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“I am the Lord of the Dance,”said He, Part 2

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October 29, 2010 Tags: Christian Unity
“I am the Lord of the Dance,”said He, Part 2

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

Part 1 of Darrel's series can be found here.

I have just returned home from the Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science Conference in Austin, Texas.

This is likely the first conference of its sort ever held. Although no young earth creation organizations were represented, many from Reasons to Believe and The Discovery Institute were there. Several of us who hold to the evolutionary creation perspective were asked to speak and lead breakout sessions as well.

I first learned of this meeting about a year and a half ago. At the time, we at BioLogos were very hesitant to participate and initially turned down the invitation. Not knowing the organizers, and based upon the prescribed set of speakers in the breakout sessions, our initial thoughts were that the BioLogos invite was largely tokenism. To be honest, we suspected that we were included largely to provide the impression that the view which accepts that mainstream biology is correct—was on the table. We doubted that it really was.

However, about a year ago, I had my first conversation with Larry Linenschmidt, one of the two organizers of the meeting. He stressed that our representation would be more than tokenism and indicated that some people whose work I highly admire would also be present. He assured me there would be broad representation of topics in the breakout sessions—that the deck would not be stacked. He also told me that the overarching theme of this meeting was Christian unity and that all speakers and participants would be held to a very high standard in this regard. I learned that he and his co-organizer, Dan Heinze, would visit with each speaker to ensure that all clearly understood the intended tone of the meeting. Upon receiving those assurances, I told him I would be honored to participate; the meeting’s purpose aligned nicely with ours.

The meeting proceeded at a grueling pace. It started each morning at 8:30 a.m. and went almost non-stop until about 9:00 p.m. On the first day, I did a 55 minute plenary talk at 4:00 p.m., a plenary testimony soon after dinner, and then led a breakout session immediately after that. On the second day, I participated in a plenary panel discussion and led another breakout session in the evening. Finally on the third day I participated in a panel discussion. Many of the speakers had a similar schedule; indeed mine was likely not as heavy as that of some of the others. Every detail of the meeting was planned in intricate detail and I have seldom, if ever, been to a meeting so carefully organized.

There was one session I was invited to co-lead about which I have always been very hesitant. The organizers knew how concerned I was about this session—a direct exchange in a breakout with Stephen Meyer. I have held the position that I would not engage in a public interchange with those who view creation so differently unless we who hold the pro-mainstream-biology position first met informally with those who hold the alternative view. The purpose of such a meeting would be to focus on that which we have in common—which is almost everything when one is a follower of Jesus. I wanted such a meeting to take place—a time of prayer, Bible study, worship, along with a time of thinking together about aspects of our projects where we have common goals and vision. I have wanted that meeting to take place before we publically engaged issues about which we disagree.

So although I had been especially hesitant about this one session, the organizers assured me that since they were travelling to personally meet with each speaker, I could be assured that even this session would exemplify Christians working together in a spirit of Christ-centered unity. We might differ on scientific and theological details, but we each would be held accountable to work within this context. I appreciated that.

It is hard to imagine anyone not recognizing how sensitive these discussions are. On the creation issue, the spirit of acrimony rather than the spirit of love, has too often ruled the day within the Christian community. This has done great harm to the cause of Christ. I know firsthand how fragile these discussions are and I was extremely hesitant to accept until the private meeting I desired had taken place. But the organizers, who I have appreciated so much, reassured me. I agreed to a breakout session with Steve Meyer.

Five days before the meeting, the Discovery Institute posted a statement about the upcoming event:

“Next week the Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science becomes the God and evolution showdown in Austin…”

The posting then went on to state:

Attendees have three days of speakers and sessions but should prepare for a rumble on Thursday, October 28, when Stephen Meyer and Doug Axe will go up against Darrel Falk and Randy Isaac in a debate on the origin of life…

The way this was described by the Discovery Institute was exactly what had concerned me most about this meeting. Knowing that this may have been inadvertently put up by someone who was not aware of the intention of the meeting, I immediately contacted the organizers and asked that the statement be taken down and that it be replaced with a statement which indicated an assurance that the Discovery Institute was committed to enter into our breakout session, not in the spirit of a “God and evolution showdown” or a “rumble” but within the Spirit of Christian unity. I felt the task was difficult enough as it was that unless we both clarified our mutual commitment from the start it had the potential to harm the Church.

