The Vision Lives On

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December 20, 2010 Tags: Christian Unity

Today's entry was written by Darrel Falk. You can read more about what we believe here.

The Vision Lives On

Today we are re-posting an article "The Vision Lives On", which was first published on August 7, 2009 at the time that Dr. Francis Collins resigned from the Presidency of The BioLogos Foundation to become the Director of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Collins, had been the impetus behind the founding of the organization. It was his vision that became ours. His departure—four months after BioLogos started, and just sixteen months ago—could have been devastating for this fledgling organization. Instead, because the need is vital, the vision has now become the vision of hundreds, perhaps thousands of others. You are encouraged to read the article, and then, as you read the Epilogue consider whether you also can play a role in ensuring that "the vision will live on."

The Vision Lives On (originally posted August 7, 2009)

Dr. Francis Collins has resigned as President of The BioLogos Foundation. After forming and guiding the foundation through its initial stages, he is stepping aside from a formal role in order to assume leadership of the National Institutes of Health. Despite the seminal importance of this one unique and highly gifted individual, the organization will continue to fill a most important niche: to encourage a paradigm shift that shows that faith and science can exist in harmony. The need for this shift runs so deep in our culture that this project will not be derailed by the departure of one person, even when that individual is Francis Collins.

It is impossible to measure the massive harm that has been done by those who have tried to show that science and faith are in conflict. Multimillion dollar enterprises like the Creation Museum in Kentucky have sprung into existence. They exist for one purpose: to demonstrate -- on the basis of their faith alone -- that core findings of science are deeply flawed. On the other side, a host of science blogs and authors who sell millions of books argue that scientific data have demonstrated conclusively that there is no supernatural being, and those who put their faith in God are out of touch with reality. Science has spoken, faith needs to be eradicated. It is to this latter group that I especially want to address my comments as BioLogos moves into the post-Collins era.

When I speak to groups of evangelicals, I am sometimes asked if I can think of any potential finding of science that would cause me to lose faith. I enjoy reflecting on that question. Consider, for example:

  • Even if it turns out that our sense of right and wrong emerges through natural selection and other natural processes that can be explained through science--and I personally suspect this will be the case -- it does not in any way imply the absence of a personal God. The Creator, after all, may well function through natural selection in some manner that the scientific process is not equipped to detect.
  • Even if it turns out that the human mind emerges from molecules interacting in a manner that can all be explained through the physical properties of matter -- which I also suspect is the case -- this in no way implies the absence of a God whose existence is necessary for that mind to come into being. It also has nothing to say about whether there is a God who interacts mind-to-mind with those persons who seek that interaction. Even if the cell and the information it contains is explicable through natural processes, this does not in any way imply the absence of God's Spirit "hovering" (Genesis 1:2) and thereby influence the outcome in some manner beyond exploration by scientific tools.
  • Even the most contentious issues don't undermine core tenets of evangelicalism. Many brilliant persons have reached the conclusion that there is good reason to believe in a God who works in creation, a God whose action is beyond the realm of scientific testability. (See this earlier posting for more detail.)

In the three months since the public launch of The BioLogos Foundation, I would have thought the strongest negative reaction would have come from religious conservatives. However, a quick scan of the blogosphere indicates that evangelicals who hold a young earth perspective have been almost silent about BioLogos. Within the Intelligent Design community, it is not the Christians who have been most vocal; by far our most vocal critic has been an orthodox Judaist. With a few exceptions, it is evangelical Christians who have been the strongest supporters of our effort to show that science and faith can be brought into harmony. I suppose we now have thousands of supportive letters from evangelical Christians who indicate they have identified with our books and, more recently, with the purposes of The BioLogos Foundation.

Still, almost 50 percent of Americans believe that humans were created pretty much in their current form about 10,000 years ago. So, given this huge number of people and the antiscientific sentiment it represents, it is puzzling that by far the most vocal criticism of BioLogos has come from people who purport to serve the advancement of the scientific view.

America is in a quandary that could have very significant consequences for the future of science and thereby for the future of technology in this country. BioLogos was created to try to help people of faith see that science does not have it wrong. We do this as people of faith ourselves. We coordinate efforts to end this dichotomy between science and faith, even -- and especially -- evangelical faith.

Why is it that a group concerned about the advancement of scientific ideals is our most vocal opponent? We support science, including the science of evolutionary biology. We think this incongruity implies that for them the issue is not the preservation of science in our fragile world. For them, the issue is that they want to use scientific data to justify their own political and philosophical ends. They are trying to present science as claiming something it does not claim to justify their nontheistic view of the world. They want to rid the world of philosophies grounded in theism. It is clear from their writing that they have taken no time to carefully study the host of philosophers who are theists or the elegant theology of some of the world's finest minds.

