A plea to pastors: teach creation, not creationism

A few weeks ago, Michael Spencer asked the Lutheran members (and lurkers) at the Boar’s Head Tavern to answer the question, “One thing that really sucks about Lutheranism is…”

I find this a very easy question to answer. The feature of Actually Existing Lutheranism which causes me the most anguish and dismay is what I have described elsewhere as its “Babylonian captivity to young-earth creationism”. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, in particular, requires all pastors to subscribe to a 1932 statement of beliefs which insists on six-day creation, to the exclusion of any other interpretation or understanding of the biblical doctrine of creation.

This causes me anguish and, let’s be honest, anger for a number of reasons. First, it does the atheists’ work for them, by agreeing with their own insistence that evolution and atheism are basically the same thing. On a personal level, I find it agonising to think of my own children – with their interest in science – being told that, in effect, they have to choose between accepting evolution and being Christians (I know too well the choice I made when presented with that choice). Second, I believe it will, in the not-so-long term, be hugely destructive for the Lutheran church. The LCMS has lashed confessional Lutheranism to the mast of the good ship Creationism, and when that ship goes down (as it will), it will take confessional Lutheranism with it.

But most importantly, Lutheran pastors can end up spending so much time arguing the case for young-earth creationism (and denigrating, and all-too often wildly misrepresenting, evolution and science as a whole) that they forget to teach the doctrine of creation itself.

The Lutheran church possesses one of the finest statements of the doctrine of creation ever written: Luther’s exposition of the first article of the Creed, in the Small Catechism. In this, Luther explains the first article (“I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth”) as follows:

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

In other words, the importance of the doctrine of creation is not that it teaches us how God made the world, but that it teaches us our present createdness; that the universe is no accident in which we are left to fend for ourselves (even if elements of it may appear accidental and purposeless to our human perceptions – surely a statement no-one can deny), but that God cares for us and “richly and daily provides” for us.

That is a statement which any Christian can surely say with heart and soul, “This is most certainly true!” But it’s a statement that tends to end up being sidelined in favour of channelling Ken Ham.

So my appeal to Lutheran pastors is this: I’m not saying you should stop believing in young-earth creationism. And this post is not intended to argue the case against YEC or for evolution (and I’ll try to resist the temptation to do so in the comments). But please ask yourself what it says to those in your pews who accept the scientific account of evolution – and they are there, in some numbers, whether you realise that or not – when you equate evolution with atheism, and make it sound as if there is no place in the church for those who accept evolution. Especially when, in doing so, you make statements about evolution and science that make it clear you are not qualified to speak about either.

And next time the lectionary presents you with a text such as Genesis 1:1-5 (this morning’s Old Testament reading), here’s one layperson who is imploring you to take the opportunity to preach the first article of the Creed as expounded by Luther: to remind everyone in your congregations, regardless of how they understand the mechanics of creation, of God’s continuing Fatherly care for them, and call on them to “thank and praise, serve and obey him” in response.

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49 Responses to A plea to pastors: teach creation, not creationism

  1. I will agree with you that a preoccupation with creationism can divert a pastor’s attention from the cross.
    That said, I wish the scientific community would stop portraying the idea that in order to be a true scientist you have to believe in evolution, and cannot question it. And I don’t believe that evolution as it is popularly presented has much compatibility at all with the doctrine of creation as it is presented in the Bible and expounded by Luther. It certainly isn’t the main thing in Christianity though, but neither is it unimportant. And when Nobel prize winners start resorting to belief in Aliens to answer the question of how life began, I don’t see it so hard to believe in a six day creation and remain credible.

  2. Chris Jones says:

    John,

    A hearty Amen to your post. This was the issue that nearly kept my wife and me out of the LCMS. While YECism is still “on the books” in the LCMS, as a practical matter most pastors (in our experience) rarely mention it, and it certainly is not a condition of membership for the laity. If it were taught prominently and presented as a true article of faith, I suppose we should once again be looking for a new Church body (from which God defend us).

