Galaxies, Genes, and the Glory of God | The BioLogos Forum

The editorial team here at BioLogos has an almost endless backlog of interesting and edifying material on science and faith that we want to publicize for our readers. It would be absolutely impossible to publish everything that we come across, but we especially like highlighting resources that help people engage the often complex relationship between science and faith in simple and clear ways. Not surprisingly, BioLogos president Deb Haarsma excels at presenting our message of harmony between science and faith to audiences all over the world. Today, we’d like to highlight a lecture she gave at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary on May 2, 2014 (almost a year ago—we weren’t kidding about the backlog). The lecture is titled “Christian Perspectives on Creation, Design, Evolution, and Human Origins”, and is part of a lecture series entitled “Galaxies, Genes, and the Glory of God: Intersections of Science and Faith.” If you have ever struggled to communicate with friend or family member about evolutionary creationism, or simply how science and faith mutually enrich each other, this lecture is an amazing reference. While this whole lecture is well worth 46 minutes of your time, below the video a rough guide to finding the best bits.

  • 4:35: The “two books” model of understanding Scripture and nature
  • 14:35: How understanding the cosmology of the ancient world helps us accurately interpret Genesis
  • 18:45: Five definition of the word evolution, as well as the difference between evolutionary creationism and “evolutionism”
  • 26:10: A very helpful chart about which major modern scientific theories (and philosophies) each position on origins accepts or rejects
  • 28:04: Why “evolution” and “design” should not be seen as opposites
  • 30:24 to 42:30: A very good summary of the various possibilities regarding how to understand Adam and Eve in light of the evidence for the evolutionary origin of humankind, including a great discussion of how each “model” addresses the big theological issues associated with evolution and human origins

    42:30 to end: How evolution helps us understand and praise our creator God

For more from president Haarsma (and her husband Loren) on science and faith, check out this series of excerpts from their book Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design.

Deborah Haarsma serves as the President of BioLogos, a position she has held since January 2013. Previously, she served as professor and chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Gifted in interpreting complex scientific topics for lay audiences, Dr. Haarsma often speaks to churches, colleges, and schools about the relationships between science and Christian faith. She is author (along with her husband Loren Haarsma) of Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (2011, 2007), a book presenting the agreements and disagreements of Christians regarding the history of life and the universe. Haarsma is an experienced research scientist, with several publications in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

President Haarsma (@DeborahHaarsma) is available to respond to questions and comments related to this lecture.


Excellent presentation. The only problem is that you and BioLogos have yet to come up with a scientifically acceptable manner in which God i9mplements God’s design of the evolutionary change.

The suggestion of self assembly does not work, especially since Darwinian evolution claims natural selection is based primarily on conflict. Conflict destroys, cooperation creates.

Also as I have tried to explain NeoDarwinism and BioLogos are fixated on genetic change driving evolution. This is false. The most important evolutionary event was the extinction of the dinosaurs, which was caused by climate change and not by genetic change. While genetic change and other forms of variation do make evolutionary change possible and gives it form, natural selection determines the direction of evolution, which of course takes many forms.

Sadly the view that nature has a purpose and meaning has become anathema to many scientists and this is the reason that they reject guidance of evolution. It is much easier to fall back on Western dualism than to determine who God works through nature. However this mystery must be addressed if science and Christianity are maintained as central to the intellectual and spiritual foundation of our culture.

Science based on Darwin sees a world based on conflict between selfish genes, the struggle to survive. Christianity based on Jesus Christ sees a world based on history based on the Logos, cooperation based on the mutual desire to survive and flourish.

They both cannot be right and there is much scientific evidence that the Christian view is accurate and this is the real issue. Who cares how many days it took to create the universe as long as it is clear that Jesus Christ is LORD and Logos Who rules and guides the universe through His Love, that is the Holy Spirit.

Dawkins and Co are attacking the whole understanding the Western Christianity of the universe as a harmonic cosmos, while Christians are trying to defend a peculiar understanding the Gen. 1-3. John 1 is the Christian view which is good science, good philosophy, and good theology, but Darwinism.

Thank you, Dr. Haarsma, for a very helpful summary of some of the major issues. One particular (and quite simple) chart that I thought useful was the “two books” chart about 5:00 minutes in. It portrays a very gentle affirmation of the difference between the raw realities that we have faith are unified, and the interpreted nature of everything we do with that raw reality whether it be theology or science. The inability to consistently distinguish between those two levels seems to me to account for much of the brouhaha. Would it violate any copyright laws if I made a poster of that for my classroom?

Well-done, and thanks again.

