William Dembski is a leader in the Intelligent Design (ID) community, so I read with initial interest a recent interview he did with Sean McDowell titled How is the Intelligent Design Movement Doing? Interview with William Dembski. which is posted on McDowell’s blog. That initial interest turned to dismay as the adversarial attitude Dembski has toward revealed truth in general and Young Earth Creationism (YEC) in particular was made apparent. When asked how he assesses the reception of ID within the church, Dembski states:
“I would say that the church broadly and even the evangelical community has — on balance — been somewhere between useless and downright counterproductive to the success of ID.”
A most unfortunate assessment given the potential ID has to impact a culture that has largely fallen under the sway of the junk science put forth to support the materialist religion known as Darwinian Evolution. Even more unfortunate is Dembski’s apparent blindness to how he (and other ID advocates with similar positions) has caused such a reaction from the God fearing, Bible believing faithful they’d like to gain support from. To unravel this mystery for them, let’s start with what both ID advocates and YEC advocates are trying to achieve.
The Common Ground
Both camps – ID and YEC – want to demonstrate there is a God, and that God is necessarily the God of the Bible. However, that the God is the God of the Bible is not explicitly a conclusion you can draw from ID evidence and theory alone. ID attempts to show that elements in the creation exhibit evidence of design which are detectable by science. But even if one agrees that the world looks designed and created, one could – as ID icon Stephen Meyer points out come to the conclusion that the God who created is a Deist God – one who set the universe in motion, then never bothered with it again. Though consistent with the theory of ID, it is not consistent with revealed truth and not the conclusion ID advocates would like people to draw. The desired conclusion, is that the God who created is the God of the Bible. But ID theory alone can’t get you there.
The reason ID cannot get you there is because of their chosen methodology. ID theorists are scientists. So they have chosen the methodology of science, and have elected to look solely at the physical evidence of the creation. Thus, while they have access to all the truth that science will allow, they don’t have access to all truth. On the other had, YEC advocates accept evidence not only from the physical world, they accept revealed truth. Furthermore they are not bound by the constraints of science. So where today’s science will only accept materialistic explanations for everything, YEC advocates will accept interventions by God (“miracles”) where revealed truth says they occurred. On the other hand, it appears the only interventions ID theorists are willing to defend is the intervention of God to create life.
This appears to be the case since as Meyer points out, “most” ID theorists are “Old Earth” believers – they believe in a billions year old earth and universe. That’s code for believing in the Big Bang theory – a theory that is incompatible with the Biblical creation account. Apart from the age of the earth issue, the even more obvious contradictions are in the sequence of events. For instance the Big Bang starts with an explosion of light, and after millions of years the first thing to form are stars. Biblical creation starts with the earth existing as the first thing in darkness on the first day. A stark contrast. For a list of the many differences see this helpful article by cosmologist John Hartnett.
In spite of these radically contrasting views, the differences apparently don’t give ID Big Bang believers pause to consider whether there might be problems with the Big Bang theory. They appear to be have taken the lure of Big Bang cosmology hook, line and sinker. And like secular scientists, they content themselves with making excuses for why what the Bible plainly says about a six day creation is, in their minds, not true.
But as mentioned before, it’s not just the creation account that some ID folk have issue with. Returning to the Dembski interview, Dembski says:
The Noah’s Ark theme park in Kentucky is a case in point. What an embarrassment and waste of money. I’ve recently addressed the fundamentalism that I hold responsible for this sorry state of affairs.
So Dembski finds believing in Noah’s Ark an “embarrassment”; and also believes the flood was local, not global; and like Meyers and “most” ID advocates doesn’t believe in a 6 day creation. Dembski has clearly made a straw man of “fundamentalism”, but unfortunately addressing that is beyond the scope of this article. Of interest here is the ID approach to truth.
Old Earth ID Advocates: Dangerously Close to Scientism
Leaders in the ID movement like to tout the fact that they are scientists. And many (if not all) of them are Christians. Given those facts one would think they would examine the evidence for the Big Bang more critically – since it is incompatible with the Biblical the account. But as we’ve just seen, it’s not just the creation account they have issue with – it’s anything that contradicts the Big Bang – Old Earth mythology. Thus the derision for the ark, and disbelief in a global flood. The question I ask myself is why are scientists, who believe in creation of life by the God of the Bible nonetheless still denying revealed truth regarding God’s other interventions?
