Re: Faith, Evolution, and Tax Dollars?

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 12:54:22 EDT

I share Keith's concern about poor reasoning and the need to have
consistency. However I apply those concerns to this issue differently,

Several times in the past, I've discussed my conviction (my scholarly
conviction as well as my spiritual one) that one cannot get genuine
contingency in nature--the type of contingency in which the laws of nature
*do not have to be what they are*--without a creator who "overrules" or
"determines" the nature of nature. That is, without something pretty much
like "intervention." I lack the time to repeat all those arguments here,
but they should be archived.

The alternative pictures can be seen by comparing Plato's Timaeus with
Genesis. In Timaeus, the "craftsman" (DEMIURGOS) takes existing
materials--unformed matter, the idea of the good, and "the nurse of
becoming," a sort of metaphysical potential being--and makes the world from
these. Forms (derived from the form of the good by reason) are imposed on
matter, which resists the imposition of form to some extent and thus (among
other consequences) a genuine "science" (ie., demonstrative knowledge) of
nature is not possible. We can have genuine knowledge only of the forms
themselves, not of their imperfect, shadowy images in the physical world.
Such a nature is not contingent--the god has to make it, as an outflowing of
the god's goodness, and its properties are not contingent, they follow
necesarily from reason.

A more biblical picture of creation, I am persuaded, has the property that
Thomas Torrance calls "contingent order," in which the order is not
logically necessary but can be found by human inquirers. This reflects not
only God's *freedom* to impose various kinds of order, but also God's
freedom to *impose* various kinds of order--that is, nature has no nature
until God gives it one. Nature is ontologically passive, it is God that
determines what it is. The ability to have different laws and constants
than those we actually have, is possible IMO only if God does have coercive
power that is actually used on occasion. In this sense, at very least, God
does "intervene."

Again, I've written much more about this elsewhere. It's a topic close to
my heart, I wrote my dissertation on historical aspects of creation and
contingeny. The work I did then and subsequently has convinced me entirely
that genuine contingency is not possible theologically without a God who
actually does determine the nature of nature. And that's not possible
without using omnipotence. I do call that "intervention."

Received on Mon Apr 5 12:56:40 2004

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