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On Creating the Cosmos

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March 20, 2014 Tags: Christianity & Science - Then and Now, Creation & Origins, Science & Worldviews
On Creating the Cosmos
Ted Peters

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

Introducing Ted Peters

Last year I introduced readers to one of the leading voices about Christianity and science, John Polkinghorne. I also helped BioLogos bring in another leading voice, Robert Russell. This new series introduces a third prominent Christian thinker, Lutheran theologian Ted Peters, Research Professor Emeritus in Systematic Theology and Ethics at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

Presently co-editor (with Robert Russell) of the journal, Theology and Science, Peters was a student of Langdon Gilkey. Gilkey is probably best known today for surviving a Japanese prison camp in China during World War 2, where he knew the famous missionary and Olympic champion Eric Liddell. I spoke to Gilkey myself just once, when I was fresh out of graduate school and he was one of the best known theologians in America. I knew of his experience in China, so I asked him whether he had known Liddell. Gilkey replied that Liddell was “the only saint I ever knew.” A few years earlier, Gilkey had testified at the famous Arkansas creationism trial, arguing that creationism is religion, not science—a crucial opinion for the subsequent legal fate of both creationism and intelligent design. Consistently with that position, Gilkey sharply distinguished science from theology, a stance that Peters criticizes below.

Langdon Gilkey
Langdon Gilkey looked pretty much like this when I met him at a small conference held near San Francisco in December 1987.

For more than 35 years, Peters has published insightful books and articles about an intriguing range of topics related to Christianity and science. For example, his early work on UFOs and God has just been reprinted, giving him opportunities to engage with audiences that most theologians never encounter. With Catholic biologist Martinez Hewlett, he wrote an excellent little book about theistic evolution that deserves to be better known. They also collaborated on a second book, an uncommonly fair analysis of the origins controversy that has been praised by both Michael Ruse and William Dembski. His book about bioethics, Playing God?, which opposes genetic determinism, grew out of a major project on “Theological Questions Raised by Human Genome Initiative” that was funded by the National Institutes of Health, a rare instance of federally-funded research in Christian ethics.

The focus of this series, however, is Peters’ powerful affirmation of the central Christian doctrine of creation from nothing. Over the next few months, I’ll present edited excerpts from his classic essay, “On Creating the Cosmos,” originally published 26 years ago in a book from the Vatican Observatory. Although parts of it are dated, much is still timely and important. In this introductory excerpt, Peters emphasizes the equal importance of two ways of understanding the doctrine of creation: both creatio ex nihilo (“creation from nothing”), the classic notion that God created all things from nothing, and creatio continua (“continuing creation”), the idea that God is still creating new things now. In his view (which I share), many modern theologians have tended to elevate creatio continua over creatio ex nihilo, in some cases to the complete neglect or even denial of the latter. The main goal of his essay is to rehabilitate creatio ex nihilo for our own day.

On Creating the Cosmos (introduction)

Painting: God creating the universe
God creating the universe, using the compass to measure its dimensions, manuscript illumination from an Old French Bible moralisée (c. 1208-15), Codex Vindobonensis 2554, fol. lv, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna.

We are living in a time ripe with opportunity to seek significant rapprochement between science and theology. The unlocking of nature’s secrets by the physical sciences seems to be opening up new doors for common exploration. British scientist Paul Davies says that “science has actually advanced to the point where what were formerly religious questions can be seriously tackled.” [Paul Davies, God and the New Physics, p. ix.] On the religious front, too, we see healthy enthusiasm. The Second Vatican Council acknowledged the need for academic freedom and declared the “legitimate autonomy of human culture and especially the sciences.” [Gaudium et Spes, p. 59.] Pope John Paul II has gone considerably further. To the Pontifical Academy of Sciences meeting at Castel Gandolfo on September 21, 1982, the Holy Father announced that “there no longer exists the ancient opposition between true science and authentic faith.” He went on to say to the scientific community, “the Church is your ally.” [“Science Must Contribute to True Progress of Mankind,” L’Osservatore Romano, October 4, 1982, p. 3.] In short, there now exists an atmosphere of readiness on the part of many in both laboratory and church to explore avenues toward rapprochement.

Pope John Paul II
Karol Józef Wojtyła, Pope John Paul II, was known for his very positive attitude toward science.

It is in this atmosphere, conducive to fruitful conversation, that we undertake the explorations of this paper. Our thesis will be that the Christian doctrine of creation out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo) is sufficiently intelligible to warrant continued probings for complementary notions in the natural sciences. We will open by identifying our methodological stance as one of hypothetical consonance between theology and the sciences, a stance which corrects the excesses of the dominant two-language theory [i.e., the idea often associated with Langdon Gilkey that science and theology speak two entirely different languages about entirely different topics, such that genuine conversation is all but impossible]. We will then proceed to cosmology proper by tracing the theological origins of the idea of creation out of nothing. We will argue that the Christian idea of the creation of the whole world derives from the basic experience of divine redemption within history, especially the resurrection of Jesus on Easter. What is at stake in cosmology for the Christian theologian, then, is an understanding of the cosmos which is consistent with our understanding of a redeeming God as revealed in the event of Jesus Christ. This will lead to an examination of the logic of creatio ex nihilo and the possible consonance of this religious idea with the second law of thermodynamics and Big Bang cosmogony in physics. In particular, we will focus on the question of the relationship between the concept of ex nihilo and the temporal beginning of the cosmos.

