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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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ConcerernedCreationist - #21989

July 15th 2010

Cont:

It would also seem to undermine some of the warrant for the gospel. Under the TE account, why do we need salvation? Under the YEC account man rebelled against God and is therefore deserving of punishment and in need of salvation, how can TE claim to affirm that in any meaningfull way? Under the TE scheme of things death, disease and destruction are just the natural way of things, how they have always been.

There never was a time without those things hence death cannot in any meaningful sense be said to be an intruder, indeed according to the TE view of things death was the way God used to create the world.  What about Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” How can a TE do anything but reject this verse and cut it out from their Bibles? I mean according to the TE death pre-existed mankind and hence was not the result of sin. How is this anything but an important issue?

2. The exegesis of Genesis 1-3. To keep things to a minimal here I have one question for all the TEs writing here, what should the hypothetical content of these chapters be for you to interpret them in a YEC way?


ConcerernedCreationist - #21990

July 15th 2010

Lastly:

3. As for the science of the matter, there is simply no distinct evidence for the evolutionist view. Emphasis on the word distinct. The reason I say that is because every single ounce of purported evidence of common descent can with equal warrant be interpreted as evidence of common design. Similarities between organism just ISN’T evidence for Neo-Darwinian evolution. For example it simply doesn’t follow that because two fossils in the subjective opinions of a scientist look alike that they thereby are related with a common ancestor. The evidence in question does not warrant that conclusion more than it warrants the conclusion that they share a common designer. Both theories are completely indistinguishable empirically.


nedbrek - #21991

July 15th 2010

Hello Jon, the problem is the assumption that non-Christians are logical and rational.  The Bible clearly teaches that the natural (that is, unrepentant) mind is at enmity with God (Rom 8:7) - it is dysfunctional (Rom 1:28).

Because of this, they can only stumble upon the truth by accident (or if they copy off a Christian’s paper).  Their natural bent is to produce the exact opposite of God’s word, which is what we see in evolutionary theory (man comes after woman, death brings about man, etc.).


Jon Garvey - #21999

July 15th 2010

Hi again…
I don’t think the Bible says non Christians are illogical or irrational - but unspiritual. This might darken their intellect, but only in regard to God. Paul said that the Greeks’ wisdom was foolishness, not that it wasn’t wisdom. In any case, the context of Romans 8.7 is inability to submit to God’s law and please God, not inability to do science. I know this because my interpretation of the verse is infallible….

You also make an explicit assumption that evolutionary theory is intrinsically non-Christian, which rather forecloses the discussion, don’t you think?


nedbrek - #22000

July 15th 2010

There are two issues here, not sure which is more interesting to you…

Re. illogical unbelievers - Rom 8:7 is definitely about knowing God, but the verse in ch 1 is in general.  If we take “all truth is God’s truth” seriously, the unbeliever is in a serious quandary.  His subconscious is bent against God (he is most likely unaware of this).  Anything that might lead him to God is going to be shunned and redirected.  His ungodly thoughts and desires will be amplified (he is enslaved to sin - rebellion against God).

Re. Evolution is non-Christian - I believe so.  We can certainly discuss what aspects are non-Christian and why.  I would hope you would agree with me, or perhaps help me to strengthen my argument (possibly by removing extraneous propositions).

For example:  Did man come before woman or after?  Genesis 2 clearly teaches man came first - this is the basis for male headship.  But evolutionary theory teaches that the X chromosome came first, with Y being a deformed version (XX will breed true).


joel hunter - #22018

July 15th 2010

Dear Concerned,

You mentioned the biggest problems you find with those who believe an old earth and evolution are compatible with the Bible. Let’s take a look at those problems.

“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?”

This is an easy one. It is near the bottom of my honey-do list to finding a resolution to a problem I didn’t invent and am not being paid to figure it out. I’m not the one coming up with all these reasons why the Gospel stands or falls on YEC. That makes it not my problem.

“(1, cont’d) 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.”

