Biologos, Theistic Evolution, and Misplaced Confidence

darwin

Theistic evolution is nothing new.  For generations, Christians have attempted to import the evolutionary process into the early chapters of Genesis in hopes of finding a harmony between the two.  The organization Biologos is devoted to this very task.  According to its website, Biologos exists for the purpose of “exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith.”

While the existence of theistic evolution is certainly not new, I have been struck by the degree to which it is promoted with evangelistic zeal by Biologos.  The goal of this organization is not just that theistic evolution would be viewed as an “allowable” view amongst Christians, but that theistic evolution would be seen as the only viable choice for believing Christians.  This trend is evident in the most recent Biologos newsletter which provided a recap of the March 20-22, 2012 Biologos conference entitled Theology of Celebration III (hosted by PCA pastor Tim Keller @ Redeemer NYC).    According to the newsletter, this conference was designed to expose an area of “deep concern” for the church.  What is this area of “deep concern”?   It is simply this:  “That almost half of America’s protestant pastors hold or strongly lean toward a belief in a universe less than 10,000 years.”  In other words, the deep concern of this conference is that most evangelicals take the Genesis account as straightforward history and thus reject the billions-of-years-old universe required by evolution.   What should be done about this crisis?  According to the newsletter, conference participants left with an “urgent desire to bring about change” and a desire that “the church will be impacted.”  In essence, Biologos is on a quest to rescue the church from non-theistic evolutionists.

Now, I am sure that the church needs to be rescued from many things.  But, is this really one of them?  This raises the question of what is driving the Biologos crusade to rescue the church from non-theistic evolutionists.   What allows them to be so certain that a straightforward reading of Genesis is detrimental to the church?  Is their certainty driven by convictions about what the Scripture says?   Not so much.  The newsletter reveals the grounds for their certainty very plainly.  Biologos wants to change the church’s view on this issue because “the church of the coming decades cannot divorce itself from matters about which there is scientific certainty.”  In other words, the motive for Biologos is the certainty of science.  And, in their minds, credibility of the Christian faith is at stake.  If we reject evolution then we will look foolish and ridiculous in the eyes of the world that knows it true.

What is stunning about all of this is the absolute, unequivocal, and almost religious certainty Biologos has about evolution.  It is absolutely undisputed—it cannot be questioned.  Ironically, at the same time, the meaning of the earliest chapters of Genesis is entirely uncertain, unclear, and very much in dispute.  It could mean just about anything, we are told (except for straightforward history). Put differently, when it comes to interpreting Genesis no certainty is possible, but when it comes to interpreting scientific evidence then apparently certainty is possible.  But why is this?  Is science immune to subjectivity of interpretation?  Is science a neutral enterprise that involves no perspectives and no bias?  Biologos, it seems, has a misplaced confidence in modern science.  Indeed, it could use a fresh dose of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

Sadly, the whole “Christianity must acquiesce to the claims of science or lose its credibility” speech is not a new one.   This same phenomenon happened in the 18th and 19th centuries regarding the credibility of the miracle accounts in the Gospels.  After all, modern science during that time (and even during our modern day) found miracles to be rather unscientific.  Science had shown that people just do not rise from the dead.  As a result, some Christians took it upon themselves to “rescue” the church from its unscientific commitments.  For instance, Heinrich Paulus (1761-1851), one of the original participants in the so-called Quest of the Historical Jesus, sought to save the church by suggesting the Gospel accounts should not be interpreted as describing real miraculous events.  Instead, he suggested that they be interpreted as natural events that the disciples simply misinterpreted.   Thankfully, his approach was not heeded by most evangelicals in that time.

Often lost in such discussions is the high theological price that must be paid to accommodate all the claims of modern science.   If one adopts full-blown theistic evolution, then the idea of a historical Adam and Eve from which all humanity descends must be abandoned (Biologos expressly denies that all humanity descended from Adam and Eve).   Such a belief, of course, destroys the doctrine of imputation as outlined in Romans 5.   On the other hand, refusing to adopt theistic evolution also has a price.  We would be mocked and ridiculed by the world.  But, given the choice between these two prices—losing the doctrine of imputation or being mocked and ridiculed by the world—I will pay the latter.   After all, the latter is true already.

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Biologos, Theistic Evolution, and Misplaced Confidence — 90 Comments

  1. Pingback: Biologos, Theistic Evolution, and Misplaced Confidence ~ Mike Kruger :

  2. I’ve been watching BioLogos with a mixture of intrigue and consternation. Regardless of what one might say about the goals of the group, they have assembled a pretty substantive team of thinkers, theologians, and scientists. Recently I was talking with a young biology student about Christianity and he was highly resistant to anything not in line with evolutionary claims. (he was ironically dogmatic in a fideistic way) So I showed him this group and after some time it has opened up his reception to the claims of Christianity.

    Nevertheless, I am concerned about their total commitment to a scientific frame as almost a priori to theology. If we have seen anything from science over the past 100 years it is in flux and clearly unaware of the philosophical, or epistemological, foundations which inform it’s present day practice. A simple knowledge of philosophy of science can send any number of well credentialed biologists, physicists, etc etc into a veritable existential tizzy when questioning their conclusions.

    Perhaps it is the imperialism that comes with being so effective at their take which ultimately betrays science. Science is a great discipline ad we’re a better people because of it. However, it seems this greatness is limited to observable criteria. When they step into speculations about unobservable criteria (evolution, cosmology, etc) they cease being scientists and end up being rather poor philosophers and theologians.

    • Thanks, Robert. Those are some helpful observations. I particularly think you are right that scientists don’t often recognize that the area of origins is not strictly science–the past is unobservable and unrepeatable. Sure, there are scientific aspects to the study of origins, but conclusions in this area cannot attain the level of certainty that we have for things such as the Second Law of Thermodynamics (law of increasing entropy). The latter is established over and over again through repeated observation, whereas the former is often based on theory and speculation.

  3. Thanks Dr. Kruger…a very helpful dose of clarity in the midst of a battle that just won’t seem to die down.

  4. Dear Mike,

    Excellent article.

    First, I am unapologetically a 24 hr, 6-Day, Creationist. The 7th Day God rested.

    Second, what we have here in Theistic Evolution is the division that if it speaks about religion, then it is theology. If it is theology, then it is unscientifican, unhistorical and illogical.

    Third, we fail to forget, the Evolutionary Theory is based on looking at the universe, etc. from a “naturalistic,” anti-supernatural viewpoint. This is a religious viewpoint.

    Fourth, the Creationn Narratives of Genesis 1-2 are clearly reflect the Semitic way of telling the story with the Genesis 1 account giving the general account and Genesis 2 giving the specific account of the 6th day and the Creation of Man and Woman and the Institution of Marriage between a man and woman.

    Fifth, the confusion of macroevolution and microevolution.

    Sixth, the actual UNBELIEF of those who are proponents of Theistic Evolution as to what the text says. It says, “God created…”

    Seventh, the premise that DEATH occurred before the Fall. Thus, SIN did NOT come about by the sin of Adam. Then Christ’s death was not necessary to redeem man from the sin of Adam.

    Finally, when it is all said and done it is Hermeneuitcs that is the problem.

    • Thanks, Bryant. Appreciate these thoughts. Yes, death before the fall is one of the biggest issues; one that, in my opinion, theistic evolution has not sufficiently reckoned with.

    • Rev. Williams, I’d like to point out that a few of the terms you use to some extent already smack of the compromising spirit which you clearly don’t have. ☺

      First, macro vs. micro evolution. Haven’t we “caved” a little if we use those expressions? God’s living creatures have the capacity to ADAPT within certain limits. He gave them and Manking their lawful steward (whose stewardship might include wise breeding for various reasons) that blessing at their creation. This has nothing to do with “evolution” at all.

      The next two are of lesser importance, in fact I might well be just nitpicking.

      Second, “24 hrs.” Like the term “solar day”, I think this misses the mark a bit. God determined the length of a day at the very beginning, then assigned the great light He made on day four a governing role over something He had already established. The hour is a man-made division of time; no problem in and of itself. But I’ve learned to use the somewhat clumsy phrase “days of ordinary length” as I strive with you for orthodox position that the creation week days were that long.

      In my opinion, in his “Annals of the World” James Usser is either spot on or perhaps off by a matter of a few years or at most a decade or two…and I only say that as a result of seeing some very similar believing scholarship that arrived at a date about ten years off of Ussher’s calculation…

      Finally, “supernatural”. It seems that the term itself is native to naturalistic thinking. For example, should we consider angels “suerpnatural?” What do we mean by that? Like us they are creatures, normally invisible to us (not to Daniel, the women who came to the Risen One’s tomb, et. al. ☺) yet they are still part of this one cosmos that God created in six days of ordinary length.

      So for us the distinction is not between natural and supernatural, but between heavenly and earthly, between human and divine. We surely see a barrier between the Creator and the creature, and it is an inviolable one, but natural and supernatural I fear is somewhat anemic language.

      Respectfully,
      Keith G.

      • Dear Keith G,

        I thank you for your response. I will reply in no particular order.

        First, YOM used with a cardinal number and additionally qualified with “evening and morning always refers to a 24-hour period. The LXX also uses KAI EGENETO PRWI, hHMERA MIA, hHMERA DEUTERA, etc., in translating the Hebrew ECHAD, SHENI, etc. to refer to a 24- hour period. Moses would have used that regardless. Just as Exodus 6:3 stipulates that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not know God by the name of YHWH; even though they all knew God. In a lot of ways, the LXX, although the earliest translation of the Hebrew text, circa 250 BC, it is like a commentary on the Hebrew Text.

        Second, the use of “macro” vs “micro” is used by ICR (Institute of Creation Research). If I remember correctly, some years ago in a seminar at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, Ken Hamm also made the same distinction between “macroevolution” vs “microevolution.”

        Third, I used “supernatural” vs “natural” as means of making a distinction between the “heavenly” vs the “earthly.” Even though the angels and fallen angels (demons) are created beings they still have more power than us earthly, created beings. We were created “lower than the angels,” but we will judge the angels (cf. I Corinthians 6:3). I won’t quibble over this issue.

        Fourth, Isaiah 45:18, particularly emphasizes that God created everything; even using synomyms to emphasize the point: BARA)(2X), YATZAR, and (ASAH. Of course, this does not include the constant refrain in Isaih 40-45 (40:21, 28: 42:5; 45;7, 12, 18). It is no accident that the idolatry that is prophesied against in Isaiah 40-45 also deals with His power as Creator against the “idols” of the nations. Furthermore, Psalms 19; 24, et al; and Job 38-42 gives a very clear explanation about God creating everything. Finally, the emphasis in Genesis 1:27, 2:7 regarding the creation of male and female; of man out of the dust of the earth/ground.

        Fifth, I remind myself that the Greeks sought after wisdom and the Jews after a sign, but it was the “preaching of the cross that is foolishness.”
        All of the above is just from the Tanakh and we still have not got to the New Testament.

  5. Pingback: Great ARticle on Biologos « Green Baggins

  6. Dear Mike,

    I forgot to add that Job, Psalms and Isaiah in particular speak of God creating the world and in their arguments against the idolatry of the rest of the nations (Gentiles).

  7. “We would be mocked and ridiculed by the world. But, given the choice between these two prices—losing the doctrine of imputation or being mocked and ridiculed by the world—I will pay the latter.”

    Actually, I don’t mind being mocked by the world. What bothers me much more is the mocking done by theistic evolutionists towards creationists.

    Then non-Christians look at the warring conflict between Christians and laugh, ridicule, and mock all the more.

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  9. Theistic evolution has reckoned with death before the fall.

    The book “The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World” by William Dembski takes the approach that those who lived prior to Jesus were saved by his death on the cross, even though it would occur thousands of years in the future. Therefore effect can precede cause. Having now shown that effect can precede cause, then death can come into the world for billions of years before Adam ever sinned.

    Now, I vehemently disagree with the conclusion of this book. I bought the book thinking it was about something else, and thoroughly marked up my copy with objections to his reasoning. I do not recommend the book. However, I did want to point out that theistic evolution has reckoned with death before the fall.

