New Language for EC?

@Philosurfer, that was a very interesting article indeed.

One thought that struck me as I was reading it is that I sometimes ponder, when thinking about various models for origins, how creative evolutionary biology is. I often see a very “engineering” focus in YEC/ID models, that seem to me to lean towards a deistic view of Creation. On the contrary, many EC seem to revel in creative freedom. I wonder what the longer-term consequences of these views are. My undergraduate degree is in environmental science and I think the creative “oneness” that we see in an evolutionary perspective of life does tend to open one up to think about environmental stewardship or “creation care” – very ethical/theological questions.


Not sure what you mean by this, @Jordan. Deism essentially says that God built all necessary processes into nature, thus avoiding any need to be involved after the initial creation. That appears very characteristic of TE ideas such as Howard Van Till’s Robust Formational Economy Pronicple.

ID is not incompatible with that (dependent on the science invoked) but customarily suggests that God but be immanently involved in his world to make things happen - classically theistic rather than deistic. But maybe I’ve miusunderstood you, because I’m not clear what you mean by:

Who is being creative here? And in what sense are they free? In the past, when I’ve probed past the “free creation” rhetoric about puppetmaster gods, etc, then all I get to is “inanimate matter subject to chance turning up good stuff.” That is neither deism nor theism, but Epicureanism. it’s not freedom, or creation, either.

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Think you are misreading him. Paging @Philosurfer.


  1. I wrote it late at night, maybe wasn’t the clearest
  2. I am speaking mostly from the context of what I see in general conversations as opposed to the more formal academic arguments.

What I get most often from people who hold to ID (which in my context is mostly OEC with some YEC) are:

  • Fine tuning
  • Front-loading genetic information
  • Teleology

That is the part that seems like it leans towards deism.

They are mostly seeking to prove God (Romans 1:20) by proving a created world that had to have divine intervention to get here. This part is not deistic, per se , but because they strip the identity and nature of the “intelligence” it starts to sound very deistic, in my opinion.

On the other hand, while I have certainly heard lots of EC/TE folks that sound deistic, in my context they are much more likely to talk about God working through creation rather than trying to find places where God works outside of creation.

In short, ID people are more likely to talk about “design” and trying to differentiate “natural” vs “supernatural” whereas EC/TE people are much more likely to see God “creating creative creatures” and “co-creation”. Deism/theism are probably not the best term.

That accords with how I interpreted you, and what I’ve learned after a decade of interaction with EC.

But I’m still no wiser about the nature and identity of these “co-creative” creatures, excluding of course the evident creativity of man in God’s image - and even, theologically, his role in bringing about the new creation.

Apart from that, what creatures assist in their own creation, and in what sense does it constitute freedom? And how does it arise from Christian theology?

I think this is where there is something to the critique of EC/BioLogos that it may be a bit theologically shallow (not necessarily in a pejorative sense). Some of that may be from a post-evangelical/mainline view of theology that is perhaps more pragmatic than systematic.

I think the biologists I converse with would maybe speak to species “creatively” exploring genetic possibilities and eventually “creating” new species. The key is that this "new’ creation comes from existing creation, not from an “outside” source. I’m not sure if that makes a ton of sense but I gave it a try.


It makes slightly more sense from you than any other reply I’ve got over the past nine years at BioLogos. Most of the major proponents of free creation have failed even to answer such questions: a few like Karl Giberson have conceded under pressure that by “freedom” they actually only mean “randomness.” That’s not so much theologically shallow as linguistically challenged.

But to my mind it personifies what is being conceived as a blind process: neither adaptive nor neutral evolution can meaningfully be said to be an “activity” of species “exploring” anything, let alone doing so “creatively.” Species, unless we follow Jim Shapiro’s route, do all they can to avoid genetic mutation, and it’s their failures that cause mutations. So if they create it’s by accident.

If for “species” one substitutes the evolutionary process itself, one has attributed creativity to a mere concept.

It’s not clear to me how such a process would be likely result in “man created in the image of God” (let alone the other species for which God takes full credit in Scripture) - which is why, I suppose, free process theism tends to replace God as Creator with God as delighted observer of an evolutionary demiurge’s products.

I can’t see how it’s even intellectually coherent, quite apart from being an account of the Trinitarian God as Creator of all things in heaven and earth.


