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Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye

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January 15, 2014 Tags: Christian Unity, Science & Worldviews
Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye

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

The internet is buzzing with news about the upcoming debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye. If you haven’t heard, the prominent Young Earth Creationist is hosting the Science Guy at the Creation Museum on February 4th to debate “Is creation a viable model for origins?” Predictably, most of the buzz about the event pits science vs. faith, as though we have to choose one or the other.

We at BioLogos maintain that you don’t have to choose. You don’t have to give up Christian faith in order to accept the best, most compelling science. We expect that we’ll agree with most of what Bill Nye will say about the science of evolution. Fossils, genetics, and other disciplines give compelling evidence that all life on earth is related and developed over a very long time through natural processes. But we’re also brothers and sisters in Christ with Ken Ham. We believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died for our sins and rose from the dead, and that the Bible is the authoritative word of God.

Unfortunately, many people accept what they’ve been told about evolution – that it is the source of all kinds of evil and a dangerous step toward atheism. Many others accept what they’ve been told about religion – that it betrays delusional thinking and a deep irrationalism in one’s worldview. Both extremes are built on the same premise – that evolution is fundamentally opposed to God. We reject this.

“Evolutionary creation” is the label we’ve used to describe our position that evolution is the means through which God created. In accepting the science of evolution, we do not reject biblical faith. In fact, many biblical scholars find that the original intent of Genesis 1 has little to do with science and has everything to do with God’s purposes in creation. And in accepting God as the ruler of the natural world, we do not reject science. In fact, core Christian beliefs give a strong motivation for using our minds to explore the world he created. Applying ourselves with diligence to both God’s world and God’s word gives the best answers to the question posed for the February 4 debate.

And we’re not alone in rejecting the extremes. A Barna survey of clergy found that over 40% of pastors do not hold to young earth creationism. And the recent Pew survey found that large numbers of Christians accept evolution. While the percentage is higher for other Christian demographics, even 27% of white evangelical Protestants accept that humans have evolved over time.

Debates like this perpetuate the misconception that you have two choices: an atheistic view of evolutionary science, or a young earth interpretation of the Bible. We wish the audience could hear about another, better way. Help us spread the word that great science and biblical faith can go hand in hand.


Deborah Haarsma serves as the President of BioLogos, a position she has held since January 2013. Previously, she served as professor and chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Gifted in interpreting complex scientific topics for lay audiences, Dr. Haarsma often speaks to churches, colleges, and schools about the relationships between science and Christian faith. She is author (along with her husband Loren Haarsma) of Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (2011, 2007), a book presenting the agreements and disagreements of Christians regarding the history of life and the universe. Haarsma is an experienced research scientist, with several publications in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #84212

January 15th 2014


Very well said.

Thank you for rejecting a dualist vision of life both on the right and on the left.

Now it seems to me that we in the middle must lay a firm intellectual and spiritual foundation for a non-dualist vision of reality, which is what BioLogos needs to do.  

Eddie - #84217

January 15th 2014

Dr. Haarsma:

I certainly agree with you that “Ken Ham or Bill Nye” is a false choice, and I agree with BioLogos in rejecting the need to make that choice.  

However, I would point out that the range of options between such extremes is greater than is usually acknowledged on BioLogos.  The thought of Michael Behe, Michael Denton, and Richard Sternberg (all of whom accept both God and evolution) should not be slighted.  I look forward to the day when each of these three thinkers is invited to write a series of columns for BioLogos.

Tom Schwarz - #84222

January 16th 2014

Interesting that Michael Behe is mentioned as someone who accepts both God and evolution. I haven’t read his books but his wikipedia entry strongly suggests that he is an opponent of evolution

Eddie - #84223

January 16th 2014


Everyone should know by now that Wikipedia is not trustworthy on a whole range of subjects.  University professors regularly warn students not to rely on it, and some will fail an essay that references it.  This is especially true regarding controversial, “issue”-related subjects such as evolution, global warming, etc.  The writers of the articles are for the most part not specialists in the areas they are writing about, and the current form of the articles is determined not by who knows the most about the subject, but by who has the most time to keep going back in to the articles to delete other people’s changes.  Since professors who teach the various subjects at universities don’t have two to three hours a day to keep monitoring all the articles to make sure their thoughtful and accurate changes are preserved, this means that twenty-something single males with lots of free time on their hands can spend several hours a day on the internet, deleting changes they don’t like, and they end up controlling all the controversial articles and overruling the most learned contributors.

Wikipedia is an amateur, volunteer, “democratic” venture (scare quotes are necessary because it is largely controlled by cliques rather than truly democratically); it is not a traditional encyclopedia where very knowledgeable people appoint experts and specialists to write the articles.  It is therefore quite handy for trivial facts where a pooling of amateur knowledge sometimes produces rare bits of knowledge that might escape a specialist, but it is quite poor for matters that require subtlety of judgment and deep knowledge of a field.  In particular, the articles on evolution, creationism, intelligent design, etc. are completely controlled by partisans, almost all young atheists and materialists, many of whom have not even a bachelor’s degree in any science whatsoever, who veto any improvements to the articles not consistent with their anti-Christian, anti-creation, anti-design, anti-religious, secular humanist world view.  You’re sucking up the attitudes of Dawkins, Coyne, etc. every time you consult a Wikipedia article on these subjects, because the people editing the articles are the disciples of those people.

Regarding Behe specifically:  You say you haven’t read his books.  I’ve read almost all of his published work—both books and a score or more of other publications.  I can therefore set you straight.  There is no doubt that he accepts evolution.  He says so over and over again.  Anyone who thinks otherwise has not read Behe, but is relying on hearsay, and is being fed falsehood by those who don’t like Behe or by those who themselves are misled by hearsay.

What is confusing you is that Behe is critical of the neo-Darwinian explanation of evolution.  But rejecting an explanation of evolution is not the same as rejecting evolution itself.  He has never rejected evolution, and in fact has loudly affirmed it since the publication of Darwin’s Black Box in 1996.  He is also a Catholic and believes in God, and that evolution is used by God to generate the variety of living forms.

You are probably further confused by the fact that there are some ID proponents who do not accept evolution.  ID is a “big tent” containing both pro-evolution and anti-evolution people; Behe is in the pro-evolution group, along with Sternberg and Denton.

Another thing that probably confuses you is the erroneous (and deliberately dishonest) equation of ID with “creationism.”  The NCSE, Wikipedia editors, many leading American journalists, and many others regularly promulgate this false identification, for political reasons of their own.  In fact, the differences between ID and creationism are well-known to anyone who reads the ID literature.  But opponents of ID know that “creationism” is a word with negative connotations for a large part of the reading audience, and so they demagogically seek to attach the term to ID writings (e.g., Behe) which are not creationist.

Creationism is of course the teaching that God created everything directly almost literally as depicted in the book of Genesis.  It asserts that Genesis is a book with veto power over scientific conclusions.  This is not the position of Behe, Denton, or Sternberg, but those who dislike Behe etc. hope to get others to dislike them by associating them with Ken Ham, Creation Museums, etc.  It’s rank dishonesty, but if you learn nothing else in life, you should learn not to believe everything you hear or read, but should check out the sources yourself.

I hope this helps you to understand Behe, and to understand the danger of relying on a highly partisan source such as Wikipedia.  In the future, I hope you will form your opinions from primary sources, not secondary sources, and certainly not unreliable tertiary sources like Wikipedia.

Eddie - #84240

January 18th 2014

Tom Schwarz:

I’m not looking for praise, or agreement, or even a thank-you, but for future reference I would like to know whether or not you read and digested my reply here to you (84223).  I spent a fair bit of time crafting it to make it clear and orderly and informative, and if you did not read it, or read only a bit of it, got bored, and abandoned it, I’d like to know, so as to determine whether I should put such energy into replies in the future.  Thanks.

(If anyone else read it and found the information in it useful, and would let me know, that too would be helpful.  I only have limited time and I don’t want to put it into writing things that no one enjoys reading.)

