From: Robert Schneider (email@example.com)
Date: Thu Feb 06 2003 - 17:49:50 EST
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.
----- Original Message -----
From: Jim Armstrong
To: Dr. Blake Nelson
Cc: Don Winterstein ; firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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 <email@example.com> 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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