Random Designer V

With my previous post I completed reading the first section of Random Designer. Up to this point, while we have been touching on faith, the primary purpose of the material was to outline what evolution is, and the areas and strength of evidence for it. Obviously, in any reasonable sized book, Dr. Colling could not actually cover all the evidence, but he does provide us with the categories and with overviews.

Having established that evolution is based on overwhelming evidence, he begins to look at how evolution relates to faith, primarily to Christian faith, though he does cover other elements. As I read it, however, the links have been established in the earlier chapters. Essentially, as a Christian reader, I have already been presented with the choice between the Random Designer, who created a universe with natural processes that would produce the variety of life we now know, and a “tinkering God” (my phrase) who does it all in detail. The overwhelming evidence of the world around us tells us that God is the Random Designer and not the tinkerer.

Of course, any reader of this blog knows my choice. I already accepted the Random Designer before I read the book by that name, though I didn’t have that good of a name for him! Many Christians, however, will feel that there are many problems left open. For some it will feel as though they are being told that their faith, and particularly their Bible is absolutely wrong, and that they must make a choice between faith and science. I suspect that in that case many would choose their faith.

But no such stark choice is presented. What Dr. Colling invites readers to do is to expand their understanding of God, and to see the beauty of the plan of creation which is revealed by science. To put this in my own words, we need to look at our faith and see where it can be improved and strengthened by what God has revealed in the natural world. Since both the natural world and scriptures are said by Christian doctrine to result from (or be) God’s word, we should find value in both.

From the introduction to Part II:

The problem, as I see it, is that we tend to squeeze God into small rigid boxes of our own making to keep Him conceptually consistent with our traditional religious beliefs. Unfortunately, this approach to religious faith is fraught with liability because it prevents God from truly being God–a creator capable of using any means He chooses for His creation. [emphasis in original]

Now technically in Christian theology we can say that when one source of revelation (the Bible), conflicts with another, we can examine what we know from either. In other words, if science contradicts the Bible, one can check one’s science, or one can check one’s understanding of the Bible, or both. I would suggest its more important to check which one is the appropriate source for a particular type of information, but I’m using a more traditional formulation.

In the case of evolution, however, we’ve seen that the evidence is overwhelming, and thus we have to look back at our faith, assuming that we’ve made some form of unscientific view of origins part of that faith, and we have to see where this really does fit. If we do so, I think we’re in for an enlightening journey. In Random Designer, that begins with chapter 12, “Who is Adam? The Birth of Humanity.” This chapter basically goes from biological development to consciousness, remaining with the basic claim that humans are biologically fully related to the rest of creation, but nonetheless looking at what sets us apart from other creatures on earth.

Chapter 13 expands on consciousness and discusses our perception and cognitive abilities. I really can’t summarize it. It’s already short enough! Chapter 14, “An Honest Faith” talks about the problems of credibility and the importance of honestly admitting and addressing the evidence. He notes that the conclusion that there is a Master Designer, or God, is not a scientific conclusion. He is enlightened in forming that conclusion by science, but it is not something to be scientifically demonstrated.

Chapter 15 then talks about the image of God. This is one of those very hard questions to deal with, because so many Christians attach the concept of God’s image to something physical. Often people who will deny it when asked directly, still think as though there is something physical about God’s image. But the concept of a Random Designer need not contradict the idea of God’s image in humanity; in fact, it can link with it very well.

I’ll continue in my next post with chapter 16.

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  1. “But no such stark choice is presented. What Dr. Colling invites readers to do is to expand their understanding of God, and to see the beauty of the plan of creation which is revealed by science. To put this in my own words, we need to look at our faith and see where it can be improved and strengthened by what God has revealed in the natural world.”

    I think there are lots of challenges here, many not so simple. The most recent post on my blog addresses this issue in a general way.


    1. I copied this from your blog. It resonates with me.

      Rather than being a God who sustains reality and pushes from the past, I think we must accept a God that gives reality the grace to form and develop on its own and who pulls creation towards him from the future. Rather than believing in a God who orders every molecule of the cosmos, we must accept a God who allows indeterminate chaos to exist. Rather than examining nature to find God’s design, we must rather look to nature for God’s promise. And finally, rather than seeing creation in a fallen state from a past state of perfection, we must see it as a dynamic creation emerging from chaos, being drawn by God toward an intended perfection in the future.

      Good thinking.


  2. Chapter 14 almost did not make the cut for the book. One of my closest friends had read the manuscript just before it went to press. He had terminal cancer. When I suggested that I might take that chapter out, he was adamant that it needed to be included. He could see that his life was soon to end, but he was supremely confident that his life would never end. Only the physical was terminal in his mind. The spiritual had no end. One of his favorite sayings to me during those last months of his life was, ” All healing is temporary”.

    If I think about this, it is so obvious, but also deep. We sometimes place God before the litmus tests of our experimental designs, saying that if we experience some apparently inexplicable healing or recovery from physical disease, it is God. Well, my friend knew that God does not thrive or even appreciate that kind of notariety. All of us are physical beings, and mortality is common to us all. It is hard for me to believe that God cares a great deal about whether I live to be 60 or 80, but it is easy for me to understand that he cares how I relate to him and to others. In the Bible, Jesus repeatedly cautioned his followers about emphasizing physical health over spiritual.

    Are miracles real? My answer is a resounding “Yes”.
    But in the sense that every biochemical process that has been ordained within us, including the innate healing processes are miracles. Can these be tapped by spiritual means? I have not seen it conclusively demonstrated, but I know others who are very convinced, and I accept that reality as a possibility.
    That is faith, I guess.

    Glad you are finding value in the book.


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