The Failed Apologetic of the Wedge Strategy
by James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D. *
How the Intelligent Design Movement Treats the Bible as Irrelevant
Is it possible to profess confidence in God’s Word, yet act like the Bible is not authoritatively relevant? Yes, according to the Lord Jesus Christ, who was confronted with that very situation when He called into question the public professions and practices of the Pharisees. He called their behavior “hypocrisy.”1
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men….Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition. (Mark 7:5-8, 13)
Two observations should be noted: 1) The Pharisees publicly professed that the Scriptures were infallibly true and authoritatively relevant, and 2) the Pharisees publicly practiced the “tradition of men”—the norms that society taught—as if they were more important (and thus more relevant) than what the Scripture taught.
In other words, the Pharisees followed popular culture rather than treating the Scriptures as the authoritatively relevant Word of God.
Pre-Darwinian Deists and Secular Theories of Earth History
During the 1700s and early 1800s, following the secular influence of the Enlightenment philosophers, a closed-Bible approach to studying earth history became popular in certain professedly Christian academic circles. While insisting that the world of nature be studied apart from biblical revelation about nature, these Christian academics displayed obvious hypocrisy toward God’s Word—“It is God’s Word, but look here at what we discovered in nature.” This disregard for biblical truth opened the gates of “Christian” academia to interlopers influenced essentially by deism, whose errors thrived in closed-Bible environments.2
Typically, these scholars did not publicly blast the Bible as being “wrong” or “irrelevant” regarding earth history, so their failure to treat biblical geologic information as authoritatively relevant was not a frontal assault. However, their educational practices followed and promoted secular theories about earth history that without question contradicted biblical data (e.g., old-earth scenarios that discarded the Genesis account of the global Flood)—elevating these theories as more reliable and more important, and thus more relevant, than what the Bible itself taught about nature.
In other words, they conformed to the secular culture of their society, rather than treating the Scriptures as the authoritatively relevant Word of God.
Modern Deists Nullify God’s Truth
In our time, founders of the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM) employed the “wedge” strategy, an approach to design-focused science that intentionally uses a closed-Bible approach to investigating earth history and origins, with a goal to remove “religion” from academic discussions in order to prove that science “naturally” exhibits design. However, this practice effectively nullifies the Genesis record, functionally denying that the first book of the Bible is authoritatively relevant for explaining origins.
Accordingly, IDM’s closed-Bible approach is just as flawed and disappointing as the approaches used by the geoscientists of the early 1800s—those same old-earth geoscientists who provided a uniformitarian platform for Charles Darwin’s natural selection theory.
The Wedge strategy of IDM, as a form of apologetics, disappoints on several serious grounds.
First, the epistemological price for “marketing” IDM is just too high. As a strategy, IDM abandons public acknowledgment of the Lord Jesus Christ as earth’s Designer and Creator in order to gain a hearing on the topic of biological design. As a consequence, avoiding talk about the identity of the Designer allows the apologetic of IDM to accommodate theistic evolution, or any other unbiblical kind of “designer,” as the imagined producer of complicated life forms.3
Second, IDM’s failure to treat Scripture as authoritatively relevant opens the door to evolutionary anthropological theories, such as one proposed by Dr. William Dembski, who imagines that hominid animals were morphed into Adam and Eve and then specially blessed by a miraculous amnesia of their evolutionary ancestry.4 In effect, Dembski’s advocacy for “design” has, in fact, placed a “wedge” of false doctrine in the Church. Special revelation (truth provided in Scripture, e.g., Romans 5:12) is effectively separated from general revelation (truth observed in nature, e.g., Psalm 19:1).
