Revealed Theology, Natural Theology, and the Darwinist Concoction of “ID/Creationism.”
|July 25, 2011||Posted by StephenB under Intelligent Design|
As anyone who cares knows, members of the Darwinist establishment aggressively and shamelessly promote the lie that Intelligent Design is nothing more than Scientific Creationism hiding behind another name. Since they cannot make a credible case for their own position, they seek to discredit ID by misrepresenting its arguments. Hence, they resort to the cheap and dishonest trick of characterizing the science of intelligent design as “ID/Creationism,” an exceedingly clumsy formulation that is both illogical and unhistorical.
In fact, the two approaches are radically different in their epistemological framework for arriving at truth. Creationism moves forward: that is, it assumes, asserts or accepts something about God and what He has to say about origins and then interprets nature in that context. Intelligent design moves backward: that is, it observes something interesting in nature and then theorizes about the ways it might have come to be. Creationism is faith-based; Intelligent Design is empirically-based.
Each approach can claim a pedigree that goes back over two thousand years. Creationism finds its roots in Revealed Theology, which is based on Scriptural teachings and apriori (before the fact) reasoning; Intelligent Design finds its roots in Natural Theology, which is based on reason, ordinary experience, and aposteriori (after the fact) reasoning.
The questions each side tries to answer have always been with us. Can natural reason lead to or play a role in the attainment of religious truth, or is revealed theology the only road to this higher wisdom? Is it a good epistemological strategy to simply accept revealed truths without critical evaluation, or is it wiser to scrutinize the truth claims of all religions and embrace only that religion that can survive reason’s scrutiny? In that spirit, someone once asked Ghandi why he was a Hindu, to which he responded, “Because I was born in India, of course.” Was he wise to presuppose Hinduism as the ultimate truth, or would it have better for him to conduct a comparative world view analysis before deciding on which religion, if any, is true?
As we survey Christian history, we find a preference for the faith-based strategy in Tertullian, Augustine, Pascal, and Kierkegaard. Augustine characterized this approach by coining the phrase, “faith seeking understanding.” With these thinkers, the investigation was grounded in Scriptural truth claims. By contrast, we discover a preference for natural theology in Aristotle, Justin Martyr, Aquinas, and Paley. Aristotle’s argument, which begins with “motion in nature” and reasons BACK to a “prime mover” — i.e. from effect to its “best” causal explanation — captures the idea. In this sense, philosophy, as the Medievalists put it, is “the handmaiden of theology.”
Everyone agrees that some “leap of faith” is required to believe all the truth claims of any given religious world view. The question is whether that leap is large or small and whether it should be made before or after reason has been consulted. Again, these questions have been asked in every century since the advent of Christianity.
Justin Martyr (103-163), who really was a martyr, embraced the reason-based approach (Natural Theology). For him, the truths arrived at through philosophy could serve as a kind of “bridge” over which one can cross and learn to appreciate the reasonableness of the truths found on the other side, that is, the truths found in Divine revelation—truths that transcend but do not contradict the truths arrived at through natural reason. Because he felt that reason and faith could function as partners in the acquisition of truth, the best ideas in philosophy would “fit” the more profound truths revealed from above, though philosophy alone could not arrive at those higher truths. Equally important, the believer would know that his/her “leap of faith” was not a mindless leap because it had been subjected to reason’s scrutiny.
Tertullian (160-220), on the other hand, preferred the faith-based approach (Revealed Theology). Arguing that truth can be found only in the Bible, he had little use for secular wisdom. From this vantage point, the truths of philosophy are not really suited to put religion’s truth claims to the test. For Tertullian, Greek culture could not provide any kind of knowledge that might set us on the road to believing in God. On the contrary, from his perspective, Plato and Aristotle provided intellectual firepower for heretics. He dramatized the point with his famous question, “What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?”
Because it is clear that Tertullian’s, pre-suppositional strategy conflicts with Justin Martyr’s analytical approach, no one would dare (or would have dared) to suggest that the former was the latter dressed up in a “cheap tuxedo.” The idea is too preposterous to contemplate. For Tertullian, the investigation begins with an act of faith; for Justin Martyr, the investigation begins with a reasoned-based argument. We find these same distinctions being made all throughout Christian history.
