Throwing the Bible Under the Bus? (RJS)

Dr. Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky wrote two posts on his blog lately dealing with the interface between science and faith. I would like to interact with some of the content of these posts today. The first post, dated April 14th, addresses the controversy that has arisen in some scientific circles over the acceptance of the Templeton Prize by British astronomer Martin Rees (Scientific Extremism on Display — And the Prize Goes To …). Some examples of the negative reaction can be found in this column by Jerry Coyne, and this conversation with Sam Harris, both from guardian.co.uk.

Dr. Mohler runs through some of the history and then finishes with this summary.

The furor over the Templeton Prize to Lord Rees comes entirely from the scientific community, which seems absolutely determined to insist that even “a sense of wonder at the universe” and a refusal to pick public fights with religious believers is enough to prove that a serious scientist has sold his scientific soul to Christian fanatics.

The edifice of modern science is built upon a worldview of naturalistic materialism as a methodological assumption. This controversy shows that the commitment of many scientists goes far beyond methodological naturalism — their commitment is to naturalistic materialism as a fundamental and non-negotiable worldview.

Dr. Mohler is quite right when he notes that this controversy arises from a commitment to naturalistic materialism as world view. There is no doubt that this is true. The vocal detractors, those with the extreme views represented in Dr. Mohler’s column and in the two articles I linked above, are not in the majority, but they certainly exist. More significant is the deep assumption of philosophical naturalism that permeates as a presumed value of many many more.

Dr. Mohler then takes his summary, and the fact that no matter what we do some will vociferously oppose Christian faith, as a warning to stop trying to appease the scientists and to instead hold tight to the faith.

Keep this in mind when you hear someone argue that the conflict between naturalistic science and Christianity would be resolved if Christian believers would only “give a little” in terms of belief. As abhorrent as such a theological compromise would be in principle, this controversy shows that it fails practically as well.

Christians, let not this lesson be wasted.

Here, of course, we part ways. Not because I think we should give in to appease others, but because the need to “give a little” on certain views of creation is demanded by the evidence of the world, not by the desire to appease. As a Christian and a scientist I feel a deep need to be able to synthesize the truths we are learning about the mechanisms of the world and the Christian story of God’s work in his creation.

What do you think? Is this discussion of evolutionary creation about giving a little to placate the materialists?

Is Dr. Mohler’s claim fair to your understanding of the situation?

Now to the Bible and the Bus. In the second post put up April 19th, Throwing the Bible Under the Bus, Dr. Mohler addresses several points made by Dr. Giberson in a number of forums, finishing up with a quote from the recent book by Karl Giberson and Francis Collins,  The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions. I am not going to defend Karl Giberson in everything he has written. In some forums he comes off a bit too provocative for my taste. Here I would like to address the points Dr. Mohler makes about the the book by Giberson and Collins. I have read this book from cover to cover and posted on it several times.

The header to Dr. Mohler’s post starts out with a bang:

Giberson and Collins reveal their true understanding of biblical inspiration when they locate it, not in the authorship of the text at all, but in the modern act of reading the text.

Wow, this is quite the provocative statement. It is repeated and elaborated on later in the post. Dr. Mohler quotes a paragraph at the end of a long chapter dealing with scripture, the nature of scripture, and the interpretation of scripture (No reference is given in the post – but the paragraph can be found on p. 102 of The Language of Science and Faith).

Biblical interpretation falls short without an understanding of biblical inspiration, of course, as we do not suggest that the Bible is simply another book to be interpreted. But we do a great disservice to the concept and power of inspiration when we reduce it to mere factual accuracy, as though God’s role were nothing more than a divine fact checker, preventing the biblical authors from making mistakes. A dead and lifeless text, like the phone book, can be factually accurate. The inspiration of the Bible is dynamic and emerges through engagement with readers.

Dr. Mohler takes this paragraph, out of context of what came before and what comes after in the book and proceeds to ridicule it. (I use the word ridicule not to be provocative, but because Dr. Mohler describes the paragraph as “ridiculous.”)

That paragraph is, quite simply, one of the most ridiculous statements concerning the Bible one might ever imagine. Who has ever argued that the divine inspiration of the Bible is reduced to “mere factual accuracy”? Giberson’s dismissive language about God as “nothing more than a divine fact checker” is sheer nonsense. Who has ever made such a proposal?

The conclusion of the paragraph is an embarrassing non sequitur. It is patently untrue that only a “dead and lifeless text, like a phone book” can be factually accurate. Giberson and Collins reveal their true understanding of biblical inspiration when they locate it, not in the authorship of the text at all, but in the modern act of reading the text.

So lets look at this claim by Dr. Mohler. He is correct when he says that  no one reduces the inspiration of scripture to mere factual accuracy.  And he is correct that no one claims that God’s role is nothing more than a divine fact checker. On the other hand those of us who have grown up in the evangelical church have heard many people claim that factual inaccuracies undermine the authority of the text. In fact we have heard many people claim that errors in the text would disprove inspiration, and there can be no errors of fact because God is not a liar. Thus part of Gods role is divine fact checker. This leads to some rather fantastic contortions to maintain the assertion of factual accuracy. In the famous (or infamous) book The Battle For The Bible Harold Lindsell suggested that Peter denied Jesus six times – because otherwise there are errors of fact in the gospels and this is inconsistent with divine inspiration. Dr. Mohler may have a more nuanced view – but this idea is part of our heritage and tradition.

What about the nature of the text? Here we see a real problem. Giberson and Collins did not say that only a dead and lifeless text can be factually accurate. Dr. Mohler added the word only to the statement and this addition distorts the emphasis of what Giberson and Collins actually write in this paragraph.   They are claiming that the Bible is a living and powerful book. This powerful living character is not defined by factual accuracy.  Doesn’t the paragraph seem to say that even a dead and lifeless text can be factually accurate rather than only a dead and lifeless text?  Scripture contains a variety of genre including poetry and story(at least in the parables) and there is power in the form that goes beyond factual accuracy – even Dr. Mohler would agree with this I believe.

What about inspiration? Finally and most importantly Giberson and Collins did not say that the inspiration of scripture is located in the modern reader, not in the authorship of the text. Dr. Mohler clearly disagrees with the understanding of inspiration espoused by Dr. Giberson and Dr. Collins (or for that matter by me), but it is incumbent on him as a Christian leader, president of “the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world” to be fair to what they say and think. Pages 91-103 of the book provides a relatively detailed sketch of scripture and the interpretation of scripture. We need to understand the language being used in scripture, we need to identify the kind of literature, we need to understand something of the original expected audience, we need to understand the purpose of the text, extratextual knowledge provides important insight into the meaning of words in the text. Finally we read scripture in the context of the traditions of the church.

The “smoking gun” sentence that the  inspiration of the Bible is dynamic and emerges through engagement with readers is commentary on the power of the Spirit in the Christian and in the Church. I wonder what role Dr. Mohler ascribes to the Spirit as the Christian or seeker engages with scripture.

To wrap up Dr. Mohler adds a throw away jibe.

As they make their argument for theistic evolution, Giberson and Collins embrace a form of Open Theism and argue, quite consistently with arguments common to BioLogos, against the historicity of Adam and Eve.

