Stoeger, William R.. Describing Gods Action in the World in Light of Scientific Knowledge of Reality.
The approach to divine
action taken by William Stoeger is to accept with critical seriousness our
present and projected knowledge of reality from the sciences, philosophy and
other disciplines, including theology which has already developed in response
to the sciences. By critical seriousness, Stoeger means that this knowledge,
though critically assessed by the disciplines themselves, by philosophy and by
the other human sciences, does indeed indicate something about the realities it
talks about. Stoeger then integrates these results into a roughly sketched
theory of Gods action. Implicit here is the methodological problem of how the
languages of science and theology are to be integrated.
Next Stoeger employs a
philosophical presupposition which he calls a weakly critical realist stance.
Included are elements of Aristotelianism and Thomism, particularly the notions
of primary and secondary causality. These seem to him more adequate to both the
scientific and the theological data. They also lead to fewer difficulties in
explicating the essential differences between God and Gods cre ation, the
relationships between them, and the ideas of divine immanence and
transcendence. Stoeger uses the term law in the context of both physical
processes and free human actions to mean any pattern, regularity, process, or
relationship, and its description. Law is thus used to describe or explain
order. It does not necessarily imply determinism.
Stoeger concludes this
section by saying that there are aspects of divine action which we are able to
understand better by letting science and theology critically interact. There
are other aspects which seem thoroughly resistant to our understanding,
particularly the nexus between God and the secondary causes through which God
acts, or between God and the direct effects of divine action, such as creatio ex nihilo. The analog of human
agency is of some limited help here. However, the principal barrier is that we
could only know the critical nexus if we ourselves were divine, or if God
revealed such knowledge to us.
Turning to the problem of Gods
action, Stoeger argues that if God acts through secondary causes it would seem
to require the injection of information, and therefore energy, from outside the
physical system. Though we cannot rule out such injections, they have never
been observed and are unattractive from many points of view. Some scholars try
to evade this problem by allowing God to influence events at the quantum level.
Stoeger admits that this is a solution, and may in fact be the case, but he
finds it unattractive. Gods working through secondary causes is almost always
a function of Gods invitation, or response, to persons. To locate such divine
action at the quantum level removes it from the level of the personal. It is
also unclear whether its intended effects can surface at the level of the
complex and the personal.
Stoeger provides no answer
to this issue, but he believes that the framework he has established may move
us in the right direction. Either there is some injection of information and
energy at the level of personal relationships, or God works within what is
already given to make the recipient more receptive to what is available.
Stoeger prefers the latter, though something of the former may be involved as
well. The difficulty with higher regularities subsuming those at the
lower-level is that we usually experience the lower level laws as constraining
what can be done on a higher level while not being supplanted by them.
Nevertheless there is a great deal left under determined by the lower-level
constraints within which agents, including God, can function.
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