Re: [asa] natural theology, bad and good

From: David Campbell <>
Date: Thu Apr 30 2009 - 11:57:44 EDT

Ecclesiastes and Job both provide extended commentary on just what we
can arrive at, relying entirely on observation of the physical world.
As such, they are probably better guides than brief mentions
elsewhere. Ecclesiastes asserts that, considering only what is "under
the sun", one concludes that all is vanity. Job is a bit more
optimistic, highlighting the value of studying the physical world, but
still holding that wisdom derives only from fear of the Lord, not from
other pursuits. This is most explicit in ch. 28, but also a major
failing of his friends is that they insist on trying to infer Job's
spiritual condition and God's way of doing things based on the
physical evidence, rather than on knowing God.

As Job himself insists repeatedly with regard to human affairs, and
many (including C. S. Lewis) have observed with regard to the physical
world, there's no hard and fast pattern of how things look or work
out. Sometimes the wicked prosper and the righteous are oppressed.
"The rain it raineth on the just And also on the unjust fellow But
more upon the just because The unjust has the just's umbrella." As a
rule, in the long term, wickedness is self-defeating, but the
relationship in the present world between ethics and benefits is

Some aspects of the physical world look nice, some look hostile, some
look distant and indifferent. Of course, the latter is rather
subjective. Are parasitoid wasp larvae slowly eating a live
caterpillar an example of cruelty or of protecting the crops or of a
well-planned system of checks and balances? Ironically, many of those
who would say that it is a part of a well-designed system object to
evolution as having too much violence and cruelty. Again, if a
sluggard considers ants, he might notice that they are diligent; he
might notice that they carry things with their mouths and use all
limbs for walking; he might notice that they raid picnics. Only if he
knows that he ought to be diligent will his observations benefit him.
Knowing God, we can praise Him in the things that we see as good and
trust Him in the things that don't make sense, but this is not
inferring things about God from nature; it is inferring things about
nature from God. Thus, Ps. 8 and Ps. 19 both start with knowledge of
God (though it's not mentioned at first) that is the basis for the
interpretation of the physical world. Ps. 19 doesn't merely see the
sun as making things awfully hot; it uses it as an analogy for the

God can use such links as a step towards faith, but it is not
something inherent in the scientific data. I know a physicist who was
trying to convey wave/particle duality to students and came up with
the analogy of God being three and one in Christian doctrine. This
prompted the realization that maybe Christian doctrine actually made
sense, a realization eventually leading to conversion to Christianity.

Additionally, the examples in Scripture of invoking nature as pointing
to God tend not to be of the sort that ID looks for. The factors
cited tend to be the wonder, power, beauty, and other not very
quantifiable aspects of the physical world, not scientific mysteries.
Acts 14:17 invokes the general provision of rain and harvest as
pointing to God, yet there's nothing inherent in those that would
point to God versus Demeter versus meteorological and climatic
phenomena. Rather, Paul and Barnabas are asserting that God is really
the one behind this. Again, in the opening chapters of Romans, the
prime example of what has been given by God as evidence that is
willfully disregarded is the conscience, not flagellae or physical

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Thu Apr 30 11:58:06 2009

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