beginning God created heaven and earth.... And God created man in his image,
in the image of God he created him....” (Gen. 1:1, 27)
verses are contained two most profound mysteries which are appropriately the
only applications (with one exception) of the word ברא
, "to create," in the first chapter of Genesis
: the origin of the universe as a whole, and the origin of man within the
universe. "Heaven and earth" are together another way of saying "the universe."
Science speaks of the age of the universe, its expansion and its structure
in terms of space and time, but ultimately how the matter and energy which
drives the universe came to exist remains a mystery, the Big Bang notwithstanding.1 Then there is man, the lonely creature who, like God,
creates! Man's creative intelligence and spirit, his ability to reason and
his propensity to worship, his science, his art, and his religion, remains
without parallel or explanation. "Man is not merely an evolution but rather
In the beginning...
translation “in the beginning,” see Jer. 26:1, 27:1, 28:1, 49:34, all of which
use the same term ( בְּרֵאשִׁית
) for the beginning of a king’s reign, to wit,
“in the beginning of the reign of ….” As with
the references from Jeremiah, the intent is not to describe the order in which
things happened (e.g., what was created first), but simply to establish a
time frame for the series of events to be described (e.g., when everything
was created). The translation “in the beginning” does not, however, presuppose
that time existed before the creation: the beginning is the beginning of time,
when time began.
was created with the creation of the universe, if the event of creation did
not take place within time as we understand and measure it, then in what state
of being did the event take place? The traditional answer is eternity.
of time to eternity may be expressed in at least three ways: (1) Linear: eternity is
simply time stretched to infinity, i.e., time without limit, time without
beginning or end. By this view, time itself could not have a beginning, and
the unqualified statement "when time began" would be nonsensical. (2) Oppositional: eternity
is a state of timelessness, without attachment in any way to time. By this
view, time and eternity are opposites: an eternal entity exists without relation
to time, while time is by definition limited, i.e., temporal.3 This view allows the statement, "when time began,"
but the complete detachment of time from eternity leaves the latter unreal
and unknowable. (3) Emanational: eternity is the whole fabric while time is (by analogy)
one thread of the fabric, i.e., time is attached to eternity as one dimension4 or emanation. A similar view is expressed by A.J.
Heschel: "Time is the border of eternity. Time is eternity formed into tassels...
Every instant is like a thread raveling out of eternity to form a delicate
tassel."5 The eternal may be sensed within the bounds of time,
experienced as real and (in a very limited way) known. Each moment is both
an instant in time and a connection to the eternal. "When time began" would
be such a moment. In the words of Ecclesiastes, "[God] made everything (
beautiful in his6 time, he also set
( הָעֹלָם ) in their heart, yet man cannot discover what God has made from the beginning (
מֵרֹאשׁ ) to the end." (Eccl. 3:11) The notion of eternity is thus as
attractive to the human mind as it is difficult to imagine within our time-bound
experience of reality.
In the beginning
you know about God? This question was asked by one of Job's companions: "Can7 you discover the mystery (
הַחֵקֶר ) of God? Can you discover the boundary of the Almighty?....
What can you know?" (Job 11:7-8) God is unsearchable ( אֵין חֵקֶר
; Job 5:9, Psa. 145:3). God is the ultimate mystery
in relation to the universe and man. More than a touch of humility is necessary
when you are expounding on the subject of God.
and the atheist share something in common: both are certain they know everything
they need to know about God! The fundamentalist is certain that God is fully
revealed in the Bible and that doubt concerning God is a sin. The atheist,
or more precisely the naturalist,8 is certain
that God does not exist and that the concept of God adds nothing to our understanding
of the universe or man. Somewhere in the middle is the person who searches
to know God more fully while admitting that God, if such an entity exists,
remains unproven and essentially undefined.9
proofs of God's existence abound. Unfortunately, they are dubious at best,
most often fallacious, and always unsatisfactory in terms of the "God" they
purport to prove. For example, the argument from design gets everything backwards:
A creative intelligence presupposes an intelligible external world (i.e.,
something to observe, define, measure, test, and evaluate), not vice versa.
Even man's mere existence presupposes natural forms and patterns since there
is some form to man. Thus you cannot go from man's intelligence to a grand
designer via a Swiss watch, since man's designing ability is based on the
existence of a intelligible world which this grand designer was to have created.
