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Report on BioLogos-Reasons To Believe Dialogue

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February 25, 2010 Tags: Christian Unity

Today's entry was written by Darrel Falk. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Report on BioLogos-Reasons To Believe Dialogue

Intoduction by Darrel Falk

The BioLogos Foundation exists to help bring harmony between the Christian faith and science. Since BioLogos is an organization of Christians, this means that those who support it are members of a single Body, and by definition this includes people who do not all think about issues in exactly the same way. Jesus prayer for unity in John 17 is our prayer too. Hence, Paul’s I Corinthians 12 and 13 description of how things are to work in the Body of Christ is our calling. Indeed, it is our mandate. With that in mind BioLogos sponsored the In Search of a Theology of Celebration conference between pastors, theologians, scientists, and other scholars in November, 2009. The statement that emerged from that meeting and its signatories has been posted.

We have also been privileged to engage in several discussions with leaders of the Reasons to Believe organization, including an all day meeting in January, 2010. The following joint statement is the product of that meeting.

Report on BioLogos-Reasons To Believe Dialogue

BioLogos and Reasons To Believe are Christian non-profit organizations. Both may be described as science-faith think tanks. Both affirm that the revelations of Scripture and nature testify to the glory of God. BioLogos promotes theistic evolution as the best understanding of life’s origin and history. Reasons To Believe advocates day-age creation that accepts micro-evolutionary but not macro-evolutionary change.

On January 23, 2010, three scientists and a theologian who support BioLogos met in Washington, DC, with three scientists and a theologian from Reasons To Believe to discuss areas of agreement and disagreement. On the broad subject of creation and evolution, our particular focus for this discussion was the biological record of the past 700 million years.

We agreed on four goals for this session of an ongoing dialogue that began more than a year ago:

  1. Clarify for each other our beliefs about and positions on various aspects of creation and evolution. We wanted to establish areas of agreement on science, theology, and philosophy of ministry as well as major differences—with the understanding that secondary differences would require additional discussion at a later date.

    Significant progress was made in clarifying similarities and differences and more will be reported on this at a later date

  2. Outline the means by which at least some of the more significant differences between us could potentially be resolved.

    We agreed to undertake back-and-forth exchanges—video, written, or a combination—on specific topics.

  3. Set up public forums that will allow both Christians and non-Christians to learn about our respective positions on specific creation and evolution issues, observe our dialogue, and then engage in conversation with us.

    We agreed that the emphasis in these events must be on education and discussion, but this does not rule out sincere debate

  4. Consider how our interactions with one another might model for the Christian community at large how to approach differences of perspective and interpretation.

    We agreed on the primary importance of showing civility, grace, and unity in the common goal of understanding and submitting to God’s truth.

We’re pleased with the progress already achieved. As far as we’re aware, this is the first time in the recent history of the church when two ministries that share protestant evangelical commitments, but with divergent views on creation, have engaged in dialogue showing respect for each other’s Christian character, professional qualifications, and scholarly integrity. Each participant has embraced the exhortation in 1 Peter 3:15-16a:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…

Thus, we remain hopeful that at least some of our differences can and will be resolved and that, even with an admixture of agreement and disagreement, our unity in Christ will be upheld and strengthened.


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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David Wilson - #5314

February 25th 2010

I love this. Thanks to both organizations for their commitment to seeing the Christ in each and also for being willing to work alongside each other to learn and grow.

Very encouraging for this pastor who doesn’t see a herd of cats play nice together very often.


Charlie - #5315

February 25th 2010

Has Biologo’s engaged in any conversations with non-religious scientists?  What progress has had been made there?


Gregory Arago - #5331

February 25th 2010

Would appreciate clarification, as it appears mixed messaged are appearing.

In this thread it reads:
BioLogos promotes theistic evolution as the best understanding of life’s origin and history.”

