RE: The state of suburban theology

From: Alexanian, Moorad <>
Date: Wed Jun 16 2004 - 12:39:49 EDT

Sometime ago I wrote the following paragraph and thought it may be interesting:


God created the whole of nature. Man is mind/body/spirit. Therefore, God can interact with man via all these channels. Of course, He can interact solely with matter, e.g., the miracle of turning water into wine. An interesting analogy of the nature of God and man can be made with the aid of the notion of the Hamiltonian in physics. The Hamiltonian represents the total energy of a system and is the sum of an interaction-free part plus interaction terms. The free part encompasses things that exist without the need of interactions whereas the interaction terms bring into existence things that were not explicitly present in the free part. Now God is the sole term in the free part and is thus the only self-existing being. However, man and the rest of creation are a consequence of the interactions and as such are not self-existing. In other words, man and Nature owe their existence to God and their study makes no sense without the knowledge of God. Note that the "God of !
 the Gaps" argument is fallacious since there really are no gaps. God is self-existing yet the creation is contingent on His existence. There are no gaps for God to "hind in." Our laws may "explain" nature but they certainly neither create nor sustain that which exists.





        -----Original Message-----
        From: on behalf of Howard J. Van Till
        Sent: Wed 6/16/2004 10:57 AM
        To: George Murphy; Steve Petermann; Ted Davis;
        Subject: Re: The state of suburban theology

        On 6/15/04 4:57 PM, "George Murphy" <> wrote (in response to
        Steve Peterman):
> 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 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 have
> to have mathematical descriptions for the free systems which are then
> coupled by the putative interaction term, & in this case that means you have
> 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.
        If I understand your remarks correctly, George, I'm inclined to agree.
        Trying to model the God/World relationship/interaction in the physics-type
        language of an energetic interaction between two "things" (or "substances,"
        to use an old philosophical term) is inappropriate.
        Perhaps that should be taken to suggest that we err if we think that the
        referent of the word "God" is fundamentally some kind of "thing/substance"
        -- say, something like an unembodied Spirit/Person who ACTS ON members of
        the world. Perhaps we would do well to think of the referent to "God" as an
        entity more like "love," "joy," "grace," and the like -- each of which is
        the name of a life-enriching experience rather than a thing/substance.
        Perhaps we need to give more serious and critical attention to re-evaluating
        the basic metaphysics that has long been assumed by Christian theology.
        Perhaps even the metaphysics of panentheism (the World is in God, but God is
        more than the World) should be given respectful evaluation by the larger
        Christian community.
        ....Skip a paragraph...
> 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 the
> a priori plausibility of their postulates but by their fruitfulness in
> enabling us to understand ourselves and the world.
        Well said. Theology is a thoroughly human enterprise. Theological theorizing
        could learn something from scientific theorizing -- good theories should
        score high on epistemic values like fruitfulness in accounting for what we
        actually experience as humans in this world.
        The job of theories is to account for experience, perhaps even to provide us
        with ways or suggestions for enriching our experience; stories of our
        experience should not need to be twisted to conform to idolized theories
        inherited from the past. We don't do that in physics, and I don't think we
        should do that on theology either. So, when a certain family of theories
        repeatedly encounters deep difficulties, perhaps it is time to go back and
        re-evaluate the fundamental presuppositions on which that family of theories
        was based.
        Howard Van Till
Received on Wed Jun 16 14:12:56 2004

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