In Darrel Falk’s latest intervention on Dennis Venema’s behalf at BioLogos (#70551), he refers Bilbo back to previous statements of his (and BioLogos‘) position, especially in his replies to William Dembski, on the extent to which God directs evolution.
Since when those articles were posted it seemed to me, as to others, that he was defending a preference for unguided evolution, whilst allowing the bare possibility of divine action within it, his (moderately) clear statement to Bilbo that he is completely agnostic on the matter makes the meaning of the statement he quotes from his earlier article clearer:
I see no scripturally-based rationale for determining the expected ratio of natural vs. supernatural divine activity in creation. Scripture is silent on the issue and so far at least, science is as wellother than demonstrating that many biological features and mechanisms previously thought by some to be evidence of supernatural action can now be explained via Gods regular activitythat associated with his natural laws. For the present, I think it is best to withhold judgment about the extent to which God suspends his ongoing regular activity in favor of miraculous supernatural activity in the history of the creating lifes diversity.
So, he says:
…since Scripture, as I see it leaves the matter open, and science doesnt provide a clear answer either, I think it is pointless to speculate further. I dont think I am dancing around the issues. I am simply saying I dont know, because the two ways by which I would know (God Written Word and the scientific investigation of Gods World) do not provide the answer for me.
Darrel’s position is that Scripture gives no direction on the matter, and therefore that agnosticism is the faithful option. But is it actually the case that the Bible has no position about it?
As I remember Darrel’s original case, he majored on the fact that the Genesis creation account is not intended as a scientific description of God’s means. And in that I agree with him. I would take it as a functional account of the ordering of the cosmos for man and not relevant to science at all. But even many of those taking it as a literary or theological account of the material creation would regard it as compatible with undirected evolution on the proviso that the the “natural” mechanism were constrained enough to guarantee the specific goals of God’s creation words, such as the sun, a large moon, wild animals distinct from livestock and, of course, mankind created in God’s image.
But Genesis is not the only account of God’s work in creation, or in the ongoing processes of the natural world. Darrel, in the Dembski article and its comments, quoted passages like the last chapters of Job and Psalm 104. He interpreted them as God’s showing delight in the natural creation that has emerged, in whatever manner. But they don’t actually say that, as I pointed out at the time. They teach, very clearly, God’s self-proclamation of wisdom in making the particular beasts as they are (Job); his wisdom, care and love in providing for their individual needs (Job and Psalm 104); and, at his pleasure, withdrawing that provision or renewing it (thus “creating” them anew – Psalm 104). This is unequivocally a hands-on picture of God’s involvement in creation, which removes any doubt one might have from the indefinite nature of the Genesis account.
That this picture of God’s involvement is not restricted to these passages is clear from any reading of the Old Testament. Indeed it is a theological commonplace. His involvement in, and sovereignty over, events is there from start to finish: the accidental cast of a lot, the random trajectory of a broken axehead, the management of the weather, the setting up and pulling down of kingdoms, the sending of blessing and disaster, prosperity and disease. Active divinity is absolutely characteristic of the Old Testament, and is pointedly contrasted with the do-nothing impotence of the false gods of the nations. His very name, “Yahweh”, is to do with “being there for his people” as a protecting Father rather than any sense of Platonic “being”. Mighty acts are his very character.
To turn that Big Picture into Falk’s “Scripture gives no direction the issue” absolutely requires the process of dismantling it as primitive, or inconsistent with science, or anthropmorphic or whatever, a process which nobody at BioLogos has even suggested, let alone attempted. And indeed it would be impossible to deconstruct it without also deconstructing Christianity, because it carries on in the very teaching of Jesus. The reason I often quote the passage about no sparrow falling to the ground apart from God’s will is that it uses God’s hands-on role in nature in order to justify our own trust in God’s hands-on care for our lives, down to numbering the very hairs on our head. The most serious thing that could happen to any one of us – martyrdom for the faith – bears as much relationship to God’s will for us as his care of the life of a valueless sparrow. We are intended, clearly, to avoid the conclusion that because God’s care for the sparrows is sketchy or non-existent, then anything might happen to us at any time. The opposite is the case – if even a sparrow’s death is intimately related to the will of God, how much more are our times in his careful and loving hands. We are secure because God’s government of nature is meticulous.
One could, as with the Old Testament, add passage to passage to show God’s direction of nature in the service of his Kingdom, from the fish that Jesus brought to the nets of his disciples, or caused to swallow the temple tax, the famine that served to unite Jewish and Gentile believers, the storm that carried Paul to his appointed destiny in Rome, the disease that punished Herod’s pride, or the viper that demonstrated Paul’s apostleship to the inhabitants of Malta. That is hardly “leaving the matter open” – it is slamming the door with a resounding bang!
As for science, methodological naturalism precludes it ever “providing a clear answer.” The question is purely theological, though once the role of God as Creator is admitted, it is also valid to ask if the natural mechanisms are up to the task of creating as God is describes as doing.
Here again Scripture is hardly silent. The active picture of God in both Old and New Testaments is interlaced with descriptions of him as a God who plans all things in detail. That planning includes the outworking of human history, but also of the natural world. He never watches to see what happens in nature, though he is sometimes represented as doing so in human affairs. He relates to us personally – he relates to nature instrumentally. Nature, indeed, is what God does to accomplish his purposes. The idea of a world left to run by established laws and/or chance is as alien to the Bible as the idea of parliamentary democracy under the Davidic king. As indeed is a world which God governs by constant miraculous interventions – but as my last post shows, that is a false dichotomy which only serves to confuse.
So, Darrel, unless you have any evidence to the contrary, Scripture does not leave the matter open at all. It clearly rejects both naturalism and supernaturalism in favour of a strongly teleological providence which governs every aspect of the natural world. Whether that providence is “interventive” or “non-interventive” is one for the philosophers, but it is nevertheless ongoing directive activity. And it is non-negotiable whilst one holds to a Bible-based theology, unless one is ready to do a considerable amount of work to undermine its biblical basis. Pleading agnosticism in the absence of such work is, to speak plainly, flying in the face of Scripture.