How Should BioLogos Respond to Dr. Albert Mohler’s Critique: Karl’s Response

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July 6, 2010 Tags: Christian Unity

Today's entry was written by Karl Giberson. You can read more about what we believe here.

How Should BioLogos Respond to Dr. Albert Mohler’s Critique: Karl’s Response

Today's blog follows Dr. Falk's previous post about Albert Mohler's recent critique of the BioLogos Foundation. Dr. Mohler's speech is available here, and a transcript is also available.

Dear Dr. Mohler:

I watched your presentation on the importance of Young Earth Creationism with great interest and some questions occurred to me. My most general question would have to be whether this really matters as much as you say. It seems to me that you are making a theological mountain out of an exegetical molehill, but I suspect we should just agree to disagree about that. So let me frame some specific questions and perhaps you can help me appreciate where you are coming from.

Here are the questions I have for you, which are expanded in the links:

1.You say that General Revelation cannot trump Special Revelation. Of course, the word “trump” is metaphorical here, and “special” and “general” are loaded terms, but I am taking you to mean that we should not let information from outside the Bible change our minds about what is inside the Bible. The example in your talk would suggest that information from geological records, radioactive dating, cosmic expansion and so on—all of which suggests that the universe is billions of years old—should not persuade us to set aside the natural reading of Genesis which suggests that the earth is young. Is this a fair statement of your position?

2. You say that Darwin left on his expedition on the Beagle to “prove the theory of evolution.” You say he had his theory of evolution before he went on the Beagle and that he was seeking evidence to support it as he traveled about the globe. I would be interested in knowing where you got this idea. Darwin kept copious notes, a diary, and wrote many letters in the course of his long public life. From this vast set of insights into his thinking biographers have been able to unfold his thinking at every turn, and we have a clear picture of how, when, and in response to what, he developed the theory of evolution. What we know with certainty is that he was a Christian who believed in Creation when he boarded the beagle. He even wrote “I did not doubt the literal truth of anything in the Bible” to describe his view when he boarded the Beagle. Far from having a theory of evolution, he was a devotee of William Paley and the design argument. Yet you say exactly the opposite. Can you give some sources for your unusual historical claim?

3. You speak of the apparent age of the universe as a logical necessity and I fully agree with you, up to a point. Certainly, if we were to wander into the Garden of Eden two weeks after the creation was completed, we would see two adults who looked at least 18 years old. But there are many other indicators of age that don’t lend themselves to this sort of explanation. Why would God create radioactive elements in the proportions to suggest the earth is 5 billion years old? Why would God create stars with half of their nuclear fuel already used up? Why would God pepper the heavens with debris that looks exactly like it came from stars that exploded billions of years ago? Why would God create continents that look exactly like they were joined millions of year ago?

For further discussion, see also Pete Enns's response to Dr. Mohler's speech.


Karl Giberson directs the new science & religion writing program at Gordon College in Boston. He has published more than 100 articles, reviews and essays for Web sites and journals including Salon.com, Books & Culture, and the Huffington Post. He has written seven books, including Saving Darwin, The Language of Science & Faith, and The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age.

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unapologetic catholic - #21264

July 10th 2010

Joe,

I appreciate your comments.

“But I also think that this process of saying I don’t know leads to good science becuase it opens the door to more analysis and deeper probing of the issue…...and verification is another important aspect of science.”

What deeper probign woudl you suggest?

Here is an articel by a thougthful Christian discussing the numerous methods of determining the age of the earth by radiometric dating.  He is siypathetic to YEC but clearly understtands the science.  His article politely and thoroughly addresses every single YEC objection.

http://www.asa3.org/ASA/resources/Wiens.html


Can you think of any additional science that could be done to address that issue?  What additional areas of research would you suggest to Dr. Weins?


