[asa] Rejoinder 5B from Timaeus – Ordinary versus Extraordinary Divine Action

From: Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Tue Oct 07 2008 - 09:42:43 EDT

I can tell from the answers of David Opderbeck and William Hamilton that the point of my little Dark Timaeus fable was missed. They have replied, with theological correctness, that without God the universe would not exist. I agree. But the fable was not about general theology. It was designed to evoke from people their notion of how God’s action is related to the evolutionary process.

I anticipated the possibility of Mr. Opderbeck’s theological objection when I concocted the fable, which was why I invented the “Divine Concurrence Field”, to allow the universe to continue to exist, on life support as it were, after God had died. But everyone who replied ignored that part of the fable, for reasons which escape me.

The issue of the fable was this. Christians have traditionally spoken of two modes of God’s interactions with the world, what we might call the ordinary mode and the extraordinary mode. The ordinary mode would be God’s implicit sustenance of the seasons, the motion of the planets, gestation, growth, etc. The extraordinary mode would be exhibited in things like the parting of the waters of the Red Sea, the three young men surviving the fiery furnace, and the resurrections of Lazarus and Jesus. Now Darwin believed that God interacted with nature only in the “ordinary” mode, i.e., not via point interferences or “miracles”. So he thought that God was involved in the evolutionary process only in the same way that he was involved in all other natural processes. For Darwin, God no more “intervened” to create a new species than he “intervened” to keep Mars in its orbit.

Now some TEs seem to believe that God does not intervene in any extraordinary way in the evolutionary process, whereas others seem to believe that he may in fact be active in an extraordinary way in evolution, manipulating the micro-world to control the mutations, or something like that. My fable was designed to find out exactly how people thought God interacted. By “killing” God, I eliminated God’s extraordinary relations with nature. By the use of the “Divine Concurrence Field” I preserved God’s ordinary relations with nature. Then I asked people what would happen on Earth, starting about 3.5 billion years ago.

Another scenario to set up the same question, one which would perhaps be more to some people’s taste, would be: suppose that the Biblical God, who always keeps his word, promised that, starting with the cooling of the earth and the establishment of its hydrosphere, he would not interact in an extraordinary way with nature, but only in his ordinary way? What would happen then? Which of the four scenarios that I specified? And why?

Note to Mr. Opderbeck: Since writing this, I have read your most recent post. No, I have not contradicted myself. Yes, I still agree with you that there is no contradiction between God’s normal activity and natural events. But there is certainly a contradiction between God’s extraordinary activity and natural events. In the course of nature, dead people don’t get up again, and people don’t walk on water. What I’m trying to find out is what people here would say evolution could do if it depended only on God’s ORDINARY activities, and not in the slightest on his extraordinary activities. Could it do EVERYTHING that Dawkins says it did, or would it fall short? The answers would have enabled me to separate out different sorts of theological positions held by the people that I am conversing with. But so far no one has picked any of the four choices, except for Ted. So I’m just as much in the dark as I was before.

Note to Mr. Venema: See my reply to Christine, which I’ve just relayed to Ted Davis. Also I have dealt with the same subject in my recent reply to Ted tonight, which I don’t believe has been posted yet as of this writing, but may be by the time this appears.

Note to Mr. Murphy: I’m well aware of the Christian tradition that says that God works through the ordinary course of nature. I trust that you are aware of the equally traditional Christian position that says that sometimes he doesn’t. One of the main sources for this position is a book you doubtless have heard of – called the Bible. I’m neither fundamentalist nor literalist of any kind, but I’ve yet to see an interpretation of the Bible that can do away entirely with the notion of miracles, understood as divine alterations of the normal course of nature, without either doing violence to its plain sense or simply ignoring large blocks of it (as Renan and the higher critics did). Since several people here have said that they definitely accept some “miracles”, understood as God’s extraordinary action, the question arises whether or not they see God’s relationship to evolution through the notion of his ordinary action or his extraordinary action, or a bit!
  of both, perhaps. Thus my Dark Timaeus scenario. You haven’t yet picked an answer. Shall I put you down for #2, or would you like to surprise me?

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Received on Tue Oct 7 09:43:39 2008

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