Acton Institute Powerblog

‘Call on Charles Darwin’

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By now most everyone has heard about Pat Robertson’s warning to a Pennsylvania town that voted out their school board. The move seemed to be in response to the board’s attempt to introduce curriculum including “intelligent design” theory. In an announcement to the people of Dover, PA, Robertson said: “if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God — you just rejected Him from your city.”

Robertson advised the city’s residents to seek assistance from someone other than God if trouble were to overtake them: “God is tolerant and loving, but we can’t keep sticking our finger in his eye forever. If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them.”

No one ever accused Robertson of a lack of rhetorical flourish. But beyond where his point may be legitimate, that intelligent design should not be banned from public schools, Robertson makes the mistake of confusing belief in a generic “intelligent designer” with belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

It’s one thing to argue for the possible supernatural origins of the universe. It’s quite another to identify those origins with the God of the Bible. This is a point that seems to largely be lost on the evangelical world, even among those who are somewhat more circumpsect and thoughtful that Pat Robertson. I wonder, in fact, whether it would be much more palatable for Robertson if the people of Dover prayed to the “unknown god” of intelligent design rather than Charles Darwin.

Supernatural theism in general is closer to Christian belief than naturalistic atheism. But supernatural theism isn’t identical with Christian belief; it’s merely compatible with it. It’s also compatible with a host of other religious views. For more on this, read Hugh Ross on why Christians should be concerned about “More Than Intelligent Design.”

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • I am really getting tired of the intelligent design debate. The forth paragraph of the clip below sums the whole debate up nicely. We either believe that the God of the Bible created the world or we don’t. There can be no inbetween, no back dooring God into society. We, as Christians, either believe what the bible says about the creation or we do not. Its time we stopped fence sitting

  • So Marine,

    Are you saying the only way to read the bible is literalism? I think many of the Saints would have issues with abandoning our God giving functions of reason and logic so that we are left only with a most literal reading of our sacred text.


  • Robertson also fails to acknowledge that, in Biblical history, God often sent His judgement precisely so that His people would turn back to him. God is infinitely gracious and merciful.

  • Nick Sheltrown

    Jordan’s original post really says it all, save the fact the Intelligent Design (a.k.a. Creation Science of the 80s) isn’t science at all. I’d recommend Richard Colling’s book Random Designer. As a Christian microbiologist, he presents an informed discussion of science, faith, creation, and God. [url=]For more information:

  • “the fact the Intelligent Design (a.k.a. Creation Science of the 80s) isn’t science at all” WOW, is that an idiotic thing to say. I mean that lovingly, Nick. As much as I disagree with different points of view, different theories for the earth’s creation, every one of them has some scientific basis to them, even when they don’t exactly substantiate the Bible’s claims.

    Jordan, this is a great post. I rolled my eyes when I heard Pat had said what he said. It’s sad when Christian leaders say stupid things like that and make the rest of us look bad. God is science. He is the Intelligent Designer who created everything we see, touch, hear… and He did it according to His will, and His idea… even possibly through some sort of evolutionary pattern? Who knows?

    The point is, we love Him for it or we wouldn’t be here to argue about these things. And we should tell the people of Dover to ignore Pat Robertson and always call on God no matter what poor decisions they’ve made, because he is the only one who can rescue them from the effects of those mistakes.

  • Steve Benedict

    “Random Designer” goes to the heart of the matter: evolutionists tend to claim that evolution is random BY DEFINITION–since it certainly is not random by proof. Indeed, there would be no way to prove it–as most any evolutionist would admit.

    So, our kids are fed an unscientific dogma that they are to believe on (athesitic) FAITH: that evolution was random. Then, when evolutionist are called on it, they claim that we are bringing up religion!

    Above we have what seems to be the suggestion that to be really credible, we must abondon the field and agree that evolution (assuming that macro evolution is accurate) was random: why would we do that? It is not scientific thinking! It is not rational. And it is not compatable with our religion either.