As we proceed, we will assume two things about the Christian doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. First, in its abstract form it stresses the ontological dependence of all things upon God. Second, one concrete form for expressing this dependence is the cosmological assertion that, although God is eternal, the created universe began at a point of temporal initiation, i.e., the world has not always existed. In this paper we intend to get to the idea of dependence through the idea of beginning. It is, of course, possible for a theologian to speak metaphysically about the utter dependence of the creation on its creator without reference to a temporal beginning. However, it is the very idea of a temporal beginning which in our generation draws us toward possible consonance with scientific cosmology. The scientist cannot, within the canons of the discipline of physics, say anything about the utter dependence of the cosmos upon God. But the scientist can intelligibly discuss the possibility of a temporal initiation to all things, and this in turn raises the question of creation out of nothing in such a way that the theologian might be called upon.

We will then review arguments raised by some contemporary theologians which are contrary to creation ex nihilo and in favor of the notion of continuing creation (creatio continua). We will criticize these arguments on two grounds: first, these are false alternatives and they do not exclude one another; and, second, the theological idea of creation out of nothing—especially in the form of a temporal beginning—is just as consonant with contemporary science as is continuing creation. We will conclude that a healthy contemporary theology should advocate both creatio ex nihilo as well as creatio continua and seek possible consonance with science on both counts.

Hypothetical Consonance

Just what kind of accord may be established between lab stool and pew is still too far beyond the horizon to see. Yet we need to start somewhere. What I suggest is that we begin by seeking hypothetical consonance, that is by listening for the sounds of consonance, for those moments when we sense a harmony between disciplines. We begin listening for some preliminary resonating sounds. Then we proceed with the hypothesis that further accord can be discerned. We spell out the possibilities with the assumption that both scientists and theologians are seeking to understand one and the same reality; therefore, we should hope for, even expect, some sort of concord to arise from serious conversation.

The method of hypothetical consonance can be distinguished from the two-language theory—what Ian Barbour calls … the “independence” relationship—which seems to have been the operative assumption of most serious scholars for much of this century. This is the assumption that the language of science and the language of faith exist in independent domains of knowledge and that there is no overlap. One version of the two language theory is the commonly accepted separation of fact from value. [SNIP]

Perhaps the strongest advocate of the two-language theory among today’s theologians is Langdon Gilkey. It is not only the difference between fact and value which distinguishes the two modes of discourse, according to Gilkey; there is also the difference between proximate (or secondary) causation and ultimate (or primary) causation. There is no translation between them.

All modern religious discourse, according to Gilkey, is limited to speaking about limit experiences, to the dimension of ultimacy in human experience. Religious or mythical language speaks only about “ultimate or existential issues,” he says. This means that it speaks only to us as persons. It does not speak about the world. Theology “possesses no legitimate ground to interfere with either scientific inquiry or scientific conclusions, whether in the fields of natural or of historical inquiry.” [Religion and the Scientific Future, p. 18.] Religious truths do not contain information. They are best classified as myths or symbols which make no authoritative assertion about concrete matters of fact. Gilkey’s position represents the paradigm example of neoorthodox dualism which has confined matters of faith to the transcendent-personal axis and consigned all other matters dealing with the world we live in to the province of secular science.

What about the language of science according to the Gilkey scheme? Scientific language is informative. It seeks to inform us regarding facts which are measurable, objective, and publicly shareable. Science seeks to explain the facts of experiences in terms of laws which are automatic and blind. These laws can appeal only to natural or human causes and powers, forces which exist within the confines of the finite world. Science cannot appeal to supernatural forces nor even to purposes or intentions or meanings. It can support its conclusions only through testing of repeatable experiments, not through speculation about one-time historical events. In short, “the language of science is quantitative, mathematical, precise ... it is limited to describing the impersonal system of relations between the things or entities around us.” [Creationism on Trial: Evolution and God at Little Rock, p. 113.] If Pope John Paul II is correct that there is no opposition between science and faith, then Gilkey would say this is because the two cannot talk to one another.

Now the point of establishing the two-language theory is to make it possible for a religious person to speak both languages without cognitive dissonance. By confining scientific language to the sphere of the finite and observable world, it is disqualified from making judgments regarding the existence or non-existence of God. Inherently, science is neither theistic nor atheistic. It is neutral. It is objective. “It is because science is limited to a certain level of explanation that scientific and religious theories can exist side by side without excluding one another, that one person can hold both to the scientific accounts of origins and to a religious account, to the creation of all things by God.” [Creationism on Trial, p. 117.]