SocialJeff - #84414

February 5th 2014

Hi Eddie,

Unfortunately, I read your comments in reverse, starting with the discourse with Roger, misunderstanding your position completely(mid-way through I would not have guessed you were a man of faith - funny how context works). That’s a bit ahead of myself though.

I actually arrived here via the name BioLogos being thrown around in a comment section for the popular “news aggregation” site Buzzfeed. Frustrated with the general ad hominem attack on Christians, Athiets, Creationists, Evolutionists and so on, I breathed a sigh of relief to suddenly discover there are people that think like me. To myself a brief moment of excitement came and I thought, “Is it possible that I did not need to make a dichotomic decision between atheism and creationism?” I’m still not sure, as there is a fair amount of bickering -albeit more intelligble - here. Still, I would love your guidance, or any additional guidance you may want to offer.

Now, in reading your comments it’s clear your far more intelligent then me, if not most people I intereact with. So, I can’t bring much to the conversation. Anything I know, I am sure you know. For this reason, I seek more input, and direction to learn more. I’m not looking for the hard sell… just good places to start for those of us that aren’t biochemists or theologians.

As you can likely gather, I am highly unread on this subject, as well as the Bible itself, perhaps most things (though I have slightly more faith in wikipedia - if you bash it provide a good alternative ). I’m not new to Christianity, I was raised in a protestant family, that in their old age drifted into radical conservatism, which inadvertently drove me far from religion or any following of faith. I never truly left it behind, but I found myself needing to be either for or against a literal translation of the Bible.

I’ve meandered my way back, trying to cobble a new, more liberal interpretation (some) evangelicals can provide, though finding at times, a complete removal of the tension the guidance and law the Bible provides, waters things down to a mass consumptionist approach to religion, kind of like saying McDonald’s chicken nuggets are all white meat… truth, but at the end of the day, what does that mean, and does that really make it a better product?

In my return to faith, I first struggled with an on-again/off-again devotion-reading and journaling approach for nearly two years - a hiatus of several months about six months ago led to a renewed, yet unexplainable vigor. With a renewed vigor to read the Bible beginning to end, I dug in this year, starting with a reading plan via a NLT version of the bible, and referencing back on occasion to see how different versions treat similar sections (You Version is and awesome app). 

I try as best I can to read, and then write down my thoughts, which are likely ill-informed. I do this each morning, and enjoy it more every day. I’ve found it tough to find the perfect spot where I can understand scripture, yet not interprate it literally at all times. While there is a part me that says if there is room for beleif in God, and that belief allows room for anything to be true, I don’t believe this was God’s intention. As I parallel a reading of the New and Old Testament, I have come to see (likely misinformed) that through stories, and parables - devine fiction really - Jesus gave us understanding into the world of the time, and a set of teachings that have lasted thousands of years, still proving to be good advice. Why is it then, that the Old Testament, especially thos first books and chapters aimed in a similar way? A good example of this is that I see the importance of Love, yet after some deep thought on the matter, I can’t haphazardly say it’s the simple solution to the Bible. Having a child, I understand love takes shape in different ways, and find that if I am made in God’s image, that the more important part of me, my soul, understands to love is to do more than hugs and kisses an provide forgiveness.

Now, I’m sure there is reason why all that thought is wrong, and I’m open to hear your commentary. However, I think the Bible is becoming a book that is seen as unapproachable (maybe it always has been and that’s why this conversation is univeral and personal). I’d like to learn a better approach - perhaps something more than just pray and have faith (both of which I work hard at). At any rate, I ramble about as good as you deliver profound disseminations. So, if you reached this point and didn’t have a tl;dr moment, I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to write what you did, and at least point me in the direction of additional reading.

Nothing more than a sinner asking for mercy,


P.s. Forgive the typos, and grammar. Even with a degree in English, linguistics escapes me a bit. Plus spellcheck, my horrible crutch, seems to have been kicked out from beneath me on this site. 

Scott Rehm - #84225

January 16th 2014

I absolutely love the sentiment expressed here. I am not a person of strong faith, but I recognize that no one person can claim to have all the answers and that I am as fallable as any other human. And this leaves me with an abiding respect for people of all beliefs, so long as that respect is mutual. I am reminded of something amusing that appeared in a humorous review of a Star Trek: Voyager episode of sfdebris.com which made a very good point. The episode being reviewed was a typical faith vs. science episode and the reviewer acted out a little skit to make a point about the duality…

God: “First, I created energy - light.” 

Man: “And… is that good?”

God: “Absolutely! Light exists at the intersection of wave and particle, demonstrating the dual nature of everything that exists at a quantum level. It’s speed then served as the foundation for all of the other laws of physics.”

Man: “Okay… *writing* God created Light. And saw that it was good.”

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84227

January 17th 2014

While I would not disagree with what Eddie has said about Dr. Behe, I would add that the situation is more complicated thatr that and we need to understand that if we are to best resolve the problem that Dr. Haarsma has highlighted which is ideological dualism.

Dr. Hamm & Co. have made a particular understanding of Creation into an ideological construct and made this view their scientific view if the beginning of the universe and the touchstone of who is and who is not a true Christian.

Dr. Dawkins & Co. have taken a particular understanding of evolution, one called neoDarwinism, and made it into an ideological construct and made this view their scientific view of evolution and the touchstone of who is and who is not a true follower of the scientific method.   

They are ideologies because each side takes a narrow view and makes it absolute, the only right understanding of science and life.  They are different in that the Darwinists take absolutize a particular scientific view, while the Creationists absolutize a particular religious view. 

In this way it appears to become science vs religion and people are pressured to take sides.  However both of these ideologies should be rejected.

Ideologies restrict thought, while science and theology promote thinking.  There is a kneejerk reaction among Darwinists to reject all those who are critical of their ideology as Creationists or crypto-Creationists.  There is a kneejerk reaction among Creationists to reject all those who are critical af their ideology as atheist Darwinists  or crypto-atheistic Darwinists. 

How does one criticize an ideology?  I would criticize one based on bad or incomplete science like Darwinism by exposing the problems of its scienctific position and showing how they can be solved in a way that does not support the ideology.

Similary I would criticize one based on bad or incomplete Biblical theology like Creationism by exposing the problems of the theology and showing how they can be solved in a way that does not support the ideology.

Also we can expose the false philosophical world view that allows people to maintain ideological dualistic positions that creates the false choices in our world today.             


Barry Desborough - #84228

January 17th 2014

I happen to be an atheist, but I have no quarrel with “theistic evolutionists”. I do, however, think that Ham’s type of reationism is dangerous nonsens, and must be opposed. Note that the debate subject is not God, nor is it Evolution. Here is my advice for Bill Nye.



“Is Creation A Viable Model of Origins?”


Agree on Debating Conditions.


It is a pity that the debate is not to be held at a neutral venue with a representative audience, but there we are. Remember, we are not dealing with people who have the slightest sense of truthfulness, honesty and decency.





Allowing them full control of the conditions will be asking to be ripped to shreds.


I suggest you ask Ken Ham to engage with you in writing, in public, to come to an agreement on the conditions under which you will debate. I suggest the following:

You agree the format, giving each equal time to present your arguments and to respond to one another’s arguments.

You agree not to interrupt one another.

You agree on what presentation technology you can each use.

You agree to restrict your arguments to those which are directly relevant to the debate topic.

You agree on definitions pertaining to the debate proposal.

You agree to have several independent people/organizations record and publish the debate in full.


If Ken Ham refuses to engage with you over conditions, and you still wish to go ahead, bring the fact up in the debate.


Re. definitions, “creation” should be tied down to Ham’s own notion of creation - everything created in six literal 24 hour days some 6,000 - 10,000 years ago. “Origins” can mean origins of the universe, of life, of species, of geological strata, of scripture, or any agreed combination. This is very important, to preempt any weaseling over definitions when backed into a corner, as creationists so often try to do.




