BioLogos Basics Video #2: Don’t You Believe God is the Creator?

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March 28, 2014 Tags: BioLogos, Creation & Origins

Today's entry was written by Jim Stump and Andrew DeSelm. You can read more about what we believe here.

Last month we premiered the first video in a new introductory series about the basic elements of the BioLogos perspective on origins. Today we release the second of these videos, which addresses the question, “Don’t you Believe God is the Creator?” The short answer to this is, “Yes we do!” Too often the debate over origins is framed as “Creation vs. Evolution” as though you can’t believe in both. But “creation” can mean lots of different things. In this video we illustrate some of these and conclude that it is perfectly compatible to assert that God is the “who” of creation and evolution is one of the “how’s” of creation. Watch it here or on our YouTube channel, then explore the next steps on this topic below.

Script: Jim Stump and Andrew DeSelm

Next steps for exploring this topic:

  • Creation? Which Creation? Thomas Burnett gives an overview of a book by William P. Brown, The Seven Pillars of Creation, which details the seven different creation accounts in the Bible.
  • Maker of Heaven and Earth. Here is audio of a sermon by Pastor David Swaim, discussing our belief of God as the “Maker of heaven and earth”.
  • Recovering the Doctrine of Creation. Wheaton professor Robert Bishop gives a substantial series of blog posts on the doctrine of creation.
  • On Creating the Cosmos. In this blog post, our Fellow Ted Davis introduces the work of Ted Peters. In an excerpt given here Peters begins to lay out his theology of creation.
  • Watch two short video clips from our feature length documentary, From the Dust: An Enriched Creation and An Unfolding Creation.

Video Script:

Does BioLogos believe that God is the creator? Yes, all Christians believe this; the question is, how did God create? Colossians 1:16 says that all things were created by God through Christ. But notice that if we really take God to be the creator of all things, we must admit that there are many ways that God creates.

Did God create the building you’re sitting in? We don’t believe that God said, “Let there be a building” and it popped into existence out of nothing. Instead, people built it out of materials that ultimately trace their origin to God and his creation ex nihilo.

How about the Hawaiian Islands? Did God create these? Yes, but again, they didn’t appear all at once. Even today you can go to the Big Island and see lava pouring out into the sea and adding to the land. The Hawaiian Islands are still being created, and it is not too difficult to reason out how this same process worked in the past.

What about you and me? Did God create us? Yes! But our parents also had something to do with it, right? And we now understand the biology of how that works, and it doesn’t at all take away the miracle that God knits us together in our mother’s womb.

We who hold to the perspective of evolutionary creation think these same kinds of considerations apply to life on the planet today. We affirm that God is the creator of all of it. Like the creation of the building, God is the ultimate source of all materials. And like the creation of the Hawaiian Islands, we can observe how life developed over time through natural processes. And like the creation of people, understanding the scientific explanation does not detract from the wonder of God’s involvement.

We believe God is the creator. And we also believe the evidence shows that the process of evolution is the best explanation for how God created.


Jim Stump has served as the Content Manager at BioLogos since August 2013. As such he oversees the development of new content and curates the existing content. Jim's PhD is in philosophy from Boston University where he wrote a dissertation on the history and philosophy of science. He is the author (with Chad Meister) of Christian Thought: A Historical Introduction (Routledge, 2010) and the editor (with Alan Padgett) of the Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). Jim is a frequent speaker at churches and other groups on topics at the intersection of science and Christianity.
Andrew DeSelm received a master’s degree in Film Studies from SUNY Buffalo and a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and English Education from Bethel College. He currently teaches film studies and composition at Indiana University South Bend. He additionally works in video production including commercials and music videos.

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Wayne Ferguson - #84938

March 28th 2014

As I struggled to make sense of the apparently contradictory ideas of natural history and intelligent design, I found Kant’s distinction between “the cause of appearances” and “the cause in appearances” to be helpful (see the treatment of the antinomies of pure reason in his Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics).  This disctinction forms the basis for some thoughts on intelligent design which I first expressed in writing nearly a decade ago.  Note especially 2nd graphic, near the bottom of this essay:

http://jwayneferguson.wordpress.com/period-pieces/the-four-precepts/intelligent-design/


Eddie - #84945

March 29th 2014

Thanks for this comment, Wayne.  I looked at the article you’ve linked to.  Since that revised article is now 7 years old, I’m not sure if your thoughts have changed any, but I hope you realize by now that intelligent design proponents are not all special creationists and that versions of ID compatible with naturalistic explanations exist, e.g., Michael Denton’s front-loaded model.  Whereas creationism speaks in terms of creation versus evolution, ID speaks in terms of design versus chance.  Thus, ID is a big tent which embraces anti-evolutionists (YECs), limited evolutionists (OECs), and full-fledged evolutionists (Michael Behe, Michael Denton).  What they all have in common is the design versus chance opposition, not the evolution versus creation opposition.

As for Kant, I think that many theistic evolutionists have unconsciously embraced a sort of Kantian model (even if they’ve never read Kant); and Kant is essentially a more rigorous treatment of the general tendencies of Enlightenment philosophy of nature.  TE for the most part reads the Christian creation doctrine through the philosophy of nature of the Enlightenment.  Not that all TEs have read much Enlightenment philosophy, but E. philosophy is now part of the blood and bones of the modern mind and soul, and is the natural way that educated people today think.

