Re: Coercion

From: Howard J. Van Till <>
Date: Mon Apr 19 2004 - 09:47:06 EDT

On 4/17/04 5:38 AM, "Don Winterstein" <> wrote:

>> Howard: I know of no one on this list who posits that the world operates
>> independently of God.
>> Don: Well, I believe that the world acts independently of God in some
>> respects. I believe that God knows the world in detail and is immanent in
>> that he is always available for it. In some way unknown to humans he
>> maintains its existence. However, the world operates independently of him in
>> that he does not control everything it does. If you do not agree on this
>> last point, I'd appreciate hearing what you believe and also how you then
>> deal with the theodicy problem.
Howard: Three comments:

1. We seem to be using different definitions of ³independently.² I am using
it in the sense of ³non-interacting in any way,² while you are using it in
the sense of ³not everything is controlled by God; only some things are).² I
believe strongly in Godıs active immanence, with the understanding that
Godıs action is never coercive. (Perhaps ³coercive² could be replaced by a
term like ³fully determining of some particular outcome by superseding or
overpowering the natural causal system² to avoid the negative connotations
that many on this list associate with the word ³coercive,² but that seems
overly cumbersome.)

2. I do not claim to have the solution to the theodicy problem. What I have
been trying to say is that the theodicy problem seems unavoidable (and
thereby demands recognition and attention) as soon as one posits that God is
able and, on some occasions, willing to act coercively. However, it is clear
that most folk on this list would be wholly unwilling to give up (perhaps
even unwilling to re-examine) the traditional concept of supernatural
intervention (another term for coercive divine action). When I suggest that
God never acts coercively, the most common reaction is something like, ³then
you must be a deist.² When I say ³no supernatural intervention² or ³no
coercive divine action² it seems to me that people must be hearing ³no
divine action, period.²

3. This leads me to wonder if the Christian community needs to do a better
job of recognizing, or building a way to recognize, the reality and
effectiveness of non-coercive divine actions. Is it possible that
traditional Christian theology has an inadequately developed concept of
non-coercive divine action? Perhaps people on this list could contribute to
a menu of examples of non-coercive divine action. If that were done, perhaps
my saying ³no coercive action² would no longer be heard as ³no divine
action, period.²

In an earlier post I had asked something like ³If God was able and willing
to intervene (coercive divine action) to add a rotary outboard motor to E.
coli bacteria (incidentally, thereby making them more dangerous to my
health), then why would God not intervene to add supplemental rotary motors
to steer the hijacked planes away from the WTC towers?

The last part of your response was: ³As for me, I believe God can and does
intervene when he wants, he does not always intervene when people think he
should, but he is nevertheless an attractive person.²

Well, that may work for you, but it sure doesnıt work for me. I wonder how
well it worked for the victims, family and friends of the 9/11 tragedy.

Howard Van Till
Received on Mon Apr 19 09:47:38 2004

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