Home » Intelligent Design » The Patristic Understanding of Creation — now available!

The Patristic Understanding of Creation — now available!

An anthology that I started ten years ago is, with the help of two good friends and colleagues, finally out. It is titled The Patristic Understanding of Creation: An Anthology of Writings from the Church Fathers on Creation and Design and can be ordered here. For the table of contents, go here. This is the first book from my own imprint, Erasmus Press (www.erasmuspress.net). The plan is to publish books, journals, and curriculum materials through it — despise not the day of small beginnings! Here is the cover illustration. Further down is the preface.

Patristic Understanding of Creation cover

PREFACE

This anthology might have been published in 1998. Instead, it now appears in 2008, ten years later. For many books, ten years is an eternity and spells the difference between a book that is current or passé. Fortunately, the writings of the Church Fathers are of perennial interest. Going back to Roman and Byzantine times, these writings are basic to Christian theology and have set the standard for how Christians understand creation.

The need for this anthology has persisted – and indeed grown more urgent – in the years since it was first conceived. In the summer of 1998, the journal Origins & Design published a dialogue featuring Jonathan Wells, John Mark Reynolds, and Howard Van Till (available online at www.arn.org/odesign/od191/od191.htm). Van Till, in the mid-1990s, had published a number of articles arguing for creation’s “functional integrity,” by which he meant that God, in creation, had given the world all the capacities it needs to organize and transform itself.

Van Till’s bogey, throughout these discussions, was what he called “extra-natural assembly” – that God subsequent to creation needed to intervene for nature to accomplish things that, left to herself, nature could never do. For Van Till, a world requiring extranatural assembly is unworthy of the deity. More worthy, according to him, is for God to create a world that is “fully gifted” with all the capacities it might ever need to accomplish God’s purposes. Van Till portrays a God who creates a world that, once created, requires further intervention as a miser: such a Creator ungenerously withholds from the world capacities that it might usefully have possessed to carry out its business (which Van Till calls its “formational economy”).

Functional integrity is a causal closure principle. Not only does it close off natural history to any real-time interaction with God; it also entails forms of cosmological and biological evolution that are entirely driven by natural forces. Charles Kingsley, inspired by Darwin, wrote a children’s book titled The Water Babies. There Kingsley placed in the mouth of Mother Earth, “I make things make themselves.” Van Till, following Kingsley’s example, has God endow nature with an all-encompassing capacity to make and remake itself.

The ability of the world to organize itself without ongoing creative activity from God, though hardly a new idea among theistic evolutionists, found a particularly clear articulation from Van Till and was widely influential in Christian circles in the mid-1990s. If he had left matters there, however, this anthology would never have been compiled. As it is, Van Till did not leave matters there. Instead, he used his functional integrity principle as a weapon for unseating intelligent design (thereby putting himself on the radar of one of the editors of this volume – WmAD). Furthermore, he suggested that two key Church Fathers, St. Basil the Great and St. Augustine of Hippo, tacitly supported his functional integrity principle. (See Howard Van Till, “Basil, Augustine, and the Doctrine of Creation’s Functional Integrity,” Science and Christian Belief, vol. 8, 1996.)

Origins & Design therefore commissioned Jonathan Wells and John Mark Reynolds to respond to Van Till. WmAD, as an editor of Origins & Design, followed their dialogue. Even though Wells and Reynolds did, in his view, adequately counter Van Till’s attempt to co-opt Basil and Augustine, WmAD was concerned about a wider pattern of attempts by scholars working at the intersection of science and religion to undercut the Church Fathers’ teachings on creation.

WmAD therefore contacted Stephen Meyer at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture about putting together a volume that encapsulated what the Church Fathers had to say, in their own words, on the topic of creation. Two of the editors of this volume (WmAD and JBAF) had met as students at Princeton Theological Seminary in the mid-1990s and there had read Basil, Augustine, and other Church Fathers on the topic of creation. WmAD therefore recommended that Discovery Institute provide JBAF, at the time an advanced theology student at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, with a grant to work on such a volume during the summer of 1998.

JBAF made tremendous progress on this project that summer, collecting an enormous number of original sources from the Church Fathers on creation. Notwithstanding, it is one thing to have all the pieces of a puzzle; it is another to put them together. After the summer of 1998, WmAD and JBAF found their time taken up with numerous other projects and commitments, and even though an anthology of Church Father writings on creation was never far from their minds, finding the energy and time to bring this project to completion continually eluded them.

