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Faith and Philosophy

Volume 14, Issue 1, January 1997

Steven D. Crain
Pages 41-61

Divine Action in a World Chaos
An Evaluation of John Polkinghorne’s Model of Special Divine Action

John Polkinghorne, formerly a physicist and now an Anglican priest and theologian, has made a significant contribution to the current dialogue between Christian theology and the natural sciences. I examine here his reflection on what is commonly called the problem of special divine action in the world. Polkinghorne argues that God acts in the world via a “topdown” or “downward” mode of causation that exploits the indeterministic openness of chaotic systems without requiring that God violate natural laws. In response, I argue: (1) that divine intervention in response to human sin is theologically, as well as scientifically unobjectionable; and (2) that the belief that God is the transcendent creator of the world renders the “causal joint” between God and the world metaphysical in nature, thus obviating the need to uncover a physical feature of the world that God exploits in order to act in the world.

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