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A BioLogos Response to William Dembski, Part 2

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May 3, 2012 Tags: Science & Worldviews
A BioLogos Response to William Dembski, Part 2

Today's entry was written by Darrel Falk. You can read more about what we believe here.

Note: This essay is a response to William Dembski in the Southern Baptist Voices series, a dialogue between Southern Baptist seminarians and representatives of BioLogos. For a more complete description of the project’s history and aims, please see our introduction here.

In his essay Dr. Dembski laid out a list of “non-negotiables” of both Christianity and Darwinism. He discussed the tensions between the two lists and explained his belief that Darwinism undercuts Christianity. In Part 1 of his response, Biologos president Darrel Falk addressed the topic of divine action in creation, in which both natural and supernatural processes are a result of God’s continuous activity in our world.

Here in Part 2, Darrel responds to Dembski’s lists of non-negotiables, presenting his personal perspective on how BioLogos is different from “Darwinism”.

Is Darwinism Theologically Neutral?

With the first part of my essay as background, I now respond directly to Dembski’s analysis of “Darwinism” and how BioLogos differs from the view he critiques.  He begins by posing a question, “Is Darwinism theologically neutral?”  He goes on to describe two contrasting views:

  1. Those of the agnostic philosopher, Michael Ruse, who claims Christianity and Darwinian evolution are compatible and,
  2. Those of individuals who hold a young earth view and claim Christianity and Darwinian evolution are incompatible.

Dembski suggests that Ruse, in order to claim compatibility (neutrality), redefines Christianity.  I agree he does this.  Without belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, Christianity is dead and, as Paul says, Christians are of all people most to pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:19).

Dembski also states that a belief in common descent can be consistent with Christian faith (i.e. neutral), and here I agree with Dembski again. As he points out, Christianity is not defined by the mechanism that God chose to use in accomplishing his purposes in creation.

So far we are on exactly the same page.  Ruse claims Darwinism is neutral, but only by departing from Christian theology.  Some young earth creationists claim Darwinism is not neutral, but they focus on common descent and this, by itself, does not depart from Christian theology.  However, as Dembski quickly notes at that point in his essay, he has not yet carefully defined Darwinism and Christianity.  He goes on to describe what he considers to be some non-negotiables of each. 

Dembski suggests that among the core non-negotiable principle beliefs of Christianity are: (a) divine creation, (b) reflected glory, (c) human exceptionalism, and (d) bodily resurrection of Jesus.  I agree that these are non-negotiables; take away any of these beliefs and you no longer have Christianity.  We’re still on the same page.

What about non-negotiables of “Darwinism?”  They are, he says, (a) common descent, (b) natural selection, (c) human continuity, (d) methodological naturalism.  With that, he proceeds to analyze each.

Common Descent

Common descent, which today is at the core of the biological sciences, was a fundamental tenet for Darwin.  Dembski sees no significant theological problem with common descent. “By themselves [the Christian non-negotiables described above] allow that God might have specially created living forms or brought them about via an evolutionary process,” he writes. He sees no theological conflict with this Darwinian tenet, even though he does not subscribe to it.

Natural Selection

Dembski indicates that natural selection, as defined by Darwin, is in tension with two of the four Christian non-negotiables—divine creation and reflected glory.  His primary concern is that Darwin’s view of natural selection is non-teleological.  Insomuch as this is true (and Darwin’s views on teleology are complex and contested), I agree.  If Darwin’s non-teleological views were correct, this would be incompatible with some of the non-negotiables in Christianity.  As Dembski says, “to say that something is undetectable is not to say that it doesn’t exist….”  I concur that Darwin had no scientific basis for concluding that the evolutionary process did not end up exactly the way that God intended in the beginning.  If Darwin reached non-teleological conclusions on the basis of his data then he allowed his philosophical and theological commitments to influence his conclusions.  Like Dembski, I believe God did call our existence into being; there is a teleological basis for our presence on earth.  We are by no means an accident and to the extent that Darwin thought we are, he was wrong.

So far, I see no significant difference between BioLogos and the non-negotiables presented by Dembski.  Intriguingly, however, Dembski goes on to state, “it seems odd, given C1—[divine creation], that God would create by Darwinian processes, which suggest that unguided forces can do all the work necessary for biological evolution.”  Here we part company.  As indicated in my introductory comments above, I believe that the natural activity of God is not less divine than the supernatural activity of God, something borne out by the Scriptures themselves.  This does not mean that I think that no supernatural activity occurred in life’s history; I just don’t see why it would be “odd” if God chose to create life’s diversity through his natural activity.  How would we know what is odd as it relates to the activity of God?  The only reliable source of what is odd and what is not is God’s revelation through his Word.  But I see no scripturally-based rationale for determining the expected ratio of natural vs. supernatural divine activity in creation.  Scripture is silent on the issue and so far at least, science is as well—other than demonstrating that many biological features and mechanisms previously thought by some to be evidence of supernatural action can now be explained via God’s regular activity—that associated with his natural laws.  For the present, I think it is best to withhold judgment about the extent to which God suspends his ongoing regular activity in favor of miraculous supernatural activity in the history of the creating life’s diversity.

I now come to the most fundamental point of disagreement between the Intelligent Design movement and BioLogos.  Dembski states:

Given that science is widely regarded as our most reliable universal form of knowledge, the failure of science to provide evidence of God, and in particular Darwin’s exclusion of design from biological origins, undercuts C2 [reflected glory].

Furthermore, he also writes:

If God does occlude his purposeful activity in nature, that raises a tension with (C2), which states that the world clearly reflects God’s glory (Psalm 19) and that this fact should be evident to all humanity (Romans 1).

I don’t think that God occludes or masks his activity.  Thanks in no small part to science, we now recognize that there are “signposts” (C.S. Lewis’s term) all over the place directing our attention to the existence of our Creator.  The question is whether those “signposts” can be developed into scientific hypotheses that can be scientifically tested in a manner that parallels how one goes about testing the hypothesis that smoking causes cancer or that DNA is the genetic material.  The heavens do declare the glory of God (Psalm 19), and, “ever since the creation of the world, his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made” (Romans 1:20).  God has not occluded his activity.  It is all around us.  From the birth of a baby to the birth of a star; from a universe which is mathematically coherent to one which is exquisitely fine-tuned; from our sense of shame to our ability to recognize the good and the right—from all of these and so much more, we see signposts all pointing to our Creator.  Individually each hints at something beyond ourselves.  Together they shout out with the message of God’s glory.  Still, can they be tested scientifically—in a manner that parallels whether penicillin kills bacteria or the mitochondrion is the cell’s energy factory—to determine whether God is at work in them?  Can intelligent people who choose not to believe come up with feasible alternative explanations that do not include God?  Sure, they do it all the time and, as Romans 1 tells us, they have been doing it from the beginning of human existence.

