Big Tents: how the Biologos/EC tent is different to the ID tent

Both Biologos/EC and ID make a stand for a “Big Tent” accommodating different views. The Big Tent of ID has been criticized for the scope of its accommodation, and IDers have responded with the counter-charge that Biologos/EC has a broad scope of accommodation itself. But these tents are not the same.

The Big Tent of Biologos/EC accommodates a range of theological views, within specific boundaries. While making the case that certain views are most likely, others are less likely, and some are only marginally likely, Biologos/EC is prepared to accommodate these various theological views on the basis that theology is ultimately a matter of interpretation and that orthodox Christianity has been prepared to accommodate diversity within specific boundaries. The accommodation is one of theology, not science. Thus Biologos/EC can rightly claim to be “doing theology”.

The Big Tent of ID accommodates a range of scientific views, within specific boundaries. While making the case that certain views are most likely, others are less likely, and some are only marginally likely, ID is prepared to accommodate these various scientific views. The accommodation is one of science, not theology. However, the problem is that it is prepared to accommodate views which are demonstrably scientifically false. Thus ID cannot rightly claim to be “doing science”.

The age of the earth is a useful litmus test. Biologos/EC categorically denies that the earth is very young, and agrees with the scientific consensus on the age of the earth. It is prepared to accommodate YECs theologically, though it does not compromise on the scientific facts, and tells them that their scientific conclusions are wrong and that this brings some of their theological conclusions into question. In contrast, ID is not prepared to commit to the scientific consensus on the age of the earth, and does not take a stand on the age of the earth, insisting that a range of views on the age of the earth are considered legitimate possibilities within ID’s Big Tent. Philip Johnson has even said the topic of the earth’s age is “not ripe for debate yet”. Stephen Meyer says it is a “subsidiary issue” and criticized Ken Ham for raising it in his debate with Bill Nye, and says the age of the earth is not a primary concern of the ID community. Jay Richards likewise says we should not focus on the age of the earth.

So Biologos/EC claims to be theology, and actually does theology. In contrast ID claims to be science, but does not do science. Further useful information can be found here.



I think this is a very cogent analysis, and it does put many things in perspective. In fact both groups are criticized mostly for their big tent issues. Thus ID gets most of its criticism regarding its science, and EC gets it for their theology. Some might even say (and they have said it, repeatedly) that Biologos is very unclear on what exactly those theological boundaries might be. In other words, how far does the tent extend. This raises the question whether it is a good idea for Biologos to attempt to define those boundaries more precisely, or not. I dont know the answer to that, but I expect this should raise some discussion.

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We can certainly discuss whether or not Biologos should be defining those issues more narrowly, but ultimately it doesn’t change the fact that they don’t actually need to, in order to be doing theology. In contrast, until ID can at least make a stand on the age of the earth, it isn’t doing science.

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As far as BioLogos this link seems to set out some pretty clear boundaries. About BioLogos | Science and Faith Working Hand in Hand - BioLogos what we believe

But of course that is BioLogos not necessarily posters

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Thanks Larry, its been a while since I looked at that page, and I agree, it makes it pretty clear.

Point 9 of the Mission Statement says this:
We believe that the diversity and interrelation of all life on earth are best explained by the God-ordained process of evolution with common descent. Thus, evolution is not in opposition to God, but a means by which God providentially achieves his purposes. Therefore, we reject ideologies that claim that evolution is a purposeless process or that evolution replaces God. - See more at: About BioLogos | Science and Faith Working Hand in Hand - BioLogos

My understanding of the sentence that I put in bold is that BioLogos affirms the central claim of ID. Does anyone else agree?

That looks like the opposite of what ID says about evolution. ID describes evolution as a purposeless process.

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This is where the BioLogos position becomes ambiguous, and why I would question the theological position indicated by the statement that (X=evolution) is a God-ordained process, (and so on).

Theologically, we must be specific when we decide that such and such is God-ordained. It is one thing to claim that one version of ToE may not be purposeless as opposed to atheistic versions that claim to show an absence of purpose (even than, BioLogos does not distinguish those elements in ToE that it equates with purpose, nor identifies scientifically these claims, from those who claim ToE is without purpose).

Importantly, it is theologically indefensible to say something is God-ordained without, at the very least, showing how this is based on clear passages in scripture, and supported by a theologically coherent discussion on how it is God-ordained.

