A Problem with BioLogos' Approach

I agree you must look for spiritual truths in the Bible, but you cannot do that to the exclusion of the plain literal truths. You can do both. You must look at the literal truth first, and then look for the spiritual, greater meaning. Here’s an example:

In the Old Testament, God tells Israel not to muzzle an ox that is treading corn. It was a literal law, and Israel was to obey it very literally. If they ignored it and only said “well, God is really only speaking to us spiritually, we don’t actually need to take the muzzle off our oxen,” they would have been disobedient to God literally.

However, if you only stop there and say “God cared that the oxen got fed, that’s it, there’s nothing more to it,” you would have missed the spiritual truth. Paul writes about it in 1 Cor. 9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? 10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

So there are several layers of truth here. First in the OT is obedience to God in laws which separated Israel from other nations. Next is a moral kindness that extended even to animals, making sure they were taken care of. Further, Paul says it was written for us, to teach us that they that labor in the ministry should be fed by those who are being ministered to. Further even still is that those who are working MUST have the hope that their labor will pay them back, or else they’ll be downtrodden and quit.

So the conservative hermeneutic is not to ignore spiritual or metaphorical truths, it is to make sure and not break or throw out the literal truths in favor of the spiritual.

Can’t we have both?

I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking here, could you explain a bit more?

@nobodyyouknow

I think that I agree with you, but not 100%.

The problem with Genesis is theological and there are definitely a number of layers of meaning in this text.

The biggest problem however is that we are Christians and therefore we so not take the OT as the Absolute Word of God. We believe with John 1:1 that Jesus Christ is the Logos, the Rational Ultimate Word of God, not the Bible.

Sadly many “Bible-believing” Christians choose to go against the clear meaning of the Bible on this basic understanding of the Gospel…

I deal extensively with postmodernism and pluralism with the youth and young adults at church, and we do so from a conservative hermeneutic. They are very prepared to deal with those things and don’t miss out from this approach.

You see, the Bible clearly deals with those subjects literally. They don’t need to be ready to absorb ideas and have flexible Bible beliefs to grow in their belief system with every new thing they learn at college. They need to know how to correct error with the truth of the Bible. They need to know how they ought to answer every man. They need to know what is true wisdom and what is simply a rudiment of the world. They need to be…

Col 2:7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

And they need to…

Col. 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Here’s another point of difference (we’re seeing more and more). What it seems like from my perspective, is that now the BioLogos approach is not simply asking to interpret the Bible using science, but we’ve already expanded it to history. Then we expanded it to language. Now we’re expanding it so that we’re interpreting the Bible in light of culture and modern philosophical trends?

The Bible stands head and shoulders above all these.

What’s funny (side note here, maybe), is that no one asks other philosophies (besides the Bible) to absorb competing and contrasting ideas into their own and change their core tenants.

Stoics are stoics, and no one demands that they deconstruct their stoicism in light of post-modern thought. They may debate them, but they don’t try to make them all compatible with each other. It would not be possible!

How would you possibly interpret the Bible in light of postmodernism, and at the same time interpret it in light of modernism? These are competing ideas. They do not cast the same light, so looking at the Bible in each light will throw off contradicting shadows and lead to confusion and ignorance. A man with two watches never knows what time it is.

This is why we must look to the light of the Bible and compare it to itself, in light of itself with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We cannot look to worldly philosophy for light on the scripture. There is only one place in the Bible where the word philosophy is mentioned, and it is not good. Paul warns the Colossians not to be spoiled by it. In Acts Paul speaks to the Epicureans on Mars hill and does not change the Bible to match their philosophy- he does not wonder that maybe Christianity should adopt the Epicurean tenant that we should not have any fear of God, for example- but rather cherry-picks from a piece of their literature that does not contradict the Bible, and preaches the Bible to them through it. He tells them that they know they are offspring of a god, and they worship an unknown god, but he does not then question whether the Bible should allow for the worship of other gods. He tells them that they need to worship the God they do not yet know.

So I teach the young adults in my church all about philosophy, but we teach them what parts of it is wrong according to the Bible. We teach them how unbelievers are “ignorantly worshipping.” If we adopted modernity in interpretation, our own worship would go from enlightened by the Holy Spirit and the scriptures, towards ignorant worship.

