BioLogos, Respectability, and Classical Christian Education

As classical Christian education has made it through our first round of trials, which threatened to make us fail through failure, we have now come to the much greater test, one that would make us fail through success. With hard work comes success, and with success comes respectability, and with respectability comes . . . spiritual heat death. As Cotton Mather once put it with regard to physical blessings, faithfulness begets prosperity, and the daughter devours the mother. Or as Moses put it, on the same topic, “Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein . . . thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (Deut. 8:17). The same principle applies to the intellectual fruit of hard academic labor.

Graduates of classical Christian schools are much sought after. They have been taught well, and it shows, and those of us in the movement have heard story after story of how this graduate got a high flying scholarship, and how that one was recruited for the honors program, and so on. We are proud of our students, and rightfully so. But one of the central tests of how we are teaching our students is going to be seen in how they respond to this praise from the world. With the arrival of this praise comes the temptation to want it in the wrong way. The respectability that got there by not caring at all what they think becomes the kind of respectability that cares very much what they think.

And I am convinced that this is one of the reasons why evolutionary thinking is starting to make a play for our community of schools. We have shown that our graduates are smart and well-educated, and this is recognized by all. And nobody wants to see such a fine group of students wasting their intellectual talents on what the establishment considers the equivalent of geocentric flat-earthism.

So let’s move on to the issue of evolution and how it relates to our schools.

“We at BioLogos agree with the modern scientific consensus on the age of the earth and evolutionary development of all species, seeing these as descriptions of how God created.”

I first want to focus on the phrase “agree with the modern scientific consensus.”

There are two possible issues at play here. The first is the harmonization of the truth of Scripture with a truth discovered elsewhere — whether or not anybody else agrees with you on that truth discovered elsewhere. The second issue — and topic of this post — is the harmonization of the truth of Scripture with what all the respectable people think. The key word from that phrase above is consensus. The word consensus means that these are the conclusions of many minds that must be taken into account. Nothing objectionable there, and the biblical virtue of humility requires us not to be automatically contrarian. There is no biblical mandate for always believing that it is the rest of the army that is out of step. But the word consensus also brings with it the concept of peer pressure. Peer review is a good thing, except when it is a thin disguise for peer pressure.

Now sometimes all the respectable people are right, but even when they are, a biblical thinker is going to triple check his motives. Why? The reason we need to check our hearts is that God has designed much of his truth to be intellectually disreputable. That’s not a bug, but a feature. Not all of it works that way, of course — you can believe the sun rises in the east without much danger, and that water at sea level boils at 212 degrees F. Nobody looks at you funny. But when the madness of crowds sets in, the fact that it is a stampede of “approved” scientists doesn’t keep it from being an approved stampede. Think of the kind of trouble you can get in for questioning the dogma of climate change. You can easily become the world’s fool for simply refusing to be a fool.

A biblical worldview thinker must therefore have a robust immune system when it comes to facing the scorn of the educated elites. This a different issue than the simple reconciliation of truths from God’s “two books.” A man alone by himself in a library may set himself to reconcile what Scripture says about the circumference and diameter of Solomon’s bronze sea and what he knows from another source about what the value of pi must be. It could be a very quiet library, and he could harmonize it all by thinking that Scripture was using round numbers, or that the circumference were measured inside the sea while the diameter was measured to the outer lip, or vice versa, or some other clever notion. But what he is harmonizing is a fact here that contains an apparent discrepancy with a different fact there. He is a man in a room solving a problem.

But drag in the word consensus and you have other factors coming into play — things like tenure, and passing your comps, and paying your mortgage, and not upsetting your wife, and not being considered an idjeat by your respected colleagues. Anyone who thinks that the evolutionists police the boundaries of their theory by Pure Science alone, and never by shaming, simply doesn’t get out much. Let’s be honest here. Young earth creationists are assumed to have all the sophistication of the gap-toothed visage of Alfred E. Newman, peering out from underneath a propeller hat. This is simply a dogma with them. Nobody with a functioning brain stem could possibly think that. You think that, and so therefore . . .

Confronted with hundreds of scientists with terminal degrees granted to them by their own universities who are in fact young earth creationists, the establishment retreats into a very fine display of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. One person claims that no Scotsman dislikes haggis. Another person responds that his uncle, a gent from Aberdeen named Angus McFee, detests haggis. To this the all-purpose comeback is that “no true Scotsman” dislikes haggis. No scientist embraces young earth creationism. You produce a list with hundreds of scientists who have in fact embraced it. No true scientist . . . What my net don’t catch ain’t fish.

