A Theologian Evaluates Intelligent Design: Part 3 of 3

January 13th, 2010 / 87 Comments

In my past two installments, I noted five things I like about Intelligent Design and five things I don’t. I conclude with my final (and apparently unique) criticism of ID.

Unlike the political, scientific, or philosophical criticisms of ID, my final criticism is explicitly theological. Of course, most of the other criticisms of have direct or indirect theological dimensions.

My criticism has to do with the theological implications of the ID idea of irreducible complexity. As far as I can tell, the notion of irreducible complexity and the lack of creaturely causation it implies undermine a coherent view of God’s love.

The basic idea of irreducible complexity is that some organisms are so highly sophisticated that the evolutionary forces — natural selection, random mutation, self-organization, etc. – cannot account for them. A designer – God – must have specially acted to create them. 

Presumably, Christian ID supporters believe that God has been active and creative throughout history. Most Christians are not deists. To put it differently, God has always been creative in the emergence and ongoing life of every creature and species. Christians who affirm the general theory of evolution would also likely argue that God acts as Creator in both micro and macroevolution.

ID supporters presumably believe that creatures also contribute as causal actors in the world.  In some way, shape, or form, creatures and creation play a contributing role in God’s creating activity. 

The first chapter of Genesis illustrates this creaturely co-creating well. God calls upon creation many times to “bring forth” creatures of various kinds. This idea of divine-creaturely cooperation persists throughout the Bible.

So… here’s the rub:

If creatures and God are always active together in the creation story – with God taking the lead as Creator, of course – what does this mean for the idea of irreducible complexity?  Implied if not outright stated in the theory of irreducible complexity is the idea that God had to “step into” or “intervene in” the evolutionary process to “design” unilaterally some complex organisms.

The natural course of things, say ID advocates, cannot account for this design. The creation of irreducibly complex organisms required God to forsake the natural contributions of creatures. God had to act all alone to create some complex organisms. 

Philosophers call this kind of unilateral activity “a sufficient cause.” A sufficient cause entirely explains the existence of what it produces. No other factors or actors contributed.

What’s wrong with the idea that God occasionally acts all alone — as a sufficient cause — to design an irreducibly complex organism?

To put it simply: this means that God’s creating irreducibly complex organisms is not an act of love.

Let me explain.

Acting all alone when creating would not be loving for at least two reasons.  First, love requires relationship. Relationship requires cooperation and collaborating, at least to some degree.

Acting all alone as a sufficient cause amounts to forcing one’s way on others. This is coercion. Almost everybody believes that love and coercion – when coercion is defined as total control – are incompatible.

The God in whom Christians believe is foremost a Lover who would NEVER acts unloving.  The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever, say the writers of the Bible!

A God who always loves and never coerces would always act in relationship. God would never act as a sufficient cause. God’s loving and creating action would persuade, call, woo, lure, summon, inspire, and empower others. God creates in cooperation with creatures.

The second reason we should not think that God acts all alone to design irreducibly complex organisms is that God’s acting all alone – being in complete control of the situation or creature – implies that God has the capacity to control anyone at anytime and at any place.  A God with this capacity would be morally irresponsible. After all…

     a loving God who can completely control others should prevent the genuine evil of the world.

     a loving God who can completely control others should provide crystal-clear and inerrant revelation.

     a loving God who can completely control others should distribute the goods and resources of the world fairly.

Because genuine evil, ambiguous revelation, and injustice occurs, God must not completely control others. Whether this is God’s choice or something derived from God’s eternal nature is a question that theologians debate.

I personally believe that love is a part of God’s nature. God loves others necessarily and gives others freedom. God necessarily empowers others and calls creatures to love.  I call this theory, “Essential Kenosis.”

Essential Kenosis says that God loves others and cannot fail to offer, withdraw, or override the freedom/agency God necessarily gives. This means that creatures, not God, are morally responsible for the evil, confusion, and injustice of the world.

In short, my major theological criticism of the ID theory of irreducible complexity is it undermines the central Christian conviction that God is love.

As a theologian, I am convinced that we must think consistently about God. And this consistent thinking should especially occur in the science and theology dialogue. If we truly believe that God’s defining attribute is love, Christians must think through issues in the science-and-theology dialogue in such a way that this conviction enjoys a central role.

Admittedly, it is easy to imagine how God lovingly creates and relates with animate creatures like worms, dogs, and people. These creatures have some responsive freewill or agency with which they can respond well or poorly to God.

It is more difficult to imagine God loving and relating to rocks, snowflakes, and air molecules. These entities don’t seem to have the capacity for freewill responses.

If God’s nature is love and God loves the whole world (Jn. 3:16), however, it makes sense to say God loves both animate and inanimate creatures. God’s loving creation of inanimate creation by giving them structure, integrity, and constitution also means that God also doesn’t entirely control – doesn’t coerce – inanimate creatures. This belief comes in handy when grappling with what philosophers sometimes call “natural evil” – blizzards, hurricanes, and erupting volcanoes.

All of this means that a theory of evolution that has both a necessary role for God as Creator and a necessary role for creatures as contributors is more compatible with Christian love than the ID theory of irreducible complexity implying that God coerces creatures occasionally to create complex organisms.

Instead of saying that God occasionally designs unilaterally through coercion, I find it more plausible to say that God is always creating and designing creatures. God never takes a holiday from creating, and creatures are never left out of the picture.

This creating and designing – which has occurred over millions and billions of years – is God acting as Creator in a relationship of love.

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Comments

Larry Wood

Hi Tom,

I agree that ID is not good science and not good theology. But I don’t agree with your statement that “God never coerces.” The idea that God only acts with “persuasive love” is flimsy and I can’t see why it contradicts the idea that God is love. When God created the world out of nothing, he did it with love and “force.” It was not persuasion merely. In the final judgment, God will judge, not with persuasive love, but with decisive action. I just can’t see, either in the Old no New Testament, where God lacks “coercive power.” Ed Madden once told me that he felt the real weakness of process philosophy is that its God could not even jam the system if God wanted to; and hence Madden didn’t think the God of process philosophy was worth refuting, which he says is why he and Peter Hare excluded process philosophy in their first edition of Evil and the Concept of God. A God so weak as process philosophy is hardly worth taking note of, he complained in personal conversation with me. He said that he included process philosophy only because the process folks insisted that they do so.
Larry Wood


Larry Wood

Hi Tom,

Here’s an interesting comment by Peter Hodgson about God’s power in Zygon in an article, “GOD’S ACTION IN THE WORLD: THE RELEVANCE OF QUANTUM MECHANICS”—“It is an impoverished conception of God to suppose that he is bound by his own laws. God is the supreme lord of nature, who can make and unmake its laws and bring it into being,modify it, or extinguish it at will. It is unnecessary to think of God trying
to change the course of events by keeping within the limits of quantum indeterminacy.” [Zygon, vol. 35, no. 3 (September 2000).]


Thomas Jay Oord

Larry,

Thanks for your good posts!  I’ll start my response with the second.

I agree that we shouldn’t say God is bound by those laws God voluntarily decides to decree or instantiate.  This, in my opinion, is one of the deficits of what I call “voluntary kenosis” theology.  This God is self-limited by voluntarily setting laws or giving freedom to creation. 

However, I think God IS bound by the eternal aspects of God’s own nature. E.g., God cannot decide to be 359 instead of Triune. But I’m guessing you’d agree with me on that.  Am I right?

With regard to your first post, I think we need to be careful to distinguish the metaphysical meanings of persuasion and coercion.  These meanings are not primarily about the use of force. A persuasive action is forceful, and a coercive action is forceful.

The metaphysical difference pertains to whether God can unilaterally determine—completely control—others. Persuasive force cannot entirely control others. I say God can’t control others entirely, because God’s nature is love and love never entirely controls.

You’re right to bring up the issue of creation out of nothing as an instance in which God would have to entirely control.  I deny that doctrine, however, because of its biblical, historical, logical, ethical, scientific and theological implications. (After writing that sentence, it occurs to me that I should write a blog on my objections to creatio ex nihilo!) I really wish theologians would be more biblical on this issue and deny that God creates from absolutely nothing.

Whatever process theologians say about God’s power or lack thereof (and process thinkers vary among themselves on this issue), I am committed to speaking of God as the almighty God of love who is not culpable for failing to prevent genuine evil. 