  • I was going to make this a happy blog post, talking about being sworn in to the Bar and some neat technology stuff, but I just found out some bad news that has me rather upset. It seems that General Motors, the biggest employer by far here in my home state of Michigan, is going to shut down nine plants in North America and can 30,000 people. And Michigan is definitely included: the Lansing Craft Center is slated for closure. Other plants are also planned for closure, and a…

  • The problem is that you, as well as the Intelligent Design people in general, are missing the point: “intelligent design” as a philosophy is all well and good, and is perfectly compatible with both science and religion: God (by whatever name) created (and continues to create) the heavens and the earth according to a design (religion), and It (because, let’s face it, unless God needs to engage in sexual reproduction, gender is not an issue) employs a specific protocol for engaging in this creation, the rules of which we can learn (science).

    Science is strictly engaged with the latter pursuit: discovering how the process works. It does not engage in the big “why” question: why are these processes in place? That is strictly the domain of religion. Since ID attempts to answer the “why” question, IT IS NOT SCIENCE. Furthermore, scientific method requires that a hypothesis be testable. Since ID cannot be tested, IT IS NOT SCIENCE.

    Unless you are going to hold to a very strict, literalist interpretation of the Bible (in which case you’re going to have a hard time answering where all those people other than Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel came from), it is perfectly reasonable for one to reach the conclusion that the Darwinian process of natural selection is the process that led to life on Earth as we know it (as well, perhaps, as life on other worlds) and that God created not only the Earth and everything on it, but also the rules that made that process possible.

    To do less than acknowledge this, in fact, is to limit God, which no mere mortal should ever feel competent to do.

  • Hello all,

    I appreciate the vote of confidence Nick.
    I believe Random Design and the Random Designer hold great potential to put much of the science/faith animosity behind us. (With time…) More on this later.

    Much of religion and faith is filled with mystery and paradox. “The last shall be first” “Death leads to life”
    “God becomes man” “A virgin is with child”

    Yet, as people of faith, we don’t hesitate to acknowledge that these statements hold as central truths in life. Yet regarding issues of science, many people of faith have evidently decided that God is limited to work only as traditional views have described him, locking him up in a rigid box circumscribed by their limited understanding of life.

    It is interesting to me that while virtually every religious person I have met would claim that God still speaks to and through people today, when someone suggests that God might act in ways different from traditional party lines, they are quickly ridiculed or demonized. (Been there…) If Jesus showed up today and suggested that we might not be interpreting scripture properly (which is exactly what he did with the religious leaders of his time), I suspect we would treat him much the same as they did then. But that did not negate what he said. He was asking them to stretch their minds. (Be transformed by the renewing of your minds) God keeps on speaking and he speaks at levels we can understand using concepts and principles that we are must be prepared to know.

    The concept of a gene has a relatively recent history of just decades. DNA was shown to be the genetic information only ~ 50 years ago. We are finally gaining glimpses of God’s creativeness that have forever before been shrouded in a dense mist because of our lack of knowledge. We have done the best we can, but we see through a glass only darkly. Beleive me, even today, the details of life are absolutely beyond the most vivid imaginations. They still blow me away after over thirty years of study.

    My hope is that people of faith will begin to speak with one clear voice – a voice that speaks of experience, not scientific proofs regarding God’s existence in our world. Folks, it is a dreadful mistake to jump on the intelligent design bandwagon for many reasons. Perhaps the most important reason is that it is extending damage to the cause of faith and belief in God.

    There is so much to say, but I have a full plate and I certainly don’t want to monopolize the board, especially as a first time attendee. I have written another short article which will be in the Chicago Tribune this Sunday, and a more extensive article on Random Design for January’s Science and Theology News. God has always been bigger than thought by even his most sincere and devoted followers. I see no reason to conclude that things are any different today. I believe he is continuing to reveal Himself all the time. The bigger question is whether we are attentively listening for His voice.

    I was told by a supposed “expert” just yesterday that “there is no such thing as Random Design, just as 2+2 does not equal 5.” This type of out-of-hand dismissal by a Christian of things that do not immediately fit one’s views of the world is just the type of response that hurts the credibility of all people of faith.

    Just for the record, random has more than one definition.
    Is anyone interested enough to learn what it is and the role that it might play?