Joe Francis - #21307

July 11th 2010

unapologetic,

Good questions. I looked at Wiens paper.  This seems a bit dated as far as YEC theories about radiometric dating.  Snelling has more recent stuff with the C14 data being the most convincing.  I am not an expert in this area so I would defer to his work.


MyGoatyBeard - #21336

July 11th 2010

I don’t know if anybody is still listening, but Joel H said this, ‘A nonmiraculous object has a history that is open to objective examination and that we can investigate to discover its properties and account for things like how it acquired its physical quantities, motion, configuration with respect to other objects, etc. The wine that Jesus made at Cana was real, but an objective examination of it would uncover no alternative causal accounts for its existence and history other than the one that originates with the will/word of Jesus. The same is not the case with the universe.’

And I don’t agree with the phrase ‘...an objective examination of it would uncover no alternative causal accounts for its existence and history other than [a miracle]’.

Because if you examined this wine I would expect you to find the end products of the fermentation of yeast, in the right proportions indicating a history of fermentation, with the right chirality, and possibly with dead yeast cells.  This wouldn’t make Jesus a trickster.  This is what I meant earlier by saying that a real object can be created with history - which is part of its realness.  Just as God making the world would include the coal, the crude oil, the limestone…


MyGoatyBeard - #21337

July 11th 2010

Again, the problem of God deluding people is a huge sticking point on accepting that he made the world with apparent history, but I think the bible says that once people have refused to believe the truth then they are bound to accept delusion instead.  There is nowhere else to go if God gives us freewill.

This doesn’t mean God sends a delusion as petty as the kinds of things people argue about concerning creation, evolution, the age of the earth.  It is primarily a delusion about God, His nature, His existence, and from this follows confusion about the rest.

To say that, ‘an objective examination of it would uncover no alternative causal accounts for its existence and history other than [a miracle]’ is to force a person to an acknowledgement of God without them having faith.  That will come at the end, but it isn’t what is happening now.  As I said before, God leaves the door of unbelief open.  Isn’t it remarkable that Jesus healed people yet they still didn’t place their faith in him?  Of course miracles are signs which can have a massive impact on people’s perception of God, but I’m pretty sure they don’t remove a need for faith!


MyGoatyBeard - #21338

July 11th 2010

Hmmm. Just thinking about my saying that Jesus healed but people didn’t always believe.  I meant to say that Jesus performed miracles but they didn’t always believe, though I’ve heard accounts of healing without resultant faith nowadays.  I can’t think of that happening with Jesus…?


Joe Francis - #21365

July 12th 2010

MGB,

I think your right.  I think it is undeniable that the wine would show some aspect of history.  Also, I think the purpose of miracles was not only to show power but to also present a framework for the experience of faith to those who witnessed the miracle or heard about it.


Argon - #21376

July 12th 2010

What would the Carbon-12/Carbon-14 ratio in miraculously created wine be? After all, wine is still wine, regardless of its isotopic composition.


Mike Blyth - #21938

July 15th 2010

MyGoatyBeard, you said,

‘For starters, what about stars we observe exploding that are millions of light years away?’

You suggest God is using trickery if he did that.  But why wouldn’t he make it as if it had been formed naturally?

I think this point about exploding stars has not been understood well enough. Look at it carefully. Suppose that last night you observed a supernova of a star one billion light years away. Now, if the universe was created 10,000 years ago, then God had created the burst of light at that time, 10,000 light years from us, timed to arrive at earth now. OK, so the newly-created stars must have had an apparent age, you say, so no problem. However, this star can never have existed!

The apparent supernova 1 billion light years away signifies a star that ceased to exist 1 billion years ago. Thus 10,000 years ago at “creation” it was nothing but atoms and photons scattered over 4 billion billion billion cubic light years. So the light that God created to be in transit actually signifies a pseudo-history or, if you like, a virtual history.


