The Vision Lives On . . . and On
First, a bit of history: BioLogos was launched three years ago this past April under the leadership of Dr. Francis Collins, currently the head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and one of the world’s best known and most admired medical scientists. Soon afterwards, due to Dr. Collins' appointment to the NIH directorship, I, along with physicist and science writer Karl Giberson, assumed the role of co-president. As Karl became more heavily involved in writing projects, I took on the duties as president beginning in December, 2009.
I cannot overstate the joy and privilege of leading an organization that— from the beginning—was so uniquely poised to help the church in its process of coming to peace with science in general, and evolutionary biology, in particular. I have met and worked alongside extremely gifted individuals, each dedicated to a life of service to Christ and his Church. The energy level has always been high, as we realized that there was a better day coming for the relationship between the conservative Christianity to which we subscribe, and science. Each of us shared the conviction that the former leads us into a relationship with the One through whom all things are held together, even as the latter enables us to understand the manner in which He does so.
Where We Are
A few notes on how far we’ve come and what still needs to be done:
First, our website has, according to Alexa, grown to become the most viewed web-site in the world for sites that focus on compatibility between mainstream science and the Christian faith. Over 750,000 people have visited the site and viewed an average of seven BioLogos pages. The average length-of-stay per visit per day is 8.5 minutes, while for all other science and religion sites of which we are aware, the length of time per visit is between 2 and 4 minutes. More important than the numbers alone, though, are the many e-mails we receive from believers struggling in this area, thanking us for helping them to see a way forward. Our blog, the BioLogos Forum, is also becoming known for fostering gracious and respectful conversation among those who hold different views in these matters. By providing even more resources demonstrating the complementarity of Christian faith and evolutionary science, and taking seriously the views of Christians who think differently, we think the website will set the tone for the science and faith dialogue.
Second, we have hosted workshops for science teachers in Christian schools. Many teachers want to understand more about cutting edge biology and be able to present their students with a clear summary of the positions that Christians hold on origins, but they lack the resources and training to do so. Each summer we hold a week-long retreat for 50 teachers and continue to work with them online during the following academic year; then, we come together again for a second week the next summer. The workshops have been one of the most fulfilling activities of my career. I expect they will eventually serve as the base for building and testing curriculum which more clearly explains the evidence for evolutionary creation, which will positively impact the lives of thousands of Christian young people.
Third, since our inception BioLogos has hosted several meetings of leading pastors, scientists, theologians, biblical scholars and other Christian thought-leaders to address the unfortunate disconnect between mainstream science and Christian faith. The Organizing Committee has included the notable Joel Hunter, Tim Keller, John Ortberg, Os Guinness, Andy Crouch and Philip Yancey. The attendees and speakers have drawn from a similar mix of evangelical leaders. Together, we have celebrated the majesty of creation even as we realized that not all viewed the details of creation in the same way. The impact of these meetings has been tremendous, but the process of helping leaders think about science through the eyes of faith is still only in its early stages.
Finally, through a new three-year grants program, Evolution and Christian Faith, BioLogos aims to establish a world-wide network of conservative Christian scholars who will address the biggest concerns—both pastoral and academic—that the church has in thinking about evolutionary creation. The grantees will meet together annually as they establish personal and working relationships that will last for decades.
All of this has happened in just a little more than three years, and it has been the privilege of my life to have had an inside view as it unfolded. I know full well that what has happened has been a result of God’s Spirit at work in our midst.
At the end of this year, I will be stepping aside as leader of BioLogos. What I love to do most of all is to study, to write, and to teach. This has been my primary calling in life. Occasionally, I have been led down a different path that included some administrative responsibilities for short periods of time, but I know my primary calling and look forward to getting back to it.
BioLogos is presently searching for a new president who will commence his/her duties early next year. We do not yet know who, in God’s providence, will emerge as the next leader, but with the foundation firmly in place, BioLogos stands ready to take us through the latest “Galileo moment” with each of the tenets of the conservative Christian faith fully intact. This landing page outlines the qualifications of the next BioLogos president. We ask that each of you join us in prayer as we humbly submit this all-important task to God’s ongoing guidance.
Perhaps co-incidentally, the cover story of the July/August issue of Christianity Today Magazine summarizes my personal journey from a highly-sheltered but deeply-loving, Christ-focused home and small church to a new world—the world of science where Christianity was largely assumed to be passé, a cultural relic left over from our primitive past. Looking back, I am especially grateful for two churches that set the stage for the rest of my life as I tried to negotiate my way through that initially foreign territory. The first consisted largely of a group of young professionals from similar protected backgrounds who were seeking Christian answers to the questions we faced in a not-so-sheltered world. It was an amazing experience led by my pastor, Don Posterski, and even though I took longer to sort through the issues than almost everyone else, we largely made it through that period with a deeper commitment to follow Christ and at the same time engage our culture. Several years later and three thousand miles away, Pastor Kenneth Akins led the second church, which provided the ideal atmosphere for spiritual growth and for nurturing a young family. These two communities were a gift from God to me, as I straddled two highly separate worlds—Christianity and science.
The Vision Continues
But as thankful as I am for that support, no straddling ought to be required. Science studies God’s creation, which places it on sacred ground, not foreign territory. And if it is sacred ground, then Christians ought to be right there providing tours of the landscape, not out on the fringes looking in. True, there are sections of the science landscape that need to be redeemed from the scientism Richard Dawkins and others use to surface-mine and subtly rearrange the terrain for their own philosophical purposes, but the fact that they have been able to do this may be partly due to our near-absence from the territory. We have been far too hesitant to enter this world, and sometimes it seems we have simply preferred to cast stones from the outside.
Elaine Eklund has shown that Evangelicals are fourteen-fold under-represented among the scientists at the nation’s leading universities. Is this a result of what Mark Noll (almost twenty years ago) described as a scandal—“the scandal of the evangelical mind?” Could it be that the territory seems foreign because we have stayed away and failed to adequately understand how science works and why it is such a dependable way of revealing truth about the physical and biological world that God has created? As I see it, the process of science is a “toolkit” provided by God, enabling us to explore God’s ongoing, regular work in our universe. BioLogos exists to celebrate what we have discovered about this activity and to demonstrate that it is truly God’s.
The day for personal stories like mine—and the countless other individuals who have stories just like it—will someday come to an end. This was Francis Collins’ vision as BioLogos was launched on April 28th, 2009, and his vision has lived on throughout the three years since he left. Now, even though I will soon step aside as BioLogos president, as well, I am personally excited at the prospect of returning to that which I love to do most of all: studying, writing and teaching about the vision that lives on. Please pray with us all, as the BioLogos Board of Directors leads the search for the next leader through whom that same vision will continue to live on…and on.
Image courtesy Greg Schneider