Divine Action in the World: The Old Picture

Alvin Plantinga

in Where the Conflict Really Lies

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199812097
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199928590 | DOI:
Divine Action in the World: The Old Picture

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This chapter examines the alleged conflict between science and special divine action. Religious belief in general and Christian belief in particular is committed to the belief that God acts in the world. But many scientists reject the idea of special divine action. The problem, as they see it, is this: science discovers and endorses natural laws; if God did miracles or acted specially in the world, he would have to contravene these laws and miraculously intervene; and that is incompatible with science. It is argued that classical science, just by itself, is nowhere nearly sufficient for anti-interventionism or hands-off theology. This argument is based on the analysis of two pictures endorsed by many influential eighteenth-and nineteenth-century figures, and still accepted by theologians. First, is the Newtonian picture, which represents the world (or at any rate the material universe) as a vast machine evolving or operating according to fixed laws: the laws of classical physics. Second is the Laplacean picture, which assumes that the universe is causally closed.

Keywords: Christian belief; Christianity; hands-off theology; classical science; classical physics; Newton; Laplace

Chapter.  9061 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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