Monday, November 21, 2005

Is ID bad theology?

There is a new and potentially effective prong of attack being employed in the war against ID. A good example is found in this article by Susan Ives.

About halfway through the article, Ives writes:
Intelligent design disrespects faith, discounts faith, destroys faith.

Faith is belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. Faith falls into the realm of metaphysics — literally, "beyond physics," the branch of philosophy that seeks to explain the nature of reality and the origin and structure of the world.

When we try to prove and promote the metaphysical through the physical — when we muddle faith and science — we are, in effect, saying that faith is not enough, that faith, like science, requires proof. Faith that requires proof is no faith at all.

In my Protestant tradition we recite a creed that declares our faith: "I believe in God the father almighty, maker of heaven and Earth."

There are no footnotes in this creed that refer to William Dembski's "The Design Inference" or references to "The Black Box" by Michael Behe, two of the seminal books in the intelligent design movement.
After promising earlier in the article to treat both sides with respect, she then goes on to characterize irreducible complexity as “junk science.”

She concludes with the now common soundbite:
There is also a compelling argument for keeping religion out of public schools: not to protect the schools from religion, but to protect religion from the government.
Of course, when someone like Ives makes this statement, she is, I suspect, being disingenuous. To believe that she is more concerned about the government (here in the form of public schools) destroying religion than religion destroying public schools—why I’d just as soon believe the Soviets really were “protecting” Prague in 1968.

At any rate, it is her claim that ID is bad theology, a claim that I’ve been seeing a lot of lately, that is troublesome. Boiled down to its essence, the argument goes like this:

Faith is about believing without evidence. Therefore any attempt to bring scientific evidence to Christianity is detrimental, since it “disrespects” faith.

This is a good tactic because it will resonate with some Christians. However, it is very bad theology.

Ives points out the lack of footnotes in the (Nicene, I presume) creed. Well first of all, the creeds were not inspired, so that’s already a weakness in her argument. But let’s run with her litmus test of missing footnotes, viz.,
  • In the book of Judges, Gideon asks for multiple physical proofs that God was God. The proofs were given. My bible does not contain a footnote that reads: “and Gideon, after serving his military purpose, was cursed for demanding proof.”

  • When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God complied with the request. My bible does not contain a footnote that reads: “And Moses’ inability to rely solely on blind faith is the real reason he wasn’t allowed into the Promised Land.”

  • Psalm 19 teaches that the heavens declares God’s glory. My bible does not contain a footnote that reads: “but only as a crutch for the weak-minded.”

  • When Jesus forgave the sins of a lame man, he then healed the man. Instead of containing a footnote that reads: “and for those who required the latter, let them be anathema,” my bible reads that Jesus said it was so we may know the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.

  • When Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection, they thought they were seeing a ghost. He showed them he was flesh and blood, and that he could even eat. My bible does not contain a footnote that reads: “and their rewards in heaven were diminished because they relied on physical proof.”

  • Paul writes, in the letter to the Romans, that since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. My bible doesn’t have a footnote that reads: “but pay attention to that evidence at your own peril.” Instead, Paul adds that the reason for this (scientific data) is so that men are without excuse.

  • Even in the case of “doubting” Thomas, where Jesus allows Thomas to examine His wounds, and even though Jesus blesses those who believe without seeing, my bible does not contain a footnote that reads: “and Thomas was cast out for his reliance on proof.”
Ives makes an age-old mistake, but a popular one, that “faith” in the bible means “blind faith.” On the contrary, the bible presents a consistent theme of God providing evidence, including physical evidence, of His existence. To think that science can be detrimental to faith is to imagine that God’s creation is orthogonal to God’s plan of redemption.

This new approach, to cast ID as bad theology, is an attempt to drive a wedge between those Christians who understand that faith and science are complementary, and those Christians who, through poor teaching, elevate “blind faith” to a degree well beyond anything that can be supported by scripture.

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