Searching for Truth in “The Truth Project” — Lesson 7: Sociology — The Divine Imprint

Lesson 7 of The Truth Project (TTP) is another mix of good Christian theology and poor scientific reasoning.  For Del Tackett, it’s not enough to have biblical support for God’s ideal social order for mankind in general and the Church in particular.  It needs scientific support as well.  The danger of this approach is obvious:  When the scientific facts contradict the reasons for belief, belief itself is left holding the bag and subject to unnecessary ridicule.
Tackett introduces Lesson 7 by declaring God to be a God of order (cf. Job 25:2 [NIV] and 1 Cor 14:33).  Because God is a God of order, it is understood that He created directly mankind’s social order from the beginning, leaving His “divine imprint” to direct human society toward an ideal relationship structure that reflects God’s own triune nature, a nature which delineates specific roles among the three persons of the Godhead.  These roles, in turn, necessitate certain persons of the Trinity to possess, in some cases, authority over the other person (or persons) in the Godhead, and requiring submission by the person (or persons) so as to preserve divine unity.  From an orthodox Christian perspective, this is acceptable theology (although I find some of his analogies forced and potentially problematic).  Tackett’s argument, however, is tarnished by his anti-evolution obsession.
Tackett claims that the “exquisite design and intricacy” of a chicken egg poses a problem to evolutionists:  order.  Because “randomness results in chaos and disorder,” the so-called “random” forces of evolution could not have produced (and cannot produce) order on the level of a chicken egg (or, for that matter, even a single-celled organism).  And since God is a God of order, evolutionary processes cannot have been the means by which God created.  It quickly becomes clear that Tackett desires to extend his anti-evolution bias to sociology, claiming that desirable, orderly social systems could not have evolved via natural means and, because both the “ideal” human family and the “ideal” Christian Church reflect the triune Godhead in certain ways, it is unimaginable to him that these orderly social systems could have resulted from the “random” forces of cultural evolution. 
 
As I’ve noted a number of times in this series, evolution is anything but random.  It is certainly indifferent, but evolutionary processes do not disobey the natural laws which govern the workings of the cosmos.  Even the results of a “random” coin toss are determined by the laws of nature.  If it were possible to enter the Matrix and take advantage of the realm of “bullet time,” one could feasibly calculate the results of a coin toss by taking into account all sorts of factors such as air density, the force of the toss, the angle at which your thumb strikes the coin, etc.  These things only appear random as a result of our limited ability to ascertain their direct causes or calculate particular magnitudes.  So much for the God of evolution being a God of disorder.
As for the evolution of human civilization, it’s obvious that while ascertaining which cultural factors may have played a role in the extinction of some of our hominid cousins is extremely difficult (if not impossible), this much is clear:  Just as hominid biological structures are subject to the forces of natural selection, hominid cultural practices are also subject to environmental pressures.  If a certain aspect of hominid culture leads to a particular group’s extinction, cultures with superior social constructs which survive successfully in a particular environment will remain; if a certain aspect of an individual’s behavior leads to his shunning, that individual tends to adapt his behavior in such a way that it benefits him.  So what if the best aspects of human civilization arose through “cultural selection”?  What’s wrong with God taking the best of human societal structures—products of eons of cultural evolution—and declaring them to be ideal?  While I can affirm, from a certain point of view, Tackett’s declaration that “God has designed these [social] spheres,”  I must disagree with the manner by which Tackett claims God “designed” them.  From an evolutionary creationist perspective, God’s modus operandi in regard to the fundamental ethos that undergirds human civilization is identical to the manner by which God designed the body you use to read this blog: via natural (or, in this case, cultural) evolutionary processes.  Although ideal human societal structures may indeed reflect certain aspects of God’s triune nature as revealed in Scripture, it is not necessary for them to have been “created” de novo in the Garden of Eden, as a literal interpretation of Scripture would suggest.  From an evolutionary creationist perspective, God’s “divine stamp” didn’t come upon human social order until after our fundamental ethos arose naturally.  It came about later through God’s occasional intervention in human affairs over the course of thousands of years, beginning with the call of Abraham.  From there, human society was remolded, refashioned, and transformed gradually, finding its maturity with the advent of the Christ, and aging (sometimes not so gracefully) into the future by a process of “divine selection.”  In short, humanity’s God-endorsed social order … evolved.  
Moreover, because God accommodated His ideals to His chosen people gradually, co-opting existing symbols and traditions to transform Israel from a physical entity into a spiritual one, there can be no true homology between God’s nature (as revealed in Scripture) and His ideal social order, especially when viewing the entirety of Scripture.  The cultural evolution of God’s chosen people, from the early days of Israel’s history to the early days of the Church and beyond, is clearly seen in both Scripture and Church history.  To assert that a snapshot of 15th-century BC Israelite society (commanded by God Himself through Moses) and the culture of those who support Focus on the Family represent the same divine social order is to deny both anthropological reality as well as the theological diversity so evident throughout Scripture. 
After his discourse on God’s ideal social order as it relates to the family and the Church, Tackett enters into a general discussion of why human society has failed to live up to God’s standard.  “What happened at the Fall?” he asks rhetorically.  “Relationships were severed and damaged between God and man, man and man, and man and creation.”  As much as I disagree with the “historical” aspect of his argument, I do believe this to be true … from a “certain point of view” (HT: Obi-Wan Kenobi).  Assuming God’s existence, humanity is certainly in rebellion against the Creator.  Without exception, we sin against each other.  And we clearly aren’t in harmony with nature.  Despite the fact that I reject the historicity of Adam and Eve, as a Christian, I can affirm the theology behind the biblical language.  What Genesis does so well is capture the state of humanity, in all of its sinfulness (Gen 6:5).  It captures all of the familial disharmony that we experience today (Gen 4; 16:1-6; 25:23).  And it offers eternal life to those who obey His commands (Gen 2:9, 16-17; cf. Gen 3:22).  No refutation of Genesis’ historicity or cosmology can change that.
Returning to my main point, Tackett’s claim for objective, scientific support for the ideal Christian society flies in the face of established scientific and historical fact.  While Tackett appeals to Psalm 19:1-4 

