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

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Date: Tue Oct 07 2008 - 15:28:11 EDT

---- Ted Davis <> wrote:
> 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 b!
 it! 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?
Timaeus -

First recall my post of 3 October in response to one of your claims. To wit:

---- j burg <> wrote:
> This is to Tim, who wrote: "But it is absolutely worthless, from my
> point of view, to hear that Darwinism isn't the whole story and in the
> same breath to assert that WITHIN SCIENCE, Darwinism is absolutely
> true. There is a major blurring going on here ... ."
This claim in an example of an all too common confusion about different levels
of causation. It is true that Abraham Lincoln was killed by a bullet, & that is
the only truth that a pathologist will state or is competent to state. But it
isn't the entire truth, & those who are concerned with the whole context of
Lincoln's death will be interested in the historian's claim that Lincoln was
killed by John Wilkes Booth.
Ithink the parallel with a traditional understanding of divine action via God's
cooperation with creatures is obvious. It's true that concerns about
"Darwinism" may have more to do with governance rather than with cooperation
(following the conventional 3-fold analysis of providence) but I think this is
enough to show briefly that Timaeus' claims pf worthlessness is considerably

End Quote

I.e., your original statement amounts was not simply that God _could have_ acted miraculously in evolution but amounts to the assertion that God _had to_ so act if
if the concept of divine action is not to be "worthless." That that particular claim is incorrect.

But sure, God _could have_ acted miraculously in the evolutionary process. Is there any reason to asert that he did? In that book that I know a bit about there are lots of texts that make claims about miracles as historical events but the origin & development of life aren't among them. In fact Genesis 1 ( which, since you're not a literalist or a fundamentalist I trust we can agree shouldn't be read as historical narrative) suggests a _mediated_ creation of life. A number of the fathers recognized this - see Messenger's _Evolution and Theology_ or for a briefer summary, Ch.8 of my _The Cosmos in the Light of the Cross_ .

God could have acted miraculously in the evolutionary process but both the pattern of divine activity suggested by God's kenotic revelation in Christ (clumsy wording, I know) & the successes of science operating within the constraints of methodological naturalism imply that our default setting for understanding divine action ought to be God working with creatures as instruments in such a way that creaturely action conceals God from our observation - that they are not only God's "instruments" but also the "masks" of God in Luther's phrase.

& no, that does not rule out the possibility of miracles. Such events need not be understood as phenomena totally beyond the capacity of creatures but may be seen as very rare exemplifications of possibilities within creation which God can evoke. (See, e.g., the discussion of the 10 things created on the eve of the Sabbath in Pirqe Aboth.)

So was God's action in evolution entirely ordinary or did it involve extraordinary means? I will not dogmatically rule out miraculous divine action at a few points in the process - most likely in the origin of life itself. But I see no reason at all to assume that that was the case & several, as noted above, to remain open to the possibility that the whole process can be understood etsi deus non daretur.


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Received on Tue Oct 7 15:28:54 2008

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