Re: phil johnson and charles hodge

Terry M. Gray (
Tue, 28 Jan 1997 12:03:02 -0500

Two comments on Ted's post:

1. Hodge objected to Darwinism because he defined Darwinism to be
ateleological and thus dismissing design. However, Hodge did not object to
evolution. He was much more tolerant of Asa Gray's views where the
variation that natural selection worked on was God-directed, so that the
process produced exactly what God wanted. While Hodge did not regard Gray
as a Darwinist, Gray regarded himself as a Darwinist. Admittedly, Hodge
was using Darwin's own understanding of God's involvement in the process,
but here's where I depart with Hodge (and Johnson). Darwin is importing a
particular theological perspective into his theory at this point. We must
recognize that has happened and I would claim show that it is not a
necessary importation, i.e. Asa Gray's theological views are just as
compatible with Darwinism as a biological theory as are Darwin's own
theological views. Don't let the namesake influence the debate here.

2. Why does quantum indeterminacy in the realm of creation imply anything
about God's relationship to the matter? We don't even have to turn to
physics to get to this question. There are all sort of phenomena that we
would recognize as being random from a creaturely point of view, but are
not random from God's point of view. Proverbs 16:33 is relevant to all of
these: chance events, quantum indeterminacy, and random mutations in
evolution. It goes back to the deep theological problem of God's
sovereignty vs. creaturely autonomy/responsibility. I think that Darwin
couldn't allow Asa Gray's view in part because of the problem of evil--so
his solution, as is the case with many today, is to compromise God's
sovereignty (sorry about all the toes I just stepped on). As David
Livingstone has demonstrated it was the Calvinistic paradigm that allowed
the Old Princeton divines to make peace with Darwin so early.

>I think I may have said this before, in which
>case I apologize for repeating myself, but I am
>convinced that Phillip Johnson is essentially
>Charles Hodge in the 1990s. Hodge's classic work,
>What is Darwinism? answered the question by stating,
>it is "virtual atheism," because it dismisses design.
>I think Hodge understood Darwin's own metaphysical
>interpretation of his theory quite well, just as
>Phil understands folks like Will Provine quite well.
>Where I get off the ship is with Phil's apparent
>(stated somewhere?) views on the role of chance as
>a creative process under divine sovereignty. Forget
>biology, let's talk about physics. It certainly looks
>like quantum theory is true and, if it is, then God
>really does appear to play dice with the universe.
>Granted, one could interpret this in more than one way,
>but it seems difficult to me that one could interpret
>this in a way that denies entirely the role of
>stochastic processes in the creation. Quantum events
>have "real world" consequences -- i.e, we can observe
>things that have no "causes" in the mechanistic
>sense (recall "formal" causes, as Aristotle would have
>put it, meaning that the quantum equations function
>as formal causes but not as efficient ones).
>So, it seems to me that the issue of "design" and
>"chance" is raised right away, at the heart of all
>physical processes, entirely apart from Darwinism. One
>might believe in special creation (say) and still have
>to admit that God doesn't "control" nature in the
>classical sense. In my opinion, this undercuts the
>issue Phil is worried about. What we need to do,
>as Christians, is to take the offensive with creative
>theologies that recognize the fundamental role of
>uncertainty, within boundaries, and ask the right
>questions about sovereignty and design, rather than
>continuing to parade the old answers in clever new
>Ted Davis
>Professor of the History of Science
>Messiah College
>Grantham, PA 17027
>717-766-2511, ext 6840

Terry M. Gray, Ph.D. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Calvin College 3201 Burton SE Grand Rapids, MI 40546
Office: (616) 957-7187 FAX: (616) 957-6501

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