August 20, 2006

Imago Dei

Posted in philosophy of religion, religion, science, scripture at 6:04 pm by Jerry

I’m not a scientist, but I think it’s pretty obvious that creationism should not be taught in a science class.

Metaphysical (what is all) and ontological (what just is) arguments that are not falsifiable lie outside of the scientific method. Science has higher epistemological (knowing how you know) expectations from humans than religion does.

And if you asked me if evolution should be taught in a religious class, I’d say, “Yes.” (It’s so easy for me to imagine a fundamentalist responding with, “Oh sure, we can’t invade their territory, but they can invade ours?”)

Anyone can see, to some degree, that nature changes or evolves into something else. And if God exists, God would then be the author of evolution. But it’s IDENTITY that is a big issue among many theists, isn’t it? How does the saying go? — “Who can be proud to have chimpanzees for ancestors?” Yes, pride is the issue, isn’t it?

So, remind me, why is it that we NEED to have God create the human form out of formlessness instead of many forms? I just thought of a verse from the bible that I have to quote here:

31“But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”

Mark 10 (NASB)

Maybe succession is the problem. If humanity, understood as the “Image of God” (Imago Dei), evolved out of apes, will a greater species evolve out of humanity? If yes, then which species will be the last that is the first?



  1. Todd said,


    You just have to come humbly before God. Cloaking yourself in intellectualese will only get you further and further away from true wisdom. Science does not have a higher epistimology, but a much much lower one, because it can only operate on a material plane.

    Oh wait I just thought of a verse.

    1 Cor 1:18For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

    20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    I am not against thinking long and deep about the Christian faith, but you cannot wrestle the truth out of God. But if you come humbly before Him, you will grow in His knowledge and love.

  2. Jerry said,

    Todd, dude, where do I begin?

    You said, “Science does not have a higher epistimology, but a much much lower one, because it can only operate on a material plane.” You’re not expressing an understanding of what “epistemology” actually means. Epistemology asks for an explanation of what you consider to be knowledge. “How do you know what you know?”

    Responding with because God said so is not an explanation. It’s just an empty statement that ANYONE could say. You say I’m “cloaking” myself in “intellectualese,” and yet you’re cloaking yourself in Christianese.

    And if you’re “not against thinking long and deep about the Christian faith” then do you avoid the hard questions when you do this thinking? And what’s wrong with wrestling with God? You seem the type to set up Jacob as an example to follow. How many times in the bible are we told to seek God and truth? God gave us a mind to use, not sedate in tradition.

  3. Todd said,


    I am not afraid of using my mind. I have a PhD in theology from St. Andrew’s. But we have to remember under-stand the mind and will of God, we need to stand-under Him. It seems that you are too quick to stand over scripture and judge it to see if it meets up to your standards. This will never bring you closer to God.

    G.K. Chesterton (another great mind) once said that “We are never so high as when we are on our knees.” Fundamental to growing into the knowledge and love of God is humbling ourselves before him.

    God Bless,


  4. becky said,

    A PhD in theology and yet you continually resort to cliche, dude? Is this the St. Andrews from Saskatoon you’re referring to?

    “This will never bring you closer to God” — a pretty bold statement to make. Have a cliche to back this one up?

  5. […] I’ve been reminded of this passage in the bible a number of times in a short little while, whether it be in comments to a post of mine, a post written by my brother, or otherwise. My brother wrote: I can’t get enough of this stuff. Here is a section of the first chapter in First Corinthians and one of my favorite scholars commenting…. […]

  6. Todd said,

    Dear Becky,

    No, not St. Andrew’s Saskatoon. I think that is United Church isn;t it? I went to St. Andrew’s, St. Andrew’s, Scotland. A wonderful place to be. And some very fine theolgians there. I apologise if I was a little too cliche, I am trying figure out how to communicate to your husband without much success. Fundamentally the problem is that he is far far too confident in his limited education and his ability to reason and this is preventing him from knowing the truth in God. The sooner, that he humbles himself to accept in faith the apostolic and catholic teaching of the church, the sooner he will grow in the knowledge and love of God.

    It is such a very dangerous position that you and he have adopted making yourselves the judge of everything. Determining, largely by means of modern public morality, what in the church is right and wrong can only lead to creating a god in your own image. It is good that you are both clever, but don’t allow that to be used to destroy your faith.

    I hope that this was recieved without cliche. I sincerely mean it and pray that you are chastened by it.

  7. becky said,

    Well praise God and pass the ammunition! I’m seen the error of my ways, and you’ve shown me the Light!


    So it was St. Andrews, Scotland, you say? Admittedly, I’m surprised. Does part of your degree include a card that states “I’m more educated than you,” enabling you to pull it out as a trump if anyone questions your so-called argument? What happened to engaging an opponent in conversation? The remnants of your contributions to this discussion have been anything but engaging — rather, they’re hedging and hiding behind not only literal cliches, but cliched arguments.