    Bror,

    I think scientists do have to believe in evolution, but scientists don’t “believe in” scientific theories in the same sense that we Christians “believe in” the Gospel. To “believe in” evolution is to acknowledge that it is the hypothesis that best explains the available facts, pending either facts which contradict it or another hypothesis with greater explanatory power. At one time scientists “believed in” Newtonian mechanics; now they “believe in” quantum mechanics.

    The big mistake is when scientists start to “believe in” evolution in a religious sense of the word “believe.” They confuse evolution as a scientific hypothesis with — let’s be honest — a confessional commitment to a metaphysic of philosophical materialism. It is the converse of the mistake that YECer’s make: to confuse a confessional commitment to the doctrine of creation with a scientific hypothesis about how the creation occurred.

    I would also point out that what a good scientist is obliged, as a scientist, to respect is not “evolution as it is popularly presented,” but the actual theory of evolution in all of its subtleties and nuances, and only insofar as it is credibly supported by observation and experiment. Those are two entirely different meanings of “evolution.” And the principal difference between the two is that the actual theory of evolution carries none of the metaphysical baggage of materialism, whereas the philosphical materialism (and consequent atheism) is the entire point of “evolution as it is popularly presented.”

    But I would also point out (as John did) that the “popular presentation” of evolution as inherently atheistic is at least as much the fault of the creationists as it is of the atheists. They are both wrong.

  3. I think if the Good Ship Creationism was going to go down, it would have gone down when the current science (not just in biology but in general) was simple enough to be clearly understood by a well-educated layperson. Since it didn’t then, I don’t think it will now.

    There is just too much knowledge now for most people to grasp the various sciences that create the conditions of their lives – genetics, neuroscience, programming, medicine, engineering, no one can grasp it all. Scientists are more and more in the position of effectively coming to people with bits of “revealed knowledge”. Even specialists in different disciplines have to interact with each other in this way. So, more and more, people respond to factual information presented to them – which they have no way of checking – in a superstitious way.

    So unfortunately, I don’t think creationism is going to take much notice of advancing biological knowledge, any more than the “perception creates reality” crowd are going to be brought to reason by advancing understanding of quantum mechanics.

  4. Pingback: Confessing Evangelical » Blog Archive » Why I am not a “theistic evolutionist”

  5. How can the Small Catechism of Martin Luther be used in support of a doctrine of evolution when Martin Luther himself taught that God created the world in six natural days, 6500 years ago?

    “We know from Moses that the world was not in existence before 6,000 years ago.” (Luther’s Works, Volume I, Lectures on Genesis, Chapter 1, p. 3)

    “Hilary and Augustine, almost the two greatest lights of the church, hold that the world was created instantaneously and all at the same time, not successively in the course of six days. Moreover, Augustine resorts to extraordinary trifling in his treatment of the six days, which he makes out to be mystical days of knowledge among the angels, not natural ones…… Therefore so far as this opinion of Augustine is concerned, we assert that Moses spoke in the literal sense, not allegorically or figuratively, i.e., that the world, with all its creatures, was created within six days, as the words read. If we do not comprehend the reason for this, let us remain pupils and leave the job of teacher to the Holy Spirit.” (Luther’s Works, Volume I, Lectures on Genesis, Chapter 1, p. 4-5)

  6. John H says:

    Matt: I didn’t say that the Small Catechism can be used to support evolution; I said that it emphasises aspects of the doctrine of creation that now tend to get bypassed in favour of arguing about YEC.

    I don’t dispute that Luther believed in a young earth and literal six-day creation. Go back a century or two earlier and one would find people arguing with equal vehemence for a literal interpretation of Psalm 96:10b.

    Note that I’m saying we should submit Scripture to science, but it’s legitimate for new scientific discoveries to make us go back and reappraise our interpretations of Scripture. Luther didn’t have to face the same compelling scientific case for an ancient (billions of years) universe and evolution, so we can’t know for sure how that would have affected his approach to Genesis 1.

