Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Christian Believer: Week Four {Creator}

[Well, I'm super late on this post, too.  I was thinking I might just combine last week's with tonight's lesson, but there was so much good stuff in both, so I'm going to just wait and do the second post later in the week.]

Last week's topic was one of the more controversial ones. Our topic was "God: Creator" (The God of Beginnings) I know some evangelicals feel like it's essential to believe that the Genesis 1 creation story is a literal six day account.  I also know some other people who believe that the who of creation is more important than the how, that the creation story is largely one of allegory, and that the God we serve is big enough to work through the means of the Big Bang, evolution, and a million other things we may or may not have knowledge of.  One of these persons is extremely dear to me (ahem, Peyton) and if you choose to disagree in my comments (which is allowed and encouraged here on In the Warm Hold!) please be respectful and grace-full.  The same goes for "liberal nutjobss" as some call Peyton ;); be kind to my dear friends who hold firmly to the belief in a literal interpretation of Scripture.  The study actually didn't end up focusing solely on the actual dynamics of the creation process and it was very interesting!

The video we watched at the beginning of our meeting this week was a little weird- it was just too scientific, but also too abstract.  I know that makes no sense, but I can't really articulate it any better.

Anyway, there was a lot in our study manual that I found really interesting.  One point it made was that God creates by speech- He is a communicator.  Not only is He a communicator and not only was the world born out of communication, we are creatures of communication.  This explains or capacity for loneliness and also our need for personal relationships, with others and with God Himself.

The book went on to talk about two contrasting theories about creation- both of which are falsehoods.  Pantheism is a philosophy that teaches that in some sense EVERYTHING is God- a rock, a bird, a stick.  Deism, is an opposing philosophy that teaches that God is indeed the creator, but has no continual involvement ("the blind clockmaker").  We had a lot of interesting discussion in our group on this topic and Darlene sweetly pointed out that she thought it was neat that Peyton and I love to talk about philosophical concepts like these.  [We do it a lot of times when we're driving around with the kids in the backseat.]  The book says that "The term that best describes God's relation to our creation is theism.  Unlike pantheism, theism believes God is in the world, but also beyond it; and unlike deism, God, while beyond the world, is nevertheless not divorced from it.  Having created the world, God continues to care for it and to relate to it".  We talked about where we see pantheism and deism at work.  I used the example of a "practical deist".  I've heard the term "practical atheist", but I think practical deist is an even more appropriate term for someone who believes in God and would never officially call themselves a deist, but is basically a nominal Christian, a "pew warmer".  We talked about how we see pantheism in Oprah type, new age "religion".

Another passage from our book that I liked stated "When John (John 1:1-3) connects the preexistant Christ with the Creation, the personal nature of God's action in Creation is dramatically underlined.  If the God who creates the world is also the one who reenters it to redeem it, the relationship between God and the Creation is personal beyond our grasp.  Here again, God is not carefully isolated from the scene, as deism would see it; nor is God part of the problem, as pantheism would imply.  Rather, God is concerned to the point of ultimate involvement and proceeds to be involved."

The book talked about how sin changed and affected creation and finally, it went on to quote the passage from Isaiah 11 that says "The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatlin together, and a little child shall lead them".  I love that and this it's such a beautiful picture.  The reading concluded "Any understanding of God as Creator must include this prophetic vision of nature restored, because in this vision we have the ultimate picture of God's continuing love of creation, and the farthest extension of the sustaining work of the Creator".


Ashley said...

We just talked about Creation in my Old Testament class at church, and I believe profoundly that there was a literal, 6-day creation. Soooo many reasons why, but basically it has to do with taking the whole section of Scripture and analyzing the context, word usage, etc. Also, it oftentimes boils down to the question - do we believe that God is powerful enough to speak our entire universe into being in 6 literal days? For me, combined with the other factors listed above, the answer is an absolute yes. There will always be things that our rational, human-sized minds will try to ration out, but some element of faith HAS to come into play.

David Howie said...

Full Disclosure: I am a "young earth creationist". Meaning I believe the earth is about 6,000 to 6,500 years old, and that it was created by God's words in 6 literal 24 hour periods. But I do not think this is essential to salvation. Jesus saves us through our faith in Him and His work - not because we believe everything just right.

