Joel Hunter on Evolution, Culture, and Misuse of Power

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January 19, 2010 Tags: Pastoral Voices

Today's entry was written by the BioLogos Editorial Team. You can read more about what we believe here.

Joel Hunter on Evolution, Culture, and Misuse of Power

Joel Hunter is the senior pastor of Northland Church, a dispersed congregation of 12,000 that meets in Orlando, Florida. He also serves on the White House Advisory Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Dr. Hunter attended the BioLogos sponsored symposium, "In Search of a Theology of Celebration", in New York City last November, and along with almost all the other attendees, signed the following statement:

Many voices in our current culture assert that there are irreconcilable conflicts between science and faith in Christ. We, the undersigned Christian pastors, theologians, scientists, and other scholars, respectfully disagree. We have learned much from each other during these days of communal prayer, presentation, discussion, and worship, but we also recognize that we have much more to learn and many others from whom to learn. We affirm that the truths of Scripture and the truths of nature both have their origins in God, and that further exploration of all these truths can enrich our joyful and worshipful appreciation of the Creator’s love, goodness, and grace. We commit to exploring these important issues further.

In a recent article in Sojourner Magazine, Dr. Hunter reflected on the workshop:

I recently attended a private symposium of Christian leaders—scientists, theologians, and pastors, along with other scholars. We were learning from each other and praising God for many corresponding revelations in God’s two books: the Bible and nature….

…Remind me again: Why are we afraid of the facts of evolution, instead of drawn to the picture God paints with them? Pastors can keep their congregations fired up by indulging a culture suspicious of science, but denying the consensus of science on evolution or climate change—or any social-science data that deals with evidence—does not glorify God. God made the world the way God wanted to make it. To avoid the discoveries of God’s process, to rail over ideology while dismissing facts, only fans the flames of fanaticism…

There have been times when we evangelicals have wondered whether our church will ever change. Lest we be tempted to give up, it is important to emphasize that there is much reason for hope! Dr. Hunter is a very significant leader in evangelical Christianity. This statement, along with others that leaders like him have been making will go a long way to ushering in a new era for evangelicalism. This June 2008 article in the New Yorker elaborates further on the changing tide. There is good reason to be optimistic about the future. We “new evangelicals” take the life and words of Jesus very seriously. We take Scripture very seriously. However, just as N.T. Wright said so well in Saturday’s posting, our worldview influences how we perceive Scripture. Wright encourages us to take off our reactionary “spectacles” and to see Scripture through lenses that have been more thoroughly cleaned. Joel Hunter has done this and his words give us reason to hope.

I am also interested that Dr. Hunter admonishes some of the leaders who encourage people to hold onto their old anti-evolutionist views. He asks such leaders to check their motives and warns that love of power may play a role in motivating them when they urge people to hold onto their old anti-scientific views:

The culture wars are not about truth; they are about power…. But the goal must be to seek more precise information, not to manufacture suspicion to get more power.

Wow! These are strong words. We all need to humbly spend time in prayer to make sure that they do not become true of us as well.

Submitted by Darrel Falk. (Photo: AP / John Raoux)



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Knockgoats - #3090

January 21st 2010

On theology, I’ll say a little more. Up until early modern times, theology and philosophy were not distinct; and the classic example of the silliness of theology - “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”, is not silly in context: the debate concerned whether space is infinitely divisible, still a live question in fundamental physics. However, just as the intellectually useful parts of alchemy were absorbed into chemistry, and those of astrology into astronomy, so I consider those of theology came to reside in philosophy - that’s why I used alchemy and astrology as examples. No-one (I hope) would suggest that there should be university chairs in alchemy and astrology!


Gregory Arago - #3190

January 22nd 2010

“I was asking for evidence that “the transcendent, divine, spirit” exists” - Knockgoats

Oh, is that all you wanted?! : - )

I like to know the background of people I’m dialoguing with because it usually helps with communication. In one of your earliest messages you said you cross the natural & social sciences. That interested me.

