January 17, 2006
As a personal friend of The Rev. Rob Harrison, I can assure Charles L. Trotter that Rob is definitely not someone whose "faith change[s] daily to keep up with the latest trends". Far from it. Rob is well- grounded theologically and intellectually honest, which leads him not to keep insisting that the sky is red when all the evidence on the table points to it being blue.
What I am sure that Rob meant by his "no dog in the hunt" comment is that it is essentially inconsequential to a truly biblical theology of creation (assuming that one need not feel a need to defend a literal six-day creation, or a "young earth" as "biblical", which is an entirely different can of worms) whether or not the scientific method seems to suggest that events happened as neo-Darwinian theory suggests or not; God would not be any less the Creator if He chose to work in ways consistent with evolutionary theory. God is no less the Creator today because we know and trust the heliocentric theory when for eons people believed, and the evidence people were able to observe, pointed toward the geocentric theory. Is a miracle somehow less a miracle if there is a naturalistic explanation for it? The Jordan River, for example, could easily stop flowing if there was a landslide upstream by the headwaters at Dan; while this would ostensibly be a "naturalistic" occurrence, would not the miracle then be that the waters stopped up at exactly the time the priests stepped into the river with the ark of the covenant? In my view, God still was in control, God still did something outside the normal day-to-day. If the stories of demonic possession are to be better explained by the modern psychological model does that diminish what Jesus accomplished in healing people of such afflictions in the first century CE (assuming, of course, that one gives the text enough credit that it was reporting accurately that somehow the person was healed of their affliction by Jesus)? I have a new baby son: Is he any less a miracle, healthy and strong, created by God, just because I understand the biological processes by which he was "knit together in [his] mother's womb"? How does Mr. Trotter interpret a passage such as Matthew 8:5-13, about the centurion and Jesus? How does God's authority seem to work in that passage? In Genesis, what does it mean that God "spoke" creation into existence?
What was it that God created if not what we call "objective reality"? Where in the Bible does it forbid us to explore and understand this reality? What about Romans 1 and the doctrine of natural theology? Romans 1:19-20 "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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". I do not view natural theology as excluding the need for revelation, but it should serve to show two points: First, that it is permissible to examine critically the universe around us and, second, that a limited knowledge of God as Creator is demonstrable to human reason through human beings' reasoned examination of the created order.
The issue in this whole debate is whether God is ruled a priori out of the equation; Dr. Tenke complains about ID proponents having an a priori bias to see God in everything, but the opposite charge can be leveled at atheistic materialists whose bias runs toward any explanation that excludes the possibility of God. Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and others tell stories about how they think the world and the universe truly are, which for them are sans God, but their stories are not immune from leaps of explanatory logic that are not strictly tied to observable let alone reproducible evidence. I would hope that the charge of a "God of the Gaps" is not true of any in the ID community; from the evidence I have seen it is not. Dietrich Bonhoffer should have settled that for us anyway in his Letter and Papers from Prison. God as an explanation only for those things we cannot explain is a diminution of God as Creator.
What puzzles me about this whole debate over ID is that all ID is positing is that there is an intelligence behind the design of biological entities as opposed to all biological entities being the product of random forces, which ironically, are often described in the literature in ways that suggest that these forces themselves possess a form of "intelligence". In the same breath Darwinian theorists will tell us that evolution is a product of random chance, yet we are simultaneously supposed to swallow that it is "logical" that we humans do things in certain ways because "evolution demands or controls" our behavior. How is it not a non sequitur to simultaneously assert randomness and control or logic? If the evidence suggests an intelligence, why are people afraid of that? Why is that not provable? Surely the scientific method (which is a product of theology by the way, namely the idea that the universe was orderly and its mechanics discoverable because God had made it that way. Atheistic, materialist scientists should acknowledge their debt to Christian epistemology, which posits an "objective reality" over and above all subjective realities, but they won't.) can sufficiently decide for us between randomness and purposiveness. Metaphysics and theology don't fully enter into the picture until we start asking what or who this intelligence that the evidence points to is, but isn't it curious how the vaunted scientific method, despite Dr. Tenke and other's protests to the contrary, depends upon an a priori philosophical assumption of an epistemology that allows for an ordered, objectively experiential and able-to-be-validated universe. We all make a priori assumptions; some of us are just more intellectually honest about the ones we make.
I personally worry more when I read or hear someone express themselves the way Mr. Trotter does then I do about my friend Rob. Perhaps that is because I do not know Mr. Trotter personally, and if I did I would realize who he is and where he is coming from as I do with Rob. My worry is that those who tend towards theological foundationalism, as Mr. Trotter seems to do, might find that the removal of one brick in their theological foundation will cause their whole faith to crumble. As someone whose journey back to Jesus Christ in college was strongly intellectually-based, I worry as well when I see people seemingly setting up false dichotomies between faith and reason.May our faith always be seeking understanding.
Grace and Peace in Christ,
Rev. Wayne Paul Barrett, Pastor
Range Line Community Presbyterian Church
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