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Peters Against the Process Theologians: Did God Really Create the Cosmos?

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June 12, 2014 Tags: Biblical Interpretation, Earth, Universe & Time, Science as Christian Calling
Peters Against the Process Theologians: Did God Really Create the Cosmos?

Today's entry was written by Ted Davis. You can read more about what we believe here.

I first met Ian Barbour at that same conference in California where I also met Langdon Gilkey. Unfortunately I never saw Gilkey again, but I had several other conversations with Barbour. A soft-spoken, genuinely humble person who was invariably gracious and intellectually honest, he did far more than anyone else to create the academic field of “science and religion,” for which he took flak from all sides. For that alone I owe him a considerable debt.

Back in the 1980s, when Ted Peters wrote the article I am presenting in this series, the late Ian Barbour was the dominant voice in the ongoing conversation about God and creation. Undoubtedly the greatest scholar of science and religion of his generation, Barbour threw his considerable intellectual weight behind process theism—a complex, highly abstract conception of God favored at the time by many advocates of Theistic Evolution.

Based ultimately on the ideas of the British mathematician-philosopher Alfred North Whitehead and the American theologian Charles Hartshorne, process theology is not easily and fairly explained in a few words. A further complication: it is not identical with panentheism, another non-traditional understanding of God mentioned by Peters, but there are common elements and some thinkers have explored both views in parallel. This isn’t the place to delve into this more fully; readers who want more should consult the links I’ve just provided. For my purposes, it suffices to say that process theists usually see creatio continua as entirely supplanting creatio ex nihilo, because the latter requires divine omnipotence and the process God just isn’t in the miracle business.

Photo of books: Principia Mathmatica volumes 1-3, Whitehead and Russel (Cambridge)
Prior to his becoming a philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead was known for Principia Mathematica, a great work in the logical foundations of mathematics that he wrote shortly before World War One with his former student Bertrand Russell, an outspoken atheist. After his youngest son was killed in the war, Whitehead turned increasingly to metaphysics, establishing a worldwide reputation almost right away, such that in 1924 he accepted an offer to move from Cambridge to Harvard as a professor of philosophy. His work on process philosophy, which others developed into process theism, dates from his time at Harvard.

Like most process theists, Barbour had a low view of both divine transcendence and creatio ex nihilo, and he felt that process theology was actually more in step with modern science than traditional theism. Nevertheless, he recognized some of the dangers inherent in rejecting a robust view of divine transcendence. For example, he quite accurately criticized the Protestant modernists, because they “emphasized God’s immanence, often to the virtual exclusion of transcendence, and in some cases God was viewed as a force within a cosmic process that was itself divine” (Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues, p. 74). Whether Barbour fell into that trap himself is a debatable proposition that I won’t take up now.

My own view is that Christian theology is done on a wide and fertile plateau bounded by steep cliffs. If one loses sight of divine transcendence (best expressed by an affirmation of creatio ex nihilo), one can easily fall off the plateau into some form of pantheism—the error that Peters wrote about in an earlier excerpt. At the same time, if one loses sight of divine immanence (underscored by an affirmation of creatio continua), one can easily fall into some form of deism. We need both transcendence and immanence—both the transcendent God of Genesis chapter one and the immanent God of chapters two and three. In other words, a proper doctrine of creation has both a “then-ness” and a “now-ness,” if I may put it that way.

Ted Peters would fully agree with what I just said, as today’s excerpt reveals. Here he explores theological aspects of the debate between these two ways of understanding divine creation, further defending his view (stated in the previous excerpt) that “these two concepts are complementary and that we need not substitute one for the other.”

The Theological Debate: Creation out of Nothing vs. Continuing Creation

Even though [Fred] Hoyle has assumed the relevance of a singular beginning for Christian theology, not all Christian theologians see it this way. Process theologians of the Whiteheadian school, for example, reject what they call the “classical theism” of the apologists and, among other things, the idea of a beginning. Schubert Ogden, for example, advocates a Hartshornian version of panentheism according to which God is internally related to the world. God participates in the world’s ongoing creative advance, though God did not bring the world into existence at a beginning in finite time. Ogden believes that, within this framework, he can uphold the notion of the world’s dependence upon God and, thereby, not violate the intention of the creatio ex nihilo doctrine. [Peters cites Ogden, The Reality of God and Other Essays, pp. 62f and 213.]

