Creation and the Second Person -- a genesis story

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, continuing chapter 30, can be found here.]

[This entry concludes chapter 30, "The Doctrine of Derivative Spirit"; and also concludes Section Two.]

Here is the third story: which might in principle have happened 'instead' of the second, and which I think happened after all, even if the 'process details' related here could stand expansion and clarification. (Maybe lots of it!)

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the world. And the world was a blasted heap of formless rubble, and darkness was over the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was hovering (or moving) over the face of the waters.

Then God said, "Be light!"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night.

And there was evening and there was morning, day one. [See first comment below for a footnote here.] Then God said, "Be an expanse (or a firmament) in the midst of the waters; and separate the waters from the waters." And God made the expanse and separated the waters below the expanse from the waters above the expanse; and it was so. And God called the expanse sky.

And there was evening and morning, day two. Then God said, "Waters below the heavens, be gathered into one place, and dry land appear"; and it was so. And God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called sea; and God saw that it was good.

Then God said, "Earth, sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, in which is their seed, on the earth"; and it was so... and God saw that it was good.

And there was evening and there was morning, day three. Then God said, "Be light-bearers in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years; and be for bearing light in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. And God had made the two great light-bearers ("had made", as in 'already made', is implied in the grammar of the story I'm thinking about), the greater light-bearer to govern the day, and the lesser light-bearer to have dominion over the night; the stars also. And God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, for the dominion over the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good.

And there was evening and there was morning, day four. Then God said, "Waters, swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth on the face of the expanse of the heavens." And God created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth."

And there was evening and there was morning, day five. Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind; cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind"; and it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

And God blessed them... And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.

And there was evening and there was morning, day six. [See second comment below for a footnote here.]

All in all, the two stories mesh pretty well: the primary incongruity being that the events of the third and second days (fourth and third, in popular understanding) are inverted in the two stories. [See third comment below for a footnote here.] Another incongruity might come from a verse I left out, regarding the 'herbivorousity' of the original created beasts. [See fourth comment below for a footnote here.]

The details of the 'scientific' story were developed (rightly or wrongly) by examination and inference of natural evidence. The details of this 'scriptural' story were (rightly or wrongly) purportedly 'revealed' through a somewhat different fashion; the precise mode of revelation is still being debated.

One fact is certain about that scriptural story: someone didn't just wake up and find it on paper (or papyrus or parchment) one day. It was written down by at least one man, as is claimed by absolutely everyone who debates the issue. Perhaps the story is a result of God's filtering processes through our history, even of our literary history; or perhaps God dictated it to the man directly, instead. There are also different degrees and combinations of process possible, between these two extremes.

The people who most stridently would insist that the story was directly dictated to one man, who then copied it word for word into the exact form we have it today, would also be most likely to insist that the second chapter of the scripture collection was also written by the same man under the same type of inspiration. I notice that the author of the second chapter, if he was the same man (or even if he was a different man--or woman?--who had heard the first story), felt quite at home altering some significant details from the first chapter, primarily concerning the order of appearance of animals, the first man, the wife, and plants. [See fifth comment below for a footnote here.]

In any case, I am not concerned here with deciding which story I have presented is more or less accurate to what 'really' happened; although this scriptural story is, at least, rather more closely connectable with the 'scientific story' than any other story-of-origins from antiquity I myself have heard.

Either way, the important point I would like my reader to notice, is that both of these popular stories, ancient and modern, get very similar points across--once God is recognized as part of the 'scientific' story. (The controversial timing issues aren't relevant here; I'm speaking of principles now, not specific details.) God made Nature; Nature is not God; God used a process, and indeed a sequence of interlinked processes, in making Nature; the living things of the world are linked intimately to the processes God used to create Nature; and this includes Man and Man's rational capability. Both stories culminate (but do not 'end') with God, in essence, breathing derivative spirit from His Spirit into our forebears in a manner that somehow passes to you and me. One story presents God as letting Nature help make Man, so to speak; neither story presents Nature and only Nature producing humans and human rationality.

