Re: The Church of Darwin (WSJ 16 Aug 1999)

Howard J. Van Till (
Thu, 19 Aug 1999 10:12:25 -0400

Bert Massie writes:

"As I understand your comments, you are suggesting the following:

"God made the universe and the laws of physics (LOP) and established the
boundary conditions (BC) so that at some future time man came into
being. God upholds the LOP but did not intervene along the way because
the creation was in your terms "fully gifted." (I prefer BC were

Let me try to restate this in my own preferred vocabulary: God gave, and
continues to give, being to the universe. A portion of that being can be
expressed in terms of relationships among its various properties and
patterns of behavior. [I prefer this to the more common reference to "laws
of physics" or "boundary conditions."] God's continuing action to uphold
the being of the universe is essential, but, since its formational economy
is (by God's creativity and generosity) fully gifted with all of the
requisite formational capabilities, God need not insert occasional
form-imposing interventions in order that certain creaturely forms come to
be assembled. God is, of course, still free to act in, or interact with,
the Creation in any way that is consistent with God's being and God's will.

Bert continues: "Personnaly, I prefer the subsequent intervention concept
because of the
difficulties with BC's. I think the the Heisenberg uncertainty
principle gives a lot of problems believing that the BC's were set so
that man would automatically come out."

HVT: First, we must note that the term 'intervention' is freely used for a
host of vastly differing types of divine action. We must pay attention to
those differences and not speak as if they were all of the same kind.

The only kind of intervention rendered unnecessary by the fully gifted
Creation concept is the "form-imposing" kind, in which God is portrayed as
either directly arranging raw materials into a new configuration or
directly modifying an extant form.

One of the theological reasons that I find myself very uncomfortable with
this type of intervention is that it strongly implies that God is of a mind
to violate the being first given to the Creation--forcing it to behave in
ways different from, or beyond, the capabilities first given to it as part
of its being. Another factor in my discomfort is that episodic creationism
entails the idea that God intentionally withheld a few key formational
capabilities from the Creation so that there would be gaps in its
formational economy that would require gap-bridging, form-imposing
interventions in the course of time to compensate for gifts withheld.

Bert again: "God can of course do anything
but our job is to make an informed estimate of what he did do."

HVT: I would say, "God can do anything consistent with God's being and
will. Our concepts of divine action reflect on our concepts of God's being
and will. That's what makes our speech about divine action so important."

Howard Van Till