Re: RFEP and the Heartl of Christianity

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Thu Sep 18 2003 - 09:12:06 EDT

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    > Questions for Howard and the supporters of RFEP:
    > I am still hoping for an explanation of how we are to understand basic
    > Christian doctrines in light of the RFEP. It seems to eviscerate all the
    > fundamental doctrines like Election, Virgin Birth, Prophecy, the
    > Incarnation, Miracles of Christ and the Resurrection.

    It's really quite simple. The RFEP is purposely stated in a way that, a)
    limits its application to matters of the formational history of the
    universe, and b) avoids a categorical denial of supernatural divine actions.

    As such, it could be found theologically acceptable to a majority of persons
    holding to traditional Christian doctrines. It could also be supplemented
    with additional qualifications to comport with other theological systems,
    including process theology, but process thought is not included within the

    I ask people not to add stipulations that I do not include in the statement
    of the RFEP. Doing so makes it difficult to deal with the Principle itself
    without entanglement in questions and issues outside the scope of the RFEP.
    Those questions and issues may be interesting and well worth discussion, but
    in some other context.

    For review:

    The "formational economy" of the universe is defined to be the set of all of
    the universešs resources, capabilities and potentialities that have ever
    contributed to the universešs formational history.

    By "resources" I have in mind such things as the elementary particles, the
    fundamental forces of interaction, and the space-time environment in which
    matter resides and acts.

    By "capabilities" I mean the abilities of basic units of matter to act and
    interact. Especially relevant here are matteršs abilities to self-organize
    into systems and structures. Atoms, for instance, have the formational
    capabilities to interact in such a way as to form molecules.

    By "potentialities" I mean the whole array of potential structures (such as
    molecules, stars, planets and the like) and functional systems (living
    organisms, for example) made of the universešs basic materials. Some of the
    universešs configurational and functional potentialities have been
    actualized, many more have not. As I see it, the unimaginably vast array of
    potentialities for both physical structures and living forms is an immensely
    important aspect of the universešs being that needs to be appreciated far
    more than it has been. These potentialities were part of the universešs
    being from "time zero." Actualized structures and forms came later.
    Potentialities are a part of the universešs being. Actualization is part of
    the universešs formational history.

    The fundamental presupposition of the historical natural sciences.

    The universešs formational history, then, can be thought of as a succession
    of events and processes by which some of these configurational and
    functional potentialities are actualized as a consequence of the universešs
    resources employing their formational capabilities to form novel structures
    and systems. I think it is fair to say that as the various historical
    sciences go about their attempts to craft theories to describe and account
    for this formational history they all assume the following proposition,
    which I call the Robust Formational Economy Principle (RFEP).

    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.

    Having reviewed what the RFEP actually says, or does not say, I find the
    following questions outside of its limited scope.

    > 1) How did Mary get pregnant "by the Holy Ghost" if God doesn't "confer form?"
    > 2) How was Christ resurrected "by the glory of the Father" (Rom 6.4) if God
    > doesn't go about "coercing" dead matter?
    > 3) What does "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2.23)
    > mean under RFEP?
    > 4) What is the meaning of the Incarnation if God never directly manipulates
    > 5) Is Scripture simply wrong when it asserts Christ healed the blind man
    > (John 9). This seems to be the necessary conclusion of RFEP because that
    > event clearly involved coercion of matter by God incarnate.
    > These are exceedingly important questions. I look forward to the answers
    > (which presumably have already been worked out, given that Howard has been
    > interacting with Christians on this list for some years now.)
    > In service of Christ who forms all,
    > Richard

    By the way, Richard, you have a habit of concluding your messages with pious
    phrases like "In the service of Christ who forms all." Do you intend to
    imply that his puts you in a category different from the other members of
    this list?

    Howard Van Till

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