This is as you say, something we'll all have greater insight on hereafter, but it doesn't stop us trying in our ignorance to piece some sort of picture together. This is going to be like a brain dump, of where I currently stand in thought.
Re: the flood accounts, I think we should treat this separate from human (us-human) origins. Focus on piecing them together, if such is possible, separately, without imposing dates one way or the other. This isn't to ignore such do need to be reconciled, but we just have a lot of grey and even black areas in our knowledge, such that intellectual honesty demands we stop and say we do not have enough knowledge to be decided, even if this is what I see as possible.
That said, on the flood, I believe it is important to realise that we don't just have Israel's flood account, but literally 100s of flood accounts in various locations around the world. This needs explaining apart from the Bible, and simply saying every culture experiences floods just doesn't cut it for the similarities found in many. These various accounts, I attach great significance to. In fact, I would have likely written off Noah's Flood to the realm of fictional myth with theological benefit if it weren't for them.
Bruce Masse is really the expert here, so far as finding the truth in myths. He has successfully matched features in a range of myths to real historical events. It seems to be what he does. The book that changed my mind from local flood, to localised worldwide events at the same time, was after reading the book Noah's Flood: Literal or Figurative
by a Ronald L Conte Jr. I don't agree with Conte's "figurativeness", but I do think Day-Age thought (which is much more extensive than simply understanding the "days" as "ages") offers up better tools for navigating Scripture than what Conte presents. In the end, I think Conte is on the right track regarding a flood catastrophe.
I really think, the difficulty we, you and DBowling and myself are experiencing, is that for a long while we grew alongside of Reasons to Believe, and eventually out of their beliefs. I don't know about you, but to first read The Genesis Question
, first published in 1998, it all fit so nicely. Then books like the Fingerprint of God, seeing debates between Hugh Ross and Ken Ham. It was like the difference between "butter" and "cheese". Then they have discussions with secular scientists, and really seemed to hold their own. Yet, over much time, I felt RTB's dates and timings kept becoming muddied, and their responses weren't successfully dealing with my increasing doubts.
I remember first feeling troubled by their dates for "Peleg" and the land bridges happening around I believe it was 11K years ago. Then that got toppled, or seems to have too many inconsistencies, as mankind got pushed further back in time. Humanity then kept being pushed further and further backwards -- first it was 40-50k years ago, then 50-60k years ago, then 75k years ago maximum, and now 100-125k years ago. I mean, how on earth they stretch "genealogical gaps" so far back, I think they prefer to evade now, I don't know. It's just too much, and a 200k figure would knock it out of the park. So for me, the elastic band eventually snapped.
In a way, I resent them, for not being more intellectually honest, and just saying, look we previously postulated this, but it has failed in certain areas. I'm sure we're not the only Christians who have fallen to the wayside. I still think there is merit to much of their thinking, it isn't an all or nothing, and I do my best to now piece the puzzle together myself. Yet, RTB continue trying to hold a breaking ship together, and those who saw it break like you, DB, myself, well we were part of the collateral damage, and now left trying to really piece things together. So then, when someone like Heiser or Walton comes along, well, it's similar enough... but if there's something I've learnt, it's not to too quickly jump on anyone's bandwagon again. I have a better chance I think, of figuring out a picture myself that I can live with, than depending upon other apologetic organisations built up around one or two person's ideas who I don't know I can trust. I've been doing creation debates now for 20 years, quite strongly so, and it is really something I feel comfortable swimming in. I can keep on swimming while I try piece something together, and I think I've been doing just that the last couple of years.
So far as the flood is concerned, I took a closer look into it, and I really feel if there's to be an explanation had, that Masse is on the right track to explaining the Noah flood "myth" in context of all other world flood myths. Presenting evidence for a comet striking Earth approximately 5000 years ago with computer simulations of the destructiveness such would cause. For me right now, simply having a possible
explanation is enough, until our knowledge of the world increases. I'll keep floating on such a possibility. His ideas will either fall or become more sustained as time goes on. Time will tell, or I'll die first. But, we always have the support of truly 100s of flood myths with many similar features to them, often in the geography of their land. If it wasn't for such, I think my skepticism would put the Noah flood to rest, and simply rest alone on Jesus' words there was a man called Noah and a flood came and killed people (Luke 17:27).
As for humanities' origins, there is a glaring oddity in the evolutionary accounting of human origins, given the bursts onto the scene of higher levels of consciousness. As part of the puzzle, unlike RTB, I don't believe it is true that even fish are soulless, they have some sort of intelligence, and even creativity, even if such might be more mechanically coded into their nature (like the video above illustrates
). Elephants can learn to paint quite well
, in large part I believe because given our higher intelligence we tap into their soul and give them more freedom. They can even play music
, not well, but really do enjoy doing so once taught.
I think animals do experience a host of human (us-human) "spiritual" features, and exhibit such more or less in different areas. We seem to be able to unlock such "us-qualities" in various animals, perhaps not too much different to how our Lord God may have unlocked such in us (in singling us out for relationship). Hominids are particularly interesting, because presumably many physically like us did walk the earth. How much their soulish side was heightened, is anyone's guess. Today, physicalism likes to drain out the "soul", declare such an idea is all but dead, yet that doesn't stop in philosophy and even science "soul" becoming simply replaced with talk of higher and lesser levels of consciousness. We can talk in either way, it makes no difference to me (and as a side Thomas Nagel's Mind and Cosmos
really shines light on a big gap between physical evolution and consciousness). Animals possess higher and lesser states of consciousness. Some human species, not like us, but then like us physically, were Neanderthals. Built to be more hunter-like, and no doubt had a "mind" for creating more sophisticated tools than say chimps
(also this video
) that were oriented towards hunting live prey. Such may have accompanied also more primitive spiritual expression, simple paintings, basic ornaments, even a primitive capacity to mourn their dead (some believe various animals today even exhibit mourning their dead) -- yet clearly they weren't masters of pottery and complex tools like we use, which didn't happen until the last 20k years or later in time.
It's not until the agricultural boom, that we really see a dramatic improvement in sophistication that a species (us-humans) really start bending the natural environment to our way of life, rather than simply living within the natural environment. I'd attribute this to our level of intelligence, and indeed where God says to have dominion over creation. We have the ability to truly rise above nature, even our natural selves, to take advantage of all God's created -- true image bearers of God in the world. Such sadly, often leads to our abusing the created order, while others wish to look after it like good caretakers.
I think here, RTB might have influenced our thinking, leading us off down a wrong pathway, to see anatomically modern humans as just "us-humans". I think BioLogos here is on better ground in noticing differences between biology and spirituality where they say
We believe that God created humans in biological continuity with all life on earth, but also as spiritual beings. God established a unique relationship with humanity by endowing us with his image and calling us to an elevated position within the created order. ....
If the image of God refers to our spiritual capacities, God could still have used the natural process of evolution to create our bodies and human abilities. God could have used a miraculous process to create our spiritual capacities, or used some combination of natural processes and divine revelation to develop these capacities. Either way, God is the creator of our whole selves, including both our physical and spiritual aspects.
In a way, this doesn't differ much from what I believe. We do see what could be called "punctuated" spirituality here and there prior to 20k years ago, and then like the Cambrian explosion, this higher level of spirituality seems to burst onto the scene in full force. When it does, I think this is a good clue we're now dealing with "us-humans". And this picture better aligns with Scripture. Like I say, it's likely in the margin of error in timings. Such is the only thing that makes me uncomfortable, not having it all down-pat like the picture RTB often presented, but given how grey this whole area is, a real possibility
rather than (delusional ??) certainty
is one I can live with.