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A Classification of Theories of Divine Action

We give a brief summary of each theory.Working from Tracy, T, ‘Particular Providence and the God of the Gaps’ in Chaos and Complexity: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, ed. by R.J.Russell, Nancey Murphy and Arthur Peacocke...The best way to compare them 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?

i) sceptical naturalism - Willem B Drees has surveyed the field with characteristic insight,Drees, WB, Religion, Science and Naturalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) pp93-106but is reluctant to speak of particular divine action because this might seem to undermine the adequacy of naturalistic explanations, to which he is committed. For different reasons Bultmann and his school also insisted on the adequacy of the scientific description of events,See God, Humanity and the Cosmos pp54-56as do non-realist theologians such as Don Cupitt. Drees’ view of the causal-joint question would be that to search for an extra ingredient at a causal joint is to neglect the self-sufficiency of naturalistic accounts, one of the premises he sets out so clearly at the beginning of Religion, Science and Naturalism.Drees, 1996, 12-21

ii) general providential action without particular gaps in the causal order - espoused by Gordon Kaufman in his God the Problem (1972)Kaufman, G, God the Problem (Cambridge, Ma: Harvard University Press, 1972)and even more radically by Maurice Wiles in God’s Action in the World (1986).Wiles, M, God’s Action in the World (London: SCM Press, 1986)Kaufman and Wiles both reject descriptions of divine action as particular to individual situations. God’s relation is to the-world-as-a-whole, and history-as-a-whole, the relation of creating and sustaining the cosmos from moment to moment. There is no particular causal joint, only the overall creator-creature relation. As Tracy points out, this is essentially to subsume providence into creation, and pays a heavy theological price in so doing.Tracy, T, 1995, 301-04

iii) particular providential action without gaps in the causal order - in different ways this is proposed by

iv) particular providential action employing particular gaps in the causal order. Again there are three camps here

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

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