Given the way that God has worked through his regular natural activity, why should we expect to be able to develop a test for the activity of God?  God is always active, but scientific testing of God’s activity would require a “control” where God is not active.  How can we conduct an experiment which studies the “presence vs. absence of God” when God is always present as sustainer as well as creator?

Human Continuity

Dembski quotes from Darwin’s Descent of Man:

The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind. We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties, such as love, memory, attention, curiosity, imitation, reason, etc., of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or even sometimes in a well-developed condition, in the lower animals.

Even if all that Darwin says here were more or less true, it would still say nothing about that which makes humans truly exceptional, because—our linguistic and cognitive abilities aside—what makes us truly exceptional has less to do with biology than with the fact that God chose to enter into a unique relationship with humankind.  Dembski paraphrases an ideologically strict Darwinian view of man as “not worthy of special divine attention, and with no prerogatives above the rest of the animal world.” But Christians recognize that our material ordinariness is radically transformed by the presence and promises of God. Exactly as with the people of Israel among the nations, so humans among the animals: our special identity rests in the free choice of the Creator to give us his himself and his name. If we recognize that human specialness rests on God’s fellowship with and call upon us, and that we—alone of all creatures—are enabled by God to bear his image in the world, then anything Darwin said about the physical continuity between humans and animals is irrelevant.  In the way that matters most, we are not continuous with animals. For philosophical and theological reasons, Darwin did not recognize this. Darwin, I believe, was wrong.  I, like Dembski and like Southern Baptists in general, am not a Darwinist.

Methodological Naturalism

Dembski defines methodological naturalism in the following way:

The physical world, for purposes of scientific inquiry, may be assumed to operate by unbroken natural law.

He goes on from there to write that if one assumes that miracles were performed in salvation history, then it would seem to be arbitrary to assume that God would not also perform miracles in natural history as well.  Although I do not rule out the occurrence of miracles in natural history, the purpose of miracles in the biblical narrative seems to stem from God’s desire to reveal himself to humankind, reminding us of and guiding us in our relationship with him and each other.  Given that, I do not see why it is arbitrary to think that God may not have used miracles to accomplish his purposes in nature before humans were around to observe them.

However, I strongly disagree with Dembski that if one believes God has worked primarily through natural processes in creation as a whole, this makes belief in the resurrection less tenable.  The two ought not to be tied together in this way, especially since I have already stated that I reject the notion that the ordinary and regular processes of creation are any less God’s—than what I have called supernatural processes.  One’s conclusion about the mechanism of creation has no logical extension to one’s views about the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

In conclusion, I think Dembski takes some steps that are both theologically unnecessary and scientifically unjustified in rejecting what careful study tells us about God’s marvelously ordinary processes of creation: ordinary because they follow his natural laws so faithfully, marvelous because they have resulted in a world of complex and beautiful life.  On the other hand, I agree with Dembksi that Darwin’s views were not theologically neutral.  Darwin’s views on teleology, human exceptionalism, and miracles were not compatible with Christianity.  Quite simply, this is why I do not consider my views to be Darwinian and why I am not a Darwinist.

For further reading:

The BioLogos website offers many resources to acquaint readers with the incredibly strong scientific evidence for common descent and other facets of evolutionary biology.

See Understanding Evolution: An Introduction to Population and Speciation, by Dennis Venema (note the link to other articles in this series on the right hand sidebar), and Evidences for Evolution, by David Kerk.  Also, for three very fine podcasts, consider viewing these posts by Kelsey Luoma.

Darrel Falk is former president of BioLogos and currently serves as BioLogos' Senior Advisor for Dialog. He is Professor of Biology, Emeritus at Point Loma Nazarene University and serves as Senior Fellow at The Colossian Forum. Falk is the author of Coming to Peace with Science.

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Chip - #69735

May 7th 2012

Hi Ted,

Been away for the weekend.  Thanks for the thoughtful responses. 

First, I have no connection to the Barry you mention.  The quotations I started with are ones I believe to be representative of a mainstream evolutionary perspective:  random mutation and natural selection is the primary mechanism of evolutionary change.  Natural selection is a thoughtless, unguided process that cannot plan or predict outcomes of any kind.  And the only raw materials that the selection filter has to work on are the accidental changes that drop into its lap. All of this is mainstream and uncontroversial, but let me know if you disagree.

From a christian perspective, the point is simply that while such a mechanism may be able to produce something, to hold that it can produce something specified in advance (ie, Man in God’s image), requires way more faith than I’m capable of mustering. 

Unless of course, the mutation/selection process is either programmed in advance, or manipulated by an intelligence along the way.  But such seems to be exactly what Falk would reject as “supernatural.” 

So, while I applaud his view that “there is a teleological basis for our presence on earth,” I’m still going to hold that it is not feasible to advance such a view while at the same time embracing a system which by definition does not allow for any teleology.   

Thanks for the links—I’ll try to get to them in the next couple of days. 

Ted Davis - #69740

May 7th 2012


Thank you for the reply. In looking again at my post about “Barry,” I see why you thought I was directly implying that you might be him. Actually I didn’t have that in mind, but I did think you might have used his column vs Barr as the model for yours. I should have said that more clearly. I’m sorry to have been less clear than I should have been.

The key thing here, IMO, is what is meant by “chance,” “random,” and other such terms. These are used by scientists in different ways, and not all scientists have identical conceptions of what they mean when they use them; nor are they always used in the same way in different physical situations. Thus, there is nothing really indeterministic about flipping a coin, in terms of the kinds of physical laws that describe it, but we can’t predict the result of one toss b/c we don’t have exhaustive knowledge of all of the physical factors that determine the result. It’s a “chance” event, but not indeterministic; an omniscient being IMO would know the result before the coin hits the ground. The motions of an ensemble of molecules are also described probabilistically; every individual molecular collision is lawlike, but we can’t predict what a given molecule will do in practice b/c we don’t know nearly enough about the ensemble as a whole.

Quantum events might be different. I say “might be,” b/c it depends on which philosophical interpretation of QM we go with. Werner Heisenberg believed that QM is truly indetermnistic; for him, no agent could predict the outcome of a quantum event, presumably not even God. Einstein didn’t agree; indeed, that was the context in which he made his famous statement that God doesn’t play dice. The jury is still out, on whether or not QM is truly indetermnistic, but most scientists probably believe that it is. Nevertheless, David Bohm produced a deterministic version, with “hidden variables”—which, if it is actually correct (most physicist think it’s not), might mean that God could fully control the universe in a manner consistent with scientific determinism.

