Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

From: Terry M. Gray <>
Date: Tue May 26 2009 - 23:49:56 EDT


I'm delighted to see the conversation take this direction. I was
mentally composing a message to address several of these points.

As you note, the Calvinist perspective on how God is involved with the
created order allows for some considerations that have seemed off the
table here; namely, that an event can be seemingly by chance, yet
still be under God's control and determination. I discuss some of this
in my on-line paper at
GrayASA2003OnHodge.html You also see the idea in the Westminster
Confession of Faith III, 1

1. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of
his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to
pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is
violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or
contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

and V, 2

2. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the
first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet,
by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out, according to the
nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

Proverbs 16:33 captures the idea "The lot is cast into the lap, but
its every decision is from the LORD."

The point is that from a creaturely perspective there can be random
events. A scientific analysis would result the conclusion that such
events were undirected and unplanned, i.e. consistent with the
Darwinian claim. However, from God's perspective they are planned,
directed, purposed, etc. It's only when you push the notion of random
and undirected and unplanned into God's perspective do we run into
trouble. Of course, this is Darwin's original error and the error
(from a Calvinist's perspective) committed by atheist and theist
critic of Darwinism.

Another way of saying this is that God is the designer of things that
are the consequence of what to us are random processes.

So, how does this work? What does this mean for God's involvement in
creation? I personally hold to a radical interventionist model. I
think this is what scripture and the Reformed confessions teach. God
is involved via sustenance and concursus with every creaturely act. I
don't know the details. I'm not sure we can know, it may well be part
of what it means to be God (which we're not). I don't think scripture
tells us. As Hodge says (cited in my on-line paper), that's all we
need to know. Notice from the WCF citations above that holding this
radical interventionist model does not deny the authenticity of
creaturely actions or the reality of other causes than God. How can
this be you may ask? I don't know. We affirm all the scripture
affirms, which is all these things even if we can reason how they all
fit together. We can confidently say that God knows how they all fit

This, I think, is the fundamental theological problem in Darwin. He
rejected a God who was in all the details, largely, I think, for
reasons relating to theodicy. He, like many theologians in his day
(and many in our day) rejected the Calvinist perspective because he
couldn't reconcile his notion of the goodness of God with "nature red
in tooth and claw". Interestingly, this seems to be the main point of
Ayala's "Darwin's Gift". Since God is not directly involved any more
he his relieved of any responsibility for the perceived gruesomeness
of the biological world.

So, Darwin rejects the Calvinist vision of the world that God directs
everything that happens, even in random events, i.e. he pushes his
scientific/creaturely notions of randomness into God's perspective.
This is where I think that Hodge's critique of Darwin is
misunderstood. Hodge cannot conceive of a world where there are random
events outside of God's determination in both His will and His
governance. If such events exist then God doesn't--if this is Darwin's
view then it's atheism. Notice that even Hodge is willing to go to the
"Darwinism" of Asa Gray (although he is clear about not wanting to
call Gray a Darwinian) and Hodge's successor at Princeton, B.B.
Warfield, once called himself a "Darwinian of the purest water".

Gray and Warfield understood that Darwin had committed the error of
confusing categories when comparing the divine purpose with what's
observed from the creaturely realm. So, for them, they could affirm
Darwinism the way Darwin understood it in the creaturely realm as long
as you understood that you were making no claims for God's involvement
(or not). I think that this is why the 19th and early 20th century
Calvinists had less problem with science in general and evolution in
particular than with many of the other fundamentalists. A full blown
scientific description in terms of natural causes is not the least bit
incompatible with a divine causation, even at the detail of quarks,
protons, and molecules.

Frankly, I think this same error is committed by Falk, Collins, and
Lamoureux. So it's somewhat providential that my response to Cameron
comes under this subject line. Of course, I commend all three for
tackling this difficult subject and being bold enough to affirm the
compatibility of their Christian faith and their understanding of the
science. But they do not follow my Calvinist line here. In fact, at
least Collins and Falk make much of how God's working through the
evolutionary process helps solve theodicy to some degree. (A
commitment to libertarian free will also is part of the picture, which
explains, in part, a certain friendliness toward open theism.) But, in
my opinion, they give away the store. If the outcome of a series of
events is dependent of the prior events then the prior events must be
as much under God's control as the end event. As you noted, Cameron,
scripture seems to go this direction much more than many contemporary
folk want to go.

This leads to another thread of Cameron's on the definition of theist
evolution. I consider the view described above to be a version of
theistic evolution. On my view, chemistry is theistic chemistry,
physics is theistic physics, etc. This does not necessarily mean that
there are no miraculous interventions. As I've said many times, I
believe that scripture teaches a special creation of human beings,
particularly of the human soul. So while I affirm the possibility of
evolutionary processes that lead to the biological form of human
beings, human beings, body AND soul, do not derive from an
evolutionary process. While this aspect of human creation is not
evolutionistic, it does not, in my opinion, disqualify me from being a
theistic evolutionist.

In this view, then, everything is intelligently designed if we regard
God as an intelligent agent. Whether something has design that is
detected using the various tools that detect design (SETI, forensics,
archaeology, etc.) is another question. I remain open to the
possibility but have yet to be convinced that any of the examples
pointed to are real (and this from the perspective of a professional
biologist/biochemist for whatever that's worth). See my discussion of
the general matter written now over 15 years ago at
    While I can't give the details that Cameron (following Behe)
demands, the broad outlines of the evolution many irreducibly complex
systems are present to the point that I find them highly credible.

I wanted to refer to one other Cameron's posts in appreciate. While I
have always appreciated George Murphy's approach in general and firmly
advocate a Christ and cross-centered approach to theology myself, I
have always felt that his perspective was used to undermine other
perspectives. The thread on "Archimedes point" produced an "aha"
moment for me. Without denying the importance of George's approach, I
would probably advocate a more multi-perspective approach. I find this
in some of John Frame's writings and in traditional Reformed theology.

Finally, I think that it's worth saying, especially in light of a
recent post where seem to be getting our theology from Bruce Almighty,
that much of the resistance to the Calvinistic perspective comes from
a commitment to libertarian rather than compatibilist free will. While
Calvinist acknowledge creaturely free will (see the citations above
from the Westminster Confession), they deny that it is inconsistent
with God's decree and sovereignty over all things. The Confession says
that "nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures" while
affirming God's foreordination (not just foreknowledge) of whatever
comes to pass. Non-Calvinists deny that such a thing is possible and
that compatibilist free will is not free will at all (despite a long
intellectual history that includes Calvinists and various
deterministic philosophies).

As an interesting aside, the Calvinistic perspective also lets us have
a fully human and a fully divine Scripture. Warfield and A. A. Hodge
advocate this in their view of inspiration. Their's is no dictation
theory, but their view has God providentially forming the writer's of
scripture, their backgrounds, context, circumstances, thoughts, etc.
so that what they write is exactly what He want written and declared
to be His Word. This rejection of the Calvinistic perspective is part
of what leads Clark Pinnock in "The Scripture Principle" to abandon
inerrancy. His more recent moves toward open theism is just part of a
consistent rejection of Calvinism.


Terry M. Gray, Ph.D.
Computer Support Scientist
Chemistry Department
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523
(o) 970-491-7003 (f) 970-491-1801

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Received on Tue May 26 23:50:13 2009

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