Reclaiming supernaturalism: on evolutionary creationism and angels..


So I’m looking for people to help me with these questions. It might not be the most important part of theology to re-imagine in this postmodern paradigm shift, but still I’m struggling with these questions without seeing anyone who seems wantig or able to answer them…

There’s been a lot of talk on the fringes of (post-)evangelicalism about evolution lately, and in lots of other streams of Christianity the whole evolution debate isn’t even a question, evolution is combined with christianity without questions. Now I am on neither side of the debate between creationism/evolution, my position could be called something like post-modern origin agnostic creationist.  Agnostic in the sense of ‘we cannot know’ I do believe that the visible does not come from what we can see, and that Creation is something bigger than we can ever grasp, and even if we could, we don’t ahev the words and concepts in our languages to even explain what happened there; so I would not be surpised if the creation stories are just a symbolic way of telling the unspeakable, or godly baby-talk (accomodation in theological lingo)…

But I do believe that our science has the ability to say more or less meaningful things about the physical part of our universe. It has nothing to say about the invisible, and the spiritual, and whatever there is we don’t even know of, but it is in observing and describing the material world… So if we can trust science more or less about the history of this physical part of the universe, we have a history longer than 10.000 years, and there might be some kind of common descent of biological life forms. But for the sake of this quest we will go with evolutionary creationism, in which the Creator  created an ever-evolving world (the implication of free-will theology when you take it beyond humanity?) in which humans have developed from this ever-evolving life; and have been taken to a ‘higher plan’ as ‘imago dei’.

Now we go to a totally different aspect of my faith. I do believe that Christianity implies supernaturalism. I come from charismatic forms of Christianity (pentecostel as a kid, vineyard later until this very moment), and even for all the critique I have for some things in charismatic christianity I will never be able to deny the supernatural. I do believe that signs and wonders are one aspect of the Kingdom of God (one that is not mentioned that much in most of the emerging discussion about the Kingom… though the conversations about the future of the theology of the Spirit on Deep church for example are hopeful) But that’s a topic for another discussion.

There’s another aspect of supernaturalism that I can’t deny, even at moments when I doubte every explanation and theology about it that I’ve ever know. Let’s call it angels and demons, for that’s what it’s mostly called. I cannot deny them, nor can I deny exorcism, I have had some weird experiences in my life (about which I will not blog, but be free to discuss about them with via email) and I’ve heard witness reports from people I trust (and aven more from people I’m not sure of or don’t know…) There must be something like it… Nothing on earth will ever convince me of the opposite…

So here do we have a problem… What do we do with those spiritual entities in a worldview in which at least the material part of the universe is evolving?
* Are they unlike us created and do we follow the evangelical stories about angels who were created as robotlike serving spirits, of whom 1/3th rebelled and created demons?
* Do we find a way to theorise about the evolution of Spiritual entities? Are they ’emerging properties’ of the spiritual side of the evolving world in one way? Are demons viruslike parts of damaged spirits that found ways to live on and in some way reproduce? Or are archangels beings that were create dto oversee the processes of an ever-evolving nature (of which one rebelled?)
* Do we just admit that it’s a mystery of which we will not be able to say anthing meaningful? We miss the words and concepts to explain what they are, so we remain silent? I bet we as humans won’t even be able to do such a thing…

So I want to ask if there is anyone like me, who falls broadly in the category of evolutionary creationists who believe in spiritual entities, what do you think??? (I don’t mind people saying they do believe in old-earth creationism or materialism without spiritual beings, but please do not hi-jack this discussion and be respectful…) How do we reconcile the evolution idea which tend to lead to materialism with spirit beings?

in hope of an interesting conversation…

shalom

Bram

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32 responses to “Reclaiming supernaturalism: on evolutionary creationism and angels..

