How to counter the slippery slope?

It has been my experience that, often, the truth lies on a narrow dividing line between two extremes. We might recall what Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

Obviously, He was speaking about salvation through Him: the Way, the Life, the Truth. But I believe this principle is applicable to truth in general.

For example, we might view both YEC and agnosticism/liberalism as constituting two opposing extremes on the spectrum of biblical interpretation:

1: infallible exegesis VS complete relativism

Also, we might view YEC and atheistic evolutionism as two opposing extremes on the spectrum of views on the appropriate place of science in our worldviews:

2: science is subservient to biblical interpretation VS science is the ultimate victor over all religion

Now, I would say it is the best to maintain a precious middle ground between these extremes, shortly formulated as: (1) the Bible applies cultural concepts from the Ancient East as a vehicle for truly inspired, trustworthy and sufficient revelation unto salvation and (2) science as the study of Creation should proceed independently of the Bible but cannot provide any spiritual foundation for life.

However, we human beings have this persistent tendency to polarize, which is probably connected to our desire for clarity. I remember having almost identical discussions with proponents of YEC and New Atheism, both were arguing that evolution opposes the Bible. The mode of biblical interpretation was the same, but their conclusions were diametrically opposing each other.

Now I would like to pose a question to those like me who identify themselves as born again Christians while also being open to evolutionary explanations of origins. In what ways can we counter the slippery slope that leads away from this narrow dividing line of truthfulness?

I have seen some ideas/questions floating around on this forum which, in my opinion, seem to lead in extremely slippery directions with respect to faith. I think that on such kind of matters, the warnings regarding the dangers of liberalism from our YEC brothers and sisters might be very valid. A few examples are:

  • @aleo expressed his doubts in the teaching that Jesus truly is the only Way, whether through the Resurrected Christ, the Incarnated Christ, or the pre-incarnation presence of Christ. He suggested that an important proof passage concerning this teaching was a result of faulty remembrance of the Biblical writer. I would say that if such basic and foundational teachings regarding Jesus were not transmitted correctly, basically the whole New Testament becomes a doubtful source of spiritual authority.
  • @Josh expressed doubts in the historical existence of Moses. If such an important political and spiritual leader in the history of God’s chosen people were to have been made up, the whole Old Testament could rightly be considered a fraud (although an extremely crafty, moral, and hopeful one).

Anyway, I am not looking for a single straightforward answer on my question. I am just curious to hear what kind of thoughts / strategies / tips / advice / experiences you guys have for approaching this issue!

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I see the whole science/faith/biblical interpretation issue as a case of contextualizing the gospel. It is the work of the church to make the gospel relevant to the culture. Not in the sense of changing the gospel message so that it doesn’t challenge the culture, but in the sense of expressing the gospel in a way that makes sense given the culture’s values and pre-existing categories. (And by “gospel,” I mean the entire message of Scripture; the good news of God working through human history, the climax of Jesus the Messiah, and the ongoing reconciliation mission of the church) The church has been engaged in contextualizing since Pentecost and we have a long list of successes and failures because it has always been a slippery slope.

We live in a culture that is technologically advanced and dependent, one that privileges scientific knowledge over other forms of knowledge, one that draws lines of separation between the natural and supernatural worlds. We have recently undergone a significant cultural paradigm shift from modernity to postmodernity. How we approach the Bible in this culture needs to take in account these things even when they complicate the communication of our message or even directly oppose its claims.

But with all exercises in contextualization, we have to figure out where to accommodate and where to challenge the existing cultural framework, and that is where the slippery slope comes in. I think that is why the whole work is supposed to be done by the community of believers, not by each individual on their own to their own personal satisfaction. We trust the Holy Spirit to guide the Church to make wise decisions about how we present and embody truth in this culture. As the church, we challenge each other when we think a fellow believer has let go of something essential, or has misrepresented the heart of the gospel in an attempt to be relevant, or has demanded the culture change in a way that really is just a stumbling block to belief. We trust the Holy Spirit in our own lives to give us wisdom and discernment and humility as we engage with the hard questions of contextualization. Like many of the missionaries before us, we try out our ideas before they are perfect, and pray for the grace to admit later when we have gone too far, or haven’t gone far enough in making the gospel relevant.

