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The BioLogos Foundation’s Theology of Celebration II Workshop

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January 11, 2011 Tags: Christian Unity

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

The BioLogos Foundation’s Theology of Celebration II Workshop

On November 9-11, 2010, a group of pastors, church leaders, scholars, scientists, and informed laypersons met in New York City for the second Theology of Celebration BioLogos Workshop. In light of the scientific consensus that has emerged about the origin of the universe and of life’s diversity, there was extensive discussion around the following three themes:

  • The theological significance of Adam and Eve’s historicity
  • The nature of divine activity in a world where life has been created through an evolutionary process
  • The appropriate response to the emphasis on scientism that has emerged from some in the secular scientific community

After much dialogue, the following statement emerged, which represents a summary of the discussion, as no attempt was made to develop a binding consensus statement.

Summary Statement

Science and Faith

We affirm historic Christianity as articulated in the classic ecumenical creeds. Beyond the original creation, God continues to act in the natural world by sustaining it and by providentially guiding it toward the goal of a restored and consummated creation. In contrast to Deism, Biologos affirms God’s direct involvement in human history, including singular acts such as the incarnation and resurrection of Christ, as well as ongoing acts such as answers to prayer and acts of salvation and personal transformation.

We also affirm the value of science, which eloquently describes the glory of God’s creation. We stand with a long tradition of Christians for whom faith and science are mutually hospitable, and we see no necessary conflict between the Bible and the findings of science. We reject, however, the unspoken philosophical presuppositions of scientism, the belief that science is the sole source of all knowledge.

In recent years voices have emerged who seek to undermine religious faith as intellectually disreputable, in part because of its alleged dissonance with science. Some go further, characterizing religion as a “mind virus” or a cultural evil. While many of their ideas are not new, these voices are often identified as the New Atheists, and scientism undergirds their thinking.

In contrast to scientism, we deny that the material world constitutes the whole of reality and that science is our only path to truth. For all its fruitfulness, science is not an all-inclusive source of knowledge; scientism fails to recognize its limitations in fully understanding reality, including such matters as beauty, history, love, justice, friendship, and indeed science itself.

We agree that the methods of the natural sciences provide the most reliable guide to understanding the material world, and the current evidence from science indicates that the diversity of life is best explained as a result of an evolutionary process. Thus BioLogos affirms that evolution is a means by which God providentially achieves God’s purposes.

Accounts of Origins

We affirm without reservation both the authority of the Bible and the integrity of science, accepting each of the “Two Books” (the Word and Works of God) as God’s revelations to humankind. Specifically, we affirm the central truth of the biblical accounts of Adam and Eve in revealing the character of God, the character of human beings, and the inherent goodness of the material creation.

For a more comprehensive look at what we believe at BioLogos, please see our official faith statement.

We acknowledge the challenge of providing an account of origins that does full justice both to science and to the biblical record. Based on our discussions, we affirm that there are several options that can achieve this synthesis, including some which involve a historical couple, Adam and Eve, and that embrace the compelling conclusions that the earth is more than four billion years old and that all species on this planet are historically related through the process of evolution. We commit ourselves to spreading the word about such harmonious accounts of truth that God has revealed in the Bible and through science.

 

The following individuals were present and thoughtfully participated in the group discussion that produced this statement:

Denis Alexander, Director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion

Kathryn Applegate, Program Director at the BioLogos Foundation

Robert C. Bishop, John and Madeleine McIntyre Professor of Philosophy and History of Science in the Physics Department at Wheaton College

Stephen Ashley Blake, Filmmaker and President of Realm Entertainment

Jim and Carolyn Blankemeyer, Chairman of the MetoKote Corporation and the National Christian Foundation

Barbara Bryant, Trustee of the Trinity Forum

R. Judson Carlberg, President of Gordon College

Ron Choong, Ordained minister and Founder of the Academy for Christian Thought

Francis Collins, Former leader of the Human Genome Project, author of The Language of God, and Director of the National Institutes of Health

Michael Cromartie, Vice President at the Ethics and Public Policy Center

Pete Enns, Senior Fellow, Biblical Studies, The BioLogos Foundation

Catherine Crouch, Associate Professor of Physics at Swarthmore College

Andy Crouch, Special Assistant to the President at Christianity Today International

Darrel Falk, President of the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of Biology at Point Loma Nazarene University

Leighton Ford, President of Leighton Ford Ministries

Kerry Fulcher, Dean of Arts and Sciences and Acting Provost at Point Loma Nazarene University

Karl Giberson, Vice President of the BioLogos Foundation, Professor of Physics at Eastern Nazarene College, and author

Charley Gordon, Neurological Surgeon

Os Guinness, Author or editor of more than 25 books and primary drafter of the Williamsburg Charter

Deborah Haarsma, Associate Professor and Chair of Physics & Astronomy at Calvin College