On what perceptions did the grand designer draw? What is the meaning of an
intelligence without something which is intelligible? In any case, the argument
from design fails because order does not presuppose design or purpose.10
are the books of theology which establish the existence of an absolute, self-existent,
necessary being--or so they claim--and then proceed to add all sorts of moral
and personal attributes to that being while leaving behind their rational
proofs. A more honest approach is needed: if your belief in God is derived
from revelation, e.g., the Bible, then begin there and critically evaluate
the concept of God found. What does the Bible (and its interpreters) say
about the nature of God?
else the Bible may say about God, you cannot avoid the fact that the God of
the Bible is supernatural: God is not bounded by the natural world of space
and time. So of course for the naturalist any thought of belief in such a
God is excluded: nature is all there is. C.S. Lewis presented a philosophical
critique of naturalism.11 Part
of his critique held that reason must precede nature, that our capacity to
infer truths about nature cannot stem from nature itself.12 Here I think he was mistaken, for while not all our
thoughts and truths are in themselves valid--they may very well stem from
natural impulses and stimuli which are subjective--we may still test their
validity and objectivity by their accuracy in explaining observations. The
data of nature may in this way establish truths, without appeal to the supernatural.
I do find another part of his argument compelling. In response to the naturalist's
disdain for religious and metaphysical speculations, he wrote: "Naturalism
is a prime specimen of that towering speculation, discovered from practice
and going far beyond experience, which is now being condemned. Nature [with
a capital N] is not an object that can be presented either to the senses or
the imagination. It can be reached only by the most remote inferences. Or
not reached, merely approached. It is the hoped for, the assumed, unification
in a single interlocked system of all the things inferred from our scientific
experiments. More than that, the Naturalist, not content to assert this,
goes on to the sweeping negative assertion "There is nothing except this"--an
assertion surely, as remote from practice, experience, and any conceivable
verification as was ever made since men began to use their reason speculatively."13 The naturalist thus trips on his own certainty.
God of the Bible is supernatural, the Bible does not limit God to the transcendent
realm, i.e., outside of and having nothing to do with the natural world. Actually
the relation of God to the universe has been understood in a variety of ways
by both ancient and modern students of the Bible. For example, Maimonides
and Spinoza offer very different views of the God they both held to be revealed
by the Bible.
taught that God is essentially One, and that from the unity of God follow
certain implications (not to be confused with attributes), such as God is
Eternal and God is Incorporeal (Immaterial). That God is One is based on
the Shema, the central declaration of Judaism, taken from Deuteronomy 6:4.
Isaiah 45-46 also identifies God as the one and only God. To the mind of
Maimonides this meant that no attributes could be added to God's essence.
"Those who believe that God is One, and that He has many attributes, declare
the unity with their lips, and assume plurality in their thoughts.... God
is One in every respect, containing no plurality or any element superadded
to His essence... [The] many attributes of different significations applied
in Scripture to God, originate in the multitude of His actions, not in a plurality
existing in His essence, and are partly employed with the object of conveying
to us some notion of His perfection, in accordance with what we consider perfection"14 Even the notion that God is perfect does not capture
the essence of God, which is unity.
By no accident
the prefix of universe is associated with unity. The idea of a universe is that
of a whole, the whole of existence to the naturalist, tied together by natural
law. Spinoza has been misunderstood to endorse a simplistic relation between
the one God and the one universe known as pantheism: God and Nature are one
and the same. Yes, but not quite. Spinoza distinguishes between (A) Nature
as active and creative, i.e., the processes and "laws" of nature, and (B)
Nature as passive and created, i.e., the material and contents of nature.15 He only identifies God with the former, or as he argues,
"That God's nature and existence, and consequently His providence cannot be
known from miracles, but... from the fixed and immutable order of nature."16 His primary opposition
is not to the notion that God is immaterial but that God is supernatural.17 Again: "Our knowledge of God and of God's will increases
in proportion to our knowledge and clear understanding of nature [i.e.] how
she works to eternal law."18 God's
will cannot be seen in supposed miracles but in the observed regularities of nature.
