Re: Functional proteins from a random library

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Thu Apr 12 2001 - 12:11:21 EDT

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    Burgy, responding to my comments on his violin-making metaphor for God's
    creative action:

    > And one more thing. In this metaphor, God not only conceptualizes,
    > shapes and assembles the violin(creation), as you put it above, but also
    > PLAYS the violin(creation). Without this last, the metaphor is sort of
    > uninteresting.

    And when I suggested that it portrayed God's creative action very much like
    the action of Plato's Demiurge, Burgy replied:

    > Again, the "playing" activity is key, and places it (the metaphor)
    > beyond Plato's Demiurge. I think.

    I don't know how to evaluate this. What kind of divine action might this
    "playing" of the violin represent? Something quite different from
    form-conferring interventions, I presume?

    Burgy again:

    > Your FGC concept is certainly within the
    > realm of possible explanations. What I argue is first that it is not the
    > ONLY explanation we should consider (I think you'd agree on that) and
    > also that at least one other explanation appears (to me at least) to be a
    > better one. I could be wrong, of course. I've been wrong before. But I
    > have to identify that explanation which has both more meaning and more
    > explanatory value to me at the time, even if I change my alleged mind
    > later on.

    Fair enough, but I can't evaluate your "better one" until I know what kind
    of divine action the "playing" symbolizes.

    > A question on your FGC concept. Is there room within it for God to play
    > with -- interact with -- the creation? To change "how particles/energy
    > fields bump into particles/energy fields" non-causally, as a result of
    > his creatures (us) prayers? If not -- then our prayers are so much wasted
    > effort, IMHO. And if that is so, Christianity is reduced to a cruel joke.

    As you do, Burgy, I think we must have a way of speaking about divine action
    in a way that includes not only the invariant action that provides the
    support that is essential to all creaturely action (like God's sustaining
    the Creation in being) but also includes authentically variable action (as
    in response to intercessory prayer).

    But speaking of God's variable action in language that portrays God as an
    agent that coercively overpowers creatures (whether atoms or persons) seems
    to me to invite all manner of theodicy problems, to amplify "the problem of
    evil," and to suggest that God would violate the being once given to
    creatures (coercing them to act in ways contrary to their being). So, like
    many theologians that I have interacted with, I seek to understand how God
    can act effectively (that is, effecting an outcome that is different from
    what would otherwise have happened) but in a non-coercive manner.

    In this endeavor I do not find traditional Christian theology particularly
    helpful. (For one thing, it was crafted before we learned what remarkable
    capabilities the universe was given.) The one contemporary theological
    community that seems most keen to articulate a concept of effective, but
    non-coercive, variable divine action is the process theologians. David Ray
    Griffin's book, _Religion and Scientific Naturalism_ represents a major
    effort to do just that.

    So, to get back to your question: Yes, Burgy, there is more than enough room
    in the FGC concept for God to act in, and interact with, the Creation in any
    way that is consistent with God's character and God's will. The most that
    the FGC concept does on the topic of divine action is to propose that one
    traditional category of divine action -- the category of form-imposing
    intervention as a means of actualizing new creaturely forms -- is
    unnecessary because God gave to the Creation at the beginning all of the
    resources (properties, capabilities, potentialities) that would be needed to
    actualize the full spectrum of physical structures and life forms in the
    course of time.

    Howard Van Till

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