Is it the Science?

The third essay in the new book Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design was written by Deborah Haarsma, President of BioLogos. Unlike the first two essays (by Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis, and Hugh Ross, Reasons to Believe) this essay focuses on science. While Deborah Haarsma and BioLogos have a high view of Scripture the interpretation is different. In general I am skeptical when a statement of faith (What We Believe) starts with Scripture rather than God, it is probably important for BioLogos. The list of beliefs begin “We believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God. By the Holy Spirit it is the “living and active” means through which God speaks to the church today, bearing witness to God’s Son, Jesus, as the divine Logos, or Word of God.” I know from experience that this is correct. No one affiliated with BioLogos approaches Scripture with a liberal skepticism or with the attitude of separating truth from error. There is a sincere desire to read Scripture in a manner that is faithful to the intent of the original human authors through whom God revealed himself. Among others, John Walton (The Lost World of Genesis One), Tremper Longman III (Science, Creation, and the Bible), have dug into the Old Testament; Scot McKnight (Adam and the Genome) and N.T. Wright (One chapter in The Lost World of Adam and Eve as well as other places) have looked hard at the New Testament teachings that relate to origins. Scripture must be taken seriously as authoritative revelation of God’s actions and involvement in the world.

In addition to a commitment to Scripture, BioLogos is also committed to the idea that God reveals himself in Scripture and in his creation. This means that we can approach the study of creation with curiosity and awe, moving in the direction that the evidence leads. The metaphysical interpretation of the science espoused by some atheist scientists can and must be separated from the science. Evolution isn’t a doctrine of the faith to be defended at all costs. We believe that evolutionary Creation is the best integration of science and Christian faith based on the current base of scientific knowledge.

Nor is anyone at BioLogos interested in debunking miracles or denying the direct action of God in our world. In fact, there is a significant involvement of Christians from charismatic groups alongside reformed and baptist denominations. Deborah Haarsma writes:

What about miracles? Is evolutionary creation a slippery slope to deism, to seeing God as remote and uninvolved? No. Evolutionary creationists are passionate about seeing God’s hand at work in natural processes. Natural laws are a testimony to God’s faithful providential care as he upholds the existence of all matter and mechanisms moment by moment. Yet evolutionary creationists also affirm that God chose at times to act supernaturally. God acts outside his usual patterns to accomplish his kingdom purposes in human history, most powerfully in the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (p. 133)

But evolutionary creation doesn’t limit God’s action to past events. Ard Louis, a member of the Board, was quoted in Tim Stafford’s book The Adam Quest, As well as a scientist, Ard Louis is a Christian – a charismatic Christian in all senses of the word. His experience with the miraculous in Africa and since helps to provide a foundation for his faith. He notes that methodological naturalism is the way that science is done – but isn’t the path of faith.

It would be odd if there were miracles in my lab or in my calculations. What I am studying are the regular ways God sustains the world. If there is a God who is faithful, then I expect his rules to be trustworthy and regular, and if God is intelligent, I might even need to understand his rules.

“I think Western cessationism comes from people acting like that all day long, and they think that’s the way it is. But I don’t think that’s the way it is. If you read the Bible, that’s not the way it was. It’s particularly important for me as a scientist to be involved in something like praying for the sick, because that does act on a different plane.”

Louis believes that pentecostal and charismatic Christians have a particular contribution to make to the discussion of evolution. “The evolution-creation debate gets tense because there is the a fear of knocking down the foundation of faith. This is the way cessationists argue, that the whole thing will collapse if you mess with your interpretation of Genesis. I don’t find that so worrying. Charismatics find it easier to explore different ideas. They take the Bible very seriously, but they know God is real. (p. 150, The Adam Quest)

So, denial of Scripture doesn’t shape the “BioLogos” view of creation, nor does a commitment to naturalism or the elimination of divine action by a personal God. However, science is the reason for preferring evolutionary creation over other options, including young earth or old earth progressive creation. For this reason, Deborah Harsmaa focuses on evidence for an ancient earth and for evolution in her essay. I am not going to work through this evidence. We’ve discussed much of it in a wide range of posts over the years. Robert Asher (Evolution and Belief), Darrel Falk (Coming to Peace with Science), Francis Collins (The Language of God), Denis Alexander (Creation or Evolution), Dennis Venema (Adam and the Genome and many posts at BioLogos)- all of these books and articles work through a range of the evidence in far more detail than the short essay by Deborah Haarsma in this book. In her essay Haarsma gives a brief discussion of evidence for an ancient earth, far longer than 10,000 years or so. She also provides an overview of evidence for the relatedness of the diversity of life and the reasons for accepting common descent.

Common descent and evolution introduce some challenges that must be considered. None of these are deal breakers, although they do require serious thought. The most significant, around the issue of pain and suffering, are not really solved by any of the four views of creation described in this book.

Whether God chose to create humankind through a miracle or through evolution, God governed the process and gave us our abilities. God established a unique relationship with humanity, giving us spiritual capacities and calling us to an elevated position within the created order. (p. 149)

What about randomness and the role of death in evolution?

It is important to note that the scientific picture of suffering is not as extreme as often portrayed. While some have painted evolution as “nature, red in tooth and claw,” the evolutionary process actually reduces suffering in some ways, as it allows species to adapt and survive in new environments. Yet evolution is about far more than survival and competition; cooperation is at least as big a factor. … In fact, some biologists say that cooperation is so important that we should not call evolution “the struggle for existence” but the “snuggle for existence.” (p. 151)

Randomness (i.e. stochastic or unpredictable processes) can be used to achieve purposed ends. There is no doubt, for example, that the house always wins in Las Vegas or Monte Carlo. There is nothing in the evolutionary process itself that makes us necessarily accidental byproducts or that removes meaning and purpose from the process. Any such statement by a scientist is a metaphysical worldview statement used to interpret the scientific data. As evolutionary creationists we take a different view. Evolution is nothing more than a tool designed to achieve God’s purposes for his creation.

Although theology has not guided the specific approach to creation and human origins in Haarsma’s view – theology is the most important note on which to end.

Finally, In the midst of these discussions in the midst of these discussions, we must never forget the biblical call to praise God for his glory and power displayed in creation. … Jesus Christ is our cosmic creator and our incarnate savior. To him be the glory! (p. 153)

What role should science play in our view of creation and origins?

What questions are raised by evolutionary creation?

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