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ID theorists are “evil and adulterous generation”?

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Apparently worried by a recent trend toward critical thinking, the evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Covalence has republished a 2002 article by Christian Darwin stalwart George Murphy on what’s wrong with the idea that there might be evidence for design in nature;

Just as the Son of God limited himself by taking human form and dying on a cross, God limits divine action in the world to be in accord with rational laws which God has chosen. This enables us to understand the world on its own terms, but it also means that natural processes hide God from scientific observation.A theology of the cross then suggests that, contrary to the belief of ID advocates, methodological naturalism is appropriate for natural science, which is not to invoke God as an explanation for phenomena. This is not to be equated with a metaphysical naturalism which assumes that the natural world is all there is, for the triune God revealed in the cross and resurrection of Christ is the true creator of nature. But this God does not compel the belief of skeptics by leaving puzzles in creation which science can’t solve.

The mark God has placed on creation is both more stark and more subtle. “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 16:4 NRSV).


The notion that ID people are looking for a sign overlooks the overwhelming fact that all of the prominent Christian ID proponents were already strong in their faith. ID is not seeking a reason for faith; rather, it provides implications, which for those of the Christian faith (or any other monotheistic faith) lends credence to certain theological positions. I'm certain that the implications of ID do not alter the theological views of its proponents; rather, they enhance and confirm certain theological positions already maintained - namely: that God has left his mark in creation. When Jesus mentions a sign, he is addressing those who are not believers, who demand more evidence than what was already provided; they demand a supernatural event so overwhelming, it convinces them to abandon their sin. ID makes no pretension of being such a sign. CannuckianYankee
Ted Davis: Doubtless George Murphy wasn't accusing ID proponents of personally vile behavior, but nonetheless, given the penultimate paragraph's clear reference to ID, the rhetorical effect is that ID people, in looking for a "sign," are guilty not only of a scientific but also of a deep and blameworthy spiritual error. So I think it's a bit over the top. (Of course, it's sometimes hard to determine the tone of prose; the quotation might have been meant as a sort of sporting jab, offered with a twinkle in the eye. And if there were plenty of good will between ID and TE people, that's how I would take it. But because of the general ill-will, it's tempting to take it as something more aggressive.) However, all of this is about the rhetoric of ID/TE relations, and really the more important point is the substantial one that you address in your second note. George Murphy, certainly one of the ablest theologians among the TEs, is suggesting that the doctrine of Creation should be interpreted through the doctrines of Incarnation and Atonement -- in terms of the weakness of the incarnate Christ rather than through the power of Almighty God. This is a provocative suggestion, but I wouldn't reject it out of hand. Nonetheless, it is, as you say, debatable. Certainly, as I read the creation passages in Genesis, the Psalms, Isaiah, and Job, I get the sense that creation is the expression of God's power and wisdom, not of his self-sacrifice or of any voluntary weakness on his part. Are we allowed to simply brush aside the plainest, most straightforward reading of these texts, in order to make the Old Testament more Christological? Also, there is also Romans 1, which seems to clearly indicate that God's creative intelligence is *not* hidden. I know that Murphy has said in the past that the mode of design detection Paul is referring to is not the sort of scientific activity that ID people propose, but a more commonsensical perception of order and structure in the world; but even if that's true, it still means that God's designs in nature aren't entirely hidden, which does not seem to sit well with the Lutheran emphasis on God's hiddenness. And when one reads Calvin's discussion of Romans 1 in the *Institutes*, it seems that Calvin does not entirely agree about the hidden God, at least, not as far as Creation goes. I suspect that ID people are closer to the Calvin who allows for a limited natural theology, whereas many TE people align with Barthian readings of Calvin, or else with Lutheran statements about the hiddenness of God. Here, as so often, the differences between ID and TE seem to be not merely about science (Darwinian mechanisms, etc.) but about theology. I don't object to TEs offering their own theologies, but I do think they are sometimes rather quick to say or imply that only their theology is orthodox or truly in line with the Bible, and to rule that ID notions are heretical or sub-Christian. These back-and-forth charges of bad theology, when the theological truth is very difficult of access, are not constructive. I welcome George Murphy's suggestion as *a* Christian theology of creation; I am less than thrilled with it if it is offered as *the* Christian theology of creation, and one which rings the death-knell for natural theology. No one is forcing George Murphy to accept natural theology at gunpoint, and no one should be forced to reject it at gunpoint, either, even if the gun is held by Luther, Pascal, Bonhoeffer, or Barth. T. Timaeus
