Philosophy of Religion
The Concept of God as Creator
- Neither Judaism nor Christianity attempts to argue the existence of God.
- God is assumed as a matter of faith.
- The Bible explores the relationship between God and humanity.
- The Book of Genesis is the main source for Judaism and Christianity’s understanding of creation.
The Book of Genesis
- The Book of Genesis contains two accounts of creation – the Priestly tradition (Gen 1:1-2:4a) and an older version from the Yahwistic tradition (Gen 2:4b ff).
- Arguably the best way of understanding these two stories is as myth.
- A myth is a pre-scientific ways of understanding creation.
- There are similarities between Genesis 1:1-2:4a and Babylonian creation myths.
- Myths attempt to answer the same Ultimate Questions as philosophy but in a different way.
- The creation stories are anthropocentric – i.e. they don’t try and answer why creation exists, they try and answer the question why do humans exist.
- The purpose of the creation stories is to introduce the ongoing relationship between God and humanity starting with Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham…the Patriarchs…the Israelites, Moses…etc.
God and Creation
- In Genesis God is portrayed as the supreme being having no equal.
- God is separate from his creation - He is transcendent.
- It is not clear as to whether God creates out of nothing – creatio ex nihilo.
- God appears to bring order (Gk cosmos) out of disorder (Gk Chaos).
- Both Judaism and Christianity assume that God did create out of nothing.
- Some scientists have problems with creation ex nihilo as they argue that matter cannot simply come into existence.
- Augustine suggested that time itself is an aspect of the created world – beginning and creating out of nothing do not refer to some particular moment in time.
- For Augustine the universe could be eternal, while at the same time created, sustained and dependent upon God.
God and Humanity
- In Genesis humanity is the pinnacle of creation – God looks back on the sixth day and declares that it is VERY good.
- God places all creation under humanity’s stewardship to look after and care for it.
- Both stories suggest an anthropocentric view of creation – it has been placed here for the benefit of humanity.
- This is in stark contrast to evolutionary theories of creation – i.e. Darwinism whereby humanity has come about via ‘blind design’.
The Problem of Evil
- God himself brings everything into being – “Let there be…” and it was!
- God is responsible for everything.
- Everything that God creates is good.
- What about the existence of evil, ugliness, disease, disabilities…etc.?
- The second story of Adam and Eve attempts to address this problem.
- Adam and Eve disobey God, fall from grace and thereby introduce sin into the world.
- But…did God deliberately allow Adam and Eve to be tempted? Did God know beforehand that Adam and Eve would disobey Him? Is evil part of God’s plan for creation?
Creation Elsewhere in the Bible
- The Bible is full of references to God as creator.
- The Psalms often sing God’s praises as Creator:
The heaven’s declare the glory of God,
the vault of heaven proclaim his handiwork;
day discourses of it to day,
night to night hands on the knowledge.
Yahweh, what variety you have created,
arranging everything so wisely!
Earth is completely full of things you have made.
- In the Book of Job God addresses Job reminding him that he has no cause for complaint in the face of his Creator:
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements – surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone?”
The God of the Bible verses the God of Aristotle
- The God of the Bible plays an active part in bringing things into being. Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover is indifferent to creation.
- The God of the Bible is active, willing things to come into being. Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover is passive, causing things to happen through attraction.
- The God of the Bible desires a relationship with humanity. Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover spends eternity thinking only of himself!
- The God of the Bible is personal. Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover is impersonal.