Paul Arveson (
Thu, 10 Oct 96 14:06:05 EDT

Dr. Gene D. Godbold wrote:

>Mr. Morton's post also implies that the "laws of the universe" are some
>sort of algorithm that God set up to run on the cosmic computer with the
>goal of "life" or "design" or whatever. I'm not sure that this metaphor
>is how we should be thinking of Him He were detached from
>creation or as if it something that goes on without His continual
>involvement. I think God as a painter might be better than God as a programmer,
>tho' even that is inadequate since God is really "painting" each object in the
>painting continually and the canvas is God, too...


Gene is rather vividly describing the kinds of thought processes I and many
others have had trying to comprehend the relationship of God to nature. In
addition to the primary advice (take an aspirin) I will offer the following
insight that has been helpful to me:

Dr. James Houston, in "I Believe in the Creator" emphasized that all our
metaphors for the Creator: as Maker, King, Designer, etc. all fall short of an
adequate or consistent description. The whole approach is hopeless, because
creation and providence -- the relationship between the transcendent God and
physical nature -- is a total mystery. There can be no physical description of
such a relationship, whether it is sudden or a process in our temporal world.
Houston noted that it is a mark of our modern scientific attitude that leads us
to assume we can do this, and thence to "put God in our pocket", to comprehend
Him, and thereby reduce the Creator to an "idol of the tribe". Rather, creation
is only properly seen as a theological doctrine, revealed in Scripture.

What ever happened to theology these days?

There is a wonderful, freeing aspect of Houston's theological understanding. It
liberates us from the effort to identify a mechanical explanation. I think it
could be said, quite metaphorically, that God can "erase His tracks" in relation
to nature. It's true, as Romans 1 says, that some evidence for God can be seen
in nature, but this is a general, universal, intuitive sense that is available
to everyone at all times, not just to modern scientists. Romans 1 is certainly
not a mandate for the development of natural theology.

Paul Arveson, Research Physicist
Code 724, NSWC, Bethesda, MD 20084
(301) 227-3831 (W) (301) 227-1914 (FAX) (301) 816-9459 (H)