[asa] need for a new paradigm

From: Don Winterstein <dfwinterstein@msn.com>
Date: Sun Feb 25 2007 - 01:00:33 EST

Four years ago I argued here that Christianity needs a new paradigm, one that views God not only in light of his role as father but also in light of his sexuality and role as husband (see http://www.asa3.org/archive/asa/200302/0090.html<http://www.asa3.org/archive/asa/200302/0090.html> ). At that time I was fairly new to ASA and unaware of a lot that's been done and being done to reconcile science with Christian teachings. Despite my current increased awareness--and also partly because I haven't yet detected a hint of anything that might displace my message--I want to carry my argument further in two steps, first to briefly state a case for why Christianity could use a new paradigm and second (in separate posts) to outline theological highlights of this new paradigm. To comply with list constraints I'm planning three short posts instead of a single longer one.

First let me say why it's important to me to do this. Beginning roughly fifty years ago I received an extended and vivid revelation of God. Ordinarily those who have such experience, I believe, make commensurate contributions to the community. I've expected ever since that God would lead me to make such a contribution, but I've been frustrated in this because I have seen no link from my experience to the community. Meanwhile this new paradigm has emerged out of my experience and become my personal reference frame. The new paradigm has been of great value to me, over a period of 40 years or so, in making the modern world--especially discoveries of scholarship and science--compatible with my beliefs in God. Because this paradigm may be of value also to others, I want to make it public.

When I sketched the concepts here earlier, the preponderance of opinion was an emphatic, "We don't need new revelation or a new paradigm." In my years of exposure to this forum, I've become aware that participants as a rule are already more or less comfortable with how they've fit discoveries of science within their religious beliefs. But participants on this list are more intellectual than most Christians and hence can more readily craft rational arguments they find satisfying.

I assert such arguments will not satisfy most Christians. For one thing, there's little consensus on details among those who are advancing such arguments. Most Christians need an authoritative story that will enable them to integrate discoveries of science with their religious beliefs in a way that appeals not just to the intellect but also to their core being. Without such a story their levels of doubt will be high, and doubt will inhibit commitment.

Either they will harbor doubts (Europeans?) or they will reject selected findings of science (Americans?). Those who reject science often seem to have the higher levels of commitment. Rejecting science, however, leads to a precarious existence; those who do so will always be swimming upstream against the flow of information about new discoveries.

For generations on end people of God have taken their bearings from the first few chapters of Genesis. Genesis has told them who they are, told them why God is their Lord, explained why they suffer and die. Suddenly, for those who accept science, these once-powerful stories have become allegories or less. No one can be sure what truths they contain. People of God are now left largely to their own devices to define themselves, and such devices come with far less authority than a more literal reading of Genesis once did.

The power of Christianity lies largely in knowing God as a loving and responsive person. Discoveries such as organic evolution and the great age and size of the world for many people tend to push God away, make him seem remote and impersonal. These scientific discoveries will likely weaken Christianity in the long run unless a compelling story emerges to make them compatible in a natural way with God. Christians need to know why.

George Murphy explains why in terms of divine kenosis. While I have great respect for George and his explanations, and while his explanations may be as good as one can do within the current paradigm, I believe ultimately they are not sufficiently compelling to take over as the authoritative answer.

My explanations are more compelling. The catch is that you have to accept this new paradigm.

The idea of God as husband and lover is scriptural although not prominently so. Clergy often consign the concept to the metaphor bin when they come across it in the Bible. Yet Solomon's Song of Songs, which speaks of sexual love, has often been taken to refer to God's love for his people. If anyone takes offense at my association of God with sexual love, then, I suggest he or she consider my theological statements to be simply an explication of Song of Songs, where the lover is taken to be God.

This new paradigm, while it retains God as father, emphasizes God's role as husband and lover. As a consequence the billions of years and the apparently aimless paths of evolution take on special meaning for children of God and cease to be a source of discomfort and weakness.


I suspect ASA may frown on what I'm proposing to do, but I ask indulgence for the following reasons: 1) I've already broached the subject but not provided enough detail to allow proper evaluation. 2) I've had a successful career as a research scientist (see http://www.cseg.ca/recorder/pdf/2006/09sep/sep06_12.pdf<http://www.cseg.ca/recorder/pdf/2006/09sep/sep06_12.pdf> ). 3) Fifty years of careful thought and relevant experience have gone into this recasting of Christian doctrine. 4) It's very unlikely I could get approval to publish this in a respectable journal, so my only realistic opportunity to publish is via email. 5) I'd likely benefit from criticisms: Details of my formulations have changed in the past and will no doubt change in the future. 6) This formulation may meet the needs of some subset of seekers.



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Received on Sun Feb 25 00:58:51 2007

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