Re: Separation of science and religion

George Murphy (
Thu, 20 Nov 1997 18:32:32 -0500

Craig Rusbult wrote:

> I think it is a very unclear description -- to say that God can answer
> prayers (in the true sense of an answer) "through natural processes" --
> unless there is a clear accompanying statement that there *is* theistic
> action (of a type that would not have occurred with a random running of the
> universe) even though this may *appear* to be non-miraculous.
> Otherwise, no matter what are the subtleties of what you may mean by
> "natural process" this will be heard as "no action by God, and no answer to
> prayer" (because there was no problem that could not be solved by just
> letting nature run its usual course) by almost everyone who hears it.
> >Otherwise one simply has to make a sacrifice of the
> >intellect & pretend that God performs miracles with a frequency which
> >would make the whole scientific enterprise problematic.
> > ...snip... A universe which operated by continual miracle would be a
> >nightmare - we would have no idea what was going on.
> I think we both want to avoid "two-model strawmen": either no theistic
> action, or Alice-in-Wonderland confusion where very little makes sense.
> The question is: how can we state in-between views clearly, so they can
> be understood. I don't think referring to "God working through natural
> processes" is sufficient, unless there is a modifying statement (in the
> same sentence, or a nearby sentence) that clarifies the difference between
> "no action" and "action that does not appear to be miraculous," and that
> also acknowledges the existence of miracles (such as the resurrection of a
> dead person) that CANNOT be explained by science because they occurred by
> processes that differ from the "normal mechanisms" postulated by science.
> Christians are to believe that "natural processes" & everything
in the world would not exist without God. Belief that God is
"almighty" does not mean (in the classical sense of the word) that God
_could_ do anything, but that in fact God _does_ do everything. We also
recognize - even if we aren't scientifically trained - that there are
regularities in the world & that many of the things we pray for come via
those regularities - food, health, &c. These beliefs & observations are
coherent only if in some way we believe that God works "though natural
processes" - which is an admittedly vague statement. It is the task of
doctrines of providence, taking into account what science tells us about
natural processes, to make it more precise - for those who want more
precision. Many Christians don't.
I don't think it essential to Christian faith to assert that
anything which happens in the world is in principle inexplicable in
terms of natural processes, including the resurrection: Again, I'll be
happy to send a copy of my _Works_ article to anyone interested. OTOH,
I am not dogmatic about explaining every single miraculous action in
such a way.
George Murphy