Re: RFEP, FGC and deism (again)

Jonathan Clarke (
Tue, 13 Apr 1999 16:35:02 +1000

Greetings Howard

Thanks for your reminding us of these issues. I apologise for dredging up things
which perhaps been dealt with before.

Howard J. Van Till wrote:

> I envision the 'being' of the Creation at this moment to be no less dependent
> on the Creator's effective will than at any other moment in time, including
> t=0. If the first occasion of the Creation's 'being' was dependent on God's
> creative action, why should its being at any other moment be any less so? The
> continuing existence of the Creation is perhaps nothing less than the
> continuing effectiveness of God's "Let there *be*...." In that case, God's
> 'sustaining' action is not substantially different from God's 'creating'
> action; both are instances of God's 'giving of being' to the Creation.
> >Equally, defenders of ID should also emphasis in a
> >theological discussion, whether it is possible to distinguish between
> >theistic and deistic ID (and how).
> I'm sure you will find that statement immediately following their definition
> of what it means to be (or have been) 'intelligently designed.' :)
> Note: the following is a very lightly edited version of something that I
> posted more than a year ago, in response to a comment from Bill Hamilton. Bill
> had raised essentially the same concern as Jonathon did, the concern that
> accepting RFEP could be misunderstood as deism.
> From my 3-28-98 post:
> Nearly every time I present the concept of the 'Robust Formational Economy
> Principle' someone expresses the concern that it "smacks of deism." So,
> Jonathon, I guess it was your turn to be the spokesperson this time.

Lightning rod seems more like it perhaps?

> First, I must say that I find the frequency of this concern very intriguing. I
> suspect that it is telling us something about how we Christians today are
> inclined to think about divine action. Have we, in reacting to the Naturalism
> so often preached in the name of natural science, become overly concerned to
> preserve a protected and "special" place for God's action? Do we think that,
> in order for God to be able to act, there must some sort of empirically
> discernible gap in either the formational or operational economies of the
> Creation? I don't know the answers, but I think we Christians need to reflect
> on this thoughtfully.

I fully agree, and find it a concern that many Christians do seem to have a such a
weak view of God's sovereignty. However, I have suspected for many years that
semi-deism, rather than true theism, is the dominant mindset of most Christians
today, and perhaps has always been the case. Thus the need to spell out very
clearly that God does not NEED gaps. This has no bearing on whether or not such
gaps are present, but there is no specific need to seek or even to expect them.

> Jonathon, I presume that you know that I am *not* a proponent of deism. And I
> presume that your question was meant simply to demonstrate that. Please take
> my response in that same friendly light as well.

No offence intended and none taken.

> One thing we should note at the outset is that the only gaps relevant to my
> earlier posts on the Robust Formational Economy Principle (or the Fully-Gifted
> Creation Perspective) are gaps in the *formational economy* of the
> Creation--gaps created by the absence of particular creaturely capabilities
> for self-organization or transformation. If there were, by God's choice to
> withhold certain creaturely capabilities for self-organization or
> transformation, such gaps in the Creation's formational economy, then a
> corresponding set of episodes of gap-bridging, form-imposing, extraordinary
> divine action would be *necessary* (as opposed to *optional*) elements in the
> Creation's formational history.
> The question raised by Jonathon's post is this: Would the absence of these
> gaps necessarily 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?
> To the best of my knowledge the answer is a resounding, NO.
> "
> End of story.

I fully agree and wish that more people would recognise this.

> From the vantage point of believing that God gave being to a Creation in which
> the Robust Formational Economy Principle is true, GOD IS STILL AS FREE AS EVER
> fully-gifted Creation, complete with 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?
> Closely related and equally important questions are, What is the nature of
> divine creative action? How does it differ from creaturely action? By what
> marks would we recognize it?

I would argue that since creaturely action is dependent entirely on God, then
there is no difference. This raises a question about the nature of the Biblical
miracles. Are they truly "supernatural" or "non-creaturely"? Or are they a
manifestation of God dependent creaturely action we have not yet recognised?

> Cordially,
> Howard Van Till

God Bless