November 20, 2017

Back to the Trenches!

By Chaplain Mike

The troops have been mustered.

And folks, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

So, this week, in the “where angels fear to tread” category, we’re going to gear up and go back to the front lines of the Creation Wars.

As you know, I have recommended the site BioLogos and have posted materials from their blog. I truly appreciate the mission of BioLogos and the spirit with which they pursue that mission.

The BioLogos Foundation is a group of Christians, many of whom are professional scientists, biblical scholars, philosophers, theologians, pastors, and educators, who are concerned about the long history of disharmony between the findings of science and large sectors of the Christian faith. We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. We also believe that evolution, properly understood, best describes God’s work of creation. Founded by Dr. Francis Collins, BioLogos addresses the escalating culture war between science and faith, promoting dialog and exploring the harmony between the two. We are committed to helping the church – and students, in particular – develop worldviews that embrace both of these complex belief structures, and that allow science and faith to co-exist peacefully.

Now, whether or not you accept their statement, “We also believe that evolution, properly understood, best describes God’s work of creation,” it is my strong contention that all Christians ought to welcome the presence and contribution of a group like BioLogos.

For they are seeking another way, beyond the failed culture war strategies employed by fundamentalists on both ends of the spectrum—

  • On the one hand Christian fundamentalists who insist on a Young Earth Creationist interpretation, based on a narrow definition of Biblical inerrancy and a literalist approach to reading the creation accounts in Scripture;
  • And on the other hand atheistic fundamentalists for whom science is their religion, materialistic naturalism is their philosophy, and faith-based approaches represent the endeavors of fools still under the power of superstition rather than empirical evidence.

BioLogos is encouraging conversation—rigorous yet respectful conversation about science and Biblical religion, so that they might learn to co-exist without the continual retreat to the trenches that has too often characterized these two “sides” in American culture. I’m all for that.

Do Christians really want to be the ones who deny, not merely the scientific model of biological evolution, but whole swaths of accepted scientific findings in geology, astronomy, physics, and many other fields based on a passage in the Bible that was never intended to address such matters?

Unfortunately, as you might expect, certain outspoken members of the Christian community are stepping up to do just that, particularly in conservative Reformed circles and those related to them.

Albert Mohler gave a talk at the National Ligonier Conference last week on the age of the earth. Tim Challies summarizes Mohler’s approach:

He began by reading Genesis 1 and, having done so, affirmed that a straightforward reading of the text tells us of 24-hour days, 6 real days of creation and one real day of rest. And, indeed, this was the overwhelming, untroubled consensus of the church until the 19th century.

To take any other view, in Mohler’s opinion, threatens the integrity of Scripture and pushes down a domino that ultimately takes down the entire Biblical Christian faith.

Pastor John MacArthur, Jr. has also been involved in this fray. MacArthur is the teaching pastor at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and featured speaker on the Grace to You radio broadcast. MacArthur, strictly speaking, is not Reformed in a traditional sense. He has a generally Calvinistic approach to doctrine, is baptistic and non-denominational, with a strong emphasis on Biblical elders leading the church. MacArthur is probably most well-known as an outspoken advocate of what has (unfortunately) come to be known as “Lordship Salvation.” He is also an outspoken dispensationalist (a fact which gives me little confidence in some of his approaches to Scripture).

In recent days, the Grace to You blog as well as Pyromaniacs, the blog of Grace to You Executive Director Phil Johnson have been weighing in hot and heavy.

And like I said, it ain’t pretty.

Listen to some of what Phil Johnson has been writing:

  • BioLogos is a dangerous “trojan horse.”
  • “Old-earthers” like to fudge on the incontrovertible teachings of Genesis.
  • BioLogos clearly does not take Scripture seriously.
  • BioLogos’ contributors consistently give preference to modern ideology over Biblical revelation.
  • “Biblical orthodoxy” has no clear meaning in the BioLogos lexicon. In all candor, it seems as if sound doctrine is simply not matter of major concern for most BioLogos contributors.
  • If BioLogos is willing to throw away so much at the very foundations of our faith and at the very beginning of God’s revelation, I can’t imagine why they would want to keep up the pretense of being Christians at all.
  • It’s painfully obvious that theology is very low on BioLogos’s list of priorities.
  • The blend of scientific skepticism and moral piety being peddled over at BioLogos isn’t authentic Christianity.
  • The worldview BioLogos promotes is a challenge to—and by no means an affirmation of—the authentic, biblical, and historic Christian faith.
  • It is unreasonable to extend to BioLogos the right hand of Christian fellowship.

And, Johnson’s coup d’grâce: “Looks like it’s the beginning of the end of The BioLogos Foundation, at least as the distinctively Christian organization it claims to be.”

Well. I guess there won’t be any “conversation” with Mr. Johnson or the folks at Grace to You, will there?

For those with this kind of unyielding fundamentalist commitment there is no conversation. For fundamentalists, the “clear teaching” of God’s Word ends all conversation rather than furthering it.

  • Never mind that St. Augustine disagreed and took a distinctly non-literal approach to Genesis.
  • Never mind that John Calvin said Moses was saying something different than the astronomers of Calvin’s own day, and that both should be considered “right” when you think about the respective purposes of their work.
  • Never mind that a number of prominent theologians over church history, including many leading men of God in the Reformed tradition, have thoughtfully embraced forms of theistic evolution and accepted evidence for an old universe while at the same time affirming the historic creeds and teachings of the Church.
  • Never mind that the politically-charged conservative evangelicalism of America (never known for its intellectual depth) seems to be one of the few places in the world that these issues are on the front burner.
  • Never mind that huge segments of Christendom (dare I say the Roman Catholic Church?) have found and continue to find ways to work through issues like this. Fundamentalist approaches of all types may sell books and make a temporary splash. However, despite the shrill shrieks they emit to get people’s attention, IMO they should become increasingly marginalized in favor of more thoughtful and gracious approaches that recognize the validity of studying both God’s Word and God’s world with rigor, and having the humility to listen and have conversations with others.

