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Does Resurrection Contradict Science?

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March 29, 2013 Tags: Christ & New Creation
Does Resurrection Contradict Science?

Today's entry was written by Matt J. Rossano. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

Note: Originally posted on June 10, 2011. This post originally appeared in The Huffington Post.

The scientific case against resurrection is pretty straightforward: once dead you stay dead -- that's just the way it works. Coming back to life after having been dead (I mean really dead) would constitute a violation of natural law -- a miracle -- and miracles just don't happen. Fair enough. But in his recent book on the last days of Jesus (Jesus of Nazareth Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection), Joseph Ratzinger (aka Pope Benedict XVI) argues that reckoning Resurrection as resuscitation of a corpse is to misunderstand its true significance. Jesus' Resurrection, he contends, was an utterly singular event, straining the very limits of human understanding:

"Anyone approaching the Resurrection accounts in the belief that he knows what rising from the dead means will inevitably misunderstand those accounts and will then dismiss them as meaningless" (p. 243).

In fact, if Jesus' Resurrection were "merely" coming back to life in any way that we might comprehend, then it would be of little significance.

"Now it must be acknowledged that if in Jesus' Resurrection we were dealing simply with the miracle of a resuscitated corpse, it would ultimately be of no concern to us" (p. 243).

So what then does Resurrection mean? For Benedict it represents a new dimension of reality breaking through into human experience. It is not a violation of the old; it is the manifestation of something new.

"Jesus had not returned to a normal human life in this world like Lazarus and the others whom Jesus raised from the dead. He has entered upon a different life, a new life -- he has entered the vast breadth of God himself..." (p. 244).

Because it is something entirely new, it cannot represent a violation of natural law as understood by science.

"Naturally there can be no contradiction of clear scientific data. The Resurrection accounts certainly speak of something outside our world of experience. They speak of something new, something unprecedented -- a new dimension of reality that is revealed. What already exists is not called into question. Rather we are told that there is a further dimension, beyond what was previously known. Does that contradict science? Can there really only ever be what there has always been? Can there not be something unexpected, something unimaginable, something new? If there really is a God, is he not able to create a new dimension of human existence, a new dimension of reality altogether?" (p. 246-7)

Thus, in this view, Resurrection (as with all true miracles) is not contrary to science, but an indicator that science does not (yet?) describe the full expanse of reality. Indeed, some may argue that science itself contains similar "indicators." The 11 (or so) dimensional universe required by some versions of string theory, the multiverse theory of the universe where ours is but one of an infinite array of universes with variable physical laws, quantum entanglements, "spooky" action at a distance, the mysterious emergence of consciousness from inorganic matter -- all push the limits of human reason and imagination, suggesting to some that reality may be far more complex than the human mind can grasp.

For a moment, let us entertain the possibility that Resurrection is as Benedict interprets it: not a violation of natural law but an indicator of something beyond our scientific understanding of the universe. This has interesting implications for understanding how believers and skeptics approach the issue. If Resurrection does not violate science, then science does not necessarily constitute an impediment to accepting the reality of Resurrection. If the difference between the skeptic and believer is not science, then is it just a matter of imagination? The believer imagines greater possibilities for the universe than the non-believer. While this is possible, it seems questionable. To my knowledge, no research has found differences in imaginative abilities between religious and non-religious people. Moreover, contrarian examples easily come to mind: Isaac Asimov was an atheist but hardly lacking in imagination when it came to science fiction. I tend to think that both believers and non-believers can imagine (with varying degrees of effort, I'm sure) the new possibilities implied by Resurrection.

Thus, if it is neither imagination nor science that prompts skepticism about Resurrection, then what is left? I suggest that it comes down to a question of authority: At what point does one allow imaginative possibilities to have authority over how one lives? To the believer, Resurrection has an authority that science fiction does not. Resurrection is not thought-provoking entertainment. It requires far more than just imagining greater possibilities for the universe. It requires a change of life, here and now. Unlike the microscopic hidden dimensions of string theory, the new dimension implied by Resurrection has "broken though" into everyday reality and demands a response -- even if that response is to actively ignore it.

Now, what convinces the believer that Resurrection merits such authority when other imaginative possibilities such as extraterrestrial life or time-travel do not? The answer here appears to be historical commitment. There's no record of people committing themselves to the point of martyrdom to other imaginative possibilities as they have to Resurrection. The earliest example of such commitment being found, of course, in the dramatic post-crucifixion turn-around of the Apostles. Such an astounding change of heart, followed by an unwavering commitment capable of altering human history demands a categorically unique explanation: Resurrection.

