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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
On Putting Our Hands to the Plow and Not Looking Back

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

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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eddy - #28842

September 8th 2010

You also ponders:

“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. Has our American influence been spreading into Sweden?”

I am not a Swede, but last time I checked Sweden—and the large section of Europe—was absolutely evolutionist and completely atheistic.  Give evolutionism a chance in America and by the end of the century will be worse than Europe.

beaglelady - #28844

September 8th 2010

I am not a Swede, but last time I checked Sweden—and the large section of Europe—was absolutely evolutionist and completely atheistic.

Not so.  I have a friend from Sweden who is a convert to Christianity. Believing Christians are a minority in Sweden, but they do exist.  And Sweden has a substantial number of Muslim immigrants.

eddy - #28847

September 8th 2010

Ah, beaglelady, you didn’t have to read that literally   otherwise you would have known I didn’t mean everyone Swede is atheist.

But still the point there. Believe in evolutionism and you are half-way to atheist land.

Bev Mitchell - #28849

September 8th 2010

“Dominion is not found in grace” John Wesley

Maybe if Wesley were following this discussion, he would submit this for our consideration.

“We often think that we have no need of anyone else’s advice or reproof. Always remember, much grace does not imply much enlightenment. We may be wise but have little love, or we may have love with little wisdom. God has wisely joined us all together as the parts of a body so that we cannot say to another, ‘I have no need of you.’ Even to imagine that those who are not saved cannot teach you is a very great and serious mistake. Dominion is not found in grace.”

Once again, Darrel has written an article in tune with the Spirit and the conversation has taken an ugly turn. This is a heads-up for us all. There is a kind of fear evident in some of the posts. Consider its source carefully and remember, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” 1 John 4:18

eddy - #28854

September 8th 2010

Bev Mitchell, good words.

We are only fighting for what we believe is right. Paul, at some of his moments, really sounded like a jerky in his demeanor:

Galatians 2: When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong….....The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

And Paul was right. If you think your brother is in the wrong, rebuke him straightforward in his face for the sake of the gospel:

If you are a Christian, yet you write that Christian scriptures are contradictory or not clear,(see what Dr. Enns does on daily basis here), in such a way as to give an impression to non-christians that we cannot figure out what it intends to teach us at that point - is that a small thing to do?

Bev Mitchell - #28873

September 8th 2010

Yes, we must stand firm in what we believe and speak clearly and directly when necessary. And, it all can be done with a loving spirit because the Holy Spirit will help us do it that way. We even are called to love our enemies, and I don’t see many enemies on the blogs at BioLogos. I do see fear and sometimes what looks like lack of love.

You mention Peter Enns. He and others such as Kenton Sparks and James Kugel are simply trying to help us understand, after years of personal study and from within a position of faith, the reality of the limitations of our language (written and spoken). In the Bible, God reveals Himself to us using language and it’s offspring literature. Language is a human invention and has serious limitations. The message is not limited, the medium is. The Bible is a place where the medium is definitely not the message. Regardless of what you think of their conclusions, please read these guys carefully to see just how limited the medium is and how careful we must be when we use it.

MyGoatyBeard - #28887

September 8th 2010


Your quote from Galatians 2 is a classic defense not of Paul but of God’s true Gospel.  Why are you using it in this context?  And if you read the whole letter it is clear that Paul is not defending his own viewpoint so much as defending what God has said.  There is immense humility in Paul’s defense and it is because he is utterly submissive to the gospel.  I wonder how much argument on his blog is driven by that level of passion for the gospel?

You also said (my paraphrase) that we shouldn’t argue in front of non-Christians because they’ll feel confused.  Good point.  But on the other hand what must convince non-Christians is true unity amongst true Christians, not falsehood or a fear of probing the truth.

Gregory - #28911

September 8th 2010

Re: Clioprof - #28586

The problem is that Darrel doesn’t want to publically admit that there is anything wrong with ‘universal evolutionism’ or admit that he in effect promotes it by writing about things that don’t evolve as if they do evolve. He contributes to a confusion of language rather than helping it *on this point*.

I understand well Darrel’s point. Yet, until he recognizes my point he is just another biologist who does not understand that biologists are not as privileged in speaking about ‘evolution’ as they seem to think & demand of others to believe.

Sociologists of biology have followed biologists around in the laboratory & in the field & know what they do when they work. Using the term ‘evolve’ & ‘evolution’ the way Darrel does, i.e. he thinks that ideas, thoughts, words, & human actions ‘evolve’ (!) is a rather simplistic way to view the world. Sure, maybe this will be suitable for speaking with American evangelical Protestant American Christians. But it will raise more problems for them down the road if Darrel Falk cannot limit evolution at the same time he is praising it as God’s method of creation.

It is easy for him to answer about ‘evolution’s limits.’ Will he address it?

GodsOwnDNA - #28931

September 8th 2010

We, as a community of evangelicals have built walls around us. Walls, which God never intended in the first place. And inside this “safe” enclosure, we’ve become consumed with religiosity and legalism. I think its time to tear down these walls and begin a journey. With our limited understanding of all things immaterial, we think we’ve figured out God. And just when you thought you had God figured out and everything’s neat and tidy and organised, something happens which sends everything down the proverbial drain of hopelessness. Its in that place that God is closest to us. Just like Job realized it, its time for all of us to realize the truth so beautifully worded by the band Addison Road, “What do I know of Holy?”

GodsOwnDNA - #28933

September 8th 2010

Thanks Dr.Falk for a really good post. As one of the leaders of Biologos, you command respect through your humility. I hope one day I could be as humble as you.

Gregory - #28940

September 8th 2010

“What do I know of Holy?”

I know that Holy does not ‘evolve’ - as a mere biologistic God!

