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“I am the Lord of the Dance,” said He

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August 10, 2010 Tags: Christian Unity

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

“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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 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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Michael Fugate - #25483

August 12th 2010

Mike Gene,
Are you implying that Coyne’s arguments are only “name-calling, ridicule, mistrust, and posturing”?
How is the label “accommodationist” or “faitheist” any different from “new atheist”?
How is the “tribalism” employed by Coyne any different than that of labeling intelligent design/creationism bad theology by Prof. Ayala and others? Why are criticisms by one tribe uncivil and the other civil? If Coyne ended his exchange with Pigliucci with “I disagree with you, but we are still brothers in atheism” would that make it all go down better?


Alan Fox - #25513

August 13th 2010

Mike Gene, Are you implying that Coyne’s arguments are only “name-calling, ridicule, mistrust, and posturing”? How is the label “accommodationist” or “faitheist” any different from “new atheist”? How is the “tribalism” employed by Coyne any different than that of labeling intelligent design/creationism bad theology by Prof. Ayala and others? Why are criticisms by one tribe uncivil and the other civil? If Coyne ended his exchange with Pigliucci with “I disagree with you, but we are still brothers in atheism” would that make it all go down better? - Posted by Michael Fugate

I’m reassured to see Michael Fulgate says very clearly what I was thinking. It does require effort to achieve accommodation with people of a different view, not just from Michael Ruse but also from Christians. I hope Mike Gene’s attitude is an extreme one.


Mike Gene - #25520

August 13th 2010

Michael,

Are you implying that Coyne’s arguments are only “name-calling, ridicule, mistrust, and posturing”?

No.  Did I say something that implies his arguments are only “name-calling, ridicule, mistrust, and posturing”? 

Tell me, was it necessary for Coyne to refer to Massimo Pigliucci as “Dr. Dr. Dr. Pigliucci” and “the sweating professor?” 

How is the label “accommodationist” or “faitheist” any different from “new atheist”?

The term ‘faitheist’ was invented by Coyne and is a label of ridicule and scorn. 

How is the “tribalism” employed by Coyne any different than that of labeling intelligent design/creationism bad theology by Prof. Ayala and others?

The issue is Coyne’s demand vs. the approach of BioLogos.  Coyne’s tribalism traffics in name-calling, ridicule, mistrust, and posturing.  Like New Atheism, it is built on contempt for the out group and thus breeds more name-calling, ridicule, mistrust, and posturing.  In contrast, Darrel has shown that you can disagree strongly with someone about a heated issue without building such disagreement on contempt and tribalism.


Michael Fugate - #25543

August 13th 2010

Ah, to live in a black and white world - Coyne bad, enemies of Coyne good.
Reality however intrudes.

Giberson admits to name-calling in exchanges with new atheists and, even after confessing this, he calls them boorish, bullies, and un-American. He also labels Ken Ham and followers as a cult - no ridicule and scorn? How many Christians have visited Ken Ham’s Creation Museum since it opened?

Then you defend Pigliucci and what does Pigliucci say in response to Coyne?

“The blog entry is from Jerry’s own outlet, Why Evolution is True (the title of his book), and is a harsh — and from what I can see, largely well deserved — criticism of Karl Giberson, who previously had chided Coyne and other New Atheists…”

“Conceptions of gods are infinitely more flexible (or vacuous, if you prefer) than either Marxist or Freudian theories, and they are thus simply not falsifiable.”

“Whenever I get into these discussions, Jerry and others who think along similar lines seem to conclude that I therefore do not have reasons to reject religious belief as the nonsense on stilts that it truly is.”


Mike Gene - #25595

August 14th 2010

Michael,

Ah, to live in a black and white world - Coyne bad, enemies of Coyne good. Reality however intrudes.

Coyne lives in the black and white world where the contrast is so extreme that someone like Pigliucci is bad.

Giberson admits to name-calling in exchanges with new atheists and, even after confessing this, he calls them boorish, bullies, and un-American.

All humans have engaged in name-calling, as no one is without sin.  Coyne takes it a step further.  In inventing and apply a label to scorn and ridicule other atheists and agnostics (“faitheist”), the professor both promotes and encourages name-calling. 

BTW, would Coyne use the label ‘faitheist’ in the classroom to describe a student or a research paper to describe another scientist?


Trevor K. - #26851

August 25th 2010

For those who haven’t considered it, please go and read here:
http://creation.com/genesis-new-testament
This is another point of view to consider.
Flame it if you want. Your choice.


David Parsons (Revd, ret) - #45004

December 26th 2010

I found the whole tone of the article refreshing and liberating. The only matter is that I wish there were a similar opportunity for Christians to come together in the UK to engage with others of different and similar views on the creation/evolution and other debates and come away discovering we are still brothers and sisters in Christ who can live and work together in real supportive love.

I entered pastorate after a mixed career in medical physics and pastored mainly churches where the congregations where were very much, mainly, on the conservative side theologically and often felt that there was an imperative to be sensitive to those who couldn’t accept a more Biologos position (which I probably held, if not in name). Now retired it’s great to feel free to explore the debate more fully.

Thankyou.


Jon Garvey - #45165

December 28th 2010

@David Parsons (Revd, ret) - #45004

Hi David. There are a few of us Brits posting on the site, some in active pastoral roles (though I’m a retired Medic who was in part-time leadership).

Good to see you’re a Brummy too - my grandfather grew up in Handsworth, though ended up in Surrey after being demobbed.

Though I think the evolution debate is a little more open over here, there is still a disjointedness between conservative theology and science. Nevertheless the tradition of people like CS Lewis, Derek Kidner, John Stott, Os Guiness and Tom Wright is a good one to be built on.


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