    • Thanks, Paul. Appreciate your comments. Certainly I agree that theistic evolutionists have made attempts to answer the question of death before the fall. My point is that I don’t think those attempts have been successful.

  10. Dr. Kruger, you say, “If one adopts full-blown theistic evolution, then the idea of a historical Adam and Eve from which all humanity descends must be abandoned (Biologos expressly denies that all humanity descended from Adam and Eve).”

    In reading the link you gave, I don’t think that’s quite what they say. They separate what you have here joined, viz., the question of an historic Adam and the question of all humanity descending from him.

    They do deny, based on current scientific evidence (about which they should certainly be more humble!), that all humanity descended from one pair. But one can also make a case for this from biblical data alone by considering Cain’s wife and the people he feared might kill him and so forth — perhaps other people not in his immediate family.

    However, Biologos doesn’t deny an historical Adam and Eve. They say in that link: “BioLogos does not take a particular view [on the historicity of Adam] and encourages scholarly work on these questions.” He may be a genuine historical figure, as they discuss at the end. They do exclude some readings (including young earth creationism) as incompatible with the consensus of current science, but they don’t take a positive position on the matter.

    Now, this may be an inconsistency if you are right that “full-blown theistic evolution” requires a non-historical Adam. All I’m saying is that they seem to reject this implication.

    PS, Tim Keller recently said he’s a progressive creationist, not a theistic evolutionist.

    • Thanks, Matt. Appreciate your input. In my original post, I was very careful to say that theistic evolution requires that we reject the idea that there was “a historical Adam and Eve from which all humanity descend.” I did not say that it requires a rejection of a historical Adam and Eve. However, I think it would require the rejection of an Adam that was specially created by God from the dust of the ground (Gen 2:7). Robert Strimple and others have argued that Gen 2:7 requires that Adam was created directly by God and not through an evolutionary process where God instills a soul in a hominid. And I think he is right. Thus, even if theistic evolution maintains that Adam and Eve existed they must reject two other clear teachings of Scripture, namely that (a) Adam was created directly and not through gradual processes, and (b) that all humans descend from Adam and Eve.

      As for Keller, I never commented in my post on his personal view. But, I appreciate you sending the link where he clarifies that.

      • Thanks for the clarification, Dr. Kruger. It wasn’t clear to me from your original post how closely you thought the idea of Adamic descent was tied to an historical Adam.

        As for your two points, I don’t think theistic evolution (TE), which BTW is not my settled view though I think it is a problematic possibility, necessitates a violation of the two points you mention.

        On the first point, the TEers could say that God specially created Adam using the genetic material of two homo sapiens found in the dust (dust and adding the soul. Or they could come up with some other explanation that fits the biblical text. The exact method isn’t all that important, just the possibility of compatibility with the biblical text.

        On your second point of incompatibility (universal descent from Adam), there’s a not implausible case to be made from the Bible itself that there were other non-Adamic humans around at the time, whatever the latest biological data may say.

        • Oops, that parenthetical should say: “dust (since dust often contains hair and skin cells) and adding …”

    • Actually, in the interview with Keller it is difficult to distinguish his view of “progressive creation” from “theistic evolution.”. His distinction is that in “PC” God intervenes in the evolutionary process. He says that TE is often DE ( deistic evolution), i.e. God starts it and then removes Himself. It appears to me that Keller is an evolutionist.

  11. On the substance of your complaint, I agree that there are hard questions to answer about Genesis 1-11, and from what I’ve read, I’m not satisfied with the answers the Biologos has given.

    But I’m also not satisfied with the picture scientific creationism paints. As an amateur astronomer, I feel like my telescope (not to mention Hubble, Chandra, et al.) give us substantial evidence that the universe and earth are old. When we look into a telescope, are looking back in time. We’re not inferring what happened millions of years ago, we’re actually looking at it because that’s how long it took light to get here from these far-far-away objects to get here. We see galaxies interacting (merged, merging, or about to merge; one ripping through another without stopping), stars that have exploded or are exploding, quasars speeding away from us. Add to that various other evidences of the earth’s antiquity. Add to that various other evidences for the antiquity of the earth found closer to home, and I conclude that general revelation strongly suggests to us that the universe is many millions of years old.

    Three objections immediately arise to this account:

    (1) The light patterns that we see may have been created en route, just as we picture God making Adam as an adult (with a belly button?) rather than as a baby whom he raised, or as we picture God making trees with rings that give the appearance of age and bark that gives the appearance of many months of weather pounding it.

    True, we cannot rule this possibility out, just as we cannot technically rule out that God created me in medias res 5 minutes ago with my memories and thoughts intact. This idea reminds me of those who foolishly claimed that the dinosaur bones were planted to test us (AiG doesn’t believe this, nor does anyone else today, but AiG’s citation shows that it’s not an urban legend). If one looks at general revelation, it seems to be telling us that it is old. The traditional interpretation of special revelation is that the world is young. It’s not that one must trump the other but that we must find a way to reconcile all of God’s truth, as we understand it.

    If we’re seeking to think God’s thoughts after him, rather than pitting our interpretations of general and special revelation against each other, we should allow them to be mutually corrective. It could be that, as with the Galileo affair, it is our interpretation of special revelation that needs to be corrected here. I personally find that more plausible than the other way around (YMMV), but I don’t expect certainty either way.

    (2) The laws of nature may not have been or may not now be uniform throughout the universe. True, and that means the case is not air-tight, but nothing is (cf. Dr. Kruger’s own work on the canon). While substantial open questions remain, our current understanding and theories — and indeed our treasured argument from a finely-tuned universe — are compatible with this assumption or require it.

    (3) Science is provisional and may change in the future. True, but the same is true of our interpretation of scripture (semper reformanda, after all). Hence, it’s not that we should simply adjust our interpretation of scripture to accommodate the latest theories (seems like a temptation for Biologos). Rather we should read the two books of God — nature and scripture — together and seek their unity and use them to mutually correct one another such that we (hopefully) spiral in toward a better understanding of God’s whole truth.

    The way I see it, there are non-trivial problems on both sides. Both have issues to work out. But given that I think God wants us to generally trust our senses as we investigate creation, I find the evidence for an old earth more plausible. That leaves aside the question of an historical Adam, but it does reform the traditional chronology already. Now I have other questions to tackle.

    A footnote on the interpretation of Genesis 1-2:3: Is it a descriptive account of what and how creation happened in a strict chronology? (Young earthers and and old earthers like Hugh Ross take this view. They share a basic hermeneutic, though they differ on the meaning of ‘yom’ and hence on what the length of the given chronology is.) Or is it some sort of “exalted prose narrative” (Keller) / literary framework (Kline), as St. Augustine held long before evolution was an issue. Interestingly, Augustine also took the genealogies in Genesis 2-11 to be reliable for determining the approximate age of the earth, even though he saw Genesis 1-2:3 as non-literal, meaning he was a young earther but not a 24-7 creationist.

    • Thanks, Matt. There is a lot there! Just a few brief comments:

      1. I am not sure the “appearance of age” issue should be compared to the belief that God put dinosaur bones in the ground to test us. The latter would constitute fraud on God’s behalf, whereas the latter is inevitable if God created things ex nihilo. Think about it, if God did create Adam directly from the dust of the ground then there would be an inevitable appearance of age. The only way one would know the right age is by trusting special revelation over natural revelation.

      2. The idea that light from space would be created enroute actually makes sense when you consider the purpose for which was made: to mark seasons days and years for humans on earth (Gen 2:14). How could they mark seasons, days, and years if they were not visible for another billion years?

      3. For the broader issues of starlight and time, check out Russell Humphries book, Starlight and Time.

      4. You mention the ambiguity in both science and Genesis. Let’s assume you are right and that neither is clear (I would want to tweak this, but let’s assume it for the sake of argument). If so, then Biologos has no grounds for waging their crusade against 6-day folks. That crusade is only possible if the science is absolutely certain. So, Biologos has to claim certainty at least for science.

      • I fully agree that Biologos over-plays its hand and is more certain than they should be, particularly about relatively recent genetic evidence, but the same is true of many young earth creationists IME.

        As far as light en route and appearance of age, I agree it’s not an open and shut case by any means. But having read the case on both sides, having searched the stars and nebulae and galaxies myself with my Newtonian reflector, and feeling free from chronological constraint due to the convincing nature of a framework view of Genesis 1, I find the case for an old earth more plausible and satisfying overall. Again, YMMV.

  12. Great post. I think you’re absolutely right about BioLogos’ certainty about evolution versus their flexibility over Scripture.

    A previous comment mentioned that Dr. Keller is a progressive creationist. Why then does Dr. Keller continue to host BioLogos instead of say, Reasons to Believe?

    • Thanks, Rachel. Yes, I think the question of why Keller associates so closely with Biologos (given that Biologos is so aggressive in its promotion of theistic evolution) is a good one. I don’t have an answer for you.

      • I think a partial answer to why Keller associates with Biologos despite them not promoting his own view is answered in the white paper he has on their site: “My conclusion is that Christians who are seeking to correlate Scripture and science must be a
        ‘bigger tent’ than either the anti-scientific religionists or the anti-religious scientists.” That’s because it’s a hard problem, so we should be less certain about our conclusions and slower to deride or anathematize the other side — applying this advice to both sides equally. (In the audio interview I linked to above, he may have [I can't remember] also said he’s personal friends with Francis Collins who wrote The Language of God about DNA and founded Biologos but has now handed it off to others. So that friendship may also play a role in Keller’s involvement.)

        Poking around over there, Biologos also has a number of other relatively high-profile evangelicals associated with it, such as N. T. Wright who recently sang a song he co-wrote with Francis Collins called “Genesis,” to the tune of the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” They also have papers/videos by Mark Noll (well-known historian, author of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind), Ian Hutchinson (MIT physicist and author of a book about scientism), Os Guinness, John Walton (Wheaton OT dude), and Bruce Waltke (Hebrew supermind, who got into a bit of trouble over some comments he made on a Biologos video but whose paper is still on the site), among others.

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  14. First, you claimed that Biologos thinks evolution is so “absolutely undisputed” that “it cannot be questioned,” but you did not support either claim with any citations from their published material. Where on their web site do you find them stating such things?

    Second, your article appears to lament when interpretation of the Bible capitulates to scientific understanding. Does that mean you believe in a geocentric flat earth, or that thinking takes place in the heart? These are things clearly stated in scriptures (and common to the cognitive environment of the ancient Near East).

    Or do you, along with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (as well as Biologos), agree that extra-biblical data such as history and science are valuable “for clarifying what Scripture teaches, and for prompting correction of faulty interpretations” (Article XX)? Young-earth creationists themselves capitulate to scientific understanding when, for example, they interpret biblical passages that describe the heart as the organ where thinking and feeling take place (cf. Alex Luc, “Leb, lebab,” in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, Vol. 2, ed. Willem van Gemeran [Paternoster, 1997], 749-754).

    Third, you said that given evolutionary creationism Adam and Eve cannot be historical people from whom all humanity descends, which means that it “destroys the doctrine of imputation,” but you did not explain how that follows at all. That seems a rather significant and crucial point and therefore bears explaining.

    • Obviously, I’m not the author of this blog, but I have spent a great deal of time reading and studying what BioLogos says. To address your first question, here’s a quote from Dr. Francis Collins (founder of BioLogos): http://biologos.org/blog/francis-collins-and-karl-giberson-talk-about-evolution-and-the-church-2 (there are many other quotes like this, very easy to find)

      Again, evolution may seem from the outside to have a lot of complexities and components and, certainly, lots of details—some of which we haven’t worked out—and for anybody to say there are no arguments would be a total mistake. There’s lots of stuff we don’t agree upon. But we do agree upon descent from a common ancestor, gradual change over a long period of time, and natural selection operating to produce the diversity of living species. There is no question that those are correct. Those are three cardinal pillars of Darwin’s theory that have been under-girded by data coming from multiple directions and they are not going to go away. Evolution is not a theory that is going to be discarded next week or next year or a hundred or a thousand years from now. It is true.

