Was it Bugs Bunny who used to say “I must have taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque”? Well, Intelligent Design is a theological Alberquerque if ever there was one.
I have just returned from a presentation on ID made to a parish group (not Catholic). I don’t think there was anyone there who didn’t believe that the world was created by God, or that the Bible wasn’t true, but there were a fair number who were quite happy to continue through life accepting that there was no contradiction between this faith and an acceptance of the scientific validity of the theory of evolution.
But the speakers told us there was. You can’t believe in evolution, because evolution is atheistic and “doesn’t leave room for God”. If you “believe in evolution” (note how this phrase puts acceptance of evolutionary theory into the same category as faith in God) you can’t believe that the Bible is God’s word, because the teachings of evolution contradict the teachings of the Bible. Thousands have lost their faith because they think evolution has shown that “there is no need for God”. But wait: we can scientifically prove that there must have been an “Intelligent Designer”, and therefore faith in God is possible because evolution is false.
How wrong-footed is this strategy? I would have thought that the truly responsible way of handling the situation (although it requires a degree of philosophical sophistication) would have been to show that there is no theological contradiction between faith in God as Creator and in the claims of evolutionary theory (whether Darwin was correct or not). By taking the line that evolution really is by necessity atheistic, you play right into the hands of Dawkins and co. You buy into their argument, you accept the “tiny God” who tinkers with his creation on weekends like we tinker with our car engines.
What worries me even more is that you buy into a theology of revelation which downplays the incarnation, the paschal mystery and the sacraments, and beats up the Scriptures until they look like the perfect book that came down from heaven. I have never lost my Lutheran emphasis (indeed, as a Catholic, I find this emphasis enhanced) which sees an analogy between the Incarnate Christ, the Eucharist, and the Scriptures. Luther used to say that the scriptures are like the “swaddling clothes” that Christ was wrapped in. I always took this to mean that, just as Christ was 100% human and 100% divine, and just as the bread and wine of the Eucharist are the true body and blood of Christ (this analogy works rather better in the Lutheran consubstantiation than in Catholic transubstantiation), so too the Scriptures are 100% human (with a fully human history and development and fragility and limitations) and yet 100% divine Word of God (thus the doctrines of inerrancy and plenary-inspiration).
When you begin to do some study into the ancient hebrew texts, you begin to realise just how intertwined the sacred text is with the very human history of the Jewish people. Nevertheless, it is the “Word of the Lord”, as we say after every reading in the liturgy. In a sense, the words of the Lord to St Paul sums up everything about the way in which God chose to reveal himself: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). In the weakness of the scriptures, in the weakness of the babe of Bethlehem and the crucified one, in the weakness of the bread and wine of the Eucharist–there God reveals himself. That’s the God for me. That’s the God I believe in. And evolution? Well, that’s pretty messy as well, but even that I believe was 100% God’s creation.