Of course, MacArthur, Johnson, and their ilk will claim this is a sure sign of the church’s apostasy. Please.

Further, I hope that conflicts like this don’t cause fine projects like BioLogos to lose sight of their mission and think they must take up arms to defend themselves. There were, unfortunately, some signs of that this week. Please don’t give in to that temptation! As one of my favorite Irish theologians, David Gray, says:

We’ve been beatin’ on it ’til we’re black and blue
Just what good exactly is it gonna do?

“Harder”

I am no expert on questions of science. You won’t find me holding forth on these matters from a scientific perspective, because, well…because if I did you’d laugh at me and go read some other blog. At this point in my life and study, it is enough for me that many fine, thoughtful, committed Christians believe we don’t have to view this whole subject as a site for trench warfare.

We can talk.

We can trust that a majority of people who study and practice science are people of good faith and are not out to destroy Christianity and Western Civilization.

We can also trust that most people in Christian scholarship, leadership, and in the churches are people of good faith, and would be willing to have intelligent conversations about these matters rather than live in a trench and spend their time tossing grenades and ducking the ones coming their way.

Furthermore, we are probably right to posit that most people in our communities frankly don’t  give a damn about these issues. When they look at armies mustering, demagogues blustering, and cluster bombs busting the ground, they run and hide, angry that they are caught in no-man’s land, getting wounded and killed—collateral damage from the church neglecting the Gospel in favor of fighting culture wars.

Isn’t it just as reasonable to take a position like this?—

God is so much bigger and mysterious than we can ever understand (in terms of creation, see the end of the Book of Job), that, at least at this point, it is hard for us to imagine how some things fit together. There is a lot more studying, exploring, discovering, and talking to do.

For example, can anyone explain how a God of providence who is involved in his creation might possibly use the seeming “chance” mechanisms of evolution? Do we really know the details about whether that is possible or impossible? Can we really give a final yea or nay at this point?

But don’t stop there. There are whole realms of science besides the subject of biological evolution that challenge our common, accepted understandings of God and the universe. Are Christians going to be the ones to say, “Throw it all out! The whole enterprise is wrong!”

Or can we somehow come to a point of withholding final judgment and simultaneously hold as at least possible multiple ideas which seem at present to be incompatible with one another?

Can we commit to keep studying? To keep talking? To hold our convictions with a modicum of humility? To keep showing respect for possibilities we may not at present fathom? To keep the main thing in our Christian faith the main thing—that “We believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord….”?

Comments

  1. I, for one, am definitely looking forward to this.

  2. “And, indeed, this was the overwhelming, untroubled consensus of the church until the 19th century.”

    St. Augustine of Hippo, 354-430. Not the 19th century.
    St. Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274. Not the 19th century.

    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1074.htm

    “Article 2. Whether all these days are one day?

    …I answer that, On this question Augustine differs from other expositors. His opinion is that all the days that are called seven, are one day represented in a sevenfold aspect (Gen. ad lit. iv, 22; De Civ. Dei xi, 9; Ad Orosium xxvi); while others consider there were seven distinct days, not one only. Now, these two opinions, taken as explaining the literal text of Genesis, are certainly widely different. For Augustine understands by the word “day,” the knowledge in the mind of the angels, and hence, according to him, the first day denotes their knowledge of the first of the Divine works, the second day their knowledge of the second work, and similarly with the rest. Thus, then, each work is said to have been wrought in some one of these days, inasmuch as God wrought in some one of these days, inasmuch as God wrought nothing in the universe without impressing the knowledge thereof on the angelic mind; which can know many things at the same time, especially in the Word, in Whom all angelic knowledge is perfected and terminated. So the distinction of days denotes the natural order of the things known, and not a succession in the knowledge acquired, or in the things produced. Moreover, angelic knowledge is appropriately called “day,” since light, the cause of day, is to be found in spiritual things, as Augustine observes (Gen. ad lit. iv, 28). In the opinion of the others, however, the days signify a succession both in time, and in the things produced.

    If, however, these two explanations are looked at as referring to the mode of production, they will be found not greatly to differ, if the diversity of opinion existing on two points, as already shown (67, 1; 69, 1), between Augustine and other writers is taken into account.

    First, because Augustine takes the earth and the water as first created, to signify matter totally without form; but the making of the firmament, the gathering of the waters, and the appearing of dry land, to denote the impression of forms upon corporeal matter. But other holy writers take the earth and the water, as first created, to signify the elements of the universe themselves existing under the proper forms, and the works that follow to mean some sort of distinction in bodies previously existing, as also has been shown (67, 1,4; 69, 1).

    Secondly, some writers hold that plants and animals were produced actually in the work of the six days; Augustine, that they were produced potentially. Now the opinion of Augustine, that the works of the six days were simultaneous, is consistent with either view of the mode of production. For the other writers agree with him that in the first production of things matter existed under the substantial form of the elements, and agree with him also that in the first instituting of the world animals and plants did not exist actually. There remains, however, a difference as to four points; since, according to the latter, there was a time, after the production of creatures, in which light did not exist, the firmament had not been formed, and the earth was still covered by the waters, nor had the heavenly bodies been formed, which is the fourth difference; which are not consistent with Augustine’s explanation. In order, therefore, to be impartial, we must meet the arguments of either side. “

  3. Everett Anthony says:

    Let’s keep studying both science and theology. Let’s keep talking with each other. God may yet reveal more of Himself and how He created this marvelous world.

  4. David Cornwell says:

    Thanks for wading into this. Be brave!

    If one reads some of the studies, we are in serious danger of losing at least a generation of young people because of what they associate with Christianity. Many think Christians are brain dead and bigoted. I don’t think this is true, but this is what the culture wars are doing for us.

