More on Howard van Till, Billy Bean and Jolly Gene

I’m sorry to bang on about the BioLogos concept of “freedom” in nature, but I feel it requires banging on about until more people take notice. This concept is, I am convinced, the crux of the lack of rapprochement between Intelligent Design and Theistic Evolution and one reason why mainstream Christianity fails to mount a united and robust critique of atheistic materialistic naturalism.
In a post last year  I pointed to Howard van Till as the principal influence behind this approach to the whole question of a Christian understanding of science. I expressed some surprise that the reasoning leading to it was (broadly but not inaccurately) as follows:

(1) Contemporary science believes that the whole Universe can be accounted for by the processes within it, without external influence.
(2) If we dropped the traditional view of God’s creative agency for one that accepted this, we would no longer have any argument with science.
(3) The proposition that God deliberately limited his power and gave self-organising freedom to inanimate creation would achieve this.
(4) Therefore it is true.

Van Till bolsters his conclusion by phraseology that implies that the traditional understanding requires a coercive, tyrannical God, and I showed that this is nothing more than spin – it is as easy to word his theology in terms that make God sound irresponsible and feckless. I hoped that there might be sounder theological reasons for TEs to have adopted his model, and since then have been gently trying to find some, partly through questions asked of the BioLogos leadership on their website.

As I said in previous posts, replies have never gone much beyond the bare assertion of this “freedom”, without responding to my requests for clarification of it. So Darrel Falk’s last reply to me includes this:

We consider such an “engineer’s-eye view” of God to be wrong.  The process is God’s process, but God is not manipulating the details just as I as a father have not manipulated each event of my own daughters’ lives.  Joyce (my wife) and I  tried to provide a home environment with a “mental plan, purpose, end in view, and adaptation of means to an end,” but we did not engineer the details of our daughters’ lives.  (Whether we did this intelligently or not, is another story.)  God’s design, however, is intelligent and God, through that intelligence wills freedom for his creation, including the constrained freedom of allowing creation to “make itself.”  [Non-supportive Scripture references follow].  God is never out of the picture.  It is all God’s design—including the freedom he builds into it.

First note that “[God’s] intelligence wills freedom for his creation” is a mere assertion ultimately traceable to van Till’s rhetorical question in The Nature of Nature, “What if the role of divine creativity is something quite different from form-imposing intervention?” Well, if that were so then maybe God wills freedom for his creation. But neither a rhetorical question nor an assertion are actually evidence.

Darrel and everyone else I’ve asked at BioLogos have failed to reply to how inanimate creation can have freedom in any sense analogous to children being parented. The only two possibilities would seem to be:

(a) That nature has been give freedom to design. Three conclusions would necessarily flow from this; firstly, that nature is a volitional, rational agent capable of design (which is vitalism), secondly that the apparent design in nature is real design (contra materialist science) and thirdly that what we see in the world is the work of a Demiurge, Nature, rather than of God the Creator (contra historical Christianity).
Or (b) That freedom actually means “randomness”, which of course is no freedom at all but merely a divine lottery.

You may, or may not, remember me quoting from a 1950s children’s programme, Billy Bean and his Funny Machine, in illustration of this. Memory being hazy, I have researched this a little further, and it seems ever more relevant to God’s supposed methodology in this last scenario. Here, first, is the theme song:

Billy Bean built a machine to see what it could do.
He made it out of sticks and stones, and nuts and bolts and glue.
The motor sang Chuffaty Bang, Rattata Rattatarator,
And all of a sudden a picture appeared on the funny old cartoonerator
Billy Bean built a machine to see what it would do,
It did the funniest things he’d seen,
So he called it his fun machine, machine,
Billy Bean and his fun machine.

Unless one grants some kind of conscious dignity (vitalism, as I said) to nature, this seems about the level of sophistication of purpose attributable to the Creator in his work. The synopsis I found goes on:

Needless to say there were ‘bugs’ and the possibility of misunderstanding the graphical communication gave rise to considerable amusement. Some of the things the machine made were very surprising.

Darrel Falk’s recent reply to me seems to speak to this “amusing” waywardness:

Did God orchestrate the amazingly intricate details of how a virus successfully invades a cell, captivates its machinery, and then utilizes that equipment to make hundreds of more viruses just like it?

Apparently we are to assume not – this was the work of the very gifted, but sadly unreliable, free creation: Billy is not to blame. One of the puppeteers in the series, clearly keen to deny too much responsibility for it, writes:

When the BBC decided to run a children’s series based on Chuck Luchsinger’s American children’s show “Jolly Gene & His Fun Machine” in 1953, they called it “Billy Bean and his Funny Machine”.