John Cobb and David Griffin, however, go further than Ogden. “Process theology rejects the notion of creatio ex nihilo,” they write. [Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition, p. 65.] By this they intend to reject not only a temporal beginning but also the notion of the utter dependence of the world upon God. Rather than the position of Theophilus and Irenaeus [see part 3], they say they prefer Plato’s notion of making order out of chaos. According to process theology, the term “creation” refers to the ongoing movement of the cosmos and not to something which initiated that movement in the beginning.

Because he deals with the scientific issues directly, the earlier work of Ian Barbour provides us with a better example of a theological position which downplays creation from nothing in favor of continuing creation. In the 1960s Barbour held that there are no strictly theological grounds for favoring either Big Bang or steady state theories. Both theories are capable of either a naturalistic or a theistic interpretation. Both theories push explanation back to an unexplained situation which is necessarily treated as a given—the primeval singularity which exploded in the case of the Big Bang or the constant creation of matter in the case of Hoyle’s steady state. Neither theory asks about the pretemporal or eternal ground or framework for the natural events which occur within the stream of time. So, Barbour concluded, “We will suggest that the Christian need not favor either theory, for the doctrine of creation is not really about temporal beginnings but about the basic relationship between the world and God. The religious content of the idea of creation is compatible with either theory, and the debate between them can be settled only on scientific grounds, when further data are available.” [Peters quotes Barbour’s seminal book from 1966, Issues in Science and Religion, p. 368, adding in a footnote, “Since this book was written, decisive evidence in favor of the Big Bang has come in. Barbour is much more willing now to favor this theory, but his motive is clearly scientific,” rather than theological.]

Now we might pause to ask: could this be an example of two-language segregation, according to which science is science and religion is religion and each is consigned to its independent domain? [Peters adds an important footnote: “Even though we cited Barbour above as best representing the position of hypothetical consonance advocated as the method for this paper, at this point one wonders if Barbour himself sinks back into the two language theory.”] Barbour’s position (at least until recently) has been that theologians have no particular investment in the winner of the debate between absolute beginning and continuous creation. Yet, should we not ask: why not both?

Barbour has said he does not want both. He wants only creatio continua. Why? He says creatio continua, not creatio ex nihilo, is the biblical view. He quotes Old Testament scholar Edmund Jacob (http://www.protestants.org/index.php?id=1456), who wrote that the meager “distinction between the creation and the conservation of the world … make it possible for us to speak of a creatio continua.” [Peters takes this quotation from Barbour, Issues in Science and Religion, p. 384, in turn citing Theology of the Old Testament, p. 139.] But, on the basis of this, to make us choose between creation from nothing and continuing creation is, I believe, unwarranted. That the formulation creatio ex nihilo is itself post-biblical we have already granted. Yet, this should not lead us to deny that it has biblical roots. Ex nihilo is the result of evangelical explication, according to which the implications inherent in the compact experience of salvation witnessed to in scripture were drawn out by the apologists of the early church. Even if there are only a few references to ex nihilo in the Bible itself evangelical explication ought to count for something. To say that ex nihilo is not a biblical concept is exaggerated.

What Barbour actually advocates is a synthesis of creation and providence in the concept of continuing creation. This does not mean that he abandons the Christian commitment to the notion that the world is dependent upon God. What we have to give up, he says, is the idea of “creatio ex nihilo as an initial act of absolute origination, but God’s priority in status can be maintained apart from priority in time.” [Issues in Science and Religion, p. 458.] What Barbour has done here is virtually equate ex nihilo with initial beginning, discard the idea of initial beginning, and thereby discard ex nihilo.

