RE: Prayer parallel?

From: Alexanian, Moorad (alexanian@uncw.edu)
Date: Wed May 21 2003 - 12:59:28 EDT

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    Prayers are made by humans embedded in spacetime. God is certainly
    outside of spacetime and so the three answers to prayers that you
    list---OK, No, Not now-are the way we humans characterize the
    interaction of God with our personal requests. But an omniscient God
    knows all prior to even our existence. Therefore, it seems to me that
    the whole of human experience is all interlocked in a fashion that is
    consistent with God's will and beyond human comprehension.

     

    Moorad

     

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Jim Armstrong [mailto:jarmstro@qwest.net]
    Sent: Wednesday, May 21, 2003 12:39 PM
    To: Howard J. Van Till
    Cc: asa@calvin.edu
    Subject: Prayer parallel?

     

    I have a question that somewhat parallels some aspects of this
    discussion.

    You (and others) have alluded to a line of thinking that the order of
    the day in creation is ...uh ...order, cause and effect, operation that
    is consistent with the RFEP concept (which BTW I embrace as well).
    Miracles, to whatever extent they occur, are what they are precisely
    because they violate some aspect of that consistency. The argument at
    the extreme is whether it might be reasonable then to explore the notion
    that God might in fact perform no miracles at all (aside from creation)
    because it is against his nature?

    My question has to do with prayer, and the question springs from a
    couple of considerations, one of which is echoed in your words, "... is
    consistent with the totality of my life experience, which includes my
    experience as a person trained in science." I am troubled by the naivete
    of statements of the sort that there are three answers to prayer, "OK",
    "No", and "Not now". I've pondered that a long time, and it just seems
    that if I consider the whole landscape of prayer(s) that there are a
    great many that simply are not responded to. Moreover, I realized that
    if more than a few "miraculous" prayers were answered, we would
    undoubtedly live in a more chaotic and reliable world than exists now.
    That does not even consider collateral issues like contradictory
    prayers, or the sheer volume of prayers. It doesn't take long to begin
    thinking in terms of some way of explaining how only certain numbers
    and/or certain kinds of prayers might be likely to be responded to.
    Historically, the most important prayers were punctuated with sacrifice.

    Now I am fully aware that this touches on some pretty sensitive stuff,
    and even has big implications with respect to important things like
    hope, but doesn't it seem that there is a strong, maybe even
    definitional parallel between the the matters of miracles and prayer?
    Don't the same character considerations and extremal possibilities
    apply? What might be your (or others') thoughts in this area?

    Jim Armstrong

    Howard J. Van Till wrote:

    >From: Burgy <jwburgeson@juno.com> <mailto:jwburgeson@juno.com>

    > 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 framework?

    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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