Stephen Barr, in the entry below , expresses a frustration that some of us have faced, and continue to face, with ID advocates, many of whom are our friends.

Take, for example, John West’s interpretation of Romans 1:20. Paul writes: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (NIV). West comments : “Taken on its own terms, Paul is clearly offering a general statement of principle that applies to all sorts of created things, not just those in the heavens.”  Setting aside the question of how one moves from the bacterial flagellum to God’s eternal power and divine nature, what precisely is the principle that West thinks Paul is suggesting by which we are left without excuse when we encounter the created order? Is it William A. Dembski’s explanatory filter , Michael Behe’s irreducible complexity , William Paley’s argument from analogy , Alvin Palntinga’s case for the proper basicality of theistic belief and why one may have a disposition to see God’s handiwork in the starry heavens, or   Etienne Gilson’s defense of final and formal causes in nature ?  What is it? Paul does not tell us. I do think, however, it is safe to say that Paul was not suggesting that his principle could only be licitly applied by means of a small set of sophisticated philosophical and scientific arguments coming out of America’s Pacific Northwest . Granted, these arguments are not contrary to Paul’s principle. But neither would it be contrary to Paul’s principle for one to express skepticism, doubt, or caution about these arguments. Furthermore, Paul is not suggesting that those who express these sentiments are denying that one cannot see God’s invisible qualities (i.e., His attributes) in the created order. In fact, Paul does not even say that an argument is required for one to see the divine nature in the natural world.

It seems to me that my friend John West thinks that if one is not totally convinced by, or harbors doubts about, the leading ID arguments in biology, then one holds to a view to contrary to Paul’s. But, as we have seen, that is not true.  It follows, then, that it is not even true that one is denying that the human intellect, unaided by special revelation, has the power to know that the existence and order of the natural world is created and sustained by a divine being with a particular nature and qualities. That is all that one is required to believe if one accepts Romans 1:20.  And that is what Stephen Barr believes as well.

Articles by Francis Beckwith


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