    And in any event, as I’ve said on another thread, the question is not whether I agree or disagree with YEC. The question is how the Lutheran church addresses those in the pews who accept evolution. At the moment, some pastors seem to think the answer to that question is: “Continue to assert that only atheists believe in evolution, and that evolution and atheism are basically the same thing. And continue to misrepresent and caricature evolution – and science generally – in support of that assertion.”

    What I’d love to hear a pastor say in this situation: “You believe that evolution is compatible with the teachings of Scripture; I have to say I think you are very seriously mistaken, and that Luther would agree with me on that. I urge you to look into this again and consider the facts for yourself. But whatever you do, don’t lose sight of what the doctrine of creation teaches us about God’s continuing care for us; don’t forget that the historical redemption of us by Christ is meaningless unless there is also a historical creation of humanity and rebellion against God, as described in Genesis; and don’t forget to ‘thank and praise, serve and obey him’ in response.”

  7. John:

    How does a historical creation of mankind fit in with the teaching of evolution? Doesn’t evolution teach that man was not specially created by God?

  8. John H says:

    In very brief terms: I see evolution as an extended gloss on Genesis 2:7a. Then at some point, Something Happened that turned hominids into human beings: Genesis 2:7b.

    That’s v abbreviated and not w/o its difficulties, but that’s the basic gist.

  9. And the greatest difficulty would be the existence of death prior to the sin of Adam?

  10. Chris Jones says:

    Matt,

    Doesn’t evolution teach that man was not specially created by God?

    It teaches no such thing. Evolution, like any other scientific theory, says nothing whatsoever about God, one way or the other. And why should we expect science to have anything to say about God? We can know God only because, and insofar as, He has chosen to reveal Himself; by our own strength and reason we can know little or nothing about Him. But science is precisely what we can find out about the universe by our own efforts, that is, by our own observations and reasoning. That observation and reasoning can teach us a great deal, but it stops short of being able to reveal God. Only God can reveal God; we can’t do that.

    And the greatest difficulty would be the existence of death prior to the sin of Adam?

    That is not as great a difficulty as one might think. The sin of Adam is not the only or the ultimate cause of death; Adam would not have sinned but for the temptation of the serpent, so the ultimate cause of death is the fall of Satan, not of Adam. The temporal relationship between the fall of Satan and the introduction of death into the world is not so clear. And in any case from the divine perspective there is no necessary relationship between “prior to” and “because of” (neque post hoc neque ante hoc est propter hoc).

  11. John H says:

    No. It is human death that is a curse and a tragedy; that is, the loss of the life given to us by God in Gen 2:7.

    This is one where I do agree with Luther, or at least his words as quoted here.

    No, the main difficulty is how the “other” hominids in this scenario related to Adam and Eve. But that’s all in the realms of speculation. What we know is that we are all “in Adam”, and “in Adam all die”.

  12. Paul teaches that death came into the world through the sin of Adam, not the sin of Satan: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” (Romans 5:12-14)

  13. John H says:

    But as Luther points out in the quotation I linked, human death and animal death (let alone plant death) are not the same thing.

    Jesus wept tears of grief and anger by the grave of Lazarus, not by the fishing nets of Peter. It is human death that is the intrusion and curse on creation.

  14. Adam says:

    It’s funny how people read the texts through a certain mental lens and don’t see all the data in Scripture. For example, what did the sea creatures eat before and after the Fall, and after the dietary commands to Noah? Scripture is silent on the issue and anything we add (for example, the unwarranted belief in no animal death) is just eisegesis. But people sincerely believe Scripture really does say that death came to animals because of Adam. But did animals eat of the Tree of Life? Did God hesitate when skinning animals to clothe Adam & Eve? Did God disapprove of Abel’s unauthorised meat-offering?

