Does God Guide Evolution?

(Jeffrey Koperski) #41

I will need more time: approximately a year and half in order to finish my current book project, and that’s assuming that my Templeton grant goes through. I make no claims about what view is most acceptable to a Christian audience. That’s a different question altogether.

(George Brooks) #42


I’m hoping this amounts to a general “As You Were!” to the diverse aggregation of BioLogos supporters and their inclination to perceive God as planning all things.?

(Jeffrey Koperski) #43

It means I don’t have a dog in this fight (yet). I’m still trying to get a handle on the other dogs first.

(Jay Johnson) #44

Exactly the point. There are literally an infinite variety of ways that God could guide biological evolution, just as there are an infinite variety of ways that he could influence the course of human history. We simply don’t know enough about the exercise or limits of divine power to answer the question. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, no matter how many times the question is asked.

(Phil) #45

George, perhaps to look at God putting an asteroid in the right place and time to clear out the dinosaurs is thinking a bit too small. Perhaps God knew from the beginning that it would take a billion planetary systems around a billion stars (or perhaps a billion billion) in order to have one planet develop a life form capable of carrying his image. And he made it so. The causative act is not then the nudging of an asteroid in its orbit, but the act of creation itself

(George Brooks) #46



Which is why I produced Three Doors in my initial “diagnostic question”!

What you are suggesting is Door #2. But I am also quite fine with Door #3 being one of the logical options within the BioLogos umbrella. Door #1 seems rather non-Christian to me.

(Phil) #47

You may be the next Monte Hall of the forum. Now, which door has the goat behind it?
None of the choices really seem satisfying. But if I had to choose, guess door two would be it, though I would allow for perhaps some fine tuning by miraculous means here and there, though that leaves open the criticism that it really should not need it. However, perhaps there are some things like perhaps initial abiogenesis that needed a jump start. That too would leave the door open for a God of the gaps criticism.

(George Brooks) #48


Door #3 is the fine-tuning scenario. And some people love that door. Here’s why: let’s suppose you are an artist that works only in clay… clay and glazes of the most beautiful shades. And you have the perfect conclusion to your masterpiece … but the one thing you know in your mastery of clay is that clay will not support the final gorgeous imagery that you want.

What you need is something that won’t work in the natural world of the universe you have created. You want little tear drops of glass, that irradiate with purple light, and that taste like chocolate ice cream.

(Hey, @jpm, don’t ask me about the ice cream… that’s the inspiration I got for this discussion!)

So… at exactly the right moment, you create those gorgeous tear-drops and mix it into your clay … they aren’t natural. They are super natural. And they finish the project perfectly.

Those tear-drops are, in fact, souls that you have just added to a whole world of people you just created!

You say, to my surprise, that you think such behavior will be open to criticism that the scenario should not need such special workings. Humph… that’s a little presumptuous, don’t you think? Who are we to say what is or isn’t necessary in our Cosmos?

The reverse of this kind of presumptuousness is to then surmise… that if God does it, it should be detectable by scientific method. Oh brother … does this kervetching ever end?


I have not read the book but it is interesting to note who from the ID movement DID NOT participate in the critique: Behe (as far as I know), Denton, Berlinski, and Sternberg.

I think there are reasons for this and it’s interesting that Behe would actually AGREE with Ted Davis’s view of God’s subtle guidance of evolution though he would say this results in ID:

“But how could biochemical systems have been designed? Did they have to be created from scratch in a puff of smoke? No. The design process may have been much more subtle. It may have involved no contravening of natural laws. Let’s consider just one possibility. Suppose the designer is God, as most people would suspect. Well, then, as Ken Miller points out in his book, Finding Darwin’s God, a subtle God could cause mutations by influencing quantum events such as radioactive decay, something that I would call guided evolution. That seems perfectly possible to me. I would only add, however, that that process would amount to intelligent design, not Darwinian evolution.” See

Sternberg and Denton seem virtually indistinguishable from Third Way evolutionists and as Biologos has stated, the Extended synthesis is perfectly compatible with Biologos’s vision.

The biggest difference between Denton/Sternberg and Biologos is that Biologos is Christian and they are agnostics! I have a hard time believing that these guys see much value in the Discovery Institute basically doing 100 percent theology.