Thanks for the book prop, but I don’t take much interest in ‘evolutionary psychology,’ as I find it predominantly dispiriting. Same with ‘naturalism’ in general.

Yes, there are indeed still university chairs in theology. Religious belief (including atheism) is a ‘universal’ aspect of being a human person. How one makes sense of this & experiences it in their life is part of the journey we’re on.

Re-working Joel Hunter’s words: “God paints pictures with the facts of evolution.” These pictures are supra-naturalistic.


Gregory Arago - #3191

January 22nd 2010

“Since no-one here is advocating evolution as a universalistic ideology - and indeed, unless it was on a thread I haven’t read, you haven’t identified anyone who does, what’s it all about?” (#2989)

The issue of how ‘evolution is limited’ gets at the heart of much ‘science, philosophy, religion’ discourse because ‘evolution’ is such a widely used term. Just saying “evolution as a worldview is false” is not enough.

Once one starts identifying ‘things that don’t evolve,’ it is possible to ‘limit’ the power of naturalism as an ideology. Evolution is a ‘natural process,’ after all. TEs & ECs seem to disagree.

If one accepts that human-made things don’t evolve, o.k. then, what about ethics and morals. Do they evolve? What about ‘the golden rule’? Did ‘sin’ (if one believes in it) ‘evolve’ into existence? Do families ‘evolve’ into caring for each other? With the absence of free choice we are dehumanized!

If one believes in God or Allah, then limiting evolution serves an important purpose. Teach the biological theory of evolution, yes! But don’t idolize the science.


Knockgoats - #3202

January 22nd 2010

Gregory Arago,

Oh, is that all you wanted?! : - )

Yes, as was perfectly clear from what I said. Evidently you are unable to oblige. What a surprise.

I don’t take much interest in ‘evolutionary psychology,’ as I find it predominantly dispiriting. Same with ‘naturalism’ in general.

In other words, you are completely closed-minded. What a surprise. Buller’s book is a critique of Evolutionary Psychology.

Religious belief (including atheism) is a ‘universal’ aspect of being a human person.

No it isn’t. The study of religious belief is in any case adequately covered by psychology, sociology and anthropology. Theology claims to be the study of God - and thus is as valid as leprechaunology, since there is no good evidence for the existence of their subject matter.


Knockgoats - #3203

January 22nd 2010

Gregory Arago,

Once one starts identifying ‘things that don’t evolve,’ it is possible to ‘limit’ the power of naturalism as an ideology.

No it isn’t.

Evolution is a ‘natural process,’ after all.

But it’s not the only natural process, now is it Gregory?

If one accepts that human-made things don’t evolve,

Some of them do.

o.k. then, what about ethics and morals. Do they evolve? What about ‘the golden rule’?

The capacity for acquiring ethics and morals - including the” golden rule” has evolved, just as the capacity to perform various cognitive tasks and to feel various emotions has evolved.


Knockgoats - #3204

January 22nd 2010

Did ‘sin’ (if one believes in it) ‘evolve’ into existence?

Of course I don’t: “sin” is an offence against God. One cannot offend against what does not exist.

Do families ‘evolve’ into caring for each other?

Neither individuals nor families evolve: populations do. For someone who claims expertise in “HPSS”, it is trulyastounding what misconceptions you hold.

With the absence of free choice we are dehumanized!

But we do have free choice, so that’s not a problem. I freely chose to write these words, Gregory, I assure you: no-one coerced me, nor was I under any form of psychological compulsion.

If one believes in God or Allah, then limiting evolution serves an important purpose.
So you admit you are simply trying to defend your religious beliefs, not seeking the truth.


Gregory Arago - #3207

January 22nd 2010

The mission statement on the homepage of BioLogos reads as follows:

“We believe that faith and science both lead to truth about God and creation.”

Do you in any way wish to contribute positively to (self-)understanding about this, Knockgoats, or do you find it to be a lost cause?