Enter the third editor, WJD. In the summer of 2007, WmAD and WJD met at a Christian retreat and study center in Tehuacana, Texas: The Trinity Institute. At the time, WJD was finishing his M.Div. from Baylor University and working as the program director for this institute. With the degree from Baylor in hand by the end of that summer, his fall was largely free. Moreover, given his interests and background, he was ideally positioned to pick up the pieces of this Rip Van Winkle project.

So, ten years after its conception, The Patristic Understanding of Creation has now finally come to birth. Besides providing a representative cross-section of what the Church Fathers actually wrote and held about creation, this anthology concludes with a magisterial essay by Fr. Georges Florovsky. That essay, “Creation and Creaturehood,” situates the Church Fathers’ understanding of creation within the current theological conversation in a way that is historically accurate and theologically sound.

The controversy over how rightly to understand creation is even more intense now than it was ten years ago when this volume was conceived. Process theology and other efforts to reconceptualize creation continue to gain ground. Under assault are such key Christian doctrines as creation ex nihilo, the transcendence and immanence of God in creation, “the absolute creatureliness and non-self-sufficiency of the world” (to use a phrase of Florovsky), the goodness of creation, and the openness of the world to divine action – all of which the Church Fathers not only held but also ably defended.

The need for an anthology like this is therefore not merely academic or historical; it is practical and urgent.

William A. Dembski
Wayne J. Downs
Fr. Justin B. A. Frederick

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33 Responses to The Patristic Understanding of Creation — now available!

  1. . For Van Till, a world requiring extranatural assembly is unworthy of the deity. More worthy, according to him, is for God to create a world that is “fully gifted” with all the capacities it might ever need to accomplish God’s purposes. Van Till portrays a God who creates a world that, once created, requires further intervention as a miser: such a Creator ungenerously withholds from the world capacities that it might usefully have possessed to carry out its business (which Van Till calls its “formational economy”).

    Even before Van Til formally renounced his faith and became a “free” thinker, whatever of his writings I encountered just had a real stench to them. It didn’t surprise me that someone who would presume how God would or would not do things based on the flimsiest of arguments would eventually renounce Christianity.

    Unfortunately, process theology persists and is used in various forms by Theistic Darwinists.

    One could argue that a world “fully-gifted” that had no apparent need for God’s active involvement in creating and sustaining would be a world God wouldn’t make.

    Most irritating about VanTil is none of his claims is supported by what we see in the natural world and natural process. He’s blind to obvious truth.

    Anyway, congratulations on the publication of another much needed book.

  2. I am looking forware to reading it. I have compiled a sample of patristic quotes here

  3. I happen to agree with Van Till theologically. I also happen to believe the experimental evidence that non-life does not have the “capacities” to produce life. That’s why I’m a YEC, or at least a young life on earth creationist. :)

  4. Dr. Giem,

    I did not mean any offense, my apologies. But I would presume creationism is not consistent with process theology.

    Are we talking about the sam Van Til (Howard, not his father Cornelius)?

  5. I think what Giem is saying is that he believes God created the world fully ready to work on its own. However, because the evidence is against the ability of life to arise from non-life, that means that the original creation must have included life, and perhaps many forms of life.

    I disagree with the premise, actually (I think God loves the world and created it so that He would be intimately involved), but I think that’s what Giem was trying to say.

  6. What I wish someone would explain to me is this: If TEs want to argue that God created the world such that {A} life “unfolds” predictably according to a teleological principle, how do they reconcile that the with their contrary Darwinian idea that {B} life “adapts” unpredictably according to a non-teleological principle.

  7. Off topic:

    Microscopic ‘Clutch’ Puts Flagellum In Neutral

    ScienceDaily (June 19, 2008)

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142109.htm

    excerpt:

    “We think it’s pretty cool that evolving bacteria and human engineers arrived at a similar solution to the same problem,” said IU Bloomington biologist Daniel Kearns, who led the project. “How do you temporarily stop a motor once it gets going?”

    It would be funny if he wasn’t sincere.

  8. What I wish someone would explain to me is this: If TEs want to argue that God created the world such that {A} life “unfolds” predictably according to a teleological principle, how do they reconcile that the with their contrary Darwinian idea that {B} life “adapts” unpredictably according to a non-teleological principle.

    Steve, as I understand TE, it is their belief that evolution is the means by which God works. You do not believe that. Your question presumes that you know more about the means of God employs than they do. I am curious what inspires your unshakeable confidence that you have a better grasp of the mind of God?