own lifetime Spinoza was misunderstood, such that he thought it necessary
to clarify his teaching. "God is the immanent, and not the extraneous, cause
of all things. I say, All is in God; all lives and moves19 in God.... It is however a complete mistake on the
part of those who say that my purpose... is to show that God and Nature, under
which the last term they understand a certain mass of corporeal matter, are
one and the same. I had no such intention."20 Spinoza thus stresses the immanence of God without reducing
God to materiality.21
Spinoza unnecessarily limits the sphere of God's influence to the natural,
and equates deity with natural law. Heschel responds: "God is one, but one
is not God. Some of us are inclined to deify the one supreme force or law
that regulates all phenomena of nature.... Yet, to refer to the supreme law
of nature as God or to say that the world came into being by virtue of its
own energy is to beg the question. For the cardinal question is not what
is the law that would explain the interaction of phenomena in the universe,
but why there is a law, a universe at all."22 The answer to that question does not necessarily lead
to a supernatural realm or God, but neither is it satisfied by assuming the
universe has always been and that natural law is eternal law.
In the beginning
in praises, Master of wonders, who renews in his goodness every day continually
the work of creation ( בְּרֵאשִׁית
; lit., in the
verse of the Bible declares that God created the universe, "heaven and earth."
This means more than that God is the cause of the universe, for God could be the immanent cause
without beginning, as Spinoza taught, an eternal God equated with the immutable
laws that govern an eternal uncreated universe. The same verse implies that
the universe had a beginning, when time began. Further, the Bible dismisses
the idea that God could be contained within the universe: "Heaven, even the
highest heaven, cannot contain (or sustain) you...." (I Kings 8:27)
other hand, to say that God created the universe does not necessarily mean
that it was created out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo), and in fact the Bible
does not specify this to have been the case. After all, if God is real then
God is something, perhaps not of the same material as the physical universe,
but still something. And if we equate the universe with "heaven and earth" then
the universe may be grounded on more than the matter and energy known to astrophysics.
Thus to say that the universe had a beginning does not exclude the possibility
that something exists apart from the known universe which God used to create
the same "in the beginning." The only question is whether the something came
from within God or without.
of the creation as an event of the past may be misleading. The Creator as
well as the creation are not bounded by time; they are eternal phenomena,
not temporal. If this is so, the possibility of continuous creation is not
excluded, as the possibility of some form of engagement between the eternal
and our time-bound universe remains open.24
creation does not mean that God continually disrupts the natural course of
events in the universe. It does mean that God has not withdrawn from the
universe after "the beginning" but continues to fill the elements with his
energy. Continuous creation means continuously unfolding creation: the creation
is not finished.25 Continuous creation
also may be understood in the sense of the providence of God. Translated
into temporal terms we observe intra-natural cycles of renewal--days and seasons--that
are a continual reminder of God's creative activity in the universe and help
define his providence.
presents this continuous aspect of creation in vivid (albeit unscientific)
terms. God is ultimately the one who causes springs to flow and rain to fall,
vegetation to grow and animals to seek their prey, the sun and moon to mark
days and seasons. (vv. 10-23) The psalm concludes its description of God's
providence by saying of living things, "When you gather their energy they expire
and return to their [original form as] dust. When you release your energy26 they
are created and you renew the surface of the earth." (vv. 29-30) God is the
God of new beginnings.
the providence of God does not imply continually miraculous intervention,
the supernatural overturning the natural. Maimonides argued for a more sophisticated
view of providence: "I do not believe that it is through the interference
of Divine Providence that a certain leaf drops [from a tree], nor do I hold
that when a certain spider catches a certain fly, that this is the direct
result of a special decree and will of God in that moment; it is not by a
particular Divine decree that the spittle of a certain person moved, fell
on a certain gnat in a certain place, and killed it; nor is it by the direct
will of God that a certain fish catches and swallows a certain worm on the
surface of the water. In all these cases the action is, according to my opinion,
entirely due to chance...."27 Instead,
Maimonides restricts providence (except in the case of human beings) to the
level of whole species, not the individual creature. A somewhat artificial
distinction, to be sure. However, it points toward an understanding of providence
that acknowledges the language of Biblical passages such as Psalm 104 but
also supports the science of the day28 in
interpretation of these passages.