In my opinion, we should use language about God’s power that denies God has the capacity to coerce (in the metaphysical sense). But it also means using language indicating God is the mightiest being, Creator, and exerts might upon all others. I like to use the biblical word “almighty” to describe God’s power, although I realize the word itself could be interpreted in various ways.

I hope this helps explain my positions!

Thanks again for your comments…

Tom


Bob Luhn

I have thoroughly enjoyed these 3 posts and feel like my mind has been wonderfully stretched! Please help me understand better your statement “God’s creating irreducibly complex organisms is not an act of love.” You call it “coercive”.
It seems to me that creating the irreducibly complex components necessary for life as we know it, is supremely an act of love.Here we see the Creator bringing into relationship to Himself matter that would otherwise be inert, “less than” it could be, or even stymied in its development. Since I view the authority God wields in the universe as being like the authority of a parent, can it not also be thought that avery loving thing to do is to help a child who is stuck get unstuck? If life cannot develop apart from certain foundational components, it certainly seems to me that it is a supreme act of love for God to enable life to come into existence or progress in its development by providing those key elements, that is, the irreducibly complex organisms. So I don’t see how this act of creation is opposed to love.


Thomas Jay Oord

Thanks for the great response, Bob, and for the compliment!

I agree that creating irreducibly complex components necessary for life could be a supreme act of love. I think when God seeks to create such complex organisms, it is an act of love.

My objection, however, is to thinking that creating irreducibly complex components necessary for life is creation by coercion. I think Christians should argue that God creates through cooperation/call/persuasion/inspiration, etc. 

I don’t have anything against the idea that God creates irreducibly complex organisms.  In fact, I affirm that.  I am only opposed to ID, insofar as it states or implies that God does such creating coercively, without any contribution from creatures.

When ID proponents say “evolution can’t account for this, so God had to design it,” this statement seems to suggest either A) evolution on its own can give a full explanation of some organisms but not this organism (which I think most ID folk would want to deny) or B) some organisms came about ONLY through God’s designing action (which I think ID, unfortunately, affirms). 

I reject both A and B. I argue that C) God’s creating of complex organisms is always in love, and love never acts coercively. Creatures contribute to God’s creative activity.

I think God’s love is never coercive for two reasons.  The first speaks to the definition of love. I think love in itself is always expressed in relationship. Entire control of the other in relationship is never loving.

The second reason speaks to what it would mean if God had the capacity to coerce. If God could coerce, a loving God should use coercion to prevent genuine evil. Because genuine evils occur, we shouldn’t say God possesses the capacity to coerce.  If we do, we are undermining a robust notion of divine love.

Hope that clarifies my position…

Tom


Lori Ward

Please write your article on creation ex nihilo!  I am intrigued.


Donald Minter

Tom my friend, your ‘process upbringing’ is showing badly… The initial creative act is ‘alone’, that is, God creates alone, for there is no creation to created with, and no slight of hand with Trinity here, the Godhead acts alone…  You write,

“Acting all alone when creating would not be loving for at least two reasons.  First, love requires relationship. Relationship requires cooperation and collaborating, at least to some degree.

Acting all alone as a sufficient cause amounts to forcing one’s way on others. This is coercion. Almost everybody believes that love and coercion – when coercion is defined as total control – are incompatible.”

Unless, you are joining your mentors in arguing that God came upon the ‘chaos’ and ‘encouraged’ it to be, rather than ‘called’ it into being, this first act of creation was alone.  There was ‘no thing’ to cooperate with God.

But further, you cheat in your definition (and I have got to stop pointing this out in your work).  “Love cannot coercive…”  Once you set the rules, how are we to argue, less we challenge the rules you have made.  All one need do is suggest, “indeed love can and does coercive”.  Love would never leave the creation to its own chaos…  Rules are easily written and the winner of the game writes the rules as Wittgenstein argued so long ago.

What I think you have done is show why ID is valid approach.  And me thinks you didn’t intend that…  :o)


Ron Hunter

A fiat act of creation does not need to preclude love.  Adding complexity, color, symmetry, functionality, distinctive, etc. might just as well be seen as a loving act by a Good God.


Charles W. Christian

Don’t traditional understandings of the Trinity give an explanation as to why we can say God acts “alone” initially (creation ex nihilo)?  This does not necessarily prove ID, and I too am skeptical of most of the claims of ID, but I don’t get how Process thought posits “something” here before God.  Can something pre-date God?  If not, then how did “something” get here? 

God’s love CAN be (and has been) seen as an outgrowth of the mutuality of the Trinity.  God desires THIS kind of community so much that God chooses to reproduce it.  If that is the case, then God as Trinity can act “alone” and not violate your definition of love.  Right???

Charles


Tony Scialdone

Tom:

I too have enjoyed these articles, but take issue with some of your presuppositions.

1. With whom did God collaborate when the first non-God creation was being made?

2. On what basis do you draw the conclusion that coercion cannot be done in perfect love?

Have a great day, Tom!

Tony


Thomas Jay Oord

Thanks for these posts.  I can see that I’ll need to provide a post stating reasons why I oppose creation out of nothing and why I affirm creating out of something through love.

Tom


Lori Ward

Regarding your claim that “love requires relationship” and ” Relationship requires cooperation and collaborating” how might we imagine the relationship among/within the Triune God as it relates to creation?  Since “God IS love” might we conceive of this cooperation and collaboration relating from/within/through God’s trinitarian nature?


William Hanson

This is a very interesting post that is thought provoking. However, I would disagree with your analysis of the creation account given in Genesis 1 that there is a “divine-creaturely cooperation”. In the first versus God, the trinity, creates unilaterally with no cooperation from creation since as of yet creation was not in existence. Also the language not appear to give the land/creatures any part in the creation. I would lean more towards an analogy with God as master painter creating his master piece with all of creation as his canvas and paint. This is the kind of creation account I see in Genesis. What where the other references where creation contributes to creating? Thank you for your blog.


Nathan Dupper

Dr. Oord,

I guess my question after reading this is, with evolution, why does Christ come to earth?

It seems to me that if evolution in true, then sin is not really a choice. It is “evolutionary lag” in a way. If evolution is true, then the only reason I am here is because my ancestors were able to kill all those who opposed them. Evolution required my ancestors to put themselves above all others, because that is the only way that natural selection would have allowed humans to survive. So, if my ancestors had to do unloving things to survive, It would seem that instinct and genetics would force me to sin. It is sort of a ,” like father, like son” type of thing.

If sin is then not a choice, then why did Christ make it seem like it was?

I have tried to get as many different positions on this question as possible, but most professors seem to not see that one must change the traditional reason for Christ’s coming to earth if he or she accepts an evolutional worldview.


Braeden Gray

I am not sure what I believe as far as the whole creation theories go. I do not think that in the long run or the “big picture” it really matters whether people believe that God created out of nothing- or whether he simply put into action and then took a step back and let the rest take place. When it comes to a salvation issue, it is not important. What I do appreciate about your theory Dr. Oord, is that God must have created out of love and that the idea of Him creating alone would in all essence by definition of what we understand love to be-impossible since love requires a relationship and a relationship cannot exist with only one person


Blake Mohling

I had never thought about the idea that because of God’s love for even inanimate objects that God does not control them.  This makes hurricanes and tornado’s more understandable.  If God loves them enough to not control them, that would make it a little easier to explain why bad things can happen to good people.  God is in control, but He does not force control on anything.


Glen Carter

It appears that each school of thought requires a total commitment to one idea over the other. I believe that there is a little good in each one of the ideas of creation you have presented in your blog. I think your example of the A-Team fit really well. My own experience of God can be and has been multifaceted, and when one takes the experiences of others with that same God, it serves as an illustration of a God that isn’t mono-method minded. One only has to look at the vast array of life on this planet to understand how eclectic God’s interest is. Just one look at the platypus and the argument for a singular method seems frustrated.


Chris Meek

I appreciate your theory of Essential Kenosis.  I see a part of God’s love for the created is the willingness to partner with the created in creating.  The Creator trusts the created to create. God gives us the opportunity to contribute to what has already been started.  The problem, at least in humans, is that our love falls short of God’s love.  We try to control the created and therefore bring a lot of injustice into our world.


Bonnie Hippenstiel

The example you used of the old TV show, The A-Team, illustrating biologist Ken Miller’s argument against irreducible complexity also fits well with the support of theistic evolution.  It seems there is an incredible fear between science and religion that the idea of having compatible views means a complete surrender and stripping of their individual truths.  This is tragic because the opposite can be true as you state, “together, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  I cannot help but think of the same parallel with the Christian faith and all of its various denominations.  The same type of fear seems to perpetuate itself instead of the various parts seeking the wholeness of the Body of Christ.