I think that Dr. Giberson may embrace a form of open theism, but I don’t know for sure. Certainly some who accept theistic evolution do embrace a form of open theism. But many don’t. I don’t think that Dr. Collins does. In all I’ve read and heard from him relating to this issue he appears to lean toward a Calvinist theology, but again I don’t know for sure.

In any case, a form of open theism is not claimed as the only possibility in the book.  As I outlined in the post Evolution, Entropy, and Human Beings 2 three possible approaches to the role of God are suggested. Two of these are consistent with reformed or Calvinist theology. The Rev. Tim Keller, who has been involved with many of the discussions of these issues at BioLogos, most certainly does not take the approach of open theism. Nor does BioLogos or The Language of Science and Faith take a firm position on the historicity of Adam and Eve. There are approaches that retain a historical view of Adam (Denis Alexander and John Stott have suggested such approaches for example) and these are discussed in the book as outlined in the post linked above.

So where does this leave us? As a Christian and a scientist I rather expect distortion and attack from some of those who fight hard for scientific materialism, who feel religion is a blight on our society. The kind of reaction described in Dr. Mohler’s first post is part of the package. This is life in our day and age.

On the other hand I expect a great deal better from fellow Christians. Especially from Christian leaders and most particularly from the President of a major seminary, training pastors for the next generation. Disagree, put forth your arguments, enter into the conversation. But … treat others fairly, address what is said and written with intellectual integrity,  interact with their ideas and statements, be critical where necessary, give the benefit of the doubt when things are not clear, avoid ridicule and distortion, in everything remember we are brothers and sisters even if you think we err (or vice versa). Assume the best – those who disagree may not be appeasers, caving to the world, but thoughtful and devout Christians with a different take on the evidence.

We have met the enemy – and he is us.

Peace.

What do you think? Have I over reacted to Dr. Mohler’s posts?

How do we look at and understand the inspiration of scripture? Is it “throwing the Bible under the Bus” when we wrestle with the proper understanding of scripture in the context of new knowledge?

Comments that attack individuals rather than ideas or facts will be unceremoniously deleted.

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net

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  • John W Frye

    Removed at commenter’s request.

  • Jason Lee

    Maybe the philosophers can help us out, but Al seems to be using a kind of logical slight of hand… a false dichotomy. Sure, there’s a kernel of truth in his warning that the anti-religionists often can’t be pleased and that we should always be wise as serpents about the motives of ideologically motivated human beings. But to be staunchly close-minded and not grapple with or affirm discovery/truth (whatever its source) …well how does that glorify God? If we as humans can’t hold hands (at least cautiously) and look at data together with an open mind, then all we’re left with is politics. In this regard, Al’s perspective seems no more helpful than the postmodernists who have little use for data or science.

    PS- Why not ceremoniously delete ad hominem comments? That would be kind of cool. :)

  • DanS

    RJS writes that we should “avoid ridicule and distortion” and John follows up with “Mohler lives in a shrinking theological ghetto and those living with him get more and more hysterical”. Priceless irony. I’ll be waiting and holding my breath for that gentle and constructive admonition to be “unceremoniously deleted”.

    Mohler’s full article includes the following quotes from Gilberson: ““science does indeed trump revealed truth about the world.” and Genesis is “a story that began as an oral tradition for a wandering tribe of Jews thousands of years ago.” and “Eventually, the most advanced of the life forms on the planet, human beings, become deeply religious. …The religious impulse developed into one of the deepest aspects of our complicated understanding of ourselves.”

    Seems like Gilberson and Collins are saying religion “evolved” which would seem difficult to square with any traditional evangelical understanding of inspiration or revelation.

    And the statement, “The inspiration of the Bible is dynamic and emerges through engagement with readers” does do a disservice to the standard definition of inspiration. Inspiration refers to the text being “God-breathed” while “illumination” has been the term that has to do with the Holy Spirit helping us to understand. Mohler is well within his rights to point out that conflating the two concepts by saying inpsiration happens during “engagement with the readers” is a shift that diminishes the authoritiy of the text.

    Last, even if Genesis 1-3 is a “genre” that many see as more poetic and theological than historical, genealogies are not, nor is Paul’s repeated use of Adam, sin and death. It is one thing to say conservatives have misinterpreted Genesis, it is another to say later Biblical authors were also misinterpreting Genesis.

    The statement “…we do a great disservice to the concept and power of inspiration when we reduce it to mere factual accuracy, as though God’s role were nothing more than a divine fact checker, preventing the biblical authors from making mistakes” is an unfair caricature of the historic evangelical position, an example of the very uncivil distortion RJS seems to accuse Mohler of.

    Like I said, I’ll be waiting for the complaints about incivility and distortion to be applied fairly.

  • http://ninure.wordpress.com Ninure

    It is interesting that “we” keep acting as if this “debate” is new, and as if asking that “we” act like reasonable people and educated people is an “attack” on Christianity!!

    “Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,… and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience.

    It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.”

    — St. Augustine, “De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim”
    (The Literal Meaning of Genesis)

  • Jason Lee

    John #1:

    “shrinking theological ghetto” …interestingly, this is highly debatable. A long and strong literature in the sociology of religion points out that it is often those who have relatively high levels of tension with the surrounding culture that win out in the religious marketplace–strict churches are strong churches. There are a variety of “strictness” mechanisms that lead to conservative growth (a prominent one being rules about morally salient behaviors). Recent research integrates many of these (see the article below). Sadly (in my view) the shrinking theological ghetto is the theologically moderate category (see Putnam’s book “American Grace”). What we’re left with are a lot of religious unaffiliated persons at one pole and religious conservatives (e.g. Al Mohler et al.) at the other pole. Now white religious conservatives may not be growing like they used to (due to overall white fertility declines), but this flattening of growth isn’t because their theology is shrinking them. Their theology is helping them (at least numerically).

    Most recent evidence for the strictness -> growth thesis:

    Thomas, Jeremy N., and Daniel V. A. Olson. 2010. “Testing the Strictness Thesis and Competing Theories of Congregational Growth.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 49:619-639.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2010.01534.x/full

  • rjs

    Dan,

    I am not going to defend Karl Giberson for what he has written in other forums. I am sticking only to the book in question, coauthored with Francis Collins.

    Frankly I find Dr. Collins an admirable example in his careful and fair interactions with both the critics from the scientific community and the critics from the church.

    Most decidedly Collins is not claiming that religion evolved – God is in control. We are claiming that evolution is God’s method of creation.

    I clarified the statement about “fact checker” by pointing to a context where this seems to be the attitude.

  • rjs

    John,

    What did you mean by this? “I’ve never seen such hermeneutic contortions to “protect” the factual accuracy of the Bible.”

  • http://tinyurl.com/joewhitchurch Joe Whitchurch

    I appreciate what Dr. Mohler has written as quoted here and the way he says it as well. It was demonstrated that ole Harold Lindsell would be a refutation of the fact-check God of inspiration. Never say ‘nobody’ or ‘never’, oops I just said it. Harold could be the exception that proves the rule and brought forth from the realm of the deceased.

    I’d be curious to know what John Stott and Denis Alexander thought of the critique of Mohler’s select and fair blog quotes. Two bad these guys are…well…getting up there in age. Are there some younger examples from a Stott and Alexander viewpoint worthy of mention? I’d also be curious of Francis Collin’s response.

