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Is Creation from Nothing Obsolete?

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May 29, 2014 Tags: Creation & Origins, Divine Action & Purpose, Earth, Universe & Time

Today's entry was written by Ted Davis. You can read more about what we believe here.

Is Creation from Nothing Obsolete?
God creating the animals, fresco (1480s) from Vittskövle Kyrka, Kristianstad Municipality, Sweden.

Once the work of the six days was finished, did God really stop creating? Or, is God still creating new things now?

The last excerpt ended with Ted Peters saying, “We may speak intelligibly of both a beginning creation and a continuing creation.” When I started my academic career in science and religion thirty years ago—not long before Peters wrote this essay—I landed in the middle of an ongoing “debate” (Peters uses that word here with good reason) among Christians and others about how best to understand God’s creative activity. According to the traditional view, God created all things from nothing (creatio ex nihilo) “in the beginning,” by great miracles spread through the six “days” of creation, which almost all serious voices in modern times have interpreted as encompassing vast spans of time. The alternative view was not the YEC view that it was all one and done, with the work of creation completely finished at the end of the sixth “day.” Those folks had all but abandoned the larger conversation and were preaching only to their own choir. The alternative was continuing creation (creatio continua), the idea that God’s creative work is ongoing and never ending.

Generally speaking, proponents of Theistic Evolution like continuing creation, but this does not necessarily mean that they reject creation from nothing. Some (including Peters and me) believe that both understandings of creation are fully biblical and equally important. Others see this as either/or, not both/and, such that one must choose between creatio ex nihilo and creatio continua. This is hardly a necessary choice. Indeed, continuing creation has long been an important strand of classical Christian theology, especially within the Eastern Orthodox tradition. However, modern advocates have sometimes linked it closely with process theism, a very important and highly non-classical player in the modern “dialogue” of science and religion. We take that up in my next column, where Peters will focus specifically on process theism vis-à-vis creatio ex nihilo.

Today’s column focuses on scientific, not theological, aspects of the ongoing debate. Peters defends his view that “these two concepts are complementary and that we need not substitute one for the other.” The underlying question: is creation from nothing obsolete? Peters’ text begins after the next heading.


The Scientific Debate: Creation out of Nothing vs. Continuing Creation

We have already discussed how the Christian doctrine of creatio ex nihilo developed through a process of explicating [trying to understand] implications inherent in the ancient Hebrew experience of God’s saving acts in history. In our own epoch, characterized by modern science and an emerging postmodern culture, we are also engaged in interpretive explication. Therefore we must ask: does creatio ex nihilo help make the Gospel intelligible today? It is my own position that it does. However, not everyone agrees. We must acknowledge that some contemporary thinkers believe the doctrine is outdated due to the change in worldview. Because we moderns allegedly have more dynamic understanding of reality than did the ancients, many are recommending that creatio ex nihilo be replaced by one or another version of creatio continua. I do not believe we need to choose between them. I believe these two concepts are complementary and that we need not substitute one for the other. This complementarity is true for both Christian theology and natural science.

Photo: Fred Hoyle and Georges Lemaître
Fred Hoyle (left) and Georges Lemaître, two of the greatest astrophysicists of the twentieth century, held opposing views on the history of the universe. A Belgian veteran of World War One who became a Roman Catholic priest after the war, Lemaître studied with Arthur Eddington at Cambridge and with Harlow Shapley at Harvard before earning a doctorate in physics at MIT. In 1927, he wrote the groundbreaking paper on the expanding universe that soon led to what is now called the “Big Bang” theory. Ironically, it got that name from its biggest critic—Hoyle—who coined the term on a BBC radio broadcast in 1948.

We make the observation here that the debate between creation from nothing and continuous creation is not limited to theologians. It occurs among scientists as well. For several decades astronomer Fred Hoyle, for example, argued for a theory of continuous creation under the banner of the “steady state theory.” He thereby opposed any notion of an absolute beginning. Rather than think that all the matter in the universe appeared at a given point of origin, his position was that matter is always coming into being uniformly throughout infinite time and infinite space. Hydrogen atoms are appearing de novo at a constant rate throughout space, condensing, combining, and giving birth to new stars.

Hoyle argued against the Big Bang by saying that the theory of a unidirectional expanding universe rests on a time-singularity beyond which the history of the universe cannot be traced; but Hoyle’s opponents countered by showing how his spontaneous creation of hydrogen atoms violates the laws of local conservation of mass and energy and, further, that the phenomenon of continuing creation is as yet unobserved. For most scientists the debate was decisively won in 1965 with the discovery of the cosmic background radiation by Robert W. Wilson and Arno A. Penzias. Their discovery confirmed earlier predictions that such a universal microwave radiation would be a relic of an early stage in cosmic expansion. Hoyle has sought since to revise his approach by constructing other cosmologies in competition with the Big Bang model, but most scientists cede the final victory to some variant of the Big Bang view. [This remains true in 2014, despite many changes in the details of Big Bang cosmology.]

Why has Fred Hoyle been so adamant, especially when the preponderance of scientific evidence favors the Big Bang cosmology? It appears that Hoyle has religious as well as scientific reasons. He opposes the Christian religion. Like so many other scientific humanists of the modem world, he defines “religion” as escapism: “religion is but a desperate attempt to find an escape from the truly dreadful situation in which we find ourselves.” [Peters quotes Hoyle, The Nature of the Universe, p. 125.] What he does not like about the Big Bang theory, curiously enough, is that it looks to him like it might support Jewish and Christian theology. He opposes the idea of a point of origin. He opposes creatio ex nihilo. Over against the theologians he likes to quote the Greek Democritus, who said “nothing is created out of nothing” (ex nihilo nihil fit). He seems to assume that Big Bang and creatio ex nihilo belong together, and to this he objects.

It appears clear that Hoyle wants to avoid giving even the slightest quarter to religious forces. What is significant for us here is that Hoyle assumes there exists a consonance between Big Bang cosmology and Christian theology. He recognizes an inherent connection, and this is what he does not like about it. Thus, as Ernan McMullin points out, the debate among scientists seems to press against the borders of their own disciplines and, further, it seems there is some tacit agreement that the notion of a point of origin with a subsequent history of nature has the greater religious relevance. [Peters cites McMullin, “How Should Cosmology Relate to Theology?” in The Sciences and Theology in the Twentieth Century, ed. A. R. Peacocke (Notre Dame Press, 1980), pp. 32ff.]

Photo: Ernan McMullin and J.E. “Ted” McGuire
Philosopher Ernan McMullin (left) and historian J. E. “Ted” McGuire ponder a point during a conference at the University of Pittsburgh. McMullin might have made a wonderful parish priest, but the Church enabled him instead to become one of the greatest Christian scholars of his generation. I cannot name anyone whose all-around knowledge of primary sources in science and Christianity rivalled his. Like Georges Lemaître, with whom he studied astrophysics at Louvain, McMullin was always wary of drawing too strongly on cosmology to argue for the divine creation of the universe. Nevertheless, he saw an obvious “consonance” between Christian theism and the Big Bang, and it was from him that Peters borrowed that term. I was introduced to McMullin in 1981, at the private conference in Madison, Wisconsin, that resulted in the very important book, God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science. I was just a graduate student from another university, but the personal warmth and professional advice he so kindly extended led to a long friendship that ended only with his death in 2011. I stand on the shoulders of giants, even if I can’t see half as far.

Looking Ahead

Next time, Peters examines theological rather than scientific aspects of the debate between creatio ex nihilo and creatio continua, in a lively discussion pitting his own views against those of some leading process theists. If your interest in questions about God and nature runs high, you won’t want to miss that!

References and Credits

Excerpts from Ted Peters, “On Creating the Cosmos,” in Physics, Philosophy and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding (1988), ed. Robert John Russell, William R. Stoeger, S.J., and George V. Coyne, S.J., copyright Vatican Observatory Foundation, are reproduced by kind permission of Ted Peters and Vatican Observatory Foundation. We gratefully acknowledge their cooperation in bringing this material to our readers.

For a careful study of Hoyle’s famous comments about the Big Bang, see Craig Sean McConnell, “The BBC, the Victoria Institute, and the Theological Context for the Big Bang – Steady State Debate,” Science & Christian Belief 18.2 (October 2006): 151-68; read abstract.