    No one bothers to think through such questions when they’ve been told by their YEC teachers that “ALL death came through Adam” and they get pointed at a proof text in Paul, which really seems to only have a very circumscribed application to Adam’s kin. But nothing about the relevant texts indicates pre-lapsarian vegetarianism in sea creatures, for example. But that hasn’t stopped fanciful tales of the tannaim feasting on floating forests being imagined or some claiming that because fish don’t breathe air they don’t count as “ensouled animals” and are therefore ok to eat because they don’t really suffer and die.

    Odd the twists and turns a mind will take to uphold certain interpretations that have been claimed as God’s Word – the confusion of Scripture and one’s pet “exegesis” is all too common. And all too predictable considering the sinful flesh Jesus came to save us from.

  15. Another question: why would Moses say that Adam was formed by God of dust from the ground if Adam was actually formed by God from an animal? Do you imagine that the oral history of Adam’s creation was corrupted as it was passed down through the generations, or do you imagine that Moses knew that God created Adam from an animal, but just quickly moved over it in Genesis 2:7?

  16. J. macpaul says:

    “why would Moses say that Adam was formed by God of dust from the ground if Adam was actually formed by God from an animal?”

    Maybe it took 3.5 billion years to move form “dust” to “man.” God works in mysterious ways and God’s ways are not our ways.

  17. And yet, Moses says it was on the sixth day that God created man.

  18. Tapani Simojoki says:

    And the greatest difficulty would be the existence of death prior to the sin of Adam?

    What is this death? “In the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.” Did he?

    Well, yes and no. Adam lived a while longer (800 years after the birth of Seth, that is). Yet he surely died – he was cut off from the Tree of Life, and it wasn’t until the Second Adam also died that the first Adam could live again. This regardless of physical death, which by comparison is small beer.

  19. So are you saying that physical death existed among the animals prior to Adam’s sin and that Adam would have physically died even if he hadn’t sinned?

  20. John H says:

    (1) Yes. (2) No.

  21. Chris Williams says:

    Just a little thought: Even if you take an overly literal approach to the Genesis 2-3 narrative, the warning “you shall surely die” made sense to Adam. How, if the term was meaningless at the time?

  22. Adam was made in the image of God and possessed great wisdom and reason. I would suggest that he would have been able to have knowledge of death apart from personal experience. For instance, you and I have never experienced heaven or the second coming of Christ, but these terms are not therefore meaningless.

  23. Adam says:

    Just in reply to Matt saying God made Adam from dust, but Genesis 2:19 says God made the animals from out of the ground too.

    Consider: Job 10:9 says…

    Remember that you moulded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again?

    Yet we all know where Job came from, his parents. If Job can be said to have been moulded like clay, from the dust, then surely Adam could have come from the dust, been moulded like clay, and yet still have parents of some sort?

    Or does metaphor only apply in Job and not in Genesis?

  24. I would argue that Job is writing a work of poetry and is applying the history of Adam’s creation to himself by extension. In Adam, Job actually was created from the dust of the earth, which is why the metaphor works. Moses, however, is not writing poetry, but an historical account of the creation of man.

  25. Adam says:

    You’re allowed to argue that, Matt, but so often I’ve heard YECs argue about letting Scripture interpret Scripture and so based on Scripture, not guesswork about authorial intent, I’d say being made from the dust can mean something different to what traditionally we’ve eisegetically read into the text.

    You’d agree that your interpretation of authorial intent is just that – your interpretation and not “the Word of God”? Or do you have a hot-line to God telling you what’s “poetical” and what’s “historical”? Do all the Psalms describing the Flood and God’s works count as poetical? Or historical?

  26. Chris Jones says:

    Pr Thompson,

    Moses, however, is not writing poetry, but an historical account of the creation of man.

    I don’t know that I would say that Moses is writing poetry, strictly speaking. But he cannot be said to be writing history, either. History is an account of events based either on direct experience of the events in question (primary sources) or on secondary accounts (whether oral or written) which themselves ultimately go back to eyewitnesses. Since Moses was not present at the Creation, and there is no reason to believe that his account was based on oral tradition or written secondary sources going back to the events themselves, we cannot speak of Moses’s account as being “history,” properly speaking.

