“What can you ever really know of other people's souls – of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands” -CS Lewis
On Friday, I attended a silent auction and saw a most unusual framed photo. It was a picture taken in the forest of a stand of trees. The trees were surrounded by purple hued sunbeams and barely visible ghostly images. The photographer told me he had taken it with a broken digital camera and this was the unusual result.
As I stared at it, I remembered a talk given by Dr Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe. He said that there were multiple dimensions (probably 11 with time being a 12th dimension but don’t hold me to it.) He then posited that perhaps heaven is the 13th dimension. This could mean that, although God is in heaven, He is also surrounding and within our dimension. The unusual picture was a sort of a hint of such a concept. That is my view of God. He is bigger and more complex than we can imagine yet He makes it part of His business to be involved in the people He has created.
As you know, I am very upset over the creation wars. I did not enter the fray until I encountered a rabid group of YEC who were experts in slyly questioning the salvation of those who believe differently. Since I am one of these, I have been the recipient of some rather crude and silly attacks.
This post is not to discuss my point of view. I have done so in many articles, including this one link, which got the highest number of comments ever at TWW. Suffice to say that I lean towards evolutionary creationism (or theistic evolutionism). I know God as the Creator, plain and simple.
I believe that Ken Ham, a former high school biology teacher, and Answers in Genesis have been the raconteurs behind the creation wars. Frankly, I had given up hope that there could be any sort of rational discussion between evangelicals of differing opinions while this group existed. That is, until recently.
Last year, at this time, we discussed a couple of homeschooling conferences that had disinvited Ken Ham due to his noxious prattling about fellow Christians who are not toeing his young earth line. Here is our post, I Do Not Like Green Eggs and (ken)Ham.
A couple of weeks ago, Deb called me and said, “You have got to see what is happening over at the Between the Times blog here.”
Dr. Ken Keathley wrote this startling and positive article.
"(Dr.)Francis Collins, a devout evangelical who headed the Human Genome Project, founded the BioLogos Foundation in 2007 for the purpose of advocating evolutionary theory as a viable option for evangelicals. When Collins stepped down from BioLogos to become the director of the Health and Human Services agency, (ed. note: His exact title is Director of the National Institutes of Health) Darrel Falk became president of the foundation.
At Falk’s request, a number of professors at Southern Baptist seminaries have submitted articles to the BioLogos forum to express our concerns about the foundation’s promotion of theistic evolution. These articles are part of a series entitled “Southern Baptist Voices” in which consists of each article paired with a response from a BioLogos fellow."
For background, here is an article we wrote on Dr Francis Collins who is considered one of the greatest scientists of our time. Collins was at the side of atheist Christopher Hitchens as he lay dying. One of Hitchens last articles extolled his friendship with Collins.
Keathley and Biologos’s Falk mapped out a series of questions and answers that satisfied both parties. These questions and answers are not long or drawn out and I urge our readers to read the full responses. The following are excerpts from that dialogue.
1. Ken Keathley to Biologos-Part 1
The first set of questions to Biologos here comes from Kenneth Keathley who “is Professor of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.”
“Concerns about theological method: Christians cannot do theology in a vacuum. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that theology is never done in a vacuum, and we should not pretend that it is. And the BioLogos Foundation is correct in arguing that evangelicals cannot ignore the latest advances in biology, geology, and other related fields. Our goal should be more than merely finding a way to reconcile Genesis with the latest discoveries in genetics. Rather, our task as pastors and theologians is to present a theology of Creation that provides a solid worldview for Christians to work in the natural sciences with integrity for the glory of God.
Genesis has only so much hermeneutical elasticity: Genre and hermeneutics (the science of interpretation) have always been difficult topics. In the early days of the church, from Basil of Caesarea to Augustine, scholars struggled with the proper way to understand the creation account in Genesis. Lately, however, the concordist and non-concordist approaches to the first 11 chapters of Genesis seem to be of unending and ever-increasing variety and complexity. Theistic evolutionists have contributed to the conversation. Certain evolutionary creationists ask us to accept more and more fanciful interpretations of Genesis.
The connection between natural history and salvation history: This seems to be a (maybe, the) major area of disagreement between evolutionary creationists and intelligent design proponents.”
William Dembski to Biologos -Part 2
The second set of questions here comes from William A. Dembski who is “Research Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He is also a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, and directs the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design.”
“In part one of his essay, William Dembski laid out his assessment of the “non-negotiables” of both Christianity and Darwinism as follows:
Non-Negotiables of Christianity
(C1) Divine Creation: God by wisdom created the world out of nothing. (C2) Reflected Glory: The world reflects God’s glory, a fact that ought to be evident to humanity. (C3) Human Exceptionalism: Humans alone among the creatures on earth are made in the image of God. (C4) Christ’s Resurrection: God, in contravention of nature’s ordinary powers, raised Jesus bodily from the dead.
Non-Negotiables of Darwinism:
(D1) Common Descent: All organisms are related by descent with modification from a common ancestor. (D2) Natural Selection: Natural selection operating on random variations is the principal mechanism responsible for biological adaptations. (D3) Human Continuity: Humans are continuous with other animals, exhibiting no fundamental difference in kind but only differences in degree. (D4) Methodological Naturalism: The physical world, for purposes of scientific inquiry, may be assumed to operate by unbroken natural law. In this second part of his Essay, he discusses the tensions between the two lists and explains his belief that Darwinism undercuts Christianity.”