  9. “What I wish someone would explain to me is this: If TEs want to argue that God created the world such that {A} life “unfolds” predictably according to a teleological principle, how do they reconcile that the with their contrary Darwinian idea that {B} life “adapts” unpredictably according to a non-teleological principle.”

    I don’t think there is any logical way to reconcile the two. They want to have their cake and eat it too, so just obfuscate the irreconcilable problem. A mechanism based on totally random unpredictable micro-events (mutations) somehow arriving at a Divinely desired outcome. But come to think of it their rejoinder might be that this reasoning places an invalid limit to God’s power. Omnipotent means absolutely omnipotent, beyond any possible grasp of human intellect. I suppose that if this quality is accepted in the Deity, then the TEs can’t logically be refuted.

  10. —–specs: “Steve, as I understand TE, it is their belief that evolution is the means by which God works. You do not believe that. Your question presumes that you know more about the means of God employs than they do. I am curious what inspires your unshakeable confidence that you have a better grasp of the mind of God?”

    With all do respect, (and I do mean with respect), my question presumes nothing or says nothing about what I believe. It is a call for someone else to provide a rational justification for what they believe. TEs are positing two radically differnt conceptions of evolution, rolling them into one, and hoping that no one will notice.
    To say that a square is a circle and then affirm that this is the way God works, doesn’t work for me.

  11. Sorry, I mean it is a call for others to provide a rational justification for what they believe.

  12. Good grief, I meant with all DUE respect. I must slow down. Sorry.

  13. —–magnan: “I suppose that if this quality is accepted in the Deity, then the TEs can’t logically be refuted.”

    Isn’t it liberating? The TE offers a completely irrational proposition and defends it by saying that God is not bound by the law of non-contradiction. How sweet it is.

  14. johnnyb, (5)

    You have the essence of what I was saying exactly right. I was deliberately being elliptical, and so did not outline the problems getting from one major group to another, which would imply that if one took Howard Van Till (and I did mean Howard, scordova (4)) as saying that if God had to constantly meddle in His creation to make it complete, that it was unworthy of God, and the creation is not presently so endowed (implying that it was never so endowed), that God had to produce life and the major animal and plant groups at the beginning. At present, YEC theory is the only one that accommodates both the scientific evidence in this regard and the theological requirement.

    It should be noted that I do not regard this as a knock-down argument. But just as in the ability to blame suffering on earth on human sin, it is a plus for a theory to have theological congruence. If we do allow the Divine Foot in the door, it helps if the Foot is apparently consistent with the rest of the Body. Thanks, johnnyb, for understanding when I didn’t spell it out.

    StephenB,

    I think you have nailed the biggest weakness in TE, which is there regardless of how one treats the Bible.

  15. StephenB,

    The answer to your question is quite simple. If the initial conditions are set up so that they constrain random processes to a certain outcome, then life could be ordained by just what the initial conditions are. I am not saying that this is the difference between TE’s and Darwinists but it could be an answer to your question.

    I could set up a lab experiment that used energy supply, physical configurations and certain substances and then watch it progress randomly. I could imagine that sometimes it took 1 day to reach a certain state and then some other time it took a month to reach the exact same state but each time it always reached the same state. A TE could say that this is the random process that led to intelligent life and it was pre ordained by the initial conditions and the Darwinists could come along and say it was only a lucky break and if re-run from the beginning again we would never see life again let alone intelligent life.

    No ID comes along and agrees with the Darwinists and says there are no initial conditions that would lead to life or intelligent life and God must intervene or else the initial conditions would only produce lifeless planets and a lifeless universe. Now put this way, which is the more omnipotent God? The ID God or the TE God?

  16. In the last paragraph “No” should be “Now.”

  17. Jerry, I don’t think you appreciate the double minded message that the TEs are sending. They are using the language of teleology (directed evolution, maturation, unfolding etc.), while arguing on behalf non-teleology (non-directed evolution, adaptation, random change etc.).
    Most TEs argue that God used an unfolding Darwinian process to produce a desired end. A random (Darwinian) process, however, cannot “unfold” that way. The only thing that can unfold is a non-random plan in which the finished product is built in as a kind of “seed” or, if you like, an “internal principle.” An acorn, for example, has the seed of a tree built in, meaning that there is only one possible outcome for the process. It does not “adapt” its way to its intended result, it unfolds or, to put it another way, it “matures” its way to the intended result. It is teleological; it has an end in mind.

