Genesis One 14

Walton.jpgIn John Walton’s (professor at Wheaton) new book, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, we have yet another proposition to discuss:

God’s roles as creator and sustainer are less different than we have thought.

Big point here. Practical deism sees creation as something God did, its laws now established to run the cosmos, and God is now done with creating. One form of his is theistic evolution and another is that God sometimes intervenes to make sure things stay on track.

Another view sees creation as ongoing, and he points to Moltmann as one theologian who adheres to this idea. Walton wonders if what happens after Genesis 1 can be called “creation.”

Walton offers a third way: “create” refers to functions and that means “create” refers more to God’s using materials to shape their direction than to God’s origination of materials. This means “creating” and “sustaining” are more connected than in other models.

In other words, the continuing work of God to maintain and sustain are different than the kind of thing God does in Days 1-6. Walton sees a God who manages (as intimate involvement) but does not micromanage. God “maintains” (materiality) and “sustains” (functionality). God’s involvement moves beyond practical deism, but the special place for creation in Genesis 1 means there is a distinct activity there.

  • RJS

    The idea that God sustains – his action is not limited to specific discernible moments – is a key point.
    Some views of Theistic evolution fall into a trap of deism, but so can any form of creation – including a YEC view.
    The idea that God must intervene to make creation right at various points is even less palatable … the original course wasn’t correct so God nudges. Couldn’t God get it right the first time?
    But God is creator and sustainer – intimately involved in the world past, present, future. In my mind the main point is that the idea of natural versus supernatural is misleading. The phenomena we explore and describe through science are not separate from God’s work – they are his work.
    It seems to me though that supernatural is best seen in relationship – the relationship and interaction that God has with his people, individually and collectively.

  • Rick

    It is interesting to look at Hebrews 1 and Colossians 1:17 in light of Walton’s ideas.

  • AHH

    Scot, your summary makes it sound like Walton ties “theistic evolution” to deism, but that isn’t what he says.
    He makes this statement about “some permutations of ‘theistic evolution'” (120). As RJS says, there would be some who fit that label but many others of us who would affirm God’s ongoing presence in and with natural processes, including evolutionary processes.
    I think the major point in this section is that the often-made dichotomy where “natural processes” and God’s work are seen as mutually exclusive is a false one. That false dichotomy is at the root of the “god of the gaps” fallacy where gaps (failure of natural explanations for things like the development of life) are seen as theologically necessary because those gaps are the only place God is seen as really acting.
    As Walton mentions, “creationist” views can also have deistic aspects. I have heard views of some ID proponents (this would not fit all of them, but for example Phil Johnson seemed to have this framework) described as “stroboscopic deism”, seeing nature as running on its own (with God absent) except on those occastions when God intervenes to intelligently tweak something.