Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Creativity and Creation


(Welcome to Conversations with Bob! A coupla geeks doing theology!)

Thanks Bob for your last post!

Thank you for articulating the difference in our approach, "top-down" versus "bottom-up." I am a bottoms up kind of guy (theologically speaking)!

Yes, I would agree that the overall approach of Friedrich Schleiermacher is one that resonates with me. Here is a nice introduction to Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher's philosophy.





And a handsome portrait.








Schleiermacher was famous for his phrase, the "Feeling of Absolute Dependence." Here is a description:

Schleiermacher specified religious feeling as the "feeling of absolute dependence." Correlated with the feeling of absolute dependence is a consciousness or intuition of God. Human blessedness, he taught, consists in the strengthening of the God-consciousness, and sin is the obscuring of this consciousness. Jesus Christ shared the humanity of all human beings but was unique in the strength and constancy of his God-consciousness, and his redeeming work consists in the impartation of his God-consciousness to the believer. He was not afraid to call his theology "mystical," centered as it was upon the personal communion of the believer with the wholly God-conscious Christ.

Thank you also for your good thoughts on creation. I too "believe" that God created the universe. What does that mean? I don't believe that in the same way that I believe in evolutionary theory or gravity. I use the word 'believe' (in the context of God creating) as faith or trust. I trust that God created (or more precisely) creates the universe. Creation is an ongoing process.

For me to say I trust that God creates the universe is to say that the universe is blessed or is meaningful. Einstein once quipped that the most important question we face is whether or not the universe is 'friendly.' My faith is one of trust in the benevolence of creation and in the God who creates.

Sometimes I doubt. I often wonder if the universe is friendly at all. My faith is shaken at times by science (that continually knocks down my idols that I have called God), by cruelty, greed, and war, and by my own estrangement from the universe and myself. My faith or trust in God as creator does not come by proof or scientific method. When it comes, it comes usually by grace, that is, I cannot engineer it. I experience it. I need to place myself in an attitude and in a place where I can open myself to that trust.

I need to have my trust restored, my faith renewed, my hope strengthened. This happens in worship, in conversation, in study, in doing (and in failing), and in approaching creation with awe, gratitude, compassion, and in celebrating creativity among other things. I need to be in communication with spiritual seekers and revealers of the Divine in the past and in the present.

I believe, help my unbelief.

3 comments:

  1. John, you said,

    "Sometimes I doubt. I often wonder if the universe is friendly at all. My faith is shaken at times by science (that continually knocks down my idols that I have called God), by cruelty, greed, and war, and by my own estrangement from the universe and myself. My faith or trust in God as creator does not come by proof or scientific method. When it comes, it comes usually by grace, that is, I cannot engineer it. I experience it. I need to place myself in an attitude and in a place where I can open myself to that trust."

    What a beautifully touching statement full of truth and the goodness of the triumph of faith overcoming doubt.

    I am reminded of statement made by John Hick, a Christian philosopher of religion, who wrote:

    The reality and extent of evil ... seem to many positively to demand an atheistic [or, from the Buddhist perpective, pantheistic] conclusion. This is indeed the most serious challenge that there is to theistic faith....

    The only line of response that seems to me at all adequate to the full depth of the challenge sees our human existence on this planet as part of a much longer process through which personal spiritual life is being gradually brought in its own freedom to a perfection that will justify retrospectively the evils that have been part of its slow creation. This kind of theodicy goes back within Christian thought to the second-century Greek-speaking apologists, particularly Irenaeus. He offered the story or picture of God creating humankind in two stages with significantly different characters. To describe these in more modern terms, God first brings human beings into existence through the long evolutionary process as intelligent animals who are social and therefore ethical and who are also capable of response to the transcendent. They are not initially formed--as in Chrisitanity's alternative Augustinian type of theodicy--as perfect creaturs living in an ideal relationship to God in the Garden of Eden, but as imperfect creatures brought into being at an epistemic distance from their maker; and they were so formed as a way of endowing them with a genuine freedom in relation to that maker. At this stage human beings are, in Irenaeus' terminology, made in the 'image' of God. But as thus formed they are still only the raw material for the further phase of the creative process in which they are being drawn through their own freedom towards an individual and corporate perfection, which Irenaeus called (using the terminology of Genesis 1:26) the 'likeness' of God. (The Interpretation of Religion, pp. 118-120)

    If Irenaeus' view is closer to the truth than, than the following question flows naturally from it:

    Is faith--the supreme assertion of human thought--desirable? Then must the mind of man find itself in that troublesome predicament where it ever knows less than it can believe.

    Leaving me with the view that indeed, "Religion is faith, trust, and assurance."

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  2. I often like to say that God "evoked" the universe into being, rather than to say that God "created" it. The reason for that is that I believe that the universe is also imbued with creativity, and that the Divine process of creation is a collaborative act between God and creation. God gets a special role in that process of course.

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