Re: Coercion

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Date: Mon Apr 26 2004 - 12:24:09 EDT

From: "Howard J. Van Till" <>
Date: 2004/04/26 Mon AM 09:15:59 CDT
To: <>
CC: <>
Subject: Re: Coercion


The change in tone here is simply a product of my continuing thought on your
proposal and how it might contribute to our reflection on some issues of
divine action in the world to which science has empirical access.

It now looks to me that there are two differing ways of making a distinction
between the ³coercive² & ³non-coercive² categories of divine action that are
relevant to much of our recent discussion.

1. Strong sense: Coercive = divine action that forces some creaturely system
to do something contrary to, or beyond, what it could do by the application
of its (God-given) capabilities.
2. Weak sense: Coercive = not coercive in the strong sense, but nonetheless
fully determinative of the outcome of some creaturely action.

For the sake of discussion, would it help to use the ³Coercive/non-coercive²
language for the first (strong) sense and another distinction --
³Determinative/contributive² -- for the second (weak) sense? Here the term
³contributive² would convey the idea of divine action that is neither
overpowering (coercive in the strong sense) nor fully determinative
(coercive in the weak sense), but yet a factor that is able to contribute
(within limits) to a real modification in the outcome of creaturely
events/processes. <snip>

Comments welcome.



It's striking to me that something very like this line of questioning was taken up by the first 7 ecumenical councils as they worked out their orthodox doctrine of the human and divine natures in the one person of Christ, specifically as they addressed the question of whether there were two wills in Christ, and if so, how they were related. Here's how one person today (Jason Dulle) summarizes alternative positions on the question:
1. Christ possesses two wills, yet the divine will overshadows or subsumes the human will, rendering it basically inoperable. (Monophysitism)
2. The human will was replaced by the divine will (Apollinarianism; Kenoticism).
3. The human and divine wills have been united into one new theanthropic (divine-human) will. (Eutychianism)
4. Christ possesses two distinct wills working in conjunction with one another. (incipient Nestorianism)
5. In Christ God wills exclusively as man through His assumed human nature (the Cyrilian position, ultimately adopted as orthodox).
Obviously this isn't directly germane to the questions being reflected on in this thread, but it's interesting to see how remarkably similar questions proved impossible to ignore in a different theological context. The orthodox position, in this instance, seems very much like what an imaginary 7'th century process theologian might have preferred, given the terms in which the question was being framed at the time.

Doug Barber
Crisfield, MD
Received on Mon Apr 26 12:24:42 2004

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