  1. Hi. I am a evolutionary creationist (I believe the universe is here because God wanted it to be here, and I am here because God wanted me to be here, but the way the universe came to be can be scientifically decribed as a process (under influence of what to us seems to be coincidence) just as I came to be by way of a process in my mothers womb that can be scientifically decribed). That being said … I think that there are spiritual entities (angels/demons) and Satan is a reality. I do not think they are material creatures like us, and so I do not think they are beholden to the same laws of nature as we are (as the laws of nature only are true to our material universe of space and time). Coincidence and evolution and selection et cetera are all part of our created material universe. Angels and demons are not part of our space time continuum. I do think they were created instantly (not in a moment), but when? I don’t know. I do not think that is really relevant.
    I also do not think they are ‘robots’. They have a free will (else they wouldn’t have been able to rebel).
    I think probably a large part of the history of our universe could be described in terms of a battle between the supernatural forces of evil (the great extinctions in history, e.g. the dinosaurs) and the creative power of God that made the underdog survive.
    That being said: I never thought about this that deep and am interested in other thoughts to come!

    Johan

    • Interesting… A good way of framing ecolutionary creationism without falling for materialism and keeping a more or less traditional biblical wordview… I’m going to think about this..

  2. Interesting as I am sort of in the same boat. While I may agree that “Satan” may not be a literal being, I still see that while there is plenty of material ideas that are satanic, there is an otherly realm that these powers and principalities work in. If Heaven is both within and a “place” prepared for us, (which I see is being “in Christ”) then is there a hell prepared for those who reject the Kingdom… and is it both material (spiritual) and material as manifested in many atrocities all over the world?

    While I agree with many, many things in the emerging church, I do sense a loss in the supernatural department. In the church I attend, I at times do recieve words of knowledge or counsel for other people. Often I have “heard” that someone has a pain or sickness in my mind and pray for them to be told that they had not told anyone or they know I would never had known that… they do not always get healed, but are always encouraged that God knows what they are going through…

    Maybe the pendulum is swinging a bit one way before it settles… that is how it usually happens. Yet, I cannot fully say I would be comfortable saying that it is all material… in my mind there is still so much mystery we do not know. While I may not agree with the Medieval views of angelic hierarchy or demonic realms… I still believe that these realms exist in some way.

    • The idea of satan being more a symbolic being (and apart from demons that get exorcises by Jesus) is something I need to think about more, but I tend to that position right now.

      I like your framing of heaven and hell btw.

      True; The loss of the supernatural in the prophetic (where I would place these words of knowledge) is another aspect of materialism I do have problems with in some corners of the emerging thinking… I probably will write about that later…

      And maybe the problem is that we still cling on to medieval scholasticism for our theology on angels and demons… How can we go beyond that, or is the only way to just admit it’s a mystery?

      • I think the symbolic satan is truly interesting, yet wouldn’t it be logical to subsequently impute the same status to God and every other supernatural entity?

        What is the criterion to make the rôle a symbolic one: the supernaturality of the idea, or the difficulty to imagine or materialize a pure evil into a concrete person? What then about perfection in a literal being…

      • I have no problem with supernaturality of beings (I have more problems with naturalism) and it would be modern wish-fulfillment and reductionism to just banish everything supernatural into the realm of the symbolic.

        even if I would see satan (‘the accuser’) as a more symbolic word in the bible, or just a generic word used to describe the forces of evil, more or less personified,the exorcisms (in the gospels and in the church today) are something different, encounters with entities that I won’t deny, even if our understanding of them would be 100% off…

        The idea of perfection personified in a literal being sounds like something you arrive at constructing greek (or other) philosophical concepts, but is it the way God was viewed in the Old and new testament?

  3. Bram, have you ever read Greg Boyd’s “God at War” or “Satan and the Problem of Evil”? If not, I encourage you to look into them. He’s really big on the concept of “Evolution as Cosmic Conflict” and actually has an essay by that title in J. Oord’s “Creation Made Free” (http://bit.ly/cnkDF3).

    Here are several other small articles from his site addressing (at least in a roundabout way) the same topic:

    “Evolution as Cosmic Warfare”
    http://www.gregboyd.org/blog/evolution-as-cosmic-warfare/

    “More on Evolution as Cosmic Warfare”
    http://www.gregboyd.org/blog/more-on-evolution-as-cosmic-warfare/

    “Satan and the Corruption of Nature: Seven Arguments”
    http://www.gregboyd.org/essays/apologetics/problem-of-evil/satan-and-the-corruption-of-nature-seven-arguments/

    “Back to the Drawing Board on the Gap Theory”
    http://www.gregboyd.org/blog/back-to-the-drawing-board-on-the-gap-theory/

    “Satan and the Carnage of Nature”
    http://www.gregboyd.org/blog/satan-and-the-carnage-of-nature/

    “Intelligent Design and Intelligent Anti-Design”
    http://www.gregboyd.org/blog/intelligent-design-and-intelligent-anti-design/

    Those are all past blog posts from Boyd. I’m sure there are a few others I’m missing on his site, and most of them were presented in series so I apologize if they are not in order.

