Dennis Venema chats with Apologetics Canada about Adam & the Genome

(Dominik Kowalski) #21

I understand where you´re coming from but I want to ad something more.
First of all, there is also the “Panentheism”, that the universe is a part of God, but he is even more. Arthur Peacocke, a british biochemist held this view.
I´m not a fan of the concept, that the universe cannot exist without Gods support, because it makes it sound like God created something that he has to constantly hold together for it not to fall in pieces… Also the problem I see with Pantheism is that I fail to see how any such being could be involved in our life, since “God” would merely be the universe. Maybe the universe could have some sort of holiness to itself, but Gods actions would be very restricted.

(George Brooks) #22


Considering that the transcendental view has God create and end the entire Cosmos in a single instant, your fixation on terminology - - and your opposition to the use of this or that word - - seems to be an aesthetic of your subconscious mind, rather than a real difference in what these words mean.

After a few centuries of theological debate in the English language, the term “sustaining” has become a perfectly reasonable and useful word to separate Non-Deism from Deism.

If a Deist were speaking, the clock-maker God creates a mechanism that works… and then walks away (He has Heaven Can Wait reruns to watch!).

He (in this case, the Deist God of a Deist Cosmos), isnt sustaining ANYTHING…nature sustains itself!

So i recommend you get used to the idea that an active, non-Deist God does LOTS of sustaining!!! And that’s why most sermons or casual communications between lay-people has plenty of instances where “sustained” and “sustaining” (which rings poorly in your ear) becomes the best word to choose considering most of the alternatives.

(George Brooks) #23


In Other Words:
Your “real point” that sounds “a little too easy” to you, falls on deaf ears around here for a very simple reason:

Your preferred “phraseology” is too cumbersome to become popular (even though it means the exact same thing)! Please note that to make the two phrases comparable, I have removed references to humans in your version; your concern about deism needs to reflect comparable phrases that don’t mention humans:

"God is sustaining the existence of the Universe" = (m.o.l.)
= "God is actively involved in the Universe"

As you can see, once you remove the references to humans, your phrase and the phrase using “sustaining” are pretty much on par.

(Dominik Kowalski) #24

I just jump in quick, since this isn´t a given. Deism requires a non-sustaining being, that´s a given, but from this position, the only difference between theistic and deistic God would be that the latter chooses to not get involved with the universe. I don´t see a reason why a theistic God couldn´t be outside the realm and still be actively involved. The sustaining God is probabaly either pantheistic or panentheistic, but in either case, the state of the universe would have an inlfuence on God himself, since it now would be part of his body. He would maybe even underlie some restrictions.

(George Brooks) #25


I don’t see any reason He couldn’t either. If you are disputing something I wrote, then let me make a second attempt to explain my response:

The complaint about “sustaining the Universe” is that it sounds like God is not “actively engaged”. But that seems to be an artifact of how @mitchellmckain interprets words.

I think “sustaining the Universe” is plenty engaged.

Deism is equated to the “watch-maker” version of God.

Deism is a philosophical belief:
[Definition One] “… that posits that exists as an un-caused ultimately responsible for the creation of the universe, but does not interfere directly with the created world.”

There is a second definition of Deism that is used (according to the Wiki article linked below) which says:
“… deism can also be defined as the view which posits God’s existence as the cause of all things, and admits its perfection (and usually the existence of natural law and Providence), but rejects divine revelation or direct intervention of God in the universe by miracles.”

And this sounds like what @mitchellmckain is complaining about. But I find it hard to go along with the idea that God will PLAN things providentially (in other words, by the natural workings of the Universe) … but it’s all accidental or coincidental - - because God has walked away from his Creation.

I don’t think anyone here at BioLogos.Org would ever agree that their understanding of God is that he has walked away. Deists don’t expect God to answer prayers … everyone at BioLogos does (except, of course, for the atheist participants of BioLogos).