Editorial Policy

Most of the editing for these excerpts from Ted Peters involves removing the odd sentence or two, or in some cases entire paragraphs—which I indicate by putting [SNIP] or an ellipsis at the appropriate point(s). I also insert annotations where warranted [enclosed in square brackets] to provide background information, often citing information from Peters’ own footnotes when it’s important for our readers.


Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #85563

May 29th 2014

Ted and Ted,

Very good post.

In a way it is to hard to understand why many evangelicals rebel against science just when scientific findings are making a good case for the Creator God.  With the Big Bang and the Anthropic Principle accepted scientific principles, there is little wiggle room for people who say that the universe is the result of random chance.   

Of course the evolution debate began before these discoveries and the historical causes of the conflict are buried deep in the psyches of those involved.  Thus we do need a sympathetic look at the Fundamentalist movement and the Science that triggered Fundamentalism. 

Alse we need to explore the limits of Darwinism.    

 


Jon Garvey - #85564

May 29th 2014

Ted, a good post, IMHO.On first principles it would seem that the God who relates to his cosmos would continue to be involved creatively with it, even if he wasn’t, as he is, said to continue to create (bara) in Scripture.

Coincidentally I’ve just done a post trying to elucidate just what is meant by creation after the beginning, in consideration of the specific term “evolutionary creation.”

As I understand the Eastern form of creatio continua it’s a strong description of God’s sustenance of creation, as it were making each moment anew - I’m not sure if that’s linked to an occasionalist approach or not.

But it seems to me there are (at least) two incompatible ways of seeing God’s ongoing creation in evolution. The first is as the action of secondary causes alone, as in the writing of the “free process” TEs - and I would question whether that’s either properly views as “creation” or actually a “sufficient means”. If the innovation is inherent or implicit in the secondary cause, then it was previously created (analogously to procreation), and if not, then it’s actually setting up a Demiurge in addition to God - which, consisting as it must of non-rational entities must surely be doubtfully sufficient as a surrogate Creator.

The second way is some kind of new input to the cosmos from God, which cannot be seen as interference for the very reason that it is creation. R J Russell’s “quantum direction” would be a specific example of this, but theologically it’s the principles rather than the methodology that matter most.

And the principle underlying creation is, surely, that new things happen because God, as sole Creator,  causes them. If we accept John Walton’s functional understanding of bara in the Bible, then those “new things” would constitute order and function - that is, God is the wise Creator of systems, and not just an experimenter with individual novelties.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #85567

May 29th 2014

Jon,

The problem with Darwinism as I see it is that it is not a clear creative process.  It is some kind of a hit or miss program at best.

The reason why ecological evolution is both scientific and theological sound is that it sets up two systems that work together to create a third.

God creates through harmony, not through conflict.  When there is conflict it is because systems are out of sync. 

On the other hand God can use conflict which is inevitable to restore balance as does a storm and to create.  Nothing is lost in God’s plan.

The problem of looking at evolution in a vacuum as Darwinism does it that it seems to be working in a vacuum, which it is not. 


Eddie - #85568

May 29th 2014

Ted:

I agree that “historical origin” and “divine sustenance” are not incompatible.

I have not yet had time to study Palamas or other (post-Patristic) Orthodox theologians on this question, but I suspect that in thinking of God’s ongoing sustenance of nature as continuous creation, they were not denying an absolute beginning of nature, i.e., a transition from nothingness to the first state of the world.  Of course, they would not have envisioned that “first state of the world” as modern astrophysics imagines it, but they would have believed that there was non-being followed by being, i.e., that there was a “time” (loosely speaking) when the world was not, followed by a “time” (i.e., time as we know it) when the world was.

Jon Garvey raises the question how close “creation continua” is to “occasionalism.”  This is a good question, but one I have not yet had time to study.  I would say only that occasionalism (as understood in some Islamic thinkers) has not been the historically accepted understanding of Christians regarding creation, and thus that if there is truth in “creatio continua” it must be a truth differing from the claim of occasionalism.  An excellent doctoral thesis would be one distinguishing creation continua from occasionalism in a systematic way.  Of course, such a thesis would require a thorough knowledge of Islamic as well as Christian philosophy, and of Arabic as well as Latin, and would not be one that could be properly executed by just anyone.  But it would be worth doing.

 


Ted Davis - #85571

May 30th 2014

I fully agree with your excellent comments here, Eddie. I know Palamas mainly through his notion of the divine energies, which I needed to learn about several years ago when I was writing about the religious beliefs of Michael Idvosky Pupin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mihajlo_Pupin), the most important Serbian-American in the early 20th century (I put Pupin over Tesla b/c he was basically responsible for creating Yugoslavia at the Paris peace talks). I am convinced that Pupin approached wave motion of all types as manifestations of the divine energies, though it’s hard to prove it.

Palamas surely accepted creatio ex nihilo. If you look at this selection, which starts with a quotation from Basil that he endorses, you will see enough evidence:

http://frgregory.blogspot.com/2009/03/st-gregory-palamas-on-divine-energies.html


GJDS - #85569

May 29th 2014

I remember the arguments for an oscillating or eternal Universe during my student days, and my recollection(s) are of people such as Hoyle making authoritative statements, which teachers took as given science. This need for prominent scientists to make public pronouncements with an air of authority has caused a great deal of damage to the public perceptions of the Sciences – people do not forget easily, and once such impressions are made, they do not disappear for a long time. It is wise for scientists to admit their speculations may often be shown to be wrong or inadequate – unfortunately few of the ones who seek publicity will do that.

Some clarification is needed in these discussions. There is a lot of time given to a notion summarised by the equation t = 0, with a lot of ‘air time’ given to the Hawking ideas of a singularity. These aspects of the ‘Big Bang’ theory are un-testable and arise from the treatments offered by theoretical physicists. The notion of being and non-being, when applied to speaking of a time when there was something, and a time when there was not, is mistaken. Overall, we are confronted with a beginning of time and space, so that when we speak of nothing, it is understood as a beginning of anything existing - we cannot speak of a before this – since even time of zero cannot be contemplated.

On the theological doctrine, creation by God is understood as the beginning per se, and God is not ‘contained’ or ‘part of’ the thing He created. When this is understood, the ‘creation and sustaining’ aspects of this doctrine are seamlessly entwined, since we acknowledge that it is God’s creation. I cannot see a need for a separate doctrine for sustaining the creation, since it became as a result of the power of the Word of God – this power is eternal and not occasional, nor I suppose do we need to think of concurring events. Our science and philosophy however, is constantly challenged by the wonders of the creation, and we continue to obtain deeper insights, but not final and certain ones.

I sense that a great deal of current theology on creation and science may done on the run, so to speak, because of perceptions, amongst some, that science has outstripped theology, and they feel a need to ‘fix up’ theological doctrine. History shows that the Protestant tradition, since about the time of Newton and Boyle, has on more than one occasion, talked itself into a doctrinal corner in its attempts to provide a synthesis of science and theology, and imo it seems to be repeating this mistake. The latest attempt(s) seem to be derived from an obsession with quantum theories, which are used to see if God has some way to be involved in His creation. I think such efforts will end up in the same pile as efforts such as previous clockwork analogies and autonomous aspects of Nature.


darwin.dissenters - #85576

May 31st 2014

Strictly speaking creation from nothing is not what Scripture teaches. Hebrews 11:3 says that the creation owes its existent to the spoken word of God. The visible comes from the invisible, but it is not nothing. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Heb 11:3


Ted Davis - #85577

May 31st 2014

I don’t know whether you’ve been following this series, but if you read some of the earlier parts you might find find them relevant to your basic question: what does creation “from nothing” actually mean?


Tony - #85581

May 31st 2014

Interesting post Ted, Thank you for your effort…

Ted, in the previous post of this series - It All Started With A Bang - you state, “What we can say is this: the universe as we know it has not always existed in the past.  It has come to be.  Discussions of creatio ex nihilo make sense.  Here the nihilo can refer to two things. It can refer first to the absolute non-existence out of which the divine power may have wrought the initial singularity.  It is a specific way in which we might be able to speak of the world’s total dependence upon God its creator.  Or secondly, it can refer to nothingness (no-thingness) in the sense of the not-yet-determinedness ot things, i.e., it can refer to newness, to the contingent character of the path followed by the bang and subsequent cosmic expansion.”