But, of course, most Christians don’t want a fully deterministic universe—at the level of science. They’d like to see God have more “room” or “freedom” to work with, and they’d like to see humans have some geniune freedom as well. In a fully deterministic universe, like that of Laplace, neither God nor “man” is free, you might say. Or, at least, we’ll never be able to reconcile that freedom with the scientific picture. One advantage of the QM picture—at least the standard (non-Bohmian) QM picture—is that God could directly determine the outcomes of some (or all) quantum events, without violating any laws of nature. Or, so it is claimed; whether this is coherent or not depends on whom you ask, but some people who know QM awfully well believe that it’s coherent (while other experts don’t). In such a scheme, God could govern evolution at least partly by producing quantum events that produce particles (such as photons) that could in turn induce mutations of a particular type (we know that X-rays can produce mutations, for example). But, b/c quantum events are regarded as literally “uncaused” in the standard picture, we have to call them “random” events. In other words, what looks random to us is literally not random to God. (If anyone wants more, I discuss some aspects of Heisenberg, uncertainty, and human freedom, with just a little on divine freedom, in http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2009/PSCF9-09Davis2.pdf.)

In this view, then, chip God can and does produce something specfied in advance—as long as God is the one giving the specification (such as the revealed truth that “man” is made in God’s image). But, we humans would be unable to produce anything specific ourselves; the process would appear unguided and unguidable, but only b/c we find ourselves in the situation of being mere creatures. You might say we created quantum mechanics (the scientific theory), but we can’t create the quantum events themselves so we can’t say how they will turn out.

I hope I’m not insulting you by telling you things you already know, but I don’t know who you are and this is how I’d try to explain it to a person without a physics background.

If you do know all this, then please try a more specific question that assumes all of this. I’ve done the best I can for the time being.

Jon Garvey - #69744

May 8th 2012


This is fine and helps answer Chip’s query - as indeed it provides a potential channel for teleological unpredictability to whatever degree one’s theology desires.

But still neither you nor Darrel have answered Chip’s underlying anxieties, and my questions, on the basis of what Darrell’s essay actually says about evolution, which is that it fits into the predictable and reliable category of (divinely sustained) natural law (that predictability being the USP Darrel made for it).

In itself that actually sounds completely deterministic, but what we know of natural law (and of BioLogos thinking) shows that it not that predictable - God could not plan any specific outcomes only from his establishment of mathematically describable natural law. We don’t live in a clockwork Universe.

Yet Darrel actually says nothing about the unreliable, unpredictable, only-statistically-mathematical would of chance and quantum events, and so says nothing about even the possibility of what you describe above.

That makes the essay an incomplete reply to Dembski’s challenge on teleology. Without some modification, it makes God’s entire purpose for the natural world appear to be satisfied by its being law-abiding. I don’t think anyone at BioLogos, of whatever theological persuasion, limits God’s intentions in nature quite that far.

Darrel Falk - #69746

May 8th 2012


In reply to your statement:

...on the basis of what Darrel’s essay actually says about evolution, which is that it fits into the predictable and reliable category of (divinely sustained) natural law

I have tried to identify where you think I may have said that in Part I of my response to Bill Dembski.  Here is what I did say:  

Still, given that there is extensive supernatural activity exhibited in God’s interaction with Israel and in the life of Jesus, it is entirely possible that he did work supernaturally in fulfilling the creation command, as well.” 

After a bit of explanation, I then went on to write,

Thus, we should not assume with certainty that God would choose to use supernatural flurries of activity if his ongoing regular activity—that described through natural laws—would accomplish the same end, albeit over a longer period of time. For all we know, God may prefer slowness, even though we seem to be inclined to think that faster is better.

So I leave the matter open.

Jon Garvey - #69749

May 8th 2012

Darrell, I’m by no means asking you to commit to making a punt on just how much God ought to circumvent natural law supernaturally, but to make at least some reference in your reply to the place of contingency, which is a key part of evolutionary theory.

If, for example, the usual outworking of the law of gravity should mean that a large planetoid collided with earth, all the time in the Universe wouldn’t produce a species like man because earth would be sterile. We’ve been, it seems, pretty close to such a scenario a number of times in earth’s history. Indeed it’s even suggested (Rare Earth, Ward & Brownlee) that we owe the favourable outcomes of evolution to such events, though they might well have destroyed all life.

Yet such events are not predictable and lawlike - even 300 years after Newton I gather the three body problem in gravitation is beyond calculation. Natural law leaves us in a world of potentially terminal uncertainty.

So the question is not whether God might, in principle, intervene, but whether natural law (as sustained by God) alone can possibly be a sufficient account of God’s role in nature.

Darrel Falk - #69750

May 8th 2012

Jon wrote:

So the question is not whether God might, in principle, intervene, but whether natural law (as sustained by God) alone can possibly be a sufficient account of God’s role in nature.

How could we know the answer to such a question, Jon?

Having said that though, I would certainly like to point interested readers to the wonderful work of Simon Conway Morris, featured, in part, in this BioLogos FAQ: http://biologos.org/questions/inevitable-humans.

And check out this interview with Conway Morris: http://biologos.org/blog/was-humanity-inevitable

Darrel Falk - #69747

May 8th 2012

Jon, you wrote:

God could not plan any specific outcomes only from his establishment of mathematically describable natural law.

I do not see the God of the Bible being confined to “mathematically describable natural law.”

Darrel Falk - #69748

May 8th 2012

Finally, you also said this:

Without some modification, it makes God’s entire purpose for the natural world appear to be satisfied by its being law-abiding

I am not sure what “it” refers to but if “it” is Part I of my response to Dembski, let me be clear.  I did not say that God’s work in creation needed to be “law-abiding.” I left the matter open because I think Scripture leaves the matter open.


Jon Garvey - #69756

May 8th 2012

Well, I’m being remarkably obtuse this last week, but maybe I’m beginning to get the picture at last.

We have no way, either from science or theology, of knowing whether or to what extent God uses (the category of) supernatural agency in nature. But when (probably usually) he uses predictable, mathematical natural law it’s via some variety of evolution which is divinely sustained rather than guided (unless the possible occasional supernatural activity works through guiding evolution). We cannot tell if this is sufficient to achieve his divine purpose because we don’t  know how detailed his purposes are, or enough about natural laws to predict what they can achieve.

That seems clear enough.

I’ll keep my eyes open to see how contingency fits into that.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #69789

May 9th 2012

In a sense I’m with you, but the problem is that in my opinion the system that Darwin and Co. claim as evolution is not the evolutionary system that we find in reality which is teleological. 

Roger A. Sawtelle - #69751

May 8th 2012

To All,

I think that we might be near a break through here if just bear with me alittle bit. 

Now it seems to me that historically there has been three Christian approaches to the question of evolution; 1) TE, that is, God used Darwinian evolution to create the life we know on earth; 2) Creationism, that says that Darwinism does not adequately explain the creation of life on earth, so God must have done it God’s own way, 3) ID which is an intermediate position that says God used some sort of Darwinian change, but gave it some help here and perhaps there.  

