According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Monday, September 29, 2014

Book Reviews - Theologies of Creation, edited by Thomas Jay Oord

Nightmare, Jessica Ball, Artprize 2014 entry


A friend of mine, Nazarene and Wesleyan theologian Thomas Oord, has recently edited a book delving into the dark territories of creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing) and its newest theological rivals. If one concedes that the creation story of Genesis is served neither by a literalistic interpretation nor a scientific one (Christian Intelligent Design or Young Earth creation theories) but must be read from within its ancient culture and mindset, then at the lowest level of argumentation is that of one's hermeneutic. Meaning, how does the biblical reader approach the bible to most appropriately interpret it pages within its contextual, grammatical, and linguistic vernaculars. And subsequently, having done the best one can do in these areas, how may the bible's ancient pages then be read for today's contemporary, post-modern societies.

How Do We Read the Bible?

When it comes to the creation story of the universe, earth, its life forms, and particular of Adam and Eve, the older "biblical" non-scientific theologies can no longer bear up under the burden of scientific discoveries as related to the formation of our cosmos, earth-and-biological sciences, and the time structures earlier ancients had once assumed. Evolutionary science has changed the theological landscape demanding that the classically trained theologian must elevate and better inform his or her's theology if the Bible is to remain relevant to today's more sceptical audiences. If not, the pages of Scripture will quickly slip into the realm of disbelief, myth, and magic.

As a result, what has more recently arisen within theological disciplines have been studies into (i) narrative theology drawing upon biblical theme and story development; (ii) a reappraisal of how biblical myths and parables are positioned within the general arguments for faith and belief of the Bible; (iii) a deep and pervasive questioning of the church's most basic doctrines and dogmas compared to contemporary history, event, and the social sciences; (iv) a reappraisal of human culture itself from the aspect of its religious drivers and existentially held beliefs and religious traditions; (v) a likewise reappraisal of even the cultural drivers of philosophy from its earlier Enlightenment traditions of proof v. counterproof, logical statements, and deduction, towards a greater realization that human interaction, language, and even thought forms are imperfect, metaphorical, symbolic, relational to time and things, and linguistically ambiquous; and lastly, that (vi) global events and technology itself has forced societies to relearn how to communicate with one another in a rapidity of exchange of ideas that are fluid, errantly premised, semi-permeable, a/temporal, and without commonality of background and experience.

Consequently, the biblical reader must contend with his or her own social and personal backgrounds, life experiences, knowledge, and training that certainly have questioned the most basic approaches to the Christian faith and its ground of belief in the God's Word. So then, does one defend the Bible? Does one contend for the Bible? Do we give up and consider it simply a fallible human document with lots of warts and wear to its hidebound spine over the past many centuries of the ernest church? Or do we perhaps question our own needs for the kind of Bible that we must insist upon reading when approaching God and His holy revelation to mankind? Perhaps the best answer is "all of the above."

As the reader can plainly see then, the questions, problems, and logicisms of religion can create a confused mass of words and ideas, thoughts and beliefs, that can break up the unity of the church and its assemblies of faith around the world and within nations themselves. Pitting denomination against denomination. Bible groups against traditional Protestant and Catholic grounps. Literalists against revisionists. Classicists against newer theologies and traditions. And all of a sudden what should have been a unified fellowship centered in Christ has become disenchanted, divested, and destroyed. What once was considered plain has become darkened causing many Christians to give up and created their own boundary-line rules for faith and life.

Which of course, is no answer at all, and is actually worse in many cases when falling back upon one's own desired outcomes that themselves require a deep re-righting of own "Christian faith." A faith that pretends to be real when in reality it has become unreal, unbiblical, mythical, and magical itself. And for those wishing to depart from a society for whatever reason into a form of Quakerism is to refuse God's presence and power in contemporary life. To refuse God's gift of life and persistence by moving backwards towards unloving judgments and actions, unjust behaviors, and unrighteous beliefs distrusting God's power to change our hearts and lives, heads and beliefs.

But this is hard work. And it is rightly the hard work of the Spirit upon our hard hearts. But the Scripture says again and again to not give up the faith in despair but to live unto our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and in the redemption that He has brought into this life we now live. Not later but now. For God's Kingdom reigns now as later and we are encouraged to live within its reality all the days of our earth-bound, present-day lives.

