The God of Process and the Processes of God

creationOver the weekend, I posted an article about a feature-length documentary entitled, From the Dust. The film is a project of Highway Media and The BioLogos Foundation, and it’s purpose is to tackle some of the most important questions in the science-faith dialogue. The film interviews a wide variety of theologians, educators, and scientists, which allows it to be very informative, as well as carrying a kind of ‘pastoral’ flavour to it (since some of the theologians consulted are also pastors). The trailer for From the Dust can also be found in my previous post. And, as I shared, the video can now be rented/purchased from iTunes.

Yesterday, I watched the 1-hour and 7-minute documentary. I very much appreciated what the film had to offer, especially knowing that it consulted a god group of theologians that I respect. I would concur with this statement of the filmmaker, Ryan Petty: As a result of this project, the book of Genesis has become more alive and more dynamic than I had ever allowed it to be.

That’s my testimony as well as I’ve come to engage some of the theological and scientific dialogue around issues concerning the early chapters of Genesis – mainly noting that there is something bigger and more creative going on than a simple laying out a detailed journalistic account. The idea of God using [what we call] evolutionary processes to bring about his good creation used to be the most awkward and difficult thing to consider. Quite offensive! But here is the thing, or at least one thing that helped me as I began to consider in the early days of engaging with such an idea: When I ponder the nature of God, I don’t find evolution (that is purpose-directed evolution) as incompatible with what we know about his character.

Here’s what I mean by that.

As the title of this article says, God is a God of process. He accomplishes many of his plans through processes. Certainly, things happen instantaneously, and when I say instantaneously I mean, for example, something taking place over a couple of minutes or at the snap of a finger, as opposed to say months or years or centuries or millennia or billions of years. Remember, I come from a charismatic background that believes and has known the miraculous works of God. Still, God is also very process-orientated.

Think about it.

Think of the transformation of the character of his people, what we normally call sanctification. Why not an instant BOOM and we are just like Christ?

Think of the extended period of time for the fulfilment of God’s promises to Abraham of a land for his descendants. Why not receive the land, say, a week later?

Think of the long period until the coming of Jesus Christ. Why the waiting of centuries upon centuries for the exact representation of God-in-the-flesh to come? Much pain could have been avoided, right?

Think of the two millennia wait thus far for the return of Christ to fulfil all things. Again, God knows how much agony and suffering could have been avoided if this had happened even just a few centuries after Christ’s resurrection!

Think of how Scripture did not drop out of heaven but came to us over an elongated period of centuries upon centuries, as God’s people crafted together the storied account of Israel coming to know their God, who is made clearest in the person of Jesus. We don’t believe Scripture simply appeared, although we might ponder that being a nice prospect.

Think of the kingdom of heaven being likened to leaven being slowly worked through dough. Why not an instantaneous zap?

And to speak of natural things.

Why the 9-month process for the formation of a baby in its mother’s womb?

Why does the harvesting of varying crops take seasons, if not a few years, before any fruit is bore?

Why do animals and trees and plants and so much more take time to grow to maturity? A bit faster might have its benefits.

And, to speak of creation, even if one wants to argue for six, literal, 24-hour periods, why not an instantaneous creation, all at once? He is God. He can do as he wants. Speak and BOOM, there it is. That’s real, miraculous creation, right? [Note: This is actually something like what Augustine argued – everything being simultaneously created and that the 6 days represent only a logical framework in which to communicate about creation.]

From what I can tell, God marvels in process. It doesn’t mean everything has to be done through long processes. But neither are we left with everything having to be done instantaneously. We are left with both. Therefore, we can easily conclude that God marvels in both the spontaneous and in the process.

As I watched From the Dust, I really appreciated how some of the theologians and scientists (Christians as well) interviewed had noted that science does not directly speak to the questions of philosophy and purpose. Or, to say it another way: science does not proclaim theism or atheism. We believe creation proclaims the glory of God (Ps 19; etc). But scientific study of the vast creation does not speak to whether there is or is not purpose in creation. Rather science studies the processes seen in nature and looks to diagnose that which can be determined from the scientific method. It’s a more theo-philosophical perspective that speaks to purpose, God-driven purpose in creation, regardless of the period of time it took.

