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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Against God

From Before Darwin:237

...since time immemorial, the most obvious argument against God's existence and source of doubt about his unique and universal goodness has been the manifest imperfection of nature, and especially the misery of a great deal of existence that tells of nothing but a bleak purposelessness. As Darwin wrote: 'it revolts our understanding to suppose that [God's] benevolence is not unbounded, for what advantage can there be in the sufferings of millions of the lower animals throughout almost endless time?'

This is from the chapter that deals with evil, goodness, and natural theology. Both the author and the natural theologians he studies are oblivious to the problem of the fall and its central position in Christianity.

Did I write 'problem'? Rather, the fall is the great rend in creation, it is the obliteration, the undoing, of the very-goodness declared by God, and rejection of relationship with God; it is man ejecting God from his life and world. If our theology of God is deficient because of a failed hermeneutic of creation (and I suspect it is in neo-evangelical circles), then our understanding of the fall and the radical besmirching of life with death that came in its train is also inadequate.

Oddly, I don't think that atheism or its materialist cousin has a helpful position on this.

What contemporary 'natural theology' is doing, (and Thomson touches on this, albeit without really understanding it, in my estimation) is to go behind the results of the fall and look at the structure of life and earth history, reading it in the knowledge of history in the Bible, but also seeing, on its own terms, its dependence. Materailism claims that life has its life in itself, finally, but it is not evident! Ironically, materialism now relies upon a certain extended 'vitalism' to explain life, the very thing for which it criticises pre-modern biology!

I met some clients of my employer recently who are profoundly disabled. It was heartbreaking to think of the frustration and bitterness of their experience, and of their parents. The materialist can offer them only dust and blank-faced emptiness in the despair of their position; our Creator God offers new life; restoration to the 'very good' and acknowledgement in Christ that all is not just not well, with the creation but that it is broken; yet his grace shines through to the re-creation.