The Evangelical Universalist Forum

JRP's Bite-Sized Metaphysics (Series 314)

[This series is part of Section Three, Creation and the Second Person. An index with links to all parts of the work as they are posted can be found [url=]here.]

[This series continues chapter 30, “The Doctrine of Derivative Spirit”]

[Entry 1]

(Repeating from the end of the previous part.) I will begin dealing with ethics soon in Section Four, after this chapter. But for now, let me go back and retell my story again; from a different historical perspective but with (I think) the same principles.

God creates Nature, and allows it to go through a quasi-independent historical process; “quasi-independent”, for Nature does not exist on its own resources, but upon God, and is meanwhile guided subtly by God. One purpose of God in making this Nature, has been to create derivative sentiences like (but merely ‘like’) Himself.

Billions of what we call years pass, as God slowly edges things into place, letting Nature be Nature. God is patient, because all time and space are in His hand. He is concerned with the final effect, but also with the methods He uses; for (please allow me to anticipate a position I will develop later) these new creatures are to be sharers in His creation: not only daughters and sons, but heirs and stewards and vice-regents of this Nature. Therefore, they should be intimately connected with this Nature from their beginning, and yet also they should have properties somewhat above and outside the natural flow.

On at least one planet (it might not only be this one, but it also may not ever have been another, even in what we think of as ‘the vastness of space’) conditions are edged to just the right proportions. The atmosphere and ocean are separated from their constituent phases over millions of years: are sifted bit by bit through the sieve of the natural machine, which was created by God for at least this purpose (among whatever others).

(Some sceptics, and even many believers, have a tendency to protest against the idea that God would design and use tools, even though we do this ourselves. But I have no problem believing rather that the tools He chooses to create and actively use, would be entirely more mind-boggling in scope than ours. The sons, after all, are sons of the Father…)

[Entry 2]

Eventually the clouds begin to thin, allowing first sunlight, then moon and starlight, to strike the surface: visibly obvious day/night cycles begin on the planet, and in fact would do so long before the details of the skies were ever visible from the surface, although that day would also come.

The sunlight radiation creates particular reactions in the various chemicals. One of the chemical elements, carbon, works well at holding a complex matrix of chemicals. Another element, silicon, also does a good job holding these complex matrices–better than carbon, in fact, at least at the beginning, although perhaps not as efficient as carbon if carbon-based chemicals ever got going. One thing silicone-based clay does very well is accrue carbon-based molecules as they flow over the clay. Perhaps the carbon-molecules take on the shape of the clay; and through a neat stepping process, the carbon-molecules are ‘taught’ (analogically speaking, for by themselves they haven’t the synthetic shadow-shape of action/reaction to be derivative thinkers) to not only hold but also replicate certain shapes. And some of those shapes are better at replicating than others. Also, copy variances in the replication process occasionally produce more efficient replicators, allowing for the establishment of stable carbon-molecule replicator environments, within which new minor variances of the proper sort can be supported.

(This is obviously the Cairns-Smith theory of clay-stepping for producing genetic proteins. I know there is not really any evidence that this could happen naturally–or at least none I myself have heard of–and among other problems it leaves out a huge amount of process that would have to occur before carbon-based organic molecules could begin behaving even distantly like an RNA or DNA chain. My point is merely that something like this could easily be part of the process I am describing.)

[Entry 3]

And so on. And so on. None of this, I repeat, takes God by surprise. The general type of shape of history is intended from the first; very probably, many particular events and results within the history are also intended from the first. More accurately, from God’s perspective there is no such thing as ‘intending from the first’ in a merely sequential sense: God’s intentions are not “from the foundation of the world” in the sense of the-time-since-or-before-He-founded-Nature, but rather in the sense of God being the ultimate foundation of the world–and His intentions come only from Himself.

God is present and active (in a self-abdicating way) at every point of space and time and has total interlocking Unity of self outside the space/time Nature. He doesn’t “foresee” something happening in this Nature; He sees it happening, here–and here–and there. If He Himself takes an action or observes a state (which, together with His ‘knowing’ of the state, entails an action in itself) at point x of our time and space, He is equally aware of that action and knowledge at every other point of His particular and actual infinitude–and this awareness includes all ‘parts’ of Nature. This can be hard to imagine, but it is not self-contradictory; it is only a paradoxical property of an actively sentient Independent Fact.

