “the real and the dream worlds”; the substance of spirits, he declares, is “a combination of the processes in the environment and the reaction of the human mind” (Religion, pp. 118 f.). At the same time a kind of secular perversity prompts many scholars, their curiosity being sustained by evolutionary theory rather than by revelatory theology, to pursue the possibility of nonhuman intelligences on other planets, especially on Mars. Sweeping supernaturalism aside as mythology, scientism formulates its own mythological possibilities.

Yet all religions recognize the reality of a spiritual world, however crude and uninformed may be their representations of it. Not even the theory of evolution can rule out, on its own speculative premises, the possibility that its many gradations of creaturely life might perhaps issue in intelligences that exist independently of physical bodies. That Homo sapiens represents the only order of rational creatures is a priori as improbable as that either Insecta or Insectivora comprise the only nonrational species of life. The Genesis creation account depicts man as the apex of the cosmic creation and as bearer of the divine image; it does not on that account, however, condone the virtual deification of man as by modern idealistic philosophy. Nor does the creation account affirm that man is the one and only rational creature that God made, or even that man is the highest of the rational beings.

The existence of angels does not violate the affirmation of biblical monotheism, for angels have no independent existence or power and exist only to execute God’s will. Being divinely created means that angels are dependent upon God’s volition for their being and are answerable to his judgment. God dispatches angels (Acts 12:11; Rev. 18:1), acts through them as his messengers (Acts 7:35; Rev. 1:1, 8:2) and empowers them (Heb. 1:14).

Neglect of the doctrine of angels results inevitably not only in distortions and misconceptions of the spirit world, but also affects forces at work in the life of man and in the cosmos. Without a doctrine of angelology it is impossible to give an adequate account of the world of spiritual relationships and conflicts; spirit intelligences stand in important relations not only to God and to each other, but also to man and the world.

Although the creation account is preoccupied primarily with the universe as a context for man, Scripture and Scripture alone erases speculation concerning the origin and nature of the angelic hosts. The creation account, because of its special focus on the world as a setting for man’s distinctive mission, tells us less about angelic beings than does the rest of Scripture. In the elective love of God it is human nature that the Logos, the Second Adam, later is to assume in the incarnation. The angels are mentioned in the creation narrative only implicitly; the comprehensive summary statement: “Thus heaven and earth were completed with all their mighty throng” (Gen. 2:1, neb) anticipates the declaration of the Nicene Creed that God is Creator of “all things visible and invisible.” The angelic world is but a secondary theme throughout the Bible; Scripture concentrates instead on the incomparable glory of Yahweh and on the wonder of his provision of redemption for fallen mankind.

This paucity of reference to angels reinforces what is characteristic of biblical religion: unlike many nonbiblical religions its primary focus is on the Living God in the invisible spiritual world, and on man in the created universe. Calvin therefore ridicules those who, except for the apostle Paul, have never been “caught up to the third heaven” but who nonetheless propagate “vain imaginations concerning the nature, orders and multitudes of angels” (Institutes, I, xiv, 4). Unlike the polytheistic setting of the ancient Near East that teems with pagan notions of the world of invisible demigods and demons, the Old Testament speaks primarily of the centrality of the one true God and only very secondarily of life in the invisible heavenly realms. Yahweh is the one and only creative causality in the universe and in history. There is no room here for strange philosophical and religious notions of transient emanations or aeons such as the Gnostics asserted.

The term aggelos designates primarily a divinely commissioned messenger. The most frequently mentioned aggelos in the Old Testament is the Angel of Yahweh who differs from other divine angelic messengers in that he personifies God’s grace and is, in fact, the very presence of Yahweh himself (Gen. 16:7 ff., 21:17 ff., 22:11 ff., 31:11 ff.; Ex. 3:2 ff.; Ju. 2:1 ff.). As Gerhard von Rad observes, the text indicates Yahweh when reference is made to God apart from man, but when God enters man’s apperception it speaks of the Angel of Yahweh (on aggelos, tdnt, 1:77). Discussion of the Angel of Yahweh as the mode of Yahweh’s personal manifestation belongs properly to the doctrine of the Trinity (cf. Vol. 5, pp. 196 f.).

Scripture clearly declares that God created the angels (Ps. 148:2, 5; Col. 1:16; cf. also Ex. 20:11; 1 Ki. 22:19; Ps. 103:20 f.; Neh. 9:6), and vouchsafes information, however limited, about these angelic beings.

As to the time of the angels’ creation, we know that, like all other creation, it was divinely accomplished before the seventh day on which God rested. One might expect that the creation of spirit intelligences and of human intelligences would occur on the same day since both humans and angels have rational and moral endowments. But two considerations suggest that angels were created prior to man. For one thing, the angels were present at certain stages of creation (Job 38:7); this does not necessarily mean, however, that they were created before everything else and therefore even before the events of Genesis 1:1, or even necessarily that they were fashioned on the very first day of creation. Then, too, the role of the Serpent in Genesis 3, that is, Satan’s activity as a fallen angel, implies both that angels existed before humans, and that their fall occurred before that of man.

As to their nature, the angels are pure spirits (Matt. 8:16, 12:45; Luke 7:21, 8:2, 11:26; Acts 19:12; Eph. 6:12; Heb. 1:14), that is, they are immaterial and incorporeal and hence invisible. Because of the phenomenal manifestation of angels in bodily form, some expositors have held that angels possess special bodies, whether of ether, light, air, or some other intangible substance; the passages adduced for that suggestion (e.g., Ps. 104:4; Matt. 22:30; 1 Cor. 11:10) do not necessarily require that view, however. In apocalyptic literature the appearance of angels in bodily form is an aspect of symbolic representation.

Unlike God, angels are not omnipresent. They manifest themselves definitively at a given point in space; indeed, a host of angels can apparently be present in very little space (Luke 8:30). And even if not omnipresent, they nonetheless seem also to be present in more than one place at the same time. A. A. Hodge holds, however, that finite beings “can only be in Reality of the Spiritual World one place at a time”; Satan’s apparent ubiquity he ascribes to the fact that whatever his agents accomplish is attributed to him also (Outlines of Theology, p. 255).

Angels are immortal beings (Luke 20:36). While they are creatures, they are not a family or race propagated by parental generation whereas, Knight Dunlap notes, “in Syrian, Babylonian, and Arabian mythologies of the ancient period there seem to have been male, female and neuter angels” (Religion: Its Functions in Human Life, p. 59). Angels are a company of creatures each of whom was apparently originated separately for enduring existence and therefore unsubject to natural death.

Angels are endowed with intelligence (2 Sam. 14:20; Matt. 24:36; Eph. 3:10; 1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Pet. 2:11). While they are not omniscient, they nonetheless possess great knowledge. This angelic knowledge, the Scholastics agreed, was infused at creation; they disagreed, however, whether angelic knowledge is intuitive (Aquinas) and hence incapable of expansion, or discursive (Scotus) and hence expandable by subsequent intellectual activity. Yet intuitive and discursive knowledge are not mutally exclusive; the latter could follow upon the former.

Angels possess considerable power and are often referred to as a host or army in God’s service (Ps. 103:20; Col. 1:16; Eph. 1:21, 3:10). They are not omnipotent, however (Ps. 89:6 ff.); they can neither create nor transmute substances, although Satan, we are told, can perform miracles (Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:9 ff.; Rev. 13:14, 16:4, 19:20). Angels have no autonomous activity alongside Yahweh, but function and intervene in the created order only in keeping with God’s commands or purposes. They in no way intrude on the absolute transcendence of Yahweh. Their power, like that of all creatures, is dependent and derived.

Implicit in God’s verdict of “very good” on his entire creation is the original goodness of the angelic creation (Gen. 1:27). Angels are endowed with moral character; that all angels were morally good on the basis of divine creation is attested by John 8:44, 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6.

The task of the angels is essentially a ministry in the service of God; they perform what God decrees, and they are extensively engaged in worship of him. Yahweh’s throne is surrounded by an entourage of heavenly messengers who praise him (Ps. 103:19 ff., 148:2; Dan. 7:10) and who assist in his governance of the world (Dan. 10:13, 20). Some scholars believe that certain angels are given special oversight of particular world kingdoms, but others insist that the Scripture passages used to support this view refer not to angels but to earthly sovereigns. But Scripture does occasionally speak of angels as “gods,” however, in the same way that earthly magistrates are sometimes thus designated because of their representative role in fulfilling divinely assigned missions.

The names or designations given angels reflect their rank and work. Terms like archangel (cf. Gabriel, Dan. 8:15 f., 9:21; Michael, Dan. 10:13, 21, 12:1), princes, potentates, suggest differences of rank. Angels are called a heavenly “host,” a term signifying soldiers at the ready to serve at divine command (cf. Dan. 7:10); “powers,” a term that focuses on their strength; “principalities,” “dominions” and “thrones,” terms that designate administrative functions.

Scripture speaks of both “holy angels” (Matt. 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Acts 10:22; Rev. 14:10) and of fallen or wicked angels (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8–10), the latter being depicted as hostile to the work of Christ (Luke 11:21; 2 Thess. 2:9; 1 Pet. 5:8). While angels were created holy, they were not, like God, essentially and unconditionally pure (Job 4:18, 15:15). They were subject to a period of moral probation after which those who maintained their integrity were confirmed in holiness and glory.

Angels, we noted, are not a sexually propagated race of creatures; they were simultaneously yet individually created. In some respects they are superior to man, in others, inferior. Their lower status need not be inferred, however, simply from their being created prior to man who in the Genesis account appears as and at the apex of creation. Just as man under God was given dominion over the earth, so perhaps angels were assigned subordinate dominion in the heavenly realms; such terms or titles as principalities, dominion, powers and world rulers are consonant with this possibility. The emphasis of Oscar Cullmann and other New Testament scholars who view “the powers” as spirits for whom states are agents has spurred new interest in the possible influence of demonic spirits on the political realm.

Angels are not superior in rank to humans, however; believers will judge them, declares the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 6:3). If Paul has in view only the rebellious angels, demons that the redeemed who sit with Christ on the throne will judge, then the preferred status of believers lies solely in the fact that they share a divine redemption not provided by God for fallen angels. Angels know neither the experience nor the content of such redemption (1 Pet. 1:12).

Yet angels surpass man in intelligence and knowledge (Matt. 24:36). As the effects attributed to their agency show, they excel man in power over mind and matter. Not directly as does the Holy Spirit but by indirect suggestion angels act upon the minds of humans to afford protection, inward strength and consolation. Like the wind, spirits may act on matter; at Sinai they produced thunder and lightning, for example. On occasion they intervene in the external world; we should not on that account, however, attribute all “natural” effects to their agency.

While angels have a vital ministry in relation to man, they are not mediators between God and man. To worship angels is strictly forbidden since such worship would make them false gods. Indeed, the activity of fallen angels often lends a pseudo-ontological reality to false gods; demon worship results readily from spiritism. Angels, moreover, are not agents of God’s general and universal providence, although on occasion they are ministers of special divine providences.

With their songs of joy angels played a role in heralding aspects of God’s creation (Job 38:7); they are present as well at the great epochs of redemptive history, namely, at the giving of the Decalogue and at the birth, resurrection and ascension of Christ. They will likewise serve conspicuously at the Lord’s return and in connection with the final judgment.

The angels execute God’s will by both ordinary and extraordinary means. While the role of individual “guardian angels” (Dan. 4:10, 14, 20) should not be exaggerated, the mission of angels includes a ministry to “the heirs of salvation” (Heb. 1:14). They rejoice in the conversion of sinners (Luke 15:10). They are assigned to watch over the people of God (Ps. 34:7, 91:11). An angel delivered the apostle Peter from prison (Acts 12:7 ff.). The angel of death ministers to the dying (Job 33:22; Prov. 16:14) and bears the souls of the deceased to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22). Angels will one day gather the elect into God’s eternal kingdom (Matt. 13:29, 16:27, 24:31). While their role is usually a benevolent one, such as communicating news of divine blessing, the angels are also instruments of divine punishment (Ps. 78:49). It was an angel who in a single night slew all of the firstborn of the Egyptians.

The New Testament solemnly records that certain angels “kept not their first estate” (Jude 6) but sinned (2 Pet. 2:4); God consequently expelled them from heaven and condemned them without mercy to a coming final doom. These particular angels are designated daimones or daimonia. Unfortunately, as Charles Hodge notes, these terms have too often been translated “devils” (Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, p. 643). Scripture affirms the existence of but one devil, one diabolos, in distinction from many demons; there is no sound basis for Knight Dunlap’s reference to Satan as “the arch devil” (Religion: Its Functions in Human Life, p. 56). Scripture portrays Satan as ringleader in the rebellion of the wicked angels. Since each angel was a separate creation, so too the angels in their fall fell separately as a matter of individual responsibility rather than in “racial solidarity” or representation which involves corporate guilt, corruption and penalty.

Scripture offers not the slightest hint of an eternal contest between good and evil, of Zoroastrian dualism with its eternal conflict of light and darkness, of the Manichean notion of God and Satan as two eternal creators. As Otto Baab declares, “Evil in the thought of the Hebrews is not an eternal principle in the universe, engaged in an unending struggle with a principle of good” (The Theology of the Old Testament, p. 247).

That does not mean, however, as Baab believes, that satanology has little significance in the history of Israel. Although the biblical view of reality is fundamentally monistic and not dualistic, the strong monotheism of the Hebrews is nonetheless asserted side by side with the terrible reality of evil. The Serpent appears in the garden of Eden with calamitous results. The plan of redemption is set against the background of demons and corrupt humanity’s false religions. Even if Satan’s doom is assured, New Testament references enlarge upon, rather than downplay, his role in the world.

It may seem strange, in fact, that monotheistic religion accords so much prominence and power to Satan: he is depicted not only as forfeiting an originally close relationship to God for a rebellious role, but even as demanding divine worship (Matt. 4:9). Satan is called the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4) and the prince of this world (John 12:31); the accuser (Rev. 12:10); angel of the bottomless pit (Rev. 9:11); a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8); a sinner from the beginning (1 John 3:8); Belial (2 Cor. 6:15); deceiver (Rev. 20:10); dragon (Rev. 12:7); liar and murderer (John 8:44); Leviathan (Isa. 27:1); Lucifer (Isa. 14:12); prince of darkness (Eph. 6:12); and serpent (Isa. 27:1).

Yet however powerful, Satan is never viewed as more than a created being. The book of Job depicts Satan as operating within divinely prescribed limits. He cannot destroy the purpose of God nor undermine the unity of God. Biblical eschatology leaves no doubt, moreover, of Satan’s final doom; his rebellion ends in sure defeat and unmitigated judgment.

Satan is never presented as a principle of primordial evil. He is neither a wholly independent force nor in any sense eternally coexistent with God. The titles “god” and “prince of this world” depict Satan’s relationship to the cosmos only insofar as it is ethically separated from Christ. Evil breeds its own suffering, and moves the world inexorably toward chaos. God uses Satan’s acts to advance his own purposes and to destroy the demonic powers. In no way, therefore, is Satan’s reality a threat to the doctrine of monotheism; the demons themselves know that God is one, and tremble before him (James 2:19).

Hebrew monotheism was in fact the one sure enemy of polytheism; other gods than Yahweh, made of wood and stone, it declared but powerless phantoms. Even though they criticized its beliefs, Greek philosophers did not aggressively attack polytheism but tended rather to respect pagan worship. Christianity declared the false gods demonic insofar as ontological claims were made for them (cf. 1 Cor. 10:20), a view anticipated by Old Testament declarations that sacrifice to idols is sacrifice to demons (Ps. 106:37). Yet the emphasis prevails, even where demonology becomes a part of the conflict over the gods, that over against the living God the polytheistic deities are but impersonal objects and devoid of all deity. As A. B. Drachmann reminds us, neither Judaism nor Christianity acknowledged the existence of good demons (Atheism in Pagan Antiquity, p. 103). And W. E. H. Lecky writes: “The word demon, which, among the pagans, signified only a spirit below the level of a Divinity, among the Christians signified a devil” (History of Rationalism in Europe, Vol. 1, p. 22). Lecky is wrong when he implies that Christians believed in more than one devil, but he is right in saying that they repudiated any juxtaposition of God and the demons.