    Do you think it was fair to apply Mohler’s phrase “‘give a little’ in terms of belief” to unwillingness to adjust convictions about changing views of natural phenomenon observable facts?

  • rjs

    Joe Whitchurch,

    I am not sure what point you are trying to make. Could you clarify?

  • http://homekettle.wordpress.com David N.

    Mohler’s Bible/Bus post got my blood pressure up when I read it earlier this week, so I was pleased to see it capably refuted here today. I felt he argued his point unfairly, much as he tried to dismissively discredit Rachel Held Evans last year.

    Most of the Christians I know are Young Earthies, and I love them. I have no problem with people believing that way, though I think they are factually wrong. But when certain leaders persist in perpetuating a divisive attitude within this discussion…it really is frustrating.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    As a Christian and a scientist I rather expect distortion and attack from some of those who fight hard for scientific materialism, who feel religion is a blight on our society… On the other hand I expect a great deal better from fellow Christians.

    While I agree that Christians should be held to the standard they espouse… I gotta say, I haven’t seen a huge difference between how the ‘religious’ and ‘anti-religious’ debate, on average.

  • John W Frye

    I asked RJS to delete my unbecoming comment #1. As David N posted above (#10), I was not pleased at all with the way Mohler engages opponents. I am sorry for what was an offensive view of him and folks like him in the SBC and even those not in the SBC (like John MacArthur). They seem bent on finding an “error” in the opponents’ views–like the alleged “smoking gun” sentence. They strain at a gnat and swallow a camel IMO. Note IMO, and I could very well be dead wrong.

  • MatthewS

    It’s a powerful image, the Reverend’s faith being eroded away one drop at a time by an internal Chinese water torture, one drop of scientific doubt at a time.

    I believe that Mohler is being a soldier rather than a reflective conversationalist here.

    “Semper Fi”, a good soldier does battle well and stays faithful. Beneath the strong words, I believe I sense fear in Mohler’s piece. Fear of losing the battle, fear of giving up, of losing faith, of betraying or being betrayed. It’s not groundless – plenty of men and women have lost faith.

    I think it helps for people to be mindful of all the metaphors of the NT together. We are soldiers but also farmers, runners, servants, students, teachers, shepherds, sheep, a family, a body. In Paul’s farewell speech in Acts 20 he speaks to defending truth but he also speaks of humility and tears and helping the weak.

    I wish Mohler could channel his energy and “little gray cells” into communicating a warning about staying faithful in a conversation with scientists rather than engaging battle against them.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    In my opinion, it seems that Christian faith and theology have been redefined and many Bible passages have been reinterpreted to accommodate present-day conclusions of scientists. One may suggest that this has been done on the basis of facts or “evidence.” But facts and “evidence” are often presented as if they can be understood or even identified apart from certain presuppositions, predispositions and underlying philosophies. They cannot.

    What that means then is that these redefinitions of Christian faith and reinterpretations of Scriptures are made in accommodation to certain presuppositions, predispositions and underlying philosophies. In this case, sometimes the philosophy is naturalistic materialism, or more often philosophical naturalism. Whatever the philosophy, it is inherent in what one views or identifies as “evidence” and what one understands the significance of that “evidence” to be.

    Regarding Giberson, we cannot reasonably suppose that the underlying philosophy he manifests in his other writings does not also inform his present work (the book with Francis Collins) that RJS wishes to treat.

  • Rick

    DanS #3-

    Giberson later clarified what he meant:

    “I reflected on this progressive nature of revelation, noting that new science regularly trumps old science, and that new science sometimes even trumps Scripture, where Scripture expresses itself on matter open to scientific investigation. My comment “science trumps revealed truth,” was not a literal statement, of course, for absolutely nothing could trump revealed truth. What science trumps, in addition to older science, is our interpretations of revealed truth”

  • http://growinggrace-full.blogspot.com/ Chris Donato

    I’ve not much to add except to say that this particular diatribe from Mohler is yet another example of demagoguery within the church, pure and simple. I hope this isn’t seen as an attack so much on an individual but rather a kind of individual who thrives on and controls others through fear.

    This is nothing short of (the bad kind of) medieval priestcraft.

    Re: the way God works in the world (granting evolution)—I’ve yet to figure out how I can affirm something akin to random mutation and still hold on to an historic orthodox view of providence . . .

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    RJS,

    What strikes me is how subjective the issue of “civility” in discourse is. Granted Mohler could have been a bit more precise in what he wrote, but so could everyone. Yes, I think you are overreacting.

    I think you could say the same thing about how you treated Stephen Meyers’ book. As I said on my blog:

    “By spending 9 posts on Meyer’s book [RJS] gives the false impression of doing a thorough review, but her “review” consists of highly selective discussions of limited topics and focusing on certain elements of the book that she found interesting. She ignores huge sections that go to the core of Meyer’s argument and could provide a foundation for healthy civil discussion on the relevant issues.”

    Full post here with other examples of what I think you get wrong:

    http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/2010/03/02/what-rjs-at-jesus-creed-gets-wrong-about-stephen-meyers-signature-in-the-cell/

    And Francis Collins’s treatment of ID in The Language of God is a real mess:

    http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/fact-checking-biologos-francis-collins-false-and-misleading-history-of-intelligent-design-part-1/

    I do more Biologos fact-checking on my blog, in case anyone is interested.

    We need to fairly critique both sides, and address arguments in their strongest form.

  • http://davidbrush.com David Brush

    It’s an epistemological dance we do.

    Ask Christians why they believe in the Bible and the majority will say, “because its true.” That simple statement reveals the effect of a modern, empirical, and passive bias within their theology. This theology, as championed by Mohler, uncritically applies a foreign empirical lens on the text.

    There is a difference between empirically historical, and allegorically historical. The words of Paul in 1 Cor. 10:1-13 for instance don’t dispute the historical reality of the text, but Paul interprets it within an allegorical (rather than literal/empirical) frame.

    So back to my first point, In my opinion Paul didn’t believe in the Exodus story because it was true, rather he believed in the truth of the exodus story…. That distinction is a key contention to the argument here I think…

  • Rick

    David #17-

    But is not God a God who has worked and revealed Himself in history, thus some of the historical accounts should be true (not just “truth” from historical accounts)?

  • http://davidbrush.com David Brush

    Rick #18,

    That’s not my point. You are incorrectly setting up my statement as an either/or argument and creating a false dichotomy where there is none. I am making the point that often the stories in scripture are not meant to just be factually relevant, but that there is an element of allegorical interpretation at work in the text as well.

    I think the point I am making is that we have modernized the Bible too much for our (or its) own good. We want to place it in strict categories that are often foreign to the literally context of the text.

    But to more directly answer your question: yes.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I am in the middle of the Pope’s book, Jesus of Nazareth and he discusses the difference in various laws in revealed in Exodus 20 – 22. He characterizes some as application of principles revealed and others as principles. He then also shows how Jesus has taken that approach to form pure principle, love God and love Others, without institutionalizing the specific application. He argues, convincingly to me, that this is what we too must do. We must use reason in applying the principles of Jesus to our world.

    This of course is at the heart of what Mohler should be objecting to. Giberson and Collins are, in my opinion, accusing the likes of Mohler of refusing to apply reason to his interpretation of the bible and that is quite an accusation to make. Instead Mohler has an adventure in missing the point and takes offense to something not even said.