On the question of divine guidance, I think the main problem is that people like Meyer make ID such an essential part of Christian theology, that if one were to come to believe in the Neo-Darwinian model, this person might as well give up his Christianity! I think such a position sets people up to lose their faith. William Lane Craig has actually criticized Dembski for doing the same thing. Craig AGREES with Biologos that if neo-darwinism is true, God could guide this process.

As far as God’s guidance of the process, I agree with Ted Davis. I think it makes God more personal in his interaction with his creation.

An interesting question is, what do we mean when we say something like, “God brought this person into my life,” etc. How does God do these things? It seems our answer to how God guides evolution would be the same answer we would give as to how God guides our every day lives. I’m not really sure how to answer that yet. I guess I appeal to mystery and say that however it happens, it’s clear that it DOES happen!


(Jay Johnson) #50

That is what I was saying here:

To your question of God’s guidance in everyday life, Dallas Willard outlines a few principles in his book Hearing God, but most often it is through secondary, “ordinary” means, not miraculous interventions. To the outside observer, these appear perfectly mundane, as if nothing at all out of the ordinary had happened. And, if you try to explain an instance of God’s guidance in your life to an unbeliever, they will always have a “reasonable” alternative explanation, which usually comes down to “coincidence.”

Along the same lines, I see no reason why God could not guide evolution through secondary, “ordinary” means that would leave no trace to the outside observer. To demand that God’s guidance be empirically detectable in evolution when it is not in any other situation is an unreasonable demand. And although I can look at the process of evolution through the eyes of faith and see God’s involvement at every step, the unbeliever will always have an alternative “reasonable” explanation, simply because they are determined to find one.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #51

I had/am having an email exchange with Eddie, who raised good points in regard to a post of mine above where I had written:

He responded (rightly I think) to me/us that this is a logical fallacy in which I take one statement: that “events should, in principle, be able to be identifiable as God’s actions”; and to assume the person so convicted then is implying that God’s hand is not in everything else such as photosynthesis or rain drops. I am not showing Eddie’s email here, but I do paste my response to him below.

I concede my error in logic. And I should know better too, having taught about that fallacy (assuming the inverse – or “affirming the consequent” as I guess it is more commonly called) in some of my own classes! You are correct that it does not follow that stating that action X is from God necessarily implies that action Y is not.

In the interest of defending myself somewhat and giving some push back, let me see if I can reformulate my position in something of a more coherent manner. So you state that those (such as Aquianas of old or perhaps some IDists today) can affirm that some actions of God might be scientifically detectable as such, which in no way forces the conclusion that God’s hand is not therefore in everything else too. [my former error which I now repent of thanks to your challenge.] Okay. Acknowledged. Here is what remains that still stands between me and whole-hearted, strong-ID endorsement. I am not aware of any compelling success on the strong-ID front in their mission to produce this empirical evidence that distinguishes phenomenon X (God’s special action) from phenomenon Y (God’s ordinary action). Granted, I’m not in any position to have directly evaluated all proposed evidence that has thus far been advanced. So I’m relying on experts in various fields whom I decide to trust to have reliably vetted all such evidence for me, and I can accept or reject their appraisal of it, but that judgment of mine involves trust since the subject will often be outside my capacities for direct evaluation. And here I think you and ID proponents attack another potential weakness: if all these experts on whom I bestow such trust have themselves adhered to a prior commitment that such [distinguishing] evidence cannot possibly exist, then how could they possibly be reliable judges of arguments advancing that very proposition? Am I correct to guess that this is what you see as a fatal weakness of methodological naturalism – that commitment to it disqualifies one from being able to render valid judgments in sorting out what might be God’s special action as opposed to God’s ordinary action?

If I have accurately captured your thoughts above, I’ll even further concede that I think this is a valid point too, though there are answers to it which may be given. One would be that my trust of experts is not a blind trust. I do have enough fundamental scientific knowledge and literacy that, when coupled with an expert’s skilled communication abilities to meet the lay-person half way, I can evaluate evidence almost directly. Another answer is that I remain to be convinced that methodological naturalism is so completely the poison pill that its detractors make it out to be. I.e. while many do emotionally adhere to that commitment as a strongly metaphysical one [thus validating your criticism in spades], there are yet many others [committed theists and Christians, no less] who continue to give ID arguments a fair hearing, and yet continue to not see anything convincing. Is that warrant for cynicism? Perhaps. But I do think it important that these fair hearings continue to be given for this very reason – so that your valid concerns do get some answer. Those who hold to a ‘softer’ form of MN as a mere description (rather than a harder MN as an imposed prescription) need to continue to weigh in freshly as trustworthy experts on these questions so that we don’t fall prey to your criticisms.