The believer's argument, however, remains unconvincing to the skeptic. However impressive they might be, a change of heart and steadfast commitment do not necessarily add up to a new dimension of reality. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Fair enough. So a key question regarding the interpretation of Resurrection is this: Is the post-crucifixion history of Christianity extraordinary? Does it compel the dispassionate observer to concede that a categorically unique event could plausibly be its best explanation?

It ought to be upon questions such as those above that skeptics and believers respectfully engage one another, rather than the simplistic and often acrimonious sloganeering that has increasingly become the norm.

Matt J. Rossano is Professor of Psychology at Southeastern Louisiana University and author of Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved.

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Jon Garvey - #78152

April 4th 2013

Eddie @ #78135

Inline replies aren’t working for me - at least that’s an improvement on being locked out, as I was for a day or so before Easter!

Just to endorse your apologetic for Paley, and make the general point that in the science-faith area nearly everything seems in the end to be based on second-hand reporting. I’ve beefed before about out-of-context quotes from Patristic authors, and about incoherent ideas from van Till etc being recycled ad nauseam. On the scientistic side the same old myths about Galilieo, Newton etc get trotted out together with Gnu slogans that were debunked long ago.

Which is really just to say there’s really no substitute for fishing out the original writings of people like Paley to see what he really said - which as you say was in many ways a very good case for natural theology.

The same is true of, say, Lamarck - especially as Darwin moved considerably towards his position and lessened his emphasis on natural selection towards the end of his life. He would hardly have done that if the textbook tales about giraffes stretching for leaves were the sum of Lamarck’s theory.

The same is true of Feser re Aquinas. Feser says some very good stuff, but I agree his approach to God is overly philosophical, and that Aquinas bears some other possible interpretations within the current debate. Unfortunately it’s more of a challenge to tackle Aquinas directly than even Paely or Darwin for busy people, but by no means impossible as St Thomas has kindly put all his stuff online.

Jon Garvey - #78154

April 4th 2013

Most commentators on Genesis say that the Image of God is the human ability to think, create, and love.  These qualities are also what makes humans “persons.”  Certainly one cannot deny that God is a Person using this definition.

The Bible says that God is Personal.  This does not mean that humans created God in our image, but because God created us in God’s Image, just as the Bible says.

Roger - you jump from “most commentators’” opinion on what the imago Dei means (which is doubtful according to the best scholarship, especially on ANE understandings of “image”) to say that this interpretation must imply that God is a Person, assuming the sense you yourself have loaded on that involving complexity and so on. And then you dissolve those steps to assert at last that “the Bible says God is Personal”.

That’s just poor logic. If we are persons because we are the image of God, then a statue must be a person because it’s the image of me - do you not see the fallacy there? Even accepting “thinking, creating and loving” as what the image is, it does not imply that God is not far more than that, or that even in those things he is as much higher as the human body is to the stone image. And Merv is quite right to call you out on the qualititative difference between those things in God and in us - we do not create as God creates.

Definition of “person” is everything here. It’s notable that there are maybe 11 words translated “person” in the KJV Bible (according to Young’s) and not one of them is used of God - check it out. The one exception is “hupostasis” in Heb 1.3, in which KJV takes its translation “person” from the Latin verson of the whole Trinitarian theological enterprise which explored “hupostasis” exhaustively - and which you always dismiss as “too philosophical”. But it’s your only biblical basis for God’s personhood - the Latin translation of a Greek philosophical term used in 1 verse of Hebrews.

The Bible, then, doesn’t say God is a person at all - though it certainly speaks of his attributes in personal terms: how else would it avoid the over-literal from concluding that if God is simple he must be like semolina pudding (to adapt the misapprehension C S Lewis’s student)?

sy - #78160

April 4th 2013

Jon, you stated “especially as Darwin moved considerably towards his position and lessened his emphasis on natural selection towards the end of his life.”

That is correct. Here is a quote from a later edition (I believe the 6th) of Origin of Species

“...by the direct action of external conditions, and by variations which seem to us in our ignorance to arise spontaneously. It appears that I formerly underrated the frequency and value of these latter forms of variation, as leading to permanent modifications of structure independently of natural selection.”

