On Putting Our Hands to the Plow and Not Looking Back

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September 6, 2010 Tags: Christian Unity

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

On Putting Our Hands to the Plow and Not Looking Back

BioLogos, unless we are careful, could evolve into a place for armchair philosophy. We could sit back in our comfortable chairs, coffee cups in hand, reading about biology, geology, biblical scholarship, theology, and the nature of science. We could dialog about this article or that blog and discuss ideas in a manner that leaves us feeling good about our intellect and frustrated with the intellect of those who can’t see it our way. BioLogos could easily become a sort of coffee club, where people drop in for a chat now and then, but have no real sense of urgency as they enter and leave the discussion chambers.

The fact is, however, that we in the BioLogos community are, above all else, followers of Jesus Christ. There is nothing pedestrian about being a follower of Jesus. We, all of us, are on a journey together and—because of who we are following—it is a journey like no other. There is nothing in this world that is more important to each of us than knowing Jesus personally. Our journey is also our reason for being and we believe that to know and experience life in Christ is to live life to the full—to live it abundantly.

I love the fact that a section of the gospel of Luke is placed in the context of the journey of Jesus and his followers to Jerusalem. As they travelled along, Jesus kept defining the parameters of what it means to follow him. The parameters were hardly pedestrian. No armchair philosophy, this, when in the ninth chapter of Luke we’re told:

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:57-60)

As the journey continues another man comes to him and says:

"I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." (v. 61-62)

Further along, in the thirteenth chapter, we read this:

Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" He said to them, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. (Luke 13:22-24)

And, drawing closer to the destination, here is what we’re told in Luke 14:

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (v 25-27)

Jesus was laying out the guidelines for each of us as we move through life together. Clearly this is not to be a pedestrian experience to be lived out virtually from the comfort of our armchairs. Life, we believe, is only lived to the full, when it is experienced in Christ. Although, grace is free, discipleship costs. It is the “pearl of great value” for which we give everything we own (Matthew 13:45).

To us in the BioLogos community it is with great sadness that we listen to a large group of very influential leaders seeming to tell people that Christianity stands or falls on the belief that the earth is young and that God created through a process that is instantaneous and not gradual. It is a travesty that young people who begin the journey of following Jesus are told that they have to believe something which, a little science education makes clear cannot possibly be the case. Jesus gave his life for these young people and he calls us to the same level of commitment. It is also a travesty that this barrier is placed along the roadside so that those who would otherwise love to join the journey end up staying by the wayside because they’ve studied the science or trust those who have. We in the BioLogos community have put our hand to the plow. No turning back. God calls us to stay focused for the task ahead.

There is a proviso however that must not be overlooked. Yesterday, Joyce and I called a very dear couple, friends who are now in the 80’s and in poor health. They get discouraged because of the pain and blindness that now encapsulate their lives. Sitting in a church pew is excruciatingly painful for her because of a badly deteriorating spine. For him, blindness has long since darkened his world; for seven years he has been deprived of that which brought him his greatest happiness—reading the Word of God. As we discussed their journey and what sustains them, they told us the name of the pastor who, through his radio ministry, serves as their source of inspiration, leading them on in their own journey to Jerusalem. The pastor who provides the spiritual nourishment that keeps them and hundreds of thousands others going leads a church known for its belief that the earth is young and that God has created through a process that is instantaneous and not gradual. My prayer is that his ministry might continue to thrive for the sake of this couple and the hundreds of thousands of others as they journey onward with Jesus to the New Jerusalem.

So God calls us in the BioLogos community to two tasks. The first is to help this leader and the hundreds of others like him see that they have one thing very wrong. Biblical Christianity does not stand or fall on the age of the universe or the mechanism God used to create life. The leaders themselves need not change their minds personally, but it is important that they stop telling people that biblical Christianity leaves us no choice but to discard scientific reality about past events. We in the BioLogos community have a second task and it is equally important. These leaders are shepherds, wonderful shepherds. They must be appreciated, loved, and sustained for their enormously important pastoral role in continuing to guide people in their own personal journeys as followers of Jesus. Their ministries, which provide such rich nourishment for others, must not fail. We need to work for the sustaining of these ministries.

So BioLogos is not armchair philosophy. It is a social movement to help the Church come to grips once and for all with the fact that people don’t have to choose between age of the earth and Bible-believing Christianity, nor between evolutionary biology and Bible-believing Christianity. How does a little band of people at BioLogos (there are only four of us who are full-time and five more who are part-time) catalyze change? The answer, of course, is that we can’t and we won’t on our own. The BioLogos community is growing rapidly. Growth is exhibited by the scores of people who have written blogs and scholarly articles on this site throughout the past sixteen months. It has grown through those who have participated in the BioLogos workshops for church leaders, for teachers in Christian high schools, for Christian college professors and others. It has grown through those who join in the conversation by engaging each other in discussion in our Comments section. And it has grown by fostering conversation at locations far removed from the internet. Together all of us need to sense the importance of the task. We have put our hands to the plow and we won’t look back. Given the importance of the task, we need to find new ways of building the BioLogos community so that the Church will finally accept that Christianity, biblical Christianity, doesn’t stand or fall on the age of the earth and how God created all of life. After all, how many people in your church have even heard of BioLogos? Not many, I’m sure.

