Posted by: Mark Nielsen | June 18, 2010

Creator, Creature, Miracle, Mother: God as Author


"Jesus Walks on Water" -engraving, vonn Carolsfeld (German), c. 1851

More exploration of the relationship between science, scripture, and spirituality today:

A good article by Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D. appeared at the political blog Huffington Post a few weeks back. It supported the growing connection (not just a conflict) between faith and science as approaches to history and reality. Here’s the link.

Secondly, a commenter at Zimmerman’s above Huffington Post article had some nice things to say about the courageous few who are trying to use scripture to support science, and vice-versa:

“There is some interesting work being done on both sides of the divide. Fr. Richard Rohr and his work on the Cosmic Christ is reinterpreting correctly the gospels in a way completely supportive of and supported by modern science. The scientist Chet Raymo is doing some good thinking from the scientific side while trying to save what is best from his religious heritage.”

To get even more grounding in Rohr’s version of things, there’s a conference coming up this summer which takes on the problem directly. It’s called “Creation as the Body of God“. (Click for dates and info.) Rohr’s recent CDs and book on “The Cosmic Christ” is also relevant here, and available by clicking above. Metaphysics and genuine quantum physics, for the prayerfully inclined.

Finally, I think the following exchange of comments between myself and some members of a group/site called Ratio Christi at OSU will be helpful. The subject is the historicity of the gospels, specifically the miracles of Jesus.

Patrick Cronin, on June 2, 2010 at 11:19 pm Said:

The genre of Myth is being used as ‘proof’ by Catholic peripatetic teachers (Richard Rohr) that the accounts of the miracles of Jesus (e.g. walking on water) are non-historical, but have a purpose other than recording actual events.
He claims that this position is approved by the Church. Is It?
I cannot find reference in the early Fathers of the Church to anything but historical understanding of the miracles of Jesus. As near contemporaries how did they not know the genre and that they were not historical miracles?

  • chab123, on June 3, 2010 at 1:59 am Said:

    Patrick, thanks for the comment.

    The issue of genre is not the only factor with myth/miracles, etc. Many reject the miracles as non-historical because of philosophical reasons. They basically just take the position that was taken by Hume many yrs ago. When you say “Church,” I don’t know if you mean that in the Protestant sense or Catholic? I know plenty of respectable NT scholars that defiantly view the miracles of Jesus as historical and that his audience viewed them as historical as well.

    I just sat under Craig Evans for a weekend (one of most well known NT scholars in the world), and he thinks that the miracles are historical. I can’t really speak to the Richard Rohr issue. He would not be the first to say that. But I don’t know if it is his philosophical presuppositions that drive his view of the miracles in the NT. If so, that can be dealt with. One recent book that really does a fine job in all these issue is the Greg Boyd/Paul Eddy book called The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition. You may want to check that out.


    Patrick, I forgot to mention I would agree to your comments about the Church Fathers views of the miracles. I always tend to start (and maybe you do as well), with the NT authors themselves (their view of the miracles).

  • Mark Nielsen replies:

    I’m late to the party here, but hopefully can provide some insight, at least into Fr. Rohr.

    <The genre of Myth is being used as ‘proof’ by Catholic peripatetic teachers (Richard Rohr)…[that miracles] are non-historical, but have a purpose other than recording actual events.>

    I’ve studied with Fr. Rohr quite a bit, and read some of the books being considered (e.g. Hidden Things: Scripture as Spirituality). It is not accurate, nor is it very fair, to attribute his stance on myth as what he –or anyone else– considers “proof”.

    Maybe “evidence” would be a better word, but even at that, I believe he’s saying that reading the gospels as myth and not literal history is merely one of several lenses a serious scholar or honest Christian must look through. In this, he’s no different than thousands of post-modern thinkers who use textual analysis and historical deconstruction in trying to clarify the issues of “authorship” and bias.

    In celebrating the usefulness of scripture– whether or not Miracle X or Miracle Y actually occurred– he is staying open to multiple possibilities, and that they could in principle co-exist (such as “some miracles happened, others didn’t”). He’s also taking the anthropologist’s approach to religion, without discounting –nor blindly  rubber-stamp approving– the historian’s or theologian’s approach.

    Patrick: <He claims that this position is approved by the Church. Is It?>

    I can’t speak to this much, either, but I too have noticed Fr. Rohr is tempted to cherry-pick certain respected (and theologically liberal) Roman Catholic thinkers or church fathers (e.g. John Duns Scotus), while sidestepping the other *more conservative* history of the tradition. So yes, Rohr too is biased. But so are we. It’s inescapable.

    That’s why I appreciate chab123’s suggestion above to look at Greg Boyd’s view on this also. Boyd is as good a scholar as Rohr. Plus he is a Protestant, part of the Emergent movement, and is in my experience closer to the theological center than Rohr. Thus Boyd (along with Brueggeman, Buechner, and a few other celebrated theologians) is a good clarifying voice, critiquing both far-right fundamentalism and what I will call Rohr’s more “creative” method of interpreting scripture.

    The foundation of Rohr’s “both-and” philosophy is this: since the Enlightenment, the West has become too dependent on the *fallible* written word. It has also discounted actual human experience and the mystical (charismatic? miraculous? “super-human”?) aspect of being in relationship with God.

    Personally, I believe most of the miracles did happen. They brought in more believers, some of whom were eyewitnesses, or who at least trusted eyewitnesses and their direct descendants. I also believe miracles *still* happen, that the Holy Spirit lives on, and thus miracles are not narrowly restricted to the pages of scripture.


    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


    Connecting to %s


    %d bloggers like this: