Re: metaphors

Murphy (
Sat, 12 Oct 1996 08:47:11 -0400

Robert L. Miller wrote:
> Paul Arveson wrote
> >
> >Gene is rather vividly describing the kinds of thought processes I and many
> >others have had trying to comprehend the relationship of God to nature. In
> >addition to the primary advice (take an aspirin) I will offer the following
> >insight that has been helpful to me:
> >
> >Dr. James Houston, in "I Believe in the Creator" emphasized that all our
> >metaphors for the Creator: as Maker, King, Designer, etc. all fall short of an
> >adequate or consistent description. The whole approach is hopeless, because
> >creation and providence -- the relationship between the transcendent God and
> >physical nature -- is a total mystery. There can be no physical
> description of
> >such a relationship, whether it is sudden or a process in our temporal world.
> >Houston noted that it is a mark of our modern scientific attitude that
> leads us
> >to assume we can do this, and thence to "put God in our pocket", to comprehend
> >Him, and thereby reduce the Creator to an "idol of the tribe". Rather,
> creation
> >is only properly seen as a theological doctrine, revealed in Scripture.
> >
> >What ever happened to theology these days?
> >
> >There is a wonderful, freeing aspect of Houston's theological
> understanding. It
> >liberates us from the effort to identify a mechanical explanation. I think it
> >could be said, quite metaphorically, that God can "erase His tracks" in
> relation
> >to nature. It's true, as Romans 1 says, that some evidence for God can be
> seen
> >in nature, but this is a general, universal, intuitive sense that is available
> >to everyone at all times, not just to modern scientists. Romans 1 is
> certainly
> >not a mandate for the development of natural theology.
> >
> >
> >
> I have long had the suspicion that God has told us everything about his
> creation that we are able to comprehend. I think he would tell us more but
> we do not have the intellectual capacity to understand.
> Bob Miller

Some care is needed in talking about what God has "told us"
about creation, for this language is likely to obscure the distinction
between what God reveals to us and what we find out by our efforts.
(Admittedly the two can't be totally divorced: People had to open their
eyes to see Jesus.)
God's reveals to us who God is and what God's will is for us,
things which we cannot discover scientifically. This revelation
involves creation, but in fairly general terms: God is the sole
creator, creation is good, &c. It is IMO a theological deduction from
this that the world makes sense and can be understood by observation and
rational processes _even by people who do not believe that the world is
created by God_.
Humanity (believers and non-believers) are able to learn more
and more about how the parts of the universe work. It's almost
tautological to say that we (collectively) don't know more about
this than we are able to understand.
God is of course involved in that scientific process,
a. as the one who gives and sustains our mental and other
abilities, and
b. as the one who limits his operations (at least in the vast
majority of cases)to those describable by rational laws, so that
scientific understanding is possible.
God is active here but hidden - cf. Luther's description of natural
processes and human activities as "masks of God". God is revealed, on
the other hand, in revelation centering on the cross. (The cross is
also the hiding of God, but that paradox, while important, isn't the
immediate topic.)
George Murphy