My comments with Jon, Roger, and GJDS regarding the improbability (in my view) of creatio ex nihilo came on rather strong, I must admit.  The forceful defence of my position on these comments were specifically directed toward the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo and not in the direction of anyone in paticular.  I was later relieved to learn that creatio ex nihilo can refer to “the not-yet-determinedness of things, to newness, [or] to the contingent character of the path followed by the bang and subsequent cosmic expansion.”  This relief came in the sense of reassurance that what I believed about Evolutionary Creationism was still intact.

You then ask the question…“Once the work of the six days was finished, did God really stop creating?  Or, is God still creating new things now?”  The alternative idea to creatio ex nihilo was continuing creation (creatio continua), “the idea that God’s creative work is ongoing and never ending.”  As you state, “Some (including Peters and me) believe that both understandings of creation are fully biblical and equally important.  Others see this as either/or, not both/and, such that one must choose between creatio ex nihilo and creatio continua.  This [is] hardly a necessary choice.”

You comment, “Therefore we must ask: does creatio ex nihilo help make the Gospel intelligible today?  However, not everyone agrees.  We must acknowledge that some contemporary thinkers believe the doctrine is outdated due to the change in worldview.  Because we moderns allegedly have more dynamic understanding of reality than did the ancients, many are recommending that creatio ex nihilo be replaced by one or another version of creatio continua.  I believe these two concepts are complementary and that we need not substitute one for the other.  This complementarity is true for both Christian theology and natural science.

I agree that the two concepts are complementary to each other and need not be substituted one for the other.  I will also note that creatio ex nihilo [in itself] does not help make the Gospel any more intelligible.  Therefore the need for the concept creatio continua was introduced.  However, now, since some contemporary thinkers (including myself) believe the doctrine is outdated due to the change in worldview - I have a suggestion.  How about we redefine the doctrine and create a new term for it - creatio ex nihilo continua.


Ted Davis - #85587

June 1st 2014

Tony,

You write this:

Ted, in the previous post of this series - It All Started With A Bang - you state, “What we can say is this: the universe as we know it has not always existed in the past.  It has come to be.  Discussions of creatio ex nihilo make sense.  Here the nihilo can refer to two things. It can refer first to the absolute non-existence out of which the divine power may have wrought the initial singularity.  It is a specific way in which we might be able to speak of the world’s total dependence upon God its creator.  Or secondly, it can refer to nothingness (no-thingness) in the sense of the not-yet-determinedness ot things, i.e., it can refer to newness, to the contingent character of the path followed by the bang and subsequent cosmic expansion.”

Those are Ted Peters’ words, Tony, not mine. This series presents an article of his from the 1980s on the installment plan. I write the introductions and do some editing of his text, but the second part of each post is taken (with edits) from Peters.

You questions and comments of course are still appropriate, but this one (and some others) are really directed at him, not me.


Ted Davis - #85588

June 1st 2014

As for the ongoing relevance of creatio ex nihilo, Tony, the essence of the doctrine (as Peters points out in multiple places) is that everything that exists is contingent upon the will of God. There is nothing whatsoever that is outdated about that belief. Indeed, the overall attitude of science since 1600—what is usually referred to as “modern science”—is characterized by what has been called “rational empiricism,” a combination of reason and observations that treats “nature” as a “contingent order,” to borrow a term from Thomas Torrance.

It was sometimes understood *explicitly* as such during the Scientific Revolution, by great scientists such as Newton, Boyle, and Pascal. Since then the theological component has mostly been buried, but it’s still there *implicitly*.


Tony - #85589

June 1st 2014

Ted,

I definitely understand that you write the introductions and that the second part of each post is taken (with edits) from the author you write about. However, I also know that you have your own opinions on the subject matter being discussed, such as, in “It All Started with a Bang,”

“Just for the record: I don’t speak for BioLogos on this.  We have no organizatinal view of the multiverse.  In his book, The Language of God, published several years ago in 2006, BioLogos founder Francis Collins concluded (p. 76) that the multiverse “certainly fails Occam’s Razor,”  apparently by multiplying explanatory entities beyond necessity - an opinion I fully share.”  This is also my personal view.

Also, in the present post, “Is Creation from Nothing Obsolete?” you state,

“Genrerally speaking, proponents of Theistic Evolution like continuing creation, but this does not necessarily mean that they reject creation from nothing.  Some (including Peters and me) believe that both understandings of creation are fully biblical and equally important.”

In this sense I directed the questions and comments toward you.  For your opinion.

Then again, in thinking it over, my question should have been phrased as a statement,  “However, now since some contemporary thinkers (including myself) believe the doctrine is outdated due to the change in worldview, perhaps a better term for the doctrine would be - creatio ex nihilo continua.”


Ted Davis - #85591

June 1st 2014

Fair enough, Tony.

I don’t really know what you have in mind, when you say this: “the doctrine is outdated due to the change in worldview, perhaps a better term for the doctrine would be - creatio ex nihilo continua.” Please spell out what you mean by change in worldview, and why (if creatio ex nihilo is truly obsolete) you retain the term in a modified form.


Tony - #85594

June 1st 2014

Ted,

In the present post of the series, Peters explains how the Christian doctrine of creatio ex nihilo developed through trying to understand the implications of God’s saving acts in the grand scheme of things.  He also makes the statement that in our present postmodern culture we are also engaged in this interpretive explication - existentialism.  He then asks whether creatio ex nihilo makes the Gospel intelligible today?  He says that in his opinion it does and notes that some contemporary thinkers (myself included) think otherwise and believe [the doctrine is outdated due to the change in worldview].

In our postmodern world, creatio ex nihilo or the big bang theory in itself does not explain well where God fits into the picture.  The theory of biological evolution in itself is not sufficient either to explain where God fits into the picture.  This is why the doctrine, creatio ex nihilo [in itself] is obsolete and outdated - the worldview of creation has changed - God continues His creation.    

Peters then makes the point that there are many who propose that creatio ex nihilo be replaced some other version of creatio continua.  He says he doesn’t see the need to choose between them - neither do I.  He believes that they are complimentary to eachother - so do I.  Therefore, the [unification] of the two doctrines - creatio ex nihilo continua.  The initial singularity expresses itself in the big bang and expansion of the physical universe and biological evolution continues the creation teleologically to the development of mankind. 


Ted Davis - #85597

June 2nd 2014

Tony,

When Peters says that the worldview is changed, he is talking about the general mindset among scholars of science and religion (and lots of other people as well) in the late 1980s, when he wrote the article. The main point of his article is to challenge that mindset: he doesn’t believe that creatio ex nihilo is obsolete—and neither do I. He deals with that in multiple parts of this series, including the next two parts (planned for June 12 and 26).

I think you agree with all of this, but I’m not sure.

Assuming that you do agree, then your question is really just about the terminology you are proposing: creatio ex nihilo continua. What do I think of that?

I think the distinction is worth preserving, so I use the two unblended terms separately. John Polkinghorne puts it like this: “the endowment of matter with anthropic potentiality has no human analogy. It is a creative act of a specially divine character.” (To see the context, go to http://biologos.org/blog/belief-in-god-in-an-age-of-science-john-polkinghorne-part-two , right at the end of the column.)

Polkinghorne is talking there about creatio ex nihilo: when God causes matter to be, when God determines the nature of nature. That’s quite different from God using processes that are already part of that created nature to make further new things. Both processes are a type of creation, but they aren’t the same thing.

 


Tony - #85600

June 2nd 2014

Ted…

Exactly, I agree with all of it.  It’s just about the terminology.

I’ll grant you, the distinction [is] worth preserving and also the use of the two unblended terms - although, for investigative or research purposes only.  However, for the purpose of teaching, the [unified form] is more inclusive, in that it displays a more fuller picture of the true nature of reality.

You state, “when God causes matter to be, when God determines the nature of nature.  That’s quite different from God using processes that are already part of that created nature to make further new things.  Both processes are a type of creation, but they aren’t the same thing.”

The [initial creation] of the universe, (“when God causes matter to be” and “when God determines the nature of nature”) is different from the [continuing creation] where God continues His creation (using processes that are already part of that created nature to make further new things).  However, creatio ex nihilo continua describes the [complete process] of the creation leading right to the teleological development of man and thus where God can inhabit man and seat Himself in “The Seat of the Soul,” to borrow a term from Gary Zukav.