(I reply…)


joel hunter - #22019

July 15th 2010

The Biologos God is evil because there was death before the Fall? Is that your point?

I’ve been told several times I can’t believe the Gospel and believe that sharks ate seaweed and algae before the Fall. I clearly am not going to agree with you. It is entirely up to you whether to just accept the fact that I, like literally millions of other Christians who believe both in the bodily Resurrection and an old Earth, are worshipping next to you in your church, confessing the same creeds, and aren’t leaving the Christian faith any time soon.

“(1, cont’d) How can a TE do anything but reject this verse and cut it out from their Bibles? I mean according to the TE death pre-existed mankind and hence was not the result of sin. How is this anything but an important issue?”

Christianity is also concerned with man’s place in the universe, and people like you (including the magisterial reformers starting with Martin Luther, so you’re in great company) were having a similar freak-out about Copernicus and Galileo 400 years ago.

What you’re asking for is that TEs come with some rationalization akin to how modern theologians rationalize away all the physical cosmology in the Bible. ...


joel hunter - #22021

July 15th 2010

(cont’d)

I hope you can understand, given theology’s track record in setting limits to scientific claims, that I think any such rationalization is a farce. Why should we have to run the Creation story through nedbrek’s meat grinder the way “orthodox” theologians do with all the cosmological passages so they can preserve whatever it is they mean by “inerrancy” while not having to deny that Galileo, Kepler, and Newton were right?

“2. The exegesis of Genesis 1-3. To keep things to a minimal here I have one question for all the TEs writing here, what should the hypothetical content of these chapters be for you to interpret them in a YEC way?”

I have no idea what this question means so I’ll pretend it’s a different question.

The Church (both Catholic and Protestant) was told that Copernicus was overthrowing the entire order of the universe and the inerrancy of the Bible. It took Christian theologians hundreds of years to come around, and when they did, the sky didn’t fall. (...)


joel hunter - #22022

July 15th 2010

(cont’d…)

We were told in the 19th century that chemistry is impious, and that this notion that organic compounds like urea could be synthesized by some overeducated nerd in his laboratory is a flat denial of the plain teaching of God’s Word that clearly says that an invisible, inviolable barrier exists between inorganic and organic material. And yet, here we are. I manage to believe in Christ just fine without subscribing to some crazy theory about how God is trying trick us all with fossil sediment layers and distant astronomical phenomena. Why do I need to justify myself to people like Al Mohler and John Macarthur who say I’ll make a shipwreck of my faith if I don’t accept their intrepretation of Genesis 1-3—I mean, I literally do not care.

Why? Very simple:

Theologians have always been wrong about science.

And: Theologians have always been wrong about the incompatibility between science and faith.

But that’s not all: Given enough time, theologians eventually admit they were wrong about science, come around to the scientific view, and still maintain their orthodoxy.


joel hunter - #22023

July 15th 2010

(cont’d…)

So why should I care if Macarthur is shouting “To arms!” about geology? The reason I don’t care to prove that geology and faith are compatible is that I already know that the people who insist they are incompatible have been wrong literally every single time they’ve claimed this in the past.

Most real theologians are good and educated people, and they have no idea what they were talking about when it comes to science. It’s like listening to a 6th grader try to take a stand on central banking and debate it.

“3. As for the science of the matter, there is simply no distinct evidence for the evolutionist view. (...) it simply doesn’t follow that because two fossils in the subjective opinions of a scientist look alike that they thereby are related with a common ancestor. The evidence in question does not warrant that conclusion more than it warrants the conclusion that they share a common designer. Both theories are completely indistinguishable empirically.”

This is my favorite question of the three. (...)


Jon Garvey - #22024

July 15th 2010

Nedbrek…

Brief comments on a discussion that’s wandering quite pleasantly around different subjects.

The point I made about the non-Christian’s darkened understanding is exemplified by the field of medicine. An atheist medic researches a cure for Bloggs disease because he believes praying for healing is superstition. The peer-researched journals accept his research, and eventually it’s available at my local pharmacy. Apart from praying, am I going to refuse the proven cure on the basis that non-Christians can’t discover truth unless they copy from Christians?

