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Friday, November 13, 2009

Emergent processes

Jeremiah 1:4 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“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.” (ESV. For information on copyright and usage policies of the ESV, see here.)

This passage is often taken as support for opposition to abortion, and that may be a legitimate use. I quote it here because it may be supporting another idea, that of emergent processes.

Young-earth creationists believe that the earth, and the universe, are no more than a few thousand years old. They believe that, although there may have been some changes in the appearance of living things, and even in humans, these are minor, because there hasn't been time for major changes. As a consequence, they believe that the creative processes described in Genesis 1 were instantaneous, or nearly so. I believe that those who believe in Young-earth creationism would say (if they thought about this specific example) that the lichens were created by the command, or commands (possibly one for each type of lichen) of God, on the third day, and that they would have been much like the lichens of today. This view may be correct.

But young-earth creationists, though they don't often say this, seem to go further in their thinking. They assume that only an instantaneous creative act shows the power of God.

Other Christians, believing that a proper interpretation of Genesis 1 does not demand that the earth is only a few thousand years old, probably haven't thought about this specific example very much either, but would suppose that the algae and the fungi found in lichens both evolved, over long periods of time, and that, also during long periods of time, the mutualistic association of fungi and algae that makes lichens also developed. Not only that, but not all the lichens necessarily originated at the same time. Some kinds of them are probably older than others. These other Christians would also say that God's preparation, His planning, and the various processes, including natural selection, that He put into play also show the power of God, just as much, if not more, than an instantaneous creative act would show it.

Jeremiah 1:4-5 refers to the process of formation in the womb, an emergent process. Newborn Jeremiah was not created instantly at the instant of his birth. He had gone through nine months of development. The fertilized egg that he came from contained complete instructions for, say, producing a circulatory system, over the course of these nine month. Jeremiah, and you and I, came about through emergent processes. These emergent processes, although unfortunately taken too much for granted, show the power of God as much, if not more so, than as if Jeremiah had been created instantly, from nothing, as a baby.

God's use of emergent processes doesn't seem to be limited to embryonic development. It seems that God's work, through Noah, Abraham, Moses, the prophets, and finally through Christ, was also an emergent process. Couldn't God also have used emergent processes to bring about the universe, the earth, and living things?

Every view of origins has problems. There is no argument for any of them so convincing as to demolish all opposing views.

See here and here for previous posts on the idea of emergent processes, or emergent creation.

Thanks for reading.


atlibertytosay said...

I am one if those ... A Creationist.

This is an enlightenment in the past few years.

When I first met my wife, we took a trip to The Creation Museum in Kentucky. It is amazing. It gave me a new perspective.

While I agree with the emergent processes you refer to here ... I believe that it is clear (and I think this passage says it) everything is Gods plan - Gods design - intelligent design.

God knew that sending Jesus in today's world would have little impact - with technology we can heal the sick, make the blind see, and even have virgin births.

Maybe this is a "process" as well ... The revealing of scripture throughout time.

One of my favorite passages is and to me seems in opposition to emergent processes and supports "snapping of fingers and it was so"

"In the beginning was the word, and word was with God, and the word WAS God."

This means that the Bible was written before it was written. In existence before it existed in a form we can see and understand.

Maybe the various forms of lichens existed in Gods mind. Gods thoughts manifest in reality. His thoughts may be like our own. As time moves on, our memory changes, it mutates and blends with other memories. Maybe lichens change form, or have done so over time, because Gods manifest thoughts have changed/evolved.

Martin LaBar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, atlibertytosay. I would call you a Young-earth creationist, because other Christians also believe that God created.

If you are interested, you might look at my post on the differences between young-earth creationism and the intelligent design movement, here.

As I said, no view of origins is without its problems, and the most important fact about creation is the Who.

I thank that most Bible scholars, whatever their position on origins, believe that John 1:1 is talking about Christ, not about the Bible.

atlibertytosay said...

I would say that I'm not most Bible scholars ;-)

Let me also add (I read your piece)

I am a "Young Earth Creationist" with my own thoughts... again ;-)

I believe that OUR SCIENCE is correct - it seems 4.6 billion years old. However, I also believe that the Bible is to be taken as literally as possible. The Bible translates itself in other passages.

"1000 years as a day to God" comes to mind.

The Creation Museum explains how dating could be WAY OFF because the atmospheric pressure has changed so dramatically.

They also explain evolution VERY well with the example of dog species - which have only developed in the last 700 years in the diversity they are in today - yet everything else is attributed to millions of years.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, AtLibertytoSay.

I'm not most Bible scholars, either, but I think it's important to pay attention to them. I checked John Calvin, and he explains John 1 as talking about Christ, not the Bible. He (and a lot of others) could be wrong, of course, but they could be right, too.

It is true that there are grave dangers in taking the Bible less literally than God meant it to be taken, but there are grave dangers in taking it more literally than it was meant to be, too. And, surely, some parts (1 Samuel, for example) are meant to be taken a lot more literally than, say, Revelation.

As to Young Earth Creationism, let's just say that we disagree on that. I haven't seen the Creation Museum.


atlibertytosay said...

I would encourage you to go.

I believe, just me maybe, that the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible - since the Holy Spirit is part of the trinity - and the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible - The Holy Spirit IS the Bible - is Christ. It in affect is a part of the trinity. Why are we are to believe in the unerring word of the Bible? I say it is for the same reason we believe in the unblemished lamb - the only perfect man - Jesus.

Martin LaBar said...

You may be correct about the Bible, atlibertytosay, but I have some serious doubts about claiming that the Bible is part of the Trinity. The Bible, although inspired by the triune God, and, I believe, preserved by Him, is also a human product. Different translations, in different languages, come to mind. Is the KJV part of the Trinity, or is it the NIV? Or the Bible in Portuguese?