Gracious Dialogue

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July 21, 2012 Tags: Christian Unity

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

Gracious Dialogue

There are two main reasons why it is critically important that science & faith conversations between Christians be conducted with grace and humility. First, as all of us see “through a glass darkly,” we need the insights of the entire Christian community (from scientists, to theologians, to Biblical scholars, to pastors to poets) in order to achieve the best understanding of the world God called us to cultivate and rule as his regents. No one discipline or perspective is sufficient in itself, whether focused on God’s Word or God’s world.

But it is also important that we engage believers who disagree with us (on human origins, especially) with charity and humility as a witness to our common identity in Christ—that we may be known by our love for each other in tandem with our demonstrated love for the secular world that does not yet claim Christ as Lord and Savior.

While the BioLogos Foundation is committed to both of these aspects, we are especially pleased that our desire to engage in gracious dialogue with fellow believers who reject biological evolution has been receiving increased and very favorable attention in both the Christian and secular press. More importantly, we are being joined in that reconciling project by those who have often been defined primarily as our “opponents,” rather than as brothers and sisters in Christ.

First, A Tale of Two Scientists, the cover story of Christianity Today’s July-August 2012 issue, featured the accounts of BioLogos Foundation President Darrel Falk and Todd Wood, Director of the Center for Creation Research at Bryan University. Though Wood does not accept biological evolution on theological grounds, both men recognize its strength and explanatory power. But more importantly, both reject the warfare model between science and faith (and between Christians who think differently) as being, in Wood’s words, “detrimental to the Church.”

Second, our Southern Baptist Voices series has become a model for how such dialogue can be pursued, even in the sometimes no-holds-barred context of the web. Several installments in our ongoing dialogue with Southern Baptist theologians have been covered by the Erin Roach of the Baptist Press (on May 25th , June 6th, and July 3rd) and on on July 19th by Lillian Kwan of the Christian Post. And just this past week, Associated Press reporter Travis Loller highlighted the series in an article picked up by the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, and many other news outlets across the country.

To make it easier for readers to find the entire Southern Baptist Voices series and join in the conversation themselves, we’ve launched a new landing page here: Southern Baptist Voices. It is our hope and prayer that this initiative will set the stage for future dialogue between evolutionary creationists and those who hold other perspectives, as well.



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Gregory - #71281

July 22nd 2012

First, let me affirm my support for the series “Southern Baptist Voices.” I’ve enjoyed the articles and have been pleased to find areas of common ground between the participants, even amidst the different positions. Especially interesting was the agreement between William Dembski and Darrel Falk on ‘human exceptionalism’ and the confirmation that Falk disagrees, at least in some ways, with ‘Darwinism.’

There Falk wrote: “I agree with Dembksi that Darwin’s views were not theologically neutral. Darwin’s views on teleology, human exceptionalism, and miracles were not compatible with Christianity. Quite simply, this is why I do not consider my views to be Darwinian and why I am not a Darwinist.” … “I, like Dembski and like Southern Baptists in general, am not a Darwinist.”

Thus, it was with sadness to learn that Falk will step down from BioLogos in the new year, though not without recognition that he fulfilled his purpose and did his part in promoting the BioLogos mission.

A couple of small notes about the Christianity Today article on Darrel Falk and Todd Wood: Simon Fraser University is not “Canada’s leading research university.” It might be in the top ten, in some fields, but it is certainly not what Christianity Today said about it. UBC, where Falk did his post-doc, and which happens to be my alma mater, so I’m biased, is by statistics, learned educators and common opinion, well ahead of SFU on the research front.

Also, Lev N. Tolstoy was not a ‘Christian,’ at least not in the traditional ‘orthodox’ sense. He was excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church and even a recent attempt by his relatives to pardon and reinstate him (post-hum) was turned down. Tolstoy is more of the ‘let many flowers blossom’ type than someone who could accept the teachings of Mother Church. He was, in Isaiah Berlin’s profound words, “A fox who believed in being a hedgehog.” But let that not take away from the thrust of the CT article.

“One of the widest sections of the gulf was my belief in gradual creation.” – D. Falk

As with Falk, I believe in ‘gradual creation.’ But I also believe in ‘sudden creation’ or ‘creation in a moment.’ I wonder if he is willing to accept this notion of creation too? God creates gradually, sure. But God also creates suddenly, and so do we. No doubt, if Falk has a spontaneous personality, like many of us do in one way or another, he ‘suddenly created’ something even today.

It is interesting to me that the CT article speaks of a ‘creationist movement,’ which Wood joined or was/is a part of. That is a movement, whose motion might some day come to an end.

This final question, however, might be sticky for some people here. Why does CT call Falk an ‘evolutionary creationist,’ i.e. adding the ideological tag ‘-ist’? Would Falk himself accept that label or not?

What I mean is that it is one thing to say that a person accepts or believes in an ‘evolving creation’ or ‘evolutionary creation.’ It is another thing entirely, however, to label oneself or to accept the label, as even the BioLogos Editorial Team has done in the final sentence of the Introduction, of being a ‘creationist,’ of whatever variety.

