Over the past several years, the term intelligent design has undoubtedly become a buzzword in our culture. The ID Movement is now recognized as a formidable foe to Darwinism in the culture war taking place over the origin of the universe and mankind. Consequently, many Bible-believing Christians have been quick to jump on board with the idea, perhaps seeing it as a potentially redeeming voice to the often disrespected position of “unscientific” biblical creation. But what exactly is the ID movement? And what does it mean for Christians and the young-earth creation movement?
In the minds of many people, intelligent design is just a trendy, new way to be a creationist. In reality, however, the prominent faces of the ID Movement are a group of credentialed scholars from a variety of religious backgrounds whose common denominators are rejecting naturalism and believing that aspects of living cells are too complex to have arisen by chance. The ID Movement does not align itself with any origins model and admittedly does not even offer an explanation of our origins. Its goal is primarily to challenge the idea that chance, random processes can explain the complexity evidenced in the universe and world around us.
While deducing the influence of a designer in some capacity, the ID Movement is amicable to ideas ranging from theistic evolution to alien intrusion. Furthermore, its prominent voices are often very deliberate and succinct in drawing a dichotomy between their movement and biblical creation and avoiding any kind of religious stigma. In a nutshell, the ID Movement is a religiously eclectic movement and is generally amicable to many of the key geological and cosmological underpinnings of the secular scientific establishment.
For generations, the origins issue has been a bitter and emotional controversy. The reason is that there are direct implications pertaining to morality and our spiritual accountability to God. Furthermore, people want to know answers to life’s most basic questions: “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What happens when I die?” “Why is there death and suffering?” None of these questions can be adequately answered except through the lens of Scripture and its framework of a world created perfect, marred by sin, judged by God, and redeemed by a Savior. Man, in rebellion against his Creator, has rejected such a notion, and will subsequently spare no expense in his efforts to dismiss it and offer an alternative.
It is not synonymous with biblical creation and is absolutely not a substitute for it.
While the ID Movement has effectively made people question philosophical naturalism (which is a positive contribution to the cultural debate about origins), it is purposely evasive when it comes to providing such answers about life. Consequently, it is not synonymous with biblical creation and is absolutely not a substitute for it. In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter commands believers to always be ready to give an answer. While the ID Movement effectively contributes toward enlightening man to the reality of a higher power, it does not tell the story of history that people are looking for nor does it offer the hope that man desperately needs. In effect, it helps to confront people with the evidence from creation that condemns them (Romans 1:20), but it doesn’t offer the hope of redemption that only the Bible provides.
So why are many Bible-believing Christians inclined to align themselves with the ID movement? For some, it is intended to be a first-step strategy of eventually proclaiming biblical creation, while for others it is simply an avenue for making inroads into a hostile secular scientific realm and reestablishing an openness to theism in the scientific enterprise. However, for others it tends to be a way of proclaiming faith in a Creator while avoiding an association with what many perceive as “religious fundamentalism.” It essentially allows them to be a creationist without being a biblical creationist. Many would rather invest their energies on areas of doctrinal orthodoxy that are less susceptible to ridicule and questioning by the scientific or intellectual establishments. However, either avoiding a concise, exegetically sound biblical position or establishing one outside the bounds of Scripture ultimately undermines biblical authority and the basis for other theological dogma.
Given the agnostic nature of the ID Movement regarding the identity of the Designer, is it a friend or foe to Bible-believing Christians? When used as a wedge to chip away at the foundations of evolution and naturalism, the ID Movement’s distinction from conventional religion can undoubtedly be an asset, allowing an alternative voice to be heard where it is otherwise censored or dismissed. However, that dichotomy should raise flags when the ID Movement is promoted within the church and religious institutions where censorship is not an issue, particularly when used as a substitute for teaching the biblical creation model. All reasoning, scientific or otherwise, pertaining to origins is ultimately based on religious and philosophical presuppositions. Believers should admit theirs, and use the Bible as an asset to unashamedly define their way of thinking, rather than treating it as a liability that could potentially compromise their intellectual regard. That is what a biblical worldview is all about.
Believers should follow the example of Christ, whose goal was not to be politically correct—nor was it to be associated with or respected by the intellectual elite. And He certainly was not inclined to formulate His ideas based on majority opinion or the ideas of man. He believed truth; He revealed truth; and He was (and is) truth. His teaching strategy focused on truth. We should take every opportunity to do the same by teaching people the truth God has deliberately revealed to us about creation in His Word, rather than just refuting secular ideas or settling for uninspired alternatives. Christians have the wonderful and unique asset of a model that has answers provided by and pointing to the God who saves. Let’s not settle for some god who doesn’t.
Blair Benjamin is a full-time staff member and adjunct faculty member at Philadelphia Biblical University in Langhorne, PA.