Re: [asa] an Archimedean point in theology? (was: natural theology, bad and good)

From: Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Fri May 08 2009 - 09:13:49 EDT

>>> "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca> 5/7/2009 7:13 PM >>> asks George
Murphy,

Are there core assertions which theologians are simply not free to reject
or modify? This is why I raised the notion of an Archimedean point. Is it
not possible to say, for example, that certain statements of, say, Harvey
Cox, are simply not Christian, because they deny or evade one or more core
assertions?

****

Ted comments:

George will no doubt speak for himself, as a theologian in the sense you
identified, Cameron -- as someone part of a scholarly profession that does
rethink our understanding of God, humanity, and the creation.

My own answer to your question above is, yes, there are core theological
assertions that Christians ought to affirm without crossing their fingers.
To start with, I'll quote Polkinghorne, "Science and the Trinity", p. 18.
"For much Christian thinking, both contemporary and traditional, the
resurrection is the hinge on which Christian understanding pivots. If Jesus
was indeed raised from the dead that first Easter day, never to die again
but to live an exalted life at the right hand of God the Father, then there
is indeed something uniquely significant about him, going beyond anything
that could be considered as 'a continuation and intensification of what had
been occurring previously'." This is said in the context of a discussion of
the thought of Ian Barbour, who is to all intents and purposes the founder
of the modern study of science and religion. P does not specifically
identify Barbour as the source of the quotation within that quotation, but
that is what I would assume. Whether or not that is accurate, the idea P
refers to is widespread among many modern theologians, and I would say
myself that those who think that are not thinking Christianly about the God,
humanity, and the creation.

Further than this, I would not go, by saying that X or Y (thinking of
individuals such as Bishop Spong or Harvey Cox or Shailer Mathews from the
1920s) is or is not a Christian: that is for Christ himself to say, at a
time and place TBA. Ditto for myself: if Christ does not know me, than
there is no hope for me.

But, I do *think* like a Christian, theologically, and those others do not.
 Easter is the watershed event, as far as having an Archimedian point. And
yes, Cameron, I do think of it as a public event, insofar as both the
appearances and the empty tomb were witnessed by multiple persons, several
of whose names are provided to us in the various accounts we still have.
Unlike Jack Haught, who denied on the witness stand that a video camera
would have "seen" anything at the time -- presumably b/c the camera "lacked
faith," to follow his testimony along to its logical conclusion -- if I'd
had a video camera in the upper room it would have shown Thomas talking to
the risen Christ, and not just b/c a person of faith was holding it, talking
to a person whose faith was confirmed that day.

Awhile back on this list, Cameron, long before you were with us, I talked
about how the rational construction of my own Christian beliefs builds on
Easter. I doubt that I am unique in this regard. Because I accept that
divine "intervention" into our history and our lives, I accept the
possibility of other such "interventions," and I do think there have been a
number of them, some biblical and some extra-biblical. Among the biblical
events, however, I do not include those related to a traditional
interpretation of Genesis chapter 1, since I do not regard that as an
historical account in any ordinary sense of that word. The evidence against
that -- both internal and external -- is IMO much too strong. Thus, I do
not put the creation of life itself or the creations of many individual
kinds of living things on the same level with the empty tomb. (My sense is,
Cameron, that nearly all ID proponents *would* put the creation of life on
the same level with the empty tomb, and I can accept that as a sensible
position--but I cannot accept it as one of your Archimedean points. Since
most ID leaders are probably OECs, they probably would put it down as an
Archimedean point, but obviously they would have to speak for themselves and
talking about such things isn't really what ID is supposed to be about.)
The creation of the universe itself ex nihilo, on the other hand, is for me
nearly on the same level as the empty tomb. If asked to give a formal
theological argument about that, among others I would point to Ted Peters'
eloquent argument in his essay, "On Creating the Cosmos," which I often cite
with much approval.

Ted

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Received on Fri May 8 09:14:05 2009

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