Still puzzled about how to react to the perception that “EC is deism”

That Trevor Noah thing was a mind burst and I will take it to other contexts than the Biologos forum, now that I see more of the type of questions that are appropriate for this context. I will go to friends local and national friends who watch a lot of political television and care about the interface of faith and politics.
Sorry for the confusion! My confused welter of mental experiences jangled together.

I learned to turn off my phone yesterday and it stopped the confusion because among other things I blocked myself from access to disturbing information about science and faith in America. And politics on the national level.

So back to Biologos specific concerns…

…Mark, the engineer in Campus Crusade staff who discipled me at Yale still thinks evolutionary creation is deism. It just isn’t hands on enough for him. God hands on intervening in creation is the only biblical position Mark sees

…this requires Christians to do science differently from atheists and demands the scientific community redefine the entire scientific method. This is the demand of the Intelligent design movement Mark so astutely follows.

I cannot tell you how many parachurch staff and Dallas pastors believe evolution is just pure deism and pure chance.

The book Theistic Evolution by ID favoring people makes exactly the same argument.

As a historian of these issues, this to me is one of most pressing issues EC people must answer, and I am clueless as to what to say to my friend Mark.

His name wife Carol is influential at the Wisconsin capital with regard to Christian schools.

Advice and perspective welcome!

Yes and scientists are atheists, Democrats are communists, Christians are cannibals, men are psychopaths, women are whores, and anyone who disagrees with them in any way is a post-modernist. This is NOT an honest perception. This is willful ignorance and hate motivated rhetoric that puts people into a limited number of bins without discernment or caring one whit for actual definitions.

Deism is a belief in a God who sets it all in motion, sits back to watch and does not interact with His creation. The truth is that this whole clever designer watchmaker god conception is much MORE aligned with Deism. The whole point is that living things are NOT machines made by a clever designer (which we now know is something that any computer AI can do better than human beings anyway). The way you create living things is not by design blueprints but by relationship to contribute to their growth, and learning. God is shepherd, teacher, and parent not a watchmaker because we are not machines or robots no matter how much those using religion as a tool of power want us to be.

@jbabraham88

Deists do not allow for God to answer prayers in real time. And aside from the Big Bang, there are no further miraculous events in the Universe … it’s all natural law.

Does he think weather forecasting and auto mechanics are also deism?

What does the scientific method look like when any experiment or observation can have any outcome at any time because of God’s intervention? (And doesn’t the intelligent design movement swear up and down that their designer need not be supernatural?)

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I always explain it like this. It usually overlaps with some other things.

I explain that the same unanswerable questions that make some people push for a god of the gaps pushes others towards a truth that will be revealed.

Like currently it seems like there is a lot missing from abiogenesis. That leads many to see a god of the gaps. I see it as simply gaps of knowledge. But just because I see it as gaps of knowledge does not mean that I reject God was not involved in setting up the laws of the universe. We often run with this problem. “God of gaps” and “god of the unlikely probabilities coming together” verses how will a seemingly fine tuned universe have its mysteries slowly stripped away and explained through natural processes that can be answered without a need for a god.

So what I always tell them is that I don’t look into science to prove god or disprove god. I have zero scientific reasons to believe god exists. I only f
ind god in gaps and unlikely probabilities and I imagine as one gap is closed and another probability is showed to be more likely than I thought it will in fact open up another room.

But even if ever door and everything mystery is known there is no reason to believe I’ll shed my faith. Just because I don’t know what mysteries will be solved does not mean that there won’t be new mystery brought forth.

It’s one of those things that sound sillier the longer you try to make ground to defend your belief.

So for me this verse sums it up.

Hebrews 11:3
New American Standard Bible
3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

So I don’t believe God is a distant God from us. I believe he’s very active in our life and it’s by faith. Sure I see god in the creation of laws that resulted in ecology. A world where everything constantly results in more life. Mass extinctions result in more evolved forms. Everything does well results in more evolved things. Humans wrecking everything results in other earthlings having to come up with ways to respond to it and evolve. ( no thats not a justification for bad stewardship )

Same as improbabilities can always be made more likely.

Take every person who ever catches a ball at a baseball game. They think how amazing and lucky they were. What are the chances out of a million it’s them! They think about how everything led up to them buying tickets. If they did not talk with a friend after watching a show on Netflix which a baseball game that inspired them to see one and then they ended up not getting a ticket because a check was late and then they sold a old couch and got TV Electra money and bought a ticket and boom now they just caught a ball! Yet it happens hundreds of times throughout the world by people with random chances.

