Re: Response to Howard on Tillich & Bultmann

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Wed May 21 2003 - 09:59:19 EDT

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    >From: Burgy <>

    > Howard asked: "Interesting comment. Could you elaborate on that a bit? In
    > your judgment, what was/is the character of the misunderstanding of science
    > that "liberals" manifest?"
    > I like George's answer, but mine is a little bit different. As I read
    > Bultmann, he seems to have been so awed by the success of modern science
    > that he decided that the resurrection and other biblical miracles had been
    > quite thouroughly disproven.

    I'd like to move from the evaluation of particular theologians to the
    broader question, Is it SCIENCE that discourages belief in miracles as
    supernatural (the overpowering of nature) acts of God?

    I'm inclined to suggest that it's not primarily a scientific issue, but a
    much more comprehensive theological/metaphysical issue -- a worldview issue.
    What is the fundamental character of God, the World, and the God-World
    relationship? Science has contributed much to our understanding of certain
    aspects of the world, but what can it contribute to our concept of God or of
    the God-World relationship unless it is placed in a much larger conceptual

    The RFEP concept that I have formulated posits that supernatural acts of God
    (specifically, form-conferring interventions) are unnecessary for the
    actualization of any of the life forms that have appeared in the course of
    the Creation's formational history. This stands in contrast to any form of
    episodic or special creationism. Nonetheless, during most of my life I have
    had no reason (either scientific or theological) to categorically rule out
    the occurrence of miracles. My usual comment has been that the RFEP was
    silent on this question and that miracles would have to be considered on
    their own merit as exceptions to the kind of phenomena amenable to
    scientific analysis. The RFEP by itself does not rule out traditional
    Christian theology. I still hold to that.

    In his book, Religion and Scientific Naturalism, however, process theologian
    David Ray Griffin criticized my approach for its failure to be sufficiently
    daring and consistent. In effect, his question to me was, If supernatural
    intervention is unnecessary for the whole of the universe's formational
    history (as I believe it is) , then why not be consistent and dare to
    generalize to the position that supernatural intervention is not only
    unnecessary, but totally out of character for God. Reject supernaturalism
    altogether and adopt a naturalistic theism.

    I have said on many occasions that I found Griffin's criticism the most
    valuable criticism I have ever received. The consistency he encourages makes
    good sense to me. The naturalistic theism he articulates is consistent with
    the totality of my life experience, which includes my experience as a person
    trained in science. But it is not science, by itself, that moves me away
    from traditional supernaturalism toward naturalistic theism. It is the way
    that naturalistic theism rings true to the whole of my life experience that
    attracts me to it.

    I am not asking for anyone on this list to agree with my choice. The limited
    point is that my choice is one that goes far beyond science. To tie in with
    my opening question, SCIENCE does not deserve either the credit or blame for
    my choice.

    Howard Van Till

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