But I believe that we must now ask for more than simple avoidance of cognitive dissonance. I believe we should seek for cognitive consonance. [Peters credits the term “consonance” to the late Ernan McMullin, a leading philosopher of science and Catholic priest.] What I am advocating here comes close to the version of the two language theory we find in the work of Ian Barbour. Barbour recognizes the two languages but he will not accept a strict segregation. He wishes to explore the ways in which the two languages are complementary. This means, first, that we search for “significant parallels” in the methods of science and theology. Second, we look for ways to construct “an integrated worldview.” Third, we defend the importance of a “theology of nature.” Fourth, we permit the scientific understanding of nature to help us reexamine our ideas of God’s relation to the world. [Issues in Science and Religion, pp. 4-5.] What Barbour means here by “complementary languages” is akin to what I mean by “consonance.” We should look for those areas of correspondence and then spell out the possibilities which would permit what science says to illumine theological understanding and vice versa.

With this methodological commitment in mind, we will turn our ears now in the direction of resonating sounds regarding the creation of the universe. We will ask if there might exist an edifying consonance between scientific and religious concerns regarding the origin of the cosmos, especially the idea of creation out of nothing.

Looking Ahead

In the next excerpt, Peters gets down to brass tacks, explaining the biblical and theological origins of creation from nothing. He also underscores the deep connection between creation from nothing and the resurrection of Jesus. I rarely describe academic writing as exciting, but I think many readers will indeed respond with genuine excitement to what comes next: make it a priority to join us again.

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.

Editorial Policy

Most of the editing for these excerpts 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 Peter’s own footnotes when it is important for our readers to have it.

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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Eddie - #84943

March 28th 2014

No, I don’t think Paul is ignorant of Scripture.  But perhaps, when he wrote up that list, he held to the following belief:  ”The Biblical Christian faith always goes forward, never backward.  We don’t go back to the early church, or the death and resurrection of Jesus, or His birth, or David, or to Mt. Sinai, or to the sacrifice of Isaac. No, we go forward to the Coming again of Jesus Christ.” (R. Sawtelle)

So, not being a “backward-looking” person, not caring about all that Jesus and David and Moses and Isaac stuff (and, if some TEs can be believed, not caring much about all that Adam stuff, either), Paul perhaps didn’t think about the humility stuff that is central to the teaching of the actual historical Jesus and of the Old Testament.  Perhaps he only looked “forward.”

I guess my mother, whose model was Jesus as he appears in the Gospels (the Jesus who taught humility), was looking “backward.”  And I guess she taught me to look “backward,” too, since I seem a lot more focused on the Jesus of the Gospels, and a lot less focused on an ethereal, “spiritual” Jesus Christ who apparently reveals his “presence” to every heretic that wants to belittle the Old Testament, break from the tradition of the Fathers and the magisterial Reformers, and re-invent Christianity according to his own personal religious taste.

Since my questions listed above have not been answered, and since they have been asked many times, I will take this refusal to answer as final and will infer the appropriate reasons for it.

Sincere best wishes and goodbye, my heretical friend.  And I want to end on a note of reassurance:  I firmly believe that even a few heretics will make it to heaven, since I believe in a merciful God who rewards intentions more than theological orthodoxy.  I’ll be in there plugging for you.  Heaven wouldn’t be the same without conversations like this.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84950

March 29th 2014


Very clever.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84953

March 30th 2014


Your cleverness has led you from judgmental lack of veracity to out and out slander. 

Please issue a full apology right now.

Eddie - #84954

March 30th 2014


You’ve completely lost it.  I’ve slandered no one.  I have no idea what you are referring to.

I’ve repeatedly offered to retract any erroneous statements about your personal life, clerical career, theological education, etc.  If I owe you an apology for statements of that kind, I will gladly give it.  But you’ve not indicated anything for which an apology is owed.  The moment you provide the information necessary, I will investigate the alleged factual errors, and if my investigation confirms the errors, I will apologize.

As for my judgment that some of your theological statements are out of line with historical orthodoxy, that is an academic, intellectual judgment, and I will not retract it—until such time as you give satisfactory answers to the many theological questions and criticisms I’ve posed.

I will not answer further charges of lies and slander, unless specifics are provided.  If I receive any more blanket charges of lying or slander from you, I will protest to the moderator here and ask that all such personal attacks be blocked from appearing on this site.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84955

March 30th 2014

Edward wrote:

my heretical friend.

Edward wrote a lie and a slander.

Eddie - #84956

March 30th 2014

No, neither lie nor slander.  

You need to learn the definition of “heresy.”  It has a proper technical meaning which you can find in any good theological reference book.  See, for example, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.  Heresy proper involves an “obstinate denial or doubt” of a doctrine necessary to the faith; there is also “material heresy,” i.e., where there is denial or doubt of essential doctrines, but not conscious obstinacy, because the person is unaware of the error, having been raised among, or taught by, those who hold to the error.  “Material heretics” can of course be saved, because God accepts the good intention despite the theological error, which has arisen out of bad teaching rather than out of a bad will.  (For example, it is possible for a sincere Christian to hold heretical beliefs as a result of being educated at Harvard Divinity School, and still be saved.)