Of course, I think there are many theological aspects of Scripture that could be considered – which I hinted at in some of the comments on my previous article. But what I am becoming more and more aware of in my study is that Scripture is not mainly given as a kind of straightforward, journalistic historical document. On that, I’m quite clear. Meaning, God and the community of God’s people never sat down and said: We are going to shape the holy Scriptures in such a way that it must be 100% direct historical reporting.

We can see the wide breadth of Scriptural genres right through Genesis to Revelation. Of course, I would definitely agree that Scripture is based within history. But there is a difference between being a) an exact, straightforward, historical document and b) something formed within actual history. Thus, as any theologian will note, Scripture must also be engaged on a literary level. It’s easy to see this within the poetry of the Psalms and the parables of the prophets and Jesus. They are easily identifiable as non-literal literature. However, the same must be considered across all of Scripture: even within various portions of Genesis or Judges or the Gospels.

This is why, when we look closely at the early chapters of Genesis, we see aspects of poetic literature. It’s not a fully comprehensive poem. But it holds such characteristics of Hebrew poetry like parallelism, 3 days of forming, 3 days of filling, use of Hebrew words to play-off words from other ancient near eastern origin’s accounts, etc. Something beautiful is being created here – something more akin to a Shakespearean flavour than the Wall Street Journal.

And there is much more we could consider from a theological framework. Of course, that’s the perspective from which I usually approach things, since I am no scientist.

1002204_10202107162982845_1853086389_nBut noting some of these theological aspects, the major one I’ve presented here being that God is a God of processes, we find that we don’t have to be offended at billions of years for an unfolding and glorious creation. We don’t have the pressure of trying our best to explain how dinosaurs and humans co-existed (as some would argue since they were both created on day 6). We don’t have to explain away fossils that date millions upon millions, or even billions, of years old. Nor do we have to formulate a perspective that says there is a massive time gap between Gen 1:1 and 1:2.

We simply recognise that the Scripture does not come to us as a science textbook. Nor is it a journalistic, straightforward account of history. I don’t open Scripture to teach me science. I open it to understand Israel’s storied account as the people of Yahweh, moving into the account of Jesus, as God’s Messiah, who fulfilled what Israel could not and did not, all through his life, death, resurrection and enthroning as Lord over all.

And that, my friends, that brief summary of Scripture’s narrative, unfolded over a very long time. Which brings us back to the truth that God is a God of processes. He marvels at such. He’s not sitting around tapping his foot, waiting for each thing to happen as quick as possible. Somehow, the perfect One revels in an unfolding creation, an unfolding redemption, an unfolding story that will one day be summed up in Jesus Christ.

Let’s celebrate our God, the God of patient processes.

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30 thoughts on “The God of Process and the Processes of God

  1. Hello, I’m glad you’re open to Evolution and don’t see this as considerably undermining your faith.

    You’re right that one can relatively easily reconcile the genocidal god of the book of Joshua with a God using gruesome evolutionary processes to bring about advanced creatures.

    But if one believes (like myself) that God is perfectly good and that suffering is bad, things get much more complicated.

    I wrote a response to an atheistic discussion about the problem of evil here :
    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/the-problem-of-evil-revisited-by-lothars-son/

    I have no easy answer and would say that we are not capable to understand God’s thoughts which also include the whole eternity.

    What is your take on that?

    Lovely greetings from France and Germany.
    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

    • Lothars –

      Thanks for the comment. Trust me, I too agree that things are much more complicated. As to genocide in the OT and certain aspects of evolutionary theory, I think they are separate issues, though maybe there are some underlying philosophical points to think through.

      Personally, I’m not fully finished working through the in’s and out’s of thinking through the genocide accounts of the OT and reconciling that with Jesus – the exact representation of God – who never did and, I suppose, never would turn to his followers and say – ‘Put them to death.’ It’s a difficult one. I’m still reflecting on the Scriptures and trying to, as best I can, think about them through the lens of Christ.

