Re: Fw: Underlying assumptions

Murphy (
Wed, 11 Dec 1996 08:35:58 -0500

Richard A. Knopp wrote:

> But I am interested in knowing, especially from those who take the
> "functional integrity" approach, how does Paul's statement in Romans 1:18-32
> fit in? It appears that Paul concedes that many will, in fact, regard God as
> "unnecessary" (e.g. they do "not see fit to acknowledge God any longer" vs.
> 28).
> But this condition does not at all appear to be one which Paul is
> commending. Rather, Paul's response here is not to give a justification for
> the cross, but to claim that somehow God IS recognizable in and through
> creation. Those who can't (or more properly won't) acknoweledge his necessity
> are charged with substituting for God, through human speculation, their own
> explanations for what is in nature. Such people "suppress the truth" (vs. 18)
> and have exchanged it for a "lie" (vs. 25); they are "futile" and "foolish"
> (vs. 21-22); and they are given over by God to have "depraved" minds (vs. 28)
> and to do all sorts of unrighteousness (vs. 29-31).
> To be honest, I am more open to this functional integrity perspective
> than I ever thought I would be, but this is one theological context that really
> raises concerns. If I adopt a view of "functional intregrity" that ironically
> offers me no "functional difference" between explaining the world
> naturalistically and having to appeal to the creative hand of God, how can I
> assure myself that my new perspective is not exchanging "the glory of the
> incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and
> four-footed animals and crawling creatures" (vs. 23)? If I think that it's
> *acceptable* to explain the world "from the inside," how can I be confident
> that I am not, in essence, giving "hearty approval" to those who do not honor
> God as God because they fail to "see" Him in his created world (vs. 32,20-21)?
> Though I certainly don't think Paul was intending to address our
> specific questions over young earth creationism, progressive creationism, or
> functional creationism, my theological antibodies are aroused when I consider
> the possibility that one way to be "foolish" is by interpreting the evident
> presence of God in such a way as to reduce it to speculations "from the inside"
> which focus on birds, four-footed animals, and crawling creatures" (vs. 22-23).
> I THINK I know what an advocate of functional intregrity would say
> about Romans 1, but I want to HEAR it and be open to new insights. At this
> point, however, it seems to me that the view of the ID progressive creationist
> has a more plausible hermeneutic of Romans 1.

Paul is speaking in Rom.1:18-32 about the basic problem of sin,
which is a lack of "true fear of God and true faith in God." Note that
this section is prefaced by v.17 which sets out the theme of the letter,
"The one who through faith is righteous shall live." "The things that
have been made" do provide evidence of God's creative work for those who
have faith, but because of sin which involves precisely the lack of
faith, the true God is not acknowledged. Instead, people invent false
gods _on the basis of what they think their experience of the world
shows_ (N.B., comment later), and this idolatry has as its consequence
all the other sins Paul lists.

Any evaluation of the evidential value of any information will
depend in part on the fundamental beliefs with which one approaches it.
I agree that those who view the world in the light of the true God's
revelation to Israel which culminates in Christ will find information
which will help them to understand how God interacts with the world.
I do NOT believe that such evidence is compelling for those who do not
approach science in this way. I.e., there is "evidence for God" for
those who approach science from the standpoint of faith: "If you will
not believe, surely you shall not be established."

This problem of sin is universal, shared by Jews and Christians
with all others. If the Jews Paul addresses are in a different
situation from others, it is because of God's revelation to Abram &c
and not because of any discernment of God from the created world. Abram
does NOT become a believer because of the evidence of the things which
have been made, but because God calls him. In fact, the Talmud has a
story about Abram destroying his father's idols because contemplation of
the starry heavens has convinced him that there is only one God, &c.
This sets out very clearly the _contrast_ between such ideas of natural
theology and the way the Bible describes it. To my memory, NO ONE in
Scripture comes to knowledge of the true God simply from the evidence of
the things which have been made.

After describing this basic problem of sin, Paul does _not_
present a new and more convincing proof of God from nature in order to
remedy that problem. Instead, he drives toward the message of
justification by grace through faith made available by the cross and
resurrection of Christ.

I noted above that in Rom.1, refusal to ackowledge God leads to
construction of false Gods - "the human heart is a factory of idols", as
Calvin said. The danger of such idolatry exists even for Christians,
and is one reason any independent natural theology is so problematic.
The condemnations of such theologies by Luther and Barth were directed
against attempts to base knowledge of God upon experience and reason.
Such attempts seem safe if they are considered to be only "preparations
for the gospel", but they have a tendency (as in the Enlightenment) to
displace revelation and produce a "natural religion" which acknowledges
a "God" of some sort, but has no room for Trinity and Incarnation.

So, do I believe in "intelligent design"? Yes. I believe that
the whole saga of big bang and biological evolution and all the rest are
ways in which God is working out the plan to unite "all things" in
Christ (Eph.1:10). I think that God makes use of various subsidiary
designs along the way. But while science helps me to understand what
is involved in that belief (_fides quarens intellectum_), I do not get
that fundamental belief itself from science.

George Murphy