Pride and envy are usually said to have precipitated Satan’s fall. This inference is made from 1 Timothy 3:6, where conceit, as in the case of the self-exalting devil, invites condemnation. In view of angels’ nonphysical nature, observes Aquinas, the sin of angels could only be spiritual. Ezekiel 28:11–19 and Isaiah 14:12–17 are often used as proof texts for the somewhat tenuous view that pride precipitated Satan’s fall; once these passages are applied to Satan, “confirmatory” texts are more readily found. While many expositors insist, on the other hand, that the Ezekiel and Isaiah passages refer primarily to the kings of Tyre and of Babylon, Harold Lind-sell feels that the dimensions here reflected of “God-defying ambition” actually “surpass anything that could be put into the mouth of a mere human being (even hyperbolically). No human king is ever represented in any ancient Semitic literature, either Hebrew or pagan, as vaunting himself to set his throne above the heights of the clouds like the Most High God” (on Isa. 14:13 f., in Harper Study Bible). Yet Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 3:1–6) and later the Roman Caesars vaunted themselves above God. Albright refers to an old Canaanite myth where one of the gods who rebels is ejected from heaven (Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, pp. 86 f.).

The fall of a number of angels may have occurred soon after the angels were created. Scripture depicts Satan as an apostate angel exalted above other evil angels as ruler of the kingdom of darkness. As mastermind of the fallen spirit world Satan is called “prince of demons” (Matt. 9:34), “prince of the powers of the air” and “prince of darkness” (Eph. 6:12). The other evil spirits are called Satan’s angels (Matt. 25:41). The notion that subordinate demons are distinguished from Satan by fleshly lust—a theme connected with the intercourse of the “sons of God” with mortal women in Genesis 6:2—is precluded by the fact that angelic creatures have no sex life, and, moreover, no physical nature. The Nephilim (Gen. 6:4) are said elsewhere (Num. 13:33) to be gigantic human males.

Capable of manifesting himself in many ways, including that of an angel of light, Satan appears in the Genesis account as tempter of the first human pair. Although Satan and his host do not decisively threaten the present world-order’s continuity with the purpose and plan of God, it is interesting, as Lewis Sperry Chafer observes, that the New Testament uses the term kosmos to mean the sphere of satanic influence and authority wherever moral values are in view (Systematic Theology, Vol. II, p. 77). Through Satan’s activity the world becomes a place pervasively penetrated by evil and actually takes on an anti-God character.

Only Christ’s redemption rescue shelters the people of God from abject defeat. Christ is “come a light to the cosmos” (John 12:46). The Holy Spirit testifies of him and reproves the sinful world-order (John 16:8). Believers are “not of this world” (John 17:14). Every hostile agency that would have destroyed Christ’s cause is doomed by the Redeemer’s triumph over sin and death and Satan. Satan is decisively vanquished by the crucified and risen Jesus (Col. 1:20, 2:14–15; cf. John 12:31, 16:11, Heb 2:14). The explicit teaching of the Bible, Chafer says, “reiterates the truth that Satan and his hosts came to judgment, even being spoiled, unveiled, triumphed over, judged and cast out by Christ in his death” (ibid., p. 254).

The ready dismissal of all this Satan talk as sheer mythology is just as disconcerting as the modern brushing aside of theology in general, for as part and parcel of the biblical system of theology and ethics the doctrine of Satan appears in a spiritual context that expressly repudiates mythology and false gods. Religionsgeschichte scholars who attempted to derive Jewish satanology from Persian influences during the Babylonian exile seem to have overlooked the fact that Genesis 3 introduces Satan long before the Hebrew Exodus and as far back as the creation account.

Efforts to explain Jesus’ endorsement of the doctrine of Satan as a mere culture accommodation or as a matter of ignorance were more devastating to liberal than to conservative theology. Since Jesus did not trouble to distinguish supracultural from culture-dependent elements in his ministry, the principle of culture dependence shrouds his entire teaching in uncertainty. From his resistance to satanic temptation in the wilderness through the commissioning of disciples whose task included the exorcising of demons in his name, Jesus portrays Messiah’s work as the reversal and defeat of Satan’s malevolence. If Jesus perpetuated a religious tradition that he knew to be false, how could he be exonerated from the charge of deception, especially since he depicted his entire mission to be the redemptive overthrow of Satan?

The appeal to ignorance has even more dire implications. If Jesus was so ignorant of the nature of evil that he misinterpreted impersonal influences as the personal existence of Satan, then why may he not have been equally mistaken in connecting the sense of good with the reality of a personal God and, more than that, with the Father of whom he spoke so intimately as deliverer from the Evil One? Once we connect the theological affirmations of Jesus with ontological postulations that exert no universal validity claim we seem to be locked fully into Hans Vaihinger’s reduction of metaphysical affirmations to transcendental conjecture. He states: “It is a satisfying Fiction for many to regard the world as if a more perfect Higher Spirit had created or at least regulated it. But this implies the supplementary Fiction of regarding a world of this sort as if the order created by a Higher Divine Spirit had been destroyed by some hostile force” (The Philosophy of ‘As if,’ p. xlvii.). Here God and Satan alike become theological extravagances.

The doctrine of Satan was an embarrassment to modern liberal theology. In liberal theology the devil is a supermyth, a vagary of belief which along with that of original sin must be exorcised from any system of ethical faith. Yet Scripture and experience alike remained to doom idealistic theology; whether romantic optimism took the form of unqualified monism, transcendental absolutism or spiritualistic pantheism, its failure to deal seriously with sin proved its undoing. Chastened by the century of two world wars and the massive evils launched by Hitler and Stalin, scholars forsook the liberal anthropology which had attributed even the worst evils simply to man’s failure to actualize his will; they failed to see that man’s will itself is an agency of destructive evil and is meshed in a cosmic religious conflict.

Yet recovery of “the demonic” fell far short of the biblical doctrine of Satan. Either the conflict between God and Satan was reduced to merely a state of existential tension or creation was said to be inescapably structured with evil. Tillich declared angels to be but “concrete-poetic symbols of the structures or powers of being. They are not beings but participate in everything that is … Their rediscovery from the psychological side as archetypes of the collective unconscious and the new interpretation of the demonic in theology and literature have contributed to the understanding of these powers of being, which are not beings, but structures” (Systematic Theology, Vol. I, p. 260). The Swedish Luther-research school so moderated divine wrath by its emphasis on agapē that wrath was heralded as an expression of divine love; it declared Luther’s and Calvin’s emphasis on God’s use of Satan as an instrument of wrath a “half-divine/half-demonic” portrayal of God. Theology dispensed with a personal evil in order to arrive at the “essential” and “indispensable” truth of the devil-idea. Reinterpreted in terms of impersonal demonic forces, the cosmic religious conflict became simply a hindering power that structures the created universe against which God contends. Here a kind of Gnosticism replaces the contingent dualism of biblical theism and Gnostic ideas are attributed to the apostles. Said Edwin Lewis: “Creation is creativity in strife with discreativity” (The Creator and the Adversary, p. 132). “The ground of evil,” he adds, “is found in the Adversary, or in the demonic standing over against God in an absolute ‘otherness’ … The Adversary never began to be … Creation is the issue of God’s challenge to the Adversary” (ibid …, p. 140).

Demythologizing of the devil was already well underway in the earlier modernist theologies that had projected universal salvation. Given universal redemption as the outcome, it becomes schematically “neater” to channel a personal Satan into the bland concept of merely hostile forces or powers.

To speak of moral concepts—e.g., sin and evil—only in terms of an impersonal principle is unjustifiable symbolism; from the standpoint of Scripture, moreover, it is an intolerable fiction. By making evil an eternal uncreated principle and considering sin an essential aspect of finite and creaturely existence one undermines hope for any sure triumph over it. If the finite and creaturely are essentially sinful, then how can God’s victory over evil avoid eliminating the finite and the creaturely? There is much to be said for the premise that real evil, real death, real hell, and a real Satan are now part and parcel of plausible theological affirmation.

Modern philosophers and theologians are not alone in failing to take Satan seriously; it was Adam in Eden, and we his descendants, who are dupes in the same tradition. Man faltered in the line of moral duty and failed to fulfill his commitments in Eden; more than this he so thwarted his relationship to God that as a spiritual turncoat he now perceives God as his rival and enemy. That man fell does not mean that Adam stumbled in his upright walk and physically impaired himself; it means, rather, that from obedience to God he lapsed into the very worst moral and spiritual condition possible for Adam and Eve and their offspring.

The first juxtaposition of God, man in his image, and the world of wicked angels occurs in the garden of Eden where man was divinely placed with a triple mandate: he was to populate the earth (Gen. 1:28), to till and tend the garden (2:15), and under penalty of death (2:17, 3:3) to refrain from eating of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (2:17) in “the middle of the garden” (3:3). More precisely, it is not Adam alone, but the first pair, who are involved in sin, and to them the temptation comes not through angelic existences as such but specifically through the Serpent as an agent or manifestation of Satan.

Thus it is important—from the standpoint of primal creation, Edenic temptation and the fall of mankind—to recognize that Scripture nowhere presents Adam as a lone anthropological entity but from the very outset depicts him and Eve together as the special creation of God. Uniquely distinct from the animals, endowed with rational and moral capacities and made for monogamous marriage, they are assigned a supervisory role in the cosmos, their lives bracketed in responsibility and answerability to divine authority.

The creation account emphasizes that two distinct sexes were created at the origin of the human race (“male and female created he them,” Gen. 1:27). The uniqueness of Adam lay not in his creation out of dust; animals and birds too had been fashioned out of the ground (Gen. 2:19). But the fact that man names the animals attests his rule over them, and underscores their inability to serve as Adam’s partner or helpmeet (2:20). Egyptians adored animals as gods, and in much of the ancient world the borderlines were obscure between the animal and human and divine worlds; Genesis clarified these confused levels of existence. Adam’s mate is ontologically akin to Adam, made not simply from the dust but from Adam’s side. (The Hebrew term tsela literally means “flank,” “side” or “loin” and is much more indefinite than the translation “rib.”) From the beginning God fashioned a distinctive species for monogamous marriage. While sex distinctions characterize also the animals, the fact that Adam knows that the woman is “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (2:24) implies an intimacy of relationship which, if undone, would radically alter the life of both partners. The special creation of Eve, like that of Adam, establishes their full human compatibility and companionship. The notion of H. S. Bellamy that the author of Genesis or a redactor may have projected the creation of woman as an event that occurred after the creation of man in order “to explain the dependence and subjection in which women were held” (In the Beginning God) therefore lacks foundation.

Evolutionary theories of human origin are embarrassed by the problem of Eve, since the appearance simultaneously of masculine and feminine forms of Homo sapiens, whether gradually or suddenly, would be unbelievably improbable on evolutionary terms. An obvious weakness of Richard Goldschmidt’s “hopeful monster” theory was its failure to explain how two such monsters of opposite sexes emerged so conveniently to permit sexual propagation. Whatever Adam called Eve before or after the fall, it is highly improbable that he called her a “hopeful monster.”

Since Genesis says that “the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept, he took one of his ribs …” (Gen. 2:21) it is tempting to regard the report as that of a vision rather than as historically factual. But the woman was actually created, according to the narrative. Eve’s literal creation is no less improbable than Adam’s, and is fully congruous with the emphasis on their equality and mutuality. If the Divine Potter can fashion living man from a clay model, surely he can fashion woman from living elements of Adam’s body and do so by fiat creation. Bellamy notes that none of the Near Eastern myths departs from the Genesis view that woman was created not from dust or earth but rather from man’s side.

The creation of a second human from part of another human’s body is so contrary to experience, however, that on the surface it seems ludicrous not to promptly dismiss the claim as a legend. But modern medical science, as we know, has for some time now reproduced creatures not only from ova and sperm cells but even by cultivating other body cells. Within a decade, some frontier researchers predict, human life will be able to be reproduced from an ordinary body cell (cf. E. K. Victor-Pearce, Who Was Adam?, pp. 95 ff.).

The tendency of higher critics to characterize Genesis as legend-laden literature has been confronted time and again by evidence to the contrary; one would therefore expect a more cautious if not positive regard for the biblical account. To be sure, neither biological science nor archaeological research can confirm or deny the supernatural. But there is a vast difference, nonetheless, in how Walter Russell Bowie and William F. Albright approach the Genesis data. For Bowie, to sacrifice the narrative’s historical factuality does not diminish or disturb it as “the inspired reflection of a people’s experience as to what life is and what it ought to be.” “Few will suppose that Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden belong to factual history,” he writes. “Cain and Abel and Lamech and Nimrod and Methuselah and Noah—these also come down to us as legends rather than as persons identifiable in the literal history of a particular time.… Preachers and commentators have long assumed as a matter of course that Abraham and the other patriarchs were clear-cut historical figures.… But others question whether there was an actual Abraham or Isaac or Jacob, and hold instead that they are heroes of tribal tales and personifications of tribal characteristics” (“Genesis, Text, Exegesis and Exposition,” The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. I, p. 450; cf. pp. 567 f.). W. F. Albright, by contrast, remarks that “aside from a few die-hards among older scholars, there is scarcely a single biblical historian who has not been impressed by the rapid accumulation of data supporting the substantial historicity of the patriarchal tradition” (The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra, p. 1).

Emil Brunner said of the Adamic creation and fall that it “is not some human being who happened to live in the far-off and dim ages of prehistory who is the Adam created in the image of God; it is you, and me, and everybody” (Man in Revolt. A Christian Anthropology, p. 111). Dale Moody follows this same existentializing of Adam; we should “see,” he says, “the experience of the first man and the first woman as pictures of what happens to every man and every woman” (The Word of Truth, p. 287). In a sense, of course, as Jean Daniélou remarks, the message of the creation account is universal in that “Adam belongs to the Jews, to the Christians, and to the Moslems; and even if they did not give him this name, he still belongs to every race and nation” (In the BeginningGenesis I–III, p. 38). But Barth is surely right when he says as has Christian orthodoxy through the centuries that the biblical tradition “no doubt … intended” that Adam should be seen and understood as “the first parent of the race” (Church Dogmatics, IV/1, p. 509).

But for all his serious handling of the Eden story, Barth nonetheless still characterizes it as “saga”: “a form of historical narration … a genre apart,” a form which “using intuition and imagination, has to take up historical narration at the point where events are no longer susceptible as such of historical proof” (ibid., p. 508). Barth has a point, namely that Adam does not have the kind of evidence Caesar does; Genesis was written many centuries after the event, whereas some eras have left manuscripts dating from their own time. But are past historical events “susceptible … of historical proof” or of demonstrative certainty? Is evidence concerning Caesar demonstrative? And why should Adamic history then be specially distinguished as grounded in “intuition and imagination”? Would it not be helpful if Barth would tell us exactly what elements are imaginative? And why should one commentator’s “intuition and imagination” be preferred to another’s? And is it in fact “prophetically attested,” as Barth claims, that the fall of man occurred “in this sphere” (saga)?

Barth contends, moreover, that “the first man was immediately the first sinner,” “that man had hardly been formed of the dust of the earth and become a living soul by the breath of God, that he had hardly been put in the garden of Eden and charged to dress it and to keep it, that his creation had hardly been completed by that of the woman as an indispensable and suitable helpmate, before he … directly opposed” what “God had done for him by becoming disobedient to God” (ibid., pp. 508 f.). But the Genesis account does not say “immediately”; it says, rather, that after the creation of Adam and Eve Elohim declared the whole creation “very good” (Gen. 1:31).

Genesis 1 gives singular prominence to the human creation’s sexual differentiation. It does so not because this formally distinguishes man from the beasts, since animals are also sexually distinct, but because in their personal relatedness humans reflect something of the image of God. No one more than Barth has stressed the centrality of human sexual distinctions for a proper understanding of the imago Dei in view of the mention of male and female sexuality in Genesis 1:27 and 5:2. Like God, humans are not truly themselves in isolation from interpersonal relationships. What is merely an animal property in beasts is in man a crucial distinctive, a counterpart reflection of the divine life, an aspect of the divine image in man, in that monogamy implies a durable interpersonal relationship.

Genesis 2 is even more emphatic: completion of the creation of man requires the female counterpart of the male. Barth is insofar right, that since God is not himself solitary, solitary man would not as such be man made in God’s image (III/ 1, p. 290). As God has internal multipersonal life, so the human, made for loving God and for loving a mate, not to say mankind, experiences life in distinctive intimate knowledge and interrelationships with another. The plurality of human existence is not optional; man cannot properly be man without speaking of male and female. Man-kind’s differentiation into sexual distinctions is more fundamental than its subsequent differentiation into racial plurality, since sexual differentiation is the only primary structural contrast given on the basis of created human ontology. Man is made for personal union in an enduring sexual partnership as the context for propagating the human race, for marital bliss, and for fulfilling human life in enduring personal union with his Maker.

