Comments on Jay Johnson and the Bass Strait

Continuing the discussion from Realism in Science and Scripture.

Jay Johnson (@Jay313) has replied to me privately with the following response to my review:

Hi Daniel. I would’ve replied on the forum, but it seems I don’t have the ability to post. Feel free to post this there on my behalf. Or not. Up to you.

You’re aware, I hope, that Joshua is a TE. As I noted over on the BL forum:

You obviously haven’t read/listened to my first two posts at Becoming Adam. In the third installment of Adam’s Evolutionary Journey, I will offer evidence for my view. Some will even accuse me of being a concordist. Keep an eye out!

This doesn’t follow. God is the God of truth, and we are his servants. Therefore, we are servants of the truth, no matter the source. We should interpret Genesis in a way that accords with reality, not flies in the face of it.

The question of the burden of proof has to do with science, not the interpretation of Genesis. The “evidence” for crossing the Bass Strait is Scripture itself? Huh? Swamidass claims to be putting his hypothesis to the evidence. He has no evidence, so he attempts to shift the burden of proof to the skeptic. There’s a word for that. I’ll let you look it up. In any case, Dr. O’Connell and Dr. Bowdler both said the same thing. The null hypothesis applies.

You realize, of course, that this is the YEC argument about the age of the earth. The slippery slope isn’t really that slippery. I take a “non-realist” view of those passages in Scripture that obviously should be interpreted non-literally. It’s really not that difficult to tell the difference. In literary analysis, it’s called “genre.”

What sort of lame insult is that, calling TEs Christianity into question? Pitiful.

Good Lord, you can’t be serious. Was the crossing from Siberia into North America likewise a miracle? Or the isthmus into South America? What other ordinary event from history must be turned into a miracle to satisfy GAE?

I fail to see the difference between your moderate view and YEC or Flat Earth.

You tried valiantly, but Torley had the only cogent attempt to my language challenge, and even he didn’t quite get there. You failed to address the more difficult question, though: How were Adam and Eve socialized? Good luck.

You have seriously confused Genealogical Adam and Eve with Scripture. Where, exactly, does Scripture give evidence that people crossed the Bass Strait? That’s just silly.

So the new rallying cry of GAE is: “We’re not as unscientific as YEC and OEC. Come join us!”

Yes, and that a sign of a big problem. GAE can be put anywhere one wishes. William Lane Craig and Ann Gauger want 500 kya? No problem. YEC wants 4000 B.C.? No problem. Hey, Methodists, we have 10,000 B.C. on sale, if you’d like a historical Adam at that date. And if it no longer matters whether everyone is related to Adam by A.D. 1, you can even place him at Rohde’s original estimate of 1500 B.C. Why not? What’s stopping you?

There you go. Wasn’t that easy?

@Jay313

FYI:
Joshua has arrived at a new position; he rejects that limits of the T.E. label. He prefers something like this: Christian who accepts Evolutionary Science. But he uses a specific acronym … and for the life of me I cannot remember what the letters are…

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@Jay313:

Different audiences may adopt more problematic scenarios than others. Joshua, himself, doesn’t assert any unscientific fact.

If you consider the making of 2 humans de novo to be overturning science, then you must also consider Jesus’ virgin birth, or his resurrection, is overturning science. And there are millions of Christians - - some who practice very good science - - who would reject that kind of anti-Trinitarian analysis!

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The following is my response to @Jay313:

First, I think Josh has been very clear that he no longer identifies as a TE, regardless of his past statements and association. That’s the context in which I wrote that post. Secondly, thanks for the heads-up for your upcoming blog posts - I look forward to it!

Sure, the interpretation of Scripture must accord with “reality”. But the question is, how do we find out what reality is? Of course, science is a powerful tool for investigating reality. But does Scripture speak to reality at all? If it does, how does it? Does it only talk about spiritual truths (sort of like Gould’s NOMA)? That’s my question here. My main point is that it will not do to simply talk about reality without being open about how one investigates it.

If we think that Scripture speaks about reality, and we accept it to be the Word of God, then shouldn’t we believe what Scripture says? I don’t mean that there is direct evidence that people crossed the Bass Strait. My point is subtler: if one thinks that Scripture teaches a 6,000 kya Adam and one also realizes the immense evidence for evolutionary science (such that YEC and OEC are ruled out), then perhaps GAE is their only option. For their worldview to remain consistent, they would have to posit that somehow, people did cross the Bass Strait at least once or twice. Thus, this would mean that for them, Scripture and science taken together becomes “evidence” for the hypothesis that people crossed the Bass Strait.

That is what I meant by the statement that “there is no other evidence than Scripture for it”. Sorry if this was confusing. Of course, here I don’t mean empirical scientific evidence. Perhaps the word “argument” would have been a better choice of term.

I understand that we have to take into account genre when interpreting Scripture. For me personally, I definitely see mythic elements in the Genesis narrative. But does that mean that its historicity doesn’t matter at all? This is far from a open and shut matter, at least not in the evangelical Christian world, which is the context that I’m writing in. In the case of Adam, his historicity ties into with several things stated in the NT, so one cannot simply dismiss the need for a historical Adam by simply invoking genre.

