Re: [asa] ID as theological necessity (old Timaeus discussion, new PSCF artic...

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Tue Dec 16 2008 - 10:27:59 EST

Again, I need to know exactly what he meant by "observable." If it means
the sort of empirical observation we associate with scientific
instrumentation and precise description, then I agree with you. If it means
only what Psalm 19 and Romans 1 say, then I think proposition (3) is a fair
statement. Remember, "observable" means only that it's capable of
observation; it doesn't mean that everyone will in fact exercise that
capability. I think Ps. 19 and Romans 1 tell us that if we have the
"spiritual eyes" to see it, there is no denying that the creation declares
the glory of God. So God's design in creation is "observable," but of
course Romans 1 also tells us that in general we fail to see it because of
sin. What we need to remedy this is not some mathematical design-detecting
filter, but a spiritual filter.
David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology

On Mon, Dec 15, 2008 at 10:00 PM, <> wrote:

> I did not mean to imply that Groothuis was calling modern ID arguments
> essential to Christian theology. Let me try another angle to get at what I
> found offensive.
> Let's consider the following 3 statements (Note that this is NOT a
> syllogism):
> 1) It is a necessary part of Christian theology that God is the designer of
> nature.
> 2) God's design in nature is observable.
> 3) It is a necessary part of Christian theology that God's design be
> observable in nature.
> #1 I would absolutely agree with.
> #2 is an opinion or doctrine (which some might base on an interpretation of
> Romans 1) that I might or might not agree with, but I don't find it
> particularly objectionable (at least if not accompanied by bad arguments
> about claimed observation).
> #3, however, is what Groothuis actually said. If he had only said #1 (in a
> paper that makes clear he advocates #2 as well), that would be fine. But #3
> does not follow from the other 2, because it adds the "observable" condition
> to the list of what is "necessary". In my book (and in a more important
> book) that sort of thing is called "adding to the gospel".
> Even if one can make a case (Biblical and/or scientific) that the design
> really is observable, in no way is that observability *necessary*. It may
> be necessary to some "God of the gaps" form of theism, but not to a healthy
> Christian theism where God is not required to show himself in the ways our
> Enlightenment-warped fallen minds think he ought to. Groothuis is not just
> arguing for natural theology; he seems to be saying that theism can't work
> without it.
> Maybe a parallel would also help make the point. A statement parallel to
> that of Groothuis would be "A necessary component of Christian theism is
> that God's miraculous healing power be observed today." Now, the fact that
> God has such power is necessary. And if somebody wants to claim such
> observation today (I am not a cessationist despite not having observed it
> myself), that is OK with me. But if such observation is made a necessity
> (so that lack of observable miracles entails lack of God), we are adding to
> the gospel and need to reject the statement.
> Allan Harvey (ASA member)
> In a message dated 12/15/2008 1:34:24 P.M. Mountain Standard Time,
> writes:
> I am not a Groothuis fan by any stretch (see, e.g., my letter to the editor
> in the current Books & Culture).
> However, to be fair, Groothuis does not in the quoted sentence say that
> modern ID arguments are essential to Christian theology. He says it
> is necessary to hold that "God's designing intelligence is observable in
> nature." As to ID, he says ID arguments "lend rationality" to
> this necessary proposition. His claim therefore is that ID arguments are
> merely supportive of, and not necessary to, the observability of God's
> designing intelligence in nature.
> That said, the argument remains clunky. First, I'm not sure scripture or
> the Tradition would agree with the notion that God's designing intelligence
> is "observable in nature," depending on what we mean by "observable" and
> "nature". The point of Romans 1, of course, is that human beings shut their
> eyes to the evidence of God from nature. Second, "nature" means all of
> creation, not some particular aspects of it that might or might not be
> irreducibly complex. So the claim of Christian theology really is the basic
> claim that all of creation declares God's glory -- which in some ways cuts
> against ID's claims about particular, narrow aspects of creation.
> Finally, I have no idea what "lend rationality" means. I think he means
> "lends empirical support." But that's a (highly debateable) empirical
> claim, which is weaker than a claim compelled by rationality. The more
> basic claim that creation declares God's glory seems to be rational in
> itself.
> David W. Opderbeck
> Associate Professor of Law
> Seton Hall University Law School
> Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
> On Sat, Dec 13, 2008 at 1:11 PM, <> wrote:
> > In the article by Douglas Groothuis in the latest PSCF (arguing for ID in
> > university science curricula), there was a statement that sheds further
> > light on a conversation a while back where Timaeus commented on some
> things
> > Randy Isaac and I had said about the ID movement.
> >
> > Maybe the place to start is this post by Randy:
> >
> > and this post by me:
> >
> >
> > Randy had raised this question in trying to get at what the essence of ID
> > was (as differentiated from evolutionary creation positions):
> > ----(Randy)---------------
> > "Perhaps a modification of the question could also be enlightening in
> > differentiating ID and EC:
> > Is it a necessary corollary of the orthodox Christian doctrine of
> creation
> > that God's action of design in nature must be detectable in some way
> through
> > unique patterns in nature (beyond the very existence of nature, its
> > fine-tuned characteristics, and the comprehensibility of nature)?"
> > ------------------
> > and I observed that the "must be detectable" was the "God of the Gaps"
> > fallacy that functionally equates "lack of (detectable) gaps" to "lack of
> > God". I suggested that it would be much better theology, and would
> greatly
> > reduce my hostility to the ID movement, if they would replace "must be
> > detectable" with "might be detectable", rendering such detection a
> > possibility that might bolster our faith rather than a theological
> > necessity.
> >
> > Enter Timaeus, who objected to this characterization of ID, claiming that
> he
> > and ID in general were already in the "might be detectable" camp, and did
> > not make gaps a theological necessity. That was in this post:
> >
> > I replied here:
> >
> > with some examples of how, in my opinion, *most* of the ID movement
> > (allowing for exceptions like Mike Gene or Timaeus) did indeed seem to
> make
> > scientifically detectable gaps into a theological necessity.
> >
> > Enter the Groothuis article. On p.238, he says the following:
> > "If successful, ID arguments lend rationality to one necessary component
> of
> > Christian theism: namely, that God's designing intelligence is observable
> in
> > nature."
> >
> > Note the words "necessary" and "observable" -- saying that observable
> design
> > is a theological *necessity*. If only he had said "... that nature is
> the
> > result of God's designing intelligence" I would have no problem with the
> > statement. But he didn't say that; he said our observations need to
> detect
> > that design in order for theism to be viable.
> >
> > This is another example of a prominent ID proponent (one who is training
> > future pastors!) who appears to fit Randy's original description of
> making
> > scientific detection of God in nature a theological necessity. I think
> for
> > many of us, making the viability of theism dependent on being able to
> find
> > gaps in nature is what we find most objectionable (at least on the
> > theological front) about the ID movement. That movement will continue to
> be
> > a detriment to the church until and unless those few ID voices who disown
> > such "God of the gaps theology" gain more influence.
> >
> > Allan Harvey (ASA member)
> >
> >
> > ________________________________
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Received on Tue Dec 16 10:28:57 2008

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