About Providence, Divine Action and the Church

In this blog, Terry J. Wright posts thoughts and shares research on the Christian doctrine of providence. This doctrine testifies to God’s provision for all things through creation’s high priest, the man Christ Jesus. However, the precise meaning and manner of this provision is a perpetually open question, and this blog is a forum for discussion of the many issues relating to providence and the place of the Church within God’s action.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Book Review: Denis Edwards, How God Acts (1)

Denis Edwards, How God Acts: Creation, Redemption, and Special Divine Action. Theology and the Sciences (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010)

I came across Denis Edwards’s work for the first time last year, when I obtained a copy of Rossi (ed.), God, Grace, and Creation to review for Theological Book Review. Edwards’s paper ‘Exploring How God Acts’ was one of the highlights of Rossi’s volume, and it pointed me to Edwards’s How God Acts, a book-length treatment of divine action. It’s my intention to review How God Acts chapter by chapter.

Chapter 1
While recognising that a truly Christian theology of divine action will be rooted in Christian tradition, Edwards states that such a theology will also be shaped by whatever worldview the theologian brings to the debate. For Edwards, this means that a theology of divine action ‘will be shaped by the best insights of the sciences.’ (p. 1). Thus Edwards’s aim in this opening chapter is simply to describe the universe as observed by the sciences, and many of his observations are standard presuppositions for discussions of divine action. The universe is

emergent and evolving, is constituted by relationships, possesses its own integrity, has a level of directionality, and has costs that are intrinsic to the process. (p. 14).

This latter point is a reference to the suffering and loss that comes through evolutionary processes, an area that Edwards addresses later in How God Acts.

There is one other point to which I wish to draw attention. Given his stance in the aforementioned paper ‘Exploring How God Acts’, I know that Edwards advocates the distinction between primary and second causation. On page eight of How God Acts, Edwards promises more fully to address this distinction in a later discussion.

To summarise: Edwards’s opening chapter is solid but rather unspectacular. It does whet the appetite for the more substantial treatments of divine action to come.

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