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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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Ashe - #20618

July 6th 2010

This guy doesn’t realize that plant death was likely rampant even under a young earth model. Plants aren’t alive you say? Well then, you have essentially undercut many anti-OOL-from-geochemistry arguments with that assertion.


penman - #20623

July 6th 2010

Gingoro (otherwise known as Dave):
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Very much so. Northern Ireland Reformed Evangelicals are very militant over YECism; witness the furore over their attempts to get YECism put alongside mainstream geology in the National Museum in Ulster (see Jim Kidder’s website, scroll down to Tuesday, June 22, “More Trouble in Northern Ireland”).

And Scottish Reformed Evangelicals (including Presbyterians) also have a strong YEC constituency - I know Scotland pretty well from first-hand acquaintance, although I’m English. There is a beacon of hope for the Free Church of Scotland, if only they’d look at their founding fathers like Thomas Chalmers & Hugh Miller, who were at least thoroughly Old Earth. Miller’s “Testimony of the Rocks” has the best defence of a local flood I’ve ever read - and Miller was a devout Calvinist.

Looks like you have things a lot easier in Canada. Perhaps I should emigrate. For folks like me, BioLogos is a life-giving oxygen supply (although I wish a historical Adam of some sort could get a better theological hearing…)

BTW do you prefer Gingoro or Dave?


nedbrek - #20624

July 6th 2010

Ashe - #20618, the Bible says life is in the blood.  Plants do not have blood.  How does that undercut the YEC story?


MF - #20646

July 6th 2010

“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?”

I appreciate BioLogos’s mission, and I hold to evolutionary creationism. However, I don’t think we can ever say that there is “no doubt” about a current scientific theory (cf. also Peter Enns’s recent post on doubt in a theological context). Rather I would say we need to hold even these most supported beliefs provisionally.

There is a mountain of evidence across many disciplines for an old earth, and it would seem nigh impossible to contradict and overrule that theory with future scientific discoveries. But we have to agree that it could happen. Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions has taught us that we must be humble as we work in our current paradigm.

Sadly, such humility is hard to find on either side of this debate, as Dr. Falk’s phrasing indicates. Substitute “virtually no doubt” and I’d be with you.


Kent Sparks - #20653

July 6th 2010

One notices how often this kind of rhetoric is coming out of Reformed theological circles. Conservative reformed theology believes that God unconditionally decides who will be saved and then picks only a select few as objects of his love ... leaving everyone else to burn in hell as objects of his eternal wrath. God loves everyone, but not in a way that actually expresses the love in Christ, who died only for the elect and not for the unelected. 

I only point this out because I suspect there is some sort of epistemic connection between this line of theological thinking and a close-minded approach to scientific evidence. Namely, I suspect that one of the foundational issues is soteriological anxiety ... in a world were God is unconditionally picking and choosing who goes to heaven and hell, I will need all of my theology to lead indubitably and incorrigibly to a guarantee that I am saved. And when that’s the case, there’s not much room for an openness to options and questions .... almost any question leads inexorably to another slippery slope.


Ashe - #20656

July 6th 2010

@20624 I think I know what you’re referring to but I don’t think that can be taken as general definition of life. I very much doubt that the answer we have all been looking for as to the boundary between life and non-life is one atom of iron.


Kent Sparks - #20657

July 6th 2010

Hi MF:

“I don’t think we can ever say that there is “no doubt” about a current scientific theory.”

Though I agree with the spirit of your comment, I don’t think its quite right. There came a point, for instance, when we simply rejected without doubt the Ptolemaic theory of the cosmos. For the data that supported that view simply failed in comparison with other data and theories. In a similar way, I would argue that there are no longer any reasons, biblical or scientific, to suggest that the universe is young nor to reject evolution. So I’m with the Biologos rhetoric ... it’s not longer suitable to act as if a young earth, and a scientific reading of Genesis, are possibilities ... about this, I’d say there is “no doubt.”

... the only trick of course is that it’s always possible that even in cases where we should have “no doubt” we might turn out to be wrong ... c’est la vie as a human being.


Mairnéalach - #20659

July 6th 2010

Kenton,

I believe your theory that Reformed theology is particularly susceptible to young earthism is not supported by the evidence.

For example, many Reformed stalwarts were quite open to an old earth and evolution, and they held to election in Christ. B.B. Warfield, etc.

A competing denomination, Lutheranism, vehemently opposes “election unto reprobation” and makes a big deal of their difference with Calvinism. However, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod takes the most absolute hard line on young earthism of any confessional denomination in the U.S.A.

I suspect the psycho-religious “fault lines”, if there are such a thing, lie somewhere else. Often, in these debates, I suspect that pure theological loyalties are not nearly as dominating as mere party ones. Often these men are driven by exactly the same thing they rightly accuse scientific academia of—driven by the desire to be “part of the team”, loyal, toeing the party line against the encroaching barbarians. Thus you see careful theological thinking go by the wayside, just as you do in academia, for the same reasons.


nedbrek - #20663

July 6th 2010

Ashe - #20656, I’m not suggesting it as a general definition - but as the Biblical one.  When the Bible speaks of life and death it is about the blood.


Kent Sparks - #20664

July 6th 2010

Hi Mairnéalach:

You’re quite right that Reformed theology and young earth creationism don’t go hand in hand, and you’re also right that there are those outside of the Reformed tradition that eshew anything that look’s “unbiblical.” But I think that there’s still something to my point only because in casual conversations with TRs I find that the soteriological implications ... How can we be sure we’re right and going to heaven?” lurk in the background.

