American Majority accepts God-Guided Evolution - - Is this true for BioLogos as well?

Cold showers? saltpeter? A real girl/boy friend?

Perhaps. But I didn’t resort to any of those. none of which, by the way, have anything to do with actual porn materials. One could do all those things and still be addicted to porn.

I’m still waiting on your naturalistic account. Not that I think you’ll ever come up with one.

Naturalistic account of what? What you describe as an addiction is more self-identified and a results of the time and age we live in. Your morality, shame, and guilt is something that you have to deal with. I really don’t think it is much of anything. It is not something that you need to be “saved” from. In my day, we only had Playbook and Penthouse and they came out monthly. Difficult to have an addiction to Miss February.

George wrote:

To which Mung replied:


George asked:

To which Jordan replied, reasonably enough:

And this was theistic evolution, as conceived of by, say, Asa Gray, back in Darwin’s day. But it’s not what BioLogos has advocated. So Jordan’s response is theoretically correct, yet does not tell us anything about what anyone at BioLogos believes. (Actually, Ted Davis eventually indicated support for some form of guidance or steering of evolution, along the lines of Robert Russell, but he was immediately rebuked – politely of course – by Kramer and Stump for that.)

1 Like

Regarding the title above:

American Majority accepts God-Guided Evolution…

I would call 48% a plurality rather than a majority, but no fundamental objection.

Is this true for BioLogos?

No, because every time the word “guided” has been floated there, there has been massive evasion, from back in the days of Falk and Venema through to the days of Stump and Kramer. And this is true for any equivalent expression – any expression that implies that God is “hands-on” in evolution in a very concrete sense–as opposed to some vague involvement of God in evolution which they carefully avoid specifying–is rejected, avoided, or side-stepped. In contrast, the 48% of Americans you are talking about, who say that God “guides” evolution, understand English words employed in surveys in everyday, not-tricky ways, and assume the survey is talking about something like “intervention” (even if very subtle, at an invisible, submicroscopic level), or some kind of front-loaded setup (a perfect pool shot, as we discussed before). The deliberate vagueness concerning whether God “guided” anything is a modern TE/EC thing. And I don’t think it’s accidental that the vagueness started to become especially pronounced at almost exactly the same time as American TE/ECs declared war on ID.

Typical “answers” to the straightforward question, “Does God guide evolution?” include:

  1. "Define ‘guide’ ".

  2. God has ordained a process of evolution.

  3. Evolution is God’s way of creating.

Note that all of these, in various ways, avoid answering the question.

The first, though seemingly reasonable, is disingenuous, because even when the questioner goes on to define “guide”, the answerer then makes difficulty about that definition, and the questioner then tries to reformulate, and the answerer makes difficulty about that definition, etc., and the question is not answered. Finally, in frustration, the questioner says, “Fine. YOU pick a word which describes God’s relationship to the process, since you don’t like any of mine.” At that point, the answerer either breaks off discussion or gives an answer which does not face the question asked. One might call this “the Venema shuffle” after Dennis Venema, who gave the classic performance of it, in answer to the question of “Crude”, many years ago.

The second response merely says that God gives the orders; it doesn’t say whether or not God had any personal role in carrying them out. So it doesn’t answer the question.

The third has the same problem.

BioLogos is now even less inclined to pursue theoretical discussions than it used to be, so any attempt to pose the question there on the Forum would meet with complete lack of interest. The attempt to harmonize Bios and Logos at the level of theory has been pretty much abandoned.

1 Like


I agree with virtually you wrote EXCEPT!:

I do not agree that “Evolution is God’s way of creating” is an evasion… not if there is at least ONE MORE sentence added somewhere in the discussion:

The sentence could include the phrase “God chooses the mutations…” or “God chooses the path of common descent” - - though I am partial to the former phrase to add!