If you can keep the debate to a discussion of the proposal, you can have Ken Ham on the defensive all the time. You are not there to defend biology, cosmology, astronomy, geology and origin of life research. Any mention of these, and you can rightly accuse Ham from straying from the subject of the debate. He is there to defend creationism as a viable model of origins.


You are there to point out why creationism is not a viable model of origins. Use the evidence, but not in defense of the sciences that creationists abhor. Use the evidence to point out precisely what creationism cannot explain. An explanation makes it clear why things are one way and not some other way. This is creationism’s greatest weakness. It cannot do that. Here are some of my favorite topics that illustrate the point:


Orthologous endogenous retroviruses. Creationists have no explanation for them. It makes no sense for a creator to place unnecessary, false traces of retroviral integrations in our genomes. See http://www.evolutionarymodel.com/ervs.htm

Astronomy - esp. supernovae and pulsars, which cannot be explained within a young earth scenario. See http://infidels.org/library/modern/dave_matson/young-earth/additional_topics/supernova.html

Consilient dating methods. Why do so many lines of evidence lead to “wrong” results, but happen to agree with one another? See http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:SmiJ8MY1BkkJ:razd.evcforum.net/Age_Dating.htm+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk


In each of these cases, from the creationist viewpoint, God has planted fake evidence unnecessarily. They cannot explain any necessity for it. This is what destroys its viability.


By the way, I mentioned the origin of scripture above. Is creation a viable model for it? Most Biblical scholars would disagree, and would present very good evidence for their position - but maybe that is straying too much onto Ham’s turf.


My advice - pick a few topics that you are very familiar with where creationism cannot explain the evidence - topics that include, from a creationist’s point of view, fake evidence for which they cannot provide any explanation. Search the net for any attempts at ‘explanation’ or damage limitation by creationists. Ask them how their “It could be” speculations are testable. Become familiar with creationist ‘answers’ and with the rebuttals of them.


If you want to discuss this with me, please get in touch. My email is my first name, a dot, my second name, at gmail dot com.


Good luck!


Barry Desborough

Dan McMonagle - #84233

January 17th 2014

Yep. And Amen.  It is the same old false choice.

I wrote a blog post on this exact same “false choice” a few years ago here: http://reconcilingviewpoints.com/?p=32

I agree with you wholeheartedly that we need to get the word out that there are more than two options here.

In my view, an old Earth view is not incompatible with Genesis 1. In fact, the opposite is true - you have to to come to illogical conclusions to support a literal, six 24-hour day interpretation. (How do we measure a 24-hour day? One rotation of the earth, or the sun passing by one time, right? If the sun wasn’t “placed in the sky” until day 4, how were the first 3 days measured?)

Yes, we need to the word out - it isn’t just an “either/or” alternative.

Thanks….  Good post.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84237

January 18th 2014

I just finished listeng to Robert Krolwich’s (Sp?) radio program discussing stress on NPR.  He had as a guest a scientist who studied baboon society in the bush for a long period of time.

What this man observed was that former Alpha males who stayed with their bands after they lost their dominance but because they were still friendly with members of the band, actually were more successful in mating and passing down their genes than the new Alpha male. 

The reason he can say this conclusively is because his team used genetic testing to prove parentage.  Thus if confirmed this science would dispell the Darwinian myth of survival of the fittest, which has been a key part of its ideology all these years.   

This is further evidence that Darwinian Natural Selection is ideological that has not been scientifically proven.   

Timmy Knezevich - #84241

January 19th 2014

Pretending that evolution and the bible can go hand in hand is incredibly short sided and largely dismissive. Just because the suggestion of a grey area sounds open minded does not mean that it is logical.

Religion always answers two basic questions. Where we come from and where we are going. So the creation story is a major corner stone of any religion. If you disprove it you discredit everything to follow. If the bible says that God created everything in 7 days then that is what it says. If you take it as metaphor for the empirical truth that science has brought to light about our origins then you must also take every other creation story as a metaphor as well. Why would you discount any other story if it can always be bent to mean the truth in a metaphorical manner? It just makes them all true in a metaphorical sense. That would violate very clear commandments and step outside the bounds of dogmatic lines that are very clearly drawn. 

When you step outside these lines then you no longer have any faith in the bible because you have essentially given the same authority of truth it had to every other religious text as well. Since they can all equally be described as a metaphor for what is actually true and can be proven. 

When all religous texts have an equal authority over the truth in your mind then they become meaningless. They are just shadows, preversions, and misrepresentations of what is actually true, and what can actually be demonstrated. 

Sure they hold a great deal of insight in to the origins of culture but they say nothing about reality and have to all be regarded as fiction and nothing more. The metaphors they contain are no more true then the metaphors in Moby Dick. If I call someone a snake in the grass and you know it is a metaphor then you know that it is also fiction. If the whole book can be taken as metphor then the whole book can taken as fiction.

Evolution has shown us that the bible was and is wrong and that we should move on with our culture. If you want to say that God created the heavens and the earth through the means of evolution then you need to start an entire new book with an entire new creation story and entirely new portrait of God, his power, his work, and history. Evolution and the Bible are completely incompatible. 

Merv - #84245

January 19th 2014

Why would you discount any other story if it can always be bent to mean the truth in a metaphorical manner?

In Sunday school this morning we read of Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman at the well—- offering her living water.  The woman expressed confusion at first, thinking that Jesus was speaking of literal water.

If metaphorical truth is to considered “discounted” or second-class truth (if even true at all) then was Jesus just wasting his time by using non-literal methods of teaching?

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84246

January 19th 2014


Thank you for an interesting post.

What struck me most is that the arguments that you and creationists use to say that  evolution and the Bible are incompatible are almost identical.  Only the conclusion is different.

Both you and the creationist are concerned about the authority of the Bible.  Both of you should understand that Christianity is based not on the Truth of the Bible, but the Truth of Jesus Christ Who is the Alpha and Omega of our faith.

Jesus indeed is the WORD of God Who reveals where humanity has come and where we going.  You are right, this is the primary role of religion.  If Christianity is false, can Scientism, which says Life has no meaning or purpose, fill this role or do we turn to Buddhism? 

Yes, it says in Genesis 1 that God created the world in 6 days.  Let me suggest a new theory about this.  Let me suggest that these words are written in code. 

While it is true that all language is a code, this information is written in a code so people who lived a long time ago who were semi-literate and prescientific could understand that God created the universe, while we today who claim to be so sophisticated and advanced could understand that too by cracking the code using John 1.        

Eddie - #84248

January 20th 2014

Roger wrote:

“Christianity is based not on the Truth of the Bible, but the Truth of Jesus Christ”

As a matter of historical fact, Protestant Christianity (which, last time I checked, includes Methodism) is based on “the truth of the Bible”; and of course, to the Protestant mind, it would be scandalous to imply that “the truth of the Bible” was different from “the truth of Jesus Christ.”

Whether Genesis should be interpreted in the fundamentalist fashion is another matter entirely.  But that genuine Protestants must be committed to the truth of the Bible is not a proposition that admits of argument.  It’s a matter of historical self-definition which no Protestant can escape without renouncing Protestantism, and which no evangelical can escape without renouncing the evangelical tradition (and which no Methodist can escape without renouncing Methodism).

Of course, Catholic and Orthodox Christianity are based on more than “the truth of the Bible”; but even in those traditions, the “more” is not seen as in any way in conflict with “the truth of the Bible”, but as a sort of supplement or elaboration of that truth.  It is not a question of being based on the truth of Jesus Christ instead of the truth of the Bible; rather, the idea is that the truth of Jesus Christ is mediated to us both through the Bible and through apostolic and later tradition.

I do not understand why people are not more careful in the statements they make about Christian faith, especially on a site like this.

Jon Garvey - #84247

January 20th 2014

 I do, however, think that Ham’s type of [c]reationism is dangerous nonsens[e]

That seems to be a widespread belief in the USA. “Danger” is a relative kind of word, though. Theologically dangerous, I guess, in that it promotes a false division between science and faith. Other forces promote that too, though, such as the scientistic mythology that science and religion have always been opposed. And unlike creationsim, that’s still taught in universities.