Now it seems to me that each point of view is partially correct and partially incorrect.  1) God did use evolution to create the life forms we know, but Darwin’s theory has serious flaws.  2) Thus Creationists are correct to be very sceptical of Darwinism, but God is able to create life forms through natural processes. 3) ID is right in that God is the Source of evolutionary development and that God guides evolution, but not in the way God provides guidance.

The key to all this is Natural Selection.  Everyone focuses on Variation, which is random, but neglects Natural Selection which by all accounts is NOT random.  Variation proposes, while Natural Selection disposes. 

Almost all variations are either neutral, that is do not affect survival or thrival, or negative, and thus disappear or make no difference.  Only a very small percentage make a significant positive difference and thus are incorporated into the phenotype through Natural Selection. 

The question remains, How does Natural Selection work? and Who decided to make it work that way?  I am not going to repeat again why Darwinian Malthusian NS does not work.  What I am going to say is that the general agreement today is that phenotypes survive and flourish because they have been able to adapt to an environmental niche and/or adapt the environmental niche to their needs. 

Who created a physical environment that is constantly changing and creating new niches?  God.  Who created life and gave life the ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions?  God. 

Is the way that the earth surface has changed over the last 3 billion years random?  No.  It forms a clear orderly process from molten lava to the blue/green sphere.  This is the primary way God guided the development of life relatively simple complex forms to giant cities and nations of human beings.  Dawkins and Darwin are wrong in basing NS on competive atomism.  E. O. Wilson is right, even though I doubt that he knows why he got it right.   

Look, everybody wins.  TE gets evolutionary development in an improved form.  Creationists get to say that they were right about Darwinism.  ID can say that God is responsbile for the intelligent design of life.  Everyone is happy except I fear Dawkins, Dennett, & Co.  Sorry about that. 



Chip - #69752

May 8th 2012

Good morning Ted,

Thanks again for the response, and the conversation. 

God can and does produce something specified in advance… the process would appear unguided and unguidable, but only b/c we find ourselves in the situation of being mere creatures.

So, while mainstream advocates of evolution argue that evolution is unguided, you would argue that it only appears to be so.  While this is certainly possible, it raises two issues with me:

1) Of course, there’s always a possibility of God acting in a way that we don’t or can’t see; without any doubt, he has access to all sorts of data that we don’t.  But since we don’t know what we don’t know, such becomes a god-of-the-gaps argument. 

In my opinion, theists increasingly make such arguments, in which God’s activity is relegated to the  margins of that which is not completely explainable in fully naturalistic terms.  Isn’t it ironic, by the way, that folks like Dawkins talk about the appearance of design, while theists often retreat to discussions of apparent unguidedness…  Not sure what to make of this.  

2) Related to this is Romans 1 (and I believe Dembski made a similar point in his essay).  In this view, God ends up in the position of holding people responsible for failing to recognize and act upon data which, as ‘mere creatures’ they had no way of knowing about.  I’m sorry, but this seems neither reasonable nor fair. 

Chip - #69755

May 8th 2012

Sorry… the editor didn’t indent when I asked it to. 

This PP was a quotation from you, just in case it wasn’t clear. 

God can and does produce something specified in advance… the process would appear unguided and unguidable, but only b/c we find ourselves in the situation of being mere creatures.


Ted Davis - #69764

May 8th 2012


I understand why people say that the view I described here (the QM-divine action view) is a “god-of-the-gaps” argument.

It’s not. Unless—unless—Bohm turn out to be right, and quantum events are in fact deterministic in terms of hidden variables. If we follow the standard interpretation of QM, however, the “gaps” are ontological and permanent, not simply epistemological and reflective of temporary human ignorance. That is a subtle, but crucial, difference that has eluded even some very bright people. For the “god-of-the-gaps” to apply, the “gaps” must be potentially “fillable” by future discoveries. In the standard interpretation of QM, they aren’t; we’ll never fill them in, b/c those events are actually “uncaused.”

The type of natural theology I personally like, incidentally, is also not subject to “god-of-the-gaps” objections. If I have the opportunity to do a couple of more courses for BioLogos, we might get there, but I’m going to leave that to one side for the time being.

I personally don’t think that God holds people personally responsible for what they have no way of knowing, so I don’t identify with objection (2) above. I’ll leave that to one side for the time being as well.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #69775

May 9th 2012


I would have to disagree with you concerning QM.  A current article online in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that QM is best understood as a relational system as opposed to a system governed by absolutes.

This is in accordance with what I understand is the meaning of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, so there is no contradiction between quantum reality and our reality, although we clearly understand quantum reality less clearly.

In both cases reality is not mechanistic so that it is either determined or non-determined.  It is relational so that it can be both determinate and indeterminate.  In my opinion this is how God fashioned it so God would have freedom in relating to humans and our world, and humans would have freedom in relating to God and the world God and humans created. 

The Bible says God created the universe and gave humans control over it.  In some sense humans dropped the ball when we fell into sin, but still the world is a combination of what God and humans have created and done.  We must take responsibility for our actions, good and bad.  We cannot blame everything on God or nature.        


Roger A. Sawtelle - #69757

May 8th 2012

It appears to me that we have a real communication problem here. 

First of all it seems that we really do not want to admit that we know Who God is and what God does.  Christians know Who God is, because Jesus Christ is God.  Jesus Christ is also the Logos, the Meaning and Purpose of God.  The Logos is also the Foundation of the universe, so God’s Meaning is found in the universe.  Jesus Christ is the Beginning, the Logos, and the End, Teleos, of the universe.   

So what does God do?  God gives Order and Meaning to the universe.  God gives the universe Order and Meaning through the natural law, the moral law, and salvation through the Holy Spirit.  Darwin, Monod, and Dawkins claim that there is no Order and Meaning in the universe.  They are wrong scientifically and metaphysically.

God chooses to work with humans who choose to work with God.  God works against humans who only want to satisfy themselves and do not care for others, that is those who sow chaos and confusion in this world.

Tim Neis - #69759

May 8th 2012

It should be noted for any new readers that despite Roger’s assurance that Darwinian natural selection is an inadequate mechanism of evolution, his views have been covered many times on these pages before. The view of evolution espoused by Dawkins and Co. is not opposed to environmental selection, and natural selection is the primary mechanism of evolutionary progression.

Here’s a somewhat lengthy discussion on the topic.http://biologos.org/blog/fearful-symmetries#comments . See post #68640 for a recap of it.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #69762

May 8th 2012

Thank you, Tim, for your comments.

The evidence that Dawkins is against ecology is that he has been a consistent critic of the ideas of James Lovelock, the Father of modern ecology.  He even went so far as to accuse Lovelock of teleology.  Would you believe that? 

