Re: Griffin #4

From: John W Burgeson (
Date: Wed Jun 06 2001 - 17:05:59 EDT

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    David wrote:

    "The obvious problem with the first part noted above is that Griffin,
    like many others, thinks that, if he doesn't like it, it is evil and "my
    god wouldn't do that." This is clearly a deity constructed in the human
    image. Think for a moment on what kind of a world we would have if there
    were no death. Even within the development of the individual there has to
    be death. Science 292:866 (4 May 2001) notes that, without apoptosis
    during early embryonic development there cannot be developing life, for
    apoptosis forms the beginnings of the amniotic cavity. Death is necessary
    to life."

    The theodicy problem, of which the 1755 Lisbon earthquake is just an
    example, is real. The number of Christians killed that day, because it
    was Sunday morning and they were, many of them, inside stone cathedrals,
    was staggering. The event brought the theodicy problem to the front of
    people's thinking. Had the quake been just a few hours sooner, or later,
    the death toll would have been, perhaps, 10% of the actual total.

    Now I have to agree with Griffin in saying "I cannot conceive of my God
    doing that." I think that is not a "deity constructed in a human image,
    but simply an observation that something was terribly not right in that
    event. It has 0 to do with the idea that death is a necessity.
    "It's easy to suggest that the world would be better if something or
    other were changed. The problem is that all these matters are
    intertwined, so changes at any spot produce ramified alterations that
    also have to be attended to ad infinitum. But of course Griffin is so
    brilliant that he can make these changes off the top of his head. Right?"

    Griffin is, without a doubt, a great intellectual. I doubt that he can
    come up with his ideas "of the top." I have no reason to doubt either his
    Christianity or his good intentions. He is really trying to find a
    "middle course" of affairs that will satisfy both the religious and the
    scientific worldviews. While I think he is tackling the impossible, I
    admire his efforts to do so.
    "If god is within the universe, then it is restricted to space-time. It
    cannot fully anticipate the future, or take full part is everything going
    on, for part of it is out of signaling distance."

    I think you are setting up a strawman here, one which Griffin would
    disown as quickly as you and I.

    "Recall that Whitehead was writing when a static universe was the
    accepted view, even pre-Steady State with its new matter coming into
    being was a development a couple decades later."

    That's true, but Griffin is writing today, and using Whitehead's ideas as
    a taking off point.

    "A personal God outside the universe can bring it into being ex nihilo,
    can accomplish his will in all things, including creating beings who have
    a limited independence from him, that is, free will. Whitehead's view
    requires that somehow the "spirit" in the material universe is
    concentrated in human beings so that they are self-aware, even though a
    degree of awareness is present in the nonsentient as well. All Process
    Theology of which I am aware turns Genesis 1:26f on its head, producing a
    god in man's image. Is this inconsistent? Not, so far as I can determine,
    in any simple way. One can always quit thinking at some point and declare
    "That's just the way it is. It can't be explained." But the ineffable
    Creator who revealed himself in Jesus Christ move the point back to
    accommodate all that we have discovered scientifically."

    Griffin, of course, denies "creation ex nihilo," and argues that it is
    not part of the Scriptures, but a later addition. While flipping Genesis
    1:26 on its head is a possible criticism, I am sure Griffin would argue
    the same against more orthodox views. I think it is a non-argument.

    I appreciate your comments. You are helping me think. Ouch.

    Burgy (John Burgeson)

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