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I do believe I’ll copy and paste my response here onto the forum since I gather you can’t, and it involves me retracting some of what I posted there [here].

(Ryan weatherly) #52

My simple response , if God is the creator of all existence , the author of the " grand equation",
"God said let " …
Then by default every natural law , mechanism , checks and balances that govern existence is by God’s command .
It is my opinion that God need not micro manage his own systems ,if he is perfect in his knowledge , then any event is by his design ,and that God’s direct involvement in most things is a matter of prophecy/foreknowledge/instruction/wisdom /gifts of the spirit ,etc etc …

(George Brooks) #54


And thus you render useless the term natural vs. supernatural.

There is a role in creation for God’s special acts of the miraculous… in addition to the general acts of the constant miracles that some people hold natural law to be.


Interesting point of view. First you reject scientism then you claim to adhere to the scientific evidence for evolution which in itself is based on scientism.
The better view in my opinion is that God created everything in 6 days as clearly and unambiguously stated in the bible and hence no darwinian evolution was required. God also built in the required ability to adapt to signals picked up from the environment and adapt and or speciate in response. Rapidly.

On the other hand if God is guiding the evolutionary process and death occurred before the sin of Adam, then God is the most horrific monster in all of the disease, pain, death and suffering he caused. God then is rightfully described as by Dawkins. There can be no middle ground on that one. Either God did it or He did not. You chose to let it be stated that God did it. So God is responsible for it.

P.S. It’s also interesting that you vigorously quote the bible to support your point of view yet do not quote the very pertinent texts in Genesis 1 and Exodus 20:8-11 where God clearly states that He created in 6 human-understandable days. These texts clearly contradict any notion of evolutionary creation. [content removed by moderator.]

(Jon Garvey) #56

Phil @jpm,

But if I had to choose, guess door two would be it, though I would allow for perhaps some fine tuning by miraculous means here and there, though that leaves open the criticism that it really should not need it. However, perhaps there are some things like perhaps initial abiogenesis that needed a jump start. That too would leave the door open for a God of the gaps criticism.

This thread shows, perhaps for the first time in years, just how widely the views within (the higher levels) of EC range. Whilst I welcome, for example, the distancing of Ted from John Haught’s view of the resurrection, the latter still writes as a theistic evolutionist. A theological “position” on origins that can both affirm or deny the bodily resurrection of Christ is too theologically broad to be helpful to the Evangelical Church, and so the boundaries need to be more clearly drawn. Is Haught (purely as an example already given) “within the pale” of BioLogos, or not? Is Ted’s disagreement with him just an example of big tent diversity, or a demarcation boundary of “biologos” as Francis Collins’ theory?

(Analogy - Eddie has pointed out to me that the Theistic Evolution tome was not produced by Discovery Institute [contra Deb Haarsma’s post], but apparently by Biola.

Edit - I didn’t mean to give the impression that the book was an official Biola effort, but that a number of the writers are from there - and it’s published by Crossway. In either case, it’s not a Discovery Institute project.

If we want to attribute all ID to “Discovery Institute”, then are we not also bound to attribute all theistic evolution to “BioLogos”? Clearly not - each issue must be discussed in its own right, and not as “What ‘they’ say.” It would have been better were Eddie allowed to speak for himself here, of course)

Reading the thread up to this point, it is clear that pushing some of the points made would reveal some of the views stated to be simply incompatible - and I guess that pushing is required (elsewhere) to provide a process of natural selection and narrow the field of what is internally coherent, not to mention compatible with science and Scripture.

However, what seems the nearest thing to a common denominator on the thread, and a USP for BioLogos against ID, is some idea of the necessary completeness of “natural processes”, lest (as in your own stated preference here) you fall foul of the “God of the Gaps.”

