A Note to My Readers -
I've decided to remove my Sunday posts from the weekly cycle. Although I hope they've been of benefit to some of you, they are necessarily secondary to my regular work of sermon preparation each week. I've found that having that extra post to write simply added to the burden of my work. For those readers who would still like access to my weekly work in Scriptural exposition, I would ask them to access the podcasts of my sermons (available through a link in the sidebar), since that remains the primary form of my Bible teaching each week.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

95 Theses, #10-11 - The Progress of Creation

(To see the introduction and disclaimers for my 95 Theses, first go to: 95-Theses-Introduction)

Thesis #10 is the last of three theses which operate as theodicies to defend the proposition, "This is the best of all possible worlds." See last week's post for the other defenses.

 (Painting: Creation of the Animals, by Tintoretto, c.1551, oil on canvas; image is in the public domain)

10.) Value-Adding Creation-Process Defense - Third, it is the very processes in the natural world that ultimately produce greater values that are also often the agents of this suffering (progressive speciation, tectonic activity, etc. actually give rise, in the long run, to greater potential for more complex and more beautiful creaturely capacities); and it is the capacity for higher thought and deeper emotion that also renders open the possibility of greater pain; so it is improper for us to separate the two dimensions out: though suffering is present all through God’s creation, it is a suffering that ultimately leads to greater and greater heights of creation. Suffering is a natural result of the choices of creatures, and it is that very cycle of suffering that is used by God to craft creatures toward greater capacities in the future. (The same principle holds true for what is known as "the virtue defense,"--that it is only because of suffering that great moral virtues can be developed.) This process, then, is creation by means of suffering, self-directed but underwritten by God's full sovereignty. Thus, suffering itself is not enough of an indicator of imperfection to make any case against this being "the best of all possible worlds," because these sufferings can be explained as (1) the consequence of a great good--the God-given potential for all creatures to choose, and (2) an attribute of the process whereby greater values are created in the future. The absence of suffering, then, would be just as worrying, if not more worrying, to a thinker trying to make the case for this being the best of all possible worlds; for such a world would be limited in creaturely choice, in the development of biological capacities, and in the growth of virtue. Further, since in the new creation God himself has entered into that very dynamic of suffering, we can believe that God suffers along with his creation. (All these reasons, however, do not answer in full the problem of pain—for that, we must look toward the eschatological fulfillment. This will be dealt with in later theses.)

11.) Trinitarian Creation - In the creation of the universe itself, God seems to have “fine-tuned” the nature of our reality for the emergence of life; even, as certain scientific evidence is now showing, for the emergence of conscious, intelligent life. This is a process that is riddled with pain and violence; as such it is an expression of God’s partnering with a creation that he leaves free to choose its own course (synergeia). Though the simplest life-forms cannot be said to have “free will” in the full sense, God still has allowed them to define their own destiny. The goal seems to be that God’s creatures will be able to challenge even the definitions of their own being and make themselves something new. The hope and intent of God’s partnership with creation’s free will is that creation would ultimately say "Yes" to God and tend toward love. Though such choices are allowed within the sovereignty of God, God is still immanent within his creation and is still sustaining it and allowing new creative potentialities to arise. To return to our analogy of God as Mind, Expression, and Action, we can now combine that idea with Irenaeus’ “two hands” principle of creation: All of creation exists because it has been thought in the Mind of God, it has been spoken forth into reality by the Son, and it is being brought to its full potential by the sustaining work of the Spirit. One may think of this as the Logos continually creating new possibilities, new phenotypes, for creation to pursue, and the Spirit as supporting and sustaining the free choices of created beings as they explore this terrain of potentialities. (A good resource for this line of argumentation can be found in Christopher Southgate's book, The Groaning of Creation.)

No comments: