I recently read In the Beginning God: Modern Science and the Christian Doctrine of Creation by John Weaver. The title pretty much explains the thrust of the book. He presents a sort of synthesis of scientific ideas of origins and the Christian idea of origins. When speaking of the Christian tradition, he says,
“The relation between creator and creation is characterized by both distance (allowing freedom) and closeness (God’s attentiveness). There is a ‘letting be’ rather than a ‘must be’” (32). And then, “The fact that the first page of the Bible speaks of heaven, earth, sun, moon, stars, plants, trees, birds, fish, and land animals is a sign that God is concerned with these as well as humans” (33).

Then Weaver discusses humanity’s responsibility in dealing with the earth as God’s creation:
“For human beings to ‘have dominion’ over nature is a challenge to human beings to act with God, imitating his loving kindness and faithfulness with the whole of creation” (124). And then he asks, “To whom does the earth belong? ‘The earth is the LORD’s’, and God has given it to us. But it is a leasehold – to rule on God’s behalf. Our unique relation with God leads to our ability to think, choose, create, love, pray, and exercise control. Research, discovery, and invention in biology, chemistry, physics, and other spheres, and in all the triumphs of technology, are part of our God-given role. We co-operate with the processes of nature, we do not create them. God has entrusted us – we are caretakers, not landowners. The Year of Jubilee teaches us that we do not hold the freehold rights. Goods are meant for everyone; they are to be shared” (125).

This view of humanity’s role comes with certain ethical implications:
“Justice means that Christians should work to get people out of poverty. Meeting their needs once is not justice. IN addition, land should not be owned by corporations, but should belong to the people” (126). Then he remarks, “As we noted earlier, Gustavo Guitierrez challenges the church to recover the biblical call to give all people the dignity which is achieved through the climination of exploitation and poverty, which prevent the poor from being fully human. Jesus said, ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’” (127).

For Weaver, the idea of God as creator gives rise to a Christian pursuit of righteousness in terms of land-resources and poverty. He says:
“The uneven distribution, control, and use of natural resources are serious justice issues; and the rapid depletion of non-renewable natural resources raises the questions of our responsibility to future generations. Poverty is a source of ecological destruction, but ‘unless the poor have alternative sources of food and basic needs like fuel, they too will wantonly destroy whatever natural environment is around them’” (129).

One other interesting point that Weaver makes has to do with the apparent discrepancy with viewing God as the creator of a good creation, and the reality of natural disasters that harm human beings. He says:
It is not fair to blame God for destructive disasters, and question his goodness, when we have the ability to change the circumstances. It is also a moral question for humanity. “We come face to face with God who, in his self-limiting love gives freedom of choice to his creation, and who himself lives with the consequences of such an action.” 118
Rather than question God, Weaver prefers that we question our own human judgment in allowing people to be put into harms way in the first place. After all, these natural disasters may be surprising, but their possibility is widely known.

So, Weaver’s book offers some interesting insight into the idea of God as Creator, that is so foundational in Christianity. He understands humanity as the caretakers of God’s good creation. Because of this fact, humanity has the responsibility of preserving justice in the land, and with its resources. Yet, he goes farther than some evangelicals (in the American sense) may be willing to go. One of his concluding statements is based on Romans 8:19-22, in which he says, “God created the earth, entrusted it to human beings, and will redeem the whole of creation. Part of redemption lies in human repentance of extravagance, pollution, and wanton destruction of the environment” (142).

4 comments on “Science and Creation (ism)

  • Two questions:

    1) What else does he say about the relation of modern scientific understandings of human origins and the Biblical understanding of creation? How do science and faith relate (or do they)?

    2) In your summary, Weaver seems to head towards liberation theology. Does he go so far as to say that salvation and righteousness are found through good works of ecological concern and justice for the poor?

  • 1) In his opinion they are two sides of the same coin. He considers the creation stories in the Bible to be myth. He has a nuanced meaning for this: “A story that expresses a deep meaning of human life that could not be presented in terms of science or history. This third meaning is the one that best describes the biblical stories of creation and the flood” (21). So these stories in the Bible are not accurate history, but instead present truths about God, in a story form that asserts something deep seated in the Hebrew understanding… He also asserts that science cannot be sure of its stories of origins, due to the limitations of the scientific method. Basically he argues that one can suggest probability, but not certainty in matters which are not repeatable and empirically verifiable. So, science and faith can present valuable pointers toward the real story of origins. They are both equal tools in his opinion.

    2) Good call on the liberation theology – impressive! He does not go so far as to say that salvation and righteousness are found in ecological concern, etc. But, he does exhibit some post-millenial traits which would get him close to that. He seems to believe that the kingdom of God has begun here already, and that humans can be integral in bringing it to its fulfillment by living the eco-justice life. Salvation isn’t brought to the individual through these works, but perhaps to the whole of creation. In other words, heaven on earth can come through these works…

  • I like John’s question….gonna run with the authors idea that the actual historical accuracy of the adam and eve story is a myth. I’ve never really thought about that….it’s an interesting idea to say that rather than the story actually being literal truth it’s more of a story that is just used to present truths about God…..whats your take on that Justin?

    When you read the whole Genesis account…by the language it could be simply interpreted as an allegory and not the actual historical events….but then again since Moses wrote the first 5…could one say the same about the exodus stories ect. ect…..just some questions for ya Justin haha. Feel free to elaborate 🙂

  • This idea has been around a LONG time in scholarship. I have a commentary from the early 20th century which takes this view. Some have even called this a type of poetry. I’m not sure about the poetry idea, it sure doesn’t seem that way. Yet, it seems that from the differences between the presentations in Gen 1:1-2:4, then 2:5ff, that the stories are not literal in terms of time at least (one has 7 days, one has one day). So, it seems that these stories are presenting a main point that God is the creator. These stories also allude to the temple that comes later. These are ideas which I gained from my supervisor when I first took his class in 2003, but heard in part at Baylor.

    This understanding would make me a conservative. Not a fundamentalist, or literalist, but a conservative –because I believe these stories present truth about our origins, and aren’t simply products of a king’s writer trying to legitimate a king (as a more liberal approach might take).

    I personally don’t think Moses wrote the first 5 books (Pentateuch). There are some anachronisms, such as “in the time before the kings of Israel”- which seem unlikely to have been written by someone who was from the actual time before the kings. Plus, the death account of Moses seems hard for him to have written. However, I do think one person (likely Moses) wrote most of the Pentateuch. In my judgment it was edited several times before it came to its present form sometime in the Babylonian Exile. This is not to say that it was “written” during the exile, but that it underwent it’s final revision during that time. Again, this is a conservative view, but not a fundamentalist view. This would be the understanding of every conservative OT faculty member I know. The liberal scholars I know would say that the Pentateuch was written entirely during the Exile as a product of the Exile. In their opinion, the reason for writing this was to give some sort of legitimacy to their people. They would claim that Saul, David, and Solomon were invented (though archeology is starting to challenge this). These same scholars would claim that the Pentateuch is largely just a Jewish re-interpretation of other Mesopotamian stories.

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