It is hard. We need dialogue and accountability.

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I like the angle from which you approach the matter. As I understand your answer, you would say that the guidance of the Church through the Holy Spirit is an essential protective factor against deterioration of the faith during this challenging process of contextualization. As we stay open to dialogue as Christians, we can encourage and correct each other where needed. I think this is a good answer and I would say it reflects God’s ideal image of the functioning of the Church.

Unfortunately, however, people are not ideal… Haven’t we seen throughout the history (and even right now) that whole church communities can go downhill altogether? It is painful to remember the Toronto movement in its extreme Pentecostalism, damaging or even destroying whole church communities all over the world. A friend of mine from a Dutch evangelical background still remembers how the elders of his church community were crawling like snakes as they entered the church building. As a small boy, this friend of mine literally had to step over their bodies to be able to attend the Sunday service. According to these elders, they were being “led by the Holy Spirit” to behave in this way… Another example would be to think about the recent developments in the Episcopal Church which most evangelicals would not even consider a church anymore.

There is always this “group-think effect” which can take a whole community down and often even amplifies the strength of certain false ideas. In such cases, the true dialogue seems to be replaced by some kind of self-affirming cycle. This also bring problems for the utility of “accountability”. Because if there is this group-think effect, the group changes as a whole which makes it difficult to hold anyone accountable. Moreover, it may lead to ostracizing the minority that didn’t join the group-think process.

Don’t get me wrong, I like your answer, but it seems to me that there’s more to the story?

Yep. It’s messy stuff. And I would venture that the more deeply invested a person is in meaningful “church” work, the more that person realizes how inadequate our nice pretty theology is to explain how it appears God actually works through people and in history, and how much messed-up-ness God evidently tolerates in his instruments of righteousness. I heard that one of the suggested titles for Rachel Held Evans’ latest book was “Jesus went to heaven and all I got was this lousy church.” I think we all have probably resonated with the sentiment at one time or another.

That said, I think letting the problems of the church at large distract or prevent a person from fully engaging in the church “at small” is kind of parallel to letting discomfort with the Joshua conquest distract or prevent a person from fully engaging with the easier to accept and more encouraging parts of Scripture. Not that we stick our fingers in our ears and sing la-la-la with either issue, but neither issue is going to be neatly resolved. In the meantime, it is within the realistic reach of every believer to find other thoughtful, godly individuals who can challenge them and hold them accountable as they work through their questions.

In missiology people have proposed that there are two main approaches: Some people view the gospel as an additive and corrective to an existing worldview and others view it as a replacement. People who view the gospel as a replacement (replacing what you used to believe and how you used to see the world before you were converted) tend to also be boundary oriented (It’s called bounded set vs centered set thinking, here’s a good short article explaining it, if you are interested). In their conception, there is a certain set of beliefs and/or practices that signify you are “in bounds” and they focus a lot on when and how one crosses that line. People who view the gospel as additive or corrective tend to focus more on the orientation and direction someone is moving in, whether they are oriented toward the truth of Christ or not, whether they are moving toward him or away from him.

It seems to me that in our current Evangelical climate, much more effort has been put into defining our boundaries and making judgments about in and out and who gets to control the borders, than has been put on orienting people toward Christ or encouraging people who are moving in that direction to keep moving. When the focus is on defending boundaries, the focus is also often on winning arguments and making allies, and humiliating the opposition. I think the group-think process that you mention can be very powerful when the main motivation is determining who is in and who is out and maintaining the boundaries. I hope that the discussions we can have here on BioLogos can be more of the “centered set” kind. I hope we can find out where people are and orient them toward Christ and truth if that isn’t their orientation, and if it is, that we can help them move closer.

