Friday, July 10, 2015

Creation, soteriology, and the "problem" of the two Adams

I am not concerned with the problem of a first Adam. The fact is, we have no idea what creatio ex nihilo is (see also Karl Jaspers on Creation). We, as the created, only know creatio ex materia. Resurrection is the same way. We think we know what it is, but we really have no more idea than we do about creation. We only know the result, the what, but not the how. We know that resurrection is not reanimation and creation is not reworking some pliable, neutral, and everlasting material. God is not a thing among things, but we are.

Similarly, why does evolution present a problem? God creates from nothing, an act that does not preclude an infinity of changing somethings. The universe may stretch back into the forever, expanding and changing, hissing and sparking out world after world like a firecracker held in the dark. This is not a problem: an infinity of changing somethings is not a from nothing. Evolution is just a closer view of some long length of something. Flesh may change, but it does not create flesh from nothing at all.

I tend to think that evolution is soteriological gift. It tells us that human beings are a piece with all of creation--that we are of the same stuff as everthing else. It tells us that the human being, the imago Dei, Jesus, assumed all flesh and so redeemed all flesh: soteriology is ecology; ecology, soteriology. In the resurrected flesh of Jesus all creation hopes. The us among whom God tabernacled includes the rocks that cry out and the trees that clap their hands.

Finally, for the sake of further thinking (and this is very speculative now), I would like to consider the existence of Adam and Even in parallel with the election of God. Even as Jesus set himself apart, so his people are set apart in him. The imago Dei as something graciously received from and through and because of Jesus. Adam and Eve become the beginning of those people in time, the first of the elect and also representatives of elect humanity to come. Therefore, perhaps the language of "fall" is unhelpful. Humanity is made good, but still vulnerable. (I'm thinking of the language of Augustine and human creation in a state of innocence.) Elected humanity can then b made perfect in him ("Be perfect because he is perfect."), though as gold is purified through fire.

Note also the interesting, tri-fold distinction of God's creating activity outlined in Mark Harris's The Nature of Creation. Harris understands the creation texts in scripture to describe the relationship of God with the world. Creation out of nothing, creatio ex nihilo, is “best expressed as a statement of God’s transcendence.” Continuous creation, creatio continua, “is most clearly an expression of God’s immanence.” God is in intimate relationship with humans and the rest of creation. Creation from the old, creatio ex vetere, (Harris's innovative addition) “is fundamentally a descriptive term for God’s redemptive activity in creation (186). Creation from the old is clearly connected with the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrected body is in a discernible continuity with the pre-death body plus something new as well: “more than the resuscitation of a corpse.” Still, Harris sees examples of creation from the old in other texts and situations also.

These three aspects of creation are simplifications and should not be separated rigorously.

God’s work of creation ex nihilo, continua, and ex vetere are not three different actions, but one creative action, while at the same time they point to the diversity and diversity of the unitary God. It is no accident that this is reminiscent of Trinitarian language of God – three in one and one in three – for it was through observations such as these, of God’s diverse work in the theatres of creation and redemption, that the three persons of the Trinity came to be recognized and distinguished as such. But the three categories of creative work are not to be identified with the three persons of the Trinity; rather it is distinctions such as these that have been important in the development of Trinitarian thinking. (187)