Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and ID

The book itself is good, though I imagine the editor would have done it differently.  The essays were fairly informative and well-written, though young earth advocates would no doubt have wished someone like Lisle or Doug Kelly would have replaced Ken Ham.

Ken Ham: Ham insisted he be allowed to have a longer essay than the rest since he, and he alone, “was defending the authority of the Bible vs the authority of Scientists.”  Ham’s outlook is simple: will we trust Scripture and let Scripture determine how we view science?”  That sounds noble, but can he pull it off?  Sadly, he cannot. Ham’s strength is his relatively clear portrayal of one interpretation of Genesis 1-2.  Note, however, that not only does Ham ignore other creation accounts (e.g., Job 38-39; Ps. 104), he refuses to bring them into the discussion because they are “poetry.”  Poetry, on his account, cannot teach truths.  Ironically, Ham is very close to liberalism at this point.

Hugh Ross: Ross presents “moderate concordism,” the view that we can have a testable model of creation that can give us historical predictions.  His science seems fairly accurate.  As one author noted, the layman is in the unfortunate prediction of trusting one scientific authority over another and just hoping for the best. 

Deborah Haarsma: This is the theistic evolutionist or “evolutionary creationist” account.  She has the unenviable task of defending evolution.  I do not think she succeeds.

Stephen Meyer: Updated Intelligent Design.  I agree with everything he says, but, as others note, his position does not really need the Bible.

Young Earth Creation

There are good scholars and defenders of Young Earth Creation.  Ken Ham is not one of those.  His essay probably set the movement back twenty years. He does not understand how biblical hermeneutics works and regularly confuses his interpretation with God’s interpretation. His essay is not all bad, though.  It is relatively clear and straight-forward.   

* According to him, his is the “clear and natural reading.”  

* Genesis 1-11 is history.

* Yom means a 24 hour solar day.

* When God creates, he creates supernaturally.

* The chronologies do not have gaps.

* No death before the Fall.

His chapter also touches on a worldwide flood, but that is actually irrelevant to the creation account, though it probably does touch on fossils and the like

Response

That it is “a clear and natural” reading is precisely what one should prove.  I do believe Genesis 1-11 is history, but that is not all it is.  Yom has other meanings besides a 24 hour solar day, as a lexicon can show the interested reader Even today, the word “day” alternates between 24 hours and 12 hours.  If I worked “all day,” I do not mean I worked for 24 straight hours.

I do not dispute that when God creates, he does so supernaturally.  I think that point was more aimed at Haarmsa.  Moreover, as Ross points out, Ham contradicts himself.  He says humans were eyewitnesses to parts of the creation week, yet elsewhere says they were unobserved (Ross 31).

The biggest problem that Ham has to overcome is the issue of starlight.  If the universe is 6,000 years old, then how does Ham account for starlight that is obviously from much older stars?  The initial response is that God created the light, like he did Adam, fully formed and functional.  The problem is a bit deeper than that, though. On Ham’s reading, light is coming from stars that never existed.  Information is coming to us from no source at all.  This is a problem for all Christian justifications of science.  At this very point we cannot account for the rationality of the universe.  The comparison with Adam does not work.  We do not currently see Adam.  We do see starlight.

Old Earth Creation

Hugh Ross has probably the best argued chapter, though it is by no means perfect. He argues:

* The surface of the earth’s water is the frame of reference in Genesis 1.

* Poetry can convey truth, which means we are allowed to go to Psalm 104 and Job 38-39 for information about creation.

* Day Age creation.  The days were six sequential, non-overlapping long time periods.

* Even if one wants to say there was no death before the fall, there was entropy, as phenomena like metabolism suggest.

* The Bible itself hints at earth’s antiquity.  It speaks of the mountains as “ancient” and “everlasting,” which would not make much sense if the mountains were only a few days older than man.

Response

The biggest problem with Ross’s essay, as one can imagine and as Ross himself anticipates, is the presence of death before the fall.  Ross points out that Romans 5 only mentions human death as a result of the fall.  It says nothing of animal and plant death. Even if all the carnivores were vegetarians before the Fall, it still has them consuming possible life.  Moreover, one would have to say that they all became carnivores after the fall.  

I am still not 100% satisfied with Ross’s account.  It is logically consistent, but something just does not set right.

Conclusion

There was no overall clear winner.  Ross had the best essay.  Ham had the worst.  

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The Science of God (McGrath)

McGrath, Alister. The Science of God: An Introduction to Scientific Theology.

Alister McGrath defends the idea that creation (or “nature”) is a real entity that discloses knowledge in such a way that shapes the knowledge it discloses. In other words, ontology structures epistemology without negating the latter. Echoing Thomas Torrance, we know “kata physin.”

He begins with his own life-journey from studying chemistry at Oxford to studying theology–and becoming a Christian along the way.

Contra Hellenism and Orientalism, since creation is contingent, the real can be found by acknowledging nature’s contingency (McGrath 51). For Greeks, to get to the real was to get beyond appearances and nature. For the creation-tradition, however, the opposite was the case. The natural order possesses its own goodness and rationality.

Creation (or “nature”) finds itself within an interlocking network of divine and human rationality (62). Following the Hebrew writers, particularly Job (38ff), creation is linked with the idea of God’s “ordering.” This ordering is not the result of God’s being under necessity, but is rather contingent.

McGrath defends natural theology but in a new way. Natural theology isn’t looking at a squirrel and then deducing God’s simplicity. Rather, it begins with revelation and sees the natural world as disclosing real truths.

The book then moves from “nature” to “theory.” McGrath criticizes communitarian approaches like Lindbeck and to an extent, Barth. He also interacts with John Milbank and Alasdair McIntyre.

This book is a summary and popularization of his larger Scientific Theology. It succeeds in channeling key aspects of Thomas Torrance (on epistemology and ontology) while leaving Karl Barth behind

Outline of City of God, Book 11

Key ideas: God creates the world AND time. He does not create in time.

Propositions:

  1. God speaks by truth in the mind (11.2).
  2. Time was created with the world. This one idea is crucial in the history of doctrine. This is one of those “moments of no return” (but in a good sense). Time is finite, limited.

    Augustine is not dogmatic on the nature of the days in creation. He notes, “What kind of days they were, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible to say” (11.6).
  3. Begetting is not the same as creating. Divine persons are begotten, not created: “For that which is begotten of the simple Good is simple itself” (11.10).
  4. Vice is contrary to nature and cannot but damage it. This will be important in the next book as Augustine explores the roots of evil.
  5. Image of the Trinity: “For we are, and we know that we are and delight in our being and the knowledge of it” (11.26). Vestigia trinitatis.

    Corollary on virtue: “Because in men who are justly loved, it is rather the love itself that is loved” (11.28).

Kingdom Prologue (Meredith Kline)

Kline, Meredith.  Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview. Two Age Press.

This is the cornerstone of Kline’s work, and any criticism of Kline must answer this work.  Like all of Kline’s work, it is brilliant, engaging, and controversial. Kline anticipated numerous developments in biblical theology, especially as they relate to man as vice-regent and covenant theology.

We can summarize this book around Creation, Common Grace, and Covenant.

Structure of the Covenant

The covenant began by acknowledging the covenant lord by name, followed by a historical survey of his previous dealings with the vassal (22).  Genesis 1-2 doesn’t have a preamble as such, but the covenant Lord does identify himself.

Creation

Genesis 1:1

It “denotes an event at a ‘beginning’ time that preceded the episodes delineated in verses 2ff” (24). A heaven already existed prior to God’s dividing the waters, which means “heaven,” albeit a created heaven, is not identical to “the sky.” This act of creating the heavens in verse 2 included the sun and stars, which would receive their thematic treatment on Day 4.

The creation account doesn’t have any sense of “war” or struggle (26).  Indeed, it was “royal construction” (27).  He doesn’t use tools.  “The word of his will is his all-effective instrument” (29). Creation week reveals God’s building his cosmic house.  The Sabbath is his enthronement (35). Cf. Isa. 66:1; 1 Chr. 28:2. Hebrews 4 notes a parallel between Israel’s dominion-rest and Yahweh’s Sabbath rest.

It is important to note that while Kline is setting the stage for his controversial “framework theory,” that is not the main point of this argument.

Common Grace

Unlike many popular accounts of common grace, Kline actually works through it.  Too often, especially in neo-Kuyperian circles, common grace is used as a mantra to justify what one already likes about the current order. To be fair, Kuyper himself did anchor it in the Noahic Covenant, and Kline will do so as well.

To understand Kline’s view of common grace, we need to see the difference between the Kingdom City (Metapolis) and the City of Man.  Megapolis is not exactly the city of man. It is the earthly sphere.  Metapolis is the kingdom city.  As Kline notes, it has “undergone eschatological metamorphosis at the hands of the Omega-Spirit” (100).  It is the temple of God’s presence.

Kline’s account of common grace is far more robust than neo-Kuyperian accounts.  He notes that “common grace and common curse are correlative to each other (154). Without a common curse, it is not clear why one would need common grace.  I think this is the point Klaas Schilder was trying to make against Abraham Kuyper.  Schilder was never clear about it, though. The goal of common grace is to provide an interim for the gospel to work (155).  

All of this is good and few Reformed would disagree. Kline takes this fact and expounds a new concept: the common.  Everything that is not sacred space is the common. The common opens the door for “holy redemptive history” (156).

Therefore, the non-common, the holy, is “the kingdom-intrusion.” It is the anticipation of the final redemptive judgment (158). This means in our modern civil government “we always have the responsibility, whether dealing with…laws of community life, to distinguish which features of Israelite law were peculiarly theocratic (or typologically symbolic) and which are still normative in our present nontheocratic situation (159).

Not surprisingly, Kline pushes back against Kuyperians and “neo-Dooyeweerdians,” particularly the desire to identify creation in a “monistic fashion with the kingdom of God” (171).   Although there are not many Dooyeweerdians today, there is a tendency to desire theocracy of some sort. Far from being a liberal, Kline’s vision of the state is quite conservative, almost libertarian at times.  The state “is not redemptive.  Accordingly, the state as an institutional embodiment of common grace is not designed to provide ultimate and complete solutions for malfunctioning society” (178).

This means the state has to be “non-confessional” (179). If the state is about justice, not justification, then the point of the state is not religion.

Covenant of Works

The covenant of works safeguards the principle of “do this and live.” This is in sharp contrast with the covenant of grace. Kline’s argument is that muting the works principle in the Adamic covenant creates a continuum between works and grace.  Pressed hard enough, the gospel is not seen as purely gracious (108).

Most Reformed would agree with him on this point.  Kline’s more controversial move, albeit not without precedent in the Reformed tradition, is applying the words principle on a typological basis to the Mosaic economy of Israel.  He is not saying Israel earned eternal life by works.  Rather, the works principle of Leviticus 18:5 must obtain.  Kline’s argument at the surface level is simple: if the Mosaic economy was purely one of grace, then why did Israel get rejected from the land?

Analysis and Conclusion

I do not think anyone fully agrees with Kline.  I do think he is a far more important thinker than many of his critics believe.  Some might not like his republication of the covenant of works, but it does have precedent in the Reformed world.  Even if one were to finally reject Kline on that point, his analysis forced Reformed people to think more rigorously on the covenant of works, especially in light of the Federal Vision heresy.

His take on common grace might be more difficult.  As it stands, this is not the traditional Reformed view on the civil magistrate.  That needs to be stated.  On the other hand, most NAPARC ministers are not lobbying Congress to reinstate the Solemn League and Covenant.  Moreover, I don’t think Reformed theocrats have fully worked out what it means to institute case laws in today’s world.  It is not as simple as banning abortion (the outlawing of which is justifiable on natural law grounds).  It is not as simple as promoting the sanctity of marriage (also natural law).

The references to natural law, which, surprisingly, Kline himself does not seem to employ, illustrate why this debate has always been difficult in Reformed circles. It is tempting to identify “neutral” with “common.”  Man cannot be neutral before God.  Man can live in common areas, though.  That is undeniable.  

For my own part, if Kline’s position is wedded to a robust natural law ethic, I think it is sustainable.  It avoids some of the disasters of antinomianism while avoiding any kind of legalism. Although this is an important book, I do not think it is Kline’s best book.  Moreover, this review did not touch on all the rich typological insights.  Those insights, if studied carefully, will richly repay one’s study.

Herman Bavinck: God and Creation

As Bavinck in many places is summarizing traditional Reformed teaching, this book is exactly what you would expect on Reformed dogmatics. However, no one ever does theology in a purely Platonic vacuum. Bavinck is within a certain milieu of Western intellectual thought. He knows that and wrestles with it. His result, at least in this volume, is a budding Neo-Calvinist take on the doctrine of God, and more particularly the doctrine of Creation.

God

Some highlights:

* “All doctrines treated in dogmatics….are but the explication of the one central dogma of the knowledge of God” (Bavinck 29).

* Main point: we have no exhaustive knowledge of God (36). He is apprehended but not comprehended (47).

Bavinck does move the discussion forward on the doctrine of simplicity. He holds to the Augustinian line, yet realizes that we can’t make “simplicity” some sort of metaphysical “ = “ sign.

God’s attributes and being: “one cannot make any real distinction between his being and his attributes” (118). So how does one distinguish the attributes? The names of God differ in thought (125). The attributes of God, though identical, are not interchangeable because his names aren’t interchangeable. This is an important move forward and in it Bavinck avoids the fall into nominalism that would have otherwise happened.

“Simplicity does not describe God as an abstract being….it speaks of him s the absolute fullness of life” (127). This, too, is good. Sometimes doctrines of simplicity, like in some Neo-Thomist accounts, appear to posit a god not unlike a solar disc. He’s there, to be sure, but there isn’t much special about him.

I particularly enjoyed the sections on heaven and creation. Angels: they are animate, personal beings (451). Bavinck breaks with Calvin and sees the Prince of Persia as the guardian spirit of Persia (467), and this makes sense as Michael wouldn’t have been detained with wrestling with a local human ruler in the heavenly places.

Recreation in Christ is founded on the original creation in God’s image (532). Sin does not take away the substance of things nor does grace restore that substance (574).

Bavinck sees Rome as teaching creation of man in a dual sense: pure nature + donum superadditum (541). Bavinck says this is an error of Neo-Platonism which needs an intermediate state between matter and spirit. For the Reformers “original righteousness [was] inseparable from the idea of man as such” (551).

Bavinck affirms but does not explicate the idea of covenant of works (571). That’s for the next volume. Its importance here is that it anchors the idea that Adam had not yet achieved final blessedness.

