[Editor’s note: The comment and response below are a follow-up to an earlier question and answer in which some terminology produced a bit of a miscommunication.  For completeness, the original exchange is below this comment and response.]


I was at a roundtable discussion that included Denis Lamoreaux.  I definitely aggree with his thinking on evolution.  But to the point, it seems to me that someone holding the view that God intervened in the way the Bible describes, but not in evolution is still definitely a, “theistic evolutionist”, and not a, “deistic evolutionist”.  Deism by definition rejects any religion based on revelation, so if one believes in the Jesus in the Bible, like Biologos does, but not in God intervening in evolution, how does that make them a deist?  I can’t speak for Biologos’ motives, but I’ll tell you about my 3 Life Theory (nice biblical number).  There are 3 types of life in the universe, biological, spiritual and cosmological.  Of the 3, only spiritual life needs interventions since that is the only one that can be corrupted.  Also, can you explain how scientific evidence supports interventions in evolution and how theology supports it?  Thanks.


There may be a miscommunication here and I believe that miscommunication may be principally due to a question of definitions.  The classic definition of deism, at least as far as I understand it, is a belief in a God who created the universe but who is distant and not involved in that universe—a non-intervening God.   I absolutely do not, nor would I ever even consider calling Denis Lamoreaux or BioLogos or Francis Collins deists.  Both the two scientists and the organization are committed to theism as a world view.

Here is how I am using the term deistic evolution.  To me deistic evolution is evolution which occurs without the involvement of God.  BioLogos as a group and many individuals (but not all) in that group propose that evolution was a fully natural process—that it was governed by random processes alone.  They are explicit in proposing a non-interventionist theology for evolution.  For this reason, I call this proposal deistic evolution.  Now, you may not like my terminology and perhaps I should change my terminology, but by this definition these people are deistic evolutionists.   My personal definition of theistic evolution is evolution which is affected by God—either in subtle ways or in grand interventions (see below).   There could be a range of theistic evolution, but this viewpoint explicitly implies that evolution is not a fully random “natural” process.   If this is the definition of theistic evolution (and it is the one I have consistently used in all my writings on this topic), then Denis and the board of BioLogos are not theistic evolutionists.  Remember, though, that this is a matter of definition.  By the way, I am friends of Darrel Falk who is the former president of BioLogos.  At the time he was a bit of a closet theistic evolutionist because when we discussed this over breakfast, he said he agreed with my position.  He expressed that he felt some pressure not to include this position in BioLogos writings.

You say that deism definitely rejects any religion based on revelation.   Not all deists would agree with your statement, although a fair majority would.   Isaac Newton, Joseph Priestley and Thomas Jefferson are all considered classic deists and all accepted, at least on some level, the idea of the inspiration of the Bible.  Fair is fair (by that I am referring to my use of definition above in my argument), and if you say that, by definition, all deists totally reject the idea of revelation, then, by definition, your statement would be true.   In any case, I would never even think of labeling Denis a deist.   We are friends and I know for a fact that he is an ardent theist.

About evidence for intervention, there is direct and (debatable) indirect evidence.  I believe and am absolutely completely without waveringly, totally and irretrievably (ha ha) convinced  that life was created.  There is no rational or conceivable “natural” way for life to have been created from non-life.  The theory of abiogenesis is a sham.  In that sense I am an interventionist, although, technically, the origin of life is not a part of the evolutionary theory.   Second, there is strong evidence for a massive and sudden creation event known as the Cambrian Explosion.   I am prepared to admit that this may not be a slam dunk, but it is strong evidence for a creation event at that time.  Third, there is the apparent fact that the amount of information which would have to build over a relatively short time could not have been created by random mutation.   Deistic and atheistic evolutionists have failed to respond to the challenge of producing a believable mechanism by which the complexity of higher life forms could form by random mutation in the time frame which it would have to occur.   That mutations do occur and that “positive” mutations occur has been shown in the laboratory.  However, many biologists and most mathematicians who study this question point out the massive improbability of fully random processes producing the range of species and amount of information we have today.  None of these amount to “proof” but they are evidence that supports the idea of interventional evolution, which is my view.  For myself, I do not dismiss deistic evolution, but for several reasons I rather strongly disagree that this is the correct explanation.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have already confessed to you that I hold to interventional evolution at least in part due to theological reasons, so you should remember that when you consider what I am saying above.  I am not without bias which comes from outside of science.

About your “three types of life” model, I would like to hear what you have to say on that.  Is this idea coming from the Bible or is it coming from science?   Presumably it is coming from the Bible, as science does not discuss the matter of spiritual life and I do not know what you mean by cosmological life.  Please explain if you do not mind.

You say that physical life does not “need” intervention because it is not corrupted.  I will agree that physical things are not corrupted and Genesis 1 agrees with your proposal.   I do not know what it would mean to say that physical things “need” intervention, but the question is not whether it “needed” intervention but whether God, in fact intervened.  It is not clear why the fact that physical things are not corrupted means that God would not intervene in physical things.  Jesus certainly intervened in physical things when he turned water into wine and when he created bread and fish and when he resurrected Lazarus. So, we already KNOW that God intervenes in physical life, so why we should assume that he would not intervene in the origin of species is something which would need to be established in my opinion.

A fun discussion.  I look forward to hearing a bit more about your three kinds of life model and your definition of cosmological life.

John Oakes

The earlier question:

I’ve actually not heard of the term, “deistic evolutionist”.  Drs. Lemoreaux and FrancisCollins are probably my favorites  I thought they were theistic evolutionists.  How would their views differ from what I promoted in my paper the, “Biologos” version of  theistic evolution, where God puts the universe in motion with full knowledge of the eventual outcome of evolution on earth?  Thanks.

The earlier answer:

I call the Biologos position deistic evolution.  Deism is, by definition, a belief in a God who is not personally intervening in the world.  Biologos is, in effect, promoting deistic evolution–evolution which presupposes that God does not intervene in the process.  I see them as promoting a philosophy of God-of-no-gaps.   Why they assume that God does not intervene if they believe in a God who intervenes in history and in our lives is a bit of a mystery to me, but I believe it is because they are unwilling to propose anything about science that atheists cannot accept.  I am not predisposed to support a belief simply to avoid criticism from atheists.   I am not opposed to deistic evolution per se, but I believe that it is a result of a presupposition rather than the evidence.   I will agree that the scientific evidence does not prove intervention ,but the evidence certainly allows for it and I believe it suggests it.  Theology strongly supports this view, in my opinion.

This is not a game-changer to me.  Like Denis said to me, we are in essential agreement “except for a few interventions.”

John Oakes

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