So it was the Americans’ fault! But on a US site about “Jolly Gene” we read:

One of WABC’s less proud moments was Jolly Gene and his Fun Machine, which was cranked up in September 1953: the programme was reportedly an import from England’s British Broadcating Corporation, but while many successful American TV shows would be adapted from British shows in the future, this was not one of them.

Oh dear – the Americans deny responsibility too. Unfortunately my first source reveals that Billy Bean was first aired here in July 1953. So we Brits were indeed the first to teach our children to fly in the face of information theory. But wait a minute … the people who developed Open Theism in the US would have been kids when Jolly Gene was first broadcast in the US, of an age, perhaps, for it to have been a conscious, or unconscious influence on them. The idea of the freedom of creation cannot be legitimately drawn either from the Bible or from any strand of historic Christianity. But my research seems to have shown that there is at least one possible source for it.

Do you think I should post my research on on BioLogos?

Billy Bean's machine

Avatar photo

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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12 Responses to More on Howard van Till, Billy Bean and Jolly Gene

  1. James says:

    All I can say, Jon, is more power to you. I tried to raise your questions on BioLogos — repeatedly. Eventually I was banned, apparently for pressing the questions too hard (though no reason was ever given, publically or privately).

    I wasn’t the only one. Many others — gingoro, Chip, Bilbo, Mike Gene — raised questions either about the “freedom of nature” idea or about other ideas dear to BioLogos — and their questions either went entirely unanswered by the columnists, or were answered only in vague and slippery ways.

    This is why it is important to have sites like Telic Thoughts, Uncommon Descent, and, of course, The Hump of the Camel, so that, even if BioLogos ducks the hard theological questions on its own turf, the questions can continue to be aired publically.

    There is probably a direct line of influence from Van Till to Francis Collins, Darrel Falk, and Karl Giberson. Other non-orthodox writers who have influenced the American TEs are John Haught and John Polkinghorne. The question arises why so many American evangelical scientists, when trying to work out difficult problems in theology and science, are so instinctively attracted to *unorthodox* theological writers and so uninterested in the Patristic, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Reformation traditions. ID people, on the other hand, to the extent that they do talk about theology — and they do from time to time, when speaking as Christians rather than as ID theorists — seem to be attracted to historically orthodox theological formulations, mainly Catholic (sometimes but not always Thomist) and Calvinist/Reformed, though there are conservative Anglicans and Orthodox Jews as well in the ID camp. Clearly there is more than scientific tension over Darwinism operating between TE and ID camps; there is a theological gulf as well. An acute book-length analysis of the intellectual grounds and motivations of American TE has yet to be written. But it should be written, and by someone who is outside the American fray and has some emotional detachment from it. And by someone who knows something about Christian theology. Someone who also has some scientific training, in particular biological training. Someone who can write well. Gee, Jon, all the indicators are pointing to you!

  2. Gregory says:

    What would you oppose ‘freedom of nature’ to/with? ‘Slavery of nature’? ‘Determined nature’? ‘Calvinism (i.e. ‘Reformed’) of nature’? Spelling this out will help. It seems so far like you are actually anti-human freedom in your writings and somehow proud to be so! Where is the freedom if not ‘in nature’!?

    Howard van Till (formerly of Calvin College?) is not nearly as important as you imagine him to be. He is a Christian (or more probably ex-Christian) dissident; he is heterodox. Orthodox Christianity and Abrahamic monotheism are nevertheless healthy and well without any reference to little van Till’s process theology. John Polkinghorne, otoh, is a legitimate orthodox Anglican scientist-theologian whom James only seemingly wishes to abuse for his propagandist cause of defending heterodox IDism. The majority of theologians who reject ID also oppose James’ wishful pro-ID thinking as a non-theologian.

    Unfortunately, I still read no credible space for ‘freedom’ in Jon’s writings, that human beings really do have ‘choice’ and that ‘evolution’ is a limited ideology based on environmentalism or ‘surroundings.’ Why does Jon not highlight the power of human choice, rather than seeming to support the determinism of divine (Reformed) ‘designism’? It is of course easy to blame BioLogos for its obvious biologism and scientism (both ideologies), while contrastingly difficult to defend a ‘Reformed’ understanding of history that refutes ‘determinism’ and supports human freedom. Who would Jon promote and in which text or speech or publication is an example of ‘anti-determinism’ that allows for ‘human freedom’ within his particular religious perspective?

