Without addressing all of the issues you raise here, I think that the
simplest response is this. And this response goes to the atheist as well.
Van Till has raised this issue in The Fourth Day.
The question of ultimate governance, sustenance, etc. is fundamentally a
religious claim. Christians and other theists believe that it is external
to the universe, i.e. God is the one who governs, sustains, concurs, etc.
Atheistic naturalists believe that it is internal to the universe, i.e.
that the universe is self-governing, self-sustaining, etc. I believe that
in discussion with those who believe the latter that it is sufficient
simply to point this out. I think that it is a severe compromise of the
Biblical perspective to create a category such as matter in random motion
(MIRM) in order to communicate. I'm all for communication but I'm not
about to let terms and concepts be introduced that essentially beg the
question and then force us to come up with convoluted models about how God
interacts with the world. Why is not the simplest thing to point out the
fundamental problem to start wit?. If we think that our belief in God is
that fundamental to our thinking about the universe, how can start the
discussion with the unbeliever on their terms, i.e. that it is possible to
think about the world without God.
With respect to our discussion with unbelievers...
It is important to ask what exactly we are discussing with them. There are
very few practical consequences of our difference in belief in what
ultimate governance, sustenance, etc. is. As long as we believe that the
world operates by regular processes that are accessible to human
investigation then believers and unbelievers can work side by side. We
will each have different beliefs about the ultimate origins and
significance of our investigation of the world, but we will be
investigating the same processes based on similar mid-level presuppositions
about regularity in the universe.
Obviously, if Christians are going to appeal to miraculous actions of God
in their science, i.e. intelligent design or explanations of surviving
cats, then we have lost common ground with unbelievers (which is not
necessarily bad, but for which we should not be surprised that they reject
our explanation). Plantinga's discussion of Duhemian science has this ring
to it--one reason to adopt methodological naturalism is to be able to share
the scientific enterprise with non-Christians. If we follow this direction
then we should commit ourselves to developing a science (or a
subdiscipline) that is fundamentally incompatible with what unbelievers
will accept. This is a perfectly reasonable way to go and young earth
creationists as well as intelligent design theorists are moving in this
direction. They should not be surprised if their views don't make it into
main stream science (textbooks, professional journals, etc.) but in the
interest of truth and the way things really happened there is nothing that
should stop this development. As for myself, I don't think that origins
reseach needs these appeals to miraculous actions any more than chemistry
does. The examples that Craig brings up are all special case miracles that
are not really what we study in science anyway.
On the other hand, if our purpose in our discussion with unbelievers is to
pursuade them of the truth of the Christian faith and the errors of their
atheism then we must raise these theological issues, but at the bottom line
apologetics is never well-served by adopting frameworks that are at odds
with the Biblical perspective for the sake of communication. Granted
communication is very important, but it must never move away from truth.
As for "Touch by an Angel", the theology is awful (especially from a
Calvinist perspective!). I have many more concerns about what my children
take away from that show than other more obviously worldly shows. I guess
it's the wolf in sheep's clothing idea. It's really easy to see the
anti-Christian agenda in some places and my kids can recognize it in an
instant. It's not so easy when there is all this God and angel talk.
> Terry says,
>>I do not think that matter in random motion (MIRM) is an "ontological
>>Perhaps, atheistic naturalists have elevated MIRM to an "ontological
>>category", but Christians must never.Doing so, in my opinion it PRODUCES
>>the problems that you describe concerning deism/theism.
>>Thus, I disagree in a very fundamental way with your starting definitions.
> OK. But would you agree with this, Terry?
>MIRM is often claimed to be "the way things are" -- for example, in atheism
>or in "clockmaker" deism. MIRM is certainly an *ontological claim* that is
>made by many.
> And (in part of what I snipped out above) Terry says,
>>As I've stated before randomness and chance are human
>>perceptions--they are never the way things are from God's perspective.
> Yes, it is debatable whether or not MIRM is a valid concept within a
>framework of Christian theology.