    I’ve always thought loving God and neighbor at least partly involves our brains.

    • David L says:

      Much of the current generation of 15 to 30 year olds have already left. This isn’t a future problem. It is the here and now. And the inside solution is to get more strident.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Remember when the USSR was crumbling? The Party’s solution? INCREASE POLITICAL-CONSCIOUSNESS AMONG THE MASSES — PARTY LINE, PARTY LINE, PARTY LINE. Until all their schools and media were Indoctrinating Party Line Political Consciousness 24/7/365 while everything continued to fall apart.

      • I don’t buy it.

        People are saved by the preaching of the Word. Once saved, they are kept in God’s hands and cannot be lost.

        What story you tell about origins (mud to man) is irrelevant.

        • Once saved always saved. OK.

          But they are still walking out the door with absolutely no plans to return. And many in their 30s and 40s have not yet changed their minds.

          • I would say that anyone who walks away from the church with no plans to return is not saved.

            My point is that teaching evolution won’t bring them back.

            Preaching sin, repentance, and salvation through Christ will bring them back. Even if you are teaching YEC.

          • David L says:

            I think the point of all of this is that teaching evolution or a 6000 year old earth as a “you must believe” or your an idiot, ignorant, not a Christian, etc… is wrong.

            Teach the message of Jesus and leave the age of the earth to a discussion.

          • I would say that anyone who walks away from the church with no plans to return is not saved.

            Or they’re saved and have been turned off by a Jesus-free, Grace-free, love-free church environment. Seen plenty of those in my time. You need to read Michael Spencer’s Mere Churchianity to see why many of the people who are leaving church are doing so for the reasons listed above.

            My point is that teaching evolution won’t bring them back.

            Except that it has. I’ve known two people personally who were going to leave Christianity because they were told they couldn’t accept the evidence for evolution and also be a Christian. When they found out otherwise, they remained. See Rachel Held Evans’s excellent post, “My Faith Shouldn’t Be Alive (But It Is, and Here’s Why)”

            Preaching sin, repentance, and salvation through Christ will bring them back. Even if you are teaching YEC.

            I’ve also seen too many people turned away from Church because belief in YEC was held up as the mark of a true Christian. Often, it was explicitly stated that if you believed in evolution, you couldn’t possibly be a Christian. I’ve been told this many times myself. Preaching YEC is putting a fence up around the cross, and the consequences are tragic, as Michael Spencer documented in this IM post, “Niki Made Her Choice and, Apparently, So Did We.”

          • Hebrews 10:19 commands us to meet with local saints. This command should be sufficient to overlook any failings in said saints. If they demand acquiescence on YEC, then (as the more mature brother), let them have it. It’s not worth fighting about. Let them teach what they like.

            If there were only one Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church near me; and they were OE, I would still go. I wouldn’t argue, or insist they are wrong.

            There are serious negative theological implications to OE. That is why many of these churches are taking a hard line (are some sinning? of course).

          • Hebrews 10:19 commands us to meet with local saints. This command should be sufficient to overlook any failings in said saints. If they demand acquiescence on YEC, then (as the more mature brother), let them have it. It’s not worth fighting about. Let them teach what they like.

            Sorry, but I can’t do that when they’re teaching belief in YEC as necessary for salvation. And they are doing just that. Again, see the Internet Monk post “Niki Made Her Choice and, Apparently, So Did We” As iMonk said (in agreement with Paul): “the Gospel combined with anything- a view of science, political opinions, convictions on gender, etc.- becomes a non-Gospel.” See Gal 1:6-9

          • If they are teaching YEC is required for salvation, then call them on it. If they are not repentant, form a group of refugees (inside the church, if they’ll allow it – else outside).

            You have to meet with other people. Lone Christians get weird (see Harold Camping).

  5. I think the creation / evolution debate is tiresome and missing out on a deeper issue. Instead of focusing on Genesis 1, a more appropriate debate might be Genesis 3.

    The world exists, regardless of whether it was created or did its own thing, that much is known. If there is going to be a dialogue over Genesis and science, I would like to see a debate over sin. Is it literal and if so, how did it get here? Is Genesis 3 literal or is there a scientific explanation for sin? Is sin even spiritual or a word to describe purely materialistic realities, such a cruelty and injustice? If there could be a world without “sin” what would it look like and would we want it?

    On a side note, the evolution of man still summons up pictures of a Jesus as a monkey on a cross (jn).

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    But don’t stop there. There are whole realms of science besides the subject of biological evolution that challenge our common, accepted understandings of God and the universe. Are Christians going to be the ones to say, “Throw it all out! The whole enterprise is wrong!”

    In one word: YES.

    Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles is now dogma ex cathedra, and All Heretics Must be Burned.

    “And, indeed, this was the overwhelming, untroubled consensus of the church until the 19th century.”

    Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, Comrades. Not Eurasia.

    St. Augustine of Hippo, 354-430. Not the 19th century.
    St. Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274. Not the 19th century.

    Already anticipated you, Auggie & Tom. Apostate Romish Papists (TM). Remember the Mormonesque view of Church History? Gone apostate after the apostles and mired in Satanic Romish Popery until the Reformation and now Truly Reformation?

    • But Headless, I thought the Calvinists/Truly Reformed Reformedly True Believers loved St. Augustine to bits since he was all about the predestination? And hence not one of the Papist Romish idolaters at all?

      😉

      • We do love St. Augustine. Not all of us Calvinists believe that the loudest voices of the blogosphere are good representatives of how Christ should be lived and defended in the world. Probably the most telling aspect of so-called “TR bloggers” these days is their absence of joy in Jesus they project through their writings, their lack of civility and humility with those who disagree with them. Controversy is what drives their relevance – or at least what is what they seem to think keeps them relevant. But in the end, Christ is often not exalted, and he’s often shoved to side for the sake of “defending the truth.” I love my brothers and sisters in the Lord. I love my theological kin with an extra special love – but I hate the way they usually treat others who disagree with them, even when they are right.