It might be good to separate the theory from the people. I often see a conflation of the two, and then a misinterpretation of what ID actually claims.

In what way? I don’t think I was conflating them but maybe I misunderstand. My point was that as I look at what proponents of ID often say vs what EC proponents say, I definitely get more of an “engineered” view of the world for ID people (which seems logical given their models) and more of a “creative freedom” view of the world from EC people (again, seems logical given their model). One seems to describe God’s activity as coming from outside the system and the other describes God’s activity as “through” or "with the system.

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Sorry @jongarvey, I see now you were focusing on @Jordan.

I do think it is a personification, but I think people find it valuable as an analogy. I don’t think the creativity is in terms of the activity of the species specifically (as in it self-determining) but that the system allows for “exploration” within a set of guidelines.

My area of science is in chemical reaction dynamics. We often use language like “exploring the landscape” to talk about stochastic motion of molecules governed by a potential energy surface. We can have random motion that results in 99% of molecules ending up as one product and not another.

Chemists can look at a molecule and try to “engineer” a route to synthesize that particular molecule. Then when they look at how “nature” does it, it looks different … more creative somehow.

So even though the molecules are governed by random motion, and are certainly not self-aware, as we observe them bump into each other and in unexpected ways become new molecules, sometimes it just seems creative. The biologists see this on a much larger scale, I believe.

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Thank You, glad you enjoyed it.

Now this is an interesting question to ponder as it gets to the source of a lot of philosophically interesting conversations about how much our “pictures” color our understanding of the world. When do we push these “pictures” too far? How much do the pictures blind us to other information that may be helpful in our understandings of the world? Are certain “pictures” more central to others? Is it even possible to take multiple “pictures” seriously?

I agree that this seems to be the standard talking points you run into at least in the popular literature. Have you @Jordan ever seen the reverse or somebody successfully mix the two “pictures” of ‘design’ versus ‘creative creatures/co-creation’? Are these “pictures” part of the problem in coming to terms between the two camps?


I seem to remember an obnoxious (and now suspended) poster at BioLogos always insisting that one cannot build science on analogies. In that, at least, he was correct - but it’s even more true of theology, where we are looking at the fundamental truth of all things, and the One we worship and glorify.

When (as Darrel Falk did) one starts comparing the personified “Nature” with adolescent children being given their freedom by liberal parents (and therefore suggesting God would be “calling all the shots” if he restricted that liberty), then the informal analogy has become the controller of the doctrine of God. There is an unfashionable word for that, but it has to do with making up ones own idea of God rather than seeking his self-revelation.

The Scriptural picture of nature (meaning all the entities in creation - not a person), and one that was endorsed throughout Christian history by theologians and even by natural philosophers, was that God acts within and through nature to govern his world.

So does it not occur to people that if “Nature” seems to do things more creatively than humans can (which even Aristotle noted with admiration) it is because the sole Creator of Scripture (who says he will not give his glory therein to another) is about his business of creating, and not because nature creates itself unconsciously?

There is no need for the analogy, when our gospel says of Jesus that “The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”

“For by him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earh, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authroities - all thiungs have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

In the light of that, I say the “valuable analogy” is a flat lie, as well as an incoherent model.

One more word on the “puppetmaster God calling all the shots” analogy, which lies behind the theological preference for open process. God as sole Creator is made (by the rhetoric of the analogy) to look like a tyrant, a micromanager, an unjust interloper on the democratic freedoms of… atoms, I suppose.

For a start, in the beginning there was only God. Unless you’re Thomas Jay Oord, that means nothing was invited to cooperate in creation - it was entirely the work of the Trinity, and that is an entailment of Theism, let alone revealed Christianity.

But fast forward to the hope on which our gospel is built: the new creation, in which the glory of God will fill heaven and earth, and he is “all in all” - even Christ will hand the Kingdom over to his Father, when he has defeated everything that opposes or seeks to usurp God. And that is why God (Son as well as Father) is called Beginning and End, Alpha and Omega, God Almighty.

In other words, if there is anything wrong with the old creation it is that God is too distant from it, not that he’s too interfering.


A post was merged into an existing topic: Daniel Deen: Thank God for Evolution

Yes, that would be a misreading of ID based on what some ID proponents claim. The only tenet of ID is that we can empirically detect intelligent agency. Whether that design is “engineered” or “creative freedom” is not central to ID.