BioLogos Edits Their Response to Keller

Adam
Theology
Science

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

BioLogos corrected their response to Tim Keller. This is far too late, about 17 months after it was published. Nonetheless, this is an important and major milestone. Their actions acknowledge they made a real and consequential mistake. @jongarvey covers this on his blog too: Editing history | The Hump of the Camel.

This milestone brings back difficult memories for me. When this article was first published, I notice its problems immediately. Several attempts to resolve this privately were dismissed. On October 1st of 2017, I published a blog making public my understanding of the situation (http://peacefulscience.org/defense-tim-keller/). It was a very difficult decision to go public. It was costly. A prolonged conversation with BioLogos was fruitless. In the end, I had to leave. I could not, in good conscience, remain with them while they were unwilling to correct the record. As the whistleblower, I was no longer welcome any ways.

Fast forward to now. These edits confirm, 17 months later, that BioLogos agrees they made a mistake, and they want to fix it. I’m glad this has finally happened. I hope this will be a starting point for fruitful dialogue. A few key points that these edits indicate:

  1. They agree Haarsma misrepresented Keller. He did not say that sole-progenitorship was an “essential.” He, instead, only insisted upon the special creation of Adam and Eve (Keller on Adam and Eve).

  2. They agree that Haarsma overstated the scientific evidence against Keller. Encouragingly, they link to my March 2018 article in PSCF.

  3. Oddly, they do not link to my defense of Tim Keller, the blog post where this first became public. Instead, they link an article they’ve long ignored by David Optderbeck, which has nothing to do with the de novo creation of Adam. I will not speculate on their motives for leaving this reference out, but I will point readers to the timeline of this exchange (Timeline on Science of Adam).

  4. No explanation is given to readers, except the assurance that a “minor edit” was made in February of 2019. The reasons for these edits are unstated.

  5. It seems they recently disallowed archive copies of the page, so the original version is no longer accessible. I have the original version of this article. It is include it below, with edits clearly marked.

This is a good move for BioLogos, but it also exposes a major gap between our values. I understand that BioLogos is not a scientific organization. They are a theological advocacy group, promoting an approach to origins with which only some Christians are comfortable. I understand also that they do not see value in Keller’s confession of the de novo creation of Adam. Nonetheless, these edits are a major step forward for many of us outside their tent. Calling this a “minor” edit signals an ongoing gap in values between BioLogos and Peaceful Science, The Gospel Coalition, Tim Keller, and many others. We need a better way forward.

On balance, I am grateful for these revisions. It is a good that BioLogos made these edits. Hopefully this signals more good moves to come. Perhaps soon we will see changes to their belief statement, and their official position on Adam and Eve. Those changes have been pending now for almost two years. Maybe one day they will even celebrate and encourage my effort here too.

For the record, I still seek dialogue and reconciliation with them. At Peaceful Science, we seek to give a truthful account of mainstream science. We welcome all sides of the origins conversation, including the theological voice of Evolutionary Creation advocated by BioLogos. They are one theological voice among many, but they are an important voice. They deserve a seat at the table. They will always be welcome here, even though I personally cannot not endorse their agenda.

I wish BioLogos well at this juncture. Perhaps I should even thank them for their hesitance. If they had responded to my concerns early on and reasonably, Peaceful Science would never have launched.

Now, Peaceful Science is becoming about more than merely origins. We are engaging a grand question together, a question that extends beyond origins: What does it mean to be human?

Haarsma’s Article with Revisions Marked

Deletions appear like this. Insertions appear like this.

A recent video produced by The Gospel Coalition features pastor and author Tim Keller, along with Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore and theologian Ligon Duncan, discussing the doctrine of creation in light of modern science. The video makes several important points that we affirm at BioLogos, but also raises some concerns.

The video begins with an exhortation from Tim Keller on the importance of viewing creation through the lens of God’s transcendent, loving, and purposeful nature. At BioLogos, we completely agree. He highlights how these core theological teachings are important entry points into conversations with non-Christians, as a counter-narrative to viewing nature as accidental, chaotic, and ultimately meaningless. We can tell our neighbors, “You were made for a purpose.” Keller recommends talking with non-Christians about God’s role in creation and his redemptive purposes in Jesus Christ, rather than dwelling on issues of origins, where there are multiple orthodox Christian positions (on some points it’s OK to say “I don’t know”). The video affirms the process of doing science and notes that the strong philosophical foundation for science within the Christian worldview is an important counter-argument for concerns about anti-intellectualism in Christianity.

The video goes on to name three essentials of the doctrine of creation, areas on which Christians can agree across multiple views of origins. We are pleased to see these leaders framing the question this way, drawing focus to the essentials and to points of unity while allowing discussion in the church about secondary differences. Of course, the rub comes in deciding what is essential. On two of the three points they name, we agree completely. First, at BioLogos we uphold the distinction between the Creator and the creation. This is essential for affirming the power of God as the ultimate cause, the loving and personal nature of God the Creator, and the complete reliance of the created order on God. Second, we uphold the goodness of creation, clearly taught in Genesis 1 and elsewhere in Scripture. God’s creation is good in that it fulfills the purpose for which he intended it, in its beauty and starkness, its order and wildness, and its purpose and flourishing.

The third essential belief proposed in this video is the supernatural, “de novo”special creation of Adam and Eve as the first humans and sole progenitors of the entire human race, with no animal ancestors. Keller, along with the other participants, believes this to be not only the clear message of Genesis but an essential part of the overall biblical message.

