Author Archives: Jon Garvey
I’ve just come across an interesting new version of the metaphysical position on divine action called occasionalism, that has been termed “Divine Compositionalism” by its proposers, philosopher Walter J Schultz and biologist Lisanne Winslow, both of Northeastern University. It seems to me to have a number of strengths. For background, check out my 2014 piece on the three main metaphysical contenders in Christianity for understanding divine action. In the end, exactly how God acts is beyond our ken, but how we conceive things makes a great deal of difference to how we understand the world.
One more post – probably the last for now – on some of the seldom remarked ills of modernism. And this one is about how we have fallen for that comic inversion of the East London tailor’s adage: “Never mind the quality – feel the width”. As so often in these blogs, it was the juxtaposition of two experiences that set me thinking.
Following on the theme of the last post, secularism, I’ve been re-reading Craig Gay’s excellent, but sadly out of print book The Way of the (Modern) world – or, Why It’s Tempting to Live As If God Doesn’t Exist. It is still available in a Kindle edition – if you can get hold of it, read it. Mine was a review copy, back in the day when I worked for a magazine and got books free. Sadly, freelancing on The Hump lacks the perks.
A good number of studies now demonstrate that small children are predisposed to believe in God, and having a good memory of my earliest years in Beechcroft Drive I remember being no exception to the general rule. That I was made by God, and even that he knew about me and affected my life, was axiomatic to me as soon as I learned to think. This was so even though my parents were at best marginally religious and, in my earlier years, non-churchgoers – my mother’s half hearted attempts to teach me to pray at bedtime had no noticeable effect on me.
I recently noticed one of the “Christian scientists” (not “Christian Scientists”, you understand, which are a different thing) on BioLogos replying to some ID poster with the remark that the genome shows every sign of being cobbled together by chance and circumstance rather than being designed for a purpose. I suppose it drew my attention because it’s one of the common atheist arguments for a purposeless and undirected version of evolution, but used by a Christian it gave pause for thought.
Deistic and semi-deistic accounts of God’s creation of the natural world still appear to have much appeal for “sciency” types nowadays, and especially for Evolutionary Creationists. Even in “moderate” minds, which judge God capable of determining, or at least foreseeing, the outcomes of evolution in particular and world events in general, there appears the need to retain an unbroken lawlike chain of material causes. In other words, science must be able to give a more or less complete account of God’s works, at least in the “natural creation”. For God to “interfere” with that chain must be considered at best rare, but in reality a rather distasteful concept altogether.
Lamentably our old friend James Penman has been unable to contribute here for a good while, for various reasons. But he has continued to send me a trickle of old sources on one of his church history interests – Christian beliefs about extraterrestrial life. I guess this is because it’s widely thought that Christian doctrine excludes life on other worlds (enabling atheists to anticipate, with bated breath, the first actual bacteria found on Mars as a final debunking of the Gospel). But it ain’t actually so.
Science, we are often reassured, has absolutely nothing to say for or against the supernatural, and Christians therefore have nothing to fear from knowing more about science. That is absolutely true in principle, not least, as I have been exploring in detail here recently, because science’s methodology excludes the supernatural from its purview, “supernatural” being however defined according to arbitrary and culture-bound criteria. This is of course simply to limit science’s reach to a humanly-constrained part of reality.
I recently discussed with Chris Falter at BioLogos the vagueness of the term “natural causes” used in the science/faith arena, drawing overtly on C S Lewis’s work on the word “nature”, implicitly on Jonathan Bartlett’s discussion of the protean nature of methodological naturalism over the centuries, and more generally on the thoughts we’ve been tossing around here forever. Chris asked me to define nature in a way that scientists of all persuasions could use profitably, and it proved quite easy to do, or to put it another way, methodological naturalism can be liberated from the bias towards metaphysical naturalism completely if one is more careful to define “nature” adequately. Since … Continue reading
It’s a fact little known to all but a very few Molinist philosophers that, before God created the Universe, he did R&D work on some small offline models. Like any software engineer or web developer, he designed these very small universes to test subroutines that would be incorporated in the full release version.