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Stress and God’s Built-in Neuro-sabbath

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October 9, 2013 Tags: Brain, Mind & Soul, Science as Christian Calling, Worship & Arts
Stress and God’s Built-in Neuro-sabbath
Image credit: Scott Liddell

Today's entry was written by the BioLogos Editorial Team and features John Van Sloten. You can read more about what we believe here.

Stressed much? If not, you probably know someone who is. It’s not an uncommon complaint these days—but luckily, “God has built a stress-regulating mechanism into the very physiology of your brains.” Hearing pastor John Van Sloten of New Hope Church in Calgary preach on the discovery one of his parishioners made regarding a stress-regulating mechanism in the hypothalamus is an inspiring look at how some of the intricacies of our biological makeup speak to a loving creator God who lives in the details as truly as he does in the big picture.

Watch the sermon here.


John Van Sloten is the senior pastor of New Hope Church in Calgary, Canada. Previously, he worked as a real estate developer in Toronto (planning and constructing shopping centers, office towers, etc). For the past 10 years, he and others have been building the unique vision and community of New Hope Church.

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Jon Garvey - #82928

October 16th 2013

Is that wrong?

Well, Roger, yes - you’re undoubtedly wrong in creating a false dichotomy between “fiat” and “love”, as Eddie rightly says.

Firstly, it contradicts your own earlier description of God’s willing of man’s existence, and ensuring that his appearance came to pass; which you contrasted to man, whose desires often fail. God said in Scripture, “Let us make man” (which is really just a verbal alternative for the “Let there be” (fiat) of other creation days). He wills, and it comes to pass - that is the whole content and intent of “fiat”. Love, together with justice, truth, holiness and all God’s attributes are the motivation for his saying “Let there be…” They are inextricably tied.

Your stuff about “if at first you don’t succeed, work with others till you do” is of no application whatsoever in the Genesis account, or any of the business of creation under discussion - God proceeds to make man, male and female, and no opposition or difficulty is described. But it’s also of dubious application in an evolutionary scenario - what was there to oppose God in the materials and mechanisms which he himself created for the job, and who was there to work with him through any difficulties he might encounter? If we’re really consulting the Bible honestly, Isaiah 40 25-26 describes that definitively (and is one of the most quoted chapters in the New Testament too, actually).

One could also add, “What ignorance or weakness was there in God that could give rise to any difficulty or impediment in achieving his will through his own creation? If there were any, we would have to envisage that there might easily have been a different example of a “person” being God, with a different set of blindspots, strengths and weaknesses. 8% better at evolutionary outcomes, maybe, but 4% less loving, or vice versa. That’s the problem with making God one of the species of “persons” rather than, as in classical theology, the source of all personhood itself.

Secondly, the falsehood of your dichotomy is self evident even from our own experience - many of our own plans, despite our fallibility, we expect and experience to work out fine, and are motivated by love. “Let there be porridge for my family for breakfast”, if we are good householders, is achieved simply by opening the kitchen cupboard. In other things we struggle or fail to succeed - but we are not God, as you so rightly pointed out to begin with.

Thirdly, your appeal to “the way things are in the Bible”, to  create your fiat-love dualism, in the face of the wording of its third verse, “Fiat lux”, is sheer frustration in its complete untruth. Not only could I point to several thousand examples of God’s commanding, and things coming to be, in both Old and New Testaments, but the very basis of his worship by Israel is that he commands, and things come to be, in contrast to the false gods of the nations.

There is even a major biblical theological theme of God’s word of power (dabar), by which his very speaking ensures that something will come to be. Amongst other things, that is the significance of the prophetic phrase, “Thus saith the Lord.” One of the other things is that “dabar” is translated into Greek as “logos”, a point not lost on either Philo or St John.

I agree with Eddie that this discussion is, in fact, a distraction from the closely focused question to BioLogos of most of the contributors to this thread - though it raises some of the points that the staff of BioLogos has signally failed to address, in the case of my own repeated questions, for 2 1/2 years now.

I find my patience tried in that regard - especially as every few weeks I get an e-mail from them ironically entitled “The Conversation”. In no other forum to which I have ever contributed has the conversation been so one-sided.

Eddie - #82929

October 16th 2013

Agreed, Jon; the conversation here has been extremely one-sided.  Instead of being an open conversation about the proper relationship between religion and science, or the proper way of conceptualizing evolution in relation to an orthodox and Biblical evangelical understanding of God and creation, this site appears to be a sort of “mission to the fundamentalists,” to teach them “good science” (meaning neo-Darwinian biology, which is actually pretty dated science, but never mind that) and to teach them liberal theology based on Enlightenment premises regarding the origin and character of the Biblical text.  And when anyone dares to question either the science or the theology that is offered here, 90% of the time he is met with silence by the columnists and the management.  If it weren’t for Ted Davis and Dennis Venema, there wouldn’t be any interaction between the writers on this site and the readers at all.

