A Bigger Tent

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December 17, 2009 Tags: Christian Unity, Pastoral Voices

Today's entry was written by the BioLogos Editorial Team. You can read more about what we believe here.

A Bigger Tent

In his essay “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople” (the fifth white paper from our November conference to be posted), Pastor Tim Keller considers three main questions laypeople raise when they learn of anyone teaching that biological evolution and biblical orthodoxy can be compatible:

Question #1: If God used evolution to create, then we can’t take Genesis 1 literally, and if we can’t do that, why take any other part of the Bible literally?

Question#2: If biological evolution is true, does that mean that we are just animals driven by our genes, and everything about us can be explained by natural selection?

Question #3: If biological evolution is true and there was no historical Adam and Eve how can we know where sin and suffering came from?

Keller offers potential answers to these questions in his paper. For example, he responds to question two by noting that accepting that human life came through evolutionary biological processes is not the same as accepting the Grand Theory of Evolution, which holds that evolution can explain every aspect of human nature.

However, Keller also notes that his answers to these questions should not be viewed as the only way to deal with the theological issues that evolution raises among congregations. Rather, it is the job of pastors to explore these questions in order to help their congregations. As he writes:

In short, if I as a pastor want to help both believers and inquirers to relate science and faith coherently, I must read the works of scientists, exegetes, philosophers, and theologians and then interpret them for my people. Someone might counter that this is too great a burden to put on pastors, that instead they should simply refer their laypeople to the works of scholars. But if pastors are not ‘up to the job’ of distilling and understanding the writings of scholars in various disciplines, how will our laypeople do it?

 

Furthermore, Keller urges us to be open to a variety of answers to these questions. Christians seeking to correlate Scripture and science must be a “bigger tent” so as to include the multiple ways that one can reconcile scripture with evolutionary theory.


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pds - #1086

December 21st 2009

Beaglelady,

So the Origin of Species is not concerned with the Origin of the First Species?  Many scientists disagree with you.  When did Darwinian processes kick in?  Are you saying Chemical Evolution theories are wrong?  When does Theistic Evolution start working?

Why not listen to both?  I did.  Reading Gould, Stanley, Conway Morris and Falk is how I know Falk is selective in his treatment of the fossil record.

Your natural history museum question is rather irrelevant.  Why do you keep asking?  Since you keep asking, I was a member of a natural history museum for many years.


RBH - #1089

December 21st 2009

pds wrote “The functional reason would be to make Eve’s DNA work with Adam’s DNA.”

Sorry.  Pseudogenes and ERVs have nothing at all to do with how male and female DNA “work with” each other, but the distribution of pseudogenes and endogenous retroviruses across species forms some of the strongest evidence for common descent.

pds asked “So the Origin of Species is not concerned with the Origin of the First Species?  Many scientists disagree with you.  When did Darwinian processes kick in?”

When there was a population of replicating entities with heritable variation.  Those are the initial conditions required by “Darwinian processes.”  The term “evolution” is used in a number of ways, but Darwinian evolution by natural selection requires those initial conditions.

I know of no scientists who imagine that Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” is concerned with the “Origin of the First Species.”  It’s available online in all 6 editions.  I suggest you read it and not depend on “Many (unnamed) scientists” who allegedly disagree.


pds - #1091

December 21st 2009

RBH,

My comment that you quote was in response to another comment about what we would expect to see in the human genome today if God had directly created Eve.  My point was that such speculation is not helpful unless we happen to know the mind of God.

My questions above were in response to Beaglelady’s claim that “Evolution doesn’t concern the origin of life.”  She did not specify Darwinian evolution.  Chemical evolution does concern the origin of life.  Did you read the whole paragraph?

My allusion to “Origin of Species” was not stating that Darwin’s book dealt with the origin of life.  But a plausible claim to explain the origin of species should include an account of the origin of the first species, in my opinion.


beaglelady - #1095

December 21st 2009

So the Origin of Species is not concerned with the Origin of the First Species?

I never mentioned Origin of Species, did I?  I was responding to your remark about the Origin of Life, which is a different field of study from Evolution.

When did Darwinian processes kick in?

I have no idea, but I would guess when a favorable mutation occurred on which natural selection could act.

Are you saying Chemical Evolution theories are wrong?

I never mentioned them.

When does Theistic Evolution start working?

Actually, as far as I know,  TE a way of looking at evolution as an ordained and sustained process, where the Finger of God doesn’t have to constantly push genes around.

Your natural history museum question is rather irrelevant.  Why do you keep asking?

It’s not relevant to check out the fossils, to learn more about what we’re talking about here?  Aren’t you curious?


Mere_Christian - #1105

December 22nd 2009

If God made Adam and then Even ( cloned sort of from Adam), with, or from, an entirely different genome, how would their offspring Abel, Cain, Seth etc., etc., find mates? They would more than likely not be able to reproduce with an entirely different animal.

A Christian is an entirely new creation with the same DNA as another (non-Christian) human.

The Hebrews/Israelites were “set apart” from the other herds as well.