Conclusion: so the image of God is not a static entity but extends and unfolds itself in the forms of space and time. It is both a gift and a mandate….Only humanity in its entirety–as one complete organism, summed up under a single head, spread out over the whole earth, as prophet proclaiming the truth of God, as priest dedicating itself to God, as ruler controlling the earth and the whole of creation–only it is the fully finished image, the most telling and striking likeness of God” (577).

Definitely a milestone book, but there are a few hang ups. It’s particularly difficult on a first reading because Bavinck is summarizing much of the harder sections of Western idealism. Once you are past that it repays multiple readings.

John Walton: Lost World of Genesis

Transferring from my old blog. I plan to finish Walton’s commentary on Genesis today, and I want this review on this blog for when I write the other review.

Image result for lost world of genesis 1

Like the other “Lost World” books, this is written in proposition format, which makes the arguments easy to follow.  Walton is very clear, even on points where I disagree. There are some flaws in this work, but it is a valuable text.

Proposition 1: Genesis 1 is Ancient Cosmology

This shouldn’t be a controversial claim.  The earth might be 6,000 years old, but there isn’t any underlying science that matches with Genesis 1.  Ancient man wouldn’t have been as interested in Answers in Genesis as he would have in the following questions (19):

* How does God interact with the world?
* Is there such a thing as a natural world?

* Is the cosmos best seen as a machine, a set of material objects, a kingdom, a company?

Proposition 2: Ancient Cosmology is Function Oriented

What does it mean to exist?  A company’s existence is different from a chair’s (23). Walton contrasts a “material ontology” (e.g.,what constitutes a physical chair) with a “functional ontology” (e.g., what makes a business a business)?  There is something to this, to be sure.

Walton says we have focused too much on the material ontology of creation and not its functional ontology (25).  For the ancient man something exists “by virtue of its having a function in an ordered system” (26). Of course, Walton is quick to point out that ancient man would have seen the material constituents of an object (or a universe).

Proposition 3: Create concerns functions

He argues that bara means to assign functions, rather than material constituents.  He then lists about forty usages in the OT where most of the time it is giving a function to something (41).

Proposition 4: The beginning state in Genesis 1 is Nonfunctional

There is some payoff to his claim: if we read Gen. 1:1ff, we aren’t exactly dealing with a mathematical nothingness prior to the Big Bang singularity.  The tohu is simply an unproductive void, rather than a zero-state void (48).  Walton then lists 20 occurences where Tohu means unproductive, rather than non-existent.

Propositions 5: Days 1 to 3 in Genesis 1 Establish Functions

God calls the light “day” instead of just “light.”  Why? Because he is giving a function to it. Further, reading the text functionally allows us to solve a potential problem in Day 2: the sky isn’t really solid (56).  Rather, God is showing us that by a “firmament” in the sky, he is able to order the cosmic geography and keep the “cosmic waters,” always connoting danger, at bay. The firmament establishes cosmic order (57).

Isn’t it strange that God doesn’t actually make anything on Day 3? He does assign functions, however.  Walton: “On Day 1 God created the basis for time; day two the basis for weather; and day three the basis for food” (59).

Days 4 to 6 in Genesis 1 Install Functionaries

Reading the text this way solves the problem of why God created light before he created the sun.  Here is where Walton’s “functional” argument is the strongest: the very point for why God created the sun/stars was to serve as signs for humans.

Proposition 7: Divine Rest is in a Temple

Walton’s functionalism fits very well with the Sabbath.  He notes, “In the ancient world rest is what results when a crisis has been resolved or when stablitiy has been achieved” (73).  This makes sense. When the Bible says “King so-and-so had rest,” it didn’t mean no one in the kingdom did anything; only that he had peace and normal operations were able to function.

God’s resting place is his temple (Ps. 132:7-8; 13-14).

Proposition 8: The Cosmos is a Temple

Standard GK Beale stuff.

Proposition 9: The Seven Days of Genesis 1 Relate to the Cosmic Temple Inauguration

Proposition 10: The Seven Days do not concern material origins

This propositions summarizes the first half of the book.  The argument follows:

  1. a) Bara is functional.
  2. b) the context is functional (Gen. 1:2 starts with a nonfunctional world)
  3. c) the cultural context is functional.
  4. d) the theology is functional (cosmic Temple)
  5. e) of the seven days, three have no statement of creation of any material component (1, 3, and 7).
  6. f) Day 2 could be material, but then we are left believing in a material firmament in the sky.
  7. g) Days 4 and 6 have material components, but they are dealt with only on the functional level.