Billy Borden

I love your breakdown of ID, Tom. But like a few others above me here, I lose you at the concept of God’s sole creatorship construed as coercion. I hate to waste space with analogies, but if I surprise my wife with a nice candlelight dinner and roses, I would hate that she would feel coerced into participating because I felt the initiative to create something special for her.

Onward….The spiritual aspect of creation takes us as Christians away from the scientific aspect, but it is valid nonetheless. God chooses words to create, speaking the world into existence, and grants humans the similar gift of an underlying power in our words. Although our power to “create” as God created via words might not carry the same weight as God’s, the words we choose to use ought to be considered somehow in the topic of design.

Now what biologist would take that bait?!


Jonathan Moore

Dr. Oord,

  I have never heard of someone arguing against irreducible complexity in light of a loving and co-creating God. Very interesting indeed.

  You make a good point when you point out the lack of love present in God acting out of solitude… However I have a few questions in light of this suggestion.

  Could it be that God never acts in solitude? Would it be wrong to suppose that every action of God is a loving, relational, co-creation between the Trinity? Would this not make every action a loving movement held between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?


Donna Mikhail

Essential Kenosis is appealing to me. I know that God has given each of us a free-will for us to make the choice to follow Christ or not.  God is a gentleman.  He never forces Himself on us.  Why would the theories of science be any different?  In choosing to submit to His will, would not our will succumb to the truth that God is love and with that love, he forms us into His image, as the potter forms the clay?  Why can’t He continue to create or form anything He wants when He wants?  I agree with Tom, that God is creator and still creating, because He is Love.


Aaron Horton

I found your statement that “the God in whom Christians believe is foremost a Lover who NEVER acts unloving ” to be unique.  My first thought was whether this was true.  The more I contemplated it the more I began to see the truth in this statement. If we look at it from the angle of a parent who genuinely loves his or her child it is absolutely true. God as the Creator is the parent in cooperation with creation. This gives new meaning, in my view, of the term Mother Earth.


Buck Zeller

Having only a high school biology education in the science field, I am hardly one to make a detailed post on ID.  However, some of Tom’s points pro ID where helpful.  Scientifically, if a researcher believes that a designer created nature and reevaluates their finds without the subjective view of random chance, eventually they may discover that only God create the complexity of nature.  As Tom points out in this blog, logical and research dictates that random chance and evolution cannot account for the complexity of organisms and multi cell creatures.  Eventually, all research will lead to the Creator.  Therefore, I suppose those who support ID support those who look to reveal God through the discovery of science.
Theologically, is this not the same line of thinking which lead to the multi language world after the tower of Babel?  Is humanity is search for God because of lack of faith?  This is my discord with the ID scientific movement: are Christian’s trying to prove there is a God through physical science.  Has faith become an after mentioned thought superseded by our scientific theory?  This is why I strongly believe that theology and science are not even siblings fighting at the dinner table.  There is a vast separation in the purpose for each field of study.  Theology defines the relationship with humanity and God.  Theology interprets the divine, and the spiritual functions of God, and humanity.  Science interprets the physical world.  I cannot say for sure where these fields may overlap.  Perhaps they do not.  Therefore, ID, should be left for scientist to argue and out of the realm of theology.


Carolyn Savell

I think God loves and has connection with all he has created. If an artist paints or a sculptor sculpts a wonderful work of art then it easily said that the artist has invested amounts of themselves and a great level of love into the work. However, God instilled much more of himself into we humans. He may love and be connected to all; but it is the souls of people he invested the life of his son into. That is what places us above all the rest of creation, a soul to be saved through the death and rising of Christ.
    I also agree with this all being taught in school, but should be by a Christian teacher. In MS. a Bible class is taught as a History class. The teacher is Christian. Campus Life supplies Bibles for all the students and they keep them at the end of the class. I was happy to see this being taught and was ask to be a guest speaker for the class.
  There can and should be balance with science and religion. We as Christians should be leading the way in reaching this balance. After all….. God is creator of all and we are HIS children.


Mike Lyle

I understand your critique of ID by saying that God could not “lovingly” control the development of humanity.  However, is it always true that God never acts alone?  What about Jesus healing the lame man at the pool of Bethsaida?  The man didn’t ask Jesus to be healed.  Jesus didn’t ask anyone to help him wash in the pool or bring anyone else into this healing.  There was simply a man who was lame sitting by the pool.  Jesus asked him if he wanted to be well and he healed him.  He “intervened” in creation without the cooperation of any other creature.  Also, God seemed to force Jonah into doing his will. 
I agree that God cooperates with creatures as He is creating.  I do wonder if we box God in by saying that He CAN’T create in any other way.


Aaron Alvarez

While I am not sure that intelligent design is the full meal at the discussion table of creation it does at least in some ways begin the conversations that I hope will offer a civilized set of table manners.  I believe that in many ways Christians should set in listening silence and hear what science is saying and before speaking we should pray that God’s will be done speaking only in generous love, a difficult task for some and a challenge for all.  That said Tom wrote: “To put it simply: this means that God’s creating irreducibly complex organisms is not an act of love.”  It may be that if we centrifuge out the concept of irreducibly this would not be an issue.  But I fail to see how it is outside of God’s love for us to specifically and intentionally create us.  I really like ice cream and I like to make ice cream but if I really want to make the best that I can I must step in a do more than toss the mix in the freezer.  This would result in hard grainy ice cream full of ice crystals that interfere both with texture and flavor.  So in order to make a smooth cohesive ice cream I must intervene, I must mix and manipulate it.  I guess I just do not find it unloving of God to have interacted in the creation of humanity, rather I am humbled that God would have do such a thing.


Kristin Hamilton

I need some time to process this further! I have never been comfortable with the idea that creation happened from “nothing”. God was there so something was there.
What I have never considered before is God’s love for even inanimate objects what that means in terms of his unwillingness to exert control. I agree that God’s character of love means that he will not or cannot exert control over creation. (Billy, I think the example you gave is an example of persuasion rather than coercion since dinner isn’t really a show of force or intimidation, right?) What I think I need to better understand is how God partnered with creation in creating at the beginning. I understand it in terms of continuing creation, but what about “in the beginning”? Was God partnering with something created previously to further create? Anyone have any help for me?


Elisabeth Misner

You say, “It is difficult to imagine God loving and relating to rocks, snowflakes, and air molecules. These entities don’t seem to have the capacity for freewill responses.” I’m curious whether or not you have seen the microscopic photo images of water molecules taken by Dr. Masaru Emoto and how they change shapes based on what emotion a human is projecting? I saw this first on What the Bleep Do We Know and was fascinated by it. Would you say these responses are “freewill responses” as we know the definition of free will?


jonathan Odom

Throughout the Bible, there are scriptures that suggest all of creation, from people to rocks, recognize God as creator. In Romans 8:19-21, we are told that creation is waiting for God to work. “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.”

As you pointed out in your essay, consistency must be present to produce sound theology. The wonderful implications of free will and God being love is that every act of creation, whether animate or inanimate, is an act of love. All matter, is an expression of God’s love. This is an important observation, because it follows suit with Jesus’ teaching of heaven colliding with earth.


Jennifer Osborn

I believe God does create in love through the Trinity.  The act of creation is out of love but I believe free will is also an act of love in which we as the creation can choose to reciprocate or not.  I agree God is always creating as this is His nature as “God is Love”.  In being made in the image of a loving God are we going to love as God loves?  This is our choice to follow Him or not.


Stephen Abbott

While I stuck with the first two sections of this blog pretty good, the third has me wondering.  I had not made a connection between the ID hypothesis and the implications for God’s love before.

One serious question I have:
Is it necessarily true that unilateral action equals lack of loving relationship?

Said differently:
Does forcing your will on someone always mean you don’t love them?

Especially in the endeavor of creation, there might not be a hard and fast rule that direct, unilateral intervention is an unloving thing.

HE is the Creator after all.  (I recognize I’m trying to balance God’s love and God’s sovereignty, Wesley and Calvin.)  Even though we and other creatures are invited into the creative process, there are some things that God does unilaterally in the Genesis account.  Light and dark, sun, moon, and stars, seperation of waters above and below, etc., are all unilateral moves on God’s part – which: (1)have direct impact upon species development; and (2) could be interpreted as a sort of “irreducible complexity.”

