Re: [asa] Conversation with Timaeus, part one

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Tue Sep 23 2008 - 11:01:34 EDT

Gregory -

Since I've sometimes been critical of your posts in the past I want to say 1st that your comments below are certainly of interest & to the point. Let me respond briefly. (& please remember that, as I said before, my communications may be spotty for a few days.)

1st, I should have added mutatis mutandis to the comparison of myself with John Galt. Of course I am not an adherent of Rand's "objectivism" for which Galt is a mouthpiece. Atlas Shrugged is pretty heavy handed. (As one of my friends noted, "All the characters are either absolutely good or absolutely evil, & you can tell which are which by their names" - vgl. "Hank Rearden" with "Wesley Mooch.") Still Rand has some nice touches, the scene I mentioned being one.

Then to your primary point. In fact western theology in general tends to be weak on the role of the Holy Spirit in the world (as distinguished from the church), a weakness that our Orthodox brothers & sisters often remind us of. (Whether or not that is due primarily to the filioque is another matter.) Lutheran theology doesn't ignore the Spirit but it isn't a lot better than other western traditions in this regard, & in some ways is weaker. (z.B., the objection of some Lutherans to the invocation of the Spirit in a Eucharistic Prayer.) We need to do better here - myself included.

As far as my own approach is concerned, note 1st that what I posted was an extremely brief summary of my position directed to one particular question. In other venues I have given more attention to the role of the Spirit. You might note, z.B., the first section of my chapter on biological evolution in The Cosmos in the Light of the Cross titled "The Lord, The Giver Of Life" - which is of course one of the phrases about the Spirit in the Nicene Creed. A paper by another Lutheran theologian, Ernest Simmons, "Toward a Kenotic Pneumatology: Quantum Field Theory and the Theology of the Cross" is referenced in this chapter (note 31). You could also look at my PSCF article "The Third Article in the Science-Theology Dialogue" at . Note there in particular this paragraph from near the end:

It is important to emphasize that this eschatological activity of the Spirit, and our recognition that the Spirit is at work in this cosmic fashion, begin from the cross. When Jesus promises the gift of the Spirit at the Feast of Booths, the evangelist tells us that "as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (Jn. 7:39), which in the Fourth Gospel takes place on the cross. And when we are told that, on the cross, Jesus "gave up his spirit" (Jn. 19:30), this refers both to his death and to the gift of the Spirit, which is "made official" when he appears to his disciples on Easter evening (Jn. 20:22-23). There is no proper cosmic spirituality which does not begin from the cross.

I try to be fair & reasonably objective but make no secret of the fact that I attempt to approach these matters as a theologian of the cross. That's simply a matter of making my basic assumptions - my "worldview" if you will - clear. In that I make those basic assumptions I am admittedly not completely "even handed" - who is? As a scientist I have problems with some of the typical claims of ID, though neither biochemistry nor information theory is my specialty. But my primary criticisms of ID have been theological - & as you know I've generally gotten little response from ID advocates, who often claim that ID has nothing to do with theology! For a brief statement of my concerns you & Timaeus & others might want to look at .

As to those who were born before Christ, note my reference to "God's historical revelation centered in Jesus Christ" - d.h., what the OT witnesses to.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Gregory Arago
  To: ASA list ; George Murphy
  Sent: Tuesday, September 23, 2008 8:20 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Conversation with Timaeus, part one

        Please excuse George, but your Trinitarian theology seems to be rather imbalanced. Where is the Holy Spirit? Is it a Lutheran shortcoming to go light on the Spirit and to weigh heavily on 'the cross'? The idea that you would play the 'John Galt' (Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged) in this conversation is to me rather ironic (given that Marxism shined weight heavily on the 'economic' realm at the cost of other realms, such as the spiritual).

        For example, you write: "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."

        Thus, anyone who was born before the Christ could not, according to your definition "know anything about God."

        This seems rather skewed to me. It appears that your over-focus on visible vs. invisible, and of the 'hiddenness' of God would disqualify you as an even-handed critic in this case. You are thus an 'invisible theistic evolutionist' and cannot fathom of the possibility of 'visible theistic evolution.' Thus your 'rejection of natural theology' could in fact impair you from understanding the argument presented by Timaeus and other IDists, on the basis of your particular 'kenotic' (two-out of-three trinitarian) theology.

        8 times you write 'cross' in your post, but not once Spirit.


        --- On Tue, 9/23/08, George Murphy <> wrote:

          From: George Murphy <>
          Subject: Re: [asa] Conversation with Timaeus, part one
          To: "ASA list" <>
          Received: Tuesday, September 23, 2008, 3:18 PM

          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)


            ----- Original Message -----
            From: George Murphy
            To: j burg ; Dennis Venema
            Sent: Monday, September 22, 2008 7:13 PM
            Subject: Re: [asa] Conversation with Timaeus, part one

            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "j burg" <>
            To: "Dennis Venema" <>
            Cc: <>
            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.


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Received on Tue Sep 23 11:02:12 2008

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