Re: divine action/creaturely action

From: Uko Zylstra (
Date: Mon Jun 11 2001 - 09:25:10 EDT

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    Uko Zylstra, Ph.D.
    Biology Department
    Calvin College
    tel: (616)957-6499

    >>> "Howard J. Van Till" <> 06/08/01 08:59AM >>>
    Uko wrote:

    > In discussion concerning divine action, Howard Van Till asks "What word,
    > than "persuasion", describes an action that is effective but not coercive?"
    > Although I am not keen on the distinctions introduced by the terms
    > or "coercive", it strikes me that the word Howard is looking for is "law".

    But the word I was looking for was to describe _divine action_, not to
    introduce another category.

    > It is through
    > God's laws that God governs the creation.

    What kind of divine action is 'governance.'? Is is 'coercive'? or
    'persuasive'? or '?'


    George also commented as follows:
            1) As to the general idea, yes - but God also (at least in the vast
    majority of cases) limits his action in the world to what can be done in accord
    the laws of nature (to which our "laws" are only approximations). This is the
    in which divine action is non-coercive.
            2) In what sense are "biotic laws" different from "physical laws"?

    In response to Howard and George's questions, I have reservations about the
    terms "coercive" or "persuasive" in reference to divine action. Both terms have
    a connotation that the world exists independent of God as some autonomous entity
    (entities). The concept of law as the relation between God and the creation
    entails that

    The challenge for us is to understand the differentiation of laws that thus
    account for the diversity of the unfolding, development and continued existence
    of created structures. This includes, for example, the recognition that there
    are also biotic laws (as distinct from physical/chemical laws) that also hold
    for living things. Living things are distinct from non-living, physical things
    in that they are also subject to biotic laws which account for the life
    functions that they reveal. An example of such a biotic law would be the "law
    for cell division". Cell division is a pattern of a life (biotic) function of
    cells. The cell division is a function of the cell, subject to the biotic law
    for cell growth and division. Although this function of cells orchestrates the
    activities of many molecules (physical entities) enclosed within the cell, the
    cell division itself is not a function of those molecules. Our understanding of
    the roles of these molecules and the numerous cell division genes (cdc genes)
    that are involved with the cell division process has certainly contributed to
    our understanding of regulatory pathways of the cell division process, but the
    cell division itself is not a function of any one of these genes, but rather of
    the cell as a living entity. The process of cell division is thus governed by
    the laws for the cell, including the "law" for cell division.

    I don't see how the terms coercive or persuasive helps me in understanding the
    notion of governance as divine action.

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