In the biblical account human offspring are born from the very first into a family. The human babe, as Jan Lever observes, because of the mother’s long period of pregnancy, of infant helplessness after birth, of protracted growth, and of extensive lifespan—all involving necessary dependence and interchange with parents or other family members—differs in remarkable ways from other forms of life (Creation and Evolution, pp. 189 ff.). Adolf Portmann also emphasizes that man is born “prematurely”; only after his first year does he reach a psychological stage comparable to that possessed already at birth by other mammals (Biologische Fragmenta zu einer Lehre vom Menschen, pp. 44 f.).

But are we, like Barth, to identify differentiation in relationship as all there is to the content of the divine image in man? Does the text really say that differentiation in relationship constitutes and exhausts the imago? Need one go so far as to isolate the forms of reason and morality from the imago? And is it really legitimate to define the imago as a sexual conjunction of confrontational relationships?

What happens, asks Gordon Clark, when humans pass into eternity where there are no sexual distinctions and no giving in marriage? On Barth’s premise, do humans who do not marry—sometimes for good reason—or those who are widowed, then lack the divine image? Do those who maintain a permanent heterosexual conjunction in an extramarital relationship share the imago but lose it if they discontinue that conjunction? And would not the divine creation of two males instead of Adam and Eve also have escaped the notion of man isolated from confrontational interpersonal relationships? Clark notes that although angels do not marry, they do not exist in isolation.

Even so towering a theologian as Barth—who has inspired a torrent of fanciful exegesis predicated on human sexual differentiation as a reflection of the imago—cannot reverse the heritage of biblical and medieval and Reformation teaching simply in the interest of his theories. Barth’s motivation, at least in part, seems to be a commendable reluctance to define man’s singularity according to evolutionary concepts of man’s “intellectual and cultural being” (III/2, p. 88). While Barth is right, that science cannot settle the definition with finality, he himself forsakes those rational-moral distinctives that comprise the core of the divine image in man.

If the imago pertains only to enduring personal interrelationship, one for which the categories of morality and rationality are declared extraneous, can any further criteria whatever then be imposed on the nature and content of that relationship? How can the sense of responsible relationship be superimposed unless there inheres in the imago, and fundamentally so, a rational and moral form and content? Is it really the case that “the biblical saga knows nothing of an original ideal man either in Gen. 1, Gen. 2 or elsewhere” and that “the history of God’s fellowship and intercourse with man … really begins with the fall” (III/1, p. 200)? And can man really procreate “after his kind” in distinction from procreating humans in the divine image (Gen. 5:3) if the essence of the divine image is “conjunction in confrontation”?

Is it not enough to say that intimate and inescapable interpersonal relationship is indeed one aspect of the imago, but one that presupposes other elements as well, including rational and moral capacities? While Genesis 9:5 stipulates capital punishment on the ground that murder disregards the divine image in man, it says nothing about sexual differentiation; Psalm 8:6 f., moreover, speaks of the image only in terms of man’s dominion over the earth. Is it either biblical or logical to say that partnership in sexual differentiation exhausts what we must say about the divine image in man? Is not a merely relational image from which, moreover, rationality and morality are excluded, put under great strain if one concedes, as does Barth, that the fall is precipitated because man seeks to be like God? If the fall consists in Adam’s craving to be like God without serving him, in what sense is sexual differentiation relevant to this disjunction? That there are ways it is illicit for man to model God, that is, as primal definer of truth and the good, would seem to presuppose that distinctions of rationality and morality are integral to the imago.

Dale Moody curiously thinks it an open question whether the Bible teaches that woman like man is created in God’s image (The Word of Truth, pp. 215 ff.). And he considers conscience “a threshold between the animal and the human” (ibid., p. 238), acknowledging that man lives by intelligence while animals live by instinct (ibid., p. 269). But in deference to a relational imago he does not significantly discuss rationality and morality as facets of the divine image. This approach allows Moody to concentrate on eschatological renewal of the image while avoiding the historical factuality of the revolt in Eden; it plays “touch and run” with biblical theology by subordinating it at crucial points to modern philosophical and scientific theory.

Despite all man’s created uniqueness, human history was not long underway before a disastrous development plunged his relationships into chaos. This ruinous episode shattered the first pair’s fellowship with God and distorted the relationship that Adam and Eve enjoyed with each other.

The Genesis account connects the origin of human sin with the Serpent—in Scripture a replica of Satan—and hence with the world of demonic or wicked angels. Lurking invisibly in Eden is the potent reality of hostile beings, the “bad angels” who seem incapable of repentance and forever bent on disrupting human life made in God’s image.

Man himself is therefore not the ultimate source or ontological ground of evil, but, as the apostle John explicitly says, it is “the old serpent … called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Rev. 12:9; cf. 20:2). Paul the apostle likewise equates the Serpent of Eden with Satan (Rom. 16:20; cf. 2 Cor. 11:3). Man’s deviant will does not fully explain the fact of evil; rather it is Satan, a living power hostile to God and external to man, who occasions human apostasy.

The Serpent of Genesis 3, expressly declared to be a creature fashioned by God (Gen. 3:1), has nothing in common with the serpent-gods of ancient fertility cults except as they, too, are connected with the world of demons. Nor can the biblical account of the fall be considered a serpent-myth since the Serpent’s role, even if important, is but incidental; his only special distinctive is being “more crafty than any wild creature that the Lord God had made” (Gen. 3:1, neb).

In his first confrontation of the woman the Serpent intimates that God’s authority is abrasive: “Is it true that God has forbidden you to eat from any tree in the garden?” (Gen. 3:1, neb). Against this suggestion the woman defends God by citing her and Adam’s freedom to eat of any and all fruit except that of one particular tree: of the tree in the middle of the garden “God has forbidden us either to eat or to touch the fruit” under the penalty of death (3:3, neb). While not expressly part of the divine command, Eve’s reference to “touching” was nonetheless implicit in it, and need not suggest an exaggeration by her of the divine limitation. Eve’s role in the fall, it should be noted, is not intended to establish woman’s special culpability, but rather, as Daniélou notes, to attest “human solidarity in evil as well as in good” (In the Beginning … Genesis I-III, p. 55).

Having gained response from Eve, Satan proceeds to attack not the restriction in question but rather its supposed presuppositions and consequences. Disobedience will not result in death, he asserts, but (as “God knows,” 3:5, neb) will simply “open the eyes” of the man and woman; they will then “be like God knowing both good and evil” (3:5, neb). In brief, the divine prohibition is made to appear as a deprivation of desirable human attributes and consequences; by ignoring such restriction, the Serpent suggests, Adam and Eve can become unqualifiedly godlike.

The precise form of the Serpent is irrelevant except to note that certain features now associated with serpents, including their method of locomotion and eating, were not originally the case (cf. 3:14 f.). The temptation account says nothing about serpentine slithering, hypnotic eye fixation, dangerous poison; it refers only to sinister cunning. The Serpent may originally have walked upright, may have been a remarkably attractive creature, but all such conjecture is pure speculation; all that Scripture clearly states is that a cunning wild creature solicited Eve to disobey God and did so in an audible voice.

The entrance of evil into the world that God created good is evoked and facilitated by a sly solicitude that cleverly depicts disobedience as a desirable asset. The tree and its fruit that Adam and Eve had shunned under divine command now gains a special fascination for Eve. Pleasant to look upon for its beauty and for its agreeably edible fruit, the tree now dangled the added enticement of special wisdom.

Did the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” literally have a strange potency that would relate man to the sphere of good and evil, or was it simply a designated object for testing man’s ready obedience to the expressed will of God?

Avoiding the reminder that the eating of the tree’s fruit had deadly rather than benevolent consequences, modern evolutionary writers found in this account supposed support for their theory of transition from infantile innocence to an awakened conscience and moral maturity. Other scholars, on the basis of Adam and Eve’s subsequent shame over their nakedness, equated the eating of forbidden fruit with sexual intercourse. The fact is that Genesis as well as other Scripture passages consider intercourse a natural endowment necessary for fulfilling God’s mandate to “be fruitful and multiply,” a mandate that actually antedated the fall. Still other scholars, all the more as contemporary science has probed secrets of the genetic code, have come to view such knowledge as humanly illicit and therefore an invasion of divine omniscience.

According to Augustine, Luther and Calvin and the dominant Christian theological tradition, what is at stake in the “eat”/”eat not” alternatives is human obedience to the declared will of God. The stipulation of good and evil belongs definitively to God alone, a knowledge that his moral creatures can know only by reliance and dependence on him (cf. Job 2:10; Jer. 4:26; Isa. 45:7). We are here face to face, therefore, with a divine command morality. The test of divine obedience is posed to Adam and Eve in their natural environment, a garden in which they are at home; there, amid unlimited privileges, they are, however, to observe one clearly stipulated prohibition.

Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, and her husband likewise. By this act of disobedience sin entered the world and death passed upon all men (Rom. 5:12 ff.). Rather than to live in covenant, the creature sought to be, like God, the ultimate determiner of right and wrong. By this act of disobedience Adam became the representative and progenitor of a race that instead of seeking to obey and serve God chooses to be its own judge of good and evil.

Adam did not, of course, fall into a condition of ontological godlessness. Psalm 139 attests that nowhere, not even in hell, can man escape confrontation by his Maker. He was expelled, however, from intimacy with God; the Word of God which once addressed him in privileged communion now pronounces condemnation and doom on Adam and all mankind. Adam’s corruption involves no alteration of metaphysical essence; he was not transformed ontologically into a wicked angel in Satan’s image. It is as a rebel that he merits the wrath of God; having become an alien in paradise under divine judgment, he must now fear the worst. Alongside the wickedness of some other ancients, including even some Old Testament “holy men,” Adam’s offense, says Barth, seems on the surface trivial. But, Barth stresses, “as a sinner he is primus inter pares,” and “he stands at the gateway as the representative of all who follow” (IV/ 1, p. 510); he is the representative of disobedience even as Jesus Christ becomes the representative of victory over that disobedience and justifies penitent sinners before God (ibid., p. 512).

What does Scripture mean when it affirms that “the eyes of them both [Adam and Eve] were opened” and that in consequence they discovered their nakedness and stitched fig-leaf aprons or loincloths (Gen. 3:7)? We know that at creation “they were both naked, the man and his wife, but they had no feeling of shame toward each other” (2:25, neb). With innocence gone, Adam and Eve now suffer feelings of shame as a byproduct of their consciousness of evil. One might say that the primal pair made in godlikeness suddenly comprehended the meaning of devillikeness. But what has this to do with physical nakedness and covering of sex organs? Not only does Adam affirm: “I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself” but God reinforces a connection between forbidden fruit and shame for nakedness when he says, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree which I forbade you?” (3:11, neb).

That the fallen self is inwardly unprepared to make decisions—and hence symbolically unclothed—is one possible interpretation. Having abandoned a divine-command ethic, man is now thrown back upon himself and upon humanly postulated truth and good; morally impoverished, he knows divinely enunciated truth and good only in the context of condemnation. But why the sexual imagery? Is it because the sex organs encapsulate the destiny of the species, that they are integral to human perpetuity and carriers of the distinctive posterity that mates engender? Does the awareness of inner nakedness and of impending doom somehow shadow physical nakedness with shame?

Noah’s curse upon Canaan, son of Ham, following Ham’s indelicate and indecent response to Noah’s nakedness (Gen. 9:21–25), does not clearly illumine the matter. Nor does Peter’s shame over his immodesty in the unexpected presence of the risen Lord (John 21:7), since that was a matter mainly of decorum. Yet the shame that the Bible attaches to public nudity contrasts strikingly with modern nudity cults and with media exploitation of physical and sexual exposure.

We are told that Adam and Eve “hid from the Lord” when they “heard the sound of the Lord God” with whom they had previously spoken freely. When the Lord calls, “Where are you?” (3:9), he elicits from Adam the half-truth “I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself” (3:10, neb); Adam speaks only circumlocutiously about his guilt. Pinpointing Adam’s act of disobedience God asks further, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (3:11).

Only then does Adam admit his guilt (“I ate it,” 3:12, neb), and even so launches into bold rationalizations. That Adam blamed Eve for his fall, is only part of the story; such shifting of responsibility anticipates the faceless “they” of society in general, a catchall mirage to which Adam’s posterity still shunts the blame for sin and evil. Adam’s first maneuver was to implicitly blame the Lord (“The woman whom thou gavest to be with me,” 3:12a); then he blamed the woman (“She gave me fruit of the tree and I ate,” 3:12b); and Eve, in turn, blamed the Serpent (“The serpent beguiled me, and I ate,” 3:13). Of all these rejoinders, Eve’s is the most appropriate, although it, too, is an oblique reply to the Lord’s question: “What is this that you have done?” (3:13). Both male and female, man and woman, seek to avoid responsibility for the fall by assuming an injured-party role.

God’s curse on the Serpent, on Eve, and on Adam, as well as terrible consequences for humanity and the cosmos follow “because you have done this” (3:14). The entire narrative immediately following the fall tells the tragic story of paradise lost, the story of self-willed man who by seeking independence from God loses his divinely intended life. By his act of disobedience Adam disrupts the harmony between the Creator and his creation and robs mankind of life as it was originally gifted and intended. Even ancient oriental myths preserve the story of this tragedy, although they embellish it with polytheistic speculations about conflict between the gods.

Relationships between the Serpent and man change, as a consequence of the fall, from one of cooperation in disobedience to God to one of enmity, one in which the Serpent multiplies human woe (Gen. 3:15) and will continue to do so until the time of his final defeat and judgment. The results of the fall are catastrophic not only for Adam and Eve but for all humanity whom they represent: deprivation of the tree of life, death both spiritual and physical, expulsion from paradise where God dwells, shame (Gen. 3:7), fear (3:10), feminine travail in childbirth, work as hardship. Man’s rebellion has consequences for the entire cosmos; it implicates all creation.

Adam’s specific original sin is obviously not the actual original sin of every living human; every human’s sinfulness is, nonetheless, a consequence of the sin principle that flows representatively through Adam to all persons in the totality of their being, and conditions both their individual acts and community life. “Dead in trespasses and sins” and “having no hope” is how the apostle Paul summarizes (Eph. 2:1 f., 12, kjv) fallen humanity’s condition, for “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23, kjv), that is, are no longer “Godkind” mankind. Not even for a moment does anyone any longer perfectly think God’s thoughts after him or fully will to do his will.

Dale Moody disavows the orthodox understanding of racial guilt and corruption in Adam, primarily because he surrenders primal Adam to an obscure and long distant animal ancestry. Moody deplores the view that all humans sin and are guilty “in Adam” as their representative or progenitor, and declares this position based on a false tradition and mistranslation of Romans 5:12. Even though he rejects the idea that fallen human nature is corrupt (ibid., pp. 239 ff.), Moody, nonetheless, considers the curse on creation to be a result of man’s sin (The Word of Truth, p. 295). The sin of individuals, he says, requires no reference to the sin of Adam and Eve (ibid., p. 280). “Man is guilty before God because of his personal sin,” not because of Adamic sin. But the parallelism of Romans 5:12–21 would then require Moody to say that man is justified before God because of his personal righteousness and not because of God’s act. Moody unwittingly approaches this kind of self-justification when, rejecting the doctrine of eternal security (ibid., pp. 283, p. 358) he stresses that “as long as one believes, he has eternal life” (ibid., p. 491); he denies that propitiatory atonement is necessary to reconciliation (ibid., pp. 329 f.).

But in the fall man not only loses his created integrity but also inherits guilt for sin and corruption of his nature; the fall evokes a death-warrant that immediately interrupts man’s spiritual fellowship with his Maker and defines his hopelessly degenerate state. Man is unable either to live with God or to die the death of nonbeing; although kept alive by the Holy Lord he wanders under the gloom of an already operative condemnation. Man’s lot are now moral and spiritual death in sin and continuance in the service of evil, to be followed by physical death to come, eternal separation from God’s presence and enduring exposure to his wrath.

There is nothing, nothing at all, that man can himself do to restore and resume a now violated divine fellowship and to liberate himself from the consequences of sin. Only the sovereign Lord can intervene. This he does, without implying any triviality in the human rebellion, by bearing man’s guilt and paying man’s debt. The terrible self-cost to God of the forgiveness of man’s sin—a mercy not extended to Satan and the wicked angels—is something Adam and Eve could scarcely have fathomed: in giving his Son, God gives himself in our stead. The holy Creator offers forgiveness only on the ground of retribution, a retribution that at one and the same time is an act of both perfect righteousness and pure grace; such an act only God himself can provide.

