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Why Does Ruse Act Like He’s an Expert on Theology?

Several months ago, I participated in a two-hour radio “debate” with Michael Ruse (along with Guillermo Gonzalez and Carlos Calle) about design in cosmology and astronomy. Several times, Michael Ruse lectured me about Christian theology. But it had a surreal quality to it, since he was talking about the theology he (as an agnostic) preferred, but he kept acting as if he was representing Christian theology accurately. I finally insisted that I actually did know a good bit about theology and that he was just making stuff up.
Ruse’s responses to Stephen Fuller in the Guardian over ID have that same, surreal quality. For instance, here’s how he distinguishes the difference between the Protestant and Catholic views of justification:

At the heart of Steve Fuller’s defence of intelligent design theory (ID) is a false analogy. He compares the struggles of the ID supporters to the travails of the Protestant Reformers. Just as they stood against the established Catholic church, so the ID supporters stand against establishment science, specifically Darwinian evolutionary theory. Where this comparison breaks down is that the Protestants were no less Christians than the Catholics. It was rather that they differed over the right way to get to heaven. For the Protestants it was justification through faith, believing in the Lord, whereas for Catholics, it was good works. Given that Saint Augustine, some thousand years before, had labeled the Catholic position the heresy of Pelagianism, the reformers had a good point.

This is more extreme, and more easily falsifiable, than the most grotesque Protestant caricature of Catholic theology. Does Ruse not know that Pelagianism was condemned, and Augustine made a saint, by the Catholic Church?
There are, of course, significant differences between the Catholic and Protestant views of justification, in particular, on the role of faith and works in transmitting justification, and on the way in which justifying grace transforms (or does not transform) the sinner. But both maintain that the ultimate basis of justification is God’s grace. As the Catholic Catechism says:

Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.

Hmm. That doesn’t sound much like Ruse’s summary.
Ruse goes on in his post to misrepresent both ID (which is neutral with respect to divine causality within the created order) and Christian theology. But the next time Ruse’s confident tone tempts you to believe he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to theology, re-read his description of the difference between Protestants and Catholics.

Jay W. Richards

Senior Fellow at Discovery, Senior Research Fellow at Heritage Foundation
Jay W. Richards, Ph.D., is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, and the Executive Editor of The Stream. Richards is author or editor of more than a dozen books, including the New York Times bestsellers Infiltrated (2013) and Indivisible (2012); The Human Advantage; Money, Greed, and God, winner of a 2010 Templeton Enterprise Award; The Hobbit Party with Jonathan Witt; and Eat, Fast, Feast. His most recent book, with Douglas Axe and William Briggs, is The Price of Panic: How the Tyranny of Experts Turned a Pandemic Into a Catastrophe.



Ann GaugerBIO-ComplexityCatholicMichael RuseNeo-DarwinismProtestantStephen Fullertheology