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How Should BioLogos Respond to Dr. Albert Mohler’s Critique of The BioLogos Initiative?

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July 5, 2010 Tags: Christian Unity

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

How Should BioLogos Respond to Dr. Albert Mohler’s Critique of The BioLogos Initiative?

Today's blog refers to Albert Mohler's recent critique of the BioLogos Foundation. Dr. Mohler's speech is available here, and a transcript is also available.

The BioLogos Foundation exists in order that the Church, especially the Evangelical Church, can come to peace with the scientific data which shows unequivocally that the universe is very old and that all of life, including humankind, has been created through a gradual process that has been taking place over the past few billion years. BioLogos exists to show that this fact (and it is a fact), need not, indeed must not, affect our relationship with God, which comes about through Jesus Christ, and is experienced by the power of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence.

We at BioLogos believe that Jesus, fully God and fully man, walked on this earth 2,000 years ago in order to show humankind how to live life to the full. Jesus died in order that we, sinful humankind, might be clean. His shed blood has made us clean. We need not live under the power of sin any longer. We are called to an infinitely better life that is made possible because we have been forgiven through the event of Calvary, and because of the resurrection power that raised Jesus from death to life. That death to death at the tomb near Calvary was not metaphorical, and the new life we live in Christ is not metaphorical either. We are empowered to live fully gifted lives; we are empowered to live out our calling, enabled by the resurrection-power of God’s Spirit which dwells in us. The Church has existed through these past 2,000 years because the Power of God’s Spirit is alive in God’s Church. We believe the Bible, a living document through which the Holy Spirit continues to speak today, is the divinely inspired Word of God.

There is a segment of the Church, it happens to be the segment to which I subscribe, evangelicalism, which is in turmoil over the question of the age of the earth and whether God created all of life, including humans, through a gradual process. Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of America’s largest protestant denomination, has recently given a speech, “Why Does the Universe Look So Old?” The speech may be found here. We have produced a transcript of this speech which can be read here.

There are times when God uses particular events to accomplish his purposes. I believe that the publication of Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene is one such “event.” Dawkins clearly outlined in a remarkably lucid manner the ramifications of an atheistic view of the biological data. We are “survival machines” Dawkins said, which have been created by DNA molecules to ensure their propagation through the eons of time. For those of us who vehemently disagree with an atheistic view of the universe, it is eminently helpful to have someone put it in such crystal clear terms. Are we simply machines created through a blind materialistic force or not? If this is the ultimate ramification of your belief-system, then state it clearly. That’s what Dawkins did.

Mohler, another masterful communicator, has laid out the issues for the Church from the other side. The Church must accept a young earth and no macro-evolution, he says. There is no wiggle room. If we squirm, the Church will begin the downhill slide to apostasy. BioLogos, he says, “is becoming the locus classicus for discussion” and he would like people to recognize that the BioLogos website is the poster child for the apostasy that will result if the Church lets go of its young earth perspective. Scientific evidence, he implies, will never be able to trump biblical exegesis as he thinks it must be done, or even more importantly as he sees it, theology. "Why does it look so old?" Dr. Mohler concludes, "Well that, in terms of any more elaborate answer, is known only to the Ancient of Days." Dr. Mohler has been clear and this is helpful to the conversation.

BioLogos is a place for conversation. We are trying to help the Church see that there is no doubt about the scientific data and we are also trying to stimulate conversation about the theological and pastoral ramifications of the data. We ask questions, and we seek answers. For example, since there is no doubt about the earth being old, what are the ramifications of that for an understanding of Genesis One? As another example: since there is no doubt that God created humans through a gradual process, what are the ramifications for the classical view of Adam and Eve? Paul thought that Adam was historical—are we in hermeneutical trouble if we view Adam as being non-historical and simply a representative for all of us? Do we get into theological problems if Adam is viewed in non-historical terms? Is there a middle ground, for those who hold to a real historical Adam, but who also accept evolutionary creation? Why are these questions so important? Why are they so important to individuals? Why are they so important to the Church? Why are they so important to Christian colleges? Where does one draw the line that marks that place where one has left evangelical Christianity? Whose view of that line should we recognize? How can we demonstrate that the heart of the Gospel message has nothing to do with the age of the earth or how God chose to create life? Since God created through an evolutionary process, what does it mean to say that “God created?” How does all of this affect our view of Scripture as a whole?

