Romans 11 and Geocreationism with Conclusion
I have consolidated, edited, and updated the preceding three parts of this series here. Since it has been a while in posting (mostly due to serious computer issues that have crippled my Internet access) it may help to familiarize yourself with what has come before this so that you will be up to date. As sometimes happens, in writing and researching this piece I have changed my mind about the necessity of no physical death prior to the Fall, I now believe that it is possible the Fall only brought on spiritual death. However, I am not at all convinced that God merely breathed a soul into Adam, who prior to that had evolved from the ground up (so to speak). I have made some changes in the articles to reflect this new conviction.
The seat of Mike’s argument is Romans 11, which he says is the model for God allowing changes to occur on their own without removing his meticulous sovereignty. Unfortunately, this is difficult to reconcile given its proximity to Romans 9, which is the premiere Bible passage teaching election/predestination and the Calvinist view of soteriology. The ultimate passage in meticulous sovereignty would never be placed right next to the ultimate passage for letting things go and coming back later to see how they worked out. Paul wrote the to the Romans his masterwork letter, and he plotted its structure far too carefully to let two such contradictory notions slide in side-by-side.
There is a way to reconcile these points with each other, and for that we need not go any further than our own logic.
Paul meant the tree he talks about in Romans 11 to be a metaphor. As such, the real thing referenced need not take on all of the characteristics of the metaphor. When I, for example, say that someone is “quick as the sunrise,” I am drawing a comparison between the speed at which the sunrise occurs and the speed that someone is either performing a specific task or the speed at which they got my last joke. We’ve all seen how long a sunrise lasts, we all know that my jokes are so dry they are practically brittle, and we all know that sometimes one has to think my jokes through since I’m very often not on the same page as anyone else in the room, so we all know that I mean that the person so described is not very quick on the uptake.
For this simile to work, the person need not execute nuclear fusion within their bodies to give off enough light and heat to sustain their own planetary systems.
A further example would be my earlier statement that my jokes are so dry that they are brittle. I’m referring to the general description of sarcasm and puns as “dry” humor. I tend to inject much more sarcasm into my jokes, and my humor tends further toward irony than most. Therefore, I can make the statement that my jokes are “so dry that they are brittle.”
For the metaphor to work, my jokes need not drain all of the saliva out of a person’s mouth, nor must they actually break easily when handled. Jokes, as abstract notions, can neither be handled nor tasted, so “dry” and “brittle” are therefore understood in a figurative sense.
One final example. When I state that “we are on the same page,” and I refer to the example above when I’m with a group of people and we are talking, that is understood to mean that we understand each other. We need no physical book present for that statement to work.
So, what does all this mean for Romans 11? Well, the tree that is spoken of would be God’s elect–the church, if you don’t believe in the Reformed position. Holding, as I do, to the Calvinist soteriology, I do not believe that the tree “grows” and God prunes it in response to its growth. Nothing in the text would indicate that to me. Rather, God sustains the tree and it grows in response to His pruning. Now, there is a subtle difference. Obviously, in real life, one would expect the former to take place. But, since this is a metaphor, and we have shown that in order for a metaphor to be fully understood it need not take on all of the characteristics of the thing to which it is compared, we conclude that the reverse takes place in light of Romans 9 and other passages that tell us that God grows His church, in His time, in His way.
This means that I do not endorse the alleged “Biblical precedent” on which Geocreationism is founded.
Geocreationism is a very well-thought out idea. It is, in fact, one of the best attempts to reconcile Scripture with science. However, since I cannot endorse the biblical foundation that Mike finds in Romans 11, nor can I swallow the idea of a gap, I must conclude that it falls short of being the right answer to the origins dilemma.
Overall, I think that too many competing theories are being reconciled using just this one.
Finally, I think my friend Brain from Laelaps said it the best, and I offer this as my conclusion:
. . . [E]stablishing correlation between a particular verse and a scientific fact does not prove causation or show us the “mind of God” as the “natural theologians” (i.e. Paley, Buckland, etc.) of centuries past tried to do. You might be right, you might be wrong, but it seems to me that there are far more inconsistancies between science and the Bible than there are things in common. Perhaps that is why God is not considered in scientific studies; as you say, if we’re dealing with a deity that could’ve done things “any way He wanted” then we’re dealing with motivation of a supernatural being that we do not have access to and that is beyond scientific testing, so it is more an issue of philosophy/theology than science. It might work on a personal level, but overall I think it’s fairly weak. (source, emphasis added)