Handbook of the Fellowship of Scientists

Readings 1-10


God's Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent.

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs -

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins


For all people who were ignorant of God were foolish

For all people who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know the one who exists, nor did they recognize the artisan while paying heed to his works;

but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world.

If through delight in the beauty of these things people assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them.

And if people were amazed at their power and working, let them perceive from them how much more powerful is the one who formed them.

For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.

Yet these people are little to be blamed, for perhaps they go astray while seeking God and desiring to find him.

For while they live among his works, they keep searching, and they trust in what they see, because the things that are seen are beautiful.

Wis. 13:1-7


The Information in Paul's Letters

Although Paul had never met or even seen the earthly Jesus, his surviving letters show that he had some knowledge about Jesus' ministry and message. To be sure, no letter includes anything like a summary of Jesus' earthly activities or teachings. But from the bits and pieces about Jesus' earthly life that do show up, it is possible to put together the following summary on Paul's behalf.

[1] Jesus was born under the law (Gal 4:4), a Jew of David's line (Rom 1:3).

[2] Jesus had more than one brother (1 Cor 9:5), one of whom was named James (Gal 1:19; 2:9, 12; 1 Cor 15:7).

[3] Jesus had twelve special associates. One of them was Cephas (Gal 2:1-14, etc.), who was sometimes called "Peter" (Gal 2:7, 8); another was John (Gal 2:9).

[4] Jesus taught that anyone who preached the gospel should be provided a living from the gospel (1 Cor 9: 14). He also taught that neither partner in a marriage should seek a divorce (1 Cor 7:10-11).

[5] One night, dining with his closest followers, Jesus spoke about his own death as something beneficial for them (1 Cor 11: 23-25). Thereafter, he told them, they should break bread and drink wine in his memory. They were to regard the loaf as a token of his body and the cup as a token of "the new covenant" in his blood.

[6] On that same night Jesus was betrayed (1 Cor 11:23).

[7] Out of obedience to God's will (Phil 2:8), and in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3), Jesus willingly gave himself up to death for the sins of his followers (1 Cor 15:3; Gal 1:4).

[8] Jesus' death was by execution on a cross (1 Cor 1:17-2:5; Gal 3:1, etc.), for which "the rulers of this age" were responsible (1 Cor 2:8; if 1 Thess 2:14-16 was written by Paul, which some scholars doubt, then he implicates "the Jews" as well).

[9] The corpse of Jesus was placed in a tomb (1 Cor 15:4; Rom 6:4).

Furnish, Jesus according to Paul, pp. 19-20


The Pauline creed (1Cor. 15:3-15)

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them -though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe. Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ -whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

1Cor. 15:3-15


A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

I live by a creek, Tinker Creek, in a valley in Virginia's Blue Ridge. An anchorite's hermitage is called an anchorhold; some anchor-holds were simple sheds clamped to the side of a church like a barnacle to a rock. I think of this house clamped to the side of Tinker Creek as an anchorhold. It holds me at anchor to the rock bottom of the creek itself and it keeps me steadied in the current, as a sea anchor does, facing the stream of light pouring down. It's a good place to live; there's a lot to think about. The creeks - Tinker and Carvin's - are an active mystery, fresh every minute. Theirs is the mystery of the continuous creation and all that providence implies: the uncertainty of vision, the horror of the fixed, the dissolution of the present, the intricacy of beauty, the pressure of fecundity, the elusiveness of the free, and the flawed nature of perfection. The mountains - Tinker and Brushy, McAfee's Knob and Dead Man - are a passive mystery, the oldest of all. Theirs is the one simple mystery of creation from nothing, of matter itself, anything at all, the given. Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live them. But the mountains are home.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, pp. 2-3


Praise the LORD!

Praise the LORD! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.

He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
The LORD lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre.
He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills.

He gives to the animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry.
His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;

But the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!

For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you.
He grants peace within your borders; he fills you with the finest of wheat.

He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes.

He hurls down hail like crumbs - who can stand before his cold?
He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.

He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel.
He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances.

Praise the LORD!

Ps. 147:1-20


Creatio ex nihilo and Creatio continua

Does physical cosmology bear on the Christian doctrine of creation? This doctrine actually includes two related strands: creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing) and creatio continua (continuing creation). Each of these deserve attention in relation to physical cosmology.

At its most basic level, creatio ex nihilo stands for the radical contingency of all that is, the utter dependence of all beings on a transcendent God as the sole source of their existence. As developed traditionally, this belief was expressed through a variety of interlocking arguments about creation. Theologians affirmed that God creates freely and with a purpose in mind, namely, to share the divine being with free moral agents. Hence creatio ex nihilo stood over against Platonic views of creation, in which the demiurge shaped preexisting matter while gazing upon the eternal forms. According to Christian theology, God's creative action is free of such prior logical and formal constraints, and matter itself, along with time and space, originate out of God's mysterious action and not out of any prior substance. In this sense, "creation out of nothing" really means "not created out of anything prior."

Creatio ex nihilo also implies that God transcends the world. This means that the world is not God, contrary to monism and pantheism; that the world is not a part of God's being as held by emanationism; that the world is not a divine being opposed to God, as against dualism; and that the world is not purposeless, as implied by nihilism. Instead creaturely existence is both contingent (ultimately dependent on God for its existence) and purposeful. In traditional language creation and providence connote God's sustaining both the existence and the order of the world; together with God's special, miraculous acts in nature and history, they form the spectrum of divine agency.

We must also recognize that creatio ex nihilo has often been heard by Christians in another way. Along with the deeper philosophical sense of ontological dependence (that without God there could be no creaturely existence per se), creation has also been taken to entail a sort of religious historical cosmology. Genesis 1:1 in particular was frequently regarded literally as referring to the creation of the world at a finite time in the past.

Actually, most theologians before the nineteenth century held both views. St. Thomas, for example, argued that philosophy could demonstrate the contingency of the world but not its age; only by revelation could Christians know that the age of the world is finite. Many twentieth-century theologians, including Langdon Gilkey, Paul Tillich, and Karl Barth, draw not only a sharp distinction between the two claims but argued that the cosmological interpretation should be dropped to avoid conflicting with science and causing philosophical confusion. In my opinion, however, the question remains unsettled; indeed it is the very question to which we must turn.

Christian theologians also want to lift up God's ongoing action in the world in terms of creation. As immanent to the world, God acts continuously to create and sustain the world now and in the future. This part of the creation tradition rejects a deism in which God's only creative act was at the beginning of a static, deterministic world. Reality is not seen as complete nor the future entirely predictable; rather the world is in a process of becoming, of coming into being, and the future is open to God. The world is filled with novelty, and human choice counts in shaping the future, for God acts through nature and history. Ultimately God's faithfulness will bring all of reality to a just fulfillment at the end of the age.

Together creatio ex nihilo and creatio continua form complementary models of interpreting the central theological insight that God the Creator is both transcendent to and immanent in all of creation.

Evidence of Purpose, pp. 74-75


...Creation waits with eager longing...

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

Rom. 8:18-23


If the thinker's attention strays for a minute...

Sir James Jeans, British astronomer and physicist, suggested that the universe was beginning to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Humanists seized on the expression, but it was hardly news. We knew, looking around, that a thought branches and leafs, a tree comes to a conclusion. But the question of who is thinking the thought is more fruitful than the question of who made the machine, for a machinist can of course wipe his hands and leave, and his simple machine still hums; but if the thinker's attention strays for a minute, his simplest thought ceases altogether. And, as I have stressed, the place where we so incontrovertibly find ourselves, whether thought or machine, is at least not in any way simple.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, pg. 148


Your God is too small

When "the Father" of the saints is said to be "in heaven", we are not to suppose that he is circumscribed in bodily fashion and dwells "in heaven"; otherwise, if the heaven contained him, God would be found less than, because contained by, the heaven; but we must believe that by the ineffable power of his Godhead all things are contained and held together by him. And, speaking generally, sayings which taken literally are supposed by simple folk to assert that God is in a place, must instead be understood in a manner that befits grand and spiritual conceptions of God...

I think it necessary to consider these sayings carefully in connection with the words "Our Father which art in heaven," in order to remove a mean conception of God held by those who consider that he is locally "in heaven"; and to prevent anyone from saying that God is in a place after the manner of a body (from which it would follow that he is a body) - a tenet which leads to most impious opinions, namely, to supposing that he is divisible, material, corruptible.

The Anglican Tradition, #15, before c.254

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