Upon further reflection prompted by your comment, however, I do think that party loyalties play a fascinating and important role in all of this. There is a litmus test mentality that is tied not so much to what one believes as to whether one is on “our side” or “their side.” In this regard, its interesting how disconcerting it was when Bruce Waltke took a stand in favor of evolution, and how in recent months Sproul and now Mohler have come out in favor of young earth creationism. There’s a fear that the party is being split up ... so the party lines are being drawn quickly and thickly.

Thanks for your insight.


nedbrek - #20665

July 6th 2010

Kent Sparks - #20653, I don’t think that is a fair view of election.  Everyone wants assurance of salvation, and Arminianism is not really better in this regard.  There is always the doubt than one has believed rightly enough, or repented enough to attain to righteousness.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #20666

July 6th 2010

The best way to describe Adam is the indicated by how the Bible does it.  Adam is a collective noun representing humanity.  Sin entered the world through the first human beings and has been passed from generation to generation by our collective behavior.  We choose to sin just as the first humans chose to sin, we perpetuate that sin by failing to acknowledge it just as the first humans did.  Sin has consequences, social and individual, for us just as it did for them.

You can blame God for giving humans free will even if He knew they would abuse this gift.  I hope you don’t blame God for giving us life, even though He knows we are going to suffer and die.  Suffering is not the human problem, sin is.  Sin does cause suffering, but so living for God also means to endure suffering as Jesus knows.  Suffering for the right is good, but for the wrong is not.

The story of the primal man and woman is true and historical, because it took place in time and space.  It sets the framework of the salvation story of Jesus Christ.  It may not be scientifically true, but who can say?  It is theologically and philosophically true and since this is the level of truth that we are discussing, this makes it true.


nedbrek - #20667

July 6th 2010

Roger A. Sawtelle - #20666, humanity as a collective noun lived 130 years then fathered Seth?  Then lived 800 more years, then died?


dave - #20669

July 6th 2010

Sin entered the world through the first human beings and has been passed from generation to generation by our collective behavior.  We choose to sin just as the first humans chose to sin

If every single human being chooses to sin, then that indicates that God created us with a propensity to sin. If we truly had free will, you’d expect at least 10% of humans to choose not to sin.

I’m not blaming God for sin, mind you. I don’t believe in God. I’m just pointing out how your story is not internally consistent.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #20671

July 6th 2010

“There is always the doubt than one has believed rightly enough, or repented enough to attain to righteousness.”
                    nedbrek (or Kent Sparks) above

If this is true then conservative Christianity is in serious trouble.  Salvation is based on faith which is the gift of grace, not by works, be they repenting or believing.  Legalism is the opposite of faith, whether its is based on right theology or right works. 

Salvation is based on the gift of the the Spirit and is evidenced by the Fruit of Spirit.  It is based on righteousness which is the right relationship to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It is based on the Love of Jesus Christ for His people that nothing can sever.


nedbrek - #20674

July 6th 2010

dave - #20669, God created Adam without the propensity to sin.  By Adam, sin entered the world - everyone descended from Adam does have a propensity to sin.  We are sinners from conception.


Justin Poe - #20676

July 6th 2010

Kent’s comments on the Reformed Church are just not accurate.  As one who has been in conservative Reformed Churchs for years, I knew plenty that held to Calvinism and NOT the YEC model of Genesis.  Now, most, if not all, thought that Adam and Eve were literal created beings, and the two starters of the human race, many believed in the OEC.


dave - #20677

July 6th 2010

nedbrek -so propensity to sin is hereditary? There goes free will then. Why did God design humans such that propensity to sin is hereditary?


Zane - #20678

July 6th 2010

@Roger A. Sawtelle
“Legalism is the opposite of faith, whether its is based on right theology or right works.”

Right on! I think this right theology legalism is the real root of the problem, more than the reformed or armenian theology. Rather than relying on the “Love of Jesus Christ for His people”, Christians will start relying on a transaction with God where either (a) salvation must be repaid with good works/theology or (b) salvation must be earned with good works/theology. I think Calvinists would tend to fall more in the former group and Armenians in the latter (just an opinion), but regardless both views have the same fundamental flaw. They each ignore the unconditional love that is the heart of salvation and turn it into a business deal, where God wants something from us in exchange for our salvation (like orthodoxy so bold it is willing to defy the last century of scientific progress).


gingoro - #20682

July 6th 2010

Kent Sparks @20653

“One notices how often this kind of rhetoric is coming out of Reformed theological circles.”

About a year ago Cameron Wybrow on the ASA mail list complained that there were too many reformed among the TE group.  So I take it that there are too many reformed who are YEC as well as too many who are EC/TE.  Something does not add up!

As someone who has been in a reformed church since the late 70s I find Ligonier Ministries and RC Sproul take a relatively extreme version of reformed doctrine and I never hear about them in context of our local church (CRC) but only on blogs like this one.  I believe that many in the PCA are closer to Sprouls thought and teachings at least in some congregations. 

Tim Keller who wrote a white paper for Biologos is a PCA pastor by the way.
http://biologos.org/resources/timothy-keller/
and maybe some might read him as YEC, I don’t.
Dave W
Address me either as Dave or gingoro I don’t care.  Gingoro means black and white colobus monkey in Ethiopia where I grew up. 
http://www.google.ca/images?hl=en&q=colobus+monkey&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=2GczTNG6MsvsnQfDrMT8Aw&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CDEQsAQwAA
Very pretty monkey.


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