The Mind of God: POB pt. 2

In light of the five reasons for doubt that Clayton and Knapp presented in chapter one of The Predicament of Belief (POB), the authors attempt to move forward and present a view of Christian theism that is both plausible for the modern believer and faithful to the tradition’s core commitments. This is what makes Clayton and Knapp’s approach different from most of what could be considered Christian apologetics: instead of attempting to explain away the reasons for doubt that they present, they presuppose them and attempt to formulate a view of Christianity that makes sense in light of them.

To begin this endeavor the authors defend their desire to want to even ask about an ultimate reality. In short, they contend that there are some things that science simply cannot answer. Behind the natural laws of the universe that science seeks to better understand one could always ask, “Why these laws, rather than other laws?” Of course, at this point one leaves the realm of scientific inquiry and enters into the realm of philosophical musing. It is often unrecognized by many that the narrative that modern science constructs concerning the purpose and meaning (or lack there of) of the universe is founded on assumptions and presuppositions that simply cannot be proven on scientific grounds alone. I explored some of these assumptions in a previous post.

Snowflakes forming complex symmetrical patterns is an example of emergence in a physical system.

So despite the fact that modern science, aided by theories of evolutionary emergence, can explain how beings like us could have evolved in a universe initially characterized by physical forces alone, the question that still remains is as follows: why do these most fundamental physical processes exist at all? Again, one cannot answer this metaphysical question by scientific means alone. Clayton and Knapp go on to conclude the following:

It is not at all inconsistent, consequently, for someone who accepts contemprary physics and biology to grant the power of these sciences to explain how particular phenomena arose from the processes of the natural universe and yet still maintain that the ultimate explanation of those phenomena lies outisde the scope of those theories. Given the universe we have, the natural and social sciences can explain how phenomena like life and mind evolved within that universe. But they do not explain why a universe in which those phenomena are possible should exist in the first place.   – POB pg. 29

Thus, it would seem that the fine tuning of the universe that we find ourselves in suggests the existence of an ultimate reality capable of intentional action. Many would object to this, however. The formulation of multiverse theory, or the belief that there is indeed more than a single universe (i.e., the one that we are currently experiencing), would suggest that, given the vast array of possible outcomes among the various universes, the fact that life has emerged in one of them is not necessarily improbable.

In response to this, however, Clayton and Knapp aptly point out that such a response merely shifts the focus of our question (“Why does a natural order capable of supporting the evolution of life and mind even exist?”) from this particular universe to the total ensemble of universes that may exist. It could still be asked, “Why were the conditions correct for life to exist in even one of the many universes that could potentially exist?” Again, the authors explain:

All multiverse theories implicitly accept the possibility of making assertions that are true of the entire (presumably infinite) ensemble of existing universes. In particular, these theories require us to postulate that certain basic conditions hold across all these universes, for if there were no shared lawlike relations, no such theory would qualify as a scientific theory. – POB pg. 32

The fact that, if multiverse theory actually is true, there are a number of set physical laws that transcend the total number of universes suggests that these laws, in a sense, preceded all universes but, as Clayton and Knapp point out, “not as descriptions of physical regularities.”

Before any universe existed, the laws of multiverse physics–the laws that multiverse theory needs if it is to be physics–were not yet “instantiated.” There was as yet nothing that existed to instantiate them; they were pure potentials, pure possibilities. They were not physical things but the principles by which physical things belonging to each of the many universes would be “governed.” But if they were not physical things, what kind of thing were they? And in what did they “reside” if not in a physical universe? – POB pgs. 32-33.

Of course, the answer must be that these laws existed in the “mind” of an ultimate reality:

To say that the laws of physics hold apart from the existence of any particular physical universe is to say that physical laws are more like concepts than they are like physical things. And where might (something like) a concept reside if not in (something like) a mind? – POB pg. 33

Thus, Clayton and Knapp argue that whether one accepts the notion that there is one universe or the notion that there are multiple universes, the likelihood that there is  a mindlike ultimate reality behind all that exists is more probable than either the idea that there is no ultimate reality at all or that the ultimate reality can be described in strictly physical terms.