    • Thanks, David. Appreciate your input. A few comments:

      1. In terms of the certainty of Biologos about evolution, that is derived right from the quote in their newsletter: “the church of the coming decades cannot divorce itself from matters about which there is scientific certainty.” Take this statement and couple it with the fact that the entire Biologos organization is founded on the fact of evolution–indeed this the very reason they have such “concern” over the many people who reject it. Why would they have such concern for the church if, in their eyes, it was not absolutely certain? Moreover, there is no indication anywhere in their material that the truth of evolution is up for debate or that their organization exists to explore whether evolution is true. I think all of these factors lead to the reasonable conclusion that Biologos regards evolution as absolutely certain.

      2. You cited the Chicago statement (which is not about Hermeneutics but inerrancy) and asked whether I agree “that extra-biblical data such as history and science are valuable ‘for clarifying what Scripture teaches, and for prompting correction of faulty interpretations.’” The answer is absolutely yes. Of course, natural revelation can help correct misunderstandings of the Bible. You gave the example of how science can correct the concept of a flat earth. However, this reveals the precise point of concern for me. I don’t think the certainty of evolution can be compared to the certainty that the earth is round! The latter is within the realm of what science can tell us, and I would argue that the former moves well beyond what science can tell us. In fact, this is precisely the issue with Biologos. They appear to treat evolution as certain as things like the earth being round and, on that basis, want to challenge what appears to be the plain meaning of many scriptural passages.

      3. You ask about how the denial that all humans descended from Adam and Eve would present theological problems. Reformed theologians have been fairly unified on the belief that the Adam’s corruption (original sin) is passed down to his offspring. How can this corruption be passed down to people who aren’t his offspring? This link between Adam and his offspring is also the basis for regarding humanity to be “in Adam.” When sin is imputed to those who are “in Adam” it is imputed to his offspring. Once again, how can this doctrine be maintained if human beings did not all descend from Adam? Did those human beings not need redemption as a result?

      • Dr. Kruger, Regarding certainty in science, I agree that Kuhn has given us good reason to be humble about our claims, and of course, the same should be true in our theological and biblical studies. Semper reformanda is a good motto for all of our studies.

        I’d point to Richard Pratt’s “cone of certainty,” which John Frame describes in his book Doctrine of the Word of God thusly:

        It is simply a cone with the narrow end at the top and the broader end on the bottom. At the narrow end of the cone are those beliefs we are sure of: say, the existence of God, the deity of Christ, his resurrection, salvation by grace through faith, and so on. At the bottom of the cone, there are matters in Scripture of which we are very unsure: Where did Cain get his wife (Gen. 4:17)? [That keeps coming up!] Why did Jephthah keep the vow to make his daughter an offering (Judg. 11:29-40)? Why was it such a serious crime for somebody to gather sticks on the Sabbath (Num. 15:32-36)? At the bottom of my cone is God’s reason for bringing evil into the world, and the timing of the millennium. We may have views about such matters, but we are not sure of them.

        In between the bottom and the top are matters one which we may have opinions, but we would not claim they are absolutely certain. For me, these would include the mode and subjects of baptism, the frequency of the Lord’s Supper, the biblical pattern for church government, and the nature of Jesus’ ignorance (Matt. 26:36).

        As we grow as believers, there is movement through the cone. Some things of which we were once very certain become uncertain. Other things of which we have been uncertain become certain. But the overall progression, I think, is toward greater certainty. Scripture values certainty; and therefore our sanctification moves toward that goal, as part of the holiness God seeks in us.

        The same model can be applied to our knowledge in other disciplines like history and the sciences. We’re pretty certain Caesar crossed the Rubicon, that the earth revolves around the sun, that gravity operates in proportion to the product of masses and in inverse proportion to the distance between them squared, that the ratio between the pressure-volume product and the temperature of a system remains constant, etc. (There’s the issue of idealized models and tweaking of laws for very large and very small scales and speeds, but we’ll leave that to the side for the moment.)

        We are less certain about other data and theories (which are stories that we tell to make sense of a set of data), though it’s hard to tell scientists that sometimes. In this category I would put much of the work of the social sciences like psychology, sociology, and economics, mathematically precise though they sometimes try to be.

        We are quite uncertain about many other things, such as the nature of dark matter and energy, the physical origin of the moon, how genetics and environmental factors interrelate, whether an economic stimulus program worked as desired, etc.

        So the question is, where does evolution fit in the cone? I would say that the evidence we have would put the fundamentals of evolution (not every detail) nearer the top of the cone, just like our understanding of gravity is up there. Each is our most plausible theory to explain the many, many facts we have. These may be tweaked as we gather and incorporate more data (e.g. to include quantum gravity and relativity), and it’s not impossible that either could be overturned in a Kuhnian revolution, but scientists have a pretty high degree of certainty about both of them. It’s at least as high, if not higher, than our confidence about our interpretations of how the Bible presents creation.

        So again, some hard work needs to be done to bring these two competing “certainties” into accord. Just as in Galileo’s day, it seemed implausible and against the Bible and tradition to take a heliocentric view, so in our day it seems implausible to accept an evolutionary theory or an old earth and the Bible as traditionally interpreted. We need to work hard at getting our understanding of the two books united as God’s glorious truth, rather than just saying “The Bible says the earth is firm. It’s clear, and that settles it.”

        I’m not saying who should win the competition or that either side has behaved in appropriate ways at all times, but I think each side has a tendency to ignore their counterparts and just go with what they know without really grappling with the case the other side is making.

      • 1. I suppose what I found arguable was your statement that Biologos regards evolution as “absolutely” undisputed and that it “cannot” be questioned, especially given their frank admission that “evolution” itself is a highly equivocal term—namely, some very different things fall under that umbrella. They seem to think there are elements that are undisputed (e.g., allele frequency change), others that are disputable (e.g., the phyletic tree), and some that are not only disputed but flatly rejected (e.g., dysteleology), which hardly reflects an attitude that evolution vaguely defined is somehow “absolutely” undisputed and “cannot” be questioned. Your representation of their view does not account for these careful nuances they make and gives readers the impression that Biologos is uncritically dogmatic about evolution broadly.

        This is why I asked you for references to their material to support your claims, because it was so at odds with what I have discovered over the last couple of years perusing their web site (i.e., a healthy and irenic attitude of theological and scientific inquiry and skepticism which Mark Sprinkle has been aptly representing in his comments). I simply have not seen the sort of resolute dogmatism that your characterization suggested, so I wondered where you were getting that from. And I suppose I have my answer; speaking for myself only, however, I need more than one newsletter to draw conclusions about how Biologos approaches some issue or other. (For example, I would echo Sprinkle’s recommendation of the Southern Baptist Voices series.)

        2. You are evidently unfamiliar with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (1982), which is subsequent and related to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978). What I had cited was the former, which is where the quoted material came from.

        As for the certainty of evolution (vis-a-vis the certainty of the earth being spherical), that really depends on what is meant by the term “evolution,” which is routinely equivocated in just about any discussion. In my experience dealing with both biblical and secular fundamentalists, the term “evolution” typically denotes an ideological world and life view with naturalist presuppositions, and there is nothing certain about evolution in that sense. But it is also not the sort of view that any Christian would be advocating anyway, which then makes it a straw man caricature as well. As I said, there are a variety of elements that are vaguely referred to as “evolution,” some of which are indeed as certain as the earth’s roundness—and significant age. Science can (and does) tell us a great deal about the facts and mechanisms of evolution. However, when “evolution” is expanded into a world and life view it necessarily moves away from science and becomes something else. Similarly when it comes to the presuppositions with which one approaches the inquiry, that likewise is not a subject of scientific enterprise but theology—and, it is hoped, Christians approach that inquiry with biblical presuppositions.

        It may be the case that Biologos wants to “challenge what appears to be the plain meaning of many scriptural passages,” but exactly what is wrong with that? Unless you subscribe to a Romanist style of infallible interpretation (and we have no reason to think you do), you have to confess that any given interpretation could be wrong and be prepared to defend it exegetically when challenged. And if that interpretation is the correct one, then it will withstand such challenges. But if that interpretation is incorrect, then we should be glad to have challenges which expose that, allowing us to seek out and come to a correct one.

        3. You said that “Adam’s corruption (original sin) is passed down to his offspring,” giving the impression that sin is a matter of genetics and heredity. I disagree and I suspect that Reformed theologians do also. Sin is not a matter of hereditary genes articulated scientifically, but a moral and spiritual matter articulated theologically; in other words, it is not framed in terms of parental offspring but in terms of federal headship. If imputation is reckoned by genetic lineage, then woe to those who are not genetically descended from Jesus Christ. Adam represented humanity federally in covenant with God regardless of whether someone is his genetic offspring, just as Christ does regardless of the fact that he had no genetic offspring. It is covenant union, not genetic lineage, that is the basis for regarding humanity to be either “in Adam” or “in Christ.” That is how the doctrine is maintained even though we we are not all genetically descended from Adam, just as the doctrine of imputed righteousness is maintained even though nobody genetically descended from Christ.

        • Thanks, David. A few comments:
          1. As for Biologos’ “certainty” about evolution, I am bit surprised that you think this is in doubt. In the newsletter I cited they expressed that evolution has “scientific certainty.” You say I should base my conclusion on more than their newsletter. But, what reason do I have to think their newsletter is inaccurate? Moreover, every other indicator from Biologos supports the fact that they believe evolution is certain. The very existence of the organization is predicated on the truth of evolution—indeed this is the basis for their “concern” that so much of the church has rejected it. Why would this concern exist of they themselves were not sure about it? In addition, there is the following quote from Francis Collins himself:

          Again, evolution may seem from the outside to have a lot of complexities and components and, certainly, lots of details—some of which we haven’t worked out—and for anybody to say there are no arguments would be a total mistake. There’s lots of stuff we don’t agree upon. But we do agree upon descent from a common ancestor, gradual change over a long period of time, and natural selection operating to produce the diversity of living species. There is no question that those are correct…Evolution is not a theory that is going to be discarded next week or next year or a hundred or a thousand years from now. It is true.

          You claim that Biologos shows a degree of humility because they allow for questioning about aspects of evolutionary theory. However, Biologos does not question the core fact of evolution itself. In other words, they may allow dissent about the means or the mechanism of evolution, but they are certain about the fact of evolution. By this I mean macro-evolution where all organisms evolved from a common ancestor. You said that “biblical and secular fundamentalists, the term ‘evolution’ typically denotes an ideological world and life view with naturalist presupposition.” That is not how I have used the term here.

          Here is a simple test about Biologos’ position. Can you show me a Biologos article where evolution (macro) is questioned or challenged by Biologos itself?

          2. Yes, I am familiar with the 1982 statement on Hermeneutics. When I originally read the statement you cited I thought at first glance it was from the 1978 statement on Inerrancy. You say: “It may be the case that Biologos wants to ‘challenge what appears to be the plain meaning of many scriptural passages,’ but exactly what is wrong with that?” Again, there is nothing in principle wrong with allowing natural revelation to affect our interpretation of scriptural passages. However, if a scriptural passage has what seems to be a relatively clear and plain meaning, then it would take a fairly certain piece of natural revelation to overturn it. My contention all along is that (macro) evolution does not remotely attain that level of certainty.

          3. You said that you disagreed with my prior statement that: “Adam’s corruption (original sin) is passed down to his offspring,” and suggested this was out of sync with Reformed theology. I am not sure why given that the Westminster Larger Catechism 26 says: “Original sin is conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity by natural generation, so as all that proceed from them in that way are conceived and born in sin.” Also WCF 6.3: “They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation.” These passages seem pretty clear to me. And similar ones can be found in Calvin, Berkhof, and Hodge.