BioLogos was always defective in this regard (e.g., Giberson, Applegate, and Ard Louis were usually grossly negligent in replying to commenters), but under the current management, it is worse than it ever was.  At least there used to be people like Pete Enns and Kenton Sparks who would mix it up with the readers.  Who is like that now, other than Ted or Dennis?  When Steve Roels was recently asked to expand on his comments on NOMA, he ducked out, and Ted Davis took over the conversation for him.  And even Dennis, good though he is on scientific discussion with the commenters, rarely discusses science and theology.  He does the Bio part, but not the Logos part, of the organization’s original vision.  Outside of Ted’s columns, theology-science conversation just does not happen here.

I have been following this site for years now.  The number of different commenters posting here has dropped drastically.  There are still a few people who post here a lot; but the number of people who post “moderately often,” and the number of people who post only occasionally or on a one-shot basis, is way down.  The site is not generating a wide-based conversation about theology and science.  If I were the management, I’d be asking why so few people are commenting here.  And I’d consider two possible main reasons:

Most people who come here want, not a steady diet of columns on fossils and genomes, but columns about the relationship of theology and science, creation and evolution.  They want to hear about how an orthodox and traditional Christian evangelical faith can be related to science generally and evolution in particular.  That means that the columns need to have substantial discussion of historical Christian theology.  How often are such columns found here?  

Most people like to be treated as if they matter.  When the President of the organization has produced only one new column in nine months, and when the Senior Scholar has produced not even one such column, it is as if they don’t care much about communicating with the readers here.  And when neither of them interacts with readers, even under the reprinted columns, what sort of precedent are they setting for the other columnists?  Why would Steve Roels feel any obligation to sustain a conversation about NOMA (the debate over which is directly on the mandate of BioLogos, by the way), when he sees that the leaders of the organization feel no obligation to talk to anyone about what they have written?

If this attitude from management and most columnists continues, BioLogos is as good as dead in the water.  No one is going to visit the site.  And the few of us who are offering comments—often very thoughtful and constructive comments, reflecting years of theological education and not infrequently taking an hour to craft per comment—are snubbed by silence from the columnists we are addressing, why should we any longer make the effort?  And if we go, we being the few who are carrying the conversations here—Chip, GJDS, Jon, myself, Lou, and one or two others—the comments sections will look like ghost towns, and the downward spiral of participation will accelerate.  No one visits a website where no one is commenting.    

BioLogos has some heavy thinking to do.  If it doesn’t change directions fast, it will sink into internet irrelevance.  Columnists will be writing to empty air.  People will go elsewhere for theology-science conversation.  And there are plenty of other places.  The First Things blog.  The Salvo site.  Uncommon Descent.  The Skeptical Zone.  Hump of the Camel.  The various creationist sites.  BioLogos is not the only game in town.  And it is in danger of becoming one of the less important games.  It can happen.  Telic Thoughts was once a booming site for theology and science debate; it is now moribund.  But Telic Thoughts did not have millions of dollars and big scientific names like Francis Collins and Francisco Ayala backing it.  If BioLogos sinks into obscurity, it will be entirely its own fault, due to its non-responsiveness to the needs and interests of its readers.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #82931

October 16th 2013

I wrote:

We know that do not always work out the way we want them to, but we don’t give up.  We continue to work with others until things work out.  This is how God works in the Bible and how we expect God to work in every aspect of life.  Is that wrong? 

Jon and Eddie responded that yes, that is wrong.  They said that God creates by fiat quoting Genesis 1, overlooking Genesis 2.

As  Christian theologian I prefer the NT to the OT.  I see where John 1 refers to God’s Word as the LOGOS.  LOGOS is not a command.  LOGOS is more like a plan. 

Jesus, the LOGOS, was the Kingdom of God in micro, but the plan is to bring all of humanity into the Kingdom through faith and the Holy Spirit. 

Eddie seems to understand the Kenosis of Jesus as weakness, when actually it is a great sign of strength.  Jesus like all of us is asked to confront the powers of the world without supernatural powers, but just our faith in God and He does, even as we fail.  

Jon seems to think that everything God does is easy.  We know that sending God into the world was not easy.  Certainly creating the universe and making it work could not have been easy.  Greatness does not come from doing easy tasks and God is both great and good.

How to explain sin and suffering in the face of the omnipotence of God is not easy, it can be sone when we understand that God is not selfish and willingly shares God’s power with God’s Creation and God’s people.  This is what neither skeptics or theologians seem willing to do.  


Jon Garvey - #82933

October 16th 2013

Ah, Roger - I thought you were appealing to Scripture when you talked about the Bible, above. It seems you were instead privileging Genesis 2 over Genesis 1, the New Testament over the Old, and your own private interpretation of the word “Logos” over all. Maybe that’s why the theologians are unwilling to listen to you.

From your previous remarks about how easy it is to know God, I guess you’d be privy to how hard or how easy it was for God to create the universe, but I’m not. My bad. I do know from the Bible, however, that he accomplished it solely by his own power and wisdom, and that he achieved all he set out to do.

