Re: [Fwd: [Fwd: Griffin #2]]

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Thu Jun 07 2001 - 09:01:21 EDT

  • Next message: george murphy: "Re: Griffin #4"

    I had said to Burgy:

    > Bottom line: If I have read Griffin correctly, he believes that you may
    > indeed pray for healing, a job, etc., but that in so doing you should not
    > expect God to act _coercively_ in response. Rather, you should expect God
    > to act "persuasively" in calling upon the creaturely system to effect one
    > possible outcome (the desired one) rather than some other (undesirable)
    > one. Griffin does not believe in miracles in the sense of coercive
    > supernatural interventions, but he does believe in the appropriateness
    > and effectiveness of intercessory prayer."

    Burgy replied:

    > I have read and reread the above several times, as well as studying both
    > Griffin & Whitehead. They are great thinkers, and their proposal is an
    > interesting one. I don't buy it myself -- I'm closer to your position,
    > although I do posit God to be affecting the world from time to time. Your
    > position is that, I think, of the master violin maker. Once made, the
    > instrument is perfect. My metaphor is one of the master violin maker who
    > also plays the violin, tunes the violin, cleans the violin, cares for the
    > violin. But I digress.

    Digression extended: I just don't find the violin metaphor helpful. Violins
    are dead; they have no ability whatsoever to act. All violins can do is
    respond to an external force. But the universe is rife with capabilities to
    act, including formational capabilities to actualize potentialities for the
    first time.

    Burgy again:

    > The Griffin/Whitehead concept of God is insufficient, I think. It does
    > not seem to hold together. I cannot really get my head around an
    > interference in the causal universe, with the possible exception of
    > influencing a person's mind, in which there is any real difference
    > between a coercive action (by God) and a persuasive action (by God).

    "Interference" is a word foreign to Griffin's proposal. Let me try an
    example of the coercive/persuasive distinction.

    Suppose a collection of molecules has the God-given formational capabilities
    to actualize configurations A, B, C or D, but not E (even though E might be
    stable, once formed).

    Coercive action: God forcibly rearranges this molecular ensemble into
    configuration E. Episodic creationism (which entails a supernaturalistic
    concept of divine action) employs this idea of divine creative action in its
    various portraits (YEC, OEC, ID) of the Creation's formational history. Some
    might suggest that this is the way in which animals got eyes, or bacteria
    got flagella.

    Persuasive action: The Griffin/Whitehead proposal (if I understand it
    correctly) envisions God acting in such a way as to "persuade" (a metaphor
    drawn from the realm of non-coercive human action) that molecular ensemble
    to actualize configuration B rather than A, C or D.

    Comment: In the realm of human interactions, I know that persuasion has an
    effect on outcome, but is not coercive. What most of us find difficult is to
    envision "persuasive" divine action on molecules, or other non-sentient
    systems. Maybe the problem is semantic. What word, other than "persuasion,"
    describes an action that is effective but not coercive? Can we find examples
    of divine action in our own life experience that is effective without being

    > If Griffin's God only affects human minds, then intercessory prayer for
    > him to affect other entities, animals, plants, rocks, inanimate objects,
    > seems to be so much wasted effort. And while that could be, I find it
    > unsatisfactory. Yes, Griffin does solve the theodicy problem this way. I
    > think I'd rather live with that problem.

    In the Whitehead/Griffin proposal God's action is not at all confined to the
    affecting of human minds. It can, in principle, affect any creature from
    quarks to physicists. It just doesn't violate the being of any creature by
    coercing it to do something beyond or contrary to what its God-given
    capabilities permit.

    Howard Van Till

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jun 07 2001 - 09:08:54 EDT