Prooftexting or no? BL use of quotes from Christian thinkers

So it sure sounds like you are saying in the post above that in order to appreciate a thinker’s thoughts on topic A, you not only have to be familiar with their whole body of work, but you have to embrace all of it. Since when has that ever been how academic dialogue and citation works? You are allowed to use someone else’s thoughts as a jumping off point for your own thoughts, which do not have to then follow the exact line of thinking or presuppositions of the person who inspired you to think them. I don’t understand why you keep presenting this as if it is some form of intellectual laziness or hypocrisy. For centuries people have been appropriating other’s ideas and taking them in new directions or giving them new applications. There is no shame in that at all.


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I’m moving this discussion so the original thread can stay focused on cancer.

Calvin is recognized as a great writer and thinker. That doesn’t mean an appeal to one of his quotes in a blog post establishes everything he wrote as “an authority.” I think Voltaire and Nietzsche have some great quotes. If I quoted one of them in a blog post, I’m pretty sure the general readership would not take that as me trying to establish them as an authority or as a tacit endorsement of everything they thought.

A passage only counts as a proof-text when the audience already grants the authority. Don’t you think there is a significant percent of the BioLogos readership who aren’t really fans of Calvin’s theology? “Calvin said so” doesn’t give everyone here warm fuzzies you know.

It seems you are confused again about the goals and scope of the genre blog posts. The aim of any post has definitely not been to make a scholarly attempt to systematically study the Patristic exegesis of Genesis.

Here’s what I see the post authors doing with their alleged “proof-texting.” There is a frequent contention that evolutionary creationists have come up with all their interpretations and ideas as a direct response to scientific discoveries. If they did not feel compelled by current science to reinvent theology, no one would ever suggest such silly and completely unprecedented ideas. So, many times the point of bringing up a Christian thinker from a pre-modern science era is to say, look,other people have had similar thoughts before, and they obviously were not “corrupted” by the science knowledge we possess. So maybe “science trumping theology” is not the whole story here. I’ve recently been on Ken Ham’s website. He would like all his sheep to believe that his literalistic approach to Scripture and his interpretations of Genesis are the only truly Christian ones and anything that contradicts him is a novelty invented in direct response to Darwinism and radiometric dating. Could it be that sometimes the authors are talking to these people in their blog posts, not the community of academic theologians?

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Why is it okay to quote Carl Woese as simply saying that Shapiro’s book is a “game-changer” ?


So, given that this all started with my reference to Molinism, I thought I would fill in my personal history here.

I grew up in Southern California and was around a lot of Biola grads in college. That is where I encountered Molinism, though them in the late 1990s. But I think the real marking point was Plantinga’s work on the Free Will Defense in 1965. I think this is where I really understood Molinism, because Plantinga’s emphasizes the importance of God’s “middle knowledge” of counterfactuals to resolve the paradox of free will and predestination. Of course, as @Jay313 points out, Molinism is most recently associated with William Lain Craig (who unsurprisingly is in the Biola orbit), but I have been working with it as one possible approach for decades.

Any how, with that philosophical and theological foundation, I never understood the “randomness” objections to evolution. There is nothing in evolution that any more theologically challenging to God’s providence than free will or “lots” (casting a dice). Of course there are conceivable theological objections to evolution, but I do not see how evolution is any more of a challenge than (1) the intrinsic randomness of quantum mechanics, (2) casting lots and using randomness to describe this, (3) free will and human influence on history, and (4) the randomness and human contingency of embryology. Any one at theological odds with evolution’s randomness, must also be at theological odds with quantum mechanics, embryology, free will, and probability theory as a whole.

Of course no one I know of us disputing this wide range of things. Which makes me very skeptical of the challenge as a whole. There is nothing here more challenging to God’s providence then free will, and there is a deep history of thought in this paradox. Of course I will draw on this theology as I explain evolution.

Also, I do not think this is necessarily the “correct” answer, it is just one of many possible solutions to the paradoxes that arise in evolution. Pretty much the entire literature on providence, free will, and chance has direct relevance. Though I am not a scholar on this work, it is no surprise that an orthodox Christian like me draws significantly from it.


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Sure why not? But curses upon all these labels. I thought Barth was neo-Orthodox. Neo-Calvinists run The Gospel Coalition, Together for the Gospel and Nine Marks. I thought they were no fans of Barth.