I don’t know, I’m still chewing.


Lori Gaffner

Tom,
One of the first things that came to my mind after reading your blog was the imagery in the Psalms—of all of creation bringing glory to the Creator.  “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the field be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;” (Psalm 97:11 & 12).

I understand this as metaphor, but you are expanding my view.  I believe that God is first and foremost defined by love—and that God would love everything that God has created, including the trees of the forest, the seas, the balls of gas in the sky called the heavens—why wouldn’t God love all that God created?

Does God love all creatures equally?  Why would God be discriminating?  It seems that to love means NOT to discriminate, but to fully embrace all.


Spencer Baggott

I do not follow your logic here. To say that love is relational and therefore creation by God alone could not be an act of love… That is saying that God who “is” love was not love before something else existed.  Even if you want to say that love is just a part of God’s nature, does that mean that God’s nature was not complete until after creation and therefore love could become a part of God’s nature?  Are you saying that God evolves?

Trying to define what is or is not love for God seems to me to be a rather impossible thing.  If God created what we call love, how can we determine love in it’s fullness and therefore exclude the things that God can not do because we have determined that they are not loving?

I would also add that the reference to John 3:16 seems to lack context.  I am not talking about a whole chapter even – just the verse.  Whoever believes, not whatever believes will have ever lasting life.  Is God relating to whos or whats in the redemptive act? 

Maybe I’m just stirring the pot, but if I don’t push where I have questions I may miss out on grasping these things.  Thanks for any response.


Ricardo San Jose

I do agree with the five points that you agreed with ID. Now I don’t necessarily agree with you that schools should not teach a Christian View of things. It is important to reach a conclusion in everything it does not matter if we are right or wrong. In schools children and new generations need to reach a conclusion. If US was based on Christian beliefs they should be stated in schools, (this does not mean that others point of view from other cultures could not be studied). Leaving students with uncertainty is not neutral, to me it only encourages doubt.


Sean Crow

I have always been curious about ID and sometimes I get interested in it.  Most of the time I think that it is too open for deism to be even useful.  However, it does help address the non-unique label attacks of naturalists.

I don’t agree that irreducible complexity necessitates a God that is unloving.  Doesn’t that require a preconception that God uses macro evolution at all?  Does a theologian have to include evolution in their origins theory to be credible?  If yes, wouldn’t that be an authoritative statement from modernity?


Joe Boggs

To the idea of sufficient cause:

Beethoven composed many great works.  I’ll take one – the 9th symphony.  It only required Beethoven to write the symphony – he had no assistant (that I know of).  So in a very important respect, Beethoven was the sufficient cause of his 9th symphony.

However, without the skills of an orchestra, the 9th symphony would never have been heard.  It would have remained notes on paper.  Beethoven could never have played it by himself.  So the orchestra, too, is in some respect a sufficient cause for Beethoven’s 9th symphony.

Could it not be possible that, in evolution, God works like this – God “writes the symphony” and is thus a sufficient cause but the symphony is not played without the help of the created world?


Sandra Hainstock-White

I have enjoyed all three of the blogs and your thoughts regarding ID. I admit I do not recall ever hearing of this theory before although I have heard of similar Creation Theory ideas. I admit I have a tendency to lean toward a young earth as apposed to an old earth. I am not offended by the idea of an old earth and I think it makes for good conversation. I am thinking that someday we will have an answer to our many questions but until then it is sure a lot of fun trying to figure it out for ourselves. grin


Kristin Hamilton

Joe, I disagree that Beethoven was sufficient cause in creating the symphony. He did not create in a vacuum “out of nothing” and he did not impose his will on the music. He worked within the rules of music, under inspiration from his surroundings, and in partnership with the Creator. Same with the orchestra. I know I’m being picky, but I want to go to the edges on this.
This is why I want to know more about what existed before “creation” so I can better understand the partnership aspect.


Doug Gunsalus

I have taken some extra time to take all of this in.  I want to be a pursuer of the Truth because I believe that if I don’t then I am just lying to myself.  Since I have not encountered this idea (at least in this explicit form), I have had to wrestle with it.  So, here is what I think.

Many use the Old Testament to suggest that God is coercive.  He directs and punishes.  He get’s angry and destroys whole racial groups.  He lets his people know that if they don’t follow him then they will be punished through men who he apparently preferred to talk to more than others.  The god portrayed at times in the OT seems to be set in contrast with Jesus who is the manifestation of God.

Jesus is so genuinely confident and gentle and firm and artsy and unwavering.  What he never is?  Coercive.  He is never forceful.  He beckons and questions.  Sure, he tells people that they are making poor decisions and that they are bringing hurt to the world, but mostly, he tells people that he is the way and beckons them (us) to come follow him.  He endears himself to those who would soften their hearts to him, but to someone needing to control and coerce, he is a threat to their system by simply telling people that they are free and loved. 

And Jesus seems to support the theory in this blog post.  He doesn’t stick around.  He leaves the teaching and the continuing of what he started to people, inviting them (us) into the evolution of the creator/creation relationship.

So, if Jesus is God incarnate, and God is love, this means that what and who Jesus was was love incarnate.  He is our example of what and who God is.  Because of this, in my mind, I have to agree with Dr. Oord.  The theory of irreducible complexity does not lend itself to supporting a loving God.


Stephen Willis

Tom,
You state, “The second reason we should not think that God acts all alone to design irreducibly complex organisms is that God’s acting all alone – being in complete control of the situation or creature – implies that God has the capacity to control anyone at anytime and at any place.”  I understand this premise.  However, can’t this argument be refuted by the installation of free will in creation for humanity and God’s decision to limit His own power to ensure true relationship?  In Jeremiah 31:34b we read, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  In this instance God is limiting His own ability to remember motivated by His love for humanity.  God’s great love for humanity brings about constraint that is hard to comprehend with the human mind.  When you combine free will and God’s restraint doesn’t it speak against “God’s capacity of controlling anyone at anytime and at any place?” 

Stephen Willis


Greg Belew

You can not separate what God does from who he is.  Who he is determines what he does is a favorite line of mine.  The term “Essential Kenosis” is used to describe God’s love for others and never overriding free will.  This description is built upon who God is.  The Truth Project is a popular series among mainline Protestants.  They tackle creationism in one of the lessons.  How they present God is disturbing.  God is not described as creative or relational.  Love is never talked about as essential to creation.  ID builds a wall between creation and the character of God involved within it creation.


Steven L. Hensinger

OK – I have pulled three statements from the three different articles from the Blog.  Each of them seemed to speak to me in one way of another.  The first speaks about how the Bible tells us HOW to find abundant life, NOT the science of the HOW. 
I have said before and I am sure I will say it again, that I appreciate both the Theological point of view that GOD created all that is, the intelligent Design theory.  I also appreciate that science has presented a theory as to HOW it all came to be, evolution. There is nothing saying, for me that there are not truth contained in both theories.
The Second article touched on the idea of teaching the theories in a public school. The line that stood out to me is, “Although I tolerate a variety of religions, I am a Christian theologian.”  That says that I tolerate the others, but I believe ONE point of view over the others.  However, should my point of view be the ONLY point of view that is taught in a PUBLIC setting?  Probably not, however, I would say that the science point of view should be taught as a THEORY not as TRUTH along with the idea that there are OTHER THEORIES to be considered as well.
The third article speaks of the improbability that science theory of evolution cannot completely explain the detail of some organisms or creatures.  That only Intelligent design can explain.  This goes back to the idea that I spoke before, Why not both?  God did it, but leave the HOW up to Him.


Chuck Fowler

This is a great read, and presents your Essential Kenosis idea in a very succinct way.  I know that in our course later this year we will cover these ideas more and one thing that I have not fully had explained, or maybe just overlooked while reading your books is this incompatibility of love and what you have labeled coercion by use of force.  This would suggest that when I prevent my kids from touching a hot stove by forcefully telling them not to, I am not acting in a loving way.  I don’t think this is true.  I see that as the most loving act a parent can do.  I look forward to understanding this concept more fully when we study it in a few weeks.


Tony D.

I don’t think that ID requires a theological response. Also, if ID proponents don’t care what scientists say, then they’re not going to care what theologians say either; but I don’t suppose your target audience is ID proponents. At the same time it’s nice to see that ID can be argued to be preposterous on more than one front.

