Re: Seeking God's will in physical phenomena

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Thu Dec 08 2005 - 22:40:07 EST

George gave a good explanation, but you manifest some confusion.
Pantheism claims that god is the world and the world is god, which means
that there is no Creator outside of what Christians view as creation.
This kosmos is dependent on God, both for origin and maintenance, which
is radically different from being identical with such god as is. This
world functions according to the divine ordering, which may also be said
by deists. But deism makes the current operation of the kosmos
independent of Providence, whereas the Christian view is that God holds
all together at all times. The Lord is sovereign. The deist does believe
that the kosmos was created, but the only time the deist has intervention
is when God finally decides it's time for judgment. Unfortunately, there
are some Christians who hold to a somewhat deistic notion, that God is
active only when he tinkers with creation outside of its "natural order."

Regarding the sentence to which you were responding, there is a real
difference between what is natural and what is supernatural. If I bang my
head on something solid, I haven't bumped into God. True, solid objects
are dependent on Providence, but they are natural. If the experience
finds me uttering inappropriate words, they are not supernatural. When I
meet a person, I cannot be certain that what he utters is the result of
the indwelling Spirit or the result of his clever use of "spiritual"
language. Yet there is a difference between supernatural redemption and
natural intelligence. The inability to definitely differentiate does not
negate the difference, for we need to take precautions to warrant
scientific observations, yet may fail. I think of N-rays. Of course, if
all differentia are artificial ...

On Thu, 08 Dec 2005 17:06:07 -0600 Mervin Bitikofer <>
writes: 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 22:49:40 2005

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