Tony - #85590

June 1st 2014

Ted,

As for the ongoing relevance of creatio ex nihilo, Tony, the essence of the doctrine (as Peters points out in multiple places) is that everything that exists is contingent upon the will of God.

If we and theologically declare God as not being subject to “time and space”  it can be stated as such - “that everything that exists is contingent upon the will of God.”  However, if we speak in scientific terms of the singularity - back 13.7 billion years ago having a [will] - is not scientifically accurate.  A singularity cannot possibly have a [will] in the way of conscious aptitude - intention, deliberation, purpose - unless we speak of these terms in the anthropomorphic sense that “it couldn’t have been any other way.   Therefore, the scientific statement “that everything that exists is contingent upon the will of God” is false.

Hence, the statement that, “There is nothing whatsoever that is outdated about that belief,” is theologically correct but is not scientifically correct.

 

The overall attitude of science since 1600 - what is usually referred to as “modern science” - is characterized by what has been called “rational empiricism,” a combination of reason and observations that treats “nature” as a “contingent order,”

Rational Epiracism is the philosophic basis of democracy which states that, “the world is both material and spiritual.  It holds that change and progress occur by applying reason to experience, and human nature can be changed and improved by experience.  On the basis of these principles, democracy stresses discussion and the use of reason as a way of arriving at conclusions.  It emphasizes the importance of tolerance and freedom in developing intelligent, loyal citizens.  <Philosophy, World Book Encyclopaedia>

Thus, the view of “nature” as a “contingent order” upon [what], or [who] it is structured, is based upon the change and progress that occurs, by applying reason to experience in arriving at conclusions.  In the end, philosophy is all a matter of semantics.

 


Ted Davis - #85592

June 1st 2014

Tony,

Judging from what you say here, you haven’t seen my point at all. I spell it out more fully at http://biologos.org/blog/series/historical-perspective-series , especially in the third part. Please read that, if you get a chance, and then come back with any comments about “rational empiricism” if you wish.


Tony - #85803

June 17th 2014

Hi Ted…

In part 3 of the series, “Christianity and Science in Historical Perspective,” you write:

“Ultimately, the modern scientific method of rational empiricism (a combination of reason and observation) matches the fact that nature is a contingent order, created by a free and rational God.  As creatures made in God’s image, we can understand many of the patterns that God places in the world, but those patterns must be discovered by observation, not dictated by human reason.  God is free to create in ways that cannot be predicted, so we should not be astonished that nature sometimes does astonishing things.”

Accordingly, the “Scientific Revolution” established the philosophic basis for how our Christian nations should be structured.  This fundamental principle [was] adopted and has not changed:

“Rational Empiricism the philisophic basis of democracy believes that the world is both material and spiritual.  It holds that change and progress occur by applying reason to experience and human nature can be changed and improved by experience.  On the basis of these principles democracy stresses discussion and the use of reason as a way of arriving at conclusions.  It emphasizes tolerance and freedom in developing intelligent loyal citizens.”

Hence, respectively, I thoroughly saw your point.  By the way, I enjoyed reading the series!

Ted, my post, [Tony - #85753] from - Peters Against the Process Theologians:  Did God Really Create the Cosmos - discusses Rational Empiricism in context with the main philosophic positions on government.  If you have a chance, take a look.


darwin.dissenters - #85595

June 2nd 2014

The doctrine is perhaps a response to the Platonic Demiurge which held to creation out of pre-existing matter. But creatio ex verbo is a more useful concept than the creatio ex continua. That God creates and sustains through his word. 


Tony - #85582

May 31st 2014

Jon…

Taking into account the “free process” in the writings of TEs as the action of secondary causes alone, I would have to infer, [is] inherent or implicit in the innovation of God’s grand design of things.  This, necessarily, is the case - given the paradigm that we live in a cause and effect universe.  These would be the “creative forces” from the “original universal creation” which we term as, the “natural laws.”  Although, I’m not sure whether to view this as “creation or sufficient means.”  All this, of course, discarding the idea of the Demiurge in addition to God - which you also seem to doubt.

My opinion is that the creation of “biological evolution” resulting in man/woman is that “new input” and agree that theologically it is “the principles” that matter most since these ascertain and verify the very “fingerprints” of God.

Hence, I tend to view what you describe as two incompatible ways of creation in evolution, as the [compatibility] of creatio ex nihilo continua.  Creatio ex nihilo - resulting in the big bang and expansion of the universe.  And, creatio continua - God’s continuing creation through “biological evolution.”


Jon Garvey - #85584

June 1st 2014

This, necessarily, is the case - given the paradigm that we live in a cause and effect universe.

Tony, I get the impression from your posts that you see God as being at least constrained by (and/or produced by?) the fundamerntal physics of the universe. I don’t see that as the case, and more particularly don’t see it as the historic Christian position. Indeed, it was the realisation of a transcendant, sovereign God beyond creation that made Jewish and Christian cosmology unique (and, arguably, made science possible at all).

The alternative seems to me to entail some kind of pantheism, or at least panentheism - beloved by some of the science-faith scholars, but far from the Christian revelation, which is what I’m concerned with, as I believe BioLogos to be.

Whether considering ex nihilo or not, the biblical concept of <i>bara</i> always implies new, and organising, activity of God beyond the natural order, whether in the formation and shaping of the world itself, the creation of a special nation from a sterile old couple, a unique miraculous deliverance from Egypt, or in the New Testament, of course (quickly shifting to Greek) a whole new world order through the Resurrection, so that the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing people into that order is called “a new creation”, prefiguring what is to become general by what’s described as a cosmic reconstitution with completely different parameters. In all these things, God holds himself in Scripture to be the sole, univocal, power involved.

So it’s in that context that the scope of “creation” needs to be applied to evolution. If everything is creation, nothing is creation: and it seems most of us would not apply the word to, say, what happens predictably in a school physics experiment, which is conceived scientifically as the operation of entities having their natures and laws allotted (by God, Christians would say) at the original creation. That’s the world of (natural) cause and effect, and its parameters are limited and investigable.

<i>Theologically</i>, though, I would want to add to material and efficient secondary causation (a)the sustaining/<i>creatio continua</i> of the universe moment by moment - nothing exists if God stops willing it. I’d also want to add (b)classical theological concepts of concurrence in efficient causation (so there is an element of divine primary cause operating with natural efficient causation, rendering physical cause-and-effect an incomplete story. And further, I would add the need for a separate concept of (c) formal causation (which may fit quite well with the concept of “information”, and relates to the traditional christological concept of creation through God’s Logos); and indispensibly (d) God’s final causation - because biblically the functional emphasis of God’s creation implicit in <i>bara</i> absolutely entails finality. “Cosmos” implies “order” - an οικονομος entails detailed purpose and will.

So I would argue that any process being addressed theologically which does not include an account of God’s purposes cannot legitimately be described as “creation”, but is something else - also needing to be accounted for under the big umbrella of God’s creative activity.


Tony - #85655

June 7th 2014

Jon…

On first principles, we should be able to agree as Augustine stated, that we should not attempt to go further back beyond the big bang.  If only because, as he insists, that we cannot know the truth of the matter.  You have your opinions about the first cause and I have mine, but either way there is no evidence to be found but speculation, at least for now.  However, we can agree that there was a first cause.  Let’s work from there!

Still, I would like to make my position concerning the “first cause” clear enough in that it can be understood as a valid argument.  I do not see God as “being at least constrained by (and/or produced by?) the fundamental physics of the universe.”  The intendend explication in a previous post didn’t come out as it should have.  So, I will try again:

My reasoning is that since the initial singularity existed outside of the space/time continuum of the universe, and since the universe came into existence through the big bang which was caused by the initial singularity, the universe is dependent upon the initial singularity for its existence.  Therefore, what existed before the big bang is not constrained by and/or produced by the fundamental phycics of the universe because the universe did not exist yet.  The cyclical universe theory might work well within this model because it is God (the initial singularity), the first cause, who stretches out the heavens and then, in His own time, when the creation experiences entropy and heat death, gathers them back in again.  To be clear, He gathers them (the heavens) back in again - it is not the heavens that cause Him to do the action but the knowledge that He knows that they need to be gathered in again.