But I can think of far worse theological dangers - like beliefs that deny that creation expresses accurately God’s providential will. Creationists are somewhat less prone to that than others.

Outside of theology it’s quite hard to identify the terrible danger, to this UK outsider: I’ve known Creationists doing wonderful work in all kinds of socially valuable fields including medicine, conservation and even research science.

Whereas if you take creationism’s most direct antithesis - atheistic materialism - there are much greater dangers. For example, the denial of genuine consciousness, free-will and morality have very clear dangers towards a cynical nihilism, the ambition to control others, the establishment of intellectual elites and so on.

And the fact that the eugenic excesses of social Darwinism are no longer fashionable doesn’t wipe out its truly abominable track record of abuses in the past.

Indeed, much of the linkage of anti-evolutionism with US Christian Fundamentalism, originally pretty varied in its approach to evolution, came after the First World War from the perception that Germany’s motives for initiating the human catastrophe (37 million deaths) were partly the result of the evolutionary racism informing nationalism (Wikipedia agrees see article on Volksgemeinschaft).

So I agree with Deborah that Nye v Ham rehearses an old and false dichotomy. But there is a real danger of working hard to resolve that (ultimately trivial) dichotomy whilst completely ignoring genuine dichotomies.

Merv - #84252

January 20th 2014

Jon, this makes a lot of sense.  For all the powder and shot that folks (like me) have spent trying to improve and sharpen our own Christian ranks by giving critical examination to damaging differences that divide us,  we perhaps would do well to focus on a more entrenched enemy of robust intellect:  the religiously dogmatic scientism that guards so many halls of academia.  

If resources were directed to liberating today’s universities from their bondage to that fundamentalist guardian, perhaps some of the poisoned wells could begin to be cleaned up.  One of the problems with this is that major Christian groups cannot agree on which of them is giving this Scientistic religion unintended help. TEs lament that YECs are fueling these secular fires, and YECs see TEs as reinforcing an evolutionary fortress.

If Biologos’ mission were seen to be directed at least as much toward the secular academy as it is towards erring Christians, then it might find even wider reception and Christian support.  I do think Biologos is doing this by the very nature of their public presence here, but others must still feel selectively targeted.

Jon Garvey - #84258

January 21st 2014


TEs lament that YECs are fueling these secular fires, and YECs see TEs as reinforcing an evolutionary fortress.

That’s why I see historical theology (and the history of Christian scientists, as in Ted’s series) as so important. One can thereby seek answers to questions like:

“Young earth literalism was not a big player in the Church immediately after Darwin. Now, it is. Scientism has arisen in the meantime. Is there a link, and if so what?”


“The first generation of Christian supporters of evolution (like Gray and Warfield) believed strongly that evolution was directed to final causes by God. Many TEs now deny specific divine goals in evolution hotly. Scientism has arisen in the meantime. Is there a link, and if so, what?”

Or (to complete the spread of common movements):

“The Paleyan type of natural theology was thoroughly acceptable to Christian intellectuals from Boyle through to Darwin himself in his early days. Now it is often used as a mark of Intelligent Design’s departure from sound Christian faith. Scientism has arisen in the meantime. Is there a link, and if so, what?”

Perhaps another legitimate kind of question, with reference to the secular establishment you mention, is:

“What do scientistic haters of Christianity find to hate/like most about movements like Theistic Evolution, Intelligent Design or the various forms of Creationism? Might that give some indication of where these movements have unconsciously adopted scientistic presuppositions into their own worldviews?”

It’s wider than just origins, of course, if there really is what you call a “religiously dogmatic scientism that guards so many halls of academia,” then we might note that these are the very same halls where academic theology is being done. Leading to dangerous questions about the modern faith itself, like:

“Recent Evangelical theology differs in important respects from the earlier theological tradition, which is often seen as seriously defective depite its 2000 year record of catholicity and orthodoxy. Scientism has arisen in the meantime. Is there a link, and if so what?”

... Hmm - maybe it’s less risky just to bash the fundies.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84253

January 20th 2014

Eddie wrote:

As a matter of historical fact, Protestant Christianity (which, last time I checked, includes Methodism) is based on “the truth of the Bible”; and of course, to the Protestant mind, it would be scandalous to imply that “the truth of the Bible” was different from “the truth of Jesus Christ.”

Yes and No, but mainly No.  When you put it the way you did you imply that the Bible determines what is the Truth of Jesus Christ, when in reality, the Truth of Jesus Christ must determine what is the Truth of the Bible.

When Paul said, if Jesus was not resurrected, then Christianity is a lie, he was not saying that if the gospel accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus were not true, then the Bible is false and wrong.

No, Paul was saying that if the Resrrection of Jesus Christ did not take place, was not a historical fact, and Jesus does not reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, then the Christian faith and experience is a hoax.

I do beleive in sola scriptura and sola scriptura says that Jesus Christ is the Word, Logos, the God and not the Bible.  Scripture says that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, not the Bible.  Scripture says that Jesus Christ is the Beginning and Ending of our faith and not the Bible.

You have a limited understanding of the Truth of Jesus Christ and the Truth of the Bible if you limit its mediation to the Bible and the tradition ofthe Church.  We learn the Truth through living the Truth.

We learned through the Truth of Jesus that slavery is wrong by living the love of God even though slavery was acceptable during the time of Jesus.  We can learn about Jesus Christ as the Logos by understanding how the universe works.

The Truth of Jesus has transformed society for the better over the last 500 years or so.  The Truth of Jesus has transformed science as we have learned more and more about God’s Creation.

The Truth of the Bible as we understand it is in part culturely limited.  The Truth of Jesus Christ is not.  Until you accept that fact you are living in a distorted world.               

Eddie - #84255

January 20th 2014


I agree with most of what you say here.  However, this is not what you originally said.  Your original statement was not carefully qualified by the sort of things you are now saying, and therefore was not correct as worded, and was bound to mislead readers.

Of course Christianity has to be lived, not merely learned mechanically from the Bible and tradition.  I have never thought or said otherwise.  But it is one thing to say that Biblical teaching has to be lived out personally, and another thing to say or imply that much of the Bible contains false or inadequate teaching—which is what many TEs and liberal Protestants frequently imply.

I agree that Biblical principles can be extended beyond the social scope they had in Biblical times.  But I don’t agree that Biblical principles should be replaced by Enlightenment and Darwinian principles, which is what is happening in modern Protestant churches.  It started happening in mainstream churches as early as the 19th century, and now the mainstream churches are more secular in their views than they are Christian.  Many evangelical intellectual leaders are now making arguments against Biblical teachings that are indistinguishable from those embraced by the liberals of 100-150 years ago in the mainstream churches.  It is hard to imagine how those arguments can have any conclusion other than what they have had in the mainstream churches.  History is simply going to repeat itself.  

You say, “The truth of the Bible as we understand it is in part culturally limited.”  The correctness of your statement depends on what is meant by “as we understand it” and “culturally limited.”  If you are saying that the Biblical writings are entirely true in their teaching (not in their incidental natural science or geography, but in their theological and ethical teaching), but that our understanding is defective because we distort them due to our culture—then what you are saying is compatible with traditional evangelical belief.  But if you are saying that the Biblical teaching is imperfect because the Biblical writers themselves distorted the divine message by mixing it up with errors of their own culture, that is incompatible with what evangelicals have always believed.  Someone who holds to the latter view should not call himself an evangelical, or even a Protestant, but a liberal.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84262

January 21st 2014

Eddie wrote:

 But if you are saying that the Biblical teaching is imperfect because the Biblical writers themselves distorted the divine message by mixing it up with errors of their own culture, that is incompatible with what evangelicals have always believed.  Someone who holds to the latter view should not call himself an evangelical, or even a Protestant, but a liberal.

Eddie, thank you for asying that you agree with most of what I am saying.  That is good and important.

I do not know if you are familiar, I do not think that you live in the US, with the concept of the inerrancy of the Bible as propounded and taught in most Evangelical Churches today as far as I know.  I think that it does comes from the fundamentalist movement of the last century.

