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On Adopting a BioLogos Faith Statement

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September 20, 2010 Tags: Christian Unity

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

On Adopting a BioLogos Faith Statement

Note: Since the publishing of these posts, BioLogos has adopted a “We Believe” statement. You can find it here.

We frequently are asked why BioLogos doesn’t post a faith statement. People want to know: “Just what do you believe, anyway?”

This is not an easy thing to do given that BioLogos is a place for conversation among people of diverse viewpoints and traditions. The BioLogos staff members represent assorted backgrounds in the protestant evangelical tradition. Our current church affiliations include for example, fellowships which are Calvinistic, Baptist, Anabaptist, and Wesleyan. Furthermore, the BioLogos community as a whole is even broader than that. BioLogos is a place for conversation among Christians—a very broad umbrella for a wide set of theological perspectives.

So even though the task, given our diversity, is somewhat challenging let’s see if we can start on the journey to a faith statement. For example, what about our view of Scripture?

My own personal view of Scripture, is consistent with the Articles of Faith derived from the Manual of my own evangelical denomination:

We understand [that] the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, [are] given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation.

This is similar to that found in the Statement of Fundamental Truths of another much larger evangelical fellowship:

The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct.

I wonder if a statement like one of these would serve us well?

Alternatively, I am sometimes asked whether BioLogos subscribes to the The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy signed by over 300 leading evangelicals in 1978. In the way this question gets posed to me, it has almost seemed that the questioner considers it to be a litmus test for my orthodoxy.

Article XII of the statement includes the following:

We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

So can “scientific hypotheses about earth history…overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood?” I suppose how we answer the question depends upon who is doing the teaching about creation and the flood. If it is incorrect teaching, then science does help point us to what God really did and how God really did it. There is no question in my mind that there is considerable well-meaning, but nonetheless highly erroneous teaching being carried out by some of evangelicalism’s leaders. Science does help to expose those who are teaching untruths about what God wants to convey through Scripture. So I almost agree with this statement. Scientific hypotheses (if accurate) will not overturn correct teaching of Scripture.

Perhaps we should adopt the Chicago statement with the proviso that we add one word: “we deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the correct teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.” I think I could be comfortable with that.

What about the first part? Is the Bible infallible in the assertions it makes about science? When it comes to God’s purposes and what God wants to say through Scripture, the Bible is inerrant. However, put simply, it doesn’t make any scientific assertions, and if we think it does it is because we’re not interpreting it correctly. So the biblical assertions about science are indeed infallible, a point which is moot because the Bible, properly understood, makes none. Wow! It seems that I am getting close to accepting the Chicago statement!

Still I wonder why Billy Graham didn’t sign the statement? And I wonder why leaders of my denomination (and the other denomination referred to above) didn’t either? Weren’t they evangelicals also? Let’s be careful about attaching too much significance to statements and let’s not make them litmus tests for orthodoxy.

What about original sin? Did it arise through the sin of a specific historical couple, Adam and Eve, or does it represent the human condition in some general sense—humankind’s own sinfulness which alienates us from God and is in need of redemption? We at BioLogos believe that God created human beings through the evolutionary process, and, based on unambiguous scientific data; we also believe that Adam and Eve were not the sole biological progenitors of the human race. This does not rule out the possibility of two unique historical human beings named Adam and Eve who were singled out by God for special relationship. So, many in the BioLogos community including BioLogos staff members would view Adam and Eve as literal historical persons. Others would take the more generic position that the story of Adam and Eve is the story of the human condition which is in need of redemption.

So, how about this for a faith statement regarding original sin?

We believe that sin came into the world through the disobedience of our first parents, and death by sin. We believe that sin is of two kinds: original sin or depravity, and actual or personal sin.

Most automatically picture “Adam and Eve” when they think “first parents.” However, if evolution is true, then “first parents” goes way back and their separation from God becomes our separation— part of human nature. This statement also, of course, could refer very specifically to Adam and Eve, real historical persons who, although not the biological progenitors of all humankind, were the first to have the potential to enter into relationship with God—and thereby the first to disobey. Still others will think of this statement about Adam and Eve as not just our first spiritual parents, but our first biological parents as well.

