Radix Magazine's Phil Johnson interview

Keith Walker (Keith_R_Walker@compuserve.com)
Tue, 9 Dec 1997 05:56:34 -0500


You wrote of Johnson:
>Perhaps there is another reason why he encounters deeper hostility from
the Christians than from the >atheists who oppose him. "God-of-the-Gaps"
theology is in the long-term interest of atheism, so some >atheists may see
that it serves their cause for the church to follow Johnson's ways of
thinking. Or, at the very >least, they would not particularly care what
the church thinks. Many Christians in science, on the other hand, >care
deeply about the church and fear that Johnson is leading it (in the words
of another ASA list member) >off an intellectual cliff. So I wonder if
what he is seeing is just a difference in the intensity of the criticism,
>reflecting a deeper level of concern by the Christians.

My tongue is no longer in my cheek!

I am intrigued by the charge that Johnson holds a 'God of the gaps' (GOG)
viewpoint. Despite your earlier reticence to get back into that debate the
fact that it has appeared twice now seems to me a little justification for
challenging it.

I do not read Johnson that way at all. And I wonder why we should. Maybe
I could ask a question or two to get under this. It seems to me that the
GOG issue is essentially a theological question. It is not one which is
simply the private domain of scientists. It is broader. I am struck by
the fact that whilst Theistic Evolutionist scientists see GOG in Johnson's
thinking, evangelical theologians do not. This includes some who are
sympathetic to Darwinism. If Johnson's alleged GOG theology were evident
to them it is clear enough that they would have as much interest in noting
that as scientists. Yet we have Don Carson, Wayne Grudem, Carl Henry, and
most notably Mark Noll seeing very positive things in Johnson's agenda.

I note especially Noll in 'Scandal of the Evangelical Mind', p197
Section entitled: The Damage done by Creation Science to the Ev Mind
'One great tragedy of modern creationism is that its noisy alarums have
made it much more difficult to hear careful Christian thinkers - like many
in the ASA or like Phillip Johnson in his attacks on the philosophical
pretensions of grand-scale Darwinistic theories - whose work could carry
evangelicals beyond the sterile impasse of earlier years.'

Why is it that these theologians do not see Johnson as espousing such a
dangerous theology? Is Noll, whose antipathy towards Creation Science is
forthright, right in saying that Johnson is not getting heard right because
of the background noise?

The second area where I have questions is this. What if there are real
gaps? By that I do not mean gaps in our knowledge, but real gaps which are
caused by God? There is a surely a difference between saying that God is,
and that his existence makes it possible for real gaps to exist; and saying
that we think we have a gap, therefore God exists. The latter approach is
flawed and apologetically dangerous, but the former is somewhat different.

If Johnson is being heard as adopting the former approach then that may
need correcting. However, it is also the case that some Theistic
Evolutionists are heard as wishing to avoid the possibility of gaps at all
costs. Would you agree that the 'God of no gaps' Theology needs to be
avoided also?

Keith Walker