And yet, to me, it is hard to find solid ground on which to base such a belief in the completeness of science, once one cheerfully accepts the reality of extra-scientific categories of divine action, or willing, or whatever word doesn’t create such a gap.

Presumably to clarify “natural” one must take some definition of scientific causation like “material efficient causes,” and make the intellectual leap to claiming that there is, in fact, such a causally complete chain in the Universe, to which divine action is either completely orthogonal (as in Jim’s formulation) or acts in tiny gaps that science already acknowledges (as in the Russell/Davis quantum mutation idea), or which has occasional naughty exceptions, as in your comment.

But the completeness of such science, like the corresponding theological idea that God must not act simply as “another” cause in his creation, is overturned by BioLogos’s universal belief in miracles, as stated by Jim. In that realm, bread and fish are multiplied by God, acting as a cause in the world, involving supernatural material efficient causation. Any argument that this involves Jesus as incarnate in the world is overturned by an OT equivalent like the widow’s cruse. Few, I think, argue that such acts come under “natural material efficient causes.”

The “science offers complete explanation” belief then has to become a belief in a closed (as far as material efficient causation goes) system of “scientific causes” that is universal “in nature”, but not in salvation history. The boat is then beginning to leak badly, because “salvation history” and “nature” are only human divisions of the world, and we need some firm basis for claiming that God sees “nature” as any different from “salvation” - what if they are both aspects of his immanence in all things?

It’s the old (but good) analogy of God as a master musician rather than a master artificer: not only is there no music at all if the musician is not playing the instrument (divine conservation), but the character of the music is the ongoing outcome of the player’s action (divine creation, government and providence). There are no gaps to fill, because the instrument, without the player, is dead.

One may disbelieve in the player, which leaves one having to believe the music arises from some other invisible entity such as Epicurean chance, but then the belief that the instrument is a complete explanation of the music is not so much incomplete, as simply wrong.

(Jon Garvey) #57


An interesting question is, what do we mean when we say something like, “God brought this person into my life,” etc. How does God do these things? It seems our answer to how God guides evolution would be the same answer we would give as to how God guides our every day lives. I’m not really sure how to answer that yet. I guess I appeal to mystery and say that however it happens, it’s clear that it DOES happen!

Mark, just picking up this point in relation to my reply to jpm, the whole controversy, virtually, rests on this. Two millennia of theology have dealt pretty comprehensively with divine continuous creation, providence, answered prayer and personal guidance. Mystery remains, but it is not inscrutable.

Suppose we do place both God’s active relationship with believers and evolution (and nature more widely) into the same “mystery” category. Then we have a simple analogy: just as we identify that our providential escape from death was God’s act, we might say that the evolution of the human eye was equally so. Neither case is provable, of course, to the unbeliever, but neither would regard nature as causally autonomous either, which seems to me the key issue.

Jesus challenged the Pharisees, if they would not believe his worlds, to believe the miracles, the implication being that any explanation of his works falling short of divine action would expose them as, in effect, fools. The results demonstrated the divine action adequately. Whether or not “science” would be competent to recognise such a thing is of very little import - the human scientist who failed to recognise the limitations of his methodology would be as much of a fool as the Pharisees.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #58

So it’s not logically possible that there was free will in creation before Adam?

This option is not without its problems, but it is at least a “middle ground.” Your dichotomy is false, my friend.

(Phil) #59

Good discussion. It seems to me that there is a difference in everyday occurrences, and specific miraculous acts, but yet this division is an artifact of modern thought, as I suspect ancient people would not make that distinction.

(George Brooks) #60


You can’t have it both ways.

Your verdict about a God using Evolution doesn’t seem to blush at all about God’s unflinching willingness to destroy the innocents by means of the Global Flood, or by means of the Destroyer in the Book of Exodus.

(Jon Garvey) #61


That “artifactual” idea cuts deep, it seems to me, quite apart from ancient lack of distinctions… On the one hand, as we pray each day for our daily bread, we’re clearly expecting God to provide, but not necessarily miraculously.

On the other, the major question on nature that we consider here, the creation of the species, isn’t exactly an everyday event. The origin of life even less so, of course, especially if one holds to universal common decent, in which case it’s as unique an event as any miracle.