ID and Christian Theology

Those three paragraphs are only part of the context. The entire context is the entire article. And I don’t intend to retype it!

Eddie seems to have enourmous trouble with literature searches, cut/pasting, and OCR if an article is not available online.

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Then we’re left with you having claimed that the quote is taken out of context, but not having demonstrated that by providing any additional context.

Sounds like man created God in his own image.


I provided you with a considerable amount of information about the context – which is the whole 9 pages of the article. What I said – that it’s basically a historical overview of the design/chance discussions, and a simplified version of the arguments in The Design Inference, with no religious or theological contents for over 8 and half pages, plus three paragraphs at the end expressing a possible theological connection – should give you reason to doubt that Dembski understands ID to be Christian theology. And if you had read several other works by Dembski on ID, as I have, your doubt would be even greater. But you seem determined to rely on one sentence quoted from an article you haven’t read, by an author you’ve read very little of – which is typical of the level of “scholarship” among the science-trained (or feigning to be science-trained) people here, unfortunately. In any case, if you really care, you will find a way to get hold of a copy of the article, and you can read it all then.

Maybe so; or maybe God is in some respects like man, precisely because God created man in his own image.

Man creating Gods in his own image fits with all archelogy and anthropology.

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Those interpretations of the Bible, falsely presented as global literalism but in reality highly selective literalism, are bad theology. Making things worse, they are usually associated with a lack of interest in the crystal-clear parts.

Which interpretations are referred to by the word “those”? Interpretations of the Creation story? Of the Garden story? Of the Flood story? Of the Babel story? Of the Plagues? Of the Red Sea? Of the manna? Of the dialogue of God with Abraham over Sodom and Gomorrah? Of God’s conversation with Samuel about the appointment of a King over Israel? Of all of the above? Or all of the above, but only when “falsely presented as global literalism”?

So you were previously talking about the interpretation of “the muddy parts” of the Bible? Would you care to explain how we can discern which parts are “muddy” and which parts are “crystal clear”? You seem to be avoiding the provision of concrete examples, particular episodes, verses, etc. It’s hard to tell what you are referring to here.

I’m not trying to be difficult; I simply don’t know what you are referring to. So I can’t assess your interpretive approach.

More claims without demonstrations. It’s not surprising you’ve never convinced any atheist towards design - you don’t seem to know the difference between assertions and evidence.

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What exactly is being argued here? That @Eddie should post the text of the article to show that it in fact contains the elements he described it as containing?

No, just enough to back up his claim that the Dembski quote is taken out of context, and that using the quote to support a claim that Dembski considered ID to be a part of Christian theology restated is somehow an error. Nothing he’s posted so far gives any such indication.

I haven’t been able to get the full text, so I can’t be sure that the full quote isn’t something like

"It is possible to consider that Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory. However, that is misleading …"

A couple of paragraphs should more than suffice.

Note that Eddie’s diversion into the idea that ID doesn’t require Christian belief to make inferences is just that, a diversion. That could be true even if ID is reformulated Christian theology.


A good description of much of what passes for evolutionary theory: assertions without evidence, or at least without anywhere near sufficient evidence. Not to mention speculation and extrapolation run rampant.

But that would require posting the whole article, since the whole article is the context. And aside from the fact that this would violate copyright, the article is too long. But I’ve said enough about the contents of the article that it’s quite obvious that for Dembski ID remains valid even if the bones of Jesus were discovered tomorrow. Christianity does not have to be true for ID to be true. However, if Christianity is true, then we have a ready explanation for why ID inferences work: the Logos penetrates both the natural world, and the human mind which understands the natural world. That’s the point of Dembski’s closing sentence.

It is also possible that Dembski and ID in general, is wrong in disclaiming, if not a religious association, at least a theistic worldview. Just because a prominent spokesperson sincerely says I hereby, on the record, clearly and definitively foreswear any association of design with creation, does not necessarily make it so. I maintain that the God inference essentially follows from the design inference. They are warp and woof.

Let’s look at the information @Eddie has posted regarding the context of Dembski’s quote:

  1. It is from an article published in Touchstone, a Christian journal with mostly Christian readers. This should clue us in to the fact that Dembski is writing about intelligent design from an explicitly Christian perspective.

