The Ordered Life of God as The Ground for the Ordered Life of the World: The Doctrine of the Primacy of Christ

To be a believer in an unbelieving world, can at points, become a draining prospect; depending upon the level the Christian attempts to live out ‘their faith’ in confrontation of other’s un-faith. There is a spiritual warfare occurring all around us that unless we press into our faith as Christians, we will not become aware of. This warfare occurs at various levels of society and interpersonal dynamics, but its principled reality remains the same: i.e. the kingdom of darkness is constantly seeking to unfurl the invading reality of the Kingdom of the Son of His love (cf. Col. 1.13). But it is just this; the Kingdom of God in Christ (KGC) is indeed an invading reality that the kingdom of darkness cannot possess. The KGC is not collapsed into the materiality (not that materiality is inherently evil, just the opposite in the KGC) of this world (as the kingdom of darkness is); instead the KGC constantly breaks into this world and recreates it moment by moment by the Grace of Christ as its inner-reality and source. The Grace of God cannot be possessed by the kingdom of darkness, insofar as the kingdom of darkness has already been concluded by the ultimacy of God’s invasion in Christ; as God in Christ triumphed over the devil and his minions making a public spectacle of them through His cross, burial, resurrection, ascension and ultimately second coming. The KGC is in fact the extension of God’s dominion as primally realized in the eschatos of His inner life as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; in other words, the KGC is God’s telos for the created order, and as such is not ‘under’ the dominion of the evil one, but instead is under the dominion of God’s a se life as the fundamentum of all that is.

All that was just noted is corollary with the Scotist doctrine known as the Primacy of Jesus Christ. According to the Apostle Paul,

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.[1]

David Fergusson gives us greater insight into this doctrine as he writes,

In the prologue to John’s Gospel the Word (Logos) of God is the one by whom and through whom the world is created. This Word which is made present to Israel becomes incarnate in Jesus Christ. In this cosmic Christology, the significance of Jesus is understood with respect to the origin and purpose of the created order. Already in Paul’s writing and elsewhere in the New Testament epistles, we find similar cosmic themes (e.g. 1 Cor. 8:6, Col. 1:15-20, Heb. 1:1-4). By describing creation as Christ-centred, these passages offer two related trajectories of thought. First, the origin and final purpose of the cosmos is disclosed with the coming of Christ into the world and his resurrection from the dead. Second, the significance of Christ is maximally understood reference to his creative and redeeming power throughout the created universe. Writers at different periods in the history of the church would later use this cosmic Christology to describe the appearance of the incarnate Christ as the crowning moment of history. No longer understood merely as an emergency measure to counteract the effects of sin and evil, the incarnation was the fulfillment of an eternal purpose. The world was made so that Christ might be born.This is captured in Karl Barth’s dictum that creation is ‘the external basis of the covenant’ (Barth 1958: 94).[2]

The world order has no order without Christ as its reality. In order for there to be order in this world, this world must be ordered by the Great Orderer of all reality, who is God. Without this reconciliation, between God and humanity accomplished in the hypostatic union of God and humanity in Christ, the world will only experience the waywardness of a world that has been judged. And yet the world, by definition, will repudiate God’s judgment and attempt to make ‘a life’ out of the world system that has no life in it; not in and from its old fallen order. To be in Christ is to be in the ordered life that God is in HisSelf as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We see an origin of relation in God’s inner life as revealed in the Son, and we participate in and from that ordered life insofar as we call Jesus, Lord. But this world does not call Jesus, Lord; as such they can only experience the dregs of a world that has been driven into the nothingness that it is. But the world loves this nothingness rather than the somethingness of God’s life, thus heaping a world of pain and suffering upon itself with no hope. A tragedy I seek to bear witness against.

 

 

[1] Colossians 1, ESV.

[2] David Fergusson, “Creation, in The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, edited by John Webster, Kathryn Tanner, and Iain Torrance, 76-7.

