A BioLogos Response to Kenneth Keathley, Part 2

Bookmark and Share

March 2, 2012 Tags: Biblical Interpretation

Today's entry was written by Kathryn Applegate, Deborah Haarsma, and 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.

A BioLogos Response to Kenneth Keathley, Part 2

Today's entry was written by Kathryn Applegate, Darrel Falk, and Deborah Haarsma. Kathryn Applegate is Program Director at The BioLogos Foundation, Darrel Falk serves as president of The BioLogos Foundation, and Deborah Haarsma is chair of the department of physics and astronomy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a member of the BioLogos Board of Advisors.

This essay is a response to the first paper in the series Southern Baptist Voices, a dialogue between Southern Baptist seminarians and representatives of the BioLogos perspective on science and Christian faith. For a more complete description of the project’s history and aims, please see our introduction here.

In Part 1 and Part 2 of his own two-part paper, Expressing Our Concerns, Dr. Kenneth Keathley named six areas that many Southern Baptists find problematic about BioLogos. While Thursday’s Part 1 of our response covered the first three of those concerns, this post picks up with our consideration of Keathley’s points four, five and six.

4. The status of Adam and Eve:

Keathley declares the historicity of Adam and Eve to be a “litmus test,” though for what exactly he does not say. Presumably he means a litmus test for biblical orthodoxy, but not for being a Christian. Keathley rightly points to Paul’s argument in Romans 5 as one of the most challenging New Testament passages regarding Adam and Eve, and we have welcomed extensive discussion of it on our website.

BioLogos does not take a firm position on the historicity of Adam and Eve, but welcomes a range of perspectives, as seen in this statement composed by several evangelical leaders at our New York conference. We view the historical details of Adam and the physical details of the Fall as secondary matters of belief and not core beliefs on which all Christians must agree. Meanwhile, we wholeheartedly affirm the core belief that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3) and that the only answer to human sinfulness is the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Finally, then, whether or not Adam was a real person is a theological question, not a scientific one; the most science can say is that there was never a time when the human population from which all modern humans descended was as small as two individuals. This fact obviously creates interesting questions regarding the image of God and original sin, but nothing in evolutionary biology precludes the possibility that God began a covenantal relationship with a real, historical first couple who brought about spiritual death as a result of their disobedience.

Keathley paraphrases three of C. John Collins’s criteria for an orthodox understanding of Adam and Eve as laid out in his recent book, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?:

  1. The origin of the human could not have come about by mere natural processes.
  2. Adam and Eve were “at the headwaters of the human race.”
  3. A historical fall must have occurred very closely to the beginning of the human race.

Interestingly, Keathley does not include Collins’s fourth criterion, which specifically allows for the possibility of an evolutionary scenario:

If someone should decide that there were, in fact, more human beings than just Adam and Eve at the beginning of mankind, then…he should envision these humans as a single tribe…This tribe “fell” under the leadership of Adam and Eve. This follows from the notion of solidarity in a representative (p121).

By “origin of the human” in (a), Collins means not simply how modern human physiology came about, but how humans came to be made in the image of God. According to Collins, “‘in our image, after our likeness’ [Gen. 1:26] implies that humans were made with some kind of resemblance to God, which was to enable them to represent God as benevolent rulers, and to find their fulfillment in their relationships with each other and with God” (p94). Humans having animal forebears does not, in Collins’s view nor ours, make this description problematic. Since science can only investigate “mere natural processes,” we do not expect that a purely scientific description could ever fully account for the human person.

Paraphrased as it is here, one might mistake (b) to mean that Adam and Eve must be the sole genetic progenitors of all humankind, but given the fourth criterion and further explanation, Collins makes it clear that this isn’t necessary. Rather, he is concerned to avoid “polygenesis,” the idea that humans arose independently in multiple places. Such an idea is unsettling, in his view, because it “[implies] that there are some humans who do not need the Christian message because they are not ‘fallen’—or else that every time God made human beings they ‘fell,’ or that there is some other means of transmitting sin.” As the scientific data currently suggest a single origin for humans (the so-called “out of Africa” model), we need not concern ourselves further on this point here.

As for (c), we do not dispute the occurrence of a historical Fall, though we do not presume to know how exactly it occurred. We have been clear to point out, though, that all physical death is not the result of human sin; many entire species became extinct long before humans appeared on the scene. As Collins points out, “the teeth and claws of a lion are not a decoration, nor have they been perverted from their ‘pre-fall use’” (p116).

In brief, we interpret the Gen. 2:17 threat of death upon disobedience to be that of spiritual death—broken relationships and alienation from God. More will be said on this critical topic when we post the Southern Baptist essays on death and the problem of evil.

5. The perennial problem of evil:

The problem of evil is indeed a challenge, as it always has been for the church. While the biblical narrative does indicate that death will be conquered forever in the new heavens and new earth, Scripture does not take a universally negative view of suffering and death in the present age. Rather it is recognized as being both a tragedy and a creative force. In John 12, Jesus says,

24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

The agricultural imagery helps us understand that new life comes at a significant cost. Consider also Paul’s words in Romans 5:3-4: “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” We don’t glory in suffering for suffering’s sake, but because of the outcome—a hope that doesn’t disappoint.

Not only does suffering ultimately produce hope in the life of individual believers, but as Tertullian observed so long ago, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” God in his mysterious wisdom has chosen to grow his church through great pain and suffering, but he promises to redeem it in the end.

In his essay, Keathley declares that “evolutionary theory presents selfishness as a virtue—perhaps the only virtue. Even altruism is seen as well-disguised selfishness.” While this may represent a popular understanding of evolution, we’d like to point out that any scientific theory is merely descriptive, not prescriptive. The observation that stronger individuals in a population tend to flourish at the expense of weaker ones does not justify a “might makes right” mentality. Any treatment of evolution that presents selfishness as a virtue has ventured outside the realm of science and into philosophy.

This topic will be addressed in more depth in response to the essay by Steve Lemke.

6. The nature and authority of Scripture:

We at BioLogos believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God. By the Holy Spirit it is the “living and active” means though which He speaks to the church today, bearing witness to His Son, Jesus, as the divine Logos, or Word of God.

We do not use the words “infallible” or “inerrant” here because these words mean different things to different audiences. Keathley writes that the Bible is “without any mixture of error,” but what does he mean exactly? Are we to take Jesus’ statement that the mustard seed was the smallest of all seeds as a declaration of scientific fact, when botanists have identified smaller ones? Or was Jesus simply speaking in ways his readers could understand?

