God’s Good Earth – Chapter 11: What difference does it make, anyway?

Here is a link to chapter 11 of my book.

It’s actually the last full chapter of the book (what shall we do in the evenings now?), though there is a Conclusion to come later in the week.

The chapter is an attempt to show that the argument of the book potentially affects quite a lot of Christian life – or to be more exact, that the error against which I’ve argued has affected much of Christian life adversely, to the detriment of theology, science, and the spiritual well-being of individuals and cultures.

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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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2 Responses to God’s Good Earth – Chapter 11: What difference does it make, anyway?

  1. Ron S says:

    Hi Jon,

    Just read your conclusion. I think I understand where you are coming from and while I agree with some of your points I suggest there is another way of addressing the issue.

    I see the problem as larger than you paint it. I believe a main reason for so much conflict these days is a due to a widespread reductionist tendency in society. It is everywhere! Some reduce the universe to merely a five-sensory, material domain that they can only measure and quantify while others reduce the Scriptures to detailed scientific blueprints. Even theology is not immune. Fundamentalists and Evangelicals alike have some driving desire to reduce all Scriptures to axiomatic, dictionary-like facts and effects that explain everything. Mathematicians realized last century that pure logic cannot axiomatically explain all mathematical concepts (see Gödel’s incompleteness theorems) yet modern scientists and theologians alike march to the beat of that all-reducing drum – one grand theory/theology of everything (TOE). It is futile – a cashing after the wind. Mathematicians have proven it and they acknowledge it, why can’t we?

    This leads to, as I witness on a constant basis, an abhorrence of paradoxes, tensions and opposed forces. Read anything these days and see if it even tolerates such concepts. And yet this is where God is at work – Abraham, Gideon, the Beatitudes, the Magnificat (Mary’s Song) and the Apostle Paul (“When I am weak…”) as He calls that which is not as if it were. The topsy-turvy, upside-down world of the Gospel cannot be reduced and exhaustively explained… but yet we try.

    I believe tension is the secret and should be embraced. Take the piano or the guitar; without tension on the strings there is no music. And yet the tension within a piano is amazing – almost 30 tons in a grand piano!

    There is a reason contemplation was once a valued Christian discipline, although now it is practically despised. We used to ponder the paradoxes and the partially inaugurated Kingdom of God. Now all we desire is a quick answer to explain it all in simple, easily understandable terms. I imagine you’re all too aware of the power of giving a specific name to a patient’s medical ills. It provides some curious relief to know we have a “real” condition, to understand what is happening on a microscopic level in our body but sometimes that is misinterpreted as a cure. So we have Reductionitis – THANKS! That explains EVERYTHING. And off we go…

    Creation may be both “very good” and “cursed” at the same time!

  2. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Hi Ron

    Thanks for reading all this way!

    I’m all for paradox, and agree that it’s (partly – hubris being another reason) why people disagree. For instance, it seems pretty easy to show that the raft of “Neosocinian” doctrines that have breached the sea-walls of Evangelicalism in the last couple of decades stems from an inability to live with paradoxes like the possibility of free-will with God’s omniscience and omnipotence, the possibility that Christ can be in practice God and man simultaneoulsy (or the Scriptures divine and human, come to that) and so on.

    At the same time, I’ve not infrequently come across the recourse to “paradox” as a cover for flat contradiction and incoherent ideas. That would seem to be the case in those versions of theistic evolution that insist that evolution is undirected not only in terms of efficient causation, but in any intention towards ends on the part of God – and then insists that God plans it all, and it’s a paradox. “Paradox speak” in that case sounds wise and undogmatic – but is, it seems to me, just lazy, or lacking in courage to settle for one worldview.

    So the question is where on that spectrum the “good creation” lies. I have to say that as far as I have studied the Scriptures, I’m not persuaded that there is a paradox to resolve, or accept, in what it teaches. I think the evidence has simply been misunderstood over the centuries – but my case for that is in the book, to accept or reject.

    Nevertheless, the point you made before about the condition of the heart in some way determining reality is not to be dismissed lightly. One remembers scriptures like “to the pure, all things are pure”, or “to the devious, you show yourself shrewd.”

    Over the years I’ve explored, a little, beginning with the thought of Arthur Eddington, the understanding that the “real” world cannot be separated from the world of rational perception, because all we can ever experience of reality is an interpretation through our senses and our minds. The idea of an objective reality through science is a willow-the-wisp – the world’s only objective reality is in God, and that, like ours, is a result of divine perception. One piece expressing those ideas is here.

    That’s in part what I had in mind in replying to a previous comment about what nature would do “naturally”, were God not involved. No involvement, no nature.

    So a cursed human being, in that sense, lives in a different world from a blessed one, though no change has come upon underlying reality. Perhaps it would be worth exploring just what degree of difference a “glass half full” and “glass half empty” mindset can make.

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