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Divine Action: A Neo-Byzantine Model

Divine Action: A Neo-Byzantine Model

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Published by akimel
by Christopher C. Knight
by Christopher C. Knight

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Published by: akimel on Apr 17, 2013
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Divine Action: A Neo-Byzantine ModelAuthor(s): Christopher C. KnightReviewed work(s):Source:
International Journal for Philosophy of Religion,
Vol. 58, No. 3 (Dec., 2005), pp. 181-199Published by:
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Divine Action:ANeo-ByzantineModelCHRISTOPHERC. KNIGHT
International Journal forPhilosophyofReligion (2005)58: 181-199 ©Springer2005DOI: 10. 1007/sl1153-005-1076-5HopeCottage, HindringhamRoad,GreatWalsingham,NorfolkNR 226DR,GreatBritain(E-mail:ccolsonknight@yahoo.o.uk)
1.Theproblemof divine action
Brieflystated,theproblemof divine actionhas,inrecentthought,been that ofwhetherand how God can affect theworkingsof a worldcharacterizedusuallyat least-byobedienceto"laws ofnature."Therehave,essentially,been two kinds of answerto thisquestion.One ofthese has relied on atraditionalconceptualscheme,whichspeaksofa"special"mode of God's action which isanalogous,inmanyrespects,o that ofanyotherpersonalagent.Inthis understand-ing,averycleardistinction is madebetween"general"providencewhich arisesstraightforwardlyrom what thecosmos will do "on itsown"-and whatwillhappenif God chooses toperformsome"spe-cial"providentialactionbyinterferingwith the normalworkingsofthe cosmos.1The othermainkind ofresponseo theproblemofdivine actionisconceptuallydifferentrom thisinterferencemodel(thoughit is some-timescombinedwithaspectsofit.)Here the focus is on a distinctionbetweenprimaryandsecondarycauses,and God's action is not seenas that ofanagentworking"fromtheoutside",asinthe interferencemodel.The fact thatthisapproachhasgivenrise to outlooks as var-ied asa traditionalistneo-Thomismand anessentiallydeistic kind ofnaturalismndicates,however,hatthemodel,initself,has nospecificanswerso thequestionsof howGod's will isbroughtaboutthrough"natural"auses,and of whatthescopeof this modeof divineactionis.Inabookpublishedin 2001-Wrestlingwith the Divine: Reli-gion,Science,and Revelation2Ioutlinedanunderstandingf divineactionwhich,thoughavoidinghevocabularyofprimaryand second-arycauses,couldincertainrespectsbe seen as anattemptto refine
 
182CHRISTOPHERC. KNIGHT
thissecond kind of model. Asignificantactorinthedevelopmentofthisunderstandingwaswhat Icalledthe"pansacramentalism"nher-entinaspectsofthecurrentdialoguebetweenheologyand thenaturalsciences.This led me to dubmyownapproacha"pansacramentalatu-ralism,"nd I drewattention,briefly,oaspectsof theEasternChristiantradition hat I believedmight givethisapproachat least somesortofrootingin traditionalChristianhinking.Atthe time of the book'swriting,however,thisaspectofpan-sacramentalismwassomethingthatIhadexploredonlyin acursoryway.Sincethen,agrowingawarenessofaspectsof the Greekpatris-tic andByzantineunderstandingftherelationshipbetweenGod andtheworld has led me to see thepansacramentalnaturalismthatIthenadvocatedna new and broaderperspective.3nparticular,nowbelieve that this naturalismcan-throughincorporationntowhatmightbe describedas aneo-Byzantinemodel ofGod'spresenceandactioninthe world-offer anessentiallynewoutlook on theprob-lemof divine action. It is this model thatI wishtopresentn outlinehere.4
2.TheByzantine"cosmic vision"
The modeltakes its historicalbearingsfromthe strandofGreekpatristicthinking5which culminated in the work of Maximos theConfessor(580-662).Inthiswork,the fourthgospel'sassertionthattheLogos (Word)of God"became lesh"(John 1:14)s not seen sim-plyas astatementabout ahistoricalevent.Rather,Maximosdevelopshisunderstandinghroughasubtle andprofoundperceptionof howeverythingwas,inthebeginning,createdthroughthisLogos (John1:1-4).Bymouldingthephilosophicalcategoriesavailableo him totherealities ofthe Christianrevelation as heperceivesthem,Maxi-mosexpresseshisfaithinterms ofthewayinwhich theLogosofGod is tobeperceived,notonlyin thepersonofJesus,butalso,insomesense,inthe "words"logoi)of allpropheticutterance,and inthe"words"logoi)thatrepresentheunderlyingprinciplesof all cre-atedthingsfrom thebeginning.6Inthisway,both forMaximos andfor those earlierstrandsof theGreekpatristicraditionhat come toa culmination n hiswork,thereis afocus ontheconceptof God'sLogoswhich,forsome,pointstowardsapluralisticexpansionoftraditionalChristianheology.7Theincarnation nJesus isnot seensimplyinterms of a historicalevent

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