Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Shameless Foundations: Part 1-The Beginning

I was planning on holding off starting this series until I had finished the "Running From A Shameful Gospel" series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.  I had my strategy planned out to get the list of criticisms all out before I started the constructive work that I am starting here. The problem is that it is really difficult for me to critically analyze something that I have left behind. At some point I will go back and finish that series. But, after I published my last post I realized that I had better get some constructive "This is what I believe and these are the foundations, see I am not quite the sort of dangerous raving heretic you are starting to think I am" sort of material up here in an attempt to not completely alienate conscientious Christians.

This is what is going on in the world.

God chose to make this world in the way that he decided to make this world. He made this world rather than some other world, which he could very well have done. In fact, he my very well have done so but that is not particularly relevant to us because this, in fact, is the world that he put us in. He may very well have put creatures very like us in other worlds but neither is that relevant because, again, we are, in fact, here. This is important to remember this lest we decide to turn God into a set of principles and derive an ideology from our interpretation of those principles. This world derives from the contingency of God's decision making and not from some set of supposedly absolute principles. God can do whatever God wants to do for whatever reasons God wants to do it. Who are we to tell him otherwise?

So, God decided to make this world. He then got down to it however he got down to it. Whether he did it fast or slow or a little here a little there it doesn't really matter. I have no intention of embroiling myself in the ideologically prejudiced (on both sides) street fights (picturing "Anchor Man") as to how the universe came into being. At a deep epistemological level we can't really prove anything and even if someone happened to "get the right answer" there is no way we could be sure that it was in fact right. Human knowledge is limited not only in the amount of stuff we can know but in the surety we can actually have of the accuracy of that knowledge. So stand back and let me work what I got.

The point of the creation story(s) in scripture is not to give a modern textbook blow-by-blow of what actually happened. The people who wrote them and read them didn't care about that. The writers cared about God's relationship to this world and mankind's place in it. Now, telling a story talking about that in terms of the original formation of everything seems to me like a pretty crunchy thing to do. They wrote it, we didn't, who are we to complain. So what do they say?

God's creative movement in this world constitutes pushing back, even subverting the "formless and void." Actually a better modern translation of this would be "useless and chaotic." Now these adjectives describe the initial state of the cosmic "all of this." The picture is like God started by just kinda throwing a lump of stuff out there and it is a big mess which he then begins to form. Right off there is the clear impression the the Spirit or Breath has a very important function in policing the useless chaos (the "deep" was a particularly potent image of the power of that useless chaos the power of meaningless futility.) So God progressively orders the world bit by bit and then humans happen....

Part 2 
Part 3 
Part 4

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