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

From: John W Burgeson (
Date: Mon Jun 11 2001 - 18:15:19 EDT

  • Next message: David F Siemens: "Re: divine action/creaturely action"

    Howard posted (several days ago -- sorry)

    "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
    > expect God to act _coercively_ in response. Rather, you should expect
    > to act "persuasively" in calling upon the creaturely system to effect
    > 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
    > 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.
    > 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
    > also plays the violin, tunes the violin, cleans the violin, cares for
    > violin. But I digress.

    Howard continued:

    "Digression extended: I just don't find the violin metaphor helpful.
    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
    act, including formational capabilities to actualize potentialities for
    first time."

    I'd observe that a Start in the hands of a great violist "comes alive,"
    at least in a sense. But I understand your point. But what if the violin
    were replaced in the metaphor by you and me and our fellow Christians?

    I'd also observe that your last sentence above is a claim, a position,
    and not an argument for that claim. I am perfectly willing to allow that
    it may be true. But I don't see it at all as something to believe easily.
    That SOME formational capabilities exist is not at issue. That ALL
    events, processes and things we see are so formed "naturally" is too much
    of a leap of faith for me.

    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).

    Howard again:

    "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
    to actualize configurations A, B, C or D, but not E (even though E might
    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
    various portraits (YEC, OEC, ID) of the Creation's formational history.
    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
    drawn from the realm of non-coercive human action) that molecular
    to actualize configuration B rather than A, C or D.

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

    I have written about one such incident in my own life (see the story on
    my website). That God acted persuasively in that process seems obvious to

    But that does not solve the problem. I guess I can envision God
    "persuading" a U235 atom to split or stay the same in some situation --
    but to what end? I cannot envision him "persuading" a pitched baseball to
    deflect just a little so as to let one or another team win a game. Or
    even for some better goal.

    Howard ends with "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."

    As you know, I am not a Whitehead/Griffin supporter. But I am trying to
    understand them. And it is primarily the above that is so bewildering.


    (source data on issues of science/theology, quantum mechanics, ethics,
    great sports cars, a story of God's intervention into the natural
    causation of the universe, humorous stories, etc.)

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