A Decade of Evolutionary Creation: Milestones and Signposts


(system) #1
Since BioLogos began in 2007, the evangelical conversation about evolution has shifted dramatically.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/dennis-venema-letters-to-the-duchess/a-decade-of-evolutionary-creation-milestones-and-signposts

(Dennis Venema) #2

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the last decade - have things changed in your local sphere?


(George Brooks) #3

For those BioLogos supporters who wonder if B.L. is making a difference - -
I found these sentences to be quite encouraging!

“When I talk to lay people in churches, they are typically not as well informed on these issues as students. Yet even in these churches, far more people who are comfortable with evolution as a means of creation than a decade ago. In 2007, such folks were rare in evangelical circles, and often were private about their views. Perhaps they had read Francis Collins or they appreciated the views of C.S. Lewis, but they kept a low profile.”

Now most churches I visit have at least a few people who are familiar with, and appreciative of, BioLogos. (For example, I’ve had numerous people tell me that they’ve read the entire Evolution Basics series – and even a few who told me they’ve read everything I’ve ever written for BioLogos! That’s dedication)." < [GB’s note: I dig the wry humor!]

“Such folks are also more public about their views than was typical in 2007. I recognize that churches who willingly invite a BioLogos speaker are more likely to be open to these ideas, but still, there are far more churches willing to host an evolutionary creationist in 2017 than there were in 2007 — and far more people within such churches who openly hold to evolutionary creation.”

" When I talk to pastors, many of them are concerned about how these issues impact the young people in their flock. Often they recognize that the “evolution is against the Bible” narrative sets their young people up for an impossible (and false) choice. "


(Rob McIntosh) #4

Thanks for the post Dennis, it was encouraging to hear.

I only recently came to the full EC view. The negatively toward biological evolution still seems pretty strong to me. However, I have talked to a number of people in the past year that are open to it or at least see it as tolerable. That was surprising to me. Ten years ago I don’t think you could use the “E word” even to describe a general gradual change over time (i.e. the evolution of music, art, culture, etc.). That has certainly changed.

And I completely agree with you that showing people that EC is an acceptable view for a faithful Christian is more important than convincing others of the science (though that’s also fun). I would not likely have changed my mind if it were not for my father giving me Francis Collins & Karl Giberson’s book when I was in grad school. That effectively gave me permission to consider EC. When faithful local believers can express their support for science it gives others in their community permission to make that adjustment as well.


(Richard Wright) #5

Hey Dennis,

You can count me as one of your fans who has read everything (or nearly everything) that you’ve written for Biologos. It’s clear that your hard work for BL accounts for a fair amount of the increase of positivity for its message. On that end, I say, “keep up the good work!”.

As for my church, it’s never officially been anti-evolution, but had always, “vibed” against it. A sign that things have changed for us is when the son of our local pastor, a couple of years back, had recently come back from living in Norway, where he was a physics student and later in the full-time ministry. Being accustomed to trying to persuade skeptics, he gave lessons at 4 consecutive midweek meetings of the marrieds ministry on befriending and converting skeptics. There he told us, among other things said that, “it’s time that we accepted evolution”. Aside from my hearty, “Amen!” (that he later thanked me for), it was eerily quite. But in 2007 that couldn’t have been said publicly in our church, so yes, we changed. I would say that now probably a fair amount of people in our group, especially millennials, accept evolution as the way in which God got us here.


(Dennis Venema) #6

Thanks for the comment, Rob - and welcome to the forum!


(Dennis Venema) #7

It’s very much a team effort, and a lot of it is behind the scenes. It’s been a real privilege to work for BioLogos these last seven years and contribute to its mission. Thanks for the encouragement!


(Peter Wolfe) #8

Let me add my voice of thanks and appreciation. I have learned a LOT from your articles (and in conversation). You have the gift of explaining a very complex subject (evolutionary biology) so that us ordinary folks can “get it”.


#9

Hi, Dennis…

Two things for starters: 1) I think I’ve read/watched most of your material on BioLogos, and I’ve found it extremely helpful. You cover some pretty technical material in an accessible way, and it’s invaluable. (I also really appreciated your irenic demeanor in your recent interaction with Dr. Jeanson.) 2) Your BC coast is fantastically beautiful. I spent a week in Vancouver about this time a few years ago and loved every minute. My envy knows no bounds.

I came from a hard-core YEC perspective which persisted into my late twenties (about twenty years ago). The deconstruction of that perspective was pretty painful, and mostly happened without the benefit of the sort of resources BioLogos provides. I remember an early mention of the project by Francis Collins in one of the Faraday lectures, and being very anxious to see it get off the ground. I think my first encounter with the definition of “evolutionary creationism” was in one of Denis Lamoureux’s writings on the BioLogos site, but I latched onto it right away. I finally had a label I was comfortable using!

