Yesterday, Beliefnet.com ran an article, An Artist or An Engineer?, which evaluates how we should interpret God in light of the evidence found in the natural world. The author (who is strangely anonymous) isn't a fan of Intelligent Design, but even so, I liked some of the language in his essay…
The problem of imperfect design in nature raises serious concerns for the idea of God as the divine engineer...After all, if God designed each detail in the blueprint of life, why would he create mammalian eyes which have a blind spot?...
However, as Karl Giberson notes in his lecture "Wrestling with Darwin", perhaps such problems come from our choice of metaphor. "All of this [concern with design] is driven by a prevailing but kind of unexamined metaphor that we should think of God as an engineer and so we should bring engineering questions to creation and evaluate them as engineering projects," says Giberson.
Yet what if we view God through another metaphor, like that of an artist? Certainly, this does not solve the engineering problems, but it causes us not to look at them as engineering problems anymore. Furthermore, as Giberson notes, "We might begin to see the world as creative and extravagant in its beauty rather than red in tooth in claw."
In their book Questions of Truth, John Polkinghorne and Nicholas Beale raise a similar challenge to viewing God as an engineer:
"God is never spoken of as a 'designer' in the Bible; he is the Creator and Father, and a father does not 'design' his children. Even a great creative writer does not exactly 'design' his or her characters, and in any performance, whether of a play or a piece of music, the individual decisions and actions of the performer are vital elements in addition to the intentions of the playwright or composer. By endowing us with free will and giving us the capacity to love, God calls us to be in a limited but very important sense co-creators."
Yes, I’ve often called God an “artist” too (see The Mustard Seed).