Re: The Problem of Liberal Theology

From: george murphy (
Date: Tue May 07 2002 - 23:27:41 EDT

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    Shuan Rose wrote:

    > -----Original Message-----
    > From: george murphy []
    > Sent: Tuesday, May 07, 2002 5:46 PM
    > To: Shuan Rose
    > Cc: Michael Roberts;; Asa@Calvin. Edu
    > Subject: Re: The Problem of Liberal Theology
    > Shuan Rose wrote:
    > > Hey, George:
    > > LStart the party. How do you take a Christ-centered approach to the
    > > science-religion problem?
    > Terry has provided a link to JASA/PSCF articles, most of which deal with
    > some aspects of this approach. Here I'll note very briefly the way in which
    > a
    > few issues can be trated with such an approach.
    > 1. Natural theology: God is known first through God's self-revelation
    > in
    > the history of Israel which culminates in the cross-resurrection event.
    > Scientific knowledge of the world is able to tell us something about God &
    > God's
    > relationship with the world only in light of this revelation. But in this
    > light
    > God is to be discerned in the universe as the crucified and risen one.
    > Shuan wrote:
    > So where are the fingerprints demanded by Mr. Morton? :)

             Glenn wants evidence that scripture is historically accurate.
    I have debated
    that extensively with him (without wanting at all to say that there
    is no verifiable
    history in scripture.) But he has not to my knowledge demanded
    "fingerprints" as has
    blatantly as Philip Johnson. Johnson's claim is profoundly
    inconsistent with the
    approach I'm advocating and with, e.g., Is.45:15, "Truly, you are a
    God who hides

    > S
    > 2. Divine action (providence): God's hiddenness in his self-revelation
    > in
    > the cross suggests that we should not expect to observe God's activity by
    > scientific means. This requirement can be satisfied by a model of divine
    > action
    > in which God acts through natural process and voluntarily limits action to
    > what
    > can be achieved through lawful natural processes.
    > Shuan:
    > Agreed, but would modify by adding " God USUALLY acts through natural
    > processes".
    > Despite Mr. Hicks pinning the Liberal label on me, i'm not
    >ready to rule
    > out
    > miracles yet

             I be somewhat stronger and say "almost always". Miracles do
    of course need
    serious consideration but we must
             a. think about whether "violations of the laws of nature"
    are the best way of
    thinking of them, &
             b. remember Jesus respose to deamnds for a sign. The only
    one you get is the
    sign of Jonah.

    > 3. Cosmology: As much as possible we will try to understand the origin
    > and
    > development of the universe theologically in terms of providence, as in 2.
    > Thus
    > we will be open to the possibility that matter/energy and space-time have
    > come
    > in a way that can be described by a correct theory of quantum gravity or
    > some
    > other scientific theory.
    > S Shuan:
    > H'mm, have to think about this. Hampered because I don't
    >know squat about
    > quantum mechanics. You physicists make things so freaking
    >complicated :).
    > I'm reading Davies's God and the New Physics. Maybe that will help.

             Davies discusses some ideas of the sort I have in mind in Chapter 16.

    > 4. Biological evolution: This too will be understood as an application
    > of
    > providence. The Incarnation means that God becomes a participant in the
    > evolutionary process and in its suffering and death. This provides a way of
    > dealing with questions of theodicy raised by natural selection. The fact
    > that
    > in the Incarnation the Word of God takes on our evolutionary relationships
    > provides one way of understanding how "all things" can be reconciled to God
    > "through the blood of his cross" (Col.1:20).
    > Shuan:
    > Kinda sounds similar to Jewish ideas about God's Shekinah
    >accompanying the
    > Jewish people into suffering and exile... but I've never
    >heard it applied
    > to
    > evolution. Talk about outside the box thinking

             Moltmann, e.g., makes connections with the Jewish ideas you
    mention but also
    (to my knowledge) doesn't connect this with evolution.

    > 5) Environmental issues: The human commission to be God's
    > representative
    > in caring for creation is fulfilled first of all in Christ. Human
    > "dominion"
    > over creation is thus to be patterned after the servant lordship of Christ.
    > Shuan:
    > Good. also applicable is Gen.2:15 , which talks about
    >stewardship instead
    > of dominion

             Yes - the "guarding" and "serve" (a literal way of
    translating the Hebrew)
    brings out this dimension.

    > 6) Bioethics: There are too many individual issues to summarize
    > briefly
    > here. But the both cross (which suggests that suffering and death are not
    > to be
    > avoided at all costs) and resurrection (which suggests that our hope is not
    > simply for holding on to life) provide some general guidelines.
    > Shuan:
    > I think the biggest ethical issues of the century are going
    >to be in this
    > area.
    > We should all start praying and thinking hard RIGHT NOW

             &, I would add, look to the foundations of our ethics to see
    if their adequate
    to support new structures.

    > 7) History and the Future: The human _par excellence_ is not Adam &
    > Eve or
    > the first reflectively conscious hominids but Jesus Christ. Creation was
    > therefore not begun in a state of static perfection but in God's intention
    > was
    > to develop toward the plan hinted at in Eph.1:10. In the resurrection of
    > the
    > crucified we have a preview of God's ultimate future for the world, and the
    > church as the Body of Christ is the next stage of evolution toward that
    > goal.
    > Shuan:
    > If the Church as it currently exists is the next stage in
    >evolution, we are
    > facing extinction :).

             It sure looks that way. But natural selection doesn't mean
    survival of species
    that are obviously superior in terms of some timeless criteria, as
    Gould has repeatedly
    noted (e.g., Wonderful Life.) & see Deut.7:7-8.

    > I like your advocacy of the Irenean concept of the fall over the
    > Augustinian.
    > That is pretty bold for a Lutheran (If Luther is the father
    >of Lutheranism,
    > Augustine is its grandfather).

             But Luther's theology has connections with Irenaeus as well.

    > Maybe Dawkins is wrong, and theologians are good for
    >something after all :)
    > Thanks, George, for your thoughts.Wally has linked us
    >together as liberals,
    > and I am
    > honored to be in your company. Hopefully, you won't be too
    >insulted at
    > being paired with a lawyer.

             No - though I appreciate a good lawyer joke!
             Thanks for your comments.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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