From: Debbie Mann (email@example.com)
Date: Wed May 21 2003 - 21:30:04 EDT
If God has something happen, that has a perfectly respectable probability of
happening, right after one asks for it - is that a Miracle by Howard's or
many other's definition? If I pray for my husband 30 days out of 100, and on
those thirty days he lands 10 clients and loses 1 and on the other 70 he
loses 6 and gains 1, is that a miracle? If this pattern continues for a
period of many years, is it a miracle? If I continually ask God to
choreograph my life and have product A with me when I need product A and
product B with me when I need product B and had no way of knowing which I
would need, but always tended to have the right one at the right time - is
it a miracle? The probabilities of each event are high. The trends begin to
have very low probabilities. But no happening is particularly out of the
ordinary. None of these things are walking on water or levitation or
anything in the least mysterious.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]On
Behalf Of Jim Armstrong
Sent: Wednesday, May 21, 2003 7:46 PM
Subject: Re: Prayer parallel?
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
From: Jim Armstrong [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, May 21, 2003 12:39 PM
To: Howard J. Van Till
Subject: Prayer parallel?
I have a question that somewhat parallels some aspects of this
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
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?
Howard J. Van Till wrote:
>From: Burgy <email@example.com>
> Howard asked: "Interesting comment. Could you elaborate on that a bit?
> 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
> 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
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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