    On the ASA list a couple of years ago a guest poster (introduced via Ted Davis, Senior Fellow of BioLogos) who called himself ‘Timaeus’ (maybe or maybe not the same person who now posts at Uncommon Descent under the same name) once wrote positively about ‘vitalism.’ This man actually promoted Henri Bergson – the unbeliever turned Catholic Christian – and suggested that a new vision of vitalism was needed for the 21st century. However, now Jon is calling-out ‘vitalism,’ but there is no one ready to entertain him.

    “BioLogos ducks the hard theological questions,” while “Discovery Institute ducks the hard scientific questions.” So are we in a dilemma of unaccountability, inability or unwillingness, one USAmerican Institute/Foundation claiming to exaggerate itself instead of another?

    As I understand it, Jon is positioned in between the extremes; he does not accept or support Discovery Institute’s ‘intelligent design/Intelligent Design’ and likewise does not accept or support BioLogos’ TE/EC. He is an anti-Darwinist who likewise has not demonstrated a post-Darwinist middle ground.

    There might still be a new paradigm, a non-ID, non-TE/EC way of looking at evidence, a general methodology, waiting to be found. Would James give it a fair shake or retreat to his comfortable revolutionary-ID position? There have been people at UD unwilling even to acknowledge that a new perspective might be forthcoming.

    ID, in light of the IDM and the DI, i.e. that institution which James defends, is both too political and too ideological to count as a valid ‘scientific’ (natural or social) approach for the 21st century. James knows this and dances lightly between science, philosophy and theology. The triadic discourse can perhaps be respected, if not the posturing.

    Thanks are given to James for finally paying respect to BioLogos by capitalising the ‘L’ – a move which may serve to unify BioLogos with Discovery Institute when the time is right. They are both ‘compromisers,’ using weak American philosophy of science, whether they know it or not! This is the zero-sum game ideology that James has bought into with his many-decades-old ‘history of ideas’ and which BioLogos, in the likes of Falk, Venema and Lamoureux have embraced, without vision of a non-evangelical Christian audience. What Abrahamic adherents need is seemingly not within the grasp of ID-movement desires.

    What is new will be welcomed inevitably when the time is right; machines in an electronic-information age, at the service (dominion) of human beings. As Marshall McLuhan wrote, this can be understood in the “shift from biology to technology.” Who will be the messengers to express it? 80 yr-old anti-Darwinists (like evangelical Phillip Johnson) or 60 yr-old pseudo-orthodox Christians?!


    (edited by Jon)

  3. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Gregory – it almost seems you’re disagreeing with me mainly because James appears to be agreeing – I hope that’s not the case.

    <i>”What would you oppose ‘freedom of nature’ to/with?”</i>
    A while ago that question would have seemed meaningless, since freedom arises from consciousness and nobody in the Christian tradition considered nature conscious, because that was what separated man from the rest of creation. Even now, once one removes the vaguely mystical word “nature” and refers to “rocks” and “treestumps”, “freedom” sounds an odd word to use. I’d settle for “determined” nature, though, without apology, since that accords both with Scripture and tradition.

    The proviso is that we can speak, in a restricted way, of giving freedom to, say, a caged animal – on the grounds of its limited sentience. It might be that science clarifies the degree of autonomy in the animals more and makes that terminoilogy more appropriate. But even animals, the closest to human in creation, do not “create themselves” – conceivably they have internal evolutionary mechanisms that do so, but “freedom” would not be the appropriate word for such non-sentient things.

    <i>”It seems so far like you are actually anti-human freedom in your writings and somehow proud to be so!”</i>
    No. But I aceept the concept of human freedom as delineated by Paul, Augustine and their successors, rather than that of their Pelagian and semi-Pelagian opposers. I’ve not been cagey about my views – I’ve written quite extensively on them in magazines in the past. But there should be no difficulty in seeing why it has no bearing on the main thrust of <i>this</i> blog, the process of life’s origin and development. No doubt I would have more to say if I were dealing more with human origins, which involve all the issues of consciousness, will and spirituality that are not appropriate to the non-human creation. That being so, I don’t see any obligation to pursue it here.

    I’m not concerned with Van Till’s “importance”, but he has been been, and is, influential amongst the TE people who, for better are worse, are prominent in the science-Christianity debate. To some he’s even a “hero”. So if his theology is ill-founded, it is likely to have a disproportionate effect on the Christian scientific community and the whole Church of God. That matters.

