Re: Evolution and Salvation

From: Steve Petermann (
Date: Wed Sep 17 2003 - 17:04:47 EDT

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    Howard wrote:
    The key here, I believe, is to get away from the idea that all meaningful
    divine action is "supernatural" in character -- supernatural in the
    technical sense of coercive action "over nature." Non-coercive persuasion
    can also be effective in advocacy of our well-being, though within limits.

    Assuming <Non-coercive persuasion> is the operative mode, what is the
    non-supernatural mechanism for such support? Presumably that would entail
    some sort of interaction with the brain.

    Steve Petermann

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Howard J. Van Till" <>
    To: "Jim Armstrong" <>; <>
    Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2003 2:59 PM
    Subject: Re: Evolution and Salvation

    Thanks to Douglas & Jim for this constructive criticism of the Robust
    Formational Economy Principle -- The formational economy of the universe is
    sufficiently robust (amply equipped) to bring about the actualization of
    every kind of physical structure and living organism that has appeared in
    the universešs formational history without need for any supplemental acts of
    divine form-imposing intervention.

    From: "Jim Armstrong" <> in response to Douglas Hayworth

    > Well-stated. At one level, I am a little surprised at the lack of interest
    > in (resistance against) considering a viewpoint like RFEP, at least for
    > intrinsic value as a valid alternative perspective.
    > One contrary view posits that God is actively and constantly involved with
    > Creation in direct agency without which natural laws would lose their
    > dependability and perhaps even cease to have meaning.
    > Another posits that God put his Creation into motion, but still interacts
    > with it episodically to achieve his purposes.
    > In contrast with these ideas, RFEP suggests that the natural physical
    > might not even need God's interaction at all in order to achieve his
    > objectives in the natural physical world aspect of his creation.
    > I hope I phrased this preceding sentence carefully enough to connect it
    > with the next consequential point.

    Well, I must suggest a bit of qualification here. I do not really want to
    preclude all divine interaction (which includes the non-coercive sort that
    process theology calls "persuasion"). The RFEP does, however, posit that
    form-imposing (coercive) divine intervention is unnecessary as a means of
    bringing about the actualization of novel creaturely forms. Process theology
    would make a significantly stronger statement that precluded coercive divine
    action categorically. The RFEP does not necessarily entail that stronger
    statement, though it is consistent with it.

    > RFEP and similar ideas shift the spotlight from God's activity in the
    > physical world to the non-physical domain, offering instead the idea that
    > God's ultimate objectives, those that are the substance for his intent and
    > hope in Creation, lie outside the physical domain.
    > Wow! What a strange thought! :-)

    I would prefer to say that RFEP shifts the spotlight from coercive
    intervention to a more subtle non-coercive form of interaction. Process
    theology goes on to posit that this non-coercive divine action is an
    essential aspect of all natural phenomena -- a rather strong form of divine

    [skip a bit]

    > Any purpose and activity in the spiritual realm is not at risk with RFEP.
    > What is at risk is our understandable desire for order and meaning in the
    > natural physical world, and for there to be a supernatural active
    > for our physical well-being.

    The key here, I believe, is to get away from the idea that all meaningful
    divine action is "supernatural" in character -- supernatural in the
    technical sense of coercive action "over nature." Non-coercive persuasion
    can also be effective in advocacy of our well-being, though within limits.
    [A few days ago I watched helplessly as Coast Guard boats & helicopters
    searched for a missing swimmer in Lake Michigan. I believe that a God
    capable of supernatural intervention would have plucked that 17 year old boy
    right out of the water before he drowned. God was, however, deeply active in
    helping family members and friends comfort one another in the midst of that
    > On the one hand, we speak pretty uniformly about God's ultimate objectives
    > being spiritual in nature. But are we consistent in that regard in needing
    > assurance that he is concerned and a continuously-active agent as well for
    > the physical? Perhaps more to the point, why do those LARGE questions
    > persist with respect to reconciling our concepts of the attributes and
    > activities of God with observations about evil, pain, hunger, injustice,
    > etc. in our physical world?

    Good question. Might it be that the concept of divine omnipotence needs to
    be re-examined?

    > RFEP says those questions are valid and challenges us to stay on track
    > the former, ... to think more deeply about the natural but non-physical
    > aspects of our being and purpose.
    > That seems like a good thing, and a good basis for giving RFEP and similar
    > ideas serious consideration, and acknowledging it as a valid alternative
    > perspective - even if it "ultimately" proves too uncomfortable to embrace.
    > That said, the fact that RFEP derives in part from taking a steely-eyed
    > look at our own experience is a complicating factor in such a
    > consideration. It is pretty difficult to set aside (to the best of our
    > ability) the many factors that color our interpretation of experience, and
    > think of those events and circumstances of life more in the sense of
    > uninflected data. That difficulty alone will make the consideration of
    > difficult for many, ...perhaps impossible for some.

    The RFEP suggests modifications in our portrait of God and of divine action.
    That is always

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