So while I note a rejection of ideologies claiming evolution is purposeless, BioLogos does not state how evolution is with purpose - and note, supporters of BiLogos present ToE claims on a sound scientific basis, and purpose (or lack) must be demonstrated on this basis.

Do you mean the central claim of ID folks about the problems with evolutionary creationism or the central claim of ID about ID? I thought the central claim of ID about ID is that design is something that can be proven scientifically.


I should add @Jay313 that Philosophy of Science provides a broader view of the sciences, and also enables, perhaps, to identify areas that need further work. This quote is a good summary, “… the descriptive corrective of the philosophy of science contains only accepted (counter) examples. When models developed by the philosophy of science have been corroborated, we can take the next step of applying them to controversial areas of scientific disciplines, in which no consensus has been reached—be it the objectivity problem of quantum mechanics, the teleology problem in biology, or the explanation-understanding problem in the humanities.”

Yes, I don’t understand the ID obsession with being considered “science,” but leaving that bit aside …

I’m just observing that “purpose” implies “design” implies “mind,” so it seems to me that this statement of “purpose” entails (or dovetails with) the central point of ID. Am I wrong? (It would not be the first time!)

From the FAQ page:

[quote]In contrast to EC, YEC, and OEC, Intelligent Design (ID) does not explicitly align itself with Christianity. It claims that the existence of an intelligent cause of the universe and of the development of life is a testable scientific hypothesis. ID arguments often point to parts of scientific theories where there is no consensus and claim that the best solution is to appeal to the direct action of an intelligent designer. At BioLogos, we believe that our intelligent God designed the universe, but we do not see scientific or biblical reasons to give up on pursuing natural explanations for how God governs natural phenomena. We believe that scientific explanations complement a robust theological understanding of God’s role as designer, creator, and sustainer of the universe.

While ID is correctly criticised for an appeal to the direct action of an intelligent designer, EC/TE makes a clear statement that evolution is God-ordained. This is a stronger claim than an appeal to direct action, and it can be argued that EC/TE is open to harsher criticism than ID, in that it directly and theologically links a theory of the natural sciences with a far higher basis (ordained by God).

This aspect of the angst and disagreements between EC and ID has puzzled me a great deal.

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Because they want to sit at the big table with the adults. If ID is accepted as science, they’ll have the opportunity to argue it should be taught in schools. Additionally, they want ID to be taken seriously in the secular community, which they can only do if they pitch it as science and not religion.


ID is also a “Big Tent” theologically. Frankly, there are a bigger tent than us, including Catholic theistic evolutionists (Behe), YECs (e.g. @Paul_Nelson and Cornelius Hunter), Muslims (see ID movement in Turkey), Jews, Agnostics (e.g. Denton), and Unification Church (e.g. Jonathan Wells) all together. I think the unifying banner is that they all agree to is that science can or already has demonstrated divine design (even though we will insist on on avoiding “divine” as a term) in biology. Any one who agrees with this, no matter their scientific or theological views, is a welcome member of the movement.


Yeah they boast Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, agnostics, and even atheists under the Big Tent of ID. Everyone’s welcome, bring your own theology, or none at all.

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I think it is implicitly clear how BioLogos comes to consider the version(s) of Evolution it asserts as “with purpose” - - it is with purpose because God is the One behind the evolutionary process! We don’t need a fancy course in Theology to arrive at that conclusion!

However, I do appreciate your statement “…it is theologically indefensible to say something is God-ordained without, at the very least, showing how this is based on clear passages in scripture…”

But is this really so difficult? BioLogos takes the story of Creation and says: this is figurative, not historical. So these texts are the specific passages in scripture you are looking for.

Ah… now you will say, where in the passages do we find the suggestion that these are Figurative instead of Literal? All these BioLogos boards are your evidence for this! The extensive discussion about the firmament shows that the writer was not attempting to write science … for we all know there is no barrier in the sky holding up the blue ocean of Heaven. Since we know this … we are left with the creation story being Figurative … not literal.

I think your posting is marvelous in helping us to sync-up the points of evidence … but in the end, your post shows why the BioLogos position is logically arranged, and where we can look for the items that you say are missing.

I wish you and yours peace and love,


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