    As for your “post-biological” point, there are other visions of the future as well worth pondering: this by Steve Reich:

  4. Avatar photo penman says:

    I thought John Polkinghorne was an “Open Theist” – far from orthodoxy (with a small o or a big O – far from classical Christianity & from Eastern Orthodoxy). Here’s a quote from leading Open Theist John Sanders on a discussion forum:


  5. Avatar photo penman says:

    Well, my attempt at posting the quote got auto-edited out. So here’s the link:

    Under “Polkinghorne, is he an Open Theist?”

  6. Gregory says:

    No, Jon, I’m not disagreeing because of James, but because you seem not to embrace ‘freedom.’ The Reformed tradition is in several ways bent by determinism, some of which is undoubtedly of the unhealthy sort. If you could demonstrate a ‘healthy determinism’ within the Reformed tradition, Jon, this would be helpful in the discussion where you and James are both seemingly positioned against ‘freedom of nature’ (which is assumed to mean, also, ‘human nature’).

    In a previous thread, Jon wrote: “I still don’t know what ‘giving freedom to creation’ means that differs from ‘God playing dice with the Universe’.”

    That makes two of us because I still don’t know what ‘free will’ would effectively mean that might actually make a difference to what *could* happen in the world under a position like Closed Theism (which some call ‘Calvinism’ or ‘Reformed’ theology).

    Open Theism may be excessive and may deviate from some teachings in Classical Theism (which differs across Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox branches of Christianity), but the opposite Closed Theism position would make for robotic humans and automatic decision-making in a ‘determined’ universe. Would you not instead suggest a position that navigates between these extremes, Jon?

    We have had some discussion on kenotic views here before. You use hyper-kenotic and I suggested kenoticism; so, we obviously agree that exaggerating ‘kenosis’ is not responsible. The Catholic Encyclopaedia (1911) speaks quite negatively about ‘kenosis’ misinterpretation.

    Wrt BioLogos and the IDM, one position seeks ‘detectable’ visibility or obvious guidance or direction in evolution, while the other accepts rather hidden divine action in evolution, promoting an otherwise naturalistic process. Likewise, one claims to ‘be science’ (ID) while the other says it is ‘not science’ (TE/EC), but rather a metascientific position. Which sounds more reasonable in ‘science, philosophy, religion’ discourse? Don’t the determinists adopt both ‘evolution’ and ‘design’ in equal parts in both camps over against those who accept ‘limited freedom’ in G-d’s creation?

    Thanks to yours and James’ challenges to ‘freedom of nature’ and to my own additional research, now I can see more clearly why the (mainly Christian) folks at UD were so keen to ask about ‘divine foreknowledge,’ i.e. whether or not G-d knew humans would ‘evolve.’ They are of course easily understood to be shifting the burden onto BioLogos to come up with answers to questions that they have not themselves been able to solve (and which officially they do not claim to be able to solve within the core of ID). From what Jon says, it appears that they really want simply to expose BioLogos as accepting the Pelagian heresy, and thus as ‘heterodox.’ Whereas the IDM is (except when speaking in churches and to donors and funders) ‘non-religiously committed.’

    “I accept the concept of human freedom as delineated by Paul, Augustine and their successors, rather than that of their Pelagian and semi-Pelagian opposers.” – Jon

    That’s pretty much the whole point of the argument you are making against BioLogos’ position, is it not, Jon, i.e. that they are in fact Pelagians, whereas ‘good theology’ says Pelagias was wrong? It’s a ‘Reformed’ vs. ‘neo-evangelical’ challenge related to ‘free will’ and ‘predestination’?

    In so far as he has left the church and its teaching, I would agree that van Till’s “theology is ill-founded” and today is wanting, far from home. Does anyone know van Till’s current status as member of a religious institution or church or not? I doubt it makes any sense to link conservative or liberal BioLogos members with van Till’s hyper-liberalism, with his ‘free thinker’ status. Would anyone disagree?

    Part of my problem with ‘theistic evolution’ is that it can be just as deterministic as a (Calvinistic or Reformed) ‘Closed Theism,’ which denies any freedom in creation. As a social scientist, that would be a very difficult position to hold; indeed it would seem fatalistic. People are able to choose their futures (“There is no fate but what we make” – as one Christian film director supposes), otherwise what is the meaning of human existence?