Criticisms

  1. He overloads the evidence favoring theistic evolution.  He never engages in analysis with the strongest analysis from Intelligent Design theorists.
  1. He never notes the contrast that when ancient paganism saw creation as giving a function to an already existing object, and not creating ex nihilo, it is because in paganism (like today’s Neo-Atheism), matter is eternal and only needs some Demiurge (like the god of Freemasonry) to form it.
  1. He criticizes Intelligent Design for being “God of the gaps.”  Precisely what, then, is theistic evolution? Find a gap in the fossil record?  No problem. God providentially furthered evolution along. Anyway, guys like Stephen Meyer aren’t saying, “Must be a God after all.”  What they are saying is that information, especially complex information, points to an Intelligence.
  1. He rebuts Behe’s argument of “irreducible complexity” by noting the eye’s structural blind spot.  Stephen C. Meyer, however, blows that out of the water: ““There’s an important physiological reason as to why the retina has to be inverted in the eye,” he said. “Within the overall design of the system, it’s a tradeoff that allows the eye to process the vast amount of oxygen it needs in vertebrates. Yes, this creates a slight blind spot, but that’s not a problem because people have two eyes and the two blind spots don’t overlap. Actually,the eye is an incredible design” (quoted in Strobel, Case for a Creator, 87).
  1. His stuff on naturalism isn’t wrong per se, and there is a difference between methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism, but he often ends up just using the term naturalism.  He is also rather naive on the courts’ past rulings. Yes, it is true that science pretends not to make any judgment on God, but that is precisely what science then makes statements on what God does and doesn’t do in the physical realm.

5a. Further, Walton isn’t clear on what recent rulings constitute valid science: anything falsifiable, empirical, and validated by the scientific method.  Yet Walton never mentions this nor mentions the huge defeaters to this line of thinking: e.g., evolution isn’t testable by the scientific method, sometimes models for science determine the evidence, sometimes the evidence the models.

  1. Walton is to be commended for rejecting Neo-Darwinism, but guess which model controls the system right now?  That’s right, N-D. N-D posits, to use Dawkins’ euphonic phrase, a “Blind Watchmaker.” If Walton’s interesting reading is to gain any credence, he must break the back of N-D.

Abraham Kuyper: A Personal Introduction (review)

As far as introductions to neo-Calvinism go, this is the most lucid. Prof Mouw goes beyond the standard “take every square inch” models of Neo-Calvinism and asks us to reflect on what it means to be created for many-ness.

mouw

His chapter on “Filling the Earth” is standard Kuyperian treatment, so I won’t spend much time on it here. His chapter “Celebrating Many-ness” was pure gold. Contrary to state-church claims, the church of Christ doesn’t depend on only one form and that being manifested in a national church. Indeed, we should celebrate a “multiplicity of institutions” (16). Pluriformity means “created complexity” (17). We have to be careful, though. Affirming many-ness without insisting on an integrated whole leads only to the nihilistic void of postmodernism.

This reminds the reader of James KA Smith’s suggestion that in Genesis 1-2 God “creates in plurals.”  This contrasts very nicely with the Greek chain-of-being concept where any movement away from the one is always a diminution from goodness.

Sphere Sovereignty

So what counts as a “creational sphere”? Mouw notes Kuyper wasn’t always clear. In fact, what is a sphere? Let’s call them structures where “interactions take place” and “authority is exercised” (23). Each structure has a “point” and to that point corresponds an authority-pattern (24).

Per Kuyper, Christians must form collective entities within each “sphere.” The many-ness of mediating structures, per Peter Bellah, protects from both individualism and statism. It strengthens social bonds.

The part I particularly enjoyed was the section on neo-Kuyperianism and the Holy Spirit. As a continuationist and a Kuyperian, I’ve often sensed that the two streams could merge quite fruitfully, yet I haven’t really seen how it is to be done. Mouw’s (or Kuyper’s) suggestions were interesting. The Holy Spirit is to prepare creation for God’s glorious future (88-89).

Politics

Indeed, we need a crowded, public square. Not a naked one. A pluralism under secularization but not secularism (110, Mouw quoting James Bratt). Mouw correctly notes how the term “Constantinian” has been so over-used to be useless (113). Kuyper is not a Constantinian (whatever that word means).

Reflections

I am not sure how Kuyper’s correct insights on the antithesis give him any grounds on thinking a secular government will protect the “spheres.” I agree with Kuyper that we should have a “crowded public square,” and perhaps this “crowd” will make it difficult for the government to take away our liberties. Perhaps.

All in all, an outstanding work.

Outline of Resurrection Moral Order

Labour of love a long time in the making.

O’Donovan, Oliver.  Resurrection and Moral Order: An Outline for Evangelical Ethics.  Eerdmans, [reprint 1994].

                                                                                                                                  Prologue

Easter Principle

In Christ’s resurrection creation is restored and fulfilment promised; ethics had a foundation (xv).

Difference with Hauerwas:  OO begins ethics with the Christ-event and resurrection; hauerwas with the practices of the Church.

Ethics and final redemption:  Jesus sits at God’s right hand and gives the spirit as a guarantee.  We can be confident about reconciliation because of Christ’s work on the cross.

Sub-thesis: “Love is the principle that confers unifying order both upon the moral field and the character of the moral subject” (226).