As for sharing his power with his creation and his people, a few New Testament references to confirm that would be welcome. I see delegation of power - I don’t see sharing, for he remains Lord and King - and even Jesus will hand the kingdom back to the Father at the end.

Eddie - #82934

October 16th 2013


I said that God sometimes creates by fiat.  Other times, he may create by other means, e.g., by giving something in the universe the power to produce something else.  For example, he did not say “Let there be fruit.”  He brought into existence trees which then made their own fruits.  So there is no objection to God’s creating through intermediaries.  The objection is to those who are offended when he doesn’t do that; as if, if God ever created anything directly, e.g., the first life, he would be a crude stage magician popping things into existence for show.  I see no Biblical basis for rejecting direct creation in principle, or for scorning it as a “lesser” way of operation, as beneath God’s dignity, etc.  

Regarding Genesis 2, though God makes man from dust of the ground, God is in control of the process all the way.  There is nothing “random” about the outcome.  On that crucial point, Genesis 2 does not differ from Genesis 1.  Nor does Psalm 8, Psalm 19, etc.  So if you want to read “made from dust” as “emerging from evolution,” be my guest; but the form of evolution isn’t a Darwinian one.  It’s a teleological one—one which appears to be utterly rejected by every TE biologist I’ve ever read.

You said that Logos is not a command, but more like a plan.  Well, as a lover of the Greeks, I’ll gladly go with the idea that Logos is a “plan”—i.e., a “design.”  But you can have the most beautiful plan in the world for your new house; it will nonetheless never be built, unless you will it to be built—by buying a lot, getting a permit, hiring a builder, etc.  You have to act to realize your plan, and you can’t act without willing.  God has reason and wisdom, yes; but he also has will.  God did not merely plan the world, but willed it.

The point about “kenosis” is that however you understand the meaning of that term, it is used in the Bible in relation to the Incarnation, not the Creation.  My complaint was that “kenotic” theology back-reads the notion into Creation itself.  

I think it is odd for a Protestant clergyman to speak of “preferring the New Testament to the Old Testament.”  I would think that the standard Protestant view is that we need the entire Bible, both Testaments, to understand even the New Testament, and that a reading of the New Testament that is not steeped in Old Testament knowledge is going to be faulty.

Speaking of things that are “easy” and “hard” for God is overly anthropomorphic.  Creation for God would be neither “easy” nor “hard”; it is just what God, by his nature, is capable of doing, and what God, by his free choice, does.

Does God “share” his power with his creation?  Yes and no.  Does he give to created things a set of natural powers?  Yes.  But is this “sharing” in the sense that it diminishes God’s omnipotence, as happens when in “sharing” a pizza with my family, I have fewer slices left for myself?  I don’t think most Christian theologians would say so.  Otherwise, the more God creates, the weaker he would get, with the result that an infinite universe would bring God down to zero power.

One can go too far toward anthropomorphism or too far toward impersonalism in discussing God.  My sense is that the Thomists often go too far toward impersonalism, and that you, Roger, often go too far toward anthropomorphism.  Your language throughout this post and the earlier ones drips with a kind of romantic and sentimental individualism.  I suspect that our difference over this springs partly from innate aspects of our character, and partly from our religious upbringing.  I’m not speaking against feeling in religion, but I do think that much modern Protestantism wallows in “feeling” in a way that is alien to the temperament of the Biblical writers—New Testament writers included.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #82936

October 16th 2013


The NT does not make a clear bright line between Creation, Salvation, and the Kingdom of God.  They are Three in One and One in Three.

Love and God’s Power are not Zero Sum games.  Love grows when you give it away.  When a man provides for his family he grows as person, if not around the waist. 

The point of Phillipians 2:1-11 is that the loss of heavenly powers made Jesus more like God the Father not less.  God’s power grows when God shares it with others.  Our power and love grows when we share.  

You should know by now that my outlook is neither anthropomorphic, nor individualistic, nor sentimental.  It is Trinitarian, which I take to be the best Christian understanding of the Bible, our faith, and Reality. 


Eddie - #82939

October 16th 2013


You write as if Trinitarianism was some daring new discovery of yours, when in fact it is standard Christian theology.  Neither Jon nor I has ever criticized Trinitarianism.  But accepting the Trinity has never meant rejecting:  “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth”; it has never meant denying that God has a will and that God is in control of the outcomes of the creative process.  Our beef is not with you, but with BioLogos for casting doubt upon the those aspects of God and creation that are connected with God’s will.

Of course, you confuse matters by speaking of “Trinitarianism” (which for all traditional Christians has concerned the relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) as having to do with “Creation, Salvation, and the Kingdom of God”—as if those three items are the three items referred to in Trinitarian theology.  Why you employ this strange usage is unknown to us, as is your strange usage of “dualism.”  It is as if you are determined to give idiosyncratic meanings to familiar terms, for the sake of sounding theologically daring or novel.  But all that it does is confuse everyone.

If you spoke in terms of classic Trinitarianism, the doctrine of Augustine and Athanasius and Abelard and Aquinas and Luther and Calvin and Hooker and Wesley, I would have no problem in understanding you.  But your usage of the term gets in the way of understanding, rather than facilitating it.