          Of course, I believe in the federal representation of Adam as the head of the covenant of works. However, I think you have missed the key question which is “What determines whether a person is ‘in Adam’”? For a person to be “in Christ” they must have faith in Christ. Obviously, a person is not “in Adam” by faith in Adam. Instead, the scriptural witness (and the Westminster Confession) makes it quite clear that the people “in Adam” are those who have descended from Adam.

          This is precisely where I have a problem with Biologos’ rejection that all mankind descends from Adam. Not only does this deny the Westminster Confession, but this severs the basis for why all mankind is in Adam.

  15. Dear Dr. Kruger– Your critique that BioLogos puts science over Scripture is certainly nothing new, nor is it one evolutionary creationists take lightly. But it’s also not correct. Neither is the claim that we’re worried about being ridiculed: there is plenty of ridicule, scorn and insult to go around, from within the church and from outside it, especially in the comments section of blogs, though your readers seems refreshingly civil. We’re certainly in the wrong line of work if we wanted to be socially acceptable among atheistic scientists or many of our evangelical brethren.

    But I would like to clarify at least one thing. You said, “The newsletter reveals the grounds for their certainty very plainly. Biologos wants to change the church’s view on this issue because “the church of the coming decades cannot divorce itself from matters about which there is scientific certainty.” In other words, the motive for Biologos is the certainty of science. And, in their minds, credibility of the Christian faith is at stake. If we reject evolution then we will look foolish and ridiculous in the eyes of the world that knows it true. What is stunning about all of this is the absolute, unequivocal, and almost religious certainty Biologos has about evolution. It is absolutely undisputed—it cannot be questioned.”

    The attitude about the sufficiency and certainty of science you describe is “Scientism,” and it’s something we explicitly reject (see beliefs, here: http://biologos.org/about). But science is a tool to study the world God has given us and through which he speaks, just as he speaks most clearly and forcefully in the Scriptures. Our concern is that God seems to be speaking very clearly, indeed, about creation via an evolutionary process, and rejecting it because we think we have nothing more to learn (even about Scripture) seems unwise. We are also concerned that the Church does not respond to the apparent truth of evolution in a more constructive and redemptive way than to merely deny God created through it, and ridicule those who hold that he might.

    As to the issue of “certainty” which you use several times, I’d like to point out that the quoted newsletter describes evolution as something about which there is “scientific certainty,” which you quickly invert to be the “certainty of science”–that’s an important distinction. Scientific certainty means that there is lots and lots of very good scientific evidence that a particular interpretation of the data is true, that it works as an explanation of what we see. That is the case for evolution. But it does not mean the theory goes unquestioned, or untested, or unexplored once “certainty” is reached, and in fact many, many people are challenging and disputing key tenets of the theory all the time–that’s how science works. So far, however, those challenged have fallen flat and not provided a more convincing account, and our site gives many explanations of both the challenges and responses to those challenges. We do not pretend there aren’t any, rather we attempt to answer them directly–whether on scientific or theological grounds. We are the first to admit that we don’t have all the answers, and so invite even those who disagree with us to work together in charity to understand God’s revelation in Word and world more fully and faithfully. This essay from our our current series Southern Baptist Voices is a good example of that effort: http://biologos.org/blog/southern-baptist-voices-a-response-to-william-dembski-part-iii

    So, stunning? absolute? unequivocal is our certainty about evolution, or about science in general? No. Just reasoned and thorough–a distinction that speaks to a tone and demeanor of charity more than an attitude about evidence–something I think you’ll find obvious if you read the kinds of posts we’ve been putting up for the past year, especially. Despite “scientific certainties” like evolution, the “certainty of science” is always provisional, and we reserve our real certainty for such things as the fact that we are all sinners, with darkened eyes and hearts, all struggling together, we hope, to follow our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

    Blessings,

    Mark Sprinkle

    • Thanks, Mark. Appreciate you giving your input here. A few comments:

      1. My comment about ridicule is not about whether you (or any particular individual) is willing to be ridiculed. My comment had to with Biologos’ concern about the credibility of Christianity if it rejects evolution. I think that can reasonably be drawn from the quote I offered from the Biologos newsletter: “the church of the coming decades cannot divorce itself from matters about which there is scientific certainty.”

      2. The concern I have about Biologos is not “Scientism.” I don’t think that Biologos believes that science is always right and never mistaken. My phrase about “the certainty of science” was a reference to Biologos’ belief about the certainty of the scientific evidence for evolution. And I think Biologos is quite certain about evolution. You mentioned that scientific certainty “does not mean the theory goes unquestioned, or untested, or unexplored.” Truthfully, I am not seeing a lot of this questioning from Biologos. In fact, Collins himself declared that “there is no question” about the major tenets of evolution (see comment above).

      3. You asked the question: “unequivocal is our certainty about evolution, or about science in general? No. Just reasoned and thorough.” I don’t think this statement matches the tenor of the newsletter nor the tenor of Collins quote above, nor the tenor of the entire Biologos enterprise. Biologos is absolutely certain about evolution. Indeed, this is the whole reason the organization exists–to convince Christians that they should adopt their interpretation of the Bible to the truth of evolution.

      • See my comment above about the cone of certainty, which makes certainty analog rather than digital — a degree of certainty rather than only “certain or uncertain” — and makes a high degree of certainty apply to fewer things and a lower degree of certainty apply to more things.

        I think Collins is using certainty in a more analog or relative sense rather than an absolute sense, recognizing that it could in theory be overturned but that some things are still more certain than others.

        Take the earth revolving around the sun. We’re pretty sure we know about that, and I’d say it’s fair to use the word “certain” here to mean “near the top of our cone of certainty.” However, it could turn out that there’s really a tiny, super-massive dark matter singularity in our solar system near to the sun. We can’t detect it with our current instruments and both we and the sun are actually revolving around it (the anomalies were suppressed in previous data collection because we weren’t looking for that), and heliocentricity is in fact wrong. This scenario unlikely given the data we have, but not an impossibility. I’d say “certain” is a fair term to use.

        Now, can we apply this to the basic tenets of evolution (not the details — convergence, punctuated equilibrium, etc.)? As one skilled in the art, Collins says yes. One can disagree with him, but again, he’s just saying it’s relatively certain knowledge, i.e., near the top of the cone of certainty.

        For more on the concept of certainty see “Certainty: Taking a Bite Out of a Dangling Carrot” by Esther Meek and “Certainty” by Frame in the IVP Dictionary of Apologetics.

      • Dear Michael–
        Thanks for your continued comments and my apologies for being slow to respond. I hardly ever do respond in any case, on account of both time constraints (as you’ll notice, I have a hard time giving short, pithy and/or scathing replies) and because such things are so seldom productive of actual dialogue. But again, the general tenor of the discussion here made me think that it might be worth entering into the conversation, at least for a bit, if for no other reason to invite and encourage you and your readers to engage these topics and BioLogos at our site, which (despite what many would claim) is maintained as a forum in which Christians can work through these issues together, as the Church, and specifically invites participation of those who believe differently if they are also committed to charity towards their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. That said, here are a few more thoughts suggested by your reply, after which I’m afraid I’ll probably have to sign off and get back to work and family.

        1. You cited the Newsletter: “the church of the coming decades cannot divorce itself from matters about which there is scientific certainty.” I suppose it is possible to think that our concern is primarily for the church to avoid “ridicule,” and retain “credibility,” but those words are not in the Newsletter itself, nor is any mention of “rescue.” Rather I think the plain reading of that text is that we are concerned with the effectiveness of the Church to reach the world, and to offer a worldview than names (and shows) God as both Creator and Redeemer. As you know and as we address in no uncertain terms on our site, Scientism’s subspecies, Evolutionism, is an ideology that demands we accept it as a replacement for Christian belief, taking something good—God’s dual gifts to mankind of intelligibility in the cosmos and the investigative tools to describe it—and turning them against their giver. The question is what do we, as the Church, do with that situation?
        This is where the actual language of the text is helpful, as it says that we must not divorce ourselves from science and its findings. To be slightly poetic here, philosophical materialists have sought to lead Science astray and make her an adulteress. Do we, as the church, acquiesce and let her go? Do we reject her for her infidelity, turning our backs on all that is still good and right and true about her, despite her infidelity? Or do we seek her out and call her back to herself and to her first love, restoring her to our household? Ultimately it is not about redeeming a personified science, of course, but about seeking those who really have made science their god—who have followed that mistress—and who are furthermore leading others astray from seeing God as the Author and Perfector of not just our faith, but of the whole cosmos.

        The language in the Newsletter, then, speaks to our commitment to recognize and uphold and claim the truth that scientific study reveals about the physical world (and that we think and argue DOES point to the Creator God), even while rejecting atheistic philosophical accretions. Science is a powerful tool and Scientism a powerful narrative, and we must not shy from countering it with the true narrative of the Gospel, that Jesus is Lord of all. We must go into the public square where the wayward bride sits and bring her home, despite the humiliation it brings to us. To be dismissive of her is hardness of heart.

        Though you disagree with our contention (to us, based equally on Scriptural grounds as on scientific ones) that one need not reject the basic truth of common descent, etc. to name and follow Christ as Lord, we see that compatibility as an important argument to draw unbelievers to the Lord and equip the church in its mission of renewal and preparation for the coming of the King. It may not yet be yours, but we see that particular (and increasingly large) corner of public square as our mission field, and long for the day more of the church will claim even scientific truth as God’s truth, and help us seek the lost with gentleness and compassion, rather than scorn, ridicule and condemnation.

        2. Forgive my thinking you were accusing us of having too high a view of science generally, which I took from your sentence, “Biologos, it seems, has a misplaced confidence in modern science,” and the reference to Kuhn. In your reply you clarified that you meant we have an unhealthy confidence in the truth of evolution, and said that “Truthfully, [you are] not seeing a lot of this questioning from Biologos,” while also suggesting that we argue that Genesis “could mean just about anything.” Actually, I think we approach both of those “texts” (if you will), similarly, by asking how does the internal and external evidence suggest they need to be read, and what is God telling us about himself and humanity through them? So, yes, we are pretty certain (in a scientific, always-provisional way!) that God used an evolutionary process to create us, but our site is about explaining why we think this is true, not shrilly declaring it to be so.

        Please come actually consider the evidence as we present it on the site and you might see why we occasionally get frustrated at off-hand “rebuttals” that we “think too highly of science.” If you think there’s not room to disagree and discuss the challenges to evolution at BioLogos, I suggest you have not actually been engaged with the site at all of late, but stopped after being turned off by such statements as Collin’s and Giberson’s the past. (Please notice, too, that the latter was in the context of refuting atheism, not faith.) Again, I’ll point you to the ongoing Southern Baptist Voices series as an example of the kind of dialogue that really does define us today: http://biologos.org/blog/southern-baptist-voices-an-ongoing-series. The next installment of that series begins this coming Monday.

        Similarly, we do not say that Genesis is an empty vessel into which any modern interpretation can be poured. Rather, we very carefully consider what the text and context as a whole (including the context of the natural world which God also gave as testament to himself) contributes to our understanding about what God was telling Israel and is telling the Church now. Since its beginnings, the Church has embraced non-literal understandings as well as literalistic ones, so we believe it is important to think deeply about the truth of metaphor and symbol and analogy, as much as history—to sit before the Scriptures and “read them for all their worth,” as N.T. Wright puts it. Again, if you think we off-handedly and lightly reject a literalistic reading of parts of Scripture, I suspect you have not taken the time to engage with the full conversation as it has developed at BioLogos since our inception.

        3. Finally, and to reiterate my point above, you said that you didn’t think my description of our confidence and treatment of evolution at BioLogos “matches the tenor of the newsletter nor the tenor of Collins quote above, nor the tenor of the entire Biologos enterprise.” Rachel, in her comment below yours, also cited Karl Giberson’s opinion on how science and the Bible relate, as indicative of the ‘real’ Biologos position. My statement may not match the tenor of those two quotes in particular, but it most certainly does match the ethos of the “entire BioLogos enterprise” as it has developed in the three short years since we began. Again, I wonder if you have actually been joining in the conversation (or even observing it) of late, or if you are working from impressions based on a few particularly strong statements from friends who represent only part of the spectrum of thinking on offer at our site.

