Shuck and Jive

Monday, September 17, 2007


(Welcome to Conversations with Bob! We are pegging the Geek Meter! You can read previous posts on our essentials of faith by looking to the right. It is Bob's Turn!)

I was going to write about the economic Trinity as an essential but decided that I’m not writing a systematic theology text. I do think the economic Trinity is an essential but if I get that detailed John and I will be writing a series of books. So I decided to move on.

I assert that it is an essential of the Christian faith that God created the universe.

If, as some scientists say today that there are many universes, (how they can prove this is beyond me, but I love science fiction and have read of such), I assert that God made all universes. In other words, God is God and Creator of all.

There are all kinds of scientific things we could say about God as creator. We could say, since it looks like macro evolution is the best theory for how life came to be on earth at least with the evidence we currently have, (although some scientists are working on the theory that microbes of some sort came to earth from other places; see the strange rock found in Antarctica that seems to have come from Mars and may have fossils of microscopic organisms in it), that God set the universe to work in the way that it does. I would assert as a matter of faith that God also superintends the process. In other words I believe in some form of intelligent design. That doesn’t mean that I think ID is a viable scientific theory, although I think such a theory could be viable if it was based on probability. I’m saying that God is intelligent, that God designed the universe to work the way it does, and that God is involved in the process of how the universe came to be and the various stars and planets and comets and dust clouds, and life in the universe, (and since at this point we only really know about life on earth) and on earth all came to be because God wanted them to come to be.

Will I be excited if one of the Mars probes finds evidence of life in the past or the present on Mars? I sure will be! While I find life of earth fascinating, I think God is involved in a whole lot more than life on earth. After all, God made a universe in which the gravity is perfect for stars to form. God even made strange things like black holes and creatures near underwater volcanoes that are not carbon based but sulfur based. If there is life, (and let’s face it, it may be life that we can’t even understand), elsewhere in the universe that just tells us more of the glory of God and the wonders that God has created.

As some of you have pointed out, John and I are coming at this from different perspectives. I start with the divine and then move on to the human. John, it seems to me, starts with the human and moves to the divine. Have I got that right John? I would suggest that John comes at this from Schleiermacher’s perspective and I come at it from Karl Barth’s. For Barth’s critique of Schleiermacher see The Theology of Schleiermacher: Lectures at Gottingen, winter semester of 1923-24. For Schleiermacher’s views see his On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers and The Christian Faith.

So what does all this have to do with you and me? I think our response to God’s work in creation should begin with wonder. Leaves fascinate me. When I was in Boy Scouts I could identify trees from leaves. I’m fascinated that each type of tree has its own shaped leaves but even more so that each leaf on each tree seems to be slightly different in size or shape from all the other leaves. I love to watch the buds come out in the spring, turn into leaves that, here in PA, turn wonderful colors and then fall off in the fall. I love the interconnectedness of creation, with trees supplying oxygen which animals of all kinds breathe and turn into carbon dioxide that plants need. BTW, did you know that there are a whole lot more trees in the USA today than there were 100 years ago? Our ancestors cut most of them down and then somehow our society decided to let them grow again.

Microscopic organisms are just as fascinating. Deadly as some of them are to humans, they still are beautiful. Look at the shape of the Ebola virus and you’ll see what I mean. I don’t want it in my body or anybody’s body, but it is beautiful. So are crystals and mountains, (like John I prefer my mountains with the tops left on. Cutting mountains down for the coal not only creates an ugly scene it also leaves a mess of caustic chemicals).

If we start with wonder we should also move to stewardship. I said in my last blog that part of the image of God in humans is participation in community. I also believe that we image God in the way that we care for God’s creation. Immediately following the declaration in Genesis 1 that God created humans in the image of God, (and being male and female is somehow mixed up in all of that, but I’ll talk about that later), God appoints the humans as caretakers of the earth. Literally the passage says:

Then God said, “Let us make humankind£ in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

27 So God created humankind in his image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

28God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (NRSV)

I know, subdue and have dominion do not directly imply stewardship and responsibility to God for the way we treat creation, but other parts of the Bible make clear our responsibility to God for how we treat the earth. I also wonder sometimes how God feels about the fact that we have made space around earth and parts of the Moon a junkyard. So I have to say we have done a very poor job in caring for creation.

I haven’t said it directly so let me say it now. We image God in our creativity when used as God intends. Since the image of God in us is distorted by sin, (a lot more on this later) as John pointed out in his last blog, creativity can be a two edged sword. Who knew in 1900 that the internal combustion engine would be such a source of pollution? (BTW, if we were all willing to wait a bit for the water to heat up, steam engines are much more efficient in their use of fuel. The internal combustion engine is inefficient in its use of fuel in comparison. But we all want to jump in our cars and go.)

I believe God is Creator and we, along with all the rest of the earth and the universe, are created. The difference is very important and the denial of the difference is a large part of the human problem.

Grace and Peace


1 comment:

  1. Bob,

    It's no surprise that we let more trees grow. We do that because we don't need the land in order to grow food. Before the Green Revolution (industrial farming - not environmental activism), more crops meant using more land. That's why at the turn of the century, around 80% of Americans lived in farming communities. Now, less than 20% do - because we are able to feed ourselves and much of the world.

    Yes...amazingly, free market advances have been very good for agricultural production and for our environmental sanity.