Does RFE imply deism?

Bill Hamilton (
Sun, 29 Mar 1998 15:14:15 -0500

Howard wrote

>The question raised by Bill's post is this: Would the absence of these gaps
>imply the deistic concept of a distant and inactive God? Or, to state it
>differently, Is it the case that, "If no gaps, then no divine action?"
>I think the quickest way to dispel that fear is to ask the following
>question: Has orthodox Christian theology ever suggested that God is able
>and/or willing to act in the world only within gaps in either the
>formational economy or the operational economy of the Creation?

Good answer. God is in control of all nature. The idea that he would not
be present in and in control of anything that goes on at any scale in
nature is, IMO, unbiblical. But note that you are talking about the
presence or absence of gaps without stating your frame of reference. From
a human point of view, I agree with you that there are no discernable gaps.
that he commands at will. But without his sovereign command, moment by
moment, nature ceases to function and indeed ceases to exist. That is a
huge gap -- but one we are not permitted to see. There might of course be
other gaps which lie in the category of "secret things" ala Deut 29:29. In
much of this discussion there seems to be an implicit assumption that it
there are gaps, we can find them. I think that's a questionable assumption.

>To the best of my knowledge the answer is a resounding, NO.
>Therefore, if the presence of such gaps is NOT required to "make room" for
>divine action, then the absence of such gaps is no loss whatsoever. End of

While I agree with what you say, you aren't addressing the concern I was
trying to raise. Maybe I didn't articulate it very well. After all, it's
my judgment of what may bother someone else more than my own concern. The
various physical entities in nature are impersonal, yet they are all we can
see of God using the methods of science. Now I believe the methods of
science are very inadequate for the study of God -- just as they would be
very inadequate for characterizing, say, my relationship with my wife. You
could do something but it would miss the real meaning of the relationship.
But you are writing to Christians, who see a personal God sovereign over
all of nature, and some Christians will, I suspect, want to see evidence of
God's love -- his personality -- in nature, and will be concerned that
you've postulated a mechanical nature in which that personality cannot be
seen(from their point of view anyway). I'm only guessing here, because I
came to the realization a number of years ago that God has demonstrated his
love -- and continues to do so -- very emphatically through the revelation
he has given us, the incarnation, the atonement, the resurrection, the Holy
Spirit, etc. But there are a good many people that's not good enough for
-- Will Provine on one side of the fence and at least some Christians on
the other side. I don't know what the solution is -- certainly attaching a
string of qualifiers about God's personality to every pronouncement would
be unwieldy.

>God is still as
>free as ever to act in any way that is consistent with God's nature and

But (the creationist wonders) does Howard believe that he does? (or, to
make it less personal, do people who agree with Howard believe that he
does? Or could I (the creationist asks) if I agreed with Howard?).
Perhaps the problem is that some readers see God being relegated to the
undiscoverable background in nature and worry that such a view relegates
him to the undiscoverable background in revelation as well.

>The fully-gifted Creation, complete wth a gapless formational
>economy, does not in any way hinder God from acting as God wills to act. As
>I have said on numerous occasions, the question at issue is not, Does God
>act in or interact with the Creation, but rather, What is the character of
>the Creation in which God acts anw with which God interacts?

Also, What are the means of his interaction? Some creationists seem to see
nature as an unfinished product, which God manipulates by gross physical
force from time to time to make it behave. Somewhat like a car without
engine, steering gear or brakes, which he controls by exerting force from
the outside. Such a means of control is likely to be very visible, because
it's very disruptive. I believe what you are arguing for is nature as a
mechanism designed to be controllable by subtle inputs from God. I like
the image that appears several places in Scripture of God directing nature
through speech (Genesis 1 and Psalm 19 for example) This is more like a
car with engine, power steering, electronic controls, which God controls by
sitting in the driver's seat and directs smoothly where he desires by
relatively subtle actions. Such control is not very visible from the
outside of the car. Someone unaccustomed to observing cars (say someone
from Bora Bora) might think the car was proceeding without any supervision.

Unless this exchange draws some responses, I suggest we put it to bed. I
am simply trying to articulate what I think may be bothering some people
who are not themselves responding. Or they are responding and it's not
clear what bothers them. If these comments don't help us reach some better
level of communication, then they haven't served their purpose and we
should go on to other issues.

Bill Hamilton
William E. Hamilton, Jr., Ph.D.
1346 W. Fairview Lane
Rochester, MI 48306
(810) 652 4148