RE: Vienna cardinal draws lines in Intelligent Design row

From: Freeman, Louise Margaret <lfreeman@mbc.edu>
Date: Mon Nov 21 2005 - 09:45:47 EST

Sorry, Ted, but I've spent too much time trapped in a car with my husband
and his country-music-loving kin to let this one pass.

That's Kenny *Rogers.*
__
Louise M. Freeman, PhD
Psychology Dept
Mary Baldwin College
Staunton, VA 24401
540-887-7326
FAX 540-887-7121

-----Original Message-----
From: "Ted Davis" <tdavis@messiah.edu>
To: <asa@calvin.edu>, <janmatch@earthlink.net>, <oleary@sympatico.ca>
Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2005 09:09:19 -0500
Subject: RE: Vienna cardinal draws lines in Intelligent Design row

> >>> "Denyse O'Leary" <oleary@sympatico.ca> 11/21/05 8:08 AM >>>writes:
> While we are on this topic, Vatican astronomer George Coyne, who
> attacks
> intelligent design theory, has a rather unusual theological view, which
> he
> is prepared to share with the Catholic press:
>
> "... if we confront what we know of our origins scientifically with
> religious faith in God the Creator * if, that is, we take the results
> of
> modern science seriously * it is difficult to believe that God is
> omnipotent
> and omniscient in the sense of many of the scholastic philosophers. For
> the
> believer, science tells us of a God who must be very different from God
> as
> seen by them. "
>
> As it happens, Benedict XVI is running a traditional Christian church,
> whose
> most basic doctrines (omnipotence, omniscience) he is not at liberty to
> change.
>
> ***
> Ted comments:
> Fr Coyne is as far as I know an advocate of process theism, which does
> indeed deny both omniscience (in the sense that God knows the whole
> future before it happens) and omnipotence (in the sense that God can do
> anything short of a logical contradiction, ie, it is not meaningful to
> ask whether God can make a rock that God cannot move).
>
> I've given my critique of process theism often before, here and
> elsewhere. Above all it fails IMO b/c it cannot account for the
> resurrection, the central event (both historically and theologically)
> of Christianity. A God who is powerful enough to raise Christ bodily
> from the grave is either omnipotent or something close enough to it,
> that a distinction doesn't matter.
>
> But omniscience is a different matter, quite a different matter.
> Classical theism would surely affirm that God knows *everything* before
> it happens, including the free choices/actions of free agents such as
> you and I. The difficulties with such a view have long been evident,
> and are seen among other places in two important areas. (1) how to
> make sense of biblical statements about God "forgetting" or
> "repenting"; and (2) how to understand the predestination/free will
> issue, and other similar issues. It's not possible to go into these
> more fully here and now, but suffice it to say that quite a few
> contemporary Christian thinkers are attracted to "open theism," the
> view that God knows all that can be known by any agent, leaving aspects
> of the future open even to God. There are some murmerings about such
> things among some medieval theologians and logicians ("scholastic
> philosophers" themselves, ironically), but by and large this is a
> modern view.
>
> The Evangelical Theological Society formally delcared this view
> heretical a few years ago. I think they acted a bit too hastily
> myself, although I am sympathetic with some of their hesitations.
>
> Let me note that this view is not an evolutionary view, per se; that
> is, evolution doesn't lead one to hold such a theology. Another way to
> say this: one can understand even Darwinian evolution in *classical*
> theological terms, such as by holding (as does Bob Russell and I think
> Terry Gray) that God sovereignly uses apparently stochastic events
> (events that are indeterminate for us, but not for God, such as the
> casting of lots in the Bible or quantum events) to carry out God's
> will: it's hard to argue against such a view, since the Bible seems to
> embrace it; and if many events in the world have quantum causes, then
> something like this might need to be true if God is really in charge of
> the world. Open theism seems to be motivated more by a desire to
> understand some parts of scripture more literally (Calvinist thinkers
> have tended to dismiss those biblical statements as accommodations to
> our ignorance rather than literal descriptions of God) and to develop a
> sophisticated t!
> heodicy that appears to me to be an extension of more traditional "free
> will" theodicies. Another way to say all of this: if there had been no
> theory of evolution, there probably still would be open theism.
>
> But quantum theory seems more fundamental here, and that might be
> partly what Fr Coyne has in mind. Yes, one can hold with David Bohm to
> some sort of "hidden variable" interpretation of QM, a view that might
> be more compatible with traditional theism; or one can take the Russell
> route and see God as sovereign over quantum events in some
> deterministic way that we will never perceive (I am not making fun of
> this approach, I think it makes quite a bit of sense frankly); or one
> could take Polkinghoren's route and suggest that God causes events in
> the universe primarily through "top-down" causation involving the input
> of "information" at the quantum level (my sense is this amounts to God
> choosing which quantum states to actualize, if that's the correct
> language), a view that is close to Russell's and perhaps even the same.
> P, who understands QM as well as anyone alive, does hold an open
> theism view--at least partly for reasons of theodicy.
>
> The question of how much classical doctrine one is willing to change,
> depends on many things. As Kenny Russell sings, you gotta know when to
> hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. Lots of influences lie behind
> classical doctrinal formulations, and as my friends know I am never
> hesitate to hold 'em when the hand is strong. Greek influences,
> biblical influences, reason, experience, and (yes) changing scientific
> conceptions of the world (which influence our philosophical views about
> reality which in turn influence our expressions of theological reality)
> all work into this. My sense is that Fr Coyne folded a strong hand, by
> turning to process theism; but that otherwise the chips are still on
> the table.
>
> Finally, for Denyse: we both know some folks, Denyse, who think that
> the classical doctrine of divine impassibility just won't wash, that a
> God who loves must also be a God who suffers and who is genuinely moved
> by suffering. Even some YECs I know believe that. It isn't
> "classical" but it's biblical and very likely true. Some of the
> questions about "omniscience" in the classical sense are similar to
> those about impassibility. One might or might not be sympathetic with
> approaches that challenge impassibility, such as Moltmann's theology of
> the cross (to identify just one example that has been discussed here),
> but surely it is hard not to be at least sympathetic with the kinds of
> questions that motivate the formulations of such theologies. We agree
> that Fr Coyne takes this too far, but IMO there are others who don't
> take this far enough.
>
> Ted
>
Received on Mon Nov 21 09:47:09 2005

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