Yet in one of the Questions threads, it speaks of How BioLogos *differs* from theistic evolution:
Because the term evolution is sometimes associated with atheism, a better term for the belief in a God who chose to create the world by way of evolution is BioLogos.”

Dr. Karl Giberson says quite unambiguously:
We are actually using the term “BioLogos” so we can avoid constantly having to refer to “evolution,” which has become such a loaded term.  The narrow scientific meaning of evolution has been lost as the word has come to include a fully materialistic worldview for many.”

So I am unclear about what BioLogos is offering that is *new* or instead what synthesis of views it presents. Avoid or embrace ‘evolution’?

As for me, I didn’t think that ‘evolution’ can philosophically account for ‘origins,’ but rather only ‘processes’. Please un-confuse me! : )


GrayMac - #5333

February 25th 2010

I think this is awesome and found much encouragement from reading this post!!

Too often we “box” (judge) others according to their positions on origins/eschatology/baptism/etc and in so doing, often miss the fact that we’re all family, and although these are important issues, the ultimate issue is unity in Christ!

Looking forward to seeing the next stages and the outcomes of this dialogue!


Ben Smith - #5335

February 25th 2010

@Gregory: As far as I know, Dr. Collins decided to use the term BioLogos since (as Dr. Giberson said) evolution has certain connotations. The idea, I believe, was to make it so you could bring up the issue and use the word BioLogos, and then people might not have as much of a negative reaction as if you were to just say that you were an evolutionist. In a sense, it is a “back door” term into the issue, that is trying to help people see things more clearly.


Unapologetic Catholic - #5360

February 25th 2010

“The idea, I believe, was to make it so you could bring up the issue and use the word BioLogos, and then people might not have as much of a negative reaction as if you were to just say that you were an evolutionist”

A very good “Wedge Strategy.”  How’s it working so far?  Why isn’t honesty acceptable?


Gregory Arago - #5361

February 26th 2010

It is unclear where your allegiances lie, Unapologetic Catholic.

Are you a universal evolutionist? Can you give examples of ‘things that don’t evolve’? Somehow I doubt it.

The Vatican has said evolution is ‘more than a hypothesis.’ But in his inaugural address Benedict XVI clearly limited the meaning of ‘evolution.’ Some ‘evolutions’ are *NOT* acceptable for Christians.

Do you deny this?

I wouldn’t want to call myself an ‘evolutionist’ and I don’t know why any Christian would. A monotheist can accept biological evolutionary theories without being an evolutionist.

‘Evolution-ism’ implies ideology, *not* science.

Do you call yourself an ‘evolutionist,’ unapologetic catholic?

What Ben says has *nothing* to do with a ‘Wedge’!


Karl A - #5367

February 26th 2010

I look forward to hearing more of your discussion and points of agreement/disagreement.  This is a very hopeful development.

As a non-hard-scientist, I will hazard a few points of clarification.  First, Reasons to Believe could be categorized as coming from an “Old Earth Creation” (OEC) perspective.  You could expect many more points of commonality between BioLogos and RTB than with, say, a Young Earth Creation organization like Answers in Genesis.

(continued below)


Karl A - #5368

February 26th 2010

Second, on the issue of origins, it seems like we can distinguish between primary and secondary origins.  Primary origins would be the initial flowering of biological life on Earth (or elsewhere), which is the field of study called abiogenesis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis). This should not be confused with evolution, which is the theory about how already-living organisms change.  Secondary origins, then, would be the origin of various species from earlier life forms. 

I interpret the sentence in the post, “BioLogos promotes theistic evolution as the best understanding of life’s origin and history” as pointing to secondary origins only.  Collins writes how abiogenesis is still shrouded in mystery, and I doubt BioLogos has taken a position on it other than to (as Collins does) warn against a premature “God of the gaps” position.

So just as Gregory points out there are different kinds of “evolution”, there are different kinds of “origins” as well.  So many opportunities to talk past each other!


