7 Reasons Why BioLogos Is A Threat to Classical Christian Education

Before getting into the thicket, let me briefly define my terms and say a few preliminary things about my concerns. First, by BioLogos I mean this particular project as an attempt to harmonize biological evolution and Christian faith. Second, while I believe that this attempt (however well-intentioned) is a threat to every form of Christian education, I am focusing on classical Christian education because that is where my labors have largely been. And third, nothing said here is intended to question the sincerity or niceness of any particular BioLogos brothers and sisters. I believe their vision is destructive, but if a destructive vision is being promulgated here by very nice people, it wouldn’t be the first time.

There are many places where I could launch this discussion, but I think I will start with the historicity of Adam and Eve.

“Genetic evidence shows that humans descended from a group of several thousand individuals who lived about 150,000 years ago. This conflicts with the traditional view that all humans descended from a single pair who lived about 10,000 years ago. While Genesis 2-3 speaks of the pair Adam and Eve, Genesis 4 refers to a larger population of humans interacting with Cain. One option is to view Adam and Eve as a historical pair living among many 10,000 years ago, chosen to represent the rest of humanity before God. Another option is to view Genesis 2-4 as an allegory in which Adam and Eve symbolize the large group of ancestors who lived 150,000 years ago. Yet another option is to view Genesis 2-4 as an “everyman” story, a parable of each person’s individual rejection of God. BioLogos does not take a particular view and encourages scholarly work on these questions.”

1. The first thing to notice is that while encouraging “scholarly work on these questions,” they are not subjecting their own options to any kind of rigorous or logical analysis. So genetic evidence shows that humans descended from a group of several thousand about 150,000 years ago? Now when walking upstream like this, one wonders why they stopped right where they decided to stop.

This is because we could also say that genetic evidence shows that humans descended from about a billion people 200 years ago. And when we greet the several thousand ancestors from 150,000 years ago one wonders (does one not?) whether they had parents, whether they had common ancestors. What possible reason could we have for tracing our human ancestry to its point of origin, but then stopping a few centuries short? I’ll bet with a little scholarly work on this question we could go upstream a little bit further. We might even get to meet our mother Eve and discover just how hairy her back was, and how good she was at picking nits from Adam’s scalp.

Do You Believe in Magic?

Okay, so it is a bit disturbing when the head transubstantiationist says that we need not believe in magic.

Now I grant that his subject was not the Lord’s Supper, but rather creation and evolution, but still. His subject was God’s relationship to the world, which is relevant in all things. We must keep in mind that the pontiff’s remarks were run through the interpretive grid of journalism, which has an enormous capacity to muddle things, but even so, we also have to admit that these comments, taken at face value, are what analytic logicians are wont to call a “dog’s breakfast.”

In their scramble to stay away from boo! words and phrases, respectable theologians can talk almost perfect nonsense about creation and intelligent design. “No, no, I am not a creationist. Well, yes, God did create everything . . .” “No, no, not intelligent design. All the designing occurred earlier.”

What it boils down to is that accomodationist Christians, who are in a state of low tension with the surrounding environment of unbelief, want to keep it that way. Low tension is the way to go, and you can still be in with the right crowd, you can still get invited to the right parties. This results in the constant efforts of accommodationist Christians to figure out ways of getting their unbelief to look like belief. The unbelievers outside can smell the aroma of a shared disbelief, and the believers inside can be fooled by the words — or, at any rate, not know how to respond to them. They know something is wrong, but are not quite sure how to take it apart.

And of course, the low tension johnnies are all about missional outreach — they say we have to lower barriers for unbelievers so that they are not “put off.” What they are really about is not being put off themselves. Because — when it comes to the growth of religious groups, and to speak as a sociologist would — high tension groups are the ones that grow.

So, to cut to the chase, God created the world, the heavens and the earth. He did it by the blam! method. First there wasn’t anything, and just a few days later, there were fruit trees all over the place. The fruit was just hanging there, like it had been ripening for months, and the tree growing for years, but it had actually been ripening for just a few minutes. A few days later, Adam and Eve, just like in the Sunday School coloring books, came walking through the Garden, hand in hand.

God did this thing. He had a design in it, and He is also intelligent. Put these things together — now follow me closely here — and the result can be called intelligent design. Since it was created, we can also say — unless we want to be intellectually respectable — that it was created.

Their Temples of Reason

It is usually no fun when people play the race card, but when evolutionists do it, the results can be highly entertaining, at least after a few million years.

My brother Gordon is Senior Fellow of Natural History at New St. Andrews. He was recently engaged to teach a one-off course in microbiology at the University of Idaho, which drew this protest, and then this one.

