Is there Common Ground?

(Peaceful Science) #1

Washington University was funded to engage different sides in the origins debate in dialogue. We hope to find common ground.

I’m pleased to announce our first two events this coming Feb and March with Dr. James Tour (OEC, PC, and ID) and Dr. John Sanford (YEC). More details about these events are here, and we may be able to do one or two more events this year. Details for these additional events are still being confirmed.

But I put the core question motivating these events to the forums. For those drawn to BioLogos, what common ground do you see with ID, Progressive Creation, and Young Earth Creationism? For those opposed to BioLogos, what common ground do you see with us?

Is there common ground?

(Jon Garvey) #2

Well, here are a few suggestions, allowing for the fact that all four positions cover a range of views and so have exceptions:

  • All four groups accept changes in species over time (even if only after the Fall/Flood).

  • All four groups accept hereditary variation within species.

  • All four groups accept that natural selection is a real mechanism under some circumstances.

  • All four groups agree that life looks designed.

  • All four groups agree that there is a creator.

  • All four groups agree that some features of life are explained by design (even if that just means their bare physical existence).

  • Where rare events occur for which no probability distribution can be estimated, all four groups admit phenomena which, empirically, are equally explicable by chance or miracle.

And on the down side -

  • All four groups have a tendency to divide the world up according to outmoded and unbiblical Enlightenment deistic concepts of “natural” and “supernatural”.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #3

This comment doesn’t concern common ground, per se, but something in common among the four camps, and it’s something I appreciate more and more the more I dialogue here on the forum, and that is that all four camps are incredibly diverse! I think it’s important to recognize this going into any such discussion.

YEC has global flood folks and local flood folks, apparent age folks and non, folks with varying degrees of ecumenism toward ECers, etc. I only catch glimpses here and there, but apparently, criticisms get lobbed back and forth about what are the best arguments and what really shouldn’t be used anymore. I don’t need to talk about diversity in ID because @Eddie mentions it every third comment of his. ( :slight_smile: ) As we here on the Forum know, EC has open theists and those hewing to Reformed views of providence (and everything in between), plus various views on Adam, original sin, miracles, divine hiddenness, etc. etc. etc.

So while this isn’t something all four groups can “agree on,” it is something common to all four camps, and I think it’s worth noting as a baseline for discussion, because without it, mischaracterization is bound to follow.

(Peaceful Science) #4

It helps to make it more specific.

What common ground do you personally see between you and James Tour?

What common ground do you personally see between you and John C. Sanford?

Click the link on the OP to find links to info about their positions.

(Alice Linsley) #5

It also helps to identify what these people do NOT have in common. As far as I can determine only the Ham-YEC folks are racists.

(Phil) #6

Perhaps your comment was more tongue in cheek, but it is unfair to generalize in such a way. I think the more accurate conclusion is that sometimes racist people use (false) YEC and bibical interpretations to support their position, but it is those people who are racist, not the YEC or the bible. The YEC people I know are loving and no more racist than any of us (I hold that we all have tribal tendencies we have to overcome), and in fact are pretty racially diverse.

(Alice Linsley) #7

Many who follow Ken Ham are not aware that this assertion appears in the back of his YEC books.

It is certainly true that racists have used Scripture to support their false doctrines. I do not think that is what we have in this case. Rather, it appears that a false conception of the Earth’s age and a literal reading of the story of the tower of Babel backs the YEC folks into a corner.

(Brad Kramer) #8

Citation please.

(Peaceful Science) #9

I understand what you are pointing to but I do not this is helpful. The relationship between Ken Ham (and fundamentalism and large) is complicated. I am a dark-skinned Indian raised in fundamentalist context, and have taken the time to look closely at this. Also @Wookin_Panub is an african american YEC who sometimes comments here.

In their defense first, Ken Ham collaborated with a african american scholar (Dr. Charles Ware) to write “One Race One Blood” They make an admirable and articulate case against racism from a literalist point of view. Ironically, they focus in on the exact same passage that was used to justify segregation, anti-interracial marriage and anti-immigration doctrine (from a literal Biblical point of view) by Bob Jones Sr. (read his 1960 justification based on Biblical authority of segregation here

To their credit, in recent years AIG has gone to lengths to make the case for interracial marriage and desegregation. In particular, when Bob Jones announced that they would end their 30 year policy of forbidding interracial dating in 2000, AiG applauded this decision I cannot find the reference now, but it appears Ken Ham and AiG started making the case for these changes in 1999, about 6 months before the Bob Jones change. It is hard to figure out causal relationships here, but at least they were pulling fundamentalism forward here.

Now, also, Bob Jones professors have personally apologize in private for their disturbing role in harboring and enshrining racism at BJU well past the rest of us had moved on. I respect that Bob Jones has apologized, that AiG rejects these things now, and that this opens up hope of racial reconciliation.

