Christianity and ID

I generally think of Christians in America as being on “my side” of things. By my side I mean opposed to Cultural Marxism, socialism and so forth. That’s not always true, of course. Many Evangelicals are socialists. Many are simply religious and will vote for anyone who is “born again.” Jimmy Carter won a big slice of the Evangelical vote thus allowing him to carry the South and win the election. I’ve known many Evangelicals that think the only issue that matters in politics is the religion of the politician.

American Evangelicals are interesting to me in that I’m not entirely sure the current version is, strictly speaking, Christian. They certainly share much with traditional Christianity, but they have some big differences too. The focus on the text of the Bible is one obvious departure. Traditional Christians understand that the Bible, as we know it, evolved over centuries. Translations have errors and never fully capture the nuance of the original. Therefore, a literal interpretation is not possible.

This leads to some rather strange circular reasoning when talking with an Evangelical about scripture. Pointing out what I just wrote above about the trouble with translation is met with a quote from the Bible. If you make mention of the fact that the Catholic Church selected the books of the Bible and you get some other quote from scripture. The Bible is proof that the Bible is literally the word of God. It is a tautological defense that only makes sense to those who already believe. It’s many skeptics think Evangelicals are a cult.

That does not mean Evangelicals are a cult or way outside the definition of Christian, but it certainly sets them apart from the Christian tradition. I’m painting with a broad a brush here, so bear with me. I’m thinking mainly about the narrow strains within the Evangelical movement. The followers of Joel Osteen, for example, are a different breed of cat from the old ladies at First Evangelical. Watch one of Osteen’s preacher shows and the word “cult” comes to mind. In another age, Osteen would have been burned at the stake as a heretic.

What got me thinking about this topic is some posts I saw recently, railing against evolution. There is a sub-culture in the self-taught Christian sphere that seems to be an off-shoot of intelligent design. It’s not that they believe in ID or creationism, but they think you’re crazy for “believing” in the false god Darwin or his false religion, evolution. It’s mostly anti-Darwinsim, if there was such a thing as Darwinism. It’s as if they created a secular religion they can criticize. Anyway, it go me thinking about what ID’ers believe.

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. Through the study and analysis of a system’s components, a design theorist is able to determine whether various natural structures are the product of chance, natural law, intelligent design, or some combination thereof. Such research is conducted by observing the types of information produced when intelligent agents act. Scientists then seek to find objects which have those same types of informational properties which we commonly know come from intelligence. Intelligent design has applied these scientific methods to detect design in irreducibly complex biological structures, the complex and specified information content in DNA, the life-sustaining physical architecture of the universe, and the geologically rapid origin of biological diversity in the fossil record during the Cambrian explosion approximately 530 million years ago.

The implication here is that the designer, willy-nilly, chooses to rearrange the natural world as he/she/it sees fit. They carefully avoid discussing the designer as that would raise some uncomfortable issues, I’m assuming. Instead, they focus on the claims that certain natural phenomenon could not happen naturally and therefore must have been created by a designer for unexplained reasons. That last bit is important. The designer’s reasons are not only unknown; they are unknowable.Therefore, there is no need for inquiry.

The term for this is occasionalism. It is also explicitly anti-Christian. The foundation stone of Christianity is the fixed nature of God. When God makes a deal, he sticks to it and when he created heaven and earth, it was by fixed and discoverable rules. This idea, first promulgated by the Hellenized Jews, is a big deal in the evolution of religion. Instead of the super natural acting cynically and capriciously, God set the rules of nature and they are permanent. A rational God and a rational universe is the basis for Western civilization.

Now, creationism and intelligent design are harmless beliefs. Outside a few areas, people’s understanding nature is meaningless. Creationism is certainly inside the realm of traditional Christian theology, but intelligent designs seems to fall outside of it.  With creationism, God can be viewed as the watchmaker, who set all of the natural processes in motion. Young earth creationism is nuts, but the more common form is what the Church taught for a thousand years. Intelligent Design, in contrast, does not fit inside Christianity.

13 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
ganderson9754
ganderson9754
5 years ago

I guess I’m an IDer. I don’t believe this all happened by accident. That said I’ve never understood why evolution, or Darwinism, or whatever, is incompatible. Why couldn’t God have created a system that evolves?

ganderson9754
ganderson9754
Reply to  thezman
5 years ago

Figures- I am a Catholic, after all. Also I never got that separation of faith and works- what good is faith without works? I know why Luther stressed faith, due to particular corruptions within the church, but I think I’d rather live in a society that stressed works. However, while my Catholicism is somewhat cultural (that is to say I don’t feel particularly filled with the spirit of the Lord) I have come to the conclusion that, while individuals can be good without God, societies cannot. The people that tell me- “I’m a good person, I don’t have to go… Read more »

james wilson
james wilson
5 years ago

I guess I’m an ID’er of a sort, although I quickly become bored with explanations like the above. The intelligence is in the design of the building blocks, you just don’t know what you are going to get each time around. And life on earth has had a couple of trips from scratch.

el baboso
Member
5 years ago

I have privately called Evangelicals “Paulists” instead of Christians for some time. I have seen blogs where someone quoting from the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke) to support a point got shouted down by people using quotes from Paul (a guy who of his own admission never met Jesus and who got his start persecuting Christians) and a smattering of quotes from the Gospel of John. To me, the most surprising thing about the Paulists is their utter rejection of the Synoptics’ call to do good works (there Jesus commands his followers to give all they own to the poor,… Read more »

UKer
UKer
5 years ago

If all this happened by accident it is pretty amazing stuff. On the other hand, there are flaws in the system that a clever designer might have voided, though perhaps he/she/it was pressed for time.

You never know what was on people (or deities) minds when they started the ball rolling.

UKer
UKer
Reply to  thezman
5 years ago

There is, of course, the third view of all this which is rarely — and probably for good reason — not discussed much. We, and the universe around us, was (or is, for we are far from finished here) all one big experiment. “Let’s see what happens if you give them no rear vision capabilities, knees susceptible to ageing and an insatiable appetite for power with a large pinch of hypocrisy. Should be fun seeing what they do with that.’ So a lot of careful games design and the deities can sit back with the celestial popcorn and enjoy what… Read more »

Herzog
Herzog
5 years ago

A guy calling himself Gagdad Bob runs a stimulating and witty website (I believe the URL is onecosmos.blogspot.com but you can easily google him) on which he writes about theology and spirituality, as well as its various intersections with society and politics, from a nonconformist but by his own intention orthodox Christian perspective. Take a look.

His book One Cosmos also is worthwhile reading, exploring cosmological issues and how they interact with theology in a more methodical manner.

Steve C.
Steve C.
5 years ago

It’s funny how Catholics take so much criticism over how we dealt with Gallileo and yet have the most accessible view of the realtionship between faith and modern theories of how things, and we, came to be.
And this is not new. I was taught this way in school 45 years ago.

Peltast
Peltast
5 years ago

I really dislike evangelicals being raised as a Catholic, evangelical pastors are just a bunch of hucksters and their doctrine has nothing to do with Christianity, Gnosticism and Marcionism is more Christian than evangelism.