      There are, as with the issue above, still things to think through for me – lots of them. We must remember that any Christian view of evolution recognises a teleological perspective, a purposed perspective in this process. As I said in the post, science doesn’t speak to theism or atheism. It simply observes and makes deductions from the observation. To think of purpose, we move into the realm of theology and philosophy. However, I agree that violence, bloodshed and death are not in line with the ultimate purposes of the rule of God on earth as in heaven. There are many perspectives as to the entrance of such things through a so-called evolutionary view.

      Thanks again for your comment.
      Blessings.

  2. I had one of Whitehead’s books years ago, but only flipped through it.

    God COULD have created ANY way He saw fit. Including evolution and groups of grunting liberal emergents UHHHHH I mean hominids (jist kiddin 😀 ) That’s not what He said though and it’s not what the church has ever understood him to be saying.

    • The full reality of Whitehead’s work, even in mathematics and physics, and thus religion, is purely philosophical; there is no real science here! Again just philosophy, and philosophy that is poorly connected to any revelatory in Judeo-Christianity, my opinion! I had a professor (philosophy) in my time that simply loved him, so I HAD to read the guy… again just another philosopher, but most certainly not much of a Christian Philosopher. Just modernity & postmodernity here!

  3. As I indicated in my first comment on the other thread, I have several concerns arising from one of the posted video clips, “The Fall,” In it, Polkinghorne seems to make a not so subtle suggestion that there was something good that happened in the fall, in mankind’s disobedience to God’s first command. He refers to what he says some have called, “a fall upwards” suggesting that something was gained by Adam and Eve through that.

    According to all of Scriptural testimony, something was gained all right. But it was separation from God/spiritual death, sickness, pain, sorrow, and every form of evil known to mankind. And it ends in eternal separation from God and the punishment of His wrath upon sin for all those that don’t come to Him through Jesus and receive His salvation.

    I truly do not understand how any one can refer to such a disastrous consequence in any way as an upward fall. What was “gained” has been nothing short of the ondoing of mankind from that time forward.

    • Surely the understanding and real “belief” in any doctrine of “Sin” is wanting in modernity & postmodernity (“Process Theology”), and certainly what we see today in so-called postmodern Christian theology! So run folks run from all of this!

      Btw, Mormonism teaches the “fall” was some kind of “blessed” affair! Ugh!

    • Cheryl –

      First off, I’m not sure Polkinghorne says, ‘This is what I unequivocally believe about Gen 3.’ He says ‘some people refer to’ a fall upward. Remember, some who accept the findings of evolutionary biology still try and, at some level, reconcile their scientific view with that of Scripture. I don’t know if that’s what Polkinghorne particularly tries to do, and I believe one will have problems at trying to justify and explain things on both sides – science and Scripture. This is called concordism – harmonising scientific findings and Scripture. But I believe this creates a major problem mainly because Scripture is not directly given to communicate scientific knowledge nor is science directly given to communicate theological purposes. Again, one can study creation and see the purpose of God (i.e., Ps 19). But scientific study does not point towards the goal that we Christians believe is summed up in Jesus Christ.

      Anyways, there are quite varying views about Gen 1-3, as I’m sure you know. I mean quite varying views. I’m not sure I would personally equivocate Gen 3 as a ‘fall upward’. However, to speak of this ‘fall upward’ does not mean that every aspect of Gen 3 is being declared as a good thing. But as Polkinghorne explains, they gained something – the knowledge of good and evil. Hence the term coined ‘fall upward’. But he still identifies the horrible nature of trying to do this on their own – gaining the knowledge of good and evil on their own. In an evolutionary model, many ponder the point at which humans separated from certain species as, say, the genus of Homos or Hominidae. It’s possible some ponder this point in Gen 3 as being significant in the separation from other species. I’m not sure all the thoughts behind this point, but I still think it unhelpful to reconcile scientific findings with a theological text.