Feeble attempts might be made to justify the taunt of “no true scientist” by finding some creation scientist who got his degree from the Fargo Community College and Tire Center, saying it is a terminal degree because he must have found it at the bus terminal, but this is more cute than wise. Speaking of wise, there is Kurt Wise, the paleontologist who got his doctorate from Harvard. But what about Francis Collins, who is a force behind BioLogos? He is a Christian who was the head of the human genome project, and he believes that faith in Christ and belief in evolution are fully consistent. Okay, so I will call your Francis Collins, and raise you John Sanford at Cornell, co-inventor of the gene gun. But wait . . . that’s not how truth is established.

Wouldn’t it be simpler to say that scientists disagree on the issue than to say that if a scientist disagrees, he is “no true Scotsman”? Right, that would be simpler, and more to the point, but that is not going to happen any time soon because because this battle is a battle over the boundaries of respectability. This is a battle being fought with the weapons of shame. And my point here is that anybody who cares more for respectability than truth is going to be an early casualty in that battle. And this is an area where many of our schools may be vulnerable.

What we need to do is train first rate thinkers who don’t mind at all being dismissed as clowns and buffoons. This is part of what it means to learn how to think like a Christian. “Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.” (1 Cor. 4:13).

What enables us to believe in special creation? God spoke, and the cosmos was there — as it had not been a moment before? The answer is faith. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:3).

And what interferes with such faith? The answer to that is caring in the wrong way about the scientific consensus. “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44, ESV).

“Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:20–22).

Unless we owe God our allegiance because He created us, there is no such thing as sin. And if there is no such thing as sin, there is no such thing as gospel. The world through its wisdom cannot find God or know God. But the world through its wisdom loves to assume the center, and loves to assert what the consensus of all right-thinking people must be.

But who do you think you are? You have never studied with the approved people. And if you have studied with the approved people, and if you have excelled there, you can still count on getting “the treatment.” The “who do you think you are” jab is an exercise in shaming, not an argument. And the reply, regardless of your scientific background should be the same. God’s Word is a light in a dark place, and it enables us to see where we are going. “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.” (Psalm 119:99–100, ESV)

As we labor to establish our schools, as we strive for academic excellence — which we should continue to do — we are looking to put points on the scoreboard. We can want recognition, which is a tool we can use, without wanting full approval, which is a weapon they can use. The most we want should come in the form backhanded compliments. “And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind”” (Acts 26:24, ESV). Festus had just discovered that Paul believed the Lord told Noah to build him an arky, arky.

“For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Cor. 16:9).

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Bro. Steve
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Bro. Steve

Editorial edification: The sentence, “What we need to do is first rate thinkers who don’t mind at all being dismissed as clowns and buffoons,” needs “create” or “train” between “is” and “first.”

Kirsten Miller
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Kirsten Miller

My first thought was that this BioLogos campaign is sappers and miners’ work against our schools, but now I see that it is more the case that it will reveal where the sappers and miners’ work has already been done.

Katecho
Member

For reference, regarding consensus science, Michael Crichton (author and Harvard M.D.) wrote in Aliens cause Global Warming: “I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet,… Read more »

Drew
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Drew

Doug,

Okay, serious question. I’ve been wanting to ask you this, but there hasn’t been a good moment until now. And even now, it relates to an issue that is somewhat peripheral to your central points in the post, but nonetheless, it is related to them.

Do you believe that Jesus believed in a flat earth (as I’m sure many would say he did)? If so, does this require us to believe in a flat earth? And if you think he believed in a spherical earth, would you attribute his knowledge of a spherical earth to the fact that he was/is divine?

RFB
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RFB

Back in the day, we used to say that a camel was a horse designed by a committee.

And also, as experience was gained in navigating a bureaucracy, that committees were formed to avoid accountability; no decision was made, so no one could be blamed for a bad one. “No one decided that, we were just implementing the recommendations of the committee.”

RFB
Guest
RFB

Drew,

I think that the Author of Isaiah 40:22 believed in what He said.

