Re: PJ and Saganism

George Murphy (
Mon, 23 Aug 1999 17:10:54 -0400

John W. Burgeson wrote:
> Allan wrote:
> ------------
> Among writings that suggest Johnson thinks God must, as a theological
> necessity, "leave his fingerprints all over the evidence" in order for
> theism to be tenable, here's a quote from _Defeating Darwinism_ that
> Terry Gray first pointed out to our list:
> "I therefore put the following simple proposition on the table for
> discussion: God is our true Creator. I am not speaking of a God who is
> known only by faith and is invisible to reason, or who acted undetectably
> behind some naturalistic evolutionary process that was to all appearances
> mindless and purposeless. That kind of talk is about the human
> imagination, not the reality of God. I speak of a God who acted openly
> and
> who left his fingerprints all over the evidence."
> Clearly, a God who works behind the scenes in nature does not pass muster
> with Johnson.
> ----------------------------------
> That's a good quotation, and, I think, fairly states the issue. I am not
> uncomfortable with it, myself; I know you are, as are many here.
> Did God "leave his fingerprints" at Cana? At Golgotha? I would assert
> that he most certainly did. Did he, therefore, "leave his fingerprints"
> elsewhere (scripture aside)? PJ thinks he did, or must have. Not an
> unreasonable position to take. Did God "leave his fingerprints" in my
> life at certain times? I assert that he did -- not in objective and
> empirical ways I can "show" you, but certainly in ways I can testify to,
> and have testified to.
> Where PJ and I part company, I think, is in his apparent assertion, and
> the above certainly comes close to it, that the TE position is untenable.
> I happen to think it is not correct, but I'd not argue it is
> unreasonable. In a couple discussions with PJ at the NTSE, we hashed over
> this point.
> Where Terry Gray, and Glenn Morton, and you (I think) and George Murphy
> part company with me is, I think, in your position that the TE position
> is the ONLY possibility and that the very idea of a God "leaving his
> fingerprints" is, somehow, a very bad idea to contemplate or give any
> credence to at all.

All of this skips over a crucial (!) important point: How do we know to
begin with what God's "fingerprints" belong? The tacit assumption in much of this
discussion seems to be that we know what God's "fingerprints" look like - i.e., who it
is whose activity we're trying to discover - before we look at Golgotha, Cana,
speciation, origin of life, or whatever. & if that's so, we're looking (almost by
definition) for the type of God we expect God to be.
I would insist, on the contrary, that we _don't_ know what kind of deity God is
prior to God's revelation in the history of Israel which culminates cross+resurrection
of Jesus. If you wish, the Incarnation is where God allows himself to be fingerprinted"
so that we will be able to identify the work of the true God in the world.
If one wants to disagree with this - how _do_ we identify the true God? Where
did we get his "fingerprints" in the first place? & how do we know that we haven't
fooled ourselves & just drawn some wavy lines that we think God's fingerprints should
look like?
& if my argument (which isn't really mine but that of Paul, Luther, Barth, &
some other decent theologians), then where are the marks of the cross in the supposed
"intelligent designing" of various molecular systems, putative gaps in the fossil record
Or is it perhaps the case that a God who would insist on showing off by "leaving
his fingerprints all over the evidence" is quite unlike the One who "though being in the
form of God did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped"? perhaps the
apparent absence of God in the development of life as standard evolutionary theory
describes it is the "fingerprints" of the One who "emptied himself, taking the form of a
(Note that in the above what's at issue is not whether people can know that
there is a God apart from God's historical revelation, but whether they can know who
that God is. & the answer of Romans 1 is quite clearly "No." The attempt to do so
always results in idolatry.)

George L. Murphy