According to distinguished Evangelical teachers this doctrine says that the Bible is the Word of God and since God cannot lie or err, all the information contained in it must be true.  They do make allowance for simple contradictions and problems that can be explained away, but not natural science and other cultural issues which cannot be explained away.  

This is the problem that we have in the US that those outside of the USA do not seem to understand.  The problem is the confusion of the Bible as the word of God and Jesus Christ as the WORD of God.

The Bible itself does not make this mistake.  Jesus is the WORD of God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, Perfect Human and Perfect God.  The Bible is the word of God, inspired by God, but written by humans.  The Bible is not God, so it is not perfect.  The Bible points to God’s perfection, but is not inerrant itself.  Jesus came to correct and make clear the teaching of the OT.

You are right in saying that I am concerned about the teaching of fundamentalism.  I am also concerned about the teachings of liberalism, hgowever I do not think that evangelicalism as it stands today is the middle ground between these two.

Much of Evangelicalism as I said before confuses the Bible with Jesus and so do you if you put them on the same plane as you seem to be doing.  Again our faith is founded on Jesus Christ, not the Bible.  I, like the repentant theif on the cross, am saved because I believe and trust in Jesus, not in the Bible. 

The Articles of Religion of my Protestant denomination say, “The Holy Scriptures contain all that is necessary for salvation….”  It makes no mention of inerrancy, but says that there is no doctrine that is not in the Bible or can not be substantiated by the Bible, such as inerrancy, which is required for salvation.

Evangelicals choose to argue from the inerrancy of the Genesis as the basis for their opposition to evolution.  I argue from the NT Biblical view of the LOGOS of God for the correct understanding of the way God created and makes the universe and evolution function.  


Eddie - #84264

January 21st 2014


I said nothing about “inerrancy.”  It is a term I avoid, because of the cultural baggage it has in these debates.

I was setting forth the standard Reformation understanding of the truth, authority, and reliability of Scripture.  This understanding has been held by all orthodox Protestants, from Europeans such as Luther and Calvin and Knox and Hooker and Wesley to Americans such as Hodge.  This understanding is the understanding of classical evangelical Christianity, American or otherwise.  It is not fundamentalism, not excessive literalism; it is just standard Protestant evangelical doctrine.  

Luther and Calvin (and your man Wesley) would have been revolted by the suggestion that the truth of the Bible is somehow less reliable than the truth of Jesus Christ.  For them, the truth of Jesus Christ was 100% reliable, and the Bible was 100% reliable.  Of course, the Bible had to be suitably interpreted, and that required learning.  This is why Calvin’s interpretation of the Bible is quite different from the interpretation of ignoramuses and heretics such as Hal Lindsey.  Calvin’s was based on deep study of the Scripture in the original languages and deep study of the Fathers and of later theologians.  But he never imagined that he had the authority either to add doctrines to the Bible, or deny any doctrines of the Bible.  He would have condemned many of the statements made by modern Christians, which in some cases outright modify the Biblical teaching, and in other cases strongly hint that some parts of the Biblical teaching have to be scrapped because they are unethical and/or unsuited to the modern intellectual and cultural temperament.

I’ve said it over and over again, Roger, but you don’t seem to be listening:  I’m not taking away the right of anyone to be as liberal as he wants, to ignore any passages of the Bible that he doesn’t like, etc.  It’s a free country.  You can stand up on a soapbox and preach anything you want, as long as you pay for the soapbox.  I’m just giving notice that I won’t allow the label “evangelical” to pass muster when it is being used to describe an attitude to the Bible that is not “evangelical” at all but liberal—an attitude that would have found its holders on the stake in Geneva.

Go back to your first paragraph, with my quoted words:  “But if you are saying that the Biblical teaching is imperfect because the Biblical writers themselves distorted the divine message by mixing it up with errors of their own culture, that is incompatible with what evangelicals have always believed.”  I maintain that this is a historically correct statement, and defy anyone on BioLogos—from the President through the invisible Senior Scholar and the senior columnists down to the commenters—to disprove it.  The belief that the Bible contains error—not incidental error in science or geography, or spelling errors or the like, but substantive error, i.e., wrong teachings about theology or ethics—is incompatible with true evangelical belief, or true Protestant belief of any kind.  Yet such a belief is increasingly held not only by some TEs, but even by professors of Biblical studies at Christian evangelical colleges and seminaries.

The claim that the Bible is flawed has surfaced more than once in discussions on this website, and I note that where it has appeared, it has not appeared in the comments of either creationist or ID writers, but in the comments or columns of those defending TE.  I’m merely reporting the facts, and asking those columnists and commenters to justify their position in terms of traditional Reformation faith.  So far, my requests have been met with silence, evasion, equivocation, or invective.  And this sort of response tells me all that I need to know.  No one who has a principled theological position, based on long study of the Bible and tradition, responds to a critique such as the one Jon and I have advanced with silence, evasion, equivocation, or invective.  The principled evangelical responds with Biblical and theological learning.  I’m waiting to see the learning.  From anyone here at all.

Find me a Protestant evangelical writer, in good standing with the American evangelical community, who, prior to the 1960s, said or implied that the Bible taught anything that was false in either theology or ethics.  Find me a Protestant evangelical writer, in good standing with the American evangelical community, who, prior to the 1960s, employed a distinction between “the truth of the Bible” and “the truth of Jesus Christ” as if the former were somehow debatable in a way that the latter was not.  I await documentary evidence from you, Roger, or from anyone else.  I’m not expecting it soon.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84266

January 21st 2014


You must be very careful about the dualistic route you are taking.  The choice is not between one extreme or another, but the task to find third way which unites the best of both sides without the worst.

After World War 1 the Germans thought they has the choice between the radical left and the radical right.  They chose the radical right Nazis. 

Today in the USA the Repubican Party is composed of a coalition of Evangelical Christians, Racists, Libertarians, and big business.  The coalition is grounded on fear of change and greed.  Politically they painted themselves into a deadend symbolized by Mitt Romney and Donald Trump.

If you want the opposite of materialistic atheism, it is not Christianity, but Islam.  The danger of this situation is that the fight between rational Science and reasonable Christianity will so weaken both that legalistic Christianity or super legalistic Islam will fill the void.

The task is to strengthen the middle.  Jesus was opposed on the right by the very conservative Saduccess and on the left by the innovative Pharisees.  He was attacked on both sides by Jewish theological leaders.

Of course Christianity appealed to both Jews and Pagans and rejected by both.  Still  Christianity was able to bridge the gap and combine much of the philosophy and culture of Hellenism and the theology of Judaism into a new better way of life. 

Our goal is to build on the past just like all reform movements and create the new to give people of faith and people of science a better way of understanding faith and science so we can work together now and in the future, esp, when many of us are both people of science and faith.    

Eddie - #84267

January 21st 2014


I would ask you to refrain from political editorializing on this site.  It is a science-religion site, not an American politics site.

Your remark about the Republican Party was partisan, slanted, and unfair.  Many people support and vote for the Republicans who are not animated by “fear of change and greed”; and the vast majority people who vote Republican, and the vast majority of legislators who sit as Republicans, are neither Libertarian nor racist.  Nor do most people who vote Republican own or manage any “big business.”  And many of them would not identify as Evangelicals but as Catholics, Episcopalians, or other sorts of Christian.  

If I said something analogous about the Democratic Party, you would be incensed.  Suppose I wrote:  “Today in the USA the Democratic Party is composed of a coalition of atheists, radical feminists, elitist Ivy League grads, tree-huggers, peaceniks, enemies of traditional marriage, moral relativists, socialists, and communists.  They are animated by the desire for power for their intellectual class, and for statist bureaucratic control over businesses, schools, and individuals.”  Would you deem that a fair characterization?  Would you say that such a comment belongs on this site?

