Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How does God act in the world?

Last week I heard a nice talk by Robert Brennan, "Divine Agency in the world: Motivator and Achilles' heel of the relationship between Theology and Science."

A few of the things I learnt from this fascinating talk include:

As late as the seventeenth century, discussions of God's action in the world were shaped by notions of inspiration, divine perfection, and God's two books of revelation (nature and Scripture). These notions were all discussed with reference to the Trinity and Christology.
However, in modernity these three notions are discussed without reference to the Trinity and Christology. [Robert considers this problematic].

Late medieval notions of divine perfection (derived from Greek philosophy?) shaped many theological discussions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. For example, William Paley "asserted that harmonious design in nature was a proof of the Christian faith." Rejection of Paley's argument was influential in Darwin's rationalisation of his own rejection of Christianity following the death of his daughter. Darwin had practically memorised Paley while a divinity student at Cambridge.

Rejection of this notion of "perfection" in nature led to 19th century questioning of God's action in the world.

Newton's notions of divine agency in the material world were shaped by Augustinian notion of divine agency in human's, particularly with regard to inspiration.

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