ID and Christian Theology

Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory,…” W Dembski, “Signs of Intelligence” Touchstone 12.4 1999 as quoted here.

Bill Dembski thinks ID is Christian theology.


First, you’re making the same error hundreds of others have done with this quotation, taking it out of its larger context. And in the larger context of hundreds of other things Dembski has written, it’s clear that he believes that ID does not require Christian belief or conviction to make valid design inferences. Nowhere in No Free Lunch, for example, does he rely on the reader’s acceptance of the truth of John’s Gospel to make his design argument. But in the apologetic context – Touchstone is a Christian journal, not a journal of ID theory – it’s perfectly reasonable to indicate his religious belief that it’s the Logos structure of reality that allows for design inferences.

Second, Dembski is just one out of thousands of ID proponents, and he’s the only one who wrote that sentence, or anything like it. So even if meant what you think it means – and it doesn’t – it wouldn’t be representative of ID thinking generally.

I repeat: ID does not pretend to be Christian theology. That is the overwhelming consensus of ID writers, and even of Dembski. My statement was correct.

Can ID be used as an apologetic tool by Christians? Yes, it could be. But that doesn’t make it Christian theology.

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As offered ID is nothing but Christian theology with overt references to God deliberately removed as to circumvent the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment Establishment Clause. As Abraham Lincoln famously noted, calling a dog’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.


I agree. There is no pretense. It is Christian theology, and its adherents are not shy about openly admitting it, except when they are trying to win legal or philosophical arguments over how it should be allowed into secular classrooms. Then they start lying about it.


Alas, the Touchstone article is not free, so I cannot verify this myself. Please provide the missing larger context that sufficiently alters Bill Dembski’s meaning.

So Bill Dembski believes ID is Christian theology, but that such belief is not necessary for making design inferences.

Thank you for supporting my point.

Of course it doesn’t. That would defeat its entire purpose.

P.S. Switch from “ID is not and does not pretend to be a Christian theology” to just “ID does not pretend to be Christian theology” noted.


Seems to me that the reverend Paley had it correct:

after all the schemes and struggles of a reluctant philosophy, the necessary resort is to a Deity. The marks of design are too strong to be gotten over. Design must have had a designer. That designer must have been a person. That person is GOD.


Let the constant recurrence to our observation of contrivance, design, and wisdom, in the works of nature, once fix upon our minds the belief of a God, and after that all is easy.

Evidence of Christianity, by William Paley

What precludes me from looking at planthopper gears and concluding " there is no way this could happen from randomness in nature. Its a miracle!"?

If I came to the conclusion that random mutations and selection could not have done it, I would put my conclusion more cautiously. I would say, “This would have required design.” The word “miracle” adds in an extra claim that goes beyond what the evidence would warrant.

And yes, Paley did think that design arguments provided evidence for God. But that is not the same as arguing that design arguments can demonstrate the truth of Christian (as opposed to Jewish or Muslim or Hindu) theology. Paley’s arguments regarding the nature of the joints in the skeleton, or the eye, etc. have no specifically Christian content. Nor do any of Dembski’s arguments about specified complexity have any specifically Christian content. That his conclusions mesh with what one would expect if the world were ruled by an active Logos does not make his ID arguments dependent upon personal belief in such a Logos.

@eddie…this is an example of what I was commenting about in the trinity thread regarding ID consistently humanizing God, which I find to be a dangerous doctrine.

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But as I said – and I’m still awaiting your answer – the entire tenor of the Bible is that, in at least some respects, God is like human beings. He plans, he executes; he is angry, he is grieved, he loves, he forgives, he makes promises, he keeps promises, he makes covenants, he punishes the violation of covenants. And you seem to be forgetting that man is made “in the image of God,” which implies that there is a legitimate likeness between God and man. I think a runaway Barthianism has taken hold of your theologizing. I prefer my theology more Orthodox and less Gnostic.

Further, that God is a designer does not imply that he is nothing but a designer – a point you seem to be overlooking. I freely grant, and I think Paley would, too, that God is much bigger, vaster, and more subtle than the image of a designer can capture. But while he is more than a designer, he is at least a designer. I see nothing un-Biblical about that.