I’ve often said that the differences between ID folks and TE folks have as much to do with theology as biology.  Sometimes I also think that the theological differences are connected with political and social differences, as, from such political remarks as I’ve been enabled to glean from TE writers and commenters, they appear to be somewhat to the left of most ID people on social and political matters.  Your remark is one further bit of evidence for that conclusion.  But such speculation is neither here nor there for the purpose of this site.  We are supposed to be talking about science and religion, not people’s political agendas.  So I’d appreciate it if you would show some discipline in the future, and stay away from partisan asides.

If you want to say that the right theological position is “in the middle,” then say so.  But don’t invoke politically-motivated parallels with your own personal version of US politics.  If you want to pontificate about politics, write an article for the Huffington Post.

I also think you owe the Republicans who read these columns an apology for your crude and unfair generalization.  They are fellow-Americans who are as patriotic as you are, and your attack on them is uncharitable.  You don’t have to agree with their policies, but you should not disparage their motives.  You cannot read into their souls, and you should assume they want the best for America, as you do.  

Jon Garvey - #84271

January 22nd 2014


I’m not that interested in defending myself from the protean charge of dualism if I happen to mention two opposing positions in one post.

The post quite clearly intended to encourage self-examination to see to what degree scientism (which BioLogos publically opposes - or, in your parlance, sets up a dualism against) has unconsciously become part of the worldview we embrace. Ditto for Creationists and ID people, part of the trichotomy I was attempting to resolve by that exercise.

Materialistic atheism, you say, is the opposite of Islam rather than Christianity. I’m not sure what that means - is Christianity a bit materialistic and atheist, and Richard Dawkins to be preferred over any Muslim?

I don’t have local knowledge of your area, but where I worked we had a significant percentage of Muslims, many of whom chose my practice because it had a Christian ethos. I met no fundamenentalists, some were very pious, some rather cynical and materialistic - particularly those who worked in the hi-tech local electronic science industry.

I disagreed with their theology, but they were often good people otherwise. Atre you sure you’re not setting up a false dualism ... in any case, most of your post went over my head as, believe it or not, in the UK we tend not to imbibe entire sets of belief together with our political party - we don’t even have Democrats and Republicans (no republic, you see).

I suspect the people with the most developed views over there would be Democrat Creationists and atheists acientists who are staunch Republicans.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84272

January 22nd 2014

Jon wrote:

I suspect the people with the most developed views over there would be Democrat Creationists and atheists scientists who are staunch Republicans.

Jon, you have it dead wrong, which seems to indicate the huge difference between the religious situation in the US and Britain. 

In the US evangelicals stand for traditional values, which is what the Republicans like Mitt Romney profess to stand for. 

Evangelical leaders have given their support to the Republicans for their stand against abortion, gay marriage, evolution, etc.  Evangelical support Republicans by standing against “Big Government” regulation and social spending.  They want to go back to the good old days when white folks could do what they want.

The Democrats for the most part represent the people who are looking for change, minorities, women, and liberals including scientists.  

A recent poll indicated that 60% of Americans accepted evolution, of which 24% accepted God directed evolutionary change.  33% rejected any kind of evolution. 

 64% of White Evangelicals rejected any form of evolution. 

Only 15% of Mainline Protestants and 26% of White Catholics rejected any kind of evolution. 

A near majority of Republicans 48% reject any kind of evolution.  We can judge people as individuals and that is right.  But when these people are also responsible for their political choices and when we see them blocking any kind of positive legislation in Washington DC. something is very wrong.

We can judge Muslims as individuals and that is right.  But when we see how their beliefs are carried out in the Middle East where Christian minorites do not have freedom of religion and are often persecuted, and where Sunni and Shiites are often at war with each other, we have to ask ourselves, what kind of faith is this?  (which does not mean that Christians are not sometimes guilty of the same things.)           

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84273

January 22nd 2014


If you question the danger of evangelical ideology, please google Obama Anti-Christ and see what you get. 

Now I don’t know how many Evangelicals believe that the President of the US is the Anti-Christ, but it does appear to be a significant number and they are behind these websites. This widespread belief,  which has not been rejected by any Evangelical leader as far as I know, influences  the politics and the lives of millions of people like Sarah Palin.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84275

January 23rd 2014


Maybe in some sense I did not make myself clear.  Let me try again.

It is not the Bible that is flawed, it is the way people interpret and understand the Bible.  When people interpret and understand the Bible as inerrant, they come up with wrong conclusions.

You say that yours is the standard way for evangelicals to understand and interpret the Bible.  What I am saying is that the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, which is very different, appears to be the standard way for most evangelicals, certainly for those who believe in a Young Earth 6 Day Creation.

If BioLogos wishes to change the way that YEC interpret and understand Genesis 1, then it must address this view of inerrancy.  If you want to discuss with me the evangelical standard of interpreting the Bible, do not act as if inerrancy does not exist and is most popular standard among evangelicals today, even if it is not yours.

The way Christians interpret the Bible is put the Truth of Christ over the Truth of the Bible.  The Bible says, “Do not eat pork and lobster.”  Most Christians eat pork and lobster.  The Bible says, “Keep the Sabbath, which is the seventh day.”  Most Christians keep the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week. 

The Bible is not inerrant except when understood and interpreted through the Truth of Jesus Christ.  God did not create the universe in the span of six 24 hour days, but the Father did create the universe through the Logos and the Spirit.

It is a serious theological error to equate Jesus Christ with the Bible as many Evangelicals do and as your statement seems to do, whether it is historically true or not. 

Christians do not believe in the Bible.  We believe in Jesus Christ.  The historic creeds do say that we believe in the Bible, but that we believe in the Triune God.  There is a difference and maybe Protestantism has lost sight of this difference.

Eddie, I am speaking about what I know.  My family is Republican.  I read their propaganda all the time.

I have a good friend who is an staunch evangelical Republican who told me that the Obama Affordable Health Care Act will result in a totalitarian Hitlerian state.  It is no secret that evangelicals overwhelmingly support the Republican Party in the US.  Theology, good and bad, has consequences and that is why we are discussing it.


Eddie - #84279

January 23rd 2014


I call everyone here to witness that you will not retract a blatantly false generalization about Republicans, and that you will not even soften it with qualifications, when its errors are pointed out to you.  This shows contempt for millions of fellow-Americans who disagree with you on matters of economic, social, and foreign policy, but still love their country as much as you do and have motivations as high as yours.  You should be ashamed of yourself for uttering such demagogical and partisan statements.

The fact that there are evangelical Republicans who are cracked in the head is irrelevant.  There are plenty of very sensible Republicans who do not hold to silly conspiracy theories.  I think that conspiracy theorists are crazy as you do, but you shouldn’t mischaracterize a whole Party because a few nuts are attracted to it.  

You don’t understand recent US political history very well.  The reason that Christians (and not just conservative evangelicals, but Christians of all sorts, including many Catholics) fled in droves to the Republican Party (which many of them were not attracted to historically) is that the elitist, Ivy-League, leftist elements of the Democratic Party more or less took over the Party at a crucial convention back in the 1970s; since then, serious Christians of all types (not just fundamentalists) have felt uncomfortable in the Democratic Party, feeling that its agenda is controlled by secular humanists.  So serious Christians who on many social and economic issues would be inclined to vote Democratic have found themselves voting Republican, because the Republican Party appears to be more religion-friendly.  The Democrats have only themselves to blame for this.  They should have made sure that Christians who take their faith seriously, who were not satisfied with a watered-down, liberal humanist faith with only a Christian veneer, felt as comfortable in the Democratic Party as in the Republican.

The “Religious Right” (which I distrust almost as much as you do) wouldn’t have the power that it had, if the Democratic Party hadn’t largely embraced secular humanism.  So instead of bashing the Republicans for mixing right-wing religion and politics, it’s high time the Democratic Party did some self-examination and asked itself why so many of its Christians have left the fold.

That’s all I’ll say about US politics, Roger.  I maintain that you have uttered unfair generalizations, out of a partisan spirit, and that apologies and qualifications are in order.  I leave your response to your conscience and your intellectual honesty.  Do what you think right, and let’s return to the subject of theology and science.

