The best way to compare theories of divine
action in detail is to ask - what, for each theory, is the causal joint at
which God - as a transcendent, immaterial world cause - interacts particularly
with causative factors in the material world?
John Polkinghorne is the
scientist-theologian who has made the boldest attempt to characterise Gods
interaction with the world science describes the causal joint at which God
might interact with the world. In Science
and Providence (1989)Polkinghorne seemed not only to locate
the causal joint of particular divine action but also to suggest a means by which God might effect such
action. His account of providential action included not only such classic
instances in the Christian tradition as the virginal conception and
empty-tomb-raising of Jesus, but even the validity of prayer for rain.
The key scientific observation for
Polkinghorne is that non-linear systems of the sort that exhibit chaos are
exquisitely sensitive to the conditions in which they develop, and hence their
development very rapidly becomes unpredictable.That much is generally accepted. But Polkinghorne has gone further and proposed
that these large-scale systems are ontologically indeterminate, not only unpredictable
in terms of our knowledge but genuinely open to the future,and that God can therefore influence each one of them by an input of active
information (without energy input, which could be detectable). God respects
the regularities of the physical laws God has created and holds in being, but
nevertheless has freedom to work through these indeterminacies.
Polkinghorne also embraces dual-aspect
monism - the same world being seen as having both physical and mental or
spiritual attributes - and he has written of a noetic world- that aspect of existence to which
complex mental organisation gives access. Though he derives the term noetic
from the Greek word for mind he makes it clear that he thinks of this world
in very broad terms - others would prefer the term spiritual. There may be
non-material inhabitants of this world, not merely the truths of mathematics,
but also active intelligences ... which traditionally we would call angels.
This thought-aspect of the cosmos might be
the medium by which Gods information enters physical systems. This would be
consonant with the notion that it is to human minds, the material structure
with the greatest noetic aspect, that God is able to make his most sensitive
and articulate self-communication.
link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr.
Source: God, Humanity and the
Cosmos (T&T Clark, 1999)