Re: [asa] Miracles and God of the Gaps

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sun Jan 25 2009 - 08:03:35 EST

Merv -

1st it's important to realize that our ability to speak directly & unequivocally about God is severely limited if we believe that God is indeed God - the Ground of Being rather than another being in the world, the creator rather than a creature. "One does not speak of God by speaking of man in a loud voice" as Barth put it. So a great deal of what we say about God must be analogy, and Aquinas and other theologians have gone to considerable lengths in exploring the implications of this. The idea that God cooperates with creatures in their actions, as a human works with a tool, is an analogy but to call it "merely a useful analogy" suggests that we ought to do better. I think we can qualify the analogy - as below - but not replace it with an exact description.

This analogy is one component of an adequate theology of divine action but by itself it isn't sufficient. Human workers can use tools in a lot of ways, including ways that they weren't intended for. The idea of divine cooperation needs to be qualified by the idea of kenosis, that God limits what God does with creatures to their natural capacities - i.e., in accord with rational patterns that we approximate by our laws of physics. If that is the case then what science will find will be those laws that describe the natural processes inherent in creatures but not the One who works through them. Thus your suggested answer b comes close to the truth. This understanding of divine action is neither derived from nor verified by science but is part of the totality of trust in the God revealed in the history of Israel culminating in Christ. Such faith is in a sense the third component (with cooperation & kenosis) os an adequate theology of divine action. (Cf. my article for more detail.)

Whether or not this is "apologetically useful" depends on where we start with an apologetic. My suggestion is at .

One other point that brings out the analogous character of the idea of divine cooperation (what Barbour calls the "Neo-Thomist" theology of divine action) is that God is the one who, in the last analysis, brings all of God's "tools" into being. That is perhaps hinted at by the cryptic rabbinic remark about "the tongs made with tongs" as one of the things created on the eve of the first Sabbath.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Merv Bitikofer
  To: George Murphy ;
  Sent: Saturday, January 24, 2009 11:32 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Miracles and God of the Gaps

  George Murphy wrote:

      The analogy of God as a worker making use of creatures as instruments to accomplish tasks is helpful but it's an analogy. An attempt to describe "the causal joint" (i.e., just how God's "hand" grips and manipulates the "tool") sounds like an attempt to make theology part of physics.

  I agree (in some superficial way perhaps) that this quest for the causal joint is misguided, but I can still understand the frustration of some regarding the said joint. So if it is merely a useful analogy, are you saying.. a> it doesn't exist except in our heads as a helpful cognitive device b> it does exist but can never be scientifically findable c> it exists and is indeed observed all around us but will never independently yield anything apologetically useful (or d> none of the above ... more elaboration needed...)

  I'm not trying to insult your intelligence with multiple choice, but trying to frame the issue for my own understanding.


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Received on Sun Jan 25 08:04:22 2009

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