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I think one of the key ingredients in the fight to counter some of the slippery-slope arguments that seem overly fear-based is: time (or patience). One does not usually associate time/patience with “fight”. But change for most of us usually takes time. And in our excited arrival at something that we can “so clearly now see” to be so plausible and/or wise, we tend to impatiently view others who don’t share that particular clarity with us, and wonder why they can’t just make the jump from where they are. We forget that there may have been years or decades of formational influence on us to bring us to some certain point.

I think one of the habits of thought we can helpfully cultivate is that truth and reality aren’t going anywhere. Truth won’t disappear if we fail to win some person over here and now in some particular argument. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t vigilantly pursue these labors. But we should be willing to listen, encourage, and question in kind and gentle ways that are as much seed planting as they are any kind of harvesting.

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Thank you for the “centered-set” vs. “bounded-set” discussion. That was the first I’d heard of those phrases and even just the title made immediate sense to me, though the article does go on to warn us against turning it into just a new polarization as if we could have all one and none of the other. As usual, messiness is alive and healthy, no?


I agree that Truth is most likely found somewhere between two extremes of viewpoint. As to knowledge of the Universe we live in and how we should behave in it, one extreme holds that the Bible is a direct message from God and therefore inerrant, and the other says that scientific studies of the material universe is the only dependable source of knowledge. I prefer some middle ground.

I’m not so sure what preferences have to do with truth, but if we get to pick and choose what is true or what we want to be true, then I guess preferences count.

If the Bible is not inerrant, then there is no standard against which we can evaluate it to decide what is and what is not true. You have just opened up the door for any manner of belief. Read this website for an example of what that looks like! It’s absolutely terrifying how far people have wondered from God’s truth! Might as well just throw it all out. There is nothing worth believing anymore.

I am very concerned about the view of God’s Word that most proponents of Biologos seem to hold. The more I read on this site, the more opposed I am to it’s message. It’s absolutely scary!

And it all started by people accepting the naturalistic interpretations of the data assuming that God could not have been involved. If that is true, then the Bible is way off base and yes, it could not be inerrant. If that is true, then there are huge implications for who God is and is not. And that shows very clearly on this website.

So the sky is falling down, right?

Does what you “read on this site” include all these comment boards? If so, you must be aware that people of every religious stripe, even including devout atheists are attracted here for prolonged discussion all the time. I hope you aren’t assuming that everything voiced here, whether coming from self-identified Christians or not, is all endorsed by Biologos. But if you are somewhat more prudently limiting “on this site” to mean the presented articles (and even those come with the disclaimer that they don’t necessarily represent official Biologos views, though I think we could all be forgiven for assuming they must enjoy at least some endorsement by virtue of their invited presence) … then I would be more curious as to which views are the most scary or offensive to you. I can guess at least one obvious elephant in the room in your case: deep time and evolution? But if you can be specific about how Biologos is straying from God’s truth, then shine some light on it here!

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How can you evaluate it against itself? And what do you do about contradictions?

You are very confused about the BioLogos approach to faith and science if you think it means assuming that God could not be involved.

Our top two core commitments:

  1. We embrace the historical Christian faith, upholding the authority and inspiration of the Bible
  2. We affirm evolutionary creation, recognizing God as Creator of all life over billions of years. - See more at: The Work of BioLogos - BioLogos

Marvin, Christy & Beaglelady beat me to responding to you, Tokyoguy, and I hope you read their posts. The Bible has been of great help to me, but I have not studied it as intensely as has the Biologos team and many of the Forum respondents. I hope you now realize that my posts do NOT reflect the BioLogos position. They have been kind enough to let me relate how my Christian Faith was tested as I began a career in science, and how, unlike many of my colleagues who replaced faith with scientism, I held on to mine. To do that, I had to make some ‘adjustments’–like allowing for human error to creep into Scripture even tho it is God-inspired–adjustments that you apparently find detestable. Perhaps you would prefer that young folks headed for careers in science profess ‘honest atheism’ rather than ‘tinker’ with Biblical inerrancy.