Photo: Headshot of Arthur Peacocke
The late Arthur Peacocke, a biochemist and theologian, former director of the Ian Ramsay Centre for Science and Religion at Oxford, was a leading proponent of panentheism, the idea that everything exists within God. In my opinion, however, the most important aspect of his work was vigorous opposition to reductionism, the idea that living things are ultimately nothing but complex chemical (or physical) systems. As he wrote in Science and the Christian Experiment (1973), “The realisation that our minds can find the world intelligible, and the implications this has that an explanation for the world process is to be found in mental rather than purely material categories, has been for many scientists who are theists, including the present writer, an essential turning point in their thinking. That it does so points strongly to a principle of rationality, to an interpretation of the cosmos on terms of mind as its most significant feature.”

Arthur Peacocke comes close to the Barbour position here; but, whereas Barbour nearly eliminates ex nihilo, Peacocke keeps it. Peacocke believes that the essence of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo is this: the creation owes its existence to God. Once this is affirmed, however, it makes no difference as to whether the cosmos began or not. He says that, scientifically, “we may, or may not, be able to infer that there was a point (the hot big bang) in space-time when the universe, as we can observe it, began ... But, whatever we eventually do infer, the central characteristic core of the doctrine of creation itself would not be affected, since that concerns the relationship of all the created order, including time itself, to their Creator—their Sustainer and Preserver.” [Peacocke, Creation and the World of Science, p. 79.] Note that Peacocke does not dismiss creatio ex nihilo per se. He keeps it. But he removes from its stipulated definition any commitment to a point of origin. He then goes on to commit himself to a doctrine of creatio continua following an evolutionary model, according to which nature consists of a process producing new emergent forms of matter.

Both Barbour and Peacocke reject the relevance of an initial origin. Both affirm the dependence of the creation upon God its creator. Both advocate creatio continua. Yet there is a slight difference. Whereas Barbour nearly gives up on ex nihilo, Peacocke affirms it.

Why are we so quick to give up the idea of an initial origin? Or, to put it more precisely, why does a temporal beginning seem to be so expendable when explicating our theological concept of creation out of nothing? To reduce creatio ex nihilo to a vague commitment about the dependence of the world upon God—though accurate—does not help very much. It simply moves the matter to a higher level of abstraction. We still need to ask: just what does it mean for the world to owe its existence to God? One sensible answer is this: had God not acted to bring the spacetime world into existence, there would be only nothing.

Furthermore, it makes sense to talk about the temporal point of origin. The assertion that the cosmos is utterly dependent upon God is familiar to theologians, but such an assertion lies outside the domain of scientific discourse. The idea of an initial origin, however, does lie within the scientific domain. The point I am making here is this: for theologians to raise again the prospects of creatio ex nihilo understood in terms of a beginning to time and space is to be consonant with discussions already taking place within scientific cosmology. We have an opportunity here to bridge the gap between disciplines.

Nevertheless, this opportunity seems to be ignored. Most theologians in our own period are inclined to invest their energies in creatio continua, while either rejecting or at least sidetracking creatio ex nihilo. Theologians seem to assume that the idea of continuing creation has the greater scientific credibility. But, it is not clear yet just what continuing creation could mean for a theologian. Could it mean what Fred Hoyle means by it? Hardly. We will now explore the meaning of the phrase “continuing creation,” and we will do so by first asking about the relationship between creation and change.

Looking Ahead

Next time, as a way of distinguishing creation from change, Peters defends Thomas Aquinas’ notion of creation against criticisms raised by Langdon Gilkey—yet one more example of Peters’ orthodox theological understanding of modern science.

References and Credits

Excerpts from Ted Peters, “On Creating the Cosmos,” in Physics, Philosophy and Theology: A Common Quest for Understanding (1988), ed. Robert John Russell, William R. Stoeger, S.J., and George V. Coyne, S.J., copyright Vatican Observatory Foundation, are reproduced by kind permission of Ted Peters and Vatican Observatory Foundation. We gratefully acknowledge their cooperation in bringing this material to our readers.