The organizers asked the Discovery Institute to take the statement down; it was not granted. I was told that it was an Associate Director of the Discovery Institute who had denied the request. I felt strongly that there was a need to publically acknowledge that the tone of the post was not consistent with the nature of the meeting. I also felt that it was important to make a public statement about our commitment to work together in the Spirit of Christ. Because an Associate Director of the Institute acknowledged that he knew about it and wouldn’t grant the request, I pulled out.

BioLogos remains more concerned than ever about ensuring that we all—together as Christians—can come to peace with mainstream science, including biology. We do not think it is fundamentally flawed even though we know there are those who have misused it for their own philosophical agendas. We look forward to ongoing discussions with those who see things differently---but not where it has been announced to be a showdown and not where it has been presented as a rumble.

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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conrad - #37422

October 29th 2010

Science is not flawed.

Rev Harrel had it about right.
It is a battle between interpreters.

There is excellent concordance between science and the Bible.l

John - #37427

October 29th 2010

Smart move.

beaglelady - #37429

October 29th 2010

Welcome back! Will we be seeing any videos from this conference?  It sounds very interesting.

colin - #37430

October 29th 2010

I struggle to see where the incompatibility lies between a God and evolution showdown rumble and the Spirit of Christian unity

There are many examples of the bible of Jesus having rumble/showdowns with his disciples, and several of his disciples having heated debates with each other about situations that were important to them, all in the Spirit of Christian unity.

Now if you had shown up for the forum, and those mean discovery institute guys had acted in a particularly unchristian way to you, that’d be blogworthy.

Michael Fugate - #37431

October 29th 2010

And all this time the Discovery Institute has been telling us that intelligent design has nothing to do with religion and specifically Christianity….

Laurent - #37435

October 29th 2010

Very good choice. God’s voice speaks in peace and is drowned out by conflict.

Papalinton - #37438

October 29th 2010

The christian religion is neither all good nor all bad.  It is, however, all a human construct - and therefore diverse, ambiguous, and contradictory.

merv - #37445

October 29th 2010

Papalinton, if all those following Christ are only following a human construct then that makes it a falsehood—a falsehood at its core.  The Apostle Paul spells it out.  There is no confusion on this except, perhaps, your own.

That said, just about every other adjective you applied:  diverse, ambiguous, even contradictory ...  I don’t doubt those all apply accurately to various things at various times.  At least you don’t follow the simplistic “all good” / “all bad” categories.


sy - #37450

October 29th 2010

I understand the reason for withdrawing from this session (Did Randy withdraw as well?) but I do have a comment about it. It appears, if the DI statement was correct that the subject was the origin of life. If that is the case, then I am not really sure what the “mainstream” scientific position is. Evolution is not relelvant to the origin of life. There are no mainstream scientific theories for the origin of life that rise to the level of plausibility. So if the topic for discussion was limited to the origin of life, (rather than biological speciation) then I think the discussion might have been less “science versus anti science” than you thought. But this is just speculation, and there is no telling what might have happened.

Michael - #37453

October 29th 2010

I noticed that RTB put up a response during the conference to a Biologos article from a while back; a response that appears to show very little attempt to seriously engage and consider the data, I might add. Will we be hearing more about how the conference went; how scientific discussions went, points of agreement/disagreement etc?

Robert - #37456

October 29th 2010

I can understand your reason for pulling out of the debate. It sounds like they were going along with the Mark Driscoll   *go ahead make my day* kind of confrontational style with the language they used. Why do so many christians,  be they leaders in the Church or what have you, want to foster these * in your face*  style debates with each other??? Jesus dealt harshly with the Pharisees, but He also had many times where He was very calm and rational with them as well. Why this desire to be kick booty and take no prisoners style so appealing??

Papalinton - #37457

October 29th 2010

Hi Merv
Precisely.  According to the Acts of the Apostles, his conversion to faith in jesus took place in a profound life-changing experience on the road to Damascus.
Paul writes about his conversion experience in his own letters and in Acts of the Apostles.  The conversion experience is described to be miraculous or revelatory in nature in both sources. So no substantive evidence other than that from personal incredulity.  Also, Paul never met jesus before jesus’s crucifixion and was not a follower of jesus before the crucifixion; instead he persecuted the early christians. Although Paul refers to himself [note -himself] as an “Apostle” of jesus, he makes clear that he was not one of “the twelve” (1 Corinthians 9:1-2). His conversion occurred after jesus’s crucifixion, and the accounts of his conversion describe it as miraculous, supernatural, or otherwise revelatory in nature.

Now, think for a moment, Merv, if a most charismatic eloquent person came up to you today and announced all that Paul did, you would classify him as a looney, or would put on your modern skeptics hat and say, “prove it”.  Or would you be swept away with such revelatory euphoria?