        Brad Huston

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          But in the end, Christ is often not exalted, and he’s often shoved to side for the sake of “defending the truth.”

          As in Christ got thrown under the Christian Culture War bus some time ago. More likely He’s at the Furry Fandom con I’m posting this from than AIG or the church of the preacher whose anathemas against Biologos started this thread rolling. He’s skipped the Defenders of Truth and hung out with messed-up losers before.

  7. For example, can anyone explain how a God of providence who is involved in his creation might possibly use the seeming “chance” mechanisms of evolution? Do we really know the details about whether that is possible or impossible? Can we really give a final yea or nay at this point?

    Similar, I imagine, to how a God of providence who “created my inmost being” used seemingly chance mechanisms in the processes of conception and development that ended up in the birth of me.

    • Josh T. says:

      Precisely. This analogy is solid.

      Many who tell their children that God “created” them [through natural processes of procreation] will often say that evolution cannot be possible in God’s economy because it would mean that God “did not create”.

    • Lukas db says:

      This is a good analogy. Simple. relevant and straightforward. It cuts to the heart of the matter; God controls and creates, but at the same time natural processes are effective agents.

  8. Here is something I posted in a previous article not long ago, with minor modifications (the review of Evans’ book on Evolving Faith):


    I read the article and am considering the book, but I remain in the position of having to choose. Even after reading dozens of articles from BioLogos and struggling with the issue, I am still of the opinion of Evolution and Christianity are incapatible.

    It is a simple problem, in truth. If nature and life developed on its own through its own mechanism (no need for a supernatural answer to development of life as provided in creationism, young or old earth), then as creatures living in nature, we do not require a supernatural answer for life, either (demons, angels, spirit, etc). In other words, the world has progressed through history without God supernaturally micromanaging nature (assuming God is supernatural) and it stands to reason that we do not need God to supernaturally micromanage our lives now.

    Christianity teaches a type of relationshihp with God where a daily dependence on a supernatural God is necessary. Jesus Himself said that without Him, the disciples could do nothing (John 15:5) and that God provides our needs (Matthew 6:32-33; “our daily bread”). Evolution, logically, brings me to a place where I must conclude the opposite, that God and Jesus DO NOT micromanage my life, that my needs are basically taken care either by my own efforts or by the efforts of others. God may be a first cause of the universe, but life has proceeded for millions of years without His direct intervention. Of course, we could argue that God is WITHIN nature, thus equating natural selection with divine intervention, but that is Panthetheism.

    If I accept evolution, I inevitably must come to the conclusion that my faith is in Jesus not because I utlimtaly NEED Him, but WANT Him. If I walk away from Jesus and become a Muslim or Buddhist or atheist because I do not want Jesus anymore, I’ve not lost anything. Life will go as it has for millions of years.

    But if I accept scripture as is, I am faced with a God who is intimately involved in our world in a micromanagement level and I am dependent on God and not human effort for my daily existence. For me, Evolution still pushes God far, far away, putting millions of years of distance between Him and humanity to the point where I might say humanity is on its own.

    • In the spirit of being concise, let me sum up. If I accept Darwin, I come to this following conclusion: Nature takes cares of itself without God and was initiated to do so. We humans, being a part of nature’s evolution, can take care of ourselves without God. Like children finally moving into adulthood, it’s time to say “Bye bye” to our Father in heaven and live on our own. Science is our initiation into adulthood.

      • Say you want to make some tea, so you put a pot of water on to boil. Does the water boil because:

        a) heat is applied to the water molocules, transferring energy to them, causing them to move more rapidly, converting the liquid water to steam.

        b) God directly intervenes to make the water boil.

        Your task, should you choose to accept it: pick and answer and justify it. This article on occasionalism may be of assistance. 🙂

        There is a point to this exercise. It has to do with your claim that scripture teaches that God must micromanage the universe.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Note that (b) is also the dogma of Islam, especially since al-Ghazali’s Incoherence of the Philosophers defined Reason (the Philosophers) as the enemy of Faith (the Koran) and never the twain shall meet. “Inshal’lah — God Hath Willed It!”

        • That’s the point. If God does not micromanage the universe, we can micromanage it ourselves, without God. It makes doctrines like inspired scripture and miracles into non-factual myth, making them, in a sense, all acts of micromanagement.

          • If God does not micromanage the universe, we can micromanage it ourselves, without God.

            Why do you believe that the universe needs micromanaging? Is it not possible that God could, and indeed did, create a universe that didn’t require micromanagement?

        • Damaris says:

          Peak — Science claims that water boils when heat applied to it causes the molecules to get agitated. Saying that doesn’t leave God out, because he’s the one who created a universe where boiling water was possible. I have to believe that the universe could have been different, and that it is what it is because of God’s sovereign choice. God doesn’t need to have his hand on my kettle every time I want a cup of tea, but in the ordering and provision of a universe that allows for tea — and me to drink it — I see God’s hand.

          The same argument can be made for evolution. It is still possible to believe in a personal God and accept that he created/is creating the world over time. We owe our existence absolutely to God, whether he made me out of clay with his own hands or whether he created the universe and the systems that led to my being. In fact, if you are completely committed to the micromanagement theory, you might even feel uncomfortable acknowledging that your parents had anything to do with your existence. We know that God works through agents in creating us — parents, ancestors; we know he doesn’t make everything from scratch. Once we’ve accepted that, we just have to examine the various claims of evolution and see which are scientifically plausible.

        • Understand that what I am saying is that God is not involved in the affairs of this world other than its initiation. He does not answer prayer, perform miracles or other forms of supernatural and miraculous intervention. Nature, including mankind, is made to function without God. The Christian concept of a “relationship” with God is wholely incapatible with what we know of nature.