On the biological side of things, (1) ID makes testable claims which have been shown to be false, and (2) the worst problem with ID is that it is a scientific non-starter. Its basic stance is that when one finds something which they subjectively deem to be irreducibly complex then they can declare god’s hand and therefore there’s no need to keep investigating. That’s not a straw man representation, and this point is illustrated by Ken Miller’s response to Michael Behe (the person who coined the term ‘irreducible complexity’), in that a basic mousetrap (Behe’s key analogical model for irreducible complexity) minus its catch (the piece which holds down the lethal, spring-loaded bar) makes a great tie clip. Behe’s lack of imagination prevents him from seeing beyond what’s right in front of him, but a better biologist would say, “Perhaps a simpler structure can have a different function.”

In the biological case of the bacterial flagellum, it should have been clear to Behe (had he chosen to look just a bit further) that the flagellum shares a great deal of structural (though not functional) homology with the bacterial type III secretion system – a syringe-like structure which bacteria use to pierce through a host cell’s membrane and deliver toxins – and thus presents a potential evolutionary connection. This shows that ID’s willful and subjective myopia leads it to completely miss important evolutionary connections. It doesn’t have the humility to say “I don’t know. I’d better keep searching and testing.”

Even when biologists point out this homology to him, Behe can’t bring himself to concede that his ‘theory’ of irreducible complexity is scientifically bankrupt. Unfortunately, his reputation and the field of ID are now SO dependent on this claim that he cannot afford to concede that he was ever incorrect.

And let’s not forget that the supposed distinction between micro and macroevolution is actually fallacious, and any high school level biology student today can see that. It is a ploy which, while rhetorically clever, lacks any and all real imagination.


William Zink

Hi Tom,
I’m also convinced that (ID) is weak in the foundational arguments that it endorses as it concerns itself with science and theology. I believe in creation theory and I struggle with many of the conjectures that are in circulation today concerning the precepts inherent within the (ID) paradigm of reasoning. You stated, “As a theologian, I’m convinced that we must think consistently about God. And this consistent thinking should especially occur in the science and theology dialogue.”  Consistently reflecting on God throughout the dialogue we employ is a key component to furthering our understanding as it relates to our human experiences. By keeping God centered in our thinking we have the opportunity to catch the truth that lies in both Scripture and science. These two disciplines each possess value and when they are viewed in the spirit of mutuality and not as combatants, we acquire an awe-inspiring description of what God does. In this perspective, theology and science entertain a variety of questions that encompass the metaphysical and the material. Nature and the material world are full of God’s manifest glory. The more we study and interpret God in this realm, the more we are struck with its silence and presence as it relates to what Scripture reveals. While science indeed points to causation as it continually reveals order and understanding, it does not confirm how these things initially came to be. It is only when these findings are examined within the crucible of theology that the true revelations of God begin to appear. Interestingly, science and theology are often woven together throughout the biblical account and in doing so; profound truths can be discovered about us and our communal relationships. With this understanding we must never underestimate the power and influence each of these disciplines wields as they collectively lead us on to even greater inspirations and understandings concerning God’s timeless revelations.


Colby Bearch

I am uncertain that I can buy into the perception of God’s love entirely, as it is presented here.  I can appreciate the fact that God is love and that because of God’s love that God does not coerce.  But, at the same time, I think that this statement is made from the standpoint of “love” as we desire it as humans.  God is God and all was created for God.  From my view, God does not “owe” me love, but instead, trough His mercy and by grace I am, in the end love.  To the point of debate though, I am not convinced that “love” as we desire it is what God intends.
  God’s love is a love that He intends for His created and, from my perspective, that love can manifest in any number of ways.  If in “seeing His big picture”, God determines that an absolute intervention within a biological event of creation or of destruction, for example, is necessary within His plan, then that is His inherent perogative to do so.
  I don’t see God as a God who owes us anything in relationship.  If we expect something, then we have limited God automatically.  We are promised God’s love in the scripture, but I think that we must be careful when we define, describe or anticipate how that love may manifest. 
Just thoughts,
Colby


Jason Higgins

Thank you, Dr. Oord, for the informative series.  I would like to comment on something you wrote in the first installment—“My second criticism is that ID promoters sometimes seem interested in changing culture through changing public school science curricula. In this sense, ID is more about culture wars.”  I agree with your disapproval here.  It is somewhat disturbing that we use the 8th grade science classroom as a battleground for competing ideologies.  If people are concerned about what their children learn (as they should be) then there are constructive ways of being invested in their education.  Having taught young teens in a private school setting, I can tell you that our forty-five minutes to an hour of science (or any class, really) five days a week cannot undo what the students are learning at home—if their parents are invested.  The culture war aspect of ID is troubling, because it really isn’t just about what their children are learning—it is about controlling the education of the other children.


Sharon McQ

Hi Tom,
When my daughter was in kindergarten at a public school at Christmas they were not allowed to talk about Christian Christmas, it was a “Winter Festival.” Yet they were singing a Jewish song about Hannukah and another song about kwanza.  I didn’t remain silent, I called the principal and requested that they treat it evenly. I was okay with “Winter Festival” but do not exclude Christmas because it’s the PC thing to do at the time and include other religious/cultural themes.  They added “Joy to the World.” But they didn’t get it at first, they assumed that I was complaining about the other songs and I wasn’t, just pointing out the double standard of it.  Anyways, I think of science the same, political, biological, whatever, we need to give equal time to them. 

On this issue I think that we feel the same.  ID has some positives, but there are negatives.  The implications on God’s character are substantial.  If God acted alone to create, than why doesn’t he stop little girls from being hit by cars? Why doesn’t he stop tsunami’s? Even the very beginning of creation, before creatures (human or not) God wasn’t alone.  Do you think this is why the writers are sure to say that the Word was with God, that the Spirit moved over the waters, to make man in “our” image???? He was not alone even before creatures were created. God is love and relationship matters to him.  We are co-creators in this world in which we live. 
Sharon
Sharon


Lee

“ID” as you refer to it is not science. Certainly God never acted alone if we first of all believe that He is a Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God did what He does best and we must remember that His ways are not our ways. Somewhere along the way we must allow God to be God all by Himself and quit attempting to dictate what we believe is His intelligent Design. I think about that crazy looking duck billed platypus.  Who would say that was ID? Somewhere in God’s design this creature fits purposely.


Zach W Carpenter

The balance you strike between evolution and ID is one that helps answer some questions that arise between the two for me. This balance seems to keep evolutionists from declaring God is not required. I appreciate your statement of religious science in schools. If creationists desire for creation to be taught in school, we must be fair and have every understanding of creation shared. The Bible is not a book of science, but science helps us understand that Bible in new ways.


Bob Sugden

Tom, you said, “A God who always loves and never coerces would always act in relationship…God creates in cooperation with creatures.”

I feel your point is valid following the moment of creation. But, what about the instant when God declared “Let there be ________?”  My understanding of the creation story is that God spoke everything into existence out of nothing.  If that is true, then how can God act in relationship when He is declaring something out of nothing?  Isn’t He, in fact, fully in control?  Not coercing, yet fully in control?  Is it not possible that God is acting out of love, yet being fully in control?  And, if your answer is affirmative, what was the object of God’s love at the moment of creation?


Richard Shockey

The criticism of irreducible complexity, at least at first, seems viable. There seem to be neither scientific nor theological grounds to make any conclusion based on the irreducible complexity issue.

My major criticism of the final conclusions here, though, do not rest upon assumptions about such complexity. Instead, it seems these conclusions establish a particular theodicy *a priori*, then work backwards toward an ontology of creation. The conclusions that the “acting alone” of design/creation is both coercive and unloving is a non-sequiter. It simply does not follow that love and “acting alone” as described are irreconcilable.

Perhaps the best analogy to this is the own “creating” (albeit categorically different, though not completely so) that we do as parents. I can create life (defined here as “coercion” because my child did not ask to be created) while still being loving. I do not need a child’s permission to create it, although the collaboration, cooperation, and inter-relatedness of a loving relationship will come later.

Rich+


Alan Bradley

This post got me thinking a lot about how I view God.  Does God have the capacity to control everything as so many have said or does God’s love for us stop Him from controlling everything so as to grant us freedom?  I am wrestling with that thought process and probably will for quite some time.  For so long we have been taught, or maybe even conditioned, to think God is in control of everything.  Now, I’m not so sure.  I’m not worried about it changing my view of God, but want to make sure this is something I’ve got right before I discuss this intelligently.


