Tim Keller is not an Evolutionary Creationist

Jonathan, I’ve noticed a trend: you seem to be intent on winning the argument at all costs, often focusing on minor technical and semantic points in order to prove that you were technically right. As a result, I don’t feel that debate with you is very constructive or productive (as I hope engagements in PS should be), it just becomes quibbling over insignificant, legalistic points (such as “Christian” vs. “Christian groups”).

My point is that a sizable percentage of people in many Asian and Latin American countries do not accept evolution. This correlates well with what I’ve seen on the ground in my own experience. (As a scientist, I don’t take the difference between 40% disbelief in evolution vs. 20% disbelief in evolution very seriously - these surveys have infamously large error bars and change depending on the wording of the question. In the Wiki article you often have differing survey results for different countries.)

To take the South Korea example - the creationist movement there was strong enough that there was a textbook controversy over evolution, which sounds eerily similar to what often happens in the US.

In a 2009 survey conducted for the South Korean documentary The Era of God and Darwin , almost one-third of the respondents didn’t believe in evolution. Of those, 41% said that there was insufficient scientific evidence to support it; 39% said that it contradicted their religious beliefs; and 17% did not understand the theory. The numbers approach those in the United States, where a survey by the research firm Gallup has shown that around 40% of Americans do not believe that humans evolved from less advanced forms of life.

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I am not intent on winning the argument at all costs. I’ve been corrected a few times here. I’ve found arguments with you take longer because you repeatedly address things I haven’t actually said, like these.

  1. Epistemology is a matter of choice > I actually said it wasn’t a preference, not that it wasn’t a choice.
  2. theologians don’t know much about reality > I actually said I don’t look to most theologians in order to gain information about reality.
  3. all Christians! > I actually said “most Christian groups”.

I don’t consider these to be semantic quibbles.

Do you understand that this is not actually addressing my point, which was not about how many people outside the US accept evolution?

As a scientist you were happy throwing me an undifferentiated figure of “20-55%” for all of South America. That doesn’t look like someone paying attention to error bars.

Yeah there was one controversy. So what? It doesn’t address the point I was making about most Christian groups. Those people are a tiny fringe among Christian groups, even in Korea.

Sure, I admit that I was not using language precisely there. I apologize. But I meant exactly what you said: that epistemology is (to a considerable extent) a matter of preference, in the sense that there is no clear metric that one epistemology is better than another. Your problem is that you argue like a lawyer, preferring to nitpick at my choice of words instead of reading my words charitably and getting into the heart of the matter.

I don’t see any meaningful difference between those two statements other than a legalistic sense. If you don’t look to theologians as an authority about reality, then that implies you think theology doesn’t tell us much about reality.

And please don’t respond by saying that “I look to theology to gain information about reality but not theologians!” :sweat_smile: Rather than accusing me of misrepresenting you, perhaps you should explain your position clearer. I’ve interacted with many others here at PS and never had this problem.)

You completely misunderstood my point there. My point is that since some of these surveys for the same country give different results, we are not justified in taking the quoted error bars of each survey literally. Rather, it makes more sense to take a look at the rough spread of results, which gives a ~10-20% error bar.

EDIT: now that I have had more time to look at the Pew surveys, they seem more rigorous and trustworthy than some of the random surveys collected here which have the conflicting results I mentioned (such as in the case of Russia). So maybe we can indeed take the error bars more seriously for those ones.

So how do you quantify Christian groups? If the RCC accepts evolution, but SBC and LCMS don’t, does that count as 1 group accepting evolution and 2 who don’t? Without taking into account the actual number of people in the groups, does it even make sense as a metric?

The Nature article I linked literally compared the level of acceptance of evolution in US and South Korea as similar.

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I live in New Zealand so I don’t find that incredible at all. I only found out about them comparatively recently. But I see enough to understand that the term EC has connotations for Joshua that it doesn’t for you.

Watching the white guy arguing that origins is a white person issue to two asian scientists is…uncomfortable?

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A post was merged into an existing topic: Christians that Affirm the Science of Evolution (CASE)

No one here is arguing that origins is a white person issue. If you’re going to start making underhand insinuations of racism, how does that make you any different from Venema?

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Honestly, a bit of a joke. :smile: I should have put a smiley face. Sorry about that. I agree, you are not a racist, nor are you putting forward a racist idea.

That makes me different than Venema. He never did that.


Fair play, sorry I jumped at the bait.