A number of doctrines that you have espoused here qualify as “material heresies.”  Your depreciation of the Old Testament is one of them.  The Church has always held a higher view of the entire Bible than you apparently do.  

So my remark was neither lie nor slander, but an intellectual judgment based on my own understanding of historical Christian faith.  My judgment could be in error.  But if so, I am guilty of making an intellectual mistake, not of lying about or slandering anyone.

You apparently take “heresy” as a term of personal invective.  Yet would you accuse your physician of lying or of slandering you if he told you that you had pneumonia?  You might think his judgment in error, but I don’t think you would call him a liar or slanderer. Similarly, my judgment of heresy is a diagnosis, a statement about the intellectual health of your theology.  My diagnosis could of course be in error, but an error is neither a lie nor a slander.

Instead of falsely accusing me of lying or slandering, why don’t you refute my diagnosis by proving that your beliefs are orthodox?  You could make a good start toward this by answering my pointed questions regarding your beliefs, including your beliefs about Scripture and the status of the Old Testament.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84957

March 30th 2014

Edward wrote:

My diagnosis could of course be in error, but an error is neither a lie nor a slander.

If I called you a murderer without proof, my statement could be an error or even factual, but it would be a lie and a slander. 

 Your understanding of the law is wrong, which is not a defense.  Still if you apologize I will forgive.   

The fact is that a harmful statement that is not true or cannot be shown to be true is a lie and a slander.  A doctor’s diagnosis which is found to be negligent and does harm might not be technically a libel, but is subject to penalty under the law.

The fact is that if you truly believe me to be a heretic then you are obliged to report such to my church so it can take procedures to excommunicate me.  Unless you are God you have no authority to make this determination, which is why Jesus and I warned you not to act this way. 

You should also specify the heresy I am accused of and all documentation of this false belief.  You have not indicated the heresy and you have no evidence, because there is none. 

In our way of life a person is innocent until proven guilty, but you want me to prove that I am innocent even though there are no no valid charges, no court, and no evidence. 

You say that I must be guilty because I refuse to try to refute your absurd charges, and when I have explained that my position is Biblical, you claim the Biblical position is wrong.  

By your standards Jesus Christ must have been guilty of blasphemy because He refused to defend Hemself against false charges and He did not humbly submit to the authority of the Sanhedrin.   

Your statement that I am a heretic is a lie and a slander because it is false and it was made without valid proof, without valid authority, and without valid procedure.

You say that I will not answer specific questions as if I have something to hide, when in fact I offered you complete disclosure though my book, which you refused.  This is convincing evidence to me that you are not really interested in understanding what I think and believe, but have some hidden agenda.     

Heresy is generally based on a false teaching of the Christian doctrine of God or the Trinity.  I know that you do not understand my view of the Trinity, because I have not discussed it with you except for some time ago when you and Jon tried to convince me that Augustine’s understanding Trinity is false.

Now you are trying to convince me that the Bible is equal to Jesus Christ and the New Covenant is the same and equal to the Old Mosaic Covenant.  This is what you claim as an orthodox understanding of Christainity?  You don’t know it when you see it.    

Eddie - #84960

March 31st 2014


1.  To the best of my knowledge, there is no law, federal or state, against calling someone a heretic.  I do not think that the law concerns itself with disputes between theologians.  In any case, I owe you no apology for pointing out your theological errors, and therefore none will be forthcoming, no matter how much righteous indignation you try to display.

2.  I wouldn’t report you to your church because I’m not malicious.  I’m not trying to get you in trouble, just trying to change your mind.

3.  I’m not reading your book.  You can answer my questions here.  They don’t take a book to answer.  They take a few paragraphs.  If you don’t answer them, I will infer that you have something to hide.  If you don’t care what I infer, then don’t worry about it.  If you do, then answer my questions.  But if you don’t answer my questions, we’re done.  



Roger A. Sawtelle - #84961

March 31st 2014


1.  There is a law against reckless disregard for the truth.  It is found in civil law and more importantly in the Mosaic Covenant and the Christian Covenant.  For all your self righteous blather you are the one who is breaking God’s covenantal law by making unfounded charges that you treat as the truth.

A Christian does not use the excuse that he or she is not breaking civil law to justify breaking God’s law.   

2. You did not report me to my church because you are not concerned about heresy and the Church.  You want to somehow coerce me to agree with you.  You might think that you are right, but it is a question of power and not of Truth. 

You also don’t want to report me to my church because you do not want to be responsible to anyone by yourself.

3.  No one says that you must read my book, but there are consequences for every action.  You forfeit your ability to evaluate my theology by refusing to take the necessary actions to understand it.  You are not acting like a responsible, God- fearing person.

REPENT or suffer God’s judgment.  Do not place yourself outside the Kingdom of God. 

Either I am a heretic or I am not.  I have no reason to believe that I am and every reason to believe that I am not. 