Kim Becker

Dr. Oord, you had me until section 3. You wrote, “What’s wrong with the idea that God occasionally acts all alone—as a sufficient cause—to design an irreducibly complex organism? To put it simply: this means that God’s creating irreducibly complex organisms is not an act of love”. I just read Dan Boone’s essay on the Nazarene website about evolution and Christian faith; he had interesting things to say about the creation account in Genesis 1. What I need to understand is this: if you believe that God’s “creating irreducibly complex organisms is not an act of love”, then what is God’s reason for creating Adam? I guess I would need to understand your interpretation of the existence of Adam to have this conversation. But I also subscribe to Rich’s comment above mine—as parents, we don’t collaborate with our children before we conceive them.

Knowing your expertise on the subject of Godly love, I am vastly unqualified to offer any challenge in this area, but I can’t help but disagree with your conclusion on unilateral creation being akin to coercion. Isn’t the type of creation God performed loving and sacrificial? Didn’t He create the beings that He would sacrifice for?

Kim


fpoucher

These were all good blog’s there is a lot to think about.  I am not sure I can see that creatures helped in the creation.  I do not see God needing anything or anyone.  Of course, God had Jesus and the Holy Spirit 3 in 1 for all that needed to be created.  I do believe that God created humans because God wanted a relationship and God is still looking for that one person at a time.

Thanks for making me really put on my thinking cap.

Faith


Earle Ivers

Thank you for the balanced and informative approach to the concept of Intelligent Design.
There are concepts here that I have not previously considered.

The excursion into theodicy is somewhat confusing and is contested. 

It is one thing to consider these concepts in a metaphysical context ie the building blocks and elements of substance. However, it is less clear in how there is necessity apply the same to the spiritual or theological dimensions.

The freedom/agency you rightly refer to are essential elements in the creative glory of humanity. Surely this was the intent of the creator and is indicative of the imagio dei.

God could easily be in control or coercion in the manner referred to, however, seemingly chooses not to be. A loving and intentional gift.  The alternative is alarming.


Michael Hall

Although I certainly think there are flaws in the Intelligent Design position, I don’t see irreducible complexity as being one of them.  I completely disagree with Miller’s argument and the A-Team analogy.  The whole idea of irreducible complexity is that the independent components of a complex mechanism would have no purpose outside of its final state.  For example, the Bacterium Flagellum.  It is irreducibly complex because all of those parts (the rings, stators, rotors, shafts, etc.) would have served no other purpose in prior evolutionary stages.  And the capstone of evolutionary theory is that changes happen for a selective advantage—thus having a purpose.  Also, I also fail to see how irreducible complexity does not work with a loving God.  I do not agree that God has to cooperate with creation in order to be loving since perfect love already exists in the Trinity, without having to cooperate with existence.


Sherri Sheirbon

Dr. Oord, I appreciated the 3 blogs that address Intelligent Design.  Although I didn’t have a clear view of the intelligent design option previously, I liked the idea that there was an alternative to a literal creation account and the need for a young earth.  You addressed one concern I with the ideas presented in Intelligent Design and that is that it could easily fall into a form of deism.  It isn’t enough to say that there was a God who designed the intricacies we see in this world; I think we need to affirm that God is always creating and always at work to redeem what has been created out of God’s immense love.


Lisa Michaels

First let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed and agreed with much of what was written on the first two posts on this subject.  I especially appreciated your thoughts on learning from the ID supporters but also being unwilling to connect yourself with them due to the parts of their theory and practice with which you disagree.  This shows openness, humility, and yet an unwillingness to compromise your core values on this issue.  More people should take such a stand on a variety of things.
This third post is a little difficult to swallow for me, personally.  I disagree with the idea that a loving God who is capable of controlling all things would do so.  I tend to think that the opposite is true and that it shows a greater degree of love to relinquish control, which seems to be exactly what God did when bestowing free will upon us.

That said, I do not think that creating alone is synonymous with coercion, nor do I find creating to be interchangeable with controlling.  I see the act of creation as separate from the decision to allow freedom within that creation.


LeAnn Trimmer

I have heard the words “intelligent design” tossed around, seemingly as a middle ground between Creationists and Evolutionists, these readings were somewhat helpful.

The discussion about irreducible complexity is interesting, but will require some time to truly process the thoughts. I have difficulty thinking of creation from nothing as a coercive act, and therefore unloving action. I do not have the ability to create from nothing, those things that I am able to “create” crafts, cooking, writing, are not done from a place of coercion but of love.

I also have difficulty seeing the connection between unilateral creation and the discussion of evil and God’s ability to end it. Is it not the misuse of free will and disobedience that introduced sin and death and disease into creation? Is it not God honoring the gift of free will that leaves us dealing with the consequences of sin?

Much to ponder.


Talitha Edwards

This last blog is an interesting observation.  It’s certainly not one that I would have picked up on myself, though I know little about Intelligent Design to begin with.

If I have this correctly, your trouble in this blog is that Intelligent Design would say evolution is adequate to explain some things but there are instances where God must have stepped in, due to irreducible complexity, and caused it to happen on God’s own.  This then implies a coercion, because only God was involved and there was no relational component according to Intelligent Design.

After reading this, I am curious to know what evolutionary concepts/theory Intelligent Design would affirm.


Grant Miller

Dr. Oord, my curiosity is piqued by your theological arguments here, but I would seek to find a few answers that lie outside your writing here.

Would you affirm an eternality of matter? Clearly, any creation ex nihilo is an act of coercion in your paradigm, especially in light of your comments about inanimate agents. What is the theological relationship between God and matter if neither stands as superior in terms of existence?

Second, it seems as though you’d argue for a picture of theistic evolution that consists of God’s inviting creation to participate in the ongoing creative process. Clearly, very early in the process, God was inviting animate and inanimate creatures to engage in change. On what grounds would you argue that a creature that is not self-aware (i.e., a tornado, or a flagellum) has an opportunity to make a choice to refuse God’s invitation to create?

I like your consistency regarding love, and I’d be fascinated to learn more about how these questions might be answered. I have a few more, but I won’t pollute the blog with them.


Amy Lehman

Dr. Oord,

You presented an interesting case against irreducible complexity.  This is a new theory for me, so I really don’t know what to think of it yet.  I can say that I would never have thought to view God’s role in “creating irreducibly complex organisms” as an unloving act.  Not that I disagree, I just would not have made that connection.  You have shown a very practical approach to applying the theory of irreducible complexity to spiritual formation.  A theory needs to fall within the guidelines of God being love and having a relationship with creation if it is to be incorporated into our spiritual life.  This application will be useful when determining how other theologies and theories fit into spiritual formation.


Henry Sweeney

Greatly appreciate your thoughts and comments.  Before I read these blogs I thought I understood intelligent design.  The further I read the more I realize that what I had learned was a jaded argument put forth by multiple church organizations.  In these avenues ID has never been explained fully.  I see these blogs as eye opening.  My interest in your blogs stem from the first blog and the third.  The idea that often times, and in this case the ID conversation, seems to allow one to think that they are anti-God.  This is not the case as I read further, and that is very interesting.  The science world is not anti-God.  Nor are the ID thinkers.  The second blog point that stood out to me was your discussion about science and theology dialoguing together in the third blog post.  I trust that this type of dialogue will bring us to a deeper understanding of God and not drive a wedge between believers.


George Ryan

I particularly like the comment from the blog that, “In some way, shape, or form, creatures and creation play a contributing role in God’s creating activity.”

I believe God has the code and the plan for the ongoing evolution of humanity. This is the intelligent design theory that has been debated since Darwin proposed the theory of evolution. Recent biological discoveries and technologies are putting both the intelligent design and classic evolution theories to the test.

Based on the recent successes of the human genome mapping and the applications for stem cell tissue replacement, there is a strong case for the created having sufficient cause for unilateral creation without intelligent design. My questions are, “What role does God play when humans act alone in the creation process? How does the Christian respond to God when there are multiple creators of humanity?” The discussion of evolution has become as much theological and scientific.


Marianneke Summerfield

I am thankful for these articles as they provide a balanced look at ID.  I am still learning about the different theories of creation and have operated under the assumption that if you’re Christian, you have to follow ID.  Of course, I have learned otherwise in the past few years, but still feel like this is the standard teaching.  Dr. Oord’s point about ID proponents not sharing all the facets of this belief.  As he said, ID can very easily correspond with evolution, yet, no one is making this known.  There is a way for different ideas to work together, yet not many are making an effort to do so.


Bethanie

In part one, Oord discusses the top five reasons he likes Intelligent Design which I agree. I believe that we come from a creative, loving God. So, when Oord lists the five reasons he dislikes Intelligent Design, I found myself in agreeance as well. His third criticism really kind of hit home because I have school age children who are learning these warped sciences and social skills. I can see why more and more people are choosing to homeschool their children. This leads to the idea of theological criticism. Oord talks about God as loving and having continuous presence in the creation of and caring for creatures, animate and inanimate alike. This is the God that I know and believe. This is the God that cares about us even when we are messing up or choosing to do wrong. This is the God that gives hope back when there is despair. He can comfort us in the presence of sorrow.  I would have to say that Oord’s theory of “Essential Kenosis” is a theory that I could dig into and want to learn more about. It helps to answer some of the creation questions.


Kathleen B

This was an interesting series of essays regarding Intelligent Design. Part 1 and 2 made quite a bit of sense. Part 3 was what really made me think.

I believe God chooses to limit God’s power in relationship with creation out of love, in order for free will to exist. I’m not sure I agree with the idea that it goes against God’s nature to step into creation and simply create something new and complex. God sets into motion and helps move forward the evolutionary and creative forces that exist. Creation is interrelated, and God has relationship with creation, continually making things new, or making new things. I do not doubt that God is love and God’s primary purpose in creating derives from that love, and comes from a desire to build relationship. However, I think it puts limits on God to say that God cannot step in and create something new without creation helping to facilitate.


Carol Valdivia

I understand that point that the theory of evolution is a partnership. It takes both the “role for God as Creator and a necessary role for creatures as contributors.” Many will agree with that statement.

But then I wonder, didn’t God create the creatures? Therefore, isn’t God always in control. God just permits things to occur in our evolution process. God is always loving. Then others will say if God is always loving, ” a loving God who can completely control others should provide crystal-clear and inerrant revelation.” God has provided crystal-clear and inerrant revelation. If we look back to the OT times, when the jewish people where wondering on the desert. God revealed many things to Moses and how to live righteously. But humanity always seem to manage to select their ways. Does that mean that God isn’t in control? No, it just means God wants you to search out the true meaning of life. By eating of that tree, we have removed the Word of God and replaced it with the word of knowledge. It will always be a constant battle to fight within ourselves what is this whole earth really about.


Paul Darminio

Dr. Oord,
  I’m not sure that I follow your love argument.  If God created the world ex nihilo, than he did exercise his will in order to bring at least parts of creation into being.  You say that God loves rocks and air molecules along with worms, dogs, and people, so why would physical direction violate love?  You say that God loves inanimate creation “by giving them structure”, and I think he may do the same thing with humans.
  Is free will physical?  Do we choose to digest, or for our hearts to beat?  If God were to regulate my heart beat, would that violate love?  If God were to perform a miracle and heal me of cancer by “stepping in”, would that mean that he no longer loves or respects me?  I guess what I am trying to say is that I wonder if the physical should be treated differently than the metaphysical.


Bob Sugden

Bob Sugden
Theo6580—Readings in Western Spirituality
Assignment: Response to Oord

I struggle to understand how God creating an object is an act of unloving coercion.  In your essay, you wrote, “God loves both animate and inanimate creatures. God’s loving creation of inanimate creation by giving them structure, integrity, and constitution also means that God also doesn’t entirely control – doesn’t coerce – inanimate creatures.”  In what way does giving inanimate creation structure show that God isn’t controlling the inanimate creature?  God chose the two elements Hydrogen and Oxygen and combined them to form water.  Where does one find cooperation on the part of the hydrogen and oxygen?  Taking it down a level, if the molecular structure of the individual atoms by their nature allows a connection with another atom, how is that cooperation when joining together (under God’s hand) to form water?  What I see is a sovereign God exercising creative authority to bring about a desired result.  I don’t see unloving coercion.


mike hull

This was for sure a well thought out approach to ID and eveloution.  I think that last essay did a good job of bringing it all together and allowing us to see from a theological perspective how it God probably interacts with the world and creation.  He is motivated always by love and I affirm that He would never act unloving so the idea that He would force something to be created without the thing being an active participant is going against His character.  The thing that I am left to wrestle with is how do we broach the subject with literal readers of Genesis and not totally offend them?


B. Dockum

Dr Oord critiques some of the intelligent design and most creationist movements for approaching the matter of science with a creationistic bias. The linked research study focuses primarily on the divided and confused public. But it should not be a surprise to hear that most scientists do not believe in intelligent design. It is also true that most of the population lives essentially atheistic and materialistic lives, despite what they say they believe.

What is overlooked is that it is not a level playing field. Science is not some blank slate where just any hand will do to write it all down and disseminate objective knowledge. For a very long time humans have resisted the idea of accountability to a Creator. It should not be a surprise that the majority still fight this notion.


dan chapman

Well done on bringing out the best and worst of ID. At first glance, the benefits of ID is compelling enough for me to fully agree with ID.  The premise that God is an intelligent designer and all that He creates is done with supreme intelligence is true for me.  As you, Dr. Oord, begin to dig deeper into the theological implications of ID, I am challenged in what I agree with and disagree with in the theory of ID.  It appears that the theory of creating out of nothing is one of the main issues that needs to be addressed in light of ID as well as all other theories of creation and/or evolution.  I look forward to learning more about creating out of nothing.


Kevin Guderjahn

Overall I find myself agreeing with practically all of Dr. Oord’s positions throughout all three parts of this blog series.  I would, however, like to comment on a few points. 

In part 1 of “A Theologian Evaluates Intelligent Design” Dr. Oord makes the statement: 

“I admit to preferring the historic Christian language of “creating” over “designing.”

I find myself taking the opposite position in feeling that the term “designing” is far more accurate than “creating”.  All the terms “create” or “creating” designate is a process of gathering and/or organizing various material into a new form that was not previously present.  It does not necessarily require or imply intent on the part of the creator.  Designing, on the other hand, implies intent or a purposeful outcome.  So while God is indeed a creator in the broad and overall sense, He is more accurately the “Designer” of creation.

I would also like to point out two things regarding the arguments regarding “irreducible complexity”.  The statements regarding biological complexity requiring the guidance of an intelligent, outside designer while central to the ID position are not the only, nor the most compelling, refutation of pure evolutionary processes – natural selection, random mutation etc.  Along with irreducible complexity are arguments from statistical probability and biological and reproductive diversity.

Statistical probability simply does not support the diversity that is scene in nature.  Put simply it is statistically more probable that evolutionary processes left to themselves (without nudging from the outside) would have converged on one or at most a handful of different species.  Once a form had evolved that was suited for survival the process would essentially stop and the settled form would endure.  There are just too many diverse species in nature for statistically probability to accept.

Reproductive diversity also works against pure evolutionary processes.  Again statistical probability supports the idea that evolutionary processes would select the simplest and most efficient forms to guarantee survival.  It is improbable that the diverse means of reproduction found in nature would have developed through simple evolution.  The tendency would have tended toward asexual means as being most efficient.  The fact that asexual, sexual, internal and external reproductive processes all co exist in nature points to an outside influence on the process.


M Tyler

I appreciate the thought laced together in this 3-part conversation. As I find myself still learning and interpreting my understanding of the theories connected to existence and life it is interesting to consider them through the idea of what I understand about God. Rightly (in my mind) God is most concerned about both “love” and “relationship” therefore it an interpretation of God’s work seems rightly measured through the idea of love and relationship.

What would it look like if we allowed this to alter the ways in which we guide and learn with children. By nature they wonder and imagine. When we ask questions in a particular ways, we net particular responses. What would it take to help us think about a less limited, creative God who is driven by love and relationship rather than our impositions of thought?


Kim Hersey

I am inclined to agree with most of your summary of ID, but I question whether creation is always a part of what the creator does?  It is difficult to compare human creations to God’s creations, but perhaps a garden will suffice as an example of a “living” creation.  I realize that humans do not actually create the life of the plants, but they do organize the garden and landscape it in such a way to maximize growth and health of the plants.  I am not sure that the plants have an active part in that creation; they simply grow where they are planted. 

Does this mean that the gardeners do not love the garden?  Not at all.  Similarly, I am not sure that I agree with you that creatures must have an active role in creation in order for the creator to be acting in a loving way.


Jeff Martin

I appreciated your positives of ID, although none of the things you appreciate about it would be different if one were critiquing theistic evolution.  I think your best insight when referring to ID was that many of the proponents are a mixed bag of evolutionists and creationists, and you rightly point out that there is a slot of selective thinking going on within the ID camp. 

