Tuesday, October 30, 2012

some basic perspectives on origins

For some reason, there seem to be a lot of people these days who are interested in my perspectives on the origins of the universe and humanity.

Strange, that. It's almost like asking a locked-out hockey player what he thinks about global warming. Nevertheless, for those who care to know, here you are.

When it comes to origins, I have held to the same basic perspectives for quite a while now. I have stated, taught, preached, blogged, or published all of these points in various ways and in diverse venues for at least fifteen years.

First, God created all thingsGod himself and not merely some impersonal forces or natural laws. God created the heavens and the earth, and made humans in God’s image. Through Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the very image of God, all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible; without him nothing was made that has been made. Thus, there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Second, beliefs about exactly when and precisely how God created all things are neither central nor essential to an authentic Christian faith or a historically orthodox Christianity. Thus, it is not necessary for the sake of one's faith to hold to any beliefs about these matters with strong conviction; in fact, it may even be unwise to do so.

Third, the point of the biblical creation stories in Genesis 1-2 is not to answer modern questions about exactly when or precisely how all things came about. It is to answer, through an ancient genre for an ancient people, some common human questions, questions about who God is as Creator, what the cosmos is as God's creation, who we are as God's creation, how God as Creator relates to his creation, how we are to relate to our Creator and the rest of his creation, and the like. All subsequent biblical theology—as my first point illustrates—continues in this same trajectory.

Fourth, these modern questions about exactly when or precisely how all things came about, while potentially having tremendous theological significance, are best left to science. One should consult astronomers, physicists, geologists, paleontologists, biologists, and geneticists for these questions, not biblical scholars and theologians, let alone people who are neither trained theologians nor trained scientists.

Finally, if I’m right about these first four points, then whatever my personal perspectives are on exactly when or precisely how God created all things is a moot point. I'm not a scientist, so my thoughts on these matters carry no weight. And, with respect to my salvation, my orthodoxy, and my biblical fidelity, any thoughts I have on these matters are irrelevant.

Okay, so this is probably not the answer some of you were looking for. But while I'm able and willing to affirm more than this on origins, I suppose one might say these are things I can fully concur with—especially if by "fully concur" one means "agree with completely and in every respect, without reservation or qualification."

For more thoughts on creation theology and the role of creation in the biblical narrative, see my brief volume, The Beginning and the End: Rereading Genesis's Stories and Revelation's Visions.