Editorial Policy

Most of the editing for these excerpts from Ted Peters involves removing the odd sentence or two, or in some cases entire paragraphs—which I indicate by putting [SNIP] or an ellipsis at the appropriate point(s). I also insert annotations where warranted [enclosed in square brackets] to provide background information, often citing information from Peters’ own footnotes when it’s important for our readers.

Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

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Gregory - #85709

June 11th 2014

“it makes sense to talk about the temporal point of origin.”

Yes, I agree with Peters.

It also makes sense to do the same in the context of theological anthropology/palaeontology, if not simply biological (naturalistic) anthropology. Likewise, Peters distinguishes in this thread “either a naturalistic or a theistic interpretation.”

“Yet, should we not ask: why not both?”

That and this thread generally might get Jon Garvey’s ‘bugbear’ on edge, but let’s see where it goes.

I’m in airport on the way back home from a conference on theology and mathematics. Their biggest questions were about infinity/finitude and Plato’s role in the discourse. Another Templetonian was there.

Whitehead was on my slides for question period, but time didn’t permit and they already know him well. His ‘process inversion,’ however, was discussed over meals.

“[Barbour] felt that process theology was actually more in step with modern science than traditional theism.”

Perhaps modern ‘evolutionary’ science, to be specific. But other features of ‘modern’ and even moreso ‘postmodern’ science require talk of origins, just as much as processes. Surely with that Peters would also agree (even if he doesn’t acknowledge himself as a ‘postmodernist’ either by era or approach).

Jon Garvey - #85713

June 12th 2014

I respond at this point only because you mention my name and my bugbear, Gregory! And my point would be, “If not process theology, as Peters and I know Ted and most BioLogians would assert, then what kind of creatio continua is in mind, especially with reference to evolution?”

That question has relevance for one of your bugbears, ie an historic Adam and human exceptionalism: the dependance of creation on God in that sense has to be that of God as the sole source of novelty by his wisdom and power, as in the Christian tradition hitherto. Immortal souls do not make themselves, or even co-operate in making themselves. Their creation as rational creatures itself endows them with a will, which for the first time in the material creation enables words like “co-operation” to haveany real meaning, as also their opposites like “sin”.

But in the context of biological evolution, freedom, autonomy, spontaneity, even radical contingency (that is, contingent to God as well as to material things) all make some sense understood as process theology. God evolves with the universe, which is panpsychic.

But it seems to me that the thing falls apart once process thought is jettisoned (as by Ted Peters) and orthodox Christian creation doctrine replaces it, in which matter is not participating in mind (or will) and God is not part of the evolutionary uber-truth. The First Cause of all things, including evolution, cannot also become an effect of it. Symphonies do not compose composers, nor cars drive people.

Yet (bugbear surfaces) it seems that the “democratic” attractiveness of the process and/or panentheistic theory of the original science-faith pioneers has stuck in theistic evolution’s mindset, when it no longer has a coherent philosophical basis.

Process theologians I can agree to disagree with. Evangelicals (or anyone else) trying to graft process concepts on to biblical and classical creation (both ex nihilo and continua) disagree with themselves already.

Tony - #85724

June 12th 2014


You write here: The First Cause of all things, including evolution, cannot also become an effect of it.  Symphonies do not compose composers, nor cars drive people.

The technology may not be there for symphonies to compose composers or for cars to drive people, however, the logic to make the statement, “we can program cars to drive people,” or, “we can program symphonies to compose composers” is sound.  If God programmed the universe to behave in such a way that he could cause himself to also be an effect, why would it be so difficult to accept?  Is it not said, “with God all things are possible?”

I wouldn’t say this has anything to do with the “democratic attractiveness” of the process and/or panentheistic theory,” nor would I suggest that it’s been taken up when “theistic evolution” no longer has a coherent philosophical basis.