Could I request some clarity on the topic of evolutionary creation vs. evolutionary creationism – does BioLogos accept the ‘ism’ label or not?

The controversial quote of the CT article for me comes of course from the self-labelled ‘creationist’ Todd Wood. He says: “I want to redeem science.” First, does Todd Wood or any human being possibly possess that power? Second, isn’t ‘science’ already ‘redeemed,’ once we recognise and operate in the belief that human beings are created imago Dei, as BioLogos likewise accepts?


George Bernard Murphy - #71289

July 22nd 2012

Greg said,

“As with Falk, I believe in ‘gradual creation.’ But I also believe in ‘sudden creation’ or ‘creation in a moment.’ I wonder if he is willing to accept this notion of creation too? God creates gradually, sure. But God also creates suddenly,”

WELL THE BIG BANG WAS CERTAINLY A “SUDDEN CREATION”.

WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED?


Mark Edward - #71624

August 2nd 2012

So much for ‘gracious dialogue’, when one party resorts to ‘shouting’ in all-caps.


Merv - #71283

July 22nd 2012

 

Hi, Gregory—you wrote: 

As with Falk, I believe in ‘gradual creation.’ But I also believe in ‘sudden creation’ or ‘creation in a moment.’ I wonder if he is willing to accept this notion of creation too? God creates gradually, sure. But God also creates suddenly, and so do we. No doubt, if Falk has a spontaneous personality, like many of us do in one way or another, he ‘suddenly created’ something even today.

One might ask:  What does “sudden” mean in any absolute sense?  Just as position or velocity are all relative, so also quickness is relative—being dislocated one way or the other on a logarithmic scale.  To geologic time, a human toothache is a virtually nonexistent instant.  To the human experiencing it, it may be an eternity.  So the verses that inform us of God’s indifference between a day or a thousand years give us profound notice that God’s ‘omni-logarithmic’ perspective is not locked down to our experiential sliver of the logarithmic scale.

Dibbs on that word if nobody else had coined it yet.

-Merv

 


Gregory - #71284

July 22nd 2012

Hi Merv,

I’ll back you re: ‘omni-logarithmic’ in case your dibbs are challenged - at least I’d never heard it before.

I’m a bit worried now, though, that your natural scientific attitude is succumbing to the ideology of relativism: “To geologic time, a human toothache is a virtually nonexistent instant. To the human experiencing it, it may be an eternity.”

I gave a specific example of ‘sudden creation’ expressed in the term ‘spontaneity.’ Do you not consider whatever spontaneous activities you participate in as a person to be ‘sudden creations,’ Merv, even if they had pre-cognition? I’m not speaking about laboratory experiments or appealing to your PhD in biology or chemistry or whatever field in which you are trained and educated. I’m appealing to your regular, everyday humanity, to your personality and decisions, to your lifelong ‘creations in a moment’ of choice.

Does framing it that way make a difference to your question?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #71288

July 22nd 2012

Gregory,

God can do whatever God chooses to do in whatever way God chooses to do it.  That is not the issue. 

The question is, “What does the evidence show that God did and how God did it?”  When we answer that question, then we can ask, “What does sudden creation or gradual creation tell us about God’s character?”  


Merv - #71296

July 22nd 2012

Certainly, I do use the common currency of our language to think of some things as sudden and others as gradual (to our human perspective which will obviously be reflected in our languages).  And I furthermore would agree that the Bible enters into our own common currency of human language(s) since God is communicating with us.  But since our language is broad enough to include poetry, metaphor, along with prose—our agreement this far still doesn’t let us off the hook from the hard work of avoiding error when interpreting scripture.  So, yes, I’ll accept the use of the word “sudden” as you offer it, Gregory, and curiously watch to see what insights might be offered about what this tells us about God. 

-Merv 

P.S. I’m just a lowly bachelor’s degree holder; electrical engineering—no PhD titles behind my name.

P.P.S.  Leaving tomorrow for a family reunion several days long, so I may not get back to this thread until much later in the week.


Eddie - #71291

July 22nd 2012

Hey, Gregory—this might help answer your question above:

“In fact, I can think of only one major difference between us: my colleague [Todd Wood] is a Young Earth Creationist, whereas I am an Evolutionary Creationist.”

The author is Dennis Venema, and the quotation is from here on BioLogos:

http://biologos.org/blog/a-tale-of-three-creationists-part-1

If Dennis is not shy of calling himself a creationist, then perhaps Darrel Falk might not be, either.  Of course,  both men would be sure to put the term in context, as Dennis does in the sentence quoted.  In any case, if BioLogos had any formal objection to such a use of the term “creationist,” presumably it would have asked Dennis to change the title of the article cited above.  But possibly BioLogos itself assigned the title to Dennis’s article, which would indicate an endorsement of the term.

That may not fully answer the question, but it seems relevant.


Gregory - #71304

July 23rd 2012

Yes, Eddie, thanks for the link. I remember this thread and asked a similar question there.

