Re: The state of suburban theology

From: Steve Petermann <>
Date: Tue Jun 15 2004 - 17:51:14 EDT

George wrote:
> But I simply don't see how one is going to specify the "causal
> joint" with anything like the precision that a physicist might expect.
> Anyone is welcome to try, but o if someone claims to have a precise
> description of the causal joint between two systems, I want as a physicist
> to see some math & not just talk. If you're going to pursue that, you
> to have mathematical descriptions for the free systems which are then
> coupled by the putative interaction term, & in this case that means you
> to have a mathematical description of God. & while this isn't a /reductio
> ad absurdum/ in the technical sense, I think it is absurd if one has any
> meaningful concept of God.
> As to the charge of fideism, I think we need to be quite honest in
> saying that the reason we speak about God acting in the world in the first
> place is because of our faith - in the sense of trust and commitment -
> the God revealed in Christ _does_ act in the world. I.e., we do not
> "observe" God acting in the same way that we observe the earth & sun
> interacting via the gravitational field. We then attempt to make sense of
> that faith with our further theologies of divine action. This is why I've
> argued that in addition to the Barbour's Neo-Thomist & Kenotic theologies
> divine action we also need some elements of what he called the
> theology in his 1st edition - something he unfortunately dropped in the
> This is the pattern of all theology, fides quarens intellectum - cf.
> Is.7:9b.
> If you're going to call anything that involves faith fideism, then
> this is fideism - but then we need to point out that science, & indeed any
> intellectual enterprise, requires postulates, axioms &c that have to be
> assumed rather than proven. In that sense everyone is a fideist. &
> theologies, like scientific theories, shouldn't be evaluated in terms of
> a priori plausibility of their postulates but by their fruitfulness in
> enabling us to understand ourselves and the world.

I view fideism as a stance of being *uncritical* about one's beliefs. This
does not mean that faith is trumped by something else, but it does mean
taking seriously the challenges that spring up during an era and being
willing to change one's faithing views. The issue, however, for those who
opt for a "critical faith" is what criterion to use in this "critiquing"
process. Clearly, unambiguous solutions to conflicts in science and
religion are not often forthcoming so this rules an algorithmic process.
However, I agree with Arthur Peacocke's suggestion in the recent new CTNS
journal that the criterion should be *reasonableness*. While reasonableness
still has a subjective element to it, it does point to a critical evaluation
of all elements of an issue.

For instance, because of their sense of causation and observation that has
been engendered by experience, many people do not consider entertaining the
idea of supernatural interventions as a reasonable position. The locus of
divine action in quantum events is for some reasonable and others not. The
issue, I think, is not a detailed mathematical theory of divine action but
one that is theologically compelling and scientifically reasonable enough to
satisfy a "critical faith" and arm those in and considering the faith for
their dialog in an often unbelieving and hostile world.

Steve Petermann
Received on Tue Jun 15 18:09:26 2004

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