The Predicament of Belief: Part 1

Summer is well under way and that means one thing for me: more time to read awesome theology books. I’m currently in the middle of Philip Clayton and Steve Knapp’s The Predicament of Belief: Science, Philosophy, Faith as well as a big time blogging slump. I thought I would solve the latter by writing about the former. In the coming days (or, more likely, weeks) I will attempt to summarize each chapter and add my own thoughts where appropriate. My hope is that you can join the conversation as we go along.

Clayton and Knapp begin their work by highlighting what they call the five main reasons for doubting the ancient claims of the Christian tradition. It would seem that as time progresses and history unfolds it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold on to some sort of belief in an ultimate reality (or “God” as many are more familiar with). The five reasons for doubting the claims of Christianity that the authors highlight are as follows:

  • Science – This reason is rather self-explanatory and very likely familiar to most. As modern science continues to provide more and more answers in terms of the way the world works, there seems to be less and less room for God. In the words of Clayton and Knapp:

The upshot of [scientific discoveries] is that the natural world–that is the universe as explained in terms of the laws discovered by the natural sciences–increasingly looks like a completely closed and self-explanatory system.

  • Evil -This argument is age old and yet carries a special significance in light of the many atrocities of the last century. Why would an all powerful and benevolent God allow famine, disease, murder, etc. to exist?
  • Religious plurality – Again, Clayton and Knapp explain:
…if other people believe other things with equal convictions and, as far as we can tell, with equally good spiritual and moral effects, what makes anyone think that her religion is preferable to theirs? Indeed, is any one of the major world religions more likely to be truer than any of the others?
  • The state of the historical evidence – What are we to make of the lack of historical evidence for biblical events like the exodus and the conquest of Palestine? And what about the inconsistencies in the gospels concerning the major events in the life of Christ?
  • The claim of resurrection – Of course, this reason is closely connected to the first. How do we make sense of the claim that Jesus came back to life three days after he died. Additionally, if God has the power to raise the dead why has he not chosen the same outcome for the countless other innocents who have died in history? Why only one 2,000 years ago?

I commend Clayton and Knapp for staring these reasons directly in the face. This book cannot be accused of skirting the difficult issues. In the face of such issues the authors tackle another important question: Why not be agnostic? In the words of Clayton and Knapp:

We will argue that it makes sense even for non-Christians to regard belief in at least some Christian claims–those that Christianity shares with other theistic religions–as rationally preferable to their rejection; that it is intellectually better, consequently, to affirm those claims than to deny them; better also than to refuse to affirm them. And we will also argue that it makes sense for those who find themselves engaging ultimate reality in and through their participation in the Christian tradition to have a similar attitude toward certain claims that are particular to that tradition and are not shared by others. Here again, we think it is better for those so situated to affirm the claims than to deny them. Better–but not beyond all shadow of doubt. Because we judge the reasons to affirm Christian claims, even for those who find themseles “inside” the tradition, to be only somewhat stronger than the reasons not to affirm them, we regard our position as a kind of Christian minimalism.

The authors’ Christian minimalism separates them from Christian agnostics in that they assert that progress in assessing Christian claims can be made and indeed should be pursued.
What follows in the rest of this work is Clayton and Knapp’s attempt to make a minimalist affirmation of Christianity over against the compelling reasons for doubt as well as the option of agnosticism.

Does God Act Supernaturally?

I recently visited a church that liked throwing around the word “supernatural” like it was going out of style. Belief in God, according to this church, requires belief in the supernatural.

Is this true?

I’m not so sure that it is and here’s why:

Talk of the supernatural is, at its very heart, binary and dualistic. What I mean is that this sort of language pits the natural order of things against the “supernatural” order of things. God is said to operate primarily in the latter category. When someone is healed, it is said, God supernaturally bends the laws of nature in order to accomplish his will. In the same way, if a natural explanation can be provided for something then, within this particular framework, it becomes harder to see and understand God’s involvement in it. In short, either God did it (supernaturally) or nature did it.