So for me it’s always seeing by faith and by faith seeing God in everything and I don’t care if it’s stupid. I still believe in it. I’m still fully convinced that it’s real. Even if everyone here at BioLogos jumped ship and rejected God my faith would be there.

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Here is how I try and deal with issue for people who have trouble conceptualizing EC as something other than deism.

Very briefly: I point to the death of Jesus. Jesus’s death can be analyzed from a socio-cultural perspective. His death can be seen as the result of the political realities of his time and place. Jesus was the victim of Roman authorities and some religious leaders in Jerusalem. He died by being crucified, in the same way as hundreds of others have died.

So my question is: Does the fact that Jesus’s death is able to seen as embedded socio-cultural context mean that it doesn’t have theological significance? That Jesus’s death is merely a tragic accident of history?

So if Jesus’s death doesn’t exclude God and theological significance even though we can understand it at a historical, socio-cultural level, then why should an evolutionary process of creation exclude God and theological significance?

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As a Reformed Baptist, I believe that my salvation was BOTH from the influence of faithful men and women around me AND a God who ordained it from before the foundations of the earth were laid. Many ID (and YEC) are comfortable with that dynamic. All along the way, the Holy Spirit gently softens and changes our heart, step by step.

How is that different from EC? The earth was created from the influence of various natural processes over time AND God intimately ordained each and every one. All along the way God holds it together and even entered into it Himself in the person of Jesus.

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Josh,

If helpful, my $.02:

I think many people perceive EC as Deism in the limited sense that, essentially, God’s only direct involvement was in perhaps fine#tuning the laws of nature, and setting them up, and or setting up the precise starting conditions…

But, unless I entirely misunderstand EC (and someone please correct me if I am misrepresenting)… once God did this, and set up the very initial conditions of the universe, at that point he took his hands off and allowed everything to unfold strictly by the laws of nature he had established. I.e., from that point forward, God was no longer intervening in a direct sense in the development of humans. Our outcome, our five fingers, our brains, our sense of conscience and morality, are able to be explained Entirely by appeals to our evolutionary development by the laws of nature.

In that limited sense, I grant why some people would perceive EC as bordering in Deism. Personally, I think that an inaccurate and unfair characterization. Devotees of EC can certainly recognize and acknowledge God’s care, involvement in humanity, answering prayers, intervening in human lives, and (most significantly), the incarnation. Moreover, I can appreciate (even if I disagree with) the concept that, having set up the natural laws, and infallibly knowing their outcome, it does not follow that he was “uninvolved” with humanity… any more than one would say that I, after setting up a complex chain of dominoes, but then letting it unfold as I had planned, was “uninvolved” in the final outcome of the domino chain.

Not sure if that helps, but while I understand why in a very limited sense one might see some greater similarity Between EC and Deism, in all fairness I would think it a terrible mischaracterization, and essentially a straw man argument that imputes beliefs to EC adherents that they would themselves most vehemently deny.

You misunderstood. There is no claim that God took His hands off and was not involved in the lives of the what He created. There is an opposition to the idea that the theory of evolution is insufficient to explain how the species could have come about and thus that the intervention of a designer is required. That much is true. But it is generally recognized that what has come about is only one of many possible outcomes to the process of evolution which includes many random factors. It is therefore not excluded by EC that God had a hand in choosing which of these possible outcomes came to pass.

It seems like a subtle point but the reason why it is so important is that EC seeks to be a reconciliation between science and Christianity and there is no reconciliation possible if theology seeks to sticks its nose into the process of scientific inquiry. There is no more scientific evidence of divine intervention in evolution than there is scientific evidence that prayers are answered. But this does not mean that there is no divine involvement in evolution or that God does not answer prayers.

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I think only a small segment would describe things this way. I don’t see how God can take his hands of and simultaneously be intimately involved in his creation, which is what I hear most ECs affirming.

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I for one don’t significantly disagree, but I was addressing the question as to why EC is perceived by many as deistic (however falsely), and I do think this is the main reason.

While I concur many here would certainly affirm God’s intimate involvement, as you note, it is, we still must recognize, it is not a direct or detectable involvement (able to be empirically distinguished from what we recognize as “natural processes”.) … I.e., the kind and manner of God’s involvement that is practically indistinguishable what one would perceive if one was in fact a deist.

In other words, if someone was a devout and committed deist, who believed in a God who had indeed created and started this intricate universe and set up the fine tuning and initial conditions… and who then, indeed, had entirely and completely “taken his hands off” and for all practical reasons “left the building”…

The way that this deist would explore the science (the world, its processes, the development of life) would nevertheless be indistinguishable from the way an EC devotee would explore the science, unless there is still something I miss.

Hence why I think there is still going to be a perception of practical deism within EC (whether rightly or wrongly).

That is, the method insisted by EC is “methodological naturalism”: even if individuals here are not philosophically or religiously “naturalists”, they embrace a method of doing science that would be indistinguishable from how a true philosophical naturalist does science.

In that sense, one could similarly say that EC practices “methodological deism.” The individuals may not be philosophically or religiously deists, but they yet embrace a method of doing science that would be indistinguishable from how an actual deist would do the science involved.

Hi Daniel I think you are right about how EC can be perceived and even actually held.

I think this is why considering Jesus’s death is such an important locus for thinking about issues of methodological naturalism vs something more.

Jesus’s death can be analyzed at a purely historical, socio-cultural level. Believer and non-believer alike can come up with same historical analysis as to the basic historical facts about Jesus’s death. In essence then what you say,

It could also be said about any reasonable historical analysis of Jesus’s death. However Christians will also see Jesus’s death as being one part of the most theologically charged events in history.

As far as I am concerned, I think we must conclude that being able to apply a kind of methodological naturalism at one level doesn’t exclude theological significance beyond that.

So if someone accuses EC of deism because of how evolution is understood at one level of analysis, then I think they would have to logically conclude that any historical analysis of Jesus’s death also carries with it the same problems, but such a conclusion about Jesus’s death is absurd.

This is why I think most EC would agree with what Mitchell McKain says,

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I like what you said, but isn’t Jesus resurrection much more relevant to the question at hand?

Anyone… atheist, Deist, Christian, Buddhist can agree with the essential science involved that Jesus died (except Muslims I suppose)… and that this was essentially a “natural” event… there isn’t really any dispute about that. I grant that we as Christians can perceive greater theological significance to this event, and recognize God’s hand in and through and behind it.

But no one appeals to, or suggests, that divine intervention was necessary for Jesus to die. For him to be raised, on the other hand…

So much more relevant to me is the question of how we approach Jesus resurrection… should we approach that phenomenon the same way EC approaches any other historical or scientific phenomenon? Should we resist any appeal to “divine intervention”, always resisting appeals to divine agency in that event, and maintain a constant and perhaps undending search for natural explanations to that phenomenon?

To paraphrase from the Biologos website, should we say…

At BioLogos, we believe that our intelligent God raised Christ from the dead, but we do not see scientific or biblical reasons to give up on pursuing natural explanations for how God governed that natural phenomenon. We believe that scientific explanations complement a robust theological understanding of God’s role as healer life-giver, and raiser of Christ.

Agreed. But we are talking about beliefs not perceptions.

Yes, because they would argue that the only way to do science is the way science is done, which is by methodological naturalism. If it’s by another method, it isn’t science.

One can practice methodological naturalism from any worldview, the way a Pentecostal does science should be indistinguishable from the way an atheist does science. There is no such thing as methodological deism, that’s just silly. You can’t tell anything about a person’s view of God by the way they do science if they are doing science the way science is done.

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Ok so here is how I see things,

No I don’t think that resurrection is more significant for the question at hand. Evolution and Jesus’s death are more relevant to one another. What looks like methodological naturalism for EC also looks like methodological naturalism for the death of Jesus.

Jesus’s resurrection does not fit here because methodological naturalism is ill suited to deal with analyzing the resurrection from a historical perspective. If we had similar reasons for thinking evolution couldn’t be analyzed in way that looks like “methodological naturalism” I would be on board with that.

It’s only when we broaden the context of what we are looking at that this appearance of methodological naturalism breaks down.

I don’t personally find methodological naturalism as a static method useful.

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Also I think the same historical methodology that lets us understand Jesus’s death also lets us understand Jesus’s resurrection. Incorporating methodological naturalism would be a hindrance to historical methodology by ruling out Resurrection apriori.

Not to detract from your main point here (I agree with it); but yet it never fails to startle my settled convictions, such as they are, when I read the first part of this verse from Isaiah 53, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.” (or ‘pain’ could have been translated ‘disease’.)