Now to the real problem. The real problem, in my view regarding race and YEC is not that most YECs are racists. They do not appear to be racists, for the most part. Rather, forgetting this recent history, they turn around and blame evolution for racism. Quoting Ham “Although racism did not begin with Darwinism, Darwin did more than any person to popularize it.”

I find this to be ahistorical to an extreme, and revisionist of the history of literalism and fundamentalism. Perhaps it is even slanderous. It is theologically suspect too. Evolution is not the root of sin. And evolutionists were mere open to ending segregation than fundamentalists in 1960.

Especially given this very recent recent history of Fundamentalism and racism, this characterization is slanderous of those that actually stood against racism in our country.

Disturbingly, it also appears to be entirely ignorant of the actual history of racism. For example, african american slavery certainly does not begin (historically) with Darwinism at all. If anything, Darwin’s theory corresponds more with the Civil War than with the institution of racism. Somehow, Ham forgets that our founding fathers did not need evolution to justify establishing slavery as an institution in this great country. How did they manage.

Moreover in the last 70 years of US history, the fundamentalist and literal interpretations of scripture has resisted integration, interracial marriage, and immigration ON BIBLICAL GROUNDS till as late as 2000 (once again, read the 1960 speech from Bob Jones). Here the same hermeneutic technique they use determine the age of the earth was used to prolong racist sentiment for at least 30 years after the Civil Rights movement here. Clearly, literal interpretation was not enough to protect against racism.

Of course, if we go back to the 1800s and 1900s, evolution was used to justify racism too. Even though scientific evidence entirely undercut this view. So it seems that racism can thrive among evolutionists and YEC literalists with equal proclivity. Neither science (and evolution) nor literalism can protect us from this sin.

This tells more about the sin of racism than anything else. Racism is a darkness in our hearts. We use everything at our disposal, including science and the BIble to justify it. The root cause of racism is our nature, not any specific worldview. We are sinful people. No worldview cures of this sickness.

Of course, as Christians we should know that the cure to sin is Jesus. And that sin has roots deeper than a worldview.

Any how, with this long diatribe, I can state what I see as my common ground with Ken Ham here.

  1. We both agree that racism is wrong. In particular we oppose segregation, and things that interracial marriage and immigration are not opposed to Scripture.
  2. We both believe is very important for the Church to apologize for its role in racism in this country, and to move to a better way of treating each other.
  3. Even though it was 30 years too late (remember AIG was operating in 1970), I am glad that AiG and Ken Ham supported the Bob Jones University changes to embrace interracial relationships in 1999. It was too late, but it is better to be late than never. Given that AiG could not exist without the support of institutions like BJU, there might have even been real and admirable boldness in some of their positions there.

From here, I would they would learn from their experiences here. Because literalism did not protect fundamentalism from racism, and evolutionists lead the charge for Civil Rights, they should stop slandering evolution and evolutionists as inherently racist.

(Peaceful Science) #10

@TedDavis can you fill in some details here please =)?

(Peaceful Science) #11

It is important to look at the exact verse in question too. Acts 17:26.

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

Now days, Ken Ham focuses on “From one man he made all the nations” as proof that we are all one people. That is great. He is right. Science agrees with him. Racists do not. And this is a correct theological way to counter some rationales for racism.

However, historically, Fundamentalism has focused on “he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands”. The focus on God placing boundaries was used to justify segregation, and opposition to interracial marriage and immigration as a matter of Biblical authority.

A better interpretation would see the “marking boundaries” clause as either descriptive of the world (and therefore not a command to maintain) or, perhaps more saliently, a command against warring over national boundaries.

This is not how Fundamentalism historically went. From Bob Jones speech…

Wherever we have the races mixed up in large numbers, we have trouble. They have trouble in New York. They have trouble in San Francisco. They have had trouble all over California.


God is the author of segregation. God is the author of Jewish separation and Gentile separation and Japanese separation. God made of one blood all nations, but He also drew the boundary lines between races.

And against slavery because it was a type of immigration, not because slavery is inherently wrong…

You say slavery was not right. Well, I say it was not right. I say the colored people should have been left over in Africa, and we should have sent missionaries over there and got them converted.

And his justification against interracial marriage…

Now I can sit down with any Christian Japanese, and Christian Chinese, and Christian African, etc., anywhere in the world and as a Christian have fellowships. That is a different relationship. A Christian relationship does not mean a marriage relationship. You can be a Christian and have fellowship with people that you would not marry and that God does not want you to marry and that if you should marry you would be marrying outside the will of God.

Treating us all as is we are one race is preparing the way for the AntiChrist…

Individually, we are one in Christ; but God has also fixed the boundaries of nations, and these lines cannot be rubbed out without having trouble. The darkest day the world has ever known will be when we have one world like they are talking about now. The line will be rubbed out, and the Antichrist will take over and sit down on the throne and rule the world for a little while; and there will be judgment and the cataclysmic curses found in the book of Revelation.

