August 15, 2005

God the Creator, Not the Designer

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 12:43 pm

The LA Times has an opinion piece today by Michael McGough on intelligent design titled Bad science, bad theology. In it, he explains why Christians do God a disservice by insisting that God is the designer and maker of the universe.

“The Christian confession of God as creator,” [Catholic theologian Luke Timothy Johnson] writes in “The Creed,” “is not theory about how things came to be, but a perception of how everything is still and is always coming into being.

“God’s self-disclosure in creation, therefore, is not like the traces of the watchmaker in his watch. God is revealed in the world first of all not through the ‘whatness’ of things but through the ‘isness’ of things. That anything exists at all is the primordial mystery that points us to God.”

Johnson sees this vision of creation as being “entirely compatible with theories of evolution.” He adds: “The theories of the natural and biological sciences address, and can only address, the interconnecting causes of beings that have been or are now already in existence. They cannot account for existence itself.”

And although Johnson doesn’t refer specifically to intelligent design, he calls its close relative, creationism, a “failed enterprise lacking … intellectual integrity.”

For atheists, the distinction between these accounts of the doctrine of creation and intelligent design might seem a distinction without a difference. After all, they both see a God of some sort behind or under (pick your metaphor) physical reality. Yet for many Christians, it is not only possible but necessary to reject the idea of God as the watchmaker, the mere Intelligent Designer, who walks away from his work. [emphasis mine]

Apologies up front for getting metaphysical, but here is another way to think about it. God does not act within time, God is not subject to the passing of time as we are. Time is a creation of God’s, along with the spatial dimensions of the universe. The Big Bang does not imply that God stretched out a finger at some point in the past to start the universe and then retired. In a single creative act, God created the universe from the very beginning of time until the very end of time. We are now living in the midst of God’s creative act, and through God’s grace, are allowed to be co-creators with God.

Science has clearly demonstrated that evolution is part of God’s creation. But humans didn’t arise as a mere random event, as a non-theist would have it. And evolution didn’t require God’s constant tinkering with its mechanism over time to make sure it led to us. Humans arose because God created, or rather creates, a universe that seamlessly and inevitably stretches from the Big Bang to the formation of stars, planets, the earth, complex organic compounds, single-celled organisms, vertebrates, humans, and God only knows what’s next, until literally the end of time.

Each moment in God’s universe flows into the next and the next and it could not be otherwise, because God’s creation includes time and cause and effect. But God does not operate within time, and God’s creative act doesn’t extend across time. As it was in the beginning, God’s creative act is now, and forever shall be. Intelligent Design completely misses this incredible wondrousness of creation.

Like McGough, I think that Intelligent Design turns an omnipotent God into a tinkerer, an artisan in a workshop. God is so much more than that.


  1. Amen

    Comment by Gary — August 15, 2005 @ 2:14 pm

  2. I wish I had seen this earlier. I wrote something similar on my blog today, but you’ve said it much more concisely.

    Comment by Bruce — August 15, 2005 @ 6:49 pm

  3. Very well written post…I point to this over at my own blog…

    Thanks Bob,


    Comment by tim chambers — August 15, 2005 @ 8:46 pm

  4. Tim – thanks for the post, and the kind words.

    Bruce – nice post…we certainly see eye-to-eye on evolution.

    Comment by Bob — August 16, 2005 @ 7:23 am

  5. Thanks for this post. Well said!

    Comment by ApostleJohn — August 16, 2005 @ 5:06 pm

  6. Nicely done, Bob!!! All us process theologians salute you.

    Comment by Tony — August 17, 2005 @ 10:56 am

  7. That doesn’t say much for the biblical account of creation though. How can we set aside the Bible which is God’s Word to man? Check out If you look at it objectively, there is some great information there.

    Comment by Matt — August 17, 2005 @ 11:04 am

  8. Thanks Tony. Um…what’s a “process theologian”?

    Matt – no one is setting aside Genesis, just building upon it based upon what we see in the universe around us and based upon our Christian understanding of God as illuminated by reason and science.

    Comment by Bob — August 18, 2005 @ 12:06 pm

  9. Matt… Bob’s argument does not exclude but embraces the Genesis accounts. The Bible gives us two accounts of creation: Gen 1:1-2:4a and Gen 2:4b-25. In the first account creation took 6 days and at one point water covered the earth, God separated the waters and created dry land. In the second account, a literal interpretation would tell us that creation took one day: “In the day the Lord God made the earth and the heavens….” In this account the earth is dry and God causes water to come upon the earth. These two accounts are not in conflict if you move beyond the “how it was done” as if it can only be done one way, and focus on the essential truth of what happened: God is the source of creation, creation was an act of redemption from chaos, and God saw that creation was good and continues to sustain it.

    Further, God did not create something static but something organic. Michelangelo sculpted the figure of David. That’s static, done, finito… no more to do. God created a bird and gave it wings to fly and now the bird participates in creation through pro-creation and the process of creation continues.

    The important thing is not whether God created in 6 days, one day, or the moment of a big bang, the important thing is God created and set all in motion. Enjoy the ride.

    Bob… a process theologian is one who enjoys the ride as much as the destination.

    Comment by Tony — August 18, 2005 @ 1:34 pm

  10. […] t inherently atheistic, unless one insists on adhering to a theology that shrinks God to a tinkerer in a workshop instead of the creator of all that is, seen and unseen. As Coyne points at, and many o […]

    Pingback by I am a Christian Too » TNR, Slate and Slacktivist on Intelligent Design — August 19, 2005 @ 8:03 pm

  11. Great post! Thanks for getting meta-physical, too! Cheers!

    Comment by Chris — August 22, 2005 @ 9:40 am

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