    Now, I have had enough exposure to Mohler’s thoughts that it seems to me that he is intentionally doing this because it is obvious that Mohler thinks quite a bit (though it seems to me that he does not use reason). Does Mohler intentionally side step the actual accusation being made because it is true?

  • Rick

    David #19-

    Sorry for misreading you. Thanks for the clarification

  • Charlie Clauss

    I have been a long time reader of _Scientific American_, and I have noticed a growing trend to explicitly state how some new piece of science “proves” religious belief irrelevant, untrue, etc.

    There is no question that there is a growing voice inside modern science that is very uncomfortable with a religious viewpoint, and therefore reacts aggressively. All the more a reason for us to respond with a measured tone insteed of uping the temperature and pressure.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Chris #16,

    “distribe,” “demagoguery,” “thrives on and controls others through fear,” “nothing short of (the bad kind of) medieval priestcraft.”

    Wow! You pack a lot of ad hominems in just a couple of sentences. And Mohler is one with with the diatribe?

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    DRT #20,

    I don’t think it is fair to say that Mohler (or other Creationists, for that matter) do not apply reason to their interpretation of Scripture. They each practice hermeneutics, which are reason principles of interpretation, in their study of Scripture.

    However, they do not start with the same presuppositions and philosophical assumptions that Giberson, Collins and others do.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jeff Doles#25, Fair enough. I have no basis to say that Al Mohler does not apply reason. But I will say that he advocates for others not to apply reason.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    DRT #25,

    I don’t think it is fair to even say that Mohler advocates for others not to apply reason.

    The difference, again, is in the starting place. If one begins with philosophical materialism or philosophical naturalism, one will end up with different conclusions than one who does not.

    I read Mohler as challenging certain philosophical presuppositions, not the use of reason.

  • John I.

    No, I don’t think that this discussion of evolutionary creation about giving a little to placate the materialists. I think it’s about understanding God’s use of the material and secondary effects. I think it’s about having a consistent approach to the material matter and to the Bible, one which Mohler et al. don’t have. If they were consistent they would advocate a geocentric universe, so they only bend the Bible when to them the evidence is overwhelming.

    I don’t think rjs is overreacting, and I don’t think that Dr. Mohler’s claim is fair to my understanding of the situation. Mohler fails to grapple with his own bias, and fails to acknowledge that his interpretation of scripture may not be valid. Mohler also holds onto a particular tradition of interpretation, without stepping back from it. He fails to realize that the type of questioning in which Collins et al. engage is the kind that led Protestantism to diverge from Catholicism. Mohler’s estimation of his own rightness is no different in tone or logic than the RCC’s at the time of the reformation.

    Lastly, Collins et al. seem to be coming from a perspective that recognizes that language and its interpretation can be quite slippery, and slippery in a way and to a degree that the science of the material is not. Someone can legitimately disagree with my interpretation of scripture, but they can’t disagree with my measurement of the speed at which objects fall to the earth, nor with my formula for acceleration, etc. Of course not all science is so black and white, and there is speculation and differing interpretations of some phenomena, but at least in science there are material phenomena that provides a distinct anchor to all the theories.

    John I.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jeff Doles, I think it is reasonable for a Christian to use all evidence available to them in their search for understanding of God. Al Mohler has made it clear that he advocates for people to throw out all the physical evidence in light of his interpretation of the bible. That is unreasonable.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Said another way, If indeed god is the creator of all then he has many way to communicate with us, the spirit, the bible, the universe, and others. It is unreasonable for us to think that a book is more god inspired than his creation. Isn’t creation the only thing that we can unambiguously say is inerrent and god inspired?

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    DRT #28,

    See my post #14 about “evidence.” There is no such thing as an uninterpreted fact. To recognize a fact or to identity something as “evidence” presupposes a particular worldview or philosophy by which that fact is interpreted or the evidence is understood.

    Mohler does not advocate throwing out any physical evidence. But he does interpret it differently than those who hold a philosophical materialism or a naturalistic worldview.

    Once again, it is about one’s starting place and the presuppositions one makes. Everyone, even you, starts somewhere and assumes something. If one’s philosophical foundation is inadequate or one’s premise is false, it does not matter how well one uses reason and logic, the conclusion will be very suspect.

    So it is perfectly appropriate to question one’s presuppositions and philosophy. Even to challenge them. It does not throw out the “evidence” but challenges the bases on which that “evidence” is identified and understood.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    A proposition can be errant or inerrant. A rock, a tree, a star cannot.

    Nothing in creation tells us anything. It must all be interpreted. How we interpret depends upon which presuppositions we hold and which philosophical worldviews we adopt. They become our interpretive framework by which we understand “facts” or “evidence,” or even identify anything as “facts” or “evidence.”

  • normbv

    I have found it interesting that we Protestants developed an extreme literal interpretation of scriptures to validate and exploit our movement from Catholicism. This historical opportunist approach has hamstrung the development of coherent theology in Protestant circles ever since; in contrast to the openness that Catholics now enjoy concerning Genesis. The Protestants wanted to establish that they were more diligent toward the word of God and many became extreme literalist. Dr. Mohler appears to be championing that 16th Century cause still today as he finds traction by pitting the guardians against the usurpers. That is a well worn and useful tactic in leading the masses.

  • Jeff

    In Mohler’s blog he says:

    “The edifice of modern science is built upon a worldview of naturalistic materialism as a methodological assumption. This controversy shows that the commitment of many scientists goes far beyond methodological naturalism — their commitment is to naturalistic materialism as a fundamental and non-negotiable worldview.”

    1. the limitation of science is that it can only investigate the natural, and thus can only start with a presupposition of naturalism (I’m talking about science, not one’s worldview).

    2. science works. It’s not perfect (in part because the people doing it aren’t perfect), but look around, the results of scientific investigation are unseparable from the modern lifestyle, medicine, etc., and this is undeniable.

    3. Why should naturalist materialism not be one’s view. Put yourself in the shoes of a scientist who, for the purposes of this example, knows nothing about Christianity but decides to look at it. Where would he/she start? Well, Christ would be the ideal starting place, but lets assume one starts at Genesis because “In the beginning….” Afterall, Mohler seems to be drawing a lot of attention to it as a starting place.

    Problem: Christians can’t even agree on what to do with Genesis, but to the scientist it is obvious that the order of the world is consistent with evolution (as a scientist, I affirm this but not debating further–the “debate” only exists in the minds of those insisting on YEC, it does not exist in scientific data). Yet one “camp” of Christians says evolution contradicts the Bible and can’t be true and one can’t really be an authentic Christian and believe evolution. In other words, one can’t really be a scientist (at least for certain scientific fields). Now what, in my case, I would refer to number 2, above, and go with what works. (For extra confirmation, the scientist can open up a “creation science” student text book, like one from the Apologia series, and open up the geology section and see that Plate Tectonics is not even mentioned. Recognizing the corrupt attempt to harmonize science with the Bible has more of an appearance of brainwashing, the scientist is done with Christianity, and rightly so, in my opinion based on this example).