Contrary to your strange view the burden of proof is on you.  If you cannot prove it, you need to be quiet and take the log out of your own eye so you can see better to take the speck out of my eye. 

Eddie - #84968

April 1st 2014

Roger wrote:

“REPENT or suffer God’s judgment.  Do not place yourself outside the Kingdom of God.”

Apparently, disagreeing with Roger’s theology (a) makes me a sinner who needs to repent and (b) places me outside the Kingdom of God.

I thought that the only mortal with the keys to the Kingdom, capable of locking out those who disagree with his theological views, lived in Vatican City.  Apparently there is now a twin authority living just outside of Boston.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84965

April 1st 2014


We are not done.  You are done.

You think you have a license to lie to get your way and have no respect for God’s covenantal law.  

Eddie - #84967

April 1st 2014

1.  I’ve never lied.

2.  I have respect for God’s Laws—including the Ten Commandments.  That puts me ahead of your hero Martin Luther King, who flagrantly violated one of those commandments—without incurring a word of reproach from you on this site, even though the violation has been pointed out to you several times.

3.  You’ve stated that Christians are not bound by the moral Laws anyway, so you would have nothing to squawk about even if I had broken a moral Law.

4.  There is no law in either the Old or New Testament against criticizing someone for bad theology.  I defy you to find one.

5.  Answer my list of questions, or there will be no more conversation.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84971

April 1st 2014


You never know when to give up and cut your losses.

1.  Out and out lie as I have repeated told you. 

2.  If only people who were without sin could speak for God, then we would have no Bible and no Church.  Should every Christian who honors the theology of Martin Luther have to repeatedly criticize his anti-Semitic writings?

You use bad theology and logic to confuse and distract dishonoring the Truth. 

3.  Another out and out lie.

4. You did not criticize my “bad” theology.  You called me a heretic outside the will of God which is untrue.  You bore false witness.

5.  I have no reason to answer to anyone who has demonstrated no respect for the Truth.

As Jesus said, “Do not put your pearls before swine.” 

Those who lie are children of Satan, the Father of lies.  Repent

Eddie - #84972

April 1st 2014

I never said that you were “outside the will of God.”  Now who is bearing false witness?

I don’t know how something can be “outside the will of God.”  You perhaps meant “outside the love of God.”  But I never said that, either.  In fact, I said the opposite.

You did in fact state (your words are on this site for all to read) that Christians are not bound by the Ten Commandments.  The moral Law of which I spoke is contained in several of those commandments.  You therefore did deny that Christians are bound by the moral Laws (with a capital L).  So I spoke no lie.  You simply cannot remember—or don’t want to remember—what you said.  I suspect you are still embarrassed by the fact (which I demonstrated by texts) that Martin Luther and your own denomination disagree with you about the status of the Commandments.  But calling me a liar cannot rescue you from the theological hole you dug yourself into, when you attacked the holy core of the sacred writings of the Hebrew Bible.

As for the rest, you’re in a rage, Roger.  You aren’t reading what I’ve said carefully.  You aren’t thinking clearly.  You’re simply reacting.  And you are reacting with indignation and wild accusations.  In this state, you cannot discuss anything rationally.  

You are treating me as a personal enemy, rather than as a theological critic.  I am not your personal enemy.  I have been asking you for a scholarly defense of your Christian theology.  If you are unwilling or unable to provide such a defense, then you can politely bow out.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84980

April 2nd 2014


If you read what I said, I said that Christians were not bound by the Old Covenant and its moral law because they are bound by the New Covenant and its moral law.  That is exactly what Paul said and what you refuse to hear. 

You are puting words and ideas in my mouth.  You are quick to judge and so you get it wrong.  You tell lies about me, even after I tell that you are wrong. 

You mischaracterize what I think because you do not take the time and effort to listen and understand what I am saying.  Also you seem not to be willing to take the time and effort to understand what the Bible says, which is the other aspect of the problem.  

Christians are bound by the moral law of the Christian covenant of Jesus Christ.  As a Christian am not saved because I fulfill the Mosaic covenant, but because I am saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, but that does not mean that I am not bound by a Christian moral law which is higher than the Mosaic Law and includes the commandment, Judge not that you be not judged.   

God does not send people to hell if they are in God’s Will, doing what God wants them to do.  You say that I am on my way to hell, unless there are some extenuating circumstances, so I must be outside of God’s Will objectively.

The problem is you have no real way of knowing if I am outside of God’s Will.  You say that my theology is wrong, but you refuse read it so you can really know what I think. 

You know nothing of my personal life or my professional life.  The only thing you have is that I am a Methodist and you think that I am a Liberal, so you are convinced that I must be a heretic.

I have offered you the best defense of my theology possible, my books.  You don’t really deserve to read them, but I have offered them and I continue to do so.  You are the one who has been acting unreasonably.  

If you are convinced that I am a heretic, then this is a very serious matter.  You are right, people should not make this accusation out of spite or because of petty differences.

You are obligated to report this to my denomination with the collaborating evidence.  Do not let your personal feelings get in the way of your Christian duty. 