The problem with faith statements is that they can take on a life of their own. This one happens to be a direct quote from the Articles of Faith of my own denomination, and I have little doubt that the use of this vague wording was done on purpose so that the specific mechanism of creation did not become a centerpiece. The centerpiece is our own sinful nature and our need for restoration.

So we could develop a faith statement and we may, but it needs to be inclusive; it needs to reflect the fact that we are a broad collection of Christ followers who only will one thing—to follow him wherever He leads. We can work long and hard on a faith statement. But let’s be careful. Let’s ensure first of all that together we share the same vision. It is that which matters most of all. Here’s a vision statement which is worth infinitely more to us than trying to come up with the perfect faith statement. It comes from a 1200 year old hymn. My hope and prayer is that we won’t have to finagle about the precise wording of this statement. Let’s just adopt it. My hope and prayer for all of us in the BioLogos community is that this statement will become the heart of what we’re about both personally and corporately.

BioLogos is a place for conversation, but if Christ is not our vision, we have nothing to talk about. If Christ is not our vision then we will only be a resounding gong and a clanging cymbal.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

We may not have a faith statement, but we do have a vision statement, even if it is not an official one. Hold us accountable. If we fail to keep this vision in front of us, all else is futile. Philippians 3:8-10 summarizes this especially well and, in the biblical quotation below, I have taken the liberty of substituting Paul’s “I,” with our collective first person plural

We consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord, for whose sake we have lost all things. We consider them rubbish, that we may gain Christ and be found in him, not a righteousness of our own…we want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings becoming like him in his death so, somehow, to attain the resurrection of the dead.

O that we will never lose sight of this vision as God continues to help us define where the BioLogos conversation ought to go.


Darrel Falk is former president of The BioLogos Foundation. He transitioned into Christian higher education 25 years ago and has given numerous talks about the relationship between science and faith at many universities and seminaries. He is the author of Coming to Peace with Science.

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merv - #31260

September 21st 2010

found a ‘book of law’ in 2 Kings 22.  A written record must seem like a stable anchor or foundation even to scribes who preserve oral tradition.  Not that modern faith statements should be compared to Mosaic law.  My point here is: there is immense value in record.  Why can’t it be taken in proclamation style rather than wall-building style?

One follow-up question I would have for those in favor of seeing a faith statement is this:  if you get your wish how will you use it?  Will it be your ticket to break fellowship and dismiss everything here if you don’t agree with something?  Something to hold Biologos writers accountable to?  Another thing to argue about?  A positive use I see for it is that it can help dispel or answer questions of those ‘looking in’ about just what these people do believe anyway.  As it is now, they have to do the hard work of reading & getting to know each writer to learn where various writers   (... and that isn’t such a bad thing either…)

—Merv


merv - #31261

September 21st 2010

to finish my last sentence:    .... to learn where various writers *stand*


RG - #31262

September 21st 2010

I think its useful to get beyond being accused of closet atheism etc. Belief in the Resurrection has been interrogated more than a couple of times, despite the fact that I would guess that this is not even on the table for most. Getting some basics agreed may raise the level of discussion somewhat.


RG - #31263

September 21st 2010

Bear in mind that there are misguided cliches being bandied about as to what a “theistic evolutionist” is. One might do well to dismantle some of the straw men.


Douglas Swartzendruber - #31264

September 21st 2010

Merv - just to clarify - when I said that it should be clear what the Forum writers believe, I was indeed referring to what each contributor has written, not any oral tradition or any implied beliefs.  I believe that Darrel has carefully articulated his beliefs versus anything ascribed to a “BioLogos” statement.  Perhaps my anabaptist perspective makes me wary of “statements” - from the Schleitheim Articles in 1527 to the current Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, I cannot agree with each and every statement and doubt that few do.


RG - #31266

September 21st 2010

I wonder if any of the BioLogos contributors would have any problems with the SCAN attributes of Scripture. I find these useful and meaningful, without giving ascent to notions of hyper-inerrancy.


RG - #31267

September 21st 2010

Roger A. Sawtelle - #31269

September 21st 2010

If the Logos in BioLogos means anything, which I hope it does, then it should be the basis of a Faith/Vision Statement.  John Chapter 1 gives BioLogos a great foundation to build on.  Certainly no one can say that the result is not Biblical if it is based on this important passage. 

