Our 5th birthday – Happy Birthday

It’s actually five years ago today that I started this blog, The Hump of the Camel. That’s quite a decent lifespan for a blog, and it’s time to reflect on what, if anything, we’ve achieved.

After a slow start, readership took off after I reviewed Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell. Or rather, I reviewed the unfavourable treatment of it on BioLogos, the main piece  being by an unbelieving ex-Catholic biologist Franciso Ayala, and I concluded they had had treated Meyer unfairly. Since I was a regular and supportive poster there, and had even written a column for them, the publicity given to the piece have led to some interestingly strained relationships ever since.

By that time, however, I’d been getting a lot more familiar with science-faith issues, and in something over 800 posts since, I and my co-authors have explored a great number of issues that you won’t, in some cases, find much about elsewhere. In particular, we’ve tried to bring the weight of traditional Christian orthodoxy to bear on the relatively transient controversies in science, to question the many ways in which, amongst theistic evolutionists (now preferring the term Evolutionary Creationists) theology has often been compromised by attempting to put science first in the pecking order.

Along with that we have shared some of the sense that others had that the main science in question up till now – the Neodarwinian Modern Synthesis – is something of a splintered cane on which to lean in the second decade of this century, let alone one on which to base ones interpretation of the Bible.

I don’t know if others agree, but I’ve sensed some sea-changes in the science-faith discourse that seem in line with some of what we’ve been saying – though it’s questionable if we’ve had any significant role in that. Maybe it’s more a case of being able to say, “I told you so, if you’d bothered to read it,” though we still consistently get 1000 hits a day despite my purging the spam merchants as often as I can.

In the first place the seismic change in biological science, and especially in evolutionary ideas, seems now to be on the very verge of happening, rather than being the province of a few rebels like Lynn Margulis and Carl Woese on the one hand, and the much despised, but impossible to ignore, critics from Intelligent Design on the other. It seems symptomatic of this that, 30 years after being dismissed as a crank for writing that Darwinism is a theory in crisis, Michael Denton’s new book, with the same underlying message (and nearly the same title), gets the nod from many more working scientists, ECs like Darrel Falk (whom I upset most by my review of Meyer) and even the board of BioLogos itself.

The Hump has been championing the new thinkers like James Shapiro from the first, going back to find the real strengths of sidelined scientific characters like Wallace, Lamarck and Linnaeus and of natural theologians ranging from Paley to Warfield. None of these had fair or adequate treatment from TEs, except in the writing of Ted Davis. But it is more likely the sociological pressures, than our flag-wavings, that are opening the door to discussing these views a crack. Once one admits that Denton’s structuralism has merit, one can no longer view everything through the eyes of randomness, nor regard Richard Owen as just the guy who was too stubborn to submit to Darwin. The science is once more up for grabs, with profound metaphysical and religious implications.

There appear to be theological changes too. I came to BioLogos as a natural home for someone like me, seeking to resolve a conservative Reformed theology  with the science of originsin detail, having already long done so quite satisfactorily in principle. I was surprised to find so little discussion of those same theological and philosophical principles, and so much adoption of non-mainstream doctrine to squeeze Christianity to fit current evolutionary theory. The strong influence of kenotic theologies at BioLogos, espoused by their then theological lead, Peter Enns, and the favourable treatment of Open Theism embraced by their co-founder Karl Giberson and, apparently, at least flirted with by Francis Collins, were a surprise to me.

The reasons became clearer from my reading of the thinkers most associated with modern theistic evolution, and particularly those like Howard Van Till, whose influence on the discussions at the ASA before the days of BioLogos had made a theology based on “nature’s freedom” seem to very many not only coherent (which it is not) but an antidote to the whole Scriptural teaching on the nature of God’s sovereignty.

Unfortunately to neutralise biblical teaching you inevitably have to neutralise the Bible. This is most easily done by huffing and puffing at blinkered “inerrantism” as often as possible without explaining why you accept certain Christian teachings as true.

The changes in leadership at BioLogos have made apparent support for many of the Scriptural views on providence, chance, divine action and so on much more prevalent. Yet (as we’ve pointed out here on a number of occasions) there has been little in the way of clear water put between that and the less Evangelical past. For that reason I, for one, am not surprised that there is continued suspicion of Evolutionary Creation from Christians in the ID and Creationist camps, that it is liberalism in a cheap cassock: witness the continued caution of critic Wayne D Rossiter despite pacific overtures in private (according to his blog) from a BioLogos leader. Why are private and public views separated?

This is not helped by the muddying of the issues that ought to be clear and central in discussing any theology of God in a science context. The vagueness of what is meant (metaphysically) by “random” is notorious. And it really is inexcusable on the world’s primary science-faith websiste for an article to teach that “occasionalism” means that God acts occasionally, and then to slap that label on ID. “Pig ignorance” comes to mind.

We gave the true meaning of “occasionalism” here two years ago – and more importantly critiqued the “mere conservationism” still-prevalent in theistic evolution and pointed to the historical preference – and theological necessity – for divine concurrence. This, still as far as I know ignored at BioLogos, will be even more crucial in making sense of God’s hand in the confusing complexities of the new biology. It will no longer make any sense, if it ever did, to say that God works his ends through nature’s autonomy from his direction and design.

Lastly, under this heading of heterodoxy, support for historical Evangelicalism amongst the leadership at Biologos is heavily masked by a majority of the commenters there, who either haven’t picked up the vibe that unorthodoxy is no longer de rigeur, or just come to the discussion with the lamentable pick’n’mix doctrinal soup which, it seems, reflects the state of religion, particularly in America.

This last feature is what makes me pessimistic that The Hump has had any real influence on the discussion. Whenever I dip into the boards at BioLogos (and also, to be fair, at the closest ID equivalent, Uncommon Descent), I see issues that I wrote about in depth two or three years ago being discussed completely superficially as if nobody had ever done the work. Or I hear views being attributed to notable authors showing their books have remained unread (nobody objected on a popular thread, for example, when Alfred Russel Wallace, the Spiritualist, was described as “a Christian”, though he inveighed against Christianity as superstitious priestcraft).

To be frank, to conduct the serious business of reconciling deep science and deep theology at that kind of level is doomed to end up going round in circles. It is just not very important to the actual issues that Student X was brought up as a doctrinaire Creationist and then became a doctrinaire Darwinian. I can go to Answers in Genesis and read a contradictory testimony. It’s not helpful to find that somebody was able to shrug off traditional doctrines that stood in the way of doing science – what’s needed is the inteelectual and spiritual exercise of seeing why you don’t have to abandon the one for the other.

So I don’t know how much we still have to contribute when people appear not to be simulated or provoked that much by The Hump. But maybe I just need to catch up on my reading (once this current batch of musical arrangements is under my belt – people actually pay me to do that, which might be indicative of something!). And when some neglected truth once more strikes me, no doubt the columns will become more frequent again.

dinosaur cake

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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57 Responses to Our 5th birthday – Happy Birthday

  1. Cath Olic says:

    Happy 5th.

    I don’t want to be more of a party-pooper, but maybe part of the treadmill/going-in-circles problem is a lack of *definitive* definitions.

    For instance, Edward recently wrote here: “The main focus of BioLogos should be the relationship of evolutionary thought to Christian thought.”
    To which I responded:
    “I think that IS BioLogos’ stated focus or mission. It’s as if BL is trying to *marry* evolution and Christian faith (or more precisely, Protestant Evangelical Christian faith).
    One major problem I see with this is that the BL community *doesn’t have agreement on everything that evolution is or Christian faith is.* Both have degrees of fluidity or instability in BL land.
    And marriages between unstable parties usually don’t end well.”

    Ah, definitions.

    And here are some example from your 5th anniversary article:
    “In particular, we’ve tried to bring the weight of *traditional Christian orthodoxy* to bear on the relatively transient controversies in science…
    … I came to BioLogos as a natural home for someone like me, seeking to resolve a *conservative Reformed theology* with the science of originsin detail…I was surprised to find so little discussion of those same theological and philosophical principles, and so much adoption of non-mainstream doctrine to squeeze Christianity to fit current evolutionary theory.”

