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Friday, May 11, 2012

Dembski and Falk: Is Darwin Theologically Neutral? Falk's position

There has recently been an exchange of views between some Southern Baptist theologians, and members of the BioLogos Foundation, on the question posed by the title. I have posted on the views of William Dembski, a Southern Baptist theologian, and a prominent member of the Intelligent Design movement (ID), expressed in two posts, which was published on the BioLogos blog, and on responses to those views, from Todd C. Wood, a young-earth creationist whose views I admire and respect, which were published independently on his own blog. The last post in this series was here. It has links to the previous posts, and related matters.

I now turn to the response of Darrel Falk, president of the BioLogos Foundation, whose views on origins are often called evolutionary creationism. Like Dembski, Falk first puts forth his own position. There is a second part to Falk's response, in which he sets forth some disagreement with Dembski, and I hope to muse about that at a later date.

Falk shares considerable common ground with Dembski. But he parts ways with him on the matter of God's activity. ID advocates argue that God's activity, in the development of living things, including humans, must have involved a number of supernatural, miraculous acts, and that, furthermore, in principle, it is possible for scientific analysis to show that such miraculous acts were necessary. Falk disagrees, in at least two important ways.

First, Falk does believe in the miraculous, events which are not explicable by science, not ordinary natural activity. (Christ's incarnation and resurrection are two such.) But he claims that God's activity is not usually what we would call miraculous, and, furthermore, that God's ordinary activity is necessary for the maintenance of the universe. He writes:

The Law of Gravity, for example, is not something that God set up in the beginning, thereafter recusing himself from further involvement and exiting from the scene. Instead, the Law of Gravity works as it does because of the ongoing activity of God’s Spirit in the universe. So consistent is that activity that it can be described mathematically through scientific analysis. If God ceased to be active, however, then not only would the matter of this universe no longer function in a way which enables a mathematical description of gravity, matter itself would cease to exist.

Falk goes on to say this:

Put another way, the activity of God is not restricted to that which we call the supernatural; it is all God’s activity. It is just that some aspects of God’s activity are so consistently repeatable that we can develop laws which describe the regularity of the divine activity which “holds” and “sustains” the universe. This latter type of activity is no less magnificent just because God does it continuously.

He cites Hebrews 1:3 and Colossians 1:17 in support of his position. (Unfortunately, he gives the reference as Colossians 1:16, not 1:17, but he quotes 1:17)

Second, Falk says that we are too prone to think miracles were necessary, when perhaps they weren't:

Given the many examples of supernatural activity in Scripture, we human beings tend to expect that for something as special as creation of stars or new species, supernatural activity would have been required. But we cannot derive this from the scriptural account and, therefore, it is wise not to second-guess how God might have worked based on the Scriptures. . . . When the Psalmist describes the heavens as being the work of his fingers (Psalm 8:3), this does not negate astronomy’s description of the regular and ongoing processes that give rise to stars in God’s universe. Those processes are natural, but they are every bit as much God’s activity as if he were to take huge balls of matter and miraculously fashion sparkling stars with his hands.

I believe that Falk is correct on these two points, and that I have been guilty of confusing miracles with ordinary activity at times. I wish that Dembski had responded to this post, but, as far as I know, he has not.

Thanks for reading. Read Falk.

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