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A Mediating Voice

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April 15, 2012 Tags: Christian Unity

Today's video features Chris Tilling. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

In today’s video from director Ryan Pettey, theologian Dr. Chris Tilling discusses the need for a mediating voice in the science and faith discussion. He begins by noting that the way the “literalness” of Scripture is framed in much of the evolutionist/creationist debate "is a modern concern," and traces this framing to two sources: the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment. Martin Luther rightly rebelled against some of the fanciful interpretations of the Bible in his time by trying to get back to the single meaning of Scripture as he saw it. This focus on a singular meaning of Scripture became coupled with the Enlightenment emphasis on scientific rigor and foundationalism–seeking a "certain truth" that one can build upon–leading to the modern emphasis on the literalness of scripture.

The problem, however, is that not all Scripture wants to be read literally, and to do so is to bypass some of the truth contained in it. Both creationists and New Atheists, then, bring similar presuppositions to the text. Tilling points to a third group that wants to be more sensitive to how we import meaning into the Biblical text. He calls this group “a mediating voice”, one that can listen to the arguments of the New Atheists without being frightened and also listen to the good in the creationist account, particularly God’s role as Creator of the heavens and earth and his plan for redemption through Jesus.

Sadly, he says, this is the same voice that too often becomes lost in the polarized atmosphere of the contemporary science and faith dialogue.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

Chris Tilling is Tutor in New Testament Studies and teaches across the whole at St. Mellitus College. He studied at St Andrew’s University and London School of Theology and has completed a doctorate under Max Turner in Pauline Christology. He has written several articles on aspects of New Testament studies, and has translated many others from German into English. Additionally, he is the author of a popular theology blog site entitled Chrisendom.

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George Bernard Murphy - #69317

April 15th 2012

A literal interpretation of Genesis must be linked with actual science or Genesis does not make sense.

The first metion of earth in Genesis is on Day 3 when continents were relocated.[apparently]

 This could be interpreted as the beginning of the magma flow that causes plate tectonics

 It did indeed begin quite early.

 [the earth is 4.7 billion years old and magma flow started when it was about 200 million years old.]

 This gave is 1/2 of the motion needed to produce the magnetic poles through the mechanism of a geodynamo. The second thing needed was spin and we got that on Day 4 through a fortuitous planatery collision.]


AFTER THAT we had a magnetosphere filter which took the ionizing radiation out of sunlight and left the life sustaining electromagnetic radiation.


 THEN [and only then] did we have life on earth.

Jon Garvey - #69321

April 16th 2012

Or else, as John H Walton points out, we can understand “literal” as being literally about something other than what our post-Enlightenment suppositions lead us to expect.

But even before him, the Reformers were well aware that “literal” means other than “scientifically literal”. William Tyndale (hardly a minor player):

“Thou shalt understand, therefore, that the scripture  hath but one sense, which is the literal one. And that literal sense is the root and ground of all, and the anchor that never faileth, whereunto if thou cleave, thou canst never err or go out of the way. And if thou leave the literal sense, thou canst not but go out of the way. Nevertheless the scripture uses proverbs, similitudes, riddles or allegories, as all other speeches do; but that which the proverb, similitude, riddle or allegory signifieth, is ever the literal sense, which thou must seek out diligently.”


“God is a Spirit, and all his words are spiritual. His literal sense is spiritual…if thou have eyes of God to see the right meaning of the text, and whereunto the Scripture pertaineth, and the final end and cause thereof.”

brutewolf - #69319

April 15th 2012

Wonderful video! Thank you for this. Might it be possible, in the body of the text, to substitute “creationist” with “young earth creationist”? I think that may avoid some confusion.

PNG - #69464

April 22nd 2012

I usually assume that “creationist” is shorthand for “special creationist,” or the belief that God created each species separately. That often, but not always, includes an assumption of “young earth.”

Arni Zachariassen - #69802

May 9th 2012

One thing… Why aren’t these videos more easily sharable? I’d love to link to it directly on my Facebook feed, for instance. Not possible. Don’t understand why.

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