Re: [asa] Conversation with Timaeus, part one

From: George Murphy <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com>
Date: Tue Sep 23 2008 - 07:18:32 EDT

It's been suggested to me that it might be helpful for Timaeus & others relatively new to the list for me to explain why I made the rather cryptic statement about my rejection of the "fingerprints" claim that Burgy referred to. I do this with some hesitation, & not because of any general hesitancy about debating these issues - as oldtimers on the list will know. But (a) a literary allusion tempted me into a somewhat less nuanced statement than I might have made & (b) my communications for the next few days may be spotty. But without further ado I'll go ahead & state my position briefly, "stating theorems without proof" as textbooks sometimes say, & will expand upon them latter as criticisms & questions arise.

I do not believe that there is any valid independent natural theology. I.e., we can't know anything about God (i.e., who God is) from observation of the world & use of reason, independently of God's historical revelation centered in Jesus Christ. To this point that is essentially the view of Torrance, his extension of Barth's purely negative attitude toward natural theology, & has a good deal in common with the view of McGrath.

That is, however, not where I start. The previous paragraph has to be understood in the context of a theology of the cross, for which I'll cite two of Luther's Heidelberg theses of 1518.

19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened. [Rom.1:20]
20. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.

Thesis 19 is a rejection of natural theology. As the editorial note indicates, there is a reference there to Romans 1:20 (something that is even clearer if one compares Luther's Latin with the Vulgate).

Where we do know God is stated in thesis 20 - from the cross. As Luther says in his argument for this thesis, "True theology and the recognition of God are in the crucified Christ." So I go on to argue (extrapolating now from Luther) that we can indeed learn something about God's presence and activity in the world through scientific investigation (i.e., reason and observation) if scientific knowledge is viewed from the standpoint of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is why the title of one of my books is The Cosmos in the Light of the Cross.

So what about the "fingerprints" idea. It's pretty clear that Johnson's original claim was for a straightforward natural knowledge of God - i.e., we go out & investigate the world & find some marks on it that can be identified with God's "fingerprints." No reference need be made to the cross or indeed to any prior divine revelation. & that's wrong. To draw out the forensic analogy, what we find at the "crime scene" is not some fingerprints that we can identify as "God's" or even some smudged prints about which we can say only that they were left by "someone." All we have is the fact that there is a crime scene - i.e., the world & living things have somehow come into being.

& in fact some of what we find at the scene, such as the "bloody, relentless slaughter of evolution" (Gould) seems to count as evidence against, rather than for, any God we'd like to believe in as the perpetrator.

There is, however, a divine "mark" on creation, though it is not something from which we can rationally deduce the existence of a creator. It is the mark of the cross. The only sign we get is the sign of Jonah. Two quotes to that effect, ancient & modern:

"The Son of God was crucified for all and for everything, having traced the sign of the cross on all things." (Irenaeus)

 "From the beginning the world is placed in the sign of the resurrection of Christ from the dead." (Bonhoeffer)

Shalom
George
http://home.neo.rr.com/scitheologyglm
  ----- Original Message -----
  From: George Murphy
  To: j burg ; Dennis Venema
  Cc: asa@lists.calvin.edu
  Sent: Monday, September 22, 2008 7:13 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Conversation with Timaeus, part one

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: "j burg" <hossradbourne@gmail.com>
  To: "Dennis Venema" <Dennis.Venema@twu.ca>
  Cc: <asa@lists.calvin.edu>
  Sent: Monday, September 22, 2008 4:57 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Conversation with Timaeus, part one
  .............................

> Does God leave, as Johnson puts it, his "fingerprints all over the
> place as evidence?" I think every Christian must say "yes" to this.
  ..............................

  Have you read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged? There's a scene in which a demagogic speaker is addressing a pliant audience and refers to "the moral law we all accept." A lonely figure stands up in the rear of the hall and cries "I don't."

  In the present discussion I am that figure.

  Shalom
  George
  http://home.neo.rr.com/scitheologyglm

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Received on Tue Sep 23 07:18:58 2008

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