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Destructive Intelligent Design

Here I share with you a very controversial portion of an editorial column Dr. Winter wrote for Mission Frontiers magazine in July 1997. In addition to being controversial, this may have been the very first time he publicly elucidated his growing concern about disease and who deserves the blame for it.

He starts by recognizing the validity of intelligent design, citing Michael Behe’s courage in writing Darwin’s Black Box, which was published only a year earlier.  After assuming that Behe would say that our immune cells are intelligently designed for good, he dares to wonder, “Isn’t it equally possible, then, that we can observe that, say, the tuberculosis bacillus is intelligently EVIL?” He then asks, “Who would design something like [the tuberculosis bacterium]? Not God!”

This material immediately aroused the concern of many readers. One prominent pastor, a close and longtime friend of Dr. Winter, wrote him in a state of shock, wondering how Dr. Winter could lean towards such a simplistic and profoundly unbiblical solution to the problem of evil.

This same pastor writes quite eloquently a long list of scripture passages that oppose Dr. Winter’s conjectures.

In questioning Dr. Winter’s inference that God did not design destructive microbes he offers Mt 10:29, “Not one bird falls to the ground apart from the will of your Father.”

He counters Dr. Winter’s conclusion that God could not be the one behind a third of the world having tuberculosis with Rev 9:15 which describes four angels who are kept ready for a specific moment when they will kill a third of mankind.

His most compelling opposition to Dr. Winter’s line of thinking is built on Rom. 8:20, “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope...” He explains that our world with all of its suffering and natural disasters has been subjected to futility not of its own will, not of Satan’s will, but on account of the one who subjected it IN HOPE. “This,” he explains, “can only be God.”

He finishes his letter with warm regard for Ralph and Roberta, but appeals to God’s complexity in commanding Moses to tell Pharaoh to let the people go and then simultaneously hardening Pharaoh’s heart.

I recently found a short reply written by Dr. Winter. Rather than respond to his friend’s theological concerns, he thanks his friend for the thoughtful letter and says, “I think what I am saying does not really disagree with the force of your emphasis.” Dr. Winter agrees that God is ultimately in control and the only true God. But adds, “the demons in the New Testament throwing children into the fire (Mk 9:22) are not puppets where God holds the strings. Satan does. Isn’t that right?”

He ends his response by saying that he will write a decent respectful letter but is waiting until his pastor friend can read his next editorial which carries the same argument further.

I’ll post that editorial tomorrow.

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