In your view, is evolution an entirely unguided process? Or was it guided by God, even if not in a way science is capable of detecting?
Atheists (well, lets say most atheists) believe that evolution is a process which accomplishes what it does without guidance or input from any divine mind – the outcomes being neither foreseen or preordained. Do you disagree with that view, and if so, how?
I think it would add to your critiques if your views on as much were made clear – though perhaps youve stated them elsewhere.
Apart from raising the very same key questions JamesR and I pursued with little success on another recent thread of, currently, 149 posts the question was quite relevant to Dennis’s post for two reasons: firstly his use of terms like “junk” in itself implies an ontological position, and secondly although Dennis, one of the seven BioLogos team members, has dealt quite extensively with human origins he has never made his own theological position very clear.
The direction the thread takes involves Dennis asking for increasing clarification of terms before, for a few days, not answering Crude’s question. His place is taken by Darrel Falk, whose replies, to any outsider, would appear to be “diplomatic”. One needs to read the thread to get the flavour of this. His “most developed” final answer to the question is this:
I think God began creation with humans in mind. However, I also want to be clear that God delights in all of creation, You push for an answer that takes it further than that, by asking a significant philosophical and theological question I am not qualified to address. Your question needs to be answered by a philosopher not by me, a biologist.
The other, maybe significant, ingredient to his replies was his statement that BioLogos aims primarily at “conservative Protestants”. Crude, as a Catholic, found this surprising, as also Darrel’s apparent assumption that his questions presupposed a Calvinist perspective:
Regarding your question about whether God knew of and intended for the existence of each individual species in advance Ill leave that question for you to think about. I am a Wesleyan. We Wesleyans think about matters like that a little differently than Calvinists but we lock arms in love anyway!!
Now as Crude goes on to say, it’s surprising that Darrel, as the President of BioLogos, should be so coy about expressing a personal opinion on the matter that is the most crucial tension-point between Darwinism and serious theology – that is, the question of teleology. Dennis, incidentally, took a further two days to make his own, equally carefully-phrased, reply:
Well, If thats what youre truly asking, then its an easy answer. I believe God created and continues to sustain the entirety of the cosmos, moment by moment. We observe that sustaining both in what we would call natural mechanisms and supernatural events – both have their source in God, and both are means of His providence.
You’ll notice that this reply doesn’t actually answer Crude’s questions either. The best conclusion I can draw from the answers of both Darrel and Dennis is that they believe God is “the ground of being” of the Universe, that he “intended us” (“mankind”? “Any kind of spiritually or cognitively aware being”?) but that he doesn’t direct evolution, merely delighting in its products, though possibly not in parasitic transposons and junk DNA. If this is not their position, neither has been very careful to clarify it despite Crude’s careful requests. You’ll notice that, in practice, it’s identical to naturalistic evolution, for the progress of life is effectively unplanned and undirected.
This may explain why most BioLogos articles are either scientific or thelogical, but seldom both. Regarding the natural world, there is simply nothing to add to the science, unless the author were to add, “God is delighted with the way this has turned out.” But actually, they’re more likely to talk about junk in our DNA or our undeniable similarity to the apes.
Roger Sawtelle, a BioLogos regular with no dog in this particular fight, seems to echo my conclusion succinctly (if probably not entirely accurately) on a quite separate thread:
BioLogos takes the hands-off T.E. position.
I.D. (Intelligent Design) is generally considered the hands-on position, which is opposed by BioLogos.
Now Dennis may not represent an “official” BioLogos position, and Darrel would be entitled to hold any one personal position within its general range (though his intervention in the thread does read like an official bail-out). But for the position I deduce to be mainstream BioLogos thinking would hardly be earth-shattering in the light of the hyper-Arminian Open Theism sympathies of many of its writers.
Yet the hesitancy about stating this position upfront is something else, given the mission of Biologos to “conservative Protestants”. Now a majority of such Christians is probably Arminian (or that unschooled “gut” Arminianism that doesn’t bother to work things through too deeply). But whatever else they believe, they affirm the first of the Remonstrants’ articles that God foresees the fall of mankind and the saving faith of some from before the creation of the world and, by implication, every other future event. They also believe that God is sufficiently active in his world to answer prayer, for example, and they take at face value the Bible’s statements that God takes direct (and joyful) responsibility for the properties of his creatures. Many others of these Christians are Calvinist, who of course hold a strong view both of God’s omnisience and omnipotence, to the extent that he ordains every event. But it’s a vanishingly small minority who go the way of Open Theism, and there were none at all before about 25 years ago when it was invented.
For the majority, then (and we should include the Catholic and Orthodox mainstreams as well), apart from concerns about the historicity of Genesis (which BioLogos does address, though seldom from a conservative Protestant perspective), their main locus of possible conflict with science is when it denies that evolution is planned or purposeful, and therefore that God is truly its Creator. The question is, then, “How can I accept evolution in the light of my commitment to the God of Jesus, who alone rules the world?”
The Open Theism answer, voiced often in the past at BioLogos, is that God could rule but chooses not to, giving nature “freedom” (or, in other words, not imposing planning or purpose). But this can never persuade the majority, for it is simply a statement that the atheist scientists are right, and their conservative Protestant commitments wrong.
But the equivocation seen on the Venema thread, which as Crude rightly says seems so unnecessary, almost suggests this: that the main aim of Biologos is to present the evidence that evolution, in its purest Neo-Darwinian form, is true, whilst the devotional type of articles provide a reassuringly anodyne devotional content together with hints that Christians really should expand their mental horizons and think outside their conservative box.
Theistic evolution (as Crude rightly says on the thread) can be a coherent theological and philosophical position. But although BioLogos, perhaps from its association with Francis Collins and high-level Evangelical endorsements, is the biggest TE website on the net, I regret to conclude that its apologetic is more restricted than the development of that broad explanatory model.