Bio and Logos: Two Islands or One Bridge?
Darrel R. Falk,
President, The BioLogos Foundation
The term, BioLogos, has two parts to it. The Bio part is straightforward—it stands for life, like in biology, the study of life. As for Logos, it is simply the ever living Word of God. The Gospel of John, the greatest treatise on the meaning of life’s origin ever written, starts this way: “In the beginning was the Word (the Logos) and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” BioLogos, then, centers on the study of life in a manner which focuses on the One who is the source of life.
Many years ago, I told a colleague of my desire to one day write a book on the Christian faith and the life sciences, two of my great loves. He said, “Darrel, I think that book has already been written; it is called ‘Biology.’” He was saying, in essence, that science is a tool that allows us to study God’s creation. So as we have used that tool, we have discovered the way that God works in this world. The study of nature is the study of God’s ways of creating and sustaining the natural world. According to this view, the term, ‘biology’ is synonymous with the term ‘biologos.’ The science of biology is so powerful that it essentially leaves no stone uncovered, it explains all there is to know about the origin of living organisms.
There are others who believe that the science of biology is incomplete, even defective, because it does not include the principle of external design as one of its tools in investigating how nature works. The presence or absence of God’s activity can be tested much like any other hypothesis, they believe, and because this is not part of the practice of biology — because biology doesn’t directly factor the existence of a Creator into its “equations” — it is highly defective at describing the natural world. According to this view, biology, if it was correctly practiced, would equal biologos and as such could be taught as science in science classrooms.
There are significant problems with both views. Both put too much emphasis on the power of biology as an investigative tool. The problem with the former view is that it fails to significantly recognize that the science of biology, put simply, does not possess the tools to provide a meaningful, all-encompassing picture of the origin and function of components in the living world. The problem with the latter view is that it constrains God. It puts God into a box and tests his activity as though that activity is accessible to the rules that govern scientific testing: reproducibility (behaving the same way every time) and manipulability of variables (removing each variable to study its impact.)
So as powerful as the science of biology is at providing detailed information about life, something much greater is needed to complete the picture. Biology does not equal biologos — and it never will — because biology lacks the tools to study the source of life: the Logos which breathes life into life. Those tools only come through God’s self-revelation through the written Word, which in turn points us to the Logos, who is through all, in all, and above all. Hence the term with its two parts, ‘biologos.’ A full multi-dimensional view of life requires paying close attention to both. Together they form a bridge. Apart they exist as islands with a very incomplete picture of the living world.
About the time that The BioLogos Foundation began, we received a copy of the manuscript for The Lost World of Genesis One by Dr. John Walton, an Old Testament scholar at Wheaton College. We knew right away that this book would be most helpful to the Church. It stressed that in order to really understand the message of Genesis One, we need to translate not just the language of ancient Hebrews into ours so that it can speak to us today; we also need to translate the culture. We need to understand the questions they were asking in their culture at that time and listen to the divinely inspired answers as they would have heard then. His book, now almost three years old, has indeed been most helpful in thinking about the all-important Logos component of BioLogos. John Walton has now moved on to an even more sensitive portion of Genesis—that which focuses on human creation—and is currently working on a book about it.
Dr. Walton recently gave a talk at the annual BioLogos Foundation President’s Circle event, and we were privileged to receive his permission to record the talk and to present it and his slides on The BioLogos Forum. If you haven’t heard it yet, you’ll find it very engaging. Please pray with us that, as we continue building the bridge between “Bio” and “Logos” in a manner that gives us a complete picture of the rich and meaningful story of life, each component will be recognized for what it is—a grace-filled gift from God himself.