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 The BioLogos Foundation. He transitioned into Christian higher education 25 years ago and has given numerous talks about the relationship between science and faith at many universities and seminaries. He is the author of Coming to Peace with Science.

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dave - #20861

July 7th 2010

“God punishes sin (He must do so, in order to be just).  We are morally responsible for our sin, regardless of our ability to do otherwise.”

How can we be morally responsible if we had no choice?

“Perhaps there is a better way of phrasing it.  God is not unjust or unfair.  That is the whole point.  In order to be just, He must punish sin.  That is why Jesus died, so that there is always a punishment for sin (either we are punished in Hell, or Jesus was punished on our behalf).”

How could it be considered just to punish one person for someone else’s sin? That’s not justice at all.


dave - #20862

July 7th 2010

And really, justice does not have to require punishment for sin. God invented the concept of justice (in the Christian view), so he could have invented it such that it didn’t require punishment. He could have created humans such that they were free not to sin.

If you believe God is omnipotent (which seems to be a Christian tradition, not something actually in the Bible), then it follows that everything in the world is exactly as God intended it to be.

It would make more sense to believe God isn’t omnipotent, that there are some things he can’t do.

Of course, to me it makes even more sense not to believe in the Christian God, or any other gods, at all. That also removes the need to reconcile scientific discoveries with mesopotamian religious writings.


nedbrek - #20919

July 8th 2010

Hello Dave,
It may make more sense through the moral law…

When someone steals from you, you would like to see it returned - that is justice.  If not the exact item, something of equal value.  If they have nothing, they might work to pay it back.  Similarly, if you are hurt, you would like some recompense for your time or work lost.

God’s law is the same way.  You say God is just making it up, but the law is an expression of God’s character.  In this sense, God is not omnipotent (able to do anything); He is all-powerful (more powerful than anything else).

When you break God’s law (things like stealing, or killing) it is God who is injured.  We are created in God’s image, so our actions proclaim “This is what God is like!  He is a liar and sexually immoral!”  Like defamation or slander.

Make sense so far?


David Morris - #20962

July 8th 2010

Hi Penman, I hope I’m not too late to this conversation for you. I grew up in the UK, in a reformed leaning Baptist church affiliated with the FIEC. YEC started to manifest itself after I had left, and caused a fair amount of dissent. I don’t think it is the best position, in fact, part of me feels that it is dangerous to insist on it, but I can see the attractions of it.

One of the most helpful pieces I have read on the whole thing is this one, by Melvin Tinker (a CofE vicar in Hull). Tinker is reformed and it was written for Evangelicals Now.

http://www.e-n.org.uk/p-4522-No-conflict.htm

Don’t leave the UK just yet. I found the situation in the UK to be much less tense than it is in the US.


unaplogetic catholic - #21043

July 8th 2010

“God does not leave all men to perish in the estate of sin and misery,into which they fell by the breach of the first covenant, commonly called the covenant of works; but of his mere love and mercy delivers his elect out of it.

There’s no way areund it.  Ken’s claim is quite correct.  You just don’t like that fact and unilaterally decalred the support for his claim as “irrelevant.”

God delivers the elect—unless ““elect” means “everybody”—whichit doesn’t—then God picked a few.


steve hays - #21057

July 8th 2010

unaplogetic catholic - #21043

“There’s no way areund it.  Ken’s claim is quite correct.  You just don’t like that fact and unilaterally decalred the support for his claim as ‘irrelevant.’ God delivers the elect—unless ‘elect/ means ‘everybody’—whichit doesn’t—then God picked a few.”

That’s a false dichotomy. The mere concept of election carries no implications regarding the relative percentages of the elect in relation to the reprobate. It could be few, or many, or most.

Moreover, if you actually knew anything about Reformed theology, you’d know that Reformed theology has no official position on the percentage of the elect.


Scanman - #21073

July 9th 2010

nedbrek - #20667

As a TE, I still believe in a literal Adam and Eve.
Gen 2:7 is wide open to an evolutionary interpretation of the creation of Adam.
My take on it, is that God drew Adam from the evolutionary ‘stream’ of hominids, and breathed into him his eternal spirit.

Peace


nedbrek - #21074

July 9th 2010

Interesting.

How do you interpret Matthew 19:4, “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female” - since in the beginning the first sexual reproducers were effectively female (the Y chromosome is considered a defective X, also, the X will breed true for unisex organisms).


Scanman - #21182

July 9th 2010

nedbrek - #21074
I am not really sure what your point is…

IMHO, Adam was unique…a pinnacle in the evolution of man. God took Adam and set him apart…made him ‘holy’...and placed him in Eden.

It was later that God created Eve from Adam…how he did this…???  As for me, I only know how to barbecue ribs.LOL

As a side note…why did God need to create Eden, if the world was perfect?

