Re: Natural Theology, Unguided Processes and Apologetics

Murphy (
Fri, 12 Sep 1997 08:01:14 -0400

Terry M. Gray wrote:
> 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 agree (& with the further omitted part), but the terminology
may be confusing. Hollaz (17th cent Lutheran) defines concurrence as
"Concurrence, or the co-operation of God, is the act of Divine
Providence whereby God, by a general and immediate influence,
proportioned to the need and capacity of every creature,
graciously takes part with second causes in their actions and

God's action is "immediate" (or direct) in the sense that God is
immediately present to & active with "every creature" in all its
actions. God did not simply wind things up in the beginning in such a
way that that creature would do a particular thing at a particular time,
as deism says. (It is concurrence rather than precurrence.) But God's
action takes place with & through the creature, and in that sense is
mediate or indirect. & what we observe scientifically is the creature,
not the God who works with & through the creature.
Traditionally providence was divided into sustenance,
concurrence, & governance. The 1st is what Eduardo notes, that God
keeps things in existence. When people saw the world as consisting of
things with more or less static natures, this was given priority over
concurrence. With the dynamic picture of the world which quantum field
theory gives, concurrence (or co-operation, God "operating with"
creatures) has to be at least an equal partner. In a real sense
substance is interaction (m = E/c^2).

George L. Murphy