    Have fun!

    Looking forward to hearing back from you. BTW, send me a message or something to let me know you replied. I don’t ever get notifications from your blog.

    stay salty,
    >>zack

  4. BTW, I’m also from a charismatic background and am still very much associated with it (we prefer “spirit-filled” nowadays and in this neck of the woods to avoid the negative connotations associated with some of the ‘charismaniacs’).

    • Yes, those ‘Charismaniacs’ can be very irritating and the opposite of good advertisement for believing in the supernatural and the miraculous, and maybe that’s the reason why I’ve been more or less ignoring the supernatural part of my faith for so long… (even years before reading all the emerging church stuff)

  5. I’ll say this, which problably is more confusing than helping:

    1. My problem with intelligent design is that the idea of “intelligent” is very rooted on a hellenistic background, not vert useful to deal with such a personal and emotive God we find in the Bible. (although I wouldn’t call him “unintelligent” or “capricious”)

    2. You have pointed out your problem with dualism. Why not consider both natural and supernatural to not be ontologically apart?

    • I don’t know what to think about intelligent design, it looks too much like a compromise between options and not like something that stands on its own to me.

      Your 2; is for my next blog post… But my problem with christian materialism is that I don’t believe that the line bewteen natural and supernatural is more than a practical line which has been drawn during the enlightenment period between what could be measured and investigated, and what not… So we divided the visible from the invisible and made a materialistic wordview in which only the visible exists. Now the problem with the invisible still is that it is invisible, and we don’t know much about it… There might be lines in the invisible that could be drawn that are way more telling than our natural/supernatural divide…

      There are cultures in which there is no divide between the natural and the supernatural, and even if there might be a lot superstition, wrong explanation of the invisible and even demonic influenced false information, I think they are closer to seeing the world than western materialism will ever be. I think there is more than demonic lies behind all the talk about chackras, auras and stuff, even if the explanations given are wrong. (And some stuff in the paranormal department might also be just ‘invisible physics’)

      So I believe that in the ‘natural’ world there also is an invisible half that we don’t know of, and can’t know of, since we are not able to investigate it in any meanigful way according to the standards of our rational and emprical paradigms… But to dismiss it for that reason is just wishful thinking in my eyes. (this subject gives funny conversations with new atheists btw…)

      The realm of angels and demons might be something totally different than the invisible part of ‘our’ ubiverse… I’ve even wondered if there is a category of more ‘natural’ spirits that are part of our world, and that totally different from the messenger- or archangels who have their own world… But that would be more speculation…

  6. I am an evolutionary creationist also with the following caveat. I think that physical existence is essentially spiritual. The little that I understand about quantum physics points to this. I believe that our thoughts bring about the reality we experience both physical and spiritual. Angels and demons are a spiritual offshoot of what I call the fallen human condition. I believe that the human pathology is brought about by mortality combined with the knowledge of good and evil. I believe that we were created…the entire universe was created to praise, worship and, love God– the source. Physical existance was a necessary part of this plan and, therefore, redemption was necessary also.

    Jesus had perfect faith in the Father and saw him as loving and merciful and totally believed in him. Jesus faith reconciled all humans to the Father once for all and, he overcame all of the malevolent forces that attacked our faith. So, while I believe that malevolent spiritual forces test us, accuse us, trying to break down our faith, Jesus via his Holy Spirit helps us overcome and the angels are there to remind us that we are victorious.

    • wow, I have to think about this, good imput… You would place the natural competely inside the supernatural. That’s a more eastern way of thinking, but I see no reason at all to dismiss it.

  7. Glad I found this….

    Thomas Jefferson one of America’s founders could not accept the super natural miracles in the gospels, so he extracted them and created The Jefferson Bible. One way we can better understand yesterday’s reality is to look at today’s reality.

