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Body-of-God Theories of Divine Action

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?

The use of the image of the world-as-the-body-of-GodSee God, Humanity and the Cosmos, pp214-16is the one which makes strongest use of the analogy of human action, as mental beings on physical bodies. But immediately it runs into problems. One is that we still understand so little about how human agency works. What we do know is that in the case of human action, descriptions in terms of the mental, the intentional, are grounded in the physical. The human ‘intender’ is not an autonomous entity existing independently of nerves and muscles; it is a body containing a brain. And as soon as we ground God in the physical world by making that world God’s body we run into problems. John Polkinghorne points out that pressing this analogy either places God too much in thrall to the world (unable to act autonomously because God is dependent on the inputs from God’s body, as human action is) or the world too much in thrall to God (humans could no more act freely than an organ of the body can).Polkinghorne, J, Science and Providence, (London: SPCK, 1989) pp18-21 - see also God, Humanity and the Cosmos, p215-16. The difficulty is illustrated by the fact that Sallie McFague, one of the most eloquent... So this model cannot locate the causal joint except by risking other very substantial theological problems.

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

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