I’ve met a few reasonably well known and/or important people in my time. Most of them are of an authorial persuasion. I have been recognised by Philip Pullman and I’ve sat opposite Terry Pratchett at dinner. Of a non-authorial nature, the great and the good of Northern Ireland used to pass through our dinner parties with monotonous regularity. One I particularly remember included the Northern Ireland Minister and the Chief Constable of the RUC, whose jokes were judged so off colour by Mrs Minister that she threw a wobbly and demanded to be taken home (whereupon Chief Constable apologised profusely to my mother, who said that’s okay and could he possibly finish the joke?).
But all this was as a clanging bell on Saturday when I got to meet Michael Green. Michael Green! One of the greatest Christian apologists of all time! (And no, that doesn’t mean he keeps saying sorry for it.) I was reading his books when I was a kid. I can’t remember anything about them, mind you, but I know they’re there. They’re like the hidden foundations of a mighty building. You don’t need to know what they look like.
And I was bursting with pride, not because of meeting him, but because he came into the church, and he greeted my lovely wife by name, and she introduced him to me.
And then …
He was leading a seminar on the general topic of “how to share your faith without sounding stupid or putting people off”. Well, that might as well have been the title. Someone asks why you’re a believer? He suggested a number of non-jargony, non-judgemental responses. One of which was to cite the fact (his word, not mine) thefact of intelligent design in creation.
Oh, Michael, what went wrong?
You could cite the fact of a widespread perception of intelligent design. That would present no problem. Others may disagree but you’ve got your talking point. And I must hasten to add he’s of an entirely different intellectual order to the Sarah Palin brigade; I don’t see him raising any controversy about whether or not to teach it alongside evolution in science classes.
But, fact? No. It was like he was ticking Richard Dawkins’s boxes. “Something as complex as an eye …” St Dawkins has shown, quite convincingly, in his epistles unto The Blind Watchmaker and Climbing Mount Improbable, that actually something as complex as an eye can evolve. And to show that the Blessed Richard isn’t just mouthing theory, St David of Attenborough the other day on TV actually showed examples of animals with light-sensing organs that are, we could say, eyes at different stages of evolution.
My position? Well, we’re working our way through the final series of The West Wing on DVD. To quote Congressman Santos, “I believe in God and I believe he’s intelligent”. Later in the same episode he defines his position with a few well chosen words that wouldn’t be news to any Christian at my church but which apparently takes the American media by storm:
“Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory. It’s a religious belief and our constitution does not allow for the teaching of religion in our public schools…. Evolution is not perfect, It doesn’t answer every question but it is based on scientific facts. Facts that can be predicted, tested and proven. Intelligent Design asks theological questions. I’m sure that many of us would agree that at the beginning of all that begetting something begun. What was that something?”
(quote half-inched from The West Wing wiki)
No, my faith isn’t left in tattered shreds. The Blessed Richard is impeccable on biology but in areas outside his self-taught expertise, including the whole vast arena of theological discourse, he is so gloriously, wonderfully wrong that Mr Green still wins by several thousand points.
I just dock a few.