Re: Providence

Garry DeWeese (
Wed, 08 Apr 1998 21:09:49 -0600

At 05:05 PM 4/8/1998 -0400, you [George Murphy] wrote:
> Whatever the reason for this emphasis, it seems to me to have
>set up both Reformed & Lutheran theology for a fall when evolution came
>on the scene. If only origination is viewed as creation in the fullest
>sense, & providence is seen as secondary, then one will have to resist
>the idea that there can be mediated creation, which is essentially what
>evolution is.

I don't know how clearly it was understood at the time of the formulation
of, say, the Heidelberg Catechism or the Augsburg Confession, but it is
pretty clear in the writings of later Reformed scholars that they
recognized the distinction between _creatio ex nihilo_ (generally *bara'*,
of which only Yahweh is the subject), and mediated creation (generally
*'asa*). I don't see that providence rules out the possibility that
secondary causes can bring about something new in kind. Perhaps I'm
misunderstanding your worry here.

>With all respect to the theologians of both Lutheran &
>Reformed orthodoxy, we have to be willing to undo their mistakes when
>they made them. & this is not just a matter of having our theology
>dictated by science: Genesis 1 clearly teaches mediated creation of

No argument here.

> To get farther here we would need to have clear mutual
>understanding of "panentheism", "deism" and "direct action".

By "panentheism" I understand the view, associated with Hegel and
Hartshorne, or Teilhard and Tillich and Kung and even Moltmann, which
conceives of God as inseparable from the world. Hartshorne, for example,
said that the world was God's body and God was the world's soul--a view
echoed in such "eco-theologians" as Matthew Fox. Thus panentheism would be
a denial of God's absolute independence or aseity.

By "deism" I have in mind not so much any particular historical version as
the general view that God's direct action is confined to the creation of
the initial constituents of the universe, together with their properties
and capacities, along with the initial conditions and the laws.

By "direct action" in the above, I mean unmediated, pribary causation.

Are these characterizations of the terms acceptable?

Garry DeWeeser