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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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nedbrek - #20744

July 6th 2010

Everything is interconnected in the Bible.  If you do not believe in a literal Adam and Eve, it impacts your understanding of Jesus’ (and Paul’s) references to them.  If you do not believe that the patriarchs lived long lives (approaching 1000 years), in a literal Flood, that impacts your theology.


Headless Unicorn Guy - #20746

July 6th 2010

What does “Total Reformed” mean?  That is not a term used in Presbyterian, PCA, or CRC churches that we have attended.—gingoro - #20714

I first heard the term over at Internet Monk.

I believe it means Hyper-Calvinists, AKA “Predestination Uber Alles”, who are extremely overbearing.  Parsing Theology letter-by-letter in a game of One-Upmanship, denouncing and anathemizing any and all who are not Themselves.


gingoro - #20749

July 6th 2010

Kent Sparks @20728


“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.”

Maybe it is what I call the Hyper Calvinists who seem pretty close to determinists or fatalists to me, kind of like Muslims and ‘Insha Allah’.  Prayer for such calvinists seems to be only about praise,  adoration and confession but never petitions.  A few years ago I was reading such a theologian and I almost threw the booklet across the room in utter disgust. 
IMO very sterile. 
Dave


R Hampton - #20750

July 6th 2010

If you do not believe in a literal…

Which is why some Protestants - particularly Conservative Evangelicals - do not consider the 1.1 billion Roman Catholics to be truly Christian.

Pope Benedict XVI, September 12, 2008—Scripture requires exegesis, and it requires the context of the community in which it came to birth and in which it is lived ... To put it yet another way: there are dimensions of meaning in the word and in words which only come to light within the living community of this history-generating word. Through the growing realization of the different layers of meaning, the word is not devalued, but in fact appears in its full grandeur and dignity. Therefore the Catechism of the Catholic Church can rightly say that Christianity does not simply represent a religion of the book in the classical sense. It perceives in the words the Word, the Logos itself, which spreads its mystery through this multiplicity and the reality of a human history. This particular structure of the Bible issues a constantly new challenge to every generation. It excludes by its nature everything that today is known as fundamentalism. In effect, the word of God can never simply be equated with the letter of the text.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #20752

July 6th 2010

“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.”

Unfortunately it seems that it is difficult to discuss theology in blog size bites.  In a sense humans are born with a propensity to sin because babies are born self centered.  That is okay for a baby or a child, but when we learn to think for ourselves, we must learn to live for the mutual good, rather than for ourselves. 

Also humans are social beings, rather than the “rugged individualists” as most Americans like to think of themselves.  Thus when society is distorted and poisoned, it distorts and poisons all of its members with its sin.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #20753

July 6th 2010

Only by accepting the fact that our lives are distorted and poisoned and using our free will to root them in the True and the Good, that is God, can humans avoid the trap of selfcenteredness and the distortions of popular opinion.  Free will then would seem to be the ability to choose to live for self in its many forms or to choose to accept the gift of divine forgiveness and salvation in order to love.  That is what it means to choose between good and evil. 

The primal humans were not born, nor did they live in society, yet chose to go their own way and reject the divine way as we all have done.  At that point they ceased to be primal and became ordinary human beings.  How exactly this happened, we cannot say, only that it is true.  There are many things in life that we know must have happened, but we don’t know how they happened, like who invented the first wheel, when and how.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #20756

July 6th 2010

“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?”

Shucks, I thought that you would explain how the “adam” created in Gen 1 who was both male and female, could be the same “adam” created out of the dust of the earth in Gen 2.  Was adam male “ish” before there was female “ishah”? 

Wouldn’t be true that the adam who lived innocent and carefree in the Garden would be a far different person from the old man who had to work for a living and had all the cares of a family?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #20759

July 6th 2010

The simplest and most direct Biblical answer to Dr. Mohler is, The world appears to be old because it is.  If God had made the earth to appear older than it really is, then God would be a deceiver, and we know that is not true.  Jesus, “The Devil is a liar and the Father of lies.” John 8:44 paraphrase


Kent Sparks - #20767

July 7th 2010

gingoro@20749

Yes, gingoro, that’s the group I’m referring to by TR. I had my own TR phase at one point long ago (after agnosticism but before where I am now), so I do understand and even sympathize from a distance.

nedbrek - #20744

“Everything is interconnected in the Bible ... If you do not believe in a literal Adam and Eve, it impacts your understanding of Jesus’ (and Paul’s) references to them. If you do not believe that the patriarchs lived long lives (approaching 1000 years), in a literal Flood, that impacts your theology.”