          The idea of “He walks with me and He talks with me” is nice, but not substantive. Prayers of thanks reflect a recognition of humanity’s responsibility to take care of our environment if we want to survive, but there is no “big ear” hearing what is being said.

          For me, the acceptance of evolution, and I cannot deny it, works with my faith best in a Deistic mindset and that is where I am currently leaning.

          • The Christian concept of a “relationship” with God is wholely incapatible with what we know of nature.

            I think you’ve fallen into the fallacy of explanatory monism.

            Let’s take the teapot example again. How can we respond to the question, “Why is the water boiling?”

            1) The motion of the water molocules.

            2) Because I turned on the stove.

            3) Because I want tea.

            All three are correct and valid answers, but they answer the question at different levels. You appear to want to restrict God to the first level of explanation. In Thomsistic terms, you want to limit God to primary causality and deny that He can work via secondary causes.

            For some responses, theological and scientific, to your assertion that the Christian conception of God is incompatible with what we know of nature, I recommend the following:

            God and The New Atheism – John Haught – Chapter 7 – “Is God Personal?”

            Perspectives on an Evolving Creation

            _Making Sense of Evolution

          • “Nature, including mankind, is made to function without God. ”

            Almost all the christian apologists I’ve read — indeed, the whole project of evangelism — seems to assume this. They know the person they’re speaking to is functioning without god, and seek to convince that person that s/he will function better with god. Likewise, I can see evolution as a prime example of how nature can function without god, but not in a pleasant or edifying manner.

            There is a real place for a good god’s intervening in natural evolution. That would also address the development of human mental capacities; that god is creating a species through which his desires for the world can be worked out.

            On a previous thread, someone recommended a preacher whose theme was that christianity’s emphasis on human salvation has made us forget that presumably god had something for us to do before we fell, and that now being saved we should maybe stop worrying about ourselves and get on with it. How can we spend so much effort arguing over what genesis tells us god did, and so little on what genesis tells us to do?

          • Lukas db says:

            In Deism, God is a stranger, a distant monarch. In Panentheism, God is my mom. In Theism, God is….whatever he has willed to be. And he has chosen to be my father, friend, king and savior.

            For me, the choice seems clear. God doesn’t seem like God in any system but theism. But that’s just me; I can understand why some people are deists. It is perhaps a bit of a more reasonable thing to be.

      • David L says:

        You mention evolution, Darwin, etc… as if they all mean the same thing. (I’m interpreting what you wrote and if I’m wrong please correct me.)

        Darwin came up with an idea. It was big. I literally changed the world.

        But he didn’t get it all correct. In fact many of his detailed assumptions about things like cells were flat out wrong. But he started a line of inquiring into biology that continues to this day. (We can say similar things about Freud.)

        In scientific terms evolution is change over time. In many cases of secular usage and even in K-12 and college it is overloaded to mean much more. Which created no end of confusion and pointless arguing over non issues.

        Darwinism is biological evolution driven by natural selection.

        Natural selection is rapidly failing out of favor with many in science as it can’t explain way too many things. NOT evolution, natural selection.

        So I’m curious. Are you against a evolution in the strict sense, or only in the sense when people use it to also mean natural selection?

  9. ahumanoid says:

    “For those with this kind of unyielding fundamentalist commitment there is no conversation. For fundamentalists, the ‘clear teaching’ of God’s Word ends all conversation rather than furthering it.”

    So sadly true.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      At a party years ago, someone who worked Army Intel in Iraq was describing what it was like to talk to the locals. (He didn’t indicate which side.) No matter how educated and intelligent they were, there was a point “where the wall in their mind would slam down, and then there would only be “It Is Written! It Is Written! It Is Written! Al’llah’u Akbar! Al’lah’u Akbar! Al’lah’u Akbar!”

      Ex-Moonies related “Thoughtstoppers”; when some Unbeliever spoke to you and his tempting speech caused you to doubt Reverend Moon, you recited the Thoughtstopper (a statement of faith in Moon and/or Party Line) over and over until the doubt went away.

      “God Said It; I Believe It; That Settles It!” is just Christianese for Thoughtstopper.

  10. Yes, let’s keep talking … and we need to remember that we are commanded to love God with all our minds too!

    I attended a fascinating lecture by a Christian physicist at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. He said that Genesis 1-3 is completely consistent with particle physics including the Big Bang. (The Big Bang is proof enough that there is a creative God, given the probabilities associated with it!) He has not posted his notes on line, but here is a similar, though less thorough reference:

    http://www.icr.org/article/4296/

    My view is that Genesis tells us the who and the why, but not the when and the how. Also, it is important to understand that the generation tables skip generations, so these accounts should not be used as a reference for age, but a representation of some parts of geneology.

    I am looking forward to the Earth video series that we’ll all be shown once we get to heaven, so we can see how He really dunnit.

    Grace to all.

  11. Please keep your comments concise. If need be, we will turn on moderation, and/or go into editing mode in order to “concise them up” for you. And it is too hot to do that today.

    Carry on…

  12. I did a project on the relationship between science and Christianity and if they were incompatible for my Bible class at school. I spent a lot of time on it (for it took up 60% of my grade), and I came to 2 conclusions: 1.) No one was there, so no one can say with 100% knowledge that what they know is true. Both sides require faith. 2.) Christianity is not validated by science; rather, Christianity literally validates the science. I don’t know whether it was young earth, old earth, or theistic evolution (I personally prefer young earth, but it doesn’t bother me one bit if someone is theistic evolution). But, there is no way that science can undermine Christianity. In the philosophical realm, Christ gives validity to science because, no matter what, God had his hand over Creation (however He did it), and, as Christians, we are called to “take dominion” over the Creation. We do this one way through science.

