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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Monday, October 20, 2003

Systematics Journal Entry #6

The reading for today’s class was rather lighter than usual. Whether this was out of sympathy for the need to study for today’s scheduled theological vocabulary quiz, or simply a lull in the syllabus, I’m not certain; but I’m grateful for the time. Thanks, teach!

In any event, we were assigned two chapters from Migliori. The first of these deals with an understanding of creation. Migliori begins by addressing one of the most common (and, to my mind, often legitimate) criticisms of traditional Christian thought and practice: the “primary, if not exclusive attention” given to the creation of humanity, and the way that the “divine command to humanity to ‘have dominion’ over the earth (Gen 1:26) has been twisted into an ideology of mastery.” (p. 82). Migliori argues against this viewpoint, insisting rather on a biblically-grounded concept of human beings as trustees, as caretakers of God’s creation, responsible for both prudent use and ongoing concern for all that which God has declared as intrinsically good from its inception.

The final portion of this chapter is devoted to confronting perceived conflicts between the biblical creation story and modern science. He points out that the worlds of faith and reason are not, by necessity, mutually exclusive. Both offer important insights; and the fact that they are from divergent perspectives does not diminish their veracity. In fact, he states quite plainly his belief that claims heard from the hard-line ends of the spectrum (fundamental biblicism vs. evolutionary atheism) that “only one of these languages is the voice of truth is simply confounded and arrogant.” (p. 95). He then goes on to offer a more nuanced approach, where each sphere (faith and reason) not only balances, but informs one another, and together offer a fuller appreciation of “the complex and fragile beauty of the interrelated world created by God.” (p. 98).

The second chapter we were assigned talked about theodicy-- that portion of theological thought dealing with how we as Christians balance our belief in God’s loving providence with our recognition of the existence of evil in the world. Migliore offers up a very short synopsis of the way this topic has been considered, both from historical (Augustine and Calvin) and contemporary (Barth and Cobb, Hick and Cone, among others) perspectives. He then offers critiques, noting the areas they address, as well as the gaps apparent in each. Finally, he concludes with his own, decidedly trinitarian approach, made possible in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He quotes Moltmann, who holds that by this, “all the suffering of the world is encompassed in the affliction of the Son, the grief of the Father, and the comfort of the Spirit, who inspires courage and hope to pray and work for the renewal of all things.” (p.115).

He does not, like some theologians, try to offer an explanation for why evil happens, which may be the hole in his argument. He acknowledges this, noting that his proposal is only a preliminary to the reconstruction of the doctrine of providence that he believes is necessary. However, he also maintains that “the biblical witness is far less interested in speculation on the origin of evil than on resistance to it in confidence of the superiority and ultimate victory of God’s love;” (p.119), and that trusting in divine providence in the face of evil is the anchor to which believers must cling as they “continue to watch, pray and struggle for God’s new world in the company of all who are afflicted and cry for deliverance.” (p. 119)


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