    For example… In the time of Christ anyone with a mental / physical disorder that caused them to act strange was considered demon possessed. Today using science we have discovered these people were not in fact demon possessed, but disabled.

    Many people skeptical of the miracles of the new testament ask…. How come we do not see people being healed today as we did in Jesus day? Recently I have dealt with this question by looking at present reality. I believe that those who wrote these historical stories were doing nothing more then spicing up the text in an attempt to sell Christianity to the masses. In other words if it isn’t happening right under our nose today…. then what better evidence do we have?

    Before you mistakenly judge me as an enemy of the supernatural hear me out…. The greatest miracle we have is our next breath. The greatest evidence we have of God’s existence is love. The greatest example of miracles we possess is the God’s universe which to my knowledge was created for us. I don’t believe in dualism and therefore I embrace that we are spiritual, we are connected to everything and everything we say and do has a profound impact globally. I believe the human race has spiritually evolved as some things that were once widely accepted in the world are laughed at today.

    Recently I have studied the commonalities of near death experiences. I believe in the real life accounts of near death experiences because people of various cultures, ages and religions tell the same story…. they witness the same accounts.

    See examples here -> http://www.nderf.org/

  8. Pingback: Reclaiming supernaturalism II: on my problem with christian materialism « Brambonius' blog in english

  9. I see that the supernatural and natural are interconnected and intertwined… I am not parts that make a whole… I am a whole being that has parts. Some parts are more crucial for my survival than other parts… such as I may lose a limb and still live though a part of me is dead.

    I view the Trinity as a whole also… in fact I see that I agree with eastern thought that Jesus had only One Nature as opposed to the western view of God/man … Yes he was both, yet not 100% of both in the sense most westerners speak of God… the Bible speaks of Jesus and being “born of heaven” or “the first fruit of the New Creation” … in my mind Jesus was the New Prototype Human and we are to follow. Again, this is very much eastern orthodox as I have studied it out.

    Being that Jesus is something new… a integrated being of spiritual and natural, I see that while there was a disconnect in the past (mostly in t=our minds as we need to have our minds renewed to grasp this), through Jesus we are brought back to understanding this integration. Yet, after the Resurrection it is spiritual and then material while before is was material and then physical… a shift in the way we view God and ourselves.

    I do not see that creation is the same as God, nor do I see that God is “in creation” as in panentheism… yet, I do see that God can be seen in His creation. Yet, as far as the supernatural… I have always suspected that it is just as natural as the natural… we are just not as aware of it around us as we depend on our physical bodies to see things… now, if we let God show us, we can see things and people in a spiritual way.

    For example, have you ever just knew someone you were talking to was a believer in Jesus? You may not agree theologically, but you sense the Holy Spirit in them.

  10. great topic bram…

    i think we often stumble when we are so self-centered and anthromorpophic so that we imagine a demon or fallen angel as too much like us – i often think our imaginations are flattened via our conceptions of demons, angels, spirits, principalities and powers…and in that almost selfish viewpoint we anthropomorphasize them and mis-percieve their essence and being…and its probably a bit arrogant to think their being is too much like mine…besides as created beings they are probably as different from me (and as similar to me) as a whale, or an eagle…

    i like the initial way walter wink thinks on this topic is a good starting place…

    david hayward has been tackling “how exactly do we think about principalities and powers” at his blog: naked pastor: http://www.nakedpastor.com/

  11. ps – i like david hayward’s (btw, a vineyard pastor in canada) latest post on contending forces…he asks if the dark powers are unified, and then makes this observation: “I sometimes compare it to being attacked by a flock of bats: in the dark, panic, fear and the maddening blindness of overwhelming confusion.”

    that’s a great image, i think

  12. Uh, dude, I left a long comment that I’m not seeing. Any idea where it may have ran off to?

    I had linked you to several of Greg Boyd’s posts on this very subject.

  13. I have only seen the small one I replied on, so I am affraid the matric has been eating it… Which is a pity, because I like Boyds view on this and am curious about how he would say it….