Put up or shut up.  I know where I stand.     


Edward, you acknowledged that Martin Luther said, “Love God and do what you want.”  Is that what YOU mean by being bound by the Ten Commandments?


Eddie - #84987

April 2nd 2014

Reading comprehension error:  I never said that you were on your way to hell.  In fact, I said that my belief was the opposite.

Theological error:  even if someone does go to hell he is not outside of God’s will; God is omnipotent and in control of everything, and no one goes to hell (or heaven) without God’s consent.  You would understand this if you read competent theologians, such as Augustine or Calvin, instead of the mushy 20th-century liberal theologians whose views you apparently stuffed your head with at HDS.

Reading comprehension error:  despite the fact that I supplied a direct statement of Luther’s views on the Law and the Commandments, you fail to grasp what Luther meant in the statement.  You ignore his focused and fully conscious discussion of the Law, while leaning desperately on one out-of-context anti-nomian-sounding statement from elsewhere, even though his in-context statement on the Law makes clear that you are misusing that quotation.  I count this as a reading comprehension error, because otherwise I would have to count it as outright academic dishonesty—deliberately quoting out of context.  so I’m being charitable.

Reading comprehension error:  despite the fact that I supplied the constitution of your own church, you are unable to read it and grasp that it does not agree with your view of the moral Law as given in the Commandments.  Again I count this as a comprehension error, out of charity, because otherwise it would be proof of conscious academic dishonesty on your part (disregarding the textual evidence).

Theological error:  You ignore the many statements of Jesus (who is higher than Paul, sorry to say) which indicate that Jesus (who was a Jew, you seem to have forgotten) regarded the moral part of the Law as binding upon himself and upon his hearers.  If you need me to cite Gospel passages in this regard, you do not know your Bible well enough to be a clergyman.  There are websites aplenty with the passages listed, if you Google Jesus and the Law, Jesus and the laws, etc.  In any case, I doubt very much that Paul thought that the obligation to obey the moral part of the Law had been superseded.  Paul meant that Christians were free from the command not to eat pork; he did not mean that they were free from the command not to commit adultery.  But even if I were wrong about that, I would stand by Jesus, not Paul.  Paul was given no authority to either add or subtract from the teaching of Jesus.

I’ve explained all this about the Law, Jesus, Paul, Luther, your denomination, etc. before.  You still have not given an adequate reply.  You are just repeating the lame replies you gave before.  You will not go to the texts, Biblical and extra-Biblical, and read them more carefully, and in context.  If you did, you would have to concede my points.  But you don’t want to concede my points.  You don’t, as I do, regard the Ten Commandments as holy.  You want to sweep them away with the commandment about not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk.  So much for your theological training, that you don’t grasp the elementary distinction, made by every theologian and every Church, between the ceremonial/dietary laws and the moral laws.

I know a good deal about your education and professional life.  There is a detailed biography of you on the web, and several other articles with bits of information about your life.  I have copied all this information, so it would do you no good to take it off the web, even if you could; I could simply repost it elsewhere on the internet if I needed to document my claims.  My point is that I have told no lies about your education or denominational affiliation; nor have I made any errors, unless my sources are in error, and as they are from your own denominational literature, the blame would then be on your colleagues, not on me.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84981

April 2nd 2014

Edward wrote:

But calling me a liar cannot rescue you from the theological hole you dug yourself into, when you attacked the holy core of the sacred writings of the Hebrew Bible.

I know of no reputable Christian who does not understand that Jesus Christ, the Logos and Messiah, is the holy Core and Alpha and Omega of the Bible, the New and the Old Testaments, the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.   

That being the case it is not an attack on the Bible to maintain that Mosaic Law was a necessary prologue to the coming of Jesus the Messiah and necessarily secondary to the New Covenant in His Body and Blood.  The Ten Commandments are not equal to Jesus Christ, nor are they the holy core of of OT.  The Decalogue is an important theme, but not the reason for being of the OT (unless you are a Jew,) which is Jesus.   


Eddie - #84988

April 2nd 2014

Reading comprehension error:  I did not say that the Ten Commandments were equal to Jesus Christ.  I said that they were binding upon Christians.  You still appear to deny it.

I put it to you directly:  Are Christians obligated to obey the Ten Commandments?  In the past you have said, sometimes directly, sometimes by implication, “No, they are not.”  What do you say now?  Are Christians obligated to obey the Ten Commandments?

If your answer is No, explain why not.  And if your answer is Yes, then explain why you stubbornly dragged out this discussion over weeks and weeks, when you could have indicated agreement with me—on this childishly simple point—at the start.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84985

April 2nd 2014


Things seem to be falling into place.

The primacy of the Mosaic Covenant.

The denial that Jesus Christ is the Savior.

Ignorance of Paul’s theology and the New Testament.

You are looking more and more like a Judaizer.