      I think what we tend to do, as Christians, is run to Paul or another place in the NT without first examining the text as is. So we end up only reading Gen 1-3 through the lens of, say, Rom 5 or Rom 8. People do this as well with regards to the roles of women. They impose a certain formulated perspective from 1 Tim 2 onto the early chapters of Genesis. They claim a ‘creation order’, but that ‘creation order’ is argued from 1 Tim 2, rather than examining Gen 1-3 (although, I believe this ‘created order’ is read into 1 Tim 2). And this created order is then forced into Gen 1-3, though I’m quite convinced such a complementarian created order is not to be found there. But that’s another story.

      In the end, I think this is what we do. We read Rom 5 through an Augustinian and evangelical lens, and then impose that thought framework back on Gen 1-3. We cannot fathom anything outside of the concept of ‘original sin’ in an Augustinian framework. What we fail to recognise is that the word ‘sin’ is actually first used in Gen 4 (not Gen 3). Or we fail to recognise that Gen 1 is not about creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing), but rather an ordering of a creation that is already present. Or we immediately declare terms like ‘very good’ as unequivocally meaning perfection (when obviously Adam & Eve lacked some kind of perfection to be so easily deceived, as well as creation needing to be ordered earlier on in Gen 1). And it’s interesting to note places like Ps 74:12-14 as describing creation as a salvation-event.

      It’s quite like the birth narrative (or Christmas story) of Jesus in the gospels. Many conclude there were 3 magi/wise men (because of the 3 types of gifts given). But the account does not tell us there were 3 magi. Because of the Christmas carol Away In a Manger and the words – The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes – we assume it was all very peaceful. But what baby wouldn’t cry? We assume things about the story that are actually not in the text. We don’t read the text carefully, but rather through our own prescribed lens. I’m not condemning such, as I do it as much as anyone. It’s hard to get away form this completely. This is why some of my studies have challenged me to rethink what was always so ‘clear’ in the text.

      I say this not to confuse or discount the text of Scripture. I say this because we must recognise we have a lens that we see through dimly, even as we interpret Scripture. But Scripture is not always unequivocally clear. It should not lead us into despair, though some say this is the consequence. Rather, it fills me with excitement to spend the next 50 years continuing to study Scripture – in the original languages, reading commentaries of both past and present scholars, prayerfully asking the Holy Spirit to make clear the word of God. I don’t believe the film, From the Dust, calls for a denial of God as Creator, denial of sin and death (albeit ‘spiritual’ or both physical & spiritual) as intrusive to God’s plan, the death & resurrection of Jesus, the gospel, nor the authority of Scripture. It calls us to humbly and carefully continue to study, in the community of faith, this great gift that God has given us in Scripture.

      Blessings, my dear sister!

      • @Scott: Once again, you seem to beg the issue here that Cheryl brings? Indeed biblical “Genre” is a most important subject! And the Augustinian is the backdrop of the Reformation and the Reformers! So just “what” is your worldview and theological presupposition? Or can you even have one, at least a true and biblical one with postmodernism? The attack is obvious, on biblical and theological authority, for just where is the historical CHURCH in all of this? (1 Tim. 3: 15) One hears so little Protestant Creedal authority these days! One can note the great historical reality of The Lutheran Confessions! Indeed part of the hope for the Lutheran community is to rediscover these to some degree. One can note their near-scriptural status, i.e. the Lutheran Confessions. But what of the Presbyterians? Sadly too for many, they are going down the postmodern highway to apostasy! That’s how I see it anyway.

      • Hi, I like your article, and I like that you’re enjoying your theological studies.

        I was a little lost, though, when you said that Psalm 74:12 was describing creation as a salvation-event. When I went back to read the Psalm in full, a few things struck me:

        I feel that the Psalm cannot be read chronologically, since the Psalmist quickly switches between present concerns and praises, and giving thanks for things God had done in the past. And in this case, the passage where the Psalmist says, “you bring salvation upon the earth,” follows on from a passage which was set in the present day.

        “How long will the enemy mock you, O God?
        Will the foe revile your name forever?
        Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
        Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!
        But you, O God, are my king from old;
        you bring salvation upon the earth.” (Psalm 74:9ff)

        Immediately afterwards, the passage goes on to talk about how God smashes the heads of leviathan in the sea and feeds them to desert animals.