Fwiw, another common definition of ‘theology’ is: “faith seeking understanding”.


Knockgoats - #3235

January 23rd 2010

Gregory Arago,

I disagree completely with the BioLogos mission statement: “faith” is simply belief without or in the teeth of the evidence.

You may have noticed a small piece of text at the upper right of this webpage, beginning:

“At Science & the Sacred, we welcome both critical and supportive voices”.


Gregory Arago - #3237

January 23rd 2010

“The BioLogos Foundation promotes the search for truth in both the natural and spiritual realms seeking harmony between these different perspectives.”


Knockgoats - #3244

January 23rd 2010

Yes, I’d rephrase it as:

“The BioLogos Foundation promotes the search for truth in both the real world and an imaginary one seeking harmony between these different perspectives.”


Martin Rizley - #3346

January 25th 2010

“The culture wars are not about truth; they are about power….”
I believe that there could not be a more fundamentally skewed evaluation of the culture wars than this.  Although undoubtedly there are some individuals whose motives go no higher than the selfish desire to wield power over others, I believe that far more are genuinely concerned about truth—especially, in defending what they believe to be the proper approach to determining what is true.  There are important questions that lie at the heart of the culture war— questions like, where do we find truth?  What is the supreme authority by which we test various truth claims?  Is human reason fallen, and if so, what are the implications of that fact?  Is the Bible’s authority limited only to the realm of the “theological,” or does it speak without error to matter of history, science, and ethics, as well?    These are very important questions to which different voices are giving conflicting answers, and to ignore these questions or to trivialize them by saying, “The culture war is about power, not truth”  is grossly mistaken, to say the least.  Truth is precisely the issue.


Martin Rizley - #3375

January 26th 2010

Another fundamental truth issue that lies at the heart of the culture war is the question, How does one determine which statements in the Bible are to be interpreted metaphorically, and which statements are to be interpreted literally as straightforward affirmations of historical fact?  Are the clues to proper biblical interpretation to be found within the Bible itself, or not?  These are not issues that only “power-hungry” individuals are concerned to answer.  They are fundamental issues that must be answered before a Christian who is committed to biblical authority can assess the truth claims made by evolutionists.  If the Bible, correctly interpreted, teaches that Adam was an historical figure, and if there are no clues within the text of Scripture itself to indicate he is a mere symbol of humanity,  then that fact overrides all other considerations.  Any scientific theory that denies the historicity of Adam, in that case, must be rejected as false.  It may be a scientifically plausible theory, and there may be all sorts of evidence that seems to support it—when Occam’s razor is applied to the evidence—but if it contradicts Scripture, it must be regarded as false on the sole ground of that it denies biblical truth.


Pstr. Stephen - #6372

March 10th 2010

“The culture wars are not about truth; they are about power….”
Indeed! And who is it that feels challenged by pastors who reject this highly subjective, yet immensely popular theory of origins?


Saddened by BioLogos Confusion - #12387

May 5th 2010

“The culture wars are not about truth; they are about power”
Perhaps in some cases that’s true but generally that’s a myth promoted by self-hating evangelicals.  For example…

What about the fact that for many in the “culture wars,” it is NOT about power but about allowing innocent students to hear the truth.  Don’t innocent students deserve to hear the truth? —to learn the evidence both for and against evolution—and make up their own minds rather than just being dogmatically taught that evolution is “fact, fact, fact”?

The bluff that BioLogos is promoting that Christian involvement in such politics is necessarily only about “power” and not about some higher ideal that will benefit innocent kids is as fallacious as claiming that William Wilberforce’s involvement in ending the slave trade in Britain was only about power and not about his genuine, God-given desire to end the evils of the slave trade.

I’m saddened to see BioLogos slandering Christians who get involved with such issues, because most of those Christians CARE about PEOPLE—in this case, innocent students who might otherwise be misled in the classroom.

Sincerely, a Christian who could care less about power but loves students


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