There is a lot more here from this sad chapter in the American Church. I’m glad Ken Ham has been part of the slow difficult process of reforming Fundamentalism here. I just wish the would be more honest about this history, and take to heart that literalism cannot save us from sin.

(Peaceful Science) #13

Is that really true? I do not think this is correct.

White protestant fundamentalism is not exactly racist right now (even though it was in the past). But often they seem unaware and unempathetic to non-white experiences. That is not exactly racist.


Correct. But it’s mainly the white evangelical males who supported you-know-who.

(Jon Garvey) #16

I know you guys have had some kind of election recently, but back to Joshua’s OP…

Perhaps the political divide is relevant, in that in America evolution tends to have become associated with the whole “progressive” ideology, and creationism with “conservative” ideology. It’s a standing joke amongst us non-US observers that you can usually tell where an American stands on gun control or sexual morality from their position on the evolution-creation polarity. That ought to seem very strange.

The connection doesn’t follow, nor need it map inevitably to a question like race - after all, for all the truth in Joshua’s analysis above, there was a very strong evolutionary justification within the Eugenics movement, which in its day was seen as a “progressive” trend against the objections of “reactionary conservatives” such as Catholics and Fundamentalist hicks. I suspect it was only the Holocaust that stopped that in its tracks - that was certainly what finished Eugenics in the UK - silencing such progressive luminaries as Ronald Fisher, Julian Huxley, Marie Stopes, and John Maynard Keynes,

So my attempt to return the conversation to Joshua’s original question would be to say that all origins positions have been vulnerable to tying their ponies to logically unconnected popular ideologies, and any dialogue should be very aware of that. And so evolution (though not the quite recent Evolutionary Creation movement) has, with the older Creationism, been tied up with racism.

Intelligent Design, like EC, is also a latecomer to the party, and so (as far as I know) has no particular taint of racism… but yet is fully engaged in the present culture wars on issues such as global warming. Yet Intelligent Design does not have any real bearing on climate change, any more than Darwinian evolution actually entailed the racism of Haeckel or Galton.

The question for those coming from our theistic evolution end, then, is not to spot the ideological motes in others’ eyes, but to ask what its own blind-spots are regarding any political or ideological biases unrelated to the question at hand - the origins debate within Christianity.

(Phil) #17

Thanks Jon. It is good to have yours and Joshua’s perspective on things.

(Chris Falter) #18

I am afraid there is some truth to @Jay313 's observation, Joshua. An important survey published 3 days ago found that 52% of strong Trump supporters view blacks as less evolved than whites.

We have a lot to repent of in the American church. I’m not saying every evangelical who voted for Trump is racist. At the same time, that a strong majority of American evangelicals would openly support a man for leadership who has said and done all that Trump has said and done…

Another point relevant to this thread: those who believe in evolution can be racist, just like many have historically been in the YEC camp. The stain of racism knows no ideological boundaries.

(Brad Kramer) #21

So the trick in threads like this is to acknowledge the links between origins debates and political/cultural trends (of which there are many), but also stay out of purely political discussions. I don’t know if I can draw that line with exactness, but I think we need to cool off the Trump talk here.

(Jay Johnson) #23

Yes, you are right, Brad. I’ll knock it off. Delete my reply to Mervin.

On the OP, @Swamidass – I’m not sure if you’re looking for common ground theologically or scientifically, or both. Can you elaborate a little?

Edit: DOH! Deleted it myself. Thanks, Brad

(Brad Kramer) #24

Anyone can delete their own posts. Press the button with three dots, and then press the trash can. Or the pencil, if you just want to edit out the problem sections.

(Peaceful Science) #25

And this is EXACTLY why seeking Common Ground is so important.

See how quickly we turn to emphasizing differences and painting the other side with politics and racism? The OP had nothing to do with politics, yet here we are. This demonstrates the problem.

Rather than making connections to other issues all the time, and trying to bundle our own ideology, theology, and politics into our origins views (or bundling their worldview into their origins views), we really should take seriously the work of peacemaking. What is our common ground?

I’m looking for common ground on BOTH fronts. Theologically and scientifically. Anything that can help us move towards peace. Anything that will make it easier to live as family together.

For example, I even offered some common ground I had with Ken Ham…

While this may not seem related to origins, it is because evolution and literalism have both been used in the past to justify racism. Moreover, each side regularly accuses the other of being racist as a consequence of their view of origins. Sadly, we can see that even in this thread. And it is easy to find in creationist literature too.

It builds bridges if we can acknowledge where our opponents in the origins debate are honestly working against that evil in the human heart. The sooner we get past reflex accusations of racisms of those who honestly disagree with us in the origins debate, the better.

@Jon_Garvey, yes, evolution in the past was used to justify eugenics, but that is because racism is an evil that uses everything around it to justify itself. It even used literalism to justify itself. In this regard, all of our traditions are sinners one way or another. It is a mistake, however, to argue that literalism or evolution necessarily and logically leads to racism. This is just false. These things, literalism and evolution, are not the root of sin. We find that elsewhere.