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God’s Providence: Applied to Cancer and Human Suffering in General

I have just been reading Scottish theologian, David Fergusson on the topic of Divine Providence; and he broaches (and develops) the reality of a God-world relation wherein we must take serious how it is that it ‘appears’ cancerblackwhite(and in point of fact is) that evil—in all of its malevolent expression—(as if we live in a Manichaean dualism) is winning. One of the things that Fergusson lists as an evil that is apparently ruing the day is sicknesses, diseases, untimely death, and what simply appear as brutal arbitrary ad-hoc sufferings being realized on a daily basis, encompassing all peoples from the four corners of earth. [I have my own personal experience with this, cancer seems to be an irremediable form of evil that haunts the psyches of most.] Here is what Fergusson writes:

[T]he biblical account of “creation as Yahweh’s partner” depicts the world as blessed. It is a fitting home for human and other creatures in which to flourish and multiply (e.g., Pss. 24 and 104). This flourishing requires wisdom to discern, attention to maintain, and worship that celebrates and reminds the people of the character of the world and God’s rule. The affirmation of providence is less a philosophical hypothesis (although philosophical elements are present in the Wisdom literature) and more an act of faith set in the context of worship and ethics. At the same time, God’s rule is threatened by forces of chaos that manifest themselves in a variety of forms, including sickness, injustice, misfortune, and untimely death. The language of combat, victory, and enthronement cannot be understood except in terms of forces active in creation that jeopardize God’s reign and call forth resistance. It is a recurrent criticism that Christian theology has for too long ignored this central feature of the configuration of the God-world relationship in the Hebrew Bible. The psalms of lament, Job, and passages from prophets inter alia (among other things) return to the theme that there is resistance to God’s reign. This resistance is not constructed in a Manichaean sense since there is no other creator. God ultimately commands the world order. Nonetheless, God is inexplicably delayed and too often silent in dealing with these palpable threats to the divine rule. This delay and silence are frequent sources of Israel’s complaint that are resolved only by the action of God in reasserting the order of the world through the vindication of the righteous. It can hardly be stressed too often here that there is no attempt to expound a theodicy that explains why the world is the way it is. The solution rests in divine action that obliterates evil. Even in Jeremiah 12:1-3, where something like the classical dilemma of evil is posed, the desire of the prophet is not for explanation. It is for God’s banishing the “workers of treachery.” [David Fergusson, Chapter 11, Divine Providence and Action in, God’s Life In Trinity, edited by Miroslav Volf and Michael Welker, 154-55.]

When I was walking through my cancer (Desmoplatic Small Round Cell Tumor, sarcoma), I often wondered at God’s delay; he seemed silent and un-present. Yet this piece of chaos (cancer) that interrupted our lives (my life and my families’ life) did not threaten God’s rule in my life, indeed, it was through this season that I found comfort in the fact that God is ruler, and not an anarchist mass of cells in my body. Nevertheless, I had frequent moments of anxiety (the whole time I had cancer); I had times where the silence of God, and his apparent slowness to work caused me to cry out in bewilderment and desperation. But the point I take away from this is that the evil imposed upon my body did not cause me to want to look away from God, instead it caused me to desperately depend upon him (and his body, the church … my wife included in that, especially!) in ways that I never would have lest faced with my mortality and an “untimely death.”

As Fergusson rightly notes; how we understand God’s providence is grounded more in faith than it is in analytics. And of course there is more to this story (which Fergusson gets to later); how can a Christian conceive of God’s providence without interpreting that through the lens that he himself provided for us to interpret that through? That is, through the cross of Jesus Christ, and the cruciform life of God on display in Jesus’ humility for us. God wants us to wait and depend on him; this is his wisdom, and the wisdom of the cross. What is intended to destroy us, God turns on its head and uses it as the occasion for us to grow in intimacy and ecstatic dependency upon him. And these trials and tribulations won’t disappoint, they aren’t an end in themselves; they will be swallowed up (death will) finally as it is put under Jesus’ feet in the consummation. It is in the consummation where the existential realization finally comes. As the Revelator writes,

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” ~Revelation 21:3-4

We walk by faith, not sight.