    To which I’d ask:
    Does *traditional Christian orthodoxy* = *conservative Reformed theology* ?

    (No. It does not.)

    And then
    “Once one admits that *Denton’s structuralism* has merit, one can no longer view everything through the eyes of randomness…… The vagueness of what is meant (metaphysically) by “random” is notorious.”

    I think you’ll find that the apparently once-again-popular “structuralism” will, like “randomness”, develop a vagueness over time. Or at least will develop heated arguments, and competing camps.
    For example, what are the limits of structuralism? Can the structuralism extend to walling off “species” (e.g. human beings can come only from other human beings, and not from an ape or some “other hominin”)?

    And we’re off to the circular races again.
    ……………..
    “… For that reason I, for one, am not surprised that there is continued suspicion of Evolutionary Creation from Christians in the ID and Creationist camps, that it is *liberalism in a cheap cassock*…”

    I saw that line here once before. I liked it then, and I like it now.
    ……………
    Someone I know recently said that he’s become convinced that the origins of man and of the universe is NOT a legitimate object of study for natural scientists, that such study lacks the observational/testable characteristics typically associated with science, and instead relies on questionable extrapolations.

    I think he has a point.
    Man will *NEVER KNOW* the details of cosmological or biological origins *through science.* By deluding himself that he CAN know, he becomes almost like Adam, reaching for the fruit of that certain tree.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Cath Olic

      On your final question of investigating origins, definitions again become significant – though not as inextricably as in other areas. The point about deep time is that, in effect, it suggests that the origins of some of what we see are not ex nihilo events, part patterns of process. The former are, indeed, not investigable – one can trace (in theory) events back to the point at which they begin, and then the trail disappears from the physical realm.

      In that sense I was using origins loosely – used of embryology, for example, nobody I can think off feels studying the origins of individual bodies are off limits or non-investigable: hence there is a science of embryology, even whilst Christians accept that each is created by God.

      If there is evolution, it is part of the changes within creation, and a different matter from the origin of life or the universe itself. Though the example of creation through generation shows that one can only finally know the limits when the trail peters out.

      The Creationist quibble about the non-testability of past events has some legitimacy, but extrapolation is such a part of every human enterprise that it cannot be an absolute bar to study. The judgement of when legitimate extrapolation becomes unjustified speculation will always be a subjective one: the suspect was seen entering the house, but nobody saw him murder the victim – do we convict or aquit?

      If you start from the assumption that all that exists was created as it is ex nihilo you will decide all investigation is fruitless. The question then becomes whether that is in itself a justified principle – and it’s one that you have yet to prove not only to me, but to your own Pope.

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      Cath Olic:

      First of all, why are you responding to my previous comment from another thread *here*, rather than on the original thread? (Where I’ve been looking for your reply for a couple of days.)

      Second, your comment to me again misses the context of the discussion, as you did on the other thread. No one is disputing that BioLogos is *supposed* to be about the relationship of Christian faith to evolutionary thought. The complaint — which you apparently did not pick up — was that many BioLogos posters take the discussion far afield, by debating God’s existence, or trying to prove the Bible is not reliable, etc.; and still others use the BioLogos site not for the ends of BioLogos but to promote their own “pet” religious views, such as Unitarianism, Christadelphianism, etc. The wish that Sy, Jon and I were expressing is that people would stop posting off-topic stuff on BioLogos, and that the BioLogos moderators would clamp down on stuff of the genre: “I’m a hardcore atheist who doesn’t believe in God; prove me wrong!” Ideally BioLogos would be a place where various Christians responses to evolution are aired, not a place dominated by debates over Christianity versus atheism or Nicene orthodoxy versus sectarian heresies. If people want to persuade the world that atheism or Unitarianism is more true than Christianity, BioLogos is not the place to do it.

      • Cath Olic says:

        Edward,

        You write
        “First of all, why are you responding to my previous comment from another thread *here*, rather than on the original thread? (Where I’ve been looking for your reply for a couple of days.)”

        I was not responding HERE to your previous comment from another thread.
        I was repeating HERE, for Jon’s benefit, how I responded THERE, on the other thread.

        I didn’t respond to your response to me on the other thread for 3 reasons:
        1) You didn’t ask me a question in your response,
        2) I didn’t recall having any significant issues with your response,
        3) I don’t operate under the assumption that every response requires a counter-response (for then, correspondence would never end.).

        “Second, … Ideally BioLogos would be a place where various Christians responses to evolution are aired, not a place dominated by debates over Christianity versus atheism or Nicene orthodoxy versus sectarian heresies.”

        I suppose BioLogos could allow only Christians’ responses, and also require an upfront disclosure of the evolution commenter’s Christian denomination.
        Then, discussion might ensue over
        a) how the person’s comments did or did not conflict with his denomination’s doctrine, and
        b) how his denomination’s doctrines, especially those touching on creation or origins, do or do not conflict with other denominations’.
        And BL could develop and “air” a list, perhaps a lengthy one, which would couple a certain “scientific” view, which may or may not be true, with a certain denominational doctrine, which may or may not be true.

        Then, ideally, BL would have a list of opinions.

        People love lists.

      • Henry Tudor says:

        You are correct, Catholic. BioLogos is the biggest fraud out there in the scientific and theological world. The Foundation allows nothing but cults to have the say and not the Holy Universal Church. I hope you respond. You do noit have to worry; I am an orthodox Christian.

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      Cath Olic:

      Your comments about structuralism are unnecessarily speculative. At BioLogos they have been discussing the ideas of structuralism that are presented in Michael Denton’s new book. Have you read that book yet? There is no point in predicting anarchy among the structuralists, as you’ve done, when you haven’t read the book that launched the BioLogos discussion. Sy and I have read it, and we think it’s a good book. And anti-Discovery former BioLogos President Darrel Falk, read it, and he thinks it’s a good book. When a witness that hostile gives an ID book a good review, something is afoot. If the Pope gave a new Protestant book a good review, wouldn’t you be inclined to give that Protestant book a look? It’s the same principle here. Read Denton. You’ll be glad you did.

      • Cath Olic says:

        Edward,

        “Your comments about structuralism are unnecessarily speculative. At BioLogos they have been discussing the ideas of structuralism that are presented in Michael Denton’s new book. Have you read that book yet? There is no point in predicting anarchy among the structuralists, as you’ve done, when you haven’t read the book that launched the BioLogos discussion.”

        No, I haven’t read it.
        Can you say what limits, if any, Denton puts on this structuralism?
        For instance, does he say that living things follow a certain structure whereby life begets life, but the life begotten could be of a different type (i.e. production, NOT RE-production)?

        • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

          Cath Olic:

          I’ll say the same to you that I’ve said to beaglelady, George, and many others on BioLogos. If you want to know what Denton thinks, read his book — don’t rely on the summaries of others.

          Of course, Denton accepts common descent, so if that alone makes you unwilling to read the book, then you don’t need to bother. But for those of us for whom common descent is not a problem, but Darwinism is, Denton’s book is a Godsend.

          • Cath Olic says:

            “But for those of us for whom common descent is not a problem, but Darwinism is, Denton’s book is a Godsend.” – Edward Robinson

            “Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” – Richard Dawkins

            Ahhh, scientific theory coming to the rescue of one’s faith.

            • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

              Cath Olic:

              Your above response is a *non sequitur*. You will understand *why* it is a *non sequitur* if you take the time to read Denton’s book. I won’t discuss Denton, or structuralism, further with you until you have done so.

      • Henry Tudor says:

        Dr. Edward,

        I have read the first Denton book when it first came out. I am sure that his new one is better than the first.

