Re: T/D #1 (Theistic/Deistic definitions)

Craig Rusbult (
Mon, 3 Nov 1997 14:27:53 -0600

Don Page explains his views,
> I was using "the final laws of nature" in the sense of a complete
>description (perhaps compressed, such as "the set of all integers" rather
>a detailed listing of them) of the universe, and so with that sense I would
>include God's personal action. Thus I was using "laws" in a descriptive
>than a prescriptive sense.

Yes, "description" may be possible with regard to "God's personal
action" but prescription is certainly not possible, and is not warranted.

>Now maybe "law" even in this sense has a
>connotation of being a compression of the information, and so if one cannot
>compress (e.g., give simpler reasons explaining) God's personal action, I
>should not have used the word "law" for it.

If (and I think this is the case) "one cannot [provide simple theories
that explain] God's personal action", then "operation principles" -- which
could include perceptions of character, intentions, Biblical promises,...
-- seems to be a more accurate description of what is humanly know-able or
claim-able (for the mechanism and/or results of personal theistic action)
than "law".

>On the other hand, I think that
>many, such as Jonathan Edwards, would say that there are simpler reasons for
>God's personal actions, such as God's supreme wisdom and goodness, even if
>might not believe that these reasons can be expressed in the mathematical
>of the present laws of physics.

Yes; character and intentions, especially when based on Biblical
statements, would be "simpler reasons."

>So I am not sure these people (including
>myself) would be averse to using "law" for God's personal actions even if
>is taken to imply a compression of the actions.

Yes, and I am one of these people.

> On the question of the division of what Craig prefers to call
>"operation principles" (but which I ,
>unless he simply means that they are just partial descriptions rather than a
>complete one, or maybe that they can conflict, so that they do not always
>apply) into the two types ("normal-appearing" and "personal action")

Yes, "personal action" trumps "normal appearing", whenever it is
necessary to accomplish God's will.
Re: operation principles, which you "don't clearly see as different from
laws," I do see them as distinctly different, both in terms of what is
actually happening and (especially) in terms of epistemic "human knowledge

> I guess
>that I would like to see more clearly evidence for this division. Valuing
>simplicity of descriptions is a very strong motivation (particularly for a
>scientist, but I would think for anyone)

For me, plausibility-and-utility are more important than simplicity.
And besides, "God does what God wants to do" is a fairly simple principle.

>and to me it strongly suggests the
>working hypothesis that there is no such division, but this seems
>rather unpalatable to many of us.

If by "no such division" you mean that God's personal action is
involved in *all* events in the universe, as argued by many of you (and I'm
more inclined to see the universe this way than two weeks ago, thanks to
your ideas), then I agree. But it seems that many universe-events (but not
all) can be described with "laws", either deterministic or probabilistic,
so maybe at least it can be *useful* to describe these events with
scientific theories, if we avoid the implications that "whatever science
can describe does not involve God" (a gaps view), and that "whatever
science cannot describe (without invoking God's personal action) does not
And, re: limitations on our knowledge of operation principles, if there
are limitations (as in QM-theory) for "what humans can know" this does not
imply the failure of the theory (such as QM) that claims the limitations.
And theistic theology prohibits any human attempts to reduce God to "law".

>So what strong evidence is there that there
>really is this division, and that it is not just wishful thinking? (Of
>one could counter that it is just wishful thinking to suppose that the
>is not there, but one would like evidence rather than just opposing wishful

It seems theologically justified, and also empirically justified (maybe
check Josh McDowell's "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" or...).
I don't think there is any proof that would convince someone who begins
by assuming metaphysical materialism, but it seems plausible if we begin
with theistic premises.