    The thoughtful scientist might still give the theistic evolutionist a chance, but we must remember the barriers to belief are significant. Obviously, the death and Resurrection of Christ cannot be proven to the same levels of confidence as can be achieved with that which is open to scientific investigation. Therefore, the best example the scientist has to come to know Christ (short of a God given lightning bolt) is the Christian who authentically and humbly lives out their faith. Oh oh! In other words, live in such a way so that the scientist becomes jealous (in a good way) of what the Christian has (inside) so that he/she longs for it, and then don’t insist that they turn off their brain to find Christ. Given the collective nature of this debate, there isn’t much to be jealous of so far. I hope as individuals we can do better.

    As rjs said,”we have met the enemy, and he is us.”

    Short answers to the questions (my opinions):
    1. Q: Over reaction to Mohler’s post? A: no, if anything it was an under reaction.

    2. Q: Bible and the bus? A: No, we throw it under the bus when we don’t wrestle with the meaning and context of the various documents that make up our Bible, and then we run over it in reverse when we don’t try to see how it works in the context of our current understanding of our world.

  • Alan K

    Have you overreacted? No. Even Calvin would not agree with Mohler’s take on scripture. He and the other great reformed theologian (Karl Barth) insisted on the the context of the preaching of the Word as the location where scripture is most truly mediated.

  • Dennis J

    despite the evidences accruing for Evolution. it is still ultimately inconclusive. this is a far different matter then, say, the medaival view of the earth and the sun, which is an undeniable fact of reality.
    as such, it would be prudent to side with how we understand the bible rather than science.
    there are ways to scripturally explain Adam in the bible to accomodate evolution. We could argue that Jesus and Paul were, “speaking the people’s language” when addressing the “concept” of “Adam” because the reality of it is incomprehensible, or something like that. but my question is, why bother?
    I am not a scientist, but things like gene, or DNA similarities do not establish anything conclusive. if God created the world, it would make sense that all creatures are ‘written with the same language’ and look related at a more elemental level. scientists may be searching for a figure in the carpet. (again, i’m not a scientist. i honestly think evolution dosn’t make any sense)

  • Dennis J

    what happened to that NASA guy who proposed that the universe was created instantly?

  • Jeff

    Hi Dennis (#36),

    There are lots of places to find reasonably good information on this debate, so I have no reason (or desire) to start here. You are right in suggesting that science is falsifiable. However, accumulated data over time leads to established scientific theory (the credible scientist must still allow for a piece of data that suggests the theory is wrong…although if the theory were established well enough, as is evolution, the piece of data is questioned first to see if it is “right.”).

    That said, evolution is absolutely established scientific theory (don’t confuse theory with “guess”, it is much closer to “law”), and is the unifying principle of biology and is supported by data from other disciplines (e.g. geology, etc.). There has not been data to date that supports an alternative theory (yes, the mechanistic explanations of evolution are always “evolving” with new data, but this does not threaten the theory), nor is there any data for a literal 6 day creation. Thus, the biologist is left without an alternative to evolution regarding naturalistic explanations of origins (sure, I can say God did it, and I believe that, but I can’t test it).

  • Dennis J

    Jeff, thanx
    again, i am not a scientist. nor have a looked that closely into the matter because the validity of evolution does not “threaten” me theologically. contending against a materialistic wordview is a different matter (if people feel the need to ‘contend’).
    but, anyway, you are right. i leave this in the hands of the scientific community and stay out of it.
    (i just don’t understand how similarities within species is an indication of evolution, unless someone is predisposed toward evolution. this is just a personal thing. maybe i should read the books mentioned in previous posts :) )
    and ya, faith is not about testing things. Christians are way too obsessed with “facts”.

  • Terry

    Dennis, at 36, you said “this is a far different matter then, say, the medaival view of the earth and the sun, which is an undeniable fact of reality.”

    In some ways this is true, but the issue seems to me less along the lines you are inferring and more along the lines of greater humility in expression, and far more charitable responses to others who are brothers and sisters in Christ. In this regard, I would contend the two issues to be an exact match. The unfortunate and continued penchant to throw people out of the Christian boat seems to me to be something that we should have matured in, a bit more, in the last few centuries. We have not learned our loving others-lessons all that well.

  • Dennis J

    yes Terry, that is an important point i have overlooked. why are people’s reactions not humble and charitable, but aggressive? this factor changes the issue altogether.

  • Dennis J

    If the church won’t allow a biologist to contend with the data that’s right under his own nose, what does this say for the church?

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Thanks, RJS, for this. It is a white hot subject it seems. In fact it seems possible that people are not even aware that one can be an evangelical Christian while holding to evolution.

  • DanS

    Dennis #42 – “If the church won’t allow a biologist to contend with the data that’s right under his own nose, what does this say for the church?” Exactly what a lot of ID folks keep asking of EC and TE folk. They see massive data that the mechanism of mutation plus natural selection cannot do what evolutionists claim, and that complex structures and information systems positively display the same hallmarks design we see in the present. For that they are told they aren’t legitimate scientists by many within the church.

    normbv #33 – It is not the Protestant “literalist” approach that is incoherent in my mind. The Evangelical view has been to read texts that are clearly figurative as figurative, texts that are historical accounts as historical accounts and texts that are theological as theological. It is only the recent revisionist tendencies that lead many to try to find deep infallible theological truths in scripture while undercutting the connection of the text to history.

    Ninure #4 – Augustine left some wiggle room for the “how” of the initial creation in Genesis 1. He clearly understood the account as having a basis in history, argued strenuously for the historicity of Adam and the fall and for the link between sin and death. Clearly he felt the best exegesis of the text was the “literal” one. And he insisted that it is just as wrong to proclaim allegorical meaning of the text without the historical as it is to proclaim the historical meaning without the prophetic meaning. Quoting LMOG without placing it alongside the fairly YEC comentary in “City of God” is not an accurate picture of Augustine, and using LMOG, as Biologos does to support EC is less than honest in my opinion.

    There are plenty of quotes in the Early Church fathers regarding the trustworthiness of scripture. That “the inspiration of the Bible is dynamic and emerges through engagement with readers” would have been just as foreign to the early church as it is to Mohler.

  • DanS

    Regarding the limits of science. I am quite sure my local meteorologist is an honest guy using the best tools and methods in his field. I am not confident his five day forecast will be accurate. No fault of him, no fault of the science.

    I am sure most scientists in the secular and Christian academy are fairly honest and are using the best tools of science. I am not confident anyone, looking at rocks and cells and isotopes today, can tell me what really happened in the deep past. Particularly when rule number one is to assume nothing outside of nature is allowed as an explanatory factor.

    It is not science vs faith. It is modern assumptions about science and reality vs a worldview that allows the supernatural to interact with nature in ways science may not be able to explain. Does that invalidate science? No. It only allows us to question conclusions that may be based on faulty assumptions, philosophical or methodological.

  • Jeff

    Hi Dennis (#42),

    I’m rapidly getting away from the original intent of the blog, and were starting to deal with issues of semantics, so I’ll try to be brief. First, I’m not sure there are that many “legitimate” ID scientists (at least biologists). We are talking about such a small minority that it is insignficant (keep in mind, I ultimately believe in a designer because I believe in God, but I’m talking about ID’ers who suggest that God must have popped in here and there with small bursts of spontaneous creation…which is inconsistent with the Genesis account anyway). Nor have I seen data to suggest that this happened (I have seen it suggested by the absence of positive data, which I find to be a weak argument). I don’t pretend to know everything on this issue so feel free to inform me otherwise.

    Regarding this comment:
    “They see massive data that the mechanism of mutation plus natural selection cannot do what evolutionists claim.”

