Re: Prayer parallel?

From: Jim Armstrong (
Date: Wed May 21 2003 - 20:46:08 EDT

  • Next message: Howard J. Van Till: "Re: Response to Howard on Tillich & Bultmann"

    Just to be very clear, the gist of my query was that it looks to me like
    answers to prayer are essentially "small(?)" miracles, being departures
    from the apparent natural course of events. If that is the case, then
    the discussions about miracles should essentially be descriptive of
    responses to prayer as well. It seems to me this might change the flavor
    of the discussion a bit.

    Regards - JimA

    > -----Original Message-----
    > From: Jim Armstrong []
    > Sent: Wednesday, May 21, 2003 12:39 PM
    > To: Howard J. Van Till
    > Cc:
    > 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 <> <>
    >> 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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