        Again, I’ll suggest you look at the Southern Baptist Voices series for the “definitive” example of tenor, which includes a generous and grace-filled spirit towards those who disagree with us, as well as our commitment to the strong evidence for evolution and a rich, faithful reading of the foundational texts of our faith. And again, I’ll clarify that we do not exist “to convince Christians that they should ad[a]pt their interpretation of the Bible to the truth of evolution,” but to convince both the Church and the un-churched that we should take seriously the truth God reveals in both his Word and his world as complementary and mutually-informing revelations of his power, authority and love. Come and see.

        In Christ,

        Mark

        • Thanks for this, Mark. I won’t be able to respond to all of this (trying to keep up with over 70 comments now!). However, I do want to offer a word of thanks for the patient, charitable spirit you have displayed in our dialogue over these issues. I have tried to make this website a place where serious interaction over the issues can take place without a lot of the harsh and unhelpful statements that so commonly plague blogs. I appreciate you helping maintain that tenor. I have enjoyed our discussion and have learned a good bit more about Biologos (and I trust you have learned more about other positions including my own).

          Two final remarks:

          1. You said, “I suppose it is possible to think that our concern is primarily for the church to avoid “ridicule,” and retain “credibility,” but those words are not in the Newsletter itself, nor is any mention of “rescue.” Rather I think the plain reading of that text is that we are concerned with the effectiveness of the Church to reach the world, and to offer a worldview than names (and shows) God as both Creator and Redeemer.” I appreciate you trying to bring clarity to what was intended by the newsletter. However, I must say that I think my deductions rightly captured the point the newsletter was making (yes, I used different words, but that is inevitable when one writes an article about something!). In fact, even your statement above you said that Biologos is worried about the “effectiveness” of the Church that rejects evolution. It seems reasonable to conclude that by loss of “effectiveness” you mean the church is not able to have as much of an impact on the world if it rejects evolution because it will be viewed as unwilling to embrace obvious truth, or will be viewed as anti-intellectual or something along these lines. If that is not what you meant, then please clarify.

          2. You ask about science, “To be slightly poetic here, philosophical materialists have sought to lead Science astray and make her an adulteress. Do we, as the church, acquiesce and let her go? Do we reject her for her infidelity, turning our backs on all that is still good and right and true about her, despite her infidelity?” It almost sounds like you think my view is a view that rejects science. In other words, you are challenging me not to throw the baby (science) out with the bathwater (philosophical materialism). I appreciate the exhortation, but, please know that I don’t reject science. I reject evolution (which I think is bad science). Your statement comes pretty close to implying that the rejection of evolution is the rejection of science. And, truthfully, I get the impression that is the view Biologos would hold. I hope it is not.

          Thanks again, Mark, for this helpful discussion. Look forward to more conversations like this in the future.

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  17. I can somewhat understand their zeal. Imagine if there were a verse in the Bible that seemed to state that the earth was flat. Let’s say there was some question among scholars and lay persons as to how it should be interpreted. Should it be read figuratively? Literally? Etc.

    Now let’s say about half the professing church read it literally and believed, contrary to all scientific inquiry, that the world was in fact flat. Further, suppose this belief was earning the church an extra measure of scorn from those not part of it.

    If all that were true then I might be pretty zealous about advocating the “figurative” view of the “earth is flat” verses too. Certainly the church will always be scorned to some degree and will always accept some things as true that conflict with a purely natural view of the universe (e.g. resurrection), but I can understand their motivation for wanting to minimize the number of “scientifically unsupportable” views the church holds that are (arguably, obviously) also not demanded by scripture.

    • Appreciate the comment. All of this is true if evolution is as scientifically certain as the earth being round. But, it’s not. And that is the very point of my original post. See my comments above on this same issue.

      • We can look at various aspects of the non-literal view separately. Maybe “all life on earth evolved by chance from the primordial soup” isn’t especially supportable, but how about “the earth is older than 6000 years”? That seems to be on about the same level as “the world is round”.

    • Buddy,

      I’d suggest something akin to what you describe happened in the Galileo affair. The scientific understanding (Ptolemy and Aristotle mediated by Aquinas et al.) became the Christian understanding, as it also fit their (quite reasonable) interpretation of the biblical and traditional data.

      The church’s theologians were asked to assess Galileo’s claim: “The sun is the center of the world and wholly immovable from its place.” They unanimously declared it “foolish and absurd, philosophically and formally heretical inasmuch as it expressly contradicts the doctrine of the Holy Scripture in many passages, both in their literal meaning and according to the general interpretation of the Holy Fathers and the doctors of theology.”

      They also assessed the claim: “The earth is not the center of the world, nor immovable, but it moves as a whole, also with diurnal motion.” They unanimously declared it “deserving of the like censure in philosophy, and as regards theological truth, to be at least errouneous in faith.”[1]

      Today we have revised our understanding of the passages in question in light of the evidence of nature. I think we must be open to doing this again on this issue, but I certainly don’t think we must do it because some scientists say so. The church should not shift to every wind of philosophy or science. The church has some hard thinking to do regarding the possibility of evolution as God’s mechanism of creation (and good work is being done, some through Biologos), and there are also some hard questions to be asked of scientists from the church.

      In short, I don’t think we should preclude either option based on what we have always thought. Careful reflection is the need of the hour.

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  19. Great article Dr. Kruger, I agree entirely.

    The geocentrism argument is such an irritating red herring (the flat earth one isn’t even an argument–there never was a time when the majority of the church were flat-earthers). I’m not aware of any serious Biblical scholar on either side of the issue that would claim that the exegetical case for the traditional view of Adam and Creation is equivalent to that of a flat earth or geocentrism. The approach of those on the theistic evolution side who take Scripture seriously is instructive. It’s easy to explain away the geocentric passages from the Bible with exegetic integrity (by phenomenological language generally) To explain away YEC requires elaborate systems and subtle distinctions that cover whole chapters of the Bible and passages spread across multiple books and genres, and it’s clearly not phenomenological. You could suffocate under the number of journal articles on the subject. That doesn’t mean necessarily that they are wrong, but it clearly demonstrates this is a whole different animal from geocentric arguments. What are the theological implications of rejecting geocentrism? Virtually nil. On the other hand, those of rejecting the traditional Adam and view of creation reverberate throughout the whole Bible and theistic evolutionists themselves have worked hard to get a handle on them and have often disagreed on how to do so. It is neither charitable nor particularly honest to attempt to use geocentrism as a hammer to beat young earth creationists into submission.

    • Thanks, Chris. Glad for your comments. Yes, it doesn’t take long in these discussions for someone to trot out the Galileo example as a reason just to go along with modern science.

      • Dr. Kruger, I think the Galileo affair is a fair example that should make us more humble than we were back then. That’s different than being passive, reactionaries who let overly confident scientists push us around, of course. We have to read the two books of revelation together and seek the unity in all of God’s truth. Iron sharpens iron, and one book can sharpen our understanding of the other. Semper reformanda is an apt motto for both the scientists and the theologians.

        PS, I see one of my comments above is “awaiting moderation.” Just calling that to your attention. Is it because it has several embedded links or perhaps because your blogging software flagged worldwidefreeresources as a suspicious website? (That was just the first place I found that essay in one piece rather than two. It’s legit, but I could supply alternate link(s) if needed.)

      • Relevant to Galileo, Ligonier’s current (and well-documented!) series of posts on “A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture” is of considerable relevance here. It was begun after Dr. Sproul trotted Galileo out in responding to a question about the age of the earth at the most recent Ligonier Conference. It’s written by Keith Mathison.

        In “Interpreting General and Special Revelation”, Mathison quotes Charles Hodge:

        It is admitted that theologians are not infallible, in the interpretation of Scripture. It may, therefore, happen in the future, as it has in the past, that interpretations of the Bible, long confidently received, must be modified or abandoned, to bring revelation into harmony with what God teaches in his works. This change of view as to the true meaning of the Bible may be a painful trial to the Church, but it does not in the least impair the authority of the Scriptures. They remain infallible; we are merely convicted of having mistaken their meaning.

        After working through the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and Dr. Sproul’s commentary on it, Mathison summarizes: “In short, while scientific theories can help the church correct wrong interpretations of Scripture, they cannot negate what the Scriptures actually teach.”

        In the latest installment, “Luther, Calvin, and Copernicus”, he discuss how Luther and Calvin received the Copernican theory:

        Luther suggests that it is wicked to deny that there are literal waters above the firmament to which the sun and stars are fastened. Why did he believe this was an undeniable fact? Because he believed Scripture taught it clearly in Genesis 1. The problem arose when it was discovered over time that the sun and stars are not fastened to a firmament and that there are no waters being held back by this firmament. If Scripture did actually teach the existence of such things, that would leave two options: either the new discoveries were misinterpretations of general revelation or else Scripture was wrong. Since Luther believed Scripture clearly taught the existence of waters above the firmament, he believed the scientists were proposing an idea that would require him to say that the Scriptures are in error. Luther apparently believed that was the only choice, and if that was the only choice, it was one he had to reject. It did not seem to occur to him that the Scripture might not actually teach that view.

        Calvin warns against those who say, “that the sun does not move and that it is the earth that moves.” He describes those who hold this view as “stark raving mad” and as “possessed” by the devil. It is not clear that he is basing this warning on his interpretation of any particular passage of Scripture, and there is ongoing debate about how this statement coincides with Calvin’s other statements regarding general and special revelation, but the statement does at the very least indicate that geocentricity was firmly established in Calvin’s mind as the true explanation of the nature of God’s creation.

        Mathison rounds out this post: “The main point Dr. Sproul is making by pointing out these past mistakes Christians have made in the interpretation of general and special revelation is to remind us of the possibility of contemporary mistakes. Theologians and biblical scholars have not developed the attribute of infallibility since the time of Luther and Calvin.”

    • Chris, You said, “That doesn’t mean necessarily that they are wrong, but it clearly demonstrates this is a whole different animal from geocentric arguments.”

      I agree that they’re different, but I’d say it’s a difference in degree rather than in kind. See my reply to Buddy above.

  20. I have to both laugh and cry at attempts to reconcile Christian faith with a scientific theory for which there is no compelling evidence. The claim that biological novelty is the result of Darwinian processes is a question-begging fiction. I don’t mean to sound too harsh, but decades of scientific research has failed to demonstrate a viable naturalistic mechanism which can spin gold from straw (this should be called Rumpelstiltskinism). The central claim is that reproduction with heritable variation is the engine of Darwinian creation; and yet that’s an *observation,* not a mechanistic description – and an effect cannot be its own cause. The result has been that no matter what biological wonders are discovered, no matter what marvels of engineering sophistication and stunning nanotechnological engineering, as long as they produce some form of variation in progeny, then there exists “Darwinian evolution.” This desperate attempt to avoid the obvious has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with a world view presupposition. The ability of physico-chemical properties to engineer biological systems from the bottom up is a superstition that no self-respecting intellectual should tolerate.

    It strikes me that the Biologos mission, far from integrating Christian theology with “science” is instead, perhaps unwittingly, attempting to reconcile it with a form of biological naturalism. It’s the “unscientific” views of creationists that seems to rub Biologians the wrong way. Ironically (and embarrassingly) embracing Darwinism is about the most unscientific gesture that a thinking Christian can make. It’s a subjugation of faith to a worldview which is hostile to even the suggestion of it.

    • Dear Mr. Ratcliff—

      You may (or even must) disagree with evolution as an explanation of human origins on theological grounds. You may even offer alternative explanations of the evidence. But to say that evolution is “a scientific theory for which there is no compelling evidence” is simply wrong, and saying it over and over again doesn’t make it any more right. But please don’t take my word for it; instead read this post ( http://toddcwood.blogspot.com/2009/09/truth-about-evolution.html ) from Dr. Todd Wood, committed Young Earth Creationist and Director of the Center for Origins Research, in which he says the following:

      “There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion. It is a productive framework for lots of biological research, and it has amazing explanatory power. There is no conspiracy to hide the truth about the failure of evolution. There has really been no failure of evolution as a scientific theory. It works, and it works well.”

