Re: Natural Theology, Unguided Processes and Apologetics

Murphy (
Thu, 11 Sep 1997 17:54:27 -0400

Peter Vibert wrote:

> Thus pointing out especially fine or complex features among God's designs,
> with the assertion that these prove "God did it", in fact proves nothing to
> those who do not already believe that God did it. All of this points up
> once again the importance of being clear about presuppositions. We are, I
> think, dealing with Fideist vs. Evidentialist apologetic stances in the
> case of Terry/Howard/et al. vs. Johnson/Behe et al.

I would have to be placed with "fideists" here, but the _object_
of faith is crucial. The Xn claim is not just "God did it" but "the God
who is revealed in Jesus did it."

> 1) Terry refers very nicely to "the reality.. that every creational fact
> contains within it pointers to God--and I might add, unless that pointer to
> God is recognized,the truth of the creational fact is not fully known."
> This deserves expansion, for I think it points to a way (that Alvin
> Plantinga might approve) of doing truly *Christian* science - namely, that
> Christians will *from God's perspective* indeed do better science than
> non-believers because they complete their work by offering praise and
> thanks to God for what they have learned about Creation and for his hand in
> making and preserving it. In this they have indeed discovered a *truth*
> about the creational fact that escapes unbelievers.

OK but - "creation" is a theological, not a scientific, concept.
Atheists can understand nature well on its own terms, but know nothing
of nature as God's creation. So it is not just that Xns have discovered
(better, been shown) truth "about" creation that escapes unbelievers,
but have been shown the very fact _of_ creation which unbelievers either
don's know or don't accept.

> 2) As well as recognizing these pointers to God in everything, believers
> can also recognize what I will call "signs" from God. These differ from the
> "pointers everywhere" in representing some unusual mode of God's
> interaction with his creation (which is, I think, the biblical concept of
> "signs").
> What is interesting about "signs" is that they often/usually do not
> _compel_ faith, but rather tend to _confirm_ it. Thus, like the parables,
> signs conceal as much as they reveal, and for the same reason: that "seeing
> they may not see", etc. (see Isaiah 6/John 12; and George Murphy's
> important Isaiah 45:15 ("truly you are a God who hides himself", for the
> non-Lutherans)). My feeling (and I am still exploring this idea) is that
> the act of Creation can be fruitfully thought of as a Sign, and thus its
> right interpretation requires faith (which Hebrews 11:3 seems to indicate
> very strongly).

Again, "faith in search of understanding."

> At a more detailed level, I think there ought to be a basis here for some
> agreement/truce between believers over the pros and cons of ID.
> As Alvin Plantinga says in the current issue of PCSF (art. from the NTSE
> conf.), believers all agree that "there are some things that God does
> directly".

I see no reason to say this. There may be some things God does
directly, but my own position is that we ought to try to maximize our
understanding of God's mediated action - mediated, i.e., through things
that are God's own creations!
That reflects in part a Lutheran-Reformed differences.
Lutherans consider the sacraments to be "means of grace" - i.e., ways in
which saving grace is actually mediated to people. The Reformed are, as
I understand it, not so enthusiastic about that idea.

> we who believe should be able to agree that there are special points (what
> I am calling "signs") at which _we_ see God's hand to be especially visible
> in his created order, even as we affirm that he made and sustains
> everything. Even the staunchest proponents of "functional integrity", as
> Plantinga says, agree on this.

Why do such signs have to be unmediated? The person who is
dogmatically committed to denying God can say "coincidence" &c, while
the person of faith believes that God is at work in a special way, and
the person who doesn't yet believe but is open to faith will say, "Yeah,
maybe there's something to this God idea." Lk.16:31 is relevant here.
N.B., this is not a matter of "denying miracles". It's a
question of what miracles _are_.

I don't know if I've noted on this list the rabbinic comment
from _Pirqe Aboth_ about the things "created on the eve of the Sabbath"
- the manna, the mouth of Balaam's ass, & other miraculous things in
Scripture. They had to have been created at the end of the 6th day
because they're not mentioned anywhere else in the creation story. The
assumption, then, is that they are not the result of "interventions"
which alter the basic structure of creation, but were inherent in the
original creation. A useful metaphor.

George L. Murphy