Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Book

My wife and I visited friends last night. Their young son was mezmerized by the dancing images of "Crash-Bash" creatures on the PS1 when his father and I played a few rounds, but his youthful energy wasn't the only hallmark of the night.

My friend, who I have known for years (and who, apparently, called to talk to my wife about doctrine this last week), had checked out a book on science and religion from his local library. The title and the author both escape me, but as this is not a review, let's not get caught up in technicalities. First, dear readers, you need some useful details: My friend grew up in mainline churches (Presbyterian in California, Congretationalist(UCC) in Massachusetts, though he and his wife and son now attend a UMC), and is a well educated engineer who understands the intricacies of research and speculative science; Recently, he has been searching for greater knowledge of the Christian faith, especially core doctrines, so he's been reading what he can find in terms of theology from his local library.

The book in question claimed to be a Christian theology that would allow people to continue to believe in God in the face of evolution. So far, so good. There are plenty of orthodox theologians who have made solid arguments for belief in God and evolution, but from my friend's response, he hadn't found one. He asked my wife and me a couple of questions about doctrine, then showed us the book (which recieved a stellar review from John Cobb), and then we looked at each other and the alarms sounded -- process thought.

Now, my friend didn't know process thought from a marmot, but he knew something about this book didn't seem right, so he asked what process thought was. I tried to explain: process thought tends to suggest that God/the Universe are co-eternal, that God shapes but does not create the universe in the classical sense ex nihilo, and that while this produces a God in relationship to the world, it usually means there is no afterlife, either in terms of resurrection of the body on the last day, or in heaven now. "So, that's what all of this talk about God's memory was about... so what's the point of Christ's death if you believe that?" he asked. I told him process had never made sense to me, so I couldn't tell him what the appeal was. I also admitted that if the Christian doctrine of God actually began from a Trinitarian position (instead of trying to say "God is Creator," or "God is 'isness without limitations,'" or "God is The Ground of our Being," saying "God is a Trinity of three persons), like our worship does, then we might be able to resolve the issue of God's essential relationality, and even talk about theodicy without resorting to the easiest solution -- that we've all been wrong for most of Christian history, that God is not all-powerful, but that God is actually weak. "That's heresy," my friend insightfully said... but I didn't have the heart to tell him that it's also very popular in mainline seminaries.

Here the conversation turned to other topics -- like the use of parsnips in beef stew... At times like this I always give thanks to God for things like parsnips and other food for thought...

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