      Wood’s post includes links to several others about the nature of scientific evidence and this issue, in which he very strongly defends his rejection of evolution, but without derision for those who accept it, and without denying that it is a reasonable—even compelling–interpretation of the evidence.

      In this case again, I wonder if you have actually read the discussions of either the evidence for evolution or our critiques and dismissals of ideological naturalism at the BioLogos site. If you had, I suspect (or at least hope) that you would not make such sure assertions about the existence of scientific evidence, or once again impugn us as closet or “unwitting” materialists. If you do happen to venture over to the BioLogos Forum, I recommend, in particular, this series by Dr. Dennis Venema, our Senior Fellow of Biology: http://biologos.org/blog/series/understanding-evolution . There is also a series written in conversation with Todd Wood, himself on our site: http://biologos.org/blog/series/a-tale-of-three-creationists.

      However, if we (or Wood) can’t convince you to consider the strong (not absent) scientific evidence that is there, at least I’m glad we’re of service by giving you the opportunity to laugh at the “embarrassing” misfortune of our being so publicly benighted and misguided.

      Blessings,

      Mark Sprinkle

      • Mark Sprinkle,

        Let’s be crystal clear. Are you claiming evidence for *Darwinian* evolution (including the mechanism of random mutation acted upon by natural selection) and not just “heritable variation” which is an observation, and *not* a mechanism? I would like to make sure there’s no equivocation on your part, nor misunderstanding on mine, regarding which “evolution” is being discussed here, when we’re talking about all of the “overwhelming evidence” available for Darwinian evolution.

        Thanks for the links. I’m unlikely to spend much time with Venema, after he did such a poor job critiquing Stephen Meyer’s _Signature in the Cell_. He couldn’t even seem to find the correct thesis to argue against. And then there’s Alaya’s critique (yikes!). BioLogos’ irresponsibility and sloppiness in dealing properly with Intelligent Design arguments doesn’t do much for their credibility.

        Please see here for a response to Venema’s critique of _Signature in the Cell_: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/10/responding_to_venemas_response052061.html

        And here for a response to Ayala’s article:
        http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/03/when_theistic_evolutionists_at032721.html

        I’ll make you a deal. I’ll carefully read through your Todd Wood blog link if you’ll *plainly* answer a couple of direct questions.

        1) Is it the Biologos position that evolution is *teleological*, that is, end-directed to specifically produce God’s intentional forms for living things; or is the mechanism of evolution random (blind) with respect to outcome?

        2) Is there empirically verifiable scientific evidence that vindicates random mutations and natural selection as a primary creative force in biology, leading to novelty of form and function?

        Bonus question: is Intelligent Design bad science, bad theology, or both? What’s the official BioLogos position?

        Let’s make sure our brothers and sisters in Christ can make informed decisions about their support for the theory of “evolution” by being clear as crystal about how that word is defined when it’s being used. There’s way too much distortion about what “evolution” means and in what context. If by “evolution” you mean observed changes in progeny over time, such as what we observe with dog breeding, please be clear; if instead, by “evolution” you mean, that random mutations acted upon by natural selection is the mechanism by which biological novelty is created de novo, then please be absolutely clear about that as well. Your gesture could go a long way toward resolving these misunderstandings which always seem to creep up between BioLogos, and Darwinian evolution skeptics such as myself.

        Best,
        Chance

  21. Pingback: Theistic evolution and misplaced confidence « The Wanderer

  22. What will be next…or should I say what is the most likely outcome according to human logic…The resurrection through the lens of scientific certainty. From what I understand the missing link is yet to be discovered.

    It is no doubt that evolutionary science has swayed many a person, it can be very bamboozling at times. However when you look at it closer the big questions are still unanswered. The amount of programs that instil the idea of evolution being fact & not an interpretation is growing by the day.

    Which theory do Biologos exactly prescribe too, there are quite a few…

  23. I read this recently:

    Water into wine: What was the age of the wine?

    As for determining what science says versus Scripture, how does one decide what is miraculous and what’s not? For example, suppose there was an expert wine maker at the wedding feast at Cana, and let’s suppose that he was hired to make the wine selections for the father of the bride. Being an expert wine maker he would know the age of the wines and the vineyards they came from and could speak of their relative merits and taste. Suppose that when Jesus turned water into wine the wine maker tested this wine for its age, maturity, bouquet and such, based on his knowledge of wine he would declare that this wine was years old and came from a wonderfully cared for vineyard. Using the best science of assessing wine, he would be forced to draw this conclusion. So what would his response be when the servants told him that this exquisite wine wasn’t years old but just a few minutes old, that a few minutes before there was only water in the pots and that this man Jesus turned the water into wine? Which authority would we believe? The science that has the corner on wine making or in Jesus who is able to act supernaturally? Why is it so hard to believe that the one who changed water into wine instantly and supernaturally could not also create the universe, visible and invisible, by the word of his power, and also form Adam immediately and supernaturally from the dust of the ground and breathe into him spiritual life?

    • Obviously, it was non-alcoholic, unfermented juice. Duh. :-P

      Seriously though, it’s a fair point. I admit it’s not an open-and-shut case either way. I agree God could have created it however he wanted. The question is, Did he create it that way and what evidence should we consider in deciding this question?

      Creation in medias res in 24 7-hour days is argued for because of a particular understanding of Genesis 1-2:3. But is this passage intended as a raw, descriptive account of what, how, and when God created all things? Is that the genre intended by the Moses and the Spirit working in him? Based on internal evidence within that passage itself, I think it was not the author’s intent.

      Rather, the passage seems intended by the author as a literary framework that depicts God creating realms in days 1-3 and then places their rulers in the parallel days in 4-6. The seven-day structure is intended to build to the Sabbath on day 7. (More details in that link and its references.) Augustine saw it something like this way c. AD 400, long before Darwin set off on The Beagle, and Kline has been one of its prominent recent advocates.

      If we can accept that the author is not intending to record events like a dispassionate reporter but instead is using “elevated prose narrative” and is shaping that semi-figurative narrative for his concerns (cf. Gospel studies where the evangelists are said to have shaped but not falsified their narratives), then we are no longer bound to the 24-7 chronology as descriptive of actual events.

      If we are no longer bound to it, then what evidence can help us decide if the actual chronology was 24-7 or something else? The rest of the Bible makes no claim in this regard, but the book of nature has some things to say. It says the earth and cosmos appear old.

      For instance, as we look back in time through telescopes we can see first and second generation stars. They were made of lighter elements and their violent deaths created the furnaces that fused together the heavier elements (e.g., carbon) which make complex molecules (and our bodies) possible. Under an in medias res theory, God created this all to show us how he would have created us if he had used these means, but he didn’t actually use these means — and yet created the means to appear in-process, as if he had used them.

      If we take this evidence at face value, it shows us God’s technique. It hints at why the universe is so old — God providentially and naturally built up the materials to create our world and us.

      Could he have immediately created the universe in medias res 6000 years, 2000 years, or 5 minutes ago? Sure. None of those can be disproven this side of the New Jerusalem, but I don’t think we have a good reason to argue positively for any of those, at least once we recognize that Genesis 1 is intended as elevated prose rather than reading it as raw data, flatly reported.

      That is why I think it more plausible to see the earth as old rather than things created with the mere appearance of age.

      • Genesis 1 is a simple chronological description of the beautifully poetic way that God created the World. It is also a chronological description to the brilliantly polemical way that God headed off future temptations of the future sinners to worship and serve created things like the sun, moon and stars rather than the Creator who is forever praised.

        • Let me attempt to dispel doubt of all of those whose cannot get past the idea of a day existing before the sun was created or the vast distances between the stars and the earth over which light must travel to reach our eyes.

          Two things:
          First, any physicist knows that light exists independently from any particular source that emits light. That is why you can have solar panels that absorb individual photons to created electricity. Think of a rubber ball floating in a swimming pool and spinning as it floats. If you were a dot on that ball, you would go through an alternating period of air and water as the ball spins. On the first day, in separating light from darkness, what makes sense from Genesis 1 is that God made the simplest form of day and night — a planet rotating on an axis on a plane of space that separated a field of light (photons) from a separated field absent those photons, darkness. As long as the earth was rotating at a normal speed, you have evening and morning the first day. Later on God made things more complex by creating official sources of that light. This is consistent with the poetically beautiful way he created everything — forming distinctions, separation and hierarchy and then populating these regions with more complexity. In short, God created the universe more like a painter rather than using some complicated slow process of naturalistic materialism.

          Second, when Genesis 1 says that God created stars, implicit is that they can be seen by man who would soon be created since the Creation was to display God’s glory to man, male and female, created in God’s image . Ergo, implicit in the word star is that it includes the place in space as well as the light path between it and the eye of man on earth.

          There is no reason to embrace a more complicated and convoluted explanation of Genesis 1.

    • This is an excellent point G.G. – and what about the micro-organisms that are required for wine to ferment and the proper amount of water and sun that would have produced the perfect grapes and the balanced mineral content that would have been needed to be absorbed organically into the grapes, etc, etc, etc. There were more atoms in Adam’s body (including the atom’s that made up the micro-organisms that allowed his digestive system to function properly) the day God created him then their are stars in the universe. Would it have been any easier for God to get all of those atom’s in the right place then it would for Him to create the universe? Of course not! Either God CAN do this or He CANNOT.

      • See my reply above on why I think there are plausible (but not utterly decisive) reasons for thinking the universe was not created with the appearance of age. Note that this does not necessarily apply to one-off events like the creation of Adam or the wine at Cana or Jonah’s shade plant.

        Interestingly, if one assumes the appearance of age in the universe, one could actually accept that evolution is an accurate theory to summarize the fossil record, DNA data, etc. This is because believing in evolution in conjunction with the appearance of age doesn’t require that one believe God actually made the universe that way — just that he built it to appear that he did (as with galaxy evolution described above). One can still hold that God created in a 24-7 period but built it to look like millions of years of evolution was a means of his creation. Apart from special revelation, we’d never know the difference.

        • Thanks, Sal. I hear what you’re saying, and AiG says similar things.

          Again, I don’t think there’s anyway to dis/prove instantaneous acts of creation of mature things (Adam, interacting galaxies, wine at Cana), just as there’s not way to prove that I wasn’t created mature, including my skills and memories, 5 years or 5 minutes ago. What I’m suggesting is that the universe does seem to display development over a long period of time — on the cosmological scale and the more local scale.

          In the former, there are stars forming and exploding, galaxies colliding, etc. which all appear to take longer than 10,000 years. Even with AiG-type arguments about changing speed of light, relativistic time dilation, etc., it seems to me that we are unable to escape the idea of God merely “painting a picture” that shows these things happening this way. (AiG doesn’t punt and say that astronomers are just wrong about this data. Rather, they say: “the techniques that astronomers use to measure cosmic distances are generally logical and scientifically sound. They do not rely on evolutionary assumptions about the past. Moreover, they are a part of observational science (as opposed to historical/origins science); they are testable and repeatable in the present. You could repeat the experiment to determine the distance to a star or galaxy, and you would get approximately the same answer. So we have good reason to believe that space really is very big.”)

          Likewise with a de novo creation of a mature Adam, he may be created as a 25-year-old male, the objective truth of which, as you say, can only be determined for sure by special revelation. But he might also look genetically like he was descended from apes even though he was actually created specially. It may appear that he grew up from a baby and developed into a man, and likewise, it may appear that his species grew up and developed from lower species. If one of these can be held as compatible with special revelation as a whole (God not deceiving, etc.), both can. Hence developmental appearance is not necessarily incompatible with a “mature” creation, though it is often assumed to be.

          The fault is that your time-traveling scientist just assumed that 5-minute-old tree was 100 years old because that’s what his ring measurements said. Likewise, the galactic or biological evolutionist assumes that the data he sees actually happened, though it may only be pictured to have happened.

