Re: Griffin #4

From: David F Siemens (
Date: Wed Jun 06 2001 - 22:49:27 EDT

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    On Wed, 6 Jun 2001 15:05:59 -0600 John W Burgeson <>
    > 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.
    But it has everything to do with a "God" made in man's image. The tacit
    assumption is that every event is micromanaged by "God." He sent it at
    the wrong time. I would have done it either earlier or later. Also
    implicit is the notion that God is like man. What I control I am
    responsible for. Since evil is the problem, if I throw a grenade into a
    crowd or leave a bomb set to go off after I have left, the carnage is my
    fault. Transferred to "God," who ex hypothesis is responsible for all
    things, we blame him. But this assumes that "God" uses only first order
    causation or is a cause like other causes. A nuanced view recognized that
    terrestrial things work within second order causation.

    Another tacit assumption is that, if "God" is really in control, bad
    things cannot happen to good people. Sounds to me like the argument of
    Matthew 4:6.

    > 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.
    I understand this. I have seen it also in a paper by George V. Coyne,
    S.J. which is in press in a volume I've helped edit. It is also in John
    F. Haught, God After Darwin. And I heard it at a meeting of the Society
    for Christian Philosophers. It is also in Openness Theology. But in every
    case it involves a tacit reduction of the deity to fit within our

    > "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.
    OK, you explain how an entity in space-time transcends the speed of
    light. It's OK for science fiction, where anything can be introduced so
    long as the new "reality" is more or less consistent (at least the
    inconsistencies are not often noticed). But it's tougher within the
    strictures of reality.

    > "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.
    True, but that does not mean that he has come to grips with the problems
    that Whitehead sloughed over. I contend that process theology is in the
    same shape as Whitehead's anti-Einsteinian theory of relativity.

    > "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.
    Then we have a problem. An eternal I AM can start a universe from
    nothing. One alternative is a god-stuff universe which either started
    itself or is eternal. This makes no sense to me. Another is a pure matter
    that started itself, possibly an eternal quantum vacuum. This is radical
    atheistic materialism. The "bubble" theory just shoves the problem back
    to "something" preceding this universe.

    > I appreciate your comments. You are helping me think. Ouch.
    > Burgy (John Burgeson)
    In that case I'm a miniature Socrates. He said he was a gadfly to sting
    the Athenian ox into motion. I just get on your case. Bzzt!

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