I agree with both Ashley and SD saying that God is big enough and powerful enough to do either method. But I want to present an argument based on theology (I am a 'presbo' after all).

Why do things die? Death is what makes evolution go. 'Survival of the fittest' is the positive side; death of the not fit is the negative side. What is the evidence science looks at? Fossils - the remains of dead things. So on an evolutionary time table there must have been billions of lives and deaths before there was ever a being classified as 'human.'

The Bible says that the wages of sin is death; death is the punishment for sin. There was no death before sin. Romans 5:12. Christ did not deserve to die because he had done no sin. Before humans, there was no sin, therefore there was no death. This fits perfectly with a real Adam and Eve.

A second argument: I Corinthians 15:22 says "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." If Adam wasn't a real person but an allegory or a symbol, does this indicate that Christ is as well? So it would mean that following this negative symbol makes us suffer, but if we follow this positive symbol we now can feel good? I refer back a few verses to I Corinthians 15:19.

Just something to think about. And maybe discuss next time we get together.

Peyton said...

Like SD said, I think the important thing about the creation story is what it tells us about God, not what it tells about us. Or at least that's my present thought is. David, just out of curiosity, how do you view carbon dating?

David Howie said...

If the creation story is allegory and not literal, what does that tell us about God? That He could have done it this way if He had wanted? A literal 6 day creation by mere speaking tells us that God is supremely, infinitely powerful. It tells us of His order and logic. Of His creativity and imagination. Of His personal relationship with humans - naming Adam, breathing life into Him, making a perfectly suited helpmate for him, planning a day of rest for him, etc.

And it also tells us a lot about us. We are specially made in God's image like no other being is. That's why human life is precious in a different way than any other creature. I would never condone random killing of cows or their torture, but I'm glad to kill and eat one. If man is only a more evolved creature/highly advanced ape (even if God directed) doesn't that rob him of dignity and honor?

As for carbon dating, I am certainly no scientist. My understanding is that radioactive carbon degrades/dissolves/breaks down (I can't remember the word). We know how fast it degrades now (the half-life) so we track backwards to find the age of the fossil. The big assumption is that the half-life is constant. I think there is some research showing that the sun and sun flares can speed up the carbon degrading.

I think that's a general problem in evolution dating. One looks at the deep Grand Canyon with the small Colorado River, and concludes that it must have taken ages for that river to wash out that canyon. But what if the river was once much larger? Or if some catastrophic event, like a global flood for example, occurred? I've read a story like that from Mt. St. Helen's. Just looking at the ground, it looks like it would have taken a long time to change, but we know it took like a day when the volcano erupted.

A question for you. When do you believe Bible does become literal history? Are Adam and Eve real people? Or Noah? Or Abraham? When does the allegory stop?

Peyton said...

I'll be honest and say it's an issue I've not given much deep thought to. The way I've seen it, this issue can't affect my present theological problems too much UNLESS I view evolution as based on random chance rather than having a supreme chessmaster setting the pieces. But, we'll talk about it next time we get together. I'll briefly respond to a few of your questions just to get us started, but not to be exhaustive.
As to dignity, I don't think evolution robs man of dignity. I can see why it would seem that way, I just don't think so personally. It does cause problems for at what stage man become unique and how God sets him apart specifically, but as I've said I haven't studied it in much detail. I've mainly heard persons of your point of view speak of it, not those who support theistic evolution. In terms of when the allegory stops, I don't really know if I think those stories are meant to be allogorical or actual. So I don't draw the line. My leaning is that The BIble is needed to speak to many persons with different experiences in time and science so it must be able to illuminate The Lord to all of these persons as to who God is. So why would he need to try to explain to an early person the scientific process by which some things happened when and allegory would work as well, and be recognized by later persons? I'm sure you'll disagree with how well thought out the reasoning there is, but like I said I've not delved into it deeply. The stories I have specific problems with understanding- The Creation story, The Tower of Babel, And The Great Flood of Noah- in terms of whether it was regional or worldwide. I look forward to hearing your well reasoned thoughts on these stories next time we get together.