A short story from my brother’s experience at this church illustrates this point well. As my brother was sharing with a friend of his who was very involved in this particular church about his struggle with asthma, this friend’s response was as follows: “Next time you have an asthma attack, don’t be so quick to reach for your inhaler but instead, look to the healing power of God to grant you your breath back.”

The point is made clear. If one’s breath is restored by means of an inhaler (modern medicine’s response to asthma) then God had nothing to do with it.

Not only do I think this approach is dangerous (It sounds very similar to the family who, in 2008, withheld medical treatment from their daughter because they believed God was going to heal her supernaturally through the power of  prayer. Spoiler alert: the girl died.), but I also think those who espouse this view are going to be sorely disappointed as modern science continues to provide “natural” explanations for events that are presently understood by many to be supernatural acts of God.

What I want to propose is a view that does not pit God and nature up against each other. Instead of attempting to understand events as either natural or supernatural I suggest that we attempt to understand God as intimately involved in the natural order of things. Simply because we have a natural explanation for why the sun rises each morning does not exclude us from seeing God’s involvement in such a process. In the same way, the inhaler that grants breath to my brother in the midst of his asthma attack is, from my perspective, a gift from God that grants life where there could have potentially been death. I understand God to be intimately involved in our attempt to offer medicinal care to those who are experiencing sickness and death. In a very real sense, I can thank God for sparing my brother from an asthma attack because of his inhaler.

To conclude: does God act supernaturally? I don’t think so. I think, if given enough time, we could probably come up with a “natural” or scientific explanation for everything.

Does this mean that miracles can’t happen? Not at all. Just because we can provide a natural explanation for healing does not mean that it was not miraculous. For example, many speak of the “miracle of birth” despite the fact that we can explain the process of conception and birth scientifically.

This is, of course, something that I am continuing to work through. What are your own thoughts?

The Nature of Knowing

As a part of a reading assignment for my Theological Confessions class I have been going through Lesslie Newbigin’s The Gospel In A Pluralist Society. There are a number of reflections that have been pertinent thus far:

  • Everyone has presuppositions that are accepted a-critically. Newbigin critiques modernism’s claim that science reveals “facts” while religions are aimed at communicating “beliefs.” This dichotomy between “facts” and “beliefs” is false. Facts are facts based on the theory that one brings to the table. All knowledge begins with an act of faith.
  • This begs the question “What are the assumptions of modern science?” Two things are taken for granted in the modern scientific worldview: 1) The universe is rational and 2) The universe is contingent. In other words, “the scientist starts with the conviction that the world is rational and that events at different times and places in the natural world can be related to one another in a coherent way. Without this conviction, which is a matter of faith, he could not begin his work” (94).
  • If reality is essentially what you make of it based on your specific tradition of rational discourse then does complete relativism not inevitably follow? Newbigin’s response to this question is heavily dependent on the work of Alisdair MacIntyre in his Whose Justice, Which Rationality? First, despite the fact that reality can only be understood within a particular tradition, the tradition itself is not ultimate. It is not uncommon for someone to leave a tradition for a rival tradition in light of new experiences. Traditions can be compared, then, in respect of their adequacy to enable human beings to know and cope with their experience of reality. Secondly, if the relativist claims that truth cannot be known since all reasoning is embodied in a particular social context, one must ask for the basis on which this claim is made. The claim that reality is unknowable is itself a statement about reality.

The most troubling thing about Newbigin’s reflections on the nature of knowing is that they have caused me to realize how much of a sucker I am for the modern scientific worldview. For too long have I bought the lie that we have access to a pure, objective reality by means of the scientific method. For too long have I allowed the presuppositions of modernism to be left unchallenged. For too long have I taken an a-critical approach to the assumptions of the modernist agenda.