There is a kind of evolutionist who insists that his theory can only be falsified with rabbit fossils in the precambrian, and then rests easily in the full assurance that anything with a rabbit fossil in it can’t be precambrian by definition. This method works swell for them, and so they try to use a similar approach to journal articles, terminal degrees, and teaching slots. Creationists are clearly not equipped to be in the proximity of any of those things — for are they not all cornpones? — and so whenever they see a creationist they chase him out promptly, and then use his strange absence as an argument. His absence is an argument, and his presence is an outrage. What my net don’t catch ain’t fish, and if it does catch one on accident, we can always throw it back immediately and pretend it didn’t happen.

Seven Theses on the Age of the Earth

I recently came to the conclusion that it was time to set down in one place my reasons for approaching Genesis the way I do. I have noticed that the topic has become a matter of increased debate in classical Christian circles — and because schools cannot honestly stay out of it — it matters a great deal what we teach and why. So here are seven theses on the age of the earth.

1. First, the age of the earth, considered in isolation, is neither here nor there. The issue is always what God said, and not how old something is. If the earth is six thousand years old now, it will eventually be one hundred thousand years old at some point, about ninety-four thousand years from now. Will theologians at that time still be required to hold to a “young earth” view? So the issue is not age, or day, or young, or old, but rather the substance of what God actually said. Whatever He actually revealed should be what we use as the foundation for all our subsequent thought. After we have our foundation, we may incorporate truth from other sources — natural revelation included — but we must take care that we never privilege what we think we know over what God actually told us.

2. Therefore, the debate — which is most necessary — should be conducted primarily between Christians who accept the Scriptures as the absolute Word of God, perfect and infallible in all that they affirm. This is because debate is pointless between parties who are appealing to different authorities. The fact that the debate is now being conducted with many of the participants openly saying that the Bible “has mistakes in it” tells us why we are not really getting anywhere.

3. Once we have limited the participants in this way, we have simplified things considerably. Everyone in the debate would be willing to affirm a flannel graph version of the Flood, giraffe and all, if that is what the Bible taught, and everyone in the debate would be willing to affirm a planet creaky with age, if that is what the Bible taught.

That said, the prima facie evidence for the traditional view of Genesis is very strong (historical Adam, continuous genealogies, etc.). Alternative approaches to the text, such as the framework hypothesis or the gap theory, seem like special pleading in order to make room to shoehorn in a cosmology from elsewhere. We should always smell a rat whenever someone notices an anomaly in the text (e.g. the different creation accounts in the first two chapters of Genesis) and someone else is immediately at your elbow with millions of years he wants to pour in.

I am not saying this because I am automatically categorizing any views contrary to my own as special pleading. One alternative view, grounded responsibly in the text, views the days in Genesis as days of revelation, which Adam was recording as God was teaching him how to write. But even this view would simply require someone to stop affirming “six-day creation,” and is not at all inconsistent with “young-earth creation.” So the prima facie evidence for the traditional view is strong enough for me to consider that the burden of proof lies with those who would question it.

Pink Entropy

I recently wrote on the subject of entropy here, and set off a maelstrom of comments. Some people just have that gift, and other people don’t. That appears to be just the way it is for me, and I try to be humble about it. Sometimes I think my comments section is a good example of entropy.

If I might, I would like to supplement my initial observations with a few quick follow up jabs, and see if it happens again. These are just quick responses to a couple of basic questions that were raised, and which I would like answer outside the thread.
Since I speak English, let us go with a dictionary:

Entropy is “a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.”

Now I don’t see anything in my argument or illustrations that would constitute a howler when it comes to that definition. Assuming that this is a reasonable English expression of what entropy means, it also means that applications to the question of evolution are entirely reasonable. Entropy increases over time, meaning that disorder and randomness are also increasing. But evolution requires us to believe that the disorder and randomness are decreasing.

In order for that disorder and randomness to decrease, it is necessary to have a transfer mechanism that can utilize available energy (in a closed system) or newly imported energy (in an open system) into mechanical work that is productive.

Otherwise, any energy, new or old, will simply dissipate. The energy will get tired and take a nap. The energy will go bye-bye. We might exhort that energy not to take it lying down, and we might urge the energy to “not go gentle into that good night.” “Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Sure, rage all you want. Rage against the heat death of the light, for all the good it is going to do you.

Now the point of my illustration in the previous post is that the transfer mechanism that can make energy useful is itself an example of decreased randomness, and hence it is also something that must be accounted for.