    And, in light of the Great Commission, as an 18 year old, I’m turned off by the “love” people show by people trying to convince me that it’s their way or the highway. I have my faults: I’m human. But, at the same time, I believe that we should treat everyone with respect, no matter what their beliefs were. I mean, Jesus basically said that the world would know that we belong to Him if we love one another.

    Maybe I’m just reading to much into it. Hopefully (and I fully believe), though, I am right.

    • And when I say treat each other with respect, I don’t mean “you believe what you want to believe, and I’ll keep to my own realm.” I simply mean recognizing that all are made in the image of God and, therefore, are capable of truth (although it might be misdirected) and should have a chance to speak. It’s pretty arrogant, in my opinion which may be wrong (and a big turn off and a sure sign of not being in the Spirit) to not let someone else have their fair share of time to speak and think.

    • A Christian view if I have ever heard one expressed. Well done my young brother!

  13. Agree with all the comments on the need for an ongoing conversation that’s open and open-minded, and I really enjoyed the post. But, as someone with a close relative deeply in the MacArthur camp, I find that they have become less and less open to conversation and any differing views on matters like this. I find conversation is possible with many other believers, but what to do when someone you love travels to that place in which conversation is really not possible?

    • David L says:

      “but what to do when someone you love travels to that place in which conversation is really not possible?”

      My siblings and I are at that place with my mother. I just can’t talk to her because it requires one to at some point accept her positions as “truth” or be chewed out or have a fight. And it usually takes less than 1/2 hour. On sibling can spend more time with her than me by being very selectively deaf. So he can be with her a few hours at a time for several days a year. The other sibling just lies to her as if he agrees with her.

      Not sure if any of these paths are correct but we haven’t found another yet.

      And YEC is just a very tiny part of this issue. Never really comes up. There would be many mountains to cross before we could get to an YEC discussion. Many many mountains.

    • That’s really tough!

      I believe that people move into a place of thinking they have all the answers because they are afraid. Challenging them just makes them more afraid.

      I would associate with such people only when I had something to do with them. My family knew many creationists, and had fun times with them without ever mentioning the topic. They liked cooking and going to the zoo just as much as anybody else — though we did occasionaly have to say ‘I am not going to discuss that, we’ll only fight.’

  14. Tough question, John. I have people like that in my life too. I have had to learn for the sake of the relationship that there are places I cannot go when I engage them in conversations.

  15. Re Philip Johnson: Ironically, he’s the person most responsible for my coming to accept evolution. I read Darwin on Trial when it first came out in ’92. Armed with the facts and arguments Johnson provided, I boldly set forth to put those evil evolutionists in their place. And promptly had my tuchis handed back to me on a platter. Seems that Johnson got his “facts” wrong, wrong, and more wrong. So I started reading and researching on my own, and found out that, contrary to what Johnson said and what I had been taught at a fundamentalist independent Baptist Christian school, the evidence for evolution is overwhelming, to the point that it would be perverse to deny it.

    I lost whatever respect might have remained for Johnson when I read Darwinism Defeated?: The Lamoureuax/Johnson Debates. Lamoureaux gently but firmly presses Johnson on factual errors, and Johnson resorts to personal attacks and name-calling. I have to remind people, when they refer to Johnson as an authority, that he’s a lawyer, not a scientist. A lawyer’s job is not to establish truth: it’s to sell a judge or jury a particular story.

    • Different Phil Johnson.

    • Can you sum up the “overwhelming evidence” for evolution for me? I have done my own research, and found it lacking.

      • Can you sum up the “overwhelming evidence” for evolution for me? I have done my own research, and found it lacking.

        It’s impossible to sum up 20+ years of study on my part and 150+ years of science in a couple of sentences, obviously. For starters, I’ll point you to the article “29+ Evidences for Macroevolution”The Scientific Case for Common Descent”. The Talk Origins FAQ also contains some good survey articles.

        For very readable and entertaining popular level accounts of recent evidence for evolution in our DNA, I cannot recommend the following two books by Sean B. Carroll highly enough: The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution and Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo. You can also watch online the Nova special based on these two books: “What Darwin Never Knew”

        For a broader overview of the current state of evolution and its evidences, I recommend Carl Zimmmer’s excellent new textbook The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution and Ernst Mayr’s slightly more technical but still readable What Evolution Is.

        And, of course, there’s Darwin’s original On the Origin of Species. Darwin marshalls his evidence masterfully, and, though the science of Evolution has advanced dramatically since Origin was first published, the broad outlines are there.

        That should get you started. Enjoy! It’s a fascinating subject.

        • Common descent is a matter of history. It cannot be proven.

          The fact that all life shares common traits (and common functions in DNA) could just as easily be described as “code reuse” (a Computer Science term) by God.

          I find this particularly interesting, because code reuses was hailed as a “savior” for complexity issues faced by computer scientists – it has largely failed.

          • Common descent is a matter of history. It cannot be proven.

            Nothing is ever proven in science. Proof is for mathematics. But science can muster overwhelming evidence, which is the case for common descent.

            The fact that all life shares common traits (and common functions in DNA) could just as easily be described as “code reuse” (a Computer Science term) by God.

            You need to read the Sean B. Carroll books I mentioned above to see why DNA does not provide evidence of divine “code re-use”.

          • Nothing is ever proven in _post-modern_ science.

            For example g = GMm/r^2. That is effectively proven. There may be corner cases, or refinements in precision, but it holds for all the macro scale cases. Similarly for KVL and KCL, Maxwell’s equations, etc.

            That is science. Common descent is storytelling. Science is observation and prediction. The past cannot be observed, or repeated for the testing of predictions.

            That is the science we should honor and fight for.

            Changing the meaning of “science” and “truth” to post-modern concepts does no one any favors.

          • Nothing is ever proven in post-modern science.