Eddie - #84280

January 23rd 2014


You keep talking about inerrancy.  I have not defended fundamentalist notions of inerrancy.  In fact, I have criticized them.  You do not seem to be listening very closely at all.  

I have not defended the Chicago Statement.  I and Jon have repeatedly stated (to apparently deaf ears) that we are talking about standard, traditional Protestant belief (which in many respects is just a variant on the Christian belief of Augustine and other early Fathers).  Jon has cited not the Chicago Statement but the Westminster Confession, which has nothing to do with American literalism; it was produced in 17th-century England! And he has continually referred back to Calvin, the theology of Augustine, etc.  Why you continue to misrepresent Jon and myself as calling for fundamentalism, literalism, inerrantism of the recent American type is utterly beyond me.

It appears to me that your problems are not merely with American inerrantism, but with traditional Reformation theology itself.  You do not like the Reformation insistence upon the Bible as the final authority for Christians.  And you don’t have to.  But if you don’t like it, then maybe you should think about labelling yourself as something other than evangelical, and something other than Protestant.

You say that Christians should put the truth of Christ above the Truth of the Bible.  I have some sympathy with the idea behind what you are saying, but it is certainly not a position that any evangelical or even any Protestant can take.  Our only textual witness to the truth of Christ is the Bible.  We are told about Christ by John, Paul, Mark, the author of Hebrews, etc.  Our understanding of Christ is constrained by the Bible.  For Protestants, it must be completely derived from the Bible.  If you are Catholic or Orthodox, the case is different, because there the Holy Spirit is believed to teach through the Church as well as through the Bible.  But Roger, you are not Catholic or Orthodox.  You are Protestant.  So you can’t pit Christ against the Bible in the way you are doing.  (And even Catholics and Orthodox would never do so; they add the teaching of the Church to that of the Bible, but never pit the Church’s understanding of Jesus Christ against the Biblical understanding of Jesus Christ.)

I am not saying, and only someone who did not read carefully would interpret me as saying, that in order to accept the Bible you have to accept a fundamentalist reading of the Bible.  I have said that an evangelical Protestant must accept all that the Bible teaches as true.  And the key word is “teaches”; the Bible does not teach that there are waters above the heavens which fall through windows in the dome of the sky when it rains.  It does not teach that the world was created in six 24-hour days.  It does teach that God is omnipotent, sovereign, providential, etc.—and therefore does not let nature run rampant and produce whatever it feels like, without regard for his own ends and purposes.  Therefore, a true Protestant evangelical will believe that the “theology of nature’s freedom” offered by Ken Miller and by a number of scientists on this site is heretical and must be rejected by Christians.

I have repeatedly agreed that Ken Ham etc. are wrong and that their form of Christian faith is spiritually inadequate, not to mention historically aberrant in relation to the evangelical Protestant tradition.  But from the traditional evangelical point of view, what is wrong about Ken Ham is not that he holds to the truth of the entire Bible; it is that he reads the Bible badly, and uses it to push doctrines that are not necessary to Christian faith and that unnecessarily put Christian faith into conflict with natural science.

19th-century evangelical theologians such as Warfield and Hodge and Asa Gray would say that Ken Ham and modern literalism-inerrantism are wrong.  But they would also say that the predominant strain of theology advocated by TE leaders is wrong.  They would say that it was un-Biblical and contaminated by Enlightenment and higher-critical presuppositions.  You get the first point, but you completely miss the second point.  That’s why you continue to utterly misrepresent both Jon and myself.  And no number of clarifications seem to help.  It is as if you are impervious to the English language.  Or as if you don’t want to hear what we are saying, because it is more convenient to represent us as narrow fundamentalists who are easier to refute than Calvin etc. are.

I repeat, Roger, if you want to depart from historical evangelical Protestantism, I respect your right to do so.  But if that’s what you want to do, I wish you would have the courage to say “Historical Protestantism—even in its non-fundamentalist form—is in some ways false and bad Christianity, and need to be corrected,” and get on with your critique.  Stop pretending that your target is simply six-day literalists.  Your target is, in fact, historical sola scriptura Protestant Christianity itself.  What you want is a new Christianity which is a compromise between traditional Christian faith and modern things such as the Enlightenment, higher Biblical criticism, and Darwinian evolution.  A compromise in which some of the Biblical teachings are jettisoned as out of date and no longer believable by modern people.  A compromise which your spiritual founder Wesley himself would reject, but which you endorse.  Have the courage to say this, Roger.  I would respect you much more if you did.

SocialJeff - #84415

February 5th 2014

I would like to learn more about this position: “And the key word is “teaches”; the Bible does not teach that there are waters above the heavens which fall through windows in the dome of the sky when it rains.  It does not teach that the world was created in six 24-hour days.  It does teach that God is omnipotent, sovereign, providential, etc.—and therefore does not let nature run rampant and produce whatever it feels like, without regard for his own ends and purposes.” In fact, this makes more logical sense than I think I may have ever heard. It’s a merging of logic and theism that I very much enjoy ... at least for me .

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84281

January 23rd 2014


I have made it clear that I am not satisfied with traditional reform theology.  That does not mean that it is false or wrong, but there is room for improvement.  I certainly do not think the Bible is false or wrong, but the way it is being understood by conservative and liberal Christians leaves much room for improvement.

It seems that because I am advocating for change and you have not made the effort to understand the type of change I advocate, your fervid imagination seems to run wild with all the heresies I must be advocating.

The primary change is to take seriously the Logos theology of John.  I am not limiting the understanding of the Truth of Jesus, but expanding it to words and living Person Who is the Logos of God.

Now whether John Wesley would agree with everything I say I do not know.  I expect that he would understand the clear teaching of John 1 that Jesus Christ is the Word of God and not the Bible.

Wesley did not agree with Calvin and Calvin had his differences with Luther.  They disagreed with the Church of Rome.  Maybe it is time to develop some new theology for our times.  Wesley lived 250 years ago and much has changed since then.

I have offered my book to you to explain my understanding of theology can function better, but you have refused so you can feel free to put words in my mouth and ideas in my head which are not there.

If it were just for you this conversation would be silly, but maybe other people will learn from it.               

Eddie - #84282

January 23rd 2014


I am pleased to hear some sort of admission, however vague and non-specific, that you disagree not just with fundamentalism but with much else that is evangelical and Protestant.  And as I have said before, your disagreement is fine with me.  I’m not about to demonize someone for not being evangelical or not being Protestant or not being something else.  I just want people to be clear what they are affirming and what they are denying, and not hide behind ambiguity.  “I would that thou wert either hot or cold ...”  

One passage in your reply is particularly revealing:

“Wesley did not agree with Calvin and Calvin had his differences with Luther.  They disagreed with the Church of Rome.  Maybe it is time to develop some new theology for our times.  Wesley lived 250 years ago and much has changed since then.”

Your statement of the facts is correct, but what you make of them is striking.  You speak of a new theology “for our times” and you stress that “much has changed since then.”  Interesting indeed.  When Calvin and Luther disagreed with Rome, they did not argue that theology had to be brought up to “our times” because “much has changed” in the world (exploration, new scientific discoveries, etc.) since Augustine and Aquinas.  In fact, they argued not that Christian theology needed to be redone for the 16th century, but that it needed to get back to the Apostolic faith that was held in the first few centuries.  “Updating” Christian theology was the farthest thing from their minds.  I’m less of an expert on Wesley, but what I’ve read of him suggests that his primary motivation was not to bring Christian theology up to date with 18th-century developments (in science, politics, etc.) but to restore holiness and ethical purity to Christian life.  

The idea that theology is something that needs constant updating in order to better harmonize with the latest secular knowledge is itself a modern idea.  In pre-modern times Christian theology of course changed, but it changed in response to its own internal dynamics, not in order to seem acceptable to those whose understanding of truth was shaped by secular learning.  (A partial exception to this would be the adjustments to Christian theology made by the Scholastics in the wake of the recovery of Aristotle.  But even this was only a partial exception, as Bishop Tempier’s condemnations of Aristotelianism of 1277 made plain; Aristotelianism might be accepted in many fields of human knowledge and might even be used to articulate some Christian teachings in a more systematic way; but in no way was Christian theology answerable to the premises or conclusions of Aristotle.  This is quite different from the modern situation, in which Christians are just expected, as a matter of course, to radically rewrite their theology because of what Darwin said, or what quantum physics says, etc.)

