Re: BIBLE/ORIGINS: seeking feedback

From: Robert Schneider (
Date: Thu Feb 06 2003 - 17:49:50 EST

  • Next message: George Murphy: "Re: BIBLE/ORIGINS: seeking feedback"

    Don, Jim and Blake,

        I am enjoying this discussion, one of the more thoughtful recently on a topic that interests all of us. I'd like to comment briefly.

        It seems to me that one consequence that an evolutionary paradigm of the creation leads to is that positing any notion of divine action in an evolving creation makes it difficult to separate theology from a scientific understanding of the creation in a even more complex way than when theology worked with earlier models (e.g., Newtonian/mechanistic). I don't mean that theology should be in the business of telling science how to understand evolutionary processes scientifically, but that theology is challenged to be less than content with a simple notion that God works immanently within the evolutionary process. Considering different ways that have been proffered to account for God's immanent creativity, I believe that theology has to find some balance, on the one hand, between the notion that God is hands-on with every action in the universe, e.g., the notion that God is working in quantum process, and that God is involved in every mutation that leads to descent with modification; and on the other hand, that God merely sustains the existence of creation in every instance but does not intervene in any respect with the processes God built into the creation at the instant of its appearing.

        Theologians like Arthur Peacocke and Denis Edwards speak of God being "present" to every event (Edwards) or "randomness" (I also prefer the term "haphazard") as God's very working in creation (Peacocke). And Blake writes that God participates in a fully endowed creation "through the creatures." I agree with all these formulations, but the more I think about them, the less satisfying they become.

        But it may be that the goal I've just stated is unattainable and that I will have to learn to live with my dissatisfaction, that theology, and the faithful, will need to live with a great degree of agnosticism about divine action, and accept that whatever divine action is, is a mystery ultimately beyond our comprehension. Yet in the dialogue with science, I believe that theology will be challanged to be more than vague about its understanding of the relationship between God and the world. How it answers such a challange may be as important as how it articulates its insights about divine action.

        I don't know if any of this makes any sense, but thanks for your thoughts.

    Bob Schneider

     ----- Original Message -----
      From: Jim Armstrong
      To: Dr. Blake Nelson
      Cc: Don Winterstein ;
      Sent: Thursday, February 06, 2003 12:45 PM
      Subject: Re: BIBLE/ORIGINS: seeking feedback

      Dr. Nelson - Thanks - good stuff. Jim Armstrong

      Dr. Blake Nelson wrote:

    This "God has nothing to do" is a hold over from the
    Enlightenment and a logical fallacy of deism. Even in
    a creation fully endowed with all the necessary
    potentials to achieve his ends, there is no logical
    reason to assume that this means that God has nothing
    to do.
      I certainly agree with the latter observation. My earlier response to Don attempts to clarify my intent.

    First of all, it imposes a particular relation
    of God to time that may or many not be the case.
      Such an important point! But we pretty much have to suspend that aspect of the consideration because it is so imponderable. That reduces most of us to thinking within the context of our familiar space/time setting. Speculations beyond that would seem to be just that, speculations.

    Second, a creation can be fully endowed to achieve
    particular ends, but God still participates in it
    through the creatures (not necessarily just mankind)
    or the stuff of the universe.

    Third, isn't continuing
    to sustain the creation acting?
      Not sure what you mean by "sustain". I don't have the sense, though, that it would all come to a screeching halt if God didn't actively keep the plates spinning, but of course I could be wrong

    The list goes on of
    why there is no support for the principle that "God
    has nothing to do". Interestingly, the God has
    nothing to do idea was trotted out when it was
    presumed that the universe was entirely deterministic,
    a la LaPlace's apocryphal statement. Now, the
    argument is not that God has nothing to do not because
    the universe is deterministic, but God doesn't do
    anything because the universe is "random".
      Actually, the world of mathematics seems to be taking a new look at randomness, and its importance. It seems to be more vital than haphazard. But I'm not a mathematician and any details about that I'll have to leave for one of them to contribute.


    The degree of the conundrum of haphazardness, of
    course, depends first on how you metaphysically
    characterize probabilistic processes. Probabilistic
    processes are not necessarily haphazard.

    Theologically, the idea of kenosis has good insights
    into whether God providing some degree of freedom to
    the world is within the character of God. We seem to
    have no problem with believing in some amount of free
    will for individuals, what is necessarily haphazard
    about a measure of free will to the stuff of the
      Nothing - and that "freedom" even seems to be critical, evident at every level of creation from subatomic to astronomical, and even down to some of the current speculations about the starting conditions at the inception of the universe. And as I think you indicate, there are probabilistic paths to very specific objectives. That is one methodology used these days in viral research, chopping up viral material and letting the natural processes provide a spectrum of responses, some of which will be precursers of "stuff" used to treat our illnesses.

    --- Don Winterstein <> wrote:
    You accept God as creator, but I get the impression
    from what you say that
    the creator may not have anything to do. Do you
    possibly accept that the
    properties of energy/matter from the Big Bang are
    such that intelligent
    beings arise necessarily from strictly natural
    processes? In other words,
    that God up until Adam's time had no input except at
    the Big Bang? Such
    would be consistent with Paul Davies' fond
    speculation that ".the laws of
    the universe [may] have engineered their own

    My personal faith requires God to be involved at
    least weakly every step of
    the way. We can't prove he was involved, but no one
    can prove he wasn't.
    To say he wasn't involved is to argue for atheism,
    unless you hold that God
    did all that was necessary at the Big Bang. But if
    God was involved, the
    conundrum is the haphazardness. Anyway, that's how
    I see it.



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