For starters, I recommend that their followers read Alister McGrath's The Twilight of Atheism. In one of our recent blogs, guest writers Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum, who are agnostics themselves and authors of the book, Unscientific America, show heartfelt concern about the misuse of science by these individuals. In the future, we hope that many followers of the new atheists will come to care enough about science that they too will work for harmony and not discord.

So Dr. Collins has moved on to other important endeavors, but the question of what to do about this gulf between science and faith has not disappeared. The answer is not to stamp out the faith element from this world as some people are bent on doing. That will not work. The answer is, however, to protect faith, to nurture it, to inform it and to edify it. The BioLogos vision, which is shared by many people, will live on much longer than any of us, and it will certainly not fade just because our dear friend Francis is involved in another important activity.

The vision lives on. We will work to provide Christian schools and homeschooling networks with material that is both scientifically sound and theologically sensitive. It will be done by working with church leaders and the many other Christians who already care deeply about this issue. Eventually, many others will come to understand the strength of the scientific data, and they will be shown why the basic tenets of their faith are preserved and, indeed, enriched. We will offer workshops, courses, book clubs and conferences. Our blog and web site will remain active, and we will sponsor the development of more books and other media that help us appreciate the awe and wonder of creation.

The BioLogos Foundation, built by Dr. Collins and fueled initially by his energy and enthusiasm, has now been set in motion and is moving rapidly down the track. He may be moving in a different direction now, but BioLogos has too much momentum and too many supporters for it to slow down as we move toward the looming vision of bringing harmony to the findings of science and the life of faith.

Epilogue (added December, 2010)

BioLogos has remained alive and is thriving. Since this article was written, there have been 601,000 visits to the BioLogos website. With 239,000 unique individuals having visited the site in this time, we have grown to become perhaps the best known* organization in North America for representing the view that mainstream science and Christianity, including evangelical Christianity, need not be in conflict.

In addition to our web resources, we also have plans for more workshops for pastors, Christian science teachers, Christian scholars and church leaders. We want to develop curriculum for Christian schools and home schools. There is little doubt that we are uniquely poised to see the day come when no longer will Christian young people stay away from studying science in university either because they haven’t been stimulated by its most exciting findings or because they are afraid of what it will do to their faith. The day is coming when Christian young people who do choose to study science will no longer feel a cognitive dissonance (as they often do) of the sort that causes them to leave their faith as they enter their twenties. The day is coming when teenagers will grow up in churches that are so science-friendly that studying the operation of God’s world in university will enhance what they’ve learned in church—not weaken it. The day is coming when scientists who are not yet Christians will come to see that belonging to a community of Christ-followers does not require casting aside that which they know to be true about the physical and biological world.

Obviously, BioLogos cannot continue without the funds to do so. BioLogos has been funded in large part by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The terms of the grant require that by January 1, 2011, BioLogos will only depend upon Templeton for 50 percent of its funding. The rest now needs to come from other sources.

BioLogos is a social movement. We seek transformation. Please join us by making a gift that will facilitate the success of this movement and please encourage others to join you. Between now and the end of the year, a generous individual has informed us he will match and thereby double all new-donor gifts** up to a total of $100,000. So, for example, if you were to give $100, your gift would automatically translate into $200. Not only that but your $100 gift is tax deductible, so it actually costs you considerably less. In essence, then, each gift is almost tripled—the art (and science) of good stewardship.

All of us together can ensure that The Vision Lives On. Click here for more details on how to give online or by mail and note that the page includes a phone number you may call if you have any questions.

*According to Alexa, a web-ranking service, over the past thirty days The BioLogos Forum ranks #116,633 in viewership among all websites in the world. By comparison, the Discovery Institute in the same time frame ranked #543,894 and Reasons to Believe ranked #327,158. So we have far surpassed these organizations in viewership. On the other hand, none of us compare to "Answers in Genesis" (AiG), a far more popular website, at #35,424. Furthermore, AiG has just announced plans to spend $150,000,000 on a young-earth-creation-based theme park. This organization continues to be a strong counter-force that is extremely well-funded. It is not easy to counter a movement which is fueled by resources like that. Nonetheless, we are committed to countering this movement and are committed to doing so in a spirit of Christian love.

**Gifts from existing donors qualify to the extent that they are over and above that donated last year


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.


