This past summer the PCUSA General Assembly adopted (after four votes) an Affirmation of Creation. The Affirmation has roughly four parts: affirmations of the time over which God has been calling our universe into being; affirmations of the diversity of creatures, material and living, that God has called into being over that time; an affirmation of the nexus of all living creatures on Earth, including human beings, by bonds of historical developmental kinship; an affirmation of the distinctive place of and thereby responsibilities of Homo sapiens in the historically dynamic global ecosystem.
Why is such an Affirmation necessary? Primarily, because one cannot in good faith affirm that God is creator without affirming the particulars of the creation as best we know them that God is calling into being. The authors of the Old and New Testaments in their time drew upon their understandings of the particulars of creation when they wrote of God. Their perspective was understandably a geocentric, homocentric, and shallow timed cosmic one given the knowledge available to them. Unfortunately, too many contemporary Christians still think theologically within that ancient cosmic perspective. Such thinking impedes an appropriate cosmic humility on our part.
For example, though it has become theologically fashionable to speak of stewardship rather than regency in terms of humanity’s relationship with the rest of Earthly creatures, the shift from a regal to a bureaucratic metaphor does not do justice to what has been discovered to be the family relationship of all of life on Earth nor the complex dynamics of pathology and symbiotics that characterize the relationships of Earthly creatures.
Cosmology precedes theology. We are in the world before we are in the world in a theological way. As science provides an effective foundation for technological development, so theology provides the foundation for ethics. If one’s science is faulty or inadequate, then one’s technology will at best be ineffective. If ones theology is misplaced due to reliance upon an inadequate cosmology, then one’s ethics will at best be incongruous with the actual created context within which we live.
Rev. James B. Miller, MDiv, PhD, Society of Ordained Scientists, is the President of the Presbyterian Association on Science, Technology and the Christian Faith.