Friday, June 05, 2009

A "new" area for theological reflection

Last night I was reading the latest (June 2009) Acts & Facts of the Institute for Creation Research. The cover story is titled Dangerous Turn Ahead: Traveling down the road to compromise--a reprint of a March 1988 article by founder Dr. Henry M. Morris.

In the middle of the article, Morris quotes with approval Michael Denton's 1985 version of Evolution: A Theory in Crisis:
Despite the attempts by liberal theology to disguise the point, the fact is that no biblically derived religion can really be compromised with the fundamental assertion of Darwinian theory. Chance and design are antithetical concepts.
--The idea being, I assume, if we were to restructure this statement a little, that "no biblically derived religion can really be [brought into concurrence or concordance] with" the concept of chance or randomness.

Am I correct?

"Chance and design are antithetical concepts." Since the Bible clearly teaches that God not only designed the cosmos but upholds its structure on an ongoing basis (Colossians 1:16-17), therefore, biblical Christians can't legitimately believe in randomness or chance.

And yet. And yet.

Is Denton--and is Morris, who quotes him--correct?

A few thoughts crossed my mind as I read that:
  • As I've discussed in the past, the Bible speaks of God controlling things that appear random to us:

    • "The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD." --Proverbs 16:33
    • "He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes." --Psalm 147:16
    • "Praise the LORD . . . Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word." --Psalm 148:7-8

    The Bible says God controls these things, but, from our perspective, they are "completely random." --They follow patterns. We can predict probabilities. But there appears to be no strong rhyme or reasons by which we could predict what is going to happen at a particular moment.
  • Pushing forward with the idea of randomness-within-limits (or randomness-under-pattern, or randomness-under-total-control-of-an-outside [sovereign]-power): What about random-number-generators? I mean, even human beings have created such devices or programmed such programs. They are under control; their randomness is within limits. --So what's the big deal about the God of the Bible being sovereign and creating a universe in which he upholds matter to act regularly and consistently as a cosmic "random number generator" on a cosmic/physicalist level . . . in the same way that human-made random number generators act regularly and consistently to produce mere digits? . . . What is the problem with God--either directly or indirectly (through the matter that He created and upholds--being able to control events in such a way that they appear to follow regular, and broadly predictable patterns, yet "only" in a probabilistic sense--i.e., so that they appear to be truly random?

    Couldn't such an insight be part of what God is referring to in Scriptures like Jeremiah 33:3 ["Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know."] or Deuteronomy 29:29 ["The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law."] . . . not to mention Job 42:3, Psalm 139:6, or Proverbs 30:18 which all speak of knowledge that is "too wonderful" for human beings?
I think the young-earth creationists cannot legitimately use the issue of "chance" or "randomness" as an argument "from the Bible" against evolution!

Meanwhile, however, I think it would be helpful for the Christian evolutionary community to do more work on the theology of chaos, randomness, and chance--and the implications of such a theology. It would be helpful if they would pursue such work first at the graduate philosophical/academic level and then communicate the results of their work on a popular level . . . for adults and children.
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