Re: choking on RFEP -- non-coercive action

From: Don Winterstein <dfwinterstein@msn.com>
Date: Sun Apr 04 2004 - 05:25:33 EDT

Re: choking on RFEP -- non-coercive actionOld:
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: It's 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.

New:
DW: Maybe I see what you mean, but maybe not.

On thinking about it, I realized that my preferred model is actually that God does not force anything to do anything, but nudges. Also, when creatures get into trouble and "call out" to him, he can secure their cooperation and collaboration and thereby do things he otherwise would not be able (because of self-limitation) to do with them. (For example, he might convert light-sensitive spots into eyes.) Both modes of operation would account for the very long times that it takes for God to accomplish his creating, because the world has always wanted to go its own ways and has rarely been willing to cooperate with God.

How these modes might fit with those of process theologians I have no idea. I suspect they don't fit at all with RFEP even though I strongly prefer non-coercive over coercive.

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: Friday, April 02, 2004 6:28 AM
  Subject: Re: choking on RFEP -- non-coercive action

  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: It's 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. You're starting to talk a lot like those process theologians I've been reading. Their name for the intimate (but non-coercive) interaction of God with all creatures of the world, including atoms, is "prehension." This "spirit/matter interface" is, as they describe it, an essential part of the world's being so that "natural" phenomena involve not only matter, but also non-coercive divine action. Naturalistic theism is vastly different from materialism. The "natural" is enriched far beyond mere material action. If you're interested in exploring this way of thinking, see David Ray Griffin's book, Reenchantment without Supernaturalism (Cornell UP, 2001).

    Howard Van Till

     
Received on Sun Apr 4 05:19:35 2004

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