Unapologetic Catholic - #1125

December 22nd 2009

PDS does it again:

” find Darrel Falk’s treatment of the fossil record to be selective and somewhat misleading.  Stephen Jay Gould, Steven Stanley and Simon Conway Morris give a consistent and more detailed description of the fossil record.  Why should I trust a biologist to summarize the fossil evidence, and not expert paleontologists?”

Misprepersenting Gould again. 

Darrel Falk’s treatmentof the fossil record aligns with Gould and all other paleontologists.  Depsite several requests, PDS has refused to provide any information by any paleontogist who finds the Cabrian fossil record contradics evolution.

Where does Gould say evolution is not supported by the fossils record?

Your earlier “qote” form Goudl?  What is yoru creationist source for that quote?


Unapologetic Catholic - #1126

December 22nd 2009

Keller’s third question is most interesting:

“Question #3: If biological evolution is true and there was no historical Adam and Eve how can we know where sin and suffering came from?”

As he acknowledges, the scientific evidence is against a historical Adam and Eve.  He identifies the theological challenges if that is true.  I suspect that the Eastern Orthodox have much to add to this discussion.


beaglelady - #1128

December 22nd 2009

I suspect that the Eastern Orthodox have much to add to this discussion.

UC, I think you are right. I believe Eastern Orthodox Christians have a different perspective on original sin.  It would be great if a number of them would participate on this blog.

As for Gould, creationists love to twist his words.  They think that punctuated equilibrium means that there are all these nice gaps for the designer to hide in.


pds - #1139

December 23rd 2009

Unapologetic Catholic,

You are misrepresenting my comments again.  Can you please just address my words, instead of putting words in my mouth?


John VanZwieten - #1143

December 23rd 2009

Thank you for posting this, and for the work BioLogos is doing.

I am an assosiate pastor, and the issue of origins has reared it’s head as I have been leading people through “The Truth Project,” which does a good job refuting “GTE” but also (unfortunately, I now think) takes an anti-evolutionary, IDish position.  Just in my own small group of 10, I have both a newer believer who comes from a scientific background, and a couple who visited the “Creation Museum”.  Quite a diverse group in which to tackle issues of science and faith.

I feel very fortunate that a congregant pointed me to BioLogos—since as a pastor presenting this material, I feel a duty to investigate the various truth-claims and provide direction with integrity.

From what I’ve heard and read from him, Tim Keller has a wonderful pastor’s heart, so I greatly appreciate his attempts to square specific and general revelation—and his insistence that pastors need to do the hard work of coming to grips with both in order to help our congregants do so.


unapologetic Catholic - #1194

December 25th 2009

PDS:

“You are misrepresenting my comments again.  Can you please just address my words, instead of putting words in my mouth?”

Sure.  You “quoted “Gould for the propositon that he has some problem with evolution.

Here are your exact words:

“Stephen Jay Gould [and others]give a consistent and more detailed description of the fossil record.  Why should I trust a biologist to summarize the fossil evidence, and not expert paleontologists?”

Here is Gould making three arguments in support of evolution:

“The third argument is more direct: transitions are often found in the fossil record. Preserved transitions are not common—and should not be, according to our understanding of evolution (see next section) but they are not entirely wanting, as creationists often claim. ” 

and he coninues:

“Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.”

I count you as one of those creationists who intentionally misrepresent Gould.


JayEnEff - #1353

December 29th 2009

Near the top of the thread, there were a number of posts regarding the question of when homo sapiens emerged. I once read an article that said it is not possible to draw a clean line between human and proto-human. There is a range to the traits we we associate with human, i.e. jaw bone structure, large cranial cavity, bipedal pelvis structure. According to the article, no matter where you draw the line in the bone record, there will be species “below” the human line with human features and species “above” the human line with proto-human features. In other words, if you walk upright, think, speak, eat, sleep, poop, and reproduce, when are you a person and when are you not?


beaglelady - #1520

December 31st 2009

Please explain more about this article you read.


Knockgoats - #2827

January 17th 2010

Keller begins by distorting Dawkins’ position: Dawkins has never claimed that you cannot believe in both God and evolution. The phrase “Grand Theory of Everything” is also misleading, since evolutionary theory says nothing about the non-living parts of the universe. Keller’s paranoia in relation to the “new atheists” is pitiful: Christians still constitute a clear majority in the USA and atheists are a favourite hate-group, yet Keller complains that the new atheists are well on their way to establishing the “GTE”  as “a set of beliefs considered so basic, and with so much support from authoritative figures and institutions, that it is becoming impossible for individuals to publicly question them.” Citing Plantinga’s ludicrous “‘Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism” doesn’t help Keller’s credibility either. We know we cannot trust our minds unreservedly - visual illusions are enough to establish that; that’s why we need ways to overcome their limitations - such as scientific investigation. Finally, Keller’s “solutions” to reconciling a literal Adam and Eve with science are the sort of piffle only a theologian could take seriously: the literalists at least have the courage of their convictions.


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