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God as Process Engineer: Creator, Sustainer, Reedemer, and Provider

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August 19, 2014 Tags: Divine Action & Purpose, Evolution & Christian Faith project, Image of God

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

God as Process Engineer: Creator, Sustainer, Reedemer, and Provider

Human beings are natural explorers. We are also natural engineers. From the time we are first able to comprehend our surroundings, we begin to apprehend the workings of the world, and harness them for our purposes. I will never forget the adorable racket produced by our own children, even before they could walk, as they sat on our kitchen floor wielding a spoon among the overturned pots and pans. The realization that they had discovered the power to voluntarily create loud banging noises brought a look of sheer joy to their tiny faces.[1]

Though it may be particularly pleasing when we are young and everything is new, people of all ages relish participation in acts of discovery and creativity. Our experience resonates with Proverbs 25:2, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” We were made not only to seek and know truth, but also to apply that truth in meaningful ways.

We seldom think about the match between the comprehensibility of the universe and our ability to comprehend it. But this kind of coincidence is a necessary prerequisite for deriving insights from nature. Albert Einstein noted that the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible. In a letter to a friend, he referred to this feature of the universe as “a miracle or an eternal mystery…which is being constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.”[2]

Furthermore, nature appears to be written in the language of mathematics, a complex set of abstract ideas that we are able to apprehend and apply with unreasonable effectiveness. Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner writes, “The enormous usefulness of mathematics is something bordering on the mysterious…there is no rational explanation for it…the miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve.”[3]

Even chemical elements such as carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen, which formed in the interior of stars at just the right temperatures and pressures, enable life processes by combining with hydrogen to form molecules with just the right bond strengths. This arrangement allows these molecules to couple and decouple at just the right moments to support the machinery of life. Such complex building blocks of life chemistry are reminiscent of LEGOs, which are masterfully engineered with the perfect interference fit, allowing children to easily assemble and disassemble the blocks to create various configurations. Yet even though LEGOs are a great toy, they cannot come close to the “magic” performed by the DNA molecule found in the nucleus of all living cells. Even our best computer technology is child’s play compared to the information storage capacity and capabilities of these complex systems at the core of life.

At an even more fundamental level, the initial conditions for the cosmos, the constants of physics, the values of the fundamental forces, and the very laws of nature themselves appear to have been engineered to have precisely the correct values and features to allow for the emergence and sustenance of life. This has come to be known as the “fine-tuning problem,” since it is difficult to explain, as Stephen Hawking has written, “except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.”[4]

Some people are opposed to thinking of God as an engineer because they envision him with human limitations, perhaps as a clockmaker who winds up the universe and then steps back without any further interaction. But neither of these depictions is necessary, nor are they in accord with Scripture. Several passages in the Bible describe God as if he is a “process engineer” refining his people like a precious metal in the furnace of affliction, or molding them like a potter molds clay on his potter’s wheel. Both of these pictures suggest an engineer who is intimately involved with his creation throughout the entire process. A modern process engineer who works in a refinery, for example, is involved in monitoring the product at various stages, and maintaining the appropriate conditions to achieve the desired outcome. Perhaps this is a more helpful picture of our Maker, who not only created us, but also sustains us and refines us as he holds all things together by his great power. Obviously, this model of our interaction with God falls short, as it fails to account for our role as free-will creatures that cooperate with our Maker in his creative processes. Perhaps the comment by mathematician George E. P. Box is appropriate: “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.”[5]

I believe the model of God as process engineer is “useful” because it communicates his great mastery over the realm of nature, and links this exquisite expertise to the work he has promised to complete in each one of us. The more we are able to comprehend the great works of our Maker, the more our faith in him, and love for him, will grow. Zechariah 12:1 refers to the Lord as the one “who forms the human spirit within a person.” He is forming us for a relationship with himself. To our delight, he has engineered the universe to reveal himself. “Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them” (Psalm 111:2). This provides strong motivation for Christians to pursue education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. As we come to appreciate these studies as acts of devotion and worship, we will better know our Maker, and love him all the more.


