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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 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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nedbrek - #20684

July 6th 2010

dave - #20677, for an excellent discussion on free will, try Luther’s _Bondage of the Will_.  In summary, a non-Christian’s will is free in regard to sin - what manner of rebellion he will choose next to express towards God.  It is never free in regard to becoming right with God; doing what is right and good.


dave - #20685

July 6th 2010

“In summary, a non-Christian’s will is free in regard to sin - what manner of rebellion he will choose next to express towards God.  It is never free in regard to becoming right with God; doing what is right and good.”

So we are not free not to choose sin, only free in the manner of what sin we choose? That’s not free will.


nedbrek - #20689

July 6th 2010

It depends what you mean by free will

A strict materialist would probably deny free will altogether.

For a Christian, it is really soteriology - salvation talk.  We are totally unable to save ourselves (dead in sin).  To be able to be good apart from God’s saving grace denies this dead-ness.

Put another way, you are free to do as you like, but your motives will never be right.  It will never be God honoring.


penman - #20697

July 6th 2010

Mairnéalach:

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Alas, that’s confessional Reformed theology of a previous era. Most of the 19th & early 20th century Reformed theologians were indeed Old Earth, & some (notably Warfield) not hostile to evolution. But there’s been a sea-change since the 1960s, well documented in Ronald Numbers’ book “The Creationists.” You’d be hard pressed to name many leading confessional Reformed theologians of today who are overtly Old Earth or pro-evolution.

At the grass-roots level in British Reformed churches, my universal experience has been the popularity of YECism via bodies like AiG. (Pastors seem less susceptible than their flocks.) And as I keep saying, the major UK conservative Reformed Evangelical mag, the Evangelical Times, is militantly YEC.


Kent Sparks - #20705

July 6th 2010

Dear Nedbrek,

“Everyone wants assurance of salvation ...”

Yes, I think that’s right. But not everyone believes that one can have “indubitable” assurance, which is something the Reformers were after.

I believe that in the end I will be saved and don’t worry much about it ... but I don’t know that this i the case indubitably ... after all, I don’t even know for sure that God exists ... I only trust and believe that he does.


Kent Sparks - #20706

July 6th 2010

Hi Justin:

“Kent’s comments on the Reformed Church are just not accurate ... I knew plenty that held to Calvinism and NOT the YEC model of Genesis.”

My point is NOT that everyone in the Reformed churches are YECers. My point is that many of the YECers that I know seem to Total Reformed or from Bible churches.


dave - #20707

July 6th 2010

Nedbrek, what you’re saying is that individual humans don’t choose to sin - they have no choice. So God thinks it’s OK to punish people for something they have no choice about? And you’re OK with this? That’s not a god I would want to worship.


nedbrek - #20710

July 6th 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.

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).


nedbrek - #20711

July 6th 2010

Kent Sparks - #20705, that seems scary to me.  I don’t think I would be able to sleep if I believed as you do.  Isn’t all of First John about “so that you may know”?


gingoro - #20714

July 6th 2010

Kent Sparks @20706

What does “Total Reformed” mean?  That is not a term used in Presbyterian, PCA, or CRC churches that we have attended. 
Dave


BV - #20723

July 6th 2010

According to the transcript as linked, Dr. Mohler said: “a direct reading of the text would indicate to us seven 24-hour days”

I still don’t get this.  The 24 hour day is predicated upon a rotating earth that itself orbits the sun.  Genesis 1 is written from a geocentric perspective, not because they’re stupid, but because it was entirely obvious (go outside and look up!).  The day was measured from sunrise to sunset; those living during the time when Genesis 1 was formed and written would have no idea what a 24 hour day was. 

