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Science and Divine Action

We introduce the question of how God might be thought to act in the world science describes by considering how the great Newton would have thought of God’s action. After An Introduction to Divine Action: Isaac Newton’s God we show how this thinking could lead to a God of the gaps model.

Crucial to many modern attempts to discuss providence is a sense that God works with the interplay between law and chance. We list different types of attempt in A classification of theories of divine action. This leads to a discussion of ‘the causal joint’ - how precisely do God’s purposes intersect with the causal chains we recognise from the world of science?

In order to look deeper into the issues raised by some of the most promising models we next consider Peacocke and Polkinghorne compared. Part of the comparison concerns the question of miracle and the all-important issue for Christians of the resurrection of Jesus.

Resources: Of the voluminous literature on the subject we particularly recommend Keith Ward’s 1990 study Divine Action.London: Collins, 1990. Ward sets out a contemporary philosophical base from which to explore the subject. An interesting exercise is to compare Ward’s 1990 position with his more process-influenced...The exploration has been taken forward by four collections of essays deriving from the Vatican Observatory Conferences of 1991, 1993, 1995, and 1997, edited by R.J.Russell with others, published by the Vatican State Observatory, and entitled Quantum Cosmology and the Laws of Nature (1993), Chaos and Complexity (1995) and Evolution and Molecular Biology (1999), and Neuroscience and the Human Person,The volume on Neuroscience is not yet published (Nov 1999). Evolution and Molecular Biology and Neuroscience and the Human Person are both co-published by the Vatican State Observatory and CTNS at Berkeley,...each with the sub-title Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action. The first of these is especially important for its discussion of God and the early universe, the second for its engagement with questions of providence. The third contains among other things a valuable updating of Arthur Peacocke’s position.We thank Drs Peacocke and Russell for sight of pre-publication versions of their contributions.

For reasons of space we confine this discussion to the Christian tradition, but the reader is invited to reflect on the shape the discussion of divine action might have taken in respect of other religions.On some recent thinking on the Hebrew doctrine of God see Ward, Religion and Creation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996:3-36. On Islam and science see God, Humanity and the Cosmos, Ch.9. On the contributions...

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos  (T&T Clark, 1999)

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