Sadly both Dawkins and Lovelock, being “good scientists” think teleology is a bad thing.  I think that it is a good thing and for once I would agree with Dawkins that Lovelock and ecology are “guilty” of teleology, while Dawkins and Darwiniam is not.

Please read the Blog refered to which does show that in one book which I think is a book that Dawkins wrote for young people that he does seem to accept symbioiam as a evolutionary method of natural selection.  However I find that it goes against his primary evolutionary focus, which is “the [selfish] gene’s eye view.”  Also the difference between Dawkins’ atomistic concept of NS and E. O. Wilson’s social and group understanding of Natural Selection is the heart of the recent controversy between these two giants in this field. 

Usually I get attacked by the supporters of Dawkins and Co who say that modern ecology has no place in evolution.  This is the first time I have been accused of denying that Dawkins is an ecologist.  Anyway I am glad that Tim agrees with ecological natural selection and maybe some day Dawkins see will see the light.

The major difference being of course is that Darwin accepted the idea of survival of the fitest and the social darwin ideas that came from it, which seem to have survived untilo today in Paul Ryan’s budget.  Darwin called evolution, “the war of nature.”  As Jesus said, “A house divided gainst itself cannot stand.”  Nature at war with itself will not survive, thus natural selection is not a war, it is a process of mutual help and working together.  Show me where you see that in Dawkins’ writings.          

Bilbo - #69765

May 8th 2012

Ted wrote:  ” But, we humans would be unable to produce anything specific ourselves; the process would appear unguided and unguidable, but only b/c we find ourselves in the situation of being mere creatures. You might say we created quantum mechanics (the scientific theory), but we can’t create the quantum events themselves so we can’t say how they will turn out.”

That doesn’t seem right, somehow, Ted.  I’m producing something quite specific right now, as a matter of fact—this sentence. 

Ted Davis - #69879

May 10th 2012

In context, Bilbo (BTW, nice name you chose), I was talking about quantum events: we can’t know how they will turn out. (OK, we can know a range of possible outcomes for a simple quantum event, but the kinds of events I was talking about involving the interaction of radiation with DNA are not simple events. We just can’t predict those things, any more than we can predict precisely when a given atom will undergo nuclear decay.)

I wasn’t making a claim about our own (human) macroscopic behaviors, which is what your example offers.

Bilbo - #69767

May 8th 2012

Let’s consider the options:

Let’s assume that God has complete foreknowledge.  Therefore, God knows all the events that will happen in the universe.  If there are indeterminate events, God knows what they will be, also. 

So if God wants human-like creatures to come into existence and has created this universe so that they will come into existence, then God knows that they will come into existence and when and where that will happen.  Could this have happened if all the events were indeterminate?  It is at least logically possible that could.  If God created an infinitely large universe, I think it becomes exceedingly probable that it would happen.  There are some cosmological models where the Big Bang has resulted in an infinite universe.  It seems at least logically possible that God has caused the right kind of Big Bang that resulted in an infinite universe, making the eventual existence of human-like creatures exceedingly probable.   It may also be exceedingly probable, even if the universe is not infinite.

I think this might answer Jon’s concerns.

Jon Garvey - #69770

May 9th 2012

Hi Bilbo

I haven’t even begun to discuss chance/contingency/randomness on this thread because Darrel’s essay left no effective place for it, giving us natural law (esteemed for its mathematical predictability) and supernatural intervention.

Natural law is predictable, but in real life is severely confounded by contingency - nobody can even foresee modestly into the future by it. It’s still a gift from God and avoids chaos, but its a chimera outside the lab setting.

But as a total creative methodology? If the reason for a large Universe is to maximise the odds that law will produce a desired outcome (and there are far, far better reasons) and those odds are so low that the Universe must be infinite to ensure them, then one isn’t employing reliable law for what it is at all, but the outlying exceptions to it. That’s assuming (and the multiverse discussions haven’t proved it) that time and chance actually can turn a near-zero likelihood into actuality.

Your scenario, to me, is like a government passing laws but neglecting to institute law enforcement. They enact that speeding motorists will be fined $50, but consider their purpose has been fulfilled if eventually one speeding driver gets out of his car and his wallet happens to fall out of his pocket.

I hate arguments based on “God wouldn’t do it that way” (though they’re used all the time to justify indeterminacy because “God wouldn’t make nasty viruses or sub-optimal genes”) but ... why would God do it that way? “Natural evil” is accounted for in the Bible, ultimately, by God’s superior wisdom, but it doesn’t even address the question of why God would plan by not planning, probably because nobody then had such a convoluted mind as to imagine that he would.

Now, theoretical possibility aside, compare an infinite indeterminate universe with the various creation languages of Scripture: “God said ‘Let there be…’ - and it was so.” “When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers.” “He calls the stars out by name.” “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations… while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” [ans: I was watching an asteroid smashing up a promising life-bearing world in the Andromeda galaxy, so I missed it.]

Darrel Falk - #69776

May 9th 2012

Jon wrote:

I haven’t even begun to discuss chance/contingency/randomness on this thread because Darrel’s essay left no effective place for it, giving us natural law (esteemed for its mathematical predictability) and supernatural intervention

To most people, “natural law” implies that which happens apart from the activity of God and “supernatural intervention” implies that which is done by God.   Based on Jon’s restatement of my conclusions, I want to be sure that no reader misunderstands what I have written in Part I of my response to Dembksi or in the comments section of this one.

Please recall that I wrote this in Part I:

Are not the the laws of nature simply a description of God’s ongoing and non-ceasing activity in the universe?

Jon made the following statement, lightly attributing it to God:  “I was watching an asteroid smashing up…so I missed it.” Although he was joking, he was also trying to make a serious point.  Jon’s illustratration demonstrates the challenge that we all have in understanding what Paul meant in Colossians 1:17 when  he wrote: “he is before all things and in him all things hold together” or what John meant when he wrote

In the beginning was the Word and Word was with God and Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.   All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

God is not somehow “less present” or “less involved” when God is working through  what Jon calls “natural laws.” As I see it, the Psalmist did not separate the natural from the supernatural in the way that most of us tend to do.  It was all God’s.  The God of Scripture is not sitting in a particular location being uninvolved and unaware of what is happening at another location.  That’s how it would be if we were God—but we’re not.

Jon also wrote that “[Darrel’s] essay left no effective place for [contingency.]” In this comments thread I have referred readers to a wonderful blog by Kathryn Applegate on contingency called: “That’s Random.” http://biologos.org/blog/thats-random-a-look-at-viral-self-assembly.  I have also referred readers to the work of Simon Conway Morris far too briefly summarized at http://biologos.org/questions/inevitable-humans and http://biologos.org/blog/was-humanity-inevitable .  