In the beginning
God created heaven and earth.
"heaven and earth" can be understood in two different ways. First, heaven
and earth are taken together to represent all that is, the limits of existence,
the universe. This is almost certainly the primary meaning intended by the
author of Genesis 1. God created everything, both heaven above and earth
below. "Heaven is my throne, and earth my footstool." (Isa. 66:1) "Do I
not fill heaven and earth?" (Jer. 23:24) Second, heaven and earth are considered
separately, as two levels of existence, each the subject of creation. This
secondary meaning should not be ignored, for the Bible is not particularly
concerned with understanding the nature of universe, not as we are today.
Instead, the focus of Biblical revelation is the relationship between God
and man,29 between the singular realm of heaven and the fractured
government of earth.
is the nature of heaven? Psalms 113 and 115 offer a particular view of the relationship between God and heaven: he is the One who made heaven and earth (115:15), who
oversees what he made, both heaven and earth (113:6), whose glory is above heaven (113:4). God dwells and reigns
not in heaven as such, but at "the heights" (113:5), a level of being both
above heaven and encompassing heaven (cf. 115:3, God is in heaven, and 115:16,
heaven belongs to God alone).
is sometimes a euphemism for:
* God's realm,
"for God is in heaven, and you are on earth" (Eccl. 5:1);
* what is
normal existence of man who has been given earth (Psa. 115:16), i.e., what
is not part of man's realm and what is not part of the known universe (in
Biblical terms, the known universe is "earth");
* what is
(Psa. 89:30 MT) as opposed to earth's temporality;30 and
* what is
invisible, contrast Psa. 115:3, "Our God is in heaven," with vv. 4-8. When
the Psalm declares "God is in heaven" this is another way of saying that God,
in contrast to the idols, is invisible, incorporeal, the real thing!
this the heaven of Genesis 1? Not so much. In Genesis 1 heaven is not a
euphemism for God's realm, or the eternal, for heaven is created and therefore
a part of the temporal universe experienced by man. At some level this heaven
is also visible and material, though at another level it may represent a part of
the universe which remains mysterious, unmeasured and unexplored (Jer. 31:36
known in the degree to which the earth's surface is known.31
identifies heaven with the "expanse" and several other verses refer to the
"expanse of heaven" (1:14, 15, 17, 20). This expanse becomes the home for
the sun, moon, and stars (1:16-17), as well as birds (1:20).
, not a open-ended plural, but a dual noun, i.e.,
something that occurs in pairs. Thus "the heavens" is just as misleading
a translation as "heaven." If we take the word in a literal sense, it would
suggest that there are two parts to heaven. A possible interpretation: the
day sky and the night sky. Once again, this heaven is material in nature.
if the apparent dualism of “heaven and earth” is only a convenient way
to observe the whole of existence, as what is above and below, while in fact
existence is a unity: even as God is One, so the universe is one. If that
were so, then our category heaven would be an artificial construct, a very
human way to comprehend what cannot be touched. Whether heaven is material
or spiritual, temporal or eternal, misses the point of view, the human perspective,
which loves to categorize, and prefers dual categories.
noted, the phrase “heaven and earth” may not be intended to divide, but
to sum up, all that exists. Still, the creation narrative moves back and
forth between heaven and earth, from the expanse above to the waters and dry
land below. Ultimately the focus of creation comes to rest on earth, and
then man. Here is the sometimes awkward encounter of creation and evolution.
of life on earth, whether by natural selection or symbiosis or other processes,
is a factual description of observed phenomena (e.g., fossils embedded in
measured stratum). That the Bible does not “agree” with evolution hardly
casts doubt on the latter. Genesis 1 identifies a cast of characters and
outlines a plot in the story of origins; character development and interpretation
of the plot is a task for scientific discovery.
God of creation also the God of evolution? Obviously, for God to be God,
for God to be truth and not fiction, this must be so. Just as believing in
something doesn’t make it true, so denying the results of scientific discovery
or scoffing at well-reasoned scientific theories doesn’t honor God or faith.
case, God is present in the formation of earth and present in the evolution
of life on earth. In the process, God does not cease to be God nor does evolution
cease to be evolution: we hold the former as true and the latter as factual.
