Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Inadequacies of Intelligent Design Argumentation

My post yesterday highlighting Melanie Phillips smackdown of anti-creationist Charles Johnson got me thinking about the need to clarify the true difference between Intelligent Design and biblical creationism. Johnson and his supporters all are under the self-imposed delusion that ID is just stealth creationism. But this is hardly the case as I have noted over the years posting on the subject of evolution and creationism. One of the first posts I ever wrote way back in 2005 was on the distinctions between ID and biblical creationism.

I recently finished reading one of the best books on biblical creationism published in some time, Coming to Grip with Genesis (see my review), and the editors wrote an epilogue in which they noted to key philosophical differences between ID and biblical creationism. They note at least six. I reproduced them here for your edification, slightly modified for my blog.

In more recent years, the Intelligent Design movement (IDM) has become popular in the Church. Most of the books generated by leaders in this movement have been published by evangelical publishers and have widely read in the Church. We greatly value the IDM arguments which expose the flaws of Darwinian evolution, and the sophisticated analysis which enables us to recognize design in nature (in contrast to what time, chance, and the laws of nature produce). These arguments have greatly supplemented the design arguments that young-earth creationists have used for decades both before and after the IDM arose.

We also appreciate the attention that the IDM has drawn to the influence of naturalism in Darwinian science. Ben Stein's provocative 2008 movie Expelled is a timely expose', demonstrating that the "evolution verse creation/design" debate is actually a worldview conflict, not a "science verses religion" debate. We believe that Expelled is extremely helpful and will open many people's minds to the nature of the battle. So we will continue to warmly appreciate and use much of what the IDM
has produced and encourage them to press on in the battle.
Having said this, we must also highlight briefly our concerns about the impact that the IDM is having on the Church.

First, from our reading and experience we believe it influences Christians to downplay the Word of God on this issue of the age of the earth, leading them to think it is somehow less clear in its teaching than science is. Books by IDM scholars might make some general reference to the Bible, but this often looks like an afterthought, or proof-texting, instead of seriously engaging the best exegesis related to the age of the earth, especially on Genesis. Also, many IDM leaders lecture in Christian contexts (churches, Christian universities, seminaries, Christian radio and TV, etc.). In those settings they either generally ignore Genesis (or at least one read naturally) as the promote old-earth views. This is not surprising since many in the movement are not evangelicals or necessarily even Christians. Leaders at the IDM's primary think tank, The Discovery Institute, are very frank about the fact that the movement has no religious boundaries. This ignoring of the
biblical text would not be a problem if Scripture said nothing related to geology, cosmology, and the age of the creation. But it does. And no serious follower of Christ can justifiably ignore His Word or superficially examine the relevant Scriptures on this subject.

Second, while the IDM leaders are good at highlighting the heavy influence of philosophical naturalism in biology, they ignore its equal domination of geology and astronomy, which is why most IDM proponents have accepted the millions of yeas as proven scientific fact. But, as we've shown, naturalism took control of geology and astronomy over 50 years ago before it took control of biology through Darwinianism. In fact, the former laid the foundation for the latter, which then has been the basis for evolutionizing every other field of study of the stranglehold of science by philosophical naturalism. Evolution is like a rope made of three inseparable cords: biological evolution (origin and historical development of life), geological evolution (origin and historical development of planet Earth), and astronomical evolution (origin and historical development of the cosmos and heavenly bodies). Christians are not really dealing adequately with evolution or philosophical naturalism if they do not realize this and deal with the biblical teaching on the age of the creation.

Third, because IDM arguments only focus on design, they do not seem to fully appreciate the theological importance of the origin of the natural evil we see in the world or, if they grasp the problem, they do not offer an adequate answer that is consistent with scriptural teaching about the Fall. Evolutionists have long pointed to disease, mutations, and natural disasters, concluding that if this is the work of an intelligent designer, he is sadistic. These sentiments go back as far as Darwin, who in an 1856 letter to Joseph Hooker, wrote, "What a book a Devil's Chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blunderingly low and horridly cruel works of nature." Unless we believe what Genesis says about the initially perfect creation where there was no animal or human death and what it says about the cosmic impact of the Fall of Adam in sin, then we are not offering a fully biblical theodicy to the most common objection to the Christian faith (i.e., how can there be a loving God with all the death and suffering and natural evil [e.g. hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis] in the world?).

Fourth, IDM arguments do not constitute a real alternative to old-earth evolutionism because the IDM arguments do not have a history attached to them. Inevitably, questions arise.
When did the "intelligent designer" do the creative work? Was everything created in one act? If so, how long ago? If not, what order were things created and how much time was between each creative act? Did "he" create only simple living cells and all plants and animals evolved from there with (or without) "his" providential control or intervention? Or did tangible narrative, the IDM arguments are no match for the evolutionist theory to explain all of reality. We submit that only a fully biblical view of origins and history is an adequate alternative to deep-time evolutionism.

