Re: Response to Howard on Tillich & Bultmann

Date: Wed May 21 2003 - 12:56:24 EDT

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    Given your generalization in the name of consistency, what is your theology
    of Jesus's birth, death and resurrection? Were those supernatural, and if
    not, how would you articulate an overall Christian theology? Whatever
    other signs and miracles in scripture and redemptive history we can
    "theologize" in various ways, to most of us it seems impossible to get
    around the resurrection as being a "plain fact."

    Very respectfully,
    Douglas Hayworth

                        "Howard J. Van
                        Till" To: Burgy <>,
                        <hvantill@charte cc:
              > Subject: Re: Response to Howard on Tillich & Bultmann
                        Sent by:
                        05/21/03 08:59

    >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
    > 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
    > 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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