This would not be a general Faith Statement, but would help define the BioLogos Mission of reconciling Theology and Science.


Douglas Swartzedruber - #31270

September 21st 2010

Roger - while I do not see a place for a BioLogos Faith Statement, I wholeheartedly agree that a Vision Statement would be quite valuable.


merv - #31271

September 21st 2010

Hi, Darrel —- and nor did I take you to be speaking of some tradition of the speakers here; I was merely using your sentence as a launching point to reflect more generally on the values of written things in our religious history.

As a fellow Anabaptist, I appreciate your reference to some of the documents of our history.  As I reviewed the Schleitheim Articles (can’t remember when or even if I ever read those) I was reminded how each generation as its strong “issues” to deal with.  For the Act 15 crowd, meat from strangled animals was a biggie.  The 1527 crowd had things like the “ban” and drawing apart from society in prominent focus.  It is interesting how historical documentation does tell us much of what was deemed important. 

What RG said in 31262 about raising the discussion level also seems one good reason for at least a basic statement.

—Merv


Martin Rizley - #31272

September 21st 2010

Darrel,  Concerning original sin, you ask, “Did it arise through the sin of a specific historical couple, Adam and Eve, or does it represent the human condition in some general sense—humankind’s own sinfulness which alienates us from God and is in need of redemption?”  If we view original sin an INTRINSIC part of the ‘human condition’ rather than something that ‘entered’ humanity at a specific moment in the historic past, what does that say about the humanity of Christ?  Being fully human, did he share in our condtion of ‘sinfulness’? Was He born with original sin?  If sin is intrinsic to the human condition, then it would logically follow that He, being fully human, would possess a sinful nature like ourselves.  But the Bible clearly teaches the opposite.  Although He took upon Himself the legal guilt of sin and suffered its just penalty, He did so as one who was personally “holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26).  He was made like us in every way, except without sin.  That means that sin is NOT intrinsic to the human condition, but clearly ‘entered’ the human race at a specific moment in the past.  Christ was fully human, but He was not ‘conceived in sin’ as we are.


DWD - #31281

September 22nd 2010

oh how uncomfortable we are as human beings with leaving some things uncategorized and open-ended! Like we have to be able to identify our kin or our enemy or we can’t live with it!
Though I don’t blog regularly here, it seems to me that if Biologos had a statement of faith, it would rest on belief in the incarnation of God in Christ and his death and resurrection which gives salvation to humankind. Beyond that, there would probably be differences in opinion on the Virgin Birth, Jesus’ miracles, the historicity of many parts of the Bible, the nature of eternal life, universalism, whether Satan exists, and other doctrines as well.  This doesn’t bother me - we all belong in the Christian tent.  What really matters is our commitment to follow Jesus. Give me a doctrinal agnostic (on fringe issues) who lives a Christlike life over a person who makes strict orthodoxy his life motivation any day! Whether Jesus really turned water into wine is not a big deal to me, but I KNOW that Jesus said “Follow me.”


sy - #31285

September 22nd 2010

I am in agreement with those who think that Biologos should have a statement of faith. BUT…not yet.

I say that because I think that the radical and transformative work being done by Biologos scholars, and many others who are trying to heal the culture war between science and religion, is still a work in progress. The new militant anti theists, and the young Earth creationists can state their cases easily and with clarity. The Biologis message is still evolving (no pun intended), and it will take time, and a bit more thought and discussion to find its final common ground.

The cause is just, and I believe blessed by God, who is smiling on these efforts to reconcile in the minds of men, the Book or Words and the Book of Works. I think this is too important a task to be rushed. When the time is right, the Lord will find a way to show us how to show the truth to the world. So I would councel patience. It will not be long now.


conrad - #31286

September 22nd 2010

Sy you hit the nail on the head.


Gregory - #31294

September 22nd 2010

Why does Lamoureux use the term ‘ancient science’ if not to identify some ‘kind/degree’ of commonality with the meaning of ‘modern science’? They both precede the word ‘science.’ I agree with Chip; the position set forth cannot be maintained with the terms that Lamoureux uses.