  1. Phenomena like the infant’s cookware symphony are actually a primitive form of reverse engineering, which steadily becomes more refined as we get older. Reverse engineering is simply an investigation into how and why something works the way it does. Formal courses of study in science, mathematics, and engineering often make use of this concept, though it may not be labeled explicitly as “reverse engineering.” Even so, practitioners of systems biology have recently been advocating a reverse-engineering mindset for unraveling the mysteries of living systems. Biologist E.O. Wilson writes, “The surest way to grasp complexity in the brain, as in any other biological system, is to think of it as an engineering problem…researchers in biomechanics have discovered time and again that organic structures evolved by natural selection conform to high levels of efficiency when judged by engineering criteria.” (Wilson, E.O., Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, Knopf Publishing Group: Westminster, MD, p. 112, 1999.) [return to body text]
  2. Einstein, A., Letters to Solovine, translated by Wade Baskin, with an introduction by Maurice Solovine, New York: Philosophical Library, p. 132, 1987. [return to body text]
  3. Wigner, E., "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences," Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics, p. 14, February 1960. [return to body text]
  4. Hawking, S., A Brief History of Time, Bantam, New York, p. 75, 1998. Personally, I don’t like the name “fine-tuning” because it elicits an image of a technician at a control panel with dials and gauges, trying to find just the right settings for the efficient performance of a complex piece of machinery. Or worse yet, it reminds older folks of the two knobs found on early television sets: “fine-tuning” and “vertical hold.” It seems like we were constantly fiddling with those knobs to get a good picture to come in. Either way, the images imply a trial-and-error process instead of the forethought, calculation and planning associated with engineering activities, and strongly suggested by many aspects of nature. From a Judeo-Christian perspective, all of these curiosities dovetail into a profoundly meaningful explanation: Being made in God’s image helps to explain our creative and investigative skills, particularly when we consider that God has specially engineered this universe to reveal himself to human beings. This is evident from Romans 1:20 where Paul writes that God’s existence, and something of his character and nature, are clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. [return to body text]
  5. Box, G. E. P., and Draper, N. R., Empirical Model Building and Response Surfaces, John Wiley & Sons, New York, p. 424, 1987. [return to body text]

Dominic Halsmer is the former Dean of the College of Science and Engineering and Director of the Center for Faith and Learning at Oral Roberts University. He earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University, and his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from UCLA. Along with several of his colleagues, he is the recipient of an ECF grant for a project titled, “Science and the Wisdom of God: An Interdisciplinary Project to Help Christians Gain an Appreciation for the Ingenuity Behind our Evolving Universe.


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Roger A. Sawtelle - #86219

August 19th 2014

There is some truth in the statement that all models of God are wrong, but some are helpful.  There is more truth in the fact that the Church based on the Bible has stated that there is one Model of God that is right, and that is the Trinity.

Since the Trinity is three Models of God working together to create one Triune Model, it is clear why a simple model is far from complete. 

While this model of reality is not the traditional Western dualistic model, it is difficult to conceive and apply. 

However if Christian scientists and pastors are serious about applying the Truth of Jesus the Savior and Logos of Christianity to our world, that that is what they must do. 


g kc - #86223

August 19th 2014

I liked this article overall. I was thinking I had now read one on BioLogos for which I had no questions or objections. Until I read this passage:

“Biologist E.O. Wilson writes, “The surest way to grasp complexity in the brain, as in any other biological system, is to think of it as an engineering problem…researchers in biomechanics have discovered time and again that organic structures evolved by natural selection conform to high levels of efficiency when judged by engineering criteria.””

All the words about hands-on, planned process engineering and the joy of tangible, sensory discovery interrupted with a presumption – “organic structures evolved”.

It didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the article.


Dominic Halsmer - #86224

August 19th 2014

I included that quote to simply show that even E.O. Wilson sees the value of reverse engineering in biology.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #86227

August 20th 2014

Dominic,

I could not find this quote in my copy of Consilience. 

I would be somewhat surprised if Wilson would value reverse engineering, because reverse engineering is based on the fact that that there was engineering in the first place.  (I quite agree that fine tuning is not a good engineering or theological term.) 

Wilson and Darwinism seem to allow “natural selection” as he says to determine the form of evolutionary change.  Natural selection is the Deus ex Machina of Darwinism.  It works even though it is not explained or scientifically verified. 

Since it is “natural,” it is by their definition (but not in fact) not rational as engineering is. 

From my point of view Natural Selection is the achilles heal of Darwinian thought.  In this I am in agreement with Jon, because Natural Selection is the teleological aspect of evolution. 


Jon Garvey - #86225

August 20th 2014

A very refreshing article, Dominic, after several years of reading even TE literature about “design without a designer”, “creation free to make itself” and so on.

The essence of the engineering metaphor (leaving aside the “process” for the moment”) is that, ideally, an original conception leads to providing sufficient means to realize it exactly in materials.

In other (older) words, final causation is primary, and formal causation indispensible to how the chain of events, whatever it may be, works out.

The prevailing secular model is of only material efficient causes leading from chaos to some kind of order spontaneously, and imprecisely. Sometimes, theists have simply added God to that as the one who sets up initial conditions and, at most, pays the factory bills.