  14. i agree with zack, boyd has some great things to add to this conversation…we should create a reading list:

    walter wink
    greg boyd
    david dark

    even in a similar perspective, i would add chuck misller and mark eastman who take a serious look at people who claim to have “alien encounters” and think about how that might be some interaction with angels/demons…

    i tend toward iggy’s perspective of an interconnected and intertwined perspective…

    anyway, thanks for starting this conversation bram!

    peace

    • When I typed Missler and Eastman in google, I found (on the first page) a link to a pdf-version of their book. It’s indeed pretty weird… Looks more like von Daniken to me…

      • Missler is Calvery Chapel… he is very much prerapture and his perspectives are often “unique”.

        I personally like Missler on many points. I disagree with him on many others. The thing I like the most is he amuses me as I am sort of into Bigfoot and other stuff like that (carry over from childhood I think).

        Missler leans mostly on the Book of Enoch to explain Genesis 6 (The Nephilim) and unfortunately he develops a David Icke like conspiracy that involves hybrid human/angels that will come back during the 7 year tribulation…. so there you go. In a nutshell… Missler is my favorite crazy uncle whom I love as he has a strange of ideas as I do at times. LOL!

      • Wow, now I’m totally freaked-out…

        The PDF I’ve been skimming through this afternoon started as a regular introduction to ufology, to end in a bizarre bible study which most looks like a mixture of left behind, von daniken and some space thriller about human/alien hybrids… I must say that I haven’t encountered this kind of conspiracy eschatology in a while… It gives me a paradigm shock of sorts…

        The idea that alien encounters and abductions might have something to do with angels/demons/Richard Dawkin’s nosehair is still valid though, which only complicates the matter… And the question what we do with the book of enoch, freaky as it is, and being quoted once in the bible…

      • LOL! I tried to warn you about Missler…

      • BTW I read the book of Enoch in the way that it was popular literature of the day. I think it would be like if a pastor quoted Mark Twain or John Grisham in his sermon as far as that it is quoted in the bible.

        If I am wrong, then we are missing a HUGE part of our heritage. Now, Enoch was in the Western Cannon for a time, the taken out… it is in the Ethiopian Cannon even today. Yet, saying that, Revelation was also in and out numerous times as by itself cannot substantiate the author… though it is assumed to be John as I believe it to be.

        Also, these are Apocalyptic writings… so unless you have a grasp of the history going on they do not make as much sense. Missler is a modernist and a literalist which is how he approaches Enoch. It is an interesting book and when I was more into Missler, it seemed Missler knew what it was all about. Now I am not so sure. In a way, I would say now he is not one I would look toward for answers on some things… Maybe some UFO things, but really not much else. (I still love him though and would go sit in one of his teachings out of curiosity)

      • It can be amusing… For some worse christian ufology and conspiracy eschatology; see this http://utopia.knoware.nl/users/hero/mystery.html Can you believe that this guy, Hero de Jong, once won the mockfish award for the ugliest christian site in the dutch language for the dutch version of his site (I believe you can!). And you can learn from him how to make a UFO motor, but if you want the real plans you’ll have to pay (the motor includes antimatter and a black hole btw)

        but you’re right about modernist/litteralist interpretations of apocalyptic writings… I don’t know what we would do with enoch if would be cannonised, but not that approach…

  15. Steven, thanks for the nakedpastor post, it is relevant… I like his stuff a lot, his cartoons, his thoughts, his art. I knew he was a vineyard pastor, but I do have my doubts if even within vineyard his ‘Z-theory’ will ever be accepted as Christian orthodoxy’… (and my wife always says he’s too frustrated about church and pastors)

    Your point about anthropomorhising ‘powers’ and demons is a very good observation.

    All those books… If only I had the time and money to read them all… Which titles would you recommend? (Or online articles, as Zack has linked in his mysteriously dissapeared post)

    No-one in the society of vineyard scholars who has written on a subject like this?

    missler and eastman do seem a bit freaky if I google them, but I didn’t read anything in that area yet, so… Reminds me of the stories of djinns, of which a former muslim co-worker once told me, who also seem to live in another dimension. The funny thing is, that according to him djinns like people, can be muslim, christian or jew,…

    I hope this conversation will lead to something, I like to have the holes inj my theological worldview filled…

  16. Pingback: fallible language V: speaking about creation | Brambonius' blog in english

  17. Heather Goodman

    LOL – fun discussion Bram! I love it! Be back to post actual thoughts on the topic in a bit 🙂

  18. Pingback: Some thoughts on thoughtform-creation | Brambonius' blog in english

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