The following projects were supported by the BioLogos Evolution & Christian Faith grant three-year program.
BioLogos does not necessarily endorse the views expressed by the project leaders or their institutions, nor do the project leaders or their institutions necessarily endorse the views expressed by BioLogos.
Creatures of God: An Evangelical-Catholic Dialogue on Sin, Evolution, and Human Nature
Dr. Paul Allen
This project has the objective of producing a scholarly monograph tentatively entitled Creaturehood Ascendant: Sin and Science in Theological Anthropology as well as several scholarly articles. This research will lay out a theological anthropology that builds on specific emphases of Catholic and evangelical theology in order to respond to the theory of evolution. This project constructively engages with scientific portraits of human nature in a systematic theology that combines an attention to the way Augustine interpreted the Bible, a multi-disciplinary interpretation of sin and a Christian integration of Darwinian conservatism and natural law theory. Second, the project will involve the staging of four ‘Academy and Church’ seminars of ‘Catholic-Evangelical’ dialogue on human nature, sin and evolution in Canada between 2013 and 2015, resulting in the production of an edited volume. Calling on Catholic and evangelical scholarly leaders, the project envisions an important overlap and complementary perspectives between these two traditions in their respective understandings of human nature. Created in the image of God, human persons are better understood, yet not reducible to the processes explained by the theory of evolution. Together, Catholics and evangelicals are able to cover a wide range of moral, biblical, theological and philosophical commitments that investigate and account for human personhood.
Original Sin Redux: A Study in Analytic Theology
Fuller Theological Seminary
Dr. Oliver Crisp
A major issue in contemporary Christian theology concerns the relationship between an evolutionary account of human origins and the doctrine of original sin. To what extent does a theological account ofthe origin of human sin depend 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? How would that complicate our theological stories of human development in light of Scripture? A related issue turns on the extent to which we can we reconstruct a doctrine of original sin wherenature has always been “red in tooth and claw.” This project engages these questions from a theological point of view, offering a contemporary restatement of the doctrine in dialogue with Scripture, the Christian tradition, and contemporary science, philosophy, and theology. It employs an analytic theological method. This is a recent approach to Christian doctrine that utilizes the tools of analytic philosophy for theological purposes. The main output of the project is a book entitled Original Sin Redux, under contract with Oxford University Press. In addition to this research monograph, at least one article is planned that will publish some of the main findings of the book for a more popular audience.The doctrine of original sin is a central and defining theme in Christian thought. This work constitutes a much-needed restatement of the doctrine addressing pressing theological concerns for a contemporary audience.
Beyond Galileo - to Chalcedon: Re-Imagining the Intersection of Evolution and the Fall
Association "Science et Foi Chrétienne"
Pastor Michael Gulker, Dr. James Smith, and Dr. William Cavanaugh
This project gathers a multidisciplinary team of leading scholars to pursue communal, research on evolution, the Fall, and original sin, asking a pressing 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 humanityand the origin of sin?The integrity of the church’s witness requires that we constructively address thisdifficult question. We believe that cultivating an orthodox theological imagination can enable us to engage these tensions without giving up on confessional orthodoxy. So our methodology is as central to our project as the topic. Following the suggestion of Mark Noll in Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, we embrace the church’s ancient wisdom in the Council of Chalcedon as a model and template for how to faithfully grapple with contemporary challenges.We also believe the resources for such theological imagination are carried in the liturgical heritage of the church—in the worship practices and spiritual disciplines that enact the biblical story in ways that seep into our imagination, helping us see creativeways forward through this challenge. Research will be shared in a culminating conference and resulting scholarly book. In addition, leveraging our relationship with The Colossian Forum, the fruit of our research will also be “translated” and distributed for pastors, Christian educators and students throughforums, web publishing, and curricula.