Third, the commitment to a closed-Bible approach by IDM for explaining earth’s origins unsurprisingly forfeits any standards for preventing “unequally yoked” alliances between believers and unbelievers, and even uses the word “apologetics” while practicing wholesale ecumenicalism. Does the earth’s Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ, really need a mixed-bag of such religiously diverse experts from Presbyterians to Baptists to Catholic evolutionists to Moonies?3, 5 Contrast IDM’s team of “strange bedfellows” with Nehemiah’s policy of rejecting heterodox ecumenical teamwork!6
Fourth, what ultimate message is conveyed by a closed-Bible approach to discussing origins? It is a mask worn to appeal to the world, like an actor on a theatrical stage. This approach to analyzing earth history, and our own origins, effectively denies that the Holy Bible is authoritatively relevant in what it says.
Admittedly, movements like Intelligent Design, which essentially take the characteristics of religious deism, do occasionally post “gains” for God’s natural revelation (e.g., showing biology’s “irreducible complexity”). But the price paid for these gains is a net loss, because it gives the appearance that God’s Word is not needed and, thus, not authoritatively relevant to origins science—and nothing is more false than that.
Ever since the Garden of Eden, God’s Word has been attacked. Some deny that it is authentic, some deny its accuracy, and some deny its authoritativeness. The Intelligent Design Movement, however, denies the Bible’s authoritative relevance to our knowledge of how God created everything.
Past and present deistic approaches to origins science have not been, and can never be, apologetic strategies that aim to defend biblical truth. Rather, the closed-Bible approach is a “wedge” that separates God’s special revelation from His general revelation, an unbiblical idea with tragic consequences, casting doubt on the Bible’s relevance and authority.
Real world apologetics, however, properly relates both forms of God’s truth to each other, as Psalm 19 illustrates:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.…The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:1, 7)
- The Greek word translated “hypocrites” in Mark 7:6 is hupokritês, meaning a stage player or other kind of actor (i.e., a pretender, a fake). Thayer, J. H. 1896. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendricksen, 643.
- “By the 1750s openly deistic writers had essentially died out in England. Nevertheless, deistic ideas took root and spread into the 19th century, often hidden in works on natural theology….'By cloaking potentially subversive discoveries [or theories parading as discoveries] in the language of natural theology, scientists could appear more orthodox than they were, but without the discomfort of duplicity if their inclinations were more in line with deism.’” Mortenson, T. 2004. The Great Turning Point: The Church’s Catastrophic Mistake on Geology—Before Darwin. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 25, including a quote from Brooke, J. H. 1991. Science and Religion. New York: Cambridge University Press, 194. See also Johnson, J. J. S. 2011. Just Say No to Trojan Horses, Acts & Facts. 40 (2):17-18, especially notes 4-6.
- “But the ID people…feel it best to leave the Bible and the Biblical God out of the argument entirely. Some even feel that evolution is okay, provided it is not atheistic Darwinian evolution. Thus, theistic evolution is quite compatible with Intelligent Design (Michael Behe himself admits to being an evolutionist). And some (e.g., William Dembski) say that the Designer does not necessarily have to be a deity!” Morris, H. M. 2006. Intelligent Design and/or Scientific Creationism. Acts & Facts. 35 (4).
- Dembski’s proposal that animals became humans with amnesia illustrates this outrageous departure from the teaching of Genesis 1-2 and Romans 5. See Johnson, J. J. S. 2011. Culpable Passivity: The Failure of Going with the Flow. Acts & Facts. 40 (7): 8-10, especially notes 6-8 and 11.
- Amos 3:3; 2 Corinthians 6:14. See also Johnson, J. J. S. Shades of the Enlightenment! How the Neo-Deist ‘Intelligent Design Movement’ Recycles the Enlightenment’s Methodology of ‘Reason’ as a Humanistic Substitute for Biblical Creationism’s Revelation-verified Epistemology. Presented to the Evangelical Theological Society Southwest Regional Meeting, Fort Worth, Texas, March 24, 2007, pages 23-25, available on icr.org.
- See Nehemiah 6:2-3 describing Nehemiah’s response when he was invited to “dialogue” with unbelievers about how to carry out the spiritual service that God had assigned to him.
* Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the School of Biblical Apologetics.
Cite this article: Johnson, J. J. S. 2011. The Failed Apologetic of the Wedge Strategy. Acts & Facts. 40 (8): 10-11.