We appreciate Keathley pointing out that B.B. Warfield, who wrote so clearly in support of inerrancy, held to theistic evolution. We have posted an excellent two-part series on Warfield’s meaning of the term inerrancy by Michael Horton (here and here). Horton points out that Warfield defined inerrancy as the truthfulness in what the biblical writers were affirming. According to Warfield, “It is true that the Scriptures were not designed to teach philosophy, science, or ethnology, or human history as such, and therefore they are not to be studied primarily as sources of information on these subjects.” This statement may surprise many who take a narrower view of inerrancy. We recommend Horton’s essay without reservation and would be interested to know whether Southern Baptist scholars such as Keathley take issue with it.

Keathley concludes his essay with these words:

If the members of The BioLogos Foundation someday demonstrate how evolutionary creationism fits reasonably with a high view of Scripture, a credible approach to Gen 1-3, a historical Adam and Eve, and a historical Fall, then I will be the first to take their arguments seriously.

We hope this essay, and the ones still to come in this series, go some small way toward meeting his challenge. May God’s truth prevail in all our efforts.

With the posting of this last part of the BioLogos response, comments sections are open for all of the previous posts, as well. If you would like to comment on a particular point in either Dr. Keathley’s paper or the response, we suggest that you do so on that particular post, in order to facilitate easier navigation of the multiple conversations that are likely to arise around the issues raised. As stated in the introduction, we will be more actively monitoring the comments as they are posted so that both tone and content are consistent with the BioLogos aim of creating a space of conversation, rather than confrontation. Please also review our commenting guidelines.


Kathryn Applegate is Program Director at The BioLogos Foundation. She received her PhD in computational cell biology at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. At Scripps, she developed computer vision software tools for analyzing the cell's infrastructure, the cytoskeleton.
Deborah Haarsma serves as President of The BioLogos Foundation, a position she has held since January 2013. Previously, she served as professor and chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Gifted in interpreting complex scientific topics for lay audiences, Dr. Haarsma often speaks to churches, colleges, and schools about the relationships between science and Christian faith. She is author (along with her husband Loren Haarsma) of Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (2011, 2007), a book presenting the agreements and disagreements of Christians regarding the history of life and the universe. Haarsma is an experienced research scientist, with several publications in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology.
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.

< Previous post in series


View the archived discussion of this post

This article is now closed for new comments. The archived comments are shown below.

Loading...
Page 1 of 1   1
paul.bruggink1 - #68303

March 2nd 2012

Re the end of the first paragraph under his concern #3, Prof. Keathley states: “Evolutionary creationists understand God to have guided and sustained the entire process by means of ordinary providence. No direct divine activity is discernible or necessary.”

I find those two sentences a bit confusing. It would be helpful to have a clearer understanding of what you mean by “ordinary providence” and by “direct diving activity.”

The reason I ask is that it appears to me that evolutionary creationists are somewhat divided on this particular issue.   For example, Peter Enns (a former BioLogos contributor) states in his new book ”The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins” on page xiv:  “Some Christians reconcile their faith with evolution by saying that God initiated and guides this process, which is fine (and which I believe) . . . . “

It is my understanding that ID proponents claim that they can find scientific evidence of divine activity in biological evolution, whereas BioLogos proponents suggest that although God could very well have guided the process, it is inappropriate to expect science to find evidence of divine action.  Alvin Plantinga appears to support this view in his new book “Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, & Naturalism.”


Darrel Falk - #68305

March 2nd 2012

Paul,

Your main question is directed toward Kenneth Keathley, however I would like to make one quick comment.   In summarizing the BioLogos view  you said, “it is inappropriate to expect science to find evidence of divine action.”

I think maybe I would prefer to word it a little differently.  The findings of science do point, (wonderfully actually) to God as Creator.  The question is whether these sign posts can be formulated into testable scientific hypotheses, and whether attempts to do so up until now have been successful.  I also think I’d soften your statement about “inappropriate to expect.”   We’re skeptical about whether one should expect to find scientifically verifiable evidence.  The ID leaders, on the other hand, are quite confident that it is possible.

Chip - #68355

March 5th 2012

Darrel,

This is interesting, as I’ve never really gotten this impression from reading any of BL’s stuff. Would you be willing to provide a handful of examples in which “the  findings of science do point, (wonderfully actually) to God as Creator”?

Thnx,


Darrel Falk - #68356

March 5th 2012

Sure.  Mark Sprinkle’s weekly worship series.  Jennifer Wiseman’s series which commences today.  Francis Collins’ book “Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.” My own book “Coming to Peace with Science.” The  John Polkinghorne’s series on our site.  Here is the link to two of them.  For links to Part 1 and IV of this series, see the side bars.


For links to Part 1 and IV of this series, see the side bars. 

There are a lot more.  

Psalm 19 says it best though:  “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech.  Night after night they display knowledge.”   

And the Psalmist had never even seen the inside of a cell or come to appreciate the beauty of a DNA molecule!



HornSpiel - #68304

March 2nd 2012

Dr. Keathly seems to have struck a relatively conciliatory tone in his posts. Still he seems to be a bit standoffish, as in this quote:


 If no evolutionary theory can be found that can reasonably incorporate above three criteria, then that would be a deal killer. 

He is very concerned that Christians maintain a high view of Scripture, but for that he is apparently willing to sacrifice a  high view of Creation. This is want really bothers me. Many of my SBC brethren seem to be unwilling, even afraid to look at the evidence for evolution, common decent, and the age of the earth until they can get some assurance that it will not change what they already believe to be true. 

rgcolling - #68339

March 3rd 2012

This has been my experience as well.  Basically conceding that evolution may or may not be true, but that it will not even be considered until the scientists demonstrate to them that it verifies what they already hold to be doctrinal truth.


John Appleton - #70156

May 28th 2012

  I think i for one am willing to look at the evidence-i am not alarmed by the brethren who embrace EC, i do however take issue with the notion that the evidence is plain for all to see.  At its core evolutionary theory is far more a philosophical belief system than a science, it requires a step of faith to believe that creation occured in this fashion.  Perhaps you can provide me some links for this “overwhelming evidence”.


melanogaster - #70199

May 30th 2012

John Appleton:
“I think i for one am willing to look at the evidence”

You think? Wouldn’t one know? Either way, I welcome your willingness.

“-i am not alarmed by the brethren who embrace EC, i do however take issue with the notion that the evidence is plain for all to see.”

But you haven’t even looked! Don’t you see that you are contradicting yourself, John?

“At its core evolutionary theory is far more a philosophical belief system than a science,”

You are wrong and you are poisoning the well.

Since you have yet to look at the evidence, why would you make any grandiose claims about the theory, which at its core is based on evidence?

“…it requires a step of faith to believe that creation occured in this fashion.”

Now I’m doubting your sincerity, John, since you just switched from evolutionary theory to creation. Please be specific about the creation to which you are referring.

“Perhaps you can provide me some links for this “overwhelming evidence”.”

John, John, John! How can one possibly look at overwhelming evidence for one’s self by looking at a few links? The evidence is not rhetorical! Are you willing to wrap your mind around that? This is at the heart of the deceptive campaign of evolution denialists. If you are willing, I would be more than happy to point you to places at which you can merely begin to look at the overwhelming evidence.

Are you REALLY willing, Brother John?


Merv - #68306

March 2nd 2012

The following paragraph in the Biologos response above showcases a concern (expressed by both parties—but especially the Southern Baptist Voices) that the tail not “wag the dog”.

Biologos writers stated:  “Finally, then, whether or not Adam was a real person is a theological
question, not a scientific one; the most science can say is that there
was never a time when the human population from which all modern humans
descended was as small as two individuals. This fact obviously creates
interesting questions regarding the image of God and original sin, but
nothing in evolutionary biology precludes [emphasis added] the possibility that God began
a covenantal relationship with a real, historical first couple who
brought about spiritual death as a result of their disobedience.”

While my sympathies tend more towards Biologos positions, I can understand YEC concerns about these kinds of positional statements.  One wonders how this would have been written if something in biology DID preclude the conclusion that follows?  It would seem that the writers would follow the biology rather than the Scriptures if forced into a choice.  My own response is to see it as a false dichotomy (since biology does not in fact do any such thing) and yet I can understand the concerns that are generated by these consistently heard phrases which seem to place Scripture into a subservient relationship to science.  I don’t think it actually does, of course, but that will nevertheless be a source of disagreement that must be discussed.

—Merv


Mark Sprinkle - #68307

March 2nd 2012

Just a clarification that we’ve now opened the entire Southern Baptist Voices series to commenting, and invite readers to start conversations about specific points raised in each section on those pages, just to keep the conversation(s) manageable.  Thanks!


Gudnews - #68308

March 2nd 2012

I’m a Southern Baptist pastor. I’ve been following the evolution discussion keenly since I was a boy forty years ago, so I’m pretty excited to read all these articles. Perhaps a literary allusion will help explain where we SoBaps are. Like Odysseus lashed to the mast, we have committed ourselves irrevocably to the truth of the Bible. (It’s in our denominational DNA, if I may use the metaphor.) We appreciate the contributions of science, and benefit from them enormously. Yet the idea of fudging the truth of the Bible in any way, for any reason, is like contemplating carving out our own hearts. So we won’t. I’d willingly chuck the entire scientific enterprise, if I had to. Call it fideism, fundamentalism, whatever, but there it is. I really don’t want to choose one or the other, because science is endlessly fascinating and delightful to me, and has been all my life. But in the end, I’ll go with the Bible. I’m lashed to the mast. I get the feeling that some at Biologos are, too. Beneath all the scholarship and expertise, I think I hear a similar abandon (just a pretty apt word for faith, after all). That’s why I’m really eager to read on.


HornSpiel - #68315

March 2nd 2012

As a SoBap member but not brought up that way, thanks for helping me to understand the depth of passion my pastoral staff probably has for this subject.  I came to accept evolution after being a YEC for many years. You say:

Perhaps a literary allusion will help explain where we SoBaps are. Like
Odysseus lashed to the mast, we have committed ourselves irrevocably to
the truth of the Bible.

Odysseus lashed himself to the mast so he would not be enticed to his doom by the Siren songs. Is science a Siren? Are SoBaps afraid that they will be enticed by science to abandon their faith, or it is more their denominational distinctives?

By the way, what mast do you feel the Biologos folks are lashed to?


Gudnews - #68412

March 7th 2012

Is science a Siren? No more or less than theology can be. Really anything about human culture, learning, or experience can be either a snare or a blessing.

Are SoBaps afraid that we will be enticed by science to abandon our faith? Maybe. But it’s not just science, as I just noted. It could be any form of learning—or religion, for that matter. I don’t think we’ve ever recovered from the Crawford Toy debacle. Google him, and you’ll see what I mean. And it’s not so much “abandoning” our faith that is the spectre that haunts us. It’s so thoroughly retooling the faith that it really becomes something completely other than orthodox truth—all while telling ourselves we’re staying true to Christ and his Word.

or is it more their denominational distinctives? I doubt that. Witness the continued growth in popularity of “elder-led” church polity among SoBaps. The one denominational distinctive we’re really obstinate about is the Bible. We think that calling Jesus “Lord” without obeying his commands is absurd (as Jesus himself pointed out). As far as we can see it, we really have only three options for where to listen if we want to hear or Lord’s commands: church tradition, mystical insight, or biblical truth. Church tradition is an infamous mess, and mystical insight has an even uglier history. So if we want to hear from Jesus, we’ve got to listen to the Bible. We mean to take the Bible seriously as the written Word of our Lord. We’ll study it carefully—the lexical, grammatical, cultural, literary data, all of it—and then accept whatever we believe the Bible is teaching… at all costs. We know of no other way to be disciples of a man who lived two millennia ago.

What mast do I feel Biologos is lashed to? Mainstream science, at all costs. Nothing can be allowed to compromise that core commitment. At least, that’s how it looks to me. Every Christian has to be willing to envision that point at which he’ll be willing to be thought a fool for Christ.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68331

March 2nd 2012

Gudnews,

How do you distinguish between the truth of the Bible and the Truth of Jesus Christ?  As I am sure you know John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” refering to Jesus Christ.

It also says, “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.”  Doesn’t this mean that the Father used the Son as sort of a pattern for the universe, so that it was truly good a home for humans created in God’s own Image?  Doesn’t that indicate that this is why Jesus could truly be fully Human as well as fully God? 

Doesn’t the Bible indicate that a rational, powerful, good Father God created a good, rational, wondrous universe to be the home for rational, creative, spiritual humans?  Yes, humanity fell into sin and we and the universe became distorted and perverted by sin, but the Logos Himself, the rational Word came as a Human to break the power of sin and death by suffering the curse of sin and death so we humans might be restored to right relationship with God, with ourselves, and with others, and even the universe.   