I’ve spent the past decade in a very conservative, overwhelmingly YEC church. While it wasn’t the official perspective, it was clearly the default one. A few years back, one of the teachers in the church did a series that was essentially a presentation of AiG slide decks. During one of the Q&A sessions, there were many comments expressing disbelief that real Christians could deny YECism. I “outed” myself in one of those sessions as a “so-called Christian” who accepted the evidence for evolutionary creationism. At the end of the series, I convinced the church elders to let me present a response. While I wasn’t allowed to actually advocate or present evidence for evolutionary creationism itself, I was allowed to expose the AiG false dichotomy between “biblical creation” and “godless evolution”. Surprisingly, during the Q&A, some of the same people critical of “so-called Christians” who held evolutionary positions expressed support for my points and agreed that positions on origins shouldn’t divide the church. (Unfortunately, the fellow who delivered the original series moved out of town right afterwards, and wasn’t present for my response. If he ever listened to the recording, he never contacted me about it.) In planning my talk, I’d hoped to open up dialog in the church on the topic of origins, especially among the youth. While I saw very little negative fallout from it, I unfortunately also saw little positive effect. I never could get new conversations started, and continued to be challenged on the unorthodoxy of my views.

While little (visible) came of my efforts, giving such a talk at all in a church of that tradition would probably have been impossible twenty years ago (and maybe even ten). One thing that has changed is the public visibility of orthodox evolutionary creationists and the availability of popular-level books on the subject. Seeing dedicated, competent scientists who are also sincere lovers of Jesus and committed to the Gospel put forward evidence in a non-threatening way makes it “safe” for lay folks to entertain new ways of thinking about that evidence. Biblical scholars who are willing to engage with ordinary church members and help them understand the complexities and realities of textual interpretation allow a loosening of the grip of the unrealistic AiG-style hermeneutic.

Another significant difference is that I think the front is shifting. Evangelicals (even conservative ones) are becoming somewhat more comfortable with an ancient earth and even a certain degree of evolution of non-human creatures. I see more readiness to accept notions like the existence of animal death before “the Fall”. But I think a new line is firming up around a literal, historical Adam and Fall. I think the stakes are much higher on this point (particularly for those in a Reformed tradition), and I see more “digging in”. The rhetoric is heating up on both sides, and the “threat to the Gospel” card seems to come out ealier in discussions of the subject. While evolutionary creationism has gained a lot of ground over the past decade, I wonder if that momentum will start to slow as we get closer to the core of the theological perspectives that really divide communities.

Wow… that ended up being much longer than I expected. Thanks for asking the question though!


(Phil) #10

Perhaps it is circular reasoning to use a Biologos post on Facebook to discuss a Biologos blog, but a prime example of how things have evolved is the article referenced by Biologos on The Gospel Coalition’s review of the AIG movie. I can’t imagine that happening 5 or 10 years ago. On the negative side, a quick look at the comments on the article tells me the work is not yet done.


(Keith Furman) #11

Dennis, thank you for recounting the monumental contributions in this great effort of Francis Collins and the BioLogos organization he started. Your experience certainly resonates with me, although I didn’t read Francis Collins book, The Language of God…, until 2010. What a privilege it was to be at the greatly expanded BioLogos conference in Houston this year and finally meet Dr. Collins in person and hear him lead worship. And how encouraging it now is to see the recently updated Gallup poll where YEC wasn’t the top pick for the very first time since those questions were first asked in 1982 http://biologos.org/blogs/deborah-haarsma-the-presidents-notebook/new-gallup-poll-shows-significant-gains-for-biologos-view. That’s fruit!

With this article about “milestones” in “evolutionary creation”, it is worth nothing that that phrase does not appear in Francis Collin’s book even while “theistic evolution” is used 23 times. It seems to me we’d be remiss not to at least mention one particular milestone and the BioLogos theologian & scientist who literally wrote the book on an evolutionary creation (EC) view, “Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution” (2008). To best frame what we mean, he championed the transition to use “evolutionary creation” instead of the “theistic evolution” phrase more commonly used at the time. That would be Denis O. Lamoureux who originally published this BioLogos article https://biologos.org/uploads/projects/Lamoureux_Scholarly_Essay.pdf as “Evolutionary Creation: Beyond the Evolution vs. Creation Debate” in 2003.

Both these men, as well as you and the other key BioLogos leaders, are my heroes.


(Dennis Venema) #12

Thanks, Keith - Denis deserves a lot of credit for effectively “going it alone” for many years. If the history of the present EC movement is ever written, he will be a prominent figure.


(George Brooks) #13

@jpm

A very interesting link! And at the bottom there was link to this book:

A review on Amazon includes this:

“The authors of this book demonstrate from the history of theology and science controversy that believers are entitled to differ over this issue, while still taking a stand against theistic evolution. But by carefully and constructively breaking down the controversy bit by bit, they show why the age issue is the wrong place to draw a line in the sand.”

I think the reviewer (and the authors) are probably right. Because focusing on the age of the Earth is not going to help the YEC case by any means…