Re: [asa] natural theology, bad and good

From: George Murphy <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com>
Date: Wed May 06 2009 - 19:20:16 EDT

David -

The Barth quotation to which you refer at the end is from his Church Dogmatics1/1, p.60:

"God may speak to us through Russian communism or a flute concerto, a blossoming shrub or a dead dog. We shall do well to listen to Him if He really does so. But we shall not be able to say - that would mean that we considered ourselves the prophets and founders of a new Church - that we are commissioned to spread what we so hear as an independent proclamation."

He is not talking about a "general revelation" that might lead to a natural theology. God does not communicate something to us through all dead dogs or flowering shrubs but God may speak to specific people through particular phenomena. E.g., God might use a dead dog to remind me of my mortality. But then (& this is the point Barth makes specifically) I have no business going out & proclaiming that God has done that. Even less can I generalize it and say that God has told me that he wants you to remember that you're going to die & can't take it with you so send your love offerings to George Murphy Ministries, Inc. (I'm obviously making up that example but it seems to me a reasonable extension of what Barth meant & is the kind of stuff you can hear on some religious TV programs!) Or to take an example closer to your discussion, God may use a flowering shrub to tell a person that He intended for creation to bring forth beautiful things, but that person is not to proclaim generally that flowering shrubs are evidence for intelligent design.

Shalom
George
http://home.roadrunner.com/~scitheologyglm

----- Original Message -----
From: "David Campbell" <pleuronaia@gmail.com>
To: "asa" <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 2009 4:05 PM
Subject: [asa] natural theology, bad and good

>I see standard popular YEC and ID as not giving natural theology
> enough of a place in two ways and giving it too much in another. YEC,
> ID, and TE all are broad and not always exclusive categories, so not
> all advocates of a particular view fall into the particular problems.
> For that matter, popular advocates often speak more carefully or more
> carelessly at different points and so can have statements going both
> ways.
>
> First, YEC and ID tend to fall for the claim, also promoted by
> "scientific" atheism, that scientific evidence is the only good
> evidence. This unduly excludes awe, beauty, amazement, conscience,
> etc. as a basis for theological insights, things more in line with the
> arguments that the Bible makes from the physical world than the claim
> that there are scientifically inexplicable features. This also leads
> to claims that something is scientific when it isn't. ID science
> arguments, in particular, tend to be along the lines of "here's
> something absolutely amazing so it can't be accounted for by natural
> laws so we detect 'design'." The "so it can't be accounted for by
> natural laws" part generally ranges from unprovable to wrong, but it
> also introduces unnecessary problems. Biblical examples tend instead
> towards "here's something amazing. Praise God!" Science provides us
> with plenty of additional examples of amazing things, but doesn't tell
> us if they are amazing.
>
> Secondly, YEC and gap-type ID, while claiming to discover things in
> nature, actually tend to be rather uncritical attempts to find
> anything that can possibly be represented as supporting an
> already-held theological view of how nature ought to appear. These do
> not allow the physical evidence to speak for itself; in fact, the
> actual physical evidence tends to be suppressed as much as possible
> because it doesn't conform to what they want to find.
>
> On the other hand, too much weight is given to natural theology in
> that the claimed scientific evidence is marketed as entailing
> Christianity or whatever religion is being promoted. The
> "Christianity" that one can get from the physical world is, as George
> has been emphasizing, not Christian, for it does not have Christ.
> Part of this problem reflects the DI strategy of claiming to be
> disinterested scientists who just happened to find "design" in the
> course of research. Thus, those opposing ID in the schools generally
> wrongly assert that it specifically promotes Christianity, while those
> who want it in the schools generally wrongly think that it
> specifically promotes Christianity. (This is also entangled in the
> regrettable legal situation in the U.S. with regard to suppression of
> religion in public schools). At worst, ID or YEC degenerate into
> legalistic false gospels in which one is saved from evolutionism to
> creationism by holding the party line on the time and means of
> creation. Of course, Christless "Christianity" is also popular among
> heterodox advocates of evolution (Dowd, strict process views, etc.)
>
> A question particularly for George but possibly someone else knows as
> well-I just encountered an out of context quote from Barth within a
> quote from some later writer where Barth was saying that God may speak
> to us through all sorts of things (examples including a concerto and
> the death of a dog). From George's citations of Barth on natural
> theology, I would expect that Barth would go on to say that these
> putative insights have to be assessed against more fixed theological
> standards, but Barth was not quoted on that, somewhat leaving the
> impression that Barth was endorsing a relatively indiscriminate
> natural theology. Any insights on the context? My guess is that Barth
> simply didn't make the point succinctly in the immediate passage.
>
> --
> Dr. David Campbell
> 425 Scientific Collections
> University of Alabama
> "I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
>
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Received on Wed May 6 19:21:15 2009

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