Your “process engineering” analogy reminds us that the God of the Bible was always involved at every level, and that views that ignore his governance as well as his sustaining fall well short of that.

Specifically (in your model’s context) the Genesis creation account describes, as it were, God’s setting up of a factory and workforce (or better, a temple) - but also describes, on that all-important 7th day, his coming to take up his role as managing director, team leader or whatever other analogy includes his immanent governance.

What is needed, I think, (and have been saying for three years or so here) is a serious discussion on the incompatibility of fully teleological models of creation, like yours, with the only loosely purposive versions of theistic evolution that have often predominated in discussion. They ought to be recognised openly as very different beasts.

For example, would any process engineer keep his job for even a day if he reinterpreted the design specification “mankind” as “any intelligent species”?


Tony - #86230

August 20th 2014

Jon, states, “A very refreshing article, Dominic, after several years of reading even TE literature about “design without a designer”, “creation free to make itself” and so on.”  From my perspective it’s clear Jon’s position is—design through an “intelligent designer”—why else would he comment that it’s refreshing “after several years of reading even TE literature about “design without a designer”, “creation (being) free to make itself” and so on.”  He states, “The prevailing secular model is of only material efficient causes leading from chaos to some kind of order spontaneously, and imprecisely.”  My model of “theistic evolution” incorporates the understandinf that as per, panentheism, God exists as the “eternal animating” force behind the universe and “interpenetrates every part of nature, and timelessly extends beyond as well.”  He never answered to my initial comments, particularly my response to him on, “Is creation from nothing obsolete” #85655, which elaborated precisely on these issues.

He continues, “Specifically (in your model’s context) the Genesis creation account describes, as it were, God’s setting up of a factory and workforce (or better, a temple) - but also describes, on that all-important 7th day, his coming to take up his role as managing director, team leader or whatever other analogy includes his immanent governance.”  Would Jon be succinctly forthright and kind enough to let readers here know whether he believes in “that all-important 7th day, his coming to take up his role as managing director, team leader or whatever other analogy includes his immanent governance?”  If he does not believe in “that all-important 7th day”—the second coming of Christ and the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth—then, confirm this with an explanation of why he does not believe this position, or state for the record that he would just simply like the world to remain as is—war, crime, injustice, etc., (for some personal reason or other), or be upfront that he’s instigating individual responses because he’s unsure of what to believe?  It’s just easier to communicate with someone when you know their beliefs and who they are, than to communicate with a shady person who lurks in the dark.

Best Regards


Jon Garvey - #86234

August 21st 2014

Tony

My apologies for not replying on the other thread. I’ve been an infrequent visitor here with other commitments, not least a new granddaughter (a living example of the fine line between natural generation and creation) and I didn’t notice it before the thread dropped down the ratings.

But I don’t think that qualifies me as a “shady person who lives in the dark”. My views have been expressed here freely for several years and in maybe a million words of blog posting. They are based on around half a century of life in the Holy Spirit and reflection on Holy Scripture, and possibly a few more of exposure to scientific ideas, especially in the life sciences.

The reasons I think that panentheism deviates from Christian orthodoxy are quite well summarised in this piece (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2012/08/whats-wrong-with-panentheism/)  by theologian Roger Olson, who is noted for broad views on what constitutes orthodoxy. Nevertheless note particularly:

The crucial difference between traditional, classical panentheism and Christian theism, broadly interpreted (i.e., not necessarily as defined by Augustine or Anselm or Aquinas), is God’s dependence on the world. Panentheism traditionally affirms it; all forms of classical Christian theism deny it. Creation ex nihilo is the crucial doctrine that protects Christian theism from making God essentially dependent on the world.

Why is it important to deny God’s dependence on the world? ... The bedrock reason is, as I have stated and argued here before, that “whatever is of nature cannot be of grace.” Christianity is not a philosophy; it is a message of grace. If God’s creation and redemption of the world is not free, then it is not of grace. Only that which is freely done is truly gracious. That’s a bedrock principle of theology. When someone disputes it, I frankly don’t know what they mean by “grace.”

That is not to affirm a purely distant and transcendant God, but rather to show the great care Christianity has taken to preserve the biblical tension between transcendence and deeply-involved immanence, which can hardly be better expressed than in the temple-imagery of the Genesis 1 account.

It’s slightly mysterious to me why you should think I do not believe in the second coming of Christ, and can only think it’s because you interpret the seventh day of creation eschatologically and assume that any other interpretation is invalid. I think your interpretation is mistaken, though some orthodox people held something like it, especially in Patristic days, in an allegorical understanding of the world as having a 7-day history overall. I think that is exegetically untenable in the end.