In any case, I refuse to be thrown off focus.  The question is whether God’s will is sovereign, whether he controls the outcomes of evolution.  That is the question BioLogos columnists have never answered, and, it appears, are determined never to answer.  And until they answer it, they don’t have a prayer of making any significant number of converts to BioLogos-evolution from the evangelical world.  The evangelicals will stubbornly resist any version of evolution that does not rest control of the process firmly with God’s design and decision.  It’s as simple as that.  Ten thousand more columns about fossils and genomes will do not a bit of good.  If the BioLogos folks can’t see this, then they are completely out of touch with the deepest roots of the evangelical tradition they claim to adhere to.  To have an evangelical view of science and creation, you have to affirm much, much more (about God, providence, the Bible, etc.) than “I love Jesus and I believe in evolution.”  That’s the theological and sociological reality.  BioLogos ignores this at its peril.

hanan-d - #82940

October 16th 2013

>If the BioLogos folks can’t see this, then they are completely out of touch with the deepest roots of the evangelical tradition they claim to adhere to. 

To give them the benefit of the doubt, they probably do see this. But what can they do? On one side, they have their faith that they feel strongly about. On the other hand they believe in evolution being totally random (I guess if Melongastar was here, he would probably say it is only random in terms of fitness, but I still never learned how that makes a difference). 

So they are probably doing the best they can do, realizing, there isn’t MUCH they can do from their stand point. In the end of the day, I agree. I don’t see how you can believe in evolution being totally random and still beleive in a theistic God. (Beaglelady never did fully explain that part). But again, to them, the evidence is the evidence is the evidence. And this is where they are. 

Eddie - #82942

October 16th 2013


I think some of them see their situation more clearly than others.  I think some of them have opted to say one thing for public consumption (i.e., that they stand in the true Protestant evangelical tradition of their forefathers), while privately believing another (i.e., that evangelical Protestantism has to change, big-time, in order to deal with natural science and Biblical criticism).  I think that others are still trying to hold the old-time, folksy religion together with the most hard-minded neo-Darwinian biology, with the result that their thought is confused, and that the strategy of compartmentalization (truths of faith over here, and truths of science over here) helps them to avoid really dealing with the confusion and coming to resolution.  Both types do damage to Christian faith and life, the first type because they are living a lie for reasons of expediency, and concealing their thought from their fellow Christians, thus misleading those Christians, and the second type because they encourage other Christians to the same kind of muddy, have-it-both-ways kind of thinking that they employ themselves, and thus prevent those Christians from seeing the issues clearly.

This is a novel situation, this deliberate dishonesty and/or self-deceiving obscurantism by Christian leaders.  In the past, the battle-lines were clearly drawn.  Bertrand Russell, the great unbeliever, would debate on the BBC with Father Copleston, the great Catholic theologian.  You knew where both men stood; both men knew where they stood; neither man equivocated or tried to have things both ways.  Similarly, you always knew where C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton stood, and you knew where their opponents stood.  You knew where Schleiermacher stood in relation to Lessing and you knew where Barth stood in relation to Feuerbach etc.  And all of these actors knew where they stood; they wore their faith or their unbelief proudly, unapologetically, and in unmasked form.  This new situation, where Christian leaders are deliberately trying to obscure things, deliberately avoiding core questions like whether or not God is actually in control of the outcomes of evolution, represents a cowardice on the part of Christian intellectuals that is unparallelled in the annals of Christian history.  This is why it must be challenged.  These people must be made ashamed of their intellectual and theological cowardice.  I don’t expect to change any of them; but if I can leave some of them with a bad conscience, so they have trouble sleeping the night after they give a talk at a church on how God uses a random process to achieve a precise end, then I’ve accomplished my goal.

By the way, Hanan, you did not reply to  #82856 above, on the previous page under this column.  I don’t know whether you didn’t see it, or saw it but didn’t want to reply.  You can reply privately if you would rather do so.  There is an issue there that you need to deal with—the question whether you are consciously or unconsciously selecting a preponderance of readings from the anti-ID camp, rather than balancing your reading, and whether you are uncritically accepting the anti-ID camp’s representations of ID, and overrating the evidence of neo-Darwinian mechanisms.  I have found that when people who have no professional axe to grind read in a balanced way on both sides, they generally are much less inclined to award a straightforward victory to the Darwinians.  I leave this for your consideration.

hanan-d - #82946

October 16th 2013

You’re right. But that is where they are. You are either going to convince them to drop their faith or convince them to drop random evolution. And since for them the evidence is overwhelmingly to the side of random mutations and evolution, I don’t see them dropping that anytime soon. So, they are going to have to “kvetch” their faith in it. What is the alternative for them?

