Re: [asa] Providence?

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Wed Sep 10 2008 - 22:40:39 EDT

James, you're asking a question that is both simple and complex, but that
IMHO does not really have to be so critical as you make it out to be. I
think it's misleading to call this a "worldview" question.

The simple answer is, for TEs whose theology tends towards what I would call
an orthodox view of God's sovereignty, the course of evolution is under
God's sovereignty and hence is guided by his providence. Many of us here
would refer to classical notions of causation such as Aquinas' "primary" and
"secondary" causation.

Some TE's have a view of God's sovereignty that tends towards open theism.
In this view, God gifts the creation with the ability to develop in ways
that are not necessarily fully known or determined by God.

Some TE's tend towards or are panentheists. In this view, God does not
truly transcend the creation, and in some sense develops along with it.

Most of the TE's you'll meet on this list, I think, tend towards an orthodox
view of God's sovereignty. Some may be somewhat open to open theism. None
of the regular ASA-member list participants, so far as I know, tend towards

Here is one reason why I think it's misleading to consider this a
"worldview" question (setting aside that I think the whole "worldview"
notion has been way overplayed in our contemporary religious discourse). Do
you think the birth of a baby is a creative act of God governed by God's
providence? At the same time, would you agree that we are able to describe
in "natural" terms the process by which a baby is conceived, develops in the
womb, and is born, from start to finish (or at least, where there are
mechanisms we don't yet fully understand, such as early cell
differentiation, a "natural" explanation is in principle possible and
likely?)? Is there a "worldview" conflict in affirming both that each baby
is a creative act within the providence of God and that the process of birth
is explainable in "natural" terms? I don't see a "worldview" conflict here
at all, because, per Aquinas' notion of "primary" and "secondary" causation,
Christians have always affirmed that God's providence is operative even in
the sphere of "nature."

On Wed, Sep 10, 2008 at 10:04 PM, James Patterson <
> wrote:

> What place does God's providence have in TE? How does it fit in?
> This seems to be a critical point in the intersection of various
> worldviews.
> I've already said this before, but "more later". On the way back from my
> recent business trip (said weekend when I joined ASA) I wrote 7 pages of
> text on legal-sized tablets. This because I was given these tablets at the
> meeting and didn't wish to stop writing on the plane when all must stow
> electronics, etc.
> I need more input from you to forumulate :) these pages into something that
> I can release for comments.
> One thing that comes to mind as I write this is that this field is so
> complex that a simple email/listserve/forum reply is not adequate to
> answer.
> One needs a book to reply. While we live in an information society, and
> have
> machines that can process information in mass quantities and at great
> speeds, our own cortical processors still operate at essentially the same
> speed as when we were created (or evolved, whichever you prefer). Thus, the
> quantity of information that we have that is relevant is massive, and grows
> by the minute, but the quantity of information that we can process per
> minute is static. Hmm.
> Regards, JP
> To unsubscribe, send a message to with
> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.

David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Wed Sep 10 22:40:53 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Wed Sep 10 2008 - 22:40:53 EDT