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"Rational Scientific Theories from Theism"

 

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30.4 Divine immanence

Theism has always maintained that the universe does not exist in its own right, but is sustained (every moment of every day) by the continuing power of God. The question is: does God do this ‘at a distance’, or is the divine more closely involved in the universe and even present (immanent) within it? We would like to compare this ‘general Divine action’ with the less frequent ‘special divine action’ that occurs when God acts specifically in the world in a manner not consistent with its regular behavior. Religions have always insisted on the possibility of special divine action, Saunders (2002) reminds us, as only in this way do divine revelation, incarnation or intercession become possible. If special divine action is at any time possible, what does that mean for the ‘sanctity’ of natural laws?

One common argument follows Leibniz30.4, who claimed to Clarke that “if God had to remedy the defects of His creation, this was surely to demean his craftsmanship”, and that “when God works miracles, he does it not to meet the needs of nature but the needs of grace."30.5This argument has often been used to support Darwinian evolution when talking to the religious: it must have been possible to arrange the details of evolution in advance.

The response to Leibniz is to remember that all human life, whether moral, rational or spiritual, must in fact come from the grace of God. We have to insist, with Aristotle, that action (grace, in this case) comes about only from power and presence. This means that all human life depends on the (closer or further) presence of God. Since God must be constantly making changes to the spiritual and mental worlds, the physical world must also be frequently affected by God’ actions. Leibniz’s mistake is to think that material creation is the only objective of God’s actions in the world. It is not. The natural laws of the physical world are only approximate and valid subject to ceterus paribus (other things being equal). When God is present, other things are not equal.

God is therefore immanent everywhere in creation and especially active where there are mental beings. This implies that there is no strict distinction between general divine action and special divine action. The laws of nature were never strictly and uniformly adhered to in the first place. The only laws that are strictly followed are the multilevel generative laws, which is why theistic science concerns itself with knowledge of them.


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