        “It was you who split open the sea by your power;
        you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.
        It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
        and gave him as food to the creatures of the desert.” (Psalm 74:12-4)

        After the leviathan passage, there are some lines about God causing rivers to flow and dry up, God establishing the sun and moon, and creating the seasons. But this all comes across as a fairly loose, passionate prayer of thanks for God’s sovereignty over the earth, rather than a… I’m not exactly sure what you were talking about when you said creation was a salvation event?

        What is a salvation-event? And why should passages like this even be read into the creation, when the Psalmist rapidly switches between present and past events? It seems like the Leviathan is like the Psalmist’s foes, and God’s crushing of the leviathan is like the vengeance he takes on his foes, which rescues (in either the spiritual or material sense) the Psalmist. Then the Psalmist praises God for creating and managing the world order.

        Eep, I wrote quite a long post. Don’t be discouraged by anything I say! But I like reading things in context, and in context, it doesn’t seem like the passage says what you said it says.

      • Carla –

        Thanks for stopping by and commenting. You might try reading Ps 74:12-17 in something like the RSV translation. It particular starts off by saying in vs12: Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.

        That phrase, of old, is a the Hebrew word miqqeḏem. It is actually used twice in the Garden of Eden references in Genesis (2:8 and 3:24), but there it is translated as the east or at the east. But the interesting thing to note is that the Garden was in the east. Hence why many people seeing it referring back to the creation.

        Secondly, it is used regularly to mean as of old or of ancient times. So there is a lot in this word that makes us think of ‘in the beginning’. And with Ps 74:16-17 referring to the creation, it seems this little section is referring back to the early chapters of Genesis and the creation. Leviathan is the ancient sea creature that existed from the beginning.

        What is a salvation-event? Well, if we make it more historical and practical, it’s not just ‘saving for heaven,’ but very real in history like the exodus event. It’s an event of deliverance. God’s people were ‘saved’ throughout the Scripture narrative as God delivered them from actual enemies. Thus, even within creation itself, we see a part of the saving/delivering work of God – or ‘working salvation from ancient times/in the east’.

        I hope that explains a bit more.

  4. Scott,

    Here is a book review I found of Polkinghorne’s book, Testing Scripture: A Scientist Explores the Bible. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/01/12/testing-scripture-on-creation-and-fall-rjs/

    From this review, it is obvious that he does believe the fall was a “fall upward”. These quotes give more context to his statement however:

    From the reviewer: In a way somewhat reminiscent of the view put forth by CS Lewis in The Problem of Pain, the gradual process of developing self-awareness was “accompanied by a dawning consciousness of the presence of God (the formation of the imago dei).” But among these people, aware of self and of God, there was a turning away from God to focus on human self, to become like God, knowing good and evil. There may not have been a snake, a tree, and a piece of fruit, but there was a Fall.

    And then a full paragraph Polkinghorne quote: The Fall is indeed a fall ‘upward’, the gaining of knowledge, but it is an error to suppose that humans can thereby attain equality with their Creator, so that they can live their lives independently of God. This declaration of complete human autonomy, the assertion that we can simply ‘do it my way’ is the root meaning of sin. The refusal to acknowledge that we are creatures in need of the grace of our Creator is the source of subsequent human sins, those deeds of selfishness and deceit that mar our lives as the result of believing the false claim to be completely independent of the assistance of divine grace. (p. 29-30)

    However he means the term, there is still no way that I could ever bring myself to call anything with such overwhelmingly disastrous consequences as “a fall upward”. Any “knowledge” gained was obviously not something God ever intended them to have since he forbid them to eat of that tree. So how can it be termed as an “upwards” thing? Anything that takes us away from God’s plan has to overall be a “downward” thing–even if it may seem to have good consequences at the moment. There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Proverbs 14:12

    • Cheryl –

      By the direct quotes you provide, it complete assures me that Polkinghorne does NOT believe this is a good thing. The phrase, ‘fall upward,’ sounds quite odd to normative American evangelicalism, but he is not saying that it was a good thing. The fall ‘upward’ was falling up into knowledge – however, it was NOT a good thing. It was a falling up into knowledge, however it was very bad because they fell into a knowledge that told them they could do it on their own, apart from God. As he states himself: the assertion that we can simply ‘do it my way’ is the root meaning of sin.