You seem to be familiar with the general opinion in South Korea regarding evolution and creationism. Have you had personal experience with the church there? I’d be interested to know. Was the textbook controversy really a one-off event, rather than any general systematic trend?

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No I am not reading it like a lawyer. There is a difference between choice and preference, and previously I explained exactly what this difference is. I explained that the difference is between making a decision on an epistemology on the basis that it demonstrably reflects reality, and making a decision on an epistemology on the basis of arbitrary preference. This is not a legal quibble.

As you should know, I take issue wit h your claim that " there is no clear metric that one epistemology is better than another". You’re a physicist and you’re saying this? Seriously? You can’t tell if your conclusions about the age of the earth, for example, are any more valid than those of a YEC? I’ve already not only disagreed with this, I’ve described specific metrics which I believe allow us to tell if one epistemology is better than another.

No. I have no idea why you are so confused about this, given that I explained it previously and gave an example (to which you didn’t respond, and which you haven’t even cited here). It means I don’t consider most theologians to be authorities on reality. I don’t consider determining facts about reality to be the raison d’être of the theologian. The theologian mainly provides their opinions about God, and their opinions about what God has communicated.

Insofar as theologians are ever authorities about anything, they can be authorities about language, history, archaeology, textual criticism; areas of research which are qualifiable, quantifiable, and concerning which their conclusions are falsifiable and verifiable. Many theologians systematize this information, which illuminates our understanding of the text, and for me that is where their value lies.

As I explained previously, theologians have an absolutely shockingly bad record of making dogmatic statements on reality, when they had no clue what they were talking about. Augustine was complaining about this back in the fifth century. Look at the gibberish theologians have tried to foist on people over the centuries.

  1. The earth is merely thousands of years old.
  2. There were no rainbows before Noah’s flood.
  3. “Believe X or you will burn in hellfire”.
  4. Diseases and mental illnesses are caused by demonic possession, or oppression by Satan.
  5. The sun orbits the earth.
  6. Evolution is a lie.
  7. Lots of silliness opposing “higher criticism” and the modern historical-critical method.
  8. Absolutely toxic “deliverance ministries” and utterly commercial “prosperity gospel” theology.

I could go on for pages. Why would I take these people as authorities for reality? Do you? As I asked you previously, when you’re studying physics do you check physics papers or do you consult theological commentaries?

One key difference between us seems to be that you have a pre-suppositional theology, whereas I think pre-suppositional theology is intellectually dishonest, and completely dislocated from reality. I take an evidential approach to theology, rather than “This old guy said so”, and lots of handwaving.

The way professional studies do. This isn’t rocket science.

Yes I have had personal experience with the church there. I have quite a few Christian friends in Korea, and I’ve visited several times over the last 15 years. The worst part of Korean Christianity is the evangelical infection, which has combined with the most materialistic aspects of Korean culture to produce the mega-churches which are so adored in the US. They have a high turnover rate (with people being regularly pumped and dumped), they teach a toxic brand of Christianity, they are ridden with scandal, and they bring the name of Christ into disrepute.

Having said that, the textbook case in Korea was a flash in the pan. The creationist demands were rejected later that year. Most Koreans accept evolution, and most Korean Christians accept evolution (almost 60%).


Well I would never accuse them of being consistent.



It is my recent awareness that for years, BioLogos ignored any enthusiasm for both “God-Guided Evolution”, as well as any form of historical Adam/Eve, as part of the campaign to break the back of the Evangelical movement:

A) The Bible should be read more figuratively; and
B) God didn’t fool around with designing life forms… He let nature do it.

But as soon as I heard the explanation behind the Genealogical Adam Scenarios… I knew it was the new “middle ground” … and that curious Evangelicals were far more likely to stop at a GAE table to pick up a brochure first … before stopping at a BioLogos table… because why would they prefer an adamant “Figurative Interpretations here or hit the Road” - - compared to an evolutionary group that talked about God having a role in the creation of life forms … and the miraculous creation of 2 humans???

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I honestly don’t understand what you mean when you bring words like “demonstrably reflect reality” into a debate about which epistemology we should use to study what reality is. This is putting the cart before the horse. Previously, I asked you to define terms like this (i.e. what do you think “facts” are), but you then accused me of playing word games, which is not a dialogic response at all. If we want to continue in this discussion, then you have to explain to me what you mean by a “demonstration”, and why your definition of a demonstration is one which everyone has to accept.