        • God did not create things with “the appearance of age”, God created things. Scientists use empirical data to come to conclusions about things based on observation. When they determine the age of something, i.e. the universe, the earth, a rock, they are not necessarily determining age, they are simply determining what the evidence reveals. In other words, God did not create Adam to appear to be old (for sake of the discussion let’s say God created Adam as a 25 year old man); He created a 25 year old man. If a scientist went back in time to the 8th day and examined Adam he would have correctly determined that Adam was 25 years old. It’s not as if God created things to simply appear to be old, he created things with the predetermined age that He wanted them to have from the moment of their creation. Ironically, if you really think about it, scientist would not be able to determine the age of things had God not introduced the thing He created with age when He created what He created. Regardless of what science claims to be able to do to determine age, they cannot offer an explanation for “time zero” for the thing they are aging. This is because it is impossible for there to be a “time zero” from which something can be aged. We have an explanation for “time zero”, scientists do not; THAT is why I reject any “so called” age that a scientist has claimed to be able to determine empirically. Such a claim is nonsense.

  24. There is a simple Biblical principle that these folks are ignoring.

    “The Bible is **foolishness** to those that are perishing.”

    What can be more foolish then accepting a virgin birth or that God is three distinct persons in one; each person being 100% that single individual God, and one of those persons, who is 100% God, is also 100% man! There is a reason why we are reminded that fallen man will not just refuse to accept this “nonsense” but that it will appear to him to be down right silly! Why are they spending so much time trying to reconcile the notion that God created everything ex nihilo with each aspect of creation being spoken into existence at the age that God determined that thing would be on the day He created it with the more reasonable (due to the noetic effect of sin) conclusion that we evolved from a singular point in the past from something that had no age (a very mind bending concept at best!) What have they accomplished if they say, “Okay, we can see how the Bible is waxing poetic when it expresses the “creation story” so we will adapt what science has “confirmed” to our belief system so that we will not appear silly. So see ‘college student who has trouble believing Christianity’ you can go ahead and believe Christianity now.” Then what happens when the scientist tells the student, “You don’t believe that nonsense about a virgin birth do you??” The prospect that God can speak everything into existence, HA HA, that was a GOOD one! But this virgin birth myth, that is just way more ridiculous! And so, SO, much easier for us to disprove scientifically!”

  25. Pingback: Blog links to check out today « creationscience4kids

  26. Pingback: BioLogos, Theistic Evolution, and Misplaced Confidence

  27. Dr. Kruger,

    Sadly, the whole “Christianity must acquiesce to the claims of science or lose its credibility” speech is not a new one. This same phenomenon happened in the 18th and 19th centuries regarding the credibility of the miracle accounts in the Gospels. After all, modern science during that time (and even during our modern day) found miracles to be rather unscientific. Science had shown that people just do not rise from the dead. As a result, some Christians took it upon themselves to “rescue” the church from its unscientific commitments. For instance, Heinrich Paulus (1761-1851)…

    Excellent point. We often lose sight of history, the development of ideas within history, and subsequent promulgation of those ideas as history unfolds. I think it was Dr. Francis Schaeffer who liked to say: “Ideas have consequences”. What is lost in many of our discussions as well, is the historical development of modern geology that sought to separate itself from putative Biblical restraints. A fascinating study for those who are interested is to trace this ‘dating game’ development through the mid-1700′s and into the mid-1800′s, culminating in Darwin’s need for millions and millions of years for his theory to work.

  28. MF,

    In the former, there are stars forming and exploding, galaxies colliding, etc. which all appear to take longer than 10,000 years.

    Have we truly ‘observed’ stars forming? Can you point to a source for this claim that is not mere theory?

    • “Have we truly ‘observed’ stars forming?”

      So it would seem. See the images here for a sampling.

      “Can you point to a source for this claim that is not mere theory?”

      I reject the negative implications of your phrase “mere theory.” Theories are stories we construct to bring all the facts into relation with one another. All facts require interpretation, and the theory is a significant part of that interpretation. In other words, there is no knowledge without theories.

      For instance, in this sense, the Trinity is a theory to explain the biblical data on the nature of God, and Dr. Kruger’s work amounts to a theory of canon formation. Both collect the data and interpret it all together to give a cohesive picture and a reasonable representation of the truth of the matter. There are some anomalies, unknowns, and mysteries at play in these theories, of course, but that doesn’t render their gist untrue. In other words, the fact that some element of knowledge is a “theory” does not mean that it is necessarily untrue or uncertain (using the definition of relative certainty I outlined above).

      Our theory of stars is akin to our theory about the age of sequoias: we infer from the evidence how many millennia they’ve been standing there, though we haven’t actually witnessed it ourselves. We can look around and see various trees at various stages of growth, just as we can examine the heavens and see what appears to be several generations of stars and stars in different stages of their lives.

      This does not mean that everything we think about star formation is correct, of course, just like everything we think about sequoias or organic chemistry is not necessarily correct. But some aspects are more certain than others. (Likewise, the trinity and justification by faith alone are probably higher in your cone of certainty than is, say, your view on the proper mode and recipients of baptism or the nature of the millennium.)

      In short, I’d argue that the great age of the universe is one of those more certain ideas in science, based on many lines of evidence across various disciplines.

      • MF,
        A reference to a Wikipedia article about star formation is not really what I was after. References to certain dust and debris clouds in galaxies as star “incubators” and “stellar nurseries” rely on circumstantial evidence and naturalistic reasoning, in my opinion. Since star formation supposedly takes hundreds of thousands of years, we don’t really have an ‘observation’ we can point to with certainty.

        • You’ve ignored the rest of my reply wherein I explained why the interpretation of the vast amounts of telescopic data, as summarized by that article (with images!), is a plausible account.

          • MF,
            Therein lies the difference. You might take something as ‘plausible’ for ‘certainty’, claiming that stars are forming today and basing your interpretation of Scripture on something ‘plausible’ within scientific interpretive uncertainty. Herein lies the great divide MF (who am I speaking with anyway?) May I know your full name? Why do you post as ‘MF’ instead of your full name? I think Dr. Kruger referred to you in an earlier post as ‘Matt’. Is that who you are, and may I know your last name brother?

          • Steve,

            I can’t reply under your comment any more, so I’ll post here. I’d be happy to tell you my full name in private. Email me at nonsciote at gmail.

            Anyway, I don’t believe I have mistaken the plausibility of science for its certainty. What I have argued here is that there are good reasons internal to the text itself to take Genesis 1-2:3 as a literary framework (as Augustine did), not as a reporter giving a blow-by-blow description of creation. If Moses did not intend to teach a 24-7 chronology but rather to give a structured picture of creation with different purposes, then we do no violence to special revelation when we seek further answers in general revelation. To avoid repetition, I’ll refer you to my recent post elsewhere in this comment section.

  29. Dear Mike, et al,

    Ecclesiastes 3:11 says,

    “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eterenity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (NIV)

    Hebrew has the following:
    Made is )ASAH
    Eternity is (OLAM with the article and preposition )ET.

    LXX has the following:
    Made is POIHS from POIEW
    Eternity is AIWV. KJV translates as “world.”

    Furthermore, since this comment is by Solomon regarding life “under the sun;” that is, in the natural realm without respect to God; then, it makes it clear that man is NOT able to fully grasp all or everything that God has made with regards to “eternal” things since the beginning of Creation to the End.

    There was a exchange of posts on the B-Hebrew list in November, 2007 regarding this verse between myself, Elizabeth Kline (Biblical Greek forum) and Martin Shields, translator of Ecclesiastes of the NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint). In this exchange it was acknowledged that the key is the intensive negative: ASHER ASHER with LO, and LXX: OU MH.

    [Martin]
    Are you saying that God has made us aware of the infinite and that results in
    an awareness of just how limited our knowledge is?

    [Bryant]
    Yes, but another reason for my response about the infinite/eternity in the
    heart/mind is that man was created in God’s image, thus, not only will man have
    that infinite knowledge, but also will always have the longing for the spiritual
    realm, though unable to obtain it due to sin (I could go further, but it is not
    appropriate for this list unless done so OFF-LIST). Man, then, is a spiritual
    creature. This, of course, is the whole issue regarding, “man under the sun” or
    “man in the natural realm.” The Greeks would have divided the heart/mind of
    Hebrew thought into the body/soul/spirit. I am making the connection that what
    is referred to here is the connection of the soul (mind/emotions/will) and the
    spirit. There is an awareness of the infinite and of eternal things within man
    that cannot be suppressed, even when they deliberately try to do so. He is fully
    aware of the infinite/eternal and the spiritual realm, but as Paul indicates
    “has deliberately suppressed the truth in unrighteousness.”

    Paul’s comments in Romans 1:18-25 are quite clear regarding the issue of Creation and man’s response to that revelation. Special Revelation makes clear the General Revelation.

  30. Your argument that you could have been created 5 minutes ago is not an option if the God of the Bible exists. Is this a possibility in the broad view of possibilities? Well I suppose so, but our options are greatly limited if what the Bible says is true. It would certainly dismiss the “5 minutes ago” scenario. The Bible gives us a very clear, unambiguous explanation of what is required in regard to ascertaining the truth about creation in what is probably the most misquoted verse in Scripture, Hebrews 11:3; “By faith we ______ that the worlds were created by God.” Is it, “believe”, no, is it “know”, no, is it “accept”, no. It is the Greek word “noeo”, from which we get the concept of the noetic effect of sin. Without faith our noeo is skewed; with a skewed noeo we will not be able to ascertain the correct conclusion about creation. This is why the word is translated “understand” in most versions. I have no problem admitting that if I were around in the time of Galileo that I would have bristled at his claim of a “scientific discovery” that contradicted what I thought the Bible said about the placement of the earth. I would have rejected it outright. However, as the speculations of Galileo were clearly determined to be correct, I would have turned to the Bible to see if the Scripture actually contradicted what was now determined to be reality. I would have discovered that it does not, but rather there are ways to understand these verses as not definitively stating that the earth is the center of the universe. Our interpretation was wrong, not Galileo. The question that we have at hand is this; does the scientific conclusion that evolution is valid require that we evaluate the long held beliefs of Christianity? Yes, it does and that is why so many of us have searched Scripture and evaluated the claims of science to see if there is in fact a contradiction in what we can know definitively about reality and what we thought Scripture declares. I, for one, have evaluated the claims of evolutionary scientists and I find their conclusions wanting; but more importantly, contrary to the Galileo scenario, there are irreconcilable discrepancies between the conclusions of scientists and Scripture. What I find very intriguing is this. The words of the Bible allowed human beings to accept what they thought they saw for 1000’s of years of the earth’s history as they looked up in the sky. If someone living 2500 years ago opened up their Scripture and read that the sun was staying still in the sky and the earth was moving they would have rejected that nonsense immediately! After all, all they would have had to do was watch the sunrise to know that what was written in Scripture was wrong. Actually, it was due to the scientific empiricism of the day that they thought that those verses in the Bible said what they thought they said! But God, in His wisdom, did not reveal reality in uncertain terms so that the scientists of the day, as well as the common man, could accept what Scripture declared. What was written would not have clearly contradicted what they saw with their own eyes. Today scientists would have us believe that the conclusion that the earth is not the center of the universe is tantamount to the conclusions of biological evolution, the big bang, etc; but that is not true. Yes, they have determined the apparent truths in the same way; by empirical observation. But to say that the evidence from which they come to their conclusions about the validity of each are equally definitive is nonsense. Their conclusions are wanting for many reasons; I have already presented the problem of no explanation for why things have age in light of the impossibility of a “time zero” from which their dating would begin so they are able to determine an age. Scientists are aware of this, but they ignore this problem. More specifically, scientists have no explanation for how tRNA catalyzes enzymes when the very enzymes that are catalyzed are what operate the process that creates the tRNA. This is one of many ultimate scientific mysteries that not only DOES not have an explanation, but CANNOT have an explanation. For evolution to work there would at the very least have to be spontaneously generated enzymes to catalyze tRNA, but even Francis Crick recognized that this was ridiculous and that is why he believed that the earth must have been seeded with these components from alien beings! Since DNA is the basis for the code that determines the tRNA and the tRNA create the enzymes and the whole process is done by the very enzymes that are created, we know with absolute certainty that the enzymes and the DNA had to both be there from the beginning! Scientists know this, and yet they will not acknowledge the necessity for God to have had to create both the DNA and the enzymes at the same time. It is the ultimate “which came first, the chicken or the egg” problem. We have an answer for that problem in Genesis; God did create both at the same time. So now we have drilled down to the real issue at hand; should we Christians think that God created the original building blocks, i.e., the DNA, tRNA, enzymes, etc and then let them do those things that He determined that they should do? Or should we believe that God, having determined before He began His creation in the council of His eternal decree, organized the entirety of His creation, as He determined it would be, in the six days of creation and then set things to continue as He determined they would from that moment forward? There are many billions of atoms that must be in a specific location on a single DNA strand, if you throw in the need of preexisting enzymes and tRNA you are talking about trillions of atoms. The simple truth is that the problems that we encounter when considering a God that created all things in six days is not diminished by considering a God that created DNA, tRNA and the requisite enzymes; the task is no less impossible to fathom. And this only addresses the biological portion of creation. As a Christian there is no comfort in attempting to merge the theory of evolution with that of the more reasonable (once the noeo is sanctified by faith) conclusion that God created what we see today in its entirety when He created everything on the first six days of creation. This is a much more reasonable conclusion for a Christian who, by faith, has been made able to “understand” that the worlds were created by God.
    As is usually the case for those that want to believe that science has some indisputable evidence, you bring up issues like, “….there are stars forming and exploding, galaxies colliding, etc. which all appear to take longer than 10,000 years.” I have reviewed a plethora of these so called proofs. They are always tossed in with things that science has actually proved definitively as if these conclusions are just as definitive…they never are. All you have to do is study the opposing scientific views and the speculation that is replete in these theories to reject them as too volatile to be considered definitive. Galileo’s conclusions will never be overturned; the complicated hypotheses from which these age “proofs” are determined, they may not last a generation. To say they are definitive is nonsense; to challenge six day creation because of them is not only unreasonable (since there are way too many problems with the theory) I think it is downright silly.

