Re: The state of suburban theology

From: Howard J. Van Till <>
Date: Mon Jun 14 2004 - 19:44:17 EDT

On 6/14/04 4:39 PM, "George Murphy" <> wrote:

> One way of understanding divine action in traditional Christian
> theology - what Barbour calls a "neo-Thomist" view - is to say that God
> cooperates with creatures, acting with them as instruments. Whether or not
> this can reasonably be called "coercive" depends on whether or not God
> exceeds the limits of creaturely capabilities in so acting. To the extent
> that God does this - & the tradition has at least implicitly the case in at
> least the vast majority of situations - then such action can reasonably be
> called non-coercive. What has been "underdeveloped" until recently is an
> explicit emphasis on the idea that God does so limit divine action as an
> expression of divine kenosis.

1. As I read various forms of episodic creationist literature, I find that
anything short of form-imposing supernatural (coercive) intervention is
commonly rejected as just not sufficiently impressive. The idea of divine
kenosis would be hard to sell in most YEC & ID communities.

2. As I reflect on various proposals for kenosis -- voluntary divine
self-limitation -- I soon run into the theodicy problem again. If God's
self-limitation is a free choice, then would God not be equally free to make
an occasional exception whenever it would prevent horrendous human
suffering? Is sticking with a freely made choice more important, for
example, than sparing millions of lives (as in the Holocaust) or thousands
of lives (as in the 9/11 episode)?

> Both this view (Neo-Thomist + kenosis) and process theology picture God
> acting in the world without a need to "intervene" in a natural away.

Did you mean "supernatural"?

> & the
> process view is itself (as some of Whitehead's remarks indicate) inspired in
> part by the picture of kenosis. Where the difference between these views
> becomes critical is, I think, with theodicy - & there I suspect that Howard
> & I will continue to differ.

Yes, I presume so. For me, theologically preserving the possibility of
coercive supernatural action has far too high a price tag.

Received on Mon Jun 14 21:41:38 2004

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