Is Edward Robinson on Peaceful Science?
Confessions, I haven’t read this whole string, but I couldn’t wait to jump into the conversation on natural theology. My closing plea in my response to Jeff Hardin’s paper at Dabar was that we all… whether OEC or EC/TE; biblical scholar, scientist, or theologian need to become natural theologians .
I want to meet Ed Robinson! I found his post "The Crossway Theistic Evolution Book: A Response to Joshua Swamidass" extremely well written, articulate and broadly informed.
Ed says, "And this has been the predominant position among the BioLogos and ASA evangelical scientists, i.e., that while God has the power and the right to intervene in or manipulate the evolutionary process, there is no strong evidence that he has done so." I think Ed, perhaps, failed to acknowledge, or fails to recognize, that almost all, if not all, EC/TE-ers would say that if God intervened in the evolutionary process, that such intervention would be undetectable.
Ed calls out one of the most frustrating (to me) points of EC/TE rhetoric and a theological blind spot for EC/TE-ers that I’ve encountered. I tried to raise this in Q&A at Dabar, especially in response to Joshua’s similar insistence to Bill Craig and other OEC-ers, that if God set things up to look like evolution is true then they must give a good theological explanation as to why God would do it this way. I agree that Joshua’s comment has some merit, as OEC-ers use the same reasoning with YEC-ers who say God created the earth with only the appearance of age. But I think Joshua fails to see the same need for theological justification by EC/TE-ers for the point Ed hits on the head… Ed raises a critical point that needs to be justified theologically from the TE/EC-ers who hold this theological slant or position:
"I did not read the book in the same way that Joshua did. Aside from the fact that Meyer, on the very page Joshua cites (p. 47), grants that it is a logical possibility that God could completely hide himself so that his design cannot be inferred, I do not see the ID people as assuming that God’s action in nature is detectable; rather I see them as rejecting the assumption (made by the overwhelming number of TE leaders) that God’s action in nature is in principle not detectable . TE writing is rife with statements such as “God hides himself” (the emphasis of George Murphy), and with objections to any form of natural theology. And that would be fine, if the TE writers were content to indicate that they were giving only their personal view. But many have written as if it is intrinsically bad theology to suggest that God might make his action in nature inferrable, and the ID writers are rebuking that charge."
" It is another thing entirely to rule out a priori , on theological grounds, that God’s creative action could ever be detectable. And that’s what many TE writers have been saying or suggesting. So it’s the TE writers, not the ID writers, who are making a theological assumption. They are assuming that the Christian God would never make his actions in creation such that human beings could infer his existence from them. But what gives the TEs the right to assume that? Where do they get this assumption? It’s certainly not from from any plain reading of the Bible, which many times affirms that God is knowable by features of nature accessible to all human beings, not just Jews or Christians."
But, I disagree with Ed, if I understand him correctly, when he says, “There is no Biblical or systematic theological principle which would warrant such an a priori judgment.” I disagree with Ed on this point for the same reason I commend him on his previous point, an action that is undetectable either in outcome or mechanism is not revelatory. And God’s heart is self-disclosure for the sake of reconciliation. We know from scripture (and Tertullian) that God intends creations as a source of natural theology. Which is why, I also disagree with Ed when he says, " And sure, the God derivable from nature is not specifically the Christian God, but that makes no difference at all from the point of view of refuting the New Atheists." This is an unfortunate position held by many in the ID movement that is not supported by the Christian scripture or traditional theology. One can actually know the very nature and character of the “designer” as Paul states explicitly in Romans 1.
I have recently blogged on some of my related thoughts and hope you might take the time to consider what I share there, “Reveling in Revelation”. (That blog was written prior to my awareness of this string and prior to reading Ed’s article.) If I write on that topic again I will incorporate some of Ed’s thoughts and comments in his article.
One last point of agreement: I agree with Ed, but find it a bit ironic that he says, " We have to get away from the American autodidactic, individualistic model of theology, and back to the older, European model of a learned theological tradition sustained over centuries of progressive reflection." While at least twice referring to the Faraday Institute as a "British analogue of BioLogos".
I thoroughly enjoyed and commend Ed for his keen article and hope one day to share a beer with him and Josh and talk face-to-face about natural theology and the God we follow through the grace of Christ.
I look forward to reading more comments and thoughts on this string on natural theology.