    (In this respect, BTW, the early chapters of Genesis contrast sharply with the Gospels and Acts, which were written either by eyewitnesses (Matthew, John) or those who record the testimony of eyewitnesses (Mark, Luke, Acts).)

    Moses has to be dependent on direct divine revelation for the content of the early chapters of Genesis (because he cannot, in the nature of the case, have had access to normal historical sources). But this makes this material not history, but a species of prophecy. And that, in turn, means that the default hermeneutical position need not be literal, but can be symbolic, allegorical, poetic, or typological.

  27. I would argue that human reason is sufficient to identify the genre of a written work. Job reads like poetry and should be read that way. Genesis reads like history and should be read that way.

    And why would Moses gloss over billions of years of evolution from dust-to-hominid-to-Adam, using the phrase “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground” (Genesis 2:7a), when he could have just as easily written, “then, after ages and ages, the Lord God formed the man from a beast of the field”?

  28. Why assume that oral tradition could not have been passed down from Adam to Moses? Noah, certainly, would have heard of Adam’s creation and life. And it’s reasonable to believe that this account could have been passed down to Abraham and his descendants. Add this to the fact that Moses spoke with God Himself, face to face, and you have confidence in what Moses teaches about the creation of the world.

    The question, though, isn’t the source of Genesis, but it’s genre. And, again, it reads like a history of person and events.

  29. John H says:

    Matt: is it so obvious that Genesis (in particular Genesis 1 to 3) “reads as history”?

    As Henri Blocher and others have pointed out, both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 show great artifice in their structures. Blocher has some useful diagrams showing how the two “tablets of creation” are arranged.

    Such literary artifice does not, of course, necessarily mean that what is written isn’t “true history”. But it does mean we can’t jump to the conclusion that this is a straightforward, just-the-facts-ma’am narrative of “what really happened”.

    FWIW, it’s never seemed obvious to me that what we have in Genesis 1 to 3 is “historical narrative” in the same sense as, say, the books of the Kings, or the Acts of the Apostles. Quite the contrary.

  30. John H says:

    As for why Moses would “gloss over” millions of years of evolution: for the same reason that other biblical writers “glossed over” heliocentrism: because he didn’t know about it. Which would only be a problem if his aim had been to present an “as it happened” account of what one would have seen had one been present at creation and the rebellion; but I don’t think the text requires us to believe that that was his aim.

  31. Adam says:

    Matt, your reason is led around by the nose by your preferred interpretation (as is mine, admittedly), but we should both ask ourselves what the supreme Redactor of Genesis really wanted to convey to us through His prophets. That His secretaries have used the knowledge and idiom of their days should be no surprise as He graciously limits Himself in order to teach us what we need to know and do for our salvation. Who are we to question His methods?

  32. If Genesis 1-3 isn’t an historical account of what actually occurred at the creation, then what explains my observation that Moses’ style doesn’t change in chapters 4 and following? When, in your view, if ever, does Moses transition into an “as it happened” recording of history?

  33. Concerning human reason and literature, is it really that difficult to distinguish between literary genres? Not everything we observe requires an interpretation. It shouldn’t be that difficult to come to a conclusion, from the text, whether or not Genesis is an historical account or not.

    I would suggest that this is what Moses is getting at when he writes, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.” (Genesis 2:1) As in, “this is how it happened”.

  34. Chris Jones says:

    Why assume that oral tradition could not have been passed down from Adam to Moses?

    I don’t “assume” that oral tradition could not have been passed down; I look at the facts of the case and conclude that such is quite unlikely. I put great stock (more, I think, than most modern folk do) in the reliability of oral tradition. But the oral transmission of a detailed account of the creation of the world from Adam to Moses would be the most remarkable instance of oral tradition ever. There are more centuries between Adam and Moses than there are between the Apostles’ time and our own, and most Protestants won’t trust the oral tradition of the Gospel over that relatively short period. How can we posit the complete reliability of an oral transmission of the Creation over a significantly longer period? It is more reasonable to believe that Moses’s source was the Holy Spirit, whom we know “spoke through the prophets.”