Your specific point about evolution (X & Y)seems to me to be about genetics, not evolutionary biology. The point being that evolution is only one of a whole raft of issues, from astronomy to geology, that present a challenge to Biblical understanding. Once, as per my first reply, you ask what the evidence from nature *does* indicate, rather than assuming the scientists are conspiring to make stuff up, you have exactly the same problems of fitting the two together. It’s faith that reminds you that neither God’s creation nor his word lie, but until you can reconcile the two you make the best fit of both. So what do *you* deduce from the morphology of X & Y?


nedbrek - #22025

July 15th 2010

joel, yes death is evil.  It is our great enemy (not our friend, like evolution claims).  Death was defeated at the Cross.

Jon, you don’t refuse the cure, you thank God for it.  He’s copying his epistemology (the universe is orderly - because God is orderly) if nothing else.

I wouldn’t deduce anything from the morphology of X and Y.  They just are.  We can’t even be sure what they were like at creation (effects of the Fall).  It’s like trying to deduce the functions of a plane from a crash site.


joel hunter - #22026

July 15th 2010

(cont’d…)

If ID and evolution are empirically indistinguishable then they’d make the same predictions (like Copernican and Ptolemaic world systems did up to a point). But they don’t make the same predictions. Therefore, evidence for common descent is not equivalent to evidence for ID.

Theories that fail in their real world predictions are simply not true. Were a geologist to employ YEC as a principle, he would have as much success finding new coal deposits as a geocentrist would putting a satellite in orbit around Jupiter. The theological merits and ramifications are irrelevant; the theology-based theory is simply wrong because it doesn’t describe the world as it actually is and works.

But if theologians can’t handle reality, and find it useful to to argue or assume the world works other than it actually does, it just makes them that much more irrelevant to the rest of us. The reason I don’t care to prove that geology and faith are compatible is that I already know that the people who insist they are incompatible have been wrong literally every single time they’ve claimed this in the past.

Finally, every idea here I’ve basically copied from the Fearsome Pirate who gets all this right and said it well.


MyGoatyBeard - #22027

July 15th 2010

Mike Blyth.

Hi! You said, ‘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…’

I agree with the conclusion, though would be more categorical and say that there is NO difference between a universe created by God at about 10000 years ago complete with ‘apparent history’ and a truely old universe.  Just as there would be NO discernible difference (after the event) between a glass of wine that Jesus had turned from water, and a glass of wine fermented by a winemaker.  To postulate that God made the universe with ‘apparent history’ does not seem unbiblical from this standpoint (comparison with the water/wine miracle).  Though I do recognise that people have huge problems with the concept because it appears duplicitous.

So you then said, ‘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.’

And I don’t agree with ‘to make it appear’...


MyGoatyBeard - #22028

July 15th 2010

I haven’t heard anybody seriously suggest that Jesus made the wine ‘to make it appear’ that it had been around longer than it had.  There is no qualitative difference between the two.  In order to make a true glass of wine he had to give it apparent history.  How else?  Nobody claims Jesus is trying to trick people.

Yet if they’d got out their microscopes and chemistry sets and worked out what was in the wine would they have been complaining that it couldn’t possibly have happened because Jesus was making the wine appear older than it really was?  They might well have argued that.  But they’d be wrong.

So why shouldn’t the same argument apply to the universe?

I think your objection is because it seems God created photons part way through space to trick people.  But again, there is no qualitative difference between this and Jesus creating the products of a time-dependant fermentation process.  Is there?

Besides, given that we somehow manage to cope with the concept of a delta function of zero width which, mathematically speaking, started the universe (i.e. the big bang) I don’t see why the creation of an object (the universe) shouldn’t include the mathematical descriptors for its history.