Creation, ‘The World Was Made So That Christ Might Be Born’

*Since I have had the flu (and I am just now barely recovering), along with my wife since New Year’s Eve I haven’t been able to post much, or anything since then. And since I still don’t feel like posting anything new yet, here is one of my personal favorites reposted once again. I think this post is fitting giving the Advent season we are still in and now our anticipation of new creation in the next few months to come.

In some of my posts, especially of late, we have been thinking about the Christian doctrine of Creation; as corollary, we have also been considering our relation to creation in and through Christ. The first step we ought to engage, in our pantocrator7consideration of such things, is to wonder about the God-world relation and what purpose he has always already intended for creation as the counterpoint to his gracious life of love, from which he created. It becomes quickly obvious, as we read the New Testament, and work out the theo-logical implications of Trintarian and Christo-logical assumptions, therein; that creation was created with Christ in mind, and us in Christ. So that God’s original intent, was in and through Christ, to bring all of creation (and humanity as the pinnacle of his creation) into his life of perichoretic (interpenetrating) love (self-giving, subject-in-distinction=Trinity). Scottish theologian, David Fergusson, helps us understand how all of this has played out in the history of interpretation:

The notion of ‘wisdom’ provides further evidence of the integration of creation and salvation in the Old Testament. As the creative agency of God, wisdom is celebrated in the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and some of the deutero-canonical works. In some places, such as Proverbs 8, wisdom is personified as a divine agent. The divine wisdom by which the world is created is also apparent in the regularity of nature, the divine law, and human affairs. This notion of ‘wisdom’ is later fused with the Greek concept of ‘Logos’ and becomes vital for expressing the linking of creation and Christology in the New Testament. In the prologue to John’s Gospel the Word (Logos) of God is the one by whom and through whom the world is created. This Word which is made present to Israel becomes incarnate in Jesus Christ. In this cosmic Christology, the significance of Jesus is understood with respect to the origin and purpose of the created order. Already in Paul’s writing and elsewhere in the New Testament epistles, we find similar cosmic themes (e.g. 1 Cor. 8:6, Col. 1:15-20, Heb. 1:1-4). By describing creation as Christ-centred, these passages offer two related trajectories of thought. First, the origin and final purpose of the cosmos is disclosed with the coming of Christ into the world and his resurrection from the dead. Second, the significance of Christ is maximally understood reference to his creative and redeeming power throughout the created universe. Writers at different periods in the history of the church would later use this cosmic Christology to describe the appearance of the incarnate Christ as the crowning moment of history. No longer understood merely as an emergency measure to counteract the effects of sin and evil, the incarnation was the fulfillment of an eternal purpose. The world was made so that Christ might be born. This is captured in Karl Barth’s dictum that creation is ‘the external basis of the covenant’ (Barth 1958: 94). [David Fergusson, Chapter 4: Creation, 76-7 in The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, edited by John Webster, Kathryn Tanner, and Iain Torrance]

In the history what David Fergusson is describing is known as the Scotist Thesis; viz. that the plan was always for Jesus to incarnate to bring humanity and creation into the divine dialogue and life of communion through union with the Son. The ‘Fall’ intensified the Incarnation in a way that is tragic, but rife with the redemptive hope of the resurrection and advent life! I follow the Scotist thesis on this front. My friend, brother in Christ, Evangelical Calvinist co-conspirator, Myk Habets has written this to open up his essay entitled On Getting First Things First: Assessing Claims for the Primacy of Christ (©The author 2008. Journal compilation ©The Dominican Council/Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2008, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK, and 350 Main Street, Malden MA 02148, USA DOI:10.1111/j.1741-2005.2008.00240.x):

According to Christian tradition Jesus Christ is pre-eminent over all creation as the Alpha and the Omega, the ‘beginning and the end’ (Rev 1.8, 21.6; 22.13). This belief, when theologically considered, is known as the primacy of Christ.1 The specific issue this doctrine addresses is the question: Was sin the efficient or the primary cause of the incarnation? This essay seeks to model the practice of modal logic in relation to the primacy of Christ, not to satisfy the cravings of speculative theologians but to reverently penetrate the evangelical mystery of the incarnation, specifically, the two alternatives: either ‘God became man independently of sin,’ or its contradiction, ‘God became man because of sin’. . . .

Wouldn’t you agree that ‘the world was made so that Christ might be born’?

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. ~Colossians 1:15-23

*repost

Creation: ‘The World Was Made So That Christ Might Be Born’

In some of my posts, especially of late, we have been thinking about the Christian doctrine of Creation; as corollary, we have also been considering our relation to creation in and through Christ. The first step we ought to engage, in our pantocrator7consideration of such things, is to wonder about the God-world relation and what purpose he has always already intended for creation as the counterpoint to his gracious life of love, from which he created. It becomes quickly obvious, as we read the New Testament, and work out the theo-logical implications of Trintarian and Christo-logical assumptions, therein; that creation was created with Christ in mind, and us in Christ. So that God’s original intent, was in and through Christ, to bring all of creation (and humanity as the pinnacle of his creation) into his life of perichoretic (interpenetrating) love (self-giving, subject-in-distinction=Trinity). Scottish theologian, David Fergusson, helps us understand how all of this has played out in the history of interpretation:

The notion of ‘wisdom’ provides further evidence of the integration of creation and salvation in the Old Testament. As the creative agency of God, wisdom is celebrated in the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and some of the deutero-canonical works. In some places, such as Proverbs 8, wisdom is personified as a divine agent. The divine wisdom by which the world is created is also apparent in the regularity of nature, the divine law, and human affairs. This notion of ‘wisdom’ is later fused with the Greek concept of ‘Logos’ and becomes vital for expressing the linking of creation and Christology in the New Testament. In the prologue to John’s Gospel the Word (Logos) of God is the one by whom and through whom the world is created. This Word which is made present to Israel becomes incarnate in Jesus Christ. In this cosmic Christology, the significance of Jesus is understood with respect to the origin and purpose of the created order. Already in Paul’s writing and elsewhere in the New Testament epistles, we find similar cosmic themes (e.g. 1 Cor. 8:6, Col. 1:15-20, Heb. 1:1-4). By describing creation as Christ-centred, these passages offer two related trajectories of thought. First, the origin and final purpose of the cosmos is disclosed with the coming of Christ into the world and his resurrection from the dead. Second, the significance of Christ is maximally understood reference to his creative and redeeming power throughout the created universe. Writers at different periods in the history of the church would later use this cosmic Christology to describe the appearance of the incarnate Christ as the crowning moment of history. No longer understood merely as an emergency measure to counteract the effects of sin and evil, the incarnation was the fulfillment of an eternal purpose. The world was made so that Christ might be born. This is captured in Karl Barth’s dictum that creation is ‘the external basis of the covenant’ (Barth 1958: 94). [David Fergusson, Chapter 4: Creation, 76-7 in The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, edited by John Webster, Kathryn Tanner, and Iain Torrance]

In the history what David Fergusson is describing is known as the Scotist Thesis; viz. that the plan was always for Jesus to incarnate to bring humanity and creation into the divine dialogue and life of communion through union with the Son. The ‘Fall’ intensified the Incarnation in a way that is tragic, but rife with the redemptive hope of the resurrection and advent life! I follow the Scotist thesis on this front. My friend, brother in Christ, Evangelical Calvinist co-conspirator, Myk Habets has written this to open up his essay entitled On Getting First Things First: Assessing Claims for the Primacy of Christ (©The author 2008. Journal compilation ©The Dominican Council/Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2008, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK, and 350 Main Street, Malden MA 02148, USA DOI:10.1111/j.1741-2005.2008.00240.x):

According to Christian tradition Jesus Christ is pre-eminent over all creation as the Alpha and the Omega, the ‘beginning and the end’ (Rev 1.8, 21.6; 22.13). This belief, when theologically considered, is known as the primacy of Christ.1 The specific issue this doctrine addresses is the question: Was sin the efficient or the primary cause of the incarnation? This essay seeks to model the practice of modal logic in relation to the primacy of Christ, not to satisfy the cravings of speculative theologians but to reverently penetrate the evangelical mystery of the incarnation, specifically, the two alternatives: either ‘God became man independently of sin,’ or its contradiction, ‘God became man because of sin’. . . .

Wouldn’t you agree that ‘the world was made so that Christ might be born’?

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. ~Colossians 1:15-23

*repost

God’s Providence: Applied to Cancer and Human Suffering

I have just been reading Scottish theologian, David Fergusson on the topic of Divine Providence; and he broaches (and develops) the reality of a God-world relation wherein we must take serious how it is that it ‘appears’ (and 184862_1895595029145_1219653647_2300170_3295680_nin point of fact is) that evil—in all of its malevolent expression—(as if we live in a Manichaean dualism) is winning. One of the things that Fergusson lists as an evil that is apparently ruing the day is sicknesses, diseases, untimely death, and what simply appear as brutal arbitrary ad-hoc sufferings being realized on a daily basis, encompassing all peoples from the four corners of earth. [I have my own personal experience with this, cancer seems to be an irremediable form of evil that haunts the psyches of most.] Here is what Fergusson writes:

[T]he biblical account of “creation as Yahweh’s partner” depicts the world as blessed. It is a fitting home for human and other creatures in which to flourish and multiply (e.g., Pss. 24 and 104). This flourishing requires wisdom to discern, attention to maintain, and worship that celebrates and reminds the people of the character of the world and God’s rule. The affirmation of providence is less a philosophical hypothesis (although philosophical elements are present in the Wisdom literature) and more an act of faith set in the context of worship and ethics. At the same time, God’s rule is threatened by forces of chaos that manifest themselves in a variety of forms, including sickness, injustice, misfortune, and untimely death. The language of combat, victory, and enthronement cannot be understood except in terms of forces active in creation that jeopardize God’s reign and call forth resistance. It is a recurrent criticism that Christian theology has for too long ignored this central feature of the configuration of the God-world relationship in the Hebrew Bible. The psalms of lament, Job, and passages from prophets inter alia (among other things) return to the theme that there is resistance to God’s reign. This resistance is not constructed in a Manichaean sense since there is no other creator. God ultimately commands the world order. Nonetheless, God is inexplicably delayed and too often silent in dealing with these palpable threats to the divine rule. This delay and silence are frequent sources of Israel’s complaint that are resolved only by the action of God in reasserting the order of the world through the vindication of the righteous. It can hardly be stressed too often here that there is no attempt to expound a theodicy that explains why the world is the way it is. The solution rests in divine action that obliterates evil. Even in Jeremiah 12:1-3, where something like the classical dilemma of evil is posed, the desire of the prophet is not for explanation. It is for God’s banishing the “workers of treachery.” [David Fergusson, Chapter 11, Divine Providence and Action in, God’s Life In Trinity, edited by Miroslav Volf and Michael Welker, 154-55.]

When I was walking through my cancer (Desmoplatic Small Round Cell Tumor, sarcoma), I often wondered at God’s delay; he seemed silent and un-present. Yet this piece of chaos (cancer) that interrupted our lives (my life and my families’ life) did not threaten God’s rule in my life, indeed, it was through this season that I found comfort in the fact that God is ruler, and not an anarchist mass of cells in my body. Nevertheless, I had frequent moments of anxiety (the whole time I had cancer); I had times where the silence of God, and his apparent slowness to work caused me to cry out in bewilderment and desperation. But the point I take away from this is that the evil imposed upon my body did not cause me to want to look away from God, instead it caused me to desperately depend upon him (and his body, the church … my wife included in that, especially!) in ways that I never would have lest faced with my mortality and an “untimely death.”

