The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, by John H. Walton.
What it says
Walton’s 15th proposition is: Current Debate About Intelligent Design Presumes Purpose
Walton does not believe in coincidence. He quotes a character in an Orson Scott Card novel: “Coincidence is just a word we use when we have not yet discovered the cause. . . . It’s an illusion of the human mind, a way of saying, ‘I don’t know why this happened this way, and I have no intention of finding out.’” (the quote is from Card’s 1992 novel, The Call of Earth).
This, along with his emphasis on function and purpose in creation, would seem to put him in the Intelligent Design school of thought. However, he criticizes the actual adherents of ID. They claim to know too much and end up with a God-of-the-gaps theory. The Neo-Darwinist opponents of ID are no better. They also claim to know too much. By definition, they rule out purpose as applying to creation.
Walton understands that science cannot resort to a category like mystery. In principle there must be an explanation for everything. But ID proponents and scientists argue whether particular facts have naturalistic explanations or not, when a better understanding would see that naturalistic explanations do not exclude divine action and purpose. Walton presumes that God creating people, for instance, instantaneously would be no more an act of God than creating them through a long process that seems to have a lot of naturalistic explanations.
Proposition 16: Scientific Explanations Can Be Viewed in Light of Purpose, and If So, Are Unobjectionable.
Since Walton claims that Genesis 1 never attempts to tell about material creation, his position is that God is responsible for the material origin of the universe though the Bible offers no account of that creation. A scientific account, therefore, is not an alternative to Genesis. No matter how scientific debates turn out, God’s responsibility for all things does not change. For instance, there are theories about whether the universe is expanding or not. The divine origin of the universe is not at stake either way.
Walton refers to the statement in Psalm 139:13 that God creates each of us in our mother’s womb (knits us together is how it poetically puts it). We well understand that there is a natural process and scientific explanation for human reproduction. Do we think that God could only have created us if he went zap and created us instantaneously without a natural process? The science of embryology does not offer an alternative account that contradicts Psalm 139. In the same way, evolution does not offer an alternative account that contradicts Genesis 1.
The same thing is true of weather and history. Meteorologists and historians give explanations for events. They may believe that God has no role. But their accounts are not really alternatives to Biblical accounts that assign function and purpose to all things. You can teach all these sciences in school without setting up a conflict with faith.
Walton acknowledges that some of the controversy arises because we teach biology to younger students than those who study embryology, for instance. Parents sometimes feel the need to protect the young from ideas that they may not be ready for.
But why aren’t they ready? Is it because parents and churches have already taught them stuff that can’t stand up to scrutiny? Never teach anything that you will have to unteach later. This was a rule that I tried to get across to church teachers during my ministry.
I studied the Anglican thinker, Austin Farrer, once. He is known for an unorthodox opinion about the synoptic problem. But he was quite a philosopher and theologian as well. Farrer had this concept of double agency. It was partly a play on the term “double agent.” God is doing what he is doing in the world with us or without us, but we can become double agents for him by willingly accepting a call to serve him. It was a way of maintaining divine sovereignty and human freedom at the same time.
But a broader application of this was that things do not have just one cause. God is the ultimate cause. He has primary agency. But he allows other agency as well. It seems to me that Walton is proposing a kind of double agency. God is ultimately behind all things, but there are all kinds of other causes as well. He has made a complicated world.