    Again, I’m not aware of this data that suggests this (as above, maybe it is out there and I haven’t seen it). Unless there is real data here, I’m guessing this is more of an inference from the lack of positive data (granted, reproducing this is a challenge for “wetlab” science considering one must produce in a finite period of time (a period of months if one wants to keep one’s grant funded) what occurred over geologic time. That said, major adaptive phenotypic changes due to random mutations have been observed in the lab through forced “natural” selection in bacteria. Additionally, inducing major mutagenic events through radiation exposure or chemical agents, etc., followed by selective pressure can lead to the isolation of phenotypes that differ from the original (e.g. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20699149 ). Is this evidence of evolution through random mutation? Obviously not, since it is artificially induced. However, if one hypothesized that natural selection utilizes random mutation as one mechanism of evolution, then one could predict that one could artificially induce random mutation and screen for certain phenotypic outcomes, and that is the case.

    That said, I don’t think it is safe to say that DNA random mutation is the only mechanism available. One cannot exclude multiple mechanisms for evolutionary change, such as genetic recombination, epigenetics, and the emerging regulatory role of microRNA which could rewrite some of the underlying paradigms of evolutionary change (my opinion).
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21195055

  • AHH

    Dennis at #39:
    If you want a fairly clear and concise read for a non-scientist, laying out the multiple overlapping and reinforcing lines of evidence for common ancestry in a way that I think will answer many of your questions about the science, I highly recommend Darrel Falk’s Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology (IV Press, 2004).

    On the topic of the post, I think we have at least four overlapping things:
    1) A minority of scientists (noisy and overly influential relative to their number) using science as a tool to attack faith.
    2) This is seen as part of the “culture war” that people like Mohler are already involved in, so they jump into the issue.
    3) Some Christians make the initial mistake of agreeing with the atheists that scientific explanations rule out God, so attacking the science becomes the only way to defend God. Of course a better approach is to recognize God’s sovereignty over nature, so that “God did it” and “science describes the mechanism” can both be true.
    4) As RJS suggests, the approach to Scripture is huge here. To the extent the Evangelical church adopts the sort of hardline inerrancy of Mohler et al. that insists the Bible be a perfect book by Enlightenment standards that would have been foreign to the inspired authors, we will continue to shoot ourselves in the foot over this issue and become even more of an intellectual ghetto than we already are. And our witness to the scientifically literate, and in general to thinking people who don’t see the world in simplistic black/white, will continue to suffer.

  • Brian Considine

    I’m not sure why we go round and round on this carousel, getting nowhere, not grappling with the truth – we just don’t know, at least not unequivocally. Sure there is some evidence that natural evolution has occurred but does it really matter? We can do science without evolutionary theory, can we not? What benefit do we derive from naturualistic evolution for mankind today? None that I can think of except perhaps by accepting this idea we appease the naturalists and materialist, or agree with the ever falible and changing science. Only God is the same yesterday, today and forevermore.

    But if you want to think we evolved from monkeys (yes, I know that’s not actually the proposed evolutionary line but as Hitchens says “we’re a 1/2 a chromosome away from being a chimp”) – great! Have a banana. If you want to think we came through Adam and Eve – great! – eat an apple. Mohler, clearly defending creationism and Biblical authority, was wrong for his cantankerous attitude in the articles cited. I can’t speak to the problem he has with Giberson, I haven’t read anything from the good doctor. RJS however is wrong, and yes over-reacting, for stirring the pot even more, because he/she apparently sides with theistic evolution and has a bone to defend.

    Apparently no one likes to have their worldview challenged. What matters though is the worldview that ‘God did it,’ and then through Christ forgave us for thinking we could figure it all out and fight about it as if we have. This blogging age seems to lend itself to heated debate because it’s easy to hide behind an annoymous identity. At least I will give Mohler credit for making his position known publically and openly, as perhaps abrasive as it was. But I’m not sure why Scot allows this RJS person to make statements behind the cloak of initials. If you want to name names, the right thing to do is be open and upfront about it. But better probably not to do that to begin with. When will we learn. Shalom.

  • Jeff

    Hi Brian (#48),

    To answer your question: “We can do science without evolutionary theory, can we not?”

    answer 1: yes, today I have done 3 experiments without requiring evolutionary theory.

    answer 2: No. The above three experiments were done in the larger context of evolutionary theory. If we used Biblical creation to form a biologically relevant hypothesis that was testable then…well, we wouldn’t know anything about biology and we’d still be drilling holes in people’s heads to get out the evil spirits.

    I like apples better, but in the context of your question I’ll take the banana.

  • Brian Considine

    Jeff, I don’t agree that we would not know anything about biology without naturalistic evolutionary theory. Think back. Darwin only wrote his book in the later half of the 19th Century. Long before then we had figured out it wasn’t really such a good idea to be drilling holes in peoples heads. Sorry, your argument is simply a straw-man. Now, I’m not a scientist, so if you could point me to some use for a 100,000,000 year old fossil in your experiments today, I would be most interested. I think, as it’s stated elsewhere, our worldview colors our presuppostions. Thanks and blessings.

  • normbv

    DanS,

    The various church denominations may talk a good story about their approach to biblical hermeneutics but there appears to be a conflict with their methodology contrasted with how the first century church and second temple Jews read and interpreted scripture. We get a better feel for that by looking at the extra biblical literature of those times that can act as commentary and steer us toward historical expectations instead of those appropriated by diverse groups down through our church age. There has been a lot of cross contamination with Biblical expectation of scriptures and perhaps the best way to settle the matter is to bypass and go right to the horse’s mouth of the times.

    Greek philosophy has also heavily influenced the church from the earliest times forward. Hebrew theology is not as compatible with the Greek mindset as some would like to suppose and has contaminated the messianic viewpoint of the first century church. The church in essence has never established a good grip on the genre and nature of Genesis but when we read historical Enoch, Jubilees and other contemporary writings of their times we start to grasp their mindset better and realize that literalizing just doesn’t square with the Jewish intentions by and large. Dr. Mohler may not be standing upon quite the authority of biblical hermeneutics as he presumes he is.

  • Mark Z.

    Brian Considine: Darwin only wrote his book in the later half of the 19th Century. Long before then we had figured out it wasn’t really such a good idea to be drilling holes in peoples heads.

    On the other hand, we didn’t figure that out by ignoring our observations about the world when they contradict our received knowledge. The problem isn’t ignorance of evolutionary theory as such, but choosing ignorance.

    Even if none of the practical applications of science would be set back by excising evolution from our collected knowledge of nature, the sort of people who would do that are incapable of doing science.

  • Brian Considine

    Norm, Do you have a 1st Century reference you could offer on the subject? There are at least some early Church fathers who understood Genesis from a creationist hermeneutic. For instance, St. Basil did not believe that one kind of creature is transformed into another, much less that every creature now existing was evolved from some other creature, and so on back to the most primitive organism. St, Gregory offered us this, “That which reasons, and is mortal, and is capable of thought and knowledge, is called man equally in the case of Adam and of Abel, and this name of the nature is not altered either by the fact that Abel passed into existence by generation, or by the fact that Adam did so without generation.” Then there is St. John Damascene, who writes: “The earliest formation (of man) is called creation and not generation. For creation is the original formation at God’s hands, while generation is the succession from each other made necessary by the sentence of death imposed on us on account of the transgression.” There are of course other examples of creationist thinking existing amongst the Church Fathers. The question then becomes whose early hermenuetic suggests otherwise? We might have to study the Talmud or Midrash to see if we could get a different opinion, but than we’re not talking about an orthodox hermeneutic. A thorough work on this subject of earlky church thought on this subject is, “Orthodoxy and Genesis: What the fathers really taught A review of Genesis, Creation and Early Man” by Fr Seraphim Rose.

