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Saturday, March 17, 2007

What I believe about origins

Some time ago, someone asked me what I believed about origins. What the individual wanted was to see which of several categories of belief I fell into. I didn't exactly answer him on that, and I'm sure I told him more than he wanted to hear, but here's part of my answer.

Then, yesterday, a commenter was surprised that I didn't think purposeless chance was the main creative agent.

So I'm posting this on St. Patrick's Day, even though it's not particularly green.

What do I believe?
1) I believe that God was involved in the planning and execution of the origin of matter, the universe, and life.
2) I believe that the Son had the most important role in this (John 1, and other scriptures, teach this), but the Father and the Holy Spirit must have also been involved.
3) I believe that the Son not only created, but that He somehow is maintaining things. (Colossians 1:14-17)
4) I believe that things changed, due to a deliberate sin by human beings, such that God's original plan is not now completely expressed. How much the Fall has changed things, I'm not sure. Probably a lot. Christ came to redeem us, and the rest of creation, from the effects of that sin.
5) I believe that God's design allowed for emergent properties, that is, for example, Carbon was created so that life, as we know it, could be based on it, when life appeared.
6) I believe that God's design for life was comprehensive enough that He allowed what appear to us to be chance processes to work in carrying it out. However, He may also be actually selecting and directing which sperms succeed, which spores germinate, etc.
7) I believe that God somehow created humans specially. We are especially in His image, we have dominion over other living things, and Christ appeared on earth in human form.

* * * * *
Added July 23, 2007: See here for more on the topic of item 7.
8) I'm not sure exactly what the "image of God" means. I believe that all of God's creation, such as a stone, has some of the image of the creator in it. We have more of it than stones, of course. Presumably the image includes things like the capacity to love, to reason, to communicate, and to create (on a much smaller scale). Perhaps the soul (whatever that is) is God's image in us.
9) I don't know if there are living things on other planets or not. The Bible is silent on the subject, and proving that there are such living things wouldn't bother me. (It is impossible to scientifically prove that there aren't living things on some other planet.) The same holds true for alternate universes. God is big enough to be the God of all the universes, however many there are. We only know of one for sure, though, and of one place in it where there is life.
10) I believe that God used the Big Bang to begin the universe as we know it, and that the Bible does not rule this out. Furthermore, I believe that science has no good explanation for what caused the Big Bang, or came before it, while Christianity and Judaism do have such an explanation -- God planned and created the Big Bang.
11) I believe that I don't have all the answers on this subject, and don't think anyone else does, either.
12) I believe that the most commonly held theories, or at least the ones that are heard about most, namely young-earth creationism (YEC) and intelligent design (ID), are not the same. There are serious differences between them.
13) I believe that God has revealed Himself to us in several ways, including through the Bible, the church, and the work of the Holy Spirit, and that of our own consciouses, in our lives, and also through nature. (Psalm 19, Acts 14:17, Romans 1:20) I believe that we, fallen beings that we are, can and do make mistakes in our interpretation of all of these revelations, but that, nonetheless, they are all legitimate.
14) I believe that God did deliberately design the natural world. (He included the capacity for chance processes, such as natural selection, as part of the design, so that they influence the way living things appear.) However, I don't believe that it is possible to prove (or disprove) God's creative activity in the past (or in the present, for that matter) scientifically. Hebrews 11:3 seems to indicate this.
15) I believe that demanding that the public schools teach that science has proved that YEC, or ID, are true, is a serious mistake, not least because there is no such proof.
16) I believe that science has not, and can not, rule out God's creative activity, in at least the following: the origin of the universe, the origin of living things, the origin of human beings. Scientists (and others) may sincerely doubt that God did any or all of these things, but they have no right to claim that science has ruled them out. It hasn't. No public school or university class, or textbook, should make such claims, and, if such claims are made, they should be strongly fought.
17) I believe that some people, perhaps well-meaning, perhaps not, have screamed loud and long about some view of origins, (usually YEC, but, lately, also ID) and gotten many Christians, or the world at large, to believe that all Christians believe as they do. This is most unfortunate. I believe that some intelligent people have been lost to the kingdom because of militant YEC views.
18) I believe that Christians can legitimately hold any of several views on origins, including YEC or ID, but also others, and should respect the right of other Christians to hold differing views, and welcome them into fellowship. There are a number of views, all held by Christians, and all of them have strengths, and all of them have weaknesses. The only view that all Christians must reject is the naturalistic view, namely that we are here solely because of purposeless chance. If the Bible means anything, this view is false.
19) I believe that many students who are home-schooled, or who attend private Christian schools, are being seriously short-changed, because they are taught that YEC, or ID, is what the Bible teaches, or even what science has proved. They should also be presented with a fair view of other interpretations. Not only are they being short-changed, but future generations of Christian leaders are being misled, and, in turn, misleading others.

Addendum, July 19, 2007: As this post indicates, the Bible tells us that God created because of His love.

