God’s interventions?


(sy_garte) #1

Does God intervene in the evolutionary process? If so how? Those questions have been raised repeatedly on this forum. Here and elsewhere a much more frequent question is related to theodicy: How can God allow suffering and evil to exist? And finally, another common question: Does God answer prayer?

I wonder if these issues are closely related and have the same answer. The alternative answers to all are: 1. There is no God, so there is no intervention. 2. God set everything up at the beginning, and is long gone (deism), so there is no intervention. 3. God is ever present and intervenes when His purposes require it. The nature of His purposes, and the exact mechanisms of His intervention are, and will always be mysterious, although it might be possible to catch a glimpse of some of them, as pointers. 4. God continuously intervenes in all ways, but again the reasons and ways that He acts are beyond our possible comprehension.

I tend toward #3, but my real question is, do you agree that all of these questions do in fact have the same answer or is it likely that for example, answer #2 is correct for evolution (and for other laws of nature) while #3 is true for answering prayers?

My own bias is that whatever the answer is for any of these, it should be the same for all. By this logic, if its true that God answers prayers, then God does intervene (in the same mysterious way) in the evolutionary process. I don’t think this is a widespread view among TE/ECs, (including many at Biologos) but I am interested to see what others think.


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(Albert Leo) #2

Sy, most Christians have, at one time or another, wondered if God had subtly influenced their lives in favorable fashion. Separating a subtle divine action from mere coincidence is difficult if not impossible, and an atheist would claim it depends on the person’s gullibility factor’. I must have been born with a ‘high gullibility threshold’ and have adopted Missouri’s motto: “Show Me!”. That God should take enough interest In my life that He would intervene favorably–impossible! And yet on several occasions, I had this nagging feeling that He did. Or, as I was taught as a kid, He sent one of His angels to do so.

One very important instance, which most folks would chalk up to coincidence, involved an invitation my daughter and her husband had from a close friend who needed more night flying hours to maintain his license, and he was flying from southern California to Reno. My daughter’s best friend had just moved to Reno, it was a gorgeous night for flying, and my wife and I could baby sit their three kids. My son-in-law Steve, had a sales meeting that he could easily have missed, but he decided not to. And my daughter wouldn’t go without him. On the trip north, Dave, the pilot tried to switch to the auxiliary gas tank while flying over Yosemite, but the switch jammed. The light plane crashed into a tall pine tree near Tuolumne and burned. Dave was killed, and the front seat passenger jumped some 30 ft. to the ground badly burned. Any passengers in the back would have had no chance.

So what made Steve decide not to miss the meeting? He wasn’t known to be that enthusiastic an employee, and he really wanted to go on that scenic flight. Was it pure coincidence that my three grandkids were not left orphans? Perhaps, and yet………

I experienced another incidence of God’s mysterious interventions (less dramatic but with greater implications for Christian belief) for which I can reasonably calculate the odds that it could NOT have been coincidental. They would have been >50,000,000 to 1 against–and three other skeptical scientist besides myself were witnesses. But I have used up enough space to relate it here.

Yes, Sy, even as a ‘Show Me Skeptic’ I have very good reasons for believing that #3 occurs. How much in evolutionary processes? I don’t know. But in each of our daily lives, yes, and that is more important.
Al Leo


(sy_garte) #3

Thanks Al. I do agree with you, and have had many similar experiences, including the time my broker decided to change the place of our meeting from his office in the World Trade Center to his club on East 35 St. So on that September Tuesday, I did not go to the top of the Tower, and die, but saw the horror from a much safer distance.

I think many will agree that sometimes the Lord intervenes in our lives, and sometimes He doesnt. (On that same Tuesday, He didnt intervene in the lives of 3000 others). What I wonder is if the same principle holds true in the history of life on Earth. Did He nudge the asteroid just a bit, in order to get a whole new kind of animal going? Did he shoot a cosmic ray (or something) at the PAXP2 gene in an early hominin so that we could start speaking to each other? We know He did little to prevent the flourishing of deadly parasites, ebola virus or bubonic plague. Is there a general theological principle here?


