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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 BioLogos and currently serves as BioLogos' Senior Advisor for Dialog. He is Professor of Biology, Emeritus at Point Loma Nazarene University and serves as Senior Fellow at The Colossian Forum. Falk is the author of Coming to Peace with Science.


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beaglelady - #28608

September 7th 2010

it is not an issue of literalism but rather the meaning of “sons of God.”


Sons of God usually means divine beings or angels.  It wouldn’t mean humans. When 2 humans mate they make baby human, not giants.

By Martin I meant Martin R. who posts here regularly.


Cal - #28621

September 7th 2010

beaglelady:

And the word “giants” is an understanding of the word “nephelim” in a literal sense. Other understandings could be “tyrant” or “men of great renown”. The Nephelim were also said to be around after the flood of Noah.

My interpretation of Nephilim is that a race (generation) of self serving “heroes” arose who crushed those who were weak under their heel. I see the characters of Homeric epics equivalent with what this means (eg. Achilles).

Sons of God could also speak to the line of Adam-Seth or to those who knew God at first compared to men (maybe other hominids?) who had not the direct prophetic light first shared (Proto-Evangelum).

All this is speculation but it is to show that this verse can have a wide range of meaning depending on how you try to set words.


John VanZwieten - #28623

September 7th 2010

Gabriel,

Could you please point me to the post(s) by people saying their “gospel” is something other than trusting Christ as Lord and Risen Savior?


beaglelady - #28634

September 7th 2010

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).

Yeah, right.  You are the only one going to heaven.


Cal - #28641

September 7th 2010

beaglelady & John:

What I think he means is people who have a lot of head knowledge about scripture but have not been born again and truly allowed God into their hearts. I don’t think he means that you have to look at scripture a certain way or you’re doomed.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #28675

September 7th 2010

My suggestion which I have made before is to not attack inerrancy head on, but to replace it with the good Biblical theology of Jesus, the Logos of God, which fits the name BioLogos and points to the harmony of the Bible and nature as both rooted in the LOGOS, the Second Person of the Trinity.


JWF - #28676

September 7th 2010

Dr. Falk,

I know its been said before, but thank you so much for this post. It reflects a quiet discussion my pastor and I have been having some some months.

“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.”

This has been the point of our conversations, and this is why I value this post and others like it so much. My pastor and I may not agree on the finer points of God’s creative work, but we certainly agree that there is room to disagree, and for that I’m very thankful.


John VanZwieten - #28677

September 7th 2010

Cal,

We’ll see what he means when he references a post showing someone embracing a “false gospel,” won’t we?


sy g. - #28714

September 8th 2010

I would hope that most people commenting on this site would agree that knowledge of who goes to heaven and who doesnt is not ours. I will trust in the Lord, and bow to His judgment. And only His.


eddy - #28773

September 8th 2010

Charlie asked Dr. Falk a very profound question, and apparently Dr. Falk has no intention of responding to her:

“What does Biblical Christianity stand or fall on in Darrel Falk opinion?

The ipso-facto answer, if I were to read Dr. Falk mind, is biblical Christianity stands or fall on Jesus Christ, the initiator and perfecter of Christianity.

But which Jesus?

The evolutionary Jesus who died for naturally developing elusive Sin and rose from the dead to initiate an ever evolving Christianity?

Or a biblical Jesus who died for very real Sin which originally started historically at Genesis in real Couple and rose from the dead to establish a Kingdom that the gates of hades will never overcome?


eddy - #28777

September 8th 2010

“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.” - Dr. Falk

A little science education will tell you a corpse cannot come to life again. These young people have a long way to go to cross through all travesties if they are in any way going to be considered Christians in any biblically meaningful sense. They won’t believe in young earth but they must believe in non-negotiable virgin births.


eddy - #28781

September 8th 2010

“The days of putting evangelicalism in a context that pits it against scientific reality about past events must end.”

I am an evangelical but I wonder why, personally, I don’t feel such emotional pressure like we are being perceived by the rest of the world as an unscientific group.  But if there is one day when evangelicals are going to be hailed by the world as a scientific group, we will long ago be supporting abortion, gay marriage, gay bishops, all religions points to God, the bible is errant, Adam and Eve are metaphors, and all other philosophies usually associated with the so called “scientifically” elite section of the Society.