Jay, I sincerely apologize for any offense that this remark caused. I did not mean to say that you denied the Resurrection, or that anyone in Biologos does. What I mean is that there are certainly some more mainline or liberal Christians who accept evolutionary science and regard Genesis as mostly literary myth, but also apply this anti-supernatural hermeneutic to the Gospels and emphasize more on the spiritual aspect of the Resurrection instead of its bodily aspect. TE is a very big tent. That is what I meant. Again, I did not mean to accuse you of not being a Christian.

Well, yes, in a way. But realize that for some Christians, being “scientific” is not on the top list of their priorities. This is why many people would gladly throw out science in favor of what they think Scripture teaches. So even if you meant this as a dig, the unfortunate reality is that people will wear it like a badge of honor.

It’s not a sign of a problem, Jay. This is what theoretical particle physicists do all the time: tune their model parameters until they don’t conflict with the latest experimental results. Now I’m NOT saying that the GAE is a scientific theory - it’s not. It’s a theological theory that intersects with some science. But the mere fact that we don’t know for sure yet when Adam lived doesn’t count against the model. Careful deliberation and comprehensive evaluation of the evidence is more important than instant certainty. And yes, people with different scriptural, confessional, and denominational commitments might arrive at different conclusions. That’s not necessarily bad. If the end result is greater harmony between science and theology in general, I think it’s a good thing.

You should realize that my goal in this discussion is not only to push my private, preferred model of Adam, but to try to dialogue with those who have very different views than mine, even including YECs and OECs. Think of this as similar to interfaith dialogue. I’m not interested in hanging out with fellow TEs and ridiculing all those YECs and OECs as scientific ignoramuses who desperately cling on to a historical Adam.

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@dga471 writes:
“… realize that for some Christians, being “scientific” is not on the top list of their priorities. This is why many people would gladly throw out science in favor of what they think Scripture teaches. So even if you meant this as a dig, the unfortunate reality is that people will wear it like a badge of honor.”

@Jay313 thinks that the GAE is intellectually dishonest.

But this is the trademark of those who insist that the Bible be read a certain way … and ONLY a certain way.

But there is an intellectual problem in our way: some people think that if there is Evolution, there can be no miracles.

Example: Some people think if there is Evolution, then God would never use it.
Example: Some people think if there is Evolution, then God would never create a human miraculously.

So why stop there, how about this:

If there is Evolution, then Jesus could not have been resurrected.
If there is Evolution, then Jesus cannot be part of the Trinity.

If one is a Trinitarian, and an Evolutionist, I think it is pretty clear that someone has to step into the breach and explain how the Trinity - - and Evolution - - are not mutually exclusive! And that is being intellectually honest !!!

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@Jay313 feel free to post in this thread. No need to hide.

For the record, I explained when I left BioLogos in 2017 that I am not TE and I am not EC. The quote you gave is accurate, but from 2016. Since 2017, I’ve been very clear that I speak from outside EC, TE, and the BioLogos community.

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I have posted my own response to Jay’s comments on this thread at BioLogos; in this case, I replied to Dennis Venema directly:

It is shocking to see @Jay313 so dismissively responding on the BL forum to one BioLogos’s benefactors (Becoming Adam: GAE book review - Open Forum - The BioLogos Forum). Awkward!

Jay313 wrote:
“Pretty soon, every denomination can have a historical Adam of their choice. Southern Baptists prefer 6000 years ago. Here’s your Adam. Methodists prefer sometime around the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Here’s your Adam. Episcopalians and PC-USA prefer 40,000. Here’s yoooouuuur Adam. Genealogical Adam can go anywhere and be anything.”

@swamidass

Ever since I jumped to GAE, my conversations with Jay have become fairly high-strung! What I find ironic is that his own version of human origins was a fairly thick slab of concordist narrative! He wanted to swallow up all of the early chapters of Genesis!

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That might be a big part of @Jay313 difficulty. The GAE is fundamentally non-concordist, but he approaches this (like Denis Venema) from a positivist/concordist point of view.

I want to clarify to observers three things.

  1. I am not allowed to post on the BioLogos forum where @Jay313 and Dennis Venema are discussing my work.
  2. @Jay313 is allowed to post here.
  3. Dennis Venema is allowed to post here.

@Chris_Falter and @pevaquark, why do you think they won’t engage in a dialogue with the author?

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People are free to change their minds at any time.

Anti-Trinitarian analysis? I don’t understand how your mind works, George.

