Re: Coercion

From: Howard J. Van Till <>
Date: Mon Apr 19 2004 - 09:53:10 EDT

In an earlier post I had said of Peter Reust's proposal re divine choosing
of quantum outcomes:

>> One of its interesting
>> features is that, on a technical level, it does not entail God coercing
>> quantum systems to do things contrary to their natural capabilities. It
>> simply entails God's choosing that they do one particular thing among many
>> options. But, as you know, I've never felt comfortable with this sort of
>> "semi-coercion by over-riding choice" proposal.
> And I don't like "coercion", not even "semi-coercion".

I did not choose that terminology. It is taken from the literature of
process theologians. Clearly, however, you and others on this list dislike
it very much. I assume that you see the word "coercion" as having an
inherently negative connotation -- perhaps entailing action contrary to the
will of the one being acted upon.

So, I'm still looking for an alternate term for divine action that
accomplishes a particular outcome by overpowering or superseding the system
of creaturely causes. Suggestions are welcome.

> Of course, here
> we are outside of science's reach, and it is therefore a theological
> discussion. And I don't see a theological reason, either, why God would
> want to concentrate all of his creative action in the initial creation
> (big bang) and then "keep hands off".

But keeping "hands off" in the sense of not acting coercively does not at
all mean being inactive or non-interactive. The whole spectrum of effective,
variable, non-coercive divine actions remain in place. See my comments in
response to Don Winterstein on similar questions.

> Why should his loving guidance and
> helping direction occasionally entering into the details of the lives of
> his beloved creatures be labeled "coercion"?

I would see terms like "loving guidance" and "helping direction" as the
sorts of divine action that would fall in the non-coercive category. As I
said in response to Don, I'm wondering if we need to work on developing a
more adequate concept of non-coercive divine action. If that were a
sufficiently rich concept, perhaps giving up the idea of coercive action
would seem less threatening.

Howard Van Till
Received on Mon Apr 19 09:53:30 2004

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