Fred Sanders, in a very interesting post yesterday, discussed some of John Webster's recent writings on the doctrine of creation. One of the things he emphasised was Webster's critique of the idea, so prevalent in modern theology, that God and the world are somehow mutually dependent on each other. Webster and Sanders argue that this idea profoundly distorts our understanding both of God and of creation.
Whilst Sanders cites Webster directly on the way this idea 'compromises God's assymetrical lordship' and impacts the way theology is done, he goes on to paraphrase Webster's thought and to add some further comments, noting in particular that the task of theology requires us to once again become teachable creatures who are willing to learn from the Creator. It is this part of Sanders' piece that I found most helpful, and worth quoting at length here:
What theologians need now is to learn how to learn from God. What is making us unteachable is ourselves, a whole set of habits and tendencies that make us too mentally restless to take in the truth about God and ourselves. And these unruly dispositions that keep us from learning are not just intellectual habits: they are moral and spiritual postures. To be instructed by God about who we are as creatures, we need these dispositions to be killed in us and replaced by a whole range of new dispositions, ones that show us to be teachable. Where we now tend to be hostile to the truth about our creatureliness, we must learn how to rejoice in that truth, and to be pleased with learning it from God.
It won’t be easy to break free from the theological culture that resists this Christian instruction about what it is to be a creature. It will require struggle, new discipline, and a strong desire to be free to hear God’s truth. The constraining power of our deeply established philosophical and religious culture has all of us in its grip. What we have to do is turn our attention toward God for his own sake, and to do that in striking contradiction to our own mental habits and hungers. The theological culture we inhabit considers that the greatest imaginable thing to focus attention on is God’s ways with the world. In a parody of Anselm’s thought, modern theological culture thinks of God’s engagement with creatures in history as 'that than which nothing greater can be conceived'. Everywhere you look in theology and biblical studies, this over-estimation of 'God for us' is at work. It’s the presupposition of almost every Bible commentary and the foregone conclusion of almost every theology book. It’s hard even to conceive of an alternative to it.
But we have to. Because that way of thinking cannot grasp the truth about the relationship between God and creation. And it misses the real meaning of most of the other important doctrines as well.
Indeed. Read the whole article here.