One of our most frequent challenges at BioLogos is finding the right words to describe what we believe and affirm. Simply put, the good words are already used by movements opposed to our position. This puts us in an awkward spot. We’re proud to call ourselves “creationists” (of the evolutionary sort) and we fully believe that creation reflects God’s good, wise, and—yes—intelligent design. But because these words are so often associated with movements that reject mainstream, consensus science, we use them with an abundance of care. And we try to slowly detach these words from the cultural connotations which they’ve earned and reclaim them in service of a perspective which integrates rigorous science and good theology.
Reclaiming the vocabulary of the origins debate is a slow and complex task. It requires pulling apart layers of meanings and revealing the presuppositions underneath. BioLogos content manager Jim Stump, as our resident philosopher of science, is an expert at this task. In a recent book review published in Christian Century, he endeavors to reclaim the word “design.” He praises philosopher Benjamin C. Jantzen, writer of the recently published book An Introduction to Design Arguments, for exposing the "soft underbelly" of popular design arguments. Design, as Jim explains, is a term used frequently in science-based arguments for God’s existence—but often in unhelpful or misleading ways. As he writes,
Instead of attempting to exploit the insufficiencies of science to prove the existence of God, perhaps the more constructive approach is to look at the natural world in the light of faith. We see God’s hand throughout the created order not because science can’t explain nature, but because it can. The Designer’s mark is not in systems that don’t work quite right and need tinkering; those are signs of imperfection. Scientists—whether Christians or not—who uncover the inner workings of nature are the ones who learn something of the mind of God.
Read the full review here. If you’re interested in reading more about how evolutionary creationists use the word “design” in reference to nature, check out the further reading below—especially the excellent essay by Alister McGrath on natural theology vs. “intelligent design.”
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blog/reclaiming-design