So How Do We Read Genesis 1-2?

To approach Genesis 1 and 2 is to ask the most fundamental questions we may have... Is there a God and how can we hear/know Him? The Bible itself assures us that there is a God and that He has spoken. And that we must be a little more sophisticated as postmodern-day readers 2000 to 4000 years removed from the actuality of the events themselves.... (Say, from Genesis 12 forward beginning with Abraham if we discount the ancient (or mythic) re-telling of earth's primordial histories of earth and mankind.)

Which brings us back to today's subject... just how do we read Genesis 1 and 2?

For this author here, if I were to lead out with a desire to remain theologically orthodox then I might read Genesis 1-2 from the perspective of creatio Dei, meaning God my Creator. If I wish to lead out with a theology of fellowship and love towards my fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord then perhaps I read of God's creation in terms of creatio amore, or created in love, empahsizing the love of God for man, and man's responsibility to love each another (which may then help us with difficult subjects like enslaving, impoverishing, oppressing, or despising others).

And if one wishes to be more scientifically attuned to the quantum sciences of today that deal with chaos and disorder then creatio ex continua, or creation that continues, that is, one that re-orders chaos towards redemption and shalom, may be the way to go. This was the German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg's position. (For the science behind this please refer to the article The Science Behind "Creatio Continua" versus "Creatio Ex Nihilo" (Process v. Classical Thought) as perhaps a beginning place).

So then, why are many Christians rethinking the old medieval arguments of creatio ex nihilo? A quick search of Wikipedia under the title of the same reveals the following:


Opposition within modern Christian theology

Bruce K. Waltke wrote an extensive biblical study of creation theology that argues creation from chaos rather than nothing based on the Hebrew Torah and the New Testament texts. This work was published by the Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in 1974 and again in 1981. On a historical basis, many scholars agree that the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo was not the original intent of the Biblical authors, but instead a change in the interpretation of the texts which began to evolve in the mid-second century A.D. in the atmosphere of Hellenistic philosophy. The idea solidified around 200 A.D. in arguments and in response to the Gnostics, Stoics, and Middle Platonists.

Thomas Jay Oord (born 1965), a Christian philosopher and theologian, argues that Christians should abandon the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. Oord points to the work of biblical scholars, such as Jon D. Levenson, who points out that the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo does not appear in Genesis. Oord speculates that God created our particular universe billions of years ago from primordial chaos. [Philosophically,] this chaos did not predate God, however, for God would have created the chaotic elements as well. Oord suggests that God can create all things without creating from absolute nothingness.

Oord offers nine objections to creatio ex nihilo:

Theoretical problem: One cannot conceive of absolute nothingness.

Biblical problem: Scripture – in Genesis, 2 Peter, and elsewhere – suggests creation from something (water, deep, chaos, etc.), not creation from absolutely nothing.

Historical problem: The Gnostics Basilides and Valentinus first proposed creatio ex nihilo on the basis of assuming the inherently evil nature of creation, and in the belief that God does not act in history. Early Christian theologians adopted the idea to affirm the kind of absolute divine power that many Christians now reject.

Empirical problem: We have no evidence that our universe originally came into being from absolutely nothing.

Creation-at-an-instant problem: We have no evidence in the history of the universe after the big bang that entities can emerge instantaneously from absolute nothingness. As the earliest philosophers noted, out of nothing comes nothing (ex nihilo, nihil fit) [not something].

Solitary power problem: Creatio ex nihilo assumes that a powerful God once acted alone. But power, as a social concept, only becomes meaningful in relation to others.

Errant revelation problem: The God with the capacity to create something from absolutely nothing would apparently have the power to guarantee an unambiguous and inerrant message of salvation (for example: inerrant Bible). An unambiguously clear and inerrant divine revelation does not exist.

Problem of Evil: If God once had the power to create from absolutely nothing, God essentially retains that power. But a God of love with this capacity appears culpable for failing to prevent evil.

Empire Problem: The kind of divine power implied in creatio ex nihilo supports a theology of empire, based upon unilateral force and control of others. [as vs. free will theology]

Process theologians argue that humans have always related a God to some “world” or another. They also claim that rejecting creatio ex nihilo provides the opportunity to affirm that God has everlastingly created and related with some realm of non-divine actualities or another (compare continuous creation or steady state theory). According to this alternative God-world theory, no non-divine thing exists without the creative activity of God, and nothing can terminate God's necessary existence.

