Category Archives: trinity

Is Creation God? Can God be incarnate in Creation?

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Is Creation God?

One of the great moves by the churches in the 30 years has been a concern for the environment. That was after decades of not being bothered.

One diocese in the forefront is Oxford Diocese and they are releasing as series of four videos on Creation and our care on the environment in which the Bishop of Reading gives four short addresses on different aspects.

The first dealt with a general view of creation which needs to underpin all care of the environment. Much was standard Christian teaching but somehow she brought in the idea of God as incarnate in Creation;

“If God is incarnate in the whole of creation, can there be any separation between sacred and profane?”  

We ought to welcome her concern for creation and environment, but may question her support of Extinction Rebellion and Christian Climate Action, but this raises more than a few eyebrows.

However there are severe questions about what she said.

How can one say that God is incarnate in creation?

From 2.30 she deals with Incarnation and says the Incarnation becomes vaster with the Big Bang 14 billion years ago.

and 2.50 God poured his godself into Creation

From 3.40 uses Colossians 1 and John ! to support this

and then in 4.30f that Evolution is God incarnate

The word “Incarnate” means is enfleshed  and is used of God becoming human in Jesus, just think of the Prologue of John’s gospel read as the culmination of every Christmas Carol Service and usually the main reading at Christmas services;

And the Word became flesh and lived among us John 1 vs 14

i.e God – the Word – became “flesh” – a human.

Hence Christian theology has always spoken of the Incarnation to sum up this central belief which is expressed in the apsotles and Nicene Creeds and by theologians down the centuries – except those in the 1970s who went for “The Myth of God Incarnate”!

You could say that this video is not quite Nicene orthodoxy!

To say that God is incarnate in Creation is first a bad use of the word “incarnate” as that means “enfleshed”. I presume what she meant is that God is in the whole creation, but that would make God “enmattered”.

edit 13/10/20 I should have checked – it’s straight out of Richard Rohr Creation as the body of God. and in The Universal Christ.

https://cac.org/creation-body-god-2016-11-09/

To say that God is in the whole of creation is NOT the theistic understanding of God and Creation but Pantheism, where God is in all of creation. It is fair to say that the Biblical texts on creation and theologians during the last 2000 years have stressed that God is apart from his Creation.

Here we speak of god being immanent and transcendent. If He was just the latter he’d be a deistic god, who leaves the world alone – or as one atheistic wag once put it £God made the world and retired hurt.” But God is involved and present and that is immanence.

This is expressed neatly by some quasi-mathematical equations by William Tmple in Nature Man and God (p435)  

World – God = Zero

God – World = God

Ideas from Process Theology of Panentheism are attempts to express this in another way, but not all theists are convinced.

Ultimately Christianity and Judaism and Islam as THEISTIC faiths see God is separate from Creation and not “incarnate” in any sense. Islam also questions whether God can be incarnate in Jesus, but that is another question.

Christian teaching must have a very high view of creation and the Bishop is trying to express that, but falters on the use of “incarnate”, which van only mean Pantheism and not Theism. Too often creation and its value has been ignored and sidelined, so that creation is only the stage where we “work out our salvation” or lack of it. Who cares what happens to it as it will only be burnt up at the end of time!!

As Christians we need to show awe and wonder with Creation, not worship as God being incarnate in Creation would require. We should worship the creator not the creation.

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It is also absolutely vital to care and nurture God’s creation, but to spell that out would need another score or so blogs!!

But here is a brief and simple (simplistic) summary

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/01/03/gods-creation-and-the-environment/

I also think the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins has something to teach us too.

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/gods-grandeur-gerard-manley-hopkins/

And a chapter in a book published by the Geological society on creation in reference to geology

Genesis one for geologists

Finally Colossians chap1 vs13-22

13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. 21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—

Oxford Diocese and the bishop have responded on the diocese website

A helpful clarification…

 

What’s happened?

A number of commentators on social media have said that the core message of this film by the Bishop of Reading is pantheistic or panentheistic. Pantheism is defined as a doctrine which identifies God with the universe, or regards the universe as a manifestation of God.

What does that mean, and why does it matter?

Incarnate means “taking flesh”, “becoming human”. Christians believe this happens in a unique and unrepeatable way in Christ, lifting up humanity to a unique place within the creation. Applying the same analogy to the whole of creation can be seen as blurring the distinction between Christ and Creation; that God is in everything to the same degree. In turn, people believe that if God is in everything to the same degree, then this erodes the supremacy and uniqueness of Christ.

Is that what you meant to say?

Of course, this isn’t the intended message of the film, as Bishop Olivia responds:

In the first of the videos I made on how we might understand our care for the environment, I used the word ‘incarnation’ in a very broad sense which some have found unhelpful, so here is a clarification.

