Pictured above is the BioLogos staff in San Diego.
Although BioLogos officially began in 2007 as an organization that would develop a website to answer questions that emerged from Francis Collins’ book, The Language of God, it began in earnest exactly three years ago with the submission and approval of an expanded grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
I remember that Christmas season well as Syman Stevens, Karl Giberson, Francis Collins and I excitedly began working towards the launch of The BioLogos Forum website in April of 2009. Except for Christmas Day itself, emails bounced onto our computer screen like popcorn and we were frequently all online at the same time. We were embarking on a project to show that biology and Christianity—even Evangelicalism—are harmonious. Our confidence in the faithfulness of God’s Word and in the reasonableness of using science as a tool for understanding God’s world drove us forward. The ensuing weeks were terribly exciting as we met regularly by phone, and then in person over Valentine’s Day weekend around the dining room table of Francis Collins and his wife, Diane.
About one week before the public launch of the website on April 28, 2009, in Washington, D.C, Francis broke the news to us that he might be asked to serve as the Director of the National Institutes of Health, and if that happened he would have to remove himself from BioLogos. That is exactly what happened, but before it did Francis wrote his first blog, BioLoguration. With that, BioLogos was officially launched. Francis was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate in August of 2009, and in reflecting on his departure, I wrote a blog entitled, The Vision Lives On.
I’ve always considered those two blogs as a sort of plumb-line by which we could measure whether BioLogos was accomplishing its mission. Looking back, I am thankful to see that for the most part, we are. Employees have come and gone. Syman is now working on a PhD at Oxford University and Karl resigned to devote all of his time to writing books and speaking. Others have since joined us and I have the privilege of working alongside a marvelous team, most of whom work faithfully behind the scenes. Through all these changes, we have continued to make an impact.
Where We Are Now
The BioLogos website has become a significant resource for people seeking ways to celebrate and explain the harmony between science and faith. In addition to blogs, scholarly essays, and links to countless other resources, our new BioLogos Resource Center contains over 100 short video clips featuring a wide variety of articulate Evangelicals, including some from a soon-to-be-released film co-sponsored with Highway Media called “From the Dust.” Print media is also important to our success; this year we celebrated the publication of The Language of Science and Faith, a book co-authored by Karl Giberson and Francis Collins (which they began in the summer of 2009 while Francis was still able to work with us). We remain committed to developing quality resources to help those who are struggling to make sense of their faith in light of modern science and vice versa.
Although our website has long been the public face of BioLogos, it is only a small part of our outreach activities. One of our most important initiatives is the annual Theology of Celebration workshop in New York City, a gathering of many influential leaders within the Evangelical world. At this meeting we think and pray together about how the church can best respond to the issues of origins raised by science. Our next meeting, planned for March 2012, will focus especially on pastoral concerns.
Our summer workshops for science teachers in Christian schools have continued to be a great highlight as well. Those of us who have taught in the program consider this experience to have been among the most fulfilling of our careers, and the teachers themselves—after meeting in person for two, week-long workshops and online over the intervening year—viewed it the same way, almost without exception. Not all left the program with a BioLogos perspective, which is fine: our purpose in these workshops is to explore—to learn, think, pray, and worship together.
The Shape of the Future
The future looks bright for BioLogos. Our website, already strong, will become an increasingly helpful resource in the coming years for pastors, teachers, new Christians, high school students, college students, scholars and seekers. People will quickly be able to find resources that address their most pressing questions and enter into discussion about whatever they find most interesting.
BioLogos will also provide resources that will last for decades as the church, including conservative Evangelicals, comes to embrace as brothers and sisters those who accept mainstream science, even as many leaders and congregants remain hesitant about it themselves. We will be patient with each other; we will be loving; we will be an example of what it means to follow Jesus in the Romans 14 sense. By that I mean we will be careful that the minors not become major in the Kingdom of God. Still, we will clearly articulate what we believe and why, and we will provide resources for those who seek to understand.
Our programs for science teachers will expand significantly. Through workshops and new resources, teachers will be better equipped to clearly lay out data for their students and guide them through the process of interpreting it in a scientifically and theologically informed manner. The teachers themselves need to be heavily involved in helping us accomplish this.
During this coming year, if the funds become available, we will also initiate conversations with university campus ministries to aid Christian and non-Christian young people who are studying science, especially biology, in a secular environment.
The Need is Great
Our goal, quite simply, is to help the church understand why a growing number of Christians, many of whom have a traditional, orthodox faith firmly grounded in the Bible as God’s Word, see no conflict between mainstream science and Christianity. We also want to cultivate a world where Christian young people feel emboldened in their faith—rather than weakened—when they come to understand the strength of the scientific data. This is a monumental task, to be sure, but every day we sense God’s calling to continue in the work.
BioLogos cannot succeed without you, the members of our community. While we have been blessed to receive a renewal of our Templeton funds that support some of our core activities, we must raise private funds for all aspects of our education initiatives. Science teachers who are Christians, especially those in Christian schools, are in desperate need of professional support. Their resources are very limited. Just ask them! Ask them about workshops at Christian school conventions. Ask them how much professional development activity is available to them. Ask them whether they feel supported to really wrestle with the findings of science.
Thankfully, we as a community can help. One very generous couple has promised to provide a matching gift up to $100,000. Every gift received (or post-marked) before January 1st from a new donor will be doubled up to that level. Similarly, for previous donors, the amount given over and above that given last year will also be doubled.
BioLogos is a movement. Its purpose is not simply to change minds, but to change hearts. We believe, with near certainty, that God created through the evolutionary process, but our task is not to get everyone to see it our way. Our task is, however, to help everyone embrace the many Christians who already do think this way. We ask you to join us in the BioLogos movement today. Some members of our community are giving $25, which immediately translates into $50 because of the match. Others feel called to give much more. Believe me, gifts of all sizes do add up!
I entitled this essay BioLoguration II. There are a couple of reasons for that. One is simply that we’ve received our grant renewal and BioLogos now moves into the phase governed by the second grant. However, the other reason is that the first BioLoguration focused on introducing our mission and helping people to become aware of the need. That went exceptionally well, much better than we would have anticipated. Hundreds of thousands of people have visited our site— indeed, we have close to 50,000 visits each month. So now that many people know about BioLogos, we can say that the first phase is complete. Now we set out to help the church embrace the many Bible-believing, Jesus-loving disciples who think science is a reasonable, reliable tool for listening to what God has to tell us about his creation.
As the years go by, I expect there will be a BioLoguration III. The twenty-first century is the century of biology, biotechnology, and biomedical engineering. There is a need like never before for a Christian voice and conscience as society wrestles with great questions posed through this new knowledge. Although the need for fully informed Christians is great, many of us aren’t there yet. Many of us are still wrestling with the evidence for evolution, theological ramifications, philosophical questions, tradition-specific concerns, hermeneutical issues, and how science can enrich and inform our worship. These are fascinating and wonderful issues, even as they are at times heart-wrenching. That’s phase II. BioLoguration II takes us into this stage. Once we make significant progress on this front, we’ll be ready for the all-important BioLoguration III. We invite you to prayerfully consider a gift today to bring out this brighter future.