Woe is me.

Yahweh, the God Who Orders: Creation and Modern Science in Dialogue


The dialogue between Christianity and modern science is, to say the least, a muddled one. Advances in modern science have forced evangelicals to make sense of the newly available data in light of the creation account of Genesis 1. Perhaps the most treacherous and confusing part of this discussion is the one that hinges on the theory of evolution. At first glance, these two circles (modern science and Christianity) seem to be telling conflicting stories. Evolution seems incompatible with the story that Genesis tells. Our present aim is to discover if this tension needs to actually exist. Are the claims of modern science—specifically its claims concerning the theory of evolution—actually incompatible with a serious reading of Genesis? What does the Old Testament really say about creation and how ought this inform the discussion presently taking place? My contention is that a better understanding of creation in the Old Testament will lead to a healthier dialogue between the two circles mentioned above. Indeed, the tension that exists between the two “conflicting” stories is, as we will see, an unnecessary one. We will go about our task by tracing the theme of creation through the Old Testament, stopping at a few key texts along the way, in order to develop a biblical understanding of the theme. From there we will apply our findings to the discussion that is presently taking place.

The Theme of Creation in the Old Testament

Creation in the Pentateuch: Genesis 1

We begin our examination of creation where the Scriptures themselves begin: Genesis 1. A brief introductory comment must first be made if we are to properly understand what this passage is communicating. It is generally accepted among modern scholars that the Old Testament reached its final form during the Babylonian exile (Brueggemann 74). Earlier sources were most definitely used during this exilic editorial process but questions concerning original authors and dates lie outside the scope of this work. The implications of this preliminary observation will become clear as we get into the text itself.

A comparison of translations reveals that this passage is wrought with controversy. Verse 1 is typically translated, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (NIV). This translation harkens back to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo—the idea that God created all that exists out of nothing. The NRSV, however, renders verse 1 differently: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…” or even (as the NRSV footnote renders it), “When God began to create….” It is this latter translation that is to be preferred for multiple reasons (Brueggemann 153). First, there are obviously negative theological implications that come out of the thought of Yahweh creating a world that is dark, formless, and void. Translating the passage so that the watery chaos already exists makes much more sense from a theological perspective. Indeed, this way of translating the verse (“When God began to create…”) communicates the fact that Yahweh is at work with the chaos that characterized the world prior to his creative activity (Brueggemann 153). The focus, then, is not creation ex nihilo but rather an ordering of the “stuff of chaos” which is presupposed by the text. Bruce Waltke agrees. When the curtains open in verse 1, what the reader is faced with is not an empty, dark space but rather an earth that is covered with chaotic waters—an earth that is formless and void (Waltke 173). How this “stuff of chaos” arrived on the scene we are not told. Israel, much to the chagrin of many moderns who are (overly?) concerned with the origin of matter, has no concern for a description of where the chaos came from. Secondly, if this text did indeed reach its final form during the exile then it logically follows that Israel would speak of Yahweh ordering the watery chaos since this is the very context that Israel finds herself in during the exile. Herein lies the key to understanding what is being communicated in Genesis 1: it is more a story about Israel than it is about the origin of the world (Pauls). To be clear, Israel’s understanding of Yahweh as the Creator of heaven and earth was central to their worship. However, the story that Genesis 1 tells would have been music to the ears of wandering exiles for reasons other than the fact that it tells of a God who caused the universe to be. What the exilic community would have heard from this passage is that they worship a God who speaks into chaos and brings order. In the words of Walter Brueggemann, “On this reading, the chaos already extant in v. 2 represents the reality of exile—life at risk and in disorder. The effect of the liturgy is to create an alternative world of ordered life, made possible by Yahweh’s powerful word and will” (153).

We shall conclude our examination of this magnificent text by saying that for Israel creation was inextricably linked with redemption. While in exile, Israel longed for Yahweh to do for them what he did for the earth which was formless and void prior to his creative word. This truth will become even clearer as we examine creation in Israel’s poetry. It is to the poetry texts that we now turn.

