Friday, October 29, 2010

John West's God

Here I add to my previous post on John West's article in The Intercollegiate Review.

At the end of The Origin of Species, Darwin writes: "Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual."

Then, in the final sentence of the book, he writes: "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."

In this last sentence, Darwin is echoing the language of the Bible in Genesis (2:7): "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

Darwin thus suggests that a theistic belief in God as Creator of the first forms of life could be consistent with accepting an evolutionary account of natural history as due to "secondary causes." This is the position taken by theistic evolutionists--including people like C. S. Lewis and Francis Collins.

John West casually dismisses this possibility:

Strictly speaking, Darwinian evolution begins after the first life has developed, and so Larry Arnhart is correct that it does not necessarily refute the claim that there is some kind of "first cause" to the universe that stands outside of "nature." But this "first cause" allowable by Darwinism cannot be a God who actively supervises or directs the development of life. Such an absentee God is hard to reconcile with any traditional Judeo-Christian conception of a God who actively directs and cares for His creation. In the end, the effort to reconcile Darwinism with traditional Judeo-Christian theism remains unpersuasive.

But why should we accept West's assumption that God was unable or unwilling to execute His design through the laws of nature? Why shouldn't we read the Bible as presenting the Divine Designer as having fully gifted His Creation from the beginning with all the formational powers necessary for evolving into the world we see today?

Of course, any orthodox Biblical believer must believe that God has intervened into nature in miraculous ways. The Christian must believe, for example, that the dead body of Jesus was resurrected back to life in a way that could not be explained by natural causes. But notice that in the Bible, once God has created the universe in the first two chapters of Genesis, God's later interventions into nature are all part of salvational history. God intervenes into human history to communicate His redemptive message to human beings, but he does not need to intervene into natural history to form irreducibly complex mechanisms that could not be formed by natural means. The Bible suggests that God created the world at the beginning so that everything we see in nature today could emerge by natural law without any need for later miracles of creation.

Moreover, the miracles of salvational history--such as the resurrection of Jesus--add nothing to the natural morality required for earthly life. Rather, these miracles of salvation confirm the supernatural morality required for eternal life.

Theists believe that God designs every living being either through the ordinary laws of nature or through extraordinary miracles. So if Darwinian biologists can explain all living beings as products of a natural evolutionary process, theists can ponder this as a wondrous display of God's designing power working through natural laws.

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