Re: Coercion

From: Howard J. Van Till <>
Date: Tue Apr 20 2004 - 10:20:58 EDT

On 4/20/04 12:48 AM, "Peter Ruest" <> wrote:

> 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?

So that we can discuss the concept itself without the negative connotations
that some attach to the terminology.

> 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"?

Good question. It seems to fit in neither category comfortably. However,
since it entails the idea of an outcome wholly determined by God, it seems
to me to be closer to the "coercive" (God's action is "fully determinative")
> 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"?

See above comments on the close relationship between "coercive" and "fully
> 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?

Yes, perhaps we are. But here is where I need to think this through further.
I agree that the outcome-choosing divine action that you propose does not
involve forcing a quantum system to do anything in violation of its nature.
Neither does it demand capabilities that it was never given (by its
Creator). But that model still seems to place all of the emphasis on God's
fully determinative action and leaves no space for any creaturely response.
Process theology's metaphor of divine "persuasive action" suggests the kind
of interaction that involves action by both parties ‹ God and creature. The
creature is able to respond to divine persuasive action. Or do you see a
quantum systemıs making a transition to a particular final state as its
response to the divine action of choice (or call, or persuasion)?

> 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.

This opens up another large territory. Should the term ³natural² be
restricted to ³materialistic² (material action only), or should it include
also the divine persuasion + creaturely response combination as well? One of
my complaints against typical ID rhetoric is that it employs a radically
materialistic concept of ³natural² action. In ID-speak it seems that
³natural² action is inherently materialistic (Godless) and divine action is
inherently coercive. I am suggesting that the term ³natural² must be
enriched with a non-coercive divine contribution, and that coercive divine
action is unnecessary (and, of course, that it invites the theodicy problem
as well).

Howard Van Till
Received on Tue Apr 20 10:21:29 2004

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