Peace


unapologetic catholic - #21266

July 10th 2010

“Moreover, if you actually knew anything about Reformed theology, you’d know that Reformed theology has no official position on the percentage of the elect.”

I understand.  So Kent’s origianl point be correct.  It’scould be only select few or maybe nearly everybody.  Nobody knows.  His original poitn was that people can lead perfectly normal lives without “knowing” whether or not they will be saved and without beign disturbed byt he uncertainty.

That seems to be true.


jjcran - #21283

July 10th 2010

The thing I found odd about Mohler’s presentation was his appeal to a “natural” or “common sense” reading of the text.  This is odd for two reasons.  The first is that he seems to just skip over the importance of the question of interpretation, which scholars like Enns have worked hard to bring to our attention.  The second is his apparent belief that God has created the world in such a way that we cannot trust a “natural” or “common sense” reading of it.  Why should we trust our “common sense” reading of scripture but not our “common sense” reading of the book of nature?


Ken Browning - #21409

July 12th 2010

I’m a former Pentecostal who’s been out of Christianity for nearly 30 years.  I’m struck, reading through these many comments, by the fractious nature of the Christian movement.


nedbrek - #21418

July 12th 2010

Hi Ken, there is no harm in contending vigorously for the truth.


dave - #21492

July 12th 2010


nedbrek - #20919

July 8th 2010

Hello Dave,
It may make more sense through the moral law…

When someone steals from you, you would like to see it returned - that is justice.  If not the exact item, something of equal value.  If they have nothing, they might work to pay it back.  Similarly, if you are hurt, you would like some recompense for your time or work lost.

God’s law is the same way.  You say God is just making it up, but the law is an expression of God’s character.  In this sense, God is not omnipotent (able to do anything); He is all-powerful (more powerful than anything else).

When you break God’s law (things like stealing, or killing) it is God who is injured.  We are created in God’s image, so our actions proclaim “This is what God is like!  He is a liar and sexually immoral!”  Like defamation or slander.

Make sense so far?”

Not in the slightest. But I do notice that you don’t cling to a belief in an omnipotent God. Besides being contradictory, it’s not Biblical, but that doesn’t stop many Christians.


nedbrek - #21505

July 12th 2010

Yes, many people think “God can do anything”, but He cannot go against His own nature (or attributes).


Karl A - #21529

July 13th 2010

Ken Browning: Although I disagree with nedbrek on some issues, I agree with him that vigorous discussion can be helpful.  It’s also good to step back sometimes, as Darrel F. and Merv encourage us to do, and remember the things we have in common (before continuing the argument ).  My guess is you’d find little argument among the Christian contributors to this blog on the points of the Apostles’ Creed, for example.  Although I am not Reformed nor YEC I would still be happy to share fellowship (in fact I do) with those who are.

If, in the past, you have been burned by fellow believers and that has turned you from God, please give God another chance.  He does a much better job loving and welcoming than some of us.  Okay, all of us.


Sherry Holland - #23675

July 27th 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”

Wow. So, it is perfectly alright for me to question Scripture, but NOT appropriate or intelligent to question science? I do question science. I am told to test and question everything. Is it not even possible that science could be wrong or misguided? Their methods flawed?

I am an evangelical Christian who is presently studying both sides of this argument. The above quoted paragraph put me off immediately. There was no room for debate.


gingoro - #23682

July 27th 2010

Sherry Holland @23675

“The above quoted paragraph put me off immediately. There was no room for debate.”

While many/most of the writers of the headline posts accept the position you (and I) find unpalatable certainly there are comment writers who disagree with them.  Search for comments by Rich, Mike Gene or penman. 

I also find troubling some of the methods of intrepretation of scripture that are being suggested.  Although I accept an old earth, common descent with modification I am considering no longer accepting the descriptive label of Evolutionary Creationist or Theistic Evolutionist as those terms seem to have connotations I can no longer ignore. 
Dave W


philrobertson - #62701

June 18th 2011

A discussion I would like to see discussed is the Earth centric nature of the Christianity and the scriptures, an equally befuddling issue.  In the light of what we now know about the universe and our infinitely tiny particle like size we in the faith continue to accept and teach a biblical earth centric position.  Is it not time to attempt to understand or re-interpret the scriptures in light of what we now know about the universe?


Jon Garvey - #62714

June 19th 2011

Phil, we’re on earth, so it would seem appropriate for a book about our salvation to centre on the affirs of earth. If the Bible’s focus was cosmology, that would be different.

But even allowing for a cosmological focus, our present state of knowledge is still of only one planet with intelligent life having an awareness of God. We also have new insights about how it takes a Universe of the size, age and properties of ours to allow for the existence of small planets rich in the materials and support for life. It wouldn’t really be so much more strange for God to care for the welfare of one planet in billions than for him to care for one person out of billions. After all, we’re capable as individuals of interest in how individual bacteria work, or of how the entire cosmos operates, so God presumably is no less capable.


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