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

Robert Miller (
Thu, 19 Aug 1999 17:49:01 -0700

Robert Miller wrote:

> "Howard J. Van Till" wrote:
> >
> > 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.
> >
> >
> > 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
> Let me say again what I have said in the past, but in a different way. My
> problem with RFEP is that it seems unnecessary. And it is difficult for me to
> remember what RFEP stands for! Let me divide God's creative acts into 2 eras,
> before humans and after humans. We have no biblical record of the 16 billion
> year history of the universe before humans so it seems to me that RFEP fits
> that era fine. But it doesn't really add anything that we can't determine in
> our observations of the physical history of the universe. God did it, and
> undoubtedly by following along the lines of the laws we have discovered.
> With the introduction of humans, however, things change. Not only do we have a
> biblical record but now have a constant barrage of God's intrusions into the
> affairs of man. My impression is that both you and George Murphy are
> uncomfortable with the concept of God's frequent intervention into the
> operation of this world. I remember about a year ago that George expressed his
> dismay at this concept several times and I decided to go through a bible book
> and record each time God intervened. (I take an intervention to be any
> interaction that God has with humans, whether they be dreams, visions, angels,
> Spirit or miracles.) I choose the book of Exodus for no particular reason and
> after writing down 2 pages of verses where interventions occurred I gave up.
> There were just to many of them. I have read the idea that God vigorously
> intervened just at critical points, like the giving of the law, but that there
> were years of non-intervention between these points, as for instance the 400
> years in Egypt between Joseph and Moses. But this is an argument from silence.
> The only interventions we know about are those recorded. We have no way of
> knowing about non-recorded interventions.
> Taken as a class God's interventions are His attempts to draw people to
> Himself, to give them a way of salvation. It seems reasonable to me that God
> would do this at all times to all people and in fact there are hints that this
> is so. Jonah's experience of preaching at Ninevah is one example. We do have
> records of innumerable interventions of God into our lives in the last 2000
> years of Christianity and I again refer you to the book by Don Richardson,
> "Eternity in Their Hearts."
> I also wonder how the Spirit world fits into RFEP. The existence of angels,
> demons, Satan and a bodily resurrected Jesus Christ has to fit into our
> understanding of the universe some where. Why can we not see them, even when
> they are around us, unless they do something to make themselves visible to us.
> How can Jesus Christ suddenly appear in a locked room, and demonstrate His
> real body by eating fish? What does that do to our understanding of physical
> law?