One of the less obvious blessings from which we benefit not only here at the Hump of the Camel, but more widely, is that creation is seriously on the theological agenda at all. Wherever we stand on origins, it’s hard to remember that for much of the twentieth century, creation doctrine was sidelined in most branches of the Church.
I was made aware of this in another book I’ve been lent, God and World in the Old Testament (2005) by Terence E Frethheim, which looks to be a good read between parties of relatives over Christmas. He points to a number of reasons why teaching on creation (rather than Creationism) was so neglected for so many decades, from the overemphasis on personal salvation both in Evangelicalism and Liberalism in their diverse ways, to the retreat from considering God’s role in nature through the apparent triumph of naturalistic explanations for everything. These reasons also included the tendency to see the creation texts in terms of a “primitive stage” of Israel’s religion (a tendency I noted last time in Claus Westermann, though he’s better than many of that time), and to be blind to the Bible’s ongoing celebration of creation as God’s active work.
I might add to that the general lack of interest in nature as being “fallen” with mankind in many branches of the Church. Why bother with nature when it’s corrupt and headed for destruction anyway? And I would also add that lack of concern with the natural world was never universal – I remember the thoroughly conservative Evangelical Fact and Faith films of the 1960s, marvelling at the information conveyed in the honey-bee’s dance and so on.
Things have now changed radically, for a mixture of secular and theological reasons, and very much for the better. It’s now possible to be enraptured with the world God has created and not see that as somehow a denial of the work of Christ, but as entirely integral to it.
Those of us in the origins or the science-faith discussions may be frustrated by everybody else involved, but there’s actually a host of positive opportunities on the table: the rediscovery of Scripture’s creation teaching itself by theologians and Bible scholars, attempts to show the compatibility of natural science with faith in the Theistic Evolution camp, challenges to the old assumptions of naturalisc materialism in the ID camp and even outside the religious field, the taking seriously of ecological concerns and the need to fulfil our own custodial creation-role (particularly strong in recent Catholic thought), and so on, and so on.
So this Christmas, as all of us here wish you a blessed time, and give you heartfelt thanks for your readership and comments over the last year, let’s be more grateful than ever not only for the wonderful world our God has made in, through and for Christ, but for the fact that we ourselves are now so much more aware of what was for so long neglected.