On the question of creation or sufficient means - I have thought about it.  I would have to say that [all] creation [is] creation.  The sufficient means is but the process of [all] that creation becomes.  Hence, the innovation is inherent or implicit in the secondary cause and thus, the laws of cause and effect keep their integrity.  Nothing is interference because all is creation and again, yes, it is the principles rather than the methodology that are most important because as I explained, “these ascertain and verify the very ‘fingerprints of God.’”

Furthermore, as I stated before and - I stick by this claim - “I tend to view what you describe as two incompatible ways of creation in evolution, as the [compatibility] of creatio ex nihilo continua.  Creatio ex nihilo - resulting in the big bang and the expansion of the universe.  And, creatio continua - God’s continuing creation through ‘biological evolution.’”

You stated, “the alternative seems to me to entail some kind of pantheism, or at least panentheism - beloved by some of the science-faith scholars, but far from the Christian revelation, which is what I’m conserned with, as I believe BioLogos to be.”

I don’t see this as an alternative or as being far from the Christian revelation.  This teaching is completely in line with the [true] Christian teaching and with “evolutionary creationism’s” doctrine.

At Reference.com, “Panentheism is a belief system which posits that God exists and interpenetrates every part of nature, and timelessly extends beyond as well.  Panentheism is distinguished from pantheism, which holds that God is synonymous with the material universe.  In panentheism, God is not exactly viewed as the creator or demiurge but hte eternal animating force behind the universe, with the universe as nothing more than the manifest part of God.  The cosmos exists within God, who in turn “pervades” or is “in” the cosmos.  While pantheism asserts that God and the universe are coextensive, panentheism claims that God is greater than the universe and that the universe is contained within God.  Panentheism holds that God is the “supreme affect and effect” of the universe.”

Jon, the Christian revelation is also what I am concerned with as I also believe BioLogos to be.  Although, I would suggest that you inform yourself more on what the leaders of BioLogos [actually] believe on this issue.  If you did read my posts, especially those in “Getting Some-thing From No-thing,” with GJDS, it would be clear that the Christian revelation is what I am deeply concerned with.

The important thing [is] the “new world order,” the new creation, or rather the “Kingdom of God,” through the reserection of Jesus Christ.  As you rightfully state, “so that the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing people into that order is called ‘a new creation,’ prefiguring what is to become general by what’s described as a cosmic reconstitution with completely different parameters.”  And, yes, “bara does always imply new and organizing activity and God holds himself in Scripture to be the sole, univocal, power involved.”  Through His imagination and will, He moves the material world.

This work, of course, began at the very beginning with the words of Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”  The reality of this enmity between the serpent’s seed and the woman’s seed was played out through Cain’s seed and abel’s seed.  And so, the sacrifices and the offerings unto God for forgiveness began and through Abraham God made His promises and His plans known and God fulfilled these promises and plans through the coming and person of Jesus Christ.

You comment, “That’s the world of (natural) cause and effect, and its parameters are limited and investigable,” and place the brackets around the word natural but don’t go any further.  I will go further.  The world of (supernatural) cause and effect operates on the same principles, and its parameters are also limited and investigable - if you know where to look and what to look for.  What becomes interesting is when supernatural forces are used as the principle [affect] to [effect] the material world.

The comment, “God’s creation implicit in bara absolutely entails finalitiy.  “Cosmos” implies “order” - and entails detailed purpose and will.”  This is exactly what I’m talking about.

Here you state, “So I would argue that any process being addressed theologically which does not include an account of God’s purposes cannot legitimately be described as “creation,” but is something else - also needing to be accounted for under the big umbrella of God’s creative activity.”  However, God’s purposes and will are already accounted for in the scriptures and [can] be legitimately described as creation.

Shortly, I will be posting a reply in this thread, [under #85623], in response to GJDS from the closed thread, “Getting Some-thing From No-thing.”  I elaborate further on these issues.


GJDS - #85657

June 7th 2014

Hi Tony,

Therefore, what existed before the big bang is not constrained by and/or produced by the fundamental physics of the universe because the universe did not exist yet.  The cyclical universe theory might work well within this model because....”

To put this matter within Kantian philosophy, in the Critique of Pure Reason (Meiklejohn translation, paperback, 19900 p238-243), Kant shows that mathematical propositions can be treated differently to transcendental ideas, and the first thesis and antithesis that he discusses to show the inevitable philosophical conflict is that the world has or has not a beginning. His view is that “transcendental philosophy (the ideas of pure reason) presents us with no other criteria than that of an attempt to reconcile (such) assertions, and for this purpose to permit free and unconstrained conflict between them.” He then demonstrates that philosophy cannot decide for or against these ideas of a beginning or not of the world (universe).

Mathematics on the other hand, ascertains may be tested and mathematical proof provided to examine error. He also points out that the sceptical method aims at matters that are presented as certain for the purpose of examining misunderstanding and using conflict argumentation to honestly strive for elimination of error. He also shows clearly a difference between the sceptical method and scepticism (the principle of technical and scientific ignorance which undermines the foundation of all knowledge).

Thus if say Heller presents mathematical treatment that do not require inclusion of t (time) then we would regard this as something that does not include time - on the other hand, if maths (for arguments sake) develope equations which then include t (time) we would think this is a beginning of time, and consider what is meant by t=0 or t=t(1) etc.


GJDS - #85658

June 7th 2014

The second last para should begin with, “What mathematics ascertains, on the other hand, may be tested and mathematical proof provided to examine error.”


Tony - #85667

June 8th 2014

Hi GJDS…

“transcendental philosophy (the ideas of pure reason) presents us with no other criteria than that of and attempt to reconcile [such] assersions, and for this purpose to permit free and unconstrained conflict between them.”  He then demonstrates that philosophy cannot decide for or against these ideas of a beginning or not of the world (universe).

This is philosophy doing its work by means of the scientific method in its ambitious attempt to gather information about the mysteries of the universe.  By applying reason to experience and through logical or deductive procedures the interpretive method of the dialectic are resolved at the higher level of truth. 

Although, it’s interesting that Kant demonstrates that philosophy cannot decide for or against the idea of a beginning of the world or not.  Echoes of St. Augustine can be heard in the backgroud!

That mathematics has at its disposal the sceptical method in examining misunderstanding and use of conflict argumentation to honestly strive for the elimination of error, has scientific connotations all around it.  The reason for mathematics being at center stage with science.  


GJDS - #85669

June 8th 2014

Tony,

I think you may need to read Kant on the dialectic - he distinguishes between experience based knowledge and that of pure reason, and his dialectic is aimed at the latter - thus his reference to antimony of reason because it is impossible to resolve for or against the thetic and anti-thetic. Hegel has a lot to say about these and what he terms the synthetic, but I am referring to Kant at the moment.

 Kant is not advocating the sceptical method for mathematics since he argues that pure maths falls under the guidence of pure intuition - he advocates the sceptical method as peculiar to his transcendental philosophy, and experience is located in experimental philosophy, which also requires doubt and delay, although ultimately some resolution is possible. It is the latter that has been forgotten by advocates of Darwnian thinking, as they have on so many occasions, and over a long time, insisted that their outlooks were correct, only to find error (and they than continue in their circular reasoning, instead of realizing that error demands a reconsideration of their basis of thought).


Tony - #85698

June 10th 2014

GJDS…

You are right, I [was] referring to the Hegelian Dialectic in my comment.  Thanks for pointing that out and directing me to Kant’s Antinomy.  A friend once said to me, “All resolves to paradox.”  How true is that statement?  Something to consider!


GJDS - #85603

June 3rd 2014

The fine tuning arguments may not be directly applicable to creation from nothing, but is related as it relies on cosmological constants which are necessary for computations related to the Big Bang. There is a very interesting discussion on the way(s) the ‘fine tuning argument’ may be considered, and if we can draw from these a proof of God’s existence, by Monton, in Brit. J. Phil. Sci. 57 (2006), 405–424. The arguments for and against the presence of life, and God creating this life, are considered, and he makes the observation:

 

Knowing that the values of the fundamental constants are life-permitting doesn’t by itself provide evidence that God exists—one also has to think it likely that God would create a life-permitting universe. It’s these two facts together that are meant to provide evidence for the existence of God.”