I’ll quote my first post on Becoming Adam:

I will roughly follow Brown’s advice to attempt to locate the “fall” within the flow of history. The goal of this quest is not to allow science to dictate the interpretation of the Bible, nor is it to naively overlay the ancient text onto contemporary science. Such attempts have been termed “concordism,” which in its worst manifestations either extracts science from the Bible (the earth must be young) or injects science into the Bible (Genesis 1 teaches the Big Bang). Seeking to avoid those mistakes, many took shelter in Stephen Jay Gould’s “Nonoverlapping Magisteria,” which erected a wall between science and Scripture. Science, Gould reasoned, speaks to facts about nature, while religion addresses the human need for meaning and provides a moral basis for our actions. As separate disciplines, they answer different questions, so their work is entirely unrelated. In principle, Gould’s idea rings true, but it’s not without limitations. Certainly, the Bible wasn’t written to teach facts about the physical universe, just as facts alone can’t solve the problems of social or individual existence. Yet, in life as actual people live it, science and religion are in constant dialogue. Moral reasoning places limits on certain scientific experiments, such gene editing and human cloning, while science places limits on certain religious beliefs, such as human origins, the age of our planet, and its place in the solar system. Some form of concordism is inevitable for the Christian. Knowledge is not so easily compartmentalized. Human beings “crave generality,” as philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein put it. We cannot help but seek a unified understanding of our existence, however imperfect the resulting worldview might be. Gould’s barrier between science and religion resembles a “semipermeable membrane” more than a solid wall.

If we say that science and Scripture both speak truth, however, a second crucial fact intrudes: They speak different languages , and each requires interpretation. Facts and data don’t stand alone. They must be understood within a hypothesis that itself fits within a more general theory, and this information is related to knowledge produced by other scientific disciplines. Likewise, biblical texts don’t stand alone. They must be interpreted as an example of a genre that fits within a larger corpus of literature, which is itself the product of an even larger cultural milieu. But once the scientist and biblical scholar have completed their tasks, they can’t ignore one another’s results.

You can read the rest here: http://becomingadam.com/index.php/adams-evolutionary-journey-pt-1-science-and-scripture-in-conversation/

I value truth over consistency. It’s not that difficult to realize that a 6000-yr-old Adam isn’t the only option for faithful Christians.

I take the Bible as seriously as you do, brother, and I’m not simply invoking genre. It is part of every standard course in biblical hermeneutics.

No problem. I didn’t take it as a personal insult. Merely pointing out the casual nature with which folks brush off EC as if they weren’t quite Christian. I observe it all the time in this forum and elsewhere.

Neither is it on mine. Being truthful, however, ranks pretty high up there for me, as it should for most Christians. Truth-tellers don’t seem that popular in evangelical circles these days, though. (Said as a member of the tribe who is barely hanging onto that word-label for now.)

Neither am I. I have all the sympathy in the world for the sheep, but I have no sympathy for the wolves in sheep’s clothing who prey upon the sheep by selling lies in exchange for the almighty dollar. Guess what? David’s loading up his sling and coming for you …

Hang in there, Daniel. You’re a good guy.

No. I would never call my friend Jon Garvey intellectually dishonest. He truly believes what he says. I think it’s intellectually dishonest to fight for a position you don’t even believe yourself. Is it compassion or condescension that drives a person to do that? Hmmmm.

Was that because your spiritual or intellectual commitments changed? Nevermind. Don’t answer that.

I don’t work for BioLogos, and I don’t have any idea who gives them money. In fact, I’ve never even met anyone who works there, although I correspond with several and consider them friends. I live in the barrio and don’t have a travel budget. How’re things with you?

I stopped talking about GAE for a year and a half just to stay away from nuttiness like this.

Well, I said I value the truth, so since you ask … Here’s the link:
https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/gae-and-biologos/7840/2

Look @Chris_Falter, it is a fact that I have been permanently banned for discussing it there. See for yourself. This was the last two posts I was able to make there: A Flawed Mirror: A Response to the Book “Theistic Evolution” - Blog Posts - The BioLogos Forum .
I do not believe banning me for these posts is consistent with gracious dialogue. Do you?

This is a lie, and you have been told so repeatedly. When will you stop lying about BioLogos? I don’t work for them, remember? The only reason I haven’t called you out is because I was asked. I’ve respected that request so far, but we can go there if you want to continue to play the martyr.

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@Jay313 these are bold and aggressive claims. I actually liked your “review.” You are a polemicist and that comes through loud and clear. You are aggressive, so this conversation touches on things you really care about. I wish you the best in making your case.

For now, you will be temporarily silenced. Your approach is not conducive to meaningful conversation. When you would like to reengage in a respectful way, please let us know.


You made strong claims about my truthfulness. One in particular deserves a response.

My statement was not a lie. There is evidence that it is not a lie (BioLogos and the Crossway TE Book). I’m sorry you’ve been told untruths about this situation. I hope you find your peace.

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So, this bears mention @gbrooks9 , @Jay313 says this at BL:

Your boy deleted my thread. Go ahead and try to defend that. You realize there is such a thing as the wayback machine, right?
Becoming Adam: GAE book review - Open Forum - The BioLogos Forum

No thread was deleted. That just is not true.

More concerning is @Jay313’s racist slur “your boy.” Let me be entirely clear. I am not a boy. I am not owned by anyone.

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This statement needs to be preserved for posterity.

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@Jonathan_Burke

The text has been preserved in my response to him… and even before I could respond, Jay published an apology.

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… definitely NOT cool.

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Apparently, @Jay313 want’s this thread more visible. I thought I was doing him a favor by making his behavior less obvious. So be it.

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