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BioLogos in One Sentence

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January 29, 2014 Tags: BioLogos
BioLogos in One Sentence
Image credit: j__st/Flickr

Today's entry was written by Deborah Haarsma. You can read more about what we believe here.

In recent months, we have been writing a mission statement and core commitments for BioLogos. Be assured – our mission is not changing! But we’re writing it down in a new way to bring clarity and focus to our work.

It wasn’t easy to sum up the ministry and vision of BioLogos in a single sentence. We wanted it to be vivid and inspiring, explaining why God has called us to this work. Yet we also wanted it to be specific and clear enough to guide our decisions and programs going forward. After much discussion among staff, board members, and advisors, we wrote down the following:

Mission Statement:
BioLogos presents evolution as God’s means of creation, so that the Church may celebrate and the world may see the harmony between science and biblical faith.

The statement includes a lot of key ideas, such as our topical focus (“evolution”) and our position of evolutionary creation (“God’s means of creation”). It alludes to our methods of education and dialogue (“present” rather than advocate or proclaim) and our identity in the evangelical world (“biblical faith” and “the world may see”). It reminds us of our broad audience (“the Church and the world”); we will continue to focus on the Church as our primary audience, but the secular scientific world will always be an important part of what we do. Most of all, the statement challenges us to strive for a future in which all will celebrate and see the harmony between science and biblical faith.

We are now developing a set of strategic goals to achieve this mission. The goals are based around key groups we want to engage, such as evangelical thought leaders, educators, students, and scientists. For each group, we are hoping to bring about changed hearts and minds. We want pastors and teachers to see that evolutionary creation can be a faithful option for evangelical Christians. We want scholars to be empowered to investigate issues in depth, and seekers to find a safe haven for asking questions. In coming weeks we will be fleshing out these goals with plans and benchmarks for new programs. Please pray for wisdom and God’s leading in this important planning process.

Finally, we wrote down a set of core commitments for BioLogos. The first two are developed in longer statements on the About Us page.

Core Commitments:

  • We embrace the historical Christian faith, upholding the authority and inspiration of the Bible.
  • We affirm evolutionary creation, recognizing God as the Creator of all life over billions of years.
  • We seek truth, ever learning as we study the natural world and the Bible.
  • We strive for humility and gracious dialogue with those who hold other views.
  • We aim for excellence in all areas, from science to education to business practices.

This list didn’t come from a boring discussion of “what should be our core values.” Rather, each of these commitments came up repeatedly in our discussions of what BioLogos is all about. These were in the original vision cast by Francis Collins and were richly developed in recent years under Darrel Falk (read more under Our History). Each one is critical to our identity and will infuse all our work going forward. These will always be signature values of BioLogos!

What do you think of the new mission statement and core commitments? Share your comments below. President Deb Haarsma will participate in the comments section a few times on the day of the post.

Note: In March 2014, we came up with an even better sentence. You can read our current mission statement on our About Us page.

Deborah Haarsma serves as the President of BioLogos, a position she has held since January 2013. Previously, she served as professor and chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Gifted in interpreting complex scientific topics for lay audiences, Dr. Haarsma often speaks to churches, colleges, and schools about the relationships between science and Christian faith. She is author (along with her husband Loren Haarsma) of Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (2011, 2007), a book presenting the agreements and disagreements of Christians regarding the history of life and the universe. Haarsma is an experienced research scientist, with several publications in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology.

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Merv - #84343

January 29th 2014

BioLogos presents evolution as God’s means of creation, so that the Church may celebrate and the world may see the harmony between science and biblical faith.

The single sentence seems a bit like three separate thoughts (sentences) forced together.   Biologos presents evolution as God’s means of creation.   The church should celebrate both creation and our biblical faith.  And the world should see the harmony of science and Christian faith.   It doesn’t seem clear why the first should necessarily lead to the second.   We would celebrate creation whatever means God used to bring it about.  But the connection to the third is more obvious.  The removal of an unnecessary stumbling block is a service to everyone.  Not just for the world to see, but for Christians to see as well; especially since you identify the church as your primary audience.