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@nobodyyouknow

Sure, I’ll explain the context of my question more.

There is a tendency in the Pro-Evolution camp to see all Evangelicals as more or less the same. But then you appeared!

And you described your success with three “conservative” Christians in having them accept the idea that the Biblical Flood was not a global flood. Last year I would have bet a substantial sum that nobody could convince any Evangelical that the Flood was anything other than a massive world-wrecking catastrophe.

So: in view of the “micro” miracle you have wrought (to be distinct from Macro Miracles that only God can do! :smiley: ):

One: to what denomination did these 3 conservatives?

Two: do you find that there is a particular Evangelical denomination that is most willing to take non-traditional views on the Bible when provided reasonably persuasive Biblical information?

The three I spoke to were Baptist. Two were more conservative fundamentalist type Baptists and one is more contemporary Southern Baptist.

What they had in common was that they understood how to make decisions on scripture by looking at it and seeing what it said. That as opposed to Christians who don’t particularly care to study their Bible and just listen to whatever their preacher tells them.

That is, if you talk to someone about the Bible and they look confused and say, “I don’t know about that, I just know this is what I believe…” then I’m not quite sure how to deal with that type of answer.

I think this Bible-studying kind of person is probably found across all denominations. However you interpret scripture, I think you must be the type of person with a desire to look into scripture and come to conclusions on it, to find out what you believe and why, vs. someone who doesn’t really care what they believe, they only go to church for practical or devotional lessons and don’t think doctrine is important.

I’m thinking of a close family member who would respond: “look, I just think we should all love each other, and I just believe it’s a global flood, I don’t want to argue about it.”

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I’m not sure I understand what you mean here. The way I’m reading it, this would be a grave error.

We DO accept the OT as the absolute word of God. We ALSO accept Jesus Christ as the absolute word of God. There is no need to make one the rational ultimate, they are both ultimate.

That’s like saying Darwin himself is the Rational Ultimate Darwin, but “Origin of Species” is somehow less authoritative than the man himself.

That just does not make sense to me unless… are you claiming that the man Jesus Christ contradicted the written words of God?

Thank you for your work at BioLogos. I love Francis Collins’ work and the scientific work of BioLogos. Particularly appealing to me and needful is the work that sees God in nature and science. I love hearing a geneticist talk of the language of God within our DNA, and I love hearing BioLogos talk about, for example, the fine tuning that is found in nature, among many other things.

God’s work is IS FOUND IN nature. That is undeniable. I need Collins and BioLogos to show me the details on that, because I am not a scientist and do not study nature in such fine detail. I need someone who does study it, who can then pass along the results in layman’s language for all of us to enjoy, and to magnify and glorify God among his people.

Yes, there does exist a deep divide over how scripture should be interpreted. Should we interpret scripture by nature, or should we interpret scripture by scripture? It is unfortunate that BioLogos has chosen a side in that debate, because, and this is my main point, it is irrelevant to the discussion of God, nature, and science. I have come to the conclusions that BioLogos holds on science and nature, without changing my hermeneutic.

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I understand where you are coming from, and agree that we should not interpret scripture through nature, but rather through the lens of Christ. In another sense however, the natural world includes language and linguistics, life experience, knowledge learned through both books and instruction, and those things are necessarily a part of how we read the Bible. To interpret scripture without them is impossible. (I do not speak for Biologos, but feel their position is compatible.)
The danger we fall into at times is that of proof texting, using selected texts to support our pre-determined position. I don’t think any are innocent of that at times, but we should be away aware of the danger.

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@nobodyyouknow

Charles Darwin was a fallible human being who changed his mind more than once I am sure. The book Origin of Species is a summary of what he thought at the time he wrote it, but it is not all of what he thought at the height of his powers. He did write other books.

I do not believe in evolution because Darwin wrote the Origin. I believe in evolution because it is a true and accurate description of how God’s Creation works. Darwin made an important contribution to our understanding of evolution, and for that he deserves credit. He also got his understanding of Natural Selection wrong and that needs to be corrected.