It was only a hundred years later, with the Neo Darwinian synthesis of molecular genetics and evolution, that the dogma of purely random “spontaneous” mutations followed by natural selection and adaptation accounting for all of evolutionary mechanisms arose. More recent evidence on neutral mutations, (which is now well established) and on directed and adaptive mutations in bacteria (which isnt as well established yet), suggest that Darwin, a scientist of amazing perception, was right all along, as usual.

(I also cannot get the inline response to work. But I did want to expand a bit on your comment)


Roger A. Sawtelle - #78161

April 4th 2013


Thank you for your thoughts.

However if you want to criticize an interpretation of the Bible, the only real way to properly do this is to offer a better interpretation.  My logic stands.  God created humans in the divine Image.  That image is not physical, because God is not physical.  However there are similarities between God and humans as seen by how God reveals Godself through the Bible.  These can be understood as Personhood.  If we are to take seriously the message of the Bible then the Image of God is best understood as Personhood.

“He (Jesus) is the Image of the invisible God.” Col 1:15  Jesus as always is the best evidence that God is Personal.  Jesus is Personal and Jesus is perfectly God.  Therefore the Bible does say that God reveals Godself as Person.  (Would you rather say a Human Being?)  As I said before, God’s revelation does not misrepresent Who God is.     

Philosophical thinking does play an important role in how we understand God and life, but we must now reconcile the clear Biblical message with our traditional philosophical world view. 

The problem that you present is that according to your way of thinking, which is consistent with some traditional philosophy, human beings are not created in the Image of God, because there is absolutely no similarity between humans and God.  We are separated by our different natures, not by sin.  Therefore God really can not love us, because we have nothing in common with God.         

GJDS - #78162

April 4th 2013

Perhaps I can make an addition to this interesting discussion; after the Medieval philosophers, natural philosophy became prominent with two overall views: (1) God acted as He willed when He created the Universe and was actively engaged in the creation as He wished (voluntarism) and (2) God established immutable laws which are etched on all things, and He ensures these are maintained in the Creation (Intellectualism). My interest in these debates is mainly in the notion of laws of nature, which seem to have now become entangled with the Law of God. For now, it is sufficient to state that the fact of God as Creator establishes a reality concerning the Universe. The Universe (or Creation) included matter, energy, space and time; all are knowable to human beings. God is not subject to anything in His creation. However, it is important to note that God is Sacred and Holy, while human beings are not. It is this separation that underpins all discussions regarding human knowledge, including that of the Creation. The Heavens declare the Glory of God; they do not chatter theorems and equations. The capacity of human beings to know and conceive of ideas related to the Universe is a unique aspect that is re-enforced by the discovery of universal constants. This indicates uniqueness to human beings (the human spirit).

Theology discusses God and humanity. Theology is defined as the science of religion and the usage of the term includes the way arguments may be constructed (via speculative philosophy), on matters pertaining to particular conceptions of God. The following summary is fairly typical ....“theology may deal with dogmatic ascertains, or may be natural theology, or consist of arguments about God. Such activities include writings ranging from the 13th-century Italian St. Thomas Aquinas, to the 20th- century theologians, such as Karl Barth. Theologians have endeavoured to construct theology as a science that radically differed from the natural and the human sciences because its ultimate subject, God, was not accessible to empirical investigation. Aquinas included in his theological system five proofs for the existence of God. Barth considered God’s freedom and revelation (communication of himself), as providing the understanding of God. In this way Barth believes one may avoid the danger of approaching God as an object of investigation”..... continued

GJDS - #78163

April 4th 2013

Continued…. The problems of proofs for God’s existence have been discussed. When considering revelation, however, a number of difficulties emerge. Even if it is agreed that we avoid considering God as an object for empirical investigation, we cannot reason that revelation may be within a range of phenomena that are human potentialities or of the human senses. We have ruled out objective-based activities such as found in the natural sciences. Revelation cannot be defined in a way that philosophy or science may argue and consider within the ideas of reason.

It is not necessary for reason to be total in that an argument is absolute, but it is necessary for that which is reasoned to be coherent, reasonable, and believably true. Those aspects of reason and knowledge that are intuitive (and indeed all knowledge), are usually subjected to tests of falsification (theoretical) and verification (practical) in the sciences, and to criteria of reason in philosophical discussion. In my argument, reason needs to sustain the reasonableness of life, the goodness of life and the continuation of life. This is a matter for reason. It is not possible to reason goodness in life. It is possible for a person to consider the possibility of good in life, and this is usually through experience (à posteriori).