(GJDS) #4

@Sy_Garte

My outlook commences with - just what is it that we are stating as a question and what is the motivation for this? If we ask, does God intervene, is this grounded in examining attributes of God, or perhaps the meaning of scripture? Or are we looking for a way to support our ideology, be it evolution, or some other source of conflict?

So my response to your post would commence with articulating what is revealed to us regarding God that would be relevant to your question. Generally, most of your post would aim at “God as the Creator”. On this basis, I cannot believe that this can be reduced to God as the laboratory assistant, who can do things we cannot do, or understand. I would rather consider what the act of creation entails for a Christian, and from this conclude that the Creation is brought into being, and is sustained, by the power of God’s Word. In that sense, the entire creation from beginning to its ultimate end has been, and is, and will be, as God had determined before its beginning. The sustaining can be understood as the “energies of God” as the active principle that ensures the creation is and will be. Science therefore provides details that are consistent and in harmony with this. The mystery is more to do with the human intellect having the capacity to comprehend the revelation of God’s attribute as Creator, and yet unable to understand it within human activities (such as science).

On other matters, the Gospel shows many times that Christ intervened by healing people, but in most cases, these acts were done because Christ could see their faith - this is stated clearly (your faith has healed you, and go and give thanks to God and obey the teachings of Moses by visiting the Temple, and so on). Finally events are also given in the Gospels which show some were done to glorify God, and this also was to strengthen the disciples faith.

At no point can I find a detailed discussion in the Bible that would describe a methodology of intervention by God. So as a brief answer, I think the creation continues as God intended it from before its beginning. Acts that show the hand of God in people’s lives are related to faith, and means by which those called by God may have their faith strengthened - ultimately to glorify God the Creator who is also our Redeemer. But is all cases, it is for our good. The evolutionary process (whatever it may mean to us) is subsumed as part of the creation - when we obtain a better understanding of the Creative process sustained by God, we will also obtain a better understanding of any discipline of science that interests us.


(sy_garte) #5

GJDS

When I posted this, I wasnt sure I would find an answer to my question. Thank you, and may the Lord bless you for your answer, which I find to be perfect. This is one reason I love this site. While we do often have disagreements or at least intense discussions, I have found so much to learn from my fellow participants. I will study your answer some more, and may come back with some questions. Blessings.


(sy_garte) #6

I have noticed that when God came to walk among us as a man, He did not instruct is in scientific matters, nor did He spend much time explaining how the world functions, or exactly how it and life were created. He seems to have left this for us to deal with. Instead He told us how to act toward each other, how to pray, how faith can guide us and heal us. Christ was not a scientist, and He focused on human affairs and the life of the soul. I agree that all of that is an important clue for God’s role in nature.


#7

Does that make sense? To burn and starve non-avian dinosaurs (and other creatures) to death, simply because he doesn’t have the foresight to not create them in the first place?


(George Brooks) #8

Dear Beagle Lady,

I don’t see how you can call into question THIS particular conundrum …
while ignoring the thousands of conundrums of equal weight we find in virtually
all God-centered theologies.

Virtually all God-centered systems have theodicy issues.

George Brooks


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #9

@beaglelady

You seem to misunderstand how evolution works. The dinosaurs did not burn or starve to death. They just faded away naturally like other species, whose time has come and gone. Our hominid ancestors have come and gone after they formed a bridge necessary for our existence. The same for the dinosaurs. God does things for a purpose.


#10

True, but not like this one. And the Bible doesn’t teach that God chucked an asteroid at our planet, anyway. At any rate, hopefully NASA will be able to defend us against the next catastrophic asteroid strike, whether or not it’s from God. Remember the one that hit Russia a while ago? Do you think that God sent it?


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #11

Christ was not a scientist, but Christ the Logos is the basis of all Science, John 1:1.

I do not see how the fact that God answers prayers effects evolution. For one thing we are taught to pray in the Name of Jesus. While many seem to think that this is a magic phrase that guarantees that God will give us what we want, it is not. What it means is that if our prayer is in accordance with God’s Will please grant it. If it is not then do not.

God gives us what we need and not always what we want. We need to ask God for what we need to serve God and to help others. We should not expect God to change God plans and the laws of nature just because we want something.