Why YECs refuse to acknowledge (they hardly even respond) is beyond me.  I just don’t get it.  Rant over.


nedbrek - #20724

July 6th 2010

1) On day 4, one day = 24 h
2) A day always equals a day
3) On days 1-3, one day = 24h


Scott Jorgenson - #20725

July 6th 2010

If I might add to the generalizations with a little deconstruction…

I do think the basic observation that there are a disproportionate number of Reformed involved in this debate has a lot of validity to it.  But frankly I think this is a matter of self-selection.  From what I can tell, Calvinism is the most rationalistic of all the Protestant traditions, and thus the most doctrinally-detailed and confessional (a penchant toward rationalism leading naturally to wanting to set things down with precision, elaboration, and delineation between in and out).  As such, I suspect those attracted to Calvinism are more likely than others to be involved in the origins debate as well, on two counts:

- First, since the things in question in the origins debate (science, history, philosophy, theology) also inherently attract a rationalistic mindset, there is a simple birds-of-a-feather phenomenon going on.

- Second, since highly-elaborated doctrine by definition touches on so many things, the origins debate is almost inevitably going to brush up against Reformed confessions.  And since doctrine is so important in the rationalistic mindset, this leads to high interest among Calvinists in either integrating or rejecting that brush-up.


Alan - #20727

July 6th 2010

Nedbrek,



Never mind listening to scientists from Biologos, you would seriously improve your understanding (and your arguments) if you just listened to creationists who know what they are talking about. Try;



Kurt Wise on transitional fossils

and

Todd Wood on vestigial organs


Kent Sparks - #20728

July 6th 2010

Hi gingoro:

You probably wouldn’t know the term because its an exonym used by the non-Reformed to describe extreme varieties of Reformed theology. The acronym is TR and means either “Thoroughly Reformed” or “Total Reformed,” depending on who uses it.

Hi Nedbrek:

” that seems scary to me. I don’t think I would be able to sleep if I believed as you do.  Isn’t all of First John about “so that you may know”?”

This gets back to my earlier point, that “soteriological anxieties” run deep in the Evangelical tradition and especially in TR traditions. To live life without knowing one’s eternal destiny is “scary.” But it needn’t be the case ... most of human beings who have ever lived got up in the morning, worked hard, went to bed, had children, and then died without “knowing for sure” they’d go to heaven ,... or that there even was a heaven. So it surely can’t be so necessary for living a happy life ...


Kent Sparks - #20729

July 6th 2010

... As for First John, there are lots of other biblical texts to consider, plus the fact that the author’s sense that “he knows for sure” doesn’t necessarily mean that he was right ... Jesus, in particular, points out the Pharisee who went up to the temple “knew for sure” while the “sinner” who stood warily at a distance went home justified.

But to get back to the point, I still believe that for many Christians their commitment to things like YEC reflects their need for a world where everything points clearly and inexorably to their own salvation.


nedbrek - #20733

July 6th 2010

“most of human beings who have ever lived got up in the morning, worked hard, went to bed, had children, and then died without ‘knowing for sure’”

Right, and most of them probably went to Hell.  Ignorance of one’s fate may be bliss for a while, but not for eternity…


nedbrek - #20734

July 6th 2010

Alan - #20727, thank you for those links.  I look forward to reading through them.


R Hampton - #20739

July 6th 2010

nedbrek,
When men claim to “know” they are mistaken. Instead, they believe what God has told them to be the absolute truth. That’s not direct knowledge, but trust in one who has direct knowledge, a.k.a faith.

I have trusted in the Lord without wavering,
Test me, O Lord, and try me,
Examine my heart and my mind;
For your love is ever before me,
And I walk continually in your truth.

Psalm 26:1b-3 NIV


Kent Sparks - #20743

July 6th 2010

Nedbrek:

“Right, and most of them probably went to Hell.”

First, I don’t understand how you could know that given that “God is not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” ... and secondly, I think that my point would still stand, inasmuch as by saying “most” you admit that some “made it,” so to speak.

But again, back to the main point, I think that soteriological issues run deep in all of these Evangelical debates about science and the Bible.


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