Creation Reiterated: Israel’s Poetry

For the sake of space we will have to limit our examination of Israel’s poetry to the Psalter alone. The doctrine of creation as it appears in the Psalms will, however, be enough to prove the point that we began to articulate above, namely, that creation in the Old Testament is more about redemption than it is about the creation of the universe in its own right.

We begin with Psalm 136. It is here that we find a litany of praise to Israel’s God, Yahweh. The Psalm could be split into three distinct segments: vv. 1-4 as introduction, vv. 5-9 as a recounting of creation, and vv. 10-26 as a recounting of Yahweh’s acts within history. One will quickly notice that the transition between v. 9 and v. 10 is rather abrupt. The doctrine of creation and the doctrine of redemption stand side by side here, related in a seemingly unknown way (von Rad 55).

We notice something similar happening in Psalm 148 as well as Psalm 33. In vv. 6 and 9 of the latter we find the following: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth … For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” The picture that is painted here is of a powerful sovereign who issues commands from his throne, bringing about change by merely uttering what he wills (Brueggemann 146). More interestingly, however, is the fact that this psalm does not linger on creation long. Rather, the psalmist moves on to describe Yahweh’s powerful acts in history: “The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples … Blessed is the nation whose God is Yahweh” (vv. 10, 12). Creation, in this light, seems to be only ancillary for the psalmist, his main concern lying in the fact that Yahweh is the God who saves (von Rad 55).

There are indeed two Psalms in which the theme of creation seems to appear as the main concern of the psalmist. Psalms 19 and 104 both speak of creation as bearing witness to God (von Rad 60-61). The origin of these psalms is highly contested but even if one grants that they are indeed wholly original to Yahwistic belief, they serve as exceptions to the rule that when creation is spoken of in the psalms it is done so in the context of Yahweh’s redemptive acts (von Rad 61).

In sum, Israel’s poetry testifies to the truth that creation, within the Hebrew worldview, is inextricably linked with redemption. Why the two themes are linked is not explained much in the Psalter. To discover this we must turn to the prophets.

Creation in the Prophets: Deutero-Isaiah

There is no other place in the prophets that the theme of creation shows up as frequently than in the latter half of Isaiah (Isa. 40-66). In chapter 40 we read the following: “Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary…” (vv. 27-28 italics mine). Here the doctrine of creation is not mentioned for its own sake but rather in order to bring confidence to an exilic community who may be doubting God’s ability to bring about gracious restoration (von Rad 56). The same thing occurs in chapter 42: “This is what God Yahweh says—he who created the heavens … who spread out the earth with all that springs from it…. I, Yahweh, have called you…” (vv. 5-6). It becomes clear that, although the doctrine of creation shows up frequently throughout Deutero-Isaiah, it serves as a foundation for faith rather than the main concern of the prophet. This is made clear by the fact that the prophet happily passes over the particular acts of God in creation in order to highlight the manifestations of Yahweh’s acts in history which are the focus of each passage (Isa. 40:21ff; 44:24ff; 45:12ff) (von Rad 56).

There is one final text that deserves our attention. In Isaiah 44:24-28 we find echoes of the creation account of Genesis 1, bringing us full circle back to where we began: “I am Yahweh, who has made all things, who stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth myself … who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’ of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be rebuilt,’ and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’ who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry, and I will dry up your streams…’” (italics mine). The prophet likens the state of the exilic community with being caught in the “watery deep.” Here, clearer than we find anywhere else, the doctrine of creation is fully incorporated into the doctrine of redemption. It is Yahweh, the God who creates, the God who brings order out of chaos, that promises to restore the fortunes of his people. Von Rad says it well, “Yahweh, the Creator, who raised up the world out of chaos, does not leave Jerusalem in chaos; he who dried up the elemental waters will also raise up Jerusalem anew” (57).