Greg - #5376

February 26th 2010

How exactly does Biologos expect to dialogue with an organisation whose ‘evolution expert’, Fuz Rana, gave a talk last weekend entitled “Human Evolution: Confronting the Myth” explaining how “Darwinism has become bankrupt as a paradigm to understand human origins?”


Darrel Falk - #5378

February 26th 2010

Response to Greg (5376):

Great question!  However, think of it this way: What do we gain by not talking?  Increasingly the data speaks for itself.  If BioLogos is at the table presenting the data in a loving way and helping people understand that the ramifications of the manner in which creation occurred do not create insurmountable difficulties for their faith, we have much to gain and nothing to lose.

Response to Gregory (5331) and others regarding our use of the term “theistic evolution.”

Since words have different meanings to different people (see the Jeff Schloss video on this, for example),  I prefer the term “biologos” to “theistic evolution.” As pointed out,  “evolution” is one of those words that takes on many meanings.  However, the shift to the common use of the term, “biologos” has not yet taken place.  We’re fine with using “theistic evolution,”  “evolutionary creation,” or “biologos” for now.  Depending upon who is using the term, they usually mean pretty much the same thing.  This is not about semantics.  This is about helping people understand that God created through a gradual process and that coming to know this can enhance one’s understanding of the nature and activity of God.

Blessings,
Darrel .


Charlie - #5392

February 26th 2010

Darrel Falk,

So is your belief in evolution based on evidence and you belief in God based on faith?  (Are you using two different ways to come to a conclusion and combining them?)


Pete Enns - #5397

February 26th 2010

Charlie,

Let me answer your question.

Yes.


Darrel Falk - #5398

February 26th 2010

Charlie,

I encourage you to read my book, “Coming to Peace with Science,” because it is difficult to put into 1250 characters that which is a story that needs to be read in its entirety.  Or if you want to read a great book, read Tim Keller’s “The Reason for God.”  Your question is so important, we should not attempt to answer it in such a small amount of space—although there may be others checking this section who would like to try.  The long and short of it though is that our belief in God is based on faith which is informed by evidence.  Read Keller, especially, for an extremely fine discussion of the evidence.

Darrel


Charlie - #5399

February 26th 2010

When should one come to a conclusion based on evidence and when should one come to a conclusion based on faith?  Does this leave room for saying we don’t know to some questions?


Charlie - #5401

February 26th 2010

Evidence for God?  Would that be your fine-tuning argument?


Darrel Falk - #5406

February 26th 2010

Charlie,

If it’s okay, I think am going to take Pete’s approach

#5399 Question #1: Both are frequently important.  Question #2, Of course.

#5401—-Question #2: No. 

Now, here’s hoping you are able to take the time to read the books.

Best,
Darrel


Pete Enns - #5407

February 26th 2010

Charlie,

In other words, welcome to the journey.


Gregory Arago - #5410

February 26th 2010

Hi Ben and Darrel,

Re: #5335, “people might not have as much of a negative reaction as if you were to just say that you were an evolutionist.” - Ben

Yes, I welcome your interpretation and think this makes sense. Accepting biological evolution I still wouldn’t want to be called an ‘evolutionist’, even if the qualifier ‘theistic’ is added. After having studied ‘ideologies’ in signficant depth, perhaps this is a more understandable rejection than someone’s simply innocent addition of ‘-ism’ or ‘-ist’.

Likewise, the term ‘creationist,’ especially in the USA, carries a predominantly negative connotation. One can believe in creation/Creation or identify creativity, without being a creationist, without accepting ‘creationism.’ I wouldn’t want to be called a ‘creationist,’ even if the qualifier ‘evolutionary’ is added, which is of course just meant to offer an air of ‘legitimate science.’

Both combinations, ‘theistic evolutionist’ and ‘evolutionary creationist’ thus have obvious problems.


Darrel Falk - #5411

February 26th 2010

So Gregory, how about if you call yourself a BioLogist?  Would that remove all confusion?

Darrel


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