Addendum, January 27, 2012: I added some labels/tags, and one bible verse.

Addendum, December 20, 2012: Here's a link to a post from BioLogos on the impossibility of disproving the existence of God. (We can't prove it scientifically, either.)

Addendum, January 29, 2013: I added point 10, above, and modified point 15.

Addendum, April 8, 2015: I made three minor editorial changes.

Addendum, May 26, 2016: I have discovered a consensus statement on origins, produced by some prominent Christian scientists with different views on the matter, but which they all agree on. I agree with them. (The consensus statement is followed by a listing of points that they don't agree on.)

Thanks for reading.


Weekend Fisher said...

Now I know where you're coming from. I'll admit I hadn't really read your archives before today, and only 3 of the archived pieces today.

You seem part of a growing camp of Christians who disowns intelligent design (the movement) while affirming intelligent design (the principle), probably for the obvious reason that your idea of design and their idea of design (plus agenda) don't necessarily match.

Myself, I once made the mistake of asking a dyed-in-the-wool atheist whether he thought that "design v. non-design" was an answerable question on purely evidential grounds, and got soundly criticized for my political activism, much to my surprise.

Take care & God bless

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks. I think your middle paragraph pretty well sums it up.

jcubsdad said...

I throw my hat into the camp of Martin on this one.

Sound science and sound religion CAN get along if they come in minus the agenda. Unfortunately for the church we are just as guilty of misguided agendas.

If schools would quit indoctrinating, and start teaching classes like logic and philosophy I think in 20 years we could have some well rounded citizens.

A liberal thought for you...the kids getting to decide for themselves!!

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Gyrovague. I don't want anybody in my camp, but in the camp of the truth, or at least the camp of those who honestly seek for it, in both the Bible and nature.

Anonymous said...

I love this post! You are a skilled and wise man. All credit to God for His faithful servant.

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, Sara K!

geocreationist said...


I agree with every word of this post.

I often go searching for blogs of Christians with similar views to mine. I consider the views in your post to be common sense, but it must not be common sense, because such views are either not common, or not commonly thought through.

I hope you are getting a lot of readers, to help dilute the disservice of our sincerely misled YEC and ID Christian brethren.

God bless you. I will be reading more of your blog.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, geocreationist! I have a few readers, I guess.

barefootmeg said...

On #8 -- I find it intriguing that the comments about humans being made in the image of God are sandwiched between verses that talk about our "dominion" over the earth and its inhabitants. Could it be that when God allowed us to be caretakers of his own creation, he was allowing us to step in and share the role with him, as an apprentice might step in and share a role with his master, enabling us through our work (our care for the planet) to be images of him (and his care not only for the planet but for us as well).

Martin LaBar said...

July 27, 2008: That seems possible, even likely, to me, meg.


Human Ape said...

"However, He may also be actually selecting and directing which sperms succeed, which spores germinate, etc."

You have got to be joking.

Human Ape said...

"The only view that all Christians must reject is the naturalistic view, namely that we are here solely because of purposeless chance."

There's that word "chance" again. Natural selection is not chance.

"7) I believe that God somehow created humans specially. We are especially in His image, we have dominion over other living things, and Christ appeared on earth in human form."

This is a terrible idea and it also has the disadvantage of being ridiculous. It's terrible because Christians use "we have dominion over other living things" as an excuse to trash the environment and wipe out endangered species. It's ridiculous because any educated 12 year old would laugh at it.

"God somehow created humans specially."

Therefore we are separate from nature instead of part of nature. We are special according to your religious fantasy.

The truth is we are just one small insignificant twig on the vast evolutionary tree of life, and your wishful thinking will never change this basic scientific fact.

"We are especially in His image"

Your fairy looks like a human ape and I suppose you also think it has male sex organs.

Everything with you is "I believe". I don't see any "I have evidence for this idea". And this is why scientists laugh at gullible Christians, so willing to believe any fantasy if they were brainwashed to believe in it.

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you again, HumanApe.

I said "I believe" because I think most of the people who read my blog are Christians, and there is considerable disagreement among Christians about some points of origins. I wanted to state my own views clearly.

I'm not sure what the "image of God" is, but it is mostly, or entirely, non-physical. Perhaps I should have said that.

It is true that some Christians have had a terrible view of the environment. I think that is wrong, according to the Bible. See

It is also true that some non-Christians (BP, in the Gulf of Mexico, for example) have done some terrible things to the environment.

As I indicated in a previous response to one of your comments, neither Darwin nor Richard Dawkins have claimed that they could rule out God scientifically. I don't claim that I can prove His existence scientifically, either. I think that there is, and has to be, faith involved, either way. Are you sure that your presuppositions are not determining how you deal with the evidence, and what evidence you are willing to look at? I know that mine are.

Martin LaBar said...

I attempted to leave a reasonably friendly comment, in response, on your blog, where you copied one of your comments on mine, but discovered that "non-team members," such as myself, are blocked from doing so.

Oh, well.