Re: The state of suburban theology

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Mon Jun 14 2004 - 20:21:33 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Howard J. Van Till" <>
To: "George Murphy" <>; "Ted Davis" <>;
Sent: Monday, June 14, 2004 7:44 PM
Subject: Re: The state of suburban theology

> 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
> > this can reasonably be called "coercive" depends on whether or not God
> > exceeds the limits of creaturely capabilities in so acting. To the
> > that God does this - & the tradition has at least implicitly the case in
> > least the vast majority of situations - then such action can reasonably
> > called non-coercive. What has been "underdeveloped" until recently is
> > 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.

        This is true but it's no harder than selling a process view - &
perhaps less so since it is (IMO) more closely tied to scripture.

> 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
> 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)?

        As I noted, this is indeed a critical difference, one which we've
debated before. In the kenotic view, God doesn't intervene to stop the
Holocaust &c - but also doesn't intervene to save himself from the cross.
Consistently sticking with the freely made choice of kenosis is a condition
for creatures to be able to understand the world - a gift to creation which
indeed has a price, one which both creatures & God pay. In the process view
OTOH there is first of all no reason to believe that things in the world
_have_ to obey regular laws, they just do. & God's observance of those laws
isn't really a gift because God couldn't do anything else. By the same
token God doesn't freely choose to suffer with the world, he's forced to.
        I admit that process theology provides a neater solution to the
theodicy problem - evil happens because God can't stop it, to put it
crudely - than does kenosis but that doesn't mean it's more profound. One
ought to be wary of solutions that are too easy.

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

Yes. Gotta start proofreading!

> > & 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
> > becomes critical is, I think, with theodicy - & there I suspect that
> > & 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.

I expected that.

Received on Tue Jun 15 00:07:23 2004

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Jun 15 2004 - 00:07:23 EDT