A paper on Occasionalism, Section 2.2 Mere Conservationalism, Divine Concurrentism, and Occasionalism states, “According to conservationism, while God conserves substances with their powers in existence, when creatures are causally active in bringing about their natural effects, God’s contribution is remote or indirect.  In other words, God’s causal contribution consists in merely conserving the being or esse of the creature in question along with its power, and the causal activity of the creature is in some straightforward sense the creature’s own and not God’s (Freddoso 1991, 554).  At the other end is occasionalism, where divine causal activity is maximal and creaturely causal activity is non-existent, since divine causal activity is the only type of genuine causality.  Creatures provide at most an occasion for God’s activity, which is direct and immediate in bringing about all effects in nature.  Concurrentists hold that when a natural effect is produced, it is immediately caused by both God and the creatue.  God and the creature are both directly involved and “concur” in bringing about the natural effects typically attributed to the creature.”  <plato.stanford.edu/entries/occasionalism/>

This clearly indictates how God causal contribution is effected - partly through “concurrentism,” totally through “occasionalism,” and not at all through “conservationalism.”  The First Cause also becomes the Effect of his Will.

Tony - #85710

June 11th 2014

Hi Ted…Great article as always!

We need both transcendence and immanence - both the transcendent God of Genesis chapter one and the immanent God of chapters two and three.  In other words, a proper doctrine of creation has both a “then-ness” and a “now-ness,” if I may put it that way.”

However, isn’t your statement, here, suggesting what I’ve been proposing all along?  Namely, creatio ex nihilo continua - or rather, as I stated in my first post upon joining BioLogos - “The pun to the conundrum is this…The big bang was the creation of evolution, and creation has evolved ever since.”  I don’t want a medal or anything, just a confirmation will do.


Ted Peters writes, “Note that Peacocke does not dismiss creatio ex nihilo per se.  He keeps it.  But he removes from its stipulated definition any commitment to a point of origin.  He then goes on to commit himself to a doctrine of creatio continua following an evolutionary model, according to which nature consists of a process producing new emergent forms of matter.”

Here, Arthur Peacocke must surely be referring to [biological evolution] - “nature [God] consists of a process producing new emergent forms of matter.”

At the end of this segment of the series Ted Peters states, “We will now explore the meaning of the phrase “continuing creation,” and we will do so by first asking about the relationship between creation and change.”

Should we expect a discussion on “biological evolution” in exploring “the meaning of the phrase ‘continuing creation.’”

My next objective (been occupied with other posts) will be reading up on the articles you suggested on “rational empericism.”  I’ll get back to you on that.


Ted Davis - #85715

June 12th 2014

What to expect next is indicated at the end of the column, Tony. Peters is a theologian, and it will be a discussion of modern theological critiques of Thomas, in which Peters defends Thomas. The context once again will be cosmology, not evolution.

The statement of mine that you quote at the start of your comment simply sums up what I’ve taught students—and said in other contexts, including a few academic conferences—for 30 years. It’s probably the first time I’ve said it here on BL, with language of this type, so it’s probably the first time you’ve heard me say it. Your own version of it seems pretty similar, except that it seems to miss a subtlety that I regard as crucial: when I speak of creation having a “now-ness,” I mean exactly what Augustine and Boyle meant when they spoke of creation “lapsing into its first nothing” (or language close to that) if God were to withdraw his creative power. In other words, creation does not continue to exist “on its own,” apart from the creator’s active will. 

For those who might wonder about this, neither Augustine nor Boyle was an occasionalist. Some of the subtleties are clearly presented by theologian Gavin Hyman here: http://www.jcrt.org/archives/09.1/Hyman.pdf

Gregory - #85716

June 12th 2014

Thanks for acknowledging the ideology of occasionalism on this topic, Ted. It was in the title of my presentation in the above mentioned conference, which required contact with Islamic scholars, Al-Ghazali and Averroes, among other Abrahamists (e.g. Augustine, Descartes, Malebranche, More and Conway).

Nevertheless, I had to frame occasionalism in light of two ideologies: conservationism & concurrentism. Occasionalism & conservationism are the extremes. The TE/EC vs. ID (often extremist) discourse would imo gain much from having this conversation (would BioLogos host?). For serious thinkers in the science, philosophy, theology/worldview discourse, neither occasionalism nor conservationism seem to be ‘live’ approaches nowadays.

