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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richard williams - #20555

July 5th 2010

nowhere in the speech do i see the crucial distinction of using vs teaching. many elements of an ancient hebraic worldview are being used to communicate the OT, many elements of a 1st C greco-jewish worldview are being used to communicate the NT. in the US a terrible un-civil war was fought to eliminate the elements of greco-roman slavery from a scriptural worldview that created the american south, by confusing using with teaching, incidentals with message. far more quietly the elements of demonic possession vs germ theory for the origins of dis-ease has disappeared from our current christian worldview. like the flat earth, geo-centric universe, 3-tiered (heaven above, hell below) physical theories, young earth creationism confuses things being used versus things being taught, those things part of the cultural inheritance of the scripture’s writers versus those things God demands us to adhere to through the ages as part of the faith.

shame. you’d think the american south would have learned this lesson.


Argon - #20556

July 5th 2010

So, what these are people learning from Catholic and Jewish philosophers, who have examined these issues for much, much longer than the evangelical community? Why reinvent the wheel? The Baptists used to have a reasonably vibrant, open discussions (among scholars, if no among the lay people).


William Doolittle - #20562

July 5th 2010

“How should BioLogos respond?”

Whatever the response may be, it should be accompanied with the sort of grace and humility exemplified in this very post. As a former KJV-only subscriber, I know first hand that disagreements of this kind are less often settled by biting rebuttals than by the display of a truly Christian spirit.


Headless Unicorn Guy - #20566

July 5th 2010

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”).

OMPHALOS.
by Gosse.
Mid-Victorian times.


JKnott - #20567

July 5th 2010

There is a good point made by Gabriel, no matter how much I disagree with his overall perspective.  The swords into plowshares is eschatological.  We aren’t over the struggle yet, not in the Church, not on BioLogos, not anywhere. Jesus said he came to bring a “sword.”  Not literal, mind you, but neither is the “swords” talked of in the post.

On Reformed theology..I found it helped me a bit out of fundamentalism, because I figured God is able to get his message accross even with imperfect means (scripture). And in what may seem to many an “extreme” version of Reformed theology, supralapsarianism, one sees God’s plan of salvation preceeding, and thus pre-supposing and planning for (in a way), the fall.  So the universe was meant to be fallen, therefore could have been from the beginning.  In my view that helps with evolution.


JKnott - #20568

July 5th 2010

So though I agree with Roger on a lot, I must demur from his view that the “point” of Genesis is that creation is good.  Seems to me things went fundamentally awry. And if you look at the eons of pain and suffering which we know about, can we deny this?  Do we need to?  The problem with literalistic readings of Gen., IMHO, is the issue of how and when things went wrong. Hence I’m helped by supralapsarianism.  My two cents.


zane - #20570

July 5th 2010

“...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.”

Amen to that. I found this website when I was looking for answers to the evolution/creation controversy, but I kept coming back for the Christian spirit of the site. I found this blog, even more than the YEC ones (The speed of light changes? That’s your explanation!?), were full of a real love of truth, God, and the creation. This site most certainly does not deserve to fail. Keep up the good work.


gingoro - #20574

July 5th 2010

penman @20548
“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.”

Would you include evangelicals in the Presbyterian churches in Scotland and Northern Ireland in that generalization?  I read and used to comment on the blog of a UK reformed baptist who teaches at a seminary in Kenya and he is clearly YEC and also very ignorant of science.  He proposes that all the diversity we see now has occurred by RM + NS since the flood.  Amazing how fast evolution can work.

Here in Canada I do not see much militant YEC in the reformed churches (mainline or CRC) although there are small splinter sepratestic groups that could be different.  I rarely see any of the smaller reformed groups as probably they would not consider me a Christian or maybe an apostate one at best.  The PCA have a few churches here and they could also lean to YEC although I do not recall any of that when we were members of a PCA church, 13 years ago.  I strongly suspect that lots of the Baptist congregations have a strong YEC position. 

Dave W


norm - #20575

July 5th 2010

The problem with an eschatological evaluation of scripture is that many aren’t prepared to interpret symbolism. Beating ones swords into plowshares is a symbol of the spiritual peace that comes from the Messianic fulfillment. A similar expression that often gets distorted by the literalist is Isaiah 11’s illustration of Domestic animals lying down with the wild untamed animals which is simply imagery of Jews coming together with Gentiles and is not a physical return to paradise lost courtesy of the YEC. 

  Isa 11:1 And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit.  …  (6)  And THE WOLF SHALL DWELL WITH THE LAMB, AND THE LEOPARD SHALL LIE DOWN WITH THE KID; AND THE CALF AND THE YOUNG LION AND THE FATLING TOGETHER; AND A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM.  (7)  AND THE COW AND THE BEAR SHALL FEED; THEIR YOUNG ONES SHALL LIE DOWN TOGETHER; AND THE LION SHALL EAT STRAW LIKE THE OX.  9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain

Hos 2:18 And in that day will I MAKE A COVENANT FOR THEM WITH THE BEASTS OF THE FIELD,… and I WILL BREAK THE BOW AND THE SWORD AND THE BATTLE OUT OF THE LAND, and WILL MAKE THEM TO LIE DOWN SAFELY.


