Re: Coercion

From: Peter Ruest <>
Date: Tue Apr 20 2004 - 00:48:51 EDT

Howard J. Van Till wrote:

>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
>of creaturely causes. Suggestions are welcome.

Yes, for me "coercian" has an inherently negative connotation. But why
are you looking for a more positive alternate term for a concept you are
rejecting anyway?

>>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
>variable, non-coercive divine actions remain in place. See my comments in
>response to Don Winterstein on similar questions.

Would you consider the idea of God selecting a given one of several
physically equally possible outcomes of a quantum event as "overpowering
or superseding the system of creaturely causes" or as one of a "whole
spectrum of effective, variable, non-coercive divine actions"?

>>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

I chose the terms "loving guidance" and "helping direction" to
characterize divine actions on behalf of, e.g., individual humans, as a
means of "creating" something in them by his "hidden options" of
directing the outcomes of specific quantum events. Wouldn't this fall
into your category of "non-coercive divine action"?

Such divine action would not add any missing capacity to a fully
functional creation. But it would certainly add some "guidance" or
"direction" in theological language - or information in scientific
language. If you grant this, my qualms about the sufficiency of the RFEP
might no longer be necessary. Are we coming closer?

If nothing would be added to an individual human baby who is growing out
of natural processes (deterministic and random ones, but under God's
providential care), but whom God is also "creating" in a very specific,
personal way, the biblical expression of "creating" would appear to be
empty. Similarly, natural and creative aspects can be suspected to occur
side-by-side in the evolutionary processes. In principle, natural
processes can be investigated by science, but the creative ones are, to
science, hidden behind randomness.

Peter Ruest

Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
<> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
"..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)
Received on Tue Apr 20 00:50:11 2004

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