Contingency is clearly used by God to accomplish God’s purposes. We, unlike God, cannot fathom that that which is brought about by contingency is somehow every bit as much God’s process as that which we do when we pull out a set of instructions and assemble a toy for a child.    We are not God and God is not us—the God of Scripture is infinitely greater (and different).  He is not lik a  brilliant physician following some established set of instructions to a tee.  Nor is God an engineering genius.  God is a God who speaks and it happens.  It happens though because God is omnipresent carrying out all of his activities thorugh his Spirit and by his Word. Contingency is not somehow less “of God’ than it would be if God carrid out a process using his “fingers.”  For God, contingency accomplishes God’s purposes every bit as efficiently as tools do for us.

I have also emphasized, however, that contingency may not be the whole story.  How could we know for sure?  I’m comfortable leaving the matter of whether God always and only used contingency in creation open for the time being.  



penman - #69772

May 9th 2012

Bilbo #69765

Speaking from with Reformed theology…

Our confessions of faith acknowledge the reality of contingency. Yet they also acknowledge divine sovereignty, & even put the two things in direct relation to each other - “in His providence He orders them [events] to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently” (Westminster Confession 5:2).

What this means is that there is contingency WITHIN the created order: the internal ontology of creation includes contingency. But when you try to relate the created to the uncreated, the ontology of creation to the ontology of the Creator, the result is that TO GOD nothing is contingent. To quote Westminster again:

“His knowledge is infinite, infallible… so as nothing is to Him contingent or uncertain” (2:2).

The bottom line is that however mechanisms of causation work within the created order, the sovereign Creator chose that a particular space-time continuum should exist (our one), so that from His perspective, nothing is unforeknown, nothing unpredictable or unpredicted. Things random to us (unpredictable) are eternally foreseen & foreknown with certainty by Him.

And He chose that they should happen; that is, He could always have created a different space-time-continuum, could always have concretized a different reality. So He remains sovereign in and over every event. Why did event X happen? Ultimately because God chose to have a universe in which precisely that event would happen: to Him, eternally certain, even if He did not effectually cause it (notably sin).

That seems to be the Reformed view - or at least *a* Reformed view.

What won’t cut ice for Reformed theology is any idea of things being contingent TO GOD, or taking events outside the scope of His sovereignty (so that they happen in defiance of the reality He has chosen to concretize).

Hope this makes some kind of sense.

Jon Garvey - #69773

May 9th 2012

Penman - One thing I like about Reformed Theology is that it doesn’t say you can have your cake and eat it too.

Ted Davis - #69797

May 9th 2012

Which is why, Jon, I think you’ll respect Russell’s position, whether or not you agree with his view(s) on the scientific aspects of evolution. “Go and see for thyself,” as it says in the book of Hezekiah.

Incidentally, Jon, I see from your blog that you are big fan of the Puritan divine John Owen (http://potiphar.jongarvey.co.uk/2011/08/23/free-will-or-free-will/). I’m a big fan of Robert Boyle, who (despite the claims of some modern scholars) was not a Puritan. As you must know, Owen attacked the great Dutch scholar, Hugo Grotius. As you might also know, Boyle admired Grotius, so much so that he paid for the Arabic translation (1660) of Grotius’ On the Truth of the Christian Religion (1627), just a few years after Owen had lumped Grotius in with the Socinians and the Rachovian Catechism and described Grotius’ view of Christ as “perverse.” (Owen was never one to mince words, even or perhaps especially when he was wrong.)

I bring this up, Jon, not to start a tangential argument about Boyle, Grotius, and Owen, but simply to note that Owen’s views of divine sovereignty and human freedom were pretty specific and pretty strongly stated. I’m not speaking against them, but if you’re looking for BioLogos or any other organization that isn’t explicitly “Reformed” in a very strong sense to express a view of TE that you’re satisfied with, you’ll probably be disappointed. Individual TE people might well do that; I think you’ll like Russell (as I’ve been suggesting), though I can’t be sure until you tell me.

Speaking only for myself (not for BioLogos), I’m closer to Boyle and Grotius than to Owen: we probably won’t agree all that much. But, evolution per se won’t have much to do with it, either; our differences will probably come down to things that were indeed discussed by the classical theologians.

Jon Garvey - #69833

May 10th 2012

Hi Ted

I did reference Owen in that piece, and I put him first because he lived just down to road from my old place and once ran my University. But I also mentioned Edwards and Baxter, who was essentially an Amyraldian. They were used as headliners for “Magisterial Reformers” - I could have cited Flavell on Providence (the key doctrine here) or even Martin Luther.

Owen did have a specific take on atonement, but as I remember his position on providence it was right in line with mainstream Reformed thought as codified in Westminster or Dort. Much of my initial theological input came from inheritors of that legacy such as Stott, Packer, Guiness and even N T Wright which, I would say, forms one of the biggest streams in educated Evangelicalism in the UK. I don’t believe it’s unheard of in the US either, if the likes of Don Carson are considered (and B B Warfield etc in the past).

So I most certainly would expect to find my position on providence broadly represented on a TE website self-identifying as “Evangelical.” It’s not so much whether it’s “explicitly Reformed” that matters, but if it’s “implictly non-Reformed” and therefore implicitly something else that ought to be explicit. BioLogos, for example, has heavily featured writers who are very much in a minority within the Evangelical community - not to mention historical Christianity in toto.

As for Russell, opportunities to read him are limited by other commitments (pub gig this Saturday - just turn up and I’ll buy you a pint) - so far I’ve only seen his overview Dialogue, Science and Theology, which has given me some thoughts on Philosophy of Science and Religion in general but, obviously, little on his own approach. I’ll mention just one now - that the various streams disagree radically on fundamentals ... which would make even John Owen, had he ever considered the issue, just one other approach to consider, though less currently fashionable in the Western Academy.

Ted Davis - #69875

May 10th 2012


This will be my final comment for you on this thread, unless/until you are able to read some of Russell’s work and share your thoughts. You keep pressing Darrel to be more specific with his views; he keeps replying; you keep rejecting his answers as unsatisfactory. Well, you don’t agree with Darrel. If, however, you limit your comments on TE to Darrel’s view, without engaging someone like Russell—who, unlike you or me or Darrel is a professional theologian who actually contributes in a theoretical way to these issues (a major problem with the internet is that popularizations all too rarely trickle down to the electronic level)—then you won’t be able (IMO) adequately to evaluate a TE approach. You should also be reading some other major TE thinkers, but Russell would be a good one to start with.

We might be able to make it a bit easier for everyone to see some of Russell, first hand. If so, the verse from Hezekiah will apply in spades. In the meantime, Jon, I’ll sign off this thread.

Jon Garvey - #69876

May 10th 2012


I was in error in saying that I’d not read any of Russell’s arguments, as my post #69285 on April 12 in your thread, and the subsequent discussion with you, show. I had in my memory linked his article with Gingerich, to whom you also referred me at that time. I chased up the references though time and opportunity have not permitted obtaining and reading any of his books.