And if @mitchellmckain wants to argue that God “planned his answers” … but is literally not engaged in the answering (in real time), then [again] he is not discussing the viewpoint of any Christians I know of here at BioLogos.

(Dominik Kowalski) #26

This part caught my attention, and I remembered an article here where the author did indeed pretty much had that view. So to Mitchells defense:

That very much reminded me of one proposal (I don´t know if I read it here or somewhere else), that God set up a Super-Deterministic universe, which was planned to react in the way to someones prayer billions of years later, how God has wanted it at the beginning of time. Not my view of course and very strange to say the least

(George Brooks) #27


Read the last sentence in the 2nd paragraph I have pulled out of the article that you kindly linked here for us:

“But now to the main point: My thoughts about God’s mind and does it change when I pray. Incidentally what we’re talking about when we use the expression God’s mind are the fundamental laws of nature and in general what we’re talking about when we consider God’s involvement in our world is “divine action” (DA). Of course I don’t know but it seems to me that God’s mind (or the fundamental laws of nature) does not change, though our understanding does. Certainly so far whenever strange things are observed (in and out of medicine), things that heretofore and even now are called miracles, always, scientific scrutiny, when capable of comment, has found that these things follow natural laws or at least widely agreed upon “descriptions”. For example medical “descriptions” of seemingly fatal cancers have a wide range of possibilities ranging from extremely virulent to somewhat protracted courses, even (rarely) spontaneous cures which we euphemistically call “the freak rate” to dismiss our ignorance of what is going on.”

"But always we have the confidence that eventually these “freak” occurrences will be understood; we never really consider them miracles; that is, phenomena that truly violate the fundamental laws of nature. In that sense, I certainly have not seen a miracle in my medical career (now spanning over 30 years) and know of no physician who has. Yet that viewpoint, in my opinion, does not rule out a belief in God’s continued involvement in our world, in divine action."

Even using @mitchellmckain’s own words, this is not an example that fits @mitchellmckain’s definition.

The doctor wants to make a point that Miracles don’t have to be unlawful or supernatural operations. They can be Providential in nature (in other words, God working through natural laws).

The most concise way to determine if a model or example is Deistic is if God hears prayers in real time. If he does, how can that be a Deistic God?

(Mitchell W McKain) #28

No it is not a matter of aesthetics but of substance as opposed to empty rhetoric. As far as we are concerned a God who walks away and a God who just holds it together are indistinguishable.

And then there is the matter of the ineptitude implied by a God who cannot make a universe which sustains itself. And then there is the fact that this sustaining rhetoric still reminds me of a dreamer and dreaming a world is a poor substitute for creation.

Centuries of theological debate and popularity counts for absolutely nothing as far as I am concerned. The track record of such things is very poor. So, I am not getting used to anything. I will oppose what I think is wrong even if you make your demands with a gun pointed at me.

A real creator who is not utterly pathetic does not sustain His creation, He makes it capable of sustaining itself.

And yes the sustaining dreamer God is essentially panentheistic.

I never once said the sustaining made it sounds like God is not actively engaged. I ONLY said that this is insufficient to make any difference of substance between theism and Deism. The real difference is found in the active involvement in the events of our lives not in some empty meaningless rhetoric about God sustaining existence.

And my objection has nothing to do with ideas of planning, revelation, or miracles. That is just gbrooks9 making stuff up.

If miracles are defined as a violation of the laws of nature then I do not believe in them. But I do not define miracles that way. God can interact with world because the laws of nature are not deterministic. There are events which are not determined by any pre-existing conditions (no hidden variables). In those cases God is free to choose the outcome without breaking any laws as long as it doesn’t follow any consistent pattern. This limitations is more than enough to make most of the things in movies about ghosts unbelievable (as well as making unsupportable the idea of a spirit/soul operating the body like a puppet), but I don’t think this is much of an obstacle for God. Thus I define miracles as unlikely, surprising, and beneficial events which God had a hand in bringing about. Sounds like gbrooks9 term of “providential” is applicable.

