RE: Prayer parallel?

From: Debbie Mann (deborahjmann@insightbb.com)
Date: Wed May 21 2003 - 21:30:04 EDT

  • Next message: Alexanian, Moorad: "RE: Response to Howard on Tillich & Bultmann"

    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.

     -----Original Message-----
    From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu]On
    Behalf Of Jim Armstrong
    Sent: Wednesday, May 21, 2003 7:46 PM
    Cc: asa@calvin.edu
    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

        -----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>

    > 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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