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CTNS Public Forum with Dr. Thomas Tracy

"Divine Action, Natural Science, and the Problem of Evil"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007, 7:00 pm.

Location: The GTU Richard S. Dinner Board Room, Third floor of the Hewlett Lamson Library, 2400 Ridge Rd, at Scenic and LeConte Avenues. Please arrive promptly.

The affirmation that God acts in the world is at the center of the dramatic scriptural narratives that have shaped Jewish and Christian theological reflection for millennia, and it is embedded in the liturgy, preaching, and prayer of the communities that live out these traditions today. Theologians in the modern era, however, have persistently found themselves stumbling over this idea, uncertain about what to make of it. These misgivings have many sources, two of which Dr. Tracy will address in this lecture. First, it has become a theological commonplace to contend that the idea of particular divine action runs afoul of scientific descriptions of the world as a lawful system of causal relations. It is often claimed, for example, that an action of God that affects the course of events would constitute an intervention in the system of nature, and that this notion is incompatible with scientific understandings of the world. Second, if this first objection can be answered, and we say that the world is open to special divine action, then we face profoundly difficult questions about divine justice in the face of suffering and evil. It appears that God should act to prevent or alleviate many of the evils that we see around us, and this has been cited as evidence against the goodness and power of God.

Tracy will explore responses to these interconnected challenges, focusing on what it is possible to say about God's permission of evil, on why such accounts face fundamental limits in principle, and on the shift from explanatory theodicy to a theology of redemption.

Dr. Thomas Tracy graduated with a Masters of Philosophy and PhD from the Religious Studies Department at Yale University. After receiving his degree, Dr. Tracy began teaching at Bates College in the Department of Philosophy and Religion. He has served as the Chair of the Dept. of Philosophy and Religion and currently is the Phillips Professor of Religion. His latest articles include contributions to the Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science (2006) and in the Quantum Mechanics edition of the CTNS/Vatican Observatory series, Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (2001). His most recent book, The God Who Acts: Philosophical and Theological Explorations  (1994), is now available in paperback.

Street parking is unlimited after 7 pm.
Please arrive promptly.

This CTNS Public Forum is open to the public at no charge.

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