Re: Natural Theology, Unguided Processes and Apologetics

Terry M. Gray (
Thu, 11 Sep 1997 21:18:09 -0600

Peter Vibert's appeal to Plantinga has triggered a thought that may
clarify--Eduardo Moros' comments have come close to what I want to say,
also George Murphy's mention of concurrence gets to the heart of the matter.

While the distinction between mediated and unmediated acts of God is useful
and significant, Plantinga's appeal to the chain of causation eventually
leading to something that God does directly is perilously deistic. I would
like to suggest, going back to the old doctrine of concurrence, that there
is a direct (unmediated) act of God that accompanies even so-called
mediated acts. As Eduardo Moros has suggested, if God would cease his
sustaining work, all creaturely existence would cease. Thus even in the
case of things that operate according to secondary causes there is a
dependence on direct activity of God--i.e. his sustaining created things in
their existence and in their properties and behaviors.

I think that part of the problem here is that we want to know exactly how
God interacts with the world. To be honest, I think that the notion of
concurrence, that God explicitly concurs in some real way with every
creaturely event, is a mystery. We tend to think of God as one like us--if
we understand the rules of causation, we can initiate a complex series of
events that will accomplish some desired end, but we are not responsible
for carrying out all the intermediate steps. We think that God works like
that. But the Biblical notion of the relationship between the creator and
the creature is so much more profound. Not only does God initiate complex
causal sequences, he also makes and guarantees all the intermediate
processes (that we assume happen automatically or even mechanically).

So when I say that God is intimately involved in the governing of the
universe, I mean just that. Intimately. I tell my students that God's
involvement in the conversion of water into hydrogen and oxygen in a
hydrolysis reaction is NO LESS than his involvement in the conversion of
water into wine at the wedding of Cana.

On a slightly different note--I agree with George Murphy that the pointers
to God found in creation are not pointers to some deity in general, but to
the Christian God who has revealed himself in Christ in his Incarnation,
Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension. Indeed, this Christ is the Word
made flesh though whom all things were made. I too am troubled by the
vagueness of the intelligent design approach (or other brands of natural
theology). On the day of judgment (and today for that matter), apart from
Christ, belief in the Intelligent Designer God will be (and is) just
another brand of idolatry.


Terry M. Gray, Computer Support Scientist
Chemistry Department, Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado 80523
phone: 970-491-7003 fax: 970-491-1801