    Wrt whether or not “nature is a closed system,” the scientists and scholars I’ve been reading lately think it is an ‘open system.’ I’m not sure who Jon has been reading to conclude otherwise, but there might be a ‘west-privileging’ involved. Again, looking to the East might open some new ways of thinking ‘scientifically’ that relate to a more holistic rather than atomistic view of reality, which views ‘nature’ (or ‘phusis’) as an ‘open system,’ fully welcoming ‘intervention’ by a Deity in the origins and development of natural, cultural, social, economical, technological, political and religious history.

    Aren’t ‘Billy Bean’ and ‘Jolly Jean’ simply easily contorted ‘Anglo-American’ themes?

  7. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:


    I think I should be able to correct a misapprehension here. I’ve been at pains throughout my writing on Open Theism to differentiate between the indisputable freedom of rational beings and the supposed freedom of non-human nature, but you seem not to have noticed the distinction. So if that’s clarified now, it explains why there’s no relevance to my defending Reformed concepts of human liberty here. I’m dealing with an approach to evolution, not to the human sciences.

    I will say, however, that you appear to be assuming a non-Reformed view of Reformed theology by talking about its “determinism” and “closedness”. Though people may disagree whether the Calvinist scheme is coherent, they cannot justly deny that it holds to a genuine concept of human liberty, and to living relationship with God, as my two quotations from Southern Baptist sources in the following thread demonstrate quite clearly.

    Re the Universe as a closed causal system,“I’m not sure who Jon has been reading to conclude otherwise”: that, of course, is the whole matter of this thread and, more particularly the next. I quoted van Till, the original subject of the post, and his “robust formational economy”, derived from what he takes (rightly) as the prevalent view within the natural sciences, and approved by others as I show in that thread: so that’s the simple answer to who I’ve been reading. I’ve even questioned specifically the reasoning behind some BioLogians’ acceptance of openness with regard to Biblical miracle but not to natural processes.

    It’s hard to see any justification for the insistence on methodological naturalism if the Universe is not causally closed, nor for conceptual rejection of ID’s agenda. As Polkinshorne is (seems to be) saying, the Universe could not be open to God’s activity without its leaving a mark beyond the closed causality of science.

  8. Avatar photo penman says:

    In my humble opinion Reformed theology at its best (there are endless varieties) does not deny human freedom. The Westminster Confession says “God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined, to good or evil” (ch.9 “Of Free Will” para.1).

    It also says in its chapter on Providence (ch.5) that God orders events “to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently” (para.2). It explicitly states that God “neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin” (para.4), & that “sinfulness proceedeth only from the creature & not from God” (ibid.).

    I think what Reformed theology does is place all events, including the free actions of humans, under or within the providential decree of God, without trying to explain the resulting mysteries & paradoxes. Scripture teaches the overarching sovereignty of God (“working all things according to the counsel of His own will” Eph.1:11), but it also portrays Him dealing with humans as free & responsible (exhorting them to choose, blaming them for choosing badly, etc).

    When the Uncreated & the created come into junction, I think there are bound to be incalculable mysteries, since one is dealing with incommensurables, & I doubt that logic can solve the enigmas. But I wouldn’t want EITHER to deny that all things are under God’s sovereign control (nothing can happen apart from or contrary to His purpose for His universe), OR to deny that humans are something more than programmed robots or puppets dancing on divine strings – we choose & act without coercion. The truths are revealed; the mode of their ontological harmony is not.

    C.H.Spurgeon has many statements to the above effect, but I’m not sure I can post them here – there seems to be something that deletes my quotes, & I haven’t got the time to copy out Spurgeon’s fabulous gems!

    I suppose my problem with a fair chunk of TE/EC theologizing is that it wants to give creaturely freedom a status that strips God of sovereignty, as though the Uncreated & the created were competing for the same space, with one withdrawing as the other advances. So you end up with Process Theology & Open Theism, cutting creation loose from the Creator’s purposes, & (I think) making Him just one equal player in a multi-player game, or one equal force in a conflict of multiple forces. You get God, Chance, & Free-Will all jostling with each other, & God humbly bowing out to make room for the creature. Not, I surmise, how scripture depicts matters…..

  9. Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:

    Thanks Penman – put bnetter than I could. I don’t know why you can’t paste quotes, though… sorry.

  10. Gregory says:

    Thanks Penman. Engaging with you guys always sends me reading new things or re-reading old things. Time passes quickly in the process!

    “I think what Reformed theology does is place all events, including the free actions of humans, under or within the providential decree of God, without trying to explain the resulting mysteries & paradoxes.”

