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Home » The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil » Chapter 6: “The Call of Humanity” – Part I » “The Groaning of Creation” Chapter 6: “The Call of Humanity” – Part III

“The Groaning of Creation” Chapter 6: “The Call of Humanity” – Part III

10/14/17

 

 

Howard

 

 

Q: Towards the end of Section 6.8, Southgate references Ware’s statement, ‘the entire cosmos is one vast burning bush, permeated by the fire of the divine power and glory.’ Do you believe that the current Orthodox view is still compatible with Darwinian insights and evolutionary theodicy?  Or do you think there is still a lot of ambiguity in creation that has yet to be unpacked?  Explain your thoughts and reasonings.

 

 

The Orthodox view of the Fall has always fascinated me since it is so different to what we learn as essential in the West which is original sin.  The Orthodox Fall is more of a recognition of our initial state not as sinless angels who fell, but as rising beasts who could become like God.  This Orthodox view seems to align with Darwinian insights and evolutionary theodicy, starting out messy to become something exemplary.

 

 

“The entire cosmos is one vast burning bush” is very poetic.  Even though our origins are brutal we should strive to be better.  Not just to God and our fellow man, but avoid doing harm if we can even to our fellow denizens on this planet.  For the sake of their wellbeing and our own striving to be all loving and kind like God.

 

 

 

Patricia

 

 

Q: In Section 6.8, summarize the thoughts of Kallistos Ware in describing humanity’s roles in creation. Do you agree with Ware’s take on the ‘logoi’ of things?  If not, explain why.  Do you believe as Southgate does, that it is our gift to articulate the connection between creature and Creator?  Explain your reasons.

 

 

 

 

Kallistos Ware gives an account of his concept of logoi here. In his essay “Through Creation to Creator” he begins by assessing the role of a tree as an intermediary between earth and sky and ends by pushing the reader to explore nature, as God hides everywhere, waiting to be discovered. About logoi, specifically, he says “each created thing is not just an object but a personal word addressed to us by the Creator. The divine Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Wisdom and the Providence of God, constitutes at once the source and the end of the particular logoi, and in this fashion acts as an all-embracing and unifying cosmic presence.” As also beautifully quoted in St. Hildegard of Bingen’s words, who claims them to come directly from the Holy Spirit, “I, the highest and fiery power, have kindled every living spark and I have breathed out nothing that can die … I am … the fiery life of the divine essence…I stir everything into quickness with a certain invisible life which sustains all”. God is everywhere, but also nowhere.

 

Ware fears this view can lead to pantheism, which he rejects as a matter of principle based on his Orthodox tradition, “However, I find no difficulty in endorsing panentheism — that is to say, the position which affirms, not ‘God is everything and everything is God,’ but ‘God is in everything and everything is in God.’ God, in other words, is both immanent and transcendent; present in all things. He is at the same time above and beyond them all. It is necessary to emphasize simultaneously both halves of the paradox beloved of the poet Charles Williams: ‘This also is Thou; neither is this Thou.’” And so he goes on to state,

 

“It is a frequent fault of religious writers that they speak of the created universe as if it were an artifact of a Maker Who has, so to speak, produced it from without. God the Creator becomes the celestial Clock-maker Who sets the cosmic process in motion, winding up the clock, but then leaving it to continue ticking on its own. This will not do. It is important to avoid such images as the divine architect, builder or engineer, and to speak rather in terms of indwelling (without thereby excluding the dimension of divine transcendence). Creation is not something upon which God acts from the outside, but something through which he expresses Himself from within. Transcendent, He is also immanent; above and beyond creation, He is also its true inwardness, its ‘within.’”

 

This mysterious presence of God in His creation everywhere without its being pantheistic can indeed only be articulated by humans, as they alone have that capacity. In that I agree with Southgate.

 

 

 

Michael

 

 

Q: Having read Chapter 6 in its entirety, is it still possible to draw a reasonable theological analysis that reconciles with Darwinian naturalism? Do you believe, as Southgate does, that we as humans ought to play an active role in nature to bring about some sort of redemption whether it be through genetic alterations or climate manipulation?  Summarize your thought process in your response.

 

 

Towards the end of Section 6.9, Southgate draws an interesting conclusion when he states through the death of Christ on the cross, God bears the pain of creation and of human sin, but we as humans should realize our call to participate more actively in the healing of a wild nature that may be seen both as “very good” and as “groaning in travail.”  In other words, we as humans made in the image of God should be moved to compassion by seeking out healing in nature and as what he would call, “a participation in the divine transformation of the biosphere, the relief of nature’s groaning.”