Conclusions: A Developed Old Testament Theology of Creation

It may come as a surprise to many that we have devoted our whole project thus far to examining the theme of creation in the Old Testament and have yet to discuss what many modern evangelicals tend to discuss when it comes to matters of creation. Instead of finding texts that answer metaphysical questions concerning a young earth, dinosaurs, and a literal six day creation, we have found stories that tell of a creative God who brings life where there once was death (Waltke 174).

It is imperative, then, that we understand what kind of texts we are dealing with when we encounter the theme of creation in the Old Testament. Many today have approached these texts assuming that they were written to answer questions that modern science has asked concerning the origin of the cosmos. As we have discovered, however, to approach these passages in such a manner is to ask questions of the text that they simply are not attempting to answer. What we find in Genesis 1 and the subsequent creation passages that we have examined is not science but rather theology articulated by means of story. We must come to terms with the fact that ancient Israel, in writing these texts, had a very different agenda than we have today in our pursuit of scientifically understanding the origin of the universe. As Brueggemann makes clear, “Israel has no interest in bearing testimony to Yahweh as the one who creates [like, I would add, we do], except as Yahweh can be linked to the practicalities of living faithfully in the world” (153).

What creation meant for Israel was that they worshiped a God who, by his very nature, was a redeemer. The stories of creation told in the Old Testament were stories that offered hope to a people without hope. Yahweh was powerful enough to bring light to a dark and formless world which meant that he possessed the power and strength to, in a sense, reenact Genesis 1 for Israel, a scattered nation in need of ordering.

Creation and Modern Science in Dialogue

The Shape of the Present Conversation

As we noted in our introduction, the discussion that is taking place between the Christian faith and modern science hinges primarily on one hot-button topic: evolution. Evolution is not a peripheral concept in modern science but rather, the primary narrative underlying most modern scientific inquiry (Wilson). It will serve us well to understand, then, what is actually being said about evolution from a scientific perspective. According to the University of California at Berkeley’s website on the issue, evolution is defined as “descent with modification.” The central idea of evolution is that all of life on Earth shares a common ancestor (Berkeley). Over the course of billions of years the process of descent with modification leads to the great diversity of species that we have on Earth today (Berkeley).

There are a number of premises that must be true in order for the theory of evolution to stand up to scrutiny. Two of them are worth noting for our present purposes. First, the theory requires the earth to be billions of years old. Given the complexity and diversity of species on the planet today, it logically follows that the process of evolution has been happening for a vast amount of time. The dating of fossils are said to confirm such a hypothesis (Berkeley). The thought that the earth is billions of years old begs the following question: how did it all begin? This leads to the second premise worth noting. The origin of the universe is often explained, just as the theory of evolution itself is explained, in natural terms. It is at this point that we encounter such theories as the Big Bang.

Our modern obsession with origins has led many modern evangelicals to approach the Bible in search of a response to the claims of the scientific community. Creation texts, indeed, the very texts we examined above, are read with the strict agenda of answering the question of origins—where did this all come from? It is often purported that a plain reading of these texts forces one to reject the theory of evolution. God created the world, many would say, in six, twenty four hour days. Species are understood to be distinct rather than sharing a common ancestor. The genealogy of Genesis 5 allows us to calculate the age of the earth which, according to young earth creationists, ends up being no more than 10,000 years. Approached from this angle, the claims of Scripture and the claims of modern science are simply irreconcilable. One is left to choose one side or the other.

It is for these reasons that the present dialogue is tumultuous. The Bible and science are said to tell two stories that are clearly incompatible. We must ask, however, if this need be the case. Is the tension between modern science and orthodox Christian belief really a necessary tension? How can the theology of creation that we developed in the first part of this work inform us as we seek to make sense of the scientific data? It is to these questions that we now turn.