Agreed, George, if the person who says “evolution is God’s way of creating” goes on to say something like what you said, then it would constitute an answer to the question. But you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone on BioLogos, and you certainly wouldn’t find any of the life scientists who have ever posted there (Venema, Applegate, Falk, Ussery, etc.), saying “God chooses the mutations” or “God chooses the path of common descent.” For years I tried to find statements that came within a country mile of those, and was never able to find one.

My objection, as always, is not that the BioLogos people don’t believe God guided anything – they can believe whatever they want. My objection is that they avoid clarity on the question. And I think the motivation for avoiding clarity is plain. Direct affirmation of guidance could sound like “God of the gaps” or “miracles”, and BioLogos has always been at pains to convince the world that it (unlike those dastardly ID and creationist folks) does not believe that non-natural interventions were needed to produce life, species, or man, and therefore BioLogos is fully “scientific.” On the other hand, saying that God had nothing to do with the outcomes of evolution would plainly be against Biblical and evangelical Christian faith, and BioLogos sees itself as within that faith. So a murky, “God had something to do with evolution, somehow, sometime, but don’t ask me how,” is the safest answer, avoiding reproach from both evangelicals and mainstream biologists at once. One’s thesis can never be attacked if one doesn’t offer a thesis in the first place.

1 Like

@Eddie, I get that this might be your experience with BioLogos but I just want to maybe also throw out there that with a lot of people these may also legitimately be honest answers to the question and not a purposeful avoiding.

My experience with most TE/EC folks (not the ones that run organizations) is that they honestly don’t know how God used evolution and don’t know if “guide” is the right word to explain it or not. They believe God is real and has interacted with the world and that evolutionary science is an accurate understanding of how nature works. Beyond that though, it’s maybe not clear to these people, either from Scripture or from science, how God’s interaction with natural history really works. Is it all just providential and “hidden” from us? Is it an initial start to life, now to far in the past to know for sure? Does he guide all mutations, or some mutations, or no mutations?

If science is blind to God, who is going to put the pieces together to help people understand what “God-guided evolution” means? It won’t be science. This is the direction ID could have gone, but instead it seems like an almost entirely deconstructive project (finding holes in evolutionary explanations, attacking methodological naturalism, pushing “what about …”isms). I don’t think BioLogos has adequately answered the question “what does God-guided evolution mean?” but maybe that’s not something that’s easy to answer for anyone. Maybe we need a new generation of philosophers, theologians, and scientists who are of the CASE (Christians who Affirm the Science of Evolution) variety to dig into this question in an interdisciplinary and exploratory way instead of siloed and entrenched “camps”.


If you say something that has the syntactic form of a question, but isn’t really a question, then it should not be a surprise if the response has the syntactic form of an answer but is not really an answer.

“Does God guide evolution?” is a properly formed question. It is intelligible, and in principle answerable. Among possible properly formed answers are: “Yes”; “No”; “Maybe”; “Yes with qualifications”; “No with qualifications”; “I don’t know”.

1 Like

Well, that would not be my question. My question – and it would not be to “BioLogos” as such but to Haarsma, Applegate, Stump, etc. speaking as individuals – “Do you think that God guided evolution?”

If any of them responded by “What do you mean by God guiding evolution?” then I would clarify what I meant. But I find it interesting that most people on the planet, who think about the subject of evolution and God, have a rough notion of what is meant by God guiding evolution, and that it is only the TE/EC leaders who make a big fuss about it, as if it is some kind of trick question, and start splitting hairs about what the words mean.

If I said, “Is the casino dealer guiding the outcomes of the poker games?” no one would have any trouble telling that I was asking whether the dealer was manipulating the deck so as to produce certain outcomes. And if anyone did have any trouble with my meaning, I would say, “I mean cheating – giving himself winning cards, and others losing cards, so that the house will win more often than it would in non-rigged circumstances.” After that clarification, anyone who claimed that he did not know what I meant would simply be evading the question.