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      Cath Olic:

      Regarding your continual jabs at Jon over the true Church:

      As always, in your wearisome uber-Catholicism, you exaggerate the differences between Catholic and Protestant orthodoxies. Yes, there are differences between Catholicism and Protestantism; we don’t need your help to understand that. But what *you* don’t seem to understand is that there is a broad range of agreement among Catholics and traditional Reformation Protestantism. The gap between Calvin and Aquinas on many issues is much smaller than the gulf between both thinkers and the liberal “Wesleyanism” (which isn’t Wesleyanism, but never mind that) held by many American TE/ECs.

      I respect traditional Calvinists, and I respect traditional Thomists; or, to switch from theologians to institutions, I respect those who hold to Reformed confessions and I respect those who hold to Catholic teaching. I respect them because both Rome and Geneva thought that theological truth mattered, and went to great lengths to articulate a truth that was consistent with both the Bible and the Fathers. Contrast this with the procedure of TE/EC folks, where many TE/EC folks, especially at BioLogos, believe in “smorgasbord theology,” where you walk down the row of tables with your plate, picking up the items from the “Biblical” table that you like, while passing on the others, then picking up the items from the “Fathers” table that you like, while passing on the others, then picking up the items from the “Reformation” table that you like, while passing on the others, while being sure to grab lots of goodies from the “Enlightenment” and “Historical Criticism of the Bible” and “Darwinian” tables. Neither Calvin, nor Aquinas, nor the traditional Reformed Confessions, nor the Church of Rome, endorse such a pick-and-choose idea of Christian faith. They are thus, despite their differences, natural allies against shallow and superficial Christian theology.

      Jon aligns himself more with the Reformed tradition; you see yourself as aligned with the Roman Catholic tradition. And that’s fine with me. The difference is that Jon shows deep respect for Catholic theologians and reads Catholic thinkers and often appeals to their arguments, whereas you show disrespect for all Christian theology that is not Roman theology. I weary of your partisanship. We already know that you think the only solution to the Christian world’s problems is for all Christians who are not already Catholic to cross the Tiber and acknowledge the authority of Rome to adjudicate all Biblical exegesis and theology. And you should already know that your position is a no-sell here, a no-sell on BioLogos, a no-sell at the World Council of Churches, etc.

      I respect the Popes of Rome and support them all that I can. I really liked Benedict. It is sad that the Pope I liked best of all modern Popes is the first one in Catholic history to retire early! The normal habit is for Popes to retain power and influence long after they have outlived their usefulness; but in the one case where it *would* have been useful for an older Pope to stay on — because he was a bright, incisive theologian with good philosophical training and less inclination than his predecessor to grovel before a reified “Science” — the Pope left early. I also respect Aquinas as much as a non-Thomist can. I find his writing excellent and his understanding great. Unfortunately, I just cannot accept his particular wedding of the Bible and Aristotle, and to that extent I think that Thomism as a theological system is overall not true — though it contains a good deal of truth. I wish you could take as nuanced a view of Protestant thought as Jon and I take of Catholic thought. But I get the impression that you don’t “do” nuance, that you prefer a world that is in black and white. It’s for that reason that you don’t see eye-to-eye with the people here, and never will.

      • Cath Olic says:

        Edward,

        “I respect traditional Calvinists… those who hold to Reformed confessions…I respect them because …Geneva thought that theological truth mattered, and went to great lengths to articulate a truth that was consistent with both the Bible and the Fathers. Contrast this with the procedure of TE/EC folks, where many TE/EC folks, especially at BioLogos, believe in “smorgasbord theology,” where you walk down the row of tables with your plate, picking up the items from the “Biblical” table that you like, while passing on the others, then picking up the items from the “Fathers” table that you like, while passing on the others… a pick-and-choose idea of Christian faith.”

        I think you know they’re ALL smorgasbord pickers. The only thing that varies is the size of the smorgasbord.

        “I wish you could take as nuanced a view of Protestant thought as Jon and I take of Catholic thought. But I get the impression that you don’t “do” nuance, that you prefer a world that is in black and white. It’s for that reason that you don’t see eye-to-eye with the people here, and never will.”

        For me, it’s kind of like tool boxes for building a great thing.
        Say you have tool box “C” and tool box “P”.
        Tool box “C” not only as all the tools you need, say seven, but each of them is in perfect shape and has a lifetime guarantee from the tool maker.
        Tool box “P” not only has fewer tools, but some of them are weak or even defective and dangerous.
        Now, just having tool box “C” doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the owner will successfully build that great thing. But he has a better chance than the possessor of toll box “P”.

        I can understand the owner of toll box “P” giving grudging praise of tool box “C”.
        But given the overarching priority of building that great thing, I don’t understand why the owner of tool box “C” would extol tool box “P”, no matter how “nuanced.”
        (Unless the “C” owner didn’t know the value of what he’d been given, or didn’t know what he was talking about.)

        • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

          Cath Olic:

          Of course, you tool box analogy is slanted to reflect your own bias.

          In fact, at the time of the Reformation, Luther and Calvin and their allies (Bucer, Melanchthon, etc.) had *all* the tools that their Catholic opponents had (remember, they all started as devout followers of Rome, and many of them knew the Bible and the Fathers backwards); and they often had better philology on their side. Calvin’s Old Testament exegesis, while not without flaw, was certainly an advance on medieval Old Testament exegesis, which was frequently quite poor. And the Protestants had a more instinctive understanding of Biblical narrative than their Catholic counterparts did — an advantage Protestants have retained until quite recently.

          So if anything, the Protestants — at least, the more educated Protestants of the Reformation era (I’m not talking about the defective sectarian Protestantism of modern America, because that is not what Jon is defending) — had the larger toolbox. At worst, they had the same toolbox. So the analogy would be between two carpenters, both having the same set of tools, using those tools with equal professionalism to build different structures.

          Most Christians have learned to live with the coexistence of different Christian approaches to the same questions. You, however, have trouble with such coexistence, and would like the reduce the number of possible answers to one. In that respect, you are a sort of Catholic version of Ken Ham. You measure all other Christianities using your version of Christianity as the measuring stick; my own approach is more dialectical.

          • Cath Olic says:

            “So the analogy would be between two carpenters… using those tools with equal professionalism to build different structures.”

            And the different structures are created equal. Dialectically speaking, anyway.

            The never-ending dialectic.

            Reminds me of a line from a song:
            “But he could see no point in diving in
            He knew that he would neither sink nor swim.”

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE4QkmuM2jc

            • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

              Cath Olic:

              The only people who scorn dialectic are those who are sure they know all the answers. Most of us know that our understanding is fallible and that we can learn something from people whose conclusions differ from our own. But uber-atheists like Dawkins, and uber-fundamentalists like Ham, and some uber-Catholics, can’t imagine how they could possibly benefit from conversation with theological views different from their own. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to be that smug.

  2. Cath Olic says:

    “…embryology, for example, nobody I can think off feels studying the origins of individual bodies are off limits or non-investigable: hence there is a science of embryology, even whilst Christians accept that each is created by God.”

    Absolutely.
    I have no issue with the science of embryology.
    Because we *know and have observed* what causes an embryo,
    and each and every day of the year we can *observe and test* embryos,
    and what they grow into.

    However, I DO have an issue with the “science of evolution”, because none of the preceding can be said for it.

    “Though the example of creation through generation shows that one can only finally know the limits when the trail peters out.”

    I don’t know what example you’re talking about, but certainly creation of a new type of animal has never been observed – through generation or any other means.

    “The judgement of when legitimate extrapolation becomes unjustified speculation will always be a subjective one: the suspect was seen entering the house, but nobody saw him murder the victim – do we convict or aquit?”

    Do you consider extrapolating *from* Big Bang hydrogen and helium *to* human beings is legitimate, justified extrapolation?
    Apparently, you do.

    “If you start from the assumption that all that exists was created as it is ex nihilo you will decide all investigation is fruitless.”

    Perhaps you mean “all” investigation into the origin of the Big Bang or into the origin of life would be fruitless. I think I would agree.
    But certainly not “all” investigations of science for virtually everything else. There’s almost no end to what science can legitimately investigate in the physical world, even an ex nihilo world.

