Re: RFEP/ID/Providence

Christopher Morbey (
Sun, 05 Apr 1998 21:32:23 -0700

Howard J. Van Till wrote:

> Bob Dehaan,

snip snip

> On a practiical note, that means that when I try to articulate my
> understanding of the ways in which God acts in and interacts with the
> Creation I must do so in the light of everything that we have learned about
> the Creation by means of empirical investigation in the centuries since
> these creeds were written. Our theology must, I believe, be informed by the
> totality of the human experience, including our experience in the
> scientific laboratory.
> That may lead some persons to say that something is "missing" in what I
> write, but I would hope that what is missing has been replaced with
> something more relevant to our own time and place in the history of the
> human experience with God and with his Creation.

I seem to identify with these sentiments. The totality of human experience --
I like the word "consilience" -- is certainly very high on my priority list.

However, one must be careful about experience (in my experience!). Experience,
by itself, is not trustworthy. That must be the case simply because everybody
has different experiences with regard to the same thing.

My view is that there must be some sort of anchor somewhere. Without an anchor
we have no free and responsible existence for we are swept along by the
contemporary currents of relativism. Volatile notions that appear today and are
gone tomorrow. Postmodernism has us exactly where it wants us; firmly in its

To know and understand anything requires some comparison or contrast with what
has come before, not just the present. That is part of what we understand about
knowledge itself. A deeper part is that spontaneity and necessity must
coexist. This implies that tradition is very important in the concept of
knowledge and understanding.

A Christian world-view that would put the consilience of all things very high
on the priority list would see faith grounded in scripture, tradition, and
reason, with possibly some experience within the reason.

Scripture, of course, came about by the cooperation of tradition and the Holy
Spirit. After all, it wasn't until several hundred years after Jesus that lists
of what books were canonical became authoritative. The fact that scripture came
out of tradition and tradition came out of scripture together and over time
means that the authority held by tradition (to some degree) was transferred to
scripture. What was written as words by the Word became authoritative and
trustworthy, not overnight, but over centuries. Some Christians would believe
that what in scripture pertains to faith and morals is normative, that what in
scripture pertains to rites and practices is cultural. Makes sense to me. As a
great Christian leader once said about the inspiration of the Bible, "the books
themselves are the most precious source of doctrine to be used for trustworthy
encouragement and as an instrument for securing the eternal salvation of

Of course Christians look directly to Jesus as the way, the truth, and the
life. Because his body is not here there are various means that help mediate
his reality, the Holy Spirit (the Comforter) being the most important.
Sacraments, preaching, praise, etc are some of the two-way conversion of love
between the Creator and his creation.

So, my little bit of rambling possibly refers to what might be missing in a
statement that could be interpreted to suggest that experience is the ultimate.
I believe -- my experiences conspire to agree -- that what is now relevant can
only be so in light of the faith that is supported by scripture, tradition, and
reason. In that way my science connects to knowledge and understanding as much
as it connects to pragmatic utility as much as it connects to giving glory back
to the Creator who sustains its very possibility.

Christopher Morbey