To me, Scripture teaches rather that the 7th day represents the completion of the creation necessary for the coming of mankind and the kingdom of God. God ceased from that, but remains active as governor of the world (“My Father is still working.”) Sin, in opposing his reign, does not cancel out the “sabbath rest” of God, but excludes sinners from it. Hebrews 3-4 commentary on Psalm 95 discusses this: God’s work has been finished since the creation of the world (4.3-4), but it still remains that some will enter that rest (v6).

That of course is achieved in Christ, and ultimately by his *parousia*, but that salvation is described as a new work of creation. That is why, it seems to me, the structure of Revelation (which you cite, it seems, rather judgementally against some other Christians who believe in design arguments) is not sevenfold, but sevenfold with an *octave*, an eighth “day” representing the start of the age to come in Christ.

I hope that’s not too suggestive of my being “unsure what to believe” even if you disagree with it. I’ve been doing theology long enough to smile at that kind of jibe.


Tony - #86258

August 23rd 2014

Hi Jon…

I thank you and appreciate your kind response, and would also like to congratulate you with the new arrival in your family—a granddaughter is definitely an occasion for celebration.  I wish you and your family the best of blessings.

On another note, it’s not necessarily that you didn’t respond to my initial comments upon my becoming a member of the BioLogos forum that I used the expression, “a shady person who lurks in the dark.”  It was rather meant to suggest that you weren’t being openly forthcoming or transparent regarding your views.  Gregory has also stated, in Deborah Haarsma’s post, “What Americans Think and Feel About Evolution” #85835, “Jon calls himself a ‘TE” (of the Warfieldian variety) and still hasn’t expressed publically (or just still doesn’t know clearly) his views of IDism.  Anyway, I know it’s also difficult to communicate on a blog site and have any successful progress and benifit unless there’s commitment by both parties involved.  I’m also aware that you have your own blog site to keep tabs on.

Concerning panentheism, theologian Roger Olson comments, “the God-world relationship…portrays God and the world as essentially interdependent although God’s essence is not contributed by the world.”  He states, “According to John Cooper, Krause believed ‘the distinction between God and the world is that of whole and part.’”  He also comments on “G.W.F Hegel who famously asserted that ‘Without the world God is not God,’” and that Whitehead said, “It is as true to say that God creates the world as that the world createsGod.”  Krause, Hegel, Whitehead, Gregersen, and others not quoted here, such as, Arthur Peacocke, Juergen Moltmann—these are not small time players he’s reffering to but other intellectuals with authority on the subject.

Olson makes an important point here; “So, traditional, classical penentheism distinguishes between God’s essence, his eternal being, and his experience.  God’s essence, his “thatness” and “whatness” are [his] independent of the world, but his actual experience is given to him by the world.  Many panentheists have used the body-soul or body-mind analogy to describe the God-world relationship in traditional, classical panentheism.  The world (universe, cosmos) is God’s body.”  He says, “In other words, I have no problem believing that God actually experiences the world such that there is a sense in which the world is “in” God.  That’s how I interpret Paul’s statement in Athens.  Also, I believe Paul meant that the world is dependent on God for its existence from moment to moment.”  For the record, I must state that I agree with the point that “the world is dependent on God for its existence from moment to moment”—Without God’s [Energeia] matter cannot exist, hence, “the world is dependent on God.”  An article on, theosis, states, “However, every being and reality itself is considered as composed of the immanent energy, or Energeia, of God.  As energy is the “actuality” of God, i.e. His immanence, from God’s being, it is also the Energeia or activity of God.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theosis_(Eastern_Orthodox_theology)

Olson describes the undergoing change with the term “panentheism” in contemporary theology explains; “Essentially, what is happening, is that some Christian theologians are adopting the term “panentheism” and adapting it to a more classical theistic view of the God-world relationship.  Gregersen talks about “Christian panentheism” by which he means a view in which God’s experience is contributed at least partly by the world and what happens in it while God is himself not essentially dependent on the world.  In other words, God freely chooses to include the world in his life.  A good example is Juergen Moltmann who explicitly labels his theology panentheistic in several of his writings (“trinitarian panentheism,” “eschatological panentheism”).  Many other relatively conservative Christian theologians, including some evangelicals, are calling their theologies panentheistic, but they don’t mean in the Krause, Hegel, or Whitehead sense.  They seem to mean only that the God-world relationship is ontologically real, not merely external to God.  God freely (he could have done otherwise) creates the world and experiences it such that he is not the same with the world as he was or would be without it.  And yet he does not literally “need” it to be who and what he is.”  Thus, this understanding contradicts Olson’s statement that “whatever is of nature cannot be of grace.”  He says, “Christianity is not a philosophy; it is a message of grace.  If God’s creation and redemption of the world is not free, then it is not of grace.  Only that which is freely done is truly gracious.  That’s a bedrock principle of theology.”  Panentheism and process theology, as concepts, are seemingly becoming more realistic as Christian principles are examined beside them.