      Very, very orthodox view of the evil of sin and that the fall left them in sin.

  5. BTW, Scott, are you in any way implying that Adam and Eve’s disobedience to the direct commandment of God was not a sin since that actual word was not used until later?

    • Cheryl –

      No, I am not saying that. However, what I am very much open to is that what is being communicated in Gen 1-2 is not a perfect world, since a) order had to be brought to creation in 1:1-2, b) that there was already a crafty serpent looking to deceive, and c) that Adam & Eve were so easily deceived & drawn in to temptation. Something tells me it might not be communicating a perfect world in a way that is usually imagined. And, on a second point, I simply noted that the word sin did not arise until Gen 4.

      • Scott,

        You know what, it would be very helpful if folks did not make statements that can be extemely misleading unless someone digs and questions and researches for ages trying to decipher just what they have in mind! Using a term like “an upward fall” to describe something that brings about huge downward consequences seems to me to be very misleading. What does he expect people to think if they haven’t dug around in his stuff and seen further statements?

        And you making a statement about the word “sin” not being used in the Bible until later in Genesis right after making a statement that people can not think of anything out of the Augustinian concept of original sin is going to make people question if you believe that Adam and Eve sinned. It seems to me that is pretty much inevitable. Also making the statements you did to the effect that we are reading back into the text of Genesis when we look at things through Paul’s perspective is going to make people question if you believe Paul was wrong in what he said. And yes, I am doing that right now.

        If you are truly orthodox in these areas, all of these ambiguous statements that make it sound like you are saying something that is not orthodox need to be changed to clear statements that don’t leave folks having to question and question to get the correct understanding of what you mean. Don’t you see the problem that is caused?

        And in the end, I simply have to ask why if someone has truly orthodox beliefs they would seem to go out of their way to make folks question and think that they don’t? There is something that just truly does not seem right in all of that. I am sorry to say Scott, but it makes me truly wonder which of the statements made are the “real you.”

        It starts having the feel of a very dialectical discussion where a person states opposing ideas and the reader is left to synthesize them into something coherent. As in this dictionary definition of the word “dialectic”: a. The process especially associated with Hegel of arriving at the truth by stating a thesis, developing a contradictory antithesis, and combining and resolving them into a coherent synthesis. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dialectical

        And isn’t that just the way often used to budge people from one form of thinking into another?

        If I am wrong, I truly apologize. But you leave my head spinning!

      • @Cheryl: Our friend Scott here is a pastor, who has really yet to land on where and what he actually believes, at least theologically! He has been in “flux” for sometime. He has a good mind, but the mind must rest upon faith and the doctrine of God! Note too, he is sort of recoiling from modern Calvinism, from which he says.. he once came!

        (He is too only in his early 30’s… I am sure we both have some years on him! 😉 So we must cut him some slack! 🙂

      • Cheryl –

        You advise carefulness for statements like what Polkinghorne stated. But that’s just it – he’s spent a lot of time sharing his thoughts in lectures, books, etc. What happened is that there is a 2-minute segment in a film where one statement is made that has left you asking questions – primarily revolving around one word. Are we really supposed to react with extremity questioning his motive, his thought, etc, over one word or one statement? Especially since his teaching is clarified in his works. And maybe was clarified as he was interviewed, but the producer decided what stayed and did not stay. I’m not sure it’s a healthy approach.

        It’s not unlike someone taking one half of one verse of Scripture to make a point. It isn’t always helpful. But what can you do when this is done? You take a bit of time yourself to study and reflect and read. I think Polkinghorne has done really well to explain what such a statement means. He didn’t coin the term, but has used one term to explain his thinking – they fell up into something, the gaining of such knowledge, but they should not have done this as it was rebelling against God and wrong and sin. And I think, as I stated from reading the exact quotes you have given, that nothing, really nothing, is outside the tenets of Christian teaching. Nothing. It’s clearly Christian teaching of rebellion against God, sin, we can do things on our own against God.

