On Adopting a BioLogos Faith Statement
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.