Thank you for your kind message below. I think we now both agree that
theism and Christianity neither demand nor forbid "intervention" in the
development of living species (in the sense of a departure from the usual
biological laws, though I would see the latter as equally God's action and
certainly not just God's watching from a distance). I suspect you and I still
disagree as to how likely we would feel that God actually has used procedures
other than what scientists call natural laws (but which we can interpret
theologically as the lawlike parts of His action) for the development of living
species, but I think we can agree that that is an open question for scientific
investigation, and that the fundamentals of our common faith in God and in
Christ do not depend crucially upon the answer. Thus even though as a
scientist I might think it more likely that evolution by natural selection is
the simplest scientific hypothesis consistent with the evidence of how God has
created the variety of living species, I hope to be able to follow your
admonition and not claim to be certain of any theological reasons (or
scientific ones, for that matter) *forbidding* God to "intervene."
Date: Mon, 06 Oct 1997 08:33:14 +0000
To: Don Page <email@example.com>
From: "Phillip E. Johnson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Theism and Science
I accept that admonition (below) in the friendly spirit in which it is
offered. I do need to tell you, however, that my audiences would find it
hilarious that theistic evolutionists are offering me advice on apologetic
strategy, on the apparent premise that their own approach is successful in
converting unbelievers and in keeping Christian college students from
sliding into naturalistic thinking. Indeed, one of the things those
audiences have learned is that the thinking behind that phrase "God of the
gaps" comes straight out of naturalistic metaphysics. See the writings I
have previously cited for further explanation, and especially Chapter 5 of
Reason in the Balance.
This leads me to offer a counter-admonition, in the form of a question.
Are you sure that thestic evolutionists have been careful not to give the
impression that God is *forbidden* to "intervene" (i.e., do anything more
than watch from a distance) in the course of evolutionary history?
At 11:21 PM 10/5/95 -0600, you wrote:
>Dear Professor Johnson:
> Am I correct in interpreting your reply below as agreeing with my
>first option, that you believe theism does not necessarily imply
>"intelligent cause" and "design" in the scientifically detectable sense you
>give these terms? If so, this might allay some of the criticisms of your
>theology that have recently appeared on email@example.com (see below for some
>of the recent discussion that led me to write you, to be omitted in the copy
>to be posted to firstname.lastname@example.org).
> But I fear that the point of Allan Harvey's Oct. 2 message below may
>still be valid, that your writings might mislead many into believing a "God
>of the gaps" theology (more precisely, "God only if there are gaps"). Those
>who are thus misled might then be in danger of abandoning their faith in
>theism (or of never seriously considering it if they start as unbelievers)
>if they don't find that science detects and confirms the "intelligent cause"
>and "design" you believe it will.
> Thus I would agree with Allan and those who echo his sentiments in
>encouraging you to be more specific and emphatic in your writings in
>repudiating this erroneous and dangerous gap-theology.
> Your brother in Christ,
> Don Page