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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Intelligent Design and Providence: Oliver Barclay

The Biologos Foundation recently posted a paper by Oliver Barclay. Barclay has been active in a UK organization which considers questions of science and faith, apparently for many years.

In his paper, Barclay considers the position, mostly implied, of the Intelligent Design movement on God's providence in nature. He finds ID to have a belief that is potentially dangerous. What is that belief?

ID usually makes no direct claim that the natural world is entirely designed, but only that some features of it, for example, certain enzymes, were so designed, or that the Cambrian Explosion resulted from intervention by a designer. (ID also claims that it would have been impossible for these features or phenomena to have arrived by natural selection. The ID movement generally does not claim that the designer was the Judeo-Christian God.)

What's wrong with that? What's wrong, as Barclay points out, is that ID thus relegates the activity of the designer to the spectacular, the unusual, the inexplicable. The Bible indicates, as Barclay says, that God is involved in the world around us all the time. (He does not use Colossians 1:15-18, which also makes this point, but he uses other scripture.) God is the Provider, and we, and earthworms and petunias, are here because God sustains and protects us, through His providence. So the ID view tends to limit God, and does not express the Biblical truth of God's constant involvement in the world.

The ID view, says Barclay, is also a variety of the "god-of-the-gaps" idea, which is that God must have been responsible for events we can't explain. If we can't explain the origin of, say, color vision, by natural means, then God must have intervened to bring about color vision. The problem with that idea is that it tends to reduce God, or make Him irrelevant, if we subsequently discover a gradual evolutionary pathway to color vision. God was involved, whether or not we think we understand how He did something!

Much of Barclay's article is quotations of relevant scripture. That, and his ideas, make the article worth reading.

Thanks for reading.

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