Integrative Theology is designed to help students in a pluralistic world utilize a standard method of fruitful research.
Each chapter on a major doctrine: (1) states a classic issue of ultimate concern; (2) surveys alternative past and present answers; and (3) tests those proposals by their congruence with information on the subject progressively revealed from Genesis to Revelation. Then the chapter (4) formulates a doctrinal conclusion that consistently fits the many lines of biblical data; (5) defends that conviction respectfully; and finally (6) explores the conclusion's relevance to a person's spiritual birth, growth and service to others, all for the glory of God. In short, Integrative Theology masterfully integrates the disciplines of historical, biblical, systematic, apologetic, and practical theology.
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About the Author
Gordon R. Lewis (Ph.D., Syracuse University) was senior professor of systematic theology and Christian philosophy at Denver Seminary. He was the past president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Evangelical Theological Society, and is the author of seven books and many articles.
Dr. Bruce Demarest is professor of theology and spiritual formation at Denver Seminary.
Read an Excerpt
Integrative Theology, Volume 2
By Gordon R. Lewis, Bruce A. Demarest
ZONDERVANCopyright © 1990 Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce A. Demarest
All rights reserved.
THE ORIGIN OF THE WORLD AND HUMANITY
The Origin of the World and Humanity
THE PROBLEM: HOW DID THE UNIVERSE, PERSONS, AND ALL LIVING FORMS AS WE NOW KNOW THEM COME INTO EXISTENCE?
This chapter considers the first of the outward operations of the triune God (creation, providence, preservation), in distinction from the inner operations considered in volume 1, chapter 7 (eternal generation of the Son and eternal procession of the Spirit). The Judeo-Christian doctrine of creation affirms the relation between the God who is and everything finite in the universe. The doctrine of creation informs us that the world is neither divine (thus avoiding idolatry) nor illusory (avoiding despair) and that people are neither demigods (negating idolatry) nor meaningless accidents (negating nihilism). The insight of Aquinas is profoundly true that one's view of the origin of creation greatly influences one's understanding of God (vol. 1, chaps. 5–7), for an inevitable correlation exists between how one pictures the universe and how one views God. Likewise one's concept of creation significantly influences one's understanding of the human person (vol. 2, chap., 3) and the meaning of life. Questions such as who men and women are, why they are here, and where they are going all rest on the larger issues of the nature and meaning of the world. Similarly, one's view of creation significantly shapes one's attitude toward the environment and the larger issue of the utilization of earth's natural resources.
A host of questions and problems surround the origin of the universe and all living forms. Was the universe specifically created by the living God, or is it an emanation from the being of God? Did all things come into existence by a cosmic accident or by some sort of natural process? If God created the universe, as Jews and Christians claim, did he create all things in six solar days or over a long period of time, or possibly from eternity past? Are the theories of naturalistic evolution and theistic evolution supported by scientific facts and consistent with a biblical view of God and persons? Furthermore, how should Christians respond to numerous scientific findings that the universe and lower forms of life are very old? What do the data of general and special revelation indicate concerning the antiquity of the universe and human beings? Can the Genesis creation accounts be responsibly interpreted in a way that agrees with the findings of modern astronomy, geology, and paleontology? The present chapter, then, explores a problem of universal interest: how the universe, persons, and all other living forms came into existence.
ALTERNATIVE PROPOSALS IN THE CHURCH
The following is a summary of the principal ways in which the origin of the world and humanity has been understood by authorities within the church throughout history.
As affirmed by Neoplatonists, philosophical pantheists, Hegelian idealists, and certain Christian mystics, pantheistic emanationism claims that all things flow from God, the first principle of being. Thus the world is said to emerge eternally from the being of God, much as light flows from the sun. Plotinus, the founder of Neoplatonism, held that the world is the result of an eternal chain of emergences from the One or the Absolute and thus is a phenomenal manifestation of God.
One of the profoundest thinkers of the Middle Ages, John Scotus Erigena, sought to reconcile Neoplatonist emanationism with the Christian doctrine of creation. Persuaded that God's essence and operations are one, Erigena insisted that all things emanate from or flow out of God, the first principle of being. The biblical statement that God created all things ex nihilo means that he created the same out of himself. Thus in what was patently a pantheistic schema, Erigena held that the universe is a "theophany" or a manifestation of God. In the end all animate and inanimate things will return to the original unity of being from whence they have come. A similar theory of emanation was advanced by Meister Eckhart, sometimes called a mystical Erigena. As ideas flow from the mind, so the visible world represents the temporal unfolding of the eternal world of ideas. God, according to Eckhart, is the fountain from which the spiritual and material universe flows and to which it returns.