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Dan Baright - #44680

December 22nd 2010

I am not allowed to chat here at the public computer but would be happy to answer questions by e-mail or postal as time allows.  Briefly, I am not a YEC believer and I believe using the Bible as an epistemological guide to arrive at the truths of natural history—- i.e., origins of life and species—- may at the most be a possible useful heuristic tool.  Having been raised in the Presbyterian tradition with an ecumenical mainstream bent, I came out of high school and into college with no thought whatsoever that Evolution wasn’t a valid theory and also true.  It is only in the 1990’s when I discovered that researchers were labeling Evolution as a “fact” (thanks to Julian Huxley) that my further self-education began.  Labeling any theory a fact, even a true one, didn’t correspond with the rigorous scientific, mathematical, and engineering education of my college years.


Dan Baright - #44681

December 22nd 2010

(cont)

The endless stream of singularities, beginning with origins of life itself, isn’t naturalistically parsimonious and isn’t supported by the fossil record.  I am confident that further studies in fractals, complexity theory, quantum theory, and other mathematics will further yield insights into origins.  Nanotechnology is also becoming of interest regards very deep understandings of cells, genetics, etc.  I only would that I understood all these subjects in greater detail.  But, we can already be confident that origins of life wasn’t a singularity and such is well supported in the literature.  Send questions or comments and your e-mail address to Community & Transportation Planning, P.O. Box 1512, Lebanon MO 65536.


Samuel Johnston - #44736

December 23rd 2010

Tim - #44616
I applaud your reasoning. Unfortunately, your respondents, thus far, have simply demonstrated that they do not understand Occam’s razor, rather than posing any challenge to his principle. As to your stated rationalization of belief in one or more gods, I suggest that you consider what Darwin has to say in his autobiography about his religious/aesthetic experiences.  The experience one has is not to be denied. The interpretation of the experience, however, is open to change by subsequent knowledge.


conrad - #44739

December 23rd 2010

Dan you sound like a bright guy.

Stick around.


skip - #44797

December 23rd 2010

The brilliant mechanism of natural selection, and the way in which apparently random mutations are selected… suggests to me that life was designed at its creation to allow for evolution of all creatures, culminating in God praising humans.

sy is describing a mechanism engineered in advance, with god-praising humans as the inevitable outcome.  I agree that if this is how it happened, such an account is broadly consistent with xian theology. 

Only problem is that what he’s describing isn’t Darwinism, which requires a set of assumptions like those famously summed up by GG Simpson:  “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.” 

Thus, for the darwinist, the mutations aren’t apparently random; they really ARE random; the process doesn’t just seem purposeless and undirected, it really IS purposeless and undirected.  And his use of the word “designed” is completely at odds wth every mainstream darwinist out there. 

So yes, I’m one of those folks who nedbrek identified as rejecting darwinism for theological reasons, because the only way to reconcile NDE and XY is to gut either one or the other of one of its most fundamental assumptions.


nedbrek - #44799

December 23rd 2010

Skip, the Bible makes it clear that there are no random events.  Every coin toss is determined by God.  Therefore, atheists can easily accept true randomness.

As Christians we have a problem.  If God is truly sovereign, then He is responsible for natural evil, and even the origins of our sin nature (or we must reject total depravity).

Miller rejects this idea in his book.  He states that quantum physics allows for true freedom from God’s sovereign will.  This is effectively Open Theism, although he doesn’t go so far.


Chris - #44826

December 24th 2010

“He states that quantum physics allows for true freedom from God’s sovereign will.”

You really can’t take someone who says that seriously.  It’s beyond ridiculous.

The idea that randomness could in any way give us any “more” “free will” is a fallacy.

Imagine a continuous stream of particles being fired at random points into your brain, forever.  Imagine that some of those particles “hit” a neuron and knock it off course, disturbing your thought processes and possibly your reasoning.  Is this something you you could see as advantageous in anyway?  If anything, it reduces free will by disturbing our reasoning by adding a random element to it.  Daniel Bennet in his book “Elbow Room” talks about this fallacy.


nedbrek - #44847

December 24th 2010

I’m just reporting on the book, has no one here read it?  I am more concerned about the theological aspects.  Open theism is really bad theology.

To play devil’s advocate, don’t think of it as random effects disrupting our usual processes.  Think of it more as a system for amplifying quantum randomness into the macro scale world.  This is not entirely unheard of.  There is mounting evidence that photosynthesis takes advantage of quantum effects at the macro level.


