Science & Faith
5/15/12 at 03:39 PM 4 Comments

Biblical Problems with the BioLogos Version of Theistic Evolution

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Dr. William Dembski

Design theorist William Dembski and BioLogos President Darrel Falk participated in an online forum (see the four essays linked here) that addressed the question: "Is Darwinism Theologically Neutral?" Dembski answers “no.” Falk agrees with Dembski on many points, but maintains that “the BioLogos position is not the same as Darwinism.” BioLogos is one of the leading organizations devoted to promoting a Christian version of neo-Darwinian evolution.

Dembski outlines the essentials of Christianity and Darwinism as follows:

Non-Negotiables of Christianity:

  • (C1) Divine Creation: God by wisdom created the world out of nothing.
  • (C2) Reflected Glory: The world reflects God’s glory, a fact that ought to be evident to humanity.
  • (C3) Human Exceptionalism: Humans alone among the creatures on earth are made in the image of God.
  • (C4) Christ’s Resurrection: God, in contravention of nature’s ordinary powers, raised Jesus bodily from the dead.

Non-Negotiables of Darwinism:

  • (D1) Common Descent: All organisms are related by descent with modification from a common ancestor.
  • (D2) Natural Selection: Natural selection operating on random variations is the principal mechanism responsible for biological adaptations.
  • (D3) Human Continuity: Humans are continuous with other animals, exhibiting no fundamental difference in kind but only differences in degree.
  • (D4) Methodological Naturalism: The physical world, for purposes of scientific inquiry, may be assumed to operate by unbroken natural law.

Dembski and Falk agree that D2 is incompatible with C1 and C2 because a random evolutionary process that is unguided does not reflect God’s glory and creative wisdom. But Falk, articulating what he calls the “BioLogos view,” says God guided evolution. Falk is vague on the sense in which God guides evolution in a non-miraculous way. Elsewhere on his organization’s website we read: “We at BioLogos agree with the modern scientific consensus on the … evolutionary development of all species.” The problem is that according to most biologists evolution is an unguided process. Falk and other BioLogos leaders have never resolved this issue.

Falk also does not respond adequately to the following paragraph of Dembski’s essay, which references Ken Miller’s book Finding Darwin’s God--a book featured on the BioLogos website.

Natural Selection, or (D2), is therefore in tension with both (C1) and (C2). (D2) implies that biological evolution does not give, and indeed cannot give, any scientific evidence of teleology in nature. We see this denial of teleology in Darwin’s own writings and we find it among his contemporary disciples, even among theistic evolutionists. For instance, Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller, who calls himself an orthodox Catholic and an orthodox Darwinian, writes in Finding Darwin’s God that design (or teleology) in biology is “scientifically undetectable.” Now to say that something is scientifically undetectable isn’t to say that it doesn’t exist. Hence there’s no strict contradiction between (D2) and (C1)-(C2). God might, as a master of stealth, wipe away all fingerprints of his activity. He might be guiding evolution in ways that to us look like chance (e.g., random variation) and necessity (e.g., natural selection).

Regarding the tension between the Judeo-Christian view of human exceptionalism (C3) and the Darwinian view of human continuity with animals (D3), Dembski quotes Darwin’s Descent of Man:

The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind. We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties, such as love, memory, attention, curiosity, imitation, reason, etc., of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or even sometimes in a well-developed condition, in the lower animals.

Falk responds:

Even if all that Darwin says here were more or less true, it would still say nothing about that which makes humans truly exceptional, because—our linguistic and cognitive abilities aside—what makes us truly exceptional has less to do with biology than with the fact that God chose to enter into a unique relationship with humankind. Dembski paraphrases an ideologically strict Darwinian view of man as “not worthy of special divine attention, and with no prerogatives above the rest of the animal world.” But Christians recognize that our material ordinariness is radically transformed by the presence and promises of God. Exactly as with the people of Israel among the nations, so humans among the animals: our special identity rests in the free choice of the Creator to give us his [sic] himself and his name. If we recognize that human specialness rests on God’s fellowship with and call upon us, and that we—alone of all creatures—are enabled by God to bear his image in the world, then anything Darwin said about the physical continuity between humans and animals is irrelevant. In the way that matters most, we are not continuous with animals. For philosophical and theological reasons, Darwin did not recognize this. Darwin, I believe, was wrong. I, like Dembski and like Southern Baptists in general, am not a Darwinist.

Falk expresses a weak view of what it means to be made “in the image of God.” Let’s get an adequate view of human nature on the table, and then return to Falk.