 

The notion of chance and probability arguments are considered in detail and this paper shows that it would be a mistake to appeal to an observational selection effect as a reason not to change one’s probabilities in the case of the fine-tuning argument. The paper also provides the observation: “It follows that ...... the fine-tuning evidence does lead to an increase in one’s probability for the existence of God. This argument for theism is not easily refuted. I think that philosophers haven’t always appreciated how strong the fine-tuning argument is, because it hasn’t been presented in the way that I have presented it above.”

 

The argument gets a bit technical but it is well worth the effort. The arguments against the fine tuning, life, and that the creation points to God as Creator, are also considered, and essentially, these amount to rejecting the subjective view, and believing that the fundamental constants could take a wide range of values and still be life-permitting.To be unmoved by the fine-tuning argument one has to believe that the fine-tuning evidence is faulty, or believe that God would not create a life permitting universe. The many universe arguments are also considered and shown to be insufficient.


Ted Davis - #85622

June 5th 2014

Thank you very much for calling attention to this article, GJDS. The author (http://bradleymonton.wordpress.com/) is an atheist (not agnostic), but a very fair-minded person who understands and admits that religious people aren’t stupid. He represents the type of attitude that we all need to cultivate, in order to try to get past the name-calling, demonization, and outright lying that happens all too often in culture wars. Not to mention the refusal to countenance the possibility that there might be other views, besides the two you are focusing on (e.g., Dawkins vs Ken Ham), that actually might have some merit. I’d enjoy a conversation with Monton.

I see where he cites my colleage, Robin Collins, quite favorably. They’ve apparently both done similar work independently.

I also note that he praises to the hilt the same review (by David Albert) of Larry Krauss’ book that I highlighted in my introduction to an earlier column: http://biologos.org/blog/getting-some-thing-from-no-thing. Monton says this about Krauss: “Krauss is a really smart guy in some ways, but horribly simple-minded in others. He represents a lot of what I don’t like about the contemporary atheist movement: treating theism as obviously wrong, and religious people as obviously misguided. While I agree with Krauss’s atheism, I recognize that Krauss and I might well be wrong; we should show the appropriate level of intellectual humility.”

Dead on target, that. My hat’s off to Monton.


GJDS - #85623

June 5th 2014

Ted, I also enjoy reading opinions from well informed people, be they of the faith or otherwise. I have noticed one or two articles surfacing from time to time, in which for example, an atheist argues against aggressive atheists and points out their correct position is an absence of belief. In this case, some of the worst remarks against him were from other atheists. So I think you are right in that everyone should get past the name calling and seek a well informed dialogue - unfortunately the negative outlook(s) permeat discussions from both atheists and theists - so Monton and Collins make useful contributions to this discussion.


Tony - #85686

June 9th 2014

GJDS…

The article - Getting Some-thing From No-thing - has been closed to comments.  You stated there, “I am not sure how further discussion of Kant would progress this interesting discussion regarding faith in Christ, so I will not continue in this vane.”  I agree that there is no need to go any further on the topic of Kant.  What is important regarding Kant, for our purposes, is a knowledge of his “pure reason” in relation to the “ens realissimum” of his “transcendental philosophy,” which we already discussed.  Hopefully, we can resume the progress of this interesting discussion regarding faith in Christ here.

Having read your last post I understand that you view Jung’s opinions as subjective in nature.  Some believe he has been misunderstood concerning his collective unconscious, including myself.  I haven’t done a complete and thorough investigation into his life, research, and work.  In reality, the knowledge I have about Jung is very little.  However, that which I have learned, is profoundly important and pertinent in the grand scheme of things.

 

The Revelation [is] central to the Christian faith and at the appropriate time - [all] will be revealed.

Rev 10:7 “But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.”  Rev 4:1-2 “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.”  And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.”  Rev 4:4 “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.”  Rev 5:5-6 “And on of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.  And I beheld, and, lo in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.”

I believe this setup of the scriptures from the book of Revelation should give a clearer picture of the message that was intended.  I’ll allow you to digest this before going any further.

 

You asked two questions: 1) “Is there something intrinsic to the human condition that enables us to be revealed unto?”  2) If so, how can we reason this matter within the concept of human reason?”

The intrinsic part to the human condition that enables us to acquire knowledge is, first and foremost, the need for survival and secondly, the curiosity to explore and learn about the world around us.  However, I am aware that this is not the intrinsic part of the human condition you are referring to.  Bear with me…as I unwrap the idea of the matter in hand - to borrow a term from Peter Atkins.

In your view, what is the conscience?  Is it not that part of the personality that cautions a person against desiring or doing something that is morally wrong - through mental communication you are confronted by an alternate part of your psyche which [insists] that it is morally wrong.

Sigmund Freud described the personality as “the Subconscious ID which seeks the gratification of basic needs, especially sex and aggression.  The Conscious Ego which is in contact with the world and is aware of social constraints.  And, the Super Ego which decides how we ought to behave.”

Carl Jung explained the personality in different terms, although, equally instructive:  “The psyche is a flow of energy from opposing poles of the personality which eventually merge and form the Super-Conscious.”  The two descriptions of the personality from Freud and Jung must be brought together for a full understanding of the processes involved.

Freud’s Subconscious ID (Instinctive Desire) is that part of the personality from where our desires emerge.  The reason Freud emphasizes [sex and aggression] is because these are the polar opposites of the emotions i.e. - love and fear.  The Conscious Ego is the part of the personality that confronts our daily social experience and is cognizant of the “criminal laws.”  Hence, Freud’s - in contact with the world and aware of social constraints.”  Finally, the Super Ego is the part of the personality that [decides] how we ought to [behave].  Here, we come to an understanding of Jung’s - flow of energy - from [opposing poles] of the personality, and picture the “Super-Conscious” which plays the role of “Moral Conscience.”

This should remind the reader of the “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” syndrom - depicting bipolar personality disorder.  A very interesting point to make her is how one of the episodes of the children’s cartoon, “The Flintstones,” portrayed the characteristics of the disorder with Fred Flintstone.  The opposing poles of the personality were portrayed as an angel witha halo and wings on one shoulder, and the devil with horns and a pitch fork on the other.  Fred Flintstone, in the middle of it all, had to decide who to listen  to - or rather, how to behave.  This aspect of the personality developos ou moral conscience.

You insist, “I do not subscribe to the notion of some collective unconsciousness - instead I am convinced that we fully apply our faculties as free individuals to understand and reason aspects of revelation and faith.”  Well, we do fully apply our faculties as free individuals to understand and reason aspects of revelation and faith, and of the world around us - however, these faculties include our personality and its different component parts and these include the [personal unconscious] and its extension to the [collective unconscious] mankind shares as a whole - the archetypes of the physical and psychological worlds and the moral values we share as a global society.

“Collective unconscious is a term of analytical psychology, coined by Carl Jung.  It is proposed to be a part of the unconscious mind, expressed in humanity and all life forms with nervous systems, and describes how the structure of the psyche autonomously organizes experience.  Jung distinguished the collective unconscious from the personal unconscious, in that the personal unconscious is a personal reservoir of experience unique to each individual, while the collective unconscious collects and organizes those personal experiences in a similar way with each member of a particular species.”  <Collective Unconscious, Wikipedia>

To be specifically clear conscerning the distinguishing factors and differences between the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious: the [collective unconscious] collects and organizes the same personal experiences unique to the personal unconscious but assesses the personal experiences through the [moral standards] of the whole species, whereas the [personal unconscious] assesses the personal  experiences through its own [moral standards].  In a very real sense we could describe the collective unconscious as the [Voice of God] directing us - not forcing or coercing us - to uphold [His] moral standards.  The difficulties in maintaining these moral standards because of the injustices in the world may be what prevents access to the proverbial tree of life: Genesis 3:22-24  “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:  Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.  So he drove ou the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword whch turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”


Tony - #85687

June 9th 2014

GJDS…

That was part one of a two part post.  The second part is on its way.


Tony - #85694

June 10th 2014

GJDS…

Now let us return to the two initial questions: 1) “Is there something intrinsic to the human condition that enables us to be revealed unto?”  2) “If so, how can we reason this matter within the concept of human reason.”

As human beings we want to know truth, we want meaning, and want to understand the purpose of life.  Through our life experience we undergo many challenges.  Some of these challenges are successes and others are failures.  We learn through these experiences of success and failure and adapt to the changing circumstances before us.  These experiences form the character of the person we become and determine our future successes and failures.