Concurrentism appears to rule the day (at least among educated Christians) and is clearly the preferred choice in Rome, Istanbul, Moscow, Athens, Beijing and Brasil. Washington (spread USA) seems to hold an isolated-desperate educational position re: ‘processes & origins,’ which is emphasised by the evolutionism, creationism, IDism dialogue there.

Jon Garvey - #85718

June 12th 2014


I did a long piece on concurrentism v conservationism in February here. Occasionalism I largely avoided (you’ve done the work on that, it seems).

Amongst my conclusions was the importance of concurrence for retaining both transcendence and immanence ... I must have been listening to Ted.

Gregory - #85719

June 12th 2014

Well, you are openly and self-declared a ‘conservative Evangelical’ according to your linked website profile. And also a proponent of ‘theistic evolution’ (paticularly Warfieldian). So your personal conclusion shouldn’t be much of a surprise, Jon. That you don’t seem to be aware of the discourse of occasionalism, conservationism & concurrentism wrt uppercase ‘Intelligent Design Theory’ is part of your marginalised mystery. You seem to want to be an IDist, but won’t say so openly or yet clearly spell out your position, while sitting on a comfortable retired physician’s fence in south-west England. That’s known as journalese uncomittedness to some people.

Tony - #85720

June 12th 2014

Hi Ted…

Your own version of it seems pretty similar, except that it seems to miss a subtlety that I regard as crucial…if God were to withdraw his creative power.  In other words, creation does not continue to exist “on its own,” apart from the creator’s active will.

I hold a panentheistic philosophy with a creatio ex nihilo continua espression to it, where the mind of God finds a home in man through biological evolution.

“Panentheism is a belief system which posits that God exists and interpenetrates every part of nature, and timelessly extends beyond as well…In Panentheism, God is not exactly viewed as the creator or demiurge but the eternal animating force behind the universe, with the universe as nothing more than the manifest part of God.  The cosmos exists within God, who in turn “pervades” or is ‘in” the cosmos…Panentheism claims that God is greater than the universe and that the universe is contained within God.  Panentheism holds that God is the “supreme affect and effect” of the universe.”

In my philosophy God does not withdraw his creative power and creation does not continue to exist “on its own,” apart from the creator’s active will.  Hence, my philosophy does not “miss that subtlety that you regard as crucial.”

Furthermore, my philosophy accounts for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - in Adam, Jesus Christ, and the Second Coming.

Ted Davis - #85721

June 12th 2014

Given your endorsement of panentheism, Tony, perhaps you’ve read some of Peacocke, or even more than some. Is this the case?

Tony - #85722

June 12th 2014

Hi Ted…

Actually, I’ve never read anything at all about theology before associating with the BioLogos community.  All my knowledge about God, spirituality, philosophy, and science has been gained through personal experience and necessary human endeavour.  This, of course, apart from a few evening courses in continuing education in the field of Humanities and Psychology.  The rest became natural once I realized where God was leading me.

GJDS - #85723

June 12th 2014

It is interesting to note that process philosophy is consistent with a view (overall) of the interdependence in Nature (often termed ecological) and even attempt to understand (subjective) time with human experiences and phenomena. Such an intellectual view would have something useful to contribute to our view and understanding of Nature. Yet this view stumbles when it widens its outlook to include God (is this another creation of a philosopher’s god?) by deciding that human experience(s) are somehow equivalent of perhaps even the same as what they purport to be experienced by God.

My comments are not a critique of process philosophy, but rather to suggest this is another case where an interesting philosophical outlook goes beyond itself when it tries to modifying Orthodox Christianity, and in doing this creates great error. Even some of the remarks on substance and quantum physics appear (on some reading) to get ‘messed up’ as the process chaps try to redo the Trinity into some type of personal relationship – and then they again get into making the Creator the ‘same’, or ‘mixed up’ with His creation.