Fifth, while creation certainly does point to a designer, it does more than that, according to Scripture. It points to the God of the Bible (Rom. 1:18-20). But IDM leaders either downplay this fact or in effect deny it, which is why evolutionists (who are not spiritually discerning) continually charge that the IDM is a covert form of young-earth creationism. In reality, most IDM leaders are quite strongly opposed to the young-earth view.

Finally, and fleshing out the previous point, the IDM arguments can only lead a person to belief in some vaguely defined "intelligent designer." According to Michael Behe, a leader in the IDM, the design arguments alone do not preclude the conclusion that the designer was a group of alien beings in outer space. Scripture, on the other hand, says that the creation bears clear witness to the true and living God, Creator of heaven and earth. The IDM, therefore, is overlooking much of the evidence (which points to God's holiness, justice, and wrath, as well as his love and intelligence and power). As a result, there are strange bedfellows in the IDM: deists, pantheists, and various kinds of theists. ...

So the IDM arguments do not necessarily lead people to Christ. If they do open a person to the idea that God exists, culminating later in conversion to Christ, such a person may have a struggle in believing Genesis because he has likely only had an accommodationist hermeneutic modeled for him. If his main mentors have shied away from "divisive reading of Genesis," where will a proper hermeneutical approach to Scripture be acquired? It is likely that he will have a lingering emotional attachment to IDM authors and their books which have helped him to believe in a Designer. In contrast, many people (and not a few scientists) are being won to Christ, and Christians are being won back to full confidence in Genesis by young-earth creationist presentations which employ both scientific and biblical arguments.

IDM leaders have a vision, represented by what Johnson calls the "wedge" strategy. The reasoning seems to be that if we start by dismantling the evolutionary paradigm in biology and getting biologists to embrace the intelligent designer concept, then later on we can work on the questions of the Creator's identity and the age of creation. If we get the wedge into the log of the evolution paradigm and open that crack big enough, then the log will split, it is hoped. But, we contend, this is a mistaken vision, because the Bible says that people who are not in right relationship with God are suppressing the truth in unrigtheousness (Rom. 1:18-20). The majority of biologists will never be won over to the intelligent design position, because ultimately this is a spiritual, worldview conflict, not a scientific debate.

Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth (429-433)



Blogger The Squirrel said...


I also see a division along the lines of presuppositional vs. evidential apologetics, with all ID proponents and many "creation scientists" on the evidential side of things. That's one of the reasons that I like Answers in Genesis so much, as they take more of a presuppositional stance.

Good article. Thanks!


12:38 PM, May 06, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

And that is one of the reasons I like AiG. They present a practical, real world application of presuppositional apologetics to probably the most important issue in our current day.


1:07 PM, May 06, 2009  
Blogger donsands said...

I heard Brian McLaren, sort of, mock Genesis 3, when he taught about "The Fall", and a walking and talking snake.

The Church is in trouble from the inside out. Not so much outside in.

Wonderful article.

5:32 AM, May 07, 2009  
Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I'm mildly confused.

I did think, and perhaps still do think, that ID is a potentially effective evangelism/apologetic tool for theism with the end goal of biblical Christianity for seekers and skeptics.

So as far as the accusation of ID being a stealth tactic for fulfilling the Great Commission, I have no problem with the accusation.

But if the accusation is that ID is a stealth tactic for YEC, then I think that accusation misses the mark.

What exactly is the accusation being lodged here?

1:17 PM, May 07, 2009  
Blogger The Squirrel said...


The accusation towards ID by secular evolutionists is, "They're not scientific! They're religious! They're no different than those yahhoo, hayseed, Creationist wingnuts, who think the Bible is actually true, and that Noah had dinosaurs on his boat!"

As a YEC-ist myself, I see ID as an example of Romans 1:20 - "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."


1:43 PM, May 07, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I did think, and perhaps still do think, that ID is a potentially effective evangelism/apologetic tool for theism with the end goal of biblical Christianity for seekers and skeptics.I would agree with the editors of the article who appreciate ID arguments, but recognize the movement is not specifically "Christian." I would add ID is more deistic than anything. The proponents, even the one's claiming to be Christians, don't argue for scripture and certainly not the God of scripture.

So as far as the accusation of ID being a stealth tactic for fulfilling the Great Commission, I have no problem with the accusation.That's just it, they aren't. They reject any relationship with biblical Christianity, most importantly, a biblical creationism, and that is what makes them problematic as a whole. In fact, I would even say dishonest. Even their opponents in the secular realm recognize this and calls them on it.

In the end, their arguments are inconsistent and dishonoring to their true creator.

4:59 PM, May 08, 2009  
Blogger The Squirrel said...


Exactly that! Intelligent design leads to a creator but not necessarily the Creator. Deism is the "logical" course of those who must accept a creator, but who refuse to accept the God of the Bible.


7:34 PM, May 08, 2009  

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