Creator God: The Debate on Intelligent Design

By Steinmetz, David C. | The Christian Century, December 27, 2005 | Go to article overview

Creator God: The Debate on Intelligent Design

Steinmetz, David C., The Christian Century

Intelligent design is the theory that the universe is too complex a place to be accounted for by an appeal to natural selection and the random processes of evolution. Some kind of overarching intellect must have been at work in the design of the natural order.

In principle, intelligent design is religion-neutral. The intelligent designer is not named and no claim is made that the designer is the Christian God. But in fact, intelligent design is mainly advocated in America by conservative Christians, who regard the account of creation in the opening chapters of Genesis as a scientific description of the origin of the world.

When the members of the school board of Dover, Pennsylvania, a small community near Harrisburg, required students to read a short statement concerning intelligent design before studying ninth-grade biology, they met stiff resistance from some parents and teachers. The result was a court case in Harrisburg that will be adjudicated in January.

It is easy to understand why intelligent design appeals to conservative Christians. As long as all Christians, conservative and liberal alike, confess that their God is the "Maker of heaven and earth" and the "Creator of all things, visible and invisible," they are on record as supporters of what looks for all the world like intelligent design. Christians have always brushed aside the notion that the world is self-generating, a random concatenation of miscellaneous atoms accidentally thrown together by no one in particular and serving no larger purpose than their own survival. The first article of the Christian creed could not be clearer: the world exists by the will of God. No intelligent designer, no world.

What less conservative Christians are not committed to is the idea that intelligent design excludes the possibility of evolution. For example, the Roman Catholic Church has informally taken the position that evolution is one of the tools God used in the creation of the world. Cardinal Christoph Schonborn has even argued that a scientist who uses evolution as the grounds for atheism is speaking as an amateur theologian, not as a professional scientist. Science has no answer to the question of whether there is a God.

Nonfundamentalists are similarly skeptical of the idea that the biblical story of creation is a scientific account that should be read as literally as possible. As long ago as the third century the great biblical scholar Origen raised substantial doubts about whether a literal reading of the story made good theological sense. In his view, readers should distinguish between stories that are both true and factual (like the story of the crucifixion of Jesus) and those that are true but not factual (like the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son).

Was there actually a good Samaritan who helped a Jew wounded by thieves, or a prodigal son who wasted his father's substance in riotous living? Who knows, and even more important, who ultimately cares? The power of the stories is independent of the question of whether they actually happened in space and time.

The same is true for the account of creation. Origen could not believe that light and darkness existed before there were sun, moon and stars. Or that the invisible and transcendent God took a daily stroll in the Garden of Eden to enjoy the evening breezes, like a squire surveying his estates. Or that the Maker of heaven and earth could not locate Adam and Eve when they hid from him, and had to ask them to show themselves.

These "absurdities" (as Origen labeled them) were unsubtle hints from God that he wanted the account of creation read in an altogether different way, not as history but as truth "in the semblance of history." Truth embedded in "the semblance of history" is truth conveyed through fiction. But truth conveyed through fiction is still God's truth. No one has an excuse not to pay attention to it.

Origen was aware that it is possible to devote oneself to the study of the world and not conclude that it was made by God. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Creator God: The Debate on Intelligent Design


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.