Re: RFEP and the Heart of Christianity

From: George Murphy (
Date: Fri Sep 19 2003 - 09:41:13 EDT

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    Howard J. Van Till wrote:
    > >From: George Murphy <>
    > > What I have argued is not that RFEP should be rejected but that it should
    > > be based on an appropriate christology.
    > Yes, but you would make that Christological grounding explicit ONLY IF it
    > is to function as a Christian doctrinal statement and NOT as a statement of
    > presupposition for the historical natural sciences generally. As I have
    > repeatedly said, the RFEP is stated to satisfy the latter role, not the
    > former.
    > > RFEP formulated on that basis can support the sciences at
    > > least as well as RFEP which is simply postulated.
    > Yes, of course it could do that for a major portion of the CHRISTIAN
    > community, but then the larger SCIENTIFIC community could not sign on
    > because of its exclusively Christian content.

            I abbreviated my earlier response but thought that the discussion might go in
    this direction. My point was that RFEP based on christology is at least as
    satisfactory, _from a logical standpoint_, for the purpose in question, as RFEP which is
    simply postulated. I agree that many non-Christian scientists would not accept it.

            But does the larger scientific community feel any need for a principle with
    religious connotations, even one with (as you've said) only minimal theological content?
    Such a principle may appeal to some non-Christian theists who are scientists, but many
    scientists are content with a much simpler principle which has _no_ explicit theological
    content: The natural world can be understood in terms of natural processes. To them (&
    also to many religious believers, Christian and otherwise) RFEP as a postulate is simply
    that latter principle with some religious language added. So what is really the cash
    value of RFEP as a postulate?

            & in fact RFEP as a postulate may be seen simply as a surrender by religion, a
    concession that it has nothing to do with the real world which science studies. I
    realize that that's not your intention but it's the way many people will read it. So if
    the question is, "How persuasive will RFEP as a postulate be to the scientific community
    as a whole?", my guess is "Not very."

            OTOH, while grounding something like RFEP in christology is of course a part of
    Christian theology, I think it can be made a significant argument in Christian
    apologetics. On this basis Christians can argue that our ability to understand the
    world "though God were not given" is not just a mystery that we have to accept, and
    recognition that science can understand the world with reference to God is not simply a
    concession grudgingly wrung from Christian theology. It is rather (according to the
    Christian claim) a consequence of the fact that the creator of the universe is the God
    who is revealed in Jesus Christ, whose action in the world - as in the cross - is
    kenotic and hidden.
            Of course I don't think that that's a drop-dead argument but it is an argument,
    & not simply an agreement that science works.


    George L. Murphy

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