It is not intelligible to people who are not sure what is being asked. There natural response would be to ask for a definition of “guided” but you seem to object to that response.

If I got an answer of “yes” or something similar, that’s when I would ask what “god-guided” meant. Surely the proper question isn’t to ask what the questioner means by it but to ask what the answerer means by it.

Most TEs/ECs are well-read in the science but don’t have a clearly articulated metaphysical view of God and also tend to assume a Cartesian discontinuity between the natural and supernatural. Thus to “guide” something is to periodically introduce a discontinuity in nature like a Paleyan watchmaker.

My own answer, as a classical theist, CASE, and Calvinist: yes, God “guides” evolution, in the sense that he ordains it exactly to his divinely chosen purpose, but he also “guides” gravity, electromagnetism, chemical reactions, and all other natural processes in the universe. There’s nothing particularly special about evolution. There is no part of the natural or supernatural realms which escapes God’s sovereign will. There are no accidents or true randomness in the system.

That being said, I don’t affirm occasionalism, where God is the direct cause of every natural phenomenon that we observe. Instead, I affirm the traditional view that God works through secondary causes by imbuing genuine causal power to various entities in nature, but he is still the primary cause of the being of everything. How exactly God ordains everything to accord with his will is not something that anyone can know for sure. It is partially a mystery. But I don’t think it matters much to know the details, since even natural laws are ordained towards God’s sovereign will.

Is this a form of avoiding the question? I don’t think so. There are many parts of the Christian faith where we affirm certain beliefs (e.g. that God is a Trinity) but we cannot fully explain how that “works”.


Agreed, on all points. But note that if a TE/EC thinker has that understanding of “guide” then the TE/EC will answer “No” to the question “Did God guide evolution?” Yet when Dennis Venema was asked by “Crude” on the BioLogos Forum whether he thought God guided evolution, he did not answer “No”; he instead stretched out the discussion over several days by asking Crude what he meant by “guide.” And though each of Crude’s reformulations made it crystal-clear what he meant by “guide”, still Dennis kept answering obliquely. The question was never answered. This was gamesmanship, not sincere dialogue. We know this for certain, because in many other places on BioLogos, Dennis had made clear his view that, while God could have tinkered with evolution to bring about certain results, Dennis saw no need for God to do so, natural causes of evolution being (in Dennis’s view) sufficient to account for all the results without need of additional tinkering, adjustments, guidance, manipulations, etc. from God. So in other words, Dennis did not believe that God “guided” evolution in the sense you are talking about (introducing a discontinuity), but in his conversation with Crude wouldn’t say so straight out. And if would have been easy; all he had to say was: “If by “guided” you mean, intervened supernaturally, broke the continuity of nature to cause evolution to arrive at a point it would not have arrived at by the usual natural mechanism, then no, I don’t think God guided evolution.” He could have said that at the very start, and saved much time and verbal wrangling. That’s what he would have done, had he been interested in communication, rather than verbal hairsplitting.

Anyhow, I’m not blaming you for an old conversation you weren’t party to, but merely indicating that sometimes claims that one doesn’t understand what the other person means are not credible. And this sort of gamesmanship was a routine feature of responses in the BioLogos Forum all through the Falk/Giberson years, and continued to some extent under Haarsma’s regime. The culture of the place was very defensive, especially whenever a questioner was perceived as representing either ID or creationism.

As for the rest of your answer, it is more philosophically able than anything I ever saw on BioLogos. None of the BioLogos leaders, many of whom had published celebrated books on faith and science, ever rose to the level of articulateness that you have demonstrated in this post, and in many of your other posts. This is all the more striking, as you are much younger than any of them, and they have had in some cases three or four decades of “lead time” on you to read up on theology, philosophy, etc. I would like to see a little more energy and intellectual dedication from people claiming to be able to show that faith and science are not in conflict. A little more reading of Aquinas, Augustine, Luther, Wesley, etc. After all, you are not a philosopher or theologian, but a physicist, but you have been making time to read difficult Thomistic philosophy and theology, and your level of understanding shows this. The BioLogos folks could have done the same. But they never did. (With the usual exception of Ted Davis, and later, Jim Stump.) They seemed to believe in preparing their arguments on the science side, but “winging it” in their arguments on the theology side. It was most frustrating for those who wanted to see high-level conceptual interaction between the fields.

