On Creation

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I often hear Christians talk about the world as if God created it. Am the only one out there who doubts God had a role at all at the origin of the cosmos? Is it possible to think of a God who does is not thought of as a creator? The usual (mature) Christian response is God was the zero-point at the Big Bang, but I really dislike this gesture. For one, I can imagine a point in the near future where we might advance our understanding of scientific knowledge so as to make this assumption pointless. Also, I have trouble understanding why we need to hold on the image of God as creator to affirm God’s self-revelation in Jesus of Nazareth. Even if science never discovers the origin of our universe will we really need to secure God a tiny spot in history to fit in with the natural world? It actually reminds me of a conversation I had this summer with a dear friend who has lost his faith. He described himself as a deist but not an atheist. I was baffled. He thought it was reasonable to imagine a God who initiated the cosmos but took a step back and assumed a detached role. I have a hard time imagining ever getting there. I didn’t think it was possible any more these days to hold onto a theology like this. I thought that with the advent of modern science a belief in God like this was all but impossible.

I’ll include my response to Halden to flush my objections out more:

Certainly, scriptures and the creeds supports the conclusion that God is creator. Here, I’m thinking of Pannenberg’s method in Anthropology in Theological Perspective. He puts theology in dialogue with pretty much every discipline to allow them to critique theology and allow theology to supplement our understanding of those “secular disciplines”. He basically admits certain beliefs in the fall cannot be upheld given our understanding of evolution. He resists the temptation to locate the fall in a mythical, pre-historical world. I just don’t know what to say about the creation of the world. I mean where did God intervene? I really dislike this God as stop-gap in our knowledge, it just seems insulting and awkward. Basically, we cannot explain the how things began so we use God to help us make sense of this lack of knowledge. Did he just set the ball rolling and at the beginning of time? I just don’t like theistic evolution. God’s merely a useless name in the whole business, why does chance receive the name God? Isn’t that unworthy of God? Side note: I should read Pannenberg’s Theology and the Philosophy of Science.

It’s odd that I have such difficulty trying to imagine a God that I could believe in that wasn’t involved in the creation of the world. Partially, I suspect the conditions and tools I’ve been given to conceive of God hinder a more productive exploration. I’m about to begin my study of Deleuze, and I just checked out his books on Nietzsche, What is Philosophy, his essays on Pure Immanence, as well as listening to Caputo’s lecture on Deleuze that involves a study of Difference and Repetition. I know the Deleuzian answers to the question what is philosophy is the creation of concepts. I wonder in what ways theology should think of fostering a more creative atmosphere as opposed to merely reflecting on traditional sources of theological inspiration: the church, the Bible, religious experience, and the work of past theologians. This seems like a more productive enterprise. Maybe once I start reading Deleuze I’ll have something of substance to say.

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7 Responses to “On Creation”

  1. Halden Says:

    My knee-jerk reaction here is simply to bring up the many, many biblical statements that seem to indicate that the God of Jesus Christ is to be rightly understood as the creator of everything that exists. Admittedly, this only has the weight we are willing to give to Scripture (or certain segments of it).

    But, even that question aside, the earliest Christian confession seemed to include a confession of God as creator (“I believe one God . . . creator of heaven and earth. . . ” blah blah blah). To reject belief in God as creator would seem to be a theological revision of the most radical sort.

  2. Jeremy Says:

    Certainly, scriptures supports that conclusion and the creeds. Here, I’m thinking of Pannenberg’s method in Anthropology in Theological Perspective. He puts theology in dialogue with pretty much every discipline to allow them to critique theology and allow theology to supplement our understanding of those “secular disciplines”. I really need to read his work Theology and the Philosophy of Science. He basically admits certain beliefs in the fall cannot be upheld given our understanding of evolution. He resists the temptation to locate the fall in a mythical, pre-historical world. I just don’t know what to say about the creation of the world. I mean where did God intervene? I really dislike this God as stop-gap in our knowledge it just seems insulting and awkward. Did he just set the ball rolling and at the beginning of time? I just don’t like theistic evolution. God’s merely a useless name in the whole business, why does chance receive the name God? Isn’t that unworthy of God?

    Have you read Keller’s Face of the Deep? Or better yet, what are your thoughts on process theology? Good Barthian that you are I imagine you’re not a big fan.

  3. Paul Pavao Says:

    Well, personally, if I have to pick between the God you describe here and the one Richard Dawkins describes as a possibility, then I pick Dawkins.

    I think people think of God in too human a way. When I think of a spiritual God, and the way God works in me, in the people around me, and in nature (which is why I even believe in God, experience), then I picture a transcendent God, able to fill all things, not confined to conscious thinking in the sense we understand it. He’s able to be aware of all things at once and even part of them.

    I can’t exchange that for a God that’s not creator, who then is really just a highly powerful alien, like Q of Star Trek.

    I don’t think that’s the God Jesus revealed.

  4. Jeremy Says:

    Yeah, I wrote a post discussing how I’ve never experienced this force you’re talking about. That’s why I consider myself religious and not spiritual. As I said, I have only ever experienced a dead God. Your God sounds more like Spinoza’s or Whitehead’s. Except isn’t this transcendent God who’s also part of all things really immanent as well?

    As a Christian I think one has to think of God in a human way because well, the Word became flesh. But, I understand if you don’t share that conviction, then your God will probably look much different. Then again I imagine if dogs had a religion, God would probably become a dog as well, but well then again that shouldn’t be too surprising.

    I realize I might not have understood your point. First off you say you prefer Dawkin’s God over mine? Which God did I propose?

  5. Halden Says:

    I agree with your antipathy towards seeing God as a sort of stop-gap in our understanding of how things all began. Indeed, I don’t think that understanding God as creator helps us understand anything about the world or its origins. Here’s I suppose I’m really drawing on Barth through Jungel. God is not necessary and so the world, even its origin could ostensibly be explained without reference to God. So yeah, I don’t really care for process theology (though I admit I haven’t read much from its current proponents).

    The reason I don’t want to dispense with the doctrine of God as creator is precisely for Christological reasons. We confess God as creator, not because it “explains” anything, but rather because the all-embracing redemption that is actualized in Christ concerns the whole world (putting things crudely here).

    I actually think the Genesis stories function in much they same way. They are really just the upshot of the Exodus. Because Yahweh is sovereign over all other powers and nations, we can only confess that this God is ultimately the creator of everything. So Genesis doesn’t explain the backstory of the God of the Exodus. Rather quite the reverse. The same with Jesus. You could say we’d have no idea that God even should be understood as creator if not for the revelation of Jesus.

    The other concern I have is that if we don’t understand God as creator, don’t we just end ep (at least potentially) in an ontological dualism of the worst sort?

  6. dave Says:

    Halden, which Jungel text are you referring to? (Or, perhaps better, where should we go first?) God as Mystery of the World?

    I think it’s difficult to hold God as creator in the sense of originator/immediate creator/etc without either rejecting evolutionary biology entirely or grafting God onto evolutionary biology, both of which seem to be problematic. Your comments on Jungel help to give some clarity here, but it’s difficult for me to articulate God as creator outside of the framework of God as the originator of creation (eg, literally a creator of beings).

  7. In the Beginning…. « Sola Intellectum Says:

    […] over at JRidenour, recently posed the exceptionally salient query as to whether we can, in this scientific age, still understand God […]

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