BioLogos and the Crossway TE Book


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

With some trepidation, I feel the need to address a point that came up regarding the Crossway TE Book, BioLogos, and fair play. This thread cannot be a complain magnet for BioLogos or DI. It is rather an attempt to be fairhanded on some critically important points

I want to discuss the Crossway TE book, my review, and BIoLogos’s response. Let me also acknowledge that the BioLogos leadership had my review in hand when they wrote their response. They knew what I was going to publish on this.

I want to highlight the final few paragraphs from my review, with some interleaved comments.

Strawman or Steelman?

Here, also, the critique of theistic evolution is the strongest. For example, Wayne Grudem aptly explains how poorly historical Adam theology was represented in a recent book by theistic evolutionists (p. 793). It is a strawman, for example, to link historical Adam theology with transmission of original sin by DNA itself. Grudem is correct; theistic evolutionists have not been sensitive to the theological concerns presented here.

This claim by Grudem references Adam and the Genome by Dennis Venema, which defined historical Adam doctrine as “transmission by DNA.” This is an absurd strawman, totally unjustifiable, and Grudem is correct to complain about it. I’ve raised this issue directly with Dennis Venema, and you can see him defending it as a valid definition here: https://discourse.biologos.org/t/reviewing-adam-and-the-genome/35961. This strawman damages trust.

In the BioLogos response, no acknowledgement of this real problem of strawmaning conservative theology is acknowledged. In fact, we’ve seen it over and over again. @jongarvey experience this recently too the last time the Genealogical Adam came up: https://discourse.biologos.org/t/why-i-think-adam-was-a-real-person-in-history/38751.

Genealogical Adam or Not?

All too often, evolutionary science is incorrectly understood to overturn the traditional theology of Adam. …This year, also, there was a surprising advance in our understanding of how evolutionary science interacts with theology (e.g., S. Joshua Swamidass, “The Overlooked Science of Genealogical Ancestry,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 70 [2018]: 19–35). We find that Adam and Eve could be genealogical ancestors of us all, less than 10,000 years ago in the Middle East, de novo created, without parents. As surprising as this may sound, these confessions are entirely consistent with evolutionary science. With this correction in mind, it is not clear if any of the theological claims Grudem lays out are in conflict with evolutionary science.

In the official Biologos response, no mention of a Genealogical Adam and the possibility of de novo creation, and more, was offered by Biologos. You can see the conversation afterwards, including @John_Rood’s careful questioning on this:

I want to highlight that I am not alone in wishing that Biologos would have more clarity on the “de novo”/”sole genetic progenitor” distinction. I believe it was this issue that Josh Swamidass was addressing in his defense of Tim Keller after Biologos’ interaction with a Gospel Coalition video last fall http://peacefulscience.org/defense-tim-keller/ I was hopeful that the conversation then marked a turning point. I’m still hopeful, that we can eventually find a way to make this distinction more clear.

I followed up with some affirmation of the response, and also encouragement to acknowledge the science that their critics care about here: https://discourse.biologos.org/t/a-flawed-mirror-a-response-to-the-book-theistic-evolution/38357. For better or for worse, rather than acknowledging this, I was immediately banned from the forum. I have not been allowed back. Read that thread, and judge for yourself why that happened.

Questions or Answers?

Still, this book leaves me with a burning question. As a scientist in the church and a Christian in science, I see firsthand the strength of evolutionary science. What version of theistic evolution could be theologically sound? This question, I hope, can be received with empathy by a new generation of theologians. Help us find a better way.

Let me contrast that with what BioLogos wrote, keeping in mind this is from April 2018:

Regarding the biological origin of Adam and Eve, it is true that evolutionary creationists cannot affirm the traditional de novo view of human origins (in which God miraculously creates the first pair roughly 10,000 years ago, with this pair as the sole genetic progenitors of all humans today), because there is abundant evidence in God’s creation that the early humans were a population of at least several thousand individuals roughly 200,000 years ago. That evidence is consistent with multiple views of Adam and Eve. While some evolutionary creationists prefer archetypal or symbolic views, other evolutionary creationists affirm Adam and Eve as historical figures within a larger population of humans, and the first to commit human sins.

Instead of asking a question, they put forward the same standard and closed list of answers. They do invite the TE authors into dialogue. Though, if they currently menu of options is not inclusive enough, why not expand it?

Agenda in Theology or Science?

Notice also the admission that their opposition to Grudem has nothing to do with science…

There is much to discuss in part 3 of the book, but for focus, let us briefly address Wayne Grudem’s summary of twelve specific theological beliefs that he attributes to theistic evolution (785). Perhaps some theistic evolutionists would claim all of these things, but at BioLogos we would reject some and reword most.

So they are staking out their theological boundaries here, and saying that regardless of the science, they do not want to include those with Grudem’s priorities. I applaud them for being honest here in their outright rejection of the doctrine he things is important, even though there is not scientific evidence against it.