Over 20 yrs. ago, when our pastor invited me to become a minister of the Eucharist, I explained to him that all the ‘tinkering’ I did with my Faith did not lessen the belief in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He assured me that in accepting the invitation I was not being hypocritical, and I have deeply enjoyed this honor ever since. Yesterday’s epistle was taken from Paul 13:4-8, and I believe that lesson on the true meaning of love, taken just on its own merits, would make the entire NT worth reading.
Al Leo

We take the Bible as God’s Word by faith as an a priori commitment.

We give the Bible the benefit of the doubt when a supposed contradiction appears. Some are simply due to coping errors.

OK, that’s helpful to know. True. I was assuming too much. Thank you for pointing that out. I will withdraw the criticism of Biologos per se and simply say I am alarmed at some of the views believers are promoting or hold to on this site.

I guess though with Biologos’ approach to the Bible, it is almost impossible to “counter the slippery slope” because there is so much room for what I would call re-interpreting the text to fit one’s own ideas or the hypotheses of modern science.

I’ll just leave it at that.

Albert, thank you for explaining your position. I understand. I’m glad you have not completely thrown away your faith. You belief that Jesus is not the only way to God though brings up lots of red flags. If there were other ways to God, Jesus would not have had to die and I’m sure God would not have sacrificed His Son for nothing. Why take the default position of questioning the passage as opposed to the default position of believing it?

Is there anything in the Bible that you do not like, and yet have submitted to as the truth because God is God and you are a finite and sinful human? Or do you take the hard passages that don’t suit you and just dismiss them? I’m not accusing you of anything here. I’m genuinely asking.

God’s Word is meant to teach, correct, rebuke, and prepare us. Do you allow it to do that in your life or, when you find a teaching that you don’t like or disagree with or just can’t understand, do you just dismiss it as a mistake or whatever?

In order to hold onto your faith, you basically diluted it and rejected what you didn’t agree with or didn’t like. So while I am sympathetic to your plight, I’m very concerned about this kind of approach to the Bible. Even if this approach to Scripture allows you to keep your faith, I’m concerned about the direction you are taking - a direction further and further away from God’s Word. I’m concerned for your kids and their kids and the future of the Church if it were to endorse such an approach to Scripture.

Albert, please understand, I have nothing against you personally!

I am not sure that any human knows the mind of God well enough to be as sure as you are in the above quote. John 14:6 [ ‘no one comes to the Father except through me.’] appears to support your position, and missionaries have used it to warn their listeners that they had better convert, because ‘only Christians will be saved’–even if, as non-Christians, they continue to live good lives. However John 6:44 ['no one comes to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.] This is quite different, since it says that it is God the Father that draws people to become followers of Christ, which gives them the best chance (but not a guarantee) to lead lives worthy of heaven.

In a post to an earlier blog, I told of an experience with three of my scientific colleagues [ The Miracle of the panel truck] that convinced me that God welcomes all worthy souls into His company. I can email you a copy if you wish.
Al Leo

Yes, I would like to see a copy. Thanks.

Al, I guess the problem is that we have a different understanding of how a person gets to heaven.

I do not believe that leading a worthy life will get anyone to heaven. I do not believe that
there are any “worthy souls” anywhere. We are all sinners. We all deserve the punishment of death for our sins. If it were simply a matter of “doing our best” or “being good enough”, again, Jesus would not have had to die.

The Bible makes it clear that we all are sinners and fall short of His glory. Paul tells us
that no one will be justified by the works of the law. And, he says that salvation is not of works, lest any man should boast. We are saved and justified by faith. Works are
necessary in the sense that they show that our faith is genuine, but the works in and of themselves do not save us.

But if that is your position, then I can certainly understand why you feel that Jesus is not the only way to God. Because, judging from a human perspective, there are many many “good” all around the world. Jesus though said that only God is good – according to God’s standards. So I guess our disagreement comes down to how a person is saved.

(august77 at Thanks.

Oh, you also brought up John 6:44.

Yes, there are two sides to salvation. Human responsibility to respond to God’s invitation to believe and receive the gift of eternal life and the divine side - we are unable to even respond unless God removes the veil that is covering our eyes and draws us to Himself.

