Re: Faith, Evolution, and Tax Dollars?

From: Howard J. Van Till <>
Date: Tue Apr 06 2004 - 09:09:59 EDT

On 4/5/04 3:54 PM, "Ted Davis" <> wrote:

> Strictly speaking, we might be in agreement that creatio ex nihilo is not an
> "intervention" in the sense defined above. I have been saying however that it
> is something like an intervention. Howard's definition of "supernatural" as
> "coercive power over an extant nature" is however not the same as mine. I
> prefer a simpler definition of "sufficient power to determine the nature of
> what is created."

That definition may be simpler, but it fails to deal with the distinction
between coercive and non-coercive categories of divine action. Not all
divine action is an exercise of sheer POWER. I sometimes get the feeling
that modern Western culture is so obsessed with POWER that its portrait of
God places OMNIPOTENCE at the top of the list of divine attributes, above
such attributes as love, compassion, grace, etc.

> If God does not determine the nature of nature, then its
> nature is given to God as an a priori; or else it is derived from God's own
> characteristics in some a priori fashion, as in Plato's belief that God *had*
> to create a *good* world. God IMO did not have to create anything at all; nor
> has the creation existed eternally with God.

I find it difficult to imagine a portrait of God that does not include some
"other" (a World) with which God is in loving communion.

> I do think of this as like
> intervention, since if God did nothing then there would be nothing. The
> Greeks taught that "nothing comes from nothing"; in this sense, the creation
> of something from nothing (which is the classical sense of creatio ex nihilo,
> and part of the sense in which I take it) is a kind of "intervention." This
> is not part of the definition Howard is using: it is not an overpowering of
> what was already there, but without overpowering agency there would be nothing
> there now. Since that something has not always been there, God has in this
> sense "intervened" in nothing to create something.

That appears to make "nothing" a substance to be acted upon with divine
> As for God breaking into nature once created, it should be clear from many
> things I have posted at other times that I believe in such divine activity.
> At this particular season, in fact, it is most appropriate for me to
> contemplate that kind of activity, which is the ground of my Christian hope.
> I accept Howard's definition of "intervention" here, and I affirm my belief in
> it.

And it has never been my intention to take that away from you. Remember that
our conversation began with my pointing to your support of the equivocation
on the part of ID advocates with respect to 'design' as an action. It means
one kind of action in cosmology (giving being, ex nihilo, to a world that
satisfies the RFEP), but a very different kind of action in biology
(supernatural, form-conferring interventions within a world that does not
satisfy the RFEP).

Received on Tue Apr 6 09:10:26 2004

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