- Wikipedia

And with that let me introduce Tom's newest 2014 editorial work based upon the thoughts and pens of many different authors. I have also included his earlier 2009 work dealing with the same subject which lately has gone out of print.


R.E. Slater
September 29, 2014

How Time Began (Time Arrows)

Inflation Theory

* * * * * * * * *

Creatio Ex Nihilo and Its New Rivals

by Thomas Jay Oord
September 26, 2014

Routledge sent copies yesterday of a new book I edited, Theologies of Creation: Creatio Ex Nihilo and Its New Rivals. It explores current thinking about creation out of nothing, and several essays propose alternative theories of creation.

Of course, humans have long wondered about the origin of the universe. And such questions are especially alive today as physicists offer metaphysical theories to account for the emergence of creation.

Those who believe in God have attributed the universe’s origin to divine activity. Many claim God created something from absolute nothingness: creatio ex nihilo. The venerable doctrine of creatio ex nihilo especially emphasizes God’s initial creating activity.

Some contributors to this book explore new reasons creatio ex nihilo should continue to be embraced today. But other contributors question the viability of creation from nothing and offer alternative initial creation options in its place. These new alternatives explore a variety of options in light of recent scientific work, new biblical scholarship, and both new and old theological traditions.

I especially want to thank those who contributed essays to the book, which include Philip Clayton, Catherine Keller, Michael Lodahl, Richard Rice, Mary-Jane Rubenstein, Marit Trelstad, Eric Vail, Stephen Webb, Michael Zbaraschuk. I also contributed an essay to the book. Please consider getting a copy and wrestling with the issues of creation from nothing (or something)!

Amazon link

Amazon Book Description

Humans have long wondered about the origin of the universe. And such questions are especially alive today as physicists offer metaphysical theories to account for the emergence of creation. Theists have attributed the universe’s origin to divine activity, and many have said God created something from absolute nothingness. The venerable doctrine of creatio ex nihilo especially emphasizes God’s initial creating activity. Some contributors to this book explore new reasons creatio ex nihilo should continue to be embraced today. But other contributors question the viability of creation from nothing and offer alternative initial creation options in its place. These new alternatives explore a variety of options in light of recent scientific work, new biblical scholarship, and both new and old theological traditions.


Thomas Jay Oord is a theologian, philosopher, and scholar of multi-disciplinary studies. He is the author or editor of about twenty books, and he is professor at Northwest Nazarene University, in Nampa, Idaho. Oord is known for his contributions to research on love, altruism, open and relational theology, issues in science and religion, Wesleyan/Holiness/Church of the Nazarene thought, New Evangelical theology, and postmodernism. He is or has been president of several scholarly societies. Oord blogs frequently at his website:

Amazon link

Amazon Book Description

For Christians, a strange dislocation often seems to exist between the ecological crisis and a heritage that includes a Creator God. This book turns to the prophetic tradition - a tradition generated in the dislocation of crises in the past. Drawing this tradition into engagement with the ecological humanities, and with ministry studies, the author discovers root memories that hold. Here is wisdom and that could unleash our passion and energy by challenging us to attend to Earth's cry.

Wipf and Stock Publishers Description

Wesleyans and Wesleyan theology have long been interested in the sciences. John Wesley kept abreast of scientific developments in his own day, and he engaged science in his theological construction. Divine Grace and Emerging Creation offers explorations by contemporary scholars into the themes and issues pertinent to contemporary science and Wesleyan Theology.

In addition to groundbreaking research by leading Wesleyan theologians, Jürgen Moltmann contributes an essay. Moltmann's work derives from his keynote address at the joint Wesleyan Theological Society and Society for Pentecostal Studies meeting on science and theology at Duke University.

Other contributions address key contemporary themes in theology and science, including evolution, ecology, neurology, emergence theory, intelligent design, scientific and theological method, and biblical cosmology. John Wesley's own approach to science, explored by many contributors, offers insights for how two of humanity's central concerns—science and theology—can now be understood in fruitful and complementary ways.

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