BioLogos is a place where Christians can come to ask questions and to seek answers. However, if BioLogos is not also a place where people can sense God’s Presence in the way the questions are framed and the manner in which we seek answers, then the BioLogos project deserves to fail.

I love Micah 4 where the prophet speaks of people streaming to the mountain of the Lord’s temple which will be raised high above the hills. At that point in time, he was speaking to a little band of people, but Micah’s words have come true: the mountain, which is the Church, is no longer just a little band of people.

In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains: it will be raised above the hills and people will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths….they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Every man will sit under own vine and under his own fig tree and no one will make them afraid for the Lord almighty has spoken. (Micah 4:1-4).

BioLogos must predominantly be a place where people come to ask questions expecting that the Lord “will teach us his ways.” He will do this as we listen to each other—we, the members of the Body of Christ. The swords have all been beat into plowshares and the spears are pruning hooks. They can’t exist within the Body of Christ and we must never be guilty of constructing them. Not only will God teach us corporately through each other, He will also teach us individually, on our knees before our all-knowing and all-wise God. We all need to listen though.

We will make mistakes. We will stumble. We may even fall. However, having fallen we’ll get back up on our feet as we listen to what God wants to say to us through each other and through our own individual acts of humble worship.

In tomorrow's post, Karl Giberson, who was singled out in the speech, will respond to some of the details of Dr. Mohler's address.


Darrel Falk is former president of BioLogos and currently serves as BioLogos' Senior Advisor for Dialog. He is Professor of Biology, Emeritus at Point Loma Nazarene University and serves as Senior Fellow at The Colossian Forum. Falk is the author of Coming to Peace with Science.

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Bilbo - #20515

July 5th 2010

Though I don’t always agree with the point of view of Biologos, this seems to be a place that is doing its best to not make spears or swords.


penman - #20516

July 5th 2010

Oh dear. Here we go again. Breath-taking scientific ignorance parading itself as biblical fidelity, with accusations of apostasy against anyone who disagrees. It’s time we had that Augustine quote from the Literal Meaning Of Genesis posted up again, in technicolor.

Your response was more gracious than I can be. I’m sick to death of this kind of thing in the Reformed Evangelical world - and I don’t even live in the US.


Steve Master - #20517

July 5th 2010

However one comes down on the issue, the challenges to Mohler’s position are much larger than he may realize.  The “appearance of age” long ago ceased to be the main hurdle; indeed, for a number of reasons (ably outlined by Dr. Collins, among others), Mohler would now have to also maintain that God created an “appearance of evolution” (an “appearance of common descent”).  What, then, would be implied by the statement that “God created things whole”?  Would Mohler argue that God created with the appearance of evolution so that—going forward—we can know that Evolution is an inherent part of the Creation structure?


Mairnéalach - #20520

July 5th 2010

One consistent theme I hear from people like Mohler is that Christians are capitulating on evolution because of a desire to look acceptable to cultural elites.

This is actually a true accusation in many cases. Many Christians who accept evolution are visibly compromised in many areas of doctrine and practice.

However, Biologos, as I have come to see it, exists not because of a fawning desire to appear good to cultural elites. Rather, it exists in order to provide spiritual and intellectual succor to growing and learning Christians who have been shell-shocked by people like Mohler, who, as an above commenter noted, accuses evolution-accepters of tortured exegesis and compromised theology, but is guilty of the exact same thing with “appearance of age”.

I love Mohler and his people. It was southern Baptists who first witnessed of the cross to me and they baptized me. However, I am forced to say, Biologos exists to rescue people from blind hypocrites. Fortunately God’s gospel is greater than the party spirit and blindness of one sector of the church, and he works graciously through that party. But this has to be confronted.


Karl A - #20521

July 5th 2010

I don’t agree with penman that this speech exemplified “breath-taking scientific ignorance”.  I think Dr. Mohler demonstrated understanding, at some level anyway, of the scientific evidence for an ancient earth.  He’s obviously a learned man and gave a strong speech.  It’s just that, to him, the most faithful Biblical interpretation involves setting aside this extremely strong evidence.  I have to hand it to him, he’s got some kind of faith.  If he interpreted Genesis as saying the sun was the lit end of God’s cigarette, he would have to affirm that “yes, as a faithful Christian I affirm that the sun is indeed the lit end of God’s cigarette in spite of those atheistic scientists and their craven TE supporters providing evidence to the contrary.”  Maybe my faith isn’t that strong, but I just can’t take a mountain of evidence and say, “this mountain does not exist; that it seems to is simply an unfathomable mystery.”

