What does it mean to be human? From the ASA LISTSERV:
From: "Howard J. Van Till" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: ASA <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2003 09:20:58 -0400
Subject: Re: Evolution and Salvation
>From: Walter Hicks <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> I suspect that many resist the notion of evolution and an old earth partially because it is difficult to sort out just when "creatures" became mankind and to whom does salvation by Jesus Christ apply, historically? Evidently Abraham made the grade. Who else prior to him?. I suspect that many theologians on this list have tackled that question. Any suggestions?>
I cannot speak as a theologian, but....
Yes, we do encounter some conceptual difficulty in specifying a hard
boundary between not yet human and human along a continuous evolutionary
parent/offspring line. At what particular point would the uniquely human
qualities of God awareness, moral awareness, and moral responsibility become
present at an "adequate" level? Some millions of years ago the creatures
present on Earth had no awareness of God (The Sacred), no awareness of the
moral difference between right and wrong, no sense of responsibility to do
the right and to shun the wrong. Now there are such creatures -- us. Those
uniquely human qualities may have been there potentially millions of years
ago (to be actualized much later in time), but not yet actually.
Furthermore, many persons find it impossible to think of these human
qualities as something that could develop "naturally," that is, without some
form of divine intervention.
However, It seems to me that we encounter a similar difficulty in a
phenomenon much closer to our own experience -- our own development from a
fetus to an adult. Some years ago, as a fetus, each of us had no awareness
of God (The Sacred), no awareness of the moral difference between right and
wrong, no sense of responsibility to do the right and to shun the wrong.
Now, as adults, we have all of those qualities. Those uniquely human
qualities may have been there potentially in our fetal stage (to be
actualized later in time), but not yet there actually. Uniquely human
capabilities developed within us gradually. Furthermore, it seems that we
are comfortable with the idea that we developed these capabilities naturally
as part of normal human development (without divine intervention, using the
developmental gifts of the created world).
Question: If we are comfortable with this lack of discontinuity in our own
gradual and natural developmental history from fetus to adult, why should we
be uncomfortable envisioning a similar lack of discontinuity in the history
of the species?
Howard Van Till