The Gospel and Christian Ethics

Resurrection and Creation

“The raising of Christ is representative, not in the way a symbol is representative, expressing a reality what has independent and prior standing, but in the way that a national leader is representative when he brings about for the whole of his people, whatever it is, war or peace, that he effects on their behalf.” (15)

Kingdom ethics/creation ethics:  no dichotomy.   God ushers in the kingdom in the raising of Jesus, which also reaffirms creation.

Natural Ethic

There is an objective reference to the God-made order.

The Spirit and Christian Freedom

The resurrection focuses our participation forward.  It allows me to respond as a moral agent to God’s order (23).   The gift of subjective freedom must be an aspect of our being-in-Christ. The coming of Christ throws off the law as pedagaigos. It makes us adults in God’s order.

OBJECTIVE REALITY

Created Order

creation:  the order and coherence in which the world is composed (31).  It generates an ethical terminology:

  • end–A is ordered to serve B;
  • Creation’s being for Christ is related to being in Christ
  • kind: creates which have generic equivalence in Christ can be ordered to one another teleologically (here O’Donovan avoids the scale of being, but allows at the same time that man is probably more important than rocks).
  • Here OO (34-36) tries to navigate the problems of how creation’s subordinate ends are ordered to each other (per Hegel, Hume, etc).

St Basil’s Two Kinds of Order:  natural and deliberative (37ff).  

The attack upon kinds: the freedom of God

We must not assume a uniform pattern of God’s activity in all ages, for example before and after the coming of Christ (42ff).  

The attack upon ends: the polarity of will and nature

reality without “kinds” is nominalism.  Reality without ends is voluntarism.  Abstracting man from teleological concerns opens the danger to a mechanization of man (52).

ESCHATOLOGY AND HISTORY

Created order cannot be itself while it lacks the Christ-redeemed rule of man that was intended to it (55).  Eschatology answers the question of what creation’s temporal extensions mean.  The ascension is an unfolding of the significance of the resurrection (57).  This means Christian ethics looks both backwards and forwards.  

Natural Ends and History

historicism:  all teleology is time-bound, historical teleology.  It implies that the fulfillment of history is generated from within history (64). The Reformers’ insistence on sola fide/gratia cut this move off at the pass.  “Grace alone” means God is at work from the outside.   

  • Platonic form: per Pannenberg it incorporates not only the Parmenidean arche, but the Socratic arete.   The notion of the good contains an element of futurity.  
  • criticism:  when history is made the categorical matrix for understanding reality, then it can no longer be history.  For a story to be a story, it has to be a story about something (and not just a story about the idea of story).
  • The patristic response:  if creation is extended infinitely in time, then it has infinite possibilities.   By speaking of creation ex nihilo, as finite, they could say the possibilities in history were defined in terms of creation’s being God’s gift (63).  

Historicist Ethics

strong tendency to manipulate and intervene.  Nature does not have meaning from some transhistorical given, but arises from within history by natural forces.  

Western political theology was able to keep a distance from historicist conclusions (for a while, anyway).  It starts from the assertion that the kingdoms of this world are not yet the kingdoms of the Christ, since they do not reflect his judgments.  This allows the believer, who is absolutely subject to Christ, to be relatively subject to earthly powers.  This relative subjectivity opens a “space” between the believer and the powers.  Further, since politics does not have to reconcile the world, it can get along with its own God-ordained business (72).  

If there is no locus of value outside of history, then history will supply its own.  In this case the kingdom of God becomes a form without content.  

KNOWLEDGE IN CHRIST

Knowledge has subjective/objective aspects.  

  • knowledge of things in their relation to the totality of things (77).  Grasping the shape of the whole.
  • The NT contrasts faith/sight, not faith/reason.  
  • subjective aspect: the more encompassing an object is, the harder it is to transcend it and remain neutral.  
  • universals:  our conception of “kinds” (genera) is always open to new particulars. However, the knowledge of the created order from within avoids the empiricist’s dilemma opposed to a knowledge of universals from above.  
  • knowledge is a human way of participating in the created order (81).  
  • knowledge is therefore tied to man’s faithful performance of a task.
  • In summary, knowledge is a knowledge-of-things from within the created order and is vindicated by the resurrection of Christ, who vindicates the created order and gives it back.  Knowledge is a knowledge hidden in Christ.  

Exclusive Knowledge

This knowledge of things in Christ is not of an ethereal Logos, but a particular human.  It is a particular knowledge of the whole order of things created and transformed (85).  

  • Natural Law: how to avoid the ambiguity which attributes universality, not only to knowledge, but to being.  First principles, for Thomas, are self-evident (ST II.I.94.2)
  • It is moral knowledge of the natural order co-ordinated with obedience (87).  It is known by participation, not transcendence.  

Moral Learning

Moral understanding is a grasp of the whole shape of things (90).   Moral learning is all the time “thinking,” the intellectual exploration of a reality (92).