Mike Blyth - #21940

July 15th 2010

... Go beyond this one supernova to include everything we see in the universe. God must have created a virtual history of everything stretching many billions of years into the past. It is not that we see an apparent history of things that were created, but things that were never created. This can only mean that the whole system was set up to appear billions of years old.

God could have done this, but in that case there is no way to tell. In fact, it could be argued that there is not much difference between being in a universe that has a virtual age of billions of years versus one that is actually billions of years old, since there would be no way to distinguish the two cases.

In summary, the exploding stars argument shows that “apparent history” means God created a “light show” to make it appear that the universe is billions of years old, giving us pictures of things that never happened.
...


Mike Blyth - #21941

July 15th 2010

...As others have said, any of this is possible. Perhaps God was creating a test of faith, using the young earth interpretation of Genesis as a litmus test and all of human knowledge as the temptation. However, it is clearly impossible to claim that a young universe is compatible with science and a correspondence between what we observe and what exists. The choice then becomes one between faith one one side and not only science but all human experience on the other. Indeed, if one knows exactly what God says, a believer will choose that over all experience. Given the uncertainties of interpretation, however, forcing people to choose between faith and a rational, observable universe would seem to be unproductive.


nedbrek - #21947

July 15th 2010

I find it interesting that the overwhelming view on BioLogos is that science is inerrant, while the Bible is likely in error.

What happened to let God be true and every man a liar?

How is it that Richard Dawkins, a professing hater of God gets more respect than Alber Mohler, a faithful man of God?


Jon Garvey - #21950

July 15th 2010

Nedbrek

I’m new here but have followed this thread from the start.

“I find it interesting that the overwhelming view on BioLogos is that science is inerrant, while the Bible is likely in error.”

I haven’t noticed that. Rather the prevailing view seems to be that (a) the natural world is created by God and therefore truthful, (b) that scientists have made observations in the natural world that appear valid, and (c) that the best of their conclusions therefrom make the best sense within the current state of published scientific understanding. Also (d) These conclusions are liable to be, and ought to be, refined by further observational and theoretical advances.

At the same time the Bible is (a) breathed by God and therefore truthful, (b) that theologians (including many untrained readers of the Bible) have made observations from the Bible that appear valid and (c) that the best of the consclusions therefrom make the best sense within the current state of Biblical understanding. Also (d) These conclusions are liable to be, and ought to be, refined by further exegetical and theological advances (...).


Jon Garvey - #21951

July 15th 2010

... parallel with these two beliefs is that the two aspects (the scientific and the theological) have not yet reached the point where their respective sources of truth can be reconciled entirely.

Most of the arguments run along the lines that either or both disciplines have failed to comprehend fully what their (true) source of knowledge is saying.

Your error, it seems to me, is in equating “science” with “the Bible”, when you should either be equating “theology” (understood as including even lay conclusions from the Biblical text) with “science”; or on the other hand “Biblical truth” with “the realm of nature”.

Personally I would regard views that suggest that “nature has been set up to lead to false conclusions” in the same category as those that say “the Bible has been written to mislead”.


nedbrek - #21965

July 15th 2010

I think the most telling quote is “However, it is clearly impossible to claim that a young universe is compatible with science”.  Repeatedly I see people saying the evolution (I assume they mean common descent and an old earth) is an indisputable fact.

These views are inconsistent with a plain reading of the Bible.  I think most everyone agrees on that.  No one (except a handful of YECs) here is saying, “maybe the scientific position is in error”.  Lots of people are calling into question the accuracy of the Bible.  Several posts are calling for Christianity to “evolve” or face extinction.


Mark Stephenson - #21970

July 15th 2010

I helpful book on some of the theology and philosophy behind TE or Evolutionary Creationism:  Perspectives on an Evolving Creation edited by Keith B. Miller.


Jon Garvey - #21976

July 15th 2010

Nedbrek said: “These views are inconsistent with a plain reading of the Bible.”

