John R. Schneider, ‘Recent Genetic Science and Christian Theology on Human Origins: An “Aesthetic Supralapsarianism »‘, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith; Volume 62, Number 3, September 2010, 196-212
Recent genomic science strongly supports the theory of common ancestry. To classical Protestants, particularly, this theory seems incompatible with Scripture, most especially with the “historical Fall,” which Protestants presume to be manifestly biblical and so have cemented it securely into their confessions and theology as a whole. Nevertheless, John Schneider proposes that it is important for traditional Protestants to consider alternatives to this essentially “Augustinian” view. He invites readers to examine Eastern thinking (mainly in Irenaeus of Lyon) together with a minority of Protestants (such as Karl Barth and supralapsarian Calvinists), for whom the Incarnation and Atonement are the purpose of creation from the beginning. Their understanding differs from the execution of divine “Plan B,” as implied by the Augustinian western version of an unintended “fall” from utopian first conditions. Schneider appeals to a fresh reading of the book of Job in support of an “aesthetic supralapsarianism,” which sustains Protestant virtues of biblical authority, divine sovereignty, and grace, while opening avenues to compatibility with evolutionary science.
About the author:
MA in theology, Fuller Theological Seminary
DD (Doctor of Divinity), University of Cambridge
Taught Christian theology at Westmont College (1981–1985)
Has taught theology at Calvin College (1986-)
Summary and Critique
Basically, this author explores two views in the Bible (mainly OT) that account for the suffering, evil and imperfection in this world. From the dominant interpretation of Genesis 1-3, which John Schneider accredits to the Augustinian tradition, God created a perfectly harmonious world without suffering and death, and evil becomes a problem only after the Fall (Adam’s sin).
However, Schneider finds this view unconvincing on both moral and scientific grounds.
The evolutionary theory held by many today tend to believe that the first human beings are earth should be numbered at least 20,000, rather than 1 or 2. (This I explained in [文摘] 《聖經》創世記載的觀念整合與科學詮釋). On top of this, the first human beings should be extremely like animals in the sense of their moral capability, biological impulses, adaptation to the nature, and rationality.
So now, is God morally justified by leaving the first human beings- as moral novice- to confront the most cunning and shrewd species of HIS CREATION, namely, the serpent, and then blame them at their moral failure?
Not only is God’s world NOT so benign and innocent to begin with (besides cunning serpent, there were man-eating animals we suppose), but God also
inexplicably wanders off, purposely leaving moral novices alone in Eden with a master con artist who was out to wreck them and everything else God cared about, and then God wanders back only toseem shocked at what they had done, giving a good scolding, cursing the earth, taking away the serpents’ larynx and legs, and eventually wringing his hands in regret that he had made humans, and (literally) drowning his sorrows by washing most of them away. (204-205)
The solution, for the author, is to abandon this Augustinian dichotomy of perfection (creation) and imperfection (fall). It also means the abandonment of a historical fall (only to be substituted by an existential fall).
I am quite surprised that a Calvin College professor could venture so far away from the conventional interpretation to the rejection of the Historical Fall. Even though the proposal seems progressive and positive change to me, I still beg to disagree going so radical. In [文摘] 《聖經》創世記載的觀念整合與科學詮釋 I have mentioned that Adam could have well been a specially elect human being, to possess God’s living spirit and entitled as God’s Son, to be distinguished by his rationality and moral capability from all his contemporary homo sapiens. This preserves the historical Fall and also accounts for Cain’s « weird concern » and life style outside the Eden (Genesis 4) as well as the multiple-location/number anthropological theory of human origins.
But at any rate, for Karl Barth, Genesis 1-11 is saga and is beyond historical/scientific investigations. Its narrative function all points to the existential. This is why even though Barth holds on to the historical Fall, it is historical only as far as it is historic. To explain this point in Barth’s other words: there was no golden age of human perfection (determined by the pre-Fall Adam); human being is created to be followed by sin. That is to say, as soon as he faces his firstmoral encounter that is by « existential » and « personal » (Ricoeurian narrative) definition determines him as a human being, he falls.
