Recently, I noted my thoughts (in perhaps a rather unstructured format) on the “conflicts” between the Young Earth Creationists and Intelligent design advocates. A few of my major conclusions were:
- Intelligent design is not ultimately an answer to the question of origins; it is a modern restatement (and I believe an effective one) of the teleological argument for the existence of God (the argument from design). Many intelligent design writers assume Theistic evolution, but their line of reasoning is useful, nonetheless.
- The real issue for the Christian is a logical one. Because as Christians we reject religious naturalism, it is illogical for us to accept naturalistic assumptions in our interpretation of the data related to origins. In fact, doing so is ultimately a form of idolatry: it is adapting a false religion to the worship of the true God. (On this grounds, if one was to try to convince me of the veracity of any model of evolution – theistic or atheistic, one must either find the body or one must demonstrate evolution in a manner consistent with my presuppositions). This is the reasoning I employed in The Tragedy of Compromise.
- It does not follow, however, that my point is to develop atheistic young earth creationists. Since Christianity is a necessary presupposition to creationism, I can use intelligent design, the cosmological argument, or the fossil record to challenge his/her assumptions, or for that matter discuss only the resurrection. Thus, in a sense, the Intelligent Design strategy is an effective challenge to unbelievers.
I had thought I was done with this line of argument, and had started on a pair of articles on the Kalam Cosmological argument, when I realized I had left something important out. Listening to a very poor examination of the teleological argument, I was reminded of the influence of one’s view of origins on Christian theodicy (theodicy is a reference to any attempt to answer the problem of how God can be omniscient, omnipotent and still create a world in which evil exists).
If man is not a fallen creature, then whatever answer we might raise to the problems of natural evils (such as earthquakes, parasitic infestations, and disease) are inevitably weakened by the assumption that natural evils (such as the aforementioned disease, parasitic infestations and earthquakes); presumably predate the fall, since physical death would also predate the fall (as death is necessary in evolutionary processes – the fittest survive to pass on their genes and the less fit do not). Additionally one assumes that God made the world red in tooth and claw, rather than viewing the world as damaged by the fall itself. Finally, the question of the fall itself and how it relates to man’s evil becomes far more difficult to discuss – how did we come to be dead in trespasses and sins?
In the Atheistic discussions of the problem of evil, there is an assumption that as Christians we do not share: atheists assume we do not deserve to suffer, their argument as I have noted is as much an emotional one as it is rational. Yet if man is depraved, then in discussing God’s goodness it is necessary to account for His justice in punishing evil.
This of course is not to say that the question of evil and suffering is impossible for theistic evolutionists to answer – I doubt any Christian has a perfect grasp on theology, so this is not intended to throw stones. In fact, many theistic evolutionists still raise the same basic arguments I do on these points, but in a sense, their argument is weaker when we are inconsistent with our principles.
Please note, I am not suggesting that we maintain creationism simply to answer the problem of evil, I have reviewed my reasoning at the beginning of the column for that. Rather, my point is that when we are inconsistent with core principles and precepts of theology, there are negative consequences for the Church and the faith in the real world.