Regarding your question, I actually read a lot of evolutionnews website. That site doesn’t appear so much as showing ID being scientifically valid (though maybe I just don’t read enough), but more in the lines of showing how neo-darwnism and materialism doesn’t work. So it is more of destroying, than building. Which is fine. If there is a theory out there that is wrong, I see no issue of bringing it up to light. So, when you DO have a scientific claim like ENCODE, I simply read on, then go to the other side and see what they say. I am not saying Larry Moran is right. I don’t know. Maybe for me, it’s just that where as before I saw a slam dunk against the “junk dna” claim, now there maybe more nuance to show there was too much hype that ENCODE found something utterly significant. I just don’t know. 

Jon Garvey - #82949

October 17th 2013


I think you’re right about the cognitive dissonance issue, but if you consider it, the “random mutation” half is a metaphysical and theological choice, not a demand from scientific research.

Back before science was a gleam in its mothers eye, the Bible writers and their generations of readers were well aware of the existence of “random” events, but they placed them firmly under God’s providence: “A man casts the lot into his lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” That, of course, was associated with a theological framework that acknowledged that God’s ways are higher than our ways - seeing things not working out to our liking did not entitle us to cast moral judgement on God, but to wonder at his mystery.

All things - the regular (in newspeak “lawlike”), the contingent, the miraculous - were under God’s guidance - that theme permeates the Bible and every Abrahamic tradition until the last century or so.

So, in the Bible, “He is Yahweh - he will do what seems good to him,” and in Christian theology the theodicies of Augustine, Aquinas etc - all dependent, in essence, on our acknowledging God’s being higher than us.

The cognitive difficulties for TEs come from a number of choices, including:

(a) Rejection of that view of Providence - notice how the writers here usually say “I don’t come from that tradition” before spluttering into silence. I don’t come from that tradition - but I found it in the Bible and historical theology and was persuaded by its arguments. Change your tradition, guys, if it’s wrong.

(b) Preference for a personalist view of God, that makes him directly comparable to us - I wouldn’t make an animal that hunted or parasitises others, so God wouldn’t. Toothache seems bad to me, so wisdom teeth can’t be of God. Etc, etc. Such ideas would be laughed out of court by every educated theological generation before this.

(c) Acceptance of the recent philosophical division between “natural” and “supernatural”. One way or another, you have to split reality between the two: if something’s natural, God didn’t do it, and God wouldn’t waste time or cheat by doing miracles in nature. Classical theology wasn’t lumbered with that baggage.

There are other more detailed choices, too (like the unwillingness to face being thought unscientific by the materialist majority in biology), but those theological choices are what leads to the cognitive dissonance.

As I’ve said repeatedly here and elsewhere, classical theology, in the light of current knowledge, really has no serious problems with evolution - even in its Neodarwinian form, though as you know I think that has massive scientific problems. But BioLogians don’t like that ancient theology, and prefer to stay in their comfort zone of a man-sized God and traditional Neodarwinian science. So they are trying to square the circle by rewriting theology on a grand scale (with much talk of the need for others to be courageous!), but softly, so the Evangelical community doesn’t twig what’s going on until it’s happened.

But since the new ideas are basically tosh, they end up with an incoherent system they can’t even defend openly.

Eddie - #82963

October 17th 2013


If you are reading the Discovery website and other pro-ID websites as frequently as you read Moran etc., that is good.  But both Moran’s site and the Discovery site are advocacy sites.  You should also read some more in-depth treatments, i.e., scientific or scholarly articles and books, on both sides.  The must-reads for ID are Behe (at least his first book) and Denton (at least his second book).  You can’t fairly assess the criticisms of ID without knowing what ID people have actually said.  And paraphrases of ID by its enemies are not going to be balanced or entirely truthful, as we know from experience.  In the Dover Trial, on Wikipedia, etc., many ID foes have told outright lies about what ID advocates.  Hear it from the horse’s mouth before you decide.   

I make no comments on ENCODE.  I do believe, however, that even before ENCODE, there was a growing sense in the scientific community that “junk DNA” might be an unfortunate and premature expression.  Regarding Larry Moran, the best information I can gather is that he is a legend only in his own mind, at least when it comes to evolutionary theory.  I’ve found no evidence that he is regarded as a major player, or even as a strong supporting cast member, in the world of professional evolutionary biology.  I would take his blogging with a grain of salt.  But of course I could be wrong.  Lou Jost, who apparently publishes in the field of evolutionary theory, can correct me if I am.  Lou, how many times in your research have you come across peer-reviewed articles on evolutionary theory written by Larry Moran?  And how often have you found them useful?  Should we regard Larry Moran as an authority on evolutionary theory?  And if so, why?  What has he accomplished in the field?

Eddie - #82964

October 17th 2013

Hanan, you ask:

“What is the alternative for them?”

Intellectual honesty.

hanan-d - #82965

October 17th 2013

>Intellectual honesty.

In the end they are only human. You know what I go through; resolving evolution with God so what makes you think they aren’t going through the same thing. They don’t WANT to lose their faith.

