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Defining my Position on ID and Creation

A couple of questions have arisen about my position on these issues, and though I’ve stated all these things before, they have generally been in longer presentations. So I’m going to try to state my position.

I see three easily demarcated positions on design:

  1. The universe is designed as a fully functional system, and the origin and diversification of life can be explained by natural processes within that universe. A theist in this sense believes God created the universe, but is not required to interfere.
  2. The universe was established in such a way that a particular result would occur through apparently natural processes. This is an approximation of “front-loading” which some equate to intelligent design.
  3. The origin or life and/or its diversification cannot be explained by solely natural processes. The designer (God, despite claims to the contrary) interferes at particular points. This is the ID position, and is the one I was addressing in my post The Common Thread in Modern Creationism yesterday.

The second option might be divided between those who think God’s interference can be detected, and those who don’t, but I don’t think that is of great consequence for my purposes here.

When I say that I believe the universe is designed, I mean in the sense of #1. God ordained the universe to exist, including the natural processes of variation by whatever means and natural selection, and that is an adequate explanation. I do not mean that variation and natural selection explain everything, but other elements to the explanation will also be natural. My statement that the universe is designed is in no sense a scientific statement. I’m not a biologist. I am not professionally involved in any of the natural sciences. I’m a Bible teacher. That statement is theological and faith based.

I do not exclude the possibility of option #2, but I have no expectation that God’s action will ever be detected, and I see no difference between completely indetectible (even in principle) interference and no interference at all. Certainly one can never actually know in an objective sense.

I think there is a strong desire to find this interference, either through front-loading or through ongoing interference because there is a desire in Christian theology to believe that the existence not just of life, but of intelligence, and specifically human intelligence was foreordained. I do not believe that must be the case. Should intelligence appear on another plant in an arthropod form, I would regard that creature to equally bear the image of God.

I believe the universe is bigger, less predictable, and more risky than we in the theological world have ever believed. On this topic I would commend to your attention the book God after Darwin by John Haught.

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  1. Peter Kirk says:

    Thanks for the clarification. I think my position is more or less the same as yours. But I wonder how you would defend yourself from the accusation that #1 is deism. That is perhaps why I tend to prefer #2 with undetectable interference, i.e. God is continuing to work behind the scenes and within the apparently random (even at the quantum level) processes in the universe. But I accept that this makes no observational difference.

    Do you allow for exceptions to your general picture for miracles, especially the Resurrection? Is God interfering here, or is this also part of the predetermined natural system?

    Note also the discussion of omphalism here.

  2. Do you allow for exceptions to your general picture for miracles, especially the Resurrection? Is God interfering here, or is this also part of the predetermined natural system?

    Yes, though I don’t call this an exception. The universe that God created works. Thus bringing in miracles to make function is unnecessary and is not indicated by any evidence. In fact, the evidence seems to me strongly in favor of natural processes being adequate to explain that.

    I’ve written a bit on miracles, but I see those as a minor portion of the way God works with the universe and specifically having to do with communication with people. The universe would function without them; they are simply God’s way of communication with people.

    In my view ID makes “miracles” routine, which is one of the things that offends me theologically.

  3. Peter Kirk says:

    Thanks, Henry. That makes sense. No miracles for ID, that I accept. But I’m not sure I accept miracles as being just “a minor portion of the way God works with the universe”. I would see them more as an indication that God’s kingdom is breaking in. To me this shows that the universe is not in fact simply going to follow the logic of its original creation, according to scheme #1, into heat death or collapse. Instead, in a way I don’t claim to understand, it is going to be transformed into something different, and the resurrection and other miracles are signs of that transformation beginning. I would see this transformation as happening now largely through “apparently natural processes”, the same undetectable divine interference I mentioned in my previous comment. But occasionally, and in future perhaps more so, it comes about through detectable acts of God’s power. Now I certainly wouldn’t want to teach this as science! But it is how I see the ultimate Christian hope.

    I must get back to my “In the beginning” series which is intended to cover some of this ground.

  4. Larry B says:

    Thanks Henry, this post certainly help to answer my previous question.

    I’ve always thought about the issue using a sort of thought experiment of my own: Suppose there were an observer who could not detect carbon based life forms, yet he was observing the earth over a period of time. In effect all he can see is our structures and machines. To him, it certainly would be plausible to construct a theory of evolution as to how these structures and machines came and went. In fact that would be the only theory that would hold scientific muster as he could never show the existence of anything else. However, we know in this story that humans did cause what we see, no matter how complex or airtight the constructed theory of evolution of structures and machines get.

    In the same way, as you point out, we can never scientifically prove a hypothesis that postulates a supernatural component that we can never measure. Thus as complete as the theory might become, there is still a possibility that at some point something else was involved. Science simply cannot answer that question. That’s why I think it’s important to still consider the ideas of religion separate from science in terms of really defining who we are.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

  5. Nima says:

    Wow, this is an absolutely great post.

    As a non-Christian scientist I will admit that sometimes I forget that there is such diversity in views of creation and the role of God therein. I hear the loudest view-points, which I think tends to be the most extreme, so often that it seems like there’s been a consensus of opinion formed, and, like most things, that looks to not be the case.

    Thanks, Henry.

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