Re: Providence

George Murphy (
Thu, 09 Apr 1998 17:36:13 -0400

Garry DeWeese wrote:
> At 05:05 PM 4/8/1998 -0400, you [George Murphy] wrote:
> > Whatever the reason for this emphasis, it seems to me to have
> >set up both Reformed & Lutheran theology for a fall when evolution came
> >on the scene. If only origination is viewed as creation in the fullest
> >sense, & providence is seen as secondary, then one will have to resist
> >the idea that there can be mediated creation, which is essentially what
> >evolution is.
> I don't know how clearly it was understood at the time of the formulation
> of, say, the Heidelberg Catechism or the Augsburg Confession, but it is
> pretty clear in the writings of later Reformed scholars that they
> recognized the distinction between _creatio ex nihilo_ (generally *bara'*,
> of which only Yahweh is the subject), and mediated creation (generally
> *'asa*).

Only God can _bara'_, but the verb does not always refer to
direct origination without previously existing material. In Gen.1:21 it
describes the origin of the sea life which God has had the waters "bring
forth" in the previous verse, & thus refers to mediated creation.

>I don't see that providence rules out the possibility that
> secondary causes can bring about something new in kind. Perhaps I'm
> misunderstanding your worry here.

_I_ don't have a problem with God's providential work bringing
forth something new. I think that's exactly what happens. But I'm
suggesting that historically an unwillingness to consider providence as
"real creation" has led to the idea that there must be a choice between
creation or evolution. Of course insistence on the historicity of
Genesis 1 & 2 & other factors have also contributed to this.

> >With all respect to the theologians of both Lutheran &
> >Reformed orthodoxy, we have to be willing to undo their mistakes when
> >they made them. & this is not just a matter of having our theology
> >dictated by science: Genesis 1 clearly teaches mediated creation of
> >life.
> No argument here.
> > To get farther here we would need to have clear mutual
> >understanding of "panentheism", "deism" and "direct action".
> By "panentheism" I understand the view, associated with Hegel and
> Hartshorne, or Teilhard and Tillich and Kung and even Moltmann, which
> conceives of God as inseparable from the world. Hartshorne, for example,
> said that the world was God's body and God was the world's soul--a view
> echoed in such "eco-theologians" as Matthew Fox. Thus panentheism would be
> a denial of God's absolute independence or aseity.

Panentheism, which means literally that all things are in God,
does not have to mean that the world is necessary for God. Admittedly
this is the view of most process theologians. Fox's "creation
spirituality" is misnamed - it's really "emanation spirituality".

George L. Murphy