Daniel Harrell, Senior Minister of Colonial Church and author of Nature’s Witness: How Evolution Can Inspire Faith

Matthew J. Heynen, Project Manager for the Theological Book Network

Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed

Ian Hutchinson, Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Randy Isaac, Executive Director of the American Scientific Affiliation

Sidney J. Jansma, Jr and Catherine Jansma, President and CEO of Wolverine Gas and Oil Corporation

Tim Keller, Pastor and Founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church and author of The Reason for God

Paul H. Lange, Professor of Urology at the University of Washington

Ard Louis, Reader in Theoretical Physics at Oxford University

Patrick McDonald, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Seattle Pacific University

Tim O'Connor, Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Indiana University

Thomas Jay Oord, Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Northwest Nazarene University

Jeff Schloss, Professor of Biology and Director of the Center for Faith, Ethics, and the Life Sciences at Westmont College

Randy Scott, Chairman of the BioLogos Foundation

Sanford C. "Sandy" Shugart, President of Valencia Community College

Dean Smith, Senior Pastor of the Highway Community

Mark Sprinkle, Artist and Senior Fellow at the BioLogos Foundation

Tim Stafford, Author and Senior Writer for Christianity Today

Dave Ussery, Associate Professor at the Center for Biological Sequence Analysis at the Technical University of Denmark

Luder Whitlock, President of Excelsis and former Executive Director of The Trinity Forum

Philip Yancey, Best-selling author of evangelical Christian literature

Amos Yong, J. Rodman Williams Professor of Theology at Regent University



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Lance Reec e - #47273

January 14th 2011

As a Christian and a professional engineer science is important to me, and I try and define the meaning of important words in any discussion.
Darwinian evolution is a meaningless, directionless, purposeless process that uses the processes of natural selection and mutation to facilitate change.
Both science and vast experience have shown that selection results in the loss of biological information and mutations are generally deleterious; so the “engines” of evolution are its coffin. In spite of loud assertions to the contrary, the fossil record does not support the theory. Science has provided such a huge body of evidence about the complexity of biological processes that requires rejection of Darwinianism.
What sort of a god is it that uses a mindless process to “create”?
Many other Long-Age Deep-Time theories such as the Big bang theory, theories of stellar,  galactic and even planetary system formation, cannot stand the light of scientific observation. We may join Adam and Eve and believe that it “Aint necessarily so”, but experience has shown that it is better to remember that theories come and go but God always speaks the truth.


Ken - #47278

January 14th 2011

Hi there, Lance. You make a lot of claims in just a few lines. Regarding your point about mutations, gene duplication and subsequent divergence is a well documented process (see this recent work). Moving on, where are you getting your information on the fossil record from? You cite no papers and, as an engineer, it would appear that you have no personal experience in the field of paleontology. Biologos fortunately does have scientists who have expertise in precisely this field, and experience in dealing with fossils - namely Keith Miller and James Kidder (see also Part 2).


Ken - #47280

January 14th 2011

...
You refer to “a huge body of evidence” and claim that well established theories “cannot stand the light of scientific observation” but you provide no references sources. Perhaps you could look through those links I provided, and also have a look through these, which explain some basic evidence supporting biological evolution.

Signature in the Synteny
Signature in the Pseudogenes, Part 1
Signature in the Pseudogenes, Part 2
Evidences for Evolution, Part 2a: The Whales’ Tale
Evidences for Evolution, Part 3a: The Heart and Circulatory System of Vertebrates


Ichthyic - #47281

January 14th 2011

“Scientifically, the best you can do is say that you have no comments to make whatsoever.
I would like you to propose how you would intend to investigate a God who claims to be above and beyond His creation?”

How about by examining directly the claims made by those who say they are followers of a specific definition of a god?

you know, like the very statements made in the Biologos summary?

many of them are directly addressable by science.

If that’s the way you want it, then you are shooting yourself in the head to suggest science has nothing to say about these things.

If you really think the primary objections to such nonsense as summarized in the statement are the result of “scientism”, then you really are doing nothing but helping to support a rather large strawman.


Pedro M. Rosario Barbosa - #47282

January 14th 2011

I think that the treatment of Adam and Eve as a historical couple is a very bad idea.  Even in the Catholic Church, we are overcoming this problem in many ways.  Although I sympathize with Biologos’ efforts to harmonize Adam and Eve’s account with science (and in many ways it does), I cannot help but to point out that using historiographical criteria they cannot be considered historical.  I remind also that historiography *is* science, and Biologos is committed to science.

I strongly advise to build on alternative views, such as those proposed by Alister McGrath and other theologians, who can affirm the essential message in Genesis without supposing that Adam and Eve are historical.  Just my thought.  Accepting that the whole story is a myth is itself good, and it doesn’t make it less truthful.  John Paul II in his Theology of the Body has accepted it completely.  I include N. T. Wright’s thoughts on that too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yL5su0zmpKM  (Alister McGrath’s Views)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BP1PpDyDCw  (N. T. Wright’s thoughts ...  Biologos video btw).


