Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"How God Acts: Creation, Redemption, and Special Divine Action" by Denis Edwards (Pt. 1 - Preface)





I noticed this new and exciting book by Denis Edwards a few months ago on Amazon and found it to be very intriguing. After reading Philip Clayton's "Adventures in the Spirit", I have been very interested in the theology of divine action. I also recently finished LeRon Shults' "Christology and Science" and am in the middle of reading Keith Ward's "The Big Questions in Science and Religion", both of which address this same issue of divine action. This is a very complex discussion that stretches my intellect and imagination, but I recognize that it is absolutely vital for the development of a robust Christian theology. For those of us who find eschatology and even the "bodily" resurrection of Jesus at the center of our theological imaginations, developing a better theology of divine action in dialogue with late modern science and philosophy is deeply important to the overall impact of our faith.

I will be blogging through this book as I can over the coming weeks, starting today with Edwards' Preface to the book. First of all, Edwards is a Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology in the School of Theology of Flinders University in Australia (http://www.flinders.edu.au/ehlt/theology/staff/denis-edwards.cfm). Edwards' is apparently very influenced by Karl Rahner's idea of creation as divine self-bestowal, and he uses Rahner frequently throughout the book. He also credits Ted Peters and Robert John Russell at GTU in Berkeley for helping him develop many of the ideas in this book.

The struggle for a Christian theology of divine action is in dealing with special divine acts - the incarnation, resurrection, miracles, and God's answering of prayer. Can we think about these ideas in a way that doesn't put forth a God who micromanages and aggravates the problem of evil? Edwards believes that we can at least do better than we have done in the past, and he is setting out to develop a theology of divine action that is deeply relational and also noninterventionist. In fact, he thinks that it is due to our limited perspective of scientific knowledge, and impoverished concepts of God that makes us interpret special divine acts as "interventionist." At the same time, Edwards issues a strong caution against believing that we can ever develop a satisfactory theodicy, or that even his integrated model of divine action will remove or explain "the intractable theological problem of suffering, [although] it may remove something that exacerbates the problem." Edwards later issues a similar caution: "The title of this book could be a little misleading. It will become evident to readers that there is a sense in which I believe we cannot say how God acts. We cannot describe the inner nature of divine action any more than we can know or describe the divine nature." Still, Edwards believes that we can do better in our articulation of these special divine acts.

Edwards sets up three requirements for a theology of divine action that properly responds to the costs of evolution: 1) It must be "noninterventionist that sees God working in a through the world, rather than as arbitrarily intervening to send suffering to some and not others." 2) God's act of creating the universe needs to be understood in light of the resurrection and eschatological hope 3) It understands God as "actively waiting upon finite creaturely processes, living with the constraints of these processes, accompanying each creature in love, rejoicing in every emergence, suffering with every suffering creature, and promising to bring all to healing and fullness of life."

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