We live and act within the framework of the laws of nature and the environment that God created for us. These are good even though they might get in the way of what we want. We might want to live forever and want others to live forever, but we don’t. We might want not to make silly mistakes and others not to make silly mistakes, but we do.

God through prayer helps us to do right and find forgiveness when we don’t do right. Prayer helps us to be human, which means to make mistakes and not have our way. We need to seek God’s way, which is not the easy way, and not ours.


(George Brooks) #12

No… the Bible doesn’t teach God using Asteroids… the Bible teaches that STARS take sides in wars though!
Jdg 5:20
"They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera."

But to answer your question, I think the meteor hit in Russia WAS part of God’s plan. Virtually ANY
Theistic Evolutionist is going to think that the extinction of dinosaurs was part of God’s plan.

How could you support Theistic Evolution and think the dinosaurs extinction was accidental?

George


#13

Oh my goodness! How many have you asked?


(George Brooks) #14

LoL… Tell me this . . . how can a person support Theistic Evolution - - that God is involved in the
evolution of humans… and yet NOT believe that God would have created humanity in the
killing zones of predatory dinosaurs?

George Brooks


(George Brooks) #15

Meteors happen.
Temperatures change.
Species used for food become over harvested and there is no more food.
Waters rise, destroying ecological niches.
Waters fall, destroying ecological niches.

As long as a person thinks God uses evolution to create humans, it’s all (to some degree)
part of God’s intervention.

George Brooks


#16

Aren’t we stuck in a hostile environment anyway?


(James Hiddle) #17

What about Wormwood in Revelation?


(George Brooks) #18

James, I think I was half kidding when I said the God didn’t mention asteroids in connection with
evolution.

Obvioiusly God DOES use celestial objects:

"No… the Bible doesn’t teach God using Asteroids… the Bible teaches that STARS take sides in wars though!
Jdg 5:20 “They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.”

George


(Jon Garvey) #19

Sy

I see GJDS’s excellent and comprehensive reply below, and thoroughly endorse it. But your personal WTC example seems to be instructive.

Let me commence by saying that even in the UK I had patients who lost relatives and colleagues in the twin towers disaster - and my daughter was in NY and thinking of visiting the WTC that day, and I spent fruitless hours trying to reach her by phone, so it’s no more academic for me than you.

To say that it was God’s providence that changed your plans that day is theologically fine: it can be seen both as a sign for you and others of his love and individual care, and as an indication that he intended you for other business in the kingdom.

But to put it in terms of “intervention” or “non-intervention” raises all those theodicy questions in a crude way: what’s so special about you, one might say, that matters to God more than those who perished? Was his eye off the ball for the others?

Well, if well-being is the only legitimate outcome of his wise providence, those are serious questions. But it wasn’t for Jesus, and he said it wouldn’t be for us. The first century Church taught its people, with the ever-present risk of persecution unto death, “Receive as blessings the troubles that come unto you, knowing that without God nothing happens.” Death can be a testimony, too.

And so for those believers who undoubtedly must have perished in the twin towers, and who have preceded us to glory. God’s providence can’t have been looking the other way, but moving in a more mysterious way. The New Testament doesn’t promise survival, but it does promise God’s constant care.

As for considering whether divine providence requires occasional intervention of continuous involvement (whether in daily life or in nature), it’s worth asking what God did to change your meeting? Did he give your broker a premonition of doom? (Presumably not, or he’d have told you). Did he “interfere” with the broker’s “free will” by nudging it? (That’s supposed to be against the rules, even to save his life). Any other ideas? If he’d cancelled because of a viral infection, it would have been through naughty bits of nature that your life was saved - would that have been any less cause for gratitude?

It seems to me that the only intervention was by your broker (changing the plans) - God just got on with governing the world towards his ends (including one specific and personally life-saving one for you and your meeting), through all the processes of the world including some human choices.

Evolution is said to be a short-term “planner”. Do we believe God to be just as myopic, or does he create with long-term purposes in view? How many long term goals is he likely to achieve from the beginning of all things, if he either ignores everything in between, or else tries to get things back on course by occasional tinkering? I don’t see why his character and his way of acting should be any different in the human and natural realms, if only because there’s no sharp disctinction between the two.


#20

STAR WARS? Every heard of figures of speech, metaphors, similes, etc. ?