Eddie - #82980

October 18th 2013


I agree with your sensitive analysis.  Yes, I suspect that many TEs are worried, deep down, about where parts of their thinking could eventually lead, and I suspect that the traditional part of them is fighting back, and that this inner conflict explains a good deal of the equivocation, the silence in the face of criticism, etc.  We must also remember the opposite pull:  many of the most prominent TE leaders were originally fundamentalists, and that part of their flight away from is explicable as the need to keep slaying the old dragon within them.

And I would accept such a psychological analysis as an excuse if the TEs of BioLogos, and other publically visible TEs, were merely private individuals like yourself, struggling with faith issues and not pretending to know how to resolve them.  But these BioLogos TEs, and many TEs in the ASA and elsewhere, have repeatedly set themselves up as the teachers of evangelical Christians; i.e., they have represented themselves as the ones who “have it all together” and are in a position to teach, counsel, reassure, etc. those who are struggling with faith/science issues.  But in fact, many TE leaders are themselves still struggling with those issues—still not sure what sort of authority the Bible has for them, what sort of authority Protestant tradition has for them.  Such people are not fit to be guides of others.  To be a guide of others who are in a crisis of belief, you need to (a) know what you believe; and (b) be completely unafraid to say what you believe.  Unfortunately, these qualifications are not met by a good number of the most vocal TEs—as is evidenced by their continued equivocations and evasions.

GJDS - #82951

October 17th 2013

A comment or two along the theme by hanan-d and Jon regarding evolution and the way it is discussed. One aspect that is often mentioned is ‘random’ which is at times taken to mean ‘free to make itself’ (a non-sense term scientifically). I am going through an interesting paper mentioned previously:

Beyond Reasonable Doubt: Evolution from DNA Sequences by White et al.


I am not making a comment on this paper (as I am still reading it), but it gives me an opportunity to show why semantics and the misuse of technical terms can lead to argument and confusion. Very basicially, these authors are showing that a particular treatment of gnenetic data can be used to show a ‘tree’ sequence’, and they propose this as support for the view of a common ancenstor. They then contrast this with another treatment that shows a very low probability for an alternate view which precludes a common ancenstor.

The point I see as relevant to this discussion is this; BOTH of these methods may be regarded as stochastic, which means random. BOTH methods are technically understood, so no-one can speak of dishonesty or some other nasty approach. As a slightly humerous observation, the method used to show the negative side is (how can I say this without laughing) more stochastic, or randomised, than the method used to support neo-Darwin outlooks.

So here we have good paper that, if taken out of context, may be used by people to say neo-Darwin theory is not so stochastic, or random, while anti-Darwinian outlooks are truly random. Both of these conclusions/outlooks are in error. To add to the mirth, any such comments do not show any understanding of this paper, and I suggest, may not understand what is meant by ‘stochastic treatments’. Finaly, none of my comments here are relevant to this paper. How about that!!!

Roger A. Sawtelle - #82953

October 17th 2013


Okay.  I an important sense I will agree with you and evangelicals, but for me the problem is not a theological problem, but a scientific problem as I have said all along.

The problem is “How does God guide and use Providence to facilitate the working of God’s plan?”  That is where I disagree with ID and your ideas.  You seem to insist that yours is the only solution to the problem rather than consider mine. 

I have a truly scientific and theologically acceptable proposed solution to this problem which might understand if you would open your closed mind enough to consider it.


Eddie - #82959

October 17th 2013


It doesn’t matter to me what your book says for the purposes of this discussion.  If you agree with Jon and myself that God is in control of the outcomes of evolution generally, and that man specifically (it couldn’t have been some more intelligent octopus etc.) was intended by God right from the start of the evolutionary process, then on the central point you are in agreement with us against BioLogos.  On your particular scientific understanding of “ecological evolution” I might have numerous agreements and disagreements, but they are not material to the point I’m trying to make here.  The point I’m trying to make here is that whatever was the process of evolution, if it is to be compatible with orthodox Christian belief, it must be one that puts God firmly in charge of outcomes.  And I don’t see, in most formulations of TE that are around these days, that God is firmly in charge of outcomes.  I see most TE leaders as avoiding the subject of God’s control like the plague.  And I think they do that for two reasons:  (1) A dogmatic commitment to a dying scientific paradigm, i.e., neo-Darwinism; (2) A strong dislike of some features of traditional Christian orthodoxy, and a preference for a more “democratic” God who never tells anyone or anything (not even an mindless protein molecule or the DNA of an ancient shrew) what to do, but lovingly allows each creature to “do its own thing.”  

Roger, I’m abandoning this thread.  Best wishes to you.

Jon Garvey - #82961

October 17th 2013

I’m abandoning this thread.  Best wishes to you.

It’s probably time, Eddie - the captain jumped ship a week ago.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #82968

October 17th 2013


Thank you for your words of wisdom.

I thnk that it is useful to engage on these points.  I regret that you do not.

Science is important as is theology.  I think that you can learn much in both areas if you are willing to engage with others.  You seem to be unwilling.

Eddie - #82969

October 17th 2013

I’ve always engaged with people who stay on topic.  The thousands of words I’ve posted on this site, to a wide variety of different people, are testimony to that.  However, I feel no obligation to engage with third parties who butt into a conversation and try to shift the topic to one of their set of pet peeves.