 

 

In my own personal opinion, I do not disagree with anything Southgate says when we as humans ought to play a compassionate role in our interactions with the natural environment that surrounds us.  The trouble is that there are many humans around the world who don’t necessarily agree with that particular philosophy and I would also add that there many within all branches of Christianity who do not share that view as well.  Oftentimes, it is the Christian scholars like Southgate or Christian leaders such as the Pope who will make these type of theological arguments, but oftentimes their views do not percolate down to the lay people in the church or even to professors in seminaries.    It would be ideal for many Christians to adopt our role as caretakers of the living world, but at the same time we need to confront the reality that most human beings need to exploit nature in order to survive biologically and economically speaking.

 

As I stated in my previous response, I wholeheartedly believe humans should play an active role in reducing environmental harm such as runaway pollution as well as seeking to avert manmade calamities like global warming via carbon emissions or the possible eruption of a supervolcano.  At the same time, we need to realize that environmental catastrophes have struck the planet on numerous occasions in the past (i.e. asteroid/comet collisions, supervolcanic eruptions, ice ages, pestilence, massive solar flares, etc) and yet life on Earth seems to chug along.  Millions of species go into extinction while millions more seemingly arise from nowhere.  Nature possesses a lot of deep mysteries in which scientists have barely begun to decipher.  Darwinian naturalism is simply a philosophical view of our understanding of the living organisms around the world and although it is possible to draw upon a reasonable theological analysis as Southgate has done, we should not make it into a dogmatic doctrinal statement which unfortunately many churches have done.  New dogmas eventually create theological cobwebs that become very difficult to unravel and expunge.

 

 

 

 

Danny

 

 

Q: In Section 6.8, summarize the thoughts of Kallistos Ware in describing humanity’s roles in creation. Do you agree with Ware’s take on the ‘logoi’ of things?  If not, explain why.  Do you believe as Southgate does, that it is our gift to articulate the connection between creature and Creator?  Explain your reasons.

 

In this section, Southgate mentions two roles outlined by Orthodox theologian Kallistos Ware on humanity’s role in God’s creation: 1) a “kingly” role as a “created co-creator” in that we, as humans, have the power to “reshape and alter the world” and 2) a “priestly” role through “contemplation and understanding” to “bless and praise God for the world” by “offering up the world in eucharist” in a “cosmic liturgy”.  Ware’s thoughts follow Maximus the Confessor’s view of humanity as “created as the methorios (the boundary or frontier) between the physical and spiritual realms.”  Furthermore, the concept of “logoi” (purpose, reason) is important to this priest-king role in that humans must seek out creation’s “inner structure and patterns” that Southgate relates to his definition of “inscape”.  To grasp the “logoi” of something is to refer to its “original and ultimate meaning – God’s conception of it.”  It is our role to be mediators between God and his creation, a “gift” specifically given to us by God.  When we do this, “we help the world fulfill its destiny and be transformed by the light and presence of God.”

 

In my analysis of Ware’s “logoi” theology, it borrows directly from the Greek philosophy of Heraclitus who saw divine order in all things; it is only wise and disciplined souls who can survive death and unite themselves with God, or the One.  The same principle applies to Stoic philosophy as well.  The Western mind has adopted this mindset where one’s “purpose” or “reason for living” is a popular notion for many people.  Science may not have a say whether something has a “purpose” or “reason” (that’s in the realm of metaphysics and philosophy), but it does have a role in seeking out the “inner structure and patterns” within creation and nature, whereby humanity can use science as a tool to determine and discover the “original and ultimate meaning” of creation as a whole.  Of course, when one mentions the word “logoi”, the word “Logos” from John 1:1 comes to mind: “In the Beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word (Logos) was with God, and the Word (Logos) was God.”  So, to seek the “logoi” of something is akin to searching for the Creator (aka God the Son as Creator) within creation; so in a way, to love and take care of creation is one’s reflection of his or her love of God.

 

In traditional Christian theology, Jesus’ dual role as priest and king is emphasized.  To become a priest-king is to become more and more Christlike (or in Orthodox terms, go through the process of theosis) and to experience the world and life as a living eucharist where everything is or becomes sacred.  In today’s secular Western world, I think it has lost this view, and everyone treats the world and life as a commodity and an expendable resource for his or her own (selfish or self-interested) needs.  According to the Apostle Paul, it is the Spirit that enables the believer to participate in the dying and rising of Christ.  Just as Christ suffered in this world, so will the believer (1 Thes 3:4); as Christ died to the world, passing beyond its power, so should the believer, crucifying the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5:24; 6:14).  We are “to put on Christ” (Gal 3:27; Rom 13:14) and possess the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16) as believers living in this world that is still being held in bondage to elemental spirits and principalities that rule the world, but have been triumphed over by the power of Christ’s resurrection.  With this knowledge at hand can we truly be mediators or fulfill our priest-king roles between creatures and creation and thereby help “that flow by which material things may be saturated by the Spirit” that Southgate states.

 

 

 

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