Re: [asa] Evolution, theodicy & trinity

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Tue Mar 18 2008 - 10:08:53 EDT

>>> "David Opderbeck" <> 3/18/2008 9:43 AM >>> asks:

I'd ask the same question as Merv, but I'd ask it a little more broadly --
is the eschatological view taking "evolution" as a sort of metanarrative
framework? Much as I admire Ted Peters' work, this is what bothers me
about his proleptic eschatology -- it seems to take evolution as the
force behind history and in that awfully close to panentheism. (Note that
I'm not saying here that Peters ignores God's sovereignty.) So is Russell
going down that same road? Or is it a more traditional Augustinian /
Thomistic path -- that God's allowance of evil is necessary to bring about
the greatest good?


Ted replies--and this is already reply number 3 this morning, so I'm close
to my limit. :-)

Russell's approach is intermediate. He draws quite heavily on Augustine,
with the only area of disagreement being (a big one, admittedly) that he
doesn't accept an historical Adam/Fall. Like Niebuhr, he agrees that the
Fall is a fact, though not an historical one. Like Augustine, he believes
that only by divine grace can we avoid sin. Grace is a central theme for

My reading of this book and my conversations with Bob have convinced me
that he's in the theological center of the religion/science enterprise.
That is, he's absolutely not with Peacocke and Barbour (his own mentor) on
the left--he very clearly and explicitly rejects both panentheism and
process theism, while at the same time very clearly and expicitly affirming
creatio ex nihilo and the bodily resurrection, let alone ongoing direct
divine action in the universe. On the other hand, he just as clearly
rejects YEC and OEC views of special creation. Interestingly, he rejects
open theism, holding a much more traditional view of God's knowledge,
coupled with his very high view of grace, providence, and divine power. A
lot of this went under my radar screen before. The religion/science scene
is actually very small, in terms of people who are really trying to wrestle
with the issues as scholars who are trying to advance the field, and my
sense is that it has been important for Bob not to distance his own work too
far from the others who have dominated the field for more than a generation.
 This book appears to be his effort, at this point in his own career (closer
to the end than to the beginning), to speak more forthrightly about where he
places himself on the landscape. Polkinghorne has been doing that for about
15 years, and now Bob is doing likewise. He ends up pretty close to where
Polkinghorne is, as far as I can tell. He strongly criticizes P's view that
chaos means openness in the universe (this is a technical criticism, not a
theological one), and he also criticizes P's open theism (Bob is more
traditional), but he rejects process and panentheism for the same reasons,
as far as I can tell: process can't account for the resurrection, and the
resurrection is the central teaching of Christian faith.

I have a lot to do today, and I appreciate this conversation, but I'll have
to sign off and just listen.

I do urge people to buy the book and inject their own comments.


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Received on Tue Mar 18 10:10:45 2008

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