Christians Ask, “Why BioLogos?”

Christians Ask, “Why BioLogos?”

Dr. Francis Collins, the current director of the NIH (as of 2016), started BioLogos in 2007 to help Christian communities understand evolution in the context of their beliefs. Their one sentence mission statement: “BioLogos invites the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.

I will be serving as a BioLogos speaker for the next 2 years, helping religious communities understand the science behind evolution. The summer of 2016, with Templeton Foundation funding, BioLogos is launching a speakers bureau to help educate religious communities about evolution. A highly qualified group of 20 speakers was chosen in a selective and competitive process. This group includes highly distinguished theologians, historians, philosophers, and scientists.

BioLogos is a controversial organization among many Christians, and I wanted to explain this decision. (Questions from scientists are answered elsewhere.)

My message echos the evangelist,

I don’t think that there’s any conflict at all between science today and the Scriptures…The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course I accept the Creation story. I believe that God did create the universe. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man…whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man’s relationship to God.Rev. Billy Graham

And continuing, “God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.'” But, “if Jesus had not risen from the dead, no right-minded person would have glorified anything so hideous and repulsive as a cross stained with the blood of Jesus.”

This, the Gospel of Jesus, is the foundational core of the Christian faith, not anti-evolutionism. This is my message.

Questions from Christians

1 How do I invite you to come speak to my community about evolutionary creation?

I am looking forward to explaining how a scientist at a leading university has found a confident faith, whether or not evolution is true or false. I can provide references and it is easy to find video of my online as well. To request me at your event, please fill out this form.

2Are you really a Christian? What type of Christian are you? Why are you a Christian?

I am an evangelical Christian that affirms the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Lausanne Covenant.  I believe in a historical Adam, the physical Resurrection, and that the Bible is inerrant and infallible in all that it affirms. I attend a local Evangelical Covenant Church, where I preach frequently, and have worked for years with the Veritas Forums and Intervarsity. I explain more my beliefs elsewhere for those that want more explanation,

Whether evolution is true or not, I am a Christian because I believe God made Himself known to the world by raising Jesus from the dead.1 I am a Christian because Jesus rose from the dead. This act of God is the core of the Christian faith, and Jesus is more compelling than anything I find in science: certainly more compelling than any scientific argument for creation, or against evolution. Nothing in science compares with Him.

3Why are you, as a Christian, promoting evolution? Why are you associating with BioLogos in particular? 

I am not promoting evolution; rather, I seek to explain the science and theology of evolutionary creation to anyone wants to understand. This is an important distinction. Not all Christians, for theological reasons, are prepared to accept evolution. This is dignified, and I respect it. Nonetheless, evolution is the narrative of our scientific world. It only makes sense to understand it well.  My goal is to explain to the curious, not to convince the argumentative.

I am working with BioLogos because (1) they are widely respected among scientists, (2) we share the goal of explaining evolutionary creation, and (3) I affirm their belief statement.2

First, unlike nearly3 every other Christian group in science, BioLogos is widely respected among scientists. In fact, most scientists have even read Francis Collin’s book, where he explains why he is a Christian. Their  good reputation in science enables me to publicly work with them without fear of reprisal.

Second, just like me, BioLogos endeavors to explain evolutionary creation, but is not focused on convincing Christians to become evolutionists. This is an important distinction for me, and I only agreed to join the bureau after ensuring that BioLogos and my goals really are compatible. At times in the past, BioLogos may have pursued more controversial strategies, but I endorse the goals of their current leadership under Deborah Haarsma enthusiastically.

Third, I can personally affirm the BioLogos belief statement, even though I disagree with members of BioLogos on some points. I even differ sharply with the founder of BioLogos on important points.4 BioLogos is structured as a loose affiliation between all types of theistic evolutionists, and disagreements among us are expected and acceptable. Consequently, their belief statement is focused, I can affirm it, and they are willing to work with me.

