Friday, January 21, 2011

The Identity of God: Trinity

The Christian embrace of monotheism and creation ex nihilo was not an entirely straightforward development. While the overall direction was clear enough from the start, there were indications that the end was not a foregone conclusion. For example, Origen, whom Gilson credits in his monumental History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages with the clearest presentation of creation ex nihilo, in fact held that the cosmos is eternal. A god who creates an eternal world on a Neoplatonic model is problematic at best, from a Christian perspective, since the entire conception has its origin in the Greek view of the gods and man as parts of one organic whole. And Charles Norris Cochrane, in his classic study, Christianity and Classical Culture, notes that both Clement of Alexandria and Origen exhibit a fundamental Neoplatonic influence:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Creation Ex Nihilo In Early Christian Thought

Our position is that creation ex nihilo is a fundamental insight into the structure of reality and that it is essentially unique to Israelite religion.  This insight stands as opposed to the conception of origins in traditional thought (Eliade's "archaic ontology"), which portrayed the origins as a shaping of preexisting matter by a god or gods. This insight did not develop from Israel's roots in archaic ontology until relatively late in the pre-Christian history of Israelite thought—shortly before the time of Jesus. Further, we will contend that creation ex nihilo became absolutely fundamental to Christian thought from its earliest times.

In reviewing the New Testament evidence, we pointed out that these early writers were primarily concerned with the person of Jesus and the significance of his life and message. Nevertheless, we concluded that the Christian view of God's basic identity--from Apostolic times--focused on God as Creator and that this view had turned decisively toward an explicit doctrine of creation ex nihilo. We will now survey the evidence from the early Christian writers of the first three centuries, in support of our contention that the idea of creation ex nihilo had a fundamental, formative influence on the early development of Christian thought, setting it on a course which it has followed ever since.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Identity of God: Creator

We have followed Mark Smith's study of the development of monotheism in Israelite religion and have seen that monotheism eventually developed under the pressure of historical challenges to the continued survival of Israelite political entities. In the face of the overwhelming might of the Mesopotamian and, later, Hellenistic World Empires, Israelite thinkers engaged in a type of ideological warfare in which Yahweh—previously a national god, one of many in the West Semitic pantheon under the fatherhood of El—developed into the supreme god and eventually the only god. However, this ideological victory of Yahweh did not save the Israelite kingdoms in historical existence and it therefore became necessary to articulate the ultimate vindication of Yahweh's people as a future event. We summarized Smith's account as follows: