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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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Mairnéalach - #25206

August 10th 2010

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

May God bless all who attend the conference. May he forgive us our uncharity toward one another. May he grant a closer walk between us, dew on Aaron’s beard. May he be glorified. Amen.


Darrel Falk - #25208

August 10th 2010

I wasn’t familiar with Mairnéalach’s expression, “dew on Aaron’s beard.”  Since I’ve found his comments here so insightful, I decided it would be worth my while to look it up.  It’s from Psalm 133:

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down the beard,
Running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.
It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

Amen!


Charlie - #25210

August 10th 2010

I find the third point amusing “Truth, when put side by side with views which are untrue, will prevail.”  I agree, but it’s amusing because Biologo’s can’t tell anyone what truth is.  Is it a view “not strongly supported by evidence”? What do you mean by evidence and does it matter how good the evidence is (i.e. weak correlations that are not statistically significant or even worse, someone just writing something in the past)?


Karl A - #25211

August 10th 2010

This post (and comments so far) makes me happy.  Sure, good science is very important, but I say more power to BioLogos and other (disagreeing on evolution) “bedmates” as you major on the majors, which is Jesus and his power to save.


Charlie - #25212

August 10th 2010

Regardless, I think the main point of getting a diverse set of people together is so that we can learn from each other.  However, that’s only possible if one is willing to refine their ideas when those ideas are successfully countered.


GPLeague - #25213

August 10th 2010

Read Coyne’s article a while back. Given that his circle of orthodoxy has a slightly smaller radius than ours (he even called out Michael Shermer for being a so-called faitheistic accommodationist) his comments don’t surprise me. Frankly, I’m thrilled that such a diverse bunch of thinkers are coming together to talk.


Mark Sprinkle - #25216

August 10th 2010

Dear Charlie—

I agree that a main point of bringing together such diversity of opinion and thinking is learning from each other, and that “learning together” does, indeed, imply the willingness to refine or change ideas.  But I don’t (and clearly neither does Dr. Falk) think that such willingness is based first and foremost on “successfully countering” arguments.  Rather, it is based on trust and even friendship with those with whom we’re learning, after which comes a willingness to listen to ideas and arguments. This is not irrational, or anti-scientific, but human and imminently reasonable.  Similarly, and getting to your previous point, neither is “truth” in the Christian context merely a matter of propositional or experimental evidence (whether from the physical world or Scripture), but such evidence interpreted and given meaning in and for a community whose central identifying quality is love—not just for those with whom we agree, but for those we’d like to consider “enemies.”  Though those associated with BioLogos are clearly committed to being instructed by a scientific exploration of Creation, I think their most distinctive quality is the overarching commitment to love rather than to prove. 

—Mark


Bilbo - #25217

August 10th 2010

The conference sounds like a wonderful idea.  I’m very tempted to come.  Amen to Psalm 133.


HornSpiel - #25219

August 10th 2010

Although my views have changed, Henry Morris’ book Scientific Creationism was an important positive component in my journey to Christ.  I am again humbly reminded that our common faith and love of Jesus, who we believe in our hearts God raised form the dead, is far more important than being right about scientific questions. How wrong it is to If even with the best of intentions we cause our brother to stumble, can we not escape God’s judgement?

I have just come from an encounter with a brother and long time acquaintance whom I pummeled with arguments for an old earth without any concern for his spiritual well-being. It was one sided, and in one sense effective. For after a few minutes,with almost tears in his eyes he said, “Don’t ever talk to me about that again” and walked away..

Lord forgive me and heal our relationship.


defensedefumer - #25223

August 10th 2010

What a humbling post. I will pray for the conference (and for you too, HornSpiel).

Can you guys pray for me too? As I return to for my final year in university in October, I faced a sandwich struggle—on one side are my non-believing professors and coursemates who take a potshot at God or Christianity at least once a week, and on the other, my well-meaning Christian brothers and sisters who reject evolutionary theory and therefore insist I am majoring in a useless subject.

It’s not easy being one of the few Christian biology student in my university.

Thanks in advance!


Seth Freeman - #25224

August 10th 2010

I am so happy to read about this conference.  It is hard to think of a more valuable contribution to the intellectual and spiritual life of the wider church.

As a student of conflict and negotiation, let me share a couple of ideas that may help. 

*Watch out for the ‘going native’ problem. When two ‘sides’ meet, talk, learn from each other, and agree, expect some ‘folks back home’ in each side’s camp to react badly.  They may accuse participants of ‘going native’- selling out to the other side. Some ways to reduce this danger:

(1) stay in regular contact with the ‘folks back home’ so they know you remember their concerns and care;

(2) bring some well-chosen ‘hawks’ along with you who are reasonable, who can witness for themselves, and who can report back to ‘hawks’ back home. This ‘Nixon in China’ approach can help win a hearing from those who might be closed otherwise.

(3) Consider encouraging the other side(s) to do the same.