    • Sal said, “As is usually the case for those that want to believe that science has some indisputable evidence…”

      I’ve never said it was indisputable evidence. I have repeatedly said that the evidence I’ve presented for the great antiquity of the universe is not definitive but is “plausible” and relatively high up in our cones of certainty.

      “Galileo’s conclusions will never be overturned….”

      Here, I’d say you are falling into the mistake that you charge others with making — you are overly confident in Galileo’s theory of heliocentricity.

      As I postulated above, it could turn out that there’s really a compact, super-massive dark matter singularity in our solar system near to the sun. We can’t detect it with our current instruments and both we and the sun are actually revolving around it (the anomalies were suppressed in previous data collection because we weren’t looking for that), and heliocentricity is in fact wrong. This scenario unlikely given the data we have, but not an impossibility.

      As for the appearance of age, my point about creation 5 minutes ago is more of a fanciful thought experiment than a serious argument. The real point is that if a tree were created instantaneously, we would expect it to have rings and perhaps other markings from which we would infer an age. A solid, commonsense principle, which we use implicitly everyday, is that maturity implies age. Special revelation could override that principle and tell us that the appearance of age is just appearance, not fact.

      The question in the case of the universe is, Does special revelation in fact say that the earth is young? I’m sure we’d both agree that Scripture is correct in what it teaches, but have we correctly apprehended its teaching? (Cf. this Ligonier blog post on interpreting special and general revelation.)

      At the risk of repeating myself…

      If we must accept the traditional reading of Genesis 1-2:3, then the earth is young. Problem solved.

      If, however, we look at the genre of that passage and come to believe that the author is not intending to record events like a dispassionate reporter but instead is using “elevated prose narrative” (Keller) and is shaping that semi-figurative narrative for his concerns, then we are no longer bound to the 24-7 chronology as descriptive of actual events.

      If we are no longer bound to a 24-7 chronology because Moses didn’t intend to imply that, then what evidence can help us determine the actual chronology? The rest of the Bible makes no claim about a 24-7 chronology, but the book of nature has some things to say. It says with a relatively high degree of certainty based on multiple lines of evidence that the earth and cosmos appear old.

      Absent some compelling reasons to accept a 24-7 chronology as the intent of Moses in Genesis 1-2:3 — and they would need to be more compelling than the good reasons to think it was not his intent — we are right to trust our commonsense inference that maturity and apparent process (like tree rings, galaxies colliding, etc.) implies real age.

      If we take this evidence at face value, it shows us God’s technique. It hints at why the universe is so old — God providentially and naturally built up the materials to create our world and us. God gets the glory either way, but to me, the old earth is the more plausible reading of both special revelation and general revelation.

      PS, May I humbly request more paragraph breaks in any future posts. It’s exhausting to read text that is not broken up.

      • Sorry about the enormous paragraph!
        MF said: “The real point is that if a tree were created instantaneously, we would expect it to have rings and perhaps other markings from which we would infer an age.”

        Allow me to posit this. You do believe that God is sovereign; so whether by actually age, or by design, God had determined the specific structure of all full grown trees, rings, bark and all, in His eternal decree before the atoms that would eventually comprise those trees were even created.

        Since God had already decreed all of time and He is orchestrating every moment of time, the circumstances that occur in time that result in what we observe as age were determined in their entirety by God before time began. So the exact composition of a tree planted 100 years ago is no surprise to God today; every atom in that tree on its 100th year of life is exactly where it is because God had determined, before the beginning of time, where each of those atoms would be.

        All the activity during those 100 years that went into the resulting 100 year old tree was not arbitrary, it was specifically orchestrated so that that tree would be exactly what it is today; there is nothing about the composition of that tree that was left to chance.

        What you are claiming is “the appearance of age” I am saying is God creating a 100 year old tree; He can do it by orchestrating the placement of atoms sovereignly decreed to be where He wants then to be over a 100 year period or He can create a full grown tree by simply (for God that is) putting those atoms where He decreed they would be without the otherwise requisite time.

        This is what the Bible says God did in the first six days of creation. If God is so powerful that He can take 100 years to build a tree with each of its 600 trillion atoms in the exact place He wants them to be; isn’t it reasonable to conclude that He can instantly create a tree with all of those atoms exactly where he decreed they should be? Especially since this appears to be the plain explanation He has given to us of what happened in the beginning?

        Your only argument that bares consideration is that it is unreasonable that God would deceive us by planting fossils in the ground that are obviously older then 10,000 years or (more commonly used these days) planted exploded stars that would have had to have stopped existing millions of years ago since it would take that long for us to be able to observe them. Why would God create a fizzled out star if not just to fool us!? These are the hypotheses to which I refer when I said, “the complicated hypotheses from which these age “proofs” are determined, they may not last a generation. To say they are definitive is nonsense;”

        I have also considered the prospect that a stationary earth may actually by the center of the universe and the rest of the universe is spinning around us in very bizarre movement. Since all movement is relative, I suppose there is truth to it regardless of what we perceive empirically. When I said Galileo’s conclusion will not be overturned, I mean anytime soon! I can rest assured that I won’t find that one out until I’m in heaven!

        The bottom line is, if God is who He claims to be in the Bible, then there is nothing more reasonable to believe scientifically then that he created everything in its entirety a relatively short time ago. As I have said before He can either do it or He can’t do it. I see no scientific reason to believe He couldn’t have done what he said He did. If He did NOT do it the way He said He did or He is not the God that Scripture describes, then there are overwhelming problems with any other conclusion we can derive! To try to force the “scenario with problems” into the “scenario with a reasonable explanation” when by faith God has given us the ability to understand “the reasonable explanation” is (sorry to be repetitive) …silly.

        • Sal, I fully agree with your description of God’s power and ability to create instantaneously. It is his prerogative how he wishes to create. I’m not at all saying it’s impossible for God! My point is, instantaneous creation is apparently indistinguishable to us, and we are right to infer age from maturity, absent special revelation telling us different. (That’s where the thought experiment comes in: We can’t prove that God didn’t create you instantaneously five minutes ago. Yet we are justified in assuming that that is not so, apart from some special revelation about you.) I’m particularly talking about non-human creation. Adam is a separate question.

          My first point of disagreement with your post comes when you say:

          This [instantaneous creation of the universe] is what the Bible says God did in the first six days of creation. If God is so powerful that He can take 100 years to build a tree with each of its 600 trillion atoms in the exact place He wants them to be; isn’t it reasonable to conclude that He can instantly create a tree with all of those atoms exactly where he decreed they should be? Especially since this appears to be the plain explanation He has given to us of what happened in the beginning?

          I fully concur with your middle sentence. It’s the first and last that I am challenging — that’s not the plain reading of Genesis 1-2:3 to me or many others. Rather, when I read it, I find the framework view a more persuasive account of the structure and content of the text itself.

          If the framework view correctly better apprehends Moses’s intent, as I think it does, then there is in fact no chronology of (pre-Adamic) creation in the Bible at all. Hence, as Kline says, “as far as the time frame is concerned, with respect to both the duration and sequence of events, the scientist is left free of biblical constraints in hypothesizing about cosmic origins.”

          There are other exegetical considerations, such as the origin of Cain’s wife, that also have some bearing on this question.

          For more, see Collin’s commentary on Gen 1-4, Waltke’s short Genesis commentary, Wenham’s Word commentary, or Hamilton’s NICOT commentary.

          • Of course, I don’t agree with Kline, et al. I actually had the opportunity to challenge Prof Kline personally on this issue; I believe I won the argument, he thought otherwise!

            I understand your point, believe me, I have been through it ad nauseum with my friends and colleagues that have been influenced by Prof. Kline, and now by Rev. Keller and others. I agree that it is possible to understand Gen 1-2:3 as presenting a framework perspective on creation.

            Thankfully God cleared up any confusion about that in Exodus 20:11 and Exodus 31:17; where there is no ambiguity. God simply and clearly states; “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” and “It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.”
            Is this not as clear a statement as we need from God to understand what He meant in Genesis? Why focus on the verses that need clarification rather then the ones that clarify those verses?

            I think we have probably exhausted this issue and you have given me LOTS of reading to do as there are some references that you have presented that I have not read. I doubt they will shed any new light on the controversy, but I like to keep up on what material is out there that is skewing the thinking of good Christian brothers and sisters.

            I will leave you with this; if Keller, Kline, et al are correct it leaves many unanswered questions that I find irreconcilable to explain reality from a scientific perspective. Not so with the resolution to questions when they are understood in light of special revelation. As I said to Prof. Kline when we communicated over 25 years ago; if it were not for the questionable hypotheses of science that challenged our long held beliefs, the issue would be moot.

            Of course, he denied that his conclusions in Kingdom Prologue were influenced by scientific claims and that they were derived by means of scripture and reason alone. I didn’t believe him then and I certainly don’t believe him, or any others making such claim, now.
            Many blessings,
            Sal

          • Thanks for the conversation, Sal. I’ll leave it here as well, noting only that Augustine had a similar view on Genesis 1, long before recent scientific evidence was an influence on Kline. Blessings to you and yours.

          • I’d also add that the PCA creation report concurs with Dr. Kline about motivations:

            [The Framework view] is an exegesis, not an attempt to balance prior philosophical or scientific commitments with Scripture. (Those who hold the Framework interpretation agree that God could create the world in one hundred forty-four hours, for instance.) Because we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, no one should be considered orthodox who holds to the Framework view if he is motivated by naturalistic, higher-critical, or evolutionisitic assumptions. Those assumptions would be an abuse rather than a proper use of the Framework position.

  31. Dear Mike,

    It seems to me that what is missing (pun intended) is the phrase “irreducible complexity” as postulated in Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe. Everything breaks down to minmal amount of items required for the function of a knee, eye, eyesight, RNA, DNA, etc. If one piece of the puzzle is missing, then it will not function.