> On this question, Allan says that, no, MIRM isn't a valid way for a
>Christian to characterize reality:
>>I think the MIRM definition, if it is salvageable at all, needs to be
>>divided up in order to get at the real issues. How about these three
>>MIRM-1: completely independent of God
>>MIRM-2: dependent on God only in the way a running watch is dependent on
>>MIRM-3: under God's sustenance, concurrence, etc.
>>From the Christian perspective, certainly nothing in the universe is in
>>category MIRM-1. As Terry Gray has pointed out, most Christian theology
>>(and I would add that this view does not necessarily entail Calvinism)
>>affirms that MIRM-2 is also an empty set.
> But MIRM-1 is believed by atheists, and MIRM-2 by deists.
>One of my questions, in this thread, is how theistic evolution (especially
>with a "functional integrity" viewpoint) differs from atheism or deism in
>the "origin of life" part of natural history.
> Consider this post an introduction to the post that follows, which
>deals with the "R" in MIRM. But before moving on to randomness, an
>important issue should be addressed: communication. Recently, Phil Johnson
>was being criticized for either: 1) holding "God of the Gaps" views
>(similar to those of Sagan) or 2) mis-communicating his views so that his
>readers/listeners might infer a "gaps" view and might be encouraged to
>adopt such a view for themselves. It seems to me that a similar danger,
>with mis-communication, could occur with theistic evolution.
> Consider the TV show, "Touched by an Angel." I like it (especially
>compared with typical TV sit-coms or dramas), but there is a danger because
>in every show the angels announce to the humans that "we are angels sent by
>God." This implies that without a similarly explicit announcement, we can
>be sure that there have been no angels, and no interaction with God. Yes,
>this is classical "gaps" thinking. When discussing Christian ontology, it
>is useful to have more categories than simply MIRM & MTA (the only two that
>deists, or atheists like Sagan, would have in their set of concepts) or STA
>& MTA, as suggested by Allan,
>>Given that, I'm not sure any
>>useful distinction, even ontological, remains between MIRM and your
>>"Smoothly Blending Theistic Action."
> One useful function of SBTA is to avoid "gaps mentality" when
>discussing ontological theories-about-reality with non-Christians. If
>these people compare their 2 categories (MIRM & MTA) with our 2 categories
>(SBTA & MTA), they will probably conclude that "MIRM = SBTA" and that God
>is active only in the "gaps" when miracles occur.
> But with SBTA there is a possibility of explaining that even when there
>seems to be no miraculous theistic activity, God is still active in our
>lives -- both INTERNALLY with cognitive/affective interactions (to provide
>wisdom, comfort, love, courage,...) as discussed in my initial "T/D #3",
>and EXTERNALLY with TA that can change events, such as the Joshua in Exodus
>17. In each of these cases, even though no physical laws are being
>"interfered with" (and everything seems to be following the usual natural
>laws) there is a claim (in the Bible) for personally customized "theistic
>action" that cannot (if the Bible is to be believed) be confused with MIRM
>that occurs by natural laws.
> Don't you think that SBTA (or something like it) is an accurate, useful
>way to distinguish this activity from an atheist's concept of MIRM? Do you
>think that it will make any conceptual sense, to a non-believer, to speak
>of sustenance (based on sound inductive logic, the continuation of the
>universe is simply assumed and taken for granted by a non-believer),
>governance (does a clarification of this concept require that we
>immediately discuss "applied omnipotence" and predestination?) or
>concurrence (this is a useful concept, but only in a context like the
>"obedient cooperation" discussed in my earlier TD#2 post, not in the
>context of a worldview based on MIRM, which is the worldview for many
> Clear communication requires clearly differentiated concepts.
> This is one reason that I appreciate efforts such as those by Allan
>when he considers the consequences of splitting MIRM into 3 categories.
> But simplicity can also be useful for communication. Ontologically,
>MIRM-1 = MIRM-2, because at the present time, it makes no difference
>whether or not there *was* a creator; if this creator is no longer active,
>all we have is MIRM. And with MIRM-3, the SGC concepts (sustenance,
>governance, concurrence) seem too vague, too easily confused with other
>concepts (such as MIRM-1 or MIRM-2), to be really useful for clear
Terry M. Gray, Computer Support Scientist
Chemistry Department, Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado 80523
phone: 970-491-7003 fax: 970-491-1801