    Of all the great theologians I’ve encountered, I was (and still am) surprised that you would willingly choose to use cliche, repeatedly, to best communicate with someone you disagree with. It’s one of the lowest forms of communication, but, as your above answer just illustrates, condescension isn’t all that much higher on the list. Funny, the places I’ve encountered these devices the most has been within religious institutions.

    You say it’s a dangerous position to judge everything by public morality. Well, what does your above comment represent, if not a judgement — of supernatural and ETERNAL proportions? Quite a promotion you’ve given yourself there. Alas, I don’t need you or any other person of an inflated religious stripe to “chasten” me. If there is a God, I think he/she/it should be big enough to defend his/her/itself without the help of little arrogant, narrowminded, cliched minions on power trips.

    So, am I chastened? Um, no. If anything, I’m reminded of why I have so much disdain for people like you in the religious sphere — men who get off on a God complex of their own.

    Got that, Dude?

  8. Todd said,

    Dear Becky,

    wow you get really angry.


  9. Tree said,

    I like your thinking in this post. I think we have it quite backwards when it comes to what a Christian would want to see happenng in an American educational institution. Why would Christians want religious teaching at public school when their would be no garauntee that it would be the “right” Christianity being taught? Seriously, would Baptists trust Catholic teachings or would Methodists trust Pentecostal teachings? Probably not and then there would be a mad dash for that rotten Constitutional protection of and from religion. And why is evolution so threatening to Christianity? Well, to correctly phrase it, it’s not threatening to Christianity, it’s threatening to prideful people grasping to an identity, as you so well touched upon. No, Christians should be holding firm to the idea that if it’s True, then it’s of God. But of course, we are, the world over, always warring over what is (T)ruth with a capitol “T”.

  10. Eric said,

    “Creationism”; the evolution of ignorance.

  11. Larry said,

    Looks like I’m a little late to this party and not sure what I honestly have to add. I have no degree in theology or in metaphysics or any science (or anything at all). I’m just a 39 year old who’s studied a lot of stuff in bits and pieces throughout life but feel like giving my 2 cents (because I tend to run my mouth when it comes to things I’m passionate about).

    An epistemology is rightly described as knowing how you know something. But it is arguable that the study of theology is epistemological (which is probably what Todd was trying to get at even though it came off quite arrogantly). But – it’s an apples and oranges comparison when you’re discussing evolution and creationism.

    As pure science, I would argue that evolution is a poor science as it has very little actual observable and reproducible evidence to support it. Most of evolutionary theory is derived from observation and hypotheses based upon what is most plausible based upon other observations. To use epistemological reasoning as a basis to argue for evolution as pure science is, in my mind, quite difficult and contrived.

    That said – I would also agree that I don’t think that Intelligent Design should be taught in public schools as a science. But I also don’t think of evolution as a real science either. Frankly, from a purely scientific standpoint – we have no real clue how we came about because we’ve never been able to adequately reproduce the variables we theorize to be necessary to actually have it come about.

    With that argument, the ID folks have reason to think they should have a voice in what is arguably only half a science that uses sound epistemological argument for much of what is espoused, but those arguments are really based upon a non-reproducible or observable conjecture. Evolution is accepted because it is the most plausible purely scientific explanation using phenomena we can observe today using the scientific method.

    My argument? Science is a poor choice to try to determine origins. The metaphysical reality of humanity is that we’re far more than the sum of our parts. Christianity posits an answer that actually fits the human equation. Desire to know something greater than ourselves – feelings that life must have a purpose beyond just living – juxtapose that with a certain feeling that the concept of “fate” is not entirely without merit or the concept of the miraculous. We are spiritual creatures, really. We desire absolutes to define our lives so we understand our boundaries, but we hate absolutes when they prevent us from doing or living in a way we actually want to live. An ultimate contradiction.

    This fits the Christian doctrine of Divine sovereignty juxtaposed with human responsibility both having equal weight in Scripture. Add to this the doctrine of sin (centered in humanity’s self-interest above all others), we see all the aspects of human life (from a purely subjective point of view). This does not take away the mystery of life, but it does give it a guiding purpose.

    We are people created in the image of God. This gives us infinite value while at the same time gives us a solid anchor of dependence. If all of humanity could recognize that God gave us His image and that this fact makes us all equals… racism would vanish, poverty would not be ignored and hatred would disappear. This is the promise of eternity in the Christian faith.

    Well – I rambled… and not sure if this even all related to what was said here – but I felt compelled. Grace and peace.

  12. Larry said,

    And it’s late – reading back through all of that – there are a lot of incomplete thoughts… but I leave it at that. I might clarify if discussion continues.

    I truly enjoyed the post.

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