My point, really. If you substitute “a plain reading of nature” then, for example, relativity and quantum theory are “clearly” wrong: any fool knows that time is a constant, and that a particle can’t be a wave. But as John Walton demonstrates in the case of Genesis 1, a plain reading by a 21st century westerner is very unlikely to be a completely true reading.

‘I think the most telling quote is “However, it is clearly impossible to claim that a young universe is compatible with science”.’ Well, here, and for the same reasons, I agree with you that the person you’re quoting is confusing categories. The statement means no more or less than saying it’s incompatible with theology - both are human endeavours and therefore fallible.

The right question would be whether a young universe is compatible with the natural world - but the only way of investigating that is by science (or in other words by poking it to see), just as the only way to test compatibility with the Bible is by theology. Both require work to find the best products of the best minds in their fields.

Evolution can be a fact only if one interpretation of Genesis can be too.


nedbrek - #21980

July 15th 2010

Hello Jon, wouldn’t you say there is only one correct interpretation of Genesis (that which is what God intended by it)?  Perhaps we are unable to determine which of our interpretations is closest to what God intended - but there is one correct one (which is the fact).

Similarly, common descent from a single organism over hundreds of millions of years is either true or false (a fact or not).  However, I would contend that this cannot be determined by science - any more that the proposition “George Washington was the first president of the US” can be determined by science.  These propositions are the realm of history, which rely on eye witness accounts.


Jon Garvey - #21983

July 15th 2010

“Wouldn’t you say there is only one correct interpretation of Genesis (that which is what God intended by it)?  Perhaps we are unable to determine which of our interpretations is closest to what God intended - but there is one correct one (which is the fact).”

There’s the rub, in both theology and science! And like scientists theologians (assuming they have the right tools, including the Holy Spirit) will have a useful approximation to that interpretation (for all Scripture is useful, etc), but will slowly approach closer to it. Or alternatively, particularly if they neglect all that has gone before, or blind themselves to it, they can actually retrate from it. I’d contend that part of that exercise is a response to new circumstances God puts in their way, like new science, new heresies, new historical discoveries etc. The un-theological attitude is to assume you have *achieved* the one-time unchanging correct interpretation and ignore anything that challenges it. (...)


Jon Garvey - #21987

July 15th 2010

“Similarly, common descent from a single organism over hundreds of millions of years is either true or false (a fact or not).  However, I would contend that this cannot be determined by science.”

Here I’d argue that not all science is experimental science, though that is the most secure. Forensic evidence will give a less coherent account than one decent witness, but is unlikely to mistake a murder for a milk bottle.

Of course, if you don’t believe in murders you’ll always find milk bottles, and vice-versa. But on the evolution question (which doesn’t AFAIK need to posit, still less find, one single original organism) the crux is, surely, how persuasive is the evidence if your interpretation of the Bible isn’t threatened by it?

Of course, the answer only matters much to ordinary people if their Bible interpretation *is* threatened - nobody worries much if quantum theory is mistaken - unless, of course, it’s to wonder at how God’s creation works, which is the best (and the original) motivation for science.


ConcerernedCreationist - #21988

July 15th 2010

Dr. Giberson by only mentioning the c-decay and light created in transit theories as YEC solutions to the distant star light problem you show that you are woefully uninformed about the best YEC thinking on the matter and therefore an unreliable commentator on the YEC movement.

As for the whole debate in general about the age of the earth and evolution and how they relate to the Bible my biggest problems are the following:

1. The issue of death, decay and destruction before the fall. I have never ever seen anything that even qualifies as an attempt to solve this problem by a Theistic Evolutionist or Old Earth Creationist it seems to me that in the final analysis all they can do is shrug and pretend there is no problem. My question here is in what way can a TE say that what created was in any way good much less very good?

Frankly I am not sure I can worship the God of BioLogos, if their interpretation of Genesis is correct that would seem to provide strong warrant for the belief that God is evil as opposed good, kind, loving and omnibenevolent.


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