This will be my critique against Schneider. When he draws from the well of Irenaeus and Barth, he paints too lightly the thick connection between Barth and Augustine.
But then, Schneider offers to good food for thought in the latter part of the paper where he explores God’s revelation to Job in his plight.
In Job 38-42, we find out that God is not opposed to the causes of the evil and chaos of the world. Rather, God initiates them while remaining above them.
One of Martin Luther’s biggest theological struggles is to comprehend God as the causes of everything, good and bad. Job, for a large part, also faces the struggle and eventually comes to terms with such a God through personal encounter.
Evidently, God uses Leviathan, Behemoth, vultures, violent whirlwind, and thunder to manifest His “omni-causality” over even the chaotic aspects of life and nature (in ancient Near Eastern world, these elements were first associated with Baal and other pagan gods); even Satan is His servant to achieve the ultimate goodness that only He Himself defines and knows.
One major flaw which Schneider perceives in the Augustinian theological framework is the dichotomous worldview of God and the Devil/human, of heaven and earth/hell. We need to free our concept of God from these false dichotomies in order to experience this God as big as He really is (Job 42:5).
The author says,
In my view, this is what Job “sees,” and this is what causes him to withdraw his question and to repent in “dust and ashes.” Job does not get (nor do we get) an explanation for why God has done these unfair things to him. He also gets no explanation as to how God might put these evils right, “defeat” them, as it were, by integrating them in all their disorder and ugliness into a perfectly ordered and beautiful plan (although this eventual victory of God is still embedded in the tradition the poet shapes).
What Job does “see” is that God is in complete command and mastery—he sees in a “second-person” sense what cannot be explained to him in “third-person” terms, apparently. He is able to see now with his own eyes (as it were) that God has “rightfully,” or “justly,” and not immorally or amorally, decided to make and to shape the world (and in microcosm, his own life) in this unexpected, undeserved, and painful way, including inexplicably great violence, disorder, suffering, and injustice. He sees in this nondidactic way that God is the sort of Being who knows exactly what he is doing and why, and that despite appearances, God is completely in control of the otherwise uncontrollable, chaotic situation. (207)
Behind the evil plan carried out by the Devil’s hand, loh and behold, it is indeed God’s hand.
What then, about the so-called « aesthetic supralapsarianism »? (The term coined by Schneider is confusing, for his inarticulate use of ‘aesthetic’ seems to betray his not-so-well-founded metaphysics.)
It is basically just Barth and postliberal Barthians have reiterated and articulated so well for so long time (but certainly I think we postliberals have the more articulated version):
Tthe word « supralapsarianism » is all about God’s plan to save before human beings have done wrong, for human being’s fall and the creation’s curse were not something unexpected to God upon the creation.
God has created the universe as a challenging playground to His sons and daughters to experience their own lives and grow in it (Rom 1:20-21). But God’s providential care is also constantly at hand so the challenge will not be too overwhelming (1 Cor 10:13). Ultimately, God has a salvation plan that stands both in continuity and discontinuity to His original creation of Adam. This is through Jesus Christ, who manifests the True humanity, and through whose name and power exclusively human beings will find the path to the eschaton, the ending goal of the universe where all things will be perfected and be united with God.
The history of the universe is not to go back to the alpha point like we are to revert to the status of just-born babies. Just like in the book of Job, the story neither stops at Job’s speechless silence (he was silenced because he was without speech!) and inner peace, nor is the ending a simple restoration of Job to his beginning status. Rather, blessed with blessings of double measure, bearing both his traumatic past and his new-found strength in the faith, Job reaches his ripe age on earth and actualizes his human potentiality (Job 42:10-17).