Conflict and Compromise

THE SUBJECTIVE REALITY

Freedom and Reality

Goal of chapter: to show that the redeemed creation does not merely confront us as moral agents, but enables us to participate in it (101).

  1. The Spirit makes the reality of redemption present to us (102)
    1. Any doctrine of the Spirit must first be a doctrine of the Spirit in Christ if it is to avoid the problem of Montanism.  
    2. The Spirit makes the reality of redemption authoritative to us.
  2. The Holy Spirit in John 16:8-11 (105); each of these three moments of judgment is included in the one act of God’s redeeming and fulfilling creation.
    1. crucifixion: the world’s judgment on Christ
    2. resurrection/ascension: The Father’s judgment on Christ
    3. Parousia: Christ’s judgment on the ruler of the world.
  3. The Spirit evokes our free response.
    1. he restores us as moral agents, as the subjects of our actions (106).
    2. freedom is the character of one who participates in the order of creation by knowledge and action (107).  
    3. Freedom is potency, not possibility.This rejects existentialism’s “absence of limits” and libertarianism’s “infinite possibilities.”
    4. Freedom is teleological (Gal. 5.13).
    5. The Holy Spirit restores our access to reality (112).

Alienation and Conversion

  1. Augustine: knowing and willing must be entirely proportionate and coextensive.  The corrupted mind knows something without loving it, or without loving it proportionately (110).  It does not know it in order to justify its love (De Trin. Book 9). The mind in perfect possession of truth loves and wills–reason and will are one.  
  2. The problem of the relationship between reason and will: springs from a disjunction between hearing and doing
  3. Repentance cannot simply realign our will to its continuity with the past.  Something must break that continuity.

Conscience and Autonomy

  1. Guilt: a dividedness of the will with itself.
  2. Conscience:
    1. Thomas Aquinas:  it is bad for the will to be at variance with reason. If you have a mistaken conscience, anything your will does will be sin. Thomas’s larger point, even if we don’t like how he got there, is to caution against an autonomous conscience.
    2. Later 18th century moralists set up conscience as an arbitrary tyrant.

Authority

authority:  something, which by virtue of its kind, constitutes an immediate ground for acting (122).

Christian neo-Platonism: every movement of the human soul is inspired by God; mediated through a diversity of created objects

Natural Authority and the Authority of Truth (cf Ways of Judgment, pp. 131-132).

Political Authority

concurrence of natural authorities of might and tradition (128).  Political authority searches for a compromise while bearing full witness to the truth.

Divine Authority

“What is the relation of the divine command to the created order” (132)?

  • theological rationalism: God speaks through the order reason perceives.  Ps. 104:5; emphasizes the security of the created order.  Emphasizes ontological continuity, tends towards neo-Platonism.
  • theological voluntarism:  God’s command cuts across the rational order.  These psalms emphasize destability (Ps 97.5).  Tended toward immediate contingency of morality upon the revealed will of God.  

Deontic and Teleological Language

Deontic: morality is a matter of command and obedience.  The moral claim is encountered apart from any consideration of the subject’s wish or fulfillment.  

The Authority of Christ

The spirit bears witness to the Resurrected Christ’s authority.  Spontainety and tradition are dual aspects of the same error: failure to critically evaluate the Spirits.  What is tradition but spontaneity in slow motion?  They are not necessarily wrong; just not self-evident.  

The authority of God is located in the public realm (Resurrection).  Moral authority is the authority of the renewed created order where ends and kinds participate.  

Evangelical Authority

*  “When the apostle contrasted law and gospel, he was pointing to the dialectical tension in Israel’s history between the experience of God through promise and the experience of God through command” (151).

  • to experience moral command as “law” is to encounter as from a point in the history of salvation in which God has not yet given the total blessing to his people.
  • “mediated through angels” = the created authority of the community.

Jesus’s authority

  • It is “evangelical” because the moral order he proclaims is the Kingdom of God.
  • Abba prayer:  disciples are invited to share Jesus’s relationship with his father.
  • criticism of externalized morality and religion

Law is command through reciprocal bargain.

Historical Authority

The coming of Christ is the word that re-shapes the events of history (and their teloi).

The Freedom of the Church and the Believer

thesis:  Christ evokes the freedom of the Kingdom of God within us (163).  

  • however, our humanity is destined for the shared life of a city.

The difficulty in classical ethics:

  1. The call of the good, per Plato, meant a solitary and tragic opposition to society.
  2. Aristotle saw that human good always presupposed a social context.
  3. Augustine tries to solve this in City of God: eschatological transcends the tensions between individual and society.

The church isn’t simply a community that speaks to mankind, but is the community that is spoken to.

The Roman view of command and counsel:

  1. it suggested (contra Lk 17:7ff) that God’s demand was limited and less than the total claim of the Good (170).
  2. dangerous wedge between divine command and ultimate realities of good.
  3. Metaphysical ethics must be unitary.  If an act is obligatory, it is so by virtue of its relation to the good, and by virtue of that same relation the performance of it is free.
  4. Therefore, this distinction destroys the very ideas of both freedom and obligation.

