Re: Coercion & Persuasion (Was Re: God acting in creation #4+++

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Wed Dec 19 2001 - 08:35:49 EST

  • Next message: Moorad Alexanian: "Re: Chronicle of Higher Education"

    > << HVT's PS: "Coercion" and "persuasion" are not in the same category.
    > Persuasion can be effective, but it is a non-coercive action.

    skip a bit

    > Howard (and anyone else who wants to chip in), would you kindly explain in
    > physical, chemical or biological terms the difference between "persuasion"
    > and "coercion"? Do you use the term "persuasion" in your model? You clearly
    > favor it. Specifically, if my "field" example is coercive, what is a an
    > example of a persuasive one?


    The only reason for my PS re "coercion" and "persuasion" was the following
    line in one of your previous posts:

    > I have, however, never heard a physicist say that the iron filings were
    > _coerced_ or _persuaded_ into the pattern they take.

    I'm not sure if you intended to do so, but it looked as if the two terms
    were being used as synonyms.

    The term 'persuasion' is, of course, drawn from the arena of human
    experience. In that context we know well the difference between being
    persuaded to act in a certain way and being forced to act in a certain way.
    It is in that context that we can sense how 'persuasive' action can be
    effective (within limits) without being 'coercive'.

    As I understand it, some theologians (not only those in the process camp)
    find this concept of divine action attractive for a number of reasons. God's
    action relative to the creation is effective (within limits) without the
    need to be coercive (that is, being the sole cause of some event or process
    within the creation).

    Now, that way of speaking makes sense to us when both of the parties in the
    interaction have a personal dimension. But what could it mean to speak of
    'persuasive' divine action on some biomolecule? To be candid, I find it
    difficult to get a firm hold on this kind of example. David Ray Griffin will
    be speaking in west Michigan next November; I expect to ask him about this.

    In the meantime, I am more inclined to use the term 'non-coercive' in place
    of 'persuasive.' In some contexts I speak of God's non-coercive action in
    the language of 'blessing.' For instance, when I asked for God's blessing on
    my surgery some time ago, I was not asking God to force (coerce) any member
    of the surgical team (or any of the molecules and cells of my body) to do
    things that they were not capable of doing. I was asking God to act
    (non-coercively) in such a way that the actions of all of these creatures
    would be fruitful (from my perspective). Am I able to translate that concept
    of divine blessing action into the terminology of physics, chemistry or
    biology? No, but that doesn't bother me in the least. I still pray for God's
    blessing on the actions of members of the creation.

    Howard Van Till

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed Dec 19 2001 - 08:48:29 EST