Re: Process problems from Re: Evolution: A few questions

From: Terry M. Gray <>
Date: Mon Jun 28 2004 - 21:38:30 EDT

Howard, you wrote:
>This shift in the meaning of "natural" is also at the root of my saying in
>earlier postings that I would distinguish process theology from theologies
>that have traditionally been designated "natural theology." The "nature"
>_observed_ by traditional natural theology (with its substance-based
>metaphysics) is radically distinct from God, whereas the "nature"
>_experienced_ by process theology is permeated with the active (but
>non-coercive) presence of God.

As I think I commented at your talk at the KSU ASA meeting,
"traditional" Christian orthodoxy has nature permeated with the
active presence of God. In several contexts I've argued that the
traditional view is also non-coercive (but you seem to reject this
because, if I understand you correctly, you think that if an action
is guaranteed that is must be coercive). Ontological, radical
distinction of Creator/creation in no way prevents a "nature" that is
permeated with the active presence of God. Several "traditional"
attributes of God lend themselves to this idea: His spirituality,
omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, in my understanding of
Reformed (and other) orthodox, lead to a Creator/creature interaction
that is fully as rich as anything Howard or process theology has
suggested. [I will concede that the solution to theodicy is our chief
difference. As we have discussed our differences over the past
several months, it seems to me that theodicy has become your primary
reason for exploring process theology.]

In his subsequent post in response to George, you write:

>OK. Would I be justified, then, in expecting the broad Christian community
>to recognize the way in which the meaning of "natural" in process thought
>differs significantly from what it traditionally means? :)

In traditional systematic discussions of providence, concurrence,
etc. "natural" comes very close, I think, to what the process
theologians are getting at. I agree that this is a much richer view
of "natural" than is commonly postulated by the "natural" vs.
"supernatural" distinction. That's why I've often argued that there
is no such thing as "natural"--I much prefer to speak in terms of
God's regular and irregular manner of governance.

I continue to think that your rejection of a "traditional"
theological framework is more informed by the shallowness of more
fundamentalist systems rather than the full richness of
Augustinian/Reformed (okay--Lutheran too) systems--unless theodicy
really is driving the differences.

I have some of the same problems with "traditional" views that you
do. But I would argue that they are not really "traditional" views.
They are a shallow caricatures of orthodoxy and we must work to
return the church to orthodoxy on this point. Just because Phil
Johnson calls my view vacuous (I guess I'm still stinging from that
bizarre accusation), doesn't mean that it is. Unfortunately, most
evangelicals seem to think in these shallow, problematic terms.


Terry M. Gray, Ph.D., Computer Support Scientist
Chemistry Department, Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado  80523
phone: 970-491-7003 fax: 970-491-1801
Received on Mon Jun 28 22:02:59 2004

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