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Fifty Years Later – Part 6

What does Creation Mean?

 

Part 6: What does Creation Mean?

 

Past

Even fifty years ago, whatever creation means, it does not mean that in seven days God brought the universe into being out of nothing. That story was written by the priests while the nation of Israel was in captivity in Babylon. The pervasive fear was that the Babylonian gods were more powerful than YHWH, God of Israel, and the Priestly story was presented as an affirmation of faith and comfort. God, our God, is the only God, who, on the first day created….and this God loves us even though we are captives in a foreign land. But there was a problem. Why are we in captivity if God is Creator? 

More generally, we may ask, why is there suffering and evil in the world if God is in control? My answer then was to say that in God’s omnipotence, God chose not to be omnipotent. There is suffering in the world because God chose not to interfere in the course of nature, does not perform miracles that contradict this course of nature, and does not answer petitionary prayer that asks God to violate this course of nature. That was the only consistent approach. Otherwise, why would God stop some tornadoes but not others? heal some people but not others?

But if you say that God does not directly interfere in the natural process, how, then, does God get anything done in the natural world? The answer was that although God does not interfere in nature, God does utilize natural processes to get things done. So God heals a person by guiding the doctor to do the right thing. But that line of reasoning goes nowhere. How does God guide the doctor?? Where does the chain of causality end? I had no idea. 

On the cosmic scale and with regard to creation, God’s tool was evolution. That was how God created. It was easy to say that there is something rather than nothing because of the divine will, and also to say that how that something came to be was a natural process of evolution. There is no conflict, therefore, between science and Christianity. They speak of different dimensions of reality, the thatness, and the howness. That seemed like an acceptable solution.

Present

Somehow, those words of yesteryear seem evasive, but I am not sure that there is a better answer. There certainly is more to think about. Think of what we have discovered in the last fifty years: There are trillions of galaxies. Trillions! The universe is expanding at an increasing rate, and we don’t know if it will ever stop. In the finite future, the outer reaches will have traveled out so far that their light will never reach us. We will never know that they existed. All we may ever know is our own galaxy. And it will be destroyed in its merging with the Andromeda galaxy. 

There may be eleven or more dimensions. The protons, neutrons and electrons that we see make up only six per cent of the universe, the balance made up of dark energy and dark matter, about which we know absolutely nothing, other than that they exist. Particles that are entangled  can affect one another instantaneously across the far reaches of the universe without causation. Perhaps the Big Bang was not unique, and instead is just the current manifestation of an eternal cycle. Contrary to the belief that God created ex nihilo, out of nothing, no less a physicist than Steven Hawking proposed that matter could create itself.  

Given all this, what does it mean to say that God is Creator?! At the very least, and perhaps at the very most, it means exactly what that Priestly writer gave to the exiles in that creation story: that God is in ultimate control and loves creation. I have to believe that was true fifty years ago and is also true today. How this is so is the ultimate mystery. I still have no idea how God guides the surgeon’s hand. 

But some refinement is required when thinking about evolution. One of the main elements of evolutionary theory is that there is no goal, no direction in which reality is headed. Everything is contingent and need not be. This assertion contradicts the faith expressed earlier that in the face of undeserved suffering, God makes it all right, and that we live in a moral universe, neither amoral nor immoral, but moral. In this sense I have modified my assertion of fifty years ago that there is no contradiction between science and Christian faith, because although we must accept the mutation and change demanded by evolution, I cannot accept the amorality of absolute contingency. So I reject that aspect of evolution and essential to my understanding now is the claim that Love is the ultimate Reality. 

 

Read the Series Here

 
Dr. Carl Krieg received his BA from Dartmouth College, MDiv from Union Theological Seminary in NYC and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is the author of What to Believe? the Questions of Christian Faith,   The Void and the Vision and  The New Matrix: How the World We Live In Impacts Our Thinking About Self and God. As professor and pastor, Dr. Krieg has taught innumerable classes and led many discussion groups. He lives with his wife Margaret in Norwich, VT.

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