This points to the schizophrenic nature of ID theory versus the beliefs of those who present it. On the one hand, they’re scientist who say they will only accept evidence from the material world. On the other hand, their personal belief says I believe the Bible – but only so far. It forces one to wonder what are they really accepting as truth?
Because truth is truth regardless of its origin. That which is true, is true, regardless of how it is arrived at – whether that be math, science, logic or some other means. Thus the circumference of a certain tire is the same whether you measure it, calculate it based on the radius, or deduce it based on the known measurement from other cars with the same tire. The point: truth is truth regardless of its origin. In the same manner, if a proposition is false, no amount of additional experimentation or testing will make it true. For example, spontaneous generation of mice from dirty rags does not occur as Pasteur showed. No amount of additional tests and experiments will make that true. This holds for any false theory – including the Big Bang theory. If the theory is false, no amount of tests can prove it true.
Why then are ID theorists clinging so tightly to the Deep Time/Big Bang model that has much evidence that contradicts it? Why do they allow themselves to bring derision on the body of Christ by calling belief in Noah’s Ark an “embarrassment”? Someone will say Dembski didn’t call the doctrine of the Ark, an embarrassment, but was rather speaking of Ken Ham’s theme park. True, but that’s a non-mitigating technicality. If he believed the Biblical account of the ark was true, he wouldn’t be deriding a theme park based on that true account. The problem gets back to that conundrum we’re examining: ID theorists who want to affirm part of the Bible (God’s creation of Life and salvation in Christ) but not all the Bible (God’s creation in 6 days, Noah’s Ark, a global flood).
So “many” ID theorists do not accept many of the interventions of God recorded in the Bible as truth. Where have we heard that line before? Oh, I know – from materialists and atheists who don’t accept the Bible as being true. What do they accept? They accept the materialist approach of secular naturalists – who believe everything can be explained in terms of natural material phenomenon. That being the case it would seem in this matter the only difference between ID advocates and secular scientists – is that the ID group believes God created life. As for other miracles, they appear to all be suspect – with the exception of the resurrection (since without believing in the resurrection of Christ you cannot be a Christian (Rom 10.9-10) and in fact there is no Christianity without the resurrection (1 Cor 15.17))
With such a large scale rejection of much Biblical truth, is it any wonder that some Christians have mistaken ID advocates for blind guides? Let me be clear here: I’m not accusing Deep Time ID believers of being false Christians; my point is their apparent preference for secular science and rejection of biblical truth makes them hard to distinguish from scientists who deny the Bible and put secular science over biblical truth. Thus they are dangerously close to being grouped in with the Scientism group – those who believe truth comes only from science.
What does Jesus say about those teachings?
The New Testament is very clear on the doctrines we’ve been discussing. And not only the New Testament authors, but Jesus himself believed and taught the doctrines we’ve been discussing:
Jesus on Noah’s Ark and the Global Flood:
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
The flood didn’t take some people away – as a local flood implies. It took them “all” away. It was a global flood, and only a few people were saved by means of Noah’s Ark. Why would God even have Noah build an ark if there would be survivors elsewhere on the planet? They could have carried on humanity without the need of an ark. Thus an ark is only necessary if there is a global flood from which people need to be saved. (The “Son of Man” is of course Jesus.)
Jesus on the 6 Day Creation:
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
A couple of things to note here:
1. The Sabbath is a created thing. It was “made” or created for man – and not the other way around.
2. What is the Sabbath? How was it understood when it was created? This goes back to the Genesis 1 creation account. Let’s read God’s summary of the meaning of the Sabbath which he gives in the Ten Commandments:
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.
11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
God said in verse 11 he created the heavens and the earth in 6 days, and on the seventh day he rested, and blessed it. This blessed seventh day is the Sabbath. Notice God is giving the pattern of life in this commandment: Work 6 days and rest on the seventh day – the Sabbath day. Understanding “days” as millions or billions of years simply does not work in this context. Clearly, the Sabbath is a normal 24 hour day, as is the rest of the week as God described it.
Now let’s look at how Jesus uses the Sabbath in its full context:
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain.
The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need?
In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
The legalistic Pharisees were concerned with the disciples of Jesus breaking their law by picking heads of grain on the Sabbath. What’s the time period in view? Was it a time frame of millions or billions of years? No, it is the day of the Sabbath, the common time frame that the people understood as an evening and a day.