I note that Dr. Mohler is not speaking ex cathedra, i.e. as SBTS President, but rather at someone else’s conference.  But it does seem like the U.S. wing of the Reformed is coalescing around YEC.

Lord, help us continue this much-needed dialog in ways that are fruitful and honoring to you.


Irenicum - #20522

July 5th 2010

Dr Falk, this was a very gracious post and befitting a Christian spirit of humility combined with assurance. I do wonder, and I say this as someone who is Reformed, if there is a certain kind of Calvinism that is informing their reading of Scripture that precludes an acceptance of evolutionary biology or even an ancient cosmos? Ligonier is a very conservative Calvinistic ministry, dare I say, bordering on fundamentalistic (again, let me say that I’ve benefited greatly from their ministry over the years.My library is well stocked with Reformed and Puritan writings). And yet I know full well that there are many Arminians and in-betweens who also reject evolution, so it isn’t Calvinism per se.

Ultimately this may reflect more a psychological mindset that feels the need to see reality in starkly dualistic terms. Dawkins reflects that mindset perfectly, and the other side of the aisle sadly behaves the same way. Strangely enough, as scientifically literate as Mr Dawkins is, he’s just as guilty of being uncomfortable with complexity as any religious fundamentalist. So this isn’t really a debate about theology at all, it’s a battle of who is the most comfortable with complexity. Complexity is uncomfortable, but so is God!


beaglelady - #20523

July 5th 2010

Unless I missed it, Dr. Mohler never mentions the flat stationary earth, the firmament, or a 3-tier universe that the Bible takes for granted.


Stuart - #20525

July 5th 2010

Lovely article and completely agree with all of it frankly.


HornSpiel - #20526

July 5th 2010

Let me quote a passage we studied in my Sunday School class yesterday—-at my local Southern Baptist Church.

We know that “we all have knowledge.” Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up.  If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know it as he ought to know it.  But if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.
                                                                              I Cor. 8:1—3 (Holman)

I hope that those taking strong positions in this debate realize that even though we may be sure of something, being right is not the most important thing.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #20527

July 5th 2010

How on earth can the gospel message of salvation be dependent on the scientific content of the Bible?  That is truly putting the cart before the horse.

The good teacher starts with where his/her students are and leads them into higher and higher truths.  One does not teach first graders high school or college physics.  God did not start humanity off with Jesus, but began with Abraham and worked through Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Elijah and the prophets, all the way to Jesus over 2,000 years and is still revealing the divine through Paul, preachers, and theologians.

The Bible is not unscientific, but used the scientific understanding the the Hebrews to communicate God’s power and goodness.  If God had waited until the Hebrews were able to understand the theories of Einstein, the Bible would never have been written.  The Hebrews did not have even a true numbering system in than they used their alphabet for numbers.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #20529

July 5th 2010

God gave different peoples different gifts.  The Hebrews have a very special spiritual gift, the Greeks were blessed by philosophy, etc.  Moderns have been able to combine these gifts to come up with modern science.  Why would God do for us what we can do for ourselves?  But we are unable to save ourselves, so God sent His only Son so whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting Life. 

Genesis is true, even if some of the details might be wrong, because God through it reveals the character of the universe as Good, the character of humanity as created in the Image of God, and the need to live in harmony with God, nature, and others.  Since humans are aleinated from all three and themselves, God the Father sent the Son and the Holy Spirit to reconcile humans to Godself and to others and to nature, and to themselves.

God is Who He Is, not Who we what God to be or Who we think God should be.  God’s plan is to save humanity, starting with the ancient Hebrews and down to today.  I expect that the ancients figured that out when they accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ even though as Gentiles they were culturally different from Him since He was Jewish.  It is ironic that some people today have not.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #20530

July 5th 2010

The fact is that the flawed modernist philosophy that produced fundamentalism is not Biblical, but preChristian pagan Greek.  The postmodernist philosophy that supports Darwinian evolution of the New Atheists is also flawed and conflicts with mainstream science.  The challenge is to discover a truly Biblically based philosophy which can be the basis of a renewed scientific of the universe and a renewed understanding of the Good news of Jesus Christ.

See my website, rightrelates.org, for more information.


nedbrek - #20531

July 5th 2010

“The BioLogos Foundation exists in order that the Church, especially the Evangelical Church, can come to peace with the scientific data which shows unequivocally that the universe is very old and that all of life, including humankind, has been created through a gradual process that has been taking place over the past few billion years. BioLogos exists to show that this fact (and it is a fact), need not, indeed must not, affect our relationship with God”

I don’t see how you can have a conversation with this attitude.  This is pretty uncompromising.