    Either an organism’s fate will be determined by the “unfolding” of an internal principle (directed evolution), in which case there is only one possible outcome, or its fate will be determined by random chance (Darwinian evolution), in which case there are many possible outcomes. It cannot be both at the same time.

    God could have used a non-Darwinian process that would unfold to the point where you and I could be the finished product. Obviously, such a plan would have to be a composite, including not only the unfolding of the organism, but also its ecological environment. A Darwinian process, however, cannot unfold in the direction of a desired end, because it must allow for many possible outcomes, otherwise it would not be a random process. By definition, it does not have an end in mind.

    Darwinian processes “adapt” randomly and unpredictably, they do not “unfold” purposefully and predictably. That means that IF GOD used secondary causes, such as a non-intervention evolutionary process, that process can produce an INTENDED outcome only if it unfolds according to an internal principle or plan. In other words, the finished product can match the intended result only if one outcome is possible. If a process is truly “random,” (Darwinian) then it is not unfolding according to plan; it is merely changing randomly.

    A plan cannot provide for both [A] many possible outcomes and [B] the exact outcome desired. It can produce one or the other, but not both. Thus, when TE’s suggest that God could have purposefully used a Darwinian process (by definition a random process that has no purpose, direction, or internal principle), they are talking nonsense. Again, they are using the language of teleology (maturation, unfolding etc), while arguing on behalf non-teleology (adaptation, random change). It is a complete intellectual madhouse.

  18. StephenB,

    You are imposing the same rigid interpretation on the scenario each time. Instead of using the term Darwinian process use the term gradualistic process. Each time you use the term Darwinian process you then restrict your interpretation to a random mindless process with no specific goal in sight and it only happens to reach intelligent life by an incredibly lucky fluke which is impossible in the time allowed except for this incredible bit of luck. This is a specific solution proposed by a very vocal but influential minority but it is not the only one. In other words you are imposing a specific solution and then decrying the solution you impose when there are other solutions that you have arbitrarily ruled out.

    Instead use the concept of a random process constrained by initial conditions and boundary conditions so that the end result is always the same. The different paths taken each time could be quite different but the actual end result is always the same. It is like a huge valley with one way in and one way out but a million different paths between the entrance and the exit but all paths lead to the same exit.

    You cannot each time bring up a strawman argument that each path leads to one of the zillion exits postulated by the Darwinists while the TE could say there is only one exit and each wandering path must eventually lead to it. The Darwinist say we found the one exit by luck while the TE says we must find this exit because the scenario was set up this way. There is a huge difference between these two situations.

    Now in this scenario what is ID according to the TE. ID is saying that God could never construct such a valley which leads to only one exit. The valley has a zillion exits and all but a few lead to other valleys with zillions of exits and the only way through to the right exit is to be guided at certain points in time to reach the correct exit. Actually ID says that God creates new paths that didn’t exist before every so often so that one can get to the desired exit more quickly. So the ID God intervenes frequently so that the right exit is reached or otherwise there would be an endless wandering from valley to valley with no intelligent life at any exit.

    Now you have to separate what I just said as a metaphor for what actually happened to what I actually believe. You are constantly assigning the mindless wandering and lucky break scenario to the TE when there are many other scenarios available that they could espouse and on the surface look identical to the lucky break crowd. I am just saying that there are other scenarios besides the one you continually impose and these other scenarios celebrate the greatness of God and not the empty wilderness of mindless wandering bits of matter that the Darwinists portray.

    My problem with the TE scenario is that there is no forensic evidence to support it because the valley has a series of cliffs that must be surmounted and no evidence of how all these cliffs could have been climbed unless some path are there to climb them. We continue to look for these paths but we see none so we are left with the unsatisfying theologically concept that God has to constantly lift one up these cliffs at various times and was unable to make a valley where all the paths could have been created over time due to the initial and boundary conditions.

    The only reason I am in the ID camp is because that appears to be the way God decided to do it but I would have preferred the TE hypothesis because it points to a greater God. To me it is a mystery and we will probably never know the answer in this world. But I can imagine all sorts of explanations why God might have done it the ID way but probably am so far from the truth that it is pointless. Who knows the mind of God?

  19. 19

    Most TEs argue that God used an unfolding Darwinian process to produce a desired end. A random (Darwinian) process, however, cannot “unfold” that way.