  • Brian Considine

    Mark, thanks for your comments. Nobody is suggesting we excise anything so sorry your simply offering another straw-man argument, so all I’ll say is God bless and peace to you.

  • STR

    I don’t care how bad the science might be, resorting to a book written thousands of years ago is worse. The Bible is inapplicable to science and has no place in any scientific discussion.

    If the Bible were to disappear tomorrow, Christ would still live and act and save, unchanged, eternal.

    If science were to disappear tomorrow, we’d need the help of God asap just to get home from work.

  • Brian Considine

    STR, such scientism. So science is the only truth and the Bible is a worn out old book irrelevant today? Okey-dokey.

  • rjs

    STR,

    If science (by which I mean our understanding of the laws of nature and our approach to studying them) disappeared tomorrow we’d continue to live empirically as people have for centuries and millenia. If there were no laws – then we’d be in trouble.

    But I attach a great deal more importance to the Bible than you seem to. The bible is a gift, it is our story, something we should immerse ourselves in, as we seek to follow. Christ would still live, but we would need another communication to have the foggiest notion of where we are and where we are headed.

  • normbv

    Brian Considine,

    I suggest you check out the first century Epistle of Barnabas which captures the spirit of the first Christians perhaps better than any other writer besides Paul’s epistles and John’s writings. I’m really not as interested in later early church fathers because they begin to lose touch with the messianic mindset that permeated second Temple Judaism and earliest Christianity. The writings of the Dead Sea Scrolls are beneficial as well as they are locked in time without Greek philosophical influence by and large and help set the tone of expectations. I already mentioned Enoch and Jubilees as important early writings.

    Barnabas is important because it is actually a commentary on how early Christians like Paul and the Apostles were spiritualizing the literal language of the OT which is the key to understanding if from their perspective. It is often stated that we wouldn’t understand the OT if we didn’t have the NT to explain it to us. Barnabas delves into Genesis days of Creation and Moses and the food laws and explains that the literal reading Jews were thrown off, just as the literal readers since have been. It explains why parable language was hard to grasp by the literalist which should be a warning to Christians today. However the Jews rejected Christ because of their literalizing of OT prophecies which a close examination from the NT perspective reveals was written with spiritual expectations. My hunch is that literalizing readers of the bible today will not be comfortable with the Barnabas epistle which was well respected until around the 4th century. Biblical interpretation by the 4th century had regressed to the point where they were thinking similar to the Jews of the First Century who couldn’t always discern spiritual language effectively. That loss has set the stage for hundreds of years of over literalizing scripture.

    One other point I would like to make is that the atheistic scientist who ridicule the bible reads it in a literal fashion just as the biblical creationist concordist do. Does anyone wonder why scientists that have no biblical hermeneutic skills do not grasp or care about the analogy of scripture? They proof text it just as a literalist Christian does to make it woodenly miss the message embedded within. You can’t explain the nuance of apocalyptic literature to atheistic scientist and often can’t to a dispensationalist Christian today. You will find that dispensational Christians are the strongest backers of YEC by and large. It goes with their literalizing of the Messianic promises thinking that Christ has to come back and finish up what he didn’t complete in the first century. So too the atheist scientist who will refuse to hear an explanation of biblical genre explanations when it steps on their purpose of exposing the foolishness of the bible.

  • http://restoringsoul.blogspot.com Ann F-R

    RJS, as soon as I read Mohler’s response, I picked up on his “only” just as I noted you did. It is discouraging to note that, all too often, folks look for straw men to fight when faced with a choice between charitable disagreement or outright dismissal. When I was working with Christian attorneys in reconciliation ministry, one noted with sadness that, “people won’t pay me to help them achieve an equitable outcome & reconcile with their former friend(s), but they’ll pay bundles to destroy their opponent(s) in the legal system.” This seems to be analogous to that, in your field. I don’t think you’ve over-reacted to Mohler, and furthermore, his overwrought & inflammatory language causes me to wonder who he’s seeking to please? What do these tactics gain? (sigh)

  • rjs

    Brian Considine (#48),

    In this post I am not trying to argue for a position or to defend theistic evolution. Nor am I complaining that Dr. Mohler thinks that a YEC position is more-or-less essential for a faithful orthodox theology. Where in the post does it look like I am trying to defend the bone of theistic evolution?

    But I agree with you – what matters is that God did it, and this is the view I try to present.

  • Brian Considine

    RJS, glad we agree God did it. Grace and peace to you.

  • Brian Considine

    Norm, Epistle of Barnabas, okay thanks. But perhaps you can help me out here. Which of the four references to the Creation do you think best support the understanding of a naturalistic philosophy? I say philosophy since obviously science could not yet conjecture on the issue.

  • Jeff

    Hi Brian (#48),

    Since the straw man got picked apart by the flying monkeys (sorry, I saw Wizard of Oz when I was too young–I still hate those flying monkeys), I’ll attempt to readdress the question: “We can do science without evolutionary theory, can we not?”

    A better answer is that yes, we can do science without evolutionary theory. However, it is the act of doing science (and careful observation) that led to the development of evolutionary theory. This process is ongoing and the theory is supported by data convergence from multiple scientific disciplines (I am not aware of any scientific discipline that supports data that argues against evolutionary theory–although if anybody is aware of something then please post a comment, I would be interested in seeing it).

    My earlier comment, which did not really fit the question, was to illustrate that if nobody had started asking the questions, evolutionary theory (and modern biology) never would have developed (I think the argument could be made that if everybody adhered to YEC as a presupposition, modern biology/medicine, etc., might not exist). Thankfully, the questions were asked and the theories formed (Darwin wasn’t the only one coming up with natural selection (e.g. Alfred Russel Wallace, etc.).

    The 100,000,000 year old fossil is useless for my research, but we can at least make sense of it in the context of evolution (or you can defer to YEC which likes to talk about all the ancient stories of people interacting with “dragons” and “large lizards” as evidence for the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs…I wish I was joking).

  • Brian Considine

    Hi Jeff, yes, I hated thoses flying monkey’s too. ;-)

    You say, “a better answer is that yes, we can do science without evolutionary theory. However, it is the act of doing science (and careful observation) that led to the development of evolutionary theory.”

    First, observation required of science does not require evolutionary theory, some simply conflate their observations to conclude that science validates their opinion on this subject.

    Second, we can do careful observation of the natural world without the need of naturalistic evolution getting us where we are today. Like I said, there is some evidence to support evolution, but my point was that it doesn’t really matter to the sciences.

    Third, to many marry science with naturalistic evolution, and if you don’t buy the concept then your anti-science, which is unfounded nonsense.

    You say, “I think the argument could be made that if everybody adhered to YEC as a presupposition, modern biology/medicine, etc., might not exist.”