No. Not even close. Find me a scripture, I’ll find a hundred against.

yes. clearly scriptural.

God is at least, at the very very least…still God and far greater than a designer.

I continually feel that personifying God is completely missing the entire point of the bible.

What is the question?

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How do you explain the clearly personal language used by the Biblical writers about God? I don’t mean that they use the word “personal” itself; I mean they describe God and his actions in personal terms. I quote myself:

He also creates, makes, divides, forms, produces serpents out of staves, feeds Israel in the desert, remembers, etc.

This is not language one would use about some impersonal “Ground of Being.” How do you explain this language? I do not know of any Christian theologian who does not admit that God is in some sense personal. Can you name me any? Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant? Over the entire history of Christian thought? Why are you determined to eliminate the personal aspects of God – without which devotional religion makes no sense at all?

And that humanization greatly diminishes the very concept of God. It’s really bad theology.

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I do not eliminate the personal aspects of God, I have a personal relationship with God…but I am the person, not God. I am against the personification of God.

None of this God does as a person, He is God. Let’s stick to one thread…pick one.

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It’s the only language we have.

Then the Bible is filled with bad theology. Is that your view?

OK, let’s take this back to the Trinity thread, and continue it there. That is where it started, and readers will be looking for further discussion there.

Actually, my last post on the Trinity thread would be a good one for you to reply to, as it deals with the same questions we’ve been discussing here. You can copy any of our remarks here into your reply, if you think it will help.

Yes, and much in the legal realm rides on that distinction. However, it seems to me that the principle question, however it is framed in terms of a watchmaker analogy, irreducible complexity or explanatory filter, is whether a given feature of nature is sufficiently explicable by natural process, the alternative explanation by definition being supernatural (unless we are prepared to go to aliens and so forth). “Does this require design?” invokes an answer in terms of design. “Does this have a plausible natural explanation?” invites an answer in terms of supernatural intervention. So while these are not conceptually identical, they are mutually entrained.

Largely agree, although a connection between the scholastic characterizations of God and the teleology of special creation might sit most comfortably with the monotheistic faiths. In any event, I would not be subscribing to the premise of that conversation.

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Eddie’s failure to reply (along with no-one else having shown a meaning-altering context) suggests that this quote isn’t out-of-context after all. One more nail through Eddie’s credibility.

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You’re rather impatient. I can’t always lay my hands immediately upon these old articles. You might have given it a few days before drawing premature conclusions.

I have found the article now. The title of the article is “Signs of Intelligence: A Primer on the Discernment of Intelligent Design.” It is 9 pages long. The first 8 and 3/4 pages offer a historical discussion of design and chance in philosophy and early modern science and a whole bunch of material about complexity and probability that repeats the arguments of The Design Inference. Only the last 1/4 page (three short paragraphs) deals with theological questions. In other words, the main point of the article is to introduce readers of the magazine to the idea of inferring design from nature, and its implications for the epistemology of science. The tail end of the article attempts to relate the subject of design inferences to Christian theological truth – which makes sense, given that Touchstone is a Christian journal with mostly Christian readers.

There is nothing in Dembski’s last three paragraphs which makes the validity of design inferences dependent upon accepting Logos theology, John’s Gospel, or Christianity. Nor does he make any suggestion that modern ID was historically derived from Logos theology or John’s Gospel. Nor does he suggest that ID proponents must, if they are logical, accept the truth of John’s Gospel and become Christians. (In fact, he had colleagues at Discovery, such as Denton, who were not Christians.) In context, the point is that the Logos theology describes exactly the sort of world in which design inferences can be valid. For a Christian who accepts the Logos theology, that ID works is not at all surprising; we’d expect exactly that “fit” between nature and human understanding if the Logos theology is true. (It does not follow that only the Logos theology could account for that fit, and Dembski does not say that.)

You’re taking the word “is” in Dembski’s final sentence of the article with a sort of mechanical literalness. When we say that something “is” something, we don’t always intend “is” to be an equals sign. English is a lot more flexible than that. That’s why context is always necessary for determining an author’s meaning.

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You posted five times in the thread before I did.

Such a pity you didn’t provide the context then. It probably wouldn’t have taken any more time to type those three paragraphs than it would to type what you did.

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