Moving Forward: The Dialogue in Light of Our Findings

There is an obvious flaw to approaching the creation texts of the Bible in order to answer the questions that modern science is asking about the origin of the cosmos. As we discovered above, the Israelite community, whose Scriptures we read as apart of our canon, was simply not concerned with answering metaphysical questions about how the universe came to be. Approaching the creation texts, therefore, in order to respond to the claims of modern science leads to a gross misreading of Scripture. Treating the Bible as a science textbook is simply a category mistake.

Instead of treating the creation texts of the Old Testament as if they are intended to answer questions coming out of the modern debate about origins, we have discovered that a better approach is to read such texts as primarily theological in nature. The theological truth that is communicated through the recounting of creation in the Old Testament is that Yahweh is a God who speaks into a world that is formless and void in order to bring about order and fullness. The doctrine of creation, therefore, contributes to the Christian’s understanding of God in ways that are not traditionally considered.

Entering into the dialogue with this understanding of creation, one is faced with the reality that the theory of evolution and the doctrine of creation as revealed in the Old Testament need not be pitted against each other. The tension between the “conflicting” stories of Scripture and modern science is, as I have contended from the beginning, an unnecessary tension. It is an unfortunate reality that the church has invested a great deal of time and energy into the endeavor of combating the claims of modern science in order to maintain a “biblical” understanding of the origin of the cosmos. It is high time we recognize that much of the church’s contribution to this dialogue has been misguided. We have made the Scriptures say something that simply does not stand up to contextual or theological scrutiny.

What is more, because the theme of creation in the Old Testament does not attempt to answer the question of origins we are forced to reexamine the scientific data concerning the theory of evolution. Rejecting the theory as contrary to what the Scriptures teach is, in light of our findings, no longer an option. Might I propose, then, that the theory of theistic evolution—the belief that asserts that the classical understanding of God is not incompatible with the theory of evolution—is the position that makes the most sense of the scientific data while, at the same time, remaining faithful to what the Scriptures hold to be true. There are a great deal of questions surrounding such a position—questions that, unfortunately, cannot be answered here. For now, we will have to be content with saying that a proper theological understanding of creation in the Old Testament opens the door to alternative explanations of how God has been at work in creation. Allowing for a more diverse range of explanations will, I propose, lead to a healthier dialogue between modern science and the Christian faith.


It has become clear that using the doctrine of creation to combat the claims of modern science is a good way to miss the full and robust meaning of the very texts that we are attempting to do justice to. The dialogue must be re-framed around a proper understanding of this Old Testament theme. Creation is about redemption. To say that such an understanding of this classic doctrine denigrates Yahweh is to prop ourselves up on our proverbial modern pedestals and arrogantly point our fingers at the forefathers of our faith, those who articulated creation in such a way that it had relevance for them in the context of their exile. Perhaps recapturing this understanding of creation will allow us to apply the doctrine to our own context in ways not previously imagined. Is our need, after all, much different from the needs of Israel at the time this doctrine came to full maturity? It does not take long to realize that we, ourselves, are in a state of wandering exile. The world is not as it should be. Disorder and chaos seem to have won the day. But, as Genesis 1 resoundingly reveals, all is not lost. We do indeed still worship the Creator God—the God who brings order out of chaos. May the story of Genesis 1 become our story just as it was Israel’s and may Yahweh speak a fresh word of life into our present darkness—bringing hope where there is despair, order where there is chaos, and life where there is death. Amen and amen.

Works Cited

Brueggemann, Walter. Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Advocacy, Dispute. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1997. Print.

Pauls, Jerry. “Creation as Narrative Theme.” Old Testament Theology Class. Columbia Bible College, Abbotsford. 10 March 2011. Lecture.

University of California, Berkeley. “Understanding Evolution.”<;. Accessed 13 April 2011. Web.

von Rad, Gerhard. “The Theological Problem of the O.T. Doctrine of Creation.” Creation in the Old Testament. Edited by Bernhard W. Anderson. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984. Print.

Waltke, Bruce K. An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007. Print.

Wilson, Ken. “Science & the Evangelical Mission in America.” Qideas. <;. Accessed 13 April 2011. Web.