Debating Creatio Ex Nihilo

In response to my quote bomb, Tripp has bombed me back with a very good post debating the merits of the traditional doctrine of creatio ex nihilo — that is, the belief that God created the cosmos out of no pre-existent material. That God created everything that is out of nothing but Godself.

I agree that there are some problems with creatio ex nihilo, and I’ll be exploring them with my DMin cohort next month (as we canoe in the BWCAW – jealous?). For now, I encourage you to read Tripp’s post, and let me know if you agree with him that creatio ex nihilo is problematic.

Creation Out of Nothing isn’t Biblical, as in it isn’t in the Bible. If you read through the Bible you will not find the affirmation that God created the world out of nothing. It’s just not in there. In fact, even Biblical scholars who in the end want to affirm the doctrine for theological reasons will not point to the idea being present in the Bible. Just re-read Genesis 1 and ask yourself ‘where did the darkness and waters come from?’ They weren’t created but were there when God began to create.

Read the rest of Tripp’s objections: Creation Out of Nothing is Overrated (For Tony Jones).

A Post for Tripp Fuller

“In a modern theology of nature, it is neither wise nor appropriate to reduce the fact of the divine creation to the process of God’s separating activity; for to do so calls in question the theological character of ‘theology of nature’ itself. But if we call in question the ‘theology’ in the theology of nature, the natural character of nature is threatened too. A danger of this kind is inherent in the prcess thinking of A.N. Whitehead, and in the process theology which was built upon his ideas. If the idea of creatio ex nihilo is excluded, or reduced to the formation of a net-yet-actualized primordial matter ‘no-thing,’ then the world process must be just as eternal and without any beginning like God himself. But if it is eternal and without any beginning like God himself, the process must itself be one of God’s natures. And in this case we have to talk about ‘the divinization of the world.’ God and nature are fused into a unified world process, so that the theology of nature becomes a divinization of nature: God is turned into the comprehensive ordering factor in the flux of happening.

-Jürgen Moltmann
God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God, p. 78

Thinking About God’s Creation

Autumn Evening on Eagle Lake, by Courtney Perry

I’m thinking and reading a lot about creation right now, in preparation for year two of the Christian Spirituality Cohort that I have the great joy of leading for Fuller Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry Program. (Another time I’ll write about what a joy it is to be in community with these 10 students.) In year one, Lauren Winner and I led the class through the history and theology of Christian spirituality; next year, Craig Detweiler and I will be teaching about spirituality, film, and fiction.

This year, my co-teacher is Brian McLaren, and we’re taking the cohort into the far north woods of Minnesota, to canoe in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, outfitted by Boundary Waters Experience. Our subject matter will be Christian Spirituality and the Doctrine of Creation.

One of the things I like most about Fuller’s DMin program is the aggressive amount of reading required of the students: 4,500 pages per year. That’s a ton of reading, especially for people who are working full-time jobs in ministry. It takes an enormous amount of discipline, but I have yet to field a single complaint about the amount from a student.

Just to make you jealous, the required reading list is below. I’ve broken the books into three categories, with Moltmann’s creation theology serving as our ur-text. Every one of these books is worth your time.

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Reading Gagnon: Tony’s Wrap-Up

Last week, Scot Miller blogged about Robert Gagnon’s book, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, which many readers of this blog are sure will convince Scot and me that we’re wrong about the gays. Here’s my summary of Scot’s posts. -TJ

Day One: Hermeneutics Is King

Scot made the Gadamerian move of proclaiming his prejudices up front. In other words, how one reads the Bible vis-á-vis homosexual practice has everything to do with hermeneutics, and hermeneutics has everything to do, according to Gadamer, with what prejudgements one brings to the task. Scot claims his, which is a great benefit to readers. Gagnon, alas, does not. Here’s Scot’s first prejudice:

First: Fidelity to the biblical message is important to me. I am a Christian, and how I understand God and salvation and sin and grace have been mediated to me through the Bible. I am interested in the Bible as a participant, not as a detached observer.

Day Two: Let’s Claim Some More Prejudices

In fact, Scot thinks that hermeneutical prejudices are so important — and I agree with him — that he spent another post explicating his. They are:

Second: I am aware that the Bible can be misread in dangerous ways.

Third: I am better trained as a philosopher than I am a biblical scholar.

If you don’t see what’s coming, it’s this: Scot claims his prejudices, Gagnon does not. Thus, readers can read Scot’s posts with these in mind, and they can judge his conclusions with this knowledge. Gagnon’s entire posture in his tome is one of absolute certainty — he writes as though he is capable of complete objectivity. He objectively looks at the evidence in the Bible, and objectively determines that homosexual practice is definitively rejected.

But, of course, Gagnon is not objective. As Scot makes clear in his later posts, Gagnon’s blindness to his own prejudices is the fatal flaw in his book. He bends all evidence — even scientific evidence — to his pre-determined conclusions.

Day Three: Gagnon Is Not an Inerrantist

Scot expresses appreciation for Gagnon’s biblical hermeneutic. Gagnon doesn’t, for instance, think that the Pentateuch was written by Moses. He acknowledges deutero-Pauline authorship of some epistles. In the end, Scot has a beneficent conclusion:

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