Deus Ex Machina

"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan

A Defense of Genesis 1-3 by Alexander Pruss

The following is a re-post of Alexander Pruss’s blog post, A defense of Genesis 1-3, which posits a rather interesting ‘Just-So Story‘ to justify the claim for how we can both accept a literal account of 6-day creationism and evolution and big bang at the same time.

Consider this argument:

  1. If Christianity is right, every assertion of rightly interpreted Scripture is true.
  2. Genesis 1-3 is rightly interpreted literalistically.
  3. The approximate truth of our best relevant science contradicts the assertions of Genesis 1-3 when these texts are interpreted literalistically.
  4. Our best relevant science is approximately true.
  5. So, Christianity is not right.

Liberal Christians reject (1), and often (2) as well. Young Earth Creationists either engage in revisionary science and deny (3), or they simply deny (4).

The right way out of the argument is, of course, to reject (2). But in this post I want to undercut the argument in a very different way. Basically, I will argue against (3) by offering a defense–a logically possible story that is compatible with both our best science and a literalistic reading of Genesis 1-3, without scientific revisionism, scientific irrealism, or invocations of divine or demonic deception.

I am not claiming the story is true. In fact, I think it’s false. It is in tension with the Thomistic view of the soul which I hold (but I think it may be logically compatible with it). As I said, the right way out is to deny (2). My story is inspired by a hypertime story that I heard Hud Hudson give in a talk, but this version doesn’t need any hypertime.

The story is simple. First, everything happens exactly as it is described in Genesis 1-3 interpreted literalistically. Everything, including a light-studded dome (“firmament”), with waters above and below, creation in six days, vegetation without any sun or moon. Eve is literally taken from Adam’s side, and so on. (If we’re going literalistic, let’s go all out!) Then Adam and Eve sin, exactly as described in Genesis 3. All this happens in a universe–Paradise–where all of this is possible by the laws of nature.

God then kicks them out of Paradise. In the process, he destroys their bodies (i.e., he stops sustaining their existence) and puts their souls in stasis. But in Paradise, there was a law of nature that when the forbidden fruit is eaten, a Big Bang will occur (this could also be a miracle), initiating a 14 billion year process leading to some pretty clever apes in a universe better suited to sinners like Adam and Eve. God then takes the matter of two of these clever apes (if animals have souls, he de-souls them first, or perhaps he simply miraculously ensures that these two never get souls) and instills Adam and Eve’s souls in this matter.

And so all the science as to what has happened in the material universe since the Big Bang is right. (Of course, science doesn’t talk about souls.)

A materialist Christian could also run a variant of this story of Adam and Eve being asleep for fourteen billion years, but it would involve some miracles in the physical world and maybe disagreement with science at one point. (Maybe Adam and Eve’s brains are put in the bodies of some apes. Or maybe God is capable of so guiding indeterministic processes that there develop two apes that are just like Adam and Eve, and God can replace them with Adam and Eve.)

Of course, I don’t believe these stories. But they do show that premise (3) of the anti-Christianity argument is false.

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8 comments on “A Defense of Genesis 1-3 by Alexander Pruss

  1. Johnny Wu
    May 2, 2013

    If God is true, everything and anything is possible. I generally find that rationalization only complicates things. God Bless.

    Like

    • Rubati
      May 2, 2013

      Hi, i’m not sure what you mean by rationalisation or its application context, since a just-so story isnt meant to explain or rationalise anything, but merely to illustrate a possibility.

      Like

      • Johnny Wu
        May 2, 2013

        I am probably not knowledgeable as you so I apologize for using the wrong words.

        By rationalization I simply mean “making up a story” to explain some observations or some phenomenon. I used to ask questions with church friends and Sunday school and from what I have encountered, it is always possible to make up some reasoning or story that cannot be proven wrong because with God and His infinite powers there isn’t a thing He can’t make true. Right? Like, if a pastor told the above story in church, about de-souling the apes and freezing the souls of A&E, I’d say, sure, why not, I mean, it’s not like I can prove him wrong, and it does explain some things, doesn’t it? So… I usually skip the rationalization and just rely on faith.

        Sorry to be long winded! God Bless!

        Like

      • Rubati
        May 2, 2013

        But as i said, tne story *is NOT* meant to explain anything but to posit a mere possibility. If you’ve read the post itself the author already says that he is sure it isnt true and there does not explain anything.

        Like

      • Johnny Wu
        May 2, 2013

        I’m sorry for the confusion. What I meant is that even if this story isn’t true, it is *plausible* and therefore *can* be the truth (that is, nobody can *prove* it’s false). And if this version really isn’t true (but how do we know??), there exist some equally plausible version which is. So, even though we may never know what’s absolutely true, we do absolutely know that there exist a ultimate version of the truth which, by God’s grace, He may reveal to us.

        I mean, isn’t it comforting to know that when we come across contradictions between scripture and science, or even apparent contradictions among scriptures, it is because of our limited understanding of God’s ways and that if we seek or think or pray hard enough we may eventually find the truth (or not, depending on God’s will)?

        Sorry. Reading what I just wrote, I can see how it’s a mess. But I don’t know how to express it better. Which goes back to my initial point that rationalization really, really complicates things.

        I need a prayer for knowledge, wisdom and understanding tonight.

        Like

  2. Rubati
    May 2, 2013

    The story isn’t even plausible, it is outright false. It is impossible for it to be true by virtue of an ex hypothesi and it is never meant to be taken as true, it merely illustrates and gestures towards a vague possibility beyond itself. Please refer to my link about the use and point of just-so stories.

    Like

    • Johnny Wu
      May 2, 2013

      My pastor once told me that when someone tells you something is “impossible”, it should be taken to mean that “based on his limited knowledge and limited understanding of his limited world view, he does not think it is likely” (paraphrased, kind of).

      So, your story goes…

      “The story is simple. First, everything happens exactly as it is described in Genesis 1-3 interpreted literalistically. Everything, including a light-studded dome (“firmament”), with waters above and below, creation in six days, vegetation without any sun or moon. Eve is literally taken from Adam’s side, and so on. (If we’re going literalistic, let’s go all out!) Then Adam and Eve sin, exactly as described in Genesis 3. All this happens in a universe–Paradise–where all of this is possible by the laws of nature.

      God then kicks them out of Paradise. In the process, he destroys their bodies (i.e., he stops sustaining their existence) and puts their souls in stasis. But in Paradise, there was a law of nature that when the forbidden fruit is eaten, a Big Bang will occur (this could also be a miracle), initiating a 14 billion year process leading to some pretty clever apes in a universe better suited to sinners like Adam and Eve. God then takes the matter of two of these clever apes (if animals have souls, he de-souls them first, or perhaps he simply miraculously ensures that these two never get souls) and instills Adam and Eve’s souls in this matter.

      I’m sorry but I do not see how God could not have choreographed the above. Can you prove He did not?

      Like

  3. Rubati
    May 2, 2013

    Provability is distinct from impossibility. For example, as yet mathematicians are unable to prove the Twin Prime hypothesis, but whether it be true or false, either way will entail the other impossible. I cannot prove that the Twin Prime hypothesis is true, but I can definitely say that because all mathematical truths are necessary truths, therefore one of them is impossible.

    In any case, plausibility and possibility is a detraction from the point of the article. The point is not what is plausible or possible or even what is true, the point is the illustration which though itself false, implausible and impossible ex hypothesi (which in case you didn’t know, by assumption), but it points away from itself to the possibility of an analogous solution, not that the illustration *itself* is possible.

    Just read the link on just-so stories.

    Like

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This entry was posted on May 2, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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