        I speak of apostles and prophets still existing today. I’ve spent lots of articles, sermons and teachings laying out what that means. But, you know, in the end, someone’s going to take one or two sentences of what I’ve said and have at it. It happens every so often on this blog. But I’m clear of conscience in what I lay out as I pursue God and his revelation in Scripture.

        So, a term is used that doesn’t fit within the American evangelical paradigm, however it’s explained quite extensively in his works, writings and teachings – and you did well to search out some more of his thoughts. I don’t know what else can be done. I’d encourage you to let one word not get to you so much.

        ——————

        The proper discipline of biblical exegesis is first looking at the text as is. I’m not questioning Paul. I’m not even overly bothered by Augustine’s doctrinal formulations. But understanding Genesis starts with Genesis – not Romans or 1 Timothy 2. Nor does understanding Genesis begin with Reformational teachings on Paul and then inferring those Reformational constructs back in Genesis. Just like understanding Paul does not begin with Martin Luther, it begins with Paul within a first century, Jewish context. You can infer if you need to about what I believe, but I truly believe that to understand Scripture better, we have to do a bit of deconstructing of our normative paradigms, at least as best we can. Genesis, Romans and the whole lot were not written to 21st century American evangelicals. So let’s start with Genesis, which might take us a couple of years to work through all the exegesis, commentaries, writings, tradition, etc. Then let’s move on to other parts of Scripture that refer back to it.

        I just recently heard someone state: A good question is better than a good answer, for the the latter puts an end to the conversation. I know this is not the paradigm of previous educational standards of past decades. Education was about disseminating information and it had to be the right information from the beginning. But there is a way – somewhat like Jesus – where questions were posed to make people think, without providing the direct answers. Not always. But at times. You’ve got too many people walking around with set in stone, concrete theological systems. And to think even an iota outside that context is an anathema. Church history tells me our doctrine and practice is continually being reformed in light of the truth of who God is as revealed in Jesus Christ. This includes the evangelical systematic theologies, the western European postmodern theologies, the evangelical African theologies, the Orthodox eastern European theologies, etc.

        I’m very, very clear on certain things. But as I began to study outside my own paradigm some 4 or 5 years ago, some things were stirred in me past the boundaries provided within the American evangelical framework. I have much to be thankful for in my roots in a Southern Baptist church, a Reformed seminary, and so forth. But the church has always had to freshly re-engage certain issues in light of where they were. That’s exactly what happened with Martin Luther. And, while what happened in his world was fantastic, it wasn’t the final say. God was doing something in a 16th century, German context. It’s not the final say though. We still move forward towards that goal of unity in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God (Eph 4:13).

        In the end, I don’t know how I leave your head buzzing in the past 2 articles. I encouraged people to engage with the film From the Dust that offers some helpful theological perspectives as Christians engage with some of the findings of science. There are some very well-studied theologians and scholars and pastors in that film offering some helpful comments. I’m happy if you don’t like the film. But I found it well worth watching.

        In this particular article here, my thesis is mainly that, a) God is a God of processes and b) if God used a very extensively long process to bring about his good creation, then I don’t believe this is contrary to his character (and I gave other examples of how things unfolded over process rather than instantaneously). One might not think this can be true with creation. I’m fine with that. But we cannot think such a process-based, unfolding creation is anti-thetical to who God is.

        Blessings.

      • Robert –

        Actually, I handed the pastoring over to a friend back in April. I’m focusing more on theological studies and teaching.

        I actually do very well rest in my faith in Christ. That’s the great thing – while I love studying these things, learning and pondering the vastness of who God is and his revelation, I don’t have to figure it all out with the intricacies of creation, the sciences, etc. I rest in a good Father who is leading his people forward in his purposes. This is why I find it liberating to continue to study.

