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Explaining away

"Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." John 1.3

We used to have it all sewn up: God was in his heaven and mankind subdued and ruled the world on his behalf, as befitted his status as being made "in the image of God". Then science came and messed it up. Copernicus showed us that earth is not at the centre of the universe. Darwin helped us realise that we belong to the natural world rather than standing apart from it. And Freud revealed disturbing insights into the influences which affect our rationality and behaviour. So where does that leave us - and God?

There are three classical ways of thinking about the relationship between God and creation, which includes ourselves are those doing the thinking. Originally there was 'theism': the idea that God and creation are entirely separate. God is transcendent and unchanging and therefore, although not removed from creation (because he made it), is unaffected by what goes on there/ here. Creation, by contrast, is subject to all sorts of change as it evolves over time. 'Pantheism' represents an alternative view in which God and creation are so inextricably entwined as to be indistinguishable: a notion which is more akin to Oriental religion than Judaeo-Christian faith. These latter would sit more comfortably with the third perspective, which is 'Panentheism', according to which God is both transcendent in glory and yet intimately committed to the flourishing of creation.

But just when we seem to have restored order to the mess which science got us into, further awkward dilemmas arise: where do miracles fit in and what to do about the problem of evil?...



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