What Does it Mean to Believe in God the Creator?

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March 6, 2010 Tags: Divine Action & Purpose

Today's video features Karl Giberson. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

In this video conversation, Karl Giberson advocates for an understanding of the Creator that places more emphasis on his sustainment of creation and less on its origins. Giberson notes that one of the things that the New Atheists have succeeded in doing is setting the frame of the debate by suggesting that unless we can point to what God is “doing”, that is, what he is actively creating—then he can’t exist.

This is a very reductionist argument, says Giberson, which attempts to evaluate claims of God in the same way that one would evaluate something like the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This kind of rubric does not work because the Christian understanding of God has always been a much more “robust and philosophically deep concept” than that which the New Atheists will account or allow for.

“What does it mean to say that God brings a universe into being?” It doesn’t mean that God is “[always in there] tinkering like gravity”—but he is more significant than that because he is the grounding force of gravity. God works through secondary causes—thus we need a more sophisticated view of causality. Way before the Big Bang or any theory of evolution, Aquinas points out that origination is not the key part to creating, it’s sustaining.

We have to be careful about projecting our idea about human creation onto God because the notion of a human creator is an entirely different concept. For example, when humans create something, they finish, and then walk away. We don’t say that Da Vinci continues to sustain the Mona Lisa and that if he were to remove his “sustaining powers” that it would cease to exist.

That would make no sense at all.

“Yet, that’s what it means to say God created the world—because everything is grounded in his being.”

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

Karl Giberson directs the new science & religion writing program at Gordon College in Boston. He has published more than 100 articles, reviews and essays for Web sites and journals including Salon.com, Books & Culture, and the Huffington Post. He has written seven books, including Saving Darwin, The Language of Science & Faith, and The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age.

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Mike Gene - #5984

March 6th 2010

Great points.  There is a long and rich tradition that focuses on God sustaining creation.  Science is incapable to evaluating this claim, thus is has no authoritative role to play here.

Apart from the problems outlined by Giberson, if we take the New Atheist demand seriously, and ask them to spell out what they would count as evidence for God actively creating, the demand inevitably retreats into a god-of-the-gaps approach. 

As Ken Miller recently noted, “Indeed, Miller argues that the creationists and New Atheists are in an odd sort of symbiosis — reinforcing each others’ extreme views of the incompatibility of science and religion.”

Read more: http://thephoenix.com/Boston/news/98030-ken-miller-just-cant-win/?page=4#TOPCONTENT#ixzz0hPk0kkV6

BTW, if these videos skip for others, I found that you can get rid of that by clicking off the HD in the upper right corner

Charlie - #5986

March 6th 2010

God sustaining creation is indeed a possibility.  Yet it is just an unproven hypothesis because science has no evidence to support it.  I agree that no matter how much science reveals, it can always be attributed to God.  Just remember that, scientifically, this belief is just as plausible as believing any fictional character sustaining creation.  I’m not saying you have to disregard your belief in God, I’m just saying science does not support the belief.  This is why science and religion are vastly different and why many are conflicted because most don’t like drawing conclusions by two completely opposite ways.

Mike Gene - #5999

March 6th 2010

HI Charlie,

You write, “Yet it is just an unproven hypothesis because science has no evidence to support it. ”  But that’s because if Giberson is correct, then science would be out of its depth with the question.  Science would be blind to the truth because its methods cannot resolve the issue.  So, when you say “science does not support the belief,” its a vacuous claim apart from those who subscribe to scientism.

John VanZwieten - #6066

March 7th 2010


Good post.  I at first wanted to take issue with your statement “this belief is just as plausible as believing any fictional character sustaining creation,” but then I looked back to your qualifier “scientifically.”

Since neither a “God hypothesis” nor a “flying spagetti monster” can be subjected to repeated testing in order to falsify, you are correct that both are beyond the realm of scientific proof.

Of course the spagetti monster doesn’t have millenia of written testimony to its truthfulness, nor anyone that I know of who really even claims to have met such a being.  Compare that to the creator God, whom millions of people now and for millenia claim to “know.”

Maybe I would take issue with science and religion drawing conclusions by “completely opposite ways.”  Science depends on repeatable testable data, while religion is not equally constrained.  A fundamental difference, for sure, but I’m not sure it rises to “completely opposite.”

You could perhaps make a case that “religious science” often uses a completely opposite process to reach scientific conclusions, since it often starts with a conclusion (“the earth is <10K years old”) then selects data to prove the conclusion.

John VanZwieten - #6068

March 7th 2010


Maybe you have already read this on the BioLogos site, but it has some interesting things to say about the proper relationship between science and religion:


Amy C - #6107

March 7th 2010


Great thoughts…I’m interested in reading more.  Could you tell me the writings where Aquinas points out that origination is not the key part to creating, it’s sustaining.?  Thanks.

charles - #23780

July 28th 2010

the bible is mythology. jesus never existed. the notion of god is nonsense.

Jon Garvey - #23829

July 29th 2010

“the bible is mythology. jesus never existed. the notion of god is nonsense.”

I assume you feel these truths to be so self-evident as not to need to switch on one’s brain or use the caps key?

charles - #24331

August 2nd 2010

use your brain to disprove my statements. i know you are incapable of doing so. the caps key is a waste of time just like your snarky comment. i have a better brain than you could ever hope to have.

charles - #26254

August 19th 2010

there can be no evidence for god because the notion is nonsense. it asserts nothing that can be true or false, jon garvey has no brain to switch on.

Christopher Svanefalk - #27333

August 28th 2010

Charles, please, don’t troll around BioLogos.

If you are not trolling, your statements are simply both inconsistent and arrogant - you affirm them with no proof whatsoever, and you want Garvey to in a post condense proof that scholars have spent ages and centuries working out, and written volumes on.

A simple example is this:

“there can be no evidence for god because the notion is nonsense. it asserts nothing that can be true or false”

No Charles, it is your statement that is nonsense. The “notion of GOD” does indeed assert that things can be both true and false, because the question of GOD has to do with absolutes. Please, do read up and post some substantial arguments (if you answer at all). If you do not, do not expect an answer from me or anyone else around here.

charles - #32804

October 1st 2010

christopher, you have not refuted my statement with your nonsensical response and you are obviously incapable of doing so and i don’t care if you do answer because i have no respect whatsoever for your thoughtless response. you are no match for my knowledge and intellect.

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