The role of Satan and demons in human life and its impact even upon God’s regenerate people, remains throughout Scripture a factor in the conflict of sin and redemption. The Bible puts Satan and the demonic in proper perspective, however, and avoids extreme views that prevail even in the twentieth century; God is the lord of angels and demons no less than of man, and will eternally punish Satan and his host (Matt. 25:41). Some expositors routinely exaggerate the agency of evil spirits in daily life, referring all human misfortunes to Satan as if he were a rival deity unsubject to Elohim. Satan, it is true, is in fact directly or indirectly responsible for a terrible trail of terror and shame. The destruction unleashed in our century by Hitler, Stalin, Mao and others provides but a glimpse of the power of evil abroad in the world. But the Bible nowhere teaches that world history is outside God’s control and directed by the devil. Scripture delineates a sobering but balanced view of demonology.

For all its horrors in the twentieth century, Western civilization has largely discredited Satan. In the forepart of the century Edward Scribner Ames wrote that “the old view of evil as proceeding from the machinations of an Evil Spirit, Satan, or the Devil has nearly disappeared. That monstrous demon lives now almost wholly in profanity” (Religion, p. 264). Remarkably, the very century whose intellectuals most ridiculed belief in spirits, demons and in Satan especially, has witnessed an explosion of new interest in spiritism, demonism and exorcism. In pursuing the scientific containment of the evils of mankind, even demon-possession is now declared a widely attested phenomenon and religionists have resumed the practice of exorcism. C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters became a classic statement on the subtleties of Satan, whose master stroke is to induce mankind to disbelieve in him even while he is achieving his goals unsuspected. Satan is most successfully present where he is denied, forgotten, unexpected or unnoticed.

The notion that modern science or philosophy has replaced the so-called ancient myth of man’s origins and predicament with a factual explanation is misleading. What scientism has done to replace the Genesis account that it calls myth is simply to project its own myth, one that cannot settle the question whether Genesis is an oriental myth or a standard by which all myths, including even that of scientism, will be judged. While modern myths have a way of raveling into more and more new myths the creation account not only centuries but millennia after it was written continues to reassert its validity claim against them all.

Modern scholarship can formulate neither the biblical doctrine of creation nor that of redemption without a decision about myth. Bultmann’s demythologization of the supernatural is much more than just a particularly perverse form of speculative theology; it is a full-blown application of the myth-concept that earlier modernist thinkers had espoused but only half-heartedly. At stake is a choice between supernatural creation and redemption on the one hand and thoroughgoing antisupernaturalism on the other. The role of Satan and the rebellious angels stands or falls with the larger issue of the revelation of God and his Christ, of the First Adam and the Second Adam, of creation and the new creation.

Satan’s antiredemptive activity and that of the demons are clearly attested in the New Testament record. Nowhere is this activity more dramatically and conspicuously evident than during the ministry of Jesus Christ himself. Satan challenges Jesus at the very outset of his public ministry to worship him and when bested departs “until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). Even while or because the good angels exercise their appointed ministry in connection with the successive epochs of special divine revelation, the evil angels seem particularly active at the same time. But Jesus exerts and exhibits his power over these satanic enemies (Matt. 8:16; Mark 1:24; Acts 10:36 f.), as do his disciples (Luke 10:17 f.). In the presence of Jesus the demons themselves raise the question of their impending destruction (Mark 1:24). The revolt against divine authority in Eden is not yet completely undone, but the Deceiver’s doom is assured because of the Second Adam’s redemptive obedience and his victory on the cross over Satan.

Although demons were not confined to the Hebrew world the Hebrews comprehended their significance and power far better than the Greeks. They knew also that in the eschatological endtime the self-revealing God of righteousness and love will forever and fully resolve man’s conflict with Satan and the demons (Rev. 16:13 f., 19:17–21; cf. Ps. 2). In that day man made at creation in God’s image will at re-creation be fully remade in that selfsame image, the image now fully mirrored by the incarnate, risen, and returning Son of God.


The Goodness of God

Two New Testament texts provide a useful introduction to the goodness of God; in one Jesus affirms that “no one is good but God only” (Mark 10:18), in the other Paul affirms of mankind that “there is none good, no not one” (Rom. 3:12; cf. Ps. 14:1, 3). What is this agathos that characterizes the living God, this chrēstotēs that man as sinner fails to reflect in thought, word or deed?

The Bible nowhere views God’s goodness as a supreme heavenly exemplification of, or divine conformity to, a perfection first discovered in man and the world and then projected upon divinity. Rather, it roots the conception of God’s goodness in the living God’s own self-revelation in the history of his people. To formulate the good independently of the living, self-revealing personal God is wholly unacceptable to Judeo-Christian revelation.

Yahweh is himself “the Good”; goodness is an intrinsic perfection of the living God. As E. Beyreuther comments, “it is presupposed throughout that God is the One who is good” (on “Good,” nidntt, 2:99). David’s “psalm of thanks” exhorts us: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good” (1 Chr. 16:34, niv; Cf. Ps. 118:1) and the temple musicians sing: “He is good” (2 Chr. 5:13 niv).

Unlike Greek philosophy the Bible never introduces “the good” as merely a speculative theme. Scripture rejects in principle Plato’s view of a transcendent highest good that is normative even for the Demiurge who fashions heaven and earth, as well as Aristotle’s identification of the good as the goal of all human relationships and actions. Only with reservations, moreover, does Scripture apply the conception of the good to man in his fallen state, and apart from divine redemption and human participation in messianic salvation. To be sure, it recognizes relative ethical differences among sinful humans (Matt. 12:35, 25:21; Luke 6:45) and emphasizes that God in his goodness shows no discrimination either in respect to his common grace (Matt. 5:45) or to his redemption call (Matt. 22:10). Unredeemed mankind remains so irretrievably in moral bondage, however, as to disallow any claim to personal goodness in God’s sight (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:10 ff.).

Throughout the created universe, moreover, God definitively articulates the good for the world of creatures he has brought into being. This fact is seen in several ways: in his declaration of the essential goodness of the original creation; in his sovereign command that formulates the nature of good and evil; in his condemnation of sinners and promise of messianic salvation; in his covenant-care of Israel; in his supreme salvific manifestation in Jesus the sinless Savior; and in his coming final judgment and separation of mankind for a dual destiny in eternity.

Everything that comes from God, beginning with his work of creation, is good. Although the book of Genesis is aware of the deep difference between good and evil—more aware of its grim reality in fact than were other Near Eastern religions and even the later Greek Stoics—it nonetheless avoids the error of poets who depict the finite universe as the enemy of God, and of philosophers who view matter as evil. The Creator’s own verdict on the created universe, including man and the world, is that the whole is “very good” (Gen. 1:31). In declaring each successive stage of the creation to be “good” (1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25) God underscores its intelligible order, moral perfection and aesthetic beauty, in short, its excellence. Psalms 104 and 148 record an exultant response to the Good Creator of a good universe. “Because God’s creation is good,” observe J. W. Rogerson and J. W. McKay, “the psalmist can call upon all created things to praise their creator for his goodness” (Psalms 101–150, p. 26).

The Old Testament Hebrew term tob (Gen. 1:18) carries both moral and aesthetic overtones. Of the equivalent Greek terms in the New Testament kalos stresses the aesthetic more than does agathos and designates an excellence that is God-pleasing. Neither in the Old Testament nor in the New does one find the humanistic ideal so prevalent in ancient Greek literature of beauty as a goal of life and learning. Throughout the biblical heritage it is God’s will revealed in the law that determines the comprehensive content of the good.

Christianity has attached limited importance to aesthetics. We should note, however, that aesthetics and art are not synonymous with beauty for the ugly is sometimes excellent art. Evangelical Christianity in its concentration on the moral aspects of goodness has tended to neglect the aesthetic; this is a misfortune, indeed, at a time when beauty and the arts and music are threatened by commercial, sensual and pornographic forces that impact even upon the church and its art forms. Georg Bertram comments, for example, on rival theories of Christian art that on the one hand invoke Isaiah 52 and 53 to depict Jesus as physically unattractive and on the other employ passages about the beauty of the Lord to imply a beautiful Christ (on kalos, in tdnt, 3:552 f.). What the Isaian reference is speaking about, of course, is not Christ’s human visage but his lowliness and suffering. And representations of a beautiful Savior often reflect simply the culture-preferences of the artist’s environment.

Christian theology in earlier centuries contemplated goodness as a comprehensive correlation of the true, the moral and the beautiful (cf. Augustine’s De Pulchro;
De Civitatis Dei 19.3; 22.19 and Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae 1Q.5, 4; 1 a 2ae Q.27, 1). Nowhere in classical theology or in the Bible is beauty an independent conception unrelated to truth and the good; like truth and right the genuinely aesthetic always corresponds to the will of God. When this interrelationship is abused, the beautiful loses its wholesomeness, truth its goodness, and the good its winsomeness; worse yet, to fragment these essentials alters the significance of the goodness of God. Apart from and when abstracted from God the good is really nothing; it is but an empty concept into which to stuff a variety of particulars, many of them conflicting at that. The good then becomes merely an illusion that speculative sorcerers can manipulate at will. What happens is that a biblically vagabond generation then accepts as “good” what in fact violates the divine command; manipulators of truth and of the good and of the beautiful go unchallenged as they thrust upon mankind the culture vices of the age as something admirable and desirable.

God discloses his intrinsic goodness not only by the manifestation of his essential nature and by the sovereign verdict he passes on the universe in its originally created condition, but also by the fact that his will and commands define the content of good and evil for his creatures.

The view that God’s command constitutes an action right, while his prohibition constitutes it wrong, has exerted an impressive influence upon Western theology and philosophy since early Christian times, as Janine Marie Idziak shows in her recent anthology (Divine Command Morality: Historical and Contemporary Readings). Idziak has gathered important historical texts pertinent to theological and philosophical considerations of this approach and, in addition, has translated and edited some little known and previously inaccessible materials.

Augustine accordingly affirms that “the eternal law is the reason and will of God” (Against Faustus, Bk. XXII, ch. xxvii). The scholastic Duns Scotus espouses divine command ethics (Oxford Commentary on the Sentences; Paris Commentary on the Sentences); in their commentaries on the Sentences William of Occam and Pierre d’Ailly follow suit. The Protestant Reformers as well as the English Puritans William Perkins and John Preston likewise stress an ethics of divine command. “What God wills,” Luther affirms, “is not right because He ought, or was bound, so to will; on the contrary, what takes place must be right, because He so wills it” (The Bondage of the Will, Ch. 5, Sec. VI). For Calvin “the best remedy” for specious good works is found in constant attention to the fact that “the law was given to us from heaven to teach us a perfect righteousness; that in it no righteousness is taught, but that which is conformable to the decrees of the Divine …” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, II, viii, 5).

In this century while Karl Barth and Emil Brunner also champion a divine command ethics, they do so in the confusing context of dialectical theology. Barth emphasizes God’s confrontational command; in keeping with his disavowal of objective propositional revelation he tapers specific commandments to a status simply of fallible witness to the transcendent Christ-Presence (Church Dogmatics, II/2, pp. 509–781). Brunner declares as “the truth of the Bible … that only that which God wills is good; and thus … we are to will what God wills, because he wills it”; he claims simultaneously, however, that “the content of the commandment is not an abstract law, not a programme that can be known beforehand and codified.…” For Brunner the divine command can be perceived only by faith; to define it propositionally or in principles is to miscast the good in legalistic terms (The Divine Imperative. A Study in Christian Ethics, pp. 91, 111 ff.). Such dialectical emphasis deprives divine command morality of both specificity and objective validity; sinful man can know that what God wills is good only in the act of obedience. As Kai Nielsen observes, Brunner considers the unbeliever’s question whether God’s command is good to be senseless (“Some Remarks on the Independence of Morality from Religion,” 175–186). Representative evangelical works avoid this dialectical weakening of divine command ethics. The present writer’s Christian Personal Ethics declares God’s revealed commands and principles to be the core structure of biblical ethics (cf. chapter 8, “The Good as the Will of God as Lord,” pp. 209–218, reprinted in entirety in Idziak’s anthology).

Ancient, medieval, modern and contemporary philosophers mount prestigious intellectual support for the contrary view that man’s own moral sense must decide whether God is good and whether we ought to obey him. Ever since Plato’s Euthyphro (9e) the view that God commands what is independently moral has been ranged against the emphasis that God’s free choice and command are what make actions obligatory. William of Occam’s contention that no act is incapable of becoming a good act if God commands it (Sentences, Book II, qu. 19, ad. 3 and 4) provoked sharp rebuttal. Suarez, for example, comments that God cannot abolish what natural law approves. But what divine command moralists stress, of course, is that God neither acts contrary to the justice he voluntarily approves nor contrary to ethical categories he has implanted by creation in his image-bearing rational-moral creatures.

Although some early modern philosophers affirm divine command morality—Descartes, Locke and Berkeley among them—their main speculative drift grounds ethics outside God’s will and renders even divine actions answerable to external norms. Jeremy Bentham, Ralph Cudworth, Joseph Granvill and many others energetically oppose divine command ethics. Cudworth, a Cambridge Platonist, affirms that divine command morality arbitrarily accommodates the notion “that there is no act evil but as it is prohibited by God, and which cannot be made good if it be commanded by God” (“Treatise Concerning Eternal and Immutable Morality,” pp. 363–756). John Stuart Mill and J. M. E. McTaggart reject biblical theism in part professedly because it affirms a divine command morality. Bertrand Russell similarly repudiated the Judeo-Christian view.

Opposition to divine command ethics has assumed avalanche proportions as supernatural theism in the present century gave way to religious humanism and naturalism. Many rationalistic and empirical metaphysicians now emphasize that moral duty cannot be defined in terms of God’s command and challenge the notion that “God wills x” is an ethical pronouncement (cf. William K. Frankena, Ethics; G. Outka and J. P. Reeder, eds., “Is Morality Logically Dependent on Religion?,” in Religion and Morality, pp. 295–317; P. H. Nowell-Smith, Ethics, pp. 192 f.). Guy W. Stroh criticizes Jonathan Edwards and other American theists for basing ethics on religion; he insists, instead, that one’s personal sense of “ought” is what implies moral responsibility and the possibility of ethical action (American Ethical Thought). The atheist, as George Schlesinger observes, usually poses an antithesis: unless one derives the criterion of moral goodness from human affairs there is no divine criterion of morality that makes human sense (“The Problem of Evil and the Problem of Suffering,” p. 299).

Most analytic philosophers assume that attempts to define moral conceptions by theological referents merely express an open question, since neither moral imperatives nor theological entities meet the positivist demand for empirical verifiability. John P. Reeder, Jr. raises the spectre of “a God whose commands need not be moral in any sense” (“Patterson Brown on God’s Will as the Criterion of Morality,” in Religious Studies, Vol. 1, 5, 1969, pp. 235–242) and D. Goldstick associates this deity with a “might is right” mentality (“Monotheism’s Euthyphro Problem,” pp. 585–589). For Kai Nielsen “Nothing can be God unless He or it is an object worthy of worship and it is our own moral insight that must tell us if anything at all could possibly be worthy of worship.… A religious belief depends for its viability on our sense of good and bad—our own sense of worth—and not vice versa” (“Some Remarks on the Independence of Morality from Religion,” pp. 175–186).

Nielsen maintains that the statement “God is good” is one of evaluation and not one that establishes identity, else Christians could not affirm additionally that God is literally a transcendent person. Our reply to Nielsen is not, as R. B. Braithwaite contends, that Judeo-Christian metaphysical affirmations should be collapsed into moral claims (An Empiricist’s View of the Nature of Religious Belief), or as Terence Penelhum contends, that religion involves nonliteral mythical utterances (“Faith, Fact and Philosophy,” p. 99); as Nielsen is aware, such capitulations would abandon the intellectual intention of historic Judeo-Christian theism. For biblical religion “God” is rather a descriptive term having evaluative significance; its evaluative force depends upon its descriptive content, a content transcendently given.

