Congratulations to the 37 winners of the Evolution & Christian Faith (ECF) grants competition! ECF is a new BioLogos program designed to support projects and network-building among scholars, church leaders, and parachurch organizations. Each project takes a different approach to address theological and philosophical questions commonly voiced by Christians about evolutionary creation. ECF places a premium on scholarship with high “translational” potential—that which leaves the academy and makes an impact on the church. The program runs through August 2015.
Grantees will benefit from in-person interaction through a series of summer workshops in 2013, 2014, and 2015. These meetings will not only foster a broader knowledge base, but will build a sustained network of scholars and church leaders, both young and seasoned, who are serious about addressing the concerns of the church about evolution. Also in 2015, in connection with the third summer workshop, BioLogos will host a large conference open to scientists, scholars, and church leaders from around the world.
In January 2012, BioLogos was awarded a multi-million dollar grant from the John Templeton Foundation to fund the work of scholars and church leaders on evolution and Christian faith. In spring 2012 we worked hard to get the word out. You may have seen announcements on the BioLogos website, in our newsletters, on the Books & Culture, Leadership Journal, or First Things websites, on your professional society’s listserv, or perhaps on your friend’s blog.
The response was overwhelming: we received 225 letters of intent for a total request of $21 million—about seven times the amount we had to offer. We needed to invite the most promising applicants to submit a full proposal, but recognizing the projects with highest potential would require broad expertise. From the beginning, we envisioned that a panel of scientists, pastors, and scholars would oversee the application and review process as well as play key advisory roles throughout the project. A team of eight highly qualified individuals came on board in the early months of the project. They reviewed each proposal and together recommended that BioLogos invite 86 applicants to submit full applications.
The deadline for submissions was October 1, 2012. As in the previous round, the ECF panel evaluated each proposal. In addition, we asked 55 other experts to participate, so that each proposal received 3-4 scores. Criteria for the decision included significance of topic, project design, creativity and innovation, long-term impact potential, feasibility, and budget.
The panel then met together November 29-30, 2012, to make the final funding decisions. In the end, they recommended that BioLogos give 37 awards, ranging from $23,000 to $300,000. BioLogos staff notified applicants of their awards on December 14, 2013.
As part of our objective to create a network of scholars and leaders, we awarded grants to organizations across the U.S. and the world. Thirty of the 37 grantees are domestic; seven are international, hailing from Canada, France, Great Britain, Netherlands, and Spain.
Two-thirds of the accepted projects will be led by teams—some with three or more Project Leaders. We expect that the teamwork and time spent together at our summer workshops will be the start of a long-lasting network of people dedicated to helping the church think carefully about origins.
Applicants chose to apply under one of three program tracks: interdisciplinary scholarship (Track 1), intra-disciplinary scholarship (Track 2), and translational projects (Track 3). Track 1 projects focus on both the collaboration between individuals in different disciplines and the development of projects at the interface of different content areas. Track 2 projects focus on work done within a specific discipline. Track 3 focuses on projects that encourage Christians, especially those within more conservative traditions, to engage in meaningful and productive dialogue to reduce tensions between mainstream science and the Christian faith. The numbers of grantees in Tracks 1, 2, and 3 are 6, 8, and 23, respectively.
Many of the scholarly projects tackle questions about Adam and Eve, the Fall, human identity, and Original Sin—some of the most critical interpretive issues for evangelical theology. Some examples:
Theologian Oliver Crisp of Fuller Seminary will take an analytic theology approach to ask to what extent a theological account of the origin of human sin depends upon the evolution of modern humans from one and only one ancestral pair—especially if that pair does not appear to correspond to what we would think of as modern human beings.
Pastor Michael Gulker and philosopher James Smith, leading a large team from The Colossian Forum, ask a related question: if humanity emerged from non-human primates—as genetic, biological, and archaeological evidence seems to suggest—then what are the implications for Christian theology’s traditional account of origins, including both the origin of humanity and the origin of sin?
Biologist Dennis Venema of Trinity Western University and New Testament scholar Scot McKnight of Northern Seminary will write a book on the evidence for evolution and population genetics, with informed theological reflection on how these issues interact with orthodox Christianity.
Biologist David Wilcox of Eastern University will develop an updated model of human identity which reflects the complex recent scientific advances in genetics and paleoanthropology and yet is sensitive to theological concerns.
These are just a few of the scholarly awards; check out the Grantees page for full descriptions of all Track 1 and Track 2 projects.
All projects have translational potential, but Track 3 projects are designed to meet the needs of a particular constituency within the evangelical church. These projects run the gamut from ethics to education to media production to ministry resources. Some examples include:
Theologian Lee Camp of Lipscomb University will produce “The Questions in Monkey Town,” an episode of Tokens, a live variety show that features musical performances, comedic sketches, brief interpretive monologues, and dialog with authors and scholars. The episode will be performed and filmed on the site of the famous Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee.
Chaplain Joshua Hayashi and Educator Diane Sweeney of the Punahou School in Hawaii will lead a team to produce multimedia curricula aimed at helping high school students connect with their biology curricula and, at the same time, deepen their Christian faith.
Physics teacher and pastor Benoît Hébert of Science et Foi Chrétienne in France will lead an international, multi-denominational team of French speaking Evangelical scientists, pastors and church leaders to produce a large number of resources on evolutionary creation.
Pastor Seung-Hwan Kim of Grace Truth Community Church, a Southern Baptist church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will produce teaching and preaching materials about evolution for church leaders.
President Gregory Wolfe and Director of Resource Development for IMAGE will gather artists and writers of faith whose work explores the dialogue between evolutionary science and faith practice, convening a conversation between them and scientists, theologians, and church leaders in private and public conferences.
Again, this is just a taste of the diversity of Track 3 projects. Read more about each project on the Grantees page. You can look forward to an incredible variety of resources coming out of the ECF program, many of which will be featured right here on the BioLogos Forum.