Rich Paxson

In the Discussion Forum of this unit, share ways in which you have noticed the content, questions or insights from the previous session showing up in your life.

Forgiving Victim’s inductive approach brought me to the personal understanding that we are ‘symptoms’ of God’s creation. The course provides a coherent, conceptual framework within which to understand, to value, to act upon ideas about God’s foundational presence. Two prime examples of these ideas are James’s discussions of Moses and the Burning Bush; and Jesus on the Road to Emmaus.

The key doctrine, identified here at this midpoint in the course, is creation out of nothing; or, creation ex nihilo. While the words are not new to me, Forgiving Victim’s inductive approach to this theology has made the significance of the doctrine accessible, like coming upon a straightaway in a path on which I’m walking.

The created world is the world of the social other; the world of mimetic conflict, where we desire according to the desire of the other. There is no chain of being connecting this world to the being and nature of God. However, even as we desire according to the desire of the social other, we are free to desire according to the desire of the Holy Spirit, which God reveals and we can discover. But the physical universe, even as it is capable of showing God’s presence, reflects it dimly, as St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

Karen Armstrong wrote about creation ex nihilo on page 123 in her book The Case for God. Forgiving Victim has opened the meaning of Armstrong’s writing for me:

“Creation ex nihilo tore the universe away from God. The physical world could not tell us anything about the divine, because it had not emanated naturally from God, as the philosophers had imagined, but was made out of nothing. It was, therefore, of an entirely different nature (ontos) from the substance of the living God. A “natural theology” that argued from our rational observation of the world to God was no longer possible, because the new doctrine made it clear that, left to ourselves, we could know nothing at all about God.”