To believe in God indeed involves, as Nielsen insists, “the making of a certain value judgment.” But Nielsen confuses the matter when he translates this assertion to mean: “the believer believes that there is a Z such that Z is worthy of worship.” We need not question the emphasis that “Each person with his own finite and fallible moral awareness must make decisions of this sort for himself. This would be so whether he was in a Hebrew-Christian tradition or in … any tradition whatever. A moral understanding must be logically prior to any religious assent” (“Some Remarks on the Independence of Morality from Religion,” p. 186). Debatable, rather, is the notion that man therefore dictates the moral criteria by which deity is to be declared ethically worthy. The determining issue is that of the ground and nature and limits of man’s moral understanding, and of his created relationship both to the sovereign God and to moral imperatives which man even in unbelief retains through the imperishable cognitive links of reason and conscience. Judeo-Christian revelation declares that fallen man possesses an awareness of the living God, retains moral categories implanted by creation, and recognizes the voice of the sovereign holy Lord both in general and in special revelation. Man’s verdict that Z is worthy or unworthy of worship is not reached simply by examining independent considerations or projections; at best man’s reflections unwittingly confirm that apart from the living God’s self-disclosure all moral distinctions collapse into skepticism and nihilism. While the nonbeliever indeed has the power to decide that the God of Judeo-Christian revelation is unworthy of worship, and the nonbeliever propounds whatever rationalizations he chooses to express his rebellion, that fact in no way determines the objective actualities. If he comes to terms, however, with an enlightened conscience and with the Lord of that conscience, he will bow before the sovereign God, the good Sovereign or sovereign Good, will repent of sin and submit to the moral law affirmed and commanded by the Creator of all life. While God transcends all human moral standards, he is nonetheless the ethical standard for believers and nonbelievers alike and is the criterion of all human moral action.

Recently a number of philosophers and theologians have been reexamining the view that God is subject to prior natural law or to other external and independent moral criteria as the source and measure of normative moral distinctions. This altered situation has been provoked in part by the inability of naturalistic humanists to persuasively defend aspects of conventional morality against radical counterattack, and by the claims of biblical theists that a deity who does not himself define truth and the good violates what the Judeo-Christian heritage understands by the existence of God. Patterson Brown reflects the growing religious awareness that divine command ethics is “an essential element in the affirmation of Christian theism” (“Religious Morality,” pp. 235–244; cf. “God and the Good,” pp. 269–276).

Many antagonists of divine command ethics view God merely as the perfect exemplar of humanly defined morality and assume that God must conform to human ethical criteria and requirements. John Stuart Mill refused to call good in God what we call evil in humans: “Language,” he said, “has no meaning for the words ‘just,’ ‘merciful,’ ‘benevolent’ save that in which we predicate them of our fellow-creatures.… If in affirming them of God we do not mean to affirm these very qualities, differing only as greater in degree, we are neither philosophically nor morally entitled to affirm them at all” (An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy, p. 101). Mill implies that by affirming God to be good we applaud him as the supreme model of our own virtues; he ignores the fact that the sense of God’s goodness is not to be analogically derived from human goodness, but vice versa. Only an extreme anthropomorphism will insist on a necessary correspondence between God’s goodness and man’s (cf. Jesus’ declaration: “There is none good but one, that is, God,” Matt. 19:17, kjv). To be sure, in speaking of God as good, we mean that he is creator and sustainer of what we call good in creatures who in certain circumstances are entitled to be so designated (cf. Gen. 1:31). But C. S. Lewis would add and stresses that “the terms ‘good’ and ‘almighty’ and perhaps also the term ‘happy’ are equivocal; … if the popular meanings … are the best, or the only possible meanings, then the argument [against theistic claims] is unanswerable” (The Problem of Pain, p. 26). Richard Swinburne states the matter well: “If God is the creator of man and of the inanimate world, his commands can impose obligations which did not exist before” (The Coherence of Theism, p. 296). Morality is indispensably rooted, says G. E. M. Anscombe, in the presuppositions of biblical theism (“Modern Moral Philosophy,” p. 8; cf. J. J. Thomson and G. Dworkin, eds.). Gordon Clark in A Christian View of Men and Things expounds “the ethics of revelation” over against rival theories (cf. the chapter on “Ethics,” especially pp. 187–193).

In examining criticisms of divine command theories, Philip L. Quinn concludes that “none of the objections usually urged against such theories suffice to refute them” (“Divine Command Ethics: A Causal Theory,” in Idziak, Divine Command Morality, p. 313). Even certain linguistic philosophers, notably D. A. Rees, G. E. M. Anscombe and R. N. Smart, are challenging the claim of most analytical and of many other modern philosophers that morality must be defined independently of religion, and that persons must decide independently whether what God commands, or is said to command, is good. Judeo-Christian belief, observes Rees, rejects the response: “God commands me to do X but I ought not to do it” (“The Ethics of Divine Commands,” p. 86). Rees unfortunately dilutes biblical ethics by asserting that “God commands me to do X” does not mean “I ought to do X”; for him the latter need not require a reference to God’s will or command.

Anscombe insists that obligation statements have no reasonable sense apart from a divine law conception of ethics (“Modern Moral Philosophy,” p. 8). The influence of the Torah followed by the dominance of Christianity has lent a “mere mesmeric force” to conceptions of ethics that in later centuries forfeit theistic divine law. Ethical claims grounded only on the principle of utility or on any basis other than a divine law conception of morality, Anscombe asserts, have at best only psychological force. Just as the logically consistent hedonist can by affirming that “pleasure is ‘good’ ” really mean only that “pleasure is pleasure,” so all efforts to define the “good” by empirical criteria collapse into a projection of selective data to support personal preference. Objective moral obligation operates only in the context of divine law; in any other setting the phrase “I ought” loses truly obligatory content. Modern philosophy and ethics stress that only external or independent considerations can decide whether what God wills is good; against this emphasis and that of modern theories that derive the good from utilitarian or intuitional considerations, the Judeo-Christian religion teaches that man is universally obliged by God’s will—a view that is gaining welcome and overdue recognition. In the Bible God himself decides what is good and evil (Gen. 2:17; Isa. 5:20; Amos 5:14 f.; Micah 3:2; Mal. 2:17). The unrighteous are those who do not obey Yahweh’s commands and those who refuse his offer of salvation. Evil is therefore whatever opposes God’s revealed will and word. What God requires of man is obedience; every voice that exhorts us to good is an echo of God’s voice (Prov. 8:15). The fear of the Lord in the Old Testament gains its special character from man’s awareness of having contravened the goodness of the Creator, having violated an obligation to respect God’s will and command, having ruptured divinely established norms and having thwarted the patterns of justice stipulated by the divine lawgiver.

The Old Testament, moreover, sees God’s goodness expressed to man not only in the context of creation and command, but also in that of redemption. Declared “very good” as God’s created image-bearer made for fellowship with his Maker, man had no sooner fallen into sin than God moved to reverse the disastrous consequences of the fall. God’s historical soteric revelation discloses his goodness progressively.

The law itself is a provision of God’s goodness. Micah illumines its comprehensive claim in the words: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8, niv). The psalmist admonishes us to “Depart from evil, and do good, seek peace, and pursue it” (Ps. 34:14; cf. Ps. 37:27, Deut. 30:15), and Paul identifies God’s law as “holy, righteous and good” (Rom. 9:12). Essential goodness is to be found in proper personal relationships to God and to fellow humans.

In both the Old and New Testaments man in sin is hopelessly doomed; fallen man cannot do the good (Eccl. 7:20) and must rely on mercy (Rom. 3:9–20). This truth lends added significance to the fact that passages concerning God’s intrinsic goodness (e.g., 1 Chr. 16:34, Ps. 118:1) correlate that divine goodness with divine love (“his love endures forever”). Divine redemption is a provision of divine goodness for man in sin; God’s goodness summons man to repentance and to the prospect of forgiveness; it is not subordinated to a justice that punishes inexorably and implacably. This possibility of mercy awakens and deepens man’s trust in the goodness of God, and in the intrinsic goodness of his will which embraces mercy. The promised new covenant, moreover, is for the “good” of God’s people and for “the good of their children after them” (Jer. 32:38, rsv).

The New Testament encapsulates God’s goodness in the gift of messianic salvation anticipated by the prophetic revelation and now consummated in Jesus Christ. Central to the “good tidings” (Isa. 52:7) the Redeemer comes as “high priest of the good things” (Heb. 9:11, niv) foreshadowed in the Old Testament (Heb. 10:1). Jesus is the Good (kalos) Shepherd (John 10:11, 14) who redemptively lays down his life for his sheep. For all that, we hear the barbed question of the unbelieving to whom the promised Messiah has seemingly come in vain: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46, niv).

In the “good deeds” of regenerate humanity, moreover, the New Testament sees a reflection of the moral goodness of God and visible evidence that sinners have appropriated Christ’s offer and enablement for ethical existence (Matt. 25:40; Rom. 15:14; Eph. 2:10; Phil. 1:6; James 2:8). No parable of Jesus is as universally familiar and so dramatically illustrates good will as that of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30 f.).

Fundamental to new life in Christ is a conscience corrected by Scripture which no longer dooms the believer but spurs him to Christlikeness. Paul could say that as a Christian he lived life before God in good conscience (Acts 23:1). In view of the future resurrection he strove, he says, always “to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16, niv) and exhorted fellow believers to do likewise (1 Tim. 1:5; cf. 1 Pet. 3:16, 21). Rebellious mankind experiences only a bad conscience, one that struggles against God’s “thou shalt not.” A good conscience, on the other hand, is at home and comfortable with divine moral imperatives like love, which rejoices in the truth (1 Cor. 13:6) and glories in the good.

John the Baptist, Jesus and Paul all identify human goodness as a Spirit-engendered virtue, and do so under the imagery of fruit. Good fruit, says the Baptist, is the work of the Spirit in the penitent sinner’s life (Matt. 3:10–12); Jesus associates good fruit with a good nature (Matt. 7:17–20; cf. 12:33) and Paul describes goodness (agathōsunē, cf. Rom. 15:4; 2 Th. 1:11) as a fruit borne in the believer by the indwelling Spirit (Gal. 5:22).

In evolutionary speculation evil is simply a retardation or hindrance that can in principle be transformed into good. This approach prepared the way for modern confidence that developmental advance would automatically conquer and eliminate evil. Early in this century modernist theology sponsored the notion of man’s goodness developing and evolving supposedly in concert with a divinely energized cosmos. “Goodness is the crown of humanity,” said William Newton Clark, “the indispensable final element in the making of completed man. This highest quality is slowly coming in to the human race, as intellect slowly came in before it; and the analogy of all preceding gains of man convinces us that it is coming in as yet another form of resemblance to that great mind which is bringing forth its own likeness from the long process of the universe” (Can I Believe in God the Father?, p. 53).

For evolutionists evil was but a remnant of brute instinct in a world where emerging man gives content to the notions of good and evil. The possibility follows, then, of eradicating evil by mass education, bureaucratic socialization and technological revision of human behavior. To consider man potentially or essentially good upends the biblical view of sin. By considering evil merely an uninformed finite perspective on experience modernist religious philosophy subordinated the reality of evil to an idealistic metaphysics. An age in which leaders of one of Western Europe’s most advanced civilizations willfully exterminated six million Jews, and in which communist tyrants ruthlessly imposed totalitarianism upon modern nations, easily accommodated this soft view of evil. Contemporary theology has all too quickly forgotten that the wickedness, cruelty and degeneracy of two devastating world wars, the holocaust of Auschwitz, and Freudian psychoanalysis were more than enough to attest Scripture’s delineation of human sinfulness.

By radically assaulting existing structures Marxism tried to overthrow social injustices and to shatter economic structures that often disadvantaged multitudes of workers. But in doing so, Marxism rejected good and evil as absolute distinctions, viewed state absolutism as the source of human rights and defined morality in purely economic terms; it little sensed that in the end social activism might actually enslave the worker in a far worse Gulag and without achieving the economic utopia it envisioned.

The tragic side of modern social vision is its eruption into revolution and its fallback into despair when human discontent is addressed simply in a context devoid of transcendent referents. Because of its element of humanism traditional Chinese religion allied itself increasingly with both modern scientism and secular materialism and thus compounded the impression that man as master of his soul and of reality can himself ideally change the world. That the decree of heaven changes according to man’s moral standard and behavior is inherent in early Confucian teaching. It was this belief that motivated the overthrow of the Shung dynasty, a dynasty that claimed its emperor to be the eternal Son of God and his decrees permanent and fixed. Serious questions accordingly arose when the revolutionary Chow dynasty overthrew the Shung regime. How, it was asked, could another dynasty be justified and how, furthermore, could the new dynasty be accountable to moral criteria if the heavenly deity had earmarked the Shung dynasty as eternal? Confucius taught that since heaven is responsive to people’s behavior it accommodated the Shung dynasty’s overthrow because of its political corruption, its neglect of moral standards, and its indifference to the needs of society. But, warned Confucius, the Chow dynasty would face similar downfall if it repeated the Shung mistakes. Thus people’s social and moral standards and not a heavenly decree became decisive for the future of history. In this phase, therefore, while the transcendent, that is, God and heaven, are still realities, they are seen as responsive to human merit. In later Confucianism, however, human works alone decide man’s destiny and the invisible transcendent realities fade into agnosticism. Confucianism offers no real resistance, therefore, to the communist onslaught against supernatural theism and ethics. Chinese intellectual humanists consider the strength of the Chinese heritage to be its lack of religion, for this lack prevents the religious wars that plague other cultural traditions. These intellectuals speak only for themselves, however, for popular Chinese culture and life continue to be pervasively religious and everywhere peopled by gods and spirits.

Even where it retains a commitment to theism, speculative Western philosophy or theology assigns man the initiative for defining the good and so greatly dilutes the horrendous nature of evil that the slide to humanism is difficult to resist. This is notably the case even in process theology. Charles Hartshorne virtually slanders biblical truth when he asserts that by affirming God’s complete perfection revelational theism erases the value of man’s achievements in God’s sight; God’s absolute perfection, Hartshorne declares, requires divine indifference to human life and work. Hartshorne sees in the process doctrine of God’s growth and self-surpassability a view in which “the world and our own efforts can contribute value to the divine life, and thus religion makes sense.” But, he asks (with an eye on orthodox theology), “how could we serve God if his value were absolutely complete without us?” (“What Did Anselm Discover?,” p. 332). Schubert Ogden is another who wants God’s “perfection” so defined that we can “increase him by our best efforts” and “diminish him by our worst” (The Reality of God, p. 51). But why should man serve God uncompromisingly if God is not in all respects sovereign, if even the divine nature compromises perfection, and if we are unsure which values, if any, will prevail?

Bishop John A. T. Robinson speculates that modern Christians may not need “a personal God” any more than “a personal Devil”; both God and Satan are for him merely culture-bound projections (Exploration into God, pp. 39 f.), “the Devil” representing the shadow side of human experience (ibid., p. 35). Jesus’s use of abba (“Father” or “Daddy”) for God, he says, is intended only to indicate that “we can trust the universe … at the level of utterly personal reliability” (ibid., p. 68). “Worship” for Robinson “is seeing all in God and God in all” (ibid., p. 122). He finds no absolute distinction between good and evil: “God is in everything and everything is in God—literally everything …, evil as well as good” (ibid., p. 92). What does this approach make of Hitler’s murder of millions of Jews and Stalin’s massacre of even more millions of Ukrainians and others? How does it deal with adultery, sexual deviation and pornography? In Robinson’s outlook evil is no longer a menacing problem because he eliminates the good God and the ultimate significance of good. Given Robinson’s perspective an absurd and indifferent cosmos is just as credible an option as a paper divinity for which good and evil are irrelevancies. The idea of the death of God amid a senselessly tragic world may and does contravene the heartbeat of life and all our basic instincts. But it distorts realities no more than would a deity indifferent to sin, death and the demonic evils of our troubled age.

For many scientists now the goodness of God has no bearing whatever on their research and discovery. Science for them is a pursuit that operates only in terms of empirically observed relationships, one that must leave to others than scientists the judging of scientific experiments and applications as either good or bad. Devotion to empirical concerns has thus become almost a matter of idolatry. In this regard, observes Addison H. Leitch, the ancient Hebrew-Christian perspective contrasts strikingly with that of today: “What physics means to the scientist in the 20th century, moral law meant to the ancient Jew” (on “Righteousness,” in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Merrill C. Tenney, gen. ed., Vol. 5, p. 105).

We ought to remember several things. First, science itself would be impossible without certain value-beliefs. The need for honesty in reporting results, for example, is but one such imperative; selective reporting to promote special interests of government or industry or the researcher undermines the integrity of the scientific enterprise. Secondly, scientists are human beings; only by artificial attenuation of their own selfhood can they as scientists claim to operate independently of moral concerns. Finally, scientists cannot escape personal responsibility for illegal or immoral experiments whose potential harm to society outweighs their possible constructive value.

To orient contemporary science only to natural processes and events divorces creative investigation from the cosmic purpose of God and imposes a depersonalizing technology upon human life. Dismissing the biblical view of creation as mythical, the naturalistic scientist considers religious values no longer justifiable in a world dominated by scientific enlightenment. Christianity, on the other hand, insists that in a universe answerable to theistic values science must justify its claims and activities.

The humanist response is that Christianity’s emphasis on man’s creation-dominion over nature is exactly what has led to a catastrophic exploitation of nature.

This complaint can be met in two ways. For one thing, humanism lacks any sound basis for identifying values; experience alone can yield no normative conclusions. The fact is, moreover, that the naturalistic rejection of objective truth and values is responsible for much of the contemporary indifference to value claims that affect all life and the cosmos.

The charge that biblical religion directly influenced the modern exploitation of nature lacks evidential confirmation. The scriptural injunction to exercise dominion occurs within the broader context of divine covenant and human stewardship. Nature is declared “good” and man “very good” at creation; neither nature nor man, however, is the absolute Good; even when nature is drawn into the orbit of human purposes God himself remains sovereign over all creation. Although given dominion as divine image-bearer, man exercises this dominion over an earth whose resources he must share with lesser land-creatures also created on the sixth day. Adam’s mastery of the earth is related to his cultivation of grains and fruit-bearing trees. Before the fall all creatures lived in paradisiac peace. Not until after the flood is man permitted to eat animal flesh. Even then animal life is not to be destroyed wantonly; specific restrictions are imposed. Only after the flood are animals said, because of an impaired relationship, to live in “fear and dread” (Gen. 9:2). Man’s dominion is somehow related in both the creation and the flood narratives to his numerical increase and diffusion (“fill the earth”).

The fact is that the biblical view of God and the world did indeed contribute in important ways to the rise of Western science; in some respects modern science is therefore an extrapolation of biblical theology. But influences other than Christianity are far more responsible for the modern plundering and ravaging of nature. The intellectual forfeiture of revealed religion and the rejection by scientific naturalists of God and of created man and nature facilitated the rise of modern technological dominance. Not Hebrew thought, or Christian thought, or the Protestant Reformers, are responsible for the post-Renaissance view that nature is but an impersonal realm to be manipulated, transformed or wasted to promote man’s pleasure or profit. Only on highly nonbiblical assumptions derived from an industrial view of nature could the earth be regarded as literally “the cesspool of the universe,” a dumping ground not simply for sewage but for chemical pollutants and atomic waste as well.

Nature-myths are unable to cope with the technological view that the cosmos is but a sequence of impersonal mechanisms to be exploited for human comfort, convenience and gain. Neither existentialism nor phenomenology really challenge this technocratic myth at its core, that is, the character of nature. Against the rival views Judeo-Christian theology still presses a religious cosmology more relevant than any alternative, and provides the premises for a philosophical analysis of nature that disputes both romantic and technocratic projections. In the biblical account, God appoints man to responsible stewardship on the basis of creation and after the deluge and its universal judgment gives him a covenant-guarantee of the constancy of the natural order; in this order man is then to fulfill his divinely stipulated duties. The recent views of nature eradicate any sense of covenantal consciousness.

Naturalistic metaphysics applied to morality and truth evaporates any external ground of fixed value; its mustering of power over nature therefore can only perpetuate and escalate rather than resolve the problems that beset man and nature. Whereas Herbert Spencer sought on pragmatic grounds to justify belief in immortality and in future rewards as a reinforcement of the good, secular humanism is more and more driven to recognize that empiricism cannot validate either immortality or ethics. “During a state of the world in which many evils have to be suffered, the belief in compensations to be hereafter received,” wrote Spencer, “serves to reconcile men to that which they would otherwise not bear” (Autobiography, p. 58). But the humanists John Herman Randall and John Herman Randall, Jr. insist that scientific investigation leaves “no room for a God save in the aspirations and imaginations of men.… The man who thinks in terms of modern psychology does not entertain the notion of an immortal soul; it does not figure among his concepts. The man who trusts physical science to describe the world finds no conceivable place into which he can fit a deity” (Religion and the Modern World, pp. 60. f.). Humanists usually ignore the fact that a supposedly omnicompetent empirical method strips away also any objective basis for distinguishing good and evil, empties human life of durable purpose and objective meaning, and leaves the whole scientific enterprise itself vulnerable to deployment for mercenary and wicked ends.

Christianity insists that man is not the only reason for nature’s existence. God’s revelation—not the proclamations of science—provides the transcendent sanction for regarding nature as an object of ethical duty.

Western technocratic culture has demeaned nature to predominantly subhuman status; it regards the nonhuman as totally at the mercy of the human. At the same time it also tends to absorb the human to impersonal nature by mathematically quantifying the external world; behaviorists threaten to engulf even the human psyche by such quantification. Yet a special relationship between man and nature is covertly presupposed when modern thought raises the question of man’s relationship to nature—whether in his role of scientific inquiry or in respect to his preservation of natural resources. Classical biblical religion had long ago comprehensively articulated the nature of this special relationship. It insisted that the divine Creator structures the universe with fundamental values, values that include both human dignity and a stipulated purpose and goal that embraces man and the world.

Debate over man’s dominion over the cosmos has already lost much of its utopian mentality of several decades ago. On occasion some biochemical and genetic frontiersmen may still speak of an approaching medical millennium. But awareness that technological science has brought mankind face to face with possibilities of nuclear destruction, that its medical conquests condemn humanity to die of ever more complex and violent diseases, and that scientific breakthrough involves unforeseen negative consequences and byproducts, has challenged expectations of a technological utopia. As Roger Shinn observes, champions of a “technical fix” for life’s most urgent problems are now on the defensive. No longer is scientific research hailed as the hopeful savior of society. The fact is increasingly evident that normative ethics cannot be deduced from observational premises. Even scientists now speak of technology’s potential for colossal disaster and extensive injustice. Whereas technological humanists were very vocal at the 1966 Geneva Conference on Church and Society, they were all but mute at the 1979 World Conference on Faith, Science and the Future convened by the National Council of Churches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The bold assumption that neither God nor nature provides an acceptable context for human life, but that scientific inquiry and technological manipulation can impose a new and preferred human order upon nonhuman creation, is precipitating intense debate, and fortunately so. Powerful pesticides that poison and pollute the earth, unexpected side effects of personality-changing drugs, incalculable possibilities of massive catastrophe through military and nonmilitary uses of nuclear energy, all encourage the question whether man’s altering of nature may not be ultimately more disintegrative than constructive. The present prospect of adding new genes to animal and perhaps human life lifts to transcendent levels the frightening power of modern technology to remodel the knows of nature.

Even in Eden the cosmic garden to which God assigned man as its keeper and dresser did not maintain itself. The preservation and enhancement of nature was doubly imperative after it was cursed on man’s account. Man’s neglect of his cosmic duties seems to provoke nature to strike back in self-defense and in reprisal for being disfigured and exploited, as if to remind fallen man that he has no mandate to manipulate and trample nature. Only by returning to the theological-moral-ecological foundations of biblical theism will man escape the passivism toward nature that characterizes Eastern religions and the naturalistic activism of the West.

Despite the decline of technological utopianism, scientists remain confident, as Charles C. West observes, that the knowledge they extract from nature is beneficial and beneficent: “The moral question arises for them not in the pursuit of this knowledge, or in the relation with nature which that pursuit assumes, but in the use of the knowledge gained” (“God—Man/Woman—creation,” address to the American Theological Society, April 12, 1980). They assume that man must decipher all the mysteries of the universe by his own ingenuity and must define for future generations what significance such terms as truth, goodness and beauty are to have. The fact that metaphysical or moral philosophies from the past provide no specific answers to many of today’s most pressing ethical dilemmas encourages this leap to an empirical formulation of the good.

How does one, in fact, get from the Ten Commandments or from biblical principles of social ethics to definitive positions on urgent contemporary issues like recombinant DNA, nuclear energy, personality-altering drugs? Evangelical Christians may indeed avoid or decry many imaginative extensions of scientific genius into socio-political utopia, but does not Christian duty require more than this? To deplore some of the unpopular ecclesial positions on ethical concerns as unwarranted political intrusion is much easier, of course, than to formulate a viable evangelical alternative. Evangelical churches have no advance answers for many of the problems stemming from scientific-technological engagement. Neither the Old Testament prophets nor the apostles nor even Jesus of Nazareth tell us whether to build fission or fusion reactors or how or why to limit recombinant DNA. But does this justify the kind of dispensational despair over world conditions that forsakes participation in the public arena in order to concentrate only on the Lord’s return?

Christians who ridicule the world as “living in the dark” had better acknowledge that the Bible, as we have said, provides no simple transition or ready-made answers to many current questions. It could well be that some questions now being asked are the wrong questions, or are being asked in the wrong way, or simply assume that scientists or politicians have a mandate to do whatever modern learning enables them to do.

Edward A. Purcell, Jr. comments on the admission of many social scientists at the time America entered World War II, that while they preferred democracy over totalitarianism, and were ready to help defend it, they knew “no intellectually legitimate way to demonstrate the truth of a moral judgment” and indeed considered “the question itself … meaningless”; moreover, they shared no positive consensus, methodologically or theoretically, “on the nature of ethical judgments” (The Crisis of Democratic Theory, p. 196). Because of its conceptual ambiguity, the prevalent American academic mind still has no philosophy that justifies its absolutist vocabulary; espousal of political freedom and human dignity and rights as humane cultural norms stems mainly from pragmatic or empirical referents devoid of solid theoretical ground. Political democracy is linked increasingly with an open, relativistic perspective while philosophical absolutism is identified with political authoritarianism and totalitarianism. In Daniel J. Boorstin’s words, “To say that a society can or ought to be ‘unified’ by some total philosophical system, whether a Summa Theologica, a Calvin’s Institutes, or Marx’s Kapital—is to commit oneself to an autocratic concept of knowledge” (The Americans: The Colonial Experience, p. 168).

Among political scientists only John Hallowell, Leo Strauss and a small core of other scholars insisted that a viable democracy requires not ethical diversity but commitment to absolute norms and values; consequently the philosophical foundations of an ethical society were clouded. Judeo-Christian theology had championed the theistic creation of mankind in God’s image and therefore insisted on the universal dignity, rights and responsibilities of human beings. Jeffersonian deism assumed that the Creator had ineradicably worked into the creation such moral priniciples as human dignity, equality and rights. It was humanism that disowned this national “mythology” and shifted the foundation of these ideals from transcendent religion to evolutionary naturalism. But since relativism can provide no sure ground for advocating social justice, humanism comes under increasing pressure to justify retaining the fragments of morality it tries to salvage from among the inherited values. Today the moral continuity between America’s political outlook and its charter political documents and heritage is in doubt.

John Ziman warns that the influence of their own motives, feelings and values upon verdicts supposedly drawn from empirical data disqualifies social scientists from objectively assessing the present or forecasting the future. Ziman appeals to the humanities instead (Reliable Knowledge), but they, too, can provide no determinative guidance on legislative or judicial specifics, since prestigious spokesmen are at odds over many issues and noncommittal on others. Without a persuasive theory of knowledge, moreover, not even a consensus on specifics would enable those in the humanities to provide a truly normative judgment.

Some recent Christian ethical theory harbors existential-dialectical weaknesses and regards revelation as beyond the bounds of reason; or, if it does allow a cognitive element in divine disclosure, it aborts the propositional nature of that disclosure. Other scholars speak in generalities of the light provided by Christian revelation, or of a Christian sensitivity that transforms human perspectives but only in relational and not principial terms. Still others speak of truth and humanity illumined by Jesus Christ, an illumination from which we can draw ethical inferences but that stops short of propositional formulation. Yet inferences of this kind lead John Yoder to insist on pacifism but Paul Ramsey to defend just war. If the cognitive implications of revelation gain their sharable intelligible content from each Bible reader’s private interpretation or decision then, in the absence of a defensible hermeneutic, the Bible will be invoked in contradictory ways. If Scripture appeals only to Christian moral sensitivity then even a bureaucratic ecclesial consensus has little cognitive force.

In the absence of any specific biblical commandment to adjudicate certain issues, some theologians appeal only to eschatology. But one can hardly take the new creation literally if the primal creation is considered a myth. The biblical creation account, if taken literally, is not without moral instruction. Not even biblical eschatology yields secure guidance if its cognitive elements are emptied into metaphor.

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, evangelical churches have no authoritative magisterium that issues supposedly infallible declarations concerning morals. At times the World Council of Churches propounds specific and sometimes highly controversial positions; while it professes to speak to the churches, the Council is perceived by the media as speaking for them, rather; in the resulting confusion member churches make additional pronouncements. Although the Vatican has considered some World Council socio-political proclamations as Marxist-oriented, such declarations now at times differ little from what Catholic liberation theologians are saying in Latin America. Ecumenical leaders sometimes promote specific moral positions on the ground of biblical inference, or of Christ’s authority, or of Christian sensitivity, when in fact, say critics, their warrant is simply an ecumenical oral tradition forged by a cadre of prominent world churchmen. Such positions gain disproportionate prominence and influence through discussion in study conferences underwritten by church funds yet advertised as not actually speaking for but simply to the church. Recent emergence of American evangelicals to political activism under the stimulus of the electronic church has produced confusion about proper and improper commitments and involvement. Should Christians therefore maintain silence and allow secular humanists, among others, to preempt the areas of concern? If not, what should Christians say, and on what basis? Far too often ethical judgments even of evangelical Christians reflect the influence of special interest blocs or of the cultural context.

Today we are pressing the Bible for solutions to problems not encountered by earlier generations, problems that revelation does not specifically address, e.g., overpopulation, technological exploitation of nature, development of nuclear power. In earlier times the injunctions “be fruitful and multiply” and “have dominion” addressed human life in very different social contexts. The fact is that neither the Bible nor Christian ecclesiastical tradition nor philosophical tradition gives us any precedent or model for resolving many of the problems spawned by modern technology. We are left to discern what is good and what is right.

Obviously it is no gain for revealed truth if in theologico-ethical debate Christians invoke the Bible as a matter of convenience or custom in order to substantiate answers already reached apart from Scripture. In deciding some issues Christians have no more access to relevant scientific observations and evidential data than do humanists and, in fact, are often less interested. Be that as it may, world-renowned scientists continue to disagree about what is right and good, for example, in regard to nuclear energy. But even if they agreed, science, being empirical, cannot decide the good; the verdicts of experiment and experience are always tentative and revisable. Ethical norms cannot be derived from empirical observation.

As best we can we must therefore apply revealed biblical principles to the changing panorama of world specifics. Disagreements may arise because of quite legitimate concerns: pacifists, for example, will oppose neutron bombs out of desire to avoid world cataclysm, while others will support larger military budgets in order to contain aggressor nations. It does violence to Scripture, however, if because of such disagreements one simply escapes into internal existential concerns and misses the objective direction that the Bible actually provides. It may be difficult, indeed, to move from Scripture to proper ethical decisions on certain specifics. But without revealed truth we could arrive at no objective norms at all; the fact is, Scripture speaks definitively on many issues crucial for contemporary culture. It is neglect of these directives that burdens us with uncertainty and despair. Among other things Scripture teaches the propriety of private property (Exod. 20:15; Acts 5:4), of paying just wages (Col. 4:1), of supporting civil government in its military resistance of predator aggressor nations (Rom. 13:4), of paying taxes (Rom. 13:6), of capital punishment (Gen. 9:6; Rom. 13:4; Acts 25:11). It does so, moreover, in propositional statements that unlike private revelation and individual sensitivity contain and constitute universally sharable knowledge. Even where the Bible leaves us to make logical inferences, we must reach such conclusions responsibly, act accordingly, and accept the consequences. Even in some areas where inaction would be irresponsible, certainty is unattainable. We must act conscientiously nonetheless in the light of available scriptural revelation and in the assurance that God who acts providentially in history will vindicate his people. Scripture is profitable for a vast range of thought and life, says the apostle Paul, and illumines all problems; it equips “the man of God … for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17, rsv).


God and the Problem of Evil

The problem of evil may be viewed speculatively as an abstract metaphysical concern. Or it may be viewed religiously as an existential dilemma that prompts the question: “Why must this happen to me?” This chapter examines philosophical aspects of the problem, especially the implications of evil for divine omnipotence, omniscience and goodness.