Indeed within Nature itself I can find a very interesting analogy: electrical currents running through a wire at given energy vector A will produce a magnetic field flowing from that current, at a right angle. If the magnetic field (now moving at vector-energy state B) intersects the proper materials, a new electrical (not magnetic) current will be set up within that material at vector-energy state C. Analogically speaking (and inaccurately, although perhaps adequately) when God acts He acts at right angles to the history of Nature.

(I could extend the analogy: ‘…and also parallel with our own derivative actions.’ However, here the analogy quickly begins to break down. The new induction current would be more like a manifestation or incarnation of God within the natural system, than like a derivative sentience such as I; it is still too closely related to the (analogical) direct effect of the original current.)

[Entry 4]

But one of the ‘intentions from the first’, is that the Natural laws will be set up so that with only some direct manipulation by God (maintenance is another issue), natural processes would eventually bring about a type of entity who (rather than ‘which’) is intimately fused with the developmental history of this Nature.

‘Fused’: these entities (rational entities like you and I) are in a type of unity with Nature, but are not totally ‘natural’. These entities–we ourselves–are new creations, not God and not Nature, but a little of each.

Because we are intended from the first to be in unity with the natural world, we must be provided with an ecosystem in which to live; and (for this story anyway) God allows the process of building this stable ecosystem, and the process of building us rational entities, to coincide with each other. Complex nervous systems thus evolve throughout the history of the planet along natural lines–and also along more-than-natural lines, although it would always be possible for us to look at the process in hindsight and see only the far-more obvious natural side of the process.

Eventually one (or at least one) species would be at the threshold of the metaphysical/physical shape God has been crafting on the spiral of the ages. With the last bit of mutation the synthetic threshold is crossed, and an individual person–our most remote ancestor–is born.

As he matures (and it might be a male first, for God’s own good reasons, perhaps related to what we would call ‘social issues’ within the previously merely animal species community), he grows into the synthetic inheritance. And because God intends for this man to be the father of a new (and qualitatively different) species, still united in synthesis to the laws of this nature, the man’s mate comes from the man himself–she is like he, for she carries the delicately grown synthesis. (One alternative would be for God to grow two derivative persons, male and female, separate from each other, and then to arrange their meeting. There are stories of Lilith, as well as of Eve, after all…)

[Entry 5; finale for this series]

Perhaps God did not originally intend for this new species to interbreed with its progenitors (with the possible exception of the birth of the first child of the first real ‘man’), but I do not think this is a necessary supposition. It would be in keeping with the story so far–and in keeping with what some of us think other important elements of the story continue to represent and enact–if the children of these two new individuals were meant to lift up the descendants of their former species, as a species, to their new level. (Technically speaking, they could not be a new ‘species’ and still be capable of functionally interbreeding with the species out of which they arose. I am using ‘new species’ very loosely here–the newness isn’t that kind of new.)

At any rate, whether God originally intended it or not, this interbreeding is what happened; and if these new persons had somehow, in the meantime, begun to reject their link with God, then such an interbreeding (whether originally necessary or not, whether necessary after the rejection or not) would bring special sorts of tragedy. (I will have more to say on this topic, and on ethics, in Section Four-- here I am wondering more about the stories of the nephilim, than of the Fall of Man in general.)

Again, I do not claim that I must be getting every detail of this story correct; but I think the principles of the story must be correct, in whatever fashion the modality of history exactly played out. It could have happened somewhat differently in mode.

It could have happened, for instance, in the fashion of a third story; although I will ask you to notice that if it had happened the way I just narrated, and these facts were presented to people who did not have our advantages of extra knowledge about the processes of our natural world–knowledge we might never have discovered if we had not begun with the higher assumptions which the descendants of these people passed on to us–then the facts could very well have been presented in the form of this next story. For this next story has still gotten across all the salient points, and even quite a few of the incidental details, to millions and billions of people throughout the history of humanity.

Next up: a genesis story; and the conclusion of Section Three.]