Quoting scripture is completely irrelevant when it comes to proving or disproving science. The scientific evidence is with ID, that's all that matters. atheistIDer
#8 Tragic. "academic freedom" -- is that a object, a thing, an artifact, a noun? Or is that a logically necessary proposition, a reason, a mathematical entity, a proof? Or is that an ability, a power, a process by which other important things are accomplished? Robert Sheldon
Luther himself notes in his commentary on Paul (Romans 1) that the invisible things of the designer (attributes) "have always been recognized through the rational perception of the designer's operations in the world", so whilst we could speak, theologically, of the preparing of creation as being a 'hidden' thing, this changed the moment the work became evident and furnished - adorned to sustain life. On that basis, then, I think Mr Murphy's argument ignores the force of both Paul's and Luther's concerning the revelation of design in our existence. howard
What is all this BS about? ID is not claiming to identify which God, much less which member of the Trinity is the designer. Nor is ID claiming to be a replacement for religion, or claiming the basis of religion is natural science. This all complete BS. It's about academic freedom to pursue truth and knowledge. tragic mishap
Ted, I think you are on to something, but didn't complete the logic. Whether George is looking for the 1st or 2nd person of the Trinity, the point is that he is not looking for the full Trinity. Logic and Reason partake of the 2nd, Facts and Creation of the 1st, but there is this 3rd person that gets neglected (and makes a cameo appearance in Prov 8). The point is that any reduction of the Trinity will lead to error, whether it is the wicked and adulterous generation that prefer "signs" or OT methods, or Greeks that prefer "wisdom" and NT methods. What does Paul offer? Power, or 3rd person properties which are stumbling-block-signs and foolish-wisdom, yet amazingly potent. ID may not have the best aspects of "reason" (despite our many attempts to use mathematics), it may not have the best aspects of "revelation" despite our attempt to use gold-plated experiments, but what it does have is "power". And that is what Dover PA was all about. That is why Biologos was funded, and why audiences flock to ID conferences. Can one bottle or repackage the 3rd person? No, Jesus said the wind blows where it wills. In the ID is not a subject but a predicate, not an object but a process, not a Truth but an approach to Truth. This is why ID doesn't exclude atheists and Hindus, because it doesn't pretend to be 1st or 2nd persons, but the 3rd person, whose purpose is to guarantee the faith in something else, to lead to all truth, to bring to remembrance all that was taught. Theology drives religion, and it matters. Robert Sheldon
The roots of methodological naturalism, so called. kairosfocus
How can George Murphy call himself a Christian and try to use Matthew 16:4 to support his point? In the context of this passage Jesus is telling the Pharisees and Sadducees that they can interpret the skies to forecast the weather but cannot interpret the signs of the times to know that He is the Messiah. He uses a common tactic of sects: instead of reading God's revelation from Scripture, they invent their own doctrine and then go back to the Bible looking for support of their beliefs. aedgar
No, Joseph, faith isn't supposed to be "blind." When George Murphy writes about "the theology of the cross," vis-a-vis "the theology of glory," what he mainly means is this: for the Christian, our theology should begin with the crucified and risen Christ, not with speculative reason reflecting on nature. Rather, what we know about God from the passion events should then be used to help us interpret nature in terms of the creator whom we crucified. Not the other way around. It's a debatable point, of course, but that's what he's saying. My historical comment would be as follows. For nearly all of Christian history, it's been uncommon for Christians to think of the Maker of Heaven and Earth as the Second Person of the Trinity, even though that is what the prologue to John's gospel teaches. The usual thing is to see the Maker of Heaven and Earth as the First Person of the Trinity. George Murphy is essentially calling for us to do the former, not the latter. Ted Davis
So faith is supposed to be blind? Joseph
Barry, I think you may be reading a bit too much into George Murphy's use of this particular text (Matt 16:4) by using this as your headline question. If you look at this passage as a whole, it's clearly relevant to the point that Phil Johnson makes in the passage that George quotes. George is making a theological reply to Phil; the story George is citing pertains directly to the point Phil made, and to George's reply; and, the harsh words are those of Jesus in the passage, they weren't added or embellished by George. I don't doubt that all of us live in a "wicked and adulterous generation," regardless of what we think about ID, either theologically or scientifically. I don't think George has any reason to think that Phil Johnson is an adulterer, and I doubt that he thinks Phil is any more wicked than you or me--or George himself (we are of course all wicked in God's righteous eyes). As we both know, Barry, Jesus often spoke pretty sharply in making his points, just as he often used obvious hyperbole. I at least can't blame George for seeing this as a relevant passage in this context, and I think your headline engages in a bit of hyperbole. Ted Davis
Romans 1:20 'For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.' bornagain77

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