Re: RFEP/ID/Providence

RDehaan237 (
Fri, 3 Apr 1998 07:12:11 EST

In a message dated 4/1/98 9:33:10 AM, (Howard Van
Till) wrote:

<<Bob Dehaan suggested that the concept of Intelligent Design and the Robust
Formational Economy Prnciple could peacefully coexist under the common
umbrella of the doctrine of Providence.>>

Howard wrote: <<I think not, Bob. ID, as most often presented by its
proponents, implies the rejection of the RFE Principle.>>

My response: Perhaps so. The integrating power of the doctrine of providence
makes that kind of negation and rejection unnecessary. ID has its place in
the doctrine as does RFEP. Of course, they interact with each other, but that
is secondary. What is primary is that each fulfills a characteristic of
providence better than the other does. Both are necessary for a full
operationalization of providence.

<<Howard wrote, Bob said: "Sustenance" and "governance" connote intelligent
design to me, the direct action of God in the universe--supporting
(sustenance) and controlling (governance) the natural order. This seems to me
to imply
interventions of all kinds, including "Extra-natural Assembly" if need be."

Howard's response: <<We seem to be defining our terms quite differently. I
'sustenance' to be the divine action of sustaining the Creation, including
its formational and operational economies, in being. No 'interventions'
implied here.>>

My response: I'm not sure what your definition is. I use the definition from
_Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language,
Unabridged, (1993)_ which defines *sustenance* first as, "a means of support,
maintenance or subsistence; to cause to continue to keep up, esp. without
interruption, diminution or flagging."

There seems to be a very strong implication of ongoing intervention here. I
think ID implies intervention, which seems to me to be consonant with the
"sustenance" aspect of the doctrine of providence.

Howard wrote: <<I take 'governance' to be the purposeful establishing of
norms/goals for creaturely behavior. Because God is 'sovereign' (that is,
something like a king) creatures are accountable to God for their behavior.
However, to extrapolate from 'governance' to 'control' is, I believe, a
mistake. Perhaps this extrapolation from divine sovereignty to divine
dictatorship lies at the base of the common Christian inclination to
picture the Creator/Provider/God as One who is engaged in micromanaging the
affairs of the Creation.>>

My response: I don't know where you got your definition of governance.
According to my big fat dictionary, *control* is definitely an integral part
of *governance*. Here's one of the definitions of governance, "to control,
direct, or strongly influence the actions and conduct (as of a person or
group) prevail or have decisive influence." There's no extrapolation

You put a very negative spin on the word governance, calling it
"micromanagment", and "coercing creatures to act in ways different from what
they would otherwise have done." I don't think God's governance is
micromanagement as used in today's political climate fits his activity in

Let me use a different metaphor to interpret the definition I have presented
above--governance as *gardening*, and Creation as a Garden. Certainly, a
gardener "controls, directs, or strongly influences the actions and conduct of
the plants." My wife is an avid gardener, and I know she clearly governs and
controls her garden. She directs the beans to climb a pole she provides.
They thrive on such control. She pulls weeds that threaten to choke out
plants she desires, etc., etc. This in no way interferes with the freedom of
the plants to be themselves; indeed, her governance enables them better to be
themselves. The plants continue to have "creaturely freedom and creaturely
accountability" that you claim is lost in micromanagement. You ask, "Would
God violate the being of his creatures?" Of course not. But governance does
not imply the violation and coerciveness you ascribe to it. Governance and
control can be viewed as a much more benign and positive action of God and his
Creation than you have pictured it to be.

Here is an interesting definition of providence taken from *Encyclopedia
Britannica*, "God keeps the world in existence by his care, he rules and leads
the world and mankind deliberately according to his purpose, and he does this
in his omnipotence as God the Creator, in his goodness and love as revealed by
his son Jesus Christ, and to further the salvation of mankind through the
Holy Spirit." (Taken from the German reference work, _Religion in Geschichte
und Gegenwart_ ("Religion in History and the Present").

Howard wrote, <<My final comment here: Bob, with you I would welcome the
contributions of theologians and others who are competent to address
theological concerns. However, before they can comment on the relationship of
ID or the RFE
Principle to the doctrine of providence they need to know what the definition
of ID actually is.>>

My response: You have not commented on the relationship of RFE Principle to
the dcotrine of providence that I proposed, namely, *concurrence*. I suggested
that RFEP operationalizes (if I may use a scientific term) that aspect of
providence called concurrence, which Webster defines as agreement,
cooperation, consent. Do you accept that interpretation of RFEP?

I have one other concern. I believe your RFEP will continue to be interpreted
as deism, despite your disclaimers. If it is a part of the totality of
providence, however, the criticism loses its force. I think that providence,
not RFEP or ID, is the fundamental doctrine of God's relation to her creation.
For this reason I believe it can serve as the umbrella under which both can
not just co-exist, but provide new understanding of the workings of

I tried not to misinterpret your position, Howard. If I have please let me