(George Brooks) #29


Are you going to suggest to the Christians here that they are in danger of imagining their God, who holds the Universe together, isn’t also going to be “present” in their prayer life?

You are splitting hairs that the English language permits you to split… but your concerns are hardly a realistic representation of what people are believing or teaching.

You are disrupting the context of a God who is a package deal: He Sustains; He is Involved; He is Active…

… and you are worried that He Sustains-and-Ignores; that He is Not-Involved-Because-He-is-Too-Busy-Sustaining.

You are worried about nothing.

(Mitchell W McKain) #30

The point is this sustaining rhetoric says absolutely nothing about whether God is responding to their prayers. It doesn’t address the difference between theism and deism at all. Thus to say God is sustaining creation does mean anything about God involvement in our lives. It only tells us of His ineptitude and inability to actually create anything which works.

Worry? That is nonsensical. Why should I worry about what I do not believe in? I simply reject this theology. I believe in a God who sustains only in the sense of making sure events move in a fruitful direction not in this sense of a dreamer God whose dream will vanish the moment he doesn’t hold it together anymore.

(George Brooks) #31


The reason for that is because there are two phases of God’s creation - - at least in the evolutionary context:

  1. There’s billions of years without humans… and

  2. A little bit of time With humans.

Have you spent any time reading the “Mission Statement” for BioLogos?

The word “sustain” appears time, and 4 different phrases deal directly with God’s non-deist qualities…

(Chris) #32

Quite an interesting discussion. Well worth listening to.

(Chris) #33

And right on time a review of his book

Reading evolution into the Scriptures

A review of Adam and the Genome: Reading scripture after genetic science
by Dennis R. Venema and Scot McKnight

(Stephen Matheson) #34

This cruelty is all it takes to make someone an atheist.

(Phil) #35

I was thinking it more Christian to clean up the banana peels and remove the temptation for fruit flies to enter in and fornicate, but that was just me.

(Phil) #36

Interesting review. I find it telling that the reviewer tends to criticize what Venema doesn’t say, rather than addressing what he says directly in many cases. The problem I see with a lot of YEC arguments is that they contain lots of words, but little evidence. I would be more open if the rhetoric focused on the facts presented rather than on opinion.

(Dennis Venema) #37

It’s red wine. They die happy. :slight_smile:

(Matthew Pevarnik) #38

A few thoughts. Much of the review isn’t really about the book but rather the typical critique of the theory of evolution. The language analogy is particularly useful as put forth in the book, despite what the reviewer claims, especially for understanding how phylogenetic trees are made based upon common mutations/morphology/duplication events/Alu insertions/ERV insertions etc. Does he understand how such trees are made? I can’t imagine that he doesn’t. And despite the ridiculously long sub-article on how ‘languages are intelligently designed because they show an increase in complexity where genomes are on the down and out,’ you can make phylogenies based upon shared ‘mutations’ of languages too:

No discussion of a book would be complete without pitting the words of Jesus against the two authors and wonderful way to end though with blasting a few brothers in Christ as rejecting God’s words and much of ‘Christian tradition:’

Naturalism starts by rejecting God’s words in Genesis. Should we then re-interpret the science of Genesis in light of modern naturalistic science? This is the definition of circularity and the formula can only produce one result: a rejection of the historicity of Genesis. But what follows is a rejection of much of the Christian tradition. It is clear that both authors do exactly that.

(George Brooks) #39


But this is not universally true. There are dozens of cases where language evolves through simplification!

For example, with the Norman occupation of England, the presence of a Saxon peasantry and a French aristocracy slowly caused inflections to be replaced by word order. And yet, at the same time, with the increase in the total number of words that this new form of English started to absorb into its Lexicon, made English increasingly nuanced, all the while less complex in terms of conjugations and cases.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #40

Good additional information. So the claims about language in the review then are doubly wrong.