“I am the Lord of the Dance,” said He
I’ve thought a lot about Jerry Coyne’s recent post entitled “BioLogos Gets in Bed with the Fundies.” Jerry is highly critical of us for co-sponsoring an upcoming conference called Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science. It’s not that I particularly care about an atheist’s view of BioLogos’s activities. After all, we—Christians and atheists—live in two different worlds. As members of the BioLogos community, our purpose is centered in the richness of life lived in Christ; we are a single Body. Some are toes, others are fingers, and there are even quite a few of us, I’ve noticed, who like to think we are the brain. The point is however, that we are a unit. We care for each other so that the Body of Christ may thrive. We may think differently about biology and we may even think differently about how to read certain scriptural passages, but the fact is that what we have in common far outweighs the differences we may experience.
We can hardly expect an atheist to understand this or to be the slightest bit sympathetic. However, there are also many Christians who are wondering why we would co-sponsor a meeting in which a significant percentage of the speakers think so differently than we do about science and about its relationship to Scripture. Three of the co-sponsors after all are the Discovery Institute, Reasons to Believe, and the Colson Center. So I think I owe the BioLogos community an explanation as to why, in the language of Jerry Coyne, we are “in bed” with those who hold such different views.
Put simply, we are in a single bed because we are a single Body. That which makes us different is dwarfed by that which keeps us whole. With that in mind, here are three important reasons why it is right to co-sponsor this meeting:
The organizers of the conference have made it clear to all participants that our invitation to speak is conditional. The differences in our views of science and scriptural interpretation must pale compared to that which we have in common: the fellowship of sharing in the joy of our common life in Christ. We are only invited to speak if we commit to maintaining a spirit of unity in all we say.
We in the evolutionary creation community ought to establish meaningful relationships with leaders in Christian circles who think differently than we do. There is much to be gained by praying together, studying the Word together, and addressing our common concern about the pervasiveness of scientism into our culture.
Truth, when put side by side with views which are untrue, will prevail. Why would we not want to co-sponsor an event which is designed to facilitate, perhaps for the first time, consideration of the evolutionary creation view alongside of other views which, we think, are not strongly supported by evidence?
The process of helping evangelicals harmonize their faith with mainstream science will take us on a long and winding journey. It will likely take decades. However, the way to begin is to spend time worshipping together, celebrating the many things we have in common as we lovingly explore our differences. There are many ways of doing this besides conferences like the Vibrant Dance. Indeed I am especially energized by another activity that concluded just two days ago.
Last week BioLogos sponsored a seven day workshop for twenty-seven biology teachers in Christian high schools throughout the western United States. The teachers represented a cross-section of evangelical Christianity. Many do not believe in macro-evolution and common descent. Our purpose was not to change minds but to facilitate increased understanding of why it is that there are Christians who accept the mainstream interpretation of the data while retaining an evangelical Christian faith. We focused on one sub-discipline of biology—the process by which a fertilized egg develops into an adult organism. This workshop was Stage One of a year-long project, which now moves into an on-line component followed by reassembly for another week-long workshop next summer. Our seven days together often began with worship, continued into biblical studies, and then went on to explore concepts at both the lab and class level. Through kayaking, a zoo trip, a cruise on the Bay, and relaxation in the cool, pleasant San Diego sunshine at our ocean-side site, we grew into a community that shared our love for God and our love for biology. We began reading a book that explores the implications of this sub-discipline for evolutionary biology and we emphasized that regardless of how we personally view God’s mechanism of creation, it is important we understand how most biologists think. There was a consensus that we can’t be good teachers without understanding that. We also had two renowned deeply committed Christian speakers come to talk with us, one a dinosaur paleontologist, the other, an author and senior writer for Christianity Today. Both emphasized the same point, that mainstream science and evangelicalism need not be at odds, while lovingly and patiently emphasizing that it is the faith of our young people about which we must be especially concerned.
Helping each other to work through these issues is not an overnight process. We learn from each other and we exist to support each other in that learning process. We all emphasized that the issue is not whether we arrive at the same destination when all is said and done. In fact, I think we’re all quite certain that will not be the case. Rather the issue is that we explore together and that we become aware of views other than our own. Each teacher knew going into this what our view of creation is. What they didn’t know for sure at the start was whether we would honor our commitment to support them regardless of whether their journey took them to some new destination or just took them back to where they started at the beginning. I think they would all agree that we kept our word.
One thing for sure, we found that the power of that which we have in common far outweighs our differences. I spoke on the final evening and I will never forget the inspiration that came from looking into the warm and attentive smile of a particular person who I know thinks very differently on the matter of creation than I do. As I watched him during my talk, it almost seemed as though he was cheering me on, and in a sense he was. He had become a brother and I sensed he felt the same way about me.
Jerry Coyne could never understand this; it is a foreign world to him. However, it mustn’t be a foreign world to us. Our very lifeblood flows from one part of the Body to the other. If we separate ourselves off just because we think differently about science, we miss the beauty which radiates from the lives of those who may differ in how they view creation but who have the lifeblood. May it flow from their lives to ours...and back again.
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.