Olson continues, “My concern is whether this is stretching “panentheism” too far.  It seems to me to lose all shape, so to speak, unless it is kept closely tied to the rejection of “creation ex nihilo” and affirmation of the idea of God’s essential dependence on at least some world.”  At this point this consideration requires the introduction of the concept of the “cyclic universe” within the “panentheistic” framwork which in my opinion is the present case.  However, I will not get into that discussion here.  Alternatively, Olson states that, “what Gregersen means by “Christian panentheism”...is compatible with “creation ex nihilo.”  With statements such as these we would have to infer that Roger Olson might well find the philosophy of “panentheism” acceptable with the appropriate definitions of the theology.

“The great care Christianity has taken to preserve the biblical tension in between transcendence and deeply involved immanence” must at some point be relieved—I believe the time is now.  Your comment, “you interpret the seventh day of creation eschatologically and assume that any other interpretation is invalid,” tells me that you believe the Christ has already come sometime close after Jesus’ crucifixion.  “In the “Preterist” approach, Revelation chiefly refers to the events of the first century, such as the struggle of Christianity to survive the persecutions of the Roman Empire, the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and the destruction of the temple in the same year.”  What’s wrong with this approach to eschatology is that prophecy is not fulfilled—Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Jesus, John—concerning God’s judgment on “the Dragon, the Beast, False Prophet, and the wicked one’s of the world.”  Specifically, Isaiah 17 stating that “Damascus will no longer be a city,” the Psalm 83 war concerning a conflagration of Muslim nations that have, as yet, never united against Israel, the Ezekiel 38 Gog and Magog war coming from the north parts, Revelation’s war of Armageddon with armies coming from the east, and the fall of Babylon the Great.  These prophecies have not yet been fulfilled.  We have only now arrived at the end of the calculated 6000 years the Hebrew people have instated as the timescale for mankind.  The “Sabbath rest” begins after God’s work is complete and His Kingdom is secured through the fulfillment of these final prophecies.

Maranatha


Jon Garvey - #86265

August 24th 2014

Hi Tony - Thanks for reply.

First, Gregory has been muttering darkly about my secretive and equivocating nature for years. Nobody else agrees. Charitably, it may because the categories he considers important are different from those I do - especially, I don’t carry cards for ideologies, even when I like some of their ideas.

Secondly - another misconception to clear up. My comment, apparently, told you that “you believe Christ has already come.” Not so. What it *should* have told you is that I believe the sabbath rest of Genesis 1 came on the seventh day of creation, understood functionally, and represents God’s settled governing of his universe from thyat beginning on.

My understanding of Revelation is not Preterist but Amillennial, in common with many of the early interpreters and the bulk of Reformed thinkers, with whom I most identify. As I suggested in my previous post, God’s reign is only incomplete in the sense that his government was challenged by sin - since Eden the cosmos has not been fully and rationally committed to his Kingdom because of it - if you like, the cosmic temple has some unclean beasts in it.

Not that God was impotent in that situation - his sovereignty is shown in the unfolding of his salvation plan - to fast forward to eschatology, note Jesus’s words about the coming troubles in terms of “these things *must* happen”, in the same sense as “prophecy *must* be fulfilled”, ie not that God can’t prevent them, but that they are necessary to the particular unfolding redemption of all things that he has planned. Revelation, too, whatever specific interpretive line one takes, was intended to show Christians experiencing apparent defeat and perhaps “godforsakennenss” that, from the prespective of heaven, God is unfolding his purposes through these sufferings.

The key event of salvation history is, of course, Christ and his ministry, which has often (rightly) been seen to inaugurate an “already but not yet” understanding of the last days. Sin and death were defeated by the cross-resurrection-ascension events, but the kingdom is not complete, and so neither the saints nor the disrupted creation have yet fully entered God’s (present) rest.

Yet both Jesus’s sabbath teaching and his saying “Come to me, and you will find rest for your souls” show that Jesus knew himself to *be* that sabbath rest, and so we find true peace with God, and truly enter his Kingdom, now, by faith. What remains is the full enjoyment of that rest at the Eschaton.

I’m reassured that your interpretation of panentheism is “non-classical”, and agree with Olsen’s assessment of its change in meaning under Moltmann *et al*. Where we differ most fundamentally is that, whereas you believe thgat changed pantheism is a resolver of tensions, I believe it actually creates more problems and tensions than it solves… that’s for some other time and place.

