Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fides et Ratio or Fides Contra Ratio?

The doctrine of creation has suffered a great decline in its riches in the last 200 years. One could almost point the problem right back to the dawn of the Reformation, where the blessed Martin Luther projected a hermeneutical method that heightened personal, subjective interpretation over and against the interpretation of the church. Not a terrible thing in itself, given the recovery (or discovery) of climactic doctrines within the sacred text that have indeed re-bolstered the life of the church.

But the very thrust of life given to us in this modicum of interpretation is only one side of the sword. The penetration of personal study also empowers the utilization of personal reason, understanding, method and experience; all of which to a certain degree have been cultured by nature. This eventually gives rise (I would assume) to the experiential theologies of the Quakers, Classical Liberalism, Deism and Higher Criticism. We might also observe the progress of the natural sciences in the 19th century via Darwin, Wallace and Thomas Huxley, and it is this movement and its relationship to creation that I will deal with. Darwin's theory of natural selection has and continues to create controversy within the church, and for seemingly good reasons. The suggestion behind this theory (well demonstrated and observed in nature) posits an origin of species that almost (not quite) removes the need or use of a creator. There is no teleological process guiding an amoeba 'up' the 'stages' to an eventual human being; natural selection is as its title suggests, a purely natural function. In other words, according to scientific observation there would have been no need for God to do anything after spawning the first simple forms of life. This is a horribly basic description of philosophical and scientific development, but my concern is more dealing with where we are then what brought us here. Somewhere along the line (perhaps with certain rationalistic assertions made by Augustine) the church began playing with the idea that the natural world gives us a good idea of truth. That truth can be known and understood in an absolute sense via observation of the natural world is something the church ought to have nothing to do with, at least in a serious sense. But that is exactly what they have everything to do with; why else would the established evidences for an old earth and the evolutionary origin of man be such a controversy?

If one were to walk into a typical Christian bookstore and peruse the shelves for volumes on the subject of creation, he may find any number of titles such as:

'Scientific Creationism' by Henry M. Morris
'Creation as Science by Hugh Ross
'A Case for The Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That points Towards God.' Lee Strobel

The list goes on and on. Secular authors have even picked up on this; type creationism in the search box and you'll find similar titles by atheist proponents.

The problem here is that creationism has wrongly been called science. Creationism has been reduced to science; that is all we are familiar with. That is also heresy. Let us take a look at the doctrine of creation as scripture defines it:

'By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.' (Hebrews 11:3)

Do you see the model that sacred scripture presents? We understand that the world and universe was created by faith. This is how the Creator wishes to be known and understood. This is how the doctrine of creation is to be defined; a doctrine of faith. This is how the definition of creationism is to be understood, a 'science' (I mean science here in the sense of general sciences) of faith. To make it more clear, let us explore what sacred scripture here means by faith:

'Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen.' (Hebrews 11:1)

Do you see that? Scripture defines the very essence of faith right before delving into creation. We know that the universe is created by 'things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.'

We know that the universe is created by trusting in God... by trusting in the unseen... the unseen God. This very command is a devastation to the utter incapabilities of us to know anything about God apart from faith. God will have the last Word, and this last Word will be accessed by faith alone, from first to last.

The greatest thing we can glean from creation is that this unseen God who we put our hope in, this unseen Creator whom we trust..... Has made Himself 'seen', has made himself known. Creation is all about Christ, the very Word of God mentioned in Hebrews 11, made flesh. Christ has been seen, therefore God the Creator has been seen. And it is this very sighting of God which occurred 2,000 years ago as attested by the inspired gospels and apostolic writings, that fuels our hope, our conviction of the unseen. A perfect dialectic; God is both seen and He is unseen. The Creator is unseen, but He is seen in Christ, even though Christ is unseen.

"Though you have not seen Him now, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:8)

The natural world and scripture don't have to line up, as we have read so much in current books on creation. What you see in the Heavens is fading, destined to wear out like a garment, but the Word of the Lord, again and again endures forever. Don't let scientific observation be the new ruling magisterium of sacred scripture and your faith.

As Martin Luther once said," Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and ... know nothing but the word of God."

"Reason is the Devil's greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil's appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom ... Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism... She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets."

May the God of Creation, as revealed in Christ alone, be praised!

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