Tony - #85753

June 14th 2014

The ecological study of living things, their environment, and the relation between the two; and the study of human ecology - the sociological concern dealing with the spacing and interdependence of people and established institutions - has been an unrelenting responsibility of human endeavor.  The associated study, formulation, and enforcement of moral, civil, and criminal law in maintaining social justice has also preoccuped the minds of leaders for millennia.  The statement in Genesis 1:26 “And God said. Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth,” plainly and decidedly [by God] gives man the charge of the earth and all life on the earth.  However, some may say, “but man has no right to dominate man,” that may be true, although, law and order must be maintained.

“Process philosophy is based on the premise that being is dynamic and that the dynamic nature of being should be the primary focus of any comprehensive philosophical account of reality and our place within it.”  <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/process-philosophy/>

The problem is the difficulty of preserving this state of freedom and enjoying the conditions and further developments that come with this dynamic organization.  All people within societies have hopes and dreams and are determined to fulfill them.  These come with hard work, sacrifice and time.  Unfortunately, not all succedd because of personal complications, health, or societal injustices.  Those who cannot cope with the system fall through the cracks into the world of personality disorders, psychological insanity, and criminality.

The quote here from World Book Encyclopedia is remarkably eloquent in that one must not dare alter a single word or phrase in it.  It exempifies the phiosophical and political description of the main political systems.  “philosophy has two important aims; first it gives a person a unified view of the universe in which he lives, second it seeks to make a person a more critical thinker by sharpening his ability to think clearly and precisely.  This piece, presents a clear and succinct understanding to the significance, importance, and implications, in the struggle these forces have for universal dominance:

“Democracy, Communism, and Fascism are each based on a philosophic position.

Rational Empiricism the philosophic basis of democracy believes that the world is both material and spiritual.  It holds that change and progress occur by applying reason to experience and human nature can be changed and improved by experience.  On the basis of these principles democracy stresses discussion and the use of reason as a way of arriving at conclusions.  It emphasizes tolerance and freedom in the development of intelligent loyal citizens.

Dialectical Materialism the philosophic basis of communism believes that only material things are real.  It stresses that human beings, human nature, and society as a whole are products of the economic system.  It holds that change occurs through a struggle of opposing forces in society and comes to a climax by revolution.  Accordingly, communism opposes religion because of its spiritual nature.  It wishes to destroy the present capitalistic economic system and wishes to develop a new type of man and a new type of social and economic system.

Absolute Idealism upon which fascism is based stresses the existence of one absolute reality.  A being or element that is complete in itself and does not depend on anything outside itself.  It asserts that there is a principle of authority expressed in the will of the absolute.  As a political philosophy absolute idealism considers the state as the absolute.  According to this philosophy everything in society is a poart of the state and is subservient to it.  From these principles follow dictatorship, rejection of parliamentary procedures, and submission of the individual to the state.”  <Philosophy, World Book Encyclopedia>

“During the early modern period after the English Civil Wars (1642-1651) and the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the English Bill of Rights of 1689 was enacted, which codified certain rights and liberties, and is still in effect.  The Bill set out the rights of Parliament, rules for freedom of speech in Parliament and limited the power of the monarch, ensuring that, unlike much of the rest of Europe, royal absolutism would not prevail.  The voting franchise was slowly increased and Parliament gradually gained more power until the monarch became largely a figurehead.”  “In North America, representative government began in Jamestown, Virginia, with the election of the House of Burgesses (forefunner of the Virginia General Assembly) in 1619.  English Puritans who migrated from 1620 established colonies in New England whose local governance was democratic and which contributed to the democratic development of the United States.”

The West essentially developed its nations into democracies and the corresponding fundamental philosophy and scientific methodology behind it.  Rebellion within, civil war, theatening nations, and rising dictatorships were swiftly and decisively dealt with in [dialectical] fashion - where “idealism” always had the upper hand.  During these testing times the Western nations had no choice but to adopt and respond, in what may have seemed, an “Absolutist Idealist” convention.  After all “absolute” is the doctrine of “idealism” - “That considers mind or spirit as the basis of the universe.  Many idealists maintain that things don’t exist outside the mind, but only as the mind knows them.”  “Rational empiricism,” the philosophy, scientific methodology, and way of life, must be defended at all cost - the human species is what is at stake.