Despite my nitpicking over a sentence, though, I commend all your work and am personally thankful for the thoughtful commentary and resources this site brings to the table.   Thank you.

Deborah Haarsma - #84351

January 30th 2014

Thanks for your kind words about our work and resources!  You’ve identified one of our key strategic goals: remove stumbling blocks to the gospel, so that the world does not see science as a barrier to faith.  

Yes, the church already celebrates God’s creation and can do so regardless of the means. However, many Christians are torn when they hear contrary messages about those means from the pulpit vs. from science.  By presenting evolution as something God is doing, we are showing the church that scientific findings can resonate with our faith and actually enhance it, leading to a richer celebration.

Dean Gibson - #84345

January 29th 2014

I like it, but I would prefer a stronger statement about the Bible.  I would replace the last two words “biblical faith” with “the inspired word of God” or “the authoritative word of God” (from your “Core Commitments”).  Personally, if it were my own personal statement, I would use the words “the inspired, authoritative, and infallible word of God”.

My reasoning is thus:  I view your primary mission is to the church, and the stronger you can show your commitment to the Bible in your mission statement, the less resistance you will have, in my opinion.  There is a very strong element of conservative Christianity that is totally ignorant of scientific methods and is therefore very distrustful of science when it appears to conflict with Scripture.

As a Christian and a graduate of CalTech many years ago, I never found there to be any notable conflict, and recent scientific discoveries have lessened the appearance of such conflict.  However, I recently moved to a new church (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod), which is presenting the “The Truth Project” (my research on this led me to your site).  This denomination seems to require a literal reading of Genesis 1-3.

This appears to me to be a reaction to a “weak” view of Scripture in other Christian circles, combined with a poor representation of cosmology and evolution that (ironically) claims or presents an absolute view of current scientific thinking (particularly about the future).  The fact that some of the recent TV programs regarding cosmology and evolution are wildly speculative and not deserving to be called “science” (in my opinion), exacerbates the problem.

Dean Gibson - #84349

January 29th 2014

Clarifications of my last paragraph above (which in retrospect is somewhat off-topic):

  1. By “This appears to me ...” above, I meant the position of the Lutheran church, not the BioLogos mission statement.
  2. By “... a poor representation of cosmology and evolution ...” above, I meant the representation in society, and by inference, on TV.  While there are some very good programs on TV regarding cosmology and evolution, some of the more recent stuff is awful.  This has the effect of causing some Christians to distrust much of science.
Deborah Haarsma - #84352

January 30th 2014

Thanks, Dean.  Yes, we’re seeing over and over how important it is to talk about our commitment to the authority and inspiration of the Bible.  The Bible is essential to my own walk with God, and each week the BioLogos staff gather for a time of prayer centered around a Bible passage.  Many evangelical Christians (and many secular scientists) are surprised and even puzzled when they hear this, because so many have never encountered a Bible-believing Christian who also accepts the science of an old earth and evolution.  Our mission is to change that stereotype - to show the Church and the world the rich and positive relationship between the Bible and science. 

Eloy Galvan - #84536

February 16th 2014

All I can say is simply “thank you”.  I, as a Christian, a believer in the truth of Christ, His resurrection, it’s power to save, and the Word of God as His special revelation to us all, who also finds himself enjoying the privilege of being a medical student at UT Southwestern school of medicine, this site has become a very welcome and indispensible resource for me.  As I continue my journey as both a disciple of Christ and a student of science and medicine, I simply cannot describe in this post alone how wonderful it is to see here other believers articulate so well the harmony that exists between faith and modern science.

I grew up an evangelical and still am.  By default that background brought a certain type of baggage with it as I grew as a child and young man and learned to also enjoy science and academics on my road toward medical school.  While I can honestly say that even as a child I don’t think I ever fully embraced the idea of a literal 7-day creation (I think I always enjoyed the thought that God could break the rules and transcend the boxes we put Him in), I did find myself herded into choosing a side in the false debate between evolution and creationism.  Nevertheless, it was obvious and always certain for me that science and faith should not be required to be in opposition.  Finding this site and what it offers in opinion and evidence instead for their wonderful agreement has helped me to grow in so many ways.  I am thrilled now for how the Lord has used Biologos to equip me to not only better understand the faith I have but to also be able to explain the same to others who are now my colleagues steeped in the science that exists at the incredible research university I am a part of.  They too are often puzzled to find someone like myself who believes that the science we learn and use everyday has no contradiction in the Bible.

