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Knowing Creation: Perspectives from Theology, Philosophy, and Science, reviewed by Stephen Vantassel

Christoph Schwobel’s “’We are all God’s Vocabulary’: The Idea of Creation as a Speech-Act of the Trinitarian God and Its Significance for Dialogue Between Theology and Sciences,” discusses the nature of metaphors and the role they play in our apprehension of reality. He contends that it was a shift in metaphor use about creation from Augustine’s God as author of nature and scripture to nature being viewed mechanistically as a clock led to the ultimate split between being and meaning. Schwobel suggests that understanding the Trinity combined with Luther’s notion of God’s creative act in speech, offers a way to reconnect being and meaning again.

Schwobel’s thoughts were enlightening. But I wondered whether the problem of integrating being and meaning rested with using the correct metaphor or whether the issue was that scientists by rejecting the creator needed a new metaphor to replace the previous one they rejected.

Section 2 Biblical and Historical Perspectives

John H. Walton’s article, “Origins in Genesis: Claims of an Ancient Text in a Modern Scientific World,” summarizes his ideas found in his published books. Walton argues that Genesis 1 and 2 cannot be used to address the issue of earth’s origins because the Israelites lacked the categories that distinguished natural versus supernatural means of action. Likewise, ancient cosmologies focused less on material origins and more on identity and role. Thus, the contemporary interest concerning the identity of the first humans is not one that can be answered by such an ancient text that does not contain the same categories.

While the discussion of sacred space enriches our reading of Genesis, Walton’s overemphasis on the bible’s human authorship neglects the divine input artificially forcing him to give ground to contemporary scientific views. I found it odd that Walton used New Testament authors to support his views but ignored passages that conflicted with those same views. Walton is correct to raise his questions but his conclusion needed a bit more evidence for this reader to arrive at his conclusion.

Section 3 Philosophical Perspectives

Robert C. Koons takes readers on an exploration of intellectual paradigms in his article, “Knowing Nature: Aristotle, God and the Quantum.” Koons argues that Aristotelean metaphysics was conquered by the microphysicalists of the 14th century and those that came after. The result of this paradigm shift was the loss of purpose and final and formal causes of Aristotelean philosophy. Koons explains that quantum physics has raised serious questions about the validity of microphysicalism. Researchers are showing that the whole can affect the part and that the quest for a single unified theory of reality may need to give way to a structural theory that allows for the co-existence of various theories dependent on the scale under study.

The article is a fascinating, yet difficult read. I suspect that scientists looking to merge social and hard sciences would do well to consult this article.

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Category: In Depth, Summer 2019

About the Author: Stephen M. Vantassel, Ph.D. theology (Trinity Theological Seminary), M.A.T.S. Old Testament (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), B.S. Biblical Studies (Gordon College), is a Tutor of Theology at King’s Evangelical Divinity School in Broadstairs, U.K. and Assistant Editor for the Evangelical Review of Theology and Politics. His dissertation was published in expanded form in Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 2009), explains how biblical teaching on the use of animals provides a rubric for how God wants humanity to use the earth. He lives with his wife in Lewistown, Montana. He regularly posts articles at kingsdivinity.academia.edu/StephenMVantassel.

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