            If you believe that is the case, you need to brush up on your understanding of the history of science and the philosophy of science. Even Baconian inductivism didn’t claim the power of absolute proof. Any inductive method can only claim that “we think this applies to all cases, because all cases we have observed fit”. I don’t think you’d call Bacon post-modern. 🙂

            For example g = GMm/r^2. That is effectively proven. There may be corner cases, or refinements in precision, but it holds for all the macro scale cases.

            You make the case re “proof” in your use of qualifiers here: “effectively” proven and “macro scale cases”. Newton’s law is not “absolutely true”; it’s only true under certain circumstances, as you clearly note.

            But we’ve gotten far afeild of your original claim: that the evidence for evolution is lacking. Would you care to address that in light of the references I gave?

          • I’d further note that the definition of science as not offering proof that you reject as post-modern can be traced back to Aristotle.

          • “But we’ve gotten far afeild of your original claim: that the evidence for evolution is lacking. Would you care to address that in light of the references I gave?”

            Sure, I haven’t read those books, but a good example is the fossil record.

            The fossil record is based on analysis of morphology.

            However, it has been shown (so far, in birds and worms) that morphology is no indicator of genetic relations (which are a much better indicator of descent):
            http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090422121858.htm
            http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080626141117.htm

            The phylogenetic trees of non-extant species are almost certainly wrong (worse, they are undetectably wrong).

        • The fossil record is based on analysis of morphology.

          However, it has been shown (so far, in birds and worms) that morphology is no indicator of genetic relations (which are a much better indicator of descent):
          http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090422121858.htm
          http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080626141117.htm

          The phylogenetic trees of non-extant species are almost certainly wrong (worse, they are undetectably wrong).

          You misunderstood the articles. First of all, analysis of the fossil record is not based solely on morphology. Second, the article you cite talk about homologies between extant species. It says nothing about the fossil record.

          The fossil record provides some of the most robust evidence for evolution, and the fossil and DNA evidence support each other. See the Sean B. Carroll books I cited above. Also, see the following for discussions of how the fossil records supports evolution:

          Talk Origins Transitional Vertebrate Fossils FAQ

          [Donald Prothero’s][2] article from New Scientist, “Evolution: What Missing Link?”

          The above article is excerpted from Prothero’s excellen tbook, _Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters. This book is provides the best contemporary account of the evidence in the fossil record.

          There’s also a good lecture by Prothero on YouTube: “Evolution: How We Know it Happened & Why it Matters”

          • As I understand it, phylogenetic trees are built using morphology or genetics. What else is there? Observing animals bringing forth after their kind?

  16. Funny, here I thought “the very foundations of our faith” had to do with God becoming flesh, his death, and his resurrection. I seem to remember reciting the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed for decades, and neither of them mentioning a 6-day creation.

    When I listen to YE Creationist teaching, I realize how much of it is focused on weaker assumptions than anything I’ve heard from Biologos or Francis Collins (and I’m a great admirer of both, although I’m not 100% sold on their thinkings about Adam/Eve and other issues). Almost all of ICR creationism is based on the assumption of Noah’s Flood permanently changing the earth’s landscape. Everything goes back to misusing a story about the wrath of God and retrofitting a creation plan into this story. That’s not only iffy science, it’s lousy exegesis.

    I don’t know how I feel about the age of the earth, but I do know that the constant attempts to add to the essentials by fundamentalists hasn’t been all that helpful.


    • I don’t know how I feel about the age of the earth

      Some reading that might help you make up your mind:

      “Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective”

      The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth

      The Age of the Earth

      Enjoy!

    • “Funny, here I thought “the very foundations of our faith” had to do with God becoming flesh, his death, and his resurrection. I seem to remember reciting the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed for decades, and neither of them mentioning a 6-day creation.”

      My thought exactly while reading “To take any other view, in Mohler’s opinion, threatens the integrity of Scripture and pushes down a domino that ultimately takes down the entire Biblical Christian faith.”

      How, if one’s starting point is believing, knowing, that Christ lives and is with us always? How, if from that starting point one goes on to study the teachings of Jesus? How, if one goes on to study the Old Testament?

      I sometimes wonder if young earthers ever ask a rabbi about the Jewish interpretation of Genesis.

      • Cedric Klein says:

        Depends on the rabbi- Chabad.org has a lot of Young Earth articles.

        • I don’t doubt there exists a variety of views. But if one is going to hold to a literal view I think it makes sense to find out how Jewish scholars view the verses as well. My experience has been that “literal view” usually means “whatever I say it means.”

  17. textjunkie says:

    I’m looking forward to the discussion this week. The past year or two I’ve been wrestling with the problem myself; but in my case, it rapidly becomes the problem of evil. If there was not a point in time up to which no one died, and a point after which death entered the universe, then what is Genesis 1-3 all about?

    Unfortunately for me, it appears that life implies death and there has never been physical life without physical death. Death came pre-programmed into the mechanism for life on a molecular level, as it were. So… What’s all this about a fall, then?

    • Cedric Klein says:

      My suggestion- Adam & Eve were created with the mission of being the parents of a new creation who would, through loving obedience to God, not be subject to the physical death that had always been part of the natural creation. I see no reason to believe that an unfallen Adam & Eve would be the keepers of immortal animals.

      • textjunkie says:

        Yes but it’s the physical timeline I’m not clear on. If they evolved bit by bit over time, when did they fall? And are we saying that all of creation did not fall with them?

        • I think they evolved from fallen creatures. The general state of animals is certainly fallen; they commit all kinds of horrible cruelties. Yet here arises this animal among them who can perceive that those cruelties are wrong, and conceive of them as sinful, and gradually expand these ideas to see that it is sinful to harm thoe of other tribes, nations, species… is this not a picture of God working out salvation?

          To the people involved, this might even look like a fall and an exile. How much pleasanter it must have been to do just as they pleased, without the burden of a conscience. The knowledge of good and evil must have felt like a curse to them.

