Ought God to be detectable in creation? Marks out of 10

One of the things one often finds in discussion with theistic evolutionists, in particular, is an extension of the practical use of methodological naturalism to a, usually vaguely expressed, principle that God’s presence ought not to be detectable in nature.

I exclude here those heterodox ideas of a God who doesn’t actually create, but leaves a quasi-sentient universe “free” to experiment with evolution, and so on. No, the people I’m talking about are orthodox (especially Bible-respecting) Christians who believe God is “behind” creation, but who hold that on principle one is unlikely to detect that fact through science.

The reasons for this conviction seem to vary between the idea that God is clever enough to design the Universe without resorting to tinkering (which is actually Deism, but we’ll pass over that), to the thought that if science proved God’s existence, faith would no longer be necessary and human freedom to disbelieve curtailed. I call this the Babel-fish argument. I’ll have a little to say about that in a separate post. I think that both positions lack rigour.

But today I want to get you, dear reader, to try and formulate some sounder theological principles for deciding whether we might, in fact, expect to see God’s hand in nature or not – and therefore whether the design hypothesis ought to be on the agenda for Christians interested in science, or be dismissed as a fool’s errand. Some initial points for investigation might be helpful, so I’m going to pose the matter as if it were an examination question.  I’d be interested to hear your replies. Here’s the question – stop when the examiner tells you to, and don’t write on both sides of the paper at once.

When God created the Universe, did he do so:

  1. To display his work, in the way an apprentice might create a masterpiece to gain his qualification, or a master-craftsman a showpiece of his best skills?
  2. To hide his work, as a landscaper might seek to disguise artifice, or an author write in a different style under a pseudonym?
  3. Simply to produce a good result by whatever means were appropriate, as a craftsman might combine automation, hand-finishing and even delegation?

For your chosen option, explain (a) why God might have done it that way, and (b) how much evidence of his involvement one would expect to find in nature. Justify your answer from Scripture (and/or your denomination’s official doctrine) and also from the evidence found in nature.

Your time starts … Now.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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