As Fergusson rightly notes; how we understand God’s providence is grounded more in faith than it is in analytics. And of course there is more to this story (which Fergusson gets to later); how can a Christian conceive of God’s providence without interpreting that through the lens that he himself provided for us to interpret that through? That is, through the cross of Jesus Christ, and the cruciform life of God on display in Jesus’ humility for us. God wants us to wait and depend on him; this is his wisdom, and the wisdom of the cross. What is intended to destroy us, God turns on its head and uses it as the occasion for us to grow in intimacy and ecstatic dependency upon him. And these trials and tribulations won’t disappoint, they aren’t an end in themselves; they will be swallowed up (death will) finally as it is put under Jesus’ feet in the consummation. It is in the consummation where the existential realization finally comes. As the Revelator writes,

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” ~Revelation 21:3-4

We walk by faith, not sight.

Creation, A Reason

In some of my posts, especially of late, we have been thinking about the Christian doctrine of Creation; as corollary, we have also been considering our relation to creation in and through Christ. The first step we ought to engage, in our consideration of such things; is to wonder about the God-world relation and what purpose he has always already intended for creation as the counterpoint to his gracious life of love, from which he created. It becomes quickly obvious, as we read the New Testament, and work out the theo-logical implications of Trintarian and Christo-logical assumptions, therein; that creation was created with Christ in mind, and us in Christ. So that God’s original intent, was in and through Christ, to bring all of creation (and humanity as the pinnacle of his creation) into his life of perichoretic (interpenetrating) love (self-giving, subject-in-distinction=Trinity). Scottish theologian, David Fergusson, helps us understand how all of this has played out in the history of interpretation:

The notion of ‘wisdom’ provides further evidence of the integration of creation and salvation in the Old Testament. As the creative agency of God, wisdom is celebrated in the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and some of the deutero-canonical works. In some places, such as Proverbs 8, wisdom is personified as a divine agent. The divine wisdom by which the world is created is also apparent in the regularity of nature, the divine law, and human affairs. This notion of ‘wisdom’ is later fused with the Greek concept of ‘Logos’ and becomes vital for expressing the linking of creation and Christology in the New Testament. In the prologue to John’s Gospel the Word (Logos) of God is the one by whom and through whom the world is created. This Word which is made present to Israel becomes incarnate in Jesus Christ. In this cosmic Christology, the significance of Jesus is understood with respect to the origin and purpose of the created order. Already in Paul’s writing and elsewhere in the New Testament epistles, we find similar cosmic themes (e.g. 1 Cor. 8:6, Col. 1:15-20, Heb. 1:1-4). By describing creation as Christ-centred, these passages offer two related trajectories of thought. First, the origin and final purpose of the cosmos is disclosed with the coming of Christ into the world and his resurrection from the dead. Second, the significance of Christ is maximally understood reference to his creative and redeeming power throughout the created universe. Writers at different periods in the history of the church would later use this cosmic Christology to describe the appearance of the incarnate Christ as the crowning moment of history. No longer understood merely as an emergency measure to counteract the effects of sin and evil, the incarnation was the fulfillment of an eternal purpose. The world was made so that Christ might be born. This is captured in Karl Barth’s dictum that creation is ‘the external basis of the covenant’ (Barth 1958: 94). [David Fergusson, Chapter 4: Creation, 76-7 in The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, edited by John Webster, Kathryn Tanner, and Iain Torrance]

In the history what David Fergusson is describing is known as the Scotist Thesis; viz. that the plan was always for Jesus to incarnate to bring humanity and creation into the divine dialogue and life of communion through union with the Son. The ‘Fall’ intensified the Incarnation in a way that is tragic, but rife with the redemptive hope of the resurrection and advent life! I follow the Scotist thesis on this front. My friend, brother in Christ, Evangelical Calvinist co-conspirator, and doctoral adviser, Myk Habets has written this to open up his essay entitled On Getting First Things First: Assessing Claims for the Primacy of Christ (©The author 2008. Journal compilation ©The Dominican Council/Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2008, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK, and 350 Main Street, Malden MA 02148, USA DOI:10.1111/j.1741-2005.2008.00240.x):