Cal - #44864

December 24th 2010

nedbrek:
Open Theism is not as wayward as you make it out to seem. I’m not certain of it, but it is not that God is not capable but allows freedom of expression in His creation and still uses that for the ultimate good. The difference is that (using the coin flip analogy) instead of God determining the coin to land heads, God allows the flipper of the coin to determine how he is flipping it and responds accordingly. God being all powerful and all wise, will know how the coin will land because as soon as the flipper chooses how much power, the way he moves his hand, the weight of the coin etc. God’s plan will come about

God is always in control, and He uses all our evils and mistakes for His ultimate good. Is evil necessary? Is the constant evils of the Human heart required for God to shine? No, but He will shine regardless of how deranged we become & that was ultimately expressed by His laying down the life at Calvary

Again, I’m not sure of such an idea, I know God has blessed Humans with freewill so that we may be truly capable of Love and even though we chose wrong, God had planned redemption for all of His creation. This explains the “randomness” and “spontaneity” that is the beauty of creation. Freedom is free indeed


Cal - #44865

December 24th 2010

Tim:

I’m having a hard time trying to word what I want to say in regards to this. However, I don’t think Occam’s Razor is applicable because there is no way of knowing (by a pure scientific standard in a vacuum) if God is necessary or not to the Universe being the way it is. For a Christian, He underlies and underscores everything, seen in all His work and keeps it working, but that is not from the evidence. Similarly an Atheist, with his/her prejudices that come from outside the evidential realm of science, will conclude the opposite.

What Collins is saying is that Science is not an industry that can or should determine such a question because it can’t and Science should be a place to collect evidence and see how it fits in with the material functions of the world, not saying if God is underneath why it works this way or not (even if He sees his beauty in it).

And fairies (if I understand their definition correctly) belong to the material world and fly about in the underbrush. They could be found, however God (who in the Christian definition is Spirit) does not belong in this material realm and can not be seen unless He reveals Himself by acting upon the material world. However this is far beyond the scope of science!


Tim - #44880

December 24th 2010

Cal,

In response to your post, could you please explain to me why you don’t believe fairies exist without employing Occam’s razor?  Assuming you can’t do this (and I don’t believe you can), when you understand why Occam’s razor is necessary to employ as a means to disbelieve in fairies, then you will understand why atheists use it as a means to disbelieve in God.  I think the disconnect here is that you simply don’t understand either what Occam’s razor is or you don’ t understand just how pervasively it is applied (though not always consistently or correctly) throughout all/most epistemological facets of life.  We do this intuitively.  Occam didn’t invent his razor, he just gave definition to what we do naturally to avoid absurd beliefs and conclusions as human beings.

Concerning fairies being found in the physical world, you are of course correct in that is how they are depicted.  But their numbers could be small.  They could exist in the arctic, or anywhere remote really.  They could even fade in and out of this dimension to a faerie dimension, traveling between worlds as it were.  My point is you can’t disprove them.  Give that Occam’s razor thing a shot and you’ll see what I’m getting at.


Cal - #44884

December 24th 2010

Tim:

The point I’m making is that the way Collins sees Science and God is that Science will not “prove” God, but you can sure see God in His creation. The proof of God does not lie in the physical sciences but (for Christians) in the philosophic possibility of God (as described by Scriptures), and His full revelation (and proceeding movings through the Prophets of old) in Jesus of Nazareth. Evolution, or the creation of stars etc. will not prove or disprove this assertion.

I suppose I overlooked that, in your eyes (being a non-specific Theist, I believe?), this is not what makes you such and your appreciation of aesthetic beauty (something empirically understood in the sciences of the mind) rests on that. If Aesthetic beauty is proved a simple chemical flow, or something equally natural and non-transcendent, than Occam’s razor dictates that you discard God because that is what qualifies your belief. Without it, you are asking to disprove something that is not provable (hence Occam’s Razor). However, I am arguing for Collins’  view being as he is.

Did I get it right?

(Also, I have an (underwhelming as it may be) understanding of Occam’s Razor and did (though perhaps it seemed I implied against it) use it for faeries)


Cal - #44887

December 24th 2010

Tim:

Also, I appreciate this dialog, helping me flesh out my own thoughts and ways of thinking (and hopefully doing the same to you, albeit, maybe in a smaller way). God bless you friend in the path you walk.


Jon Garvey - #45012

December 26th 2010

@Cal - #44864

Cal, as I’ve seen the views you attribute to open theismm expressed, God remains in control though everything from the human will to natural processes exerts absolute freedom of action - God’s will seems mainly to consist in foreknowledge.