The argument that God’s omnipotence and the existence of evil are irreconcilable usually assumes that the terms omnipotence and evil are self defining. John S. Feinberg reminds us, however, that “the problem of evil” really means different things to different people, since it accommodates divergent conceptions both of omnipotence and of evil (Theologies and Evil, p. 3). Theism’s insistence that the omnipotent God is ultimately the sole determiner of reality and events can be developed in various ways. For some writers divine omnipotence means God’s arbitrary ability to do anything and everything under any and all circumstances; God may function even in rationally inconsistent ways that actualize incoherence or he may express himself amorally. For others divine omnipotence means that God’s sovereign deeds and declarations determine and reveal what constitutes rational and moral activity. As for evil, some mean by it a surd or impediment inherent in God’s own nature, while others see it only as a finite way of viewing what is actually good. Orthodox Christians, of course, mean something very different by evil.

The discussion of God and evil therefore has no simple common denominator; different systems of thought generate different problems. Some forms of theism find evil no problem at all because they define away its very reality. Biblical Christianity, by contrast, insists that evil is indeed very real, but it does not consider its presence in the universe inconsistent with God’s omnipotence and benevolence.

Feinberg emphasizes that in wrestling the problem of evil, a rational view of the universe must insist on “the logical consistency of various propositions which are essential” to the theology or philosophy being adduced (ibid., p. 136) and that are “internal to the particular variety of theism” under scrutiny (ibid., p. 148).

Moral acts should be identified not by their consequences, says Feinberg, but rather by what God prescribes and reveals as the right and good (ibid., p. 120). Theonomous morality affirms both that God wills the universe (its existence and character) and that God’s revelation is the source of ethical principles. It rejects the notion that reality is independently structured by rationally necessary laws. Since what God does and discloses is the sole standard of goodness, no problem of evil can originate at the ultimate level; the problem of evil arises only if God can be charged with doing what he commands other rational beings not to do.

Those who correlate the good exclusively with consequences consider God morally able to create a world that includes ethical evil, but only if such a world maximizes all possibilities of good. But this approach faces great difficulties, for a universe that fully maximizes the good would be paradise or heaven and not the fallen world that we know.

Feinberg rejects a strictly theonomous ethics, however. As he sees it, God’s nature is what determines his choice of moral law; the only alternative, he thinks, would be that God prescribes “arbitrarily or without reason.”

God can eradicate evil but is not obligated to do so, Feinberg insists, and, moreover, cannot do so without “(1) contradicting other things that He has decided to do, (2) casting doubts on or directly contradicting the claims that He has all the attributes predicated of Him in Scripture, and/or (3) performing an act which we would neither desire nor require Him to do, because it would produce a greater evil …” (ibid., p. 121). Given these conditions, our world is but one of several good worlds that God might have created.

While the finite humans created by God are not inescapably wicked they are nonetheless structured with a capacity not only for reason and moral will but also for emotion and desire and with diverse qualities of personhood. Feinberg infers from this fact that God cannot eradicate moral evil without also eliminating the kind of human creature he has made. Unlike some moral philosophers who locate evil’s ultimate source in human free will, Feinberg presses behind volition to “human desires” as its source. Appealing to James 1:13–15 (“He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each … is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin …” nas; cf. Matt. 5:27 f.), Feinberg contends that not God but human desire is the cause of sin; although not intrinsically wicked, human desire is “the ultimate source of moral evil” because it permits its objects to become a lure to sin. It should be noted, however, that what Scripture affirms about the human heart as the seat of human evil is not contrary to the larger perspective that evil’s ultimate source lies not in, but beyond man.

God could have arranged the universe, grants Feinberg, so that man would be unable to do, or even to will to do, evil. But, he adds, it “would be undesirable for God to create a utopia even though He could do so” (Theologies and Evil, p. 125). “If God were to do whatever it would take to eliminate moral evil,” says Feinberg, “He would have to contradict His intentions to create man and the world as He has, He would cause us to question whether He has one or more of the attributes ascribed to him, and/or He would do something that … would produce greater evil than there already is” (ibid., pp. 125 f.). If God eliminated mankind, or all objects of human desire (the world and also human bodies), or human desires which are the ultimate basis of action, he would be contradicting his divine intention in creation. The result of such action would be the demise of the human species, an outcome that Feinberg considers “much less desirable than the … evil … now present in the world” (ibid., p. 126, italics supplied in view of the role Feinberg elsewhere attributes to desire).

Feinberg hypothesizes that God could have curtailed human desire so we would all stop short of intending or actually doing evil. But God did not clone us as sinless human stereotypes; had he thus curtailed human desire, individual life and interpersonal relations would sporadically grind to a halt. In view of man’s given nature, says Feinberg, God, in order to prevent evil, would need either to intervene miraculously to frustrate man’s intention to sin, or he would have to furnish man with superhuman mental and moral capacities. Or, he suggests, God could have suppressed anyone “willing” to produce evil, or any “public expression of moral evil”; he chose none of these alternatives, however, since they would have precluded creation of the type of human nature God intended.

Finally, Feinberg speculates, God could have miraculouly eradicated evil by intervening at any of the aforementioned junctures. But since “man would not always know when his actions would lead to evil,” life as humans pursue it would then be an unpredictable jumble constantly threatened by uncertainty. C. S. Lewis similarly stresses that God’s preservation of a stable order is what permits rational deliberation and action; sporadic miraculous interruptions could only diminish or destroy the context for meaningful choice (The Problem of Pain, pp. 30 f.). “Would we really desire or expect God” to so totally alter human life by sporadically paralyzing bodily movement, intention, desire or volition? asks Feinberg (Theologies and Evil, p. 130, italics supplied in view of Feinberg’s declaration elsewhere that desire is the ultimate source of moral evil). Divine elimination of evil by “a kind of manipulation … of a whole world of people who fall in and out of consciousness and undergo periodic spells of amnesia,” Feinberg writes, would pay a higher price for eliminating evil “than I am willing to pay” (or should Feinberg rather say, “than I desire to pay”?); it “would produce a more evil world than the one we have” (ibid., p. 130). Any miraculous elimination of evil, moreover, would “cause one to question the wisdom of God,” since God would be contravening his earlier intention to create humans capable of sinning. “For anyone … who would claim that it was good for God to create human beings” rather than creatures of another kind, “any decision to create some other beings is to be seen as a much greater evil than any evil produced by men as men” (ibid., p. 131).

In summary, Feinberg contends that every proposal for God’s removal of evil “would also remove man as we know him.… God cannot eradicate evil, not because He is less than omnipotent or omni-benevolent, but because of His benevolence toward us.… The creation of a utopia is not such a bargain after all!” (ibid., p. 132). Feinberg concludes, for the reasons he had adduced, that “God must not, cannot, and should not eliminate moral evil”; for the same reasons he feels he has justified his argument for “the existence of evil produced by moral agents in a world created by an all-powerful and all-benevolent God.” “Because God cares about the welfare of his creatures”—and not because he “does not care about the happiness and well-being of his creatures”—Feinberg refuses “to remove evil. For God to do what He would have to do in order to remove evil,” he says, “would, as demonstrated, produce situations which would cause us to question much more vehemently His benevolence than does the world as it now is” (ibid., p. 132 f.).

For Feinberg the problem of natural evil reduces “either to a problem of moral evil or to a religious problem of evil” (ibid., p. 136); the latter he considers outside the purview of the metaphysical debate. Some critics protest that this assessment trivializes natural evil; since Scripture speaks of a coming eschatological restoration of harmony to nature, present ravage and bloodshed in the natural realm must be seen as actual evil and not as mere maladjustment. But Feinberg says natural evils—calamities of nature, human deformities and diseases, devastating fires or freezes—are considered evil because of their consequences and not because they are evil per se or rooted in human desire (unless an agent acts to produce them, in which case they become moral evils). God could overcome natural evils by miraculous intervention, notes Feinberg, and do so without involving the baneful consequences that attach to similar divine frustration of moral evil. Instead of the term natural evils Feinberg therefore prefers that of “natural ills” or “natural disorders.”

What shall we say about Feinberg’s projected alternatives and his arguments for them? They somehow give the impression of being efforts to exonerate God from culpability for moral evil in the present universe; any alternative creation, contends Feinberg, can only be a peopleless universe or one steeped in multiplied evil. But are his arguments conclusive?

Feinberg rejects the possibility that God could have created a world of human beings who do not sin. Yet according to Judeo-Christian theology God created a morally accountable angelic host of whom many did not and do not sin, and who in fact are now so confirmed in righteousness that they cannot sin. According to the Bible, those angels who sinned did so prior to man’s creation; Feinberg’s appeal to human desire as the ultimate cause of moral evil therefore seems to ignore satanic and demonic influence in human affairs and cannot, moreover, account for racial guilt. If in fact man’s fall into sin follows from the structure of human life as God created it, then Adam’s fall was inevitable and Adam was not morally culpable. Feinberg to be sure denies that human sin is inescapable, but how can this claim be compatible with his overall view? What does his theory imply, moreover, for the sinlessness of Jesus who assumed human nature in the incarnation? If, as evangelical orthodoxy holds, the sinless Jesus exhibits what God intended for human nature, is it appropriate to say that man as fallen is God’s intention in creation? And if Christ’s sinless life and death and resurrection provide the ground for the conquest of evil in the world, how shall we interpret Feinberg’s insistence that “what God would have to do” to eradicate evil caused by “voluntary evil actions … would produce an undesirable situation which would cause us to consider him to be an evil God” (ibid., p. 155)? Moreover, can the doctrine of redeemed man’s future glorification be squared with the notion that human nature rules out the complete avoidance of sin? If heaven is a place where sin is unknown must redeemed humankind therefore lose its essential humanity?

If God is immutable, moreover, and if his mind or decree fixed the details of world history, including the decree to create, is not “the actual” universe also “the only possible” one? Does not the world that God voluntarily creates have a divinely designated character?

I share Feinberg’s insistence that good and evil must be defined not by their consequences but by divinely given norms; that solution of the problem of evil must not distort God’s character or alter his intention for man and the world on the basis of creation; that personal desire bears in important ways on personal guilt for sin; and that God created a universe in which humans cannot act other than they voluntarily do. Yet when discrediting one or another of his postulated alternatives to the presently existing moral order, Feinberg himself leans heavily upon anticipated consequences. Many of his difficulties would be overcome, it seems to me, if he did not connect God’s will and God’s nature in a way that implies an inner divine compulsion; the preferred alternative would be to emphasize that God’s free activity is what defines his character.

Efforts to mediate between and somehow harmonize a thoroughgoing theonomous ethic and the contrary view, exemplified by the rationalism of Leibniz, are plagued by inner contradiction. Leibniz considers the universe pervaded by necessary laws that require God to act as he does, laws that pure reason can discern independently of revelation. God, says Leibniz, must and did create the best of all possible worlds, one that includes creatures who commit evil; had he not done so, moreover, he would have been culpable. Leibniz simply presupposes that the best possible situation requires the infinite being’s necessary creation of a finite universe in which moral evil is present and in which good and evil are not grounded in God but exist independently of him.

Feinberg supports one of several modified rationalist mediating views. While he avoids the “best of all possible worlds” controversy by emphasizing that God did not even need to create, he suspends the character of God’s voluntary creation upon considerations other than his sovereign will. Feinberg must therefore defend God against charges that the evil in the universe is incompatible with his goodness, and must cite extraneous reasons why God created the particular universe that he did. P. T. Geach emphasizes that we are to worship God because he is sovereign, and not primarily because of our finite conceptions of the good (God and the Soul, pp. 126 f.). If the omnipotence of God is the basic fact of the external world, then man is not to impose independent conceptions of the good upon him. This is the very point of the book of Job: “… Thou canst do all things, And … no purpose of Thine can be thwarted” (42:2, nas). The apostle Paul echoes the same theme in Romans 9:21: “Does not the potter have a right over the clay …?” (nas). Orthodox biblical theism expounds this emphasis in a way that supports God’s action as rationally consistent and intrinsically good.

Moralists who do not define good by its consequences often claim that God created a good universe but that man corrupted it by free will. Feinberg makes human desire and not freedom of choice the locus of human culpability, an emphasis that says either too little or too much. Although desire often seems to be an aspect of choice, humans sometimes choose what they do not desire; one may, for example, choose radical surgery that one considers undesirable yet necessary. Feinberg’s concentration on human desire as the ultimate source of moral evil, moreover, overlooks Scripture’s attribution of some of the radical evil in the world to satanic forces, even if the Bible always bounds these forces by God’s creative power and will. The New Testament identifies Satan as the ponēros (Matt. 13:19; cf. 1 John 2:13 f., 5:18), a term used “in the singular,” observes Günther Harder, “for the one who is in absolute antithesis to God, i.e. the devil. This is a distinctive NT usage for which no models have been found in the world into which primitive Christianity came” (on ponēros, tdnt, 6:558). Harder’s loose wording regrettably accommodates the misconception of a dualistic “opposite pole” to God, whereas Satan is a created finite spirit, originally good, who subsequently fell and became part of the fallen creation. In the model prayer that Jesus taught his disciples we are told to petition God to keep us from the evil one or from “the evil” (possibly eschatological evil). Both atheological and theistic scholars now usually formulate the problem of evil only in the context of man and nature, or beyond that, of an omnipotent good God. Alvin Plantinga reminds us, however, that in Christian doctrine the Satan hypothesis is important for keeping theism consistent: “a mighty nonhuman spirit who, along with many other angels, was created long before God created man” and is also active in the sphere of natural evil (God and Other Minds, pp. 49 f.; cf. God, Freedom and Evil, pp. 58 f.).

James Ross considers God’s goodness reconcilable with the presence of “moral and physical evil in the world which God could have avoided” (Philosophical Theology, p. 254). Finite creatures, he stresses, belong to a lower level of reality than does their creator, and therefore have no properties other than those their creator bestows. God could indeed have prevented all creaturely suffering. But to argue that God ought therefore to have excluded all physical evil or that he is morally culpable for not doing so is a non sequitur (ibid., p. 263). The inference from “moral defects of creatures to a moral defect in God is unwarranted” since only if his creatures are not guilty can God be held morally responsible for their evils (ibid., p. 265).

Ross’s approach, replies George I. Mavrodes, seems to imply the absurd notion that nothing that God might do to his creatures would dispute the claim that he loves them (“Some Recent Philosophical Theology,” pp. 110 f.). But Mavrodes’ criticism assumes that God’s only motivation is love, and makes no distinction between the friends and foes of God. Feinberg disagrees with Ross’s emphasis that if God is ethically responsible for moral evil, then man is not; he contends instead that our world can be one in which humans produce moral evil yet are “not morally responsible for it, whereas God is” (Theologies and Evil, p. 101). “I do not see why both God and man would not be morally responsible,” says Feinberg, “if we grant that both are causally involved in the act, and as a result, I see no reason to derive the absurdity that God can only create a world of men morally responsible for evil only if he does not create it” (ibid., p. 102). But this is pure counterassertion, not demonstration; if God is morally blameworthy for the moral evil in the universe, would it not be gratuitous to consider his creatures culpable?

God’s creation of a moral context in which evil can occur does not make him culpable, emphasizes Michael Peterson (Evil and the Christian God). His point is that God is not content merely to contemplate the good; God desires a total society of free agents who in their relationships with him can appropriate the good. For him to maintain a society of free persons who can themselves cultivate vital moral life means God cannot guarantee that they will always do the moral thing. What it does not mean, however, is that God is blameworthy when human creatures commit morally wrong acts. While the creator of a moral context, Peterson emphasizes, cannot act just like any other agent within that context, God’s bestowal of moral life on creatures is nonetheless moral. How can the One who first gives us existence and makes it possible for us to apprehend moral values, he asks, be condemned by those values? It is consistent with the spirit of morality, Peterson affirms, for God to create a plurality of finite beings to live within a moral context.

The problem of evil would remain even if no one suffers, says George Schlesinger, because God has not made all humans maximally or equally happy. An infinite God has no obligation to create the greatest state of happiness, he adds; indeed, God cannot in fact create an infinite happiness (“The Problem of Evil and the Problem of Suffering,” p. 246). Since the conception of God’s doing everything possible to make others happy cannot logically apply to an Omnipotent Being, observes Schlesinger, God cannot create a “greatest possible” happiness; for him to do so is as logically impossible as creating the “greatest possible” integer.

