Re: [asa] natural laws and God

From: Don Winterstein <dfwinterstein@msn.com>
Date: Mon Dec 11 2006 - 09:32:35 EST

Ted wrote: "The order of nature is therefore contingent, with
observed regularities reflecting God's faithfulness in upholding the
creation as expressed through God's ordinary power, rather than any rational
necessity arising from the nature of things."

Ted comments:
I can indeed imply [with the statement above] that nothing is supernatural. If so, however, then
nothing is contingent unless nature itself is contingent. This is IMO a
weak view of contingency.

It can just as easily imply that nothing is natural: that God's will is the
active cause of all things in the creation, but that God's faithfulness
regulates God's activities, so that we can understand nature and use it for
our benefit.

Don replies:
Speaking for myself, making God's will "the active cause of all things" would get me into big trouble with theodicy issues. It would also cause problems explaining the many kinds of organisms that have gone extinct over the 3.8 billion years. If God were actively causing all this, why wouldn't he have been more efficient? Except for the final outcome, the trajectories of evolution as evidenced by fossils seem totally unplanned.

On a different subject: I overstepped myself in a couple of ways in my preceding post and will revise now.

First, I said I accepted the statement above that's preceded by "Ted wrote." On further thought I suspect I don't accept it. I see nature as being more independent of God than that statement would allow. In other words, my experience leads me to believe that God created the world in such a way that the laws of nature inhere in matter itself, so that God could "go on vacation" and the world would continue largely unaffected. At the same time I see God intimately and continuously monitoring and making adjustments where needed. "God loves the world." Saying that God sustains the world would mean according to this model that he interacts with it for its benefit and allows it to continue to exist. This model is compatible both with my understanding of science and with my experiences of God. What it would mean for preceding discussions is that miracles in some cases truly would be supernatural and would truly violate laws of nature. (Some biblical miracles if understood properly may not violate such laws.)

OK, so what insuperable difficulties will such views get me mired in?

Second, I was a bit hard on those who try to understand biblical miracles in ways that better accommodate their experience. I myself frequently try to "understand" miracles. For example, I've told people (with a twinkle) that Uzzah (2 Samuel 6) actually had a heart attack from eating too much fatty mutton, and everyone blamed God. As a rule, though, I have not liked the "explanations" I've read for various miracles, and one of the worst is that Lot's wife got covered with asphalt. How would anyone have known afterwards that it was she, for example; and how could her corpse have remained standing? It's far more reasonable to assume that somehow she got separated from the rest of the family as they fled and was never seen again. Then later on someone saw an interesting salt formation in the Dead Sea area and remarked in jest that maybe that's what became of Lot's wife. Jests sometimes have a way of turning into facts, especially when people don't have the facts. People need explanations whether there are facts or not.

Don

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Ted Davis<mailto:tdavis@messiah.edu>
  To: cmekve@aol.com<mailto:cmekve@aol.com> ; janmatch@earthlink.net<mailto:janmatch@earthlink.net> ; dfwinterstein@msn.com<mailto:dfwinterstein@msn.com>
  Cc: asa@calvin.edu<mailto:asa@calvin.edu>
  Sent: Saturday, December 09, 2006 4:15 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] natural laws and God

>>> "Don Winterstein" <dfwinterstein@msn.com<mailto:dfwinterstein@msn.com>> 12/09/06 11:25 AM >>>writes:

  Ted wrote: "The order of nature is therefore contingent, with
  observed regularities reflecting God's faithfulness in upholding the
  creation as expressed through God's ordinary power, rather than any rational
  necessity arising from the nature of things."

  This is what I call the religious view of nature and natural law; it implies
  that nothing is supernatural, just that God at times suspends the usual
  regularity of nature, which usual regularity is contingent on his will from
  femtosecond to femtosecond. This is perfectly acceptable, of course, for
  religious people, and I myself accept it with the understanding that
  evidences such as those of the fossil record suggest that God is reluctant
  to suspend the usual regularity. That is, he seems unwilling to manipulate
  nature in such a way as, for example, to make the trajectory of evolution
  appear other than haphazard. In other places I've referred to God's
  apparent unwillingness to manipulate things as his granting the world as
  much independence from himself as possible: He establishes his usual rules
  and lets the world run more or less freely under them. (This view
  eliminates most theodicy problems.)

  Ted comments:
  I can indeed imply that nothing is supernatural. If so, however, then
  nothing is contingent unless nature itself is contingent. This is IMO a
  weak view of contingency.

  It can just as easily imply that nothing is natural: that God's will is the
  active cause of all things in the creation, but that God's faithfulness
  regulates God's activities, so that we can understand nature and use it for
  our benefit. Neverthelss, b/c God is active always and everywhere (this
  would have been Newton's understanding of the universe, including God as
  active direct cause of plantary motion, summed up in what we call
  gravitation), we cannot always be sure that "nature" (what we somewhat
  idolatrously call the creation) will do what we think it "must" do, since
  God is not bound by those constructions of our minds that we call "laws,"
  which are actually descriptions of God's ordinary activity.

  ted

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Received on Mon Dec 11 09:32:17 2006

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