Category Archives: Philosophy
Special providence is a huge subject, both because there is a lot one could say about it, and because according to Scripture it pervades the operation of everything in the cosmos.
I want to unpack each of the three modes of God’s contingent action that I outlined in the last post. Perhaps the easiest to deal with in the context of a theology of nature (or perhaps not) is the category of “miracle.” This is because, as I suggested last time, miracles are intrinsically alien to nature’s normal modes of operation: they are intended as signs.
Having embarked on a couple of excursus (4th declension Latin plural, Eddie reminds me!) in this exploration of a theology of nature, one on the likelihood that such a new theology would be bound to impact on how one does science, and a longer one on the connection between human speech and divine creation, we may now return to rather more conventional territory – the nature of divine action.
Let me continue where I left off the last post, by quoting N T Wright’s fifth Gifford Lecture from February of this year. He describes: …the human task of hermeneutics, of a rich and multilayered truth-telling, discovering and displaying meaning, in symbol, story and song, by the many levels of significance in God’s world present and future, and particularly in human life.
Last time I looked at the interesting scriptural correlation between God’s creative and transformative word of power, Christ the Logos who is said by John to be that word, and the same word of power effectually spoken by human agents (whether by Jesus himself or divinely appointed agents) in human “natural” language. Today, I want to start by grounding that correlation in biblical ontology.
In this meandering series working towards a theology of nature, this subject may be the most difficult to write about, because it might seem nebulous, or even mystical, but I suspect is the most crucial departure from previous models. Accordingly, it will spread over more than one post.
Theology can seriously affect your science One of the more stupid, though understandable, rhetorical questions that skeptics ask about design in nature in particular, but also about divine action in nature in general, is “What mechanism does God use?”
In the last four posts on The Hump I’ve attempted to clear the ground of notions that are not, in my view, tenable in any attempt to produce a theology of nature for our times (our times, I suppose, meaning “no longer compatible with the theology of nature that was new-minted by the ‘mechanical philosophers’ like Francis Bacon and Renée Descartes in times very different from ours, but which in secularised form constitutes the mainstream worldview today.”)
An article sent to me by Eddie Robinson (forwarded from another scholar) gives me an occasion for commenting on chance in a more or less appropriate place in the loose series I’m developing on a theology of nature. This article is The Secularization of Chance: Toward Understanding the Impact of the Probability Revolution on Christian Belief in Divine Providence by Josh Reeves (available here, but only if you’re registered).
There is a rare breed of scientists – amongst whom for some reason predominate physicists of the first half of the twentieth century – who have both an indisputable grip on science, and a seriously good grasp of philosophy and, in some measure, theology. Arthur Eddington is one, Michael Polanyi a second, and Werner Heisenberg a creditable third.