與之相對的是耶利哥王和他的軍兵與差役。耶利哥王和約書亞一樣是位居幕後的主使。他派出的人，對約書亞派出的人製造了生命的威脅。如此我們可以說，兩大政權對壘的代理戰爭（proxy war ）在這兩組人物的刻畫下就隱然成形了：在探子才剛踏入耶利哥的城門歇腳的當晚，就有情報傳到耶利哥王耳中，讓他立刻派出人（v.2）去逮捕約書亞派出的人（v.1）。象徵以色列政權興亡的兩個代表。而保障耶利哥政權和諧安定的戰士，就在此時如同死神（death）和活神（living God）耶和華的角力般，隔著喇合的妓女戶大門展開了。
· Joshua 2:1 於是二人去了、進入（enter into）到一個妓女名叫喇合的家裡、就在那裡躺臥（שׁכב=lay down ）。
· Joshua 2:3 耶利哥王派人到喇合那裡，說：「把那些進到你這裡（הַבָּאִ֤ים אֵלַ֙יִךְ =the men who are coming into thee），進了你家中的人（בָּ֣אוּ לְבֵיתֵ֔ךְ）帶出來（bring out），因為他們來是要窺探（dig a hole）全地的。」
· NET Joshua 2:4 But the woman hid the two men and replied, « Yes, these men were clients of mine （我的恩客）, but I didn’t know（יָדַע ，
這些躺臥（這個字眼在有異性同房的條件下都是指性）、進出（具有交合的意象）、認識（這個字眼在對象是異性時很多時候都是指性行為。例： ESV Genesis 4:1 ¶ Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain）where they came from.）、挖洞的希伯來文動詞，在翻譯過來時那些「不當的雙關意味」（double entendre）都被淡化掉了。從原文中解釋中我希望大家能感受原初經文那種詭異、讓人不舒服的氛圍，但講台上不能再講更露骨了，所以台下如果有年輕人，到現在都聽不懂我在解釋什麼的話，那我恭喜你們將是國家未來的棟梁。）
It might have been at the very time when the command was given to the Israelites, for, according to a common Hebrew manner of speech (see, for instance, 1 Sam. 16:10), the three days (ver. 22) may include the whole time spent by the spies in their exploring expedition. Out of Shittim. Literally, from the valley of acacias. in Joel 3:18 and Num. 33:49, the Israelites had sojourned for some time (see Num. 25:1; cf. 22:1), (Num. 33:48, 49, 50; 36:13; cf. Deut. 1:5). We may add that it has nowhere been said that they were at Shittim. We find this out from Num. 25:1.
Young men, as we are told in ch. 6:23, and therefore active, feet of foot as well as brave and prudent. All these qualities, as the subsequent narrative shows, were urgently required.
與創世紀十九章的互文：spies, the narrator appropriates language from the story of Lot and his angelic visitors in Genesis 19.33 Besides linguistic influences, the two episodes share the elements of strange visitors, a night setting, and characters escaping a doomed city, and also share similar storylines,34 ‘thereby placing [Josh. 2] against a dark and threatening backdrop’ similar to that of Genesis 19.35
 The name Mahlon (מַחְלוֹן, makhlon) is from מָלָה (malah, « to be weak, sick ») and Kilion (כִליוֹן, khilyon) is from כָלָה (khalah, « to be frail »). The rate of infant mortality was so high during the Iron Age that parents typically did not name children until they survived infancy and were weaned. Naomi and Elimelech might have named their two sons Mahlon and Kilion to reflect their weak condition in infancy due to famine – which eventually prompted the move to Moab where food was abundant.
 行淫的意向在申命記史觀中被等同於背道（idolatrous apostasy）。經文證據在在說明暗示著迦南的淫亂對以色列是很大的宗教威脅。以色列探子找上妓女，立刻準備小命不保。The narrator sets up the reader to expect nothing positive from Rahab.
 a confession of religious faith, and act of religious conversion. By thus placing Rahab in the role of a deus ex machina, the calamity motif, instead of being followed through logically, is unexpectedly transformed into a deliverance motif.）
Latin: « god out of the machine »; plural: dei ex machina) is a plot device whereby a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.
 Rahab’s covenant as common to ancient Near Eastern covenants: a preamble (v. 11); a prologue (w. 9-11); stipulations by Rahab and the spies (w. 12-13,18-20, respectively—in this case, protection for her house on condition of obedience); sanctions (w. 18-20—in this case, either salvation or death); an oath (w. 14,17); and a sign (w. 18-20), which is a cord. Though the elements do not occur in formal sequence