Dembski on theodicy and a young earth

William Dembski, a father of the Intelligent Design movement, has recently become comfortable calling himself an old earth creationist who, as a good Baptist, accepts the historicity of Adam and Eve. This comes as no surprise really, but it’s interesting to see how his gears turn as he systematically lays all his cards on the table for why he’s personally invested in pursuing a critique of common descent.

Discussing his book The End of Christianity with the host of the UK radio show Unbelievable and an atheist guest, Dembski describes how he thinks that the chief difficulty for old earth as opposed to young earth creationism is the exceptionally long time for evil having existed prior to the event that was supposed to have caused it: the Fall of Man.

Dembski’s proposed solution is basically this: because God is not limited by time and knows the future, He allowed natural evil in anticipation of the evil that Adam and Eve introduced.

The host, Justin Brierley, imagines unbelievers thinking to themselves in reponse to this solution, “What a convoluted way of having to justify a God who allows evil, justifying it with Scripture.” Heck, I’m a believer and I thought the same thing. The atheist on the program gave a great analogy of a father telling his kids that if they’re quiet for the next ten minutes, they’ll go see a movie, and after the kids make a noise during that interval, explaining, “Well, I didn’t actually buy the tickets because I knew you’d make a noise.” As the guest points out, this certainly seems an under-handed way of parenting.

Only the supralapsarian viewpoint can seriously take that position: God had no interest in preventing evil at all since He instead actively foreordained its existence. This still doesn’t offer a theodicy for the problem of evil, because one can’t very well answer the objection that a good God and the existence of evil cannot be reconciled by outright denying that God is in fact good according to the terms presupposed in the objection.

Another bit of something Dembski described that I thought was interesting – although hopelessly wrongheaded – was that the creation stories of Genesis 1 and 2 were not two separate Ancient Near Eastern tales: rather, chapter 1 describes God’s conceptualization of creation and chapter 2 is the realization of the creation. I do not think this holds up for a number of reasons (not least of which because it would entail God changing His mind between planning and implementation), but since it is yet another example of Dembski’s concordism causing him to reject the scholarly consensus on the text, I thought I’d mention it here.

I didn’t disagree with Dembski throughout the whole show, though since he did score a couple hits against the belief in a young earth. He cites scientific data as being more-or-less conclusive on the issue of the age of the universe but finds Scriptural reasons for doubting young earth creationist arguments. For instance, he wonders why God needed to set up a segregated area, the Garden of Eden, in order to place His people if the world were so perfect and free from the effects of sin. Also, when someone asked him how could God have made it clearer that the days were literal 24-hour days, Dembski responded that He could have put the creation of the sun on Day 1 rather than on Day 4. Credit where credit’s due: touché, Bill.

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