“Socialism” and “Capitalism” have been different ways in dealing with this struggle.  The Western nations adopted “capitalism” in that it provides its citizens with powerful incentive, thus, creating stronger nations with people who have tremendous pride and will.  The philosophy, strategy, and tactics have all been in defence of the democratic way of life and for the moral justice of human civilization.

Again, I quote; “Process philosophy is based on the premise that being is dynamic and that the dynamic nature of being should be the primary focus of any comprehensive philosophical account of reality and our place within it.”

GJDS states, “Yet this view stumbles when it widens its outlook to include God (is this another creation of a philosopher’s god?) by deciding that human experience(s) are somehow equivalent of perhaps even the same as what they purport to be experienced by God.”

I don’t think the view stumbles at all as it widens its outlook to include God’s final prophecies.  This is the creation of the God of Jesus Christ who is the Word of God and who through his Word creates new things.

GJDS states, “this is another case where an interesting philosophical outlook goes beyond itself when it tries to modify Orthodox Christianity, and in doing this creates great error.”

What is the [true] Orthodox Christianity and who is actually modifying what?  In Jesus’ day the Scribes and the Pharisees observed [so-called] Orthodox Judaism.  Jesus Christ arrived and presented the “authentic truth.”  So much for that!  Hence, today, who has the real “Orthodox Christianity.”  Things are not always as they seem!

Ted Davis - #85734

June 13th 2014

To gloss my comment here, several times Boyle cited Nehemiah 9:6 as support for a conclusion he (in one such instance) put as follows, “if God should at any time withdraw his preserving Influence, the World would presently Relapse, or Vanish into its first Nothing…”

Roger A. Sawtelle - #85717

June 12th 2014

We have two distinctive processes here.  We have Creation from Nothing and Continuing Creation.  Both are from God and both are Creation, and yet they are separate and distinct.  Indeed one cannot arbitrarily moosh them together as Tony wants to do. 

On the other hand many scientists and others want a deistic God Who creates ex nihilo once and for all and allows the universe to fend for itself. 

The theistic view too often points to the Sovereign nature of God Who absolutely controls all that is.  This is its concept of Continuing Creation. 

Process theology has a different view of Continuing Creation by having a Reality that is based on the Many rather than the One.  This provides more possibilities for change which puts it more in line with the scientific view of reality.

The problem with all of these views is that they all exist within the flawed Western either/or dualistic worldview.  Peters points to the fact that Gen 1 is Creation from Nothing while Gen 2 & 3 are Continuing Creation. 

What he does not point out is John 1 combines the two with a NT perspective with God the Father playing the lead role in Creation out of Nothing and God the Logos playing the lead role in Continuing Creation.  It is God the Spirit that unites and provides the Meaning and Purpose Which brings these two types of Creation together. 

A Trinitarian God is the only way to appropriately understand the roles of Creatio ex nihilo and Creatio continua.  A triune view of reality is the only appropriate way to understand how humans live in a history based reality governed by past, present, and future.  


Roger A. Sawtelle - #85725

June 13th 2014


The problem with traditional panentheism (you may have your own version of it) is that it has no room for sin and evil.

If God, Who is Good, created all things, and God is in Absolute control of all things, which is Occasionalism, and God is the End of all things, from whence comes the murder and mayhem that we see in the world today?  It can only come from God, which is not true.

In terms of concurrence I read the article posted by Jon.  Concurrence seeks to provide an explanation for how God can perform miracles, which I find superfluous.  Miracles are beyond human explanations. 

God can do anything, but create a Being Who is equal or superior to Godself.  That is because God is Perfect in every sense. 

If God had made Adam to be perfect, God would have had to make Adam God.  God did nake Adam and Eve in God’s own Image, as close to being like God as one can get without being God, but there is no need or possibility for more than one God.

If you are interested in more thoughts in this area, I refer you to my paper on God and Freedom posted on Academia.edu     

Mark Wyatt - #85736

June 13th 2014

Did God Really create the Cosmos? Absolutely. Call, and I raise you one:

We are in a priviliged position in the universe:



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