That said, I’m not sure how that article, at least, moves us beyond our productive conversation last month. Russell’s discussion of quantum theory provides only a way for God to guide genetic events that seem unguided. It leaves open the question of whether, or how much, God would want to guide such events, which has been the main subject of this thread. As I said on that thread, neither would it cover other macro- contingent events, like my hypothetical planetoid strike.

Classical theology, even including Jacobus Arminius, whose teaching on the “primitive” creation I was reading today, would say that creation implies God’s willing of the final result - Arminius excludes specifically any possibility of the creation’s secondarily producing any deviation from that result, the role of agents with free-will obviously being excepted in his system, but clearly separated in his mind from the original creation.

He was, of course, envisioning a more or less instantaneous creation - it is questionable whether the realisation of deep time would have led him to compromise on his view of primitive creation, or on his concept of freedom.

Ted Davis - #69893

May 10th 2012


It will be several days before I can get back to you, owing to major family events. I didn’t expect such a quick response, since you had said you hadn’t read Russell. I don’t have that essay at home, but I recall him saying that his view of TE makes the problem of theodicy appear even worse that it was already (i.e., without TE), and he says this only b/c he believes that God *does* determine genetic events. I don’t recall him saying anything about why God would *want* to cause them, but it’s a moot question since he thinks God *is* actually controlling the raw material for natural selection to operate on. Thus, I’m surprised you bring in the “want to” question at all: what gives?

What *is* accessible to me right now, Jon, is this summary of Russell’s essay, which I believe is pretty accurate: http://www.counterbalance.org/ctns-vo/russe-body.html. I quote from that summary: “Section five engages two final challenges. First, “chance” in evolution also challenges the possibility of God achieving a future purpose by acting in the present. Russell responds that God acts not by foreseeing the future from the present but by eternally seeing the future in its own present.”

Surely, Jon, this is precisely what you are asking Darrel to provide, isn’t it? I understand that Darrel is not Russell, but you’ve also asked *me* to answer your question, and this is my answer for you. I will keep saying that you must read Russell directly, b/c you must. I am quite sure you agree that there is no substitute for first-hand knowledge; to understand Russell, one must read Russell.

Finally, Jon—if this brief quotation and the full article it summarizes are *not* what you are asking, then I confess to being entirely at sea here. Russell’s view includes that (a) God determines “random” variations in evolution; and (b) God sees the future (i.e., as I’ve told you, Russell is not an open theist). If that’s not the kind of information you keep asking us to provide, then what is?

The beauty of Russell’s approach, apart from its intrinsic merits (which are very high), is that he offers a viable via media between modern “liberal” views, in which God’s transcendence is all but denied (I’m quite sure you agree with that part, Jon) and classical “conservative” views, in which God’s actions are so closely tied with “interventions” that it can be very hard to accept that position, which seems to require God to perform miraculous “interventions” every time God answers a prayer or does a providential act. (As you know, Jon, it’s been a contentious issue since the Reformation whether the “age of miracles” is past, among other things. Russell doesn’t talk about that, but it’s part of the larger picture he has in mind.) For Russell and many others, this is a Hobson’s choice, and he sees a possible solution in his alternative picture of regular divine action that is objective (if God didn’t act, the event wouldn’t happen) yet non-interventionist.

Gotta go.

Jon Garvey - #69910

May 11th 2012

Hi Ted

Yeah, as I said in the previous thread, I managed to find a version of the Russell article, albeit with lacunae, on Google books. It may have been lacunae, or the context of our previous conversation, that left me in doubt as to whether the quantum mechanism he proposed was envisioned as being God’s norm or used exceptionally. To me it makes sense as a modus operandi of both government and sustaining: God is creating the Universe teleologically moment by moment by using means to ends rather than by cause and effect.

He himself acknowledges gaps in his idea - it seems not to govern asteroids, as I said. But even if his mechanism is wrong the value, I think, is more to show that God’s direction need not imply a train of miracles (which is a crude view of providence anyway), nor the existence of natural law the absence of government. And my argument throughout has been that evolution’s undirectedness cuts across Christian doctrine, divine sustenance notwithstanding, and that the science does not demand such a reformulation.

As perhaps is not too surprising from his UCC background, I like his conclusions not only in retaining God’s government of events, but placing them in an eternal rather than temporal context (Augustine and Einstein rule OK) and also in not letting theodicy dictate his theology of “natural evil”. I agree theodicy belongs properly with Christology - though the Bible itself still subsumes it to the hidden wisdom of God: God does not need us to justify his ways.

As an aside I’m interested in how relatively late in the theological game the idea of natural evil, or fallen nature, came. The Fathers saw nature as still good, and their theodicy was based on God’s greater purposes (and of course the direct effect of sin on man, as opposed to on nature). Which shows that evil can be in the eye of the beholder.

But Russell seems poles apart from theologies of true randomness, panexperientialism or divine kenosis that seem to coalesce in the concept of “freedom of nature” which I have been trying to clarify, and which if they mean anything coherent at all seem to me to sit badly with any historic Christian theology, though I’ve found some offhand remarks from John Wesley that could, arguably, be said to sow a seed he might have wished to keep in the packet.

These latter ideas have certainly been expressed by leaders in science theology / TE, and are what alienates many mainstream Christians, once they are aware of them, from theistic evolution. The implications therefore need to be aired on BioLogos, to defuse (or even confirm, if the worst comes to the worst) accusations that theistic evolution simply means letting science dictate theology.

Russell, at least in this paper, avoids that necessity (though critical realism seems intrinsically a bottom-up methodology that requires theology to submit to science). Does BioLogos stand with him, or regard his overall approach as just another alternative?

Ted Davis - #69914

May 11th 2012

Thank you so much, Jon, for responding specifically to Russell.

I hope we talk more in future about divine kenosis and the related idea of the “crucified God,” both of which I find important and interesting, and the latter of which I find profoundly biblical.

Not now, however—my daughter is to be married tomorrow. I won’t be back for several days. We can perhaps have that conversation on one of my threads. My best to you.

Jon Garvey - #69917

May 11th 2012

Best wishes to your daughter. Mine’s getting married later in the year.

Chip - #69778

May 9th 2012

Dr Falk (@69776): 

If “we” (which presumably includes you) “cannot fathom that that which is brought about by contingency,” how can “we” possibly know that “contingency is clearly used to accomplish God’s purposes”? 

I’m sorry sir, but it simply cannot be both clear and unfathomable.  And asserting that “We are not God and God is not us” does not resolve the contradiction.    

Roger A. Sawtelle - #69788

May 9th 2012

In my opinion thios is why we have the Teleos (and the Logos.)