The “fact” of an old earth is based on the assumption of uniformitarianism.  This should be a piece of cake for a Christian:
1) The present is the key to the past
2) People today do not rise from the dead
3) Jesus did not rise from the dead
Bonus points) We are still in our sins, and are above all men to be most pitied


gingoro - #20533

July 5th 2010

penman @20516

“I’m sick to death of this kind of thing in the Reformed Evangelical world - and I don’t even live in the US.”

I am surprised to see the SBC catagorized as reformed.  Rather I would expect that just like in the Canadian Fellowship of Evangelical Baptists or the Cdn Baptist Convention that some churches take a reformed position and some take a a position closer to Pelagius or Arminius.  Whether one is a paedo baptist or an a-milleniumist or not is not the total definition of the reformed position by any means. 

Is the SBC generally reformed in doctrine? 

Dave W


norm - #20534

July 5th 2010

Those with a penchant for Biologos will need to outperform the Evangelical’s theologically to claim the High Scholarly ground.  Many that frequent Biologos are good at science, philosophy and the metaphysical but weak on Theology. Until that is corrected and our Theology is better than theirs then their Theological story line will generally prevail. 

An evangelical showing up here at Biologos sees entirely too much energy spent on naturalistic speculation which may be interesting to many but it avoids the tough Theological issues such as the ramifications of Paul seeing Adam as historical. You can’t answer that question by speculating upon when humans became spiritual or whether ANE views allow one to discard Adam historically. IMO you can answer it by knowing Pauline theology better than they do and that requires a comprehensive understanding of the entire biblical narrative.

As an example if you do not understand Paul’s view of the “spiritual nature of Adam’s Death” then you will waste time trying to fit a physical understanding into the puzzle of Romans and 1 Cor 15 which is what some of our better known authors still do. They end up literalizing Gen 3 because they haven’t looked at it with fresh eyes.


Canadian evangelical. - #20538

July 5th 2010

Why would anyone care what Mohler says?  He daren’t say anything else or he’s out of a job. 

BioLogos must learn to rise above these little domestic U.S. power squabbles that everyone else in the world laughs at.


unapologetic catholic - #20539

July 5th 2010

” Many that frequent Biologos are good at science, philosophy and the metaphysical but weak on Theology. Until that is corrected and our Theology is better than theirs then their Theological story line will generally prevail.”

Dr. Mohler is at odds with the teaching of my denomination which has a fair share of theologians well outside his class.

I’ll be blunt.  Mohler is anti-Catholic.  This is yet another example of his polite anti-Catholicism.


Gabriel Powell - #20540

July 5th 2010

It seems the only questions allowed at BioLogos are those that question Scripture. This post admits that there is no questioning science. An old earth and evolution are facts—don’t question them.

The only questions permitted are “how do we fit our inerrant science into errant scripture?”

Oh, and if scripture is inspired, as Falk admits, then does that make God the author of error since scripture is not inerrant? (just asking a question!)

BioLogos must predominantly be a place where people come to ask questions expecting that the Lord “will teach us his ways.” He will do this as we listen to each other

Ignoring for a moment that the scripture passage is taken out of context and refers to the millennium, applying it for today, what role does Scripture play in teaching us? If it’s God’s Word, shouldn’t we look to it for answers instead of only to each other?


norm - #20547

July 5th 2010

unapologetic catholic - #20539

I was speaking generally to evangelicals. I agree that the Catholics are outperforming the Evangelicals now in regard to Genesis. However the Catholics have their baggage elsewhere as well. No denomination has all their ducks in order and most likely the political nature of religious organizations will never allow any to have it all together at any one time.


penman - #20548

July 5th 2010

Gingoro:

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Ooops. Sorry, Gingoro: I meant that the Reformed Evangelical world in the United Kingdom, where I live, is rife with militant YECism, denouncing both Old Earth Creationism & Evolutionary Creationism with ceaseless vigour. I mentioned in a different thread how the UK’s Evangelical Times beats the YEC drum loudly in every issue. OECs & ECs huddle & mutter together, awaiting the dawn…

I don’t know whether the SBC could be collectively called “Reformed Evangelical”, although Al Mohler is (isn’t he?). An American friend can perhaps enlighten us.


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