But I believe transcendence and immanence are in tension not because they are paradoxical, but because both are true, and fundamental to the biblical revelation - God is higher than the highest heaven, but stoops to help the widow and orphan. The tension in that sense is resolved when, in Revelation’s terms, the city of God *is descending* (present continuous) from God to man - or in more general terms, the whole cosmos becomes the kingdomn of Christ and he hands it over to the Father.


Tony - #86354

August 26th 2014

Hi Jon…

If you’re a millennial and state, “What it *should* have told you is that I believe the Sabbath rest of Genesis 1 [Came] on the seventh day of creation, understood functionally, and represents God’s settled governing of his universe from that beginning on, “you [are] saying, right, that, from the perspective of Genesis 1, the seventh day of creation is in the future—our present day arrival of the year 6000 in the Hebrew calendar.  The reason I inferred you held a preterist position is because you stated, “Your comment, “you interpret the seventh day of creation eschatologically and assume that any other interpretation is invalid.”  This seems to imply that you find my [eschatological 6000th year seventh day Sabbath interpretation] wrong.  Thus, when you say, “the Sabbath rest of Genesis 1 [came] on the seventh day of creation, understood functionally, and represents God’s settled governing of his universe from that beginning on,” you [are] saying that we will soon enter (future) that “a millennial Sabbath rest,” when God’s enemies [unclean beasts] are placed under his feet and his Kingdom is secured.  As your comment suggests, “God’s reign is only incomplete in the sense that his government was challenged by sin—since Eden the cosmos has not been fully and rationally committed to his Kingdom because of it.”  I’m not sure, but presume, because you phrasing (the cosmos has not been full and rationally committed), that you entertain the idea of spiritual beings.  If you have read my comments with others, here at BioLogos, you know my position on these matters.  Hence, from my perspective, it is mankind on planet earth that “has not been fully and rationally committed to his Kingdom”—there is no need to bring non existing invisible entities into the scenario.

Accordingly, individual free-will necessarily suggests the experience of trial and error for advancement and evolution to take place.  Without knowledge of prior experience man and woman could not be cognizant and discerning of what “good and evil” was.  Your statement, “Not that God was impotent in that situation—his sovereignty is shown in the unfolding of his salvation plan,” can be misleading.  Additionally, where you state, “Jesus’ words about the coming troubles in terms of “these things *must* happen,” in the same sense as “prophecy *must* be fulfilled,” i.e., not that God can’t prevent them, but that they are necessary to the particular unfolding redemption of all things that he has planned,” can also be misleading.  I agree with the “process” of the things that *must* happen and the prophecies that *must* be fulfilled concerning salvation and the unfolding redemption.  I also agree with the “engineer” that is implied.  What I don’t agree with and will not accept, as a rational explication for metaphysical reality, is the implication that the “engineer” was a rational, intelligent, cognizant being at the beginning of creation—although, through the creation, trial and error, and the evolution of mankind, he now is.  From the perspective of heaven (the world of the mind) or rather the astral plane, God’s purposes are unfolding through suffering because collateral damage incidental to any activity through the evolution of the human race cannot be avoided.

I concur that the key event in salvation history [is] the Christ and his ministry, and that “sin and death” [were] defeated by the cross-resurrection-ascension.  In my opinion, the understanding of the mystery that remains is the reincarnation of Christ and his being born of the Holy Spirit just before the turn of the millennium.  I’m also comfortable with the typology, “Yet both Jesus’ Sabbath teaching and his saying “Come to me, and you will find rest for your souls” show that Jesus knew himself to *be* that Sabbath rest, and so we find true peace with God, and truly enter his Kingdom, now, by faith.  What remains is the full enjoyment of that rest at the Eschaton”—the full global Sabbath rest.

I’ll hold you to your invitation to further discussion concerning your statement, “Where we differ most fundamentally is that , whereas you believe that changed panentheism is a resolver of tensions, I believe it actually creates more problems and tensions than it solves…that’s for some other time and place.”

Jon, I find your final words comforting, since, I as well believe the tension between transcendence and immanence will be ultimately dissolved.  I too, believe this tension is not paradoxical and that both are true, however, in my opinion, the tension is due to the misrepresentation of who God is.  Alternatively, I like your statement “God is higher than the highest heaven, but stoops to help the widow and orphan,” and similarly agree that “the tension in that sense is resolved when, in Revelation’s terms, the city of God *is descending* (present continuous) from God to man—or in more general terms, the whole cosmos becomes the Kingdom of Christ and he hands it over to the Father.”

