Re: underlying assumptions

D. Brian Austin (
Fri, 13 Dec 1996 09:20:07 EST5EDT4,M4.1.0,M10.5.0

Bob Miller, George Murphy, et al:

Thanks for the many challenging and insightful posts. I
appreciate the serious theologizing.

Please allow me to take something George said in his recent
post as a point of departure. He mentioned that God works mediately
through natural processes.
This realization makes it difficult to draw distinct lines
between natural and revealed theology, lines that seem to be presumed
firm by many list contributors. Questions about "intervention" or
"interference" must be qualified by the recognition that any such event
will never be unambiguous or unilateral. God neither overrides human
spontaneity nor the human interpretive filters (if such is even
There seems to be no fundamental difference in seeing God's
presence in a whirlwind, a still small voice, a private urging, or
in the awesome complexity of the "natural" world. In all these cases,
and even in the more apparently "miraculous" instances, we encounter
events in experience that cry out for (or quietly request) some
interpretation. The supernatural is only that for which we haven't
yet formulated a satisfactory explanation. Hence there is a sense
in which all our experience can be thus classified. Which, of course,
means that they might as well be called natural. And if the distinction
between natural and supernatural breaks down, then so does that
between natural and revealed theology.
Before this gets jumped on as denying creation, or creatio
ex nihilo, or God's ontological distinctness from creation, let me
suggest a model of God's involvement in and responsibility for creation
from Augustine. Recall his notion of God as the infinite sea, and this
universe as a sponge completely surrounded _and saturated_ by this sea.
Thus God is ever beyond our minuscule conceptual grasp, but ever-present
and willing to be known. Moreover, if God be personal in some way,
then there will be unpredictability, spontaneity, and ambiguity (or
even chaos--remember Job) in God's essence, and presumably in God's
handiwork. This unpredictability, often with momentous consequences,
may give the appearance of a special "intervention." But this is the
wrong word for it, as God always "soaks" creation. And God's voice
is still heard by those who have ears to hear it.
What do you think?

Brian Austin