Thus it seems that God does speak humans primarily through Jesus Christ Who is found in the Bible, Who is found through the Holy Spirit through prayer and in the lives and words of others, and Who has left His imprint in the universe to which He has given form and meaning.   

 


Gudnews - #68413

March 7th 2012

Great post, and I applaud almost every word of it. It’s that first sentence that gives me pause. I would never try to distinguish between the truth of Jesus Christ and the truth of the Bible. The only authoritative knowledge we have about Jesus is from the Bible. That book is itself the written word of the Lving Word, Jesus. He commissioned them to make disciples, and then to teach them who he was, what he did, and what he said. He promised his Spirit would help them in that task, and years later they seemed to think that a key means of discharging that duty was the literature the Spirit was empowering them to write: what we now have as our Bible. So how could I ever distinguish between the Word and his word?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68441

March 9th 2012

Gudnews wrote:

 So how could I ever distinguish between the Word and his word?

Because while God’s Word is God, the Third Person of the Trinity, God’s word is holy, but not divine.  Jesus Christ is “the Image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15) the Father, and the Bible is not. 

Can’t you see that a Pharisee at the time of Jesus could rightly say that the Bible in Genesis clearly says that God rested on the seventh day, so all good Jews must too in order to obey the 10 Commandments.  Jesus could not be the Messiah if He did not obey God’s word, could He? 

 

 


Gudnews - #68457

March 10th 2012

Roger, please forgive my semantic failure. The word “separate” would have been better than the word “distinguish.” (E.g., the Father and the Son must be distinguished, but must not be separated.) The Bible is not God, but it is his written Word. Specifically, it is the only reliable and authoritative access we have to Jesus’ person, work, and words. Jesus himself held the OT scripture in utmost regard. He consistently made clear, conclusive statements about its authority, and so routinely began and concluded a theological argument by quoting it. We may and must distinguish between the Living Word, Jesus Christ, and his written word to his followers, the Bible. But he has not left us room to disbelieve or dispute against that written word. To refuse his word is to refuse him.

The Pharisees did accuse Jesus of being a Sabbath-breaker. His answer was never, “You just don’t grasp the creation story well enough,” although he was never shy to tell his enemies they didn’t understand their Bibles. His answer was, “I ‘get’ the Sabbath because I’m the Lord of the Sabbath.” He could say how the rules did or didn’t apply because he made the rules.

We cannot imagine that Jesus gave his followers room to dismiss or disregard the scriptures—or just reimagine them. He was clear and emphatic in enforcing them more strictly than the Pharisees did, not less.

If there is a key difference between what you have said so far and what I have said, it is that we seem to look for reliable, authoritative truth about Jesus in slightly different loci: you, in the Bible, prayer, others, and creation; I, sola in scriptura. Is this a fair assessment?


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68473

March 12th 2012

GudNews wrote:

If there is a key difference between what you have said so far and what I have said, it is that we seem to look for reliable, authoritative truth about Jesus in slightly different loci: you, in the Bible, prayer, others, and creation; I, sola in scriptura. Is this a fair assessment?

Probably yes, however the way I see it is that I begin with John 1`with the NT version of Creation, while you seem to begin with Gen 1.

The other isue I have with your statement is that the First Commandment clearly says “You shall not have any god before Me.”  If the Bible is your only source of knowledge about Jesus Christ, you have made that mistake. 

When we include prayer, Creation, the experiences of others as well as our own as well as the Bible, then we make room for the Holy Spirit to be the Source of our knowledge of Jesus Christ working through these important elements of faith. 

We believe in God Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.  When we limit the Son to communicate to us only through the Bible and not through the Holy Spirit, we are limiting God.  We need to be born again.  We need to have more Holy Spirit in our lives, not less.

Certainly Jesus redefined the OT because He was superior to the OT.  It seems to me that the NT  Logos refines Gen 1 because Jesus is superior to Gen 1.  Jesus blessed the Canaanite woman cursed by Noah, because Jesus was greater than Noah. 

Jesus also was greater than Moses, David, and all the great authors of the Bible.  We do not reject the OT, but the NT is clearly superior to the Old.  The letter of the Law kills, but the Holy Spirit gives Life.         


Steven Curry - #68310

March 2nd 2012

Since the Southern Baptist tradition includes both YEC and OEC, I think it would be interesting to start with the age of the Earth (which is also a simpler issue than evolution).

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which is affirmed by Keathley’s seminary, says,

    “Article 21. We affirm the harmony of special with general
    revelation and therefore of biblical teaching with the facts of
    nature.

    We deny that any genuine scientific facts are inconsistent with
    the true meaning of any passage of Scripture.”

According to this, if it is a scientific fact that the Earth is old then one may accept OEC. But the next article says,

    “Article 22. We affirm that Genesis 1-11 is factual, as is the
    rest of the book.

    We deny that the teachings of Genesis 1-11 are mythical and that
    scientific hypotheses about earth history or the origin of
    humanity may be invoked to overthrow what Scripture teaches about
    creation.”

This appears to demand YEC. If the Earth is old then this article seemingly contradicts to the previous article.

How is OEC reconciled with the Chicago Statement?


Ashe - #68313

March 2nd 2012

As a former OEC, I think I could channel my past, and I would be slightly uncomfortable with this particular phrasing,  ”scientific hypotheses about earth history”. However, no OEC would say that their model “overthrows what Scripture teaches”. They just interpret things differently (e.g. the days of Genesis are actually many years, not 24 hours). 


Steven Curry - #68337

March 3rd 2012

Perhaps one can find wiggle room in the only the sections I quoted, but from the Chicago Statement as a whole it seems clear that YEC is the intended meaning. For instance,

“We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.”

“We deny the legitimacy of any approach to Scripture that attributes to it meaning which the literal sense does not support.”

“We deny that extrabiblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold priority over it.”


KevinR - #68392

March 7th 2012

As opposed to Ex 20:8-11?


Arnold Arredondo - #68318

March 2nd 2012

I would like to thank BioLogos for providing a great format for discussion.  In a desire to understand your position, I have a few questions to clarify your position.  Are you stating in your “out of Africa” comment that you affirm that a “mitochondrial Eve” existed at the same time period with Homo Erectus?  If so, are you stating that you accept the view that the “nephesh” or “soul” was given only to Homo sapiens? 