HTK
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HTK

Just to throw another monkey wrench into the scientific consensus, the book “Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians” by Jeffery Burton Russell is worth a look. This from the back cover: “Neither Christopher Columbus nor his contemporaries thought the earth was flat. Yet this curious illusion persists today, firmly established with the help of the media, textbooks, teachers—even noted historians. “Inventing the Flat Earth” is Russell’s attempt to set the record straight. He begins with a discussion of geographical knowledge in the Middle Ages, examining what Columbus and his contemporaries actually did believe, and then moves to a… Read more »

Matthias
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Matthias

Drew,

Would you believe that the idea that most people long ago believed the earth was flat, is itself a myth? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myth_of_the_Flat_Earth

bethyada
Member

Drew, a spherical earth was known about centuries before Jesus.

Paul Brown
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Paul Brown

Hi Drew,
Yes – along with other comments, Eratosthenes (a Greek living in Alexandria) is credited with calculating the circumference of the earth a couple of hundred years before Christ. It was reasonably well known that the earth was considered a sphere. The conception seemed to be that the earth was at the center of the cosmos, but round. Aristotle had this conception. The somewhat later and well-developed Ptolemaic system has a round earth.

Matt
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Matt

Drew’s question was clearly about outdated scientific theories in general rather than a flat earth in particular. Did Jesus believe in bacteria and viruses or whatever contemporary notion of disease causation there was? The argument about consensus isn’t that you’re a dummy for not just going along with the consensus, but rather that YEC has been tried and failed. It isn’t a new theory that might encounter resistance due to prejudice and inertia. And since scientists are the ones who see the evidence and have the know-how to make reasonable judgements, creationists are basically accusing the scientific community of some… Read more »

Aquila Aquilonis
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Aquila Aquilonis

“An extraordinary claim that requires some extraordinary evidence.” is itself an extraordinary claim. Please provide the the extraordinary evidence so that your statement is not self refuting.

B Martin
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B Martin

Again, thank you so much for this. It was the church adopting what respectable people said about geocentrism that got Galileo into so much trouble.

prayersofadoration
Member

“God spoke, and the cosmos was there”

Amen.

“as it had not been a moment before?”

Um, you appear to presuppose time here, to grant it ontological status similar to God’s, as if it is ultimate rather than part of creation. I doubt that’s what you mean but clarity here might help down the road given the emphasis you place on timing.

ArwenB
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ArwenB

“God spoke, and the cosmos was there”

Amen.

“as it had not been a moment before?”

Um, you appear to presuppose time here, to grant it ontological status similar to God’s, as if it is ultimate rather than part of creation. I doubt that’s what you mean but clarity here might help down the road given the emphasis you place on timing.

…Really?

If a thing is-not and then that thing is, with is following is-not in sequence, then how can one not speak of “the moment before” when referencing the order in which is and is-not happened?

Moor
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Moor

Not that it’s really needed at this point, but just in case anyone wants a compelling video presentation regarding the “flat earth” myth:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8HFDiVzWsM

carole
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carole

Sometimes I think we do this reversed, though: no true Christian believes that the earth isn’t six to ten thousand years old… I completely do feel peer pressure to give up the evidence I believe for a young earth, but I have seen, I dare say even here, peer pressure on those who want to explore their ideas of an old earth. If this isn’t salvific, why is so much passion and pressure brought to it either way?

Matt
Guest
Matt

Because we’re in a culture war here! Are you with us or against us?

Mike
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Mike

The folks whom I have met at Biologos have shown me the love of Christ and that is how I know they are Christians. I would encourage everyone to spend some time at their website – hopefully it will be clear that they intend to seek and find truth and that they care for and love their brothers and sisters in Christ. I have not noticed that they have any motivation besides that – such as “making a play” for the Classical Christian Schools. As a side note – I have been very intrigued with that movement and have listened… Read more »

David
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David

Katecho is correct to bring up the problem of “scientific consensus.” Doing real experimental science is about answering questions that should lead to more questions. I think it is interesting that the “scientific consensus” phrase is most often used with things that really have more to do with history (evolutionism) and futurology (anthropogenic global warming) than with anything that is actually scientifically testable.