Now, I am quite aware Science per se, is a very noble endeavor to pursue. I don’t know the rest of the world, but in my church we are encouraged to study the natural sciences for the glory of God. I possess an M. Sc. (for those interested, it is Marine Biology), and by the next year I will be going to Goteborg University, Sweden, to get a PhD. So you guys at biologos are thinking big and we, too, are thinking. It is a battle on the authority of God’s Word and we will be right there:

“No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”


MyGoatyBeard - #28811

September 8th 2010

I liked this blog a lot.  Especially this…

‘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.’

Great attitude.  Thanks Darrel.


John VanZwieten - #28815

September 8th 2010

Eddy,

If you read Ephesians 4 half as literally as you read Genesis 1, you would never talk about “which Jesus.”

There can be only one!


Darrel Falk - #28818

September 8th 2010

Eddy

You have made three interesting points.

1.  Charlie is an agnostic who was asking what sort of information it would take for me to stop believing in Jesus.  I have been asked that question several times by atheists and agnostics.  It is sort of like asking what would it take for me to stop believing that DNA is the genetic material, or what would it take for me to stop believing that carbon has four electrons in its outer shell. What is the point of answering a hypothetical question like that?  I have asked Charlie on several occasions to read Tim Keller’s “Reasons for God” or Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Cost of Discipleship.”  I am praying for Charlie.  He spends quite a lot of time on our site.  I think he wants to leave the realm of skeptic and enter into the life of faith.  Something is holding him back.  Pray for Charlie, Eddy.


Darrel Falk - #28819

September 8th 2010

2.  You make an important assumption,  Eddy, which needs to be clarified.  You equate buying into scientific evidence as buying into materialism—hook, line and sinker. Science, like detective-work, allows one to determine, with near certainty in certain cases, what has happened in the past.  Science allows us to be virtually certain that the universe is billions of years old and that organisms on earth have all descended from a common ancestor. The detective work has been done.  There is no longer any reasonable doubt. 

Science says nothing whatsoever about whether God could choose to work in supernatural ways whenever and however God chooses.  Science says nothing about the existence of the Holy Spirit, the future resurrection of the followers of God, the existence of heaven, or whether God actually visited us in human form 2,000 years ago.  We learn about these matters through other means.  Science (as one last example) is silent about the possibility of miracles; I hope you, Eddy, will read Ard Louis’s BioLogos paper on miracles.


Darrel Falk - #28821

September 8th 2010

3. Finally, you suggest that by accepting the findings about age of earth and common descent, you will almost automatically end up buying into some sort of package deal about social values in general. Hmmm. I don’t see that. I encourage you to watch the N.T. Wright video series.  According to him, the view that a belief system comes in packages is an American phenomenon, not a European one. Has our American influence been spreading into Sweden?    I hope not.


eddy - #28826

September 8th 2010

John,

I am all for Unity of the Church and sure, Ephesians is one of my favorite chapter. Especially relevant to this battle is verse 14:

“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”

What an amazing prophetic words from 1st Century pre-scientific Paul!

Now John, don’t take it personally that I mean biologos are deceitful schemers. No, they are very sincere men wishing for the best (albeit through human efforts and human reasoning) for the Church. Only that I principally reject their philosophy that there is a way to unite Biblical Christianity and Evolutionism.


e - #28835

September 8th 2010

Dr. Falk,

You say: “Charlie is an agnostic who was asking what sort of information it would take for me to stop believing in Jesus.”

No, I don’t think that is what Charlie is asking. What is essentially baffling Charlie mind is at what point a group like yours that thinks like she thinks and argues like she argues turn around and suddenly believe God exists and Jesus rose from the dead?

Sure, Charlie is an agnostic. Almost like all conventional biologists, She sees the same thing in nature in general and life in particular that you also see and argues almost in daily basis here -. evolution, evolution, evolution.

She concluded there is no way for certain we can know God exist. But you say, God exists, as a matter of indisputable fact.

I am just as curious as Charlie is - where is the turning point?


eddy - #28838

September 8th 2010

Dr. Falk, comment #28835 is mine, “eddy”.

You say: “Science allows us to be virtually certain that the universe is billions of years old and that organisms on earth have all descended from a common ancestor.”

We shouldn’t be so cocksure. That is currently the culturally acceptable knowledge about the historical past. But Scriptures offers us another way of knowing about the historical - and theological - past. I will go for Scriptures because it is doubly satisfying - historically and theologically.


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