Of note, is this objection from @Jonathan_Burke to the Genealogical Adam in the comments of the BioLogos response, any my response…

What concerns me is the way that a genealogical Adam is being presented by some people using language which sounds like they’re arguing for the traditional de novo Adam and Eve who had no ancestors. This makes it sound like evolution isn’t a fact.

My entire point is that common descent does not in conflict with a “traditional de novo Adam and Eve who had no ancestors.” That claim includes an affirmation of evolutionary science. No one is confused by this. I affirm evolutionary science, and insist this is important science with which the Church must come to terms.

And at that moment, BioLogos appears to have decided that they no longer wanted me on their forum. That is, perhaps, the last post ever I’ll have posted there.

What Does This Mean?

Honestly, I’m not at all sure. BioLogos is currently in the process of revising their Belief Statement and their official position Adam in light of Peaceful Science’s work, and I await to see what they become. These revisions will tell us a great deal about their priorities.

However, reading @deuteroKJ’s comments…

It is my observation that the Crossway TE authors wanted a conversation to start based on this book. I want to see how they will respond my question, because I am trying to engage. This question was published merely days ago, and we might get a good response.

However, BioLogos did not ask that question. If this is an important question, it does not appear to be a question they are not interested in asking. They saw my review beforehand, and even borrowed my language in “joining to oppose TE as defined in this book.” I think is this is the central question we need to be asking opponents of TE, if it is that we want to make progress. At this point, however, I do not think we can blame the Crossway authors for “overlooking” this question yet. Maybe they wont, but this month is the first time ever they have been asked.



I have plenty of criticism to direct at Discovery Institute and the ID movement. The Crossway TE book has important problems too. As I write…

Like most books on origins, Theistic Evolution is more a description of the views of those who write it than it is of those whom they critique. Read this book to understand how the ID movement imagines theistic evolution, but not to understand theistic evolution itself.

However, not everything is their fault. Evolutionary Creationists bear substantial responsibility for this mess too. Once again, I wrote this post with some trepidation. I hope it is received as factual account.

I have no animosity towards BioLogos, but I do think we need to find a better way.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #2

@pnelson I want to know who from the TE book is willing to dialogue with us on this question…

What version of theistic evolution could be theologically sound?

How can we enable some real conversation here? At Peaceful Science, we want to find that better way with them.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #3

They irony is that is exactly the position for which a Genealogical Adam is arguing.

This objection, as we have demonstrated, is strange. It “sounds” I’m arguing evolution? How does one even respond to that…


#4

Dr Swamidass, I would be very interested in a product of your conversation with Dr Grudem regarding a genealogical Adam whose offspring intermarried with humans outside of Eden (if I understand you correctly). He has a very conservative understanding of the Bible, from what I understand (though I have not read him much).

Bear with me; I’m still learning a lot and have not read much from this area yet. Thanks for your treatment.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #5

I also am curious what he would think. Let us see if he is willing. Likewise, JP Moreland would be an important person with whom to dialogue, as would @pnelson himself.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #6

7 posts were split to a new topic: Genealogical Adam at ETS 2019?


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #11

This is an extremely important omission in the original version.


(Jon Garvey) #12

Wayne Grudem did his PhD at Tyndale House in Cambridge, where there is good Christian fellowship between TEs, ID people and YECs. He ought not to be averse to convivial discussion (or could be reminded of his UK connections if he were!).

Derek Kidner, one of the influences on Tim Keller’s views on Adam and arguably paving the way for Genealogical Adam iun an evolutionary context, was warden there, maybe even at the time Grudem was there.


(Kenneth Turner) #13

Personally, Wayne is a kind and gracious man. But put him in a public/conference discussion, debate, or even Q&A, he gets pretty fiery :slight_smile: It’s at least fun to watch.


(Jon Garvey) #14

Why don’t we dress him and Josh up in sumo suits for the encounter?


#15

Thanks for that insight. I think that I would personally sheer away from my original suggestion for Wayne Grudem then. Someone conservative would be interesting to have review the geneaological Adam. It seems rather revolutionary to think that we inherit sin from only part of our ancestors, not the others. It bears studying from a theological standpoint, as I’m sure you have already reviewed much; so I’m learning a lot.

There is so much good material from @swamidass, @jongarvey, @Guy_Coe on the other pages that I wish I could research it better. I"m a family doc and have been tied up with messages/results. It’s fun to read at night, though.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #16

8 posts were split to a new topic: The Theological Signifance of Descent From Adam


(Jon Garvey) #17

I’ve posted a Hump piece Evolutionary Creation and theology of nature, which may be seen as complementary to Eddie Robinson’s last column there.

The theme is to distinguish “natural theology” (whether one can find God through nature), from “theology of nature” (how you understand God’s involvelment with nature), and to suggest that Evolutionary Creation has been remiss in working on an orthodox attempt at the latter, although it ought to be the core part of its project.