The Resurrection, Trinity, Eschatology, and the Predicament of Belief

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The Resurrection, Trinity, Eschatology, and the Predicament of Belief

I gave talk at the Emergent Village theological conversation. I spoke about my latest book The Predicament of Belief: Science, Philosophy, and Faith (co-authored with Steven Knapp), as well as resurrection, religious pluralism, and a few other topics.

Click here to read about my talk, as well as download the audio file, a link to which is given at the end of the page.



March 21, 2012at 11:06 pm

I read the summary of your new book through the book. For me what makes your arguments tenable is the paucity of present day physical miracles (my viewpoint) or their nonexistence (your viewpoint). A few things have happened in my experience that keep me from the non-existence stance. Your ideas strike me as a form of modern gnosticism that finds the thought of physical involvement and incarnation of God unacceptable. I do respect your attempt to attenuate Christianity, but still keep something of it. I believe it comes from sincere devotion and kindness to meet the need of those whose heart cry is “I want to believe, help thou my unbelief” and probably the cry of your own heart. I think there is more substance to the Christ event than you’re able to accept. I pray you can move in that direction and say with John “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life, the life was manifested, and we have declared to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us that which we have seen and heard we declare to you.”

Philip Clayton

March 22, 2012at 8:57 am

Jeff, thanks for your response. I also affirm the passage from John.

I wouldn’t call panentheism “gnostic,” though. The beauty of Acts 17:29, or of the phrase “in Christ” that Paul so often repeats, is to emphasize that God is as close to us as our very selves. God permeates every point of the universe, and God is *personally* present to those who can open themselves to the divine presence. You could argue that I put *too much* stress on God’s Spirit and presence, in the way that Pentecostal-charismatic theologians such as Amos Yong do. But certainly I have not written a theology that distances God from the world!


March 22, 2012at 10:03 pm

Hi Philip,

I think you have more maximal belief in Jesus than the version presented in your book. If I understand you correctly while God is quite close and intimate with us, but wears a cosmic condom that precludes anything overtly physical happening i.e. physical miracles like a bodily Resurrection. I do think God grants physical miracles at times and as our sovereign king isn’t constrained by our concepts of “fairness”

Below is an account of the medically confirmed miracle healing of my wife. To my mind the resurrection of Christ is only different in degree but not in kind, so I have no problems with accepting the reality of the miracles of the Bible, Paul in his writings referred to miracles done by his hands.

Here is an account of my wife’s illness and healing. Darci, as a very young woman, was diagnosed as having pulmonary valvular stenosis (caused by childhood illnesses, strep throat and such like) and mitral valve proplapse. She was unable to go out for swimming in high school as she did not have endurance and couldn’t develop it. Her mother took her to the doctors to see why, and that was when her heart problems and a murmur were discovered. Because of her valve problem blood couldn’t leave her heart fast enough to keep up with her swimming exertions. She went out for diving instead. She was informed that an insertion of a pig valve might be needed in her thirties, to be replaced every ten years or so. She was also told because of stress during childbirth her heart could full up with blood and not exit fast enough because of the stenosis and lead to a life threatening condition. Before dental work and childbirth she had to take an antibiotic as a preventative, because of the heart deformities she was apt to get an infection easily in her heart. During our first two childbirths a heart specialist was on call in the event of problems. After these two children she was told to have no more, to ensure raising the two she had. I had a vasectomy done. She had been prayed for with no discernible results. We were unable to get her on to a Kaiser individual health plan because of her condition, when our school church which I worked for got group insurance we were able to then to place her on insurance.

One night at an evening prayer meeting Darci requested prayer for a fungus infection on her feet. This is what I saw, Darci’s mother had laid her hands on Darci’s feet and was thanking God for her daughter, when suddenly she looked up and said, “Darci! the Lord is healing your heart!” My wife put her hands on her face, burst into tears and said “I know, I know!” I thought at first she was referring to some sort of emotional healing, but what had happened was as Darci’s mother had felt the power of God in her hands Darci felt what she describes as little electric fingers working on her heart. We weren’t even thinking of her heart condition at the time. It was an unexpected gift. Darci immediately displayed more energy and pep, and now in her forties she can do hard driving aerobics and even the “boot camp” style exercise sessions at the fitness center.

Darci went into Kaiser and announced she had been healed by Jesus, asking for tests to confirm it. They politely put her off, saying her heart condition wasn’t self healing. I had my vasectomy reversed and we got pregnant with our third. Once she was pregnant Kaiser decided to add their tests to Darci’s previous tests. She told Kaiser’s ultra-scan technician what had happened, he was aware of her past records, when he saw the results of the test he jumped up and down in excitement, and Darci asked for a good church to attend. Darci then asked if he could scan her baby, the technician locked the door as that wasn’t on the work order, our daughter Addie was sucking her thumb and waved her hand at her mother. Her heart specialist was not happy when he saw the results and heard Darci’s insistence it was the Lord, but reluctantly wrote a note to Darci’s mother saying she now had a healthy heart. Her old Italian Catholic obstetrician was happy to hear the news and wrote on her file that no more antibiotic was needed prior to delivery. We now have five children and I have had a second vasectomy. Recently when Darci was being checked out for a surgery on her back due to an injury she asked if she had a heart murmur. The doctor said no. I have copies of the tests and records showing the before and after state of her heart.

Philip Clayton

March 22, 2012at 11:21 pm


I think you should say “Praise God!” and believe what you saw. I’m not in the business of proving what God has or has not done, or destroying faith. I can tell you how science works and what is presupposed by science. Do somethings in heaven and earth exceed my comprehension? You’d better believe it…

— Philip

have no interest in destroying anyone’s faith’


March 22, 2012at 11:33 pm

A link to a discussion of the great mathematician Kurt Godel’s theism written by an erudite Orthodox Jew. It’s at the outer limit of my ability to follow and comprehend. I believe with your academic training and interests you would appreciate it

Philip Clayton

March 22, 2012at 11:44 pm

Jeff, thanks for sharing this link with readers of the website. I’ll take a look at it…


March 28, 2012at 7:57 pm

“I advocate a radically different solution: the Emerging Church”

From your recent opinion piece. What you describe to me sounds like another retread of liberal quakerism/unitarian univeralism/the present United Church of Christ and not at all radical. Another keeping the outward form of christianity to satisfy those who are conditioned to being spiritual in that context but want to jettison anything that doesn’t jib with liberalism/progressivism/secularism/scientism. The Unitarian church should be one of the largest denominations, but as long as you have a family and a circle of friends and other worthwhile nonchurch causes and organizations to belong to you can easily believe what you want at home and in your own life and not bother with the extra activity of church! Which keeps that denomination small and accounts for the shrinkage of liberal mainstream churches.

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