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Neo-Orthodoxy~ “Creation is the theater of God’s Love.”

Updated on February 25, 2012

Neo-Orthodoxy~Colin Gunton

In Colin Gunton’s book “The Christian Faith” we are introduced to a branch of theology labeled Neo-Orthodoxy theology. Gunton makes several assumptions that warrant his theological ideologies. He begins by meditating on the closely related doctrines of creation and providence. Creation is also central to His view in modernity in The One, the Three, and the Many. The doctrine of creation is foundational for Christian theology for several reasons; God is the creator as is affirmed in the creeds and creation is also the stage on which the human drama takes place. All things considered, the doctrine of creation, the belief that God has created and is sustaining the order of the world, is not a peripheral theme of biblical theology but is plainly the fundamental theme. More importantly for Gunton, the doctrine of creation helps us in addressing the various cultural crises, none more important than ecology according to Gunton. Gunton goes on to say that all creation is theology.This assumption is driven by the view of neo-orthodoxy concerning the inherency of scripture. Gunton contends that the Bible is a secondary vehicle for the Word of God. He upholds the belief that the Bible is a book made by humans and with this it also can have flaws, myths, and contradictions that need to be measured by the world we live in. Gunton appeals to the scientific society in helping sort through the Bible. The Bible itself is the word of God, but the Holy Spirit is the illuminator for humanity.The underlying drive behind these assumptions is fueled by reason. Gunton pulls heavily from Karl Barth who was abhorred by the liberal theology professors who joined Hitler in his quest for supremacy. This drove Barth back to the Bible. It did not stop there he then examined the Greco-Roman myths, Luther, and Calvin.Another source that highly influenced Gunton was that of Frederick Schleiermacher’s 19th century work “Dogmatics”. Gunton however uses different methods and comes up with a far more intrinsic view of the objective existence of the triune God.Gunton recognized that reason ran alongside faith as well as Scientific inquire being essential in illuminating the truth in scriptures. Gunton also utilized the current world situation in modernity. Indeed he looked upon the world with compassion and sought to rectify the long held “givens” of theological roles amidst global conditions, and ecological concerns. Gunton also used theological historical evolution compounded by that of secular knowledge.Gunton’s authorities as alluded to above are primarily Holy Spirit and finite reason. He upholds the view of an all powerful God who is continually working through his creation or as he so eloquently states “Creation is the theatre of God’s Love.” Gunton seems to be holding the Bible in one hand and a Rolling Stone in the other. He is driven to liberate the word of God from long held theological assumptions and mend the differences between secular and God.This third point is an extension of creations purpose. Creation is separate from God, but as Gunton writes it remains in close relation to God, and yet is free to be itself. This freedom can only exist because of the ontological distinction between creation and Creator. Because of the gap between God and his creatures, human and other creatures have freedom to be themselves and to fulfill their destiny. If they were continuous with God, their future would be tied to God. Such freedom permits creation to go its own way eschatological.Gunton's view regarding God’s relationship with creation is distinctively less heretical than that of process theology. The close relations of God to creation rely on a Trinitarian theology and a strong Christology and pneumatology. Gunton follows Irenaeus in describing Son and Spirit as Gods two hands. This seeks to bridge the gap between Creator and creation. Gunton states that creation is good because God himself remains in intimate and loving relations with it through his Son. The Spirit is described by Gunton as the Fathers agent enabling the created order in all its material concreteness to be and do that for which it was created. In Gunton’s formulation the Spirit is seen in the eschatological transformative-redemptive mode in reference to his crucified body. These elements allow Gunton to have God involved in the ongoing journey of creation, which does not limit its origin or relational purpose.I found Gunton’s theology refreshing. I will admit when I read through process theology I got very excited about that branch of theology. However, it did have elements of its conclusion that were incredibly heretical. Heretical is not something I shy away from, but rather intrigues me and drives me find answers. Neo-orthodoxy is a far more acceptable branch of theology. Although I do not share the same passion at this point in my life concerning ecology I do share a passion for god within creation. I smiled when I read this “Creation is the theater of God’s Love.” This paralleled with the fundamental understanding in process theology that “God is Love” has driven a passion in me to explore both of these branches of theology in more depth when time allows.Neo-Orthodoxy theology with my current parishioners would be a revelatory experience I live in Lake Placid New York; the demographics are very much “Save the Planet”. We live smack dab in the middle of the Adirondack Park. When Erin and I first moved here we were asked if we recycled we said no. The glare we got was frightening. The cultural we live in forced us to start to appreciate the entirety of creation and not just humanity. In the past 2 ½ years I have moved from what’s recycling to let’s do it! One theological issue I have with the green gospel is that a vast amount of people up here claim that God is creation. Being from Southwest Kansas I often contemplate if the same attitude of spiritual connectedness could be experienced by them there. I wager not. The danger of stating that God is creation is that creation is fragile and at the same time infinite. When we put God into a box of creation, we have limited God’s existence. I do concur that the Christianity is far behind in addressing global concerns regarding ecology. Jesus spent much time talking about the “Kingdom of Heaven” on earth. It is actually referenced in the model prayer “Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

References:Gunton E. Colin. (2002).Blackwell Publishers Ltd 108 Cowley Road Oxford OX4 1JF UK: The Christian Faith: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine

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