    Stephen, I happen to be reading Kenneth Miller’s new book right now and I believe he addresses your question in Chapter 6: The World That Knew We Were Coming. It is beyond my poor skills to adequately summarize his points, but I do believe that it addresses what you are trying to understand. If you wish to understand how TEs like Kenneth Miller think on this subject, you could do far worse than reading his own words.

  20. Jerry: Apparently, you have bought into the scam just like the TEs, I don’t know how else to put it. Someone recently pointed out somewhere that 38 Nobel laureates sent an open letter to the Kansas State Board of Education informing them that evolution is “the result of an UNGUDUIDED, UNPLANNED process of RANDOM variation and natural selection. That is what most biology textbooks say and that is what the evolutionary biologists say.
    I am not the one imposing ideology on this situation. Excuse me, but you are simply not thinking this thing through. Each time you present an argument you offer some variation of guided evolution—some way of planning through the process, forgetting each time that to plan is to leave the Darwinist framework. Let me say it again—–Darwinian evolution is unguided and unplanned. Evolution is either unguided as the Darwinists contend, or it is guided in some way, which is anti Darwin.

    The mechanism is either conscious and intentional (designed) or unconscious and unintentional (RV+NS). It can’t be both. If evolution is planned, it has a purpose, which means it can’t be Darwinian. Therefore, when TEs say that God used a Darwinian process, they are talking nonsense. They are using the language of teleology for the sole purpose of misleading, because they are really arguing against purpose. Even they recognize this at some level, that is why they keep saying that “what seems random to us is not random to God.” If they didn’t understand their irrationality at some level, they wouldn’t be trying to cover their tracks that way. There cannot be any such thing as teleological Darwinism; it is a contradiction in terms. I am amazed that you think otherwise.

    If you want to keep propping up your strawman by saying that God can use evolution, which is obviously true, then I can’t stop you. That point is obvious and it is not what is being discussed. The issue is that God would not use Darwinian evolution because a Darwinian process, is, by definition, one that God doesn’t use. Good grief, Jerry. It has nothing to do with God’s omnipotence and everything to do with Darwinian mechanisms. Why someone would say that I am limiting God amazes me. God does not contradict himself, even to cover for the TEs. Why you would want to cover for them I can’t imagine. If you want to continue defending the indefensible and rationalizing the irrational, then go for it. That is what freedom of speech is all about.

  21. soplo: With all due respect, I am not struggling to understand Miller or his colleagues; I am striving to expose their irrationality. Miller has written many times that evolution is a purposeless, mindless process and then changed the wording in later textbooks after he got caught. Collins is equally incomprehensible. On the one hand, he writes about the “language of God.” On the other hand, he promptly informs us that the language doesn’t really communicate anything to us. Incredible!

  22. 22

    oplo: With all due respect, I am not struggling to understand Miller or his colleagues

    Having read Miller’s comments in his latest book and having read your comments here, it is seems to me that you are trying to not understand Miller. The TE position that you are arguing against does not resemble what I have just read.

    I am striving to expose their irrationality.

    It seems to me what you are swinging away at is not Miller, but a strawman version(I believe that is the correct term). I am disappointed that you are more interested knocking down what you think he has said rather than what he actually has said. But, this is an open forum and you can do as you wish.

  23. —–Jerry: “The only reason I am in the ID camp is because that appears to be the way God decided to do it but I would have preferred the TE hypothesis because it points to a greater God. To me it is a mystery and we will probably never know the answer in this world. But I can imagine all sorts of explanations why God might have done it the ID way but probably am so far from the truth that it is pointless. Who knows the mind of God?”

    Yes, I am aware that you prefer the TE formula, but I disagree with you that it points to a greater God. I have heard that argument before. There is no reason to believe that a TE God would be a greater God. It assumes that God would have more difficulty front loading than intervening. That is false logic. No one thing is more difficult for an omnipotent God than another. Even if some things were more difficult for God than other things, we would have no way of knowing what those things are. For all we know, it is more difficult to conduct creation like an orchestra leader that to just set it up and let it fly. Some people believe that God’s angels control every physical law in the universe. That is just about as involved as you can get, and it may be, in a manner of speaking, more difficult to arrange.

    That is another problem with TEs, by the way. They say that they take Christianity seriously, but they certainly don’t take the Bible seriously. Indeed, I have yet to meet a TE that believes that Adam and Eve were real people. Many of them deny the fall altogether. Are you aware of this?