Pascal, who embraced a forward-style epistemology reminiscent of Tertullian, is famous for saying that “The heart has reasons that reason does not know.” Among other things, he argued against proofs for the existence of God and suggested a more pragmatic approach. In simplest terms, he said that one is better off to believe in God than to not believe because non-believers will pay a greater price if they are wrong (Pascal’s wager). The point here is not to suggest that Pascal and Tertullian were wrong on all counts, but rather to dramatize a point on which both men insisted: One cannot take the road of Athens and hope to arrive at Jerusalem.
By contrast, St. Thomas Aquinas was so impressed with what Athens had to offer that he treated Aristotle as a kind of metaphor for reason, characterizing him as “the philosopher.” Indeed, Aquinas raises Aristotle to new heights, providing, among other things, multiple rational proofs for the existence of God, all of which begin with some observation about nature or things commonly known. For him, Athens does, indeed, have a lot to do with Jerusalem and the best Greek philosophy does, indeed, point to God.
William Paley, though less sophisticated and philosophical than Aquinas, also embraced a reasoned-based apologetics, conceiving his famous “watchmaker argument.” Like Aquinas, Paley, albeit in a different way, observed the evidence for design and then reasoned “back” to a designer. Again, it would have been nonsensical to call someone a Pascal/Paleyite, or to accuse the Paleyites of trying to smuggle Pascal’s methodology in through the back door.
In that same spirit, one cannot logically speak of a Calvinist/Thomist or a Kierkegaardian/Baconite. The epistemological door does not swing both ways. To presuppose faith and attempt to harmonize the evidence with that presupposition cannot be the same thing as reasoning from evidence and drawing inferences. To begin with faith in God is not the same as beginning with an observation about nature. Proceeding apriori from cause to effect cannot be identical with proceeding aposteriori from effect to cause. These facts are independent of the Darwinist’s ability to comprehend them.
At this juncture, we confront the faith/reason synthesis that permeates Natural Theology. Reason, though it can discern rational truth claims from irrational truth claims, also recognizes that it cannot, without the assistance of faith, comprehend Divine truths. At the threshold where reason acknowledges its limits, the higher truths of faith illuminate reason and enhance its capacities, the very same reason that had previously confirmed the credibility of the religion that does the illuminating.
In no way, however, am I suggesting that philosophy is always the friend of faith. Athens really can be, and often is, at war with Jerusalem, especially when earthly philosophers promote error or, as the Bible puts it, “vain philosophy,” which is a fair description modern philosophy. Faith may be compatible with reason, but light has nothing in common with darkness. That is another way of saying that vain philosophy leads to heresy, but reason-based philosophy leads to Jesus Christ. Untold misery has resulted from the inability to make these distinctions.
What I am insisting on, though, is a bare, naked fact: Creationist methodology is faith based, while ID’s methodology is empirically based. More important, both general approaches have existed for over two thousand years, which means that it is impossible that the latter could be, as is often portrayed by Darwinists and Theistic Evolutionists, a recent, tidied up version of the former. Yes, ID science, as such, is relatively new, having been conceived only about thirty years ago. Its roots, however, are found in the reason-based school of natural theology, not in Bible-first school of scientific creationism.
Even so, the Darwinist establishment cares nothing about the facts and provides not even a semblance of a logical argument in defense of its claims. Consider Wikipedia’s definition of Intelligent Design, which was, of course, crafted by Darwinists:
“It is neo-creationism, a form of creationism restated in non-religious terms. It is also a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for the existence of God, but one that deliberately avoids specifying the nature or identity of the intelligent designer.”
Notice that the first sentence defines ID as “Creationism,” the faith-based approach that considers first the cause (God) and then the effect (nature), and yet the second sentence, in contradictory fashion, describes ID as an “adaptation of the traditional teleological argument,” the evidence-based approach that considers first the effect (nature) and then the cause (God).
Thus, According to Darwinists, ID is both a faith-based presupposition and an empirically-based argument. It should be clear by now that anyone who uses the term “ID/Creationist” is either dishonest, uniformed about intelligent design, ignorant of history, and/or incapable of rational thought.