This verse in no way negates the fact that salvation is through Jesus, and His name alone. Acts 4:12 says this: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” God leads us to Jesus and gives us the gift of faith, but faith in Jesus is still necessary. The road back to God [or the road to heaven if you will] must pass through the cross because there is no other sacrifice for sin that is acceptable to God. And it is our sin that makes us unworthy of heaven and incapable of a relationship with God. Jesus is the one mediator between God and man because He solved the problem of sin that separates us from a holy God.

You are right–we differ. I cannot believe the passage you quote–at least in any way that makes sense. You must believe that God made 75% of the human race with no chance at salvation. I witnessed a miracle (along with 3 colleague scientists) that proves otherwise. I must accept that as superior “proof” to the scripture you quote above.

The Miracle of the Panel Truck
On Friday afternoon, after a weeklong Gordon Conference (topic: QSAR,
our specialty) at a New Hampshire school, the attendees board busses for the
two hour trip back to Logan airport in Boston. While standing in line
waiting to board, I visited with my colleague, Prof. Eric Lien. As the people
in front of us boarded, that bus was declared full, and so we were first in line
for the next one. This was fortunate, because we picked the right front seat
in the bus that gave us a clear view of the road ahead as well as out the
window to our side. Across the aisle sat Prof. Hugo Kubinyi and Prof. Jo
Seydel, two of our close friends and colleagues who also had that good view.
After discussing events of the conference for the first half of the trip, Eric
turned to me and said: “I noticed that in your free time you were reading the
book ‘God and the New Physics’ (by Paul Davies). Tell me, Al, do you
consider yourself a religious person?”
I was taken off guard by this question but replied: “I get a great deal of
satisfaction from my Catholic Faith, and I do attend Mass every week—if
that makes me religious, then I guess I am.”
Eric continued: “That’s what I guessed, and that’s why I thought you might
help me with a problem I am facing at home.”
His asking me for help with a personal problem came as a total surprise, and
even before I knew the nature of it, I felt uneasy about my ability to
contribute anything of value. I had met his lovely wife, Linda, and I hoped
that there was not some rift between them.
Eric quickly pressed on: “Let me give you some background that has led up
to my problem. I was born in Taiwan and lived there until I graduated from
high school. My parents were religious in the sense that they followed the
wisdom of Confucius and Lao Tse and honored their ancestors with a small
shrine in their home. When some Christian missionaries founded a school in
our town and I expressed a curiosity about their teachings, they let me
attend. Very quickly the missionaries made it clear that ‘Unless you profess
Christ as your savior, you will be damned to Hell.’ This completely turned
me off of Christianity.”
He then continued: “Eventually I emigrated to the U. S., enrolled at U.S.C.
and continued on to get my Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry. In the meantime I
met Linda, and we were married. She was raised as a Christian, and at that
time I had no qualms about her desire to raise in the Christian Faith any
children we planned on having. But now our children are old enough to go
to church with her, and they are asking ‘Why doesn’t Daddy come with
“I told Linda that that was not part of the bargain. It would be dishonest for
me to attend religious services I definitely do not believe in. The children
would soon sense that I was being a hypocrite, and I did not want that. This
disagreement has become quite a serious concern in our otherwise serene
and happy family life.”
He finished his story with the question: “What do you think I should do,
By this time our bus had reached the outskirts of Boston and was in some
heavy traffic approaching a bridge. All the while Eric was telling me his
‘life story’, I could tell that our colleagues, Hugo and Jo, were paying rapt
attention—now probably wondering how I was going to ‘get off the hook’
that Eric put me on. At this moment, just before traffic came to a complete
halt, a white panel truck pulled in front of our bus and stopped, in full view
through our large windshield.
The only inscription on this white truck were the words in large blue script:
Don’t Worry
Be Happy
God Loves You!
The four of us looked at the inscription for ten seconds or so, and then I
found my voice: “That is about as good advice as I or anyone else could
give you, Eric.”
Hugo slapped his knee, burst out laughing and said: “Al, how in Hell did
you manage that?”
Still somewhat dazed, I replied: “I don’t know
And I still don’t. Over a period of 80 years I have observed a lot of traffic,
but only that once did I see a panel truck with that as its only message. And
it had to appear in that exact second to effectively ‘get me off the hook’.
What odds must be overcome for a ‘happening’ to be considered a
‘miracle’? Can a scientist bear witness to a true miracle?
So what was the result of this miracle? I don’t know how much an effect it
had on two of the witnesses, Jo and Hugo. They probably remain ‘friendly
agnostics’. But not Eric. Not long ago I asked him if he remembered the
‘incident’. He replied: “Not only did I remember it, I used it in my talk at
my retirement dinner to remind people that, when all else fails, one can turn
to God for help.” I don’t know if Eric became a baptized Christian, but I
firmly believe he has become the ‘religious person’ that he surmised I was at
the Gordon Conference, and that he feels no hypocrisy or schizophrenia in
being a scientist in his ‘weekday’ job.
And how did it affect my life? I had already survived two ‘close calls’ as an
infantryman in World War II that the army medics thought impossible. So I
felt comfortable with the belief that prayer (Mom’s, Grandma’s, and other
relatives’) is sometimes answered. But I hadn’t prayed for guidance to
properly answer Eric’s important question—yet that guidance was given in a
way that can only be described as miraculous. Is it possible that our Creator
(or his angels) are right beside us at all times? My ‘persona’ as a skeptical
scientist finds that hard to believe, but sometimes God gives you no choice.