  3. Mel says:

    Dr. Garvey –
    Sorry to comment in the midst of Edward & Cath Olic’s discussion, especially not on their topic.

    I ended up on your blog by accident – or maybe you would say, by providence – following a rabbit trail of links. I read the “Who we are,” “What we are,” tabs at the top, but I’m not familiar with the jargon, so I’m not sure I understand your position very well. (I also looked through “Books we like,” but as I don’t have access to an academic library (and it seems like, an extensive background in both theology & biology), I don’t know where to begin.

    Your prolific posting is not an advantage in my case! 🙂 Can you point me to any of your posts where you specify your objections to evolutionary theory? Or just as well to any website you’ve found particularly helpful in teaching [scientific or religious] laypeople? I see that you advocate for a stronger position of God’s involvement, and that seems to be your complaint against BioLogos (do I understand that correctly?), but I’m not at all clear as to what you think they’re overlooking in the science part. I’m glad to do some reading, but “google” is too wide of a net to cast. Thanks!

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Hi Mel –

      Welcome to The Hump. My impression is that you’re a believer trying to make sense of the faith-science connection in confusing times – which is exactly where I come from. Since in order to make sense of things one has to get to grips with at least some of the details of the science and theology (and philosophy and all the other related stuff…), five years of blogging tends to have led us to assuming knowledge on the part of readers that isn’t necessarily common currency. Sorry!

      It’s actually quite tricky (memory getting older!) to find a post such as you request, though this one comes nearest. Inevitably even that refers to details of evolutionary theory. But I should stress that I’m not against evolution, but just (like many) dubious of the monolithic version called Neodarwinian theory that’s dominated everything for nearly a century. For the sake of truth generally, I’m interested in the welter of new science coming through the group called The Third Way, the ENCODE project etc.

      My greater interest, though – which would be quite compatible with Neodarwinianism being entirely true – is to resolve any evolutionary theory with orthodox Christian theology, and more of my articles are about doing that robustly. Cath Olic disagrees, but he takes an unusual militantly pro-Catholic and Young earth Creationist position.

      BioLogos, as the most popular “theistic evolution” site, was set up to reconcile science with Evangelical faith, but as you see in the OP I have problems with their often compromising approach to theology. I’ve shown here that they have a very different outlook from the early theistic evolutionists like Asa Gray, Benjamin Warfield or even Alfred Russel Wallace, co-founder of the Darwinian theory of natural slection.

      On the science, BioLogos has been very slow to discuss the new approaches in biology, which I’ve suspected to be due to wedding their theology too closely to one particular (and currently threatened) theory of evolution: that which, at least as usually presented, makes least room for the active will of God.

      Sy Garte (a respected scientist in his own right as well as a contributor here) recently wrote a review on BioLogos whose acceptance seemed to suggest they were rethinking things. He is also a very irenic guy, so his post on this thread is saddening.

      Between us I’m sure we could think of a suitable introduction or two to the general question (or even some keynote posts here) – but it might help to know background you do have. The needs are different for someone who knows nothing about theology or biology but has a PhD in philosophy, someone who did science at school but doesn’t work in the field, and so on.

  4. Sy Garte Sy Garte says:

    Please excuse my barging in here. I dont want to say anything about the Catholic/Protestant debate between Eddie and Cath olic. At least not now.

    But there is more news from the Biologos forum, and believe it or not it still involves our ill fated review of Denton’s book. As Jon and Eddie both know, the comments following that review post were extremely disappointing, as time went on, since it became obvious that nobody had actually read the review. (except for Eddie of course). After about 200 comments, I complained about this, and requested that we stop commenting on the thread.

    But much worse was to come. One commenter began haranguing me about some off hand remark I had made about RNA world. I have learned to be very careful about criticizing RNA where ever atheists might be, since they feel a sense of holy attachment to the poor molecule. I happen to think RNA world is a load of crap, as is so much of atheist agenda science. Evidence for it is minimal and circumstantial, and evidence against it is overpowering. Anyway, I didnt say anything like that of course, just a mild sort of wondering about how the thing is supposed to work.

    But things got even worse, when someone (Roger) asked me about the papers I had just had published, one in PSCF and one in God and Nature, which Jon has very kindly linked to in an earlier post. In response to Roger, I posted links to the two papers. To my astonishment, two of the trollish atheist commenters proceeded to attack a sentence I has written in the God and Nature piece about directed and non random mutations. I did not answer well to the two pronged attack. My bad.

    This “dialogue” went on all weekend, I was astonished at the low level of the comments from my detractors. I tried to defend myself with some help from others (Thanks, Eddie). But one should not feed a troll, and it wasnt pleasant.

    Now for the news. Brad Kramer has decided to close the thread and delete 80 comments. Other than the fact that my wife and co author of the review, Aniko also had her single comment deleted, I was fine with that.

    But now Brad has posted his version of why he took this action. Apparently the guilty party was me. He did mention that people were going off track (duh!!) and were nitpicking. (no kidding). But I was judged guilty of far worse offences. I did call one commenter a troll, (because that is what he is) and that is illegal. I also objected to the in depth grilling and interrogation of my article (posted on an entirely different site) by two people whose names and backgrounds are hidden. Apparently I also had no right to characterize them as atheists, (which of course they are).

    So Biologos has proven itself a site where democracy and freedom of expression is the rule. It is a site where atheists can troll Christians, (and especially that most hated breed of Christian – those with a scientific background) in perfect security behind anonymous shields, for the purpose of truth and reason. Where the standard is due exposure of any hint of religious or theological content in a strictly rational and scientific venue. In other words if you thought Biologos was a Christian site, sorry, no.

    Before he got around to me, the lovely model of internet decorum called Benkirk/Joao/Melanogaster/John, etc, spent lots of energy attacking with his unique style of haranguing interrogation other Christian commenters on that thread and others.

    So, the lesson is clear. Biologos is not a site for Christians to talk about anything, let alone theology or Christian values. I will not be returning there unless there is a change.

    • Cath Olic says:

      To Sy Garte,

      “So, the lesson is clear. Biologos is not a site for Christians to talk about anything, let alone theology or Christian values. I will not be returning there unless there is a change.”

      They made that no-return decision for me.
      I was banned by BioLogos in 2014.

      • Henry Tudor says:

        I was banned too. It is not a Christian Forum, and I will encourage fellow Christians not to participate. The Foundation has shown its true colors. They really had me fooled. I had two books, one of which was by Deborah Haarsma. I threw it away. I do not want such a book in my private collection.

    • GD GD says:

      Hi Sy,

      I regard the behaviour by BioLogos appalling – I had concluded some time ago they were not putting value on serious theological discussions, but they seemed to put value to high levels expert opinion related to Biological science – now I doubt this aspect of the site.

      I have posted my opinion at that site – it now seems to me that even expert opinion needs to appeal to atheists and anti-Christians, or at least put forward in a manner that would appeal to such people. This is not gracious dialogue nor one seasoned with “salt” (or wisdom). Bad for BioLogos!

      I have read your papers, and because of the quality of your paper, I have looked through some more in the same journal. I value well informed papers and commend your publications.

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      Hi, Sy. I understand your feelings about this. While I can understand why the moderators would object to the word “troll” (because even though it is an accurate designation in benkirk’s case, it is a fighting word, and they want commenters to avoid fighting words) and why they would delete your request for benkirk to reveal his true name (because even though you are right to say that he ought to, given that he hides behind pseudonyms while personally and professionally insulting respectable scientists, it still is his right under the rules to use a pseudonym), I think that it was going overboard to delete the whole exchange. They could have moved the RNA discussion etc. to a new topic — as they often do when the discussion moves away from the original subject.

      I have often noticed that on BioLogos, atheists and some TE/EC folks join hands to attack views, coming from any quarter, that offend their professional scientific judgments. Normally it is YEC, OEC or ID folks that they go after with this tag-team approach. It was unusual that they went after you so aggressively, given that you have announced your support for evolution and your general view that faith and evolution don’t clash. One would think that their opposition to your scientific discussion would be more in the tone of fraternal correction rather than in the tone of dressing you down. All the more so since your own scientific credentials are not in doubt. I can only infer that you hit some raw nerve, especially in the case of benkirk/Joao. Humeandroid, I suspect, came in as a free agent, and does not know the history of nastiness coming from benkirk/Joao. Without knowing what a bully benkirk can be, he probably perceived benkirk as asking innocent scientific questions of you, unaware of the “edge” you would naturally perceive in benkirk’s words.

      I think that BioLogos is trying to create a space where atheists and Christians of all types can debate without fear of rude attacks, etc. So they allow vocal atheists to post all they want, even when those posts (as in the case of Patrick) deny the existence of God, ridicule Christian faith, etc. Thus, in trying to be “fair,” they allow atheists to hijack many of the discussions. And when someone like yourself gets fed up with the situation, and utters the word “troll” in frustration, the knuckles of the wrong person are rapped by the management. It is benkirk who should be disciplined, but he manages to stay just inside the rules while insulting and belittling people.

      In the old days, benkirk got away with more, because the management was so paranoid about ID presence on BioLogos in the comments section that it “looked the other way” while benkirk/melanogaster/John did the dirty work (accusing Behe, Meyer, and all ID commenters of being deliberately dishonest) that the management of BioLogos couldn’t directly do. Nowadays, benkirk knows that he can no longer call people hypocrites and cowards and violators of the ninth commandment, so he makes his digs more roundabout. But he still needles, provokes, etc. He’s like the hockey player who gets away with all kinds of elbows and dirty shots that the referees doesn’t see, until someone retaliates — just as the referee turns his head to catch the retaliation. You were the clean hockey player who got “called” by the mostly oblivious referee. Benkirk/Joao plays the game very carefully. And BioLogos still allows itself to be used by him.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Sy

      Coming from you this is very sad, since apart from your slowness in being offended, you are personally acquainted with members of the BioLogos team, and I’ve always felt you might be slightly annoyed or embarrassed if Eddie or I are too down on them.

      The question is, I guess, whether we can do any better here, in terms of the bigger issues of bringing good science and faith together, in a way that at least those trying to move thing forward can relate to. We lack the public profile of BioLogos, which for better or worse is still seen by many to represent Real Evangelicalism meeting Real Science.

      We also, fortunately, lack the “smörgåsbord” discussion board where the ordinary credal Christian feels they’re in a reactionary minority, so maybe others will find their way here, or to your blog. And maybe we’ll have something more positive to offer. Perhaps we should do a series of “basics” posts, if someone can suggest a suitable set of itches that most people want to scratch.

    • Henry Tudor says:

      Hello Sy!

      I know someone else who used the term “troll” on BioLogos? Would you know anything about that? If I receive no answer, I shall know if there is any connection between you and that person.

  5. Sy Garte Sy Garte says:

    Thanks to all for your supportive comments. After spending some time reflecting on what happened, I think that Eddie (who has been very helpful in the background) is right about what he says. I did allow myself to get provoked into making nasty and uncalled for comments in response to criticism. Before I came to Christ, I suffered from a quick temper (a New Yorker disease, perhaps?) as well as an unjustified degree of arrogance and a low frustration tolerance. I wouldnt say that I was at the level of Mr. Trump, but certainly on the spectrum.

    I have written to Jim Stump (responding to decent explanatory email from him) apologizing for my part in the fiasco. I also indicated that I will be taking some time to pray for guidance. I intend to stay offline until the appropriate time. Thanks again everyone, and welcome to Mel. My suggestion is read everything Jon has written. I havent done so, but wish I had. Peace.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Hmmm… “Trump Spectrum Disorder”. Maybe we’ll see more of that in days to come…

      • Henry Tudor says:

        Sy uses the word troll. Is he also known as Find_My_Way.

          • Henry Tudor says:

            If I am wrong, I must apologize to Dr. Garte. I do not feel that I am interested in blogs any more. BioLogos allows people that are unorthodox to make all sorts of rude statement whereas people who are attacked for being Christian and scholarly are made fun of as if they are ignorant. I shall not waste my time with groups such as BioLogos or any other blog. I wish I had never participated with them. I consider myself to be a progressive creationist and do not believe in common ancestry of species. Have a Happy Forthcoming Resurrection Day.

    • Henry Tudor says:

      Sy or should I say Thomas? You use the word troll. Am I correct, aren’t I? Do you know that my ID is higher than Einstein? I am telling you the truth. God blessed me at my birth. I still believe that miracles are possible, Sy. God bless and tell me the truth about troll. I really want to know. Will I tell anyone else? No.

  6. GregC says:

    Jon
    If the party is still on, I’ll have a slice of that cake, Thank you!….and de-lurk to let you know that I, for one, am very grateful for the work you and your team are doing here. I was drawn here a few years ago by some of your comments over at BioLogos and since then have been regularly challenged by The Hump to think more deeply and clearly about these issues. Your “celebratory” post sounded notes of frustration but my guess is that many who come and read (but never post) find your Providential Naturalist perspective to be a lifeline in otherwise choppy waters. So be encouraged, Happy 5th, and many returns!

    Along with congratulations, a serious question: You and Edward have mentioned the “pick and mix” theologies of some folks involved in faith-science discussions. No doubt that some of that may reflect the (sad) state of affairs among many US Christians, but I wonder if there’s another set of folks for whom the picking and mixing is not their first choice, but the result of no longer being welcome in the tradition they would normally be part of, specifically because some conclusion about the workings of the universe is considered out of bounds.

    We want to hold together good science and traditional doctrines, but isn’t it exactly the point that some of those traditions will need some adjustment? I can get lots of my Reformed friends excited about the Providential aspect of PN, but things get uncomfortable when the Naturalist conclusions run counter to their “traditional” or Westminster Confession -derived positions on such things. Faced with that, someone may look to other traditions or systems to construct a workable whole. In this scenario, picking and mixing is a survival strategy, and hopefully temporary, not simply theological sloppiness. Would you agree?

    Anyway, I think you are doing important work here, and thank you for it!

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Greg – Welcome to the Hump (and thanks for posting). You can have a piece of cake with the authentic Jurassic tree-fern icing…

      The problem of “science acceptance” in various churches is a real one – actually one that Biologos takes a particular interest in. I’m on record as saying that it’s less acute over here in the UK than in America, but at least one of our UK posters has used a pseudonym because his local denominational setup (and employer!) looks askance at anything non-YEC.

      Indeed, even I myself was partly piqued into spending more time on this subject because I discovered that a whole series I’d written for a magazine, whose board I served on, had been quietly shelved for a year because the bit on Genesis wasn’t literalistic enough. Even they were a lot more gracious when I resigned than many of the hammers of “pseudoscience” seem to be, though, and that even on BioLogos!

      I contend that there are very few issues in science kept in proper perspective that pose any threat to standard doctrine of any mainstream tradition – and even fewer that cut across the historical declarations of faith. As far as I’m aware Westminster, for example, has nothing tying one down to a recent 7-day creation (but let me know if there are!).

      More often, it’s denominational traditionalism and dominant consensus that are the problems. In the Reformed tradition, for example, as soon as one tries to emulate Calvin or Bucer’s conclusions (dependent on their historical milieu), rather than learn their spirituality and methodology, you’ve lost the principle of semper reformans. You’ve become a tribalist.

      In that respect every Christian interpreter should be a “pic’n’mixer” – Calvin, for example, was highly dependent on the Fathers, and even used the Genesis commentary of one of his more “humanist” Catholic opponents. That’s not surprising because, offensive as it may be to some, it was catholic doctrine they sought to reform to its original form.

      In theory, at least, there’s no doctrine more basic than that of creation, which on any reckoning predates the human race. But each one has to cope with the situation they’re in – I thank God that in my neck of the woods the only concern is to avoid treading on others’ sensibilities unnecessarily, rather than steer clear of sharks.

      • Cath Olic says:

        Jon,

        What a potential *minefield*!

