About Providence, Divine Action and the Church

In this blog, Terry J. Wright posts thoughts and shares research on the Christian doctrine of providence. This doctrine testifies to God’s provision for all things through creation’s high priest, the man Christ Jesus. However, the precise meaning and manner of this provision is a perpetually open question, and this blog is a forum for discussion of the many issues relating to providence and the place of the Church within God’s action.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Ten Speculative Theses for a Pluralistic Cosmos

Here’s another post, probably my last one, on Amos Yong’s The Spirit of Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011). The final chapter looks at what it means to speak about a spirit-filled universe. Notice that it’s spirit-filled and not Spirit-filled; Yong is looking at cosmology through the eyes of a pentecostal-charismatic, which admits the existence of angels, demons and other spiritual realities in the world. (This isn’t to say that other forms of Christianity don’t admit these, but that Yong is especially concerned to understand them in terms consonant with modern science.) In this framework, there is a place for telepathy, precognition, psychokinesis and the like. Reading this chapter has truly been fascinating!

But I’m not posting to discuss parapsychology. I wish to reproduce Yong’s ten speculative theses on what he calls a pluralistic cosmos – that is, a spirit-filled world – discussed on pp. 208–224.

1. The triune God is the only necessary, transcendent, and purely spiritual reality.

2. The creation narrative reveals that the triune God creates all things as good and brings about order and complexity by Spirit (ruach or pneuma) and Word (through divine speech).

3. God is the primordial source of the transcendentals, for example, the good, the beautiful, and the true, but the dialectically oppositional aspects of the axiological, alethic, aesthetic, moral, and spiritual dimensions of the world only fully emerge in the cosmos with the appearance of Homo sapiens, supervening upon their relationships.

4. The emergence of spirit in humanity intensified further the spiritual dimension already latent in the very fabric of our interrelational cosmos.

5. Angelic spirits … are emergent benevolent realities that minister the salvific grace of God to human lives.

6. Demonic spirits … are divergent (as opposed to emergent) malevolent realities that oppose the salvific grace of God in human lives.

7. But the good news is that the triune God continues to work to redeem the world incarnationally (Word) and pentecostally (Spirit), and in this dispensation, such is being accomplished through the church.

8. Negatively put, the redemptive work of the church involves participating in the life and ministry of Christ by the power of his Spirit and naming, resisting, and, where appropriate, exorcising the demonic and delivering the oppressed from its destructive powers.

9. The eschatological redemption of the triune God will involve concrete and material bodies and their emergent inner and spiritual aspects, both announced as good in the primordial creation.

10. On the other “side,” the recalcitrant, reprobate, and irredeemable powers will finally experience (self) destruction, also understood as the other side of the incomprehensible judgment of God.

These theses don’t seem too speculative, but Yong’s exposition throws up details that warrant discussion. Take Thesis 2, for example, that God created all things good. How does this fit in within an evolutionary schema, given the pain, death, etc., that evolution entails? For Yong, the processes by which God creates are good and produce only good things. ‘In this frame of reference, then,’ Yong explains, ‘evil is an inaccurate theological descriptor for the developments – that is, predation, animal suffering, death, and even species extinction – that occurred prior to and contributed to the arrival of Homo sapiens.’ (p. 210). The reason is found in Thesis 3, which argues (again, in the detail) that sin is ‘a theological reality that identifies humanity’s conscious rebellion against and falling out of relationship with God, resulting in the emergence of evil’. (p. 211). Sin supervenes on broken and distorted (human) relationships.

Is this too speculative? If it is, there’s something in here that makes sense to me. Talking about Carcharodontosaurus chasing down and eating Paralititan in terms of evil just doesn’t seem to work, so perhaps Yong’s on to something.

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