 


Dennis Venema - #68319

March 2nd 2012

Hi Arnold, 


The word nephesh is used in the Hebrew scriptures to refer to humans and animals, so it would be odd to go against that usage and claim it is the equivalent to “soul.” 



brutewolf - #68332

March 2nd 2012

(I’m a surgeon, member of the Church of Christ, and benefactor to BioLogos.) I’m wondering if someone from the Baptist community could comment on abandoning geocentrism, despite its standing as firm doctrine for thousands of years. There are over sixty verses in the Bible which refer to the Earth standing still, or the heavenly bodies moving around it. Quite often, such as in Joshua, it is in obvious non-poetic language. I found the hermeneutics of heliocentrism to be a wonderful starting point for my transition to the evolutionary model.


Also, most of this discussion has (appropriately) been placing the onus on BioLogos to provide sound doctrine, but I’d like to understand more about Mr. Keathley’s position as a “disappointed young earther”. Does this mean that, as an OEC, one could never accept the evidence of a population bottleneck, or of interbreeding between H. sapiens sapiens and H. sapiens neandertalensis? Do you believe, for instance, as the Reasons To Believe crowd does, that, Neandertal was a non-human animal?

I really like, by the way, your phrase “disappointed young earther”. Over the past twenty years, I’ve slowly transitioned from disappointed YEC to disappointed OEC to finally-at-peace evolutionary creationist.

Thank you for joining this conversation. Coming from the Church of Christ, it’s refreshing to see more conservative evangelicals willing to engage. You’ve been a real blessing.



ScottL - #68334

March 3rd 2012

I appreciate this series very much. I think the questions and concerns voiced by those in the SBC are also being addressed elsewhere, like Pete Enns’ new book, The Evolution of Adam. And I think there are a lot of people doing this with a desire to maintain a solid biblical theology and pastoral wisdom, rather than be destructive. I am concerned when we start throwing out words like dangerous to describe those who hold to EC, or even worse, the h-word (heresy).

To the BioLogos folk, and I am aware that you note there are varying views amongst the contributors and staff of BioLogos, but I think it would do well to better engage with the understanding that the death that was pronounced in Gen 2:17 was not “spiritual” death, but actual (physical) death. The judgment was death and “returning to the ground” as dust (Gen 3:19). I think we try and work backwards by making Paul’s words in Rom 5 fit “perfectly” into Gen 2. We need to start with Gen 1-3 first, let it speak itself, and then move on from there. But we will do well to rethink the idea that death is just that, death. Is Paul talking about sin and death in Rom 5, or is he talking about sin and “spiritual” death?

Thanks again for the series.


asdfkjhasdflkhasdfl - #68352

March 5th 2012

ScottL,

I’m glad you are appreciating the series.  On the issue of spiritual vs. physical death, there is internal evidence in Genesis for reading this as spiritual death:

1. Genesis 2:17 says “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will certainly die.”   The plain reading is that Adam and Eve would die immediately upon eating the fruit, but they did not.  Instead, they immediately felt a separation from God.  They were immediately banished from Eden but lived long physical lives after that.

2. What is the purpose of the Tree of Life?   In 3:22 God says “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever.”  The tree of life gives immortality and was planted in the garden from the beginning (2:9).  If Adam and Eve were created immortal, the tree doesn’t seem to have a purpose.  If Adam and Eve were created mortal, than the tree could could symbolize the potential for Adam and Eve to gain immortality at some point, a point which never happened because they disobeyed. 

On Paul’s statements, note 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 “when the mortal is clothed with immortality”, “Death has been swallowed up in victory”, and “the sting of death is sin.”   To summarize: we will be resurrected immortal in a triumph over physical death, but the real victory is over the spiritual death of sin.   So, this could be consistent with the view physical death as part of God’s plan for this creation, and immortality as his plan for the new creation. 

I don’t claim these internal textual arguments are conclusive, but that they show ambiguity in the text that allows the “spiritual death” interpretation.   In cases where God’s revelation in scripture is open to multiple interpretations, it is appropriate to consider God’s revelation in nature to help decide between them.


ScottL - #68388

March 7th 2012

Deborah -



I am very aware of the “spiritual death” arguments, from Genesis and
over the rest of Scripture. I have generally leaned that way myself, but
am trying to reconsider things in light of other discussions that exist
around mortality/immortality and heaven/hell. Just as I have always
held to an “awake” intermediate state between death and Christ’s return,
one where the “soul” waits with Christ for the final resurrection, and I
think this could be considered with certain passages, I believe I need
to re-examine the biblical narrative to see if “soul sleep” is more
faithful to the full tenor of Scripture. That is what I am considering
here about death.



You said, “the plain reading”. That’s why there are multiple interpretations, right? I think we assume immediate death as “plain” in the context. We connect it with the English word “when”, as in “when
you eat of it you will certainly die”. But when we read consistently
through the Scripture, we see that it is death and not “spiritual” death
that is the lot of humankind. From dust you were created and to dust
you shall return, speaking or physical death. Sheol and Hades speak of
the grave, that is death. Not to mention that people normally speak of
“spiritual” death coming after sin enters the world and such “separates”
us from a relationship with God. Interesting that the early accounts
still have people interacting quite openly with God. Was that an
instance where we became “spiritually” dead and we now need
“regeneration”?



So I think we need to engage more with biblical scholarship on this
aspect of death and what it is theologically, and also see how this fits
with what we recognise biologically.


ScottL - #68335

March 3rd 2012

Gudnews -

You stated: Like Odysseus lashed to the mast, we have committed ourselves
irrevocably to the truth of the Bible. (It’s in our denominational DNA,
if I may use the metaphor.) We appreciate the contributions of science,
and benefit from them enormously. Yet the idea of fudging the truth of
the Bible in any way, for any reason, is like contemplating carving out
our own hearts. So we won’t.


I understand your concern. No one wants anyone fudging Scripture in any destructive sense. But let’s remember that, many times, the problem is not fudging Scripture, but a shaking in our own interpretive traditions that we thought were THE way, the truth and the life (which is reserved for one Person alone).

And our interpretations of Scripture will continue to go through transformation. We have to remember that and make room for it. I talked to one pastor the other day and he shared with me about the “denomination” he works with. When it comes to a touchy issue in the modern day, not science and faith but another issue, his denomination easily responds by saying they dealt with that 20 years ago. But, no doubt, issues have to always be revisited as the church moves forward and new “evidence” comes forth. It’s not about being wishy-washy, but faithful to God continuing to make himself known in his world within each generation and culture. If everything was settled 20 years or 200 years ago, then I fail we will miss the opportunity to be transformed into Christ’s image in ALL that we are.