When a person experiences a traumatic event - a serious accident, or some other life threatening encounter and is brought down to the depths of despair, to the breaking point of sanity itself.  In having a personal relationship with God, the person cries out to the Lord and humbles himself, he prays and turns from his wicked ways, and the Lord will hear him, and will forgive him his sins.  This is the reaction most people have in these dire circumstances.  This kind of personal experience can open a whole new way of life for the person, a back and forth, direct communication with God can be established.  If the person has the right kinds of knowledge, these will synthesis into a picture of the world where he is able to understand many things he was not possibly able to understand before - past, present, and future.  This is what enables one to be revealed unto.

Certain Christian denominations believe in what is called the rapture.  They claim that during the return of Jesus Christ they will be caught up in the sky with Him - of coarse this suggests that 1) Jesus will return and 2) that Jesus will return in the sky.  Most Christians believe in the second coming.  However, is it rational that He will return in the sky?  Some Christians believe He will return only in spirit, and others believe He will not return at all.  I have strong convictions that Jesus will return however, not from where most Christians believe.  Returning in spirit only does not do the story justice and does not fulfill prophecy.  Thus, if you ask, “well, where will Jesus Christ come from then?”  Do I really need to answer that!  Come on!  Wake up and smell the roses!

In a previous post I have already introduced the definitions and a pertinent explication of the terms, rapture and mystical.  Here, I will only re-quote the definitions.  “Rapture: A mystical experience in which the spirit is exalted to a knowledge of divine things.  Mystical: Having a spiritual meaning of reality that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence.”  It is explicitly clear that [rapture] is referring to an experience of transcendental awakening.

 

You state, “These questions arise from the freedom that we have, and my belief that God does not force us, or we are not coerced, to believe.  I am convinced that we fully apply our faculties as free individuals to understand and reason aspects of revelation and faith.  Mystical experiences are an addition to this, and perhaps are gifts to particular people.”

It is human nature to be free and ask questions, and God does not coerce or force anyone to believe although, I would recommend that we abide by His two greatest commandments - “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”  And, “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  Matthew 22:37-40

Your comments, “all knowledge of God is provided by Him, so this negates any notion of mankind conceptually providing this through an idea a god,”  and, “the inability of human beings to ‘create a  god’ to suite whatever notion may enter the mind of a human being.”

I believe God has provided all knowledge of Himself and His plans through the Holy Scriptures.  There have always been servants of God upon the earth who have labored intensively to fulfill His plans and prophecies.  Amos 3:7 states, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”  In this sense, prophecy is a foretelling of the future and later, the necessary steps to fulfill the prophecy are taken.

The statement, “Metaphysics is unable to provide proofs for the existence of God and the soul” is wrong, if not only because we must first define our terms of what we specifically suggest when we use the words “God” and “soul.”  Accordingly, with the correct definition metaphysics [can] provide proofs for the existence of God and the soul.  As such, I believe my comments on proofs do not suffer from “terminological difficulties.”

You write, “Strong convictions based on one’s reason and personal experience may be taken by an individual as sufficient proof, but this differs from a verifiable and repeatable proof related to and object that we can subject to methodological examination.”

Is this statement suggesting that we must conduct a verifiable and repeatable methodological examination on Jesus Christ upon His arrival?  I wouldn’t put it passed the scientific community!  After all, it would be necessary that He be verified - right!

Finally, you state, “I cannot help but note that you have misunderstood my remarks on TE and ID; my remarks were not on revelation, nor do I regard TE or ID as a form of revelation, so I do not understand your comment.”

The exchange began when I stated, “I wonder….which side of the debate was Jesus on concerning Intelligent Design and Evolutionary Creationism?  You responded, “I cannnot claim to know where Christ would stand regarding TE and ID - I suspect however that one comment He may make could be, ‘Why are you so committed to such a silly argument…?”  I answered, “if you cannot claim to know where Christ would stand regarding TE and ID, then I would have to say that you are not certain about the [attributes of God].  And, since you are not certain about the [attributes of God] you should not comment that Jesus would consider this debate a silly argument - It makes [all] the diffenence in the world.”  You responded, “Regarding my remark about what Christ may say on TE and ID, my point is that this argument is not essential for Salvation in and through Christ.”  And I answered, ” Regarding your point that the argument between Theistic Evolution and Intelligent Design is not essential for Salvation in and through Christ.  I will have to say that without the Revelation there is no Christ, and without Christ there is no Salvation.  Thus, the debate [is] of crucial imperative!”

To have a complete understanding of the importance of the Evolutionary Creationism/Intellegent Design issue the explication must be refined on step further:  Without the revelation there is no incarnation of the Christ and without the incarnation of the Christ there is no rapture.  The rapture gives God’s people an awareness of the significance of the events that will befall the world.  This awareness is essential for the salvation of Christians through this difficult period of time.

As Christians and theologians we should all be acquainted with who the woman of Rev 17:5 is,  “And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”  And, should be aware of the power that she has wielded.  Rev 17:18 “And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.”  Through her magic, sorceries, and enchantment [social engineering] the people of the world have been deceived.  Rev 17:2 “With whom the kings of the earth have commited fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made [drunk] with the wine of her fornication.”  Rev 17:6 “And I saw the woman [drunken] with the blood of the saints, and with the blood od the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.”  Rev 18:3 “For all nations have [drunk] of the [wine] of the wrath of her fornication.”  Rev 18:23 “for by thy [sorceries] were all nations [deceived].”

What does all this have to do with the Evolutionaty Creationism/Intelligent Design debate?

Well, Evolutionary Creationism seeks to bring truth and enlightenment into the world.  On the other hand Intelligent Design seeks to keep the world in ignorance and darkness.  The [spin doctors] in the Intelligent Design movement would have it that all people on planet earth remain [bewitched] concerning who God and Jesus Christ are.  Their strategy is to keep the populace ignorant in believing in an [intelligent designer] who resides in heaven with his [son].  In this way, if everyone believes in an [intelligent designer] who resides in heaven and believe that Jesus Christ is in heaven with Him, the [One] to be Christ will never return.  Why?  Because if the [One] to be Christ, who os someone on planet earth, and all His followers remain deceived under the [fascination] about the [intelligent designer] who is in heaven with his [son] - how can He return if He doesn’t believe that He is the One, but believes that the [One] is in heaven?  And, how can His followers accept Him if they believe that He is supposed to be coming from heaven?

This is why Jesus Christ would not make the comment, “Why are you so commited to such a silly argument…?


GJDS - #85701

June 10th 2014

Hi Tony,

To have a complete understanding of the importance of the Evolutionary Creationism/ Intelligent Design issue....”

The importance of any debate lies in the desire for the truth – this is the attribute Christ would look for in any Christian. You paint a rather dark picture of the proponents of ID and I think that is inappropriate. My position on these matters is that of a scientist, in that I assume that all, or the great majority of Darwinists, TEs, IDs, (and if there are any other groups) are personally seeking what is true. However I cannot see anything in these debates that would require me to re-examine my beliefs nor question the attribute of God as Creator of heaven and earth. Instead I have assumed the bio-scientists work in good faith, and so I (1) seek an overall understanding of their thinking (i.e. the basis is found in Darwin’s ideas of variation and natural selection), and (2) does the Darwinian outlook provide a sufficient basis for an understanding by the sciences of Nature.

You will notice that points (1) and (2) do not include, nor do they require, a synthesis of Darwinian ideas and Orthodox Christianity. Nor do they reject out of hand what the bio-sciences discuss.

On Darwin’s ideas, I have formed the opinion that when examined as given (i.e. that they are proven, so that various tenets are now taken as true, such as the tree of life, the ubiquitous role of natural selection, and the often quoted phrase “brute fact of science”, to name a few), I have come to the considered view that Darwin’s ideas are inadequate, and I have provided opinions, (not as a practicing bio-scientist, but an interested scientist) from those bio-scientists who are committed to the Darwin paradigm, to show that even ardent (but not fanatical) believers in Darwin, have their doubts. Thus, some propose a bush or forest of life, negating the basis for common ancestry, others declare mechanistic constraints on natural selection, negating the universality of NS, indicating there is much more to the story, and philosophers of science declare neo-Darwinian thinking may model some observations but not all, while others declare all scientific theories must ‘bow down to Darwin’ indicating it is the ultimate theoretical basis for all of the Sciences, and so on and on. 

