Re: [asa] BioLogos - Bad Theology?

From: wjp <>
Date: Wed May 27 2009 - 00:51:53 EDT

As I understand this coherence of Darwinism and Christianity, a story, one similar to one that Cameron has previously offered, might go something like this.

Take a large set of coin flippers, video tape a large sequence of each coin flipper's flips, view the outcomes of all the flippers, and then select one particular flipper's video to play.

The coin flippers are possible universes. The results of each of their flippings are the events of that particular universe. The video taping is God's foreknowledge. God selects from His viewings and by His foreknowledge, a particular universe to actualize. That is the video He plays back.

The flipping events, not only those of the one God chooses, but all the flipping events of all the flippers, are determined by law and chance. Anyone viewing the flipping events could obtain a probability distribution for the flipping events. The particular sequence of flipping events is a chance event. Neither the flipper, nor the coin have any marks of intentionality or design. (If we want we can get rid of the flipper and use some sort of machine, just so the lack of "caring" or teleology is more evident.)

So in the events themselves, and the entities involved, there is only indifferent mechanism, without any caring for the specific results obtained. But in God's selection of which universe and chance sequence to actualized there is design and intelligence.

As I understand this position, we are not to reject by it SDA (Specific Divine Action) and maintain that only GDA (General Divine Action) occurs. For in the chosing of a specific universe it is possible that specific choices are made (e.g., Jacob I loved, but Easu I hated). But this specific choice is accomplished, according to this model, without God's intervention inside the universe, but rather from outside of it. In this way the objection by some of God's intervention inside the universe is overcome. Indeed, the model likewise permits the possibility that only GDA occurs. In this way, the "theological" objections of some to SDA might also be met.

It is, if I have it right, a clever story. But one I do not find satisfying, or, more importantly, consistent with the God we meet in Scripture, who appears to be constantly "fiddling" and interacting with those that are His People and those that are not His People. It seems, rather, that God's intervention is not rare, but common.


On Tue, 26 May 2009 21:49:56 -0600, "Terry M. Gray" <> wrote:
> Cameron,
> 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
> together.
> 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.
> TG
> ________________
> Terry M. Gray, Ph.D.
> Computer Support Scientist
> Chemistry Department
> Colorado State University
> Fort Collins, CO 80523
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Received on Wed May 27 00:52:13 2009

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