No, your answer does not avoid the question. I wish you were in charge of BioLogos. :slight_smile:



Do you agree with me that the answer is YES ?

Well, I’m sure that if Crude had ever received an actual answer from Venema, after a few days of trying to get one, and if Venema’s answer was not sufficiently detailed for Crude to be sure how Venema meant “god-guided,” Crude would have asked for more clarification. But since Venema never answered the question, but danced all around it, the discussion never got to that point of potential clarification. It just petered out in frustration, as Crude, seeing that Dennis had no intention of answering the question, no matter how often it was clarified, gave up.

No, I don’t. Keep in mind that I was referring to a specific case where, even after the definition of “guide” was provided, the answerer kept dodging the question. Take a look at what I wrote to Jordan above about the casino dealer. How much clarification does one need, before one should be able to understand a question like that, and answer it? At what point is it legitimate to suspect that further demands for clarification are just stonewalling?

And as I said to Daniel already, a very clear one-sentence answer was available to express the view of the answerer in that particular case.

However, let’s come back to the main point I was making to George. The main point is that BioLogos leaders have never defended a position called “God-guided evolution.” Indeed, the term is almost never even mentioned there, except when George has brought it up for consideration. Whatever might be meant by “God-guided”, the BioLogos leaders have shown no interest in the phrase, nor in the ideas George attaches to it, e.g., the idea that God might have tinkered with mutations. I say this not to say anything against George, but merely to answer his question in his title. The answer is: “No, it’s not true for BioLogos.”

As for what Americans who answer surveys understand by “God-guided evolution,” that’s hard to say, since the surveyors are looking for simplistic answers and the people polled aren’t given the opportunity to offer refined answers. But if most Americans who signed up for “God-guided” on the survey understand “guided” in the way that Daniel suggests the term is normally taken, then they mean that God tinkered with natural causes to get certain results that he wanted. And that position seems to be held by hardly anyone affiliated with BioLogos.

The answer to which question?

  1. The answer to the question, “Did God guide evolution?” may well be YES.

  2. The answer to the question, “Has BioLogos as an organization ever endorsed God-guided evolution?”, is clearly NO.

  3. And the answer to the question, “Have ANY BioLogos leaders ever publicly endorsed God-guided evolution?”, is “Virtually none.”

(Ted Davis’s comments a year or two ago are the only clear example. And a definite distaste for the idea has been expressed at various times by Kramer, Stump, Venema, and Falk. Applegate and Haarsma have always stayed safely and diplomatically vague, so it’s hard to say what either of them believes, but the preponderant attitude has been that evolution could have achieved all that it achieved without any “assist” or “guidance” from God.)

Historically, however, the notion of God guiding evolution at certain points goes way back. We see it in Asa Gray, and in Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of evolution by natural selection, at least regarding the case of man. And in a modern “quantum” version by Robert Russell. (For Russell, the guidance is scientifically non-detectable, but real, and makes a difference to evolutionary outcomes.) Its recent unpopularity among American evangelical TE/ECs appears to be connected with the culture-war atmosphere in the USA; “guided” evolution sounds dangerously close to intelligent design, and for many, intelligent design sounds dangerously close to creationism. So the preference among modern TE/ECs seems to be to concede the God has in some vague way something to do with evolution, but is “hands off” as far as any detailed transformation is concerned, does not “guide” in the normal English sense of the word, even if he might be said to “guide” in some much more tenuous sense of the word.


I’ve been arguing these points for many months … good to have someone else who can discuss these points without a mental breakdown.

1 Like