Areopagus Lecture 2
Simon Oliver: Creation, Modernity, & Public Theology
Many contemporary discussions that make reference to creation are framed in light of assumed conflicts between science and religion and are frequently concerned with giving an account of the earth’s origins. But is talking about origins synonymous with what the church fathers meant by the act of creation? Does providing scientifically plausible accounts of how the earth began or pointing to staggering probabilities as evidence for intelligent design provide an adequate understanding of the relationship between God and creation? Do we as modern Christians truly understand what the church fathers meant by “nothing” in the phrase creation ex nihilo?
What if our understanding of creation “as origin” is inadequate? Can a misunderstanding of creation lead to unhealthy and harmful cultural institutions?
The fall 2017 Areopagus Lecture, entitled “Creation, Modernity, and Public Theology,” featured canon-theologian, Simon Oliver on the traditional understanding of the doctrine of creation and on how some of our modern divisions and disputes are products of an insufficient framework for creation that developed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Simon Oliver on the doctrine of creation and modernity
“Creation ex nihilo is precisely the doctrine that creation is not a process: one thing becoming another. It is the very instantiation of created being, but with no prior cause other than God’s will. If science were able to talk of creation ex nihilo, it would no longer be science; it would have become a theological metaphysics. . . . God’s act of creation is perfectly peaceful. It doesn’t involve an overcoming of a preexistent stuff. So unlike a ‘celestial mechanic,’ God’s relation to creation is not a matter of overcoming, manipulating, managing, or maintaining a recalcitrant energy. It is — to use St. Paul’s beautiful phrase in Romans 4 — quite simply, the calling into existence the things that do not exist.”