I believe the Bible because it tells the story of Jesus and led to saving faith. I do not believe it because it tells the story of science or the story of philosophy. It is important however because it tells the story behind science and philosophy and those who do not understand this are misinformed, just as those who belie3ve that the Bible is a handbook for understanding the internet.

The Bible gives us a true and accurate picture of how God’s Salvation history works. However it indicates that many times God’s people misunderstood what God wanted them to do. That is very true today, so it would be foolhardy to say we have found the secret of understanding what God wants us to do when there is powerful evidence against this.

The Old Testament is YHWH’s Covenant with the Jewish people. Jesus Christ is God’s Covenant with all God’s People. The Law of the Old Covenant is not the same as the Law of the New Covenant.

The New Covenant is based on the divine Person of Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega of our faith, which is as complete and perfect as Jesus is. The Old Covenant based on the Torah is not.

Our faith is based on Jesus Christ, His birth, life, teaching, death, and resurrection, not the Bible, and certainly not a narrow understanding of the Bible as I have said.

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On occasion I’ve asked folks for the scriptural reasons for why they accept heliocentrism. The short answer is that there aren’t any to be had - one cannot establish heliocentrism through exegesis. If it was possible to do this, it would have been done, enthusiastically, by Galileo and others.

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A great example of why we cannot interpret nature from the scripture, which really seems to be the message here, rather than the interpretation of scripture from nature.

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My last post to Mr. Kramer is probably all that I need to say to wrap up this topic from my end. I’d like to add a postscript here because several folks seem to be interested in my interpretive approach. I’d like to elaborate a little there. Maybe it belongs here as a PS and maybe as a different topic, if it generates further discourse.

I’ve said that I don’t like to interpret scripture according to nature, but rather interpret scripture according to scripture. BioLogos’ position may be best summed up by the oft-repeated statement that we have two books of revelation- the book of scripture and the book of nature. Thus scripture is interpreted by the other book- nature.

Scripture is given to us in a completed canon. It is completed and finished revelation. This is especially important because the books of the Bible have withstood an important test… the test of time. They have been, through time, refined by fiery trials of the church and by apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers and the saints themselves. This is an important and painstaking work that was ordained by God, proving its authors by “signs of apostleship,” self-referencing prophesy, and many more “infallible proofs.” Many books that are now outside the canon have been introduced over the years, but were rejected as spurious or antilegomena.

Psalm 12: 6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. 7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

The words of the holy scriptures are tried in a furnace of earth, purified, and kept and preserved by God.

Does nature speak of God? Yes, of course, we see that it does according to scripture. But the language of nature is ongoing. It is continually being revealed to us as we make further and further discoveries. That’s a blessing as a testimony to God’s glory, just as someone speaking about God’s work in their personal life is a testimony to God’s glory, but neither the testimony of a personal Christian nor the testimony of science can be trusted as authoritatively as scripture, and we cannot interpret scripture based on these types of testimonies. People can misread God’s work in their lives and circumstances can change, so personal testimony is a blessing, but must bend to scripture. You could call CS Lewis’ work a “book of testimony of God,” but we are not to bow scripture to it. Likewise, sometimes what we understood yesterday in nature is proven untrue today. Scientists sometime fudge on this and say that they are refining, but many times the refinements would more actually be called reversals. Other times the public jumps to hasty conclusions based on new findings that the researchers themselves don’t claim. So science must also bow to scripture.

At science’s worst, BioLogos’ book of nature is rewritten.

At science’s best, when it is settled science and not rewritten, BioLogos’ book of nature is Progressive Revelation. If you’re unfamiliar with that term you should study its meaning so you can see why conservative Christians recoil from it so much.

So, should BioLogos throw out the book of nature metaphor? No, I think it’s a beautiful and useful idea, but it should be clear that the book of nature is secondary in authority to the book of scripture. It is testimony about God. It is commentary on God. It is glorification of God and magnification of God. But it is NOT a book on equal authoritative footing as the Bible.

It reminds me of the talmudic commentary that the Jews were guilty of adding to the scriptures. They added tradition after tradition, and as it was passed down from generation to generation, it became authoritative alongside scripture. Jesus rebuked them for this very thing. Please consider this carefully:

Mark 7:1 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. 2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. 3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. 4 And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. 5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? 6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

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I don’t think that science can really uncover new theological doctrines. It can at best be a secondary corrective to faulty modes of exegesis concerning natural history.