“Scripture is not putting forward a scientific hypothesis regarding the “domed” cosmology.” - Darrel Falk

A reverse perspective on this statement could serve to enlighten. One is speaking as if Scripture is the subject of the sentence. Is Darrel saying that Scripture is inactive in scientific hypotheses?

No, but with a reverse perspective (cf. eastern Orthodox icons), we necessarily look at Scripture with a worldview of somekind, and this includes our ‘scientific’ kinds/degrees of knowledge. The ‘we/our’ is the subject of the sentence and does not accept the ‘from the inside’ post-objectivist perspective that Darrel is using. As ‘observers’ we are ‘outside’ of what we are observing and cannot speak from the inside, unless…

Martin Rizley uses this same style of ‘voice.’ I suppose it won’t be considered unfair to note that.


Martin Rizley - #31306

September 22nd 2010

DWD,  I think you are exhibiting serious confusion when you place such things as Jesus’ virgin birth, His miracles, the nature of eternal life, universalism and the existence of Satan in the category of secondary issues that do not divide Christian from non-Christian.  The Bible is crystal clear on these issues, and I would have serious difficulty regarding anyone as a brother in the faith who denied any of these teachings.  If someone said, for example, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but I believe that He was born through fornication and not by miraculous conception in the womb of hte virgin Mary,” then I don’t think I could regard that person as a ‘brother in the faith’ at all; for you see, true Christianity is APOSTOLIC Christianity; it involves receiving the teaching of Christianity as taught by the apostles—and they clearly taught, for example, that Jesus was born of a virgin.  The mere fact someone calls Jesus the “Son of God” doesn’t prove anything necessarily—for words can be used (as Francis Schaeffer pointed out) as ‘contentless banners,’ empty linguistic symbols that heretics use to give the impression of orthodoxy while underminging the content of the apostolic faith.  (continued).


Martin Rizley - #31307

September 22nd 2010

When it comes to affirming that Jesus is the Son of God, what really matters is not the mere USE of that title, but the MEANING that someone gives it.  It is possible to call Jesus the Son of God yet mean the very opposite by that expression than what the apostles meant.  We know from Scripture that at least part of what that title was intended to convey was the fact that Jesus was conceived miraculously in the womb of Mary apart from the agency of a human father, as we read in Luke 1:35:  “And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; THEREFORE, also, the Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”  Therefore, if someone says, “I have trouble believing that Jesus was born of a virgin” I would have to respond, “Then I have trouble affirming that we are united in the same essential faith, for as I understand it, a biblical confession of Jesus as the Son of God necessarily involves acknowledging, and not denying, His virginal conception and birth as taught in the gospels (although that is obviously not the WHOLE of what the title Son of God refers to).


John VanZwieten - #31308

September 22nd 2010

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, and believe in your heart he was born of a virgin, you will be saved.”

Tell me, which one of these phrases is not like the others, which one does not belong?


Bev Mitchell - #31311

September 22nd 2010

Jon, Fabulous quote! Thank you.

“The Puritan Richard Baxter, at the time of the Westminster Confession, suggested that the statement of faith should be the Apostles’ Creed. When told this would include the Catholics and the Anabaptists his reply, basically, was “Good.”

My 2 cent’s worth:

Personally, BioLogos not having a statement of faith is neither here nor there. However, a Christian site that wants to be as ‘big-tent’ as possible, while still retaining the ability to minister to ‘Bible believing’ Christians, could do no better than to adopt the Apostles’ Creed.


gingoro - #31315

September 22nd 2010

Martin Rizley@31306
“I think you are exhibiting serious confusion when you place such things as Jesus’ virgin birth, His miracles, the nature of eternal life, universalism and the existence of Satan in the category of secondary issues that do not divide Christian from non-Christian.”

Martin I think you are including too many things in the essence of the gospel.  Now I know that there are people who think they understand the nature of eternal life and can talk at great length about that topic but frankly I tend to dismiss such claims and simply accept that Jesus has prepared a place for us with a new heaven and earth.  While I accept miracles and the existence of Satan I do not find such in the Apostles’ Creed which I tend to use as a very useful definition of minimal belief for a Christian brother. 
Dave W


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