A biblical and christological creation – 1

In my last post and elsewhere I have attacked the root of the influental concept of creation understood as God’s self-emptying (in various forms) by showing the insupportability of such divine self-emptying from Scripture.

Ted Davis points out that at least kenosis focuses on Christ’s role in creation in a way that much Christian thought since the Enlightenment hasn’t. That seems a good enough reason, in the next few posts, to look at some biblical bases for a Christological approach to creation that are more in line, I hope, with theological orthodoxy. Maybe somebody will find some resources in these posts for thinking about the scientific questions. At least I think the exercise will provide a balance to methodologically naturalistic accounts of the world, and provide a corrective for some of the theological views that, perhaps, have arisen from such accounts, which in some ways run directly opposite to the flow of the biblical teaching.

In the first, fairly short, post I just want to sketch a few reasons why Christ may have been absent from so much of the discussion about creation since Enlightenment times, assuming Ted’s analysis to be correct.

My first suggestion is that with the Enlightenment’s emphasis on reason, creation has often been viewed in philosophical terms, using philosophical concepts like God as the First Cause, the possibility of the divine interacting with the material and so on. Christian theology was seen as largely irrelevant to this rational pursuit.

A second, not unrelated, issue is the influence of Socinian and Unitarian ideas on natural philsophy in the early modern period (and of atheism afterwards). Early scientists, it seems, tended to find one God a less messy concept than the Trinity, quite apart from the whole stress in the Enlightenment on the abandonment of traditional dogma. The Royal Society’s motto, Nullius in verba, didn’t encourage scientists to consider the non-empirically derived crucified Christ as an explanation of the natural word. Deism, of course, was equally attractive to followers of deterministic science, and didn’t much care which God had created things since he had long since gone to lunch anyway. Note how these forces also contribute to the still prevalent mindset that creation was a one-off material manufacturing job in time, rather than God’s ongoing activity in eternity, as the Bible teaches.

A third reason, particularly in the more recent creation/evolution debates, is the simple fact that nearly all attention has been focused on the Genesis 1 account of creation, in which God appears to do the job on his own before taking a rest (once again, failure to understand Genesis properly contributes to the “absent God” mindset). Linked to this is the fact that in popular theology there has been an unfortunate and untheological disruption between God, understood as the Father, who created the world and Christ, the Son, whose business is to redeem people. The false dichotomy set up thereby between a distant and cold Father and a warm and caring Son feeds into all kinds of other errors, too, from God the cosmic child abuser to, I suspect, the crucified God cosmologies that see creation as necessarily heartless and cruel if only the impassible Father were involved.

Those, then, are three possible reasons for a-christological treatments of creation by Christians. Please add any more you can think of in the comments. The remedy for these, as for all theological problems, is this text from Isaiah 8.20:

To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word they have no light of dawn.

We’ll see in the next post that this verse contains one of our keywords to a Christ-orientated view of creation.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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One Response to A biblical and christological creation – 1

  1. GD GD says:

    As I have mentioned previously, the use of words and discriptions that are put forward as the knowledge of God brings with it a number of problems, even before we focus on specific errors in current theology, and increasingly in the way atheists attack belief in God. For example, the central theme of Christianity is that God gave his only begotten son to die an agonising death, for a world that is separated from God because of sin. Yet our knowledge of God is that he is all powerful, holy, and just. Considered in this manner, it follows the central theme in Christianity is contradictory, in that belief in an all-powerful being would include a God who would willingly allow his son to die, at the hands of sinners, who hate God’s son because he shows their perversity. This example illustrates the problem arising from conceptualised knowledge of God. Reason would dictate that a father with sufficient power would intervene and save his son from the actions of perverse people, and human experience shows that this is the case. Then what of God? Is he less than human? A case may also be made within a human context, that God is so merciful and forgiving, and cares for us to the point of sacrificing His son so that we would know how much He loves humanity. They portray God in an (insanely) heroic type, and humanity as so worthy that no action by God would seem good enough, but God never gives up trying to prove himself to us.

    These examples illustrate the problem arising from the notion that God may be described by human attributes, and that human language would convey the correct meaning. It may cause us to question beliefs of the divine that human beings acquire by sense based experiences and intellectual endeavour. The paradox becomes especially serious when it occurs because human attributes are equated with Godly attributes from concepts provided by philosophy.

    Thoughts of God are the result of the Holy Spirit of God. It is not possible to believe that a human being can think God in any manner. Only the Holy Spirit can know the things of God. I note that Christ, as the teacher to his disciples, asked them who they thought Christ was. (“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”… He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Mat 16:17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven”). Christ himself is showing this cannot be taught as in a classroom by a teacher. In this example, all of the other people who heard Christ would have comprehended the teaching if it was simply communicated knowledge. Christ is the revelation itself but this revelation is such that God reveals this to a human being.

    A great deal of debate has occurred on God and the Creation; after the Medieval philosophers, natural philosophy became prominent with two overall views: (1) God acted as He willed when He created the Universe and was actively engaged in the creation as He wished (voluntarism) and (2) God established immutable laws which are etched on all things, and He ensures these are maintained in the Creation (Intellectualism). Interest in these debate increased mainly due to the notion of laws of nature, which seem to have now become entangled with the Law of God.

    Within this discussion, it is sufficient to state that God as Creator establishes a reality we identify as the Universe. The Universe (or Creation) included as matter, energy, space and time; all are knowable to human beings. God is not subject to anything in His creation. However, it is important to note that God is Sacred and Holy, while human beings are not. It is this separation that underpins all discussions regarding human knowledge, including that of the Creation. The Heavens declare the Glory of God; they do not chatter theorems and equations. The capacity of human beings to know and conceive of ideas related to the Universe is a unique aspect that is re-enforced by the discovery of universal constants. This indicates a uniqueness to human beings (the human spirit).

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