    You are right that the question is not the source, but the genre, of Genesis. But the two are not unrelated. If the genre is history, then there must be sources, either explicitly stated or plausibly to be inferred. If there can be no sources, then it cannot be history.

    (I speak, of course, specifically of the Creation narratives and other antediluvian material in Genesis. Later material such as Abraham and the patriarchs show all the signs of being history grounded in oral tradition. But that cannot be said of the Creation accounts.)

    To treat the Creation accounts in Genesis as historical and scientific is a poor exegesis, because it is a distraction from understanding this part of Scripture — like the whole of Scripture — as speaking primarily of Christ, His passion, and His resurrection. Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, used the creation stories of his time and culture as a medium to show us Christ, the Word of God through whom and for whom all things were created, the Son of Man typified by Adam, the seed of the woman (born from her whom Eve typified), who would crush him who through the power of death had us all in bondage. That is what it means to read Genesis according the the Church’s rule of faith. If you look for science in Genesis, you miss the Gospel in Genesis.

  35. Adam says:

    Matt, what history involves talking, walking Serpents? Trees of Immortality? Genetic curses? How can it be objectively placed in a “historical” category? You want it to be a historical account, so that’s how you’re accustomed to read it, but I don’t see history in its language like I see history in Samuel or Kings, Ezra or Nehemiah. And I think it’s fair to say not everyone has read it as just history throughout the Church’s lifetime. Many of the learned Fathers and Jewish sages dug at it to find something more beneath the surface, because the surface is not obviously what an “eyewitness” would have perceived.

  36. Adam:

    I realize that this might be embarrassing to modern man, but the history of creation according to Moses involves talking, walking serpents, trees of immortality, and genetic curses.

    No, I do not read Genesis as an historical account because I want it to be a historical account. Rather, I believe Genesis to be an historical account because that’s how it reads. You can reject Moses’ history, but you can’t change it into a parable or an allegory. That’s not how he’s putting it.

    If it’s the miraculous that you object to, then you’ll need to reject all of Scripture as historical. Our whole story is literally filled with the unbelievable. My view is that the serpent actually spoke, the tree of life actually existed, and that God actually cursed the man for his sin.

    Even in Kings you will read of resurrections from the dead, leprosy healed in the Jordan, the feeding of the 100, an axhead which floats.

  37. Adam says:

    Funny you should mention Naaman’s healing. Interestingly healing waters have been known through out time and place, but only in the 20th Century did they figure out why – bacteriophages in the water attacking whatever bacteria might be present. A very active program of medical research for almost a hundred years in the Ukraine has involved using bacteriophages from healing waters, though their effectiveness declines as resistance amongst the target bacteria builds up.

    The resurrections could have been skilfull resuscitations – God guiding the prophet how. And the “floating axehead” was either an early application of magnets or a vortex in the water. Many miracles could have been God merely telling a prophet how rather than suspending local laws of physics. Elijah being divinely protected is obviously lightning blasts killing the soldiers, similarly the miraculous sacrifice. Even the multiplication miracles (the never-ending jar of oil is another) can be accommodated by physics – it’s called “baryogenesis” which definitely exists even if we can’t replicate it technologically.

    So examples of God violating the “laws” He has set up in Creation are rather hard to pin down with certainty.

  38. And so the dead are not raised?

  39. Rick Ritchie says:

    Adam, if your final conclusion is correct, doesn’t that help Matt’s point? If it’s hard to pin these things down as violations of laws, then we probably don’t know that talking, walking Serpents, Trees of Immortality, or Genetic curses violate laws. I think if we’re identifying them as probably mythic, the “violation of laws” part is not really the point. It would have more to do with finding things of this sort in other mythic contexts. There would also be questions of how myth helps in understanding meaning. I am not altogether decided on these points myself. But I agree with some of the others that Genesis certainly seems more historical after a certain point than before. I’m guessing the early parts are somewhat of a mix of genres.