I could post something on this site about the best way of cooking back bacon, and I could be sure that an opinion would come in from Roger, and that the opinion would at least once bring in the word “dualism” or “Trinitarian” or “ecology.”  Nobody wants to keep responding to a broken record.

Again, Roger, sincere best wishes.  I’ve appreciated some of your more pastoral remarks, but on philosophy and theology our positional differences are too great for us to have a profitable exchange.  I’m not blaming you, just recording the incompatibility.  No sense in either of us beating our heads against a wall trying to change the other.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #82984

October 18th 2013


I hope that we share the desire to reach an understanding which can bridge a very serious schism in the Church today.  I think that it has a serious effect not only in the spiritual life of the Church but also in the political life of the USA and the world.

I know that Jon is English, and I understand that you are not a citizen of the US either, so you have a different perspective from me.  You do not have to live with the Tea Party - Evangelical craziness of impeachment, government shutdown, etc.  If we go by the paridigm the tree is known by its fruits, the evangelical tree is throughly discredited in the USA as I speak.

However I will continue to reach out evangelicals with good theology reguardless of our distain.  I will seek to take their real and serious concerns into account and hope that they and you are willing to have the same consideration for me and those who cannot accept traditional theological concepts. 

We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, not by theology.  We need to accept the reality of each others’ faith and seek to find acceptable common language instead of railing against those whom we do not understand.      

Thank you for your kind words.  I am not trying change you, but suggesting that we try to work together to carry out the Christian ministry of reconciliation which is so necessary today.  Of course no one can compel you to accept this challenge it is entirely up to you.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #83037

October 19th 2013


I respect TE’s who accept Darwinism because they think that it is good science, even they cannot completely reconcile it to traditional theology.  I respect them, but disagree with them.

I respect Creationists who reject Darwinism because they think that it disagrees with the Bible, even when creationism cannot be reconciled with science.  I respect them, but disagree with them.

I respect you when you think that you can reconcile evolution with traditional theology through ID.  I respect you even though I disagree with you. 

The problem comes when “truth seekers” reject ideas without taking the time to understand them and/or reject ideas without a solid theological or scientific basis. 

You want to destroy the ideas of those who disagree with you.  First of all, you cannot.  Second of all, this is not the Christ-like Christian approach.  This is the Tea Party absolutist approach that I hope you will abandon.    

hanan-d - #83041

October 19th 2013

So Roger, maybe I missed it, but how do you reconcile the two?

Eddie - #83057

October 20th 2013


Your Bible must have different Gospels from mine.  The Christ of my Bible certainly does want to destroy false ideas—and actively inveighs against them all through the Gospels.  His criticism of the scribes and Pharisees is sometimes expressed with considerable verbal violence.

You, like so many modern Christians, are confusing the firm criticism of bad ideas with a demeaning or hurtful approach to persons.  Jesus told us to love everyone; he didn’t tell us to love everyone’s ideas.

When a schoolteacher tells a student he has done his sum wrong, the teacher isn’t trying to personally hurtful to the student.  He is trying to help the student, so that the student will be able to calculate the sum correctly in the future.  If the teacher’s view of pedagogy is:  “I had better not correct this student, because then the student might run out of the room in tears, feeling personally worthless,” then the teacher will not be able to teach at all, and had better look for another line of work.

I regard my job here as to teach certain churchgoing scientists (which is mostly what the leaders of TE are) some historical theology, philosophical theology, Biblical hermeneutics, and general metaphysics, as they are generally highly deficient in all these areas.  Their attempt to put together science and theology would be much more successful if they actually knew some theology, as opposed to a smattering of out-of-context theological ideas, picked up from random reading, and more often than not imperfectly understood.

Further, the language of my critique is actually less ferocious than the language of Jesus toward the false theologies of his day.  Indeed, some of Jesus’ own language was intemperate by modern evangelical standards.  Many evangelicals have come to equate “Christian” speech with a sort of syrupy-sweet “niceness,” in which the voice is never raised, and in which basic human reactions—such as anger at the pride and stubbornness of others—are forbidden as violations of pious gentility.  Some of Jesus’ statements (and some of the prophets’ statements) would violate the conversational rules of BioLogos.  I’m not interested in that sort of candy-coated, Sunday-in-the-park kind of Christianity.  The truth is sometimes unpleasant, and the truth-teller should pull no punches—as long as all the punches are aimed at the doctrine rather than the person.

Is it a “Tea Party” approach to tell the student who says that 2 + 2 = 5 that he has made an error?  If so, then what America needs is lots more of the Tea Party, because it has just about the worst school system of all the advanced Western countries.  (Indeed, it in fact a silly, sappy “Christian” argument made by educators in the 1960s—that we mustn’t insist too strongly on right or wrong, on passing or failing, because then some of the poor little dears might lose their self-esteem—that ruined the formerly good American educational system.)

