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.