God as Creator with Karl Giberson
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.
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.
I think we have to have a more sophisticated grasp of what it means to say God is the Creator. Part of what the new atheists have succeeded in doing is setting the frame of the debate. The new atheists say that you can only have God if you can tell us something that God is doing. If God is not making the planets go in their orbits or not gathering together the molecules to make the first life form, or not making human beings bipedal. If God’s not doing those things then there’s nothing for him to do, and therefore he doesn’t exist. You don’t get to believe in God unless you can explain to me what it is that He’s doing.
That’s a very reductionistic view of God. God has to exist in the same way that the second law of thermodynamics exists and that’s the only kind of status that they’re willing to concede. The Christian understanding of God has always been, certainly at its best, a much more robust and philosophically deep concept than that, and we understand that God works through secondary causes.
We have to have a more sophisticated view of causality. What would it mean to say that God brings a whole universe into existence and endows it with orderly pattern, physical laws and a mathematical structure that allows things to form that are stable and can persist indefinitely, like solar systems and galaxies? What does it mean to say that God brought a world like that into existence?
It doesn’t mean that God’s in there all the time, tinkering like gravity is always tinkering. It means that God is behind and under it in ways that are not going to show up like gravity does, yet are more significant than gravity because that’s where gravity is grounded. Gravity is grounded in the originating power of God as Creator.
Way before the Big Bang or any theory of evolution, Aquinas is pointing out that origination is not the key part of the doctrine of creation, it’s sustaining. When we say that God is the Creator, we have to be careful that we don’t get bewitched by our language so that we treat God like a human creator. When a human creator does something they create it and then they walk away. We don’t say that da Vinci continues to sustain the Mona Lisa and if he were to remove his sustaining power it would cease to exist. That would make no sense at all. Yet that’s what it means to say God is the Creator of this world; that everything is grounded in His being.