    Going back to the context of the discussion, BioLogos is not giving straight answers to questions about whether or not G-d foreknew that human beings would evolve on earth (i.e. ‘if the tape were replayed’). These questions are being put to BioLogos writers (esp. Falk and Venema) by ID (or ID-friendly) people, who likewise will not say directly who the designer/Designer is because they don’t include that as an aspect of their ‘biological scientific’ theory.

    In that context, are BioLogos’ answers not within the realm of “what Reformed theology does,” i.e. placing the freedom of the created “under or within the providential decree of God” and likewise, “without trying to explain the resulting mysteries & paradoxes”? Are such questions put by IDists not trying to ‘rationalise the rainbow’ here by expecting a ‘scientific’ answer to a ‘theological’ or ‘metascientific’ question?

    Of course we all here accept the distinction between “the indisputable freedom of rational beings and the supposed freedom of non-human nature.” This is precisely the same line that ID is blurring with its appeal to ‘design’ without ‘designers’ who we know (reflexively) as having the creative freedom of designing. Does recognition of human beings as having ‘creative freedom of designing (or co-creating)’ appear to you necessarily “to give creaturely freedom a status that strips God of sovereignty,” or is that just the way TE/EC frames it, based on ‘liberal theology’?

    Is is evolutionism that seems to “cut creation loose from the Creator’s purposes” or is it a Pelagian heresy, or something else? Do you see evolution as ‘deterministic’ while creation involves free will for human beings?

    “God predestines no one to go to hell.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 1037

    ID’s conception (without the politicising and educational curriculum tug-of-wars) can be and is accepted rather than rejected…by those who already believe in a Creator (thus ID’s obvious links with ‘creationism,’ which it has unwilling to shake loose). That doesn’t mean one must join the Discovery Institute or its version of Big ID. Involving ‘transcendental designers’ in biology violates Occam’s razor. It could be a philosophical or theological add-on to biology or seen as a metascientific approach. BioLogos is disallowing the IDM to force ‘design’ as a concept into biology by wedging out the YECs (is this succeeding) and by promoting the idea that the biosphere was created by the Logos (the Supreme Player in the Logos-built game).

  11. Avatar photo penman says:

    Hi Gregory
    I do accept that BioLogos per se is not giving answers to the questions I raised. My query was about “a fair chunk of TE/EC theologizing” (to quote myself – always a wonderful thing to do), without reference to our (other) favorite website.

    Within those parameters, however, I believe my query stands. Rather too much TE/EC theologizing ends up in Process Theology or Open Theism, which are simply outside the generous boundaries of catholic orthodoxy. Where this often crops up is in the area of divine intentionality: whether God intended anatomically modern humanity to emerge, or whether He sort of just watched, waited, & then, when creation’s own divinely undirected processes threw up “a creature worthy of a soul” (to quote Ken Miller), He then intervened & bestowed a soul, ie an imago dei soul.

    I’m not one to define how God’s intentionality works – I won’t define the mechanism(s) – but the classical view of providence would insist that God positively & eternally intended that anatomically modern humanity should emerge. Watching & waiting are inappropriate metaphors here. I realize that all human speech about God is analogical, but it’s important to have the right analogies.

    So I don’t know what immanent mechanisms God employed to achieve the intended result. I think I’d merely affirm that God deliberately & knowingly chose to have a universe in which anatomically modern humanity would indeed certainly appear. There was nothing unpredictable about it to Him who knows all things & foreknows all events, “declaring the end from the beginning” (Isa.46:10).

    At that point, as you may recollect, I do postulate supernatural action, with God doing something beyond the innate capacities of created nature, viz. bestowing the divine image, which I take to be an elevation of consciousness to a new level, the plane of God-consciousness. I think the language of scripture demands this. But whether there were any “punctuated” events of supernatural activity prior to this, I don’t know. Maybe God had chosen to have a universe exist whose initial conditions & created capacities would work out to the desired end. That still keeps everything within the jurisdiction of the divine decree, because it was God who sovereignly chose those initial conditions & created capacities.

    I don’t think God predestines anyone to hell. He doesn’t need to. That’s where we’re all going anyway because of our sins. Scriptural language about predestination is soteriological – “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom.8:29). The aim of such language, in my view, is to affirm the necessity & priority of grace in salvation. In terms of catholic orthodoxy I suppose it’s spelled out in the canons of Orange, which although Western/Latin, have been affirmed by Eastern Orthodox friends of mine.

    Thanks for the ongoing discussion. This is all vital stuff.

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