*Look for ways to encourage each side at the conference to actively listen and to experience being earnestly listened to.  Good meeting facilitation and good discussion rules can help.


gingoro - #25231

August 10th 2010

HornSpiel@25219

We all make mistakes especially when we think we have truth on our side and are trying to set a brother straight.  All we can do is ask God’s forgiveness as well as the brother’s forgiveness. 
Dave W


GodsOwnDNA - #25265

August 10th 2010

Thank you Dr.Falk for the humble reminder. As the family of God, we shouldn’t forget that worshiping together sets the tone for discussing matters of importance.


crawfish - #25276

August 10th 2010

I think the conference is absolutely the right thing to do.  We’re not going to simply replace decades of thought overnight; the first step is to be accepted as another part of the Creation debate in Evangelical churches.  When Christians are no longer scared about what it means to accept evolutionary theory, there will no longer be a barrier to acceptance, and I’d wager a lot of Christians will come to agreement with us.

However, we need to make it very clear - to atheists but particularly to our fellow Christians - that we are firmly on their side when it comes to our faith.  We sometimes use arguments that are so similar to those that atheists use that they can’t distinguish between us and them.  I would prefer to be doing charitable service in God’s name with a hundred Young Earth Creationists than to spend the same time talking science with atheists.  We are united in Christ first.

Dr. Falk, I will be praying for you and Biologos during this conference.  I am even considering attending.  What you and this site are doing is a blessing; may God be with you always.


conrad finklestein - #25315

August 11th 2010

I get upset by those who frame the differences as “creationism” against “evolutionary creationism.

There is NO WAY that evolution explains the Big Bang.

Evolution is such a puny theory it’s elevation to the status of a “coherent explanation of everything” is just weird.

Debates about a God or no-God make sense.
But casting evolution as one of the logical explanations for “everything” is crazy.
Evolution does NOT explain quantum mechanics.
Evolution does not explain the moon.
Evolution does Not explain plate tectonics, ..[“to separate dry land in one place”].

It has a smaller role in biology than it is generally given.

God vs. no-God is a debate.

Creation vs evolution ranks up there with the other classic nonsequetor debates like,.....“What is the difference between a duck?”


DianeQ - #25426

August 11th 2010

As a participant in last week’s conference for secondary teachers-I can heartily attest that unity in the Body of Christ undergirded our times together.  I applaud Dr Falk and his colleagues for their wonderful instruction and skills from which we benefited so much, but most of all for their obvious love and concern for the hearts of young adults entrusted to our classrooms.


Kathryn Applegate - #25444

August 11th 2010

Dear defensedefumer,

I will pray for you.  We ought to all be praying for our believing friends who are the salt and light in classrooms, laboratories, and universities.  Keep fighting the good fight, and know you have a family here at BioLogos who is willing to come alongside you in the faith!

Kathryn


Greg Myers - #25453

August 12th 2010

Actually, many atheists understand exactly.  When you open a dialog with other rational people, in which you propose that conservative religion does not have to demonize the life of the mind, reject the facts and theories upon which our modern understanding of the world is based, or treat science and scientists with scorn, mistrust and even fear, this is a welcome thing. 

When you decide that you have more in common with the haters, the teachers of ignorance and lies, those who actively struggle to tear down what we have worked so hard to build in the few hundred years since the enlightenment, it calls into question the sincerity and approach.  Many feel that what is needed is a prophetic response, not a collegial one.  The problem is one of theology, not science.

Of course, many atheists are not surprised that Biologos would undertake such a conference, precisely because of the points you make.  Biologos seems to be embracing a gradualist approach, not taking any strong positions, maintaining a “big tent” stance – and given the significant political and social pressure creationists continue to bring to bear, it feels to many a case of too little too late.


Karl A - #25460

August 12th 2010

Greg Myers “Biologos seems to be embracing a gradualist approach, not taking any strong positions”.  At least where I’m from, openly advocating for an acceptance of evolution by Christians is neither of the above.  Maybe it depends on your perspective and patience level.

And how would you propose dealing with the “haters”?  Hate them back?  I’m sure your position on human relationships (not merely intellectual debates) is more nuanced than that.  Ours generally is, if we prioritize relationships above issues.


Mike Gene - #25474

August 12th 2010

Greg,

Actually, many atheists understand exactly.  When you open a dialog with other rational people, in which you propose that conservative religion does not have to demonize the life of the mind, reject the facts and theories upon which our modern understanding of the world is based, or treat science and scientists with scorn, mistrust and even fear, this is a welcome thing.

You mean the way Coyne interacts with Massimo Pigliucci, Chris Mooney, and Michael Ruse?  According to this model, “open dialog with other rational people” entails name-calling, ridicule, mistrust, and posturing.  Coyne and his followers advocate for a very primitive approach to human
relations - tribalism.  His version of tribalism is so extreme that even other atheist scholars are not pure enough - they are scorned as “faitheists.”  And you think BioLogos should follow this hateful model?


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