Theology of Original Sin in Various Human Origins Scenarios
Dr. Loren Haarsma
When Christians consider human evolution, the issues which generate the greatest concern usually cluster around the historicity of Adam and Eve and original sin. What means did God use to create humans? How intellectually and morally advanced were the first humans who sinned? How did God reveal his will to them? Was their sinful rebellion sudden or gradual? How does the first sin of a few individuals become a universal human condition of sinfulness? What are the theological consequencesto the competing answers to these questions? My goal, rather than advocate just one possible scenario for human origins and original sin, is to map out systematically many possible scenarios, all of which still affirm historical, creedal Christianity as well as the conclusions of modern science. I will not only describe these spectrums of scenarios, but also discuss various theological strengths and challenges of each scenario. I will develop this research into a book, a series of scholarly articles, and several shorter articles for BioLogos and for magazines for general Christian audiences. I will use grant funds for some release time from teaching duties, to hire students as research assistants, and to give honoraria to collaborators from numerous theological and scientific fields who will help edit my work. These collaborators will also be asked to speak at Calvin College as part of our ongoing science and Christian faith seminar series, with their talks archived on the web.
Configuring Adam and Eve: Exploring Conceptual Space at the Interface of Theological and Scientific Reflection on Human Origins
Dr. Benno van den Toren
Many Christians are concerned that evolutionary accounts of human origins can put key Christians doctrines under heavy strain -- in particular, the Image of God, Original Sin, and the Goodness of God. Many non-believers reject Christian faith because they believe it is inconsistent with modern science. Such tensions are pastorally and evangelistically damaging.
This project brings together an international team of scholars based at University of Oxford representing diverse academic fields in the arts (theology, history and philosophy) and sciences (biological physics and chemistry) and diverse theological and scientific commitments. They aim to bring their various viewpoints to bear on the complex relationships between Christian doctrine and recent scientific work on human origins. In particular, they will explore where progress can be made by distinguishing between scientific evidence and interpretations of that evidence, on the one hand, and between essential Christian doctrines and interpretations of those doctrines on the other.
The team’s work will take the form of two international conferences with published proceedings, one academic book on the problem of evil, articles submitted to peer-reviewed journals, popular-level contributions to the BioLogos website, and three popular-level symposium-style books on the Image of God, Original Sin and the Problem of Evil. The project has been designed to create opportunities for a broad array of scholars from Europe and North America to join them in investigating and advancing this question.
Adam, Paul, and Evolution - What Evangelicals Need to Know
Trinity Western University
Dr. Dennis Venema and Dr. Scot McKnight
Human evolution and population genetics studies that impinge on the historicity of Adam are questions that have received widespread attention recently in evangelical circles, largely due to increased information emanating from the Human Genome Project and other ongoing, large-scale genomics research. The increasing awareness of evolution and population genetics among evangelical Christians places pressure on pastors and lay leaders to offer informed guidance on these issues to their congregants. This is no small task, given the scientific and theological complexities that these subjects entail and the theological and pastoral sensitivities they require. While some good books on evolution and Christianity are available to help guide evangelicals, none at present offer joint expertise in genetics and New Testament theology, two key areas of the conversation. This project is for a joint-authored book on the evidence for evolution and population genetics, with informed theological reflection on how these issues interact with orthodox Christianity. Both authors are respected experts in their fields. Scot McKnight (Northern Seminary) is a New Testament theologian and historian of Christianity, and author of numerous commentaries, books, and the popular blog Jesus Creed. Dennis Venema (Trinity Western University) is a geneticist, cell biologist and frequent contributor to the science -- faith discussion, in part as a Senior Fellow of The BioLogos Foundation. Together, these authors propose to write a book targeted to pastors and lay people that combines their strengths in ways that previous books on evolution and Christianity have not been able to achieve, and speak to recent developments in the discussion that previous books have not addressed in detail.
Becoming Human - Developing a Model Consistent with Theological Concerns for the Appearance of Full Humanity Based on Recent Discoveries of Human Functionality
Dr. David Wilcox
The intention of the project is to develop a new model for the appearance of human identity based on recent scientific data, and to analyze the scientific and theological implications of this model. The goal is a updated model and which reflects the complex recent scientific advances in genetics and paleoanthropology and yet is sensitive to theological concerns. Why? Given the plethora of new scientific data concerning human uniqueness, and its point and mode of origin, clearly there is a need for an organized evaluation which will make these insights more available for theological reflection. A model for these critical issues needs to reflect this new scientific data, but yet remain a model compatible with the central understandings of Christian thought. The task is particularly critical given the broad challenge to a Christian understanding in such fields as evolutionary psychology. Meeting these challenges would be the primary task of the project. Resulting insights and models would be communicated though articles published in the BioLogos web site, journals such as Perspectives, and further detailed in a book.