That said, an ID proponent of the non-creationist sort could accept your diagram.  The naturalistic causation (after the initial creation of matter) isn’t in itself a problem, as Denton’s second book shows.  However, IDers would read the contents of the diagram in a non-Kantian spirit.  The main difference would be over the status of teleological reasoning—not in the popular sense of “meaning and purpose” that you mention, but in the more technical sense.  IDers agree that “meaning and purpose” don’t have any place in science, but they think that teleology in principle can have a place.  That, and not naturalism at the causal level, would be the deal-breaker between IDers and Kantians.

There is potential overlap between ID and TE—there isn’t much difference between Polkinghorne and Denton on the question of fine-tuning, for example, and both Polkinghorne (a TE) and Behe (and IDer) endorsed Denton’s second book.  Denton’s model is both naturalistic (agreeing with Kant) but also teleological (agreeing with ID).  Denton deftly separates teleology from creationism, something Kant never managed to do.

Denton ought to have a natural appeal to TEs.  But for some reason, the vast majority of people in the TE world, both within the ASA and here on BioLogos, will not discuss or even mention Denton’s work, not even in a footnote, even though most of them are aware of his existence.  It’s as if there is some old family skeleton in the closet connected with the name of Denton, so that no TE with good manners would ever raise his name at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  It’s too bad, because Denton is one of the best research scientists in either the ID or TE world (he helped make advances in the treatment of retinal cancer, for example) and intellectually, he has a vaster scope than most people in either camp, and a deeper knowledge of the history of evolutionary theory as well.  A recent popular interview with Denton can be found at:

http://successfulstudent.org/dr-michael-denton-interview/


Wayne Ferguson - #84947

March 29th 2014

Thank you for this wonderfully informative reply to my comment.  Yes—as I was reformatting that essay for my new blog, I realized that my understanding of ID at that time was very superficial (that I was conflating YEC and ID in some respects). But since my target audience is primarily YECs, I feel it is still worth sharing.  Over the last year and a half, I have been hanging out in the “Celebrating Creation by Natural Selection” Facebook group and have benefited from the wide variety of more nuanced views discussed there:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/celebrate.evolving.creation/

I would appreciate it if you would also post this as a comment to my blog (or, if you don’t mind, I could post it there, myself).  I hope to respond in more  detail when time permits.  Your comment and the Denton interview raise a number of very important and very interesting questions, but I am unable to respond in more detail at the moment.  Thanks again, in any event!


Eddie - #84948

March 29th 2014

Wayne:

Thanks for your appreciative reply.  I have no objection to your posting my above piece as a comment on your weblog.  However, I can’t promise to engage further with any responses that are generated there.  From time to time I may take up similar themes at Hump of the Camel, and if I do, I would interact with any commenters on that site.  


Roger A. Sawtelle - #84946

March 29th 2014

Edward,

Thank you for the reference to the interview.

I have found that the problem with BioLogos has been that it considers Darwinian evolution to be settled science and since it considers settled science good, then Darwinism good, even though Darwinism is probably only 75% right and that 25% is important.

Again the big problem in this discussion is the failure to understand evolution as a two step process, Variation and Selection.  Current science concentrates on Variation and has that down pretty well correct, so when it is criticized it falls back on genes and Variation.

Denton as I understand him criticizes Selection as do I.  He is right, Darwinian Selection does not work! 

He seem to base this in large part on an environmental critique, Henderson’s The Fitness of the Environment, 1913, but he does not mention today’s ecologists, Lovelock and Margulis who are also critical of Darwinism.   

My advice, for what it is worth. is that if you really want to build on Denton’s ideas,  Concentrating on Selection, as opposed to Variation, and Seek support and scientific verification from all of the work that is being does in ecology today. 

My book can help with the philosophical basis of this work.   

 


James Stump - #84949

March 29th 2014

Roger, you’re going to have to define your terms more carefully before claiming, “BioLogos… considers Darwinian evolution to be settled science.”  All we say in our “Statement of Beliefs” (which is the only place you can legitimately say what the organization believes) is that we believe “the diversity and interrelation of life is best explained by the God-ordained process of evolution.”  The charitable way to interpret that would be to say that we believe evolution is the best explanation we have right now (that doesn’t seem to mean “settled” as though nothing could persuade us otherwise).  I’m not sure what else you mean by “Darwinian”; if you mean that the process is purposeless, we explicitly deny that position.  Then it’s not completely straightforward to know what you mean by “BioLogos”.  If you’re going beyond the “Statements of Belief”, do you mean the beliefs of the employees of BioLogos?  All of them or some of them?  The Fellows?  The grantees?  Certainly you can’t attribute every blog post to represent what BioLogos believes (we explicitly deny that too).


Roger A. Sawtelle - #85082

April 14th 2014

Jim,

Thank you for your response.

The statement that I was using was a dated one from a previous leader.  However I think the question of one’s stance toward evolution is an important one.

Yes, one can say that it is the best tool we have to explain our world, so we use it the best we can.  Or one can say that it is an imperfect tool in very specify ways and we need to work to fix it as soon as possible.

The first step toward solving a problem is to recognize that problem.  Now I understand that BioLogos is trying to stadle both the faith and scientific communities so it does not want to offend the scientific community by criticizing science using faith critieria.

That is why I have demonstrated a scientific basis to criticize and correct aspects of evolutionary theory which are not up to proper standard.  Personally I think that the critical and active stance is the most appropriate Christian point of view.  

 


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