Papalinton - #37458

October 29th 2010

@ Merv [cont]

Now posit Paul’s claim against that of Joseph Smith about Mormonism.  He too had a similar miraculous, revelatory experience and, Pow! ,  the church [an a christian church to boot] of the latter-day saints was born.

Now posit this against the revelatory experiences of L Ron Hubbard and that of Muhummad.

In applying Ockham’s razor, would you not see there is more evidence for a substantive case for Paul experiencing an epileptic seizure for such a cathartic experience?  Simply because it is written in the bible, and largely his own story, does in no shape substantiate its veracity in fact.

Merv, an appeal to Paul, has as much use as using a feather to dig a hole.

Come on, Merv, it’s a story, and a really lovely story, but a story none-the-less.


beaglelady - #37463

October 29th 2010

Now posit Paul’s claim against that of Joseph Smith about Mormonism.  He too had a similar miraculous, revelatory experience and, Pow! ,  the church [an a christian church to boot] of the latter-day saints was born.

But no paper trail. And ZERO archeological evidence

beaglelady - #37470

October 30th 2010

Oops let’s try that again:

Now posit Paul’s claim against that of Joseph Smith about Mormonism.  He too had a similar miraculous, revelatory experience and, Pow! ,  the church [an a christian church to boot] of the latter-day saints was born.

But no paper trail. And ZERO archeological evidence

Papalinton - #37472

October 30th 2010

Hi beaglelady

“But no paper trail. And ZERO archeological evidence”

When has archeological evidence been a precursor for veracity in the bible stories?  The latest archeology tells us there was no exodus of some 600,000- 1 million people from Egypt into Canaan that roamed for 40 years in a three hundred mile area without leaving any form of foorprint whatsoever;  there was no flood of Noachic proportions ever recorded in geology or archeology.  The Israeli or jewish [the chosen ones] people all derived from the local Palestinian population of the area.  Need I go on?

The whole of the christian myth and its subsequent emergence into an organised church, is solely premised on and around the personal revelation, of a man who heard a voice in his head while simultaneously blinded [and given our current level of science understanding and knowledge, in all likelihood experienced an epileptic seizure]. 


Papalinton - #37473

October 30th 2010

@ beaglelady [cont]

You forget that Mormonism is a product of the christianities and is cut from the whole cloth of the 2000 years of the various christianities.  I would suggest a plethora of paper trail is there just as indeed they themselves claim, as well as claiming they are the true christian church.

What makes anyone else’s claim for the christianities any the truer [apart from personal revelation and personal interpretation of scriptures]?

I wish I could experience your level of naivety and wide-eyed impressionability.


Dennis Venema - #37474

October 30th 2010

Michael, thanks for that link to the RTB response on synteny. I agree that is a weak response. The main problem with Rana’s reasoning is that it fails to address the pattern we see in other species groups. I cover this in my recent article on human / chimp genomics published by the ASA, specifically the section entitled “synteny and common design.” I don’t see Rana as having addressed those points at all, to be honest.

I would also like to say in public that I thought Darrel and Randy made exactly the correct choice regarding the ID session. As a speaker, I too was visited by one of the organizers at their expense (!)  in my home town (!!) to have a (wonderful) conversation, that among other things, required a commitment to respectful dialog befitting brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s not like this wasn’t laid out months ago, and with (apparent) agreement from all parties.

Robert Byers - #37494

October 30th 2010

I am a confident yEC guy. Yet I believe all creationism(s) , anything suggesting God or Genesis, helps combat evolutionism and general denial of scriptural truths about origin.
If your right then the more conversation there is the more shall you prevail. Logic.
I helped organize a reasons -to-believe session at my evangelical church. tHey accept evolution/age etc to some degree and so on. yet believe in the bible on points or interpretation.
yEC indeed sees these others as undercutting the numbers in or potential for YEC.
It all comes down to believing God is not neutral about origins, supports the right side more, and confidence in reason destroying error.
So all talk is to the gain of biblical creationism or YEC.
its evolutionists who want to stop conversation, discredit public or professional criticism, and censor through the state/laws creationism in public institutions.
They are the bad guys and the losers by their own secret conscience. if i may do analysis.

Karl A - #37495

October 30th 2010

Ay ay ay - Discovery Institute. Living with integrity vs. pulling in more funds to fight the cultural wars.  I can see the temptation for the latter, but at what cost?  At the minimum, a loss of an opportunity to demonstrate the reality and basis of Christian unity.

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