Stand firm Christians and Christian educators. There’s no reason to replace the continuous and covenantal story revealed in Scripture with Biologos’ discontinuous, “scientific consensus” interpretation.

timothy
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timothy

And I am convinced that this is one of the reasons why evolutionary thinking is starting to make a play for our community of schools. We have shown that our graduates are smart and well-educated, and this is recognized by all. And nobody wants to see such a fine group of students wasting their intellectual talents on what the establishment considers the equivalent of geocentric flat-earthism. In the words Trent Lott, “can we co-opt em?” A further admonition if I may. Who does not look back fondly at the Inklings of Cambridge–Tolkien, Lewis,,? The intellectual work those men did nearly… Read more »

prayersofadoration
Member

ArwenB, what you’re asking is tantamount to asking what God is like in himself apart from creation. We can’t possibly know unless he tells us. He has told us that he is triune, that he is love, and that he simply is, that is, that he is self-existent, absolute, ultimate, and utterly sovereign over creation. He has not told us what being like that is like, which I expect we’ll never totally understand no matter how far up and in we go.

BJ
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BJ

As a fully convinced six-day creationist and a homeschooling father of three, I fully agreed with your conclusions. But what I have noticed that seems to be overlooked in these analyses is the way in which science is raising up a modern day mimic of the old European (perhaps other examples exist, also) clerisy. Instead of using religion, they are using science. It is now, just as it was then, a naked power play. The comparisons are endless. They have a clergy (Dawkins, Harris, etc.), they have a dogma (evolution, climate change, vaccines, etc.), they make a claim to unassailable… Read more »

prayersofadoration
Member

BJ: Totally–that is, I agree. And like their predecessors the modern clerisy is not completely wrong. Most lies contain enough truth to make the poison go down.

soylentg
Member

Matt said:

The argument about consensus isn’t that you’re a dummy for not just going along with the consensus, but rather that YEC has been tried and failed.

And no one can argue with that because Matt has declared that he has a …CONSENSUS!

Ian Perry
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Ian Perry

Pastor Wilson, the stuff about students being led astray and misusing the gifts given them via the Christian education given them is really valid and even moving (I’m not being sarcastic), but let’s have a debate . I think the argument above about consensus is right, the point isn’t that there’s a consensus but that YEC has been tried and failed and the current consensus is the result of that–but of course that is what is what is being disputed here. So, why not have NSA host a debate, say on the Age of the Earth (say, separate scientific and… Read more »

ArwenB
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ArwenB

@Rob Steele:

Then what’s the problem?

timothy
Guest
timothy

I second @Ian’s request and add another.

The hallmark of an honest broker is that they can clearly state their opponents position in terms such that their opponent has correctly stated their argument.

I propose that be done starting with the fundamentals–the math, physics etc. Things like the rate of decay of an isotope, the veracity of the background radiation as a measure for determining the age of the universe.

Stuff like that.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Scientists contribute to the pool of knowledge by working within the consensus. The gradual discovery of DNA , the elucidation of its structure and the human genome project are all examples. Scientists also know that the really big discoveries occur when someone discovers something that is way outside of the consensus such as relativity. Scientists live in both worlds. If thinking outside of consensus is admirable than Decent with Modification should be admired. Mary Schweitzer is a Christian paleontologist who discovered something outside of the consensus – also a laudable discovery. Argue all you want about how and when the… Read more »

prayersofadoration
Member

ArwenB: We tend to assume space and time just are and that God inhabits them like us. God does inhabit them but not like us. They are our environment, the fishbowl in which we swim, but they are part of creation and so small things to God. They have their being in him rather than vice versa. It’s important we get that straight or else we’ll think of God as just another inhabitant of reality rather than its creator. We’ll treat him as a super-creature rather than as the absolute and ultimate glory that he is. Not that that is… Read more »

Jane
Member

Rob, I’m with Arwen here. I’m not disputing anything you’re saying about God’s relation (or lack thereof) to time and space, but *creation itself* has a relationship to time and space. Though to God it is the same what we call “before” as what we call “after,” creation was not anywhere until it was, so there has to have been a “before.”

prayersofadoration
Member

Hi Jane! *creation itself* has a relationship to time and space. Yes. What is time but change with respect to space? “Though to God it is the same what we call “before” as what we call “after,” Not sure I follow you here. creation was not anywhere until it was True, though note the time word “until”, which implies a “before”. If there is no creation there is no time. “Before time” is a meaningless idea, is it not? so there has to have been a “before.” I think you smuggled this in in the word “until”. It’s that hard–maybe… Read more »

prayersofadoration
Member

Lol: Scientists Are Not That Smart.

Alas, the title is not that accurate. The article is more “You’re a Little Scientist Too, You Know”.