Re: choking on RFEP

From: Howard J. Van Till <>
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 13:38:32 EST

On 4/1/04 11:47 AM, ""
<> wrote:

> Ted wrote:
> My sense is that, perhaps 10 years ago and almost certainly 20 years ago,
> Howard's position was indeed Leibniz', that God acts in salvation history
> in "miraculous" ways from time to time; but God does not act in natural
> history in analogous ways. More recently, Howard apparently believes that
> God does not act "miraculously" in salvation history either. At least this
> is my analysis of his position. I INVITE HOWARD TO SPEAK FOR HIMSELF.
> My response:
> While it is certainly constructive to discuss (with Howard and others) the
> merits and implications of a completely naturalistic theology vs. one that
> allows for miracles with a capital "M", I think that topic is only
> tangentially related to Howard's Robust Formational Economy Principle
> (RFEP). I haven't read everything that Howard has written, but my
> understanding is that he has always promoted the RFEP as applying to the
> formational aspects of the physical Creation. The RFEP does not say whether
> or not God could have or in fact has acted supernaturally on occasion in
> revelation to his people. It merely states that the Creation is
> sufficiently gifted to realize the physical evolution we observe without
> the Creator having to act contrary to those God-given natural processes and
> behavioral properties. In other words, it is consistent to hold to the RFEP
> while at the same time believing that Jesus miraculously realized some very
> unlikely quantum events in some jars of water at a wedding feast to change
> it into wine. This type of miracle does not negate the fact that life
> likely evolved from non-life or that sentient beings like humans evolved by
> natural processes. Furthermore, the RFEP it is a principle, which I take to
> mean that it is a general rule, not an absolute law about the mode of God's
> creative work.
> The fact that Howard himself apparently finds greater satisfaction in
> exploring what many of the rest of us feel is an extreme theological
> extension of the RFEP logic should not deflect from the usefulness and
> validity of the RFEP as a general principle any more than the fact that
> Darwin was an agnostic should convince us that evolution is false.
> Am I missing something?


No, you are not missing a thing. To put it more positively, you have
recognized some very important elements of my position with regard to the

1. As I have most commonly stated the RFEP, it applies only to the
formational history of the universe, period.

2. Regarding that formational history, the RFEP posits that the universe
possesses all of the physical resources, structural and functional
potentialities, and formational capabilities that it needs to effect the
Creator's will for the actualization of all inanimate and animate forms that
are a part of that history. Hence, supernatural intervention (God
overpowering nature, a form of coercive divine action) is unnecessary for
the actualization of those forms.

3. It says nothing for or against the possibility of: a) supernatural
intervention for other reasons, or b) non-coercive divine action as an
effective factor in the universe's formational history.

4. As such, the RFEP is fully compatible with: a) orthodox, traditional
Christianity, b) process theology, and c) lots of other worldviews. The same
could be said for the laws of thermodynamics. No particular worldview owns

Received on Thu Apr 1 13:38:37 2004

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