In two previous posts, I have discussed Randy Isaac’s essay, “Science and the Question of God,” published at the BioLogos Foundation website. The final section of Isaac’s essay is called “The Two Book Model.” This phrase normally refers to the traditional Christian view that God reveals himself in history and Scripture, which is his “special” revelation, as well as in the created order, which is “general” revelation. So we have two complementary books of revelation: the book of Scripture and the book of nature. Though we can’t learn everything about God from general revelation that we learn from God’s special revelation, we can learn something.
Scripture itself suggests as much. According to the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, “from the foundation of the world, God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from the things that have been made.” That’s a pretty strong claim, but the Christian tradition, especially the Catholic tradition, has claimed that we can get some knowledge of God from the created order.
Given the traditional meaning of the “two books” metaphor, it’s surprising that Isaac would appeal to a “two book model,” since he denies what that model traditionally affirms. Isaac argues that natural science doesn’t really provide any compelling evidence for God. I suppose he could argue we can infer God’s existence from nature in some non-scientific but rational way, but I don’t think he believes that either. This makes his position quite out of keeping with the “two book model” as that is normally understood.
I must confess that I read this section of Isaac’s essay three times and I’m still not sure that I understand what he is saying, or trying to say. He seems to argue, on the one hand, that we can’t really gain knowledge of God from nature, but that we still need both the book of nature and the book of Scripture to have a full, “stereoscopic” view of God and reality. In addition, he argues that we need to know God in his Word and not just his works to really understand what God is like. But of course, no orthodox Christian thinker has ever argued that you could get complete or even saving knowledge of God from nature alone. The traditional claim is that you can get some knowledge of God from nature. That’s what the “two books model” has normally referred to. I think Isaac needs to find another metaphor, since he denies what the “two book model” has always affirmed.
The take home lesson of Isaac’s piece seems to be this. If you want to integrate Darwinism into your theology and dismiss all evidence of intelligent design, you’re going to have a hard time maintaining that the natural world is one of God’s two books of revelation. Instead, you’ll just end up insisting that “science” (including, of course, Darwinism) should inform our view of God. If you’re wondering what Darwinism does to Christian theology, check out God and Evolution, especially the chapters by John West.