Eddie - #84989

April 2nd 2014

Reading comprehension error:  I said nothing about the primacy of the Mosaic covenant.  I said nothing about the Mosaic covenant, per se, at all.  You are the one who keeps yapping about covenants.  I said that the Ten Commandments were still binding upon Christians.  Period.  An eighth-grade child could understand my meaning.  Why can’t a clergyman with a Harvard divinity degree grasp it?

Reading comprehension error:  I never denied that Jesus Christ was the Savior. Affirming the obligation to obey the Ten Commandments does not entail denying the Atonement.  Otherwise, Luther and many great theologians are guilty of denying the Atonement.

Yes, I plead guilty to being a “Judaizer”—in exactly the sense that Jesus the Jew was a “Judaizer.”  That is much better than being a quasi-mystery-religion Hellenizer who contemptuously belittles the Hebraic core of the Old Testament, the Hebraic core of Jesus’s life and teaching, and the Hebraic core of the Gospels which record that life and teaching, and replaces that Hebraic core with some quasi-Gnostic notion of “being saved” that is more pagan than Biblical.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84991

April 2nd 2014


Jesus taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Why should anyone ask God that God’s Will be done on earth if already nothing is done outside God’s Will on earth?

The Mosaic Covenant does not belong to the Jews.  It is part of God’s plan of God’s Salvation history. 

If you do not like God’s plan to send the Messiah, which as I have said is the real core of the story of the OT, then call yourself a Jew and live by the Mosaic Covenant.    

Give it up, Edward.  

Eddie - #84993

April 2nd 2014

You make a faulty inference from my words.  I did not speak of Jews or of Jewish thought.  I spoke of Hebraic thought.  Both Judaism and Christianity are steeped in Hebraic thought.  That does not make Christianity Jewish; it makes it Hebraic.  There is a difference.

Because of the kinship between the two traditions, I am not as averse to Jewish understanding as many Christians are.  I certainly would find a sophisticated formulation of Judaism such as one might find in, say, Maimonides, more intellectually coherent, and more respectful of the majesty and transcendence of God, than many forms of current Protestantism.  But for all that, I remain within the Christian fold, albeit as far away from liberal Protestantism as I can possibly get.

Your question about how prayer is connected with the realization of God’s will is best addressed to someone such as Jon Garvey, who can handle the nuances of that difficult theological subject better than I can.  However, I believe I am stating the historical facts correctly when I say that no major theologian in the West who has generally been regarded as orthodox has allowed that there are events that happen outside of God’s will.  The full understanding of that is a lifetime’s work, to be sure, but that, I believe, is what orthodox theologians have said.  I realize that you don’t think it is very important to spend time studying the thought of the great orthodox theologians, but some people, such as Jon and myself, have quite a different opinion.  

Eddie - #84994

April 2nd 2014

I see that you still lack the theological courage to plainly answer my straightforward and unambiguous question about the Ten Commandments.  As I anticipated.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #85006

April 3rd 2014


A.  At last you are saying what you think, instead of attacking what others say.  That is what you need to do if you want to make a contribution.

B.  You and I take different approaches to theology.  I start with God’s Word as found in the Bible and look to how it gives meaning to Life and God’s Creation. 

You start with some philosophical/theological point of view and try make God’s Word fit into that.  The fact is: if the Lord’s Prayer says God’s Will is not being done on earth as it is in heaven then that is the truth. 

If you want to discuss a question about the Ten Commandments, fine, but stop acting like a bully.

We differ which is fine.  It is not your God-given call to make every one fit your image.   

Just a reminder.  You owe me an apology.   

Eddie - #85007

April 3rd 2014

1.  “You start with some philosophical/theological point of view and try make God’s Word fit into that.” 

NO, NO, NO.  When I am talking about “What Christianity teaches,” I base myself WHOLLY on the Bible and orthodox tradition; and neither of these is “some philosophical/theological point of view.”  A professor at the Harvard Divinity School will have “some theological point of view.”  The ongoing Christian tradition of centuries is something different from that—collective rather than individual.  It is the duty of all clergy and seminary professors to learn that collective tradition before presuming to advance “some theological point of view” of their own.

2.  Your claim to base your theology on the Bible remains to be substantiated.  All the evidence suggests that you regard only parts of the Bible as revealed, reliable, and authoritative.

3.  *IF* I want to discuss a question about the Ten Commandments?!?!  You’ve got to be joking!  I have indicated very precisely the question about the Ten Commandments I want to discuss, and I’ve indicated it about thirty times, and I’ve indicated it over a period of a month.  And you still won’t answer the question.  And it’s easy to answer:  YES, or NO.  

4.  I have never tried to “bully” you into answering anything, Roger.  But you have been consciously and deliberately evasive, which has forced me to press you hard for answers, whereas with anyone else here—Jon, Lou, Merv, PNG, etc.—I never have to press at all.  I just ask, and they answer, generally within 24 hours.  They aren’t still fighting tooth and nail to avoid answering me 6 weeks later.   Why are you so much more difficult a conversation partner than all the rest?  Why can’t you just answer the questions put to you?