If you care about this matter as much as we do, please be sure we have your email address by sending a note to info@biologos.org. The core, of course, is still a tiny group, so we won’t be able to organize more programs overnight. But let us know if you care about this issue in a manner that extends beyond your armchair. In coming days, we’ll see how the Lord enables us to take this issue to the next stage. But for now, let us know, and have your friends let us know. We’ll build the BioLogos community one person at a time.

The Church will change. But it must change by evolution, not revolution and the BioLogos community will, Lord willing, play a significant role in facilitating that change. This is the cross that we carry, this is the plow to which we set our hands, this is that for which we have no place to lay our heads, this is that for which we would even distance ourselves from mother, father, sister and brother if need be. The days of putting evangelicalism in a context that pits it against scientific reality about past events must end. We’re on a journey to the New Jerusalem and it is God who defines the parameters of what it means to take this journey, not the all-too-human shepherds who, although doing the best they can, don’t always speak for God.


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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Justin Poe - #28501

September 7th 2010

defensedefender….good grief, do you think we are all first graders and don’t know the difference between history and myth/poetry/allegory, ect????

That’s what is at the heart of this whole debate…is Genesis history or not…for 18 centuries it was considered to be so…for the last 2.5, it has not. 

As far as it “being sad to see young Christians being taught that it has to be THIS way” (referring to YEC teachings) I would ask, or state, doesn’t Biologos do the exact same thing for their stance on evolution??  Of course you do Darrel!  Seriously, every person with a viewpoint does this….if we didn’t think we were right, we wouldn’t stick our necks out there so much…this goes for you, me, atheists, agnostics, Satanists, ect…..


cranium - #28505

September 7th 2010

Comment removed by moderator.


RBH - #28507

September 7th 2010

Gregory wrote

When you write about a ‘social institution’ supposedly ‘evolving’ & really don’t understand anything at all about ‘social evolution,’ it shouldn’t be surprising that you stand corrected. The Church doesn’t ‘evolve.’

and then later,

Institutions are examples of human-made things (and in this case we can speak of God’s Church). It is completely ‘logical’ or ‘reasonable’ to recognize that “human-made things do *not* evolve (into being or having become).” Human-made things result predominantly from purposeful, planned, goal-oriented, teleological choices. By definition, this is *not* ‘evolution.’

Gregory apparently wants to argue (a) that the church is unchanged, the same as it was five centuries ago, or (b) all the changes since then were consciously planned.  The church cchanged radically in response to the widespread distribution of scripture enabled by Gutenberg’s and the diversification of denominations stimulated by Martin Luther.

(continued)


RBH - #28508

September 7th 2010

(That should be “Gutenberg’s technology” above)

(continuation)

But I think it’s accurate to say that the Christian church(es) has(have) in fact ‘evolved,’ in the sense of having changed internally through time in response to outside events, with most of the changes being in ways that were not planned or even foreseen.

One who argues that human organizations do not or cannot ‘evolve’ in unplanned and non-teleological fashion might consider that the distribution of informal power within organizations (as contrasted with the distribution implied by a table of organization) emerges spontaneously and changes through time with (usually) unanticipated topology in response to the organization’s (internal and external) environment.  To argue otherwise is to echo the hubris of the MBA programs I despise.

(And yes, I have one or two chops in this domain of inquiry, rusty and worn though they may be now.)


Gregory - #28510

September 7th 2010

RBH, there should be no need to remind you that ‘change’ & ‘evolution’ are *NOT* synonyms (forget the outdated dictionaries on this). Evolution is a type of change; change is not a type of evolution. Change is the master category.

Of course the Church is not ‘the same’ as it was five centuries ago. & neither can it be said to have ‘evolved’ given that the majority of ‘changes’ (not *all* but most were indeed ‘consciously planned’) have resulted from human-decisions to act, which are *not evolution* by definition. Once you have human choice, aimless evolution disappears for its effects!

What would be accurate, RBH, to those who speak the language more commonly in the professional sense, is to say that churches have ‘developed.’ This is the mainstream language of institutions, economics, sociology, politology & sometimes anthropology.

‘Spontaneous emergence’ is not an adequate substitute for ‘choices’ that are an essential feature of being human & which *do* constitute a teleological act when made. One cannot *choose* ateleologically, even when one flips a coin. The anthropic act itself is the teleological choice.

Unanticipation does not = numb.

There are now better terms, RBH, even than MDT.


Charlie - #28548

September 7th 2010

Darrel,

You said “Biblical Christianity does not stand or fall on the age of the universe or the mechanism God used to create life”.  What does Biblical Christianity stand or fall on in your opinion?


beaglelady - #28549

September 7th 2010

forget the outdated dictionaries on this

You can create your own dictionary but you can’t reasonably expect the rest of us to use it. Words can have different meanings.  I’d guess that most of us were able to understand what Darrel Falk was talking about.


defensedefumer - #28550

September 7th 2010

To Justin Poe - #28501

I apologise if I made it seemed that everyone else is juvenile. But my intention was to clarify BioLogos’s intent with Mr Gabriel Powell.