For revelation to be valid, the person being revealed unto needs to be able to respond, to reason, and to consider the revelation within his (context of) life. The meaning of God, which includes that of love and concern for all humanity, is provided by revelation and needs to be completely comprehensible. Since I understand all human life and reason to be within the freedom of birth, freedom of life, and freedom of thought (intent), revelation is also understood within freedom. The unreasonable part of the human condition is lack of freedom that finds its ultimate unreasonable condition in death. Since our reasoning shows that God is comprehended as good to life, then God is synonymous with good and life. Death is comprehended as either cessation of life, and fear and anxiety becomes part of self, or death is equated with that which is contrary to God and is outside of the meaning of God. Because of these many possibilities that confront reason, the necessity of faith naturally follows this discussion. Before discussing faith, we may consider the use of words and meaning; words are used in a way that meaning is found within the finiteness of human life but may also include (as expression of hope and faith) the meaning of God as believed.

Jon Garvey - #78169

April 4th 2013

The problem that you present is that according to your way of thinking, which is consistent with some traditional philosophy, human beings are not created in the Image of God, because there is absolutely no similarity between humans and God.  We are separated by our different natures, not by sin.  Therefore God really can not love us, because we have nothing in common with God.     

You’re a bit of an absolutist yourself, aren’t you Roger, despite your hatred of all things absolute? To be different from God is not to have nothing in common. You tell me all about my way of thinking (which is always useful to know I suppose). But I say human beings are created in the image of God, that we are separated by sin, and that God really can love us because we have some things in common with God.

I also say that God is of a different nature to us, which is not hard to demonstrate because God is Spirit (how many parts does a spirit have, by the way) and I’m flesh.

Those truths are not incompatible. If I may use a limited analogy, I love my dog and he loves me, though we’re of different natures, which is reflected in the different character, and the inequality, of our loves.

Perhaps you actually mean not that I think that way, but that my way of thinking logically leads  to denying the image of God in man, and saying that he cannot love us. If so, there were an awful lot of mentally challenged theologians throughout the history of the Church, not least before theistic personalism was a gleam in its Enlightenment parent’s eye. Find me one - just one - classical theist who denies God’s love or the imago Dei. You have the entire Catholic, Orthodox and Reformed traditions to choose from. To them you can add Arminius,  Article 1 of the Anglican Prayer Book (to which Wesley, of course, subscribed as an Anglican minister) - heck, even the entire Methodist movement before the 20th centuiry.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #78181

April 4th 2013


Thank you for your comments.

If you mean that if God were absolutely Simple in nature and humans are complex in nature, that it would follow that humans are not created in the Image of God and since God and humanity have nothing in common, interaction between them would be impossible.

It has been pointed out that Biblical theology has always been in tension with philosophical theology.  The result has been a compromise with Biblical theology winning out for doctrinal reasons.  New you want to put philosophy in charge and it doesn’t work properly.

Your dualistic contrast is God is Spirit, which is simple(?) while humans are flesh.  God is of course Spirit, the Holy Spirit, but God is also the Father and the Son.  The Son is also flesh, is He not, so how does that make you different from Him. 

Jesus said we aere to worship God the Father in the spirit and the truth.  How can we worship God in the spirit if we have no spirit?  If God is simply Spirit, why is truth necessary? 

The Bible says we are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  Strength clearly refers to body, so I don’t see how the dualism holds.  The One and the Many are not opposites, they are complementary. 

God is Spirit, but God is also Love.  Love is the ultimate spiritual gift, and love is not simple.  There are many kinds of spiritual love found in the Bible.

I never indicated that just because things are different from each other, they are incompatible.  God and humans are very different, but they are compatible because they are both Personal, since God made humans in God’s Image.

You have not indicated what you think the Image of God is.

If God is Simple and has no emotions, how can God love?



Jon Garvey - #78195

April 5th 2013

Roger, point by point rebuttals grow on blogs, so I’ll only point out generally that you continue your habit of misattributing positions to your opponents. Few who have read my posts or blog aver the last years would suggest I put philosophy above biblical theology, that I deny man’s spiritual nature etc.