But, replies Winslow Shea, neither can God then be considered the best possible or perfect and supremely blissful being (“God, Evil and Professor Schlesinger,” p. 226). Indeed, on Schlesinger’s view, protests Shea, God would be neither praiseworthy even if he multiplied happiness incalculably, nor culpable even if he multiplied the world’s pain a billionfold and turned the world overnight into “one of those monstrous hells” (ibid., p. 228). The latter projection should be distinguished, of course, from the biblical representation of an eschatological hell that will vindicate righteousness and purify the praise and worship of God. What Shea suggests, rather, is that God could incur no moral censure even if he conducted himself like an omnipotent Satan and inflicted all conceivable harm and pain on his creatures. The idea of a greatest possible happiness is indeed intelligible, says Shea, and is incompatible with divine infinity only under an unacceptable notion of infinity. But Shea confuses the problem of degrees of happiness and evil with the quite different and basic problem of the existence of evil and, moreover, evades the fact that the characterization of Satan depends ultimately on the will of the Creator.

Keith Yandell defends the goodness of a sovereign Creator; God, he contends, has “a morally sufficient reason for creating or allowing” every and all evil in the world (“The Greater Good Defense” pp. 1–16). Evils stand in a logically necessary relationship to counterbalancing or overbalancing goods, Yandell maintains; no evil overbalances the good to which it is logically necessary. Even when misused man’s free moral agency is a greater good than would be the absence of free human agency (ibid., pp. 7 f.).

But to delineate the logical relations that supposedly exist between all evils and their good counterparts would require superhuman wisdom. Moreover, Stanley G. Kane argues, thoughtful humans would consider a world without evils—even evils said to be logically necessary to goods—superior to the present one. Apparently Adam and Eve would not have shared Kane’s view, however, for although they had both options they deliberately chose the fall. In replying to Kane, Yandell suggests that to completely eliminate fear and pain would be a less intelligent goal than to reduce them. Yet any theory based on the “greater good” always faces the problem of first magnitude evils and second magnitude goods. J. L. Mackie, for example, distinguishes “first order” goods (pleasure and happiness) and evils (pain and misery) from “second order” goods and evils, protesting meanwhile that theists often consider first order evils necessary to second order goods (“Evils and Omnipotence,” p. 98). A further consideration, adds Yandell, is God’s use of the struggle between good and evil to build human character. But if this consideration is determinative, Feinberg comments, then it qualifies defense of a “greater good” by emphasizing instead a “soul building theodicy” (Theologies and Evil, pp. 106 f.).

Through man’s uncompelled responses and voluntary cooperation, John Hick says, God tries to bring the mankind that he first omnipotently created from animal life (bios) to the higher destiny of eternal life (zōē) exemplified in Jesus Christ (Evil and the God of Love, pp. 293 f.). Hick thinks that God could have made humans who always act morally toward other humans; but not so that they always respond to God in faith, trust, love, obedience and worship (ibid., p. 310). Human life, Hick maintains, “cannot be perfected by divine fiat”; the world is a disciplinary arena in which “personal life is essentially free and self-directing” (ibid., p. 291). In some respects Hick’s view contrasts sharply with a free will defense of evil. As Feinberg notes, “whereas the free will defender claims that man as created is everything he should be, but … creates evil by abuse of his free will, Hick claims that man as created is not everything he should be, but is to use free will in overcoming difficulties to become what he should be” (Theologies and Evil, p. 153). In principle Hick does not, however, reject a free will defense.

But if, as Hick believes, man cannot be man if he is created always to respond to God in love, could he have been created ever to respond thus—or must the story of creation, redemption and endtime be rewritten? Hick discards the Genesis account on the ground that modern knowledge shows it to be mythological; he postulates instead a long evolutionary process by which Homo sapiens develops into the image of God. In doing so he minimizes the ontological gulf between beast and man on which Scripture insists. Hick rejects original sin as an unjust conception; since man evolved in a fallen state, says Hick, sin is therefore a necessary corollary of human history. Hick’s view turns the fall into a human advance, protests John W. Wenham (The Goodness of God, pp. 52 f.), since Hick holds that sin eventuated when man first became conscious of his Maker. If Hick is right, is the Christian doctrine of man’s eschatological conformity to the full image of Christ then also to be surrendered? Is the prospect of complete and final sanctification to be scuttled?

To counter the criticism that the enormous natural evils that invade the universe are not essential to human “soul making,” Hick resorts to mystery. Contrary to many Judeo-Christian moralists in the past, Hick discounts the fearsome role of demonic beings, and instead assigns a positive value to what is inexplicable. “Epistemic distance,” he says, is necessary for true faith; we must live in a world that hides God from us so that we can exercise faith in him. “This very irrationality and this lack of ethical meaning,” he writes, “contribute to the character of the world as a place in which true human goodness can occur and in which loving sympathy and compassionate self-sacrifice can take place” (Evil and the God of Love, p. 372). The notion that irrationality and amorality augment truth and goodness smacks of evolutionary optimism; it surely has no basis in logic or in the Bible. Hick’s emphasis here is far different from the apostle Paul’s; although we presently see “puzzling reflections” because “now we know in part” (1 Cor. 13:11, Phillips), says Paul, God knows the purpose of events even where we do not, and will, in fact, finally and fully reveal that purpose. Forced to concede that the soul-making process in this world fails “at least as often as it succeeds,” Hick appeals to eschatology to guarantee the ultimate triumph of the good. But he can assume this triumph only by espousing universal salvation; the biblical view of a dual destiny of the righteous and of the wicked has no part in his thinking. He considers any suffering that does not contribute to “soul building” as “wasted.” Jesus’ emphasis on love and compassion, he insists, is incompatible with an everlasting hell; he would have the impenitent go instead to a transitional purgatory. But as Wenham points out, the New Testament says more about eternal damnation than does the Old; moreover, only a fanciful and sentimental restatement of Jesus’ teaching can eliminate Christ’s rejection of universalism and range him on the side of an intermediate purgatorial afterlife (The Goodness of God, pp. 16 ff.). Except for Origen, whose views on the subject were condemned, the entire Christian movement had remained unchallenged for more than sixteen centuries—from the New Testament writers through the church fathers, the medieval theologians and the Protestant Reformers—in teaching eternal punishment of the impenitent wicked. Hick not only lacks consistent biblical supports for his view, but by demythologizing the scriptural accounts of the creation and the fall he also revises Jesus’ teaching and makes fiction of the Christian doctrine of last things.

All suffering, Hick assures us, will finally be crowned by “the enjoyment of a common good … unending and … unlimited” (Evil and the God of Love, p. 377). The necessity for such universal redemption stems from Hick’s speculative exoneration of evil as a means to maximal good; this premise he imposes on eschatology in terms of the final salvation of all mankind. A more comprehensive view of the nature and role of evil would have spared Hick this profoundly unbiblical hypothesis.

Hick’s theory combines selectively abstracted elements of Judeo-Christian theology and notions taken from conjectural philosophy. The inevitable inconsistencies of such a mixture become evident in many ways. As we have noted, Hick says, for example, that God could have made humans who always act morally toward each other, but not humans who always act morally toward God. And in explaining the existence of evil he flounders between considerations of free will and soul-building consequences. He borrows elements of the biblically future kingdom of God, but justifies the enormity of world evil by anticipating that all humans, among them Judas, Hitler and other such impenitents, will inherit final bliss. By depending on future eschatology to justify present disproportions between good and evil he puts us in the position of needing first to die in order to understand what is really going on (although Hick somehow already privately knows).

The theory that what God basically purposes in creation is human soul building and that evil—even moral evil no less than natural evil—is necessary if humans are to love God, is grossly mistaken. It profoundly inverts the premise that appropriation of the good is what most promotes love. Feinberg is unconvinced, and understandably so, “that the only way souls can be built is through the presence of difficulties in the world” and that even though necessary, such difficulties “must take the form of moral evil” (Theologies and Evil, p. 158).

Abstracted as it often is from a more comprehensive insistence on intelligible divine revelation, Hick’s argument must strike an age steeped in secular humanism as profoundly anthropocentric and subject to challenge by a tremendous counterweight of empirical data. To say that unbearable pain, sudden death at life’s prime, and human afflictions like mental derangement, cancer, or genetic malformations ennoble life is hardly a self-evident premise. Such situations are so alien to what the sovereign and good Creator fashioned when life began that some other context must be found if they are to serve the edification and ennoblement of human existence that Hick envisions.

Hick’s approach is but one of several ways by which Christian scholars have tried to vindicate God’s justice in ordaining or permitting moral and natural evil in his created universe. The Irenaean way, as Hick calls it, “accepts God’s ultimate and omniresponsibility and seeks to show for what good and justifying reason He has created a universe in which evil was inevitable” (Evil and the God of Love, p. 262), while the Augustinian tradition, he observes, seeks “to relieve the Creator of responsibility for the existence of evil by placing that responsibility upon dependent beings who have wilfully misused their God-given freedom.”

In his early work De libero arbitrio Augustine emphasizes that man cannot act rightly unless he wills to do so, a circumstance that therefore presupposes free will (On Free Choice of the Will, Book 2, ch. 1). In voluntarily creating the universe, says Augustine, God fashioned one of several possible good worlds, one that could be corrupted by his creatures whom he had divinely endowed with free will, that is, with an intermediate good that can be used either properly or improperly (ibid., Book 2, ch. 1, p. 36; Book 2, ch. 18, p. 79). In other words, argues Augustine, God is not the cause of evil but created individuals are (ibid., Book 1, ch. 1 p. 3). God’s foreordination of human sin, moreover, does not require man to sin for man sins voluntarily and culpably (ibid., Book 3, ch. 4, pp. 94 f.).

The free will approach, which Augustine later set aside for a view that anticipated Calvin’s, has been frequently attacked. The nineteenth-century conflict of science with Christianity centered around its claim that man and the world are causally determined. This view deprived man of any real freedom in the external world and annulled his capacity for personal spiritual decision; it also vaunted empirical science as the authoritative source and criterion of truth. The appeal to scientific empiricism soon backfired, however, and the idea of causal categories functioning objectively became suspect. It was this outmoded deterministic view, however, that Rudolf Bultmann in the twentieth century gave the exclusive right to interpret observable reality. But in addition Bultmann insisted also on a realm of subjective-existential experience that parallels the objective-historical world; this arena of internal decision, he said, is the orbit of man’s personal “existence,” freedom and authentic being. Theological existentialism proved unable to vindicate a role for freedom, however, and for spiritual concerns; it reduced faith to simply a subjective way of viewing the externally real world. Recent modern thought rejects the objective validity of moral distinctions in the name of scientific behaviorism. But behavioral determinism is a double-edged sword; it destroys both the objective validity of moral distinctions and the behavioral scientist’s own basis for declaring how the external world is intrinsically constituted.

Antony Flew and J. L. Mackie have rejected Augustine’s free will approach on other grounds. Flew claims to destroy the argument by stressing that God might have made creatures “so that they always in fact freely choose the right”; that is, a sovereign creator could have made “a world inhabited by wholly virtuous people” (“Divine Omnipotence and Human Freedom” p.149). Flew distinguishes freedom in two senses, that of “unconstrained” freedom and that of “libertarian” freedom. Unconstrained freedom, he says, involves “contingently sufficient non-subsequent conditions” for a person’s actions, while libertarian freedom implies that “there were no contingently sufficient non-subsequent conditions” for one’s choice. Flew identifies the former with compatibilism, that is, unconstrained freedom is compatible with certain nonconstraining conditions that determine one’s actions; libertarian freedom he calls incompatibilism. Those who defend free will, says Flew, are locked into incompatibilism and are forced to assume that God could not have so made man that man would freely choose to do one thing and not another. The correct view of freedom, Flew insists, is that of compatibilism for it allows man to do other than what he does (“Compatibilism, Free Will and God,” p. 233).

Like Flew, J. L. Mackie insists that God might have made humans that freely choose the good: “God was not … faced,” he says, “with a choice between making innocent automata and making beings who, in acting freely, would sometimes go wrong” (“Evil and Omnipotence,” pp. 100 f.). In other words, making wrong choices is not logically necessary for freedom: if freedom is simply randomness or indeterminacy, it has nothing to do with will.

Ninian Smart questions two implications of the Flew-Mackie approach, one, the notion that free will is compatible with causal determinism, and the other, that God could have created humans unqualifiedly good (“Omnipotence, Evil and Supermen,” pp. 103 f.). But it is Alvin Plantinga who ventures the most spirited reply to Flew and Mackie. No persuasive argument against God’s existence can be mounted, he insists, on the basis of either the amount or the variety of evil in the world. Plantinga counters the logical difficulties of the problem of evil by the premise “God creates a world containing evil and has a good reason for doing so” (God, Freedom and Evil, p. 27).

While a world containing moral good but not moral evil may be logically possible, says Plantinga, it is in fact not divinely possible so long as free will is preserved. In defending free will he therefore counters Flew’s and Mackie’s view that God could indeed have actualized a possible world containing only moral good. “It is not within God’s power,” maintains Plantinga, “to create a world containing moral good without creating one containing moral evil” (ibid., p. 44). But in that event must not moral evil have existed from the very moment that God created moral agents? Not so, replies Plantinga. By “world” he means the whole of world history, not just the moment of initial creation. The possibility of evil, he says, but not its necessity, inheres in God’s creation of free, rational agents; he therefore denies that evil inheres in Adam or in the created order. Plantinga maintains that “A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all.… God can create free creatures, but He can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, … they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil; and He can’t … prevent them from doing so” (ibid., p. 48). In short, freedom is incompatible with causal determination (ibid., p. 49).

By using the term “unfettered” (with the dual meaning of unconstrained and libertarian) instead of the term “free,” Plantinga hopes to refute or at least to escape Flew’s arguments. He declares “a world in which men perform both good and evil unfettered actions … superior to one in which they perform only good, but fettered actions” (God and Other Minds, p. 135; cf. “The Free Will Defence,” p. 108). Plantinga replies also to Mackie’s approach; against the implied thesis that if “God is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good, no free men He creates ever perform morally evil actions” (God and Other Minds, p.136) Plantinga affirms that the existence of physical and moral evil in the world is not logically incompatible with the existence of a wholly good, omniscient, omnipotent spirit (ibid., pp. 149, 154 f.).

As Feinberg sees it, Plantinga has shown only that God “cannot actualize contradictory states of affairs (or worlds) simultaneously,” and fails to undermine Flew’s and Mackie’s argument that God can actualize whatever world he chooses (Theologies and Evil, pp. 70 f.). Calvin says much the same thing: God could have made man so he “could not or would not sin at all,” that is, with a nature “more excellent”; but to suggest that “he ought to have conferred this upon man, is more than iniquitous, inasmuch as it was in his choice to give whatever he pleased” (Institutes, I, 15, 8). Feinberg notes further that Plantinga does not really transcend the distinction of compatibilism and incompatibilism on which Flew and Mackie insist. Plantinga’s argument proceeds as if God actualizes a world and then decides on the next state of affairs; the fact is, Feinberg insists, that “God makes all His decisions about what will be actualized throughout all history before He has actualized anything” (ibid., p. 72).

Feinberg shares Plantinga’s view that human persons “suffer from transworldly depravity” (God, Freedom and Evil, p. 48), but asks whether God could not have created a universe in which none do so (Theologies and Evil, pp. 73 f.). The free will defense, Feinberg affirms, rests on the view of incompatibilist freedom, i.e., “the only way to save the theological system … is to … claim that God has nothing to do with the free exercise of man’s will” (ibid., p. 75). One may reject this answer, says Feinberg, but at least it is not internally inconsistent or irrational. But Feinberg rejects it nonetheless, although for external reasons: he does not consider the greatest good to be a universe in which God was unable to create humans who could freely abstain from sin.

The dispute over God and evil at the purely speculative level of theoretical possibilities leads to no conclusive outcome. As M. B. Ahern observes, even the atheist cannot prove the incompatibility of the existence of God and the presence of evil in the world (The Problem of Evil). For Michael L. Peterson “the continued failure of atheologians to produce the fatal inconsistency seems to count heavily against the likelihood of their eventual success.… Atheistic failures … generally commit either of two fallacies: begging the question by selecting propositions to which the theist is not committed, or lifting out of context propositions to which the theist is committed but imputing new and convenient meanings to them” (“Christian Theism and the Problem of Evil,” p. 39). Not even theistic arguments can fully vindicate God’s righteousness in the face of human evil if they appeal simply to empirical considerations or to philosophical reasoning devoid of revelational illumination.


Evil As a Religious Dilemma

Probing the theoretical problem that the existence of evil poses alongside the reality of an infinite, loving God can be very different from coping with evil as a haunting aspect of personal experience. Besides speculating on how evil can be reconciled with the existence of an infinitely good God, man has agonized over the seeming inequities of individual suffering and pain as well as the cumulative evils that bloody human history. Even if the atheist and atheologian cannot logically discredit biblical theism, do not the tragedies and evils that inundate humanity threaten rational faith in a sovereign and good Creator?