The heavens declare the glory of God,
   and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
   and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
   whose voice is not heard.
Their voice
goes out through all the earth,
   and their words to the end of the world.

and Job 12:7-8

But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
   the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
   and the fish of the sea will declare to you.

Tackett fails to heed the very call to which he demands we listen!  He ignores the fossil record.  He ignores the evolutionary history embedded in our DNA.  He ignores the findings of anthropology.  He ignores the culturo-theological diversity in Scripture.  He refuses to let our ever-expanding knowledge of human history and the cosmos inform him.

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11936967193312505472 Human Ape

    Your blog has a poll that asks "ON WHAT SIDE OF THE CREATION/EVOLUTION DEBATE DO YOU FALL?"

    But there is no debate. Every educated person knows evolution is a basic scientific fact. Every educated person knows magical creation is bullshit.

    You also talk about "EVOLUTIONARY CREATIONISM".

    Sorry, but those two words don't belong in the same sentence. Creationism = magic. There's no magic in any branch of science, including evolutionary biology.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10404666980227401390 Mike Beidler

    Human Ape,

    Firstly, I love your pseudonym. Totally on board with it.

    Secondly, your real purpose in commenting here was merely to insult, with no desire to interact intelligently with my post. If you want to speak your mind in that manner, keep it on your own blog.

    Lastly, I really don't have time for your childish, sociopathic "theism is a mental illness" vitriol. (You'll never see me call atheists mentally ill. In fact, I respect the position more than you know.) I prefer to discuss evolution with more irenic (and intelligent) atheists.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  • http://undeception.com Steve

    Thanks, Mike.

    While I can affirm, from a certain point of view, Tackett's declaration that "God has designed these [social] spheres," I must disagree with the manner by which Tackett claims God "designed" them.

    This reminds me of Steve Matheson's quote about ID, which is paraphrasable as something like, "I believe that everything is designed, but 'design', for me, isn't the answer: it's the question."

    To assert that a snapshot of 15th-century Israelite society (commanded by God Himself through Moses) and the culture of those who support Focus on the Family represent the same divine social order is to deny both anthropological reality as well as the theological diversity so evident throughout Scripture.

    That, my friend, deserves a standing ovation.

    I also appreciate your calling attention to the fact that Psalm 19.1-4 is a call to embrace the finding of science as an expression of our faith, not a prooftext for special creationism.

  • Anonymous

    Mike,

    Near the last part of your comments, you mention that although you did not believe in the historicity of early Genesis, that the Bible is clear about the inherent sinfulness of man.

    Whether it is our God given free will or whatever that allows us to send, God still created everything knowingly.

    Wouldn't it then be God and not man who is ultimately responsible for our sins.

  • Anonymous

    Mike,

    This is Brian and I signed on as anonymous on the last comment, but forgot to sign my name at the bottom. Sorry.

    Brian Rutledge

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14245825667079220242 Rhology

    If anyone cares to read a deconstruction of this post, I invite you to do so and to comment liberally (pun intended).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13436948899560519608 qraal

    Hi Mike
    Head-in-the-sand for any theologian who ignores evolution or the implications of sociobiology. But some of the most cogent arguments for the Gospel can come from an evolutionary understanding – our Falleness has a mechanism in the form of 'selfish genes', and so many other connections, once we get past the literalistic hang-ups that "Genesis" in interaction with post-Enlightenment rationality has given us.

  • JR

    I would suggest that a closer reading of history would lead to the conclusion that our society didn’t “evolve,” in the sense that democracy or moral/ethical laws causes a society to survive better. In fact, dictatorships are more efficient from an evolutionary standpoint especially since it would obviously be the dictators whose genes would be passed on most successfully.