Creation Beliefs

Christianity represents a great diversity of belief.  With more than 30,000 denominations worldwide, Christian beliefs diverge on literal versus allegorical biblical interpretations of creation, the virgin birth, and physical resurrection.  Even within denominations beliefs diverge vehemently on what kind of love is considered sinful and who is fit to serve the body of believers.  One point of divergence hotly debated on the political stage (as it impacts public education) and targeted by atheist commentators is belief about God’s role in the creation of the universe.  If I assent to God’s existence and his presence at creation, I might naturally wonder about his role in creation and what that says about the nature of God.  Here are three possible beliefs and their implications for relating to God. 

If I believe biblical creation stories are historical accounts rather than allegories and I believe God created a fossil record that appears to be millions of years older than it actually is, then I believe God is tricky.  He gave me the gift of reason, but I can’t always use it to perceive truth.  Sometimes I am supposed to use reason and evidence, and sometimes I am supposed to reject reason and evidence.  That’s particularly problematic when it comes to discerning God’s will for me individually.  How will I sniff out a cozening charismatic who asserts something is God’s will despite what my intellectual, emotional or physical sense tells me if I cannot rely on the evidence?  Hearing God requires a special kind of listening.  It will be much harder to perceive God’s movement in my life if I believe evidence can’t be trusted.  

If I believe God created space, time, energy and the laws of physics and then let the dice roll without any involvement or interaction subsequent to the initial point of creation, I might understand the nature of God to be remote.  I might consider humanity one great big experiment.  Any special talents unique to me are not so much God-given gifts entrusted to me out of love as they are a lucky roll of the dice.  It detracts from gratitude.  There’s no one to thank for a lucky break and there’s no one to ask for help.  It discourages philanthropy, suggesting no obligation to fellow man or stewardship for blessings.  If I feel anonymous to God, I won’t relate to him in an individual and intimate way. 

If I believe God’s purpose in creation was to be in relationship, then I believe God gets involved in my life in a personal and intimate way.  Do I believe God is fully present, standing with me and in me at all times?  Or do I believe God drops in on an intervention basis only?  

What do creation beliefs have to do with healing or spiritual growth?  They inform my understanding of the nature of God and how I relate to him.  Will I give God all I have and ask him to do the miracle of making it enough?  Or will I go it alone with self-help?

Join the conversation.  Toss in your ideas about the origin of the universe.

Copyright 2011 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved.  Visit www.acrosstraditions.com

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6 thoughts on “Creation Beliefs

  1. Creation, Immanence and Transcendence.

    Sometimes people get befuddled, and passionately so, when they are trying to figure out God’s relationship to the world and to us. Ideas about creation are one instance of this. At the root of the mystery is the question about whether God is immanent, acting directly in the phenomenal world, or transcendent, existing apart from everything that is active and material.

    Our own direct personal experience can help in resolving this apparent either/or conundrum. The resolution comes as we discover that the question itself has lured us into the trap of thinking in either/or terms. The phenomenal world is not so separate from the transcendent as the question implies. The phenomenal world is the bursting forth of the transcendent. The infinite fullness of the transcendent awakens into activity by the impulse to know itself. The celebration that Being is infinitely alive, aware, and overflowing with bliss is what we perceive as the forces and laws of nature.

    We are active beings. We are busy creatures. Even when we close down our senses and our activities, we are busy, busy in the virtual universe of our thoughts and feelings. When we learn how to allow awareness to settle down to the state of least excitation, we discover that consciousness itself, consciousness without any contents at all, is the ultimate ground state of Being. That is the transcendent.

    Physics, the discipline most single minded in working to describe the phenomenal world, now tells us that our experience of distinct bits of matter and energy is the illusion caused by a too narrow range of focus. The “bits” we observe are real enough, but they’re really just the crests of wave functions occurring in boundless infinite virtual quantum fields.

    As a child I was told that Man is created in the likeness of God. If that is so, it must be mistaken to think God is lacking in any of the qualities I have. It must be that God is both active and silent, both immanent and transcendent.

    The phenomenal world is God along with the transcendent. We experience the phenomenal world as ever changing, growing, evolving, but we also have direct access to the transcendent, eternal, infinite lively bliss and intelligence from which phenomena spring.

  2. So beautifully said, Allen. By chance do you have exposure to Jewish theology? Your word choices–immanent and transcendent–are exactly how Jewish theology describes God. But I like your words–active and silent–even better than the words Jews use to convey the same idea. It’s in my next post, so you’ll have to comment again in a few days! I especially appreciate your thought linking to physics, and that is not in my next post. The more sophisticated we get–in physics and in faith–the less black-and-white, either-or reality presents itself to be.
    Thank you.
    S

  3. I guess this is a tangential thought in the creation discussion. If God trully “created” our beautiful and wonderful natural world (in whatever process or timeframe you believe). Would God be disturbed or angered to see what we as humans are doing to it? Some of us feel we have the blessing of God and right to live in this distructive way. Are we part of the natural process or outside of it? We can choose and control how we interact with nature. Most other animals and plants cannot. Do we think of ourselves as having been created in God’s image to justify our “right” to manipulate nature, rather than live in harmony with it like the animals. The birth of science and the industrial revolution seems to have given us the means to exploit and potentially damage our enviroment.

    Sorry for the random “environmental” ramble.

  4. Not random, Robbie! Thanks for joining the conversation, and you raise really good questions to ponder. I weigh in on the evolution side, meaning I conceptualize God to have inspired physical existence and to have set it in motion without feeling a need to control the outcome. Said another way, I understand God to be delighted to see how the world is evolving vs. having designed it to be a specific way. Great things evolved (waterfalls, majestic vistas, coral reefs). Not so great things evolved (cleft palets, cancer, earthquakes). Same with creatures–they do great things; they do terrible things.

    I am lingering over your comment about animals making choices. I’m one issue behind on my Natn’l Geo, so I was reading the Cleopatra one last night. It has a really great article on polar bears, and disturbingly, pictured a male eating a cub. Satisfying hunger=survival instinct. Protecting young=survival instinct. Further, many species kill to establish/maintain social dominance. Feel like this is leading to instinct vs. consciousness. What are your thoughts?

  5. I think of creation a little differently than Rob and Stephanie do. I don’t think of creation so much as designed by God as being God. Creation is God experienced in terms of matter and energy. In that sense the laws of nature, the laws of physics, the laws of biology and of living systems are all just different expressions of the structure, the intelligence, of the universe, the intelligence of God.

    We don’t have to wonder long about how the intelligence of the universe judges our actions related to the ecology. When we act in harmony with the laws of nature we feel the harmonious and uplifting response of nature. When we act in foolish and irresponsible ways, when we behave in a way that is discordant with the laws of nature, we feel discomfort.
    I guess the main point is, God isn’t an agent separate from us or from creation. We are, and all of creation is, God manifesting in diverse forms.

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