As an aside, what exactly is wrong with progressive revelation according to you? Of course, given that it must be carefully handled and be in accordance with previous revelation? For me, a nice illustration of “proper” progressive revelation is my own marriage relationship. As this relationship develops and deepens, I get to know my wife better and new aspects of her are being revealed. But it’s not like my wife is becoming a different person. Everything I learn is in accordance with her being as revealed to me previously, and mostly these things were foreshadowed already.

In this sense of the term, the doctrine of the Trinity is also a form of progressive revelation. This doctrine was fleshed out more clearly by the early church fathers over time, after the New Testament was written down. It was foreshadowed and hinted at in the Scriptures in many ways, but not explicitly defined. Yet the doctrine of the triune Godhead as expressed in the Athanasian Creed has become a comfortable part of conservative Christianity by now:

“The Christian faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost.”

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That sounds like a good definition of the role of science and doctrine. And I think what you’re describing further could be defined as understanding, not progressive revelation. Look at this great speech from Elihu to Job’s friends:

Job 32:4 Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he. 5 When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, then his wrath was kindled. 6 And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not shew you mine opinion. 7 I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom. 8 But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. 9 Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment. 10 Therefore I said, Hearken to me; I also will shew mine opinion.

Years of study from Christians, accumulated through passing it from generation to generation, gives understanding to the scripture, but it does not add to the scripture one jot that is not already there. The canon of scriptural revelation is closed. Nothing new is added to it that is not already there and nothing is found that corrects the words themselves.

In this way, I would agree 99% on your statement: "It can at best be a secondary corrective to faulty modes of exegesis concerning natural history." . I would tweak that to say that science is a warning toward faulty modes of exegesis, not a corrective.

Studying evolution WARNED me that my exegesis of Genesis might be wrong. When I studied the scripture, the SCRIPTURE CORRECTED me.

My concern with BioLogos is when I find them stating that MOSES was wrong, not that we are wrong about Moses.

This is an aside, but the Bible is authoritative, not exhaustive. There is truth to be found besides it, but never above it. The Bible does not speak of heliocentricity. It is silent. We learn of it through observation of God’s world, not by communication from God’s words. But if the Bible did clearly speak of heliocentricity, it would be authoritative above observational science.

Example: God’s word clearly says that Jesus Christ rose bodily from the grave. If an archaeologist came along tomorrow and claimed to have the bones of Jesus, I would reject the observation of that archeologist and take God’s words as authoritative.

Here’s the great thing: the Bible never contradicts science. David was not a geocentrist, rather his commentators gave a poor exegesis of those passages in Psalms. Galileo did not change a single word of the Bible. I don’t look at those passages and say “Oh, David was a man of his times.” I say, “Oh, David was using a metaphor.” But I do that using scripture, not science. I look at the many times the Bible uses the words “like” and “as” to denote metaphor, and I leave those passages in Psalms open to that interpretation, since they also use the words “like” and “as.”

If you believe established science DOES contradict the Bible, and find yourself looking to science to correct the Bible, you are doing what conservative Christians run from.

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I’m still not clear on how you get to biblical inerrancy (assuming you do) from here. Perhaps this digresses from your original point (and your original audience) but although I can agree with the following statements:

  1. The Bible came from divine inspiration
  2. The Bible has been refined through time by the painstaking work of many genuine people
  3. The Bible contains enormous truth and wisdom

I still don’t think it follows that the Bible cannot be wrong. People today say a movie was ‘inspired by a true story’ or even that ‘I was inspired by God to paint this scene’ and it does not at all follow that either the work must be flawlessly accurate or else the artist must be lying!

The words of the Bible were written by fallible mortal men, and relying on them for guarantees that aren’t there, that we don’t need to pay attention to observations of the world if they disagree with the biblical authors, is beyond me.

I do want to thank you for the excellent and thoughtful answer about the oxen. That’s a great example of a seemingly simple statement having truth on a lot of different levels. I probably would consider it a great rule to live by for the most part in its literal sense, but I can also picture exceptions—what if a particular ox was too fat and needed a special diet? What if it was a choice between your kids starving and the ox eating its fill?—that would make me hesitate to interpret it too didactically.