This is the domino effect I was referring to in TR and in other tightly-drawn theological approaches. When one domino falls, they all fall ... its a terribly precarious way to live one’s ideological life. If evolution is true, then maybe Genesis is wrong, and then maybe Paul is wrong, and then maybe Jesus wasn’t God’s son ... then maybe there isn’t a God ... or maybe there is a God but I’m not saved!


brian - #20776

July 7th 2010

First thank you for the kind response, and fruitful. I understand Dr. Mohler. I am very empathetic to their position, it is scary to think you are wrong about God, it is actually horrible and terrifying.  I use to buy the whole YEC, Special Creation, Literal world flood Rapture right around the corner, Jesuit controlled world order. But for their (YEC) position to be true there would have to be a vast conspiracy at all levels of the scientific community, in every nation of the Earth, all the Governments etc. I find that difficult to comprehend. It is not just Geology that would be effected, but Cosmology, Paleontology etc. I will be reading your site. I so want to hold on to my faith in the Lord Jesus. Thank You. Brian


nedbrek - #20783

July 7th 2010

I would be lying to say I don’t occasionally have a doubt, and evolution is a big doubt maker.

But, I know that God’s Word is true because of the effects it has had in my life.

I grew up Catholic, and learned evolution.  For 30 years I struggled with depression and never really believed in God.  I never read the Bible until I was 30 (dutifully, and it didn’t make any sense).

Then I became a Christian, and I could see the changes in my life.  I hated the sin in my life, and I trusted God.  I wanted to read the Bible (I hungered and thirsted) and it made sense to me.

It was a few years later that I heard about YEC, and it just makes more sense in the Biblical context.

brian, there is no conspiracy.  People are taught evolution and they believe it.  Most never hear the alternative, except through mocking.  They reconcile things as best as they can, and they work in that framework.


John VanZwieten - #20805

July 7th 2010

nedbrek,

If you must chose between trusting God and accepting old earth/evolution, then stick with trusting God, since that as you note makes the most difference in your life.

However, you may come to a point, as many here have, when you can fully trust God and accept old earth/evolution at the same time.  Or you might not.  In the meantime, I suggest that you do your best to hold full charity for your brothers and sisters who have crossed that bridge and found welcome on the other side.


Kent Sparks - #20825

July 7th 2010

Hi Nedbrek:

“But, I know that God’s Word is true because of the effects it has had in my life.”

I don’t deny that this should count as evidence that God’s word has positive effects on those who read it. What I would deny is that Scripture must be inerrant to fill that role. Just as God uses you, as a finite, fallen person, to minister to others, so he uses the discourse of Paul ... as a finite and fallen person who deeply loved God and his Church ... to minister to us. To be sure, Paul’s discourse was canonized and your discourse are not, so there is some difference ... but perhaps the difference is not as wide as you suppose. All of it is God’s Spirit in action. 

We don’t really need or have an inerrant Bible. But what we have is good enough.


nedbrek - #20826

July 7th 2010

Kent, I encourage you to reconsider your position on inerrancy.  You can believe in evolution and inerrancy.

If you cannot trust the Bible to know truth, you will rapidly find there is no truth.


steve hays - #20828

July 7th 2010

Kent Sparks - #20653

“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. “

Mr. Sparks,

Feel free to quote some historic Reformed confessions which say that God picks out only a selected few as objects of his love. Or perhaps you can cite some Reformed denominations (e.g. OPC, PCA, URC) which say that. I look forward to your documentation.


Kent Sparks - #20829

July 7th 2010

nedbrek - #20826

“I encourage you to reconsider your position on inerrancy ... If you cannot trust the Bible to know truth, you will rapidly find there is no truth.”

Of course, the point of my paper is that one can trust the Bible to know the truth without believing in inerrancy. So I simply don’t see this as an either-or, as you do. Lots of Christian scholars who reject inerrancy believe in truth, believe that the Bible offers it, and contend for the truth in academia and workaday life.

For me, the evidence against inerrancy is too strong to make it a doctrine of vital importance. Believe it if you will, but I respectfully implore you not to make the gospel, and scientific research for that matter, hinge on it.


Kent Sparks - #20845

July 7th 2010

Hi Steve (steve hays - #20828):

From the Westminster Larger Catechism:

Question 30: Does God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery ?

Answer: 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, and brings them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant,commonly called the covenant of grace.


steve hays - #20848

July 7th 2010

Ken,

Your quote from the WLC doesn’t support your claim. It teaches unconditional election, but says nothing about God picking “only a select few.”

Care to try again?


unapologetic catholic - #20850

July 7th 2010

Steve:

is it your position that the “elect” comprises 100% of humanity?

When did Gid make his election? before the individually chosens elect’s birth?


steve hays - #20857

July 7th 2010

unapologetic catholic.

Your questions are irrelevant to Ken’s claim. They might be worth answering in another setting, but there’s no point derailing the issue until Ken can either justify his specific claim, or withdraw it in case the supporting material is lacking.


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