Southern Baptist Voices: Expressing Our Concerns, Part 2
This essay is the first 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.
This post is Part 2 of Dr. Keathley’s two-part paper, in which he lays the groundwork for more in-depth discussion going forward. In yesterday’s Part 1, Dr. Keathley named the first three of six areas of concern he has with BioLogos positions. Today, the essay concludes with issues four, five and six.
4. The status of Adam and Eve: Evolutionary creationists appear to disagree among themselves about whether or not Adam was a historical figure. Some, such as Denis Lamoureux, declare Adam to be a mythical character. Others (Denis Alexander comes to mind) view Adam as representative of the first Neolithic farmers with whom God entered into a relationship.
For most Southern Baptists, including me, the historicity of Adam and Eve is a litmus test. Even a cursory reading of the Bible reveals why we believe this way. The New Testament authors treat Adam as a historical figure, and they interconnect the mission and work of Jesus with the first man. Paul repeatedly presents Christ as the last Adam—succeeding where the first Adam failed and redeeming fallen humanity in the process. C. John Collins has written an excellent book on the subject entitled Did Adam and Eve Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care. He gives three criteria for an orthodox understanding of Adam and Eve (pp 120-21), and I believe they are worth repeating here.
- The origin of the human could not have come about by mere natural processes.
- Adam and Eve were “at the headwaters of the human race."
- A historical fall must have occurred very closely to the beginning of the human race.
Evolutionary creationists still have a great deal of work to do in this area. If no evolutionary theory can be found that can reasonably incorporate above three criteria, then that would be a deal killer.
5. The perennial problem of evil: Selfishness, suffering, and death are not spiritually neutral phenomena. YEC and OEC adherents believe a rupture occurred in the natural order when Lucifer rebelled, and in some ways again when Adam joined him. The Fall was a ruinous event. As a result, both moral evil and natural evil exists. Granted, natural evil is far more ambiguous than moral evil. But all Christians agree that—as beautiful as the present order is—things are not the way they are supposed to be. And Christians throughout church history have attributed the sad condition of this present age to the free moral choices of angels and humans.
Evolutionary creationism seems to have a particularly difficult problem on this point. Evolutionary theory presents selfishness as a virtue—perhaps the only virtue. Even altruism is seen as well-disguised selfishness. Christianity has historically viewed selfishness as among the greatest of vices and has seen death as the greatest of enemies. But according to EC, suffering and death are not tragedies. Rather they are creative agents that assist the engine of natural selection.
6. The nature and authority of Scripture: Southern Baptists are inerrantists, without apology. We hold to the infallibility of the Bible because we believe it is the Word of God. God is truth, so the very nature of the divine disclosure is truth, without any mixture of error. In addition, we believe that the Bible presents itself as inspired, infallible, and inerrant, and that this was the understanding Jesus had of the Scriptures during his earthly ministry. One is free to reject the Bible’s infallibility, but I think anyone who does so must admit that his view of Scripture is different from our Lord’s.
B.B. Warfield, the Princeton theologian who coined the term “inerrancy,” held to theistic evolution, so clearly one can adhere to both. And J. I. Packer, one of the framers of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, holds to EC, so evidently he views EC as compatible with inerrancy as expressed by the Chicago Statement. However, many advocates of EC have abandoned inerrancy, or reduce the doctrine to a mere inerrancy of purpose. The BioLogos Foundation has not made clear its view of Scripture, but the nature and authority of the Bible will have to be a major portion of any serious conversation between Southern Baptists and BioLogos.
Last June, Francis Collins, the founder of BioLogos, was a plenary presenter at the Christian Scholars Conference at Pepperdine Univ., and it was there I heard him speak in person for the first time. How could one not be impressed? I rejoice in the contributions he has made as a scientist and for the clear, positive witness he gives for the Gospel. 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. I just don’t think they’ve done that yet.
Next, the dialogue continues with a BioLogos response to the first three of Dr. Keathley's areas of concern.
Kenneth Keathley is Professor of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.