I’ve now got hold of David L Wilcox’s little book God and Evolution, and think I can add him to the disappointingly small group of TEs who actually do combine biblical faith with a realistic approach to science. The book isn’t world-shatteringly original – well within the genre of “a scientist shows that faith and science are compatible”, but I think it would be just the kind of thing for penman to give to his Reformed Creationist friends as a palatable apologetic.
I’ve already commented on a BioLogos thread of Ted Davis that the chapter on origins of life uses virtually the same arguments as Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell, the only difference being that Meyer argues for design by inference to best explanation, whereas Wilcox assumes it as a presupposition. That suggests that the difference between “Warfieldian” theistic evolution and the ID form of Old Earth Creationism is mainly one of self-identity. As I wrote to Ted, how would one actually distinguish between theistic evolution guided by R J Russell’s quantum tinkering, and old earth creationism mediated by God’s altering existing genomes through quantum tinkering?
Here, though, I want to concentrate more on something else that caught my attention. When discussing the naturalistic materialism of the Dennetts and the Dawkinses, Wilcox adds this:
For the record, not all materialists deny God’s existence. As we noted, some maintain that matter acts “on its own,” but they insist that God made it initially. Thus the outcomes of material causes depend only on the initial state in which God made the matter – plus the possibility of occasional divine input, or reshaping. Such a secondaru input to the material system they would term an intervention (or a miracle). Theologically speaking, this view is properly called “deism” or “semideism.”
The latter term he takes from science historian Reijer Hooykaas. Wilcox goes on to apply this to ID, in contrast to … well, the semi-deists, whoever they may be:
On the other hand, for those who have committed themselves by faith to nature’s autonomy, the idea of intelligent direction of natural causes is simply incomprehensible (even for those who believe in God). For them, a “god” who acts in nature would be the ultimate intruder in a closed system.
Now does this not remind you strongly of the kind of discussions we’ve had on BioLogos? Particularly I remember my unsuccessful attempts to pin down Darrel Falk on the place of divine action on the thread replying to William Dembski, but others will have interacted with Dennis Venema and less notable contributors in the same vein. The prevalent “BioLogos position”, if I may summarise, is that God has given nature “autonomy” and would be acting against his faithfulness by “interfering” in the process of evolution. At the same time, no doubt he can, and has, acted by “miracle” (the only category admitted outside the “natural”) in the business of salvation through Christ. That would seem to fit to a tee the definition of “semi-deism”, whether or not Wilcox consciously identifies BioLogian theistic evolution with that position.
But there’s another distinction to be made. Semi-deists admit the occasional guiding hand of God in nature too, in what Wilcox calls “reshaping”. And you may recall that Darrel Falk accepted this as a possibility, whilst adding the firm caveat that we cannot know how God works and must accept mystery. Wilcox would (and has) said that the Bible is pretty clear that God does act directly, especially in “chance” events, which is why he’s so refreshing: “Chance is, in fact, the hand of God.”
The degree of lukewarmness about such action at BioLogos seems to fall below the position of the semi-deist, who would affirm God’s “miraculous intervention” even though minimising it, rather than admitting it as an unknowable possibility. So what term should we use to describe the predominant BioLogos type of theistic evolution? How about “Agnostic Semi-Deism“? That seems pretty definitive mast to which to pin ones colours.