Biblical theology carefully distinguishes between God as Spirit, and the Holy Spirit as the third hupostasis of the Trinity - why do you confuse them? Jn 4.23-24 clearly refers to the Father as Spirit. Even Wesley himself affirms as basic doctrine that Father , Son and Spirit are of one substance (translating Greek ousia), without body or parts.

How I am different from the Son is that he is the eternal heavenly Spirit who, in time, took on flesh in hypostatic union, for which unique mystery we can do worse than consult the Chalcedonian definition. I, au contraire, am a creature in which parts of flesh and a created spirit from God are united to make me a living nepesh, or soul. Before Christ became flesh for us, God the eternal Pure Spirit loved us, the complex angelic animal, despite whatever it is your first paragraph is intended to mean.

What the image of God is? In context, the image is clearly functional more than ontological, and in the setting of Genesis 1 as a temple inauguration text clearly implies man’s being God’s representative on earth. The ANE parallels include the status of images in pagan temple worship, but also the images set up by kings in distant parts of their empires to embody their authority.

As a New Testament control, we can note those passages referring to Christ as the image of the invisible God. In his case, he clearly remains actually God: it is as the God-man that he fully represents the Father on earth. He is not God’s image because he is “lower” in the Trinity, or because he has diveine spirit + human flesh, but because he is authorised and equipped to represent God on earth.

The ontological issues of what we need in order to represent God on earth in the Genesis sense (eg reason, spiritual awareness etc) are secondary, and Scripture doesn’t spell them out. Therefore we shouldn’t use speculations about them to dictate what God must be like. “I am in God’s image, and that must mean I’m rational (or complex, or passionate, or whatever else we see in ourselves), and that must mean that God is rational (complex, passionate, etc).”

But hey, the Church has always realised that, which is why theistic personalism is a johnny-come-lately minority position, though it has a lot of grubby children like Open Theism, the Latter Rain movement, etc, etc.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #78202

April 5th 2013


Thank you for your response.

Let me begin with what we agree upon.  God created humanity in God’s own Image to be God’s representative on earth.  The Bible indicates that God made humans God’s Viceroy over the universe, giving us power over all life on earth.  Thart is not just theory or speculation, that is Biblical fact reinforced by history and ecology.

If humans are God’s representatives, then they must have the ability to act on behalf of God, which means that we must be able to do at least some of the things God is able to do.  We know that God is able to create, to think, and to love, do we not?  Moreover we know because God revealed these facts to us through the Bible, not through any human speculation.

God not only gives us the authority to act on God’s behalf, God in God wiedam gives us the abilities to act on God’s behalf, and furthermore God’s hold humans responsible for what we do as God’s representatives, which of course is where sin comes in.

Some would say that humans are not God’s representatives, but only God’s subjects.  If that were the case our only duty would be to obey God and we would not need to be created in God’s Image to do what God tells us to do.  That is the way other living creatures, trees, plants, insects, fish, etc. live.

Again we do not start with humanity to determine what God is like.  We start with God the Father Who created the heavens and earth and we see that God also gave humans the ability to create as part of God’s Image.  We begin with God the Son/Logos Who gives rational order and meaning to life, and we see that God gave humans the ability to think and understand to some extent that rational order.  We begin with the Holy Spirit Who is most evident in God’s Love for us and the universe, and we find that through the Spirit we can love ourselves, others, and our universe.

If we are to take the fact that we are God’s Representatives seriously that we must act like God’s representatives to bring order, justice, and peace to God’s universe, rather than standing round like statues, enjoying the title, but not taking responsibility for our world.

If the essence of God is Simplicity. then people created to represent God would be Simple, but they are not.  If the essence of God is Simplicity, then the Son of God would be Simple in every way, but He is not.  If the essence of God is Simplicity, then the Spirit of God as seen as Love would be Simple, as it is not. 

This is all from divine revelation, not from human speculation, which is the source of philosophy.  When this happens, something must give and it must be philosophy.  Complexity is not body or parts.  Complexity is complexity.  If something acts as if it were complex, it is complex.  If something acts simple, it must be simple. 

God acts like a Complex/One Being.  No ontology can explain that away and make God Simple.  God IS WHO GOD IS, which is the Complex/One, the GOD Who RELATES.          