Its interesting to me how scripture may have helped the ancient world to understand the cosmos better; this is especially relevant to the fact that God created the earth, sun, moon and stars, so that worshipping these things did not make sense. It means the sun moon and stars were things, not gods, and that is a better understanding than some ancient civilizations had. It also related the fact that there was one God, not many mixed up, diverse, and “humanized” gods. This also explains that what was there, man, animals, plants, water, earth, was not there by accident, but by God’s plan and design. This certainly had the potential to clarify things for some of the ancient people’s who paid attention to this.

C.S. Lewis and his friend Owen Barfield both wrote about the long process of differentiating the divine from nature and contraction of the human self from the rest of nature. Pre-scientific people perceived the divine or spirit world just beneath the surface of what they saw in the world around them - hence the many gods and spirits of sun, moon, mountain, river, etc. The Hebrew prophets began one version of the differentiation by insisting that God created these things but his image was not to be found in them. The Greek philosophers began the other route of differentiation by starting to apply logic and geometry to the world to seek cause and effect instead of attributing everything to divine causes. Those two ways of differentiating nature from God (or gods) came together gradually in the Medieval Islamic and Christian philosophers and eventually gave rise to science. Barfield’s book Saving the Appearances is about this process. Greek thinking probably influenced the wider world first because of the Hellenistic empires. The Hebrew perspective had to wait until Christianity spread it in it’s early centuries. It’s amusing to remember that the Romans often called Christians atheists since they didn’t believe in the panoply of classical gods.



Thank you for your insights. We need to do more much more work in this area. A book that I find helpful is The Rise of Early Modern Science by Toby E. Huff.

It is certainly true that Christianity and Greek philosophy came together to give rise to modern science (as opposed to ancient science which was not based on the experimental method.) I might mention since you did, that while early Islamic culture continued the robust tradition of ancient science, al-Ghazali put an effective end to this by declaring the Absolute Unity of Allah and thus denying the differentiation between God and nature. Those who insist that God must be in absolute control of nature make the same mistake today.

In my opinion the key to our understanding the relationship between God and the universe is found John 1:1 where the Bible boldly brings Jesus the Second Person of the Trinity together with the Logos, a most important philosophical concept. Until we can wrap our minds around this difficult notion, we cannot truly understand the Christian view of scientific reality.

The Logos highlights the importance of God as Trinity in this process. Unfortunately Greek philosophy does not really focus on God as Trinity, so we need to go beyond Greek philosophy to a true Trinitarian understanding of Reality.

Roger, with no formal training in evolutionary theory, I should probably not put my two cents worth in, but I will anyway. If I were to vote on ‘the most important event in the history of evolution’, I would pick one much earlier than the K-T extinction. Until it found the means to capture the sun’s energy, Life on earth would be severely restricted in the development of variety and complexity. It is widely accepted that more than two billion years ago, what perhaps started as a predatory act, turned co-operative, and the ancestor of a chloroplast survived and thrived inside the ancestor of a bacterium, and they reproduced in tandem. Thus Life became independent of the heat from the earth as an energy source. Some time later, animal life headed in the right direction when its ancestral cell struck up a fruitful co-operation with the ancestor of the mitochondria. As I understand it, modern evolutionary theory does not require all change to be the result of conflict, but sees creative co-operation also.

There is truth in Tennyson’s phrase “Nature, red in tooth and claw”, and in Dawkins’ “The Selfish Gene”, but that is not entirely the way evolution operates. We are well advised to be careful in what we claim that God can and cannot do when He acts in Nature. It sure looks like evolution is one of His tools.
Al Leo

Preston, that God was not to be confounded with his creation was clear long before the prophets, although Moses, King David, and the other prophets did indeed validate it. The Hellenistic period did not start until about 300 or 400 BC, long after most of the prophets. Given Alexander the Great’s conquests, including territories where the Jews had spread, it may be likely that scriptures indirectly influenced the Hellenistic approach to objectifying the creation, which led to them applying logic and geometry. Even so, they continued to have a pantheon of gods, including the “unknown god” to which Paul (apostle) referred when he told them about Jesus.

I would argue that it did not give rise to science in a significant way, since science, whether the invention of musical instruments, iron tools, brass ornaments, armaments, pyramids, road building and bridge building and ship building, coliseums, and even examining the stars and constellations was well underway before and during the Hellenic period, and did not dramatically increase until the reformation/ enlightenment period, when it stalled for a while until the industrial revolution.

It is important not to have a too narrow definition of science.

I moved 2 posts to an existing topic: Is evolution driven by violence?

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