5.  I don’t as of now owe you an apology.  I believe that you hold to several views which are heretical by the standards of historical, orthodox Christianity, historical, orthodox Protestantism, etc.  I will owe you an apology only if and when you demonstrate that the views about which I am concerned are not heretical.  So provide the demonstration, and then you will have your apology.  You can start by answering the question about the Ten Commandments, exactly as I worded it above.  Then we’ll move on to the other doctrines, starting with your doctrine of Scripture.  I intend to pin you down very closely on first principles, determine exactly what you think, so that you will have no wiggle room later to say that you never really said X, that I have misinterpreted you, etc.  If you are willing to proceed along these lines, answering all my questions, one by one, we can talk.  If you aren’t, say so right now, and we will stop, because these conditions are the only ones under which I will consent to continue.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #85009

April 3rd 2014

Good by, Edward

Eddie - #85020

April 3rd 2014


Roger A. Sawtelle - #85029

April 4th 2014


Go to the next essay in this Ted Peters-Ted Davis series entitled Creation Out of Nothing and go to the end and you will find the word dualism in blue.

When you click on dualism it will take you to an entry in a Catholic Encyclopedia entitled Dualism, explaining Religious dualism and Mind/Body Western dualism. 

I hope that this helps.

Eddie - #85030

April 4th 2014

No, it wouldn’t help.  I don’t need an encyclopedia, because I’m a peer of the people who write the encyclopedias, a trained scholar in these areas.  I could write the encyclopedia entry on dualism myself.  The problem is not determining how competent scholars (such as myself and the writers of good reference books) use the term “dualism”; the problem is figuring out how you use the term, since your usage is very often unclear and non-standard, and seems to fluctuate; one can never tell what you intend by the term in any given instance.  That is why I’ve many times asked you for the definition you are using at the moment.  But of course you will never supply it.  And to refuse to supply definitions when someone asks is a violation of the rules of basic intellectual and academic etiquette, because it willfully blocks comprehension and further conversation.  There can be no justification for refusing to give one’s working definition of a philosophical or theological term when asked.  Anyone who so refuses can have only bad motives for doing so.

I’m not interested in your use of “dualism” in your current response to Ted Davis.  If Ted wants to know what you mean, he can ask you.  I am interested only in your use of “dualism” in the specific places where I’ve asked for your definition or criticized your usage.  And those are the places where you’ve refused to co-operate.  But of course, you never co-operate with me.  You never will.  So I’ve given up.  I should have given up a long time ago, as beaglelady advised.  But out of my habit of giving people the benefit of the doubt, I attributed to you far more intellectual coherence than was there.  

Roger A. Sawtelle - #85031

April 4th 2014

I use the term dualism in the way the encyclopedia uses it.

Eddie - #85032

April 4th 2014

No, you don’t.  Not consistently.  Maybe in your recent response to Ted, you did.  I haven’t checked.  But usually, you use the term far too loosely, so that it can cover almost anything that has a “twoness” angle to it, and hence the term becomes  meaningless.  And sometimes, your usage has been just plain wrong—as I’ve pointed out on specific occasions in the past.  But pointing out that you are misusing a term never does any good, because then your pride kicks into high gear, and you plant your feet, and close your ears.  You’d sooner believe and publically maintain something that is wrong than accept instruction from someone with more training in philosophy, theology, and intellectual history than you have.  Well, you have the legal right to employ your own private definitions, as you have the legal right to construct your own private version of Christian theology.  That’s the great thing about America, isn’t it, Roger, that every autodidact has the right to be as intellectually stubborn as he wishes?

Good-bye, Roger.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #85037

April 4th 2014


You have the right to waste your own time as well as mine and anyone else who might be interested in the truth. 

You go on and on about how I refuse to answer your questions.  Then when I do respond using an extensive article, because it is a difficult topic, you refuse to accept my answer.

Why would anyone with half a mind want you as a dialogue partner?  You don’t know how to dialogue.  You just know how to pontificate.


PNG - #85047

April 5th 2014

A moderator! A moderator! My kingdom for a moderator! In the absence of a moderator (apparently), will you two not take this private, at least. If the odium theologicum must live, at least take it out of public view.

Eddie - #85048

April 5th 2014


Eddie - #85057

April 6th 2014

For those who might be interested in Protestant views on the Ten Commandments and the Moral Law, the following website has a popular summary, with some quotations, covering Luther, Calvin, Wesley, the Church of England, and a wide variety of American Protestant denominations, preachers, and traditions:
The site is clearly popular rather than scholarly, but the information contained therein can be confirmed from direct examination of Protestant sources.
For those interested in the views of Jesus and of the early Church on the Ten Commandments, the following is another popular site with some useful quotations and references:
For those interested in the Roman Catholic position on the Commandments, there is the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
For those interested in Greek Orthodox teaching on the Commandments, here is one site:
I mention these sites not to initiate any further argument—I don’t intend to respond further here—but merely to provide information for those who, stimulated by the arguments under this column and under earlier columns, wish to pursue further the question: “Are the Ten Commandments binding on Christians?”
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