Jon Garvey - #78209

April 5th 2013

Roger, I could only find one or two minor faults in your logic until this:

If the essence of God is Simplicity. then people created to represent God would be Simple, but they are not.  If the essence of God is Simplicity, then the Son of God would be Simple in every way, but He is not.  If the essence of God is Simplicity, then the Spirit of God as seen as Love would be Simple, as it is not.

A representative has to mirror, or convey, some aspect of the one he represents, but clearly does not have to be identical. If a US Defence Secretary represents the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, it does not follow that he too is Commander in Chief. If God’s essence is omnipotence, or self-existence, or unapproachable light, or even Trinity, it clearly does not follow that man must be those things as well. Simplicity, in that theological sense, is a  characteristic of the underived, the eternal, the divine: as Wikipedia says:  “Thomas Aquinas, for instance, in whose system of thought the idea of divine simplicity is central, wrote in Summa Theologica that because God is infinitely simple, God can only appear to the finite mind as infinitely complex.”

And it is important to retain the theological understanding, for to blur it with the general sense of “simple” simply clouds the issue: one might as well argue that God cannot be simple because simple people have to be kept in institutions… Come to think of it, that’s rather close to what you argue in talking about the “complexity” of love - meaning, I suppose, that it is considered, selective, measured etc rather than ... well, something else..

But we are called to the simplicity of Christ (2 Cor 11), which whether it means imitating his simplicity or worshipping in simple devotion shows that actions and essences aren’t in a fixed relationship - likewise the call in Rom 12.8 to give “in simplicity”, though clearly that too is to be considered, selective and measured.

“No ontology can make God simple”.

That’s an interesting sentence on which to ponder - the ontology of self-existent unity would seem, on reflection, to do so very well if that’s what God actually is. But you still can’t escape from the “simple” truth that better theologians than either of us, including Wesley (and even the Jews and Muslims, come to that), have for 2000 years affirmed God to be simple, without parts. They may all have been wrong, but naive arguments like “If God were simple, we would have to be as well” aren’t going to get people burning their Summa theologicae.

The preceding minor logical faults? For completeness:

(a) “If humans are God’s representatives, then they must have the ability to act on behalf of God, which means that we must be able to do at least some of the things God is able to do.”

 Not in dispute: but if it’s OK for us to be different from him in even some ways, then he’s still only analogously a person “like us,” and your argument against classical theism is undercut.

(b) “Some would say that humans are not God’s representatives, but only God’s subjects.  If that were the case our only duty would be to obey God and we would not need to be created in God’s Image to do what God tells us to do.”

I’ve never met any of those, but I know plenty who see no conflict between being a representative and being a subject - for example one of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s ambassadors, all of whom are proud and privileged to be both. And wasn’t it Jesus in the Bible - the exact image of God - who was obedient to the point of death and who said “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” ?

GJDS - #78211

April 5th 2013


To begin, the notion of the simplicity that is part of our understanding of God is beyond dispute and it is strange to find arguments against this from anyone. As I tried to point out previously, great deal of error may enter our thinking if we begin to believe that we can ‘analytically’ use phrases that include words such as “God is ....”, and also when we begin to equate human attributes with those of God discussed in the Bible. The simplest reason for this is that we are taught that God is Holy and the Sacred is not accessible to the human intellect. I have recently begun to read a fine example of how we may view Biblical teachings in Calvin’s Commentaries. In these, he discusses Is 6:1-5 within the context of “knowledge of God”. This is a fine example of using language to discuss revealed knowledge without resorting to philosophy and science. I am sure Calvin can handle philosophy and I note that his comments on ethics and the common life also consdier the outlook from philosophers. Calvin also has a very clear understanding of faith and obedience for salvation and important to a Christian life.

Jon Garvey - #78221

April 6th 2013


You’ll probably have noticed in Calvin his attitude of refusing to speculate beyond what Scripture actually says. He was both a humanist and a human, so there are places where he doesn’t live up to his own standards, but it’s still an exemplary stance for me.

Good to know that the Orthodox can get something useful out of the Reformers - as usual the fault lines aren’t necessarily where you’d expect.

GJDS - #78223

April 6th 2013

I have not read (or perhaps understood at the appropriate level) enough of Calvin to comment on his attitude. I like what I have read so far, and I think I understand why you would use the term ‘humanist’ - but he seems to dislike the ‘papists in Rome’  great deal. I guess we all have our likes and dislikes, and Calvin is no exception (you may have noticed that about me from my comments at times!). I hope I can always find ways to ‘get something useful’ from good people Jon - even if they are committed (at a theological level) to Darwinian non-sense. God is good.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #78214

April 5th 2013

Please, Jon, God is not like us. We are like God.

