Re: Johnson's assumptions

Paul Arveson (
Wed, 29 Jan 97 09:08:28 EST

Loren/Bob/Phil have accused me, or someone, of having 'a Naturalistic
philosophical bias' and that we have ' unknowingly succumbed' to it.
This thread is getting rather entwined, but I want to respond to this.
I don't want to leave people with that impression. It's a very common
accusation, and needs rebuttal. If there is any bias I (and people like me)
have, it is theistic. Here's the proof:

1. EVEN IF we do not observe any evidence of gaps in the record of natural
history, God could still be completely sovereign over its outcomes.

2. EVEN IF there were no evidence of 'intelligent design' in the universe
(whatever that may mean), God could still be completely sovereign over

3. EVEN IF there were no 'stochastic processes' of quantum mechanics,
God could still be completely sovereign over its outcomes.

4. EVEN IF we discover that the Big Bang was not a singularity at the
beginning, God could still be the sovereign Creator of all things.

5. EVEN IF people who believe in God are not rewarded in this life, even
though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.

The point is that God doesn't need any kind of mechanical causes or
explanations to work in history. God is simply -- by both transcendence
and immanence -- sovereign over natural and human history and its outcomes.
This is by virtue of God's eternal decree and providence. This is a
'mystery' of the faith -- John 3:8.

If you acknowledge this with me, then where does that leave the
discussion? It takes away its apologetic intent. We here are all theists.
We need be neither consciously nor unconsciously naturalistic.

Since it is not part of apologetics per se, I think the central debate
really is scientific. We are seeking to understand the natural world in the
face of uncertainty. Our approach is based not on 'methodological naturalism'
but 'methodological empiricism', that is, a bias against philosophies.
Rejection of superfluous miracles is merely a bias toward parsimony and
simplicity. (Francis Bacon would be proud of me).

A well-known evangelical theologian once told me privately,
'These creationists think that they have the hold on orthodoxy, but actually
they are the ones who have gone astray.' In context what he meant was
that they were always looking for some mechanism, some Deus ex machina
metaphor that would provide a satisfactory explanation for the link between
God and nature. It might be vitalism, 'intelligent design', 'quantum
processes', or what not. So I will turn around and accuse my accusers
of 'unconscious bias' in the direction of making the sovereign God into
a mechanical explanation, that is, an idol of the tribe.

Paul Arveson, Research Physicist
Code 724, Signatures Directorate, NSWC
9500 MacArthur Blvd., Bethesda, MD 20817-5700
(301) 227-3831 (W) (301) 227-4511 (FAX) (301) 816-9459 (H)