Re: [asa] How is Front-Loading Different from Deism?

From: Terry M.Gray <>
Date: Mon Jun 01 2009 - 22:57:07 EDT


I take deism to be more like your 1a, the winding up the clock image;
I've always taken on-going sustenance, and continually invovlement,
and concurrence to be theistic rather than deistic. The
inadmissability of miracles, answering prayer, governance in a moment
by moment and Fatherly sense, I take to be missing from deism and
present in a Biblical theism.

I think that your characterization of extreme Calvinists as "front-
loaders" is a bit off. Calvinists talk about God's decree and then
God's execution of that decree in Creation and Providence. Indeed, all
things, cosmic history, human history, and Heilsgeschicte are all
decreed. But never is there "decree" or "laying out of a plan" and
then a letting the plan carry itself out. God is involved in
necessity, chance, and free-agency and accomplishes his decree through
these means.

I think that answers your first two questions.

I have not normally associated ID with deism, but as we have carried
out our discussion, it seemed to me that front-loading was a form of
deism. God put the information there and let it go, more or less by
itself. ID says that the complexity that we see in the universe
wouldn't occur without God supplying the information from the
beginning, but once it's been planted in the system, it could occur
with just the subsequent actions of chance and necessity.

Yes, some TE's are deists.

I am willing to call "front-loaders" who accept the central claims of
Christianity and have personal faith in Christ brothers and sisters in
Christ. If you mean more than that by your last question, we'll have
to talk some more.

I find front-loading to be defective because it seems to allow for an
autonomous "nature" once properly configured to run by itself without
further intervention and involvement from the Creator, Sustainer,
Provider, and Governor of the universe. Front-loading that still
requires God's moment by moment involvement and supervision is
probably not all that different from my own view. I guess the main
difference would be that "front-loaders" "need" front-loading because
they can't see how evolution could have occurred without it. I don't
have that "problem". I don't see any need from that from a scientific
perspective, and hence the Darwinian mechanisms, random mutation and
natural selection, and whatever else evolutionary biologists come up
with are fine with me.

I'll say it again because it doesn't seem to be getting through to
many on the list: something can be purposeless and mindless from the
scientific perspective and still be purposeful and mindful from God's
perspective. Dawkins and Darwin are just mistaken to think that
Darwinism says anything about God's involvement. "Naturalistic"
explanations shouldn't presume to say anything about what God's doing.
But that doesn't mean that God's not doing anything. Asa Gray noted
this about Darwinism from almost the beginning. Hodge cites Gray's
point here, but falls into the trap when he refuses to admit that Gray
is a Darwinian as Gray himself would admit.


On Jun 1, 2009, at 6:22 PM, Cameron Wybrow wrote:

> Terry has asked a good question, namely, "How is front-loading
> different from deism?"
> 1. To start with, we have to decide what is meant by deism (or
> Deism, according to taste). This is crucial, because TEs have
> accused ID of deism, and ID people have accused TE of deism.
> a. Does "deism" mean the belief that God assembled the universe
> like a machine, wound up the clock, so to speak, and then retired,
> so that he never under any circumstance has anything to do with
> happens?
> or
> b. Does "deism" mean the belief that God created the universe, and
> did not merely wind it up and let it run, but still is involved in
> the universe in a general way, in that he sustains or powers or
> continually wills its laws, even though he does not "intervene" in
> anything that happens in the sense of breaking or suspending the laws?
> Comment A: At least some TE people seem to be saying that, while
> God is involved in all natural events in a general way, sustaining
> the laws, "concurring" in them, etc., God does not break or suspend
> those laws, at least, not with regard to the origination of stars,
> planets, species, etc. Such TEs would be "deistic" in sense (b).
> 2. We have to define "front-loading". I take "front-loading" to
> mean that the evolutionary process is guided by a program fed into
> nature at the beginning of life (and possibly earlier, at the
> beginning of the cosmos itself). That is, the first DNA contained
> all the information necessary to generate all future life forms, or
> at least to augment itself via duplication and other processes until
> it grew large enough to contain the information necessary to
> generate all future life forms. Thus, anteaters and dandelions and
> man are implicitly contained in the earliest bacteria-like genomes.
> Various people have advocated front-loaded views of evolution. The
> only view I am familiar with in detail is that of Denton, who indeed
> takes the front-loading all the way back to the Big Bang.
> 3. I take it that Terry's question implies a possible criticism of
> front-loading from a Christian point of view, i.e., that it suggests
> that front-loading keeps God effectively out of the picture, and
> therefore implies a sub-Christian, i.e., deistic view of God.
> Possible responses to this:
> a. See Comment A above. Some forms of TE effectively keep God out
> of the evolutionary picture (exactly as Darwin did, and as "deistic
> evolution" would by definition have to). This does not seem to be
> the case for Ted Davis, Robert Russell, or George Murphy, who appear
> to assert actual detailed involvement of God in the evolutionary
> process (albeit indetectible involvement). With other TEs, it is
> much harder to tell, because they sometimes write as if neo-
> Darwinian mechanisms are by themselves *entirely* sufficient to
> explain everything that we see in the biological realm, and
> therefore it looks as if God is no more involved in the evolutionary
> process than he is in the orbit of the moon around the earth, or in
> the processes of embryological development; yet these same TEs don't
> seem quite satisfied with shutting God out in such a way. They
> appear to want the evolutionary process to be autonomous and
> dependent on God at the same time, and their language and arguments
> are simply unclear.
> b. Front-loaders who are Christian could argue that God "front-
> loads" up to the creation of man, the being who has free will; after
> that, God takes a more active role, intervening in human events for
> his divine purposes. Thus, front-loaded, naturalistic evolution can
> be combined with the dynamic God of revelation, by positing that God
> starts intervening only after the evolutionary process has been
> completed. Few TEs could charge an ID front-loader of being
> inconsistent here, given that TEs themselves often postulate exactly
> the same dual explanation: God does not intervene to create the
> world or life or species or man, but intervenes miraculously for
> revelatory purposes. See Comment A above.
> c. Certain forms of Calvinism are extremely deterministic in
> flavour (no matter how clever the Calvinist theologians are at
> making out that they preserve free will and therefore are not
> preaching determinism). An extreme Calvinist should not only have
> no problem believing that God front-loaded everything up to man;
> such a Calvinist could believe that God front-loaded, so to speak,
> the entire divine history as recorded in the Bible, and more
> generally, all events, human as well as natural. So criticism of
> front-loading from a certain Calvinist perspective would seem
> inconsistent.
> So I throw it back to you, Terry:
> i. What do you mean by deism?
> ii. What in your view are the flaws of deism? How is it inferior
> to Christianity regarding its view of creation and its view of
> ongoing divine action in nature and in its view of divine action in
> human affairs?
> iii. Do you see ID as deistic? If so, how do you square that with
> the common charge that ID is too much into miraculous explanations
> for perfectly natural processes?
> iv. Is it fair to say that the language of some TEs regarding
> divine non-intervention in the evolutionary process at least
> *sounds* deistic, and that TEs could do a much better job of
> explaining why a thoroughgoing naturalism doesn't imply deism?
> v. Is front-loading as defined above incompatible with Christianity?
> Cameron.
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Terry M. Gray" <
> >
> To: "ASA" <>
> Sent: Monday, June 01, 2009 5:58 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] ID vis a vis id
>> So for those of you who are "front-loaders" I have a question. How
>> is front-loading different from deism?
>> TG
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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 Mon Jun 1 22:57:39 2009

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