I have nothing against further development of Christian theology.  What I’m against is theology dancing to the tune called by modern thought.  We know where that leads historically:  just look at the mainstream churches, with their cavernous buildings, and their gray-haired congregations too tiny in size to pay even for the heating or the organ repairs.  And that’s where the evangelical churches will be 50 years from now, if they follow the “let’s modernize Christian theology” path that the mainstream churches followed 100 years ago.  The Christianity that will survive, and thrive, will be the Christianity that is confident that it has something to teach the modern world, not the Christianity which grovels in obeisance to the modern world.

I await your retractions and apologies regarding your inappropriate assault on Christians whose political views differ from your own.  

Roger A. Sawtelle - #84289

January 24th 2014

Eddie wrote:

I am pleased to hear some sort of admission, however vague and non-specific, that you disagree not just with fundamentalism but with much else that is evangelical and Protestant.

I never said that I disagree withn that which is evangelical in your sense and Protestant, only that it can be improved.  Again you are putting words in my mouth.  I told you before, Do not speak about those things that you do not know. 

I cannot believe that you are accusing me of being neither hot nor cold!  I have always made it clear where I stand.  It is you you seem not to understand where I stand.

Theology is always being update to answer the questions of our times.  Do you really think that Protestantism would have been possible without 1) the translation of the Bible into contemporary languages and 2) the invention of the printing press?  Despite itself the Roman Chuch also changed.

Your defense of traditional theology is not based on Christocentric reasoning as is my explanation for why change is needed, the Parable of the Wineskins.  It is based on tradition itself and thus is not scriptural.

Previously when I tried to discuss with you the possibility of understanding the Hebrew understanding of the Divine apart from our Western philosophical tradition, which is part of what I am trying to do, you rejected it out of hand, even though this is going back to the original that theologians say they seek to do.

I keep trying seek sommon ground with you so we can at least have a reasonable discussion.  I will try again.  You said that the Bible is considered by evangelical Protestants authorative in the areas of theology and morality.  I pointed out that the Bible is considered authorative in all areas of life including natural science by many Evangelicals in the USA who agree with the Chicago Statement of 30+ years ago.  It might be noted that many respected Evangelical teachers signed this statement.    

The question then between you and these Evangelicals, and clearly I agree with you, is why and how do evangelicals determine which parts of the Bible are authoritative and which are not.  The Chicago Statement is clear and has not been rebuted.  Your statement is not based on clear Biblical statements as far as I can tell, even though I agree with it.

It is my opinion that the best theological way to make this distinction about what is authritative ion the Bible is to make clear that Jesus Christ is the basis for what Christians believe rather than the writers of the Bible thought was scientifically true.           

  What I’m against is theology dancing to the tune called by modern thought.   


Eddie - #84295

January 24th 2014


Regarding your first paragraph, it makes no sense to me.  The Protestant and evangelical doctrine is that the Bible is wholly inspired and true.  How can one “improve” on that doctrine?  How can the Bible be more than 100% inspired and true?  And this is what is at issue between conservative evangelicals and liberals.  The conservative evangelicals think that the Bible is 100% inspired and true; the liberals think it is maybe only 90% or 80% or 50% inspired and true.  What is not clear is what Roger thinks on this question.  

If your only point is that the Bible is not a science textbook and that Biblical truth is not scientific truth, then we have no disagreement.  But I get the impression—though you write in such an odd way I can’t tell for sure—that you think that possibly the Bible could use some improvement not just in its science and geography etc. but even in its theology and ethics.  And again, I am not going to attack you if that is what you think.  I just want you to acknowledge that anyone who believes that is not in line with traditional Protestant and evangelical thought.  

What I’m asking you to acknowledge does not require rocket science.  I’m asking you to say nothing more than the equivalent of:  Democrats aren’t Republicans; people who are in favor of capital punishment don’t agree with people who want to abolish it; people who are vegetarians don’t agree with people who eat meat; people who think abortion is sin don’t agree with people who think abortion is permissible.  These statements are exactly parallel to:  “People who think that the Bible is true in all that it teaches regarding theology and ethics do not agree with people who think that the Bible is partly untrue concerning some matters of theology and ethics.”  Can we agree that these disagreements are real and substantive?

Now, Jon Garvey disagrees with at least some TEs over precisely this issue.  Some TEs think that the Bible teaches some things that are false, not merely regarding science but even regarding theology and ethics.  Jon Garvey denies this.  That is the issue.

The problem is not that TEs accept evolution.  The problem is that at least some TEs, in order to work evolution into their view of the world, are willing to alter parts of Christian theology, parts that Jon considers fundamental.  And I don’t mean a literal reading of Genesis.  Jon has already indicated that he does not adopt such a reading.  I mean the teachings about God’s omnipotence, sovereignty, providence, etc.  Jon thinks that some formulations of TE sacrifice Biblical teaching on these matters in order to harmonize their faith with what they think “consensus science” teaches.  And Jon is saying that you don’t have to alter orthodox Biblical Christianity even one tiny little bit in order to harmonize it with a sound view of evolution.  

Do you understand the issue now?

If you do, you will see why many of your objections and criticisms are very frustrating to Jon and myself, because they simply don’t deal with the position being argued.

It is not that you are wrong about everything; I’ve already indicated that I agree with you about many things.  It is that you keep intruding categories and concepts that distract from the head-on debate that Jon is trying to engender here about the truthfulness of the Bible (NOT the literalness of Genesis) and the soundness of traditional evangelical theology.  You gum up the works.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t comment here; I’m saying that it would be better if you kept your battle against fundamentalist literalism apart from Jon’s battle against theological liberalism.  I’m against both fundamentalism and liberalism, but the arguments involved in each case are different and I don’t like seeing them muddled.


Eddie - #84296

January 24th 2014

Roger, you wrote:

“Your defense of traditional theology is not based on Christocentric reasoning as is my explanation for why change is needed, the Parable of the Wineskins.  It is based on tradition itself and thus is not scriptural.”

Utterly false.  My argument has been that traditional evangelical theology and traditional Protestant theology have always understood themselves to be merely unfolding or elaborating the teaching of the Bible, neither adding to nor subtracting from its divine revelation, but merely making its full meaning more plain and accessible.  Calvin did not argue for the doctrines of Creation and Fall and Redemption because they were “traditional”; he argued for them because they were Biblical.  Of course, he believed that the best of tradition was entirely compatible with the Bible; hence he often cites Augustine etc.  But when push came to shove he would take the Bible over any human tradition, even Church tradition.  And that is Jon’s position too, as far as I can tell.  But you can ask him to clarify if you like.

“Previously when I tried to discuss with you the possibility of understanding the Hebrew understanding of the Divine apart from our Western philosophical tradition, which is part of what I am trying to do, you rejected it out of hand, even though this is going back to the original that theologians say they seek to do.”

False again.  I have never denied that it is possible to study Hebraic ideas of God on their own, apart from the Western tradition which later appropriated them.  In fact, I insist that such study be done.  Sometimes we have to read the Biblical texts solely in their Hebraic context, and without reference to later developments, in order to understand them.  But I don’t share your contempt for Plato and for philosophy generally, and I don’t share your apparent view that philosophy has had some sort of disastrous effect on Christian thought.  Philosophy like anything else can be misused and misapplied, but there is nothing wrong with philosophy per se over even with trying to bring together Biblical and philosophical insights.  Indeed, most of the Christian tradition (outside of fundamentalism which you and I both reject) is the product of a blending of Biblical and philosophical insights.  I see nothing wrong with that.  I love both the Hebraic and the Greek heritage of Christianity.  You appear to have badly misread me.

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