  40. Pingback: Confessing Evangelical » Blog Archive » Lewis on “crystallization” in the Old Testament

  41. John H says:

    I was going to post a response to the recent comments here based on C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on myth vs history in his book “Miracles”, but have now upgraded this to a full post: Lewis on “crystallization” in the Old Testament.

  42. Adam says:

    Matt said…
    And so the dead are not raised?

    Which ones? Death as a medical condition has varied in its meaning for centuries. The cessation of breathing or a discernable heartbeat are medical states people have been revived from.

    As for Jesus’ resurrection I think you’d agree that it was more than a resuscitation, more a total transformation. As no one (other than God) was there to tell us what happened there’s no way of saying precisely what process was involved. A whole new set of physical laws is possible or, more likely, laws we don’t know.

  43. Are you saying that unknown, but natural, physical laws are responsible for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead? If so, are these laws available for use by us today? Or would you say that the resurrection of Jesus was a genuine miracle, and non-repeatable under the current laws of physics, requiring a special act of God? Would you say any other biblical event is of a similar category as the resurrection of Jesus?

  44. Adam says:

    Hi Matt

    What I’m saying is that the Bible doesn’t tell us how God did any of the signs (“miracles”), just that He did. The resurrection is something new, a hint of the New Creation, so it may be beyond the rules of the old Creation. But otherwise why would God need to violate His own rules for trivial things like picking up axe-heads? Give Him some credit for wisdom.

    More importantly God’s Spirit is described as giving life to all living things, not just humans. Yet molecular biology doesn’t have any explanatory gaps AFAIK that needs something mysterious and non-physical. If God’s Spirit directly “animates” everything – as Scripture clearly says – and to all our extended senses there’s nothing more going on than the physical, including quantum weirdness, then God’s action in the world is the same as natural, scientifically studiable processes. God creates it all, continually, which is what Luther was trying to convey. No need to look to past events to see God’s fingers in action in the world – He’s doing it right before our eyes.

    Thus why I think that God didn’t do anything different when creating Adam as He has done when creating you, me or Job and his friends. And I think that’s Biblical. We might quibble over when it happened, but I believe like you that God created Adam and Adam fathered all those that Jesus came to save. I differ from you about other details, but fundamentally we both agree.

    Creation is an ongoing work of God, not just a one time event in time-space.

  45. Thank-you for the posts, Adam, I’m just trying to get a handle on theistic evolution and it’s basic ideas. The concept of evolution as a gloss of Genesis 2:7 is a teaching I’ve never heard before and it’s been interesting thinking it through a bit.

  46. Adam says:

    Hi Matt

    You’re very welcome. I’m glad you’ve been moved to think about it. Your questions have prompted me to re-examine Scripture afresh too, which is always a good thing. Thank you.

  47. J Random Hermeneut says:

    “If God is creating the universe sideways like an Author, then the proper place to look for the effects of that is not at the fuzzy edges, but at the heart of the story. And I am personally convinced that Jesus stands at the heart of the story.” Larry Wall http://interviews.slashdot.org/interviews/02/09/06/1343222.shtml

  48. John H says:

    Is this before or after it was revealed that God used Perl to create the universe? 😉

  49. Rick Ritchie says:

    Aha. J Random Hermeneut explains a way of envisioning this that is often forgotten, even by those who have adopted it. This viewpoint of God as author working sideways was expressed nicely by Sheldon Vanauken. Aquinas may also have used it when dealing with Aristotelean views that denied a beginning in time, though I am not certain where I picked that up (possibly Mortimer Adler). This fits well with Luther’s talk of creation which relates it to the here and now.

    There are some other implications to this, however. If the now is the focus, then how do we handle “God made me this way” arguments on various subjects? There may be good answers to this, but we should keep it in mind that answers of some sort are needed. And an historic fall might be an important element to retain, even if we aren’t sure where to fit it in. (John H, that is not directed at you.) There has to be a way of finding creation now, while also speaking of a creational intent “back then,” whenever back then was.

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