Re: Seeking God's will in physical phenomena

From: Mervin Bitikofer <>
Date: Thu Dec 08 2005 - 18:06:07 EST wrote:
     Karl replies: "The distinction between supernatural and natural is
artificial. "

I know this is probably re-hashing what has probably been thoroughly
discussed in this forum. But how would you (or do you?) distinguish
yourself from a naturalist? A seamless reality (not divided up with
artificial distinctions of our own making) "rings true" to me as well.
Also, if God is within and under the natural order -- then how is this
distinguished from pantheism? Since I accept the transcendent deity
(Creator whose existence precedes creation), I still have the challenge
of wondering how such a creator "works" in creation in any way
differently than the pantheist already allows for (as an immutable
collection of natural laws.) If I can't or don't make such a
distinction then it would seem I am effectively a pantheist or a deist
-- both positions at odds with orthodoxy.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mervin Bitikofer <>
> To:
> Sent: Tue, 06 Dec 2005 17:42:56 -0600
> Subject: Re: Seeking God's will in physical phenomena
> > <>Why not divine God's will by using 'chance'? In Acts 1:26 the lot
> > was cast (after prayer to know God's will) to determine the twelfth
> > disciple. And there is a good bit of Old Testament precedence to >
> determine God's will in the (what I assume to be random) process of >
> casting lots. Why do we not take this option seriously in our >
> 'enlightened' times? How many churches today choose their leadership >
> in such a way -- (there probably are exceptions that actually do). But
> > obviously the Bible times crowd took quite seriously that God would
> > intervene to make his will known in this direct fashion. Of course,
> > one could point out that the Spirit had not yet made its debut in
> the > tongues of flame -- maybe no lot casting was needed after that.
> On the > other hand Peter & Paul (both Spirit-filled men) might have
> resorted > to this in their disagreement over John Mark or their other
> > disag reements. But they didn't. > Maybe today we're more inclined
> to line up our thinking with Solomon's > Ecclesiastes 9:11 (911? I can
> just see conspiracy enthusiasts scooting > to the edge of their seats)
> "...the race is not to the swift, nor the > battle to the strong,
> neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to > men of
> understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and > chance
> happen to them all." More likely -- we are more comfortable > with
> God's will showing up in a revelatory way that is brought to the >
> surface as we dicker with each other over scripture and in prayer. > >
> Could it be that we don't really trust God to intervene in this >
> physical way any more? I'm not advocating that we start -- but I think
> > it interesting to pose the question 'why not?' One of th e profound
> > lines in the Lord of the Rings series is when Gandalf is ruminating
> > over the 'chance' of the ring falling into Bilbo's hands '...chance,
> / > if chance you call it/'. There is some Christian profundity in
> that I > believe. I would love to see a theological study on the
> mathematically > analyzed thing now called 'random'. > > --merv > > >
> Karl replies:
> > This is what a number of Reformation churches did. It was most
> common > among anabaptist traditions, although Zinzendorf claimed it
> derived > from Luther's commentary on Jonah. The lot (or similar
> substitute) > was considered the best (only?) way to be assured of
> determining God's > will. To apply it to our current obsession with
> ID, they might say > that the only way to be sure that God is the
> Creator is if He > incorporated chance into the process of creation
> and did /not/ leave > his "fingerprints" anywhere! :-)
> > After all, the House always wins!
> > > For a nice discussion, which also points out some of the practical
> > pitfalls, see Elisabeth Sommer, 1998, Gambling with Go d: The use of
> > the lot by the Moravian Brethren in the eighteenth century: Journal
> > of the History of Ideas, v. 59, p. 267-286.
> > > Karl
> > *************************
> > Karl V. Evans
> > <> <
> <>>
> >
> >
> You lost me in the statement: "...the only way to be sure that God is
> the Creator is if He incorporated chance into the process of creation
> and did /not/ leave his 'fingerprints' anywhere! ". Would this be like
> a rejection of what is now called 'supernatural' in favor of a
> deterministic 'naturalism' in which everything that happens (& must
> happen) is God's will anyway?
> You catch me by surprise referencing anabaptist traditions -- I'm a
> Mennonite so you'd think I'd know. I guess there are some Amish who
> cast lots to determine who the preacher will be Sunday mo rning. But I
> haven't experienced such a practice first hand.
> --merv
> Karl replies:
> My comment was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I think still accurate. The
> distinction between supernatural and natural is artificial. Certainly
> I would not consider myself a determinist. My own Lutheran tradition
> (as this layman reads it) would say that God works "in, with, and
> under" the natural processes. Luther would say that natural processes
> are the "masks of [the hidden] God. So chance can be incorporated
> into God's continuing creation. Thus I would not expect to see God's
> "fingerprints" everywhere self-evident. I also want to point out that
> this is not a purely Lutheran concept. Aspects of it are found in
> John Polkinghorne (Anglican), Alan Padgett (Methodist), Elisabeth
> Johnson and Paul Molnar (Roman Catholic), Nancey Murphey (Anabaptist),
> Michael Murray (Evangelical - in the common American sense of the
> term), and Alexei Nesteruk (Eastern Orthodox) -- and that's just a
> short list of authors who ha ve dealt with science/faith issues. Not
> everyone uses the same terminology, but the concepts are there.
> As for your second comment, I don't know how widespread is use of the
> lot. It may be gone altogether. Sommer's article describes some of
> the practical problems that developed even the the 18th century. My
> point was that theologically chance was not a negative -- in fact it
> was very much a positive.
> Karl
> *******************
> Karl V. Evans
> <>
Received on Thu Dec 8 18:10:40 2005

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