What does ‘biologism’ mean!!!???!!! (There is NO answer to or awareness of this at BioLogos!)

Humble ignorance is still ignorance and refusal to climb the ladder.

An evangelical pastor in Florida wants to burn the Koran this coming Sept. 11. Do other ‘evangelicals’ condone this? There is no authoritative body like Rome or Constantinople or Moscow or Beijing to reprimand this pastor and thus to stop him. So, ‘evangelicals burn the Koran’ will probably soon be a news item.

JMFK - #28944

September 8th 2010

I am fully supportive of Biologos’ mission as expressed by Dr. Falk. I am also very saddened by many of the comments here, but greatly encouraged by those of Bev Mitchell - to which I can only say “Amen Sister”.

Many seem to think that those of us in scientific professions do not ascribe to certain interpretations of Biblical texts because we seek the worldly approval of our unbelieving colleagues. As someone who actually suffered ridicule and professional non-collegiality due to my faith, I can assure them that is not the reason.

We passionately believe that the Creator who called humankind to be creative partners with him and his creation would not have made a universe that gave misleading information about its nature, or spoken to humankind in ways inconsistent with his creation, and we study his creation out of love for him (and it) and in the belief that the truth we discern therein (when we find it) brings him glory.

“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” (Psalm 111:2)

‘Truth springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.” (Psalm 85:11)

John VanZwieten - #28960

September 9th 2010


I and all the “evangelicals” I know are dismayed by the Florida pastor’s stated intention.  At a meeting with the leaders of our congregation just tonight this dismay was clearly stated, and seemed to have agreement—in fact my pastor seriously considers flying to Florida to try and talk this brother out of such reprehensible action.

There is Muslim-world interest in Jesus like never before.  They are hungry for the Bible.  I shudder to think of the consequences of this one man’s foolishness.

eddy - #28972

September 9th 2010

Bev, there are other scholarly peers to Pete Enns and Kenton Sparks, scholars like John Wenham or William Craig who frequently writes with good intentions “trying to help us understand, after years of personal study and from within a position of faith, the reality of the limitations of our language (written and spoken)” but their writings are not being touted by the most obnoxious anti-Christian atheists in the blogsphere as “stepping stone books towards atheism and must read books by every evangelical”.

But these atheists are clever to know which writings to recommend to evangelicals. They know if you desire to initiate a successful induction cascade of doubts about the Faith just start with Pete Enns and Kenton Sparks followed by books from the radical Jesus Seminar Fellows, then Bart Ehrman or Richard Carrier, then finish with The God Delusion.

My point is: you can scholarly (and factually) write about the Bible without the negative effect of compromising Christian doctrinal truths. Pete Enns writes with the effect of of not remaining faithful to Orthodox Christianity, and that is too sad to see.

eddy - #28975

September 9th 2010

we shouldn’t argue in front of non-Christians because they’ll feel confused


That is not what I said. I said (to repahrase) that non-Christians are already in the situation where they find it hard to believe in Christianity—for different reasons, sure—but the primary one is that they find themselves in a situation where they cannot trust Christian scriptures.

But then comes certain Christian scholars who, far from telling these non-Christians that they must change their mindset and think about scriptures the way other Christians think about scriptures, come with the reaffirmation message to these non-Christians that it is true that Genesis is a myth,  Exodus in unethical, Samwel and Chronicles cannot be reconciled and the gospels are contradictory!

But on the other hand what must convince non-Christians is true unity amongst true Christians, not falsehood or a fear of probing the truth.

What must convince non-Christians to Christianity is whether there is real evidence that God is responsible for all life including humans, and we are in a state of real Sin, and that the graphic plan of God to save us from Sin can be traced and trusted as narrated from Genesis to Relevelation.

Bev Mitchell - #28986

September 9th 2010

Thanks for the comment. A note of clarification. I am a brother not a sister, though in no way offended by your logical assumption.

At the risk of completely disrupting this discussion, this does bring up the fact that the vast majority of identified people on BioLogos are men. This, together with what I have read by the anonymous discussants, suggests that we are largely a bunch of guys discussion things very much the way guys do, and it’s not always pretty. Ironically, the students in our departments of biology have been over 50% female for a decade or two, and as a consequence the number of female faculty has risen markedly in recent times. Obviously, we guys desperately need help on how to discuss these issues with more light and less heat. Maybe it’s time for BioLogos to better reflect the gender balance already present in the science. Are my impressions correct re the imbalance here? Of course, we have the same problem in the pulpit, but I won’t mention that

Mina - #29003

September 9th 2010

Excellent post Ive been actually struggling with making my walk with christ too much of a philosphical subject then a personal one thanks for this.

beaglelady - #29014

September 9th 2010

Are my impressions correct re the imbalance here?

Definitely. I’ve noticed that myself and have wondered why nobody else knows or cares.  Also,  it’s very rare for BL team members to respond to anything I post.  I know they want a full name, but using it would pose a safety risk.

Charlie - #29015

September 9th 2010


My earlier post was: 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?

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

That’s actually not what I was asking.  For some Christians, their religion does stand on the age of the universe or the mechanism God used to create life.  I understand Biologo’s does not believe this, and want to know for example if Zues and all the other Gods came down today and showed us their divine powers, would you still be a Christian?  Yes that’s a very hypothetical example but my point is this, is there anything that would alter your beliefs?

P.S. I’m a guy

RBH - #29111

September 10th 2010

Gregory wrote

‘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.

That’s a false dichotomy; actual organizational structures (as distinguished from the boxes on TOs) are by and large emergent in the sense that while they are produced by individuals choosing actions, the organization’s structure and behavior is rarely, if ever, like that anticipated by those making the choices.  The aggregate local choices produce large-scale unanticipated and unplanned changes.

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