Re: Van Till's Ultimate Gap

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Wed Sep 03 2003 - 09:16:36 EDT

  • Next message: Howard J. Van Till: "Re: Van Till's Ultimate Gap"

    >From: "Josh Bembenek" <>

    > . . . Many on this list have
    > expressed dismay over IDers usage of God's "hand-like" action as a magic
    > wand to use whenever scientists don't understand a particular phenomena. I
    > agree that it is fruitful to point out that God never ceases to act in
    > sustaining Creation and that such rhetorical strategy implies unintelligent
    > creation when natural mechanisms are found to account for such phenomena.

    Right. If, in ID language, "intelligent" divine action is hand-like
    supernatural intervention ("coercive" divine action, in process theology
    language), then the awkward implication is that other types of divine action
    (non-coercive) fall into the category of "unintelligent." Some rhetorical
    strategies can backfire.

    > However, I wonder if this same problem exists for the fully-gifted creation
    > viewpoint? What makes us think that the origin of space time and the
    > derivation of matter, energy and all of the universe is simply a gap in our
    > understanding that some future naturalistic discovery won't elegantly
    > explain, again making the "God Hypothesis" obsolete?

    If the "God Hypothesis" is posited only as an answer to the question, "What
    transcendent being caused our particular physical universe to exist?" then
    that Hypothesis is indeed vulnerable to obsolescence as a consequence of
    some greater understanding of the relationship of our universe to other
    "universes." But I think Christian theology (even some of the forms of it
    that I think need re-examination) can be credited with having a larger
    vision of God.

    > . . . I don't care to defend my idea by trying to give any explanation for a
    > naturalistic origin of space-time. Besides for those here, isn't it
    > sufficient enough to hypothesize that a naturalistic explanation is out
    > there awaiting our discovery instead of "jumping the gun" and prematurely
    > attributing creation to the act of God before all explanations are fully
    > explored? The Big Bang Hypothesis is younger than evolution isn't it?

    Very interesting question, Josh. Let me personalize it. Do I think that the
    event of this universe's coming into being (the t=0 event) is something that
    will some day have a "naturalistic explanation"? If the last few years are a
    reliable indication, serious scientific activity on this project has already
    begun. Many theorists are wondering about the fruitfulness of models in
    which our particular universe is one of many, part of a larger reality to
    which the word "beginning" may not meaningfully apply.

    Do I expect this sort of theorizing to be fruitful and to provide us with a
    better comprehension of that larger reality? Yes, to a limited degree, but
    I'm not depending on it for any particular reason.

    Here is one of those places where I find it stimulating to hear what
    theologians like David Griffin have to say. According to traditional
    Christian theology, at the present moment both God (the Creator) and the
    world (the Creation) exist. If, however, you go back far enough in time you
    come to an instant (t=0) at which the world came into being (ex nihilo, by a
    singular act of God), and before which only God existed. The being of the
    world is radically dependent on that singular divine act, and the world's
    action can be freely superceded by supernatural (coercive) action at any
    time of God's choosing. God is "wholly other" than the world, and need not
    be related to any world. It is difficult to comprehend a "no world, only
    God" state of affairs, but OK, we don't understand everything.

    Process theology envisions a different (and more intimate) God/World
    relationship. One version of this is usually labeled "panentheism" -- the
    World is in God, but God is more than the World. Go back as far in "time" as
    you like, and there is always God + A World in this intimate relationship.
    It is essential to God's being to be lovingly (non-coercively) related to A
    World; it is equally essential to the existence and being of A World to be
    related to God in a non-coercive way. Our universe is but one particular
    manifestation of "A World." The existence of God and World are equally
    shrouded in Sacred Mystery -- beyond our ability to explain, but not beyond
    our ability to appreciate and to respond to with reverence and awe.

    Food for thought.

    Howard Van Till

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