C. John Collins concludes his exegetical analysis of image/likeness of God in Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary (2006), p. 66-67, with this (read the pages before this to evalutate his evidence):

Thus we can paraphrase Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man to be our concrete resemblance, to be like us.” This supports a version of the resemblance view: man is a bodily creature who is like God in some way.

When it come to determining the way in which man is like God, we are left to infer that from the context…. In this pericope [Genesis 1:1-2:3] and the next [Genesis 2:5-2:25], God displays features of his character: he shows intelligence in designing the world as a place for man to live; he uses language when he says things; he appreciates what is “good” (morally and aesthetically); and he works and rests. He is also relational, in the way he establishes a connection with man that is governed by love and commitment (Gen. 2:15-17). In all of this God is a pattern for man.

As Kidner put it in his commentary, man is “an expression or transcription of the eternal, incorporeal creator in terms of temporal, bodily, creaturely existence.” These features of God which are present in man distinguish him from the other creatures; and in man newly made, they were fully in accord with God’s own purity…. We can also see that the resemblance view does not exclude the representational or relational views: rather, these features of human nature form the basis for man’s rule and relationships. By organizing things this way we recognize the valid points of all three positions and see how they relate to one another.

So what does it mean to be human if we follow Collin’s exegetical argument? We are different than animals in that God designed us with a sophisticated God-like form of intelligence that can be used for good (acting in harmony with God) or evil (acting in rebellion against God). We, unlike animals, are self-conscious creatures endowed with the ability to think about and choose that which is morally good and aesthetically good, or that which is morally evil and aesthetically ugly. Such choices are part of our human capacity to relate to God and other humans in good (loving) or bad (unloving) ways. Thus, the Bible teaches that humans are unlike animals in how we are stewards over God’s creation (representational aspect of “image of God”) and how we can be rightly or wrongly related to other persons (relational aspect of “image of God”), both of which are rooted in our basic ontology--what we are as God-like creatures made by God (the resemblance aspect of “image of God”).

Falk erodes this biblical teaching by virtually ignoring “ontology” (what we are), and replacing it with strictly “functional” description. God chooses to relate to us differently than other animals by means of special promises and special divine presence, Falk asserts. There is nothing intrinsically about humanness that separates us from animals, just as there is nothing intrinsically about Jewishness that makes Jews better than Gentiles. Although the Bible affirms the latter (Jews were judged for their sin as were Gentiles), it does not teach the former. Genesis and other biblical texts communicate the idea that humans actually resemble God in the sort of creatures they are (ontology). Much of this biblical teaching about who we are is conveyed through a description of the resulting functions that humans exhibit, which is what recent biblical scholars call the representational and relational aspects of “the image of God.” However, “it is a fallacy to suppose that ordinary [functional] language cannot address ontology either directly or by implication,” Collins warns. Falk and other BioLogos leaders better heed this warning from a leading Hebrew scholar (see Collins’ scholarship listed here).

For Further Study

The Christian news magazine World named two books critiquing theistic evolution as its "Books of the Year" in 2011. World recognizes the debate over evolution in churches and religious colleges as the “biggest current battle both among Christians and between Christian and anti-Christian thought." World’s two "Books of the Year" were God and Evolution: Protestants, Catholics, and Jews Explore Darwin's Challenge to Faith (Discovery Institute Press, 2010) and Should Christians Embrace Evolution? edited by leading British medical geneticist Dr. Norman Nevin.

The editor of God and Evolution, Dr. Jay Richards, wrote: "We wanted to clear away the fog and fuzzy-thinking on this issue. Our book makes clear that to the degree theistic evolution is theistic, it will not be fully Darwinian. And to the degree that it is Darwinian, it will fail fully to preserve traditional theism." God and Evolution is a collection of essays by Protestant, Catholic and Jewish scholars critical of those advocates of theistic evolution (e.g., Francis Collins) who recommend changing Judeo-Christian theology to fit the presumed truth of Darwinian evolution (without hearing from scientists skeptical of Darwinism).

Dr. Richard’s introduction to God and Evolution begins with this:

When someone asks me: "Can you believe in God and evolution?," I always respond: "That depends. What do you mean by 'God' and what do you mean by 'evolution'?" No one seems to be very satisfied with this retort, which seems evasive; but it's the honest answer, since the initial question, as it stands, is hopelessly ambiguous. Without more detail, it's susceptible to almost any answer. (Download the entire introduction here).

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