Similarly, some of the theological statements made on this site by columnists—and similar theological statements made elsewhere, in papers read or written in ASA contexts, and in books by people like Miller and Ayala—are false as descriptions of traditional, orthodox Christianity, and false as descriptions of Biblical teaching.  I don’t intend to spare anyone’s “feelings” by avoiding pointing out such falsehoods.  (Truth be told, the only “feeling” that is hurt by such criticism is the ego-driven feeling of intellectual pride.)  Christian leaders (i.e., people who write books on faith and science, or go around to churches and Christian conferences flaunting their scientific credentials as if that makes them experts on “theology and science”) are morally and spiritually obligated to do their homework before they pose as theologians.  And if they don’t do that homework, I intend to keep doing it for them.  And if that embarrasses them, I am no more guilty of any violation of Christian principles than Jesus was, when he embarrassed the scribes and Pharisees for speaking authoritatively even though they had very imperfect knowledge.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #83083

October 21st 2013


Theology is not like Math and neither is salvation and faith.  There is no “magic” formula for salvation.  Indeed that is the problem with evangelicals who believe that ypou must believe certain things to be saved.  That is your problem if you believe certain things in a particular way to be saved.

I do believe that there is a basic kernel of faith and theology that all Christians share.  I would put is as “Jesus is the LOGOS or Word of God,”  which many people interpret differently from the way I understand it.  Another version, probably more common is Jesus is LORD.

Anything else is theology, which we are free to discuss but has no bearing on salvation.  You prefer your theology and reject mine.  That is your prerogative, but you do not speak for God to say that mine is false.

The problem with the scribes and the pharisees is that they refused to recognize Jesus as the Messiah or LORD or the LOGOS, not that they were bad theologians.  If anything their “bad” theology came from this one simple fact.

Now if the problem is reconciling the science of evolution with the theology of the Church, then that is what we need to be working on.  In some sense TE is saying that it is reconciled but how is still a mystery or a paradox.  I hear you say that the power of God overules the laws of science. 

My position is that God is revealing to us through this controversy that neither Darwinian science nor traditional philosophy and theology is 100% correct.    Through better science and better philosophy and theology we can reconcile these issues and we need to do so because we indeed need good theology and good science to make a better world. 

We need positive criticism as Jesus provided, not negative as the Pharisees and the Saducees provided.                     

Eddie - #83142

October 23rd 2013


My arithmetical example was not meant to prove that Math is exactly like theology, and still less to prove that salvation comes from holding the correct theological opinion.  

I agree entirely that salvation is one thing, and theology another.  Theology is the intellectual formulation of faith.  One could have a clumsy or confused intellectual formulation of one’s faith, yet still have faith.  That is why, for example, I would not deny to the Copts or the Armenians the label “Christian”; they do not hold to the Trinitarian understanding of the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant churches—they do not interpret the relationship between Jesus Christ and God in the same way—but they are still believers.

Nonetheless, bad theologies can have bad consequences, just as bad sums can have bad consequences.  This is why Jon and I and others here are asking BioLogos folks to be self-critical about their theology.

I am not claiming to have a complete and perfect Christian theology.  I am claiming that certain ideas advanced by TEs are incompatible with historical Christian theology.  If someone doesn’t give a darn about historical Christian theology, then he or she can ignore my criticism.  But TEs claim to be evangelicals and that means they can’t simply dismiss their historical evangelical tradition.  They are responsible to account to other evangelicals for their departures from the historical tradition, to explain where and why they disagree.  And this is where many TEs fail—they don’t recognize their obligation to the historical Protestant community; or, if they do, they carry out that obligation badly, by not working very hard at all to come up with a coherent theology of creation.

I would never fault a TE for not having all the answers.  I don’t have all the answers.  I fault moonlighting biologists and physicists and computer builders for writing books and articles about how to reconcile theology and science when they barely know any theology.  I fault TEs for avoiding criticism and refusing to answer questions, and for refusing to answer commenters on the columns here.

As for Jesus and positive criticism, well, Jesus also provided plenty of negative criticism.  The Gospels are loaded with it.  Calling people a generation of vipers is not exactly constructive criticism, is it, Roger?  And I’ve been much gentler with the TEs than that.

And once again, I would ask you not to associate my critique with the Tea Party or other political movements you don’t like.  My critique of TE is theological.  It has nothing to do with right-wing or left-wing politics.  Unless you think that anyone who thinks that intellectual standards matter is automatically a right-wing extremist.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #83084

October 21st 2013

So Roger, maybe I missed it, but how do you reconcile the two?

Hannan- d, thank you for the question.

You did not miss it in this thread, but I have discussed my differences of approach with Jon, Eddie. and others several times through long discusions.

I find that this a serious issue on many levels.  There is no simple band-aid solution.  Therefore I wrote a book entitled Darwin’s Myth to give a full exposition to the sceintific and philosophical issues and how they can be resolved. 

The way reconciliation works is one looks at the goals that the two sides have in common and then seeing how they can resolve their differences and acheive these ends without sacrificing their integrity. 



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