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Joel Belz: The problem of beginnings


WORLD Radio - Joel Belz: The problem of beginnings

Creation is key in distinguishing between human and animal ethics

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NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, June 27th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up next, another installment in our classic commentary series by WORLD’s founder. Today, Joel Belz looks at human origins as a foundation for modern ethics—whether for good or ill.

JOEL BELZ, COMMENTATOR: The long debate over how human beings got their start has sometimes appeared to be largely theoretic. I come to the discussion with a personal bias. I grew up assuming that God created all things of nothing, by the Word of His power in the space of six days and all very good. It was just that simple. Then along the way, I came to think that was pretty doctrinaire and presumptuous and decided a good bit more toleration was called for. Now in my later years, I've reverted to my childhood. And here's why.

The really critical point in this issue has to do with the distance God placed between human beings and the rest of his Creation when he made them. Was it a gradual, incremental distance? Or a radical one? Your answer to that question will in turn profoundly affect your answer to other questions like these: 1) Is it right for medical researchers to experiment with chimpanzees, dogs and other animals sometimes even deliberately bring about their disfigurement and death, in the search for cures for human disease? 2) Is it right for those researchers to undertake the same experiments with human beings? Does the age or physical or mental condition of those human beings have anything to do with the answer to that question?

The ability to think with ultimate clarity about any of those issues, I suggest, rests very importantly, on what God did as he created all things. If the first Adam and Eve were nothing more than blips along a single line that includes both their much less intelligent ancestors and their much more intelligent progeny, then there is no significant basis for maintaining distinctions between humans and animals in our present age.

Theistic evolutionists are likely to say, as one friend does to me, that the really critical issue is God's act. And that if God decided to breed that living soul into an advanced ape, there really is no qualitative difference in the act than if he breathed the soul into a handful of dust. Either act, he affirms, is a remarkable miracle. So why not choose the miracle that seems most in accord with what he regards as important paleontological evidence?

The problem was such a scenario is that it stands the Biblical record on its head. Where the Bible pictures a perfect man and a perfect woman, both reflecting God's glorious image and then plummeting from that exalted pinnacle, theistic evolutionists are forced to concoct some sort of ape man and ape woman who are suddenly and wondrously improved to be God's companions on Earth, but only to drop back with crushing quickness to a fallen state. Some reinterpretations of Genesis may work, but that one exhausts everybody's supply of hermeneutic elastic.

Christians can't have this both ways. Either God has two distinct categories of creation, humans and animals, or it doesn't matter too much if we make just one category when it comes to medical and ethical concerns. Or to put it another way, we might ask our evangelical friends who think there is a place for theistic evolution, if the differences aren't creational, what are they based on?

EICHER: That’s Joel Belz, reading a commentary titled “The Problem of Beginnings” from his book, Consider These Things. The column originally appeared in the February 29, 1988 issue of WORLD Magazine.

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