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Your quote isn’t long enough. Shouldn’t you be studying Carl Woese for several years before using mere snatches of what he says? Besides, the archaea he discovered constitute a domain, not a kingdom. At least that’s what his university thinks.


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So, are you familiar with Woese’s writings? The primary ones would be his ~200 papers:

How many did you read before presenting Woese’s blurb?

Don’t you find it interesting that you only quote two words from someone who has been dead for 4 years, when those two words were written less than a year before his death, and you do so repeatedly instead of discussing the substance?

What game is being changed? Shapiro himself does not endorse ID, and you have zero context to suggest that Woese finds anything but the paleo-Darwinian stress increase in mutation (the mechanisms are very cool) to be the game changer.

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Okay, folks, no need to make this a personal “pile on Eddie” thread. We got the point. The topic is BioLogos columnists and whether their selective quoting of major theological voices is appropriate for the context.


I’ve been looking for evidence that Biologos columnists used to claim the church fathers did not read Genesis literally. I’m coming up short so far.

I found this series of articles from 2010. It does not say that the church fathers did not read Genesis literally.

I found this article from 2012. It only cites Origen and Augustine, and makes it clear both of them held to a literal meaning of the text as well as a spiritual or allegorical meaning. Note that it also says Augustine placed more emphasis on the literal meaning.

“The late-2nd / early 3rd-century church father Origen, for one, was a keen proponent of the spiritual reading of Scripture. He maintained that Genesis 1 has both a literal meaning and a spiritual or allegorical meaning.”

“The renowned late 4th/early 5th-century church father Augustine also believed in reading Genesis both literally and spiritually, though he placed more emphasis on the literal reading than did Origen.”

The article goes on to provide a longer list of church fathers who “insisted upon a much more restrained literal reading”.

”Key theologians of the early church (such as Origen and Augustine, as we’ve discussed) read Scripture with multiple senses and meanings—with a literal sense and multiple spiritual senses. However, not all fully agreed with this methodology. Though most all would certainly hold to multiple senses of Scripture, some readers insisted upon a more profound attention to the literal sense, and the use of the literal sense to help restrain or hold in check the possible spiritual readings. Such 3rd- and 4th-century Church fathers, as St. Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, and Theodore of Mopsuestia insisted upon a much more restrained literal reading of Genesis 1."

The article makes it clear that Luther and Calvin also “argued for a literal reading of Genesis 1”.

“More than one thousand years later, 16th-century Protestant Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin strongly argued for a literal reading of Genesis 1 over and against an allegorical one.”

I also found this undated article, which only says Origen oposed the interpretation of Genesis 1 as a literal and historical account.

“Origen opposed the idea that the creation story should be interpreted as a literal and historical account of how God created the world. There were other voices before Origen who advocated more symbolic interpretations of the creation story.”

The same article presents Augustine as reading Genesis 1-2 in terms of accommodationism (but does not say he read it non-literally).

“In The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Augustine argues that the first two chapters of Genesis are written to suit the understanding of the people at that time.”

The same article cites Calvin and Wesley as holding to an accommodationist reading.

“In truth, the literal six-day interpretation of Genesis 1-2 was not the only perspective held by Christians prior to modern science. St. Augustine (354-430), John Calvin (1509-1564), John Wesley (1703-1791), and others supported the idea of Accommodation. In the Accommodation view, Genesis 1-2 was written in a simple allegorical fashion to make it easy for people of that time to understand. In fact, Augustine suggested that the 6 days of Genesis 1 describe a single day of creation. St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) argued that God did not create things in their final state, but created them to have potential to develop as he intended.”

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Can you produce some examples? I’m surprised that @Jonathan_Burke could not find many. Reading your posts made me think this was a pervasive problem.

Perhaps you can produce, oh I don’t know, ten examples of writers totally misrepresenting church fathers that are particularly egregious? If you cannot easily do this, perhaps the problem is not as widespread as you think, and (correspondingly) you should stop arguing as if this was a pattern. Of course, if you can produce data suggesting a pervasive problem, I’m sure you will win some allies in your crusade.

I know you are not a scientist @Eddie, but I’m looking forward to seeing the results of this experiment. Give us the data.

I should add, if you can’t find these examples in recent posts, you should stop complaining about this issue because it has been fixed by BioLogos. Instead of complaining, you should be thanking them for fixing the problem.


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Fair enough. I’m closing the topic then.