Performance anxiety dreams

Regular readers may know that I’ve been trying to clarify Darrel Falk’s post responding to William Dembski’s essay on BioLogos. The key issue is what BioLogos actually understands by God’s government, as opposed to his sustaining, of nature. Darrel’s initial essay restricts this to the role of a very deterministically framed natural law (with a let-out for “possible” supernatural intervention), though Ted Davis has tossed some discussion of the deep mysteries of randomness, and the profound debates in the academy about the extent of God’s direction of events.

Well here’s me, a retired quack, dialoguing with these heavyweights late into the evening, and I guess it produces a degree of stress. Anyway, last night I had this very strange dream.

I dreamed I had succumbed to drifting off-topic to arguing about just how much control God has over natural events. Ted Davis, indeed, has already sought to engage me on this topic by saying how widely Christians differ on the extent of God’s direction of events, and on how much God gives creation freedom (which, being interpreted, means “randomness” in the context of natural events).

Anyway, I was foolish enough to toss a passage of Scripture in as an argument. Foolish, because we all know how dangerous it is for lay-people to proof-text when those godly people in academia have been studying logic, philosophy, historical theology and so on for decades and still are driven to disagree on the meaning of Scripture. But as I said, it was just a dream.

What I said in my somno-post was that Jesus had reassured his disciples about God’s care for them not only by saying that the very hairs of their head are numbered, but that not even the sparrow that falls to the ground does so apart from his Father’s will. I said – can you credit the naivety? – that if God does not actually control natural events like the sparrow’s demise, then the reassurance lacks all force.

Somebody replied that Jesus was speaking metaphorically, which didn’t seem to alter my argument, but then in my dream someone – either Darrel Falk or someone who had agreed with his essay – wrote that the sparrow’s fall is not outside God’s will because, in his sovereign knowledge, he knew that the reliable natural laws he had instituted would more or less ensure that some kind of small brown flying creatures (whether pterosaur, bats or birds, depending on the contingent events through time) would emerge and that some of them would have to fall down to prevent overpopulation. Such events, arising from the Father’s own laws, mean that not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from his will.

Well, somehow that seems insufficient – even now I’ve woken up – and I posted a quick reply to the effect that Jesus’s reassurance therefore amounted to no more than that God’s care for his disciples means that he knew something like them would exist and suffer.

Well, at that point a theologian intervened. Can’t remember who – in my dream he was like someone who used to post on BioLogos in the past – sounded like Paul Emm. Anyway, this guy chipped in to say that Jesus was, in fact, mistaken in that particular saying as he believed a pre-scientific worldview in which God was in charge of everything. We now know better from quantum theory and natural selection that this cannot be the case – which is why the scholarly theological consensus of the last 150 years rejects such notions.

I just had to reply that Jesus claimed only to say the exact words his Father told him to say.

The theologian, slightly irritated by my Luddite tendency now, replied that clearly God himself had also bought into that pre-scientific worldview. He wouldn’t have believed it if he were alive today. Evangelical theology has to face up to scientific truth, or people will lose all trust in the Bible’s inspiration…

I can’t remember any more, because that’s when I woke up. But dreams are rum old things, aren’t they?

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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