This whole science and faith issue is not finished. We need to continue to be open to rethinking some things. Again, not in a destructive matter, but in a healthy and wise manner. The SBC allows for women to participate in (“lead”?) quite a few things in 2012 that would have been appalling to an SBC person in 1950. But we would be thankful for the movement forward some 60 years later. We could say this on a whole host of issues where wisdom was employed to reconsider certain issues. And such has to be considered with this discussion here on faith and science.

We want to remain faithful to God’s word in Scripture, but we do not have it all figured out just yet. We need to continually see our interpretive traditions shaken so that all is left ultimately is God’s unshakable kingdom (Heb 12:26-29).


Steven Curry - #68341

March 4th 2012

Gudnews has in fact stated the majority opinion in America:

“When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding…”

http://pewresearch.org/pubs/578/how-the-public-resolves-conflicts-between-faith-and-science

I would like to know how Biologos realistically intends to persuade the people who have taken Gudnews’ position. This is the main target audience of Biologos, is it not? Is the plan simply to present alternative theologies? Why would someone abandon the theology they were taught on the advice of some organization like Biologos?


Darrel Falk - #68342

March 4th 2012

There are many people who genuinely want to understand the evolutionary creation view.  Our goal is to explain that view fully, including the mainstream science behind it and the theology with which it is consistent.  We are especially concerned about those young people who think they must choose between living a life centered in the person of Jesus Christ and accepting what their biology textbooks tell them. That is a false dichotomy and we are deeply concerned about it.


Darrel Falk - #68346

March 4th 2012

We receive a lot of email messages which illustrate the concern I address above.  Here’s one, written a few days ago, that I  read after I wrote the above:

“I am a Southern Baptist and just graduated from a Baptist college.  For most of my life, I have been an old-earth creationist, but college had me re-think a lot of what I formerly believed.  I really am considering theistic evolution, and biologos has helped me in my journey so far.  Though, I feel that in some ways I am just getting started.  I almost lost my faith last year, but God has been guiding me since then.  I actually feel that my faith is growing again!  I just need prayer because many people I know will just not understand.  It is a hard thing to re-examine and re-work one’s theology, but I believe maturity requires it.”


Merv - #68343

March 4th 2012

Not being a Biologos official, but a lurker and long-time commenter only, I’ll nevertheless venture a response. 

I think your question of “how do they intend to persuade the people who have taken Gudnews’ position…” makes it sound like Biologos stands alone with some great responsibility to deliver the masses into new understandings.  But truth itself is no respecter of organizations or massive majority opinion.  How many of us still believe the earth is stationary?  Yet geocentric adherents would have numbered much more than 64% in their day. 

I see Biologos as just offering to help Christians accept (and recognize orthodox options for accepting) findings about nature that have been used by much more hostile voices to attack Christian faith.  Biologos is providing a service, not an indoctrination campaign.  If a person in a burning house decides they don’t like the fireman who is reaching out to help them, they of course have the option to reject his help.  But their declining to accept help doesn’t make the fire go away.  Sooner or later Christians who wish to stay in tune with what creation has to show while also maintaining a contradictory theology will find this dissonance to be irritating and persistent.  They can reject the reality, but reality will outlive their theology.  Biologos is just one among many organizations and individuals all through recent history that wish to play a helpful part as we prune back unhealthy or untrue branches that we have tried to graft in to orthodox theology.  My ‘burning house’ metaphor may be inappropriately inflammatory; I’m not suggesting this is a salvation issue, but only an issue of true or accurate understandings of creation according to the best understandings currently available, which do seem convincing to many.

—Merv


Merv - #68344

March 4th 2012

sorry about that.  Dr. Falk’s much shorter response above had not yet appeared when I wrote mine.
—Merv


beaglelady - #68345

March 4th 2012

But your response was a good one


brutewolf - #68347

March 4th 2012

In some regard, the goals of scientists with a biologos position is already taking hold in the church. I’m encouraged by Mr. Keathley’s position as a “disappointed young earth creationist”. I’m hoping and assuming that he means that Answers in Genesis, etc. have been detrimental to the cause of Christ, and should not be advocated in a church setting. 


I’m very empathetic with Christians not wanting to abandon a strictly literal view of Genesis 1. (It’s taken me twenty years to get to this point.) If you’re not comfortable accepting the science, I’m asking you to simply consider becoming agnostic toward the science. It’s much healthier than trying to ingest folk science from ICR and Answers in Genesis. 

As I’ve said in our Bible class on personal evangelism, if you have a friend who won’t consider Christianity simply because of evolution, the correct response is to tell that person, “I have many Godly brothers and sisters who have no problem with evolution. And they’d love to talk with you.”

Roger A. Sawtelle - #68353

March 5th 2012

The problem cannot be set up as the Bible vs Science as many people phrased it.  The main reason for this is that Christians do not believe in the Bible.  We believe in Jesus Christ.

The New Testament does contradict in some basic ways the OT.  One can say with real accuracy that the Pharises certainly believed in the Bible, but rejected Jesus as the Messiah.  If Christians take a view of Gen 1 as historically true, they are not taking a New Testament approach to the Torah. 

John 1 begins, “In the beginning,” clearly indicating that John is rewriting the Gen 1 creation story making Jesus Christ, the Logos, God’s rational Word, as the basis of the order of Creation as well as the order of Salvation.  This is what we need to reconcile, and only Jesus can do this theologically, rather than scientifically.    


Merv - #68357

March 5th 2012

The trouble with this approach, Roger, is that Jesus himself doesn’t posture what he’s doing as “correcting” the O.T.  He came to fulfill it.  In fact he even warns that not the least law should be set aside (...which I’ll freely admit I do not understand in light of what Paul teaches in Galatians.)  So I am sympathetic (even in agreement with you) about the O.T. and N.T. seeming irreconcileable in many points.  But to the extent that we insist on disregarding the “law or the prophets”, we must admit that it is NOT what Jesus (the Word of God, after all!) taught.

—Merv


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68359

March 5th 2012

Merv,

What Jesus was talking about was change, such as new wine ain old wineskins.  Paul preached that God’s people did not have be circumcised even after God told Abraham that they did. 