If I was asked my opinion about these stories, I would say the scriptural story (and even its odd though important sequel/remake) is easier to understand and thus is more useful in terms of intelligibility--an Australian aborigine can understand and accept it on his own terms without needing wire-thin lessons on metaphysics, astrophysics, biophysics, etc.--and thus bears the mark of the truly divine. Then I would say the scientific story reaffirms and validates the basic information and many of the incidental details of the scriptural story, expanding our knowledge about what happened, and polishing the details somewhat (perhaps the order of two of the 'days', for instance).

If it is insisted to me that the details should not nor could not be polished by observation, I would reply that as far as I can tell, including from the details of the scriptural materials themselves, those scriptures are not the 2nd Person of God, nor the 4th Person, nor the 70th Person, nor the 4th through the 70th Persons; and that therefore they are not co-equal with God; and that I therefore do not require them to incorrectable. Whereupon the discussion would quickly move to other matters of little use or interest to any sceptical readers, taking me very far afield from my present work.

Let me highlight again that the growing of derivative sentiences by God in a natural not-God system (which I have previously deduced to be true, even if I don't know all the details yet), involves yet another process of self-abdication by God, in order to bring to existence and to active life something that is not Himself. I do not mean to say that because God has made me (and you) ‘out of Himself' (and out of nothing but Himself) I am therefore God. No, I am not God, and neither are you: He has abdicated Himself to create rather than (only) to beget. Perhaps I should say that God did beget creatures after His own kind, but begot them (unlike the 2nd Person) through His created Nature, and thus the creatures are derivative and not-God, merely being 'like' God; always with room to grow as a species and as individuals.

Nor am I saying that God's self-abdication always results in something or someone not-God: the Son self-abdicates from all eternity in order to retain the Unity of the self-existent, self-begetting God.

Also, I once again caution that although I think my argument allows the easy reinstatement of such theories as biological evolution and modern biopsychiatry, I should only recognize credit for any theories of this sort if they do not contradict the principles of the philosophy.

Really, this is not an abnormal practice, although it admittedly sounds arrogant. For centuries now, many people have been ignoring (and insisting that other people ignore) any implications in these fields which might just as easily fit into a theistic worldview, purely because those implications would contradict the philosophy upon which these people have been 'working' their sciences: a philosophy which goes beyond methodological naturalism, where the behaviors of Nature in itself are studied, into a denial that anything could even possibly affect Nature in its automatic reactions and counterreactions.

All I am saying, is that if you decide my argument is deductively valid (taking into fair qualification the merely suggested plausibility of these two most recent chapters, of course), then you should not backslide when it comes time to import the sciences into the philosophy. As far as I can see, there should be very little adjustment necessary in the mass of conclusions reached by these sciences already--although there could be massive adjustments necessary in what those conclusions mean, and how they should be applied.

This is the normal result of any shift in underlying philosophy. When paleontology was first promoted, most scientists were theists of one stripe or another; shortly thereafter (and not really much due to paleontology), many scientists had become atheists or cosmological dualists (which for practical purposes amounts to the same thing). The interpretations given to the paleontology results not-surprisingly changed during this same period, much more sharply than the mere advance in the efficiency of the science could account for. When Isaac Newton wrote the Principia, many philosophers and scientists were still theists of some stripe or other, including Newton himself who was a devoted (though not entirely orthodox) Christian. They judged the meaning of the results of Newton (and his predecessors and immediate followers) according to the philosophy they held. Not long after Newton, many more notable thinkers were atheists or dualists or deists who denied that God acted in Nature: but Newton's scientific discoveries still fit in quite well. The mistake these subsequent thinkers made was in further concluding that the good fit exclusively validated their philosophy. Other men (especially Newton himself) thought the Principia fit into Christianity quite well. The mistake they made was their further conclusion that the good fit exclusively validated their prior philosophy.

I am not asking you to accept my previous arguments based on how well you think the details of what you think to be the most accurate creation story (be those the ones I've used here or your own variations) fit my deductions. I am asking you to look at the logic and see whether I have made the correct deductions; and then I am also pointing out that either of the two most popular creation stories (in Western civilization anyway) fit in pretty cleanly. You can, and should, choose the one (or any other) that you think fits best with the observed facts in the world around us. If you do that, you will not be blaspheming against the Spirit of Truth, whether or not you go on to blaspheme against the Son of Man.