I did not like so much the A-Team analogy, because they were put together as an A-Team by design, so in fact I believe the analogy works better for the ID followers. 
You also say that the argument of IDers of “irreducible complexity” implies a way of thinking that God must start with everything perfectly functioning in order to be a true loving Creator.  I would disagree that it implies this.  There are a couple of points being made in Genesis 1.  One point is that we are made in His image and have some creative control, and another is that God is a God of order.  I believe that the poetic design of Gen 1 where days 1 through 3 are the setting of the foundation for days 4 to 6 gives us a sense that God did things orderly.  Also the distinctions in Leviticus 11 seem connected to a rationale based on Genesis 1. 

Also I would think that the process of a slow evolution with an enormous amount of mutations, the large majority of which would be non-essential or somewhat harmful, would actually argue against a loving God.  The majority of history, some several hundred million years, there are non-essential or harmful appendages on creatures when it did not need to be that way.


Kevin Guderjahn

While I agree with pretty much all of Dr. Oord’s arguments across all three of these blog posts I would like to make a couple of points.

In part 1 Dr. Oord states:

“I admit to preferring the historic Christian language of “creating” over “designing”.

I tend to take somewhat of an opposite position actually preferring “designing” over “creating”.  Creating requires nothing more than the organizing or re-organizing of materials into a new form.  It does not necessarily require any forethought or goal in mind.  Designing, however, implies intent and purposeful action.

One thing that surprised, and disappointed me, is the focus on a very narrow argument regarding “irreducible complexity”.  Two arguments I have heard ID proponents use that I find much more compelling than what Dr. Oord presented focuses on the diversity seen in the animal (including humans) kingdom.  The argument contends that left to pure evolutionary processes statistical probability would tend to move things toward a handful of efficient forms of life. Evolution would tend to move away from diversity to the efficiency of conformity.

Another area where the diversity of nature works against pure evolution is in the diversity of reproductive methods.  It can be argued that in terms of efficiency that asexual reproduction.  Evolutionary processes left to themselves would move towards this and away from other methods.  Yet the diversity of the animal kingdom defies this movement toward efficiency.

Both examples point to influence from the outside “nudging” the process towards diversity and opposing efficient conformity.


Vincent Chiu

I particularly enjoy the theological evaluation in regard to ID given in the last blog. What strikes me is the idea of co-creation necessitated by the loving nature of God. I seldom thought that love requires cooperation and collaboration. I feel challenged as well as encouraged. I am not a kind of team work person, and prefer to do things like a lone rang, because if I could do something in split second on my own, why bother about cooperation with someone, which often slows things down. Then I was reminded Henri Nouwen’s talking about the spirit of collaboration in the handicapped village. He says, “It asks for a deep inner conviction that a slow job done together is better than a fast job done alone.” This is the point. Love condescends and enjoys togetherness.


Janet Grosskopf

The creature not God is morally responsible for the evil in the world, not God…
This is a very interesting concept. We just had a discussion about who created evil in the world. Is it God or is Satan and if it is Satan then who created Satan and how did he become evil? We are responsible for the evil as we give into it.


Amy Rice

If God is continually creating in cooperation with creatures (alliteration! I could not help it!), it seems right, even logical, that evolution in one iteration or another would be part of the ongoing act of creation.

Understanding that the parallel is simplistic, I see this as a similar thing that happens when I cook. When I first cook something new, I stick pretty closely to the recipe at hand. But the more I make the same thing, the more I improvise, add things, and experiment. My signature corn chowder is not remotely the same today as it was when I first tried it. And to extend the comparison further, I might even say the ingredient combinations cooperate with me in the process.

I like your explanation of a God who lovingly allows creation to make its own “decisions” (even inanimate aspects of creation), especially as it concerns the origin of evil and natural disasters. It answers the question of God’s role in creation and partially addresses theodicy questions.


Nancy Tullis

Your three essays are very good and I think you supported your points very well. I think some middle ground on this debate is what is needed, because I think sometimes we as Christians lose focus and spend a lot of time and energy on things that are important, but not as important as sharing the Gospel and learning how to become disciples of Jesus and love as God loves. I might be using some kindergarten theology here, but I think the latter is a tall order. God does not just love, but he IS love.

I have been aware of the evolution v. creation/intelligent design debate for decades and as a journalist have seen it played out in heated fashion at public school board meetings. I do not think anyone on either side of those arguments was considering anything but a total either/or view and the either/or was either a God-fearing or godless view.

I did not know their were so many layers to this debate. I don’t think God intended his Word to be a science textbook. I think you make a good argument against the idea of irreducible complexity because the implication that “God has the capacity to control anyone anytime and at any place,” is a big deal. I had a brief vision of a frog telling God, “but I don’t want to be green!”

God wants creation to be a cooperative effort and I agree with you that anything else would be coercion and counter to God’s doing everything in love. I have a hard time thinking about God picking and choosing which parts of the creation process “need a little help.” As you said, he has always been creating and continues to create, and if there is some evolution, natural selection, etc., as Darwin theorized, I do not have a problem with that.


T. Friberg

Thanks for this series of posts on Intelligent Design. To say that God was a ‘part’ of it all is not a stretch for most in the conversation. To try and define just how God was a part of it is very difficult.

My attention was hijacked by one line in this final post about ID. You wrote: “As a theologian, I am convinced that we must think consistently about God. And this consistent thinking should especially occur in the science and theology dialogue.” I am curious as to why consistency should be especially applied in the realm of theology and science. Is it because, in the past, this has not traditionally been done? Is there something in the relationship between these two that requires a greater emphasis on consistency?

Thank you for you consistent thoughts about the love of God and how that affects how humanity and all of creation is treated. I especially like your reversal on the topic of theodicy. Most people ask how a loving God can allow evil? Your line of thinking seems to say how can a loving God not allow evil? Very helpful.

Blessings.


Anthony Phillips

Dr. Oord,
I believe that you are not only a theologian and philosopher but I would like to add the title of Christian mystic. You represent the central Christian conviction that God is love with a unique and unwavering consistency. Your understanding of God, acting as creator in a loving relationship with all of creation, dramatically elevates the status, value and responsibility of the creation. Prior to reading your blog, I could not imagine God engaging in a sort of I, thou relationship with the fundamental constants of the natural world.
Expanding God’s definition of love, to include seemingly inanimate objects such as rocks and mountains, stretched my theological imagination. Believing that God would not force God’s self on even an atom, illustrates to me the amazing depth of Divine love, and how both creator and creature are always active together in the process of creation. After I completed reading your blog, the following quote came to mind: “I Need Thee, This is the cry of man (creation) to his (its) Maker-and it is the call of the Creator to Her/His work of Divine art!” I don’t think I will ever view another hike quite the same. Thanks for a great blog.


Keith Noren

Interesting article.  I could not find where Parts 1 and 2 were given on your website.  Can you email me their urls?

I have been interested in ID and fairly convinced of it through the abiogenesis phase (primordial soup to first self-replicating molecule) but not necessarily the whole Discovery Institute/ID story.

WRT this article, I’ll have to ponder some more about whether or not God can act UNILATERALLY on inanimate objects. I have tended to think He can (leaving room for the “miraculous” and creation itself is miraculous) given the (imo) mindless/will-less nature of inanimate material but that He does not regularly do so (as inelegant and disjointed such a view would be).  Perhaps God is stuck with the natural outcomes of the material/natural law creation (perhaps heartbreakingly so) being “essentially” unable to coerce inanimate material (as you say) and unable to persuade
inanimate materials.  Not a bad place to leave God – one time Creator of matter/natural law, an intermittent tinkerer with unpersuadable inanimates, and full time persuader of the persuadable.  But I see your argument that love may prevent coercion even with inanimate objects (after all, they do have inertia).  That this denies to an extent God’s supposed omnipotence does not bother me.

I fully agree with you that He cannot get His will with humans beings (we have inertia as well and can/regularly do frustrate His will) but that He is faithful to persuade us along acceptable paths.  The ‘final” (in a philosophical sense) occurrence is up to mankind within some instantaneously broad ranges/limitations (which can be pushed over time, but that is an aside).  Thus we are co-creators of those occurrences.  I am a very convinced OpenTheist.

I met you once in St. Paul (big bearded guy from Huntsville AL) and plan to see you again 23-25 October in Dallas.


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