ttotto - #20579

July 5th 2010

I think that trying to work with the denomination and in some case the seminaries of groups like the SBC is close to useless.  The only approach seems to be to work with individuals, pastors and in a few cases local churches.  In a local case I know of a baptist minister who was ostracized by many churches in his mainly fundy denomination simply for having fellowship with Christians of other denominations and not condemning other denominations as apostate.  In many cases, I think only time and God’s grace will change such people.  A friend who was best man at my wedding has totally cut contact over issues much more minor than Genesis.


gingoro - #20580

July 5th 2010

unapologetic catholic @20539

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

If that is true then I would rank him with Ian Paisly which is getting pretty close to the bottom with me.  At a former church, an elder left because he was not happy with the minister that was called.  The elder went to the congregation that hosts Paisley when he visited our city.  I was not the least bit sorry to see that elder leave as he would fit in better in a splinter racist church.  Paisly may be a Christian, that is between him and God but his teaching is evil at least in this area.

My mother’s family was from Ireland and were Presbyterians but mother would never stand for Paisley’s kind of anti Catholic rants.
Dave


Landon - #20583

July 5th 2010

I wonder if any of those who have recently advanced public criticisms of Biologos realize that their criticisms are probably increasing traffic to this site .  I certainly have followed Biologos more closely in the past month or so than I did over the preceding months.


Matthew - #20587

July 5th 2010

Just another “me too!” I genuinely appreciate the gracious & thoughtful nature of this post. I think that Dr. Mohler is dead wrong here, but he is clearly a servant of God just trying to be faithful to the truth, just like Dr. Falk. Both are working hard, I believe, to preach Christ and bring hope to others, and I hope that by discussing these issues frankly and honestly there can be good communication and more glory brought to our Savior. I also hope that future discussions of this sort continue to follow the exemplary & charitable tone expressed in this article. Thanks so much for your work, BioLogos!


dave - #20588

July 5th 2010

I guess you’ll have to lay out your criteria for determining which miracle stories in the Bible are real and which are metaphorical.

Good luck with that.


dave - #20592

July 5th 2010

Matthew’s comment is an excellent example of how “moderate” believers enable fundamentalists.


Bilbo - #20596

July 5th 2010

So if we preach the gospel to people who believe in an old earth and evolution, should we make sure they repent of those sins, as well?


unapologetic catholic - #20599

July 5th 2010

“If that is true then I would rank him with Ian Paisly which is getting pretty close to the bottom with me.”

Rank him with Paisley.  Here he is on Larry King:

““As an evangelical, I believe the Roman church is a false church and it teaches a false gospel” I believe the pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office.”

I am not critical of any post here, specifically Norm’s.  Mohler’s position is not orthodox Christianity and it is uselees to pretend that it is.  Orthodox Christians can be YEC’s   What is not orthodox os declaring that YEC is THE ONLY orthodox belief.  That position rejects 2000 years of Christian thought.

It also is a violation of the First Commandment.  Mohler should stop worshiping his unique interpretation of scripture and start worshiping God


HornSpiel - #20603

July 5th 2010

A Baptist theologian went to the Grand Canyon for a retreat. At the edge of the chasm and savoring the sunrise, he asked, “Oh Ancient of Days, why did you make the earth to appear so old?”

Soon a Park Naturalist came along and asked “Hi, what’re you doing?”

“I’m wondering why God made the earth appear so old,” replied the theologian.

“I’m about to lead a hike down the canyon to learn about the ancient history of this area. Want to come?” offered the Naturalist. “I’ll show you layers of rock that show different ancient ecosystems and fossils of the flora and fauna that lived there. It is clear they were laid down over millions of years.”

“No thanks I am waiting for God to answer me.”

About noon a Texas Oilman drove up. “Howdy. That must be your car with the Texas plates. What’s going on?”

“I’m asking God why he made the earth to appear so old,” replied the theologian.

” I used to think the earth was young too, until I got into the oil business. I have charts that show the strata all over this area. It is clear that they were laid down over millions of years, and then the land started rising. Let me show you how the river carved this canyon as the land rose,” offered the Oilman.

Continued…


HornSpiel - #20604

July 5th 2010

Continued…

“No thanks, I don’t need to see your charts. I’m waiting for God to answer me.”

As the sun started to set, an Astronomer arrived and began to set up a telescope.

“The stars are going to be amazing tonight. No moon. I’ll be looking for a quasar 8.7 billion light years away. By the way, what are you doing tonight?” inquired the Astromomer

“I’m waiting for God to tell me why he made the earth to appear so old,” replied the theologian rather testily. “And no, I am not interested in looking at things supposedly billions of light years away.”

Just then a bolt of lighting slashed through the darkening sky ushering the theologian into the presence of God.

“Lord, I don’t mean to be rude, but why didn’t you answer my question about the age of the earth?” asked the theologian.

“What do you mean? I sent you a Naturalist, a Geologist and an Astronomer,” Replied God.

“I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” the theologian exclaimed.

“Well actually…”


Karl A - #20607

July 6th 2010

HornSpiel, my daughter and I got a good laugh out of that one!  She’s traveling soon to meet her SBC best friend who is being raised YEC.  I don’t think I’ll recommend sharing that story though…   As the Wicked Witch of the West said, “These things must be done delicately.”


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