        “More often, it’s denominational *traditionalism* and dominant consensus that are the problems. In the Reformed tradition, for example, as soon as one tries to emulate Calvin or Bucer’s *conclusions* (dependent on their historical milieu), *rather than* learn their *spirituality* and *methodology*, you’ve lost the principle of *semper reformans*. You’ve become a *tribalist.*
        In that respect every Christian interpreter *should be a “pic’n’mixer”* …”

        I hope you tread carefully.

        P.S.
        Would you consider the Apostles and their early church to be “tribalist”?

  7. Merv Bitikofer Merv Bitikofer says:

    Even if there isn’t any cake left, I’ll also offer a belated fifth celebratory note. Thanks, Jon, for all your work that so many of us benefit from, lurking or otherwise.

    Sy, you showed your true colors as you were willing to own up to your part and make amends as you could. May we all have that kind of strength when so provoked –as you surely were. I wish I had the technical expertise to follow and fully appreciate all that you have offered — I did just see your article in my paper copy of PSCF journal; don’t let a few nay-sayers get you rattled! And thanks for your work too.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Merv

      Fortunately virtual birthday cake spreads as widely as the loaves and fishes, and never goes stale! Thanks for the appreciation.

    • Sy Garte Sy Garte says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Merv. In the many years (who’s counting) that I have followed your posts, I have always been impressed and inspired by your calm and rational depth of thought, as well as by your deep faith in our Lord and savior. So those words from you are very powerful to me.

      And of course, I join you in thanking Jon for his valuable work here. In fact, (I dont think I ever told him this) my interest in the new extended evolutionary synthesis (which led to my current work, including the paper in PSCF) was first sparked by Jon’s posts in this blog. Blessings, and here’s to the next 5 years (as a start).

    • Henry Tudor says:

      Hello, Merv.

      I am Henry Tudor, BA, Old Dominion University; MAR, Liberty University Baptist Seminary. I was the one who ask you about your national origins. I said you were German-American and you confirmed this. Have are you doing?

  8. Cath Olic says:

    To Edward’s 01/03/2016 at 10:38 pm,

    “The only people who scorn dialectic are those who are sure they know all the answers. Most of us know that our understanding is fallible and that we can learn something from people whose conclusions differ from our own.”

    Since you’re referring to me, I must point out that you’re wrong on all four counts.

    1) I do NOT scorn dialectic, per se. If I scorn anything relating to dialectic, it would be a *never-ending* dialectic, which never arrives at the truth and/or has no methodology of (or desire for) arriving at the truth. It’s like dialogue for the sake of dialogue.

    2) I AM sure I do NOT know ALL the answers. I’m just sure of some of the most important answers (e.g. there is a God and I’m not him; Jesus is God and God’s son; the Catholic Church is the ONE, holy, catholic, and apostolic church established by Christ for all time.).

    3) I DO know that my understanding IS FALLIBLE on MOST things. But not on all things. Christ did not intend for us to view as fallible our understanding about SOME things, e.g. His Divinity; the truth of his one particular church (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15).

    4) I DO believe I can learn something from people whose conclusions differ from my own. (One of the many things I can learn is just how un-historical and illogical some people’s thinking and conclusions can be.)

    Related to much of this, I know that after your near-lifetime’s worth of study and dialectic, you either
    a) can’t identify which particular church/denomination on earth today is the church of 1 Timothy 3:15, or
    b) don’t believe it exists anymore on earth today.

    For a Christian, especially a learned Christian, I find that amazing and appalling.
    (You can call that smug” if you wish.)

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      Cath Olic:

      I won’t discuss the condescension toward other Christian positions implied in the parenthetical remark under your point 4. It doesn’t deserve a reply, and is simply an example of the smugness I was talking about.

      On the issue of the true Church, it would help if you — who claim to be so in line with Catholic tradition — would pay more attention to traditional writers such as Augustine (who is certainly orthodox by Roman Catholic standards) who have explained the difference between the invisible and the visible Church. You desperately wish to equate one particular visible manifestation of the Church — the institutions linked with the historical ascendancy of Rome — with the Church itself. But the Church transcends any visible embodiment. All institutional embodiments, including the Roman, reflect human imperfection. The churches (in the sense of denominations) are all imperfect reflections of the one true Church, which is, as it were, an Idea laid up in heaven (though like all Ideas, not merely confined to heaven but effective in the world).

      Jesus presumably hoped that his followers would always maintain their unity, and not splinter into factions; but there is no evidence that by “the Church” he had in mind the particular historical trappings we associate with the Roman pontiffs, etc. Even if he intended Peter to be the first head of the Church in Rome, it does not follow that he would have approved of all the doctrines and practices established by the successors of Peter, any more than he approved of all the doctrines and practices established by the successors of Moses. Certainly he did not regard Peter himself as flawless in judgment or understanding when Peter was alive; why, then, should he regard judgment of all future Roman prelates to be flawless? Some of them might well be even bigger dorks than Peter could sometimes be, and Jesus could surely foresee that.

      A certain personality type craves the solace of authority. It needs to believe that there is some human individual or institution which is beyond question, beyond criticism. For you, it appears, that institution is the Roman Church. But I’m more interested in the metaphysical or mystical Church than in any of its embodiments. That is why I don’t have the urge you do to take a side and stick with it through thick or thin. I see *all* institutional Christianity as flawed — the Roman and Eastern Orthodox as well as the Protestant. All branches of the Church constantly need the prodding of the Spirit, bring them into line with the One Church which none of them has perfected embodied.

      Of course, some branches of the church might well be more flawed than others. Jon and I have already pointed out the flaws in much American Protestant sectarianism.

      Regarding your two choices at the end, I would say, in answer to (a), “No church is”; and in response to (b), I would say that your words, “don’t believe it exists any more on earth today,” are misleading, because they implied that it *ever* existed in institutional form. I don’t think it ever did, except perhaps for a few years or months or days after Pentecost. I think the institutional Church has always imperfectly represented the Church that is an Idea in the Mind of God.

      I think the present Church of Rome, understood as a denomination (which it is, from a sociological point of view), is often closer to the teaching of the Church laid up in heaven than all other churches. But sometimes it goes badly wrong. Your problem is that you want to pretend that Calvinists can err, that Baptists can err, etc., but the Popes can never err, that no official position taken by Rome could ever be in the slightest way defective. But that is just special pleading for your party.

      I reject your ecclesiology. Not your notion of an ideal Church which cannot err, but your mistaken identification of that Church with the institutional entity of Rome. I would equally reject any identification of that ideal Church with the church of Calvin’s Geneva, with Lutheran or Anglican or Baptist churches today or in the past, etc. The proper way of preventing the identification of flawed human churches with the one Church is to maintain ongoing dialogue between all the different churches. That dialogue helps all churches to see themselves as others see them, and therefore helps all churches to identify weaknesses in themselves which they never suspected to exist.

      Rome is a great institution. When Protestants knock it, I defend it. But when Roman Catholics knock Protestantism, I equally defend Protestantism. Each party has a characteristic defect. Rome tends toward ecclesiolatry; Protestants, toward bibliolatry. That is why the Church (in the pure sense) is blessed to have the two parties counterbalancing each other. Through dialogue the institutional churches might be able to come just a wee bit closer to that ultimate metaphysical and mystical unity which is greater than any of them.

      • Cath Olic says:

        My head is spinning. I’ll try to take a breath and let things settle down a little.

        In the meantime, does anyone else out there have any problems with Edward’s response? Anything amiss historically or logically or scripturally?

        Anyone?
        Jon?

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          Nope – Eddie’s in line with Christ’s teaching and the apostolic deposit pretty closely, it seems to me. I’ve read most of the Apostolic Fathers and their understanding of catholicity, too, was primarily spiritual even in those early and relatively uncomplicated times.

          Your particularly instititional interpretation of what it means to be “catholic” has always struck me as being more in line with the Watchtower Society’s monolithic and authoritarian “Organisation” than with the doctrines of Christianity.

