Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


"Progressive Creation" and the 
"Theology of the Cross"

George L. Murphy
St. Mark Lutheran
158 North Avenue, Box 201
Tallmadge, OH 44278

From: PSCF 39 (December 1987): 251

Pun's "A Theology of Progressive Creationism" (March 1987) is to be commended for making explicit the theological tradition from which it stems. This is made quite clear in the introductory remarks on the theology of Calvin. At the same time, there are theological positions taken in the article which seem problematic to me, and that require further discussion. I want to focus here on a major issue, Pun's remarks on Luther's theology of the cross. These were prompted by my suggestion (June 1986) that it is that theology which should provide a basis for dealing with the issues of creation and evolution.

Pun's main point about this seems to be that Luther "tends to propagate a theology of paradox." There is certainly good reason for saying that. Luther himself introduces his theological theses for the Heidelberg Disputation, which are very important for the understanding of his theology of the cross, as "theological paradoxes" (Luther's Works, vol. 31, Fortress: Philadelphia, 1957, p. 39). For some, a theology of paradox may automatically be disqualified from further consideration. But the fundamental question ought to be whether or not such a theology is biblical. I Cor. 1: 18-31 shows that it is, stating that it is to the foolishness of God that we are to look for wisdom. The whole point of the theology of the cross is that God is revealed in weakness, suffering and loss, in what appears to human wisdom as folly. The list of biblical references to God's activities in my June 1986 Communication shows that this theology of the cross, this propensity of God for creation when there appears to us no possibility for creation, extends throughout scripture.

The paradoxical character of the theology of the cross does perhaps result in a tendency to accept the fact of human evil without requiring an adequate historical explanation for the origin or propagation of evil. (However, that tendency can be exaggerated. Pun does not mention one of the most promising approaches to the problem of the sin-evil-death complex which I sketched in my March 1986 paper.) We should certainly try to understand the problem of evil as fully as possible. However, we also need to remember that evil is fundamentally primative, destructive, and pointless-"a poetic lie," as it has been called. Consequently, we shouldn't be surprised if we can't fully understand the whence or the why of evil. We can't always make sense of evil because evil is, at bottom, senseless.

That is neither a mere philosophical abstraction nor a counsel of despair. For Christians who are afflicted with some terrible pain or loss and who wonder, "Why me?" or "Why this person I love?", it can be helpful to realize that it is part of the character of evil to be senseless. One cannot always explain why evil happens in the way that it does. God can, of course, bring good out of evil, but that is because God is the One who creates out of nothing.

Human reason finds it difficult to live with the tension which the theology of the cross demands. Various rationalistic theologies may seem much more congenial. But the revelation of God in the cross also tells us more about the meaning of the world than unaided human reason is able to discover. The proper task of reason for the Christian is to understand the world in the light of the cross.