Re: [asa] Rejoinder 2 from Timaeus: to David Opderbeck, with a Question for All

From: Merv <>
Date: Sat Sep 27 2008 - 09:50:17 EDT

I think one major position regarding "the nature of God" that TEs would
generally hold is that God's action cannot be limited to those events
that we recognize as special or miraculous, (& nor can it be limited to
the front-loading beginning.) David's reference to the psalmist and the
baby are, I think, an important example and one that deserves more
consideration today because it shows that even modern Christians who are
suspicious of science still have within their hermeneutic an
unacknowledged allowance that just because we observe something and
maybe even understand the causality and processes involved, it does not
threaten our faith. Nor did it seem to for ancient Hebrews. They would
have had rudimentary understandings of causality ... they knew that
rain comes from clouds, and (even before any concept of universal
gravitation), they would know that unsuspended things naturally fall to
the earth, including rain drops. Yet I'm fairly certain that if someone
inquired of them "Is it not inconsistent for you to pray to God for rain
--after all it is really x, y, and z that causes it..." --they would
have thought you silly for the suggestion, and responded that of course
x, y, and z bring rain; but it still all comes from God.

This is not at all a denial of miracles, though. By definition we
perceive those to be rare and special, and probably for the benefit of
revelation. Most Christians today happily pray for miracles of healing
on behalf of loved ones, and just as happily counsel them to seek all
the natural and medicinal methods of healing that are available. And if
somebody gets well after good treatment, we don't usually call it a
miracle, but we still thank God for it. Of course, when all natural
means seem to have failed and all doctors are stumped, we are more
likely to ascribe any subsequent healing to be a more explicit divine
fingerprint. And maybe this latter case is the less threatening arena
in which to illuminate a difference of ID/TE approach: TEs hold out
for the natural explanation (even if one doesn't seem apparent yet)
because their theology sees God in the healing either way so the process
doesn't make any theological difference. The (Christian) IDs throw up
their hands, though, and ask "Why can't you just give God his due?".
--to which the puzzled TE replies "...but I have!" These are both
caricatures to illustrate the point since, of course, most TEs do not
deny miracles, and certainly IDs don't deny all naturalistic process.
But aren't these nevertheless, the poles on a continuum that attract
each side? And there must be more common ground that we are tromping
around on here together than is popularly supposed. The TE hermeneutic
tends to demand less historicity, and allow, within limits, for more
figurative translations. Those limits may be messy and unresolved, but
I don't think the "other side" escapes that same messiness, save by an
extreme rejection of much that is observed about the world, -- a
rejection of one of the "two books" to which nobody here would adhere.


David Opderbeck wrote:
> snip...
> Timaeus said: And if there is not one such theology, but many, would
> someone undertake to outline three or four of the major positions that
> TEs hold regarding the nature of God, and the relation of God to the
> natural world, and to the evolutionary process? And, matching these
> positions, the corresponding hermeneutical principles for the
> interpretation of the Bible?
> I respond: I'm sure I'm not qualified to do all this! It seems to me
> that the core issue for you is that God must "do" something to be
> "active" in creation -- either he must "front load" or he must
> "intervene" periodically. And further, if God "does" something in
> creation, it must be detectable or visible to us as human beings.
> Personally, I don't see this as a viable model of divine action. You
> didn't comment on my example of the birth of a baby. The Psalmist
> says God "forms" and "knits" the baby together in the womb, but what
> does God "do" that we an observe apart from the apparently "ordinary"
> workings of nature?
> Another example is Col. 1:17: "He is before all things, and in Him
> all things hold together." In what way can observe that Christ holds
> all things together? When we peer deep into the universe with the
> Hubble telescope, we don't see the actual hands of Christ. When we
> look deep into the equations of physics, there's lots and lots of
> stuff we don't know, but we don't expect to see a God-shaped hole in
> the equations.
> I think a problem here is our understanding of metaphysics. I sense a
> very flat metaphysics in much of the ID discussion. "Causation" can
> only happen at the physical level; if we can't empirically observe
> something, it isn't "real." I don't think that's a properly Christian
> metaphysics. God is "active" in creation and "holds all things
> together" even if we can't empirically observe that. Lots of the
> "real" -- maybe most of the "real" -- happens outside the realm of
> human empirical investigation. The Christian rejects "chance" at the
> metaphysical level, but of course we acknowledge the appearance of
> "chance" at the empirical level -- some phenomena are stochastic to
> our observation.
> David W. Opderbeck
> Associate Professor of Law
> Seton Hall University Law School

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Sat Sep 27 09:46:17 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sat Sep 27 2008 - 09:46:17 EDT