Again, thank you.  And rest assured that the work the entire staff of Biologos is doing is a work whose time has come in the life of the American if not Western church.  We live a modern world dependent upon the marvels of modern science.  We can no longer afford to allow an unreasoned position on creation and science be a stumbling block for those who desperately need the Lord as savior (just as we all do).

Matthew Winegar - #84353

January 30th 2014

BioLogos presents evolution as God’s means of creation, so that the Church may celebrate and the world may see the harmony between science and biblical faith.

I know evolution is a major emphasis of BioLogos (not surprisingly), however, more than just evolution comes into the false dichotomy often perceived between science and Christian faith.  I would think a single sentence mission statement should be more generic, so that “BioLogos presents evolution as God’s means of creation” might be more broadly written “BioLogos presents science as a reliable means of studying God’s creation,...”.  The second point in the core commitments covers the emphasis on evolution adequately, I think.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84370

February 1st 2014

I agree.  The problem is not the Bible, but the way people both conservative and liberal understand the Bible.  It is my understanding of the Christian faith that we believe in God, and specifically that Jesus Christ, Who is God, is LORD of our lives and all of Creation, including the Bible.

The Bible in John 1 and other parts of the NT is clear on this and says that Jesus is Lord of Nature.  Thus there must be no basic conflect between science and theology unless humans, who are not perfect, create this conflict by making improper claims for the Bible as they interpret it and science.   

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84375

February 3rd 2014

First I apologize for getting your name wrong in another blog.

BioLogos has a great name.  It is not BioDarwinism, which is the concern of many Christians as well as Evangelical.  It is not BioBiblos, which is the fear of many Christians who are not Evangelicals.  If you are going to expess the true mission of BioLogos succinctly you can’t do much better than “BioLogos.”

However in your core commitments there is not even one mention of the Logos, Jesus Christ.  If you are a Christian group you are first about Jesus Christ, and secondarily about everything else.  It appears that you are falling into the Evangelical trap of putting the Bible first and if so how can you expect YECs to accept your understanding of the Bible over their understanding of the Bible if you are not coming from Christocentric point of view.

The Battle for the Bible has focused on Genesis, which the beginning of the OT.  When people struggle to assert that Genesis is true, they inevitably are caught up in OT theology.  John 1 is the NT understanding of Genesis 1.  When we look at Genesis 1 through the Logos we see many of the real problems that concern Christians about science resolved, but we must take a NT point of view.

The other problem that the name BioLogos resolves is the fear that in the effort to reconcile Science and Theology you will put Science first.  BioLogos needs to be more critical of Darwinism as well Creationism.  The Logos is first, not the Bible or Darwin.

If BioLogos does not want its name, I will accept it gladly. 

Ken Hamrick - #84434

February 6th 2014

As a Baptist who holds to a recent, literal 6-day creation, I wonder why both sides assume that evolution cannot be reconciled with a recent creation by fiat. Accepting evolution as God’s means of creating is not the only way to “see the harmony between science and Biblical faith.” God is just as capable of miraculously creating an “old” earth as a new one. God created Adam and Eve as physically mature adults and not as infants. He created mature, fruit-bearing trees for immediate food. “He made the stars also”—and made a universe with mature light-trails already existing so that the stars were already visible. All of these imply a time-consuming natural process that was well under way at the first moment of creation. God chose to create not at the beginning of these natural processes, but (seemingly) somewhere in the middle—as if these processes had been going on long before the moment of creation.