3. Dr Darrel Falk for Biologos Responds-Part 1
Here is a small part of the first response by Dr Darrel R. Falk who is an American biologist. He is Professor of Biology at Point Loma Nazarene University and is the current president of The BioLogos Foundation
“It is not clear though, that supernatural activity would often be God’s chosen mode of action millions of years before humans had arrived. Thus, we should not assume with certainty that God would choose to use supernatural flurries of activity if his ongoing regular activity—that described through natural laws—would accomplish the same end, albeit over a longer period of time. For all we know, God may prefer slowness, even though we seem to be inclined to think that faster is better. After all, in the history of Israel and the church, God gave no new prophecy for 400 years before the coming of Christ, and it took the early church five centuries to come to a clear—albeit mysterious—understanding of the Trinity. Even now, two thousand years after Christ, we wait for his return.”
4. Dr Falk for Biologos- Part 2
Here is the second responseto Dembski by Biologos.
"1. I am skeptical that it is possible to develop testable scientific hypotheses for the activity of God. Carrying out a scientific test of a hypothesis depends upon having a “control” where the variable is removed. In this case, the variable would have to be God’s activity. But if God is always active—if all things hold together in Christ (Colossians 1:17) and if not one thing came into being without him (John 1:3)—then how does one test for the presence of Him who is never absent?
2. I do not agree that accepting the evolutionary creation view with its inherent emphasis on God’s natural activity in creation somehow makes belief in miracles less tenable. Miracles as outlined in Scripture have a special purpose: they are primarily a way that God uses to communicate and enter into relationship with humankind. It is not clear that they would be necessary to carry out God’s purposes before humans were here to observe them.
3. Although I remain skeptical that God’s activity can be put into a scientific formulation, I do not see that this in any way implies that God hides his activity. Put simply, I am every bit as inspired by Romans 1:20 and Psalm 19 as is Bill Dembski; I just don’t think these Scriptures imply that the activity of God can be formulated into scientifically testable hypotheses.
Dembski thinks that if God created humankind through the process of common descent, it diminishes the uniqueness of human qualities associated with being created in God’s image. I respectfully disagree: of the several ways of understanding what it means to bear the image of God, I find the most important aspects to be relational—they are derived from our being in relationship with God."
5. Dr Falk for Biologos-Part 3
Here is the final response to Dembski.
“The fact that we are made of the same stuff and by the same processes as the animal world says nothing that denies human exceptionalism. Humans and animals alike have DNA as our genetic material. We all have transfer RNA, messenger RNA, various proteins, mitochondria, and lysosomes. On the other hand, the material is clearly arranged in a different way in humans than it is in the great apes; one glance in the mirror will tell you that. Furthermore, we are endowed with capacities—notably, our moral, aesthetic, cognitive and linguistic ones—that are different from those found in the rest of the animal world. How did they come to be different? As I argued before, it can only have happened through God’s activity because even “ordinary” processes are God’s own, too. But how did God bring that to pass? Did it happen in an instant, or did it happen over a long period of time? If Dembksi thinks it more god-like for it to happen in an instant, why?
Considering that I’m the advocate for the validity of mainstream biology, I find it ironic that Dembski has placed so much emphasis on the power of science, even as he tries to purify it from materialist ideologies that I, too, find incompatible with a full understanding and appreciation of God’s creation. Science is an amazingly successful set of tools that—when coupled with the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)—leads us to a truer understanding of ourselves and a greater view of God. With this end in mind, perhaps Dr. Dembski and I can find still more common ground than we already have, agreeing that biology and geology and cosmology can be trustworthy, even though only at their best when the hearts and lives of those who study them are redeemed. If we are to see the natural world as it really is, we must be united in Christ, using our reason and our faith to understand what God is telling us in his world and his Word. Though we don’t agree on everything, I thank Dr. Dembski for being a partner in that pursuit.”
I have only given a taste of the longer essays involved. However, the points of the debate are not my main emphasis. My wish is to demonstrate how Christians of good will can debate this subject in a respectful, non-hysterical, give and take format. After all, aren’t we supposed to be known by our love?
Respect and Hope
The following exchange on Keathley’s introduction at Between the Times shows the heart of Dr. Keathley. I applaud his response.
“ Can we really consider Francis Collins a “devout evangelical” in light of his views on evolution, and his work in promoting such a view? Thanks for your paper Dr. Keathley! ”
Here is Keathley’s response:
“Hi Thomas. I don’t question Dr Collins’ devotion to Christ or to the gospel. In that respect he is very much a devout evangelical. I would use the same expression to describe Tim Keller, Alister McGrath, or J I Packer, who all appear to hold to positions similar to Collins. Even though I have serious disagreements with Collins, I believe he is a brother in Christ.
Blessings, Ken Keathley ”.
That response by Dr Keathley gives me great hope. Could it be that there is the possibility for détente in this war? It is possible so long as the people who join the discussion are people who value the unity of the Body of Christ. However, for some folks, secondary theology trumps the love of Christ. I want everyone to notice who was left out of this conversation. Ken Ham was not invited to this party. Could it be that his absence contributed to the good will of this discussion? I fear that Ham will now attempt to interfere with this process. If he does, things could get a bit ugly.
In June there will be further discussions between these two groups and I hope the entire Christian community will take notice of this unusually civil give and take. May it be a model for all of us as we approach divisive issues within the body of Christ.
This past week, I found myself stuck on the song, Home, by Dierks Bentley. It is a touching ode to America. However, there are many words in this song that apply to us as Christians. As mad as I get with some on the Body of Christ (a feeling that I am sure is returned with much vigor), the universal church is still my home and will be for eternity. Sometimes I feel like running away but something or Someone draws me “further in” and “deeper still.” Perhaps that is one reason that I find this song so compelling.
I dedicate this song to Darell Falk, Ken Keathley and William Dembski (and all the others) who are paving the way of love in a difficult arena. Thank you.