I had a conversation with Jon Garvey recently that touched on labels and whether or not the term ‘creationist’ could or should be revived, recycled or thrown away. We agreed on the importance of speaking about Creation. I suggested to him that it is also possible to speak of ‘creativity’ and the verb ‘to create’ without needing to accept an ideological meaning and label such as ‘creationism’ or ‘creationist.’ It would seem that a properly nuanced understanding of create/creation/Creation/creativity should not be restricted only to those who have studied philosophy of science.

Dennis Venema is a biologist (more specificially, a genomicist) in Canada. The term ‘creationist’ has a negative connotation in Canada too, but not to the same degree as in the United States. I guess it means Dennis is willing to call himself a ‘creationist’ because he doesn’t think it can or will cause any harm to his career or reputation as a scholar working at a private Christian university. I don’t think he has to sign any declaration, like at some evangelical universities in the US, stating that he accepts a young earth or is a ‘creationist.’ So my guess is that he takes the label ‘creationist’ of his own free will and choice and seeks to promote the ‘recycling’ option.

Otoh, I had thought that Darrel Falk’s tactical move from ‘theistic evolution’ to ‘evolutionary creation’ didn’t necessarily involve taking the label ‘creationist.’ That’s why I asked the question above, which you have kindly contributed to on the table, Eddie, with this link. The challenges from BioLogos to RTB and AiG rejecting ‘young earth’ would suggest that ‘creationist’ (at least of the YEC variety) is not a position that BioLogos supports. So, I must admit I’m somewhat confused at the terminology of choice here.

Could the BioLogos Editorial Team possibly help to clarify this situation? Is there a meaningful difference between believing in an ‘evolutionary creation’ and taking the label of being called a ‘creationist’ (who accepts, in whatever way or to whatever degree, biological evolutionary theories)? Are all people who believe in ‘evolutionary creation’ necessarily called ‘creationists’?

Thanks for helping to clear this up,

Gregory


Francis - #71293

July 22nd 2012

“conversations between Christians be conducted with grace and humility... engage believers who disagree with us (on human origins, especially) with charity and humility ... engage in gracious dialogue with fellow believers… reject the warfare model between science and faith (and between Christians who think differently) as being, in Wood’s words, “detrimental to the Church.””

That all sounds fine, normatively. I’m all for gentleness and reverence in dialogue and apologetics (1 Peter 3:15).

But might there not come an appropriate time when the gloves come off, so to speak?

Considering what I read on BioLogos, it almost seems that if offered a choice between a) logic and truth told tough, and b) error and falsehood presented politely, that BL would choose the latter. Politeness at all cost.

Hypothetically, if BL had its own version of the Bible, do you think it would include verses like Matthew 23:27, 33 or 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 or Galatians 5:12?

 


KevinR - #71302

July 23rd 2012

Francis,

it almost seems that if offered a choice between a) logic and truth told tough, and b) error and falsehood presented politely, that BL would choose the latter. Politeness at all cost.

I fully agree that Biologos has gotten it down to a fine art. So fine in fact that it amounts to censorship.

Anything that is straighforwardly put across as being in total disagreement with the biologian viewpoint is removed from the website under the pretext of being argumentative, insensitive or ungracious.

It’s the same kind of intolerance being shown by atheistic people who believe in evolution and or supporters of or practitioners homosexual immorality. They do not want to be told that a belief in evolution is contrary to scriptures.

Where is the biblical stance of iron sharpening iron? We’re not babies here on the web, in need of modi-coddling. If you get onto the Biologos website you should really know you’re going to encounter views diametrically opposite to your own. There’s really no need to feel “hurt” - which is the standard response by people who really do not want to hear the plain, simple language spoken in the bible.



wesseldawn - #71306

July 23rd 2012

The censorship seems to include a disregard for the scriptures themselves that BL is supposed to uphold. 

I would have thought that my first post would have garnered more of a response considering its implications!!

I find this disturbing as there seems to be a penchant here to disregard anything (including the Bible itself) if it goes against traditional thinking.

Isn’t that the very same state of conditions that Jesus encountered with the scribes and teachers of the law?


Francis - #71314

July 23rd 2012

Merv,

You might want to consider skipping your family reunion. Just think how much you’ll be missing here. 


Roger A. Sawtelle - #71325

July 24th 2012

Francis, KevinR, and Wesseldawn, 

If you knew the Bible as well as you think you do, you would know that the verses Francis cited were aimed primarily at people like you, OT literalists who believed that the Torah was absolutely true (Francis and Kevin R) or Gnostic teachers who followed the way of Greek wisdom (Wesseldawn.)

Paul, like Jesus, did not come to preach wisdom or law, but faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and Him alone.  Go thou and do likewise.

Jesus + Wisdom or Law = condemnation. 

 

 

 

 

 

Hypothetically, if BL had its own version of the Bible, do you think it would include verses like Matthew 23:27, 33 or 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 or Galatians 5:12?


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