So-called eternal creationists, who assume that God and the exercise of his perfections are inseparable, postulate that God's eternal existence has always been accompanied by a universe in some stage of being. In the early church Origen was the chief proponent of this theory of eternal creation. Persuaded that God could not be omnipotent or loving apart from the active exercise of his power and love, Origen concluded that God created a plurality of worlds that eternally succeed one another. "Not for the first time did God begin to work when He made this visible world; but as, after its destruction, there will be another world, so also we believe that others existed before the present world came into being." Origen viewed the Genesis days as a literary form to describe the instantaneous creation of all things in logical fashion for human minds.
From a different perspective, F. D. E. Schleiermacher judged that the postulate of a beginning to God's creative activity would implicate him in change and make him a temporal being. Thus, according to the Romantic theologian, the traditional doctrine of creation means only that the world is absolutely dependent on God, a dependence that in reality cannot be restricted to an event in time. In the end, Schleiermacher reinterpreted the doctrine of creation in virtually a pantheistic sense to connote the totality of causality in nature.
William Newton Clarke, who prefers to speak of God as "the Source" rather than "Creator" in the traditional fiat sense, believes that from eternity God has always been accompanied by a universe dependent on himself. Thus God "always has about him a universe, or a sum or organized being, into which always flows the fulness of his energy and love. The divine will is eternally productive, and God has never been without a creation, and will never be alone."
Rejecting the notion of God as autonomous controlling Power, process theology affirms that God and the world exist only in relation to each other. God needs the world to be God, and the world needs God to be the world. Process theologians hold to be an inexplicable mystery how all reality, including God, had its beginning. Whiteheadians insist that in the interactive process of physical prehensions it is just as true to affirm that the world creates God as to affirm that God creates the world.
The View of Augustine
This renowned church father and theologian interpreted the Genesis days allegorically and held that the "days" are not units of time but six states of cognition by the angels in heaven as they beheld God's formative activity. Augustine believed that simultaneous with the inception of time the triune God in goodness created all things out of nothing. Augustine in fact postulated two main stages in creation. First, God in the beginning instantaneously created "the heavens" (the angelic world) and "the earth" (the material universe) in an unformed state (Gen. 1:2), having impregnated all living forms with seminal reason or the seedlike principles from which the myriad forms of life would later develop. Thus "as mothers are pregnant with young, so the world itself is pregnant with the causes of things or things that are born." Second, in the six days described in Genesis 1 God gradually brought to formation all living species out of the seminal forms embedded in the unformed matter. Augustine asserted that the Mosaic record that describes the full development of the original formless creation is not to be taken literally. Hence the Genesis "days" are not units of time (for there were "days" before the appearance of the sun), but rather ineffable, God-delimited "days." The Genesis "days," which "are beyond the experience and knowledge of earthbound men," may, after the allegory is set aside, translate into the boundaries of great formative epochs.
The Fathers' primitive understanding of the universe should be noted. All believed in a flat earth located at the center of the solar system. Many fathers, such as Lactantius and Augustine, rejected the notion that the other side of the globe was inhabited with Adamic people. "Is there anyone so senseless as to believe that there are men whose footsteps are higher than their heads? Or that the crops and trees grow downwards? Or that the rain, and snow, and hail fall upwards to the earth?" The philosophers falsely "thought that the world is round like a ball, and they fancied that the heaven revolves in accordance with the motion of the heavenly bodies." Such beliefs remained unchallenged until the rise of modern science.
Theistic evolutionists, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, hold that God supernaturally created the world and the beginnings of life, but ordained organic evolution as the mechanism for producing the myriads of living forms. Many hold that at a certain point in the evolutionary process God endowed an ape with a soul to produce Adam in the divine imago. Proponents of the view interpret the Genesis creation account more figuratively, some denying the historicity of Adam and the Fall. The latter interpret the story of Eve's creation from Adam's rib as a symbolic representation of the unity of male and female before God.
According to A. H. Strong, Genesis 1 and 2 describe both an original creation and a subsequent development that arose from energy latent within all living forms. "If science should render it certain that all the present species of living creatures were derived by natural descent from a few original germs, and that these germs were themselves an evolution of inorganic forces and materials, we should not therefore regard the Mosaic account as proven untrue." Not a few British and European evangelical scholars subscribe to theistic evolution. James Orr notes that the theory of evolution has been fairly well established by the scientific community. Thus he upholds creation from within living forms and postulates a sudden genetic mutation to account for Adam. "That species should have arisen by a method of derivation from some primaeval germ (or germs) rather than by unrelated creations, is not only not inconceivable, but may even commend itself as a higher and more worthy conception of the divine working than the older hypothesis." Orr, however, retains belief in the original sin and guilt of the human race.