      • Indeed Scott, keep after it! And just remember, I am a several decades ahead of you, as both a pastor & teacher, and a “theolog”! And I hope/wish this with the best intent, and hopefully some humility toward you! 😉

        *Also remember, I will no doubt be before the Throne of Grace & Glory before you! At least I hope and pray? 🙂

  6. Thank you for your reply Scott.

    I will just leave this at saying that you and I are many, many miles apart on many issues. And it would appear to me that we are becoming further apart by the day. Your studies seem to be leading you further and further away from the orthodox Christian faith in many ways all of the time. I see you just posted another article based on Andrew Perriman’s work. Delving into this kind of thing is not delving into orthodoxy that is for certain. It makes me sad.

    • Cheryl –

      I, by no means, have wandered from the orthodox Christian faith. I’m not gripped as I once was with a particular perspective within evangelical thought. But I know that I am very much within orthodox confines. And, have you read Perriman’s thoughts on his new post on justification? That is by no means unorthodox. I know it doesn’t fit typical evangelical thought. But not unorthodox. I know you struggle with his thoughts on Christology, and I’m not exactly where he is. But his post on justification is not unorthodox.

      Please do consider that a particular group within evangelicalism does not have the corner market on the interpretation of Scripture and theological outworking of that interpretation. We’re all still learning, or I hope we are all still learning.

      Blessings, my sister in Christ.

    • @Cheryl: Indeed myself as an old onetime Christian theolog from the so-called Christian academy, I can tell you surely in my opinion that the so-called Christian theological aspects have moved towards modernity, and certainly postmodernity. Our friend Scott thinks this is acceptable and even advantageous! But this just shows how far the Christian academy has itself moved away from the presuppositions of both Holy Scripture, and the best of the Creedal history! Indeed very sad! I have myself done my share of study in the so-called “pomo” or Postmodernism, which of course means ‘after the modernist movement’. But in fact the pomo and modernity, are really “father and son”! For simply without modernity, there is no postmodernity. They are forever intertwined, in history, construction (which of course includes deconstruction). The great historian Arnold Toynbee said: “Our own Post-Modern age has been inaugurated by the general war of 1914-1918,[World War 1]. And as has been noted certain interpretations of Soren Kierkegaard, Karl Marx, and even Friedrich Nietzsche are important precursors to postmodernism, i.e. noting as I said modernity & postmodernity (as father & son). And in “deconstruction” people like Martin Heidegger (who was a friend of the Nazi’s) sought to “deconstruct” classic Ontology, and thus we get what is called now “Poststructuralists” like Derrida, who made the term itself! Indeed the “foundation” of Postmodernism, is itself really Modernism or modernity! So in reality here we have relativism, rationalism, and in some sense this is again the child of the 18th century, Enlightenment, which is of course “Modernity”! Here really is always skepticism and empiricism. Surely we see all of this today in our time of the fullness of Postmodernity! Note surely todays sexual ethics, and the acceptance of homosexuality, etc.

      So Postmodernism has its own history and construction, which most surely stands itself apart from the classic and historical place of both Holy Scripture, and as I noted the best of our Protestant Creedal history!

  7. Scott on 18 September, 2013 at 17:18 said:
    Are you speaking of my recent comment to Carla?

    I was speaking of Father Roberts on 11 September, 2013 at 18:08. Sorry.

    I am not a hateful man Scott. I don’t say the things I do to be hurtful to you. Honest I don’t. We’d probably like each other if we met. That’s not the point.

    • Surely this whole subject is centred in the biblical and theological! And as we can see Scott only deals with products of modernity & postmodernity, and seeks to see them as tools in modernization. But the subject has foundations and its own presuppositions which are simply not neutral in the discipline of Biblical Theology! Indeed Pauline and Johannine theology scream foul here! As the old Adversary of God said, and still says…”Has God said?” (Gen. 3:1)… and then his lie: “And the serpent said unto the woman, You shall not surely die.” (Verse 4) But, as we know, he is a liar and the father of lies! (John 8:44), and die spiritually and then even physically man did, ‘In Adam’! So surely the so-called academic study of Holy Scripture is itself always subject to the Spirit, and the proper and hermeneutical & interpretive spiritual discipline! This is indeed part of the whole spiritual battle and warfare itself, nothing is neutral in this fallen world!

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