Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Masson, Robert L.
Through a careful integration of theological, philosophical, and the natural scientific sources, the biblical concepts of the image of God and the knowledge of good and evil have the potential to remain important and appropriate descriptors of the human condition, including the possibility and necessity of human morality. This study employs French philosopher Paul Ricoeur's notion of "second naïveté" understanding to demonstrate the hermeneutical significance of contemporary biocultural evolutionary theory for reinterpreting and reappropriating these ancient symbols of Christian anthropology as terms equipped to encapsulate a morally fruitful and intellectually honest conceptual framework for constructing, conducting, and evaluating theological anthropology and ethics today. Forging and polishing this hermeneutical lens for the purpose of recasting a biblically-based picture of humanity involves alloying these ancient concepts with others from the interrelated fields of cognitive linguistics, evolutionary psychology, and emergence. Viewed through this lens, the dissertationing chapters of Genesis describe human beings as creatures wrought of the creation and embedded within it to the same extent as all other creatures. Though ordinary in every other aspect, human creatures are unique in that they have emerged with an ambivalent condition of freedom through which they bear the vocation to re-present the creative beneficence of the God who shares power and does not create through violence.
I defend this thesis in seven chapters. In the first chapter, I introduce the research topic, goals, and hermeneutical procedure for this study. Chapters 2 and 3 describe biocultural evolution and evolutionary psychology within a non-reductive emergentist perspective as sources and resources for contemporary theological anthropology. In chapter 4, I propose an articulation of the doctrine of the imago Dei within this evolutionary worldview. Chapter 5 situates the knowledge of good and evil vis-à-vis biocultural evolution and recent biblical studies. I then construct a proposal in chapter 6 for how this second naïveté understanding of the image of God and the knowledge of good and evil dissertations up new frameworks and frontiers for fundamental theological ethics. Finally, chapter 7 offers a summative and prospective conclusion to this study and its likely impact on my future research.