Posted by: chuckbumgardner | January 21, 2010

Garrett, Systematic Theology, part 5: “Creation, Providence, and Suprahuman Beings”

James Leo Garrett, Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical, 2 vols. (North Richland Hills, TX: BIBAL Press, 2000), 337-448.

Garrett summarizes his position on creation as one of those “who, being aware of the differing roles of religion and the sciences, nevertheless see the need for continuing dialogue, respectful interchange, and critical analysis between the two realms and who seek greater correlation, if not harmonization, wherever legitimate and possible” (1:362).  Not surprisingly, then, he supports the theory of progressive creation.  “Cosmological theories” such as the big bang “may pose . . . few problems for the Christian faith” (1:362).  Garrett sounds the trumpet against “creation science,” claiming that it hinders legitimate scientific investigation and puts Scripture to uses unintended by God.

In his providence, God actively sustains his creation and directs history toward its appointed end.  Regarding the juxtaposition of God’s agency and human sin, Garrett follows Strong in suggesting four possibilities: God may prevent sin, God may allow man to continue in sin, God may direct human sin to his own ends, and God may set the bounds to sin and its effects.  In his theodicy, Garrett points to Christlikeness as the goal of suffering along with other various functions of suffering.  “The Christian ‘solution’ to suffering is not so much an intellectual rationale for suffering as it is the experience of suffering itself in the grace and power of Jesus Christ” (1:393).  Regarding miracles, the validity of biblical miracles is affirmed, and the possibility of contemporary miracles is acknowledged.

In the realm of suprahuman beings, Garrett considers the angel of the Lord to be a theophany, but probably not specifically the second Person of the Godhead.  Regarding Satan and evil spirits, Garrett chooses not to build the doctrine on disputed passages such as Genesis 6:1-4, Isaiah 14:12-20, and Ezekiel 28:11-19, passages which are often mainstays of this area of doctrine; unusually, he does not reference John 6:44 in his discussion, either.  Satan is personal, created by God, and Christ’s teachings about him are neither accommodation to prevailing Jewish beliefs nor a defect in Christ’s human knowledge.

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