Comparative Religious Studies/Special Divine Action - John Mason

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Question
Please find below an abstract I am writing and a questionnaire I would like to use. I very much appreciate your valued opinion on both.

For reference:
- General Divine Action are realised entirely through the natural order, and there is no conflict with what the sciences tell us about the law-governed processes constituting that natural order
- Special Divine Action (SDA), however, appears to require that God intervenes with physical effects within the natural order to turn events in a direction they would not otherwise have gone. Miracles in relation to natural order are an example of SDA.

Title: The direct and indirect utilitarian aspect of Special Divine Action

Abstract:
A Special Divine Action intervention model was created with the objective to provide a logical, scientific and mathematical structure for utilitarian expectation and reliance on SDA during a personís lifetime (e.g. prior to reincarnation or resurrection).

It aims to bring about best possible outcome given the following two aspects:
1) SDA is part of the foundation of many world religions, as stated in their scripture, with occurrence in the past, at the present and/or in the future.  
2) The significant scientific and technological advances that have been made utilising the scientific laws.

It aims to achieve this given outcome using the following analysis.

SDA can be construed as having occurred given the following categories:
1) Scientific laws have not changed, however the phenomena cannot be rationally explained using probability and statistics.
2) Scientific laws cannot provide an answer for the phenomena. There are three aspects:
a) SDA explicably fills in the gaps which science cannot explain.
b) SDA is based on study of questions that are unanswerable to scientific observation, analysis, or experiment.
c) SDA changes/suspends scientific laws.

The context of this analysis is based on:
1) 7 major factors setting the boundary including empirical reasoning needs to be attempted.
2) 4 questions that address the following factors:- misperception, rareness/uniqueness, randomness and the extent of SDA.

Will complete the analysis using research results, conclusion and recommendation.

Questionnaire:

SDA can be construed as having occurred given the following categories:
1) Scientific laws have not changed, however the phenomena cannot be rationally explained using probability and statistics.
2) Scientific laws cannot provide an answer for the phenomena. There are three aspects:
a) SDA explicably fills in the gaps which science cannot explain.
b) SDA is based on study of questions that are unanswerable to scientific observation, analysis, or experiment.
c) SDA changes/suspends scientific laws.

To what extent does the above SDA categories encompass SDA within your religion?
a) Completely
b) Partially
c) None

To what extent can SDA be understood and utilised based on your religion?
a) Completely
b) Partially
c) None

Can you please provide explanations for your answers.


Many thanks

Answer
I am an ordained member of a Presbyterian, or Reformed, church, and a graduate of seminary and graduate school as well. Still I have no authority to speak for a group. I accept (1), that scientific laws have not changed. The questionnaire refers to undefined "phenomena"--within its sphere there is no alternative to the scientific method. As for "special divine action"--your definitions of it are very helpful. Whether SDA fills in scientific gaps--I wouldn't put SDA in competitions with science. I think the choice (b) is good, but I would replace "unanswerable" with something else, like "inappropriate." Science can observe whatever it likes, but it has no very good way of talking about social and religious actions and feelings, such as:  offenses and apologies, commitments, doubts, particular emotions, and so on. These cannot be weighed or measured and it is usually meaningless to ask how many people had this experience--every person has experiences that no other person has had and that will have aspects that can't just be averaged in with the experiences of other people. But irreducible experiences don't have to involve special divine action. In fact most don't.
I believe that the Almighty acts in this world, but that action is not in principle "unanswerable" to science. I would rather say that the scientific method inquires into things that the Almighty has done and does. Scientific method is a definite way of proceeding--"definite" means "having limits."
When people discuss their understanding of a particular experience, they may consider SDA the appropriate way to think about it. But that doesn't have to mean that the experience occurred outside scientific possibility.
I believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, but I don't take this is as either a refutation or a confirmation of scientific method. I have no doubt that scientific method is the best we have in the things it does, but it doesn't seem to have much access to religion. To me, the social sciences seem to be a hybrid, imperfectly mixing human action and the laboratory balance.
I do find your definitions and questions both serious and very helpful. Thanks for posting them.

Comparative Religious Studies

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John Mason

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graduate work in new testament, knowledge of hebrew, greek, latin; interest in buddhism, also cross-cultural communications. not high pressure. but not agnostic either.

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