And BioLogos intent is to show that Biblical Christianity is independent of the age of the earth/evolution/abiogenesis…. In other words, it is to show that it is ok to accept evolution and be a Christian. Its intent was never that a Christian MUST accept evolution.

Once again, I am sorry for misleading you in my reply to Mr Powell.


conrad - #28556

September 7th 2010

Darrell I don’t want to tell you how to write,.... but you always run a risk when you…. “try to say something profound”.

I try to stick to simple phrases ,.... like “..aw shut up!’
  That’s a good one!

... and .........“If you’re so smart, why aint you rich?”....
    . and,... in my local circle of friends,... I have the reputation of being a rather skilled debate participant.


nedbrek - #28568

September 7th 2010

Can. Ev. (28436) “Has no one at BioLogos the slightest comment to make about Stephen Hawking’s current metaphysical declarations?”

This can be phrased more constructively:

What is the difference between Hawking’s story of creation, and the one told by OE’s (including BioLogos)?


Californian - #28574

September 7th 2010

so does biologos choose to believe the Bible is literal whenever it wants?  sounds like relative truth to me, and, well, looks like we’re getting back to “what’s right for you might not be right for me”!  fantastic stuff to base your theology on.


beaglelady - #28579

September 7th 2010

Californian,

Did divine being really mate with human females and produce giants and heroes (just like the Bible says)?


Gabriel Powell - #28580

September 7th 2010

Comment removed my moderator.


Gabriel Powell - #28581

September 7th 2010

Comment removed by moderator.


John VanZwieten - #28585

September 7th 2010

Gabriel,

The sad thing is that you actually think you are doing something right and good by dismissing your brothers and sisters in Christ so flippantly.


Clioprof - #28586

September 7th 2010

Clearly, the trolls are out in full force today.

Darrell, thank you for this thoughtful post. It may be that Gregory has a problem with “evolving,” but I think most of us understand your point. Btw, I have a Ph.D. in history and have taught at the university level for over 25 years. I think I know something about “change” over time.


beaglelady - #28587

September 7th 2010

Gabriel,

Down through the ages Christians have tackled that Scripture (Gen. 6:4)  in very different ways.  Even Martin doesn’t take it literally.  Fortunately I don’t attend the First Church of “I am correct and everyone else is wrong and going to hell” 

(btw, I do take Scripture very seriously and believe it to be the word of God. I get up at 5:30 am on Sunday, and take the train to NYC for theology class at St. Thomas)


Gabriel Powell - #28590

September 7th 2010

John,

I have no doubt that there are indeed true believers among the supporters of BioLogos, however BioLogos has refused to make a distinction between true and false streams of Christianity, and has therefore embraced people who believe in false gospels. It is certainly true that we cannot make final determinations of anyone’s salvation, but yet we are called to examine fruit, and the most significant aspect of fruit in someone’s life is whether they believe in a saving gospel or, as Paul simply puts it, another gospel.

When I come to the BioLogos site, based on my previous experience and a lengthy debate with several BioLogos regulars, I make no assumption that the true gospel is exclusively believed here.


Gabriel Powell - #28593

September 7th 2010

Beaglelady,

As I look back at my comment to you I see it as clearly overreaching and presumptive. Forgive me of my statements which obviously went further than what you actually said.

Nevertheless your question assumed the validity of the interpretation you now seem to reject. I am well aware of the debate and, at least in evangelical circles, it is not an issue of literalism but rather the meaning of “sons of God.” To say they were human and not angels is not non-literal. Since your question equated the divine interpretation as the literal interpretation I took that to mean that you reject a literal interpretation of Scripture.

Keep in mind that studying Scripture and theology is not the same as taking Scripture seriously. Hell is filled with theologians who, though knowing much about Scripture, did not take the gospel seriously (and here I am not saying that you don’t either). Mormons take Scripture seriously, but they reject the true gospel. The Pharisees took Scripture very seriously, but they took their man-made rules more seriously. The Catholic Church takes Scripture seriously, but only insofar as it does not contradict their tradition.


Gabriel Powell - #28597

September 7th 2010

Beaglelady,

One final comment. When it comes to the gospel, I hope you do believe that there is only one gospel that can save and all others lead to hell. Genesis 6:4 is not an issue that will send anyone to hell, and anyone who does think that has bigger issues. On the other hand, believing the wrong gospel, according to Paul, will send many people to hell who otherwise think they are going to heaven (read the end of Matthew 7 for Jesus’ validation).

One more thing came to mind as I looked again at your comment. To take Gen 6:4 non-literally would be to say that what is portrayed as history did not actually occur. You can be a literalist and disagree about who the sons of God were; but ultimately the text still stands as a historical event.

BTW, if by Martin you mean Martin Luther, I’m not sure why you would bring him up… he still had lots of problems in his theology left over from his Catholic background. The difference was he had the gospel right whereas the Catholic church didn’t, and still doesn’t.


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