br' (was: re LC)

Murphy (
Thu, 27 Mar 1997 13:58:08 -0500

Let me try to give a slightly different twist to this.
Our discussions in this area would be clearer if we understood
"creation" to be a _theological_ term. Unfortunately that precise usage
has been compromised both by those who think that scientific accounts of
origins can take the place of the concept of divine creation AND by
those who think that creation can be deduced from science.
In 1951 George Gamow wrote one of the earlier popular books on
big bang cosmology. It was good but its title, _The Creation of the
Universe_, was unfortunate. Gamow defended this in a note for the 2d
printing, but it does introduce confusion, at least for Christians who
take the doctrine of creation seriously. I saw an example of this
confusion in a recent newspaper article on repair of the HST which
referred to "the Big Bang which created the universe".
Christians (& some people of other faiths) believe that God
created the universe. The big bang didn't - though that may have been a
process God used in creation. Atheists will make their point more
clearly if they avoid use of the word "creation" in this context.
The other error is that of "scientific creationists" who think
that one can show scientifically that the universe was created by God.
This is in a venerable tradition of natural theology but it is wrong.
Even if you can show scientifically that the universe began 6000, 10^10
years ago or whatever, you have not shown scientifically that it was
created by God. If you believe in creation (as I do) you are bringing
that belief TO your scientific work. (This is why I said that the set
of "scientific creationsists" is empty.)
I.e., the word "creation" has become badly compromised. This is
due in part to the fact that it is used in English to refer both to
divine & human work.
It might be useful to follow the Hebrew precedent & have a word
which expresses the divine prerogative of "creation". We could simply
take over the Hebrew verb br' & form appropriate derivatives of it: "In
the beginning God barad the heavens and the earth" or "the doctrine of
baration". Only God can bara.
br' is NOT synonomous with "creation out of nothing" in the
usual sense, as one sees from its use in, e.g., Is.43:1. Thus
"baration" is not identical with Van Till's "exnihilation", though there
is some overlap.
I realize that it is difficult to replace established
terminology even when it is ambiguous & potentially confusing. (How
many physicists remember that officially we're supposed to talk about
negatons & positons instead of electrons & positrons?) But in serious
science-theology discussions, new terminology of the type I suggest
could be helpful.
George Murphy