Re: Seeking God's will in physical phenomena

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Thu Dec 08 2005 - 20:13:39 EST

God cooperates with creatures in everything that happens in the world & limits what is done with them to actions that are within their natural capacities. Thus what happens in the world can be described in terms of those creatures and their interactions withour explicit reference to God. This is not pantheism but a relatively traditional view of providence. What God exercises in the world is not his "absolute" but his "ordained" power. One can, of course, also allow for "extraordinary" providence on very rare occassions, but there are other ways of understanding miracles. One exposition of such a view is at .

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Mervin Bitikofer
  Sent: Thursday, December 08, 2005 6:06 PM
  Subject: Re: Seeking God's will in physical phenomena 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 <>
    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.
     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 V. Evans

Received on Thu Dec 8 20:15:07 2005

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