  24. —-soplo: “It seems to me what you are swinging away at is not Miller, but a strawman version(I believe that is the correct term). I am disappointed that you are more interested knocking down what you think he has said rather than what he actually has said. But, this is an open forum and you can do as you wish.”

    Well, I haven’t read Miller’s new book yet, so let’s start with the basics. Does he still promote the lie that intelligent design is “creationism in a cheap tuxedo,” or has he finally learned the difference between a presupposition and an inference? Does he still believe that a purposeful, mindful God used a purposeless, mindless process? What’s the bottom line?

  25. soplo: Here is what Miller wrote in in Finding Darwin’s God: “Evolution is a natural process…and natural processes are undirected.” Miller agrees with Stephen Jay Gould’s opinion “that mankind’s appearance on this planet was not preordained, that we are here not as the products of an inevitable procession of evolutionary success, but as an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out.”

    So, tell me, has Miller changed his mind. The title of his chapter certainly goes against his previous assertions. Is he up to his old tricks again, using the language of purpose while arguing for purposeless process. Or, if he has changed his mind, where is the retraction?

  26. StephenB,

    A lot of people have a reading comprehension problem on this site and it seems it is to suit their own personal views when someone does not agree with them. It seems that when someone does not agree with them, they manufacture undesirable tenets the person holds so they can undermine the person.

    I haven’t bought into anything relative to evolution in terms of the origin of major elements. I provide interpretations different from what others do but that does not mean I buy into the interpretations I give. I just got through saying I don’t buy into the TE interpretation, neither mine or your interpretation of it. And then I get accused of buying into a scam.

    From what I have seen in reading all the ID stuff, there is only one person that I agree with in total and that is Behe. And Behe says it is a mystery. So there you now have my point of view. It is a mystery and I do not believe it will ever be solved. That does not mean we will not learn more or already do not understand a lot, but that we will never learn how life originated and how new gene pools arise or how various types of complexity arose. Mainly because it seems like some intelligence intervened at various points in time but I have no ideas when or why or how nor do I think it is likely something we will ever find out.

    So what else will people put into my mouth. I have opinions and I label them as such but I mainly have strong beliefs about what is not true, not necessarily what is true on evolution. As I said it is a mystery.

  27. 27

    So, tell me, has Miller changed his mind. The title of his chapter certainly goes against his previous assertions. Is he up to his old tricks again, using the language of purpose while arguing for purposeless process. Or, if he has changed his mind, where is the retraction?

    I told you once before that I cannot, in my poor words, do justice to what he is presenting in his new book. So, your attempt to place me up with your caricature of Miller and punch away at both of us is misguided. He makes, whether you agree with it or not, what I feel is a nuanced argument. So, rather than propping up a one sentence quote that was extracted from previous writings and asking me to answer yes or no whether his extended writings agree with that yes or no, why don’t you actually read what he has written so that you can punch away at him rather than a straw facsimile? If you don’t wish to put money in his pocket then ask someone “¿Dónde está la biblioteca?”

  28. jerry and StephenB:

    I don’t know if it is wise to enter again in this debate, but, being not wise, I try just the same with some comments.

    About the “one exit”. Jerry, I appreciate that you are willing to find scenarios for the TEs even if they are not those you believe in. The scenario of the “one entry, one exit, many ways in between” seems weird to me, bue hey, who am I to decide what scenarios people can build? The problem is that I have to agree with you when you yourself say that: “My problem with the TE scenario is that there is no forensic evidence to support it “. That would be my problem too, If ever I decided to take seriously, even for a moment, that kind of scenario. It seems to me that what we have here is a scenario created not to explain anything from a scientific point of view, but rather to force a particular religious idea (and, IMO, absolutely not a good one).

    In other words, if the scientific evidence were really in favor of a darwinian interpretation of biological reality (as darwinists do think), then I could maybe understand that some religious people, just not to be in conflict with their faith or with their science, could resort to those unlikely and unreasonable scenarios.

    But the problem is in the “if”. As we in the ID field well know (and I think you, jerry, agree on that), the scientific evidence is absolutely not in favour of a darwinist scenario. On the contrary, it is absolutely in favor of an ID scenario. That’s the point. In other words, if ID is right (and I know it is right), then all the struggles of the different TEs are completely pointless. They are not trying to find a compromise between their faith and scientific evidence; they are trying instead to find a compromise between their faith and a false scientific theory. Which, in my opinion, does not look as a smart idea at all.

    But let’s go to the second point which really irritates me. It’s the concept that the TE hypothesis “points to a greater God”. Even jerry affirms that, even if he does not really believe in the premise.

    Well, somebody please could explain me why? A greater God? Are you kidding?

    Now, let’s suppose I want to build gradually a set of different softwares which can express different aspects of my creative ideas, what do I do? The answer is very simple: I write them, in the order I prefer. I don’t set up improbable situations where random errors in my PC could or should, in time, produce that result. It’s very simple: I have an idea, I have the means to realize it, I just do it. Simple, clean, logical, human, divine.

    So, why should a “greater God” behave differently? I can think of only two kinds of reasons why such a God should become involved in impossible scenarios like those proposed by Miller and other TEs:

    1) He cannot do anything in His universe: for some strange reason, after having created it, he is “cut out” of it. Knowing that, He had to set up everything in advance. I don’t like that scenario, but everyone is free in this world to believe as he likes. But why that should be “a greater God” really I can’t understand.

    2) Gos is not “cut out” of His universe: he could design biological beings, but for some even stranger reason He decides not to do that, and to realize an impossible situation where they come out according to “natural” mechanisms. Again, why? Is He just trying to be clever? To draw attention to His greatness? Personally, that’s not my idea of God, and I would never think that such a behaviour makes for a “greater God”.

    Naturally, I don’t believe any of that even for a moment. My God is a very powerful, but also a very humble and reasonable God. He could design biological beings and he has done exactly that. In designing first His universe, then His creatures, He has beautifully expressed His love, His creativity, His wisdom, His abundance, His beauty, His generosity, together with His power, which is not certainly the only, and probably not even the main issue. That’s a great God. That’s the loving Designer whose presence, intelligence and love are written in full evidence everywhere.

  29. soplo caseosa:

    I have not read Miller’s new book. Maybe I will, maybe not.

    The real reason why I despise Miller is for his pseudo-scientific propaganda. If and when you can convince me that I have misunderstood what he has preached all around the world about the flagellum, trying to ridiculize Behe’s arguments with a pack of silly lies, then maybe I can start considering his philosophical attempts.

    My dislike for TEs like Miller is not due to their philosophical or religious ideas. I am very tolerant with all religious ideas in the world, why should I make an exception with TE in any form? The problem is that TEs like Miller use their religious ideas to support wrong scientific ideas, and that’s really intolerable. It’s their scientific arrogance which is unbelievable, and the fact that it is justified by a religious dogma, and not by a simple atheistic dogma, like in the case of a Dawkins, just makes everything worse.

    TEs like Miller are wrong for exactly the same reason why a Dawkins is wrong: because darwinian theory is wrong. But the personal motivations behind that error are different, and some are worse than others.

  30. Jerry: I am sorry that I used that phrase “buy in” with regard to you and the TE formula. I understand that you do not go along with them and you are simply saying that they are not self contradictory. In effect, you are defending their rationality, but you are not defending their position. Fair enough? Meanwhile, I retract my comment, and ask you to accept my apology.

    In any case, my question persists. How does one defend the proposition that God is congenial with Darwin? You pointed out earlier that God could use a purposeful evolutionary process or that “randomness can be constrained.” True enough. That would be an example of setting things up with an end in mind. But it doesn’t solve the problem. The Darwinian process, by definition, will not allow for these kinds of purposeful set ups. Some kinds of evolution (macro or micro) could accommodate them, but not the Darwinian model. Each time I point out that God and “DARWIN” are incompatible (his general theory, not his special theory), my adversaries ignore the point and answer that God and “EVOLUTION” are compatible, as if I didn’t know that already. I don’t want to put words in your mouth again, but you seem to be doing the same thing. Indirectly, people are putting words in my mouth by suggesting that I don’t think that God and evolution are compatible. But I will endure that misunderstanding.

    As I have said many times, most (not all) TEs use the language of purpose, but they argue on behalf of a purposeless process, and I have provided many examples. No one addresses my arguments. They simply tell me that I am not doing justice to the TEs

  31. gpuccio: I realize that you do not like to discuss religion in the context of intelligent design and I understand and applaud your reasons. While I don’t relish these kinds of risky disputes, I do, nevertheless, take them up to expose TEs, their ironies, and their cynicism. Consider just four of their incredible propositions:

    On the one hand, they say that ID “divides” religion and science (by questioning the compatibility between Christianity and Darwinism), on the other hand, they say that ID “conflates” religion and science (by redressing creation science in a “cheap tuxedo”).