These matters are sufficient to convince me that we may continue to examine what the sciences have to say, and accept that much of scientific endeavour is speculative, and as Kant correctly points out, the sceptical methodology is a pre-requisite in such an area, because many errors have been made, and many people have insisted that they were right when in fact they were wrong. I consider those matters as proven by science to be included in my view of ‘what is true’; subsequently I have not experienced any conflict between faith and science.

It is clear from this that faith in and from Christ is not dependent on the position one may take in these TE/ID debates – so I conclude by again saying you have misinterpreted my comment on ‘what would Christ say to ...... these matters, and your comment indicating revelation is part of, or in the context of these, (.... without the Revelation there is no Christ....) is incorrect. Darwin, TE, ID and what have you, cannot be considered as revelation of God. Science is not theology; these are separate disciplines, each with methods and criteria considered expectable by those who work in their respective areas. One does not depend on the other for its ideas and discussions, although each, if it wishes to present opinions and matters of interest to the other, should be willing to discuss and examine.

I think we have covered a great deal of material and I do see a need to continue this discussion any further.


GJDS - #85702

June 10th 2014

The last comment should read, “I think we have covered a great deal of material and I do not see a need to continue ths discussion any further.”


Tony - #85704

June 10th 2014

GJDS…

I respect your wish to end this discussion and will not say anything further regarding it.  Although, I do want to thank you for giving me your time and tell you that I enjoyed our discussions.  I want to assure you that at no time did I have any resentment towards you and that the comments you found inappropriate were not directed at any sincere follower of Christ.

Your statement itself, “The importance of any debate lies in the desire for [the] truth,” defends my position for [this] truth.  My intention is that all may know [this] truth, that they may be set free from ignorance.

That I “paint a rather dark picture of the proponents of ID,” is no different than how the courts view them.  Again, my comments were not directed at any sincere follower of Christ.   


GJDS - #85705

June 11th 2014

Thank you for your comments Tony - I too feel that a sincere approach to seeking the truth on these matters is central and I commend you on the approach you have take.


GJDS - #85689

June 9th 2014

Tony,

Just a quick and brief comment on phycological matters - from what I remember, a number of schools of thought are prevalent (behaviourism, primal therapy, Freudian, and Jungian, just to name a few). Theologically I think those aspects of the human conditions are described as works of the flesh, while other aspects of the human condition may be referred to as the spirit of man. It is axiomatic that all humans have many things in common, and we are a communal species. The work by Jung on Job includes his arguments on archetypal aspects and I think most serious workers have sidelined much of this.

So I think that in the context of this blog and our interesting discussion, I think we can accept that these outlooks are known, but they may not be central to matters dealing with beginnings and creation.


Tony - #85695

June 10th 2014

GJDS…

So I think that in the context of this blog and our interesting discussion, I think we can accept that these outlooks are known, but they may not be central to matters dealing with beginnings and creation.

Yes, these outlooks are known in the context of the psychological sciences themselves.  However, they are not known in relation to faith based understanding.  Furthermore, these outlooks are as central to matters dealing with beginnings and creation as is our sun central to our solar system. 


GJDS - #85691

June 10th 2014

Hi Tony,

In your view, what is the conscience?”

This is normally understood as a person’s moral sense of right and wrong. This attribute is discussed in the NT in a way that it is assumed the reader has an intrinsic understanding of his own conscience (which also bears witness in the Holy Spirit), and also may be weak or strong; e.g.:

Acts 24:16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.

Romans 9:1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

1 Corinthians 8:7 Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 

1 Corinthians 10:29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?

2 Corinthians 4:2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

1 Timothy 1:5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:

Hebrews 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

1 Peter 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

We can see from these that we can distinguish between a good and bad, and this is central to the personhood of any human. I cannot see where this should be reduced to a psychological observation – psychologists would presumably assess a personality and psyche, and such assessment would include the moral character or otherwise. However I cannot see any value, for our present discussions, on detailed (and perhaps technical) discussions that psychologist may use, in such assessments. Our understanding of conscience would remain the same, although we may have detailed knowledge (if this were made available) on the assessment of a psychologist regarding various human failings, including any details of the moral content of a person’s character.

We may discuss our own personality and reflect on the influences and experiences that have shapes us throughout our life; I think that psychologists and psychiatrists specialise in areas that pose problems to people, and base their views generally on symptoms, and the specialist insights related to the pathological states that cause suffering to human beings.

Religiously, I for one am content with exercising my conscience to improve my understanding of what is good, and hopefully to improve my ability to avoid doing evil. In this context, the few references to the NT I have added would guide us in this endeavour.


Tony - #85696

June 10th 2014

GJDS…

Religiously. I for one am content with exercising my concience to improve my understanding of what is good, and hopefully to improve my ability to avoid dong evil.  In this context, the few references to the NT I have added would guide us in this endeavour.

Just the fact that we are on such a forum discussing matters related to truth, good conscience, and well being should, in itself, suggest that we are striving to be better people in the societies that we are a part of - including the internet society.

 

I believe it is in the “Gospel of Thomas” where Jesus is supposed to have said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.  If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”  This is why I believe it is so important to discuss these matters related to the psychospiritual communion of the human being.

 


Roger A. Sawtelle - #85604

June 3rd 2014

It seems that their are several arguments here.

The first and most importrant is:  If the universe was timeless.  If it had no beginning, then there can be no argument for a Creator God. 

Since the universe does have a beginning as best we can tell, then we can think about a Creator God.  This is not a God of the gaps argument.  This is a God of the facts argument.

If the universe came into being out of nothing material, which is the best explanation a Rational, All Powerful, Caring God, or chance?

Jaques Monod in his book, Chance and Necessity claims that the universe is not rational and has no purpose.  The Anthropic Principle appears to indicate otherwise.  It seems to indicate that our universe was structured to make possible life and human life. 

To counter the theistic argument we have the Multiverse concept.  Indeed there was an article in Discover that put the options in that way, Multiverse or Anthropic Principle and God. 

The Multiverse is still speculation so it is not fact while Anthropic is.  While Christians and Jews believe that God could and did create our universe without the Multiverse, there is no reason why God could not have used a multiverse process of creation, so it does not disprove per se the existence of the Creator God.     

The strongest “argument” I have heard against the Creator God, is that one must prove that God exists before one can say that God has done anything. 

That is like saying that since you don’t know Roger exists apart from these blogs, you cannot prove that Roger exists as the writer of these blogs.  I can assure you that Roger does exist.  I am not a figment of your imagination.

The God of the Bible is the Creator of heaven and earth and all that is.  If the universe was created, God did it.  That does not mean that everything else in the Bible in the Bible is true, but that is a good starting point.   


Jon Garvey - #85618

June 5th 2014

Roger - just one point, of significance in the current debate over eternal multiverses etc. Back in the time of “left behind” people like Aquinas, the science was equivocal on whether the Universe had a beginning or not.

Aquinas’ demonstrations for God were able to show that there are good rational arguments for a Creator God even if matter were shown to be eternal, the change in reasoning requiring only that God be seen as the First Cause <i>ontologically</i> rather than just <i>temporally</i>. Of course, that achieved he voiced his own belief in a beginning in time based on revelation.


Ted Davis - #85621

June 5th 2014

Jon,

Your comments on Aquinas anticipate the final segments of this series on Ted Peters. In about a month, we’ll reach that part of Peters’ essay where he assesses Aquinas on creation, vis-a-vis Bonaventure, Aristotle, and Langdon Gilkey. The title of that column will make it hard to miss noticing, I hope, but I’ll keep that under wraps for the time being.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #85684

June 9th 2014

Tony wrote:

The world of (supernatural) cause and effect operates on the same principles, and its parameters are also limited

You seem to believe that God is limited by cause and effect, which is not true.  You base your belief Christianity is Legalism, which is untrue.  

Humana are not limited by cause and effect.  Because you hit me, I do not have to hit you back.  I have a choice as to whether to and how to respond.  So does God. 

When we think thqat we have God is a box we lose God.  Creationists have God in a box and have lost God.  As have many Modernists and Evangelicals.           


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