Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thursday Thoughts - February 16

Since we’re at a “defining moment” in the history of Christianity, I’d wager it’s time for a re-examination of who God is and what God does. Tread carefully, but tread we must. The biblical writers give an Ancient Near Eastern or Greco-Roman picture of God, and their limited understanding of the natural world had a significant influence on their theologies. We are better informed today about nature, notably evolution, and this can’t help but cause us to re-view the theologies of those who precede us. Some of these may be worth holding on to, yet others will have to be let go of. The days where the Christian faith attempted to stand on the biblical text alone for its theology are over. It’s now just a matter of how long it will take for Christians to accept this and refigure what they believe about God and the world.


Lukas Kuhs said...

Dear Greg,

I appreciated most of Your posts over the last couple of years, since I first met You with Micha. I thought about most of them really. The last months made it sometimes hard to keep on reading. Today's post makes me quit. I just unsubscribed your blog.

Why? Because I'm one of those "stubborn" evangelicals that believe that God's word spoken to us is the only solid ground we can stand upon. It is through the word God reveals himself. There are other informers, that can show us God exists, I agree. And they might cause us to review the theology of someone. But Jesus Christ is the word, Gods word spoken to us. And this Jesus Christ is the only way to God. Where else do You want to go?

I pray that "Christians accept this and refigure what they believe about God and the world".


Greg said...

Lukas, Glad to have had you as a reader. So sorry that won't be continuing. Please read my book From Evolution to Eden if you're interested. Is God's word 'solid ground' when it says the earth is unmovable and at the center of the cosmos? Not likely. The writers were representing a cultural view of how to view the earth and God didn't see fit to change this and give them information about a better view. Please don't misunderstand. I too see the biblical text as revelatory, but nature also has to be considered if we seek to find truth about God. I also agree that Jesus is the word of God - the way, truth, and life - the only way to God, but Lukas this is not what's in question. What is in question is the biblical view of nature and how it works, which then translates into theology. Let's face it, the biblical writers worked with a older view of the cosmos that in some ways is no longer credible. Here's a revised comment in a post on fb. To allow the natural world informer - science to have a theological say so should bring us closer to God, not leave us further away. Thus, when it becomes the biblical text alone when it concerns God, we are ignoring the relevance of the natural world informer. What I'm trying to suggest is that the biblical writers and their theologies are affected by their cultural views of the natural world. If these views were somewhat misinformed, then perhaps the theologies would also be built on misinformation. The earth, for example, for the biblical writers is fixed and unmovable - the center of the cosmos, but it is clear for us that the earth is not the center of the cosmos and it indeed moves. This natural world information has to be considered when we view God as the Creator who didn't make a world like that, but like this. Same thing with evolution. If it's the case, what are the implications for our understanding of God as Creator. Thus, God is not a Creator who created everything in 6 literal 24 hr days, nor is it likely that God created an original human pair that the rest of humanity comes from. This type of data then has to be integrated with who God is and thus the biblical text needs to be complemented by and in dialogue with what we're learning about nature.

Greg said...

From another revised comment: One aspect of this would be viewing God as Creator, another would be Divine Action. The natural world seems to pretty convincingly show that evolution happened and is happening. If that's the case, then the 'view' that God as Creator created an original pair of humans in a garden is not very likely. Another aspect is when the OT writers 'view' the earth as the center or the cosmos - God made the earth and placed it at the center - unmovable - but we know that the sun, not the earth plays that role. So, God is not a God who centers everything in the earth. There are lots of cases like this that cause us to re-frame God's character as God because the natural world informer gives strong evidence that God is not like that and probably more like this. The person and character of Jesus Christ, as portrayed by the gospel writers, plays more of a theological/salvific role by pointing us to the 'true' God, but even Jesus I suspect would have 'viewed' the natural world in ways that we wouldn't. So, what Jesus shows is that God is love and that he is the way, the truth, and the life, but this is not totally unpacked as to the meaning of who God as Creator is or how Divine Action works. Yes, Jesus remains at the forefront of our discussions on these matters, yet I wouldn't say 'regardless' of natural world data. This too must be integrated in the discussions. As far as I can tell, 'current interpretations of the natural world' play a role and are open to exploration. We should try to better understand what implications these might have for theology. In the post, I did write "Tread carefully, but tread we must." This is what we attempted to do in our book From Evolution to Eden with the interpretation of Genesis 1-3. Taking the natural world informer seriously means that many 'traditional' understandings of the God of these chapters have lost credibility. This is part of the reason, or at least so it seems to me, why a generation of younger people are leaving churches in droves.