          Only in your case you’re more institutionally minded than Rome itself: when you actually disagree with their stated position (for example the two latest Popes’ absolutely clear support for the general principles of evolution), you simply trawl around the Cathechism, hypothetical “genuine” Catholic teachers or any other support that comes to hand, purloining Rome’s supposed authority for what are actually your own particular views.

          The Church of Christ, biblically, is the assembly of all those who have, by faith, accepted Israel’s Messiah, Jesus Christ, as Lord of All. And it’s only fully to be revealed when he returns.

          If “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel”, but rather those, both Jews and Greeks, who believe in Christ, then how much less are all and only those who are affiliated to Rome the children of God.

  9. Sy Garte Sy Garte says:

    I am a bit nervous about sticking my toe (or neck) into the waters of this theological discussion, but I did see one comment from Cath olic that caught my non theological eye. It was this:

    “If I scorn anything relating to dialectic, it would be a *never-ending* dialectic, which never arrives at the truth and/or has no methodology of (or desire for) arriving at the truth. It’s like dialogue for the sake of dialogue.”

    I find that idea a bit odd. My own view is that we approach truth, in science, theology and philosophy asymptotically, getting ever closer, but never actually arriving at the end. I have come to think of this as part of God’s perfect design of the cosmos, including our own brains. What would it mean to know the entire, finished, complete truth on anything in the natural or divine realm? The end of mystery?

    When I first decided to become a Christian, I was being instructed by a Catholic priest, in the details of the catechism. He asked me what part of Christian doctrine I had the most trouble with. I answered that I didnt understand the logic of the Trinity. How could God be both one, and triune? He answered well, but could see I was still not getting it. He smiled and said, “Frankly, its a great mystery”. I also smiled, and told him I was ready.

    (I did not become a Catholic, the reason why is for an entirely different discussion, but I was baptized in the Methodist Church, one of the best days of my life, praise God).

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      Sy:

      A good metaphor — “asymptotically.” That’s been my hope — to approach truth asymptotically. I don’t expect that during mortal life I will ever possess it. And for that applies not only to scientific questions, but also philosophical questions, and institutional questions such as “Which church is closest to the Church that Jesus founded”? I get along with people who have flexibility on such questions, but tend to clash with those who lack such flexibility. On BioLogos I have clashed equally often, it seems, with hard-nosed atheists, Bible-thumping literalists, and ultra-doctrinaire Catholics. I guess all of them regard my approach to truth as weak-kneed compromise. Well, so be it.

      • Cath Olic says:

        “A good metaphor — “asymptotically.” That’s been my hope — to approach truth asymptotically. I don’t expect that during mortal life I will ever possess it. And for that applies not only to scientific questions, but also philosophical questions, and institutional questions such as “Which church is closest to the Church that Jesus founded”?”

        Paradoxically though, Edward reveals he’s NOT asymptotical about ALL truths. For he HAS dialectically decided on A “truth” – the “truth” that no visible church on earth is the church established by Jesus Christ.
        His line HAS hit the curve here, at least. On at least THIS issue he has little if any of the flexibility he claims to appreciate.

        He ponders endlessly only on *which* visible church *might be closest* to what he has dialectically decided was that IN-visible original church.

        • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

          Cath Olic:

          You have misinterpreted my words. I stated my tentative conclusion. I would be willing to revise it, if some particular church could demonstrate to me that everything that it teaches is true, and that it has omitted no Christian truths.

          Empirically, however, every church known to me has failed this test. I have not found complete Christian truth in any church, of any denomination. All traditions and churches seem to me to at one point or another go astray either from Biblical teaching or from the consensus of the Fathers (or from both). Your position, that there must exist today an institutional church which speaks with authority, and therefore must be followed even when an individual who has studied the Bible and the Fathers finds it wanting, is therefore unacceptable to me.

          It is not worth compromising on truth, not even slightly, just for the sake of having the security of an authority to settle disputes. Truth must come before mere authority, even as justice must come before mere legality. I therefore deny myself the intellectual and emotional security which many people gain from strict adherence to a Pope or Catechism or a Westminster Confession or a Chicago Statement or an edict from the Watchtower Society. I wish it were otherwise; I would like to enjoy the sound slumbers of the ultra-orthodox of all sects, churches, and denominations.

          I therefore must reject your high-pressure salesmanship (which was doubtless a factor leading to your expulsion from BioLogos) and your “invitation” (which is more like cajoling or bullying than a proper invitation) to cross the Tiber and make a blind submission to the authority of Rome. I respect the Roman Church more than any other current church, both on points of doctrine and regarding the beauty of its traditions of art and spiritual life. But it is not infallible, not even when its leader speaks ex cathedra. I will never hold a doctrine to be Christian merely because the Roman Church says so.

          Of course, I will certainly give any thought-out position of Rome a careful hearing, because of the high quality of its intellectual tradition. I will always consider the possibility, on any given issue, that my own understanding is defective and that the Roman position is correct after all. But the Roman position doesn’t get an *automatic* pass.

          It’s funny; I just finished watching the film *The Caine Mutiny*. Applying your principles to the action in that film, the proper thing for Van Johnson to do would have been to obey Humphrey Bogart’s orders and let the ship go down in the typhoon, at the cost of a multi-millioin dollar warship and hundreds of lives. For your principle is that we must always follow constituted authority, even when reason and experience tells us that such authority is making a statement or commanding an action that is dead wrong. I myself am a very conservative person, and tend to defer to authority more than about 95% of modern people, but even I cannot go that far.

          In any case, I would say, in agreement with Jon above, that your own version of Roman teaching is idiosyncratic and suspect. You have tested it neither by taking and passing a program of theological study at an accredited Catholic institution where teachers with the magisterium are the instructors, nor by writing to those with the magisterium and asking for their rulings on the theological ideas you air on the internet — which is of course inconsistent with your whole premise, i.e., that the individual must always submit his theological judgments to those of the Church. You operate as a theological lone wolf — a stance which is, ironically, so sectarian-Protestant, not Catholic at all. Your procedural stance is simply not credible.

  10. Cath Olic says:

    To Edward’s 02/03/2016 at 04:35 am,

    You made a number of points and I suspect that, for each of them, a book or three could be written in contrary response. I’ll try to just touch on each.

    1)
    “You desperately wish to equate one particular visible manifestation of the Church — the institutions linked with the historical ascendancy of Rome — with the Church itself. But the Church transcends any visible embodiment. All institutional embodiments, including the Roman, reflect human imperfection.”

    Of course the Church reflects human imperfection. Since it’s comprised entirely of human beings, how could it NOT reflect imperfection? Nevertheless, the Church was the idea of, and was instituted by, Jesus Christ himself, to carry on His work and proclaim His truth.

    But more to the point, the ONLY reason you, Edward (or anyone), even know of Jesus Christ is because of the visible church, whose visible leaders wrote visible words, canonized a visible Bible (and more importantly, spoke audible messages).

    The so-called invisible Christian church – whatever that is – is utterly and completely dependent on the work of the visible Christian church. The former cannot exist without the latter and derives its legitimacy and orthodoxy from the latter.

    2)
    “Jesus presumably hoped that his followers would always maintain their unity, and not splinter into factions…”

    *Presumably* hoped?
    That’s an amazing statement coming from a person who’s read John 17. (But maybe I presume too much.)

    3)
    “Even if he intended Peter to be the first head of the Church in Rome, it does not follow that he would have approved of all the doctrines and practices established by the successors of Peter, any more than he approved of all the doctrines and practices established by the successors of Moses.”

    And when Jesus said “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it”, it does not follow that God would *not* allow the powers of death to prevail against it (i.e. God might allow the powers of death/gates of hell to prevail over the church for the thousands of years *after* Peter’s death.).

    Likewise, when Paul says “if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is *the church* of the living God, *the pillar and bulwark of the truth*”,
    what he *really* meant, maybe, is ‘the church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth *for the time being*; but after my death, and maybe Peter’s, good luck – because after our death the church will only be the pillar and bulwark of *whatever.*’

    4)
    “A certain personality type craves the solace of authority. It needs to believe that there is some human individual or institution which is beyond question, beyond criticism. For you, it appears, that institution is the Roman Church.”