God’s presence does not overwhelm natural processes: he does not mark them
with his signature. Rather, God’s presence fills those processes with his
anonymous glory. “God is present on every occasion and active in every
event. From the macrocosmic to the microcosmic, there is no getting beyond
the presence of God.”32
presence does not necessarily extend to design. Just as the argument from
design models God after man, for man is a designer of things, so to equate
creation with design is to view God’s relationship to his creation through
human eyes. In what sense can God create and not design? God could be the
source of energy behind creation and evolution without designing or determining
any specific outcomes. “When you send your breath, they are created, and
you renew the surface of the earth.” (Psalm 104:30) But we can not know
with any certainty the way that God relates to his creation.33 God remains the ultimate mystery of the universe in
spite of our best efforts to limit him to our way of relating to things.
is not held to be the Grand Designer, the architect of the earth’s forms,
then why invoke God as Creator? In addition to what has just been said, that
God may be the source without being the designer, we may also say:
of life forms on earth may well be a rare, possibly even a singular, event
in the universe. It has become commonplace to say the opposite, that in the
“billions and billions” of planetary systems surely life must be present
elsewhere, given the necessary materials and conditions of life are present.
Really? Life as we know it on earth depends on the coincidence of so many
factors, even the size and position of the earth’s moon, that repetition
in other parts of the universe seems not impossible but unlikely, a rarity
instead of a plurality. There is a reason why aliens of higher intelligence
and more sophisticated technology have not contacted us: they probably don’t
exist. Until proven otherwise, we humans are the highest known form of intelligent
life in the universe. The probable singularity of advanced life forms on earth
may, with justification, suggest something more than coincidence, perhaps
something we choose to call God.
here presented as the culmination of the creative acts of God, which of course
he is! Human evolution is a subject studied by... humans. God is a concept
conceived by... humans. Neither the dolphin nor the daffodil is the least
bit concerned with such matters as their own origin or the source of the world
in which they live. Science and religion are uniquely human interests.
unique, but not uniquely created. Human evolution has taken place alongside
the development of other life forms, just as in the text man is created on
the same day as other land animals. The miracle which is man came out of
evolutionary processes such as natural selection, by random mutation of the
DNA shared with all life forms. And yet, in the end result we may catch a
glimpse of God, “who does great and unsearchable things, wonders without
number.” (Job 5:9)
... in his
tendency of religious thought reverses this act: God is described in human
terms, and imagined as fulfilling human aspirations and values. Not only
are such all-too-human passions as anger and vengeance ascribed to God, the
divine may equally be made to fit into human categories when goodness and
love are identified with God. While man is created in the image of God, it
does not follow that God may be uncritically fashioned in the image of man.
asks, “To whom will you liken God? What likeness will you compare him to?”
(40:18) Isaiah is ridiculing idolatry: comparing God to a man-made image. But in Genesis
1 the opposite is presented: man is likened to God, he is compared to the
likeness of God. In other words, God is the original, man is the copy, God
is the reality, man is the shadow34, God
is the subject, man is the object.
remains: In what manner is man created in the image of God? In what sense
is man compared to God?
1.A significant clue: Adam birthed Seth “in his likeness, according
to his image.” (Gen. 5:3) This suggests that the relation of God to man
is in some way comparable to the relation of a man to his son. Just as a
man and his son are not the same but uniquely share a physical resemblance
and certain character traits, so God and man uniquely share the image of the
Creator. In addition, the son acknowledges the man as his father. So we
read, “Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?”
(Deut. 32:6b) And, “You are our Father, we are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.” (Isa. 64:7 MT) In the words of Solomon Dubnow,
man is “capable of an intelligent acknowledgment of his creator.”35
2.Given the assumption that God is without material form, the shared
image must be immaterial. So Maimonides identifies man’s intellect with
the image of God: “As man’s distinction consists in a property which no
other creature on earth possesses, viz., intellectual
perception, in the exercise of which he does
not employ his senses..., this perception has been compared--though only apparently,
not in truth--to the Divine perception.... On this account, i.e., on account
of the Divine intellect with which man has been endowed, he is said to have
been made in the form and likeness of the Almighty...”36
3.Another clue: the creation account in Genesis, chapter 1 and the
beginning of chapter 2, is part of the “priestly” source. A major theme
of this source, holiness, may be what is intended by the image of God. Three times
the precept is repeated to Israel, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (Lev. 11:44,45;
19:2) Again, we read, “Be holy to your God.” (Num. 15:40) The design
of the tabernacle and the services of the priests are a display of holiness.
