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Janet Soskice

If you look in the 17th and 18th centuries, a lot of the natural scientists and physicists, they were, in this country [Britain], they were all Anglican clergymen.  Mendel, who discovered genetics, was a Catholic priest.  There wasn’t a big tension, and even in the time of Darwin, Darwin was welcomed by a lot of Christians; there was a Presbyterian apologist called Drummond, who wrote marvelous things, how this was highly compatible with Christian views of creation.  Because by no means did Christians always and everywhere believe that the world was made in six units of twenty-four hours. 

Augustine, St. Augustine, didn’t believe that, as he said in his literal commentary in Genesis: that’s figurative because the son and the moon are only made on the fourth day, so there couldn’t have been days and nights in our sense, prior to the making of the son and the moon.  This same thought was characteristic of the fathers and the early rabbis. 

What is characteristic of the Christian doctrine of creation is a theological position, which is that God made everything that is, that all that is exists as gift, and is wholly dependent on God—including space and time.  So creation, in a sense, from that position, isn’t what happened a long time ago.  Creation is now because if God made space and time, the moment of creation for God is now, and hence, it’s a terrific immediacy of God to creation in this scheme. 

Now this is not something that science could contest with, even want to, because it’s a theological and to some extent, a metaphysical position.  It’s a position that there could have been nothing at all, really nothing, but because of God, there’s the world as we know it. 

  • Janet Soskice

    Janet Soskice is professor of philosophical theology at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Jesus College. She has taught philosophy of religion, ethics and doctrine, and philosophy. Professor Soskice is a past-president of both the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain and the Society for the Study of Theology. She takes an active role in Jewish-Christian relations, Anglican-Roman Catholic ecumenical discussions and the Christian-Muslim dialogue. Her recent book Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Lost Gospels (London: Chatto and New York: Knopf, 2009) won critical acclaim.