From Homo Singularis to Homo Sanctus

In my recent post about Adam, Eve and evolution I noted that I tend to assume evolutionary science in everything I think about. But some of you asked for more specifics. I was thinking about doing that until today when I watched this public forum by Joshua Moritz over at Arni Zachariassen's blog (which is really a must read if you're not following it, if only to purchase the "Going to Hell with Rob Bell" t-shirt).

Moritz's address is about 50 minutes long (with a Q&A following), but well worth watching if you get the time and have an interest in how human evolution fits with the bible. I point you to Moritz's talk as it basically articulates how I understand human evolution to relate to Genesis 1-2, with a particular focus on how humans can be the Imago Dei (the Image of God) in light of evolutionary history.

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14 thoughts on “From Homo Singularis to Homo Sanctus”

  1. Omigosh, I'm breathless. What a tour de force! I find his argument persuasive, reverent, and deeply moving. By grounding his argument (quite literally) in anthropological/evolutionary history, he opens whole new avenues of approach to Christian expression. It's quite Loren Eiseley. Also Matthew Fox, Teilhard de Chardin. Thank you so much for this link! A breath of fresh air after all the doctrinal scholasticism. Will be fascinated to follow the comments.

  2. It's a very thought provoking analysis. Don't know if many comments will come as I expect not a lot of people will sit and listen to the whole 50 minutes. 

    For my own part, since college had in my head a model very much like what Moritz describes. But what is new and neat about what Moritz has done is the connection between election and the Image of God. That's the really cool part.

  3. It's the election piece that is blowing me away. Fantastic! It's giving me
    the same nourished feelings and thoughts I remember from my first read
    of *Original
    Blessing--*a really strong, joyful sense of rightness and windows opening
    up. I've talked Genesis for years as the developmental model, with Eden as
    representing the birth of consciousness and the necessity of expulsion from
    the womb/garden in order to become fully ourselves and make the return to
    God. That model is still exciting to me (OMG It still feels right and true
    for that story; but for Genesis 1, this is better than good.

  4. I have yet to figure out the mysterious touch points that send messages
    while I'm still writing them. That last sentence was supposed to read, That
    model is still exciting to me (OMG, Genesis is really true!); but for
    Genesis 1, this is better than good.

    Yes, the time investment in the Moritz video will be inhibiting--but it
    would be worth parceling out over a couple of sittings. Brilliant stuff.

    Thanks, Richard.

  5. NOOOOO!  Dang it Dr. Beck!  I can't get hooked on ANOTHER good blog!  I have homework to do!  :) 

  6. I'm not sure there needs to be a disjunction between an evolutionary/historical continuum and a singular characteristic or set of characteristics that establish the imagio dei. At f. 454 paper goes from being hot to being on fire. When human beings went from hunter gatherers to agricultural city dwellers, they began to change the world through technology in ways that were qualitatively different than before: Instead of adapting the self better to the world (knives and spears for hunting, for instance) agriculture is an adapting of the world for the self. That Adam and Eve are placed in a garden at the end of God's creative action seems very telling to me in this: they continue to make choices about their place in the world--little creators doing God's work on a very small scale.

    This in no way challenges Moritz' arguments against homo singularis--he convinced me--but it does challenge the dilemma with which he began. And it has the strengths of maintaining an analogy to serve as a basis of a likeness (Moritz does continue to use the phrase imagio Dei); it does so without relying on an "essence" (it's a functional likeness); and to at least a non-expert eye, it seems to jibe well with the biblical story. 

    Well, I suppose this is about as cheeky as comments get, but that's what I think.    

  7. Tracy, if I'm reading you correctly (and I may not be without sufficient coffee this morning), you're suggesting that although traits once believed exclusive to humans that Moritz addresses early in his lecture are, in fact, found in other creatures, imagio Dei might have more to do with the degree in which they're found in humanity rather than whether the traits themselves are unique. Am I right? I was thinking along those lines as well. I find Mortiz' homo sanctus argument compelling, but perhaps the degree to which humans exhibit certain traits could explain why God would elect them from among the animal kingdom.   

  8. Hi Jason,

    I think that you framed my thoughts nicely. Some of what you ask would be strictly a matter of nomenclature and definition. Does a sufficient degree of difference justify a unique classification? Well, I think a biologist would say no as a matter of strict fact, but yes as a matter of convienience: Biologists name species, after all, without assigning them unique essences. But I had the further point too, that sometimes enough extra input makes a qualitative change in the output. Go beyond the tolerance of a steel tube and it bends rather than works as a lever. The examples are too numerous to even begin to catalog. So my additional point is that perhaps with human beings the degree of innovation we are capable of made a qualitative break with other living beings in the environment. To me that seems pretty clear. And it has applications to Moritz' view, I think. In fact the idea that with humanity the break from adapting to the environment to adapting the environment to ourselves seems to open up the possibility of sin, which ties in precisely with the biblical narrative. But I'm just an interested amateur. So this ought to all be posed as a question. (It is a bit embarrassing to go on so when I have no training in these areas.)

  9. I've made it through the first half.

    Reliance on "continuous spectrum" as a way of understanding lots of data is problematic. I don't know of any natural phenomenon that is genuinely continuous --- certainly not light frequencies: they're discrete. We're not dealing with infinitely many organisms here but with a misguided attempt to generalize from our favorite partition of a finite set.

    Generalization is the whole of the problem he identifies in the first part. The rest is a distraction.

  10. Another thing: lots of examples come to mind of quantitative differences manifesting qualitative differences. Uniformly random walkers on a 2-D grid can't get "lost" (in a technically precise sense that I'll leave out here); such walkers on a 3-D grid *can* get "lost."

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  14. "how humans can be the Imago Dei (the Image of God) in light of evolutionary history. Try doing te opposite. Try imagining "evolutionary history" as we understand it, in light of what the Bible teaches inductively speaking. Even if you don't believe it, tr it as a philosphical experiment.

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