Let’s say we accept for the sake of argument that the evolutionary theory is true, as far as it goes. It still remains consonant with a recent fiat creation that God would supernaturally create (without a trace of evidence) a world already in process—even if that process is evolution. Just as the immediate visibility of the stars at creation can be seen as evidence of a natural process already in progress, the existence of evolutionary processes that were apparently in progress at the moment of creation provides no threat to the literal creationist view. That man evolved as the crowning achievement of a billions-of-years-long natural process, and that he was supernaturally created out of nothing around 6000 years ago, are perfectly compatible… if God “stepped into” that process right at the point where modern man would have evolved had God allowed everything to develop over billions of years, and created everything out of nothing at that point in the virtual chronology. In short, this proposes that God in creating the world also created a virtual past full of scientific processes that in themselves are capable of explaining all that exists—that indeed would have resulted in all that exists had God not chosen a recent creation by fiat.

Phil McCurdy - #84437

February 6th 2014

The problem I see, is that the Bible states you can see God And His glory through creation.  That means our observations about creation must be true to be compatible with our knowledge of a true and holy God.  To state that what we see and measure is not valid or true as it appears, is to call God a liar and the author of lies.

Ken Hamrick - #84439

February 6th 2014

When Jesus turned the water into wine, the guests were deceived into thinking that the best wine had been saved for last. It is not intentional deception, but merely the nature of any supernatural act to deceive those who do not believe or do not know. Was it deceptive for Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead—-or to rise from the dead Himself? After all, such physical resurrection is a scientific absurdity demanding the conclusion that the raised one must never have really died. Jesus’ resurrection itself serves as the bar of faith in the God who acts supernaturally—-if one can set aside one’s scientific mindedness to believe that He literally rose from the dead, then one ought not to have any problem with the idea that God may have created supernaturally by fiat in six literal days, as the natural reading of Genesis 1 indicates.
You are not correctly framing the question when you say, “To state that what we see and measure is not valid or true as it appears…” Miraculous creation by fiat does not invalidate or falsify any natural processes or evidence. It simply brings them into being, already in progress. What we see and measure makes no statement and leads to no conclusion regarding the possility of a recent miraculous creation by fiat; therefore, nothing that we see and measure has anything to do with God being a liar. What we see can only lead one to conclude that God did not more recently create by fiat IF wrongly assume that material evidence can speak to the validity and timing of creation by fiat. Once we understand that such creation would not leave any physical evidence, then we can see that any conclusion of actual age based only on natural evidence must be qualified with the statement, “...if a more recent creation by fiat did not occur.”
Chris Sovie - #84497

February 11th 2014

The miracles you present proclaim God’s power over natural processes, but the position you are arguing seems to be that God disguised his power behind natural processes. You are correct that the physical resurrection of Lazarus is a “scientific absurdity.” If the act of raising the dead was not supernatural, it would not have demonstrated anything supernatural about Jesus. All of the miracles testify about the nature of God. I can understand that some people might doubt that the miracles occurred or be unaware that anything spectacular has happened, but those who investigate the matter can find the truth. With the “creation by fiat” theory, however, there can be no great revelation about the nature of God because He made it appear that He did not do anything at all. Deception is built into the work itself. Investigation cannot reveal His involvement. If someone seeks, they will not find.

The crucial flaw that I see, however, is that it treats God like a being bound by time. Why should God create a process halfway through when it would be no more difficult for Him to have created it from the beginning? Is there even a meaningful difference? As I understand it, time is tied to space, energy and matter. If God created light trails that go back billions of years, then do those billions of years exist or not? How do we know that God did not create the universe 5 minutes ago? If He did, would I not be justified in claiming that the universe was only 5 minutes old despite memories and evidence to the contrary? The fiat idea is an interesting philosophical subject, but I just don’t see how it is useful in any scientific, or theological, sense.

Ken Hamrick - #84452

February 7th 2014

Dr. Haarsma,

Why do you assume that a recent fiat creation would leave scientifically detectable evidence or could be reasonably ruled out by the lack of such evidence? Reconciling Scripture and science, seeing the harmony between the two, does not require the abandoning of a recent miraculous creation, since God can create old things as easily as new. Undoubtedly, this question is an inconvenient one, but it challenges the very reason for the existence of BioLogos (at least, with its current mission statement).

I understand that young-earth creationists have often attempted to argue the science in defense of a young earth, and that you do not find such arguments as compelling as those for evolution and an old earth. But, can you establish your assuption that the inferiority of evidential arguments for a young earth justify the rejection of a recent fiat creation?

Thank you.

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