MyGoatyBeard - #22065

July 16th 2010

Joel H has previously said that to make evidence of an ancient universe (such as light from exploding stars that never existed) is the equivalent to Jesus making a receipt from the wine merchant for the wine - ie. deliberate misleading, or a test of faith.  But there is not an equivalence between those two:-

The evidence within the wine (the products of fermentation) speaks of its geniune-ness, its truth, its reality as wine.  It is evidence of the reality of the wine, which without acknowledging a miracle would imply a history that isn’t real (wouldn’t it?).  A receipt would be an unnecessary addition to that - not making the wine any more real or true, just adding spurious data about its origin.

Likewise, the realness and truth of a universe should include evidence about its origin, because fossils, distant stars, old-earth morphology etc. are intrinsic to the truth of a universe.  They are not spurious additional data added with a motive to deceive or test faith.  They are part of the reality and truth of a universe.

I’m not saying I believe any of this (!), but I don’t see that it is illogical or inconsistent with scripture.  It has the added benefit of being consistent with both modern science and 6-day creation.


Jon Garvey - #22066

July 16th 2010

“Likewise, the realness and truth of a universe should include evidence about its origin, because fossils, distant stars, old-earth morphology etc. are intrinsic to the truth of a universe.  They are not spurious additional data added with a motive to deceive or test faith.  They are part of the reality and truth of a universe.”

Something’s not quite right here! The wine at Cana was the “imitation” of a recognised human product, which usually needs a lot of history and skill to manufacture. The reason for doing it, of course, was that wine v water symbolised the change Jesus brings to human life.

But the Universe is a one-off. It imitates nothing, and its meaning is intrinsic (or rather, imbued by God). If the accoutrements of age are intrinsic to the truth of a universe, it would imply that somewhere else there’s a “natural” universe that actually did take aeons to form, like natural Chateau Tiberias 29.

In other words, the miraculous Cana wine needed to be “old” to make the point Jesus wanted. If God’s word actually taught that the creation was recent, it would make more sense for God to make it look brand spanking new. Why on earth would a Universe need to have the appearance of stars dying before it was made?


Argon - #22093

July 16th 2010

Actually, given that the specification was ‘wine’, there is no requirement that the ratios of C-12/C-14 in the wine be anything like wine fermented naturally. It’s wine regardless and behaves the same chemically. 100% C-12 would be indistinguishable in the drink. The some goes for the differing ratios of isotopes found in the Earth’s rocks. For much of the physical world we inhabit, a consistent appearance of antiquity is unnecessary. It’s a “frill”.

MyGoatyBeard - #22028: “I think your objection is because it seems God created photons part way through space to trick people.  But again, there is no qualitative difference between this and Jesus creating the products of a time-dependant fermentation process.  Is there?”

Perhaps not and the logic also applies if He created the universe last Tuesday. Maybe He did, and maybe He didn’t, but from what we can see, it’s remarkably consistent with looking very old. Extended further, we could be also all be in “The Matrix”, running in a completely simulated existence. But if that’s the fallback position one chooses to defend, why prefer one solipsistic explanation over any other?


MyGoatyBeard - #22185

July 17th 2010

‘Something’s not quite right here!’  Yes.  I’m aware of that.

‘But the Universe is a one-off.’ Well…some would argue for a multiverse.  But I know that doesn’t counter your argument very well.

‘Why on earth would a Universe need to have the appearance of stars dying before it was made?’  Yes I know.  I’m trying really hard to make it sound OK but I’m not succeeding am I?

Argon - yes you’re making the same points as Jon G.  Though the bit about last Tuesday is a bit off he wall.  But I like the word solipsistic.

I have to say I feel a bit weary with all this.  Although I respect a lot of people in this debate, I cannot place my full confidence in ideas that re-write science to fit theology, or in acceptance of current science lock, stock and barrel which mucks about with the bible.  But then I’m in danger of saying it all comes down to a matter of opinion.  Which is a bad place to be.  It is quite hard work this stuff.

So, I shall now go to my allotment and tend my vegetables.


MyGoatyBeard - #22186

July 17th 2010

Jon - nice sax.


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