Garvey: BioLogos "Edits History" With Keller

@jongarvey comments on the big change at BioLogos here: Editing history | The Hump of the Camel. The good news is that BioLogos Edits Their Response to Keller.

The first thing to say is that belatedly making subtle changes to correct the core errors of the piece, and terming it “minor editing,” having refused to do so for nearly two years, is a little … disingenuous . Sadly, BioLogos seems to have a long history of affirming its orthodoxy without actually retracting its former problematic positions.

Then again, the only real point of the Haarsma piece appears to have been to tut-tut at Tim Keller’s affirmation of special creation in the face of the clear findings of science that “it couldn’t have happened.” But one of their new “minor edits” more or less demolishes that main argument by saying it is possible, but only given a theory like Genealogical Adam, involving interbreeding with an existing race, which for all we know Keller supports:

An early couple could have been created miraculously, but their descendants must have interbred with the surrounding population (e.g. here and here).

I pass over the fact that creation is not “miraculous”, but … well, creative. But if Adam and Eve’s creation is now admittedly possible, what exactly is the problem with Keller’s position? Haarsma appears to be simply agreeing with him.

Keep conversation respectful. BioLogos is doing the best it knows how, and it is a good thing that they made any change at all this. On balance, this is a positive step forward in the origins conversation, not an opportunity to stick it to them.

It also seems that @gbrooks9 has started a discussion thread at BioLogos on this very topic: An assessment of the Re-Assessment of Keller - Open Forum - The BioLogos Forum. It will be important and interesting to see how they respond.

Whether what Keller says is compatible with GA would seem to depend on what he means by “human” and whether he allows for humans outside the garden. Is there anything unambiguous from him on either of these?

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Yes. Private communication from Keller’s camp tells us they are enthusiastic about the direction we are going with the GAE.

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Do we know what he means by “human”, or just what Adam contributed to humanity?

I really just see most of this as scientists and theologians working on historical Adam being a bit sloppy with “human” and it caught up to them in a bad way in GAE. Keller, as a pastor/theologian, says a historical Adam is important to him, he doesn’t really care that much about the details (evolution, old-earth, etc.).

BioLogos, as an advocacy organization for the harmony of science and Christian faith, are using genetic bottlenecking to push for a different hermeneutical approach to Genesis that was decided before the science was “fully baked”. They built somewhat of a straw-man (traditional = sole-genetic progenitor) and thought it was a “got-ya”, and it turned out there was a decent sized hole, the Bible is talking about ancestry not genetics.

[Edited] P.S. I don’t think it’s a big deal, I certainly thought the same thing, but we just need to acknowledge we weren’t thinking deeply enough and move on. GAE isn’t proving anything one way or another, it’s just saying we can’t rule out a de novo Adam & Eve that quickly, oh and maybe we need to think a bit more about what it means to be human.


BioLogos affiliates are welcome to comment as they see fit (@pevaquark and @Kathryn_Applegate).

From the outside looking in, the interplay between theology and our modern views of genetics is a really interesting part of the discussion. What would the Apostles have thought of DNA being the way in which original sin is transmitted? How much of the theology today is skewed by modern cultural biases?


That’s an interesting question. I’m putting out a confession before what I’m about to speculate - I haven’t given this serious thought or study.

But… I would guess that the apostles and their cultural peers would scoff at the notion of a physical transmission of sin. It’s my impression the people of the time had much more acceptance of the supernatural as part of their version of reality. It was apparent that people of the time accepted the concept of physical infirmity being tied to sin of the individual (and even their forbears) without a direct physical cause-and-effect. I imagine they would still think of the “inheritance” of sin as a spiritual cause with physical effect.


Genetic transmission of original sin has its problems. In order to be transmitted to everyone it must be strongly selected and in order not to be lost or deactivated by evolution, ditto. Therefore original sin is advantageous, and a person born without it must be selected against. Weird concept.


No one serious is arguing for genetic transmission of original sin. Even AIG calls it a straw man of their position. Wayne Grudem, among the most respected YEC theologians, he scoffs at the idea.

The idea of original sin being advantageous selectively, though, makes a lot of sense.

Is that an example of God using evolution?

Hehe. It might be an example how the natural order of the world is corrupted by sin. I don’t think God intended to spread sin to everyone.

No? I thought his hands were tied after Adam and Eve committed that first sin. Because free will, or something.

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I’m arguing it was because of mercy.

Now you’ve really lost me.

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The important issue here is that Genealogical Adam scenarios do NOT require the principle of Original Sin … but G.A. does fit well with the theological or metaphysical requirements of Romans 5 as interpreted by Creationists.

A paragraph (or chapter) on how Original Sin could even be figured into Natural Selection would no doubt drive an entire wing of Creationists quite “mad”! It’s a wonderful idea to consider … in the dynamic “marketplace of ideas” that Creationism operates within!

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So how do people typically talk about it? Is “transmitted” even the word used?

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How can someone with 21 century morals, ethics, and values, even consider that a human baby is born with sin placed on them at conception by two of their ancient ancestors eating a piece of fruit from the tree of knowledge in a garden thousands of years ago?


I’m, clearly, not a theologian but my understanding of the doctrine of original sin is that it is not sin that is “placed on them” but that we are all born with a “sin nature”. Google defines original sin as:

the tendency to sin innate in all human beings, held to be inherited from Adam in consequence of the Fall.

It is the tendency, but not actual sin, I think. My experience watching little kids is that they don’t need to be taught to be selfish or to hurt each other, it comes quite naturally. It’s a lot harder to get them to “place nice”, and that is generally what has to be taught. I think it’s a bit like that


What does “sin nature” even mean?

This has been my experience also, kids by the age of four or five have an excellence sense of right and wrong. But what does this have to do with sin? What is described as sin is not considered to be sin in today’s moral secular society.

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