Appropriately, many people today look up to the sky when discussing the second coming of Christ.  They believe they will be swooped up into the clouds with his coming.  Most of us have seen, or heard first or second hand talk about movies like “Left Behind,” where people disappear from city streets, homes, businesses etc., and the cities become like ghost towns.  It is just so ridiculous.  For any rational person this kind of thinking does not hold up to reason.  I explain the rapture and what is mystical elsewhere in the forum and consider my explication as being reasonable, rational, and logical—simply and profoundly, it makes sense according to the scriptures and what Jesus taught.  Jon, if I can further question you, I’d like to know from where [you] believe Christ will return?  Whether he will return in spirit only like some Christian denominations believe, or whether he will return in the flesh as he came the first time?  As I’m sure you already know, this is the opinion I hold.  This would satisfy my, and many other’s, curiosity on this important issue.  After all, I for my part, have been completely forthright about my assumptions and convictions.  As Gregory eloquently states, “Your communicative action is called to attention” and “Charity of reading is requested.”  I hope you will oblige!


Jon Garvey - #86362

August 27th 2014

Tony

On this forum, in this context, I fear there is just too much divergence between our theologies to make a full discussion possible. Most of the time we would be talking past each other. For example, your doctrine of God is fundamentally different from mine, and that has a domino effect on every other aspect of doctrine, such as the second coming of Christ.

I’ll try to do what seems necessary to answer your specific  question, knowing it will be inadequate. I believe Scripture teaches that the universe, contra Saga, is *not* all there is, was or ever shall be. Unlike God, it is contingent. God was even planning our salvation before the begiνning of the κοσμος (Eph 1.4), and I’m afraid I find that testimony compelling.

Fortunately over here in the UK neither “rapture” teaching nor a Platonic “purely spiritual” view of Christ are high on the radar, since both are alien to historical formulations of Christianity, so I can dismiss them out of hand.

Christ was raised in the body, but that body was spiritual, the firstfruits of the new creation. If that’s hard to comprehend, it’s because we are, physically, still of the old material creation. In that body (even more incomprehensibly) he ascended to the Father. “Ascended” is the biblical word, but was never to be understood purely physically - C S Lewis gives a good account of how the physical appearance of ascension granted to the apostles was far more appropriate than anything other visual scene one could imagine, such as his disappearing into thin air.

Since he remains in the body, reincarnation is both unscriptural and quite unnecessary - he has a perfectly adequate, imperishable, body, thanks very much. He will return as he went - but in more glory. As to how we will *perceive* his coming, I really don’t trouble myself - I have nothing to compare it with.


Gregory - #86282

August 25th 2014

Because my name was raised and elicited a defensive comment from Jon, let me briefly respond. I share a similar experience to what Tony said above. Charity of reading is requested (and hopefully given) on all sides. I’m pleased to see Jon using some of the terminology that I’ve suggested to him over the years. There definitely is a ‘tension,’ as his last paragraph above indicates.

The equivocating (re: IDism) is simply my reading of the parts of Jon’s opus about IDism that I’ve gotten to. His recent Classic Providential Naturalism ‘manifesto’ perhaps most closely presents his views. For Jon, ‘naturalism’ is that which “enables science to happen.” Jon thus logically accepts the label ‘naturalist’ - he takes the label by definition of ‘classical providential naturalist’ - which is what those who hold the ideology of naturalism are properly called.

Well, that’s not really ‘dark muttering,’ rather an attempt at clarity. Jon’s position is thus imo not a very helpful wandering around example in ideological territory (i.e. naturalISM). More careful thought in this space is needed. One thing, however, should be made plain is that Jon is certainly *not* secretive, nor would I accuse him of that, as his many waves of writing in retirement can be found on-line, including at the blog Tony politely acknowledged.

Everyone ‘carries cards for ideologies,’ Jon. No escaping it. That’s part of the human package (just not how medical doctors often look at it). ‘Processism’ is an ideology that you have continually expressed impatience with here at BioLogos (via process theology). So this seems to be a good opportunity for you to engage it further here (if you think it is present) in this thread. I’m glad Tony has called your communicative action to attention and hope you will straighfowardly (or roundaboutly) deal with it.

“God as Process Engineer” also sounds so IDistic, though with the added Process. God as Engineer is precisely what Charles Thaxton had in mind when he coined the duo ‘Intelligent + Design’ that became the artificial heart of the IDM. But it is obvious that lowercase ‘e’ engineers use processes in doing engineering, just as scientists do when doing science, so the anti-processism of IDT should be more clearly explained than it has been thus far with Meyer’s ‘historical science’ rhetoric. 


GJDS - #86226

August 20th 2014

A number of useful insights in this post – I feel that I should point out the Biologs site has a focus on the bio-sciences, and it is here that analogies and models used within a theological context break down.

