Re: Strange Bedfellows, Atheism and Naturaistic Theism

From: Terry M. Gray (
Date: Mon Sep 15 2003 - 15:16:25 EDT

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    Yes. I do owe you a response--although you're getting a sense of what
    it might be.

    I did not intend to "take the moral high ground" in my comments about
    scripture, but merely to highlight methodological differences
    (although I can see how you and others might take it that way). You
    have not hesitated in the past to suggest that perhaps it's time that
    we cut our theology loose from the "ancient authoritative text". I
    was just restating that perspective and pointing out that it is key
    to our differences. I'm not ready to cut my theology loose from the
    "ancient authoritative text" and consequently if scripture leads me
    to an antinomy then I accept it.

    As you have noted, the idea of antinomy is not all that unusual in
    Christian theology. The doctrines of the Trinity and the fully
    divine/fully human Jesus Christ come to mind here. In the past such
    rejection of antinomy has often led to forms of Unitarianism and
    Arianism. How does your theological method that "discourages this
    kind of both/and proposition" deal with these doctrines?

    I'm not trying to "slippery-slope" this discussion here, but
    wondering if your method cuts through and through. If not, why do you
    see a difference?


    >In response to Steve, I had said:
    >>> I use the term ["authentic contingency"] to distinguish genuine contingency
    >(things that really
    >>>could have gone differently; individual events that could not be predicted
    >>>with certainty, not even by God) from "apparent contingency" (a concept
    >>>often introduced by persons who posit either that God actually controls
    >>>events that look contingent from our point of view or that God at least has
    >>>omniscient foreknowledge of the outcome of these events).
    >Terry replied:
    >> These are theological/philosophical distinctions here, right? I
    >> can't think of any way of empirically knowing the difference.
    >> I'm not willing to give away the word "authentic" or "genuine", nor
    >> am I willing to take on the word "apparent" but your parenthetical
    >> definition/description makes your point clear. You must know that
    >> your use and attribution of those particular words emotionally
    >> charges the discussion. It appears that Phil Johnson isn't the only
    >> rhetorician in town.
    >Terry, Terry. Surely you jest!
    >> It needs to be emphasized that we're doing theology here. And once
    >> again, theological method becomes the critical issue. Are we rooted
    >> in scripture which at the same time affirms God's control over all
    >> things and his omniscient foreknowledge AND genuine creaturely action
    >> and the responsibility of free agents?
    >You and I have some unfinished correspondence on this topic. As you know,
    >whether the Bible affirms it or not, I find it doublespeak to say both, 1)
    >that God controls (forcefully determines) the outcome of all events, and 2)
    >that events have authentic contingency and creatures act freely (free of
    >external control). My theological method discourages this kind of both/and
    >> Or are we dismissing the
    >> message that comes from scripture because we can't see how to relate
    >> the two ideas and thus we deny one or the other as something other
    >> than scripture becomes the controlling element in our theology
    >> (elimination of antimony, creaturely autonomy/free will, etc.)?
    >Another rhetorician in town? Is it not the case that speaking of being
    >either "rooted in scripture" or "dismissing the message that comes from
    >scripture" is loaded with both assumptions and claims for holding the higher
    >moral ground?
    >I had a strong hunch you would find a place for the word "antinomy" in this
    >discussion. But calling a "contradiction" by the name "antinomy" (the more
    >common word in theological contexts) doesn't at all change its character. I
    >believe Abe Lincoln is credited with asking someone, "If you call a dog's
    >tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?" When the person took the bait
    >and replied, "Five," Lincoln is reported to have said, "Nope, still only
    >four. Just calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one." So also, renaming a
    >contradiction doesn't make it a consistency.

    Terry M. Gray, Ph.D., Computer Support Scientist
    Chemistry Department, Colorado State University
    Fort Collins, Colorado  80523
    phone: 970-491-7003 fax: 970-491-1801

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