    On the one hand, they say that “there is no conflict between religion and science,” on the other hand their artificial constraint of methodological naturalism “depends on a conflict” between religion and science.

    On the one hand, they claim to be “devoted” Christians (to cover for their unabashed devotion to Darwinism), on the other hand, they don’t believe the teachings of their own Bible (God did not reveal himself in nature, Adam and Eve did not exist, and the fall did not occur.)

    On the one hand, they use the rhetoric of design (the “language of God”), on the other hand, they argue on behalf of non-design (the language of God doesn’t really communicate anything)

    So, I must approach the intersection of religion and science to dramatize these and other points. Otherwise, the TEs get a pass that they don’t deserve. I know that they are not all totally alike, but that doesn’t prevent me from focusing on their common traits. Obviously, they don’t like it, and they try to camouflage it. That means I have to pull back the curtain even if it upsets a few people. I wish there was another way.

  32. 32
    PannenbergOmega

    Intresting. I for one would like to see more books like this on the market. A fusion of ID and Biblical data. This is the future of church universal folks.

  33. Finally received and have had a look at The Patristic Understanding of Creation. It’s a fine book and will serve as a ready reference contra the TE notion that the Church Fathers supported their inanity. It can be read in conjunction with David Sedley’s Creationism and its Critics in Antiquity (University of California Press, 2007). Intelligent Design ruled the roost in the West up until we decided not to retain God in our knowledge.

    This book, as with all anthologies, reflects what the editors deem important. The book is more about the philosophy of creation than Genesis, though there is coverage of that area too. But the millennialist interpretation is entirely missing, yet according to Daniélou (pg. 406 in The Theology of Jewish Christianity), “Almost every theme of Jewish Christian teaching is linked in some way with this exegesis.”

    This is the Genesis imagery that underlies and permeates the New Testament. It’s also prominent in the Prophets and the Psalms.

    The millennial interpretation is explicit, for example, in chapter 15 of the apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas (for Greek text go here and scroll down; for Kirsopp Lake’s translation go here and scroll down), and in Augustine’s On the Catechising of the Uninstructed (for Latin text go here and scroll down to De sexta aetate and for an English translation go here and scroll down to Chapter 22).

    In Book 7 of The City of God (for Latin text go here and scroll down to Liber XX, [VII], and for an English translation go here), Augustine interprets Revelation 20 within this model. It is commonly thought that Augustine later rejected this interpretation, as in this note from Philip Schaff: “Augustin, who had formerly himself entertained chiliastic hopes, revolutionized the prevailing ante-Nicene view of the Apocalyptic millennium by understanding it of the present reign of Christ in the Church.”

    Thus Augustine does not repudiate the teaching that the six days of Genesis represent six millennia. He “spiritualizes” the millennium of the Apocalypse, but nevertheless still understands it to be the seventh millennium from Adam. “[God] worked during six days, and rested on the seventh day … that He might signify how, after six ages of this world, in a seventh age, as on the seventh day, He will rest in His saints” (On the Catechising of the Uninstructed 17.28).

    There was considerable antipathy among many of the Church Fathers over the popular yearning for an earthly utopia as promised in the Prophets. On this count, for example, Eusebius speaks negatively of Papias of Asia who had known the followers of the original apostles (Ecclesiastical History, 3:39:12-13): “Among them he says that there will be a millennium after the resurrection of the dead, when the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this earth. I suppose that he got these notions by a perverse reading of the apostolic accounts, not realizing that they had spoken mystically and symbolically.”

    The Church fathers followed the Septuagint which, according to the Byzantine reckoning, put the end of the six millennial days near Augustine’s time. This gave their interpretations some peculiar and fascinating twists. For example, as the seventh millennium was drawing to a close, the Eastern Empire (seen as Christ’s millennial reign on earth) was besieged by the Muslim Turks (viewed as Gog and Magog in Rev 20:7-9). Constantinople fell in 1454 just as Moscow was on the rise, and so in 1492 [year 7000 in the Byzantine calendar], in his paschal canon for the new millennium, the metropolitan of Moscow referred to Ivan III as “the new Constantine” and Moscow as “the new Constantinople”. See Dimitri Strémooukhoff (Moscow the Third Rome: sources of the doctrine. Speculum 28 [1953] 1:84-101), also http://www.heraldica.org/topic.....mperor.htm (last viewed 4-05-06).

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