Meanwhile, let me emphasize once more that I do not consider this chapter to be part of my deductive argument, per se. That I am an act-er, I find I must presume; that I am a derivative act-er, I can deduce; that I am derived from the Independent Act-er, I can also deduce. I have deduced quite a bit, but I did not deduce the exact method of God's creation of my derivative sentience. Perhaps I will accomplish this one day (though that seems very unlikely); perhaps someone else will; perhaps no one will. What I needed here was a proposal that was merely self-consistently plausible, not certain; something to show that derivative action from independent action is not a nonsensical proposition. At the very least, I didn't use a presumption that derivative action from action is possible to ground an argument that it is possible!

Now it is time to return to the argument itself; because even in my speculative reconstruction of detailed processes, I have begun to touch extremely sensitive, important and pertinent issues regarding God's relation to us, not merely as our Creator, but as Person to persons. Similarly, the time has nearly come for me to begin discussing the logic of personal relationships between derivative persons, such as you and I.

The next Section will thus be dedicated to the question of ethics.

[Next up: the start of Section Four, "Ethics and the Third Person". Which will be an update to 2nd edition chapter material already posted here on the Cadre.]


Jason Pratt said…
[First footnote.]

The story I am thinking of did not originally have modern paragraph structuring; but somehow a nearly universal belief has arisen concerning the story, that the creation of heavens and world and light and darkness took place on "day one". Why this belief arose, I am not sure, but it has caused some needless mischief concerning the basic competence of the story's teller: surely even if he thought a literal day had taken place, he would know a day cannot happen without a cycle of dayness and nightness!

I think, whatever else he knew or didn't know, he knew quite well that "day one" couldn't happen without light and darkness. I also observe that the people of his culture have from antiquity traditionally begun their days at sundown--in honor of this story. What this tells me, is that the story has been commonly and pervasively misinterpreted. "Day one", in this story, doesn't start until sundown: which means the atmosphere creation is the work of "day one", appearances of distinct landmasses on "day two", etc. Most of us who know this story are consequently off by a day when we talk about it!
Jason Pratt said…
[Second footnote]

To continue the story: "In this way, the heavens and the world were completed, and all their multitudes. And by day seven God completed (or perfected) His work which He had done; and He rested on day seven and made it holy, because in that day He rested from all His work which He had done."

By the terms of this well-known story, the sixth day is for God to work at bringing His creations to complete perfection (not for Him 'to create' generally speaking). By the time day seven comes, God has finished His work. Most believers of my tradition, certainly every penitent Christian, will agree that God has still been at work, and still is at work, on what He has created. This means we are in day six. The seventh day, the Day of the Lord, is still to come.
Jason Pratt said…
[Third footnote]

Or perhaps there is no incongruity there, depending on whether the first proto-plants existed before the greenhouse-effect canopy of clouds broke sufficiently to allow real sun/moon/star effects on the surface. On the other hand, the story does seem to imply that the first plants rose on land, whereas the physical evidence implies that plants first were aquatic. Yet the author had to know that birds are primarily terrestrial creatures, even--especially--if he was telling a merely invented story based on what he could see around him; despite which he mentions their creation on the day of the water-born (and water-borne) creatures. This should alert any reader, that the author probably wasn't thinking in terms of airtight compartments of creation.
Jason Pratt said…
[Fourth footnote]

Or perhaps there is no incongruity here, either. The author might have easily understood, even as an ancient, that plants are the foundation of the food chain; or he might have meant that God intends for animals to all be herbivorous someday. (When I say incongruous, I only mean the stories don't match up in content, at least at face value. Which story is more correct as to historical facts, is another question beyond the scope of my work.)
Jason Pratt said…
[Fifth footnote]

This has led some of these same people to propose that a cosmic catastrophe (otherwise unremarked throughout remaining scripture and not even posited in these first chapters) wiped out all living creation including all men sometime 'between' the first and second chapter events.

I recognize much authority, both historical and metaphysical, in these same scriptures; but this looks to me like desperation to save a hypothesis, however well-intended the effort may be. Still, these catastrophists may be correct; certainly there is evidence of human life being nearly wiped out more than once in “pre-historic” times. It remains to go to the evidence to see if they have interpreted the scripture properly, or perhaps to discover the mode in which inspiration took place. (Or, to be fair, perhaps to discover this story isn’t a revelation of information at all, even in poetic form.)

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