Re: God acting in creation #4++

From: Howard J. Van Till (hvantill@novagate.com)
Date: Sat Dec 15 2001 - 10:07:29 EST

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    From: RDehaan237@aol.com

    >OK. On November 10 I wrote, <<Perhaps I can clarify my position by adopting
    >your terminology. Let me say then that what divine action adds is *new
    >formational capabilities* to creation. >> I should not have done that. So
    >I will back off that terminology since you rightly criticize my use of it.

    Yes, you are correct. You and I obviously meant quite different things by
    the term "new formational capabilities."

    >Let me try this: In my position atoms and molecules are ORGANIZED
    >differently in relation to each other, into more complex arrangements, in a
    >living cell than they were in the prebiotic universe, (for instance, in a
    >star); not that their chemical and physical properties are modified to make
    >living cells.

    Yes, that has been my understanding of your position -- that God, by direct
    action on atoms and molecules, ORGANIZED matter into new configurations from
    time to time. These new configurations (that could not have been achieved by
    atoms and molecules using only their God-given formational capabilities)
    then have properties and capabilities that had never before been actualized
    (even if they had been there potentially).

    >The result of this new organization is the living organism, about which
    >Harold says, "Moreover living things (unlike non-living ones) are clearly
    >endowed with purpose, directed toward survival and reproduction of their own
    >kind. This property, called telenomy ¢FFFFG¢FF¢©°ÀX?X distinguishes living
    things (and
    >their artifacts, such as our machines) from all other objects and systems in
    >the universe and tells us plainly that we must look beyond physics and for
    >understanding." (_A Study of Bionergetics_, p. 24). Harold's terminology
    >is interesting--endowed, purpose, survival, reproduction, telenomy. He then
    >goes on to say that this is brought about by "evolutionary design," of all
    >things. That he would use the word evolution is to be expected. That he
    >would add design is not.

    Without a knowledge of the larger context, I can offer no meaningful comment
    on Harold's reference to "design." (In another post I will suggest some
    essays by Richard Aulie on the ancient Greek origin of some of this
    language.)

    >Your way of depicting God for my position makes God look like a heavy-handed
    >bully -- "coercive intervention" an "overpowering agent" and "imposing new
    >configurations by a divine Aritificer," a "fully interventionist model." As
    >if creation was at odds with God and God had to use extreme measures to do
    >anything new with it.

    >I do not accept such descriptions for my position. In the idea of staged
    >development God bides his time until "the fullness of time" has come,
    >introduces new organization when the creation was ready to sustain it,
    >builds greater complexity on what is already developed.

    No, not a "heavy-handed bully," because that expression has implications re
    motivation. Nonetheless, I do see your model as one of numerous models of
    divine creative action that fall under the larger umbrella of a
    "supernatural interventionist" concept of divine action. (I see it as a form
    of "progressive creation.") I think it is extremely important for us all
    to see the distinction between this concept of "coercive" (direct,
    immediate) divine action in contrast to the concept of "non-coercive" or
    "persuasive" divine action. Once again, I highly recommend David Ray
    Griffin's book, Religion and Scientific Naturalism as an important
    exposition of the theological ramifications of that distinction. Whether one
    takes Griffin's choice (for non-coercive, persuasive divine action) or not,
    his exposition of the issue is well worth the effort to engage it and is, I
    believe, unrivaled in the contemporary religion/science literature.

    Howard Van Till



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