    Did Galileo require evolution? Did Copernicus? No, what drives science is a search for truth. Unfortunately, what you offer here is nothing more than another straw-man, tying YEC, btw- which I am not, to a delight in ignorance which is a fallacy that evolutionist stone YECers with. It has no basis in reality.

  • rjs

    Brian,

    Evolutionary biology stands on the shoulders of Galileo and Copernicus. They didn’t require it, but they took the evidence they had where it led. Newton didn’t require it, nor did James Clerk Maxwell.

    All of these people model a process of asking questions and following the evidence to an economical and intellectually coherent understanding of creation … consistent with the horizon of information available.

    Biologists, geneticists, chemists, physicists by and large accept evolutionary biology because it fits all of the data, even to the point of prediction and confirmation. We have not got the entire story or a complete understanding – there will be tweaks and perhaps more significant developments. It is an active area of research – but it is foundational to understanding of biology today; not just origins but much much more.

    Without evolution much of biology consists of unrelated, random facts to be memorized. With evolution there is a story and a theme.

  • Jeff

    Hi Brian,

    I’m not saying observation requires evolutionary theory, I’m saying observation and the act of doing science led to the development of evolutionary theory. I’m suggesting that the development of evolutionary theory was inevitable given proper scientific investigation, and that an alternative theory would not have been discovered. You can say evolution doesn’t really matter to the sciences, but allow me to make the inference that you aren’t a biologist. The field of biology in its entirety could be called “evolution” (or maybe evolutioniology :-)), and that is not an exaggeration. Semantics aside, the study of life is the study of evolution and they cannot be separated (though some try, no doubt). Feel free to doubt me on that, but all I can suggest is to refer to the scientific literature on the subject. There is not just some evidence to support evolution; rather, there is no positive data to suggest that evolution is unsupportable (although I would welcome correction on that if you are aware of any).

    Galileo and Copernicus were not biologists and did not “require” evolution. You’re talking about science, and I’m talking about the scientific field of biology. Clearly there are branches of science which led to the development of other theories that have are not impacted by evolution. However, those other branches of science (and their theories) have contributed to the development of evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory is a composition written by practically all the sciences. Regarding the requirement for evolution–nothing “requires” evolution. Evolution is merely a name put to an enormously large data set, and it is the collective and corraborating data set to which I refer.

    Your quote: “Third, too many marry science with naturalistic evolution, and if you don’t buy the concept then you’re anti-science, which is unfounded nonsense.”

    I wouldn’t marry science with evolution, just biology, which, as I said, effectively is evolution. Someone who doesn’t “buy” it may not be anti-science, but then they are either ignorant or have a presupposition that precludes them from “buying” it. As a former YEC, I made this error.

    Additionally, I would say evolution does matter for many reasons. As an example, given the mechanisms of the theory it can have enormous predictive power which can help predict and assess the spread of disease, etc. ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21502281 ). A comprehensive understanding of the evolutionary mechanisms (and I would say our understanding is not comprehensive) is and will be important for determining relevant experimentation for pharmaceutical/biological drug development, etc..

  • normbv

    Brian,

    The ANE people including the Hebrews had various ideas and stories about the creation of peoples and none of them had anything to do with science as we moderns understand it. So obviously they had no ideas about evolution, but in the biblical account we simply have Adam as the progenitor of Israel and people of faith in this world. I would argue that the Hebrews also did not consider Adam as the first human species but considered him like Abraham and Israel as drawn from the world at large to be a Priest unto this pagan world. Their limited knowledge simply did not allow them to explore anything remotely from a scientific perspective. However if you want to describe the philosophy of the scriptures as their approach then that would be appropriate however it might better be classified under a unique theological ideology built around redemption than a Greek styled philosophy.

  • gingoro

    I essentially agree with the post and comments by rjs about the writings of our brother in Christ Dr. Mohler. Yet I wonder if Mohler does not have a point wrt many of the authors of the posts on BioLogos. For over a year I read all the posts and most of the comments on their site. While writers of the posts like Tim Keller and others like Collins clearly have a high view of scripture I strongly doubt that some of the others do, at least as I read their material. George Murphy who does not claim to be an evangelical in either the older or the more modern sense is a liberal Christian that I for one learn a lot from. What bothers me is the claim to be evangelical in the older sense but appearing to hold a liberal position wrt inspiration of scripture.

    A Christian friend of mine who definitely says that he is not an evangelical in either sense and would probably self identify as a liberal Anglican Christian also read BioLogos for the same period and draws the same conclusion about the position of many of the authors at BioLogos.
    Dave W
    ps I accepted an old earth and common descent even before I started reading BioLogos.

  • rjs

    gingoro,

    I think that the people at BioLogos are learning how to approach this discussion and how to navigate between labels and positions. Part of the problem is the diversity of opinion and the lack of a clear starting point.

    What do you consider a liberal position wrt the inspiration of scripture?

  • gingoro

    rjs
    “What do you consider a liberal position wrt the inspiration of scripture?”

    I’m not sure I can give a very good description or be very precise. My description is likely to be somewhat extreme and does not indicate where the border is,

    One indicator is when the miracles written about in scripture are totally or almost all deprecated as the understandings of primitive people or as propaganda written to convince primitive people. A very extreme case was that of the moderator of one of the large denominations in Canada who denied the incarnation where upon even the secular press wondered why he was a minister in a Christian church, why bother?

    Another indicator is when for the most part scripture which appears to be a historical account is not considered to contain factual historical statements but rather only theological and religious truth. Another way of saying this would be that scripture only or mainly records the emotional and religious feelings of the authors with little or no connection to objective reality. Scripture in the main would not be considered to be inspired or necessarily truthful in the historic sense.

    Often the rational mind’s ability to comprehend scripture is depreciated and a more emotional search for what each person can experience and relate to. Scripture is not considered to be inspired and also not profitable for theology and practice.

    Yet another indicator is that the social message of Jesus teaching eclipses the salvation message. Not that social concerns are not very important and I see much of the evangelical church is apostate in this regard.

    Rather than wrestling with the problems some liberals simply discard the writings of major authors like the apostle Paul almost in their totality and it does not seem to concern them to any great extent.

    The Jesus Seminar and the search for the historical Jesus seem pretty good examples.

    I am not talking about the rejection of inerrancy or things like the Chicago statement, which rejection for many evangelicals would automatically be considered as a liberal position. Also I don’t see any need to think that the statements that we understand in a scientific sense are totally factual rather most or all are statements of appearance and reflect the understanding of a pre scientific age. As someone in the reformed tradition I accept that God accommodated his message to the understandings of the people at the time scripture was given. But to me at least the historicity matters even though the writers have a theological purpose in mind.

    I’m not saying that some/many of the writers of BioLogos posts are this extreme but that they are tending in this direction.

    I agree that the people at BioLogos are learning how to approach this discussion and how to navigate between labels and positions. Yes some are figuring out how to express their point of view but I still maintain that many take a liberal tending approach to scripture. The shift in the meaning of the term evangelical is causing BioLogos a lot of grief in terms of who their target audience is. I’d see their target as what we used to call evangelicala in the Stott, Packer, Carl Henry sense not the fundamentalists who today are called evangelicals. By the way I do not consider myself an evangelical any more due to the change in meaning of the term. Except for a few writers who were clearly introduced as not Christians, I see the BioLogos writers as Christians.

    Hope this helps
    Dave W


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