Saturday, December 22, 2007

Jesus and climate change VII

Alternatives to 'Creation': a brief tangent
For those interested in philosophy and worldviews, a Christian understanding of creation can be usefully contrasted with at least three other commonly held views: materialism, pantheism, and deism. I realise each of the following descriptions are rough sketches requiring much more detail to be useful engagements with alternative understandings, but I offer them briefly to help delineate a conception of the world as 'creation'.

• Materialism is the view that only what is tangible is real, that we ought not to be distracted by dreams of an otherworldly beyond and instead focus on what’s in front of our eyes, what can be grasped and manipulated. There’s something very helpfully pragmatic about this approach. I’ve already claimed that matter matters, that our responsibilities lie here and now with the good we can actually do. Yet the atheism implicit in this claim renders empty or at best a useful lie our earlier discussion of existence as gift.

• Pantheism, or everything-is-god-ism, treats the cosmos as itself divine. Thus, you and I and the trees and the stars are all fragments of God. Once again, there’s something in this view that resonates deeply with our experience and with the Scriptures. The world is filled with wonder. If we start to pay attention, it is filled with jaw-dropping marvels in which we can catch glimpses of divine glory. But according to Jesus, only if we treat it as a secondary good can we enjoy it properly. Once we start treating anything good as God, then we not only ignore and dishonour God who gave us the good thing, but we also start to distort the gift he gave.

• Deism is the idea that God may have made the world, but he is like a clockmaker, who sets the clock ticking and then walks away and perhaps just watches from a distance. This view highlights the regularity, predictability and complexity of the systems we inhabit, as well as our responsibility to live well within them. But in the Scriptures, we find a God who not only made the cosmos but who continues to take responsibility for it, who continues to be intimately involved.
Twelve points for correctly naming the city.
Series: I; II; III; IV; V; VI; VII; VIII; IX; IX(b); X; XI; XII; XIII; XIV; XV.


::aaron g:: said...

I think the “clockmaker” metaphor needs updating. It seems worn.

If, as you say, deism emphasizes “regularity, predictability and complexity,” perhaps the best metaphor for deism is Anglicanism!

byron smith said...

I agree - it has wound down. Even God 'watch'-ing from a distance didn't save it.

Jonathan said...

Is it Venice?

byron smith said...

'Tis indeed. When you think rising sea levels, it's an obvious choice... Twelve points