Ratzinger Again . . . “The Creation of the Human Being”

Although I agree with the position that belief in creation and evolutionary theory do not exclude each other, and I also agree that the contingency of evolution by natural selection parallels certain aspects of creation belief, I must admit I am a bit reluctant to identify divine action with the process of natural selection as Ratzinger does in this quote.
I think the quote is still far too anthropocentric to be able to bridge the gap between blind chance (Monod) and divine love (Christianity). Mikael Stenmark‘s analysis might be helpful here. He proposes that there is a difference between God willing humans to emerge and God willing sentient life to emerge. He compares this with parents expecting a child. There is a difference between longing for your child to be born, loving it even when it’s still in the womb, regardless of the child being a boy or a girl, and longing for your child to be born, after having decided it should be a boy, named Rick, with an IQ of 135, a taste for music, a talent for soccer, and so on. Stenmark argues that Christians could think about God’s love along the same lines: God was expecting a sentient life form, loving it even before it was born. He did not a priori impose norms that would limit His love to creatures that could meet these norms.
I think Stenmark has a point. God loved the Neanderthal as much as Homo sapiens, just as He loves every living creature. To think of God’s love as somehow limited goes against the grain of creation belief, I think. But following this line of reasoning raises, in its turn, new questions on what it means to be Imago Dei.

Human Action and God

Ratzinger on the humble truth of the creation of man from dust:

We are told that God formed the man of dust from the ground. There is here something at once humbling and consoling. Something humbling because we are told: You are not God, you did not make yourself, you do not rule the universe; you are limited. You are a being destined for death, as are all things living; you are only earth. But something consoling too,, because we are also told: The human being is not a demon or an evil spirit, as it might occasionally appear. The human being has not been formed from negative forces, but has been fashioned form God’s good earth. Behind this glimmers something deeper yet, for we are told that all human beings are earth. Despite every distinction that culture and history have brought about, it is still true that we are, in the last resort…

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2 thoughts on “Ratzinger Again . . . “The Creation of the Human Being”

  1. Tom, ik ben het volledig met je eens. Maar de afgelopen maanden heb ik gemerkt dat dit idee toch veel mensen tegen de haren instrijkt. Immers, betekent dat dan dat God niets van de mens vraagt? Mijn punt is dit: als God slechts bewuste wezens heeft gewild, betekent dit dat God niet een exclusieve relatie heeft met de mens. Weliswaar een unieke, maar niet noodzakelijkerwijs een exclusieve. (Andere bewuste wezens elders zouden wellicht op hun eigen manier een unieke relatie tot God kunnen hebben.) Maar als dit zo is, dan rijst er voor veel gelovigen een probleem.

    Want veel gelovigen hebben toch zo’n idee dat hun heil afhangt van hun wijze van leven. Dat God specifiek van hen iets vraagt. Ergens denken veel gelovigen toch in termen van beloning en straf (ook al ontkennen ze dit wanneer je het direct vraagt). Maar als God weliswaar een unieke maar geen exclusieve relatie heeft tot de mens, en bovendien – zoals jij met Stenmark betoogt – geen a priori eisen stelt aan wat voor wezens zouden ontstaan, betekent dit dan dat we dat hele idee dat ons heil afhangt van ons gedrag moeten loslaten? (Ik weet natuurlijk dat dit laatste in het protestantisme al – officieel tenminste – het geval is, maar daar bestaat een predestinatieleer met toch weer a priori beslissingen van God, en bovendien het gevaar dat God volstrekt willekeurig wordt.)

    Hoe kijk jij hier tegenaan? (In de hoop dat ik mijn punt toch wat duidelijk heb kunnen maken.)

    1. Dear Taede,
      Thank you for your thoughtful remarks. This is indeed one of the questions I had in mind at the end of my post. I hope you don’t mind if I first try to summarize your question for those readers who do not speak Dutch.
      You argue that, although you agree with what I’ve said in my blogpost, this could raise problems for many Christians. Does the idea that God has a unique, but non-exclusive relation with humanity imply that God’s grace does not depend on how we act, on how we live? I hope this gives a fair account of your remarks; if not, please let me know!
      Stenmark does not – at least in my recollection – develop the analogy with the birth of a child further. But pressed by your question, I would like to look for an answer to it by using this analogy again. Because, as a parent, I love my children. But I do not always aprove of what they do. My disaproval does not cancel my parental love. I think there a first element of distinction might be found regarding the relation between God’s loving grace and human actions, specifically on my suggestion that God does not have a priori norms for what kind of sentient creatures should emerge. The way I formulated that might be open for misunderstanding, so I would like to qualify it a bit, referring to Stenmark again (How to Relate Science and Religion, p. 164): sentience should imply freedom, making choices of your own, self-awareness, etc.
      With this qualification I hope to have made clear that I do not want to argue that we have a blanco cheque, that God warrants us to do whatever we want. Rather, I hope this shows why I think the work of Philip Hefner is so important. His concept of “created co-creator” helps us to think theologically about our place in the tree of life, about the abilities our species has acquired through evolution, and about the responsibilities that come with those. God loves us, but we can (and do) disappoint him at times.
      I know this is not a complete answer to your rich question, sorry. But I hope this did clarify things a bit.

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