Ichthyic - #47283

January 14th 2011

Bereshitbara asks:

“I’d rather hear what people have to say about the statement, whether it will help evangelicals think more productively about evolution and faith, things like that, positive or negative.”

not only will it not affect the understanding of evangelicals at all (it appears that the authors of the statement haven’t a clue how evangelicals maintain their YEC belief systems to begin with), but will directly alienate most intellectually honest philosophers and scientists, regardless of their religious affiliation, because it attempts to force what amounts to a NOMA solution that has been discarded as logically inconsistent decades ago.

sadly, I consider the entire Biologos experiment not only a failure, but a detriment to actually resolving these underlying issues, which are far more complex and entrenched than the summary statement even comes CLOSE to crediting.

throwing out the idea that since there are religious scientists does NOT mean the two epistemologies are reconcilable.  All it does is ignore the obvious human ability to compartmentalize very disparate ideas.

It does nothing to resolve the issue; instead it merely tries to slap a bandaid with a smiley face painted on it over a festering wound.


sy - #47294

January 15th 2011

@Ichthyic

I think it is vital to admit that “intellectually honest philosophers and scientists” may hold a variety of opinions and systems of belief, some which do not fit into one or two neatly defined categories. NOMA, for example, while not part of the Biologos statement, remains an interesting starting point for discussion, and its outright rejection as being “logically inconsistent” is consistent only with a particular viewpoint, which you appear to share.

i am very impressed by the statement presented in the article, and I am curious as to exactly which underlying issues you feel the statement undermines the understanding of?


Ichthyic - #47301

January 15th 2011

“NOMA, for example, while not part of the Biologos statement”

from the statement:

“In contrast to scientism, we deny that the material world constitutes the whole of reality and that science is our only path to truth. For all its fruitfulness, science is not an all-inclusive source of knowledge; scientism fails to recognize its limitations in fully understanding reality, including such matters as beauty, history, love, justice, friendship, and indeed science itself.”

sorry, but that is the VERY essence of saying that science and religion as epistemologies don’t overlap.

It is saying that there are at least 2, entirely separate, pathways to how we develop useful knowledge of the world around us.

Not only IS it NOMA, it’s wrong for exactly the same reasons.

“i am very impressed by the statement presented in the article”

What, SPECIFICALLY, is unique or impressive about it in your view?

What about it works to even properly CLARIFY the issues involved, let alone resolve them?


Martin Rizley - #47303

January 15th 2011

Pedro Barbosa,
‘I think that the treatment of Adam and Eve as a historical couple is a very bad idea.’
Where do you think this ‘bad idea’ came from, if not from people like the apostle Paul?  Can you deny that he not only believed, but taught, the historicity of Adam?  (As did Augustine and countless other Christians theologians throughout history who were convinced that this was the clear and unequivocal teaching of Scripture.)


Mark - #47320

January 15th 2011

Who paid for this workshop and for the time, accommodation and travel for those who attended?


Jon Garvey - #47322

January 15th 2011

@Mark - #47320

Tick one:

*  A protection racket in Calcutta
*  A special secret government tax
*  The proceeds from gun running
*  The delegates to the workshop

Sheesh.


sy - #47335

January 15th 2011

@icthtyic

I dont see that paragrah you cite as a statement of NOMA, but as a refutation of scientism. The word religion does not appear in the paragraph, and the point is that while some might claim that science can in fact address the issues raised in the paragraph (and that is a very partial list) such claims are as much faith based (and without good evidence) as are claims from religious faith.

In other words, I would say that scientism is at least as discredited by rational thinkers as is NOMA.


sy - #47337

January 15th 2011

As far as what I find impressive about the Biologos statement, it might be useful to see that the title of the workshop includes the word theology. I dont believe the purpose of the statement, or for that matter, any of the ideas of Biologos or others in related movements in evangelical Christianity is to convince atheists to believe in God, or to convince them that there is scientific evidence for the tenets of Christianity. That is not the purpose, nor the audience.

This is in fact a theological discussion, and those who dispute the value of theology are clearly outside of it. Debates on the scientific evidence for or against God, are a waste of time and energy, since they have no meaning, and in this sense, NOMA applies.

I would think that if I were still an atheist, I would welcome a community of Christians who are attempting to persuade their co-religionists that battling evolution is a fundamental error, theologically, as well as scientifically. I have been baffled, therefore at the antagonism shown to Biologos from the new atheists, and can only conclude from it, that their real agenda is not a defense of science, (for which Biologos would be a good ally) but a contempt for religion. That is a pity.


