Notes by David Monyak. Last Update October 1, 2000
A copy of these notes in the form of the handout passed out at the meeting can be downloaded from the Download Page.
I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
The Apostles' Creed
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
The Nicene Creed
(Questions and topics are organized as in chapter 1 in Credo. The Apostles' Creed Explained for Today. Hans Küng. Doubleday. New York. 1992:)
2. What Does Believe Mean? What is Faith?
2.1. What is God?
"A God who is there, is not God"
("God is not vorhanden, simply at hand, at our disposal, like an object on the physical world. Rather we are at God's disposal, and we are given to know God only by grace in revelation, by God's meeting us through the testimony of Bible and church." Owen Thomas, p78)
2.2. Belief, Faith, and Reason
If God cannot be defined or limited, if God is not a discernable object, then:
whatever belief and faith is, their foundations cannot be based on intellectual or philosophical arguments that God must/probably/ is likely to exist
2.3. What is Faith?
Augustine of Hippo:
I believe in God. . .
3.1.1. creatio ex nihilo. God's Creation of the Universe from Nothing
Near the beginning of time, a "Big Bang" -- a great fireball of immense density and temperature -- filled all of space and started its evolution into the expanding universe of galaxies we see today. The theories of Relativity have made clear to us space and time are woven together in a single created fabric called space-time. Models of the universe using the theory of General Relativity lead to a time = 0 where this fabric of space-time was undefined, and immediately after which both space and time abruptly began to exist. In the classical (classical = not including quantum mechanics) theory of General Relativity, our universe of space and time had a clear beginning -- an apparent moment of creation out of nothing (creatio ex nihilio)
3.1.2. creatio conservata. God's Sustaining of the Universe
Recent theories of cosmology which try to incorporate quantum physics effects into General Relativity (Quantum Gravity) suggest that the dimension we call time becomes "fuzzy" and turns into a fourth spatial dimension as we approach "time = 0". If true, it means there is no "beginning" to the universe, no "moment" of creation, for as we approach the "beginning" the dimension of time becomes undefined and disappears and we end up in a world of four spatial dimension in which there is no such thing as time.
Quantum cosmology reminds us that we should not give special import to a "moment of creation" All points of space-time are equally dependent on God and equally require an explanation. God is best thought of as creating and sustaining all of space-time. The theological concepts of creatio ex nihilo (creation from nothing) and creatio conservata (God's continued sustaining of the physical universe) are the same.
3.1.3. The Theological Issue: What is the fundamental relationship between the world and God?
God is the primal ground, primal author, creator of the universe
"God . . . works as the creative and perfect primal basis and thus as the guide of the world, immanent in it and superior to it, while fully respecting the laws of nature, which have their origin in God" - Küng
Belief in God is compatible with a variety of models of the world
3.2. Questions Physics and Astronomy Cannot Answer
The question of ultimate primal origins of the universe and of human beings:
These questions cannot:
3.3. The Bible is a Testimony of Faith, not a Scientific Textbook
The language of the Bible is not a language of facts but a metaphorical picture language. The bible is not a scientific textbook, but does seek to interpret "scientific facts"
There are two biblical accounts of creation (both seek to "interpret" the scientific facts of creation as believed at the time they were written):
They seek to give a testimony of faith to the question: what is the fundamental relationship between the world and God?
The Order of Creation
These stories of creation (which clearly contradict each other if interpreted as scientific accounts of creation), are meant rather to give a testimony of faith to the ultimate primal origin of the universe. They tell us:
I believe in God. . . creator of heaven and earth.
4.1. The Confrontation of Evolution With the Classical Theory of Redemption
The Classical theory of Redemption:
Problem: evolution tells us there never was a single human couple who could sin for all of humankind
4.2. The Science of Biological Evolution
Evolution: evolution of life, and the ascendancy of higher forms of life:
The tension between chance and necessity in the development of life
No apparent need for any special intervention by a creator God
4.3. Questions Biology Cannot Answer
"The mystery is not how evolution takes place, but that it takes place"
- von Ditfurth, French scientist
Expresses God's superiority and effectiveness (not opposed by any force of like potency, God's sovereign power over creation.
5.2. God's Omnipotence in the Bible
(from Owen Thomas, p.92)
5.3. Tensions and Problems Created by an "Almighty" God
5.4. Is God a Great King in Detached Splendor, Above the Sufferings of Creation?
God is not an "architect or watchmaker" existing outside of creation
"God does not work into the world from above or outside as the unmoved mover"
God is "the all-embracing, all-permeating, infinite reality"
"God does not work above the world process but in the world process: in, with and among human beings and things"
" God is origin, center, goal of the world processes"
"God is not just active at individual, particularly important points or gaps in the world processes, but works as the creative and perfect primal basis and thus as the guide of the world, immanent in it and superior to it, while fully respecting the laws of nature, which have their origin in God"
5.5. How Can an Almighty God Stand By in Silence Amid Suffering and Evil?
I Believe in God . . . the Almighty
When we profess a belief in the God, "the almighty"
6.2. The Problem Posed by the Limits of Our Humanity in Speaking of God
A limitations of our humanity:
we have no higher names than human names: "father" and "mother" mean more to us as human beings than "the Absolute", or "Being"
I believe in God, the Father . . .
we must pray:
when we say, as Jesus taught us, Abba, "Our 'Father'"
7.1. The Common Beliefs of Judaism, Christianity and Islam
Three religions (the three prophetic religions which believe in one and the same God of Abraham) believe in God, the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth: Judaism Christianity Islam
All have in common:
As we pray, we should remember we pray in common with the Jews and Moslems to the one God, the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth
References and Sources Used
Christian Theology. An Introduction. Second Edition. Alister E. McGrath. Blackwell Publishers. 1997.
**Credo. The Apostles' Creed Explained for Today. Hans Küng. Doubleday. New York. 1992
Introduction to Theology. Revised Edition. Owen C. Thomas. Morehouse Publishing. Harrisburg. 1983
Loving the Questions. An Exploration of the Nicene Creed. Marianne H. Micks. Cowley. Boston. 1993
** majority of material from this book