According to Christian tradition Jesus Christ is pre-eminent over all creation as the Alpha and the Omega, the ‘beginning and the end’ (Rev 1.8, 21.6; 22.13). This belief, when theologically considered, is known as the primacy of Christ.1 The specific issue this doctrine addresses is the question: Was sin the efficient or the primary cause of the incarnation? This essay seeks to model the practice of modal logic in relation to the primacy of Christ, not to satisfy the cravings of speculative theologians but to reverently penetrate the evangelical mystery of the incarnation, specifically, the two alternatives: either ‘God became man independently of sin,’ or its contradiction, ‘God became man because of sin’. . . .

Wouldn’t you agree that ‘the world was made so that Christ might be born’?

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. ~Colossians 1:15-23

Culture Wars: Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design … Continue

In the past I would have been known as a hard Intelligent Design advocate, now I could probably be identified as either a soft ID advocate, or even somewhat indifferent (but I will say that I do have problems with the assumptions of a neo-Darwinian conception of macro-evolution, grounded in metaphysical materialism, as it is). This issue of Creationism/Biblicism V. Evolution/Science continues to fuel the culture wars in America at fevered tempatures, in certain tribes that is. My indifference on the topic is probably related more to the fact that I am worn out, at this point, in arguing about it; and the fact that I just don’t pay that much attention to it anymore. David Fergusson, Scottish Theologian at New College, Edinburgh (TF Torrance’s school) writes this:

Recent cultural conflict has been generated, particularly in the USA, by attempts to present Genesis 1—2 as offering an alternative cosmology to that of the modern scientifc world view. Instead of galaxies, planets, and life forms emerging from a violent explosion from a point of infinite density around twelve billion years ago, ‘creation science’ has attempted to maintain a ‘young universe’ only thousands of years old (Frye 1993). While allowing for some changes that are attributed to the effects of the flood, the world is perceived as created in much the same condition as we observe it today. The intellectual impossibility of this movement is evident from its attempt to challenge not merely biological evolution but the confirmed theories of other well-established scientific disciplines, including cosmology, astronomy, physcis, geology, and palaeontology. From the theologian’s perspective, it is an unnecessary fight to pick for the reasons outlined above. As Steve Jones, the distinguished geneticist, has often said, the conflict between science and religion resembles a fight between a tiger and a shark. Each will prevail on its own proper territory, but it will be hopelessly defeated by encroaching on the domain of the other. [David Fergusson, The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology: Chapter 4, Creation, 74]

When push comes to shove, I think my ‘ID’ sensibilities are still present. There is too much of a quid pro quo[ness] to this whole game sometimes—i.e. if the theologian will scratch the scientist’s back, the scientist will scratch the theologian’s back, or vice versa, etc. ID has been collapsed into creationism, when in fact ID is clearly not creationism, as it seeks to offer an active working scientific model (like Dembski’s ‘specified complexity’ etc.). I think there is more to this than Fergusson lets on. Someone no less than famed atheist of the 20th century, Antony Flew, converted to theism (no small feat), in no small part to the arguments presented by Intelligent Design scientists—clearly this is circumstantial, and not an argument for ID; but it helps to illustrate the kind of force that ID has to offer, to the point of helping clear the intellectual and evidentiary hurddles that heretofore had prevented an antagonistic atheist like Flew to reject his life’s work, to state that he was now a convinced theist.

Anyway, this is something that, ultimately, I don’t think Christians need to divide over (I mean fellowship); but it is something we can disagree over. I don’t think Fergusson and those like him have considered that there are actually quite a few reputable scientists who have rejected neo-Darwinianism in favor of ID. Alas, the public smear campaign has by and large worked to relegate ID to the quagmire of so called ‘Creation Science’.

This is one thing that I actually disagree with TF Torrance on; TFT would have been in the Fergusson camp. Or more to the point, Fergusson is actually in TFT’s camp on this.

What do you think?