Chris Rowley - #47339

January 15th 2011

sy,

From my standpoint you are 100% correct.  I havenothing but contempt for religion, and my antagonism towards Biologos is for the head in the sand make facts fit with predetermined conclusions mentality.

But keep in mind that all the word atheist means isa lack of belief in god,there isn’ta collective or an agenda.


Mike Gene - #47346

January 15th 2011

Hi Katie (#47148),

You wrote, “As a scientist, I am saddened by Francis Collins’ (and by extension, the NIH’s) role in this statement.”

By extension, the NIH had a role?  I’m afraid that is only your personal perception/opinion, as I don’t assign the NIH any role in this statement.  It would never occur to me to make that leap.

“Whilst I have no reason to doubt Collins’ credentials in his own research, the acceptance of particular truth statements (e.g. “[God’s] ongoing acts such as answers to prayer”), without, or indeed contrary to, evidence stands firmly opposed to the scientific method.”

Yet you say that “by extension,” the NIH had a role in this statement.  There is no evidence the NIH played any role in the statement.  If you insist that someone else live up to your standards, don’t you think you should make an effort to do likewise?


Hammill - #47381

January 15th 2011

About the NOMA some commenters have mentioned, I don’t see it. Biologos says: “...we deny that the material world constitutes the whole of reality and that science is our only path to truth..science is not an all-inclusive source of knowledge; scientism fails to recognize its limitations in fully understanding reality, including such matters as beauty, history, love, justice, friendship, and indeed science itself.”

I am nonreligious but can glean knowledge without science. When I read fiction, for example, I can relate to general themes about the nature of humanity and gain knowledge thusly. Knowledge can also be gained from aesthetics, etc. This psychologically has scientific underpinnings, of course, but we are not using scientific methodology to gain such knowledge. I find the Bible largely fictitious, but one through which very valuable knowledge can be gained about themes related to the nature and failures of humanity. I thus have no problem joining hands with believers in such a statement about the acquisition of knowledge not being limited to science (it is not), despite our fundamental differences in belief in the supernatural. To promote a view that science is a single, exclusive path to knowledge is remarkably naive.


Ichthyic - #47383

January 15th 2011

“but as a refutation of scientism.”

it’s a strawman.

scientism itself is a strawman.  It is put up as a red herring to lead one away from what they really ARE saying.

No, I don’t know exactly why you can’t see past it, since it’s pretty obvious, but once you dispose of the red herring, this really IS just NOMA, rehashed.

this is one of the reasons I keep saying this approach by Biologos is inherently intellectually dishonest.

It will be entirely shredded by both philosophers of science and scientists themselves, and the YEC’s will just laugh (mostly because it misses why they are YEC’s by miles).


Ichthyic - #47384

January 15th 2011

“It would never occur to me to make that leap.”

so, say, if the President of the US attended a KKK rally with a white hood on…. you’d say that had NO policy implications whatsoever?

man, I can see why you guys are getting more and more bad press.

you appear to be quite tuned out to reality.


Ichthyic - #47387

January 15th 2011

“I can relate to general themes about the nature of humanity and gain knowledge thusly.”

what new knowledge is gained, specifically?

what does it mean?

What do you use as a reference point to determine it is new knowledge?

Just because you aren’t testing it in a lab, doesn’t mean you aren’t using what amounts to the same epistemology.

what’s more…

How do you go about verifying your new-found knowledge has any bearing on the world other than just your personal perspective and opinion?

It gets down to how one defines what “knowledge” even is to begin with, and frankly, personal opinion simply doesn’t count.

It’s why your personal preferences for pistachio ice cream say, doesn’t count as “general knowledge”, but, we COULD say, study WHY people have specific preferences to begin with, which WOULD count as knowledge.

I think it is this general confusion amongst many in the Biologos community that contribute to this fallacy that somehow there ARE other epistemologies that actually contribute to our understanding of the world around us.

400 years has proven this simply not to be the case.  It’s a strawman to say this is “scientism”.


Hammill - #47397

January 15th 2011

#47387:

What you seem to be arguing is very strict empiricism: nothing is knowledge outside that which is measured and tested. Hopefully that’s a correct characterization; you seem to state your position indirectly via begging questions that require a certain amount of interpretation. If so, that fits one definition of scientism: all that is knowable is that which can be empirically measured. I prefer using empiricism rather than that definition of scientism, since the latter term’s definitions are many and it is often used as invective.

My point was that you (and others) seem to present a certain philosophical naivete in the definition of knowledge. That definition is the subject of intense and unsettled debate in epistemology (even if one excludes definitions which consider the supernatural), a debate in which strict empiricism is but one position. The questions you initially pose are the central interest here, yet I gather that your later use of the term “fallacy” to describe positions outside strict empiricism indicates that you would rather not consider them. I would argue that a case for empiricism would require not only an understanding of the alternative positions but a careful deconstruction of them.


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