Part Three: The Form of the Moral Life

The Moral Field

The form of the moral life is love, the bond of perfection (Col. 3:14).  This section deals with what St Paul calls “The fruit of the Spirit” (182).  

Thesis: The gospel tells us of agents rendered free before the reality of a redeemed universe.  The form their agency assumes will correspond both to the intelligible order which they confront and the freedom in which they act (183).

  • their moral life will be an ordered moral field of action (i.e., human acts)
  • moral ordered subject of action (I.e., human character)

An ordered moral field

Different options

  • to see the moral life as human acts is to see it broken down into a series of discrete and distinct events of human agency, a plurality of responses to the world rather than a single response (183).
  • Fletcher and situation ethics: no matter how problematic Fletcher’s proposal is, it did show the true colors of historicism.  Historicism needs a transhistorical mediation and Fletcher tries to show that doesn’t work.
  • anticipation: divorced from Christian reflection, this is a consequentialist ethic.
    • evaluate acts solely by the consequences they produce
  • Wisdom ethic: “the perception that every novelty, in its own way, manifests the permanence and stability of the created order, so that, however astonishing and undreamt it may be, it is not uttlery incommensurate with what has gone before” (189).
    • Wisdom’s re-presentation as law: declares the central point of Israel’s faith as the meeting of life-in-the-world with life-before-God.

 

indirect voluntary acts: similar to foresight.

direct voluntary acts: intention

the above distinction  advises us that there is a difference between directly intending  an evil effect of one’s action and merely foreesing that it will follow; b) that one may foresee an evil effect of one’s action without desiring it, and c) that one may licitly act in such a way as will foreseeably produce an evil effect (192).

This should be reframed, O’Donovan suggests: it originally arose as a way to understand the differences beween murder and other kinds of killing.  It cannot be used as an ‘analytic a priori” (194).

 

Aquinas’s approach: good and evil in human acts in general

  1. act-as-such
  2. object
  3. circumstance
  4. morality

This demands insight into the craeted order

 

The Moral Subject

Thesis: “Human morality is a series of disclosures in which reality (the heart) forces itself into the realm of appearances (deeds and words) and declares itself, tearing apart the veil of pretense” (206).

 

The Epistemological Priority of Act

  1. The character is known through the acts.
  2. Knowledge of an agent’s character contributes to evaluative moral thought, not deliberative.

The Plurality and Unity of the Virtues

Aristotle: all activities strive for some perceived good, happiness (eudaimion). What is the unifying virtue?  Love.  “True virtue is love for God” (223). The four cardinal virtues are manifestations of this love in typical social relations.

The Double Aspect of the Moral Life

Main point, glossing love your God/neighbor: the love by which we love reality must be twofold in the same way that the reality which we love is twofold: the secondary object derives from the primary object (227).

  • We are to love the neighbor because the neighbor is ordered to the love of God.
  • Yet, love of the neighbor is love of something that is not God (it is also affirming the genuine otherness of creation).

The Ordering of Love

The love to God is not merely one claim among many, but the claim that orders other claims.

Two loves: love to God and love to neighbor

  1. The relation of the two loves is an ordering of means to ends.
    1. Augustine’s “use” and “enjoyment.”
    2. “Res”
      1. Proper objects of “use” (utenda) and proper objects of enjoyment (fruenda)
      2. But Augustine’s reading seems to say that we “use” our neighbor, and O’Donovan rejects this proposal. 235
  2. What is a “person?”
    1. Originally classical Christian thought said that “individuality” resided in reason (nous) or soul (psyche).  When applied to Christ, this was disastrous (238). This either made him two individuals or one individual without a whole range of human attributes.
    2. The solution was to draw a sharp divide between person (hypostasis, individual existence) and nature (a set of attributes).
    3. Modern Kantianism and Hegelianism, in reducing person to “will” and self-consciousness is actually a reversion back to pre-Christian categories.

The End of the Moral Life

The Christian moral life looks to the divine disclosure of God-in-Christ through the Spirit.

Love and its Reward

The idea of reward must always be clarified by something like ipse praemium.  God himself is the gift.  The present hiddenness of God’s new creation demands the public manifestation of the Son of Man in the cosmos.

Love demands that the good be actualized.

Kant downplayed the object of affections/desires/etc in favor of an inner disposition (251).

Various Terminology:

created order: “the structure of the world in its objectivity…its authority to evoke our action” (191).

moral field: “the world as it presents itself to us at any one moment as the context and occasion of our next action.”

Wisdom: “knowledge of the created order.”

casuistry: application of the moral law to action in particular cases.

historicism: the history of an idea is its reality (34). The problem is that the end of a thing is no longer a given ordering-to, which allows free response, but merely historical necessity.

universal in Christ:  his particularity belongs to his divine nature, universal to his human nature (143).  A universe of meaning