  2. A large part of the article is dedicated to a historical discussion of design, referencing the Ancient Greeks and the Jewish Philosopher Moses Maimonides. The fact that Dembski references non-Christian proponents of design (in its pre-ID formulation) is good evidence that he does not consider an acceptance of design to necessitate an acceptance of Christian theology, nor that he considers design to be reformulated Christian theology.

To this, let’s add a statement that appears a couple of paragraphs before the “Logos theology” quote: “Yet despite its far-reaching implications for science, I regard the ultimate significance of this work on design to lie in metaphysics.” In other words, Dembski is writing about what he considers the metaphysical implications of intelligent design, not what he considers its scientific implications. I think that’s a pretty important piece of context left out by the original quote.

As the subject of this thread is what Dembski thinks, let us expand our search for context to other texts written by Dembski at this time. Take, for example, his book, Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology (InterVarsity Press, 1999), published the same year as his Touchstone article. In this book we find him explicitly denouncing the view which a context-less reading of his “Logos theology” quote would have us attribute to him:

“Intelligent design properly formulated is a theory of information. Within such a theory, information becomes a reliable indicator of intelligent causation as well as a proper object for scientific investigation. Intelligent design thereby becomes a theory for detecting and measuring information, explaining its origin, and tracing its flow. Intelligent design is therefore not the study of intelligent causes per se, but of informational pathways induced by intelligent causes. As a result, intelligent design presupposes neither a creator nor miracles. Intelligent design is theologically minimalist. It detects intelligence without speculating about the nature of the intelligence.” (pp. 106-7, my emphasis)

How does this square with the “Logos theology” quote (or with the “bridge between science and theology” subtitle, for that matter)? Another quote from the book provides the answer. In chapter 7, Dembski describes the relationship between science and theology according to his preferred model, the mutual support model. Note that InterVarsity Press is a publisher of evangelical Christian books, so as with the Touchstone article, a readership with an interest in the theological angle is to be expected.

"According to the mutual support model, theology and science overlap but are not coextensive. Where they overlap, one discipline can provide epistemic support for the other. Epistemic support is much more general than proof. Proof - as in decisive, once-and-for-all settlement of a question - if possible anywhere, is possible only in mathematics. The mutual support model has no stake in using theology to decisively prove or settle the claims of science, or vice versa.

“Nonetheless, according to the mutual support model, theology can lend credence, increase the conditional probability of or render plausible certain scientific claims and not others. Likewise, science can do the same for theology. The Christian doctrine of creation supports a big-bang cosmology much better than it support a steady-state cosmology. In the steady-state cosmology matter and space are infinite, and matter is constantly being created not by God but from a vacuum. Standard big-bang cosmology, on the other hand, implies a beginning that from a theological vantage is readily interpreted as a creation event.” (pp. 191-2; my emphasis)

The analogy with Big Bang cosmology is instructive. In Dembski’s view, Big Bang cosmology is a scientific theory which neither necessitates nor is reformulated Christian theology. One can accept Big Bang cosmology without accepting Christian theology. Nevertheless, this scientific theory has theological implications, which he considers as providing mutual support between the two fields of knowledge.

As I think the quotes above clearly shows, Dembski likewise considers intelligent design a scientific theory with theological implications. Intelligent design, in Dembski’s view, puts scientific flesh on the pre-scientific notion of design in nature, shared by Christian and non-Christian thinkers through the ages. As with Big Bang cosmology, one can accept intelligent design without accepting what Dembski sees as its theological implications.

Note that for this discussion, it doesn’t matter whether Dembski is right about intelligent design being a scientific theory, about his “mutual support model”, or about anything else. What matters in this discussion is what Dembski’s views are, i.e. what he thinks is correct.



Thanks for this excellent discussion of Dembski. You have provided a rich context for the remark which so many people have considered out of context and tried to use as a “gotcha!” I learned a lot from reading your post.

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There is no doubt at all that most ID proponents are theists (and they don’t hide that fact). It’s also true that ID is more likely to seem plausible to a theist than to an atheist. It’s also true that the most likely candidate for the designer is God (though that doesn’t have to be the Christian God). Nonetheless, ID theory is not Christian theology, doesn’t rest on any Christian doctrine, and doesn’t require Christian faith. The fact that David Klinghoffer, an Orthodox Jew who obviously does not accept “the Logos theology of John’s Gospel”, is an ID proponent makes very clear that ID is not Christian theology, however compatible it may be with Christian theology.

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