          • In this interpretation, the Fall is not the responsibility of Adam. It was thrust upon him by his ancestors.

            In such a case, how can man be responsible for sin? It is a burden placed upon us unfairly.

            God is unfair to penalize us so.

  18. “Do Christians really want to be the ones who deny, not merely the scientific model of biological evolution, but whole swaths of accepted scientific findings in geology, astronomy, physics, and many other fields based on a passage in the Bible that was never intended to address such matters?”

    Yes, some of them do, very very badly. I just went to one of the creationist blogs. Wow. God created fossils to fool us.

    It seems to me that God reveals Himself in creation as well as Scripture, and to argue that he reveals himself in lies… now, is this God we’re talking about, or His opposite?

    • David L says:

      “Yes, some of them do, very very badly.”

      But they do love their iPhones, Droids, etc… All of which depend on all of these aspects of science working. Either that or science has been on an incredible lucky streak for the last 100 years.

      Clocks in the GPS satellites run at a different speed than clocks on the earth so the time distortion created by the velocity differential between the satellites and receivers on earth is cancelled. But hey, modern physics is all wet when it comes to such matters so it must be luck that our GPS systems work so well. 🙂

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Not “luck”. There is no “luck”.

        There is only INSHAL’LAH…

      • There is nothing in semiconductors, GPS, or relativity that relies on Darwin’s assumptions of common descent and an old earth.

        • I was referring to this statement.

          “Do Christians really want to be the ones who deny, not merely the scientific model of biological evolution, but whole swaths of accepted scientific findings in geology, astronomy, physics, and many other fields based on a passage in the Bible that was never intended to address such matters?”

          And the physics, chemistry, etc… that are used to make our modern world of gadgets are the same that point to an old earth. Very strongly so.

  19. steve m says:

    Curious… you feel that people are being harsh if they do not make room for someone who holds to a theistic evolutionary view. But… you make dismissive remarks about someone who holds to a dispensational view of scripture. Mr. Pot, is the Mr. Kettle available? ;^)

  20. I see it this way. God is Creator of all. Therefore, shouldn’t we have enough respect for The Creator to explore and study this amazing creation as it really is? When we ignore the accumulated evidence about this planet, gathered from countless scientists from a variety of scientific disciplines, we reduce God’s magnificent Creation to nonsense.

  21. I find it interesting that Intelligent Design is not even considered amongst folks; it’s either neo-Darwinianism (Christianized) or Young Earth Creationism. There are plenty of legitimate Christian scientists and philosphers who demur from Darwinianism, and because of the evidence have gone ID. Not to mention one of the most prominent 20th century atheists, Antony Flew became a “theist,” in large part because of the work of ID.

    I think BioLogos is more concerned with intellectual respectability than trying to “bridge gaps.” I don’t buy their mission statement, really because it looks like they are seeking the “approval” of men. I kow they are genuine in their mission; but plenty of people are genuine.

    • Kenny Johnson says:

      You might be reading too much into the comments. I tend to lean more towards ID, but deny a YE. I’d consider myself closer to Behe in the ID movement, who has no issues with evolution itself, but denies that RM + NS is a sufficient mechanism for the diversity of life and finds evidence of design in biological systems.

    • textjunkie says:

      The Dover court case in 2005 pretty much clarified that ID is just creationism with some quick editing and not a scientific theory as such. That’s at least one reason you don’t see too many scientists buying into it any more.

      • Textjunkie,

        I have a high degree of mistrust of judges making a ruling on science. Judges (who are lawyers) think very differently than scientists.

        I tend to mistrust anyone who speaks with authority on a subject that they are very uneducated it. For example, look at Linus Pauling, brilliant polymer chemist, but on Vitamin C not so much.

      • Because 1 judge said so?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I find it interesting that Intelligent Design is not even considered amongst folks…

      That’s because ID got hijacked by YEC as its latest coat of camouflage paint.

      When somebody says “Intelligent Design”, you have to ask:

      Intelligent Design as in “thinking God’s thoughts after Him”, as in “Natural Theology”, a tradition of philosophical foundation of Western science?

      Or Intelligent Design (nudge nudge wink wink know what I mean know what I mean), a coat of camouflage paint for Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles?

    • Well said, Bobby.

      ID simply says that we can use science to show that design is present with some rigor. Behe’s Edge of Evolution is devastating for the conventional view of an evolution without intervention by God. To me as a Christian, it’s just silly to think that the God who intervened in the life of Abraham, parted the Red Sea, and sent His son to die on a cross and to be physically resurrected was for some reason too scrupulous to leave any fingerprints when He created the universe and formed life on earth. Why? To make it easier to doubt Him? We don’t need any extra help with that.

  22. Two things for thought:

    1) As a former YEC who has a degree in Chemical Engineering, I tried to argue the second law of Thermodynamics as a post Genesis 3 addition. That was until my third year when I was taught that the Second Law is critical for breathing and the digestion of food.

    2) I saw a Physics Prof show how using time dilation calculations that the age of the earth could be 6.68 days though we see 50 billion years.

    • Lukas db says:

      Of course, the fact that Adam and Eve wouldn’t have been able to eat or breath is hardly a concern for some YEC’s. I have heard plenty of imaginative theories about what everything ate before the fall, and what would happen if, say, Adam were to step on an insect or ingest a bacterium….

  23. “Roma locuta est, causa finita est” (For those of you who are not up on your Latin, that’s “Rome has spoken, the matter is settled.”) This phrase is used quite frequently within the world of Catholic thought and scholarship; this is one of the chief reasons why I am now a Protestant.

    It is very unfortunate to see that the spirit of “Roma locuta est, causa finita est” is alive and well here in evangelical Protestant-dom.

  24. whether you take genesis as ancient text or a religious one, you will find some of the best wisdom here, its not necessary that we judge everyhting from a religious perspective, lets judge it by how human it is