    There’s probably no word or concept more despised by Protestants than “authority.” Apparently, there were Protestants even in the Apostles’ time:

    “But that you may know that the Son of man has *authority* on earth to forgive sins*” — he said to the man who was paralyzed — “I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home.” (And later… “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
    *If YOU forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven*; if YOU retain the sins of any, they are retained.”)

    Paul:
    “For even if I boast a little too much of *our authority*, *which the Lord gave* for building you up and not for destroying you, I shall not be put to shame.”

    “I write this while I am away from you, in order that when I come I may not have to be severe in *my use of the *authority* which the Lord has given me* for building up and not for tearing down.”

    “Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all *authority*. Let no one disregard you.”

    Peter:
    “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,
    and especially *those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise *authority**. Bold and wilful, they are not afraid to revile the glorious ones”

    John:
    “I have written something to the church; but Diot’rephes, who likes to put himself first, *does not acknowledge my *authority**.”

    Jude:
    “Yet in like manner these men in their dreamings defile the flesh, *reject *authority**, and revile the glorious ones.”
    …….
    But, of course, all this God-given *authority* exercised by the Apostles AFTER Christ’s ascension dissolved upon their deaths?

    But what about Acts 1:15-26 and all that “`His *office* let another take.’”?

    5)
    “But I’m more interested in the metaphysical or mystical Church than in any of its embodiments.”

    Sounds remarkably like the legions opining
    “I’m spiritual but not religious” or
    “I believe in God, and even in Jesus, but not in organized religion.”

    6)
    “All branches of the Church constantly need the prodding of the Spirit, bring them into line with the One Church which none of them has perfected embodied. Of course, some branches of the church might well be more flawed than others. Jon and I have already pointed out the flaws in much American Protestant sectarianism.”

    And on what basis do you and Jon adjudicate (authoritatively, I presume) the ‘perfect embodiment’ and how other churches measure up?

    7)
    “Regarding your two choices at the end, I would say, in answer to (a), “No church is”; and in response to (b), I would say that your words, “don’t believe it exists any more on earth today,” are misleading, because they implied that it *ever* existed in institutional form. I don’t think it ever did, except perhaps for a few years or months or days after Pentecost.”

    What about Acts 14 “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church,
    with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed”

    Or Acts 15 “And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question… The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter”

    Or Acts 16 “As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily”

    Or 1 Timothy 4 “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you. Practice these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress”

    Or Titus 1 “This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you”

    Or 2 Timothy 3 “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing *from whom* you learned it”?

    8)
    “I think the present Church of Rome, understood as a denomination (which it is, from a sociological point of view), is often closer to the teaching of the Church laid up in heaven than all other churches. But sometimes it goes badly wrong.”

    For brevity’s sake, let’s *not* cover all 2,000 years’ worth of what you consider badly wrong in Catholic Church teaching. How about, say, the last century or two?
    In the last century or two, what would be your best example of how the CC has gone badly wrong, in your view?

    9)
    “The proper way of preventing the identification of flawed human churches with the one Church is to maintain ongoing dialogue between all the different churches.”

    How has that worked out in the last 500 years?

    P.S.
    Maybe I should thank God I don’t have a PhD in Bible stuff. The Apostles sure didn’t.
    “In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.”

    P.P.S.
    From today’s Mass readings, from Jeremiah 7:
    “Thus says the LORD:
    This is what I commanded my people:
    Listen to my voice;
    then I will be your God and you shall be my people.
    Walk in all the ways that I command you,
    so that you may prosper.

    But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed.
    They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts
    and turned their backs, not their faces, to me.
    From the day that your fathers left the land of Egypt even to this day,
    I have sent you untiringly all my servants the prophets.
    Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed;
    they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers.
    When you speak all these words to them,
    they will not listen to you either;
    when you call to them, they will not answer you.
    Say to them:
    This is the nation that does not listen
    to the voice of the LORD, its God,
    or take correction.
    Faithfulness has disappeared;
    the word itself is banished from their speech.”

  11. Cath Olic says:

    Edward,

    You acknowledge that the RCC is closer to the original, orthodox church of Christ than any other:
    “I think the present Church of Rome, understood as a denomination…is often closer to the teaching of the Church laid up in heaven than all other churches…
    I respect the Roman Church more than any other current church, both on points of doctrine and regarding the beauty of its traditions of art and spiritual life…
    the high quality of its intellectual tradition. I will always consider the possibility, on any given issue, that my own understanding is defective and that the Roman position is correct after all.”

    Yet, you’re not in it, and perhaps not in any church.

    What does the “church” of Edward look like?
    Specifically, what are the doctrines of Edward’s “church” which are pure and true,
    the Edward doctrines which are more “metaphysical or mystical … than in any of (other churches’) embodiments” ?

  12. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Before zeal overheats this thread, I must put on my modertor’s hat and say that neither the thread, nor the blog, exists as a platform for denominational apologetics. So if the conversation on the merits or demerits of Roman Catholicism continues, I will do half a Brad Kramer* and close the thread.

    That would be a shame as there have been some helpful comments on the subject of our thread, and the cake is still fresh.

    (* the full Kramer would be to delete the posts as well!).

    • Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

      You’re quite right, Jon. This is not the place to debate the truth or falsity of Roman Catholicism. However, it is fair to say that it is Cath Olic who keeps throwing down the gauntlet on this point, raising again and again here (as he raised on BioLogos) his claim that the only hope for a coherent Christianity is for all Christians to unify under the authority of Rome.

      Nobody here has been attacking Roman Catholicism per se. This is not an anti-Catholic site, and in many columns you have praised Catholic thinkers such as Aquinas. Any negative comments made here about Catholic claims have arisen solely as a form of “push-back” against aggressive salesmanship of the view that only Rome possesses Christian truth. I wish Cath Olic would give it a rest.

      There is plenty that can be said about science and theology, and about evolution and theology, without settling the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. There are a number of key principles that orthodox Protestants and orthodox Catholics agree on. I thought one that the main goal of the Hump was to bring evolutionary thought (and scientific thought generally) into constructive relationship to that common core of orthodox Christian thought. If Cath Olic can’t get on board with that reasonable goal, then perhaps the Hump is not the internet site for him. There surely are sites for Catholic apologetics, if that is his main interest.

  13. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Henry

    You previously said you don’t want to participate on websites any more, and asked me to cancel your subscription here – I think you need to make up your mind, or I might get my reponse wrong!

    I personally find it unhelpful to speak in blanket condemnations, though I have plenty of criticisms of Biologos as an organisation, and rather more on the quality of the conversation partners who hang out there without being disciplined. There is enough heat in the origins debate (witness even this thread) to demand that godly people deal with the actual issues rather than polarising things further. That, at least, is what this blog is for.

    I myself critiqued Deborah Haarsma’s book in at least two pieces here and here. But I haven’t thrown it away, or I’d have to throw away most of what I’ve read on the subject. The whole issue is clouded in various misapprehensions, repeated slogans and tribalisms of many kinds.

    The fact that one can try, but usually unsuccessfully, to cut through those to new ground for thought is the most depressing thing for me. Sy found little discussion of Denton’s actual arguments on his Biologos thread reviewing it, and my two pieces on automata and their philosophical and theological implications mainly led to the same tired old generic comments about creationism v evolution, or about those-who-hold to creationism v those-who-hold-to-evolution.

    If people want to use The Hump just to carry on arguments for which they got banned from BioLogos, I’m really not interested, and will prevent it. I’ve actually managed to be a severe critic, but remained in good standing there for six years or so.

    • Henry Tudor says:

      I will stay off of it. Obviously, I was never welcome; therefore, I don’t know why I was invited. Take care.

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        Henry – not sure how anybody’s not made you welcome here. People always invite themselves – that’s how they get to register.

        But you are mature enough to make your own decisions on these things, I know.

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