Building Things With Sunshine

I have said in the past that I think evolution is a hoot, and moreover, I have given reasons for thinking this. One of the reasons is that the idea of evolution runs clean contrary to the second law of thermodynamics. In response to this view of mine, an anti-theist web site (read more here) has offered the following:

“To finish this argument (hopefully once and for all) I will give a similar example but in relation to life.-

In ‘open’ thermodynamic systems energy is imported to turn simple compounds into complex ones, a perfect example of this is photosynthesis in which; water and carbon-dioxide are turned into complex carbohydrates.

The energy for this is imported from the sun, because the earth is not a ‘closed’ system, it is an open one.

If evolution is impossible relating to the second law, so is photosynthesis, which is obviously not the case.”

Let me go straight to my conclusion, state the problem, and then work back to the argument. My interlocutor is trying to explain things with photosynthesis, when what he needs to do is give an accounting for photosynthesis.

The Pigeon Forge Chapter

Okay, so the creation/evolution debate has many entries in the Annals of the Wheeze Worthy, but this is a particularly strong entry. A gent named Dan Arel has posted on why Bill Nye, the Science Guy, should not debate Ken Ham. You can read all about that here.

If you choose to do so, you will encounter this . . .

“To win a debate successfully you must understand your opponent’s position better than they do, in fact, you should know it well enough that you could debate for them. Creationists have no rules, their dishonesty stops nowhere . . . Ham will care little for any facts or evidence and will stick to nonsense and will feed on audience ignorance and use terms like “irreducible complexity” to confuse the watchers into thinking he has made a valid point . . . This debate is being held at the Creation Museum itself and this will ensure that the brain-dead creationist zombies . . .”

The good news is that Arel is telling us that he could “debate for” all of us brain dead zombies. The bad news is that I think he is right. He clearly understands how we think.

That juxtaposition right there is kinda sweet — “well enough that you could debate for them. Creationists have no rules” — and it is hard to read past that in order to continue with your day. You have to come back and savor the moment. Arel is telling us that we are scientific antinomians, making it up as we go along — and you know what? — he could totally do that. You don’t even have to study for it. What I don’t understand is why he thinks Bill Nye isn’t ready for this walkover. Just think like a zombie, man! Try to drool when you talk.

Ham will no doubt stand on his chair and wave a pennant banner back and forth with the phrase irreducible complexity on it, and all the hill apes that came down from the ridges of Kentucky to that Creation Museum of his will jabber and point, and will chatter with joy over the fact that one of us has risen to the level of doing science consisting of two whole words. Sentences are next!

It is hard to type when you are shaking with laughter. I am not saying that this is what I am doing right now. I am just saying that it would be hard.

Ten bucks says that Arel couldn’t accurately restate what creationists mean by irreducible complexity if his soul depended on it, which it fortunately doesn’t.

The reason these people don’t want to debate is more straightforward than the reasons stated in Arel’s post. They don’t want to do it because they couldn’t hit a cow on the rear end with a canoe paddle. They don’t want to do it because they would get their milkshakes dranken. They don’t want to do it somebody would roll their socks down. They don’t want to do it because shut up.

This post of Arel’s is the kind of scientific writing that will likely win him a place on the masthead of the newsletter of the International Scientific Institute, Pigeon Forge chapter.

Down the Trunk of the Jub Jub Tree

This morning, I read this little snippet at the Bayly Blog, and thought I needed to add my two cents.

Here is my first penny. Note that a “first couple” is not required by the text of Scripture, but that it is required by the theologians. Well, then . . . all rise! If the theologians need a first couple, then who are we to say anything to the contrary? We are not strictly bound by what the Bible says, but we are bound by what the theologians need. And what theologians need most, as everybody knows, is a donor base that won’t cut off their seminary. And this means that the words must be parsed very carefully, like a donkey eating a thistle.

My second farthing is that this quote quite obviously leaves room for the first couple to be the first couple that God decided to make a covenant with, themselves descended from a long line of critters. This means that just as God called Abram out of Ur, so also He called Adam and Eve down from the trees. This is because God looked far into the future and saw that the theologians had nothing to work with, and so in His great mercy He looked over the vast canopy of trees in the jungles of Africa, and there saw one of the primates who was particularly adept at throwing poo at the passing antelope down below. And the Lord remembered Adam, along with his lovely bride Eve, the best picker of nits in that entire region.

You don’t see that? Ah, but faith is the assurance of things not seen, is it not? If the text doesn’t require that Adam was made from the dust of the ground, then surely it leaves room for Adam to descend ceremoniously and with great dignity down the trunk of his jub jub tree — a subject worthy of a Milton! — going oo oo oo as he came.