Apart from the question of how free human choices actually are (how many decisions are independent of social norms, cultural upbringing, personality, addictions and predilections, positive or negative pressures from without), it seems hard to see how God’s will is done unless God himself does it at some stage.

I’ve seen it stated as “God knows what to do given any situation”, which I’d agree with but which necessarily implies God is making choices to actually do things which confim or negate “choices” made by his creation.

Human analogy: being a libertarian I allow you to attack my beloved daughter, but cunningly ensure her big brother’s nearby with a large club: result - you will to hurt my daughter isn’t free at all.

The only alternative is to let things pan out as they may and say, “Yes, that’s what I wanted all along.” Result: my will was never worth anything to begin with.


Cal - #45017

December 26th 2010

Jon:

Of course we have restraints (as you listed) but we can act above those (we have the ability of metacongition to wonder about our own intentions). I have not decided about the open theism idea (I’ve enjoyed Greg Boyd’s talks about it and found it interesting to say the least) but it makes passages like this seen in a new light:

“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”  So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.” (Exodus 13:17-18)

Here God is opening up possibility and the free choices of the Israelites.

Open theism is positing that while destruction and evil deeds done by principalities and men can be used for good, they are not necessary. Perhaps that bully in your scenario has a choice: beat the girl or not. If he chooses not, God uses this for him to see how they should rather be friends. If he does beat her, in that God uses it (maybe it takes years!) and he comes to see his brokeness, he asks her for forgiveness, she grants it and they become friends.


Cal - #45018

December 26th 2010

Jon:

All in all, God uses all things for good and this is one way of positioning it. It’s just a thought, more importantly is knowing the face of God, Jesus, and serving Him. And on that note I hope all had a Happy Christmas!


Jon Garvey - #45099

December 27th 2010

@Cal - #45018

I guess this is a diversion from the thread! But Richard Baxter had some interesting things to say about this in the rare Catholick Theologie back in 17thC, so it’s not new. He said that God’s foreordination did not make other courses absolutely impossible - he just ensures that in the event they don’t happen.

Your Exodus example seems to confirm the reality of our wills (which no main Christian stream has ever denied anyway), but that God in this case prevented the deleterious exercise of it by keeping them away from war, actively leading them another way.

As I understand open theism he would have let them flee back to Egypt and sorted it out somehow afterwards (without actually stating how). Your comment on my bully seems to steer away from giving God any active role at all, with a presumption that by not intervening the bully will spontaneously repent. I’m not sure that differs from Mr Micawber leaving his bills unpaid in the hope that “something will turn up.”

But the theology behind the passage is that God understook to rescue Israel from Egypt, and was not going to let that exercise of grace be stymied by anything, particularly scary Philistines.

Hope your Christmas was good, in any case!


Cal - #45206

December 28th 2010

Jon Garvey:

The way I understood open theism (I’m sure there are many different definitions) is that God acts, but the future is still a possibility. So God chose to lead them down a longer path, so the Israelites would not get caught into a war. That means it could have happened, it was open but God chose to act in the best way. Similarly was when David asked if he took a certain way, if he would be captured and God said he would, so David went another way. Another example is when God asked Moses to speak to the rock so it would produce water, however Moses struck it twice with his staff (his anger) and God told Moses because of this he would not enter the promised land. The open theist would say that indeed, Moses did not need to hit the rock, he could have spoke to it as God instructed, but he chose a way away from God and reaped his own punishment for his anger.

For the Bully, God would implore the bully not to hit the girl, but having his own will and God searching for love not robotic compliance, would allow the bully to what he chose (even if it is against God). The thing is, God will use evil (it did not have to happen) for good in the end (Bully repenting). This is a simple example, but it shows the point.


Jon Garvey - #45393

December 30th 2010

@Cal - #45206

Cal, your examples still raise big questions about what “possibility” means. The example of David presupposes God’s infallible foreknowledge of the results of both ways, and his suitable advice (knowing David’s willingness to accept advice) excluded one possibility. Given his prior promise to David of kingship (and his subsequent promise of an everlasting dynasty) God seems to be intent on reducing all the possibilities in the same way.

Similarly if God could foresee Moses’ anger, and presumably already knew what his own subsequent judgement would be, it’s hard to see what would have altered that outcome other than another action of God to prevent Moses getting angry, for example. Or, of course, another angry Israelite’s free action could have led him to murder Moses and destroy the leadership that would get the whole nation to Israel - what would become of God’s promise in that case?

If God *doesn’t* foresee what will, in fact, happen, how does the eternal God happen to be tied in to the same space-time continuum as the material creatures of planet Earth? Is time an eternal attribute of God?


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