There are certain metrics we can use, but they’re not completely model independent. I believe in an old Earth and all the mainstream conclusions of physics, but that’s because I accept the starting presuppositions of empirical science: for example, that natural laws and order exist in the world, and that they have always existed in this way (such that we can make inferences about the past). I cannot demonstrate this scientifically nor logically, as Hume famously pointed several hundred years ago. Still, I accepted these presuppositions because they seem intuitively reasonable, but also because there are no other more important intuitive presuppositions that conflict with them.

In other words, I craft the basic beliefs of my personal epistemology based on a combination of personal intuition and internal consistency. In principle, there is nothing to prevent me from rejecting the belief that other minds exist, for example. You cannot say that such a position is at odds with “reality”, because that would assume that these minds actually exist in reality. That would be a form of begging the question.

Why does a YEC have to accept your metrics? Because these metrics are “part of reality”? How do you know what is reality?

Again, if God is part of reality, then the theologian does deal with facts about God. The theologian might not be an authority on science (that would be best left to scientists), but the theologian is an authority on things relating to God, such as his nature and revelation. There is no justification to put this arbitrary differentiation between natural science and theology.

If theologians have authoritative knowledge about language, history, etc., what prohibits them from logically reasoning from this knowledge to conclusions about God and His actions in the world? Why would such conclusions constitute mere “opinion”? Are you saying that theologians are incapable of using logic?

Also I would say many theological conclusions are “falsifiable”, at least no less than conclusions in history or other non-scientific fields are. For example, a theologian argues for the Trinity by interpreting the biblical “data”. If someone finds verses in the Bible which could be interpreted otherwise, that could potentially falsify that conclusion.

The existence of bad or dogmatic theologians doesn’t destroy the overall legitimacy of theology as an academic enterprise, anymore than the existence of bad scientists and bad science damages the legitimacy of science. Scientists regularly change and update their views when new evidence comes in. There are also scientists who are dogmatic and refuse to change their beliefs even in the light of new evidence. Why can’t the sometimes dogmatic, sometimes evolving views of theologians be considered in a similar light?

Secondly, even if there is change, there is a lot of evidence that there are certain things regarded as consensus among theologians. For example, most Christian theologians who accept the Bible as authoritative, divine revelation agree that God is a Trinity. This has been true for at least 1700 years. So there is a combination of accumulation of knowledge as well as updating of beliefs which turn out to be untenable (e.g. young earth).

No, but this is a completely irrelevant and baffling question. When I study physics I consult physicists. When I study God I consult theologians. In both cases, I’m trying to study reality.

Thanks for sharing your experience.


You tempted me to zoom in on the most liberal quadrant… and I was surprised by what was there!
It never occurred to me that the United Church of Christ could take more liberal stances than the Presbyterians! And even more pro-Evolution than the Congregationals? Absolutely amazing.

But the Hindu edge them out on Evolution… interesting!

Typo: Per @mercer 's correction, I have added UNITED to the label referencing the surprisingly liberal “United Church of Christ”!

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It is tribalism and it interferes with understanding.

As Jordan noted most people you’re trying to reach have never heard of BioLogos.

Do you think they will better engage with your message when you lead with a obsession for BioLogos and putting people in labeled camps?

I think that reconciliation between tribes is less important than your message.

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It’s the UNITED Church of Christ and it’s far more liberal, in general, than Presbyterians.

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I had to explain to my 5 students and postdocs moving to the US that when an American uses the term “Asian,” it rarely includes Indians.

Clearly, Daniel has adopted the typical American ignorance of basic geography…:smiley:

I think people (of any camp) actually tend to respond positively to Josh’s message of “Jesus, not evolution or creationism”.

No, I actually meant Asian in general - Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, and so on.

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@Mercer ( my gift to you today, @swamidass ):

How exactly does having a clear understanding of what “unites with BioLogos” vs. what “divides from BioLogos” could possibly interfere with your understanding?

Your understanding of what?

Very frequently, we get Creationist questions about what exactly makes us different from BioLogos. And the implication is pretty clear: if we are just like BioLogos, they have no further need to discuss anything.

Half a year ago, whenever I discussed any possibility of BioLogos adjusting their mission statement to accommodate a “Genealogical Adam” scenario … I got a whole freight-load of reasons why BioLogos wasn’t interested in that.

To me … it sounds like the first cannon shot in the war of “Evolutionist Tribalism” was fired by BioLogos.

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