Let me give you my bottom line. God revealed “His” sacred personal Divine Name to Moses at the “burning” bush. This Name YHWH is based on the phrase “I AM WHO I AM.”

What I take from this is: YHWH God defines Who God is, not humans. God is Who God is, not what we think God is or Who we wnt God to be. Theology is to be faith seeking understanding, not understanding seeking verification by faith.

If God were Absolute, it means that God is absolutely aloof from the affairs of humans. YHWH told Moses that He had heard the cries of His people and was determined to liberate them from slavery. YHWH is not Absolute, YHWH cares, YHWH is Love. YHWH is not defined as Simple by the ideas of humans. God is WHO YHWH IS.

Philosophy is a human marvelous invention, but philosophy does not have the Last Word. God does. Many thinbgs seem reasonable, but that does not necessarily make them true. Humans thought that God was Simple and Reality is also basically simple.

Scientists are trying to reduce Reality to its simplest form in expectation of discovering the “Face of God.” However the deeper scientists probe the more complex and mysterious Reality is. The material Face of God is not Simple, and according to the Bible, neither is the Spiritual face of God. That does not mean that our theology is wrong, but it does mean that our philosophy is wrong.

You quote the passage, “The Lord loves a cheerful giver” in the defense of simplicity. I think that passage means that God loves one who gives wholeheartedly. We know that we are to love God with our whole hearts, mind, soul, and strength.

While you might emphasize simplicity as a virtue, I would emphasize wholeness. Both speak of oneness and unity, but have different meanings. Simplicity in the sense of integrity can be a virtue when it is used as the opposite of pretentiousness or deviousness.

To be a respresentative one must have the power and ability to represent. YHWH asked Mose to represent before Pharoah. Moses said that he did not have the power to speak. He might have had a speak problem, but part of the difficulty must have been how could he speak for God if Moses really did not know exactly what God wanted. God promised Moses to give him the words he needed and help from his brother Aaron. God also gave Moses the power to perform miracles to demonstrate God’s power.

How can people repreesent God if they do not know Who God is? You seem to emphasize the distance between God and humanity. If we are to represent God, we need to know Who God is and what God wants. This can happen if there is some basic similarity and point of contact, namely if we are created in God’s Image.

I hope you do not believe that the Son was a slave to the Father, nor the British ambassador is more loyal to the Queen than to the Prime Minister. Representatives are able to do their work when they work in harmony with those they represent.

We represent God when we love God as God loves us and over others as we love ourselves. As complex/one beings created in the Image of the Complex/One God we are able to do this through the Holy Spirit and not through human obedience to an incompatible Source..



Jon Garvey - #78222

April 6th 2013

OK Roger, I get it now. Only Yahweh knows who Yahweh is, and is not want we want him to be, or think him to be.

And that’s how you know him to be complex.

I’ve missed part of the revelatory process there, I think…

Roger A. Sawtelle - #78231

April 6th 2013


From the OT we learn that God is One.  From the NT we learn that God is both Three and One, God is both Complex and One.  It is as simple and as complex as that.

Through Jesus Christ YHWH reveals God to be Complex/One in character.  This is the foundation of Christianity where God is Love.

If you need more details I recommend my book, The GOD Who RELATES. 

Roger A. Sawtelle - #78304

April 8th 2013


Has Polkinghorne said anything on this topic, the Trinity and the Simplicity of God? 


Roger A. Sawtelle - #78331

April 9th 2013

If the One True God is actually Absolute and Simple, then humanity does not need three great faiths claiming to believe in the One True God.

Islam believes that God is One and Simple.  Christianity believes that God is One and Three (Complex.)  Judaism is in the middle, God is One, but not Simple.  Traditional philosophy agrees with Islam, God is Simple.

If God is Simple, it would seem that Islam has the best claim to be the true religion.  If so it is much less complicated than Christianity and would do away with all of that theology based on the Trinity.  Of course it also has advantage of being independent of the Bible so would would not have to study the Bible, but just memorize the Qur’an.

I recommend for your understanding my book, The Complex ONE and The Simple ONE.       

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