It is in that context that Jesus makes the startling declaration (startling to first century Jewish ears if not to modern ears) that He – the “Son of Man” – was Lord of the Sabbath. Notice his argument:
The Sabbath, a created thing – was created to serve man. No one would dare claim to be Lord over the God ordained day of rest. It was God himself who gave the command, thus only God could change it. And yet this is precisely what Jesus does. He claims to be “Lord of the Sabbath” once again making himself equal to God.
At the same time he is claiming authority over all men. For the Sabbath was made for man, thus the Sabbath is subservient to man. Man can command that which is subservient to him. But what man could command all men with final authority on what is appropriate on the Sabbath – which was given by God? That would be the the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – namely he who is King and Lord over all men – an apt description of the Messiah. (Rev 17.14) Since the Son of Man is Lord of all men, he is also Lord of all that is subservient to men – including the Sabbath. So in this single claim, Jesus is saying:
- He is equal in authority to God
- He is superior in authority to Man
- He determines what is appropriate on the Sabbath because
- He speaks with God’s authority as Lord over all
But for our purposes we need merely observe how Jesus understands the Sabbath. Clearly He understands it as a single day. A single day consists of an evening and a morning (Gen 1:5, 1:8, et. al.) . There is no hint of millions or billions of years of rest on the Sabbath anywhere in Jesus’ declaration of being Lord of the Sabbath. In fact Jesus points to a particular day after a particular Sabbath – when soon to be King David took the consecrated bread of the priests for he and his men. (1 Sam 21.1-6) Each of these days were regular 24 hour days.
So as we’ve seen, Jesus clearly believed:
- The Global Flood of Noah’s day destroyed all but Noah and his family
- The ark that Noah built was real, and a type of the real salvation Jesus himself would offer to all ( 1 Pe 3.20-21)
- Jesus is Lord over the Sabbath, which is the culmination of the 6 Day creation of God; and as the Sabbath is 1 day of rest, so the 6 days which precede it are normal days of work. (There is no expectation to work a billion years – 6 times; then rest a billion years.)
But Dembski, and many other ID leaders have a problem with this. Why? Let’s remove from the table differences in interpretation. What Jesus meant is clear in context, and has been clearly understood for the past 2000 years since he said it by those who study scripture. It’s not that ID advocates don’t understand what he’s saying, the problem is they don’t like what he’s saying. As some of Jesus disciples said in his teaching that foreshadowed the Lord’s supper, “this is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6.60) For Old earth believers, a young earth and Noah’s ark is a hard teaching.
Because Jesus’ understanding of the Sabbath and the days which precede it goes against their strong belief in Deep Time and the Big Bang. And since they have elected to hold to some version of Day=Age theology (in spite of Jesus’ clear teaching which precludes an old earth understanding), the specter of Scientism rears its ugly head. Because as Christians, they can only reject the clear teaching of Jesus by breaking the first commandment, and putting another god before Jesus. That god would be science.
Redeeming Intelligent Design
But at its core, Intelligent Design has much to offer both the church and the unbelieving world, but the presentation is marred by presenters who appear to be “double-minded” (James 1.8) Not fully embracing secular science, but not fully embracing the truths of the faith either. One is reminded of the warning the Lord gave to the church at Laodicea:
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!
16 So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
Intelligent design advocates who believe in Deep Time and the Big Bang, may be rich in science and believe they don’t need anything; but they are clearly poor in many of the basic doctrines of the faith, and are blind to the fact that they are poor in those items. In the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation, it’s always interesting to see the title ascribed to Jesus. Here it is “the faithful and true witness.” Jesus witnessed to Noah’s ark, a global flood and a young earth. The question remains, why don’t these ID leaders believe him? And how can they go about buying “gold refined in the fire” to correct their doctrine and salve to cure their blindness? Here are some suggestions:
1. (Re-)Examine the Evidence for the Young Earth
Creation Ministries International has a very helpful article:
Age of the earth: 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe
Since ID advocates prefer the scientific approach, they need to take the same challenge given to secular scientists: explain young earth evidences within a deep time/billions of years frame work. If they cannot, they should drop their deep time orientation and embrace a young earth. And in the mean time while they investigate, ID advocates should stop making disparaging remarks about Young Earth Creationists.
