“The Language of God” Book Club – Chapters 10-11

| By Jim Stump on Faith and Science Seeking Understanding

Today we wrap up the online portion of The Language of God book club. We’ve been encouraged by the overall response: there were hundreds of people who downloaded the questions and thousands who visited the book club page. We heard from groups meeting at colleges, churches, and in homes—like this group who sent us some photos of their gathering:

Book club group photo Two people studying the book

I’m especially grateful to those who read these posts and offered thoughtful replies in the comments section. Instead of quick back-and-forth dialogue, our discussion here has become a repository of reflections on Collins’s book. We’ll archive those reflections and make them prominently available on our site for future readers of The Language of God. There is still one more chance to engage the material here today: chapters 10 and 11.

Chapter 10 introduces the BioLogos option. Collins’ original use of the term “BioLogos” was as an alternative label for the position often known as “theistic evolution.” Now this gets a bit confusing as “BioLogos” became the name for our organization that Collins founded (after the publication of this book). We continue to be dissatisfied with the label “theistic evolution” because as Collins said, most non-theologians are unsure how the term “theist” “could be converted to an adjective and used to modify Darwin’s theory” (p. 203). Yes, we are theists; and we accept the science of evolution. But by comparison, we also accept the science of chemistry (and believe that God had something to with it), but I don’t know of anyone who adopts the label “theistic chemistry” to describe their beliefs. We prefer the label “evolutionary creation” for the position that God brought about the life on earth through the process of evolution.

  1. How about you? Which of these labels seems to best capture the understanding of God and science that Collins has advanced in the book? What are the pros and cons? How much should we worry about the marketability of labels?

Collins responds to one of the major tension points for Christians thinking about the implications of evolution: Adam and Eve. We at BioLogos are persuaded that the scientific evidence convincingly shows that it is not the case that all human beings descended ancestrally from one pair. But there are still several options for interpreting the biblical texts about Adam and Eve that might fit with that evidence. We’ve recently begun a blog series called Interpreting Adam, and there are other resources we point to on the topic at our supplemental resources page. Collins also notes several possibilities of dealing with Adam and Eve (and quotes a lovely passage from C.S. Lewis), and then offers this conclusion:

Given this uncertainty of interpretation of certain scriptural passages, is it sensible for sincere believers to rest the entirety of their position in the evolutionary debate, their views on the trustworthiness of science, and the very foundation of their religious faith on a literalist interpretation, even if other equally sincere believers disagree, and have disagreed even long before Darwin and his Origin of Species first appeared? I do not believe that the God who created all the universe, and who communes with His people through prayer and spiritual insight, would expect us to deny the obvious truths of the natural world that science has revealed to us, in order to prove our love for Him (p. 209-10).
  1. What is your response to this conclusion? Is Collins fair in his characterization and assessment of the situation? Why might it not be persuasive for some Christians?

Finally, chapter 11 relates more of Collins’ personal faith journey. He gives his reasons for aligning with Christianity in particular among the other religious options and describes some of his own experiences that have been formative in understanding his faith. The chapter concludes with exhortations aimed at both believers and scientists, which he believes will help to bring about a “truce in the escalating war between science and spirit” (p. 233).

  1. What do you take to be the best way forward for the dialogue between science and Christian faith?


About the Author

Jim Stump

Jim Stump is Senior Editor at BioLogos. As such he oversees the development of new content and curates existing content for the website and print materials. Jim has a PhD in philosophy from Boston University and was formerly a philosophy professor and academic administrator. He has authored Science and Christianity: An Introduction to the Issues (Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming) and co-authored (with Chad Meister) Christian Thought: A Historical Introduction (Routledge, 2010). He has co-edited (with Alan Padgett) The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012) and (with Kathryn Applegate) How I Changed My Mind About Evolution (InterVarsity, forthcoming).