I wonder what your basis is for saying this? Perhaps the case is only that other philosophies already absorb competing and contrasting tenets without being asked, and do not insist on throwing out established science and history for dogma. Or at least if they do, they are inconsequential enough that no one need take them seriously.

Thank you for all the time you’re willing to put into very thoughtful discussion, and my apologies if I am dragging the conversation too far onto side notes!

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I agree with Brad that we should thank you for starting this lively thread. I have enjoyed reading the many thoughtful posts it engendered. I have no background in Bible studies, and so my only excuse for entering this discussion is as an ‘elder’ on the ‘science side’ of the controversy–I have been a member of the American Chemical society for over 67 years, and I have spent a good deal of time studying how geology, astronomy, and biology can inform us how the glorious Universe God created actuarially works. In a previous post you state:

I am not sure I understand what you mean by “cannon” and “revelation”, but I feel sure that God is continually encouraging us to use our intellects to try our (feeble) best to understand Him and _what He wants us to accomplish in our lives on this earth._He will continue to teach as long as we continue to listen. In founding BioLogos, I believe Francis Collins was encouraging the use of cutting-edge science for this end. My studies of geology and astronomy especially gave me a long range view of what God might expect of us throughout a human history that might well last hundreds of thousands of years. Earlier you made the point that we should respect the primacy of the Bible as THE source of Truth since it has done so for two thousand years or more. But what will the next ten thousand years bring? Early Christians expected that some of them who were alive at that time would see the Second Coming of Christ. That was a mistaken idea. If we do not continue to blend the new knowledge science offers us with the spiritual knowledge of revelation, how much longer will Christ’s message stay relevant?

Just during my lifetime I have seen a severe drop off in the scientific community of Europe and Asia, not only of the relevance of the Christian Faith but of religion in general. That certainly holds true for the “intelligencia” in general. I cannot say for sure, but I think that holds for the “common folk” as well. Most of us believe the maxim: “By their fruits you should judge them” (Fruit trees, I guess) By whatever hermeneutics employed, the message conveyed to the majority of folks is: “The only salvation is through Christ, and salvation means avoiding the eternal fires of Hell.” The scientists I have been privileged to know simply do not believe this is the “fruit” of Christian religion. I agree. Religion ought to help one lead a better, more productive life. The Faith of early Christians enabled them to welcome martyrdom to encourage others to join the Faith. But, as we have seen lately, a warped interpretation of religion can encourage a martyrdom that is an abomination.

So, in relation to this thread, what should the role of BioLogos be in reference to making scientific knowledge compatible with the Faith of evangelical Christians? As Brad and Christy have stated, it should not be taken as an attempt at “conversion” from conservatism to liberalism. As far as I can tell, the most conservatives in the YEC and ID camps are encouraged to lead better, productive lives than they would have otherwise. So why not keep the Christian Tent large enough to accommodate all of them, as long as cordial relationships can be maintained? I would hope that even a “maverick Catholic” like myself might be included in such a Christian family.
Al Leo

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I’ve enjoyed the discussion here, too!

On your questions and points, I think we have too far a divide between our beliefs on Biblical inspiration and preservation to cover here. Maybe a side topic would be good. That’s a huge topic.

A movie can have a message (general idea) that is inspired (aroused into being) by true events that were passed along by men. The Bible differs in that it claims to have words (not a general message, but individual words) that were given by the mouth of God (not just inspired as in aroused, but inspired as: breathed out of his mouth) and preserved for each generation by miraculous promise of God himself, not men. I’ll break that down with scripture.

The Bible differs in that it claims to have words (not a general message, but individual words: Matt. 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

…that were given by the mouth of God…: 2 Tim. 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 1 Pet. 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old timed by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 1 Thes. 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

…and preserved for each generation by miraculous promise of God himself, not men…: Ps. 12:6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. 7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

Like I said, I’m not trying to prove my stance with the above verses, it’s a much larger topic. I’m simply trying to establish that our places on this issue are very far apart indeed.

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