4 Do you agree with BioLogos about everything? Is there anything you specifically disagree with them about?

BioLogos includes a large and diverse group of people. While the organization itself has a fairly limited belief statement, it is not surprising that individuals associated with BioLogos will encounter real disagreements. In these disagreements, BioLogos itself does not usually hold a specific position. I see no significant disagreement with the BioLogos itself, because its limited statement.

However, I do find important disagreements with some associated with BioLogos. Therefore, I do not endorse everything those associated with BioLogos have said, done or believed.5 In particular, I am not comfortable with versions of theistic evolution that sound like God is absentee. I am not comfortable with aggressively trying to “convert” people to evolution, which at times in the past may have been BioLogos’ strategy. I am not comfortable with the theology with everyone in the BioLogos camp, therefore I certainly do not endorse every article on the BioLogos website.

In particular, I disagree with the flippant statements by some that “evolution rules out the possibility of a historical Adam and Eve.” This, objectively speaking, is totally false. Of course, those that question (or deny) a historical Adam can follow Jesus with a saving faith. However, it is entirely false that evolution rules out the possibility of historical Adam, and these statements only confuse the Church.

Moreover, I am uncomfortable with the version of Open Theism expressed by some who are associated with BioLogos. Once again, I know that one can believe Open Theism and follow Jesus with saving faith. However, theistic evolution itself does not require wholesale revisions of orthodox Christian theology. Our first clue to this, of course, is that Deb Haarsma (the president of BioLogos) articulates a Reformed view of evolution (see her book). Moreover (quite surprisingly), even the founders of Fundamentalism (B. B. Warfield and John Gresham Machen) were comfortable with most of evolutionary theory. Of course, I am not alone in this.

To be clear, these are not the official positions of BioLogos, and may even be only minority voices among theistic evolutionists.

Despite my significant and important differences with many in their camp, I still decided to work with BioLogos. This is possible for me because BioLogos, itself, takes no official position on these points. They welcome all Christians that can affirm their focused belief statement. Kindly, they enthusiastically welcome me, even with my disagreements and argumentative nature. Sometimes I wonder if they are specifically thankful for the diversity I bring to their public presence. BioLogos is a big tent, and I am willing to share it with others. Honestly, I am encouraged that they want to work with me.

Finally, I conclude by emphasizing I seek peace in the Creation War. I eagerly seek partnerships and dialogue with those with whom I disagree. This is how the Church is supposed to work. It is built on our common ground in Jesus, not perfect agreement on every area of theology and science.

Perhaps you strongly disagree with BioLogos and my work with them. As the great Lutheran scientist Kepler might say, after you have condemned all that you please in theistic evolution and mainstream science, let us raise our eyes together to Creation, and have our whole hearts burst forth in giving thanks and praising God the Creator, and Jesus through whom all was created and redeemed. You can be certain that you worship God no less than the theistic evolutionist, to whom God has granted the confidence to celebrate evolution as His good and creative work.

Peace.

 

Show 5 footnotes

  1. Those curious about the evidentiary basis for the Resurrection might find the historical work of NT Wright helpful.
  2. Though do qualify my endorsement of the word “reliable” in point #7. Science is not reliable when God acts as a primary cause (e.g. the Resurrection).
  3. Veritas Forums and the American Scientific Affiliation are other notable groups that are also respected among scientists.
  4. For example, I disagree with Dr. Francis Collins’s early statements that science rules out the possibility of a historical Adam and Eve. Moreover, his description of evolution seems more deistic than theistic to me. Still, both Collins and BioLogos have adjust more recently to recognize that evolution is compatible with a historical Adam and Eve.
  5. Of course, this goes both ways. I am sure that BioLogos does not endorse everything I have said, done or believed. Nor should they.

S. Joshua Swamidass

http://swami.wustl.edu

I am an assistant professor at Washington University in Saint Louis where I run a computational biology group. I'm also part of the dialogue between science and religion, through my work at BioLogos, the AAAS Science for Seminaries Program, and Veritas Forums.