Re: choking on RFEP -- non-coercive action

From: Howard J. Van Till <>
Date: Fri Apr 02 2004 - 09:28:31 EST

Don ... a follow-up on another portion of our conversation:

> HVT: 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.
> DW: 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, ....
> HVT: Itıs a matter of whether or not divine action does or does not force
> creatures to behave/act in some particular way, whether or not God forces a
> particular outcome of processes/events in the creaturely world.
> DW: 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!)
> HVT: Be careful, Don. Youıre starting to talk a lot like those process
> theologians Iıve been reading. Their name for the intimate (but non-coercive)
> interaction of God with all creatures of the world, including atoms, is
> ³prehension.² This ³spirit/matter interface² is, as they describe it, an
> essential part of the worldıs being so that ³natural² phenomena involve not
> only matter, but also non-coercive divine action. Naturalistic theism is
> vastly different from materialism. The ³natural² is enriched far beyond mere
> material action. If youıre interested in exploring this way of thinking, see
> David Ray Griffinıs book, Reenchantment without Supernaturalism (Cornell UP,
> 2001).
> Howard Van Till
Received on Fri Apr 2 09:30:53 2004

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