The event of the Incarnation of Christ, at a moment in time and in a place on Earth was unique, unrepeatable and salvic. Through this event, as Colossians 1 puts it, we see in Christ, not only the image of the invisible God, but the fulness of God, and the whole of the created world has access to ultimate reconciliation with God.

Reading John 1 and Colossians 1 gives us a profound sense that all things are formed through God and Christ the Logos. And since the beginning, God makes Godself known in creation for the purpose of reconciliation. More than this, as we read in Laudato Si’, God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things; his divine presence ensures the subsistence and growth of each being.

I can see that the words I used had a pantheistic ring to them, which I did not intend (God and creation are not the same thing). But I think that it is helpful, in considering our relationship to our world to think about the notion that the Divine pervades every part of the universe, while clearly being above, beyond and greater than the universe.

“The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork”
– Psalm 19

 Michael responds; the cause of the confusion is using the word “incarnate”. It would be better to say God is immanent and creation is his handiwork, not his incarnation.

I would suggest withdrawing the video and re-do it avoind “incarnate” to avoid confusion otherwise the charge of being pantheistic will stick.

To say evolution is god incarnate is an odd expression and has no biblical support. I say that as a geologist with a total acceptance of evolution

It’s good to encourage debate

It’s good that there has been some vigorous debate. Done well, it shows that we care. Let’s remember too that, as Christians, we also have an essential part to play in the shape of online society. How we model good disagreement and how we interact with one another is important. Let’s make social media kinder.

 
 
 

https://www.oxford.anglican.org/care-for-creation-film-a-clarification/?fbclid=IwAR275wOa7TyzfU13h2UeL3KMxL6napkoIxk2vpe1-rgO9OPUBjuZ32l1vWU

The Doctrine of the Trinity in Three Words and Ten Letters

It is often said that many clergy shy away from preaching on the central doctrine of Christianity;

Rublev’s Icon tries to picture the Trinity

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God as Father, Son and Holy spirit, i.e the Trinity

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 Despite the teaching of the Trinity being central to Christianity and people are baptised in the “name of the Father, and the son and the Holy Spirit”, beyond a sermon on trinity Sunday it is often left out, and so often Christianity becomes either God and Commandments or vaguely about Jesus and nothing else.

One wonders if it is too difficult , but it can be expressed simply without recourse to three-leafed clovers . I find that a feeble analogy.

Above all, we as preachers and teachers need to teach and preach the Trinity, but simply so it can be grasp and then used as  the framework of our whole Christian life.

Simple it can be.

Following an excellent article on the trinity by Prof H E W (Hughie) Turner of Durham, the Trinity can be summed up in 3 words and 10 letters

That is simplicity

 OVER, WITH, IN

And is so much simpler that the Athanasian Creed, which though in the prayer book is neither by Athanasius nor is it a creed- it was written 200 years after Athanasius died!

The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible: and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.

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 To many the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity  with God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is simply gobblydegook. No better expression is this extract from the Athanasian Creed, which was written 100 years after Athanasius died in southern France. Athanasius was one of the makers of the Nicene Creed a 100 years earlier.  Until 50 years ago it was expected to be read at Matins in Anglican Churches and I had great fun reading out a bit in my Trinity Sunday sermon once.

Here is an extract

 That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

Neither confounding the Persons: nor dividing the Substance.

For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son: and another of the Holy Ghost.

But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one: the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.

Such as the Father is, such is the Son: and such is the Holy Ghost.

The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate: and the Holy Ghost uncreate.

The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible: and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.

The Father eternal, the Son eternal: and the Holy Ghost eternal.

And yet they are not three eternals: but one eternal.

As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated: but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.

So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty: and the Holy Ghost Almighty.

And yet they are not three Almighties: but one Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God: and the Holy Ghost is God.

And yet they are not three Gods: but one God.

So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord: and the Holy Ghost Lord.

And yet not three Lords: but one Lord.

My favourite line is; –

The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible: and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.

Frankly, this helps no one and makes all Christian doctrine and belief seem absurd. Having taken the mickey out of these ancient theologians, I took a simpler approach and dealt with the Trinity in 3 words and 10 letters

OVER

WITH

IN

We start with God OVER us as creator and Father

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My favorite orchid – Southern marsh Orchid – not bad for the Creator!

and then move to God WITH us, or if you prefer it in Aramaic Emmanuel. As in Jesus we have God in human form who wandered around Palestine for some 30 years. Ultimately he was executed in a grisly death on the cross, but a couple of days later rose again. Here is God with us.

And thirdly, move to God IN us, the Holy Spirit who was sent by the Father (and the Son) on the first day of Pentecost to be IN us as Christians leading and guiding us.

All this is very brief and clearly needs expanding, but it gives a good and simple framework for understanding God as Trinity.

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Trinity Sunday 2015

So simple you won’t need a cup of coffee to recover

and so you get the Church’s Year in three words too

May be an image of text that says "Christmas was God with us. Easter was God for us. Pentecost is God in us."

(From J.John)

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