When Peter exclaimed that he had never eaten anything unclean, he was following the Bible, even when God was telling him to eat.  We do not celebrate the Lord’s Day on the 7th day, but on the first. 

Jesus healed the daughter of the Canaanite woman even though her people were cursed by Noah.  Jesus ministered to the Samaritan woman even though her people were excluded by Ezra.  He forgave the woman caught in adultery.  He healed the woman made unclean by bleeding. 

We are so far from Jesus historically that it seems that we do not understand how revolutionary He was.  His was indeed a New Covenant based on His law, not the Torah. 

If He revised our understanding of God’s Law so throughly, why are we content to accept the ANE cosmology of the OT?  We need to look at the universe not through Gen 1, but through John 1, and the other cosmological statements found in the NT. 

According to Paul, the Law and sin are closely related.  We know what sin is because it is against the Law.  However, once we are redeemed, we are swaved from the power of sin and no longer need the OT Law.  We are under the Law of Love and the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus fulfilled the Law by dying for the sin of the world, thus opening salvation to all that believe in Him.  Thus in a real sense the Moral Law survives to govern and convict non-Christians.      


Merv - #68360

March 5th 2012

All very true—Jesus indeed did all these things.  The one thing he did not do was tell us that the old law has now been nullified.

I think of it this way:  Jesus gave us a different way to be “above the law” which, in this sense does not mean to ignore it with impunity.  Jesus (and Paul) effectively tell us:  So you want to be justified by the law?  Okay; here is what it is going to take:  You think that God is impressed if you don’t commit adultery?  I raise the bar.  You can’t even *think* about it!  You limit your vengeance to an eye for an eye?  I don’t want you to take revenge at all, but turn the other cheek instead, and then love your enemy.  In other words, the old testament law was a shadow of the perfection that we would need if we were to become holy by our own works.  After Jesus raises the bar impossibly higher, he then stoops to love us and take us in, as the law-breakers that we are.

I like Timothy Keller’s  approach to this in “Generous Justice” where he discusses how even O.T. law (much of it) reveals God’s heart.  Jesus doesn’t repeal or undo it, but takes it much further—shows us the conclusion, so to speak:  that we just need him.  After that, we pursue the spirit behind all these laws just because we love the law giver; not because we harbor any illusions about saving ourselves.  So yes, we no longer follow many details that were culture/environment specific.  But the heart of what was there is an unmistakable pointer that Jesus summarized for us—along with his command to ‘be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect” just in case we miss the point about how high this bar is we start imagining we can jump.

—Merv



Roger A. Sawtelle - #68361

March 5th 2012

part 2,

Jesus was not correcting the Law, Jesus was replacing the Law with Himself.  Legalists correct the Law by replacing the old rules with new rules while keeping the same basic form.  That would be like rewriting Gen 1 in a new updated “scientific” manner. 


Merv - #68372

March 6th 2012

Okay.   That has more of a Pauline echo to it —children of the slave woman vs. being children of the free woman.  He does, I believe, also refer to the “law of Christ”—but I do agree with you that Jesus was not about making newer sets of rules.  But he does call us seemingly infinitely higher than the rules which were already pointers to Him.

—Merv


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68394

March 7th 2012

Merv,

The question is “What is the New Covenant?, which Jesus refers to at the Last Supper.”

The New Covenant is based on faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone, instead of fulfilling the written law found in the OT. 

 

Indeed Paul says that we cannot be not saved by works period!  Christians are saved by our saving relationship to Jesus Christ. 

(Rom 5:20-6:11 NIV)  The Law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, (21)  so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(6:1)  What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

(2)  By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  (3)  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?

(4)  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

(5)  If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.

(6)  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—(7)  because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

(8)  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (9)  For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.

(10)  The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God.  (11)  In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Works, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, flow from this relationship.

This prevents us from saying that any particular work(s), be it baptism, membership in the church, speaking in tongues, evangelism, while it may be good in itself it is not proof positive that some one is saved.  Only the Holy Spirit is proof positive.      


Steven Curry - #68349

March 5th 2012

I think Biologos could be more effective if it took a proactive role in promoting the values of critical thinking and intellectual honesty. We have a moral obligation to seek reality, as opposed to forcing reality into our preconceptions of it. That could probably be rephrased in Christian terms.


Gudnews - #68414

March 7th 2012

I think you may not have understood what I meant to say. I do not expect to be forced to make a choice between science and scripture, because (like the folks at Biologos) in consider them two complementary witnesses to one comprehensive truth. But what if I were forced to choose? What if it really did come down to a stark choice between the Christian faith and the scientific enterprise? For me, it’s Jesus who wins. I really would have no business calling myself a Christian otherwise.

I have often illustrated it for my people this way: I’m proud and glad to pledge my allegiance to the American flag and the republic it stands for. Though I have plenty of objections to plenty of things about this country, I still love it, and am still pretty rabidly loyal to it. But if I ever were forced to choose, no choice would be necessary. I have a prior commitment to Jesus.

And you’re probably right to think that we’re are not likely to abandon YEC thinking on the advice of some organization like Biologos. But we’ll abandon YEC thinking just about two seconds after we become convinced it’s unbiblical. Right now, I’m just not seeing that. But I’m still looking…


Gudnews - #68418

March 8th 2012

Actually, Biologos is doing a pretty decent job of getting my attention. Of course, the issue already had my eye long before Biologos was ever thought of. Some particular points…

  1. I was close to apostasy as a teenager, until God used a summer youth pastor (at a SoBap church) and Duane Gish (classic YEC-er) to drag me back from the edge.
  2. While I was a (SoBap) pastor to college students, I had an unforgettable and heartbreaking conversation with a young man who had grown up in the church I was serving, but had renounced his church and his God because he found (wahat he saw as) their antiscientific bias intolerable. I’m sure he had other issues (we always do), but that was his stated reason for quitting the faith.
  3. I pastor a church full of people who watch and listen and think and question. A couple of them have careers in biology, and wrangle with OEC/IE/TE issues often. If I believe the Bible like I say I do, then I must conclude that one day I’ll give an account to Jesus for how I’ve shepherded their souls.
  4. I have six children, from 18 down to 8. What they think about their origins, their value, their faith, and the Bible is more important to me than I can find words to express.

For me, Biologos will do well to continue showcasing the personal and pastoral impact of the different positions. (I love the story of the BJU grad.) But that won’t be  enough. I need to see/hear/create an interpretation of Gen 1-3 that feels faithful to both the data of scripture, the facts of science, and the reality of people’s beliefs and decisions.