Any thing or person dedicated to God’s exclusive use is holy. God’s name
is holy, i.e., set apart from common use. Likewise, in the order of creation
man is distinguished from other creatures and placed in a special relationship
with God. The human creature is uniquely endowed with an intellectual capacity
to make distinctions, and specifically to distinguish between the sacred (what
belongs to God) and the profane (what is for common use). This is holiness.
1. As of 2008, with the observations
of satellite-based telescopes and probes providing further confirmation, the
Big Bang theory remains the answer of mainstream science to the origin and
expansion of the universe: it all began 13.7 billion years ago in a hot and
dense substance the size of a pinhead, then expanded and cooled into the structures
we observe today. Even if we assume the theory to be correct (and I do until
a better theory comes along), the source of the pinhead remains a mystery
and a matter of pure speculation. One popular idea has the universe originating
within a multiverse; unfortunately for science this multiverse theory cannot
be tested or verified, sort of like... God. For a review of the current state
of knowledge, see Neil deGrasse Tyson and Donald Goldsmith, Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004).
2. G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting
Man (Garden City, New York: Image Books,
1955 edition), p. 27.
3. Maimonides seems to hold this view when he defines eternity as
"the necessity of existence," argues that God alone is eternal, and says that
time, as a measurement of the motion of material objects, has no relation
to God, who is immaterial. See Moses Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed (trans.
Friedlander, 1904 edition), Part I, chs. 52, 63; Part II, ch. 13. However,
that time is measured does not mean that time is limited to its measurement;
surely time exists whether it is measured (or used as a measurement) or not.
For example, we can experience the passage of time without calculating (or
even wondering) how much time has passed.
4. I hesitate to use the word dimension as that might imply that
eternity is measurable. After all, a dimension is a measurement. I am not
sure the time-eternity relation is dimensional in this literal sense. On
the other hand, if eternity is not measurable then is this view different
from the oppositional? A possible answer: Not everything real and knowable
is directly measurable. Examples might include qualitative relationships such
as tonality in music, or pararhymes in poetry. That these examples are both
artificial constructs of the human intellect and not "real" phenomena given
by nature, that they are mental and not physical, does not negate their very
real existence in a universe that includes the human intellect and its mental
processes. Other examples: aesthetic properties such as beauty, linguistic
forms such as names, ordinal (as opposed to cardinal) numerical relationships.
5. Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion (New York: The Noonday Press, 1951), p. 205. He also
writes: "Eternity is another word for unity.... The opposite of eternity is
diffusion not time.... Time is eternity broken in space, like a ray of light
refracted in the water." (Ibid., p. 112.)
8. As any well-versed atheist will
say, atheism is the absence of belief in God, not an assertion that God does
not exist. However, the naturalist does deny even the possibility of the
supernatural, hence also what is usually meant by God.
9. Undefined? "God cannot be distilled to a well-defined idea.
All concepts fade when applied to His essence." And: "Definitions take the
name of God in vain. We have neither an image nor a definition of God."
(Heschel, op. cit., pp. 108, 97.) Of course Heschel does not leave our understanding of God
here. His main point is that the reality of God cannot be limited by our
definitions of him, as if God were an object of our study. Rather, if God
is God, then God is the subject (the Creator), we are the object of his concern
(the creature). Our possible knowledge of God is limited, but his knowledge
of us is what matters after all. "To think of God is to expose ourselves
to Him, to conceive of ourselves as a reflection of His reality." (Ibid.,
10. Even the assumption of a natural "order" is suspect. Friedrich
Nietzsche writes, "Let us even beware of believing that the universe is a
machine: it is certainly not constructed for one purpose.... The total character
of the world... is in all eternity chaos--in the sense not of a lack of necessity but of a
lack of order, arrangement, form, beauty, wisdom, and whatever other names
there are for our aesthetic anthropomorphisms.... Let us beware of saying
there are laws in nature. There are only necessities.... Once you know that
there are no purposes, you also know that there is no accident; for it is
only beside a world of purposes that the word 'accident' has meaning." (From
“The Gay Science,” Book 3, section 109, as quoted in The Nietzsche Reader, ed.
