Re: choking on RFEP

From: Don Winterstein <dfwinterstein@msn.com>
Date: Fri Apr 02 2004 - 01:40:27 EST

Re: choking on RFEPHoward Van Till wrote:

I thought the choking metaphor that you and Peter employed was unnecessarily crude.

Sorry. Crudity not intended. This was just my email-speak for "I have difficulty accepting this" --> "I can't swallow this" --> "I choke."

 I would not accuse either you or Peter of being the wrong kind of person.

 My email-speak got me into trouble again. What I meant was that people have different personalities, temperaments, dispositions. If those most likely to accept unqualified RFEP are left-brained, I'd be right-brained on this topic.

I see no reason for thinking that meaningfulness is in any way dependent on prearrangement. Tying meaningfulness to divine prearrangement strikes me as a non sequitur of major proportions.

 
I might agree in some cases, especially for isolated instances. But what I was thinking of here instead was long sequences of events where the meaning of one event depends on preceding events. The meaning of an individual event is enhanced by its relation to the whole. It is the achievement of the whole, consisting of many events but greater than the sum of them, that I'm constrained to believe required a certain amount of prearrangement. Perhaps I can't make clear what I mean without going into detail. Maybe someday.

I have found it essential to distinguish two major categories of divine action: 1) supernatural intervention (God overpowering nature; what process theologians call "coercive" divine action), and 2) non-coercive divine action that can be effective (leading, within limits, to novel outcomes) without needing to overpower the being of any creature.

Hmmm. I have difficulty here. How is any action of God on the world "non-coercive"? He either acts or he doesn't, and if he does, we assume the world responds. How is the world then not coerced? This seems to be a crux. If I can get satisfactorily past this, ....

Maybe we're at a disadvantage here because neither of us knows how a spirit interfaces with matter. We experience it, but we can't explain it in terms of a physical mechanism. This issue is what has led me to assume that all matter is conscious and can perceive God at some level via some kind of extrasensory perception. One problem: Even if an atom can perceive God, does it have any ability to take special action to comply with his will? (Maybe if we could make ourselves small and interact one-on-one with an atom we might discover how it is able to comply!)

Don

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Howard J. Van Till<mailto:hvantill@sbcglobal.net>
  To: Don Winterstein<mailto:dfwinterstein@msn.com> ; asa<mailto:asa@calvin.edu>
  Sent: Thursday, April 01, 2004 10:38 AM
  Subject: Re: choking on RFEP

  On 4/1/04 4:45 AM, "Don Winterstein" <dfwinterstein@msn.com<mailto:dfwinterstein@msn.com>> wrote:

    Last week Howard Van Till suggested that those who choke on RFEP (e.g., Peter Ruest and I) might profit from improved chewing habits.

  Yes, I thought the choking metaphor that you and Peter employed was unnecessarily crude. Disagreement need not involve choking on the position of the other.

    I commented earlier that I couldn't say exactly why RFEP made me choke. Where evidence is inconclusive, people choose the scenarios they find most congenial, and their choices depend on the totality of their experience. So the problem is not one of chewing wrong but of being the wrong kind of person.

  I disagree. I would not accuse either you or Peter of being the wrong kind of person. Our disagreements involve differing ways of processing ideas and critically evaluating options. That's what I was calling "chewing."

    It may be useful to consider why I'm wrong for RFEP. In a nutshell, with respect to the totality of my experience, I see God as the great choreographer.

  Here is one place in which I would process experiences, ideas, and options differently. In the totality of my experience I do not see God as "the great Choreographer" -- as if God prearranged any of the details in my life experience, but I experience God as the Sacred One who makes possible all life-enriching experiences (whether those are pleasant or not).

    My life has been meaningful in fine detail, and all this meaningfulness had little to do with my own planning.

  Agreed. But why should we think that meaningfulness requires any detail planning at all? Cannot meaningfulness be a God-enriched response to whatever happens?

    It is as if God prearranged in meticulous detail well before I was born to have the components of the world come together in just the right way to make my life as meaningful as possible. (NB: "meaningful" is not "pain-free.")

  Here's a point of disagreement. I see no reason for thinking that meaningfulness is in any way dependent on prearrangement. Tying meaningfulness to divine prearrangement strikes me as a non sequitur of major proportions.

    To say it's meaningful is to imply it's not random. My impression of the world is that, had it been acting on its own, my experiences would seem much more random.

  I don't have any idea what a world "acting on its own" (without God) would be like. I experience the world as permeated with the active presence of the Sacred. But I have found it essential to distinguish two major categories of divine action: 1) supernatural intervention (God overpowering nature; what process theologians call "coercive" divine action), and 2) non-coercive divine action that can be effective (leading, within limits, to novel outcomes) without needing to overpower the being of any creature. (Process theology uses the term "persuasive" action, something analogous to human action that seeks to effect some outcome without resorting to overpowering force.)

    I cannot believe the world on its own could have given me the life I have.

  Nor can I. I see God's non-coercive, but yet effective, action as essential to all of life and life-enriching experiences

    Instead, I believe God intervened in detail: always indirectly, always behind the scenes (i.e., apart from the purely spiritual interactions), but actively intervened nonetheless.

  I think we may be using the word "intervene" in different ways. I use it only for coercive supernatural action in which God forcibly determines some particular outcome. It looks to me like you may be using the term more broadly for any effective divine action, independent of the coercive/non-coercive distinction.

    So there it is. The world, if it were to act on its own, would produce randomness. One who loves gives meaningful experience. If God has intervened to make my life meaningful, surely he has intervened at other times and other places on behalf of other creatures.

  If "intervened" entails coercive divine action, I disagree. If it entails only non-coercive divine action, we may be in agreement here.

    It is of course impossible for me to prove that God has intervened in the way I perceive; outsiders would see no evidence for such intervention. .....

  Once again, we need to specify the exact meaning of "intervention."

    As Howard correctly acknowledged, science has made great strides under the assumption of RFEP, but that progress in itself does not establish the validity of RFEP.

  Agreed. That's why I never offer it as any sort of proof, just a relevant factor that I think needs to be more candidly recognized.

  Howard Van Till

     
     
Received on Fri Apr 2 01:34:47 2004

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