That verse [fragment], seen in isolation does not at all fit what I think is revealed about God in the rest of Scriptures as a whole. But yet it remains there as a startling reminder of just how the ancients saw God’s hand in everything including the mundane … including even evil!

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(For what it’s worth, this modern man sees God’s hand in everything including the mundane … including even evil ! And of course, I embrace that since it is all over the Bible, pretty impossible to get around. “If calamity comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?” “I bring prosperity and create calamity.” “The Lord gave, and the Lord took away…” “You intended time harm me, but God intended it for good,” “this man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge, and you, with wicked hands, put him to death…” etc.)

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Precisely right.

And that is essentially why I find methodological naturalism to be a hindrance to finding truth in the biological questions. IF God ever did intervene in the past in some kind of direct and/or miraculous way in order to bring about certain biological achievements that nature wouldn’t have been able to do “on its own”, methodological naturalism would never learn a thing about that… because it rules out consideration of God’s direct involvement a priori.

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I am in full agreement with you. Having this perspective also makes EC simple to incorporate and opposed to Deism,

But since our sluggish minds rest far beneath the height of Divine Providence, we must have recourse to a distinction which may assist them in rising. I say then, that though all things are ordered by the counsel and certain arrangement of God, to us, however, they are fortuitous,—not because we imagine that Fortune rules the world and mankind, and turns all things upside down at random (far be such a heartless thought from every Christian breast); but as the order, method, end, and necessity of events, are, for the most part, hidden in the counsel of God, though it is certain that they are produced by the will of God, they have the appearance of being fortuitous, such being the form under which they present themselves to us, whether considered in their own nature, or estimated according to our knowledge and Judgment. Let us suppose, for example, that a merchant, after entering a forest in company with trust-worthy individuals, imprudently strays from his companions and wanders bewildered till he falls into a den of robbers and is murdered. His death was not only foreseen by the eye of God, but had been fixed by his decree. For it is said, not that he foresaw how far the life of each individual should extend, but that he determined and fixed the bounds which could not be passed (Job 14:5). Still, in relation to our capacity of discernment, all these things appear fortuitous. How will the Christian feel? Though he will consider that every circumstance which occurred in that person’s death was indeed in its nature fortuitous, he will have no doubt that the Providence of God overruled it and guided fortune to his own end. The same thing holds in the case of future contingencies. All future events being uncertain to us, seem in suspense as if ready to take either direction. Still, however, the impression remains seated in our hearts, that nothing will happen which the Lord has not provided. In this sense the term event is repeatedly used in Ecclesiastes, because, at the first glance, men do not penetrate to the primary cause which lies concealed. And yet, what is taught in Scripture of the secret providence of God was never so completely effaced from the human heart, as that some sparks did not always shine in the darkness. Thus the soothsayers of the Philistine, though they waver in uncertainty, attribute the adverse event partly to God and partly to chance. If the ark, say they, “Goes up by the way of his own coast to Bethshemish, then he has done us this great evil; but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us, it was a chance that happened to us.” (1 Sam. 6:9). Foolishly, indeed, when divination fails them they flee to fortune. Still we see them constrained, so as not to venture to regard their disaster as fortuitous. But the mode in which God, by the curb of his Providence, turns events in whatever direction he pleases, will appear from a remarkable example. At the very same moment when David was discovered in the wilderness of Maon, the Philistines make an inroad into the country, and Saul is forced to depart (1 Sam. 23:26, 27). If God, in order to provide for the safety of his servant, threw this obstacle in the way of Saul, we surely cannot say, that though the Philistine took up arms contrary to human expectation, they did it by chance. What seems to us contingence, faith will recognise as the secret impulse of God. The reason is not always equally apparent, but we ought undoubtedly to hold that all the changes which take place in the world are produced by the secret agency of the hand of God. At the same time, that which God has determined, though it must come to pass, is not, however, precisely, or in its own nature, necessary. We have a familiar example in the case of our Saviour’s bones. As he assumed a body similar to ours, no sane man will deny that his bones were capable of being broken and yet it was impossible that they should be broken (John 19:33, 36). Hence, again, we see that there was good ground for the distinction which the Schoolmen made between necessity, secundum quid, and necessity absolute, also between the necessity of consequent and of consequence. God made the bones of his Son frangible, though he exempted them from actual fracture; and thus, in reference to the necessity of his counsel, made that impossible which might have naturally taken place.

(John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.16.9)

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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