There are a number of certainties in the natural sciences that would cause us to profoundly doubt the Darwinian paradigm. Within the way natural sciences progress, this is not a serious problem – but within a theological context, it presents a way to include error in our understanding of the Faith. To illustrate, there is a greater and profound mystery on the origin of life – yet while we agree with those such as Einstein on the mystery of the intelligibility of the creation, we seem (at BioLogos as well as other organisations) reluctant to admit our ignorance regarding life and evolution. In fact there is a lot of heated argument derived from people who claim that Darwin either explains most aspects of the bio-world, or opposed by those who claim to have an alternate view to Darwin. The plain fact is that both camps seem incapable of admitting their profound ignorance of this matter. Views such as a process that somehow God has created I think misses the point. We should, I suggest, admit our profound ignorance of this subject, and then examine our motivation that drives us to provide a theology that incorporates such ignorance.

On an overall view of the bio-sciences and a very general view of an evolutionary concept, many thinkers accept that an additional ‘layer’ is required regarding the laws of physics and chemistry, and this layer is anticipated to provide (for the sake of discussion), laws of the bio-world. Until such an advance has occurred, we should simply accept the situation, forget processes and other speculation, and instead examine our theological understanding so that we are clear on the revealed attributes of God and the teachings of the Christian faith. The natural sciences will progress, as they have todate, and our theological understanding will not suffer one bit as a result.


Tony - #86232

August 20th 2014

GJDS…

Regarding life and evolution, wouldn’t your conjecture, “The plain fact is that both camps seem incapable of admitting their profound ignorance of this matter,” fall short of critical analysis?  In terms of this debate one side must be correct in its elaborations.  My insight tells me that this is the case here.  I believe the BioLogos focus on the bio-sciences is justified.  In my opinion, this focus is based there because all other areas of theology have been exhausted.  Through reverse engineering science has come to the conclusion, beyond a doubt, that Darwinian evolution is a fact of reality.  The analogies and models used within the theological context remain intact and our understanding of the Faith is only reassured.

The scientific community is managed by professional intellectuals and run according to scientific principles.  It does abide by ethical standards according to legal precedent.  I fail to see the need you’re referring to here, where, “many thinkers accept that an additional ‘layer’ is required regarding the laws of physics and chemistry, and this layer is anticipated to provide (for the sake of discussion), laws of the bio-world.”  The situation has been and currently is accepted for what it is by those who have insight into the grand scheme of things.  Alternatively, for those who admit to profound ignorance on the subject, the situation can be rather sketchy.

The bio-sciences, or for that matter, the sciences altogether, cannot “forget processes and other speculation.”  We have a “doubting Thomas” around every corner who needs to “stick his finger” into the evidence, hence, the search continues.  However, [if] the evidence surfaces is the ultimate question?  Nevertheless, through critical thinking, what has already been established, and common sense, truth is attainable.  Further research into the bio-sciences also has incentive for new discoveries in medical science.  That we “instead examine our theological understanding” should be considered at a personal level in that we individually stand upright before the “Lord” and are clear on the revealed attributes of God and the teachings of the Christian faith.”  In this way, as you state,  “the natural sciences will progress, as they have to date, and our theological understanding will not suffer one bit as a result” since integrity is sound to everything and everyone concerned.

Best Regards


GJDS - #86233

August 20th 2014

Hi Tony,

“The situation has been and currently is accepted for what it is by those who have insight into the grand scheme of things.  Alternatively, for those who admit to profound ignorance on the subject, the situation can be rather sketchy.”

My objection(s) have been to the adoption of a grand scheme of things regarding evolutionism (or Darwinism, if you wish). This vast generalisation (and this has been discussed at length over a considrable period of time) has often been labled a myth which preceeded Darwin. Thus I do not se a need to provide additonal critical comments on this subject.

The adoption of an agnostic position on profoundly difficult subjects such as the origin(s) of life and the way the earth has evolved over billions of years is prudent scientifically. My suggestion has been to differentiate betwen rank speculation (with scientific evidence that speaks against much of such speculation), from areas of science that are sufficiently established. I cannot spend the next few months elaborating on this as this is impractical and not the point of these blogs.

The serious point which I think you fail to appreciate, is that of the standards required for orthodox theology, and how these would preclude and reject speculation from areas such as the bio-sciences (and other areas of science). This comment deals with systematic theology, and is not specifically aimed at the personal understanding of anyone in particular, nor questioning any scientist’s integrity, nor discourage further research - the emphasis is on orthodox Christian systematic theology which is the result of the collective effort of the Church. (I cannot check this post as it is lost quickly, so I hope there are not too many typing errors). 


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