Keith Ansell-Pearson and Duncan Large, Blackwell Publishing, 2006. p. 219.)
11. C.S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1947), 1978 edition.
12. Ibid., pp. 12-24 (chapter entitled, "The Cardinal Difficulty
14. Maimonides, op. cit., Part I, chs. 50, 52.
15. Cf. Will Durant, The Story
of Philosophy (New York: Time, 1933), p.
16. Benedict de Spinoza, "A Theological-Political Treatise,"
ch. 4, in The Chief Works of Benedict de
Spinoza (New York: Dover, 1951), p. 82.
17. Or that God acts supernaturally through miracles.
19. Cf. the words attributed to Paul in Acts 17:28.
20. Benedict de Spinoza, "Epistle 21," quoted in Will Durant,
op. cit., pp. 162-163.
21. In fact, Spinoza distinguishes between reason and faith,
between the philosophical and the religious understanding of God. The latter
is guided solely by Scripture and intended for obedience. It is unclear whether
Spinoza would place the unity of God under reason or faith.
22. Heschel, op. cit., p. 107.
23. Excerpt from the blessing before the Shema, weekday morning
24. It does not seem necessary to require a condition of simultaneity
between the eternal and the temporal. While the phenomena (or set of phenomena)
we call creation may originate in the eternal with God the Creator, the transference
(or emanation) of the phenomena into our temporal universe does not imply
a simple one-to-one relationship. For a contrary view, which begins with
a very different and more restricted concept of eternity, cf. Eleonore Stump
and Norman Kretzmann, "Eternity," in Philosophy
of Religion: The Big Questions (Blackwell
Publishing, 1999), pp. 42-53.
25. In two possible ways this continuous creation might manifest
itself, i.e., be observable and verifiable: (1) The sum of the matter and
energy of the universe would continue to expand even as the universe itself
expands; and/or (2) the complexity of structures within the universe would
continue to increase, e.g., the formation of galaxies, the formation (and
increasing complexity) of life. About the latter there is no question: continuous
creation within the universe does take place, with or without God. About
the former, at best it may be possible: the question is not whether it is consistent
with current understanding (it is not) but whether it is consistent with current
knowledge, though not proven. The current assumption is that the universe
is a closed system, and as a result the sum of the matter and energy of the
universe is constant. This assumption may be confused with the law of conservation, which says
that within the universe energy is not created or lost, just transformed,
when energy is turned into mass or mass into energy.
26. The Hebrew רוּחַ
has several specific meanings. In Psalm 104 it
can mean wind (v. 4), breath (v. 29), or spirit (v. 30), all of which are represented by the (intended
as more general) term energy.
27. Maimonides, op. cit., Part 3, ch. 16, p. 422.
28. For Maimonides the science of the day was Aristotle.
29. And in particular Israel.
30. Although it must be admitted that permanence is often ascribed
to both heaven and earth, as in Psa. 78:69 and 119:89-90. But according to
Psa. 102:26-28 MT even heaven and earth will perish; only God truly remains unchanged
31. But in this respect heaven is not unique, for the same
is said of the foundations of the earth (cf. Jer. 31:36).
32. Terence E. Fretheim, God
and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology of Creation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005), p. 23.
33. “There are only two things I hold certain. Being is
a miracle, and the true nature of the miracle is beyond our knowing. The
terms and categories we employ when talking about ultimate things... are crude
signifiers, markers made of clay. To speak of mind or matter or design or
desire or chance or necessity is to peer through a lens that distorts other
regions of the truth as it brings a particular region into focus.” (John
Daniel, “The Untellable Story,” Oregon
Quarterly, Summer 2002, p. 19.)
34. Compare the literal meaning of the root צלם , to be obscure, as in
translated here as image.
35. Solomon Dubnow, from the Biur, a Hebrew commentary on
the Torah he co-authored with Moses Mendelssohn; quoted in a shiur by Nechama
36. Maimonides, op. cit., Part 1, ch. 1 (italics mine).
© 2008-2011, Charles F. Hudson