From ethics to the gospel (03) – blank slate vs ordered creation

17 11 2008

[Catch up on the whole ‘From ethics to the gospel‘ series]

New Blackboard

Image by drinksmachine via Flickr

What happens if you think the world is a blank slate? To put it another way, does it matter whether God created the world with order built in? Here’s why it matters: If Creation is a blank slate, then we’re free to (re-)order things whatever way we like. If no order is given in creation, then any order we choose with be arbitrary. There’s no objective reason for choosing one way of doing things over another. It’s just a matter of what suits you, of what gives you an advantage, of where your vested interests lie.

If1 that’s true all sorts of things suddenly make sense:

  • Homosexuality. If the pattern for human sexuality isn’t built into creation – if it’s arbitrary – they why not experiment with other forms of sexual expression? Especially if they seem to work better for you?
  • Transgender. If a person’s sex (either male or female) isn’t a fundamental aspect of being human – if it’s arbitrary and/or accidental – then why not change it?
  • Human-animal hybrids. If God hasn’t created a clear distinction between humans and animals (or, indeed, between one kind of animal and another), then why not experiment to see what sort of hybrids we can produce? (Including hybrids far more radical than currently the case; we’re still at the tame end of the spectrum.)

If you’re in a teaching role, and you’re tackling these issues, it’s important to do more than state what’s right and wrong. (Though, of course, you shouldn’t do less.)

It’s better to also help people see that the issue underneath these issues: Do we acknowledge that God is Creator? Are we willing to submit to the order that he has created?

Now, of course there’ll be debates about whether, and how, we rightly discern that order (i.e. epistemology2). But before we get there, we need to ask: In principle, are we willing to admit that God’s order is built in to his creation? And, once we know what it is, are we willing to submit to it? Unless the answer to these questions is “Yes”, there’s no point moving on to the other, more detailed questions (i.e. the epistemology).

If we can’t say “Yes”, we have a more primordial problem. We don’t want God to be God. We want to order the universe ourselves, as we see fit. We still want to claim the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Adam & Eve

Image by Lawrence OP via Flickr

Posted by Rick Creighton

The next item in this series (‘From ethics to the gospel’) will be posted next Monday.

1 N.B. I’m not saying this is true. In fact, I’m saying it’s not true. But I’m also exploring where your thinking would go if you thought it were true (as many people do). Cf. My previous post: ‘From ethics to the gospel via creation’

2 Epistemology is the study of how, and whether, we know what we know.



5 responses

17 11 2008

I somehow feel not clever enough to weigh in on this blog. But I appreciate it anyway! Very concise summary of this issue.

17 11 2008
Rick Creighton

🙂 Thanks.
On some of these topics there’s a tricky balance to strike between concise-but-dense (or lighter-but-long-winded). It’s helpful to hear whether the current balance is working for people.

(Though, of course, one person’s well-explained will probably be another’s long-winded … 🙂

17 11 2008

Thanks for the post Rick,
I’d also be careful to point out that all of these are a result of humanity’s sin and the fall (God giving the people over to shameful lusts because of their sin), which I’m sure you mean to imply in your post. I’d also want to have a response to some of the more obvious questions that may come up (if God created the world with order, and transgender is a corruption of that order, why are some people born as intersexuals?), particularly in an evangelical message.

It’s only when humanity follow the correct order (God as head) that things fall into place.

18 11 2008
Rick Creighton

Thanks very much for the clarification. The issues you raise is sufficiently important that I think I’ll actually turn the replies into a whole new posts. Probably split across two because there are two distinct issues in your comments:
– Concerning sin/Fall
– Concerning intersexuality

18 11 2008
From Ethics to the Gospel (03b) - ordered creation (follow up) « Read Better, Preach Better

[…] Ethics to the Gospel (03b) – ordered creation (follow up) 18 11 2008 Following my earlier post, Phil raised some useful issues. Generously giving me the benefit of the doubt, he […]

%d bloggers like this: