Re: A case for Christianity that does use ID or YEC arguments

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sat Jan 31 2004 - 09:07:31 EST

Ted Davis wrote:
> Let me offer a "second opinion," relative to your friend using ID
> arguments.
> I think that the ID movement is making some valid points about modern
> science, as follows.
> (1) for many years now, scientists have been working hard at trying to
> understand how biological complexity arises, and how life itself has
> originated. they have made rather little progress on the latter (so i judge
> from reading some sources that i regard as unbiased), and are also still
> mainly in the dark about the former. it's fair IMO for ID advocates to
> "call the question," that is, to claim that doubts about the ability of
> Darwinism to explain this can fairly be articulated.
> ID of course wants to go a lot further than this, to base faith
> significantly on this point. I regard that as potentially dangerous and
> certainly as questionable as their own questions about evolution.
> Neverthless, I stand by the paragraph above.
> (2) it's common for leading scientists to interpret science to the general
> public in terms of atheism, that is, science supports a materialistic
> interpretation of the universe in ultimate terms. Giberson & Yerxa call
> this group the "Council of Despair," Howard Van Till calls them "preachers
> of naturalism." I regard ID as a fair response to this group, esp on
> cosmology but also (see above) to a lesser extent on overzealous claims
> about the explanatory success of evolution. And, we should not forget that
> the ID movement as such arose in just this polemical context: Phil Johnson
> was directly responding to Richard Dawkins' Blind Watchmaker, which he read
> while on sabbatical in the UK.
> While I have serious reservations about Phil's equally overzealous claims
> about living in the last generation of evolution, etc, I also think that an
> apologetic response along the lines developed by Dembski and Meyer, etc, is
> legimate as a response. In my opinion, all Christians *should* believe in a
> God who created the universe purposefully. We don't all have to agree about
> whether *science itself requires design inferences* (that's what the ID
> movement claims at its core, and I am hesitant about that), but we shouldn't
> be so quick to dismiss the effort to use what we actually do know about
> nature and the science of nature we presently have, in order to respond to
> overzealous claims based on "science" and used against Christian theism.
> Having said these things, of course others on this list will offer their
> own views, I suspect will mainly dissent from mine on this subject. I agree
> with those who don't care too much for natural theology, but I would not
> entirely dismiss its value in this context; certainly it has some biblical
> basis (we disagree on that one, George, I'm sure you'll let us know that)
> and it has not been entirely without value in helping Christians understand
> that theism can be given a rational defense. Anyone famililar with John
> Polkinghorne's little book, "Belief in God in an Age of Science," which I do
> recommend to Doug's friend, will see my point, even if they don't accept
> it.
> So, Doug, I would perhaps help your friend (a) select the best of ID
> writing (I think there is some) and (b) read more widely than this, such as
> the Polkinghorne book and the really wonderful essay by Eugene Wigner on
> "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics," available on the web though
> published 40 years ago. Wigner's elegant essay cries out for a theistic
> interpretation.
> Some sort of rational defense of the faith--some sort of natural theology
> (forgive me, George, but I don't know another term for it, I'm open to
> suggestions) -- is called for. ID can be part of this, if carefully
> approached. But be sure to avoid the kind of "dancing on gravestones"
> (triumphal expressions about the immanent demise of modern science) that
> does mar a lot of that literature.

Ted et al -
        You are right that I'm wary about most of what is presented as natural theology
but I am not totally dismissive of the enterprise - if pursued with some cautions.
Briefly -
        1) It's certainly appropriate to counter atheistic arguments of Dawkins &c with
arguments a theistic world view is at least as coherent & able to account for data as an
atheistic one. But this only claims to show that belief in God should still be
considered in play as a legitimate option.
        2) There's no question that the classic idea of a natural knowledge of God &
natural theology as a "preparation for the gospel" has functioned successfully as an
apologetic device to get some people to give serious consideration to Christianity &
eventually to come to faith in Jesus Christ. But problems arise with the idea that the
supposed natural knowledge of God come to be seen as all that is really necessary -
which is what happened with the Enlightenment. & even if this doesn't happen,
questionable presuppositions about God can lead to theological defects - as did Greek
ideas about the impassibility, immutability, &c of God. Successful apologetic devices
are not always good theology - e.g., Pascal's wager.
        3) The right kind of natural theology is part of peculiarly Christian theology
based upon revelation (or "special revelation" if you wish). This results from viewing
our observations of the world and theories about them in the light of God's revelation
in the history of Israel which culminates in Christ. This can help us better to
understand how the God who is revealed in Christ is active in the world.
        Briefly, a natural theology which claims to be independent of revelation is
dubious & dangerous. A legitimate natural theology makes no such claim, but is
dependent upon revelation. It is again an exercise of faith in search of understanding.
George L. Murphy
Received on Sat Jan 31 09:10:56 2004

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