Richard Bube and some colleagues of the American Scientific Affiliation synthesize biblical faith and evolutionary mechanisms. Bube rejects philosophical evolution (the world-view dominated by indeterminism and chance) with its denial of divine creation, the fall of the race, and humanity's need for spiritual recreation through Christ. But Bube regards the general theory of evolution well attested scientifically and the probable means God used to produce all living forms, including Adam. Bube asserts that God brought lower forms of life into being by a process of physical interaction, and he brought man and the human soul into being by a process of biological interaction. The characteristics commonly associated with spirit arose from the natural interaction of man's bodily parts. Claims Bube: "It does not matter at all whether God created man in a process of evolutionary development or whether God created man in an act of divine fiat. The only significant thing for him to know is that God did create him." Bube designates his synthesis of biblical creation and evolutionary process as "biblical evolutionism."
Teilhard de Chardin developed a unique theory of theistic evolution. Instead of a punctiliar creation in the past, God has been creating since the beginning of time through a continuous transformation from within the universe. The mechanism of creation is a special kind of evolution. It is not, however, an evolution characterized by random selection, but a unidirectional development that moves inexorably toward a predetermined goal (orthogenesis). Teilhard's "cosmic law of complexity consciousness" postulates that through time matter tends to become increasingly complex and to take on consciousness. Thus an evolutionary development proceeds from the geosphere (inorganic matter), to the biosphere (simple forms of life), to the noosphere (intelligent man), to the christosphere (Superconsciousness), to a final convergence in the Omega-Point, which represents the parousia of Christ. Teilhard concludes that Christ is the initiator, the energizer, and the final end of the cosmic evolutionary process.
The Dutch New Catechism, an influential authority among European Catholics, also advances an evolutionary vision of the universe. In the incalculably distant past from inorganic matter simple forms of life appeared, which in turn gave rise to the more advanced species of animals. Humans, in fact, evolved from the beasts. "Primitive man on the steppes and in the forests and in the caves had still to grow into a humane being. He had to leave the beast behind him." The New Catechism, identifies evolution as the mechanism God employed to create the vast universe. In a similar vein, Hans Kiing believes that some thirteen billion years ago the universe came into existence through a gigantic cosmic explosion or "big bang" (Gen. 1:3, "Let there be light"). Moreover, he believes that science has satisfactorily shown that the cosmos as a whole and the human being in his bodily nature has developed naturally, i.e., by an evolutionary process. Science, however, cannot answer the questions, "What existed before the fireball?" and "What is the meaning of the world process?" According to Küng, faith discerns from Scripture that God is the creator and conserver of the evolutionary structure. Thus the Lord is the "primal ground, primal support and primal meaning of everything, a creator, ruler and finisher of the evolutionary process."
Neoorthodox and Theistic Existentialist View
Persuaded that the biblical world view is mythological, most neoorthodox and theistic existentialists regard the Genesis account as "myth" and "saga." Adam was not a historical person, and Genesis provides no scientific data. Scholars in the tradition subject the Genesis text to radical reinterpretation along Christological and existential lines.
Karl Barth's understanding of creation is governed by the ideas of covenant and Christology. The two Genesis accounts view creation from different perspectives and thus richly complement one another. The first account (Gen. 1:1–2:4a) expounds creation as the external basis of the covenant. That is, creation is the work of the triune God in fulfillment of the election of grace. Its purpose was to make possible the history of the covenant, whose beginning, center, and consummation is Jesus Christ. Barth's supralapsarian scheme of decrees is thus evident. "Creation is the external ... basis of the covenant. It can be said that it makes it technically possible; that it prepares and establishes the sphere in which the institution and history of the covenant take place." Since creation includes the beginning of time, Barth argues that God's creative activity eludes all historical description and thus must be expressed in the form of "saga." Neither fairy tale nor myth, saga for Barth is a poetic account of a prehistorical reality enacted in time and space. Hence the Genesis accounts impart no scientific or cosmological information. Barth believes that the world was not created in six days and that Adam was not an historical person. Rather, Barth interprets the creation saga typologically in terms of the history of salvation. Thus the separation of light from darkness, dry land from the seas, and day from night uphold the relationship between God's grace and his wrath. Moreover, the second creation account (Gen. 2:4b–25) affirms "the covenant as the internal basis of Creation." By this Barth means that the covenant of redemption is the meaning, presupposition, and inner basis of creation.
Excerpted from Integrative Theology, Volume 2 by Gordon R. Lewis, Bruce A. Demarest. Copyright © 1990 Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce A. Demarest. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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Table of Contents
PART ONE: OUR PRIMARY NEED,
1. The Origin of the World and Humanity, 17,
2. Existence Under Providential Direction, 71,
3. Human Beings in God's Image, 123,
4. God's Image-Bearers in Rebellion, 183,
PART TWO: CHRIST'S ATONING PROVISIONS,
5. God's Eternal Son Incarnated, 251,
6. The Messiah's Divineness and Humanness, 309,
7. Christ's Once-for-All Atoning Provisions, 371,
8. Christ's Resurrection, Ascension, and Present Exaltation, 437,
General Index, 527,
Scripture Index, 555,