Dennis Venema - #68422

March 8th 2012

Hi Gudnews, 


Have you read John Walton’s Lost World of Genesis One (IVP, 2009)? I think you might find it useful. 

Jon Garvey - #68426

March 9th 2012

+ 1 to that, Gudnews. A game-changer for me.

Walton’s theme is expanded from the emphasis on Genesis 1 in his NIV Application Commenraty on Genesis, and he’s also done a full academic treatment if you have the stamina and the cash (or a useful theological library nearby).

Note the point that his treatment is a literal one in the Reformation sense I outlined in #68375 below, as distinguished from the literalistic v allegorical interpretation that has coloured much of the 20th century arguments.


Gudnews - #68432

March 9th 2012

The NINV Application commentary is also good… like Lost World, though, not convincing to me. I have not yet read the full academic treatment walton was supposed to be working on. I assume it’s now available, then?


Jon Garvey - #68436

March 9th 2012

I’m in the UK, where it’s “out of stock” on Amazon, but there are new and used advertised. I take it it exists, or soon will.


Gudnews - #68431

March 9th 2012

Good book. Not convincing, though.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #68442

March 9th 2012

How about John 1:1-18?  “In the beginning….”


ScottL - #68490

March 13th 2012

I think both of Peter Enns’ books are helpful for grappling with Scripture in our world today:


1) Inspiration and Incarnation
2) The Evolution of Adam

Uncle Bonobo - #68364

March 5th 2012

I appreciate Dr. Keathley’s detailed and unequivocal responses.  Very refreshing! A man who lets his “Yea mean yea and his No means No.”

He makes it plain that, if there is any conflict between sciecen and the SBC’s interpretation of scripture, then in his words, “that would be a deal killer.”

I will take him at his word.  The SBC rejects solid science. I see nothing more to talk about.  I’d like to hear what Biologos thinks could be discussed constructively with those who completely reject solid science.


Merv - #68374

March 6th 2012

You hear “deal killer”.    I hear “If there is any conflict…”.

I think it a positive overture that SBC is here talking at all.  And Biologos hopes to address the “If” portion of that by showing that it doesn’t need to be made into a conflict.  There is a lot to talk about (and to listen to).

—Merv


PNG - #68365

March 5th 2012

Someone said above that the real problem doesn’t come because of conflict of the Bible and science. It comes from the conflict of current science with a long tradition on how to interpret parts of the Bible. The early church faced the problem that the Jewish scriptures were written assuming an ancient near Eastern perspective of a flat earth, waters above and waters beneath and some kind of firmament, while Greek science had established a spherical earth. The interesting thing is that there seems to have been no big conflict over this. Most of the church fathers just assumed that the Jewish Bible was compatible with Greek science and went on with their business. The Christian church had no long tradition of interpretation. It was in the process of developing one more or less from scratch, and it just chose an interpretation that minimized the problem. I think the difficulty is that conservative Christianity now has a tradition of centuries to millennia about how to interpret things, and that’s what it’s hard for people to change. The early church had many advocates of symbolic and other non-literal interpretations, but the Reformation Protestants rejected all that and opted for a simple literal reading everywhere possible. Many people resist strongly modifying a long held framework of belief, which seems reflected here by the fact that the theologian seems to be telling the scientists that he is leaving it up to them to solve the theological problems. I want to say, as a molecular biologist, that, like most of the Biologos people, I am only an amateur theologian. We need professional theologians to think about these things, because what I can tell you as a scientist is that the evidence isn’t going to go away, no matter how much the people in the pew and conservative theologians might want it to.


brutewolf - #68367

March 5th 2012

Very nicely stated. It’s been 150 years, and evolutionary theory seems to be getting stronger at a logarithmic rate. It’s not going away. 


As I said before, it seems encouraging to me that Mr.Keathley is a “disappointed young earther”, i.e., he’s disappointed with a superficial reading of Genesis 1. We can’t fudge reality for him, so what help can he give us in light of these realities? What advice would he give his own parishioners? Would he tell a scientist that his life’s work is a disservice to Christ? I will say that the “deal killer” comment troubled me as well. It seems to imply that it might be sinful for him to even study population genetics, etc.  Dr. Falk, do you know if Dr. Keathley is planning to respond to any of this? I don’t wish to turn this into a sounding board for frustrations with pastors.  Again, I’m very delighted that he took the time to address us. 

paul.bruggink1 - #68371

March 6th 2012

That was an excellent summary of the current situation, PNG!!  Every theologian and every seminary and bible college president needs to read that, espeially the final sentence.


beaglelady - #68373

March 6th 2012

I agree, it was excellent.  We open our eyes in the morning, and there is reality, staring us in the face!


Jon Garvey - #68375

March 6th 2012

“Reformation Protestants rejected all that and opted for a simple literal reading everywhere possible.”

PNG, whilst agreeing with some of your analysis, I think you need to be more focused historically and distinguish “literal” in its Reformation sense from “literalistic”, which has a lot more to do with the local conditions of American history and, particularly, Fundamentalism properly so called.

The Reformers were reacting to a mediaeval exegesis that spurned the obvious meaning of the text in favour of its moral, allegorical and anagogical meanings and ended up constructing doctrine on the fly. In contrast they stood for the literal, ie the author’s intended meaning, be that historical, parabolic, poetic or whatever. Here’s William Tyndale, quoted by Jim Packer, who himself is no slouch on Reformation history:

If thou leave the literal  sense, thou canst not but go out of the way.  Nevertheless the scripture uses proverbs, similitudes, riddles, or allegories, as all other speeches do; but that which the proverb, similitude, riddle or allegory signifieth, is ever the literal sense, which thou must seek out diligently.

I’ve no doubt but that, had they been aware of ANE literary genres, their diligence would have extended to careful assessment of that too. Simplistic “face value” verbal literalism was not on their agenda.

Where the sticking point came was in insisting that scripture conveyed the words of God and the words of man as one, because unlike many today they understood God’s will as acting concursively with the human authors. They didn’t recognise the modern Deist idea of God’s word somehow being an add-on (or interference) to the human text. In other words, they wouldn’t (for as second) accept that Scripture should not be taken literally (not literalistically) because it was in error. That is classic Liberal Theology, whatever the provenance of those who promote it, and flies in the face not only of Reformed theology but of historical Catholic and Orthodox traditions.


Page 1 of 1   1