Interesting experience, Leo. I understand the profound impact it could have on a person.

My interpretation of that would be different. I would in no way view that message as coming from God because God will never contradict His Word. So, if you see some kind of a dream, how do you know if it is from God or not? It does seem that God does speak through dreams at times. It has never happened to me, but I have heard of others. One test is whether or not the dream or advice given is in agreement with God’s Word. If you don’t have a standard by which to judge something, any type of experience can be read as a word from God when it may not be.

I recognize the impact of the story, but Jesus told His disciples before He returned to heaven to go into all the world and make disciples and to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to do this if there are other means of salvation available to them. Jesus would not even have had to die. One could just be a good Buddhist and you would get into heaven - even if you don’t believe in God - like Buddhists.

So, Leo, I personally will stand on God’s revealed Word as the truth and evaluate all other things against it. So, when He says that there is only one way to heaven and it is through Jesus, I believe that. It makes sense of the biblical story and the problem of sin that infects all of our hearts. When it says that we need to be His witnesses in all the world, I believe that. I happen to live in Japan for that very reason. When Jesus says that we will all perish unless we repent and believe the gospel, I believe that. When the Bible tells us that by the works of the law, no one will be justified(saved), I believe that.

I also believe in Satan - the Father of Lies whose only goal for humans is that they join him in hell for eternity - in Satan who, along with his angels, sometimes disguises himself as an angel of light. I believe he too is far more powerful than me and that he can and does do supernatural things at times in an effort to deceive people.

I also believe that a person who sincerely responds to the light he has about God, will have an opportunity to learn what he needs to be saved. All men can look at creation and realize there is a Creator. If they pray to Him and seek to know Him, I believe God will respond to that prayer and reveal Himself to him somehow. Perhaps by sending someone to share with him (I’ve heard of that happening) or maybe even by a dream. It is true that the majority of humans alive today may very well not end up in heaven. Jesus Himself warned about that - the broad and the narrow path. Truth is narrow and yet it is true. The truth cannot be changed or it is no longer the truth. Those of us who know the truth, who have experienced a changed life through believing the good news and coming to know Jesus, we are responsible to share that good news/truth with others who need to know.

In Romans, Paul asks this question: “For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

And Jesus commanded that His disciples take His gospel to the whole world no less than 5 different times between his resurrection and assumption. That is one of the purposes of the Christian life.

So while I understand your experience and appreciate you sharing it with me, I would not interpret it in the same way. For me, there is no superior proof to the Scriptures.