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Step 1: Trim away the idea of purpose within nature. Add in the idea of purpose for nature.

One of the compulsions of the ID movement is to find divine purpose within nature. To find a design manifesting purpose within nature--such as a leap in complexity---appears to ID eyes as finding God’s mind at work within a natural structure. Unfortunately, as we said earlier, ID examples of divine design show something less than admirable intelligence, and seem even to lack redemptive compassion.

Yet, the book of nature is revelatory of God. St. Paul says that the power of God as creator is manifest in the creation, though somewhat difficult to see clearly. To perceive the way nature is currently designed does not give us reason to think we understand the mind of God.

It is our conjecture that God’s overall purpose for the creation is not discernable within the creation. Yes, complex design can be found. Yes, the parts of the eye are coordinated for the purpose of seeing. Yet, God’s purpose for the history of evolution is not discernable within biological structures or processes.

This means an inner telosor purpose or design does not stand up and advertise itself. So, we, Ted and Marty, will not attempt to locate purpose or direction or even value within nature. Instead, as Christians, we affirm a divine purpose for nature. We plan to look for this divine purpose where it belongs, namely, in God. The purpose for the long history of nature over deep time is not a built in design or direction. Rather we prophetically contend that it will be retroactively imparted by God in the eschatological new creation. Now, what do we mean by this?

Let’s start with an analogy. What is the purpose of a breadboard, a common wooden cutting board found in most every kitchen? It provides a base for slicing bread with a serrated knife. Now, the breadboard  came from a tree. When we look at a tree, the goal of slicing bread is not immediately visible. The tree does not look designed for bread slicing. This particular purpose comes from the logger who fells the tree, the lumber yard which turns part of the tree into a board, and the carpenter who shapes it for kitchen use. Finally, it’s the cook who wants to serve a tasty meal that retroactively imparts purpose to the tree as the origin of the breadboard. By analogy, we believe God similarly imparts purpose to the long development of life forms within the creation. What God makes of the creation will determine its purpose, what it has been designed for. To discern just what that purpose is, we must turn to special revelation.

There is more to say here. We don’t find such a purpose at the beginning. Rather, we find it at the end, looking backwards. Purpose comes from what is final looking backward, not from a potentiality lying in wait at the beginning. In fact, the Greek word for end, telos, means end both as final state and as purpose or goal. God has a telos for nature, even if we can’t see it within nature. It is the future act of redemption that determines what previous creation will have meant, and this can be discerned only eschatologically. It is omega that determines alpha.

Email link | Printer-friendly | Feedback | Contributed by: Martinez Hewlett and Ted Peters

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