2. Expand the scope of ID research
ID at this point is very much focused on biological evidences (cells, proteins, body plans, etc.). This request to expand the scope of ID will be met, no doubt, with protest from ID’ers that they cannot offer scientific opinions on the many evidences given above because it is outside of their field of expertise. Which leads to this next recommendation: ID needs to expand its field of inquiry. I believe the evidences of God’s design go beyond his Signature in the Cell – and exist throughout the creation if we merely look for them. (Donkey’s with a cross on them, Cacti that bloom at Christmas and Easter; etc.) ID should search evidences out and explain why (scientifically of course), they point to the God of the Bible. This will likely require the recruitment of new talent to the ID field. So be it. In doing so they would have a more-helpful-to-the-church goal to shoot for – instead of shooting down creationists.
3. Re-examine Big Bang & Deep Time assumptions
I need not rehearse for ID scientists how deeply assumptions and a priori beliefs impact the interpretation of any evidence examined. Given that impact, it’s inexplicable why they give a pass to the Bible contradicting long age assumptions embedded in Big Bang theology and accept them without challenge while apparently rejecting out of hand the Bible friendly young earth assumptions. (For instance, why are Red Shifts understood as Cosmological space expansion instead Doppler movement?) For any journey you need a starting point, but if you plan on traveling west, why start your journey heading east? Likewise if you’re trying to prove the God of Bible, why are you starting with assumptions that reject the God of the Bible?
ID theorists need to start from page one and re-examine the big bang theory for the false assumptions and broken laws of physics inherent in the theory. And if the claim arises that such an examination is beyond their field of expertise, then likewise criticisms of those who support a young earth should be beyond the purview of their criticism. ID theorists have gained credibility by making very persuasive arguments for ID. They will not maintain that credibility – at least in the church – if they are going to insist on claiming YEC is a “failed ideology”. If they insist on holding onto an old earth view, they need to likewise make persuasive arguments for why all the evidence showing the Big Bang is false – is faulty. To be blunt: put up or shut up. If they merely continue to attack the YEC position without persuasively defending an old earth view, they will be doing more harm to the body of Christ with their deep time theology and shots at young earth creationists, than their ID arguments are doing to help the cause of Christ. And the warm (evangelical) church reception they are hoping for will likely never appear.
ID is poised to be a highly respected aid to apologetics, the church and Christians in general, providing them with much needed ammunition to shoot down “arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor 10.5). But to do so, its leaders have got to stop shooting themselves – and the body of Christ – in the foot. They need to take off their blinders and demolish their preference for secular assumptions and replace them with a preference for revealed truth. Then take their scientific knowledge and research and apply it to discovering how God has done what he has – throughout all of creation – not just a few scientific disciplines. And most importantly: stop their arrogant, ill-advised attacks on those who take God at his word.
1. Stephen Meyer ref from The John Ankerberg Show Discussing “A Cosmological Argument for God’s Existence“. published on YouTube, https://youtu.be/0Rw4WCmp7t0
Featured in Discovery Institute’s Evolution News and View site (Where Meyer is a Senior Fellow), article “Today’s Antidote to Cosmos: Stephen Meyer on the Big Bang”, 3/26/2014, http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/03/todays_antidote083711.html
3. Physicist and cosmologist John Hartnett lists a number or problems with the Big Bang theory , including how the sequence contradicts the Biblical account.
John Hartnett, The Big Bang Is Not A Reason to Believe!, CMI, 5/20/2014, http://creation.com/big-bang-not-a-reason
4. Dembski, ref from Sean McDowell, “How is the Intelligent Design Movement Doing? Interview with William Dembski“, Sean McDowell Blog, 8 Sept, 2016,
“I see Noah’s flood as a story with a theological purpose based on the historical occurrence of a local flood in the ancient Near East.”
“William Dembski Interview“, The Best Schools Interview, Jan 2012 (updated May 2016), http://www.thebestschools.org/features/william-dembski-interview/
6. Dembski, Best Schools Interview
7. For some of that evidence of the Big Bang problems, see:
Big Bang or Big Fizzle: DOA-RIP, Creation Studies Institute, http://www.creationstudies.org/Education/big_bang.html ;
or articles on this site under topic “Big Bang“, http://rationalfaith.com/category/big-bang/
9. This has implications on both the age of ht earth, and the position of the earth relative to the center of the universe. For more, see the article on this site: Age of the Universe: 13.75 Billion years – Fact of Faith Statement?
10. Dembski, How is the Intelligent Design Movement Doing?