Everything that happens in accordance with the Teleos is from God.  Everything else is not from God.  That does not mean that God cannot and God does not use evil for God’s good purpose.  This is because nothing is completely good or evil, but has both capabilities. 

For example I do not thnik that God “planned” the cruxifixition, but God the Father and God the Son knew it was coming and made the most of it, of course for the sake of humanity which is responsible for it, and not for the sake of God Who in no way deserved it. 


jess.jorgensen89 - #69801

May 9th 2012

I know this really isn’t in response to the entire article, but I noticed some points in the comments so I just wanted to put this out there: C.S. Lewis makes an argument for how miracles interfere with the laws of nature without necessarily breaking them, in his book Miracles.  I think anyone truly interested in the topic of miracles and the natural world this would do well to read his book.  His points might help clear up some confusion on that particular point.  

Bilbo - #69803

May 9th 2012

Jon wrote: ” If the reason for a large Universe is to maximise the odds that law will produce a desired outcome (and there are far, far better reasons) and those odds are so low that the Universe must be infinite to ensure them, then one isn’t employing reliable law for what it is at all, but the outlying exceptions to it. “

We’re assuming that the laws of the Universe would make the appearance of life or of human-like creatures the outlying exceptions in the Universe.  And that’s an empirical assumption.  You and I happen to think it’s a reasonable assumption, but that doesn’t make it any less empirical.  It may turn out that the laws of the Universe would make life and human-like creatures fairly common appearances.

However, given that you and I are correct in thinking that life and human-like creatures would be the exceptions, unless God supernaturally intervened, why wouldn’t God supernaturally intervene, instead of making an infinite universe?  Maybe God is an inveterate gambler, who likes spinning the roulette wheel of space and time until His number wins.  Personally, I think this would be rather boring.  If I were God I think it would be much more fun to shrink myself down to microscopic size and construct a cell, molecule by molecule.  In fact, I’ve thought of offering the following argument:

1)  God would maximize the amount of fun He could have in creating life.

2)  The maximal amount of fun could be obtained by shrinking Himself to microscopic size and constructing a cell molecule by molecule.

3)  Ergo….

But meanwhile, my point is that God, foreknowing the outcome of an indeterminate world, would know if and when life and human-like creatures would appear (on a planet where an asteroid wouldn’t botch the whole thing up).

Jon Garvey - #69870

May 10th 2012

Bilbo - your last point.

Yes of course… and God would be as much in charge of a world he created from infinite possibilities because he foresaw it would produce what he wanted indeterminately, because he would still be determining the outcome by the very act of creating that world rather than any other. Which is a very realistic methodology when it comes to governing a world of self-determining wills like ours.

It might indeed be more fun for God than simply saying “Let there be…”, but obviously not so much fun that he wanted to tell us about it in Scripture.

He would not, of course, have to shrink himself to hand-build molecules. God’s “immensity” does not mean his bigness but his non-measurability. He can be everywhere at once - including totally within your room. Or within an atom.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #69873

May 10th 2012

Jon Garvey and Bilbo,

What is the difference between a universe that God designed by specifying its physical and intellectual structure by creating its natural laws, energy, and particles in order to create life including human life, and a universe which God created through the Logos (Form) and Teleos (Purpose)?

I for one am glad that neither Bilbo nor I is not God.

Bilbo - #69889

May 10th 2012

Hi Roger,

I’m not sure what the difference is between your two alternatives.  But I don’t think your alternatives correctly describe the differences between the Biologos position and the ID position.  The former would say that the evidence suggests that God has brought about life in the way you describe—by specifiying its physical structure, natural laws, energy, and particles.  The ID position says that much more information was required, which God either somehow embedded into creation at its beginning, or intervened later, after creation already began.

But I agree that it’s a good thing that neither of us is God.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #69900

May 10th 2012


I did not mean to describe the ID position.  I meant the second to describe what I think could be described as the NT position based on the Logos, and the first is more like the BioLogos position at least as I think it is or should be.  

Bilbo - #69804

May 9th 2012

Penman wrote: ” Why did event X happen? Ultimately because God chose to have a universe in which precisely that event would happen: to Him, eternally certain, even if He did not effectually cause it (notably sin).”

Or did God choose to have a universe in which He could shrink Himself down to microscopic size and design a cell, molecule by molecule?

Bilbo - #69805

May 9th 2012

Hi Jess,

Yes, Lewis’s Miracles is an excellent book to read for anyone contemplating the relation of science and miracles.  I would suggest that the opponents of ID here give it a read.

jess.jorgensen89 - #69877

May 10th 2012

Hi Bilbo,

I actually think opponents of theistic evolution would benefit most greatly from it, though I do think everyone in general would benefit.  I don’t think it’s good for any of us to talk about God as if he is bound by the laws he created in nature.  He exists outside of the system (which includes time).  The creation and the death of this system (all of nature, all of our lives) is like one polaroid picture.  I noticed on your last comment to someone else, though I haven’t been following the comments very closely, that you are talking about God “shrinking himself to design a cell, molecule by molecule.”  It may be fun in speculation, but it seems erroneous.  We can’t possibly know what would be “most fun” for God. We can only make an argument based off of what we think is most fun.  Also, no one had to shrink themselves to write the declaration of independence on a grain of rice; “shrinking” would not be required to make a cell or an atom.  I don’t get the impression that you were talking about what would be required, though, just what you think would be most fun.    

Bilbo - #69890

May 10th 2012


Since I am created in the image of God, I have some reason for thinking that what seems fun to me might also seem fun to God.  Now writing the declaration of independence on a grain of rice doesn’t seem very fun to me at all.  If someone actually did that, I’m sure it was under duress.  And I’m also sure that if they had the opportunity to shrink themselves to the size of grain of rice before they had to write that blasted document on it, they would have enjoyed it much more.

jess.jorgensen89 - #69915

May 11th 2012


Of course you may think that what seems fun to you may seem fun to God but it can’t be claimed that any of us know for sure what is most fun for him.  There’s just no way to be certain of it especially since all people are made in the image of God and what one person thinks is fun another may think is horrid.  Our likeness is our capacity for fun, not the actual things that we find to be fun.  Someone shrinking themselves to write the document on a grain of rice takes away the amazement of feat.  I suppose the shrinking would be the amazing part in such circumstance, but then it seems pointless.  They should just copy it on regular piece of paper if they aren’t up for the task of writing it on a grain of rice.  

Bilbo - #69931

May 12th 2012


I see that you are a Fun Relativist.  This is not a laughing matter, I’m afraid.  I suspect even worse—that you are a Taste Relativist and think that some people might prefer chocolate to vanilla, while others might prefer vanilla to chocolate.  Please tell me that my suspicions are unfounded.  Otherwise a vast abyss lies between us and we will never be able to communicate about anything ever again.

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