At BioLogos, our views on human origins are centered on essential biblical teachings about human identity and origins. We join all Christians in affirming that humans are made in the image of God, that humans have an elevated place in the created order, and that humans have a unique relationship with God. To this extent we are sure the leaders on this video would agree. However, we disagree that is it essential to believe God used a miracle to create a first pair; we instead argue that God used the natural mechanisms of evolution to create the first group of humans Homo sapiens .

As Tim Keller notes in the video, his scientist friends have explained to him the scientific consensus that the human race Homo sapiens did not originate from only two individuals. BioLogos has endeavored to explain the many lines of evidence in God’s creation that point to this. There is strong evidence for human evolution, particularly from the field of genetics, that has convinced almost every professional biologist, both Christian and secular. The genetic evidence also shows convincingly that the human Homo sapiens population was never as small as a single couple. An early couple could have been created miraculously, but their descendants must have interbred with the surrounding population (e.g. here and here). The level of scientific confidence on these points is extremely high, and continues to grow. As Christians, we can’t ignore the testimony in God’s creation.

BioLogos encourages all Christians to consider this evidence alongside the testimony of Scripture. There are several faithful ways to understand the biblical account of Adam and Eve alongside the scientific evidence, including as two historical individuals at the headwaters of humanity. In fact, Keller himself highlights one of these positions in his 2011 BioLogos essay, a view proposed by biblical scholar Derek Kidner. Keller also acknowledges that C.S. Lewis believed Adam and Eve could be understood as part of an evolutionary account of human origins. Other major evangelical figures have also suggested ways to integrate evolutionary science with the biblical message on human origins, including John Stott and Billy Graham. Drawing a line that requires Christians to affirm a miraculous creation of Adam and Eve carries a significant risk of driving away those who might otherwise be drawn to the faith. We appeal to the Gospel Coalition to not frame the essentials of creation around the method God used to create humans, but around God’s purpose and intent for humans. God made us to know him, love him, and to bear his image in this world.

Our final concern is about several statements in the video tying racial equality and reconciliation to belief in special creatincreation of Adam and Eve. These statements claim that an evolutionary understanding of human origins is at odds with the equality of all people taught in Scripture. But the genomic evidence actually points toward equality! Genetics provides compelling support for the idea that every person on Earth is related, as part of a worldwide family.[1] There is no difference between the “evolutionary creation” and “special creation” positions on the unity of humanity. We stand united with Keller and The Gospel Coalition in condemning the evil of racism and advocating for racial reconciliation in both Church and culture.

A primary goal at BioLogos is to demonstrate that evolutionary creation is a faithful option for orthodox, Bible-believing Christians. Tim Keller, though he disagrees with aspects of our position, has been an ally and friend in promoting a healthy conversation. He and Francis Collins have been good friends for many years, and heartily affirm each other’s Christian faith. We encourage the Gospel Coalition to continue proclaiming the theological and biblical essentials of creation, but to place evolutionary science as a point on which Christians can disagree. Christians can sincerely disagree about human evolution and yet sincerely affirm each other’s orthodox faith. The questions surrounding Scripture, evolutionary science, and human origins are important and challenging. We need more spaces for Christians of different perspectives to work through these issues in the spirit of Christian unity and charity.

If you are unfamiliar with the BioLogos view, I encourage you browse the resources on the sidebar (or below on mobile).

Minor edits made and links updated in February 2019.


Garvey: BioLogos "Edits History" With Keller
Introducing Troendle
(S. Joshua Swamidass) pinned globally #2

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #3

Commentary on Revisions

A couple notes for the perplexed:

Keller never said that sole progenitorship was an “essential of creation” (see Keller on Adam and Eve). This was a straw-man of what The Gospel Coalition was saying in the video, perhaps unintentionally. I objected to this misrepresentation publicly and privately. It is good to see it fixed.

This was the main clarification to the article that does a great deal of good for the larger conversation. To BioLogos: thank you.

Reference 1 to Optderbeck is inappropriate. He does not discuss nor does he endorse the de novo creation of Adam. Reference 2 to the 2018 PSCF article is appropriate. A reference to my blog post defending Keller is missing.

I won’t quibble much with them here, but this is a hard claim to defend as written. It relies upon the ecological fallacy. We know that Homo sapiens interbred with others. For this reason, we do not know if they arise as a single couple or not. This edit, nonetheless, immensely better than the original version.

There were several places throughout the document, where they changed “human” to Homo sapiens. This is exactly the right thing to do. Science does not tell us what “human” is in theology. It does, however, tell us about Homo sapiens. This was the right move to make, as this is what they meant at the time when they wrote “human.”

Minor edits? This does reveal a gap in values. These are not minor edits for many people outside the BioLogos camp. These edits signal a major milestone in the conversation between science and theology.

May BioLogos broaden their narrow tent.

Peace.


(Ann Gauger) #4

@swamidass

I am glad they are acknowledging the changing scene.


(Retired Professor & Minister.) #7

@swamidass, you have provided an extremely valuable service in compiling this information and in writing important explanatory commentary. Thank you for the considerable thought and energy which you have invested in this topic, now and in the past.

This thread is another instance of Peaceful Science at its best. It is difficult to overestimate the value of this kind of news reporting and commentary in pursuing a better way towards forthright and constructive dialogue.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) closed #9