What is the BioLogos Foundation?

When I was reading Peter Enns’ books and the related articles in preparation for writing my review of his Bible curriculum, I ran across several mentions of the BioLogos Foundation. After doing some additional research, I discovered that Dr. Enns is listed as a “missionary” for his work with the BioLogos Forum. This made me curious about what exactly BioLogos is, so I did some more research. Here is what I learned.

According to their website:

The BioLogos Foundation is a group of Christians, many of whom are professional scientists, biblical scholars, philosophers, theologians, pastors, and educators, who are concerned about the long history of disharmony between the findings of science and large sectors of the Christian faith. We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. We also believe that evolution, properly understood, best describes God’s work of creation. Founded by Dr. Francis Collins, BioLogos addresses the escalating culture war between science and faith, promoting dialog and exploring the harmony between the two. We are committed to helping the church – and students, in particular – develop worldviews that embrace both of these complex belief structures, and that allow science and faith to co-exist peacefully.

Apparently BioLogos sees itself as bridging the gap between two “fundamentalist” approaches to the relationship between science and faith:

The BioLogos position on origins sits partway between two fundamentalisms: on the “left” end of the spectrum is the fundamentalism of people like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett who are committed to the belief that the only reliable form of knowledge comes from science, and that alternate ways of knowing must be either rejected entirely or completely subordinated to science. On the “right” end of the spectrum is the fundamentalism of those who insist that reliable knowledge can only be found in an ultraliteral interpretation of the Bible, and that alternate ways of knowing must be completely subordinated to this way of reading the Bible.

One of the resources BioLogos provides is a description of the various positions on origins, along with representative scholars. With “young earth creationists” such as Ken Ham and Carl Baugh on one end of the spectrum and “anti-religious non-accomodationists” such as Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins on the other, BioLogos places itself in the middle of the pack and defines their own position as follows:

BioLogos believes that both the Bible and modern science should be taken seriously, and seeks a harmony between them that respects the truth of each. By using appropriate biblical and theological scholarship BioLogos believes that the apparent conflicts that lead some to reject science and others to reject the Bible can be avoided.

Leading figures, such as Alister McGrath and Tim Keller, are named as examples of those who represent BioLogos’ position on origins. BioLogos also states that their position is “most similar to Theistic Evolution.”

A significant portion of the BioLogos website is dedicated to answering questions commonly raised in discussions of science and faith. Questions such as: what role could God have in evolution, did Adam and Eve really exist, what about the Fall, what about the Flood, was there death before the Fall, and how should you interpret Scripture in light of scientific evidence are answered by founder Dr. Francis Collins and various experts, including Dr. Peter Enns.

Here are a few of the answers given.

Can scientific and scriptural truth be reconciled?

The Bible is not a scientific text and should not be read that way. Scientific literature is a relatively recent and highly specialized form of communication. Reading the Bible as a literal, scientific text leads to inconsistencies between the revealed word of God and the scientifically derived history of the world. However, when scripture is read in a proper context, these inconsistencies do not come up. One, therefore, can safely accept scripture as God’s revealed word, even though it does not address the specifics of many scientific questions and often refers to the natural world using the understandings of the time in which it was written.

What role could God have in evolution?

Many Christians prior to the emergence of the historical science of geology interpreted the first chapters of Genesis as literal history. In the medieval period, for example, intrepid biblical literalists would head off on adventures to locate the Garden of Eden. Maps from this period even indicate where creative cartographers thought Eden was located and where Adam and Eve went upon being expelled.

This literal reading implies that God specially created Adam and Eve from dust, and that all humans are descended from these original parents. They were created to have a perfect relationship with God, but their disobedience resulted in a curse for all humankind, including their descendants.

The literalist reading, despite its attractive simplicity, does not fit the evidence.

The scientific evidence suggests a dramatically larger population at this point in history. Recently acquired genetic evidence also points to a population of several thousand people from whom all humans have descended, not just two. Finally, fossil and DNA records point strongly to a more unified creation reflected in the relatedness of humans and other animals.

Was there death before the Fall?

With this critically important distinction, BioLogos is thus compatible with the belief that part of Adam’s curse was the onset of physical death for the human race, because the human race in the full Imago Dei really began with Adam. Although many human-like creatures lived and died before the Fall, these Homo sapiens did not yet bear the image of God. After the bestowal of God’s image, there was no death of Homo divinus until after the Fall. As soon as image-bearing humanity fully emerged through God’s creative process of evolution, no member of that species experienced death until after the Fall.

This passage is clear that the gift of everlasting life was lost as a result of the Fall. First, Homo sapiens became Homo divinus as the result of the gift of free will and a direct relationship with God. Homo divinus might have been the first being to have the potential to be immortal and not die. However, whether immortality was a natural part of Homo divinus or merely an offer that was extended, Homo divinus misused their free will. Part of their subsequent curse was that immortality was withheld, bringing both spiritual and physical death to humankind. This perspective is compatible with the belief that physical death was a result of the Fall.

How should we interpret the Genesis flood account?

An informed reading of the Genesis story neither permits nor requires it to be a universal, global flood, and geology does not support a universal reading. A non-global interpretation does not undermine the lessons learned from the Genesis Flood account that are pertinent to the life of faith.

Did Adam and Eve really exist?

We cannot know the exact time that humans attained God’s image. In fact, it may be that the image of God emerged gradually over a period of time. Estimates of the historical time of Adam and Eve are varied. While some literalist interpreters of Genesis argue that God created Adam and Eve in their present form, the evidence of DNA and the fossil record establishes that humans were also participants in the long evolutionary continuum, and God used this process as his means of creation.

Scriptural evidence supports the view that other humans existed during the time that God’s image was attained. Genesis makes this apparent when the writer makes reference to Cain’s fear of other people, when God cursed him. Likewise, Cain finds a wife among a nearby tribe (Genesis 4:13-17). In light of these references, it seems likely that Adam and Eve were not individual historical characters, but represented a larger population of first humans who bore the image of God.

A few days ago, Karl W. Gibberson, vice president of the BioLogos Foundation, wrote an article entitled “My Take: Jesus would believe in evolution and so should you.” His basic premise is:

[W]hen it comes to the truth of evolution, many Christians feel compelled to look the other way. They hold on to a particular interpretation of an ancient story in Genesis that they have fashioned into a modern account of origins – a story that began as an oral tradition for a wandering tribe of Jews thousands of years ago.

For more than two centuries, careful scientific research, much of it done by Christians, has demonstrated clearly that the earth is billions years old, not mere thousands, as many creationists argue. We now know that the human race began millions of years ago in Africa – not thousands of years ago in the Middle East, as the story in Genesis suggests.

And all life forms are related to each other though evolution. These are important truths that science has discovered through careful research. They are not “opinions” that can be set aside if you don’t like them.

Anyone who values truth must take these ideas seriously, for they have been established as true beyond any reasonable doubt.

Christians must come to welcome – rather than fear – the ideas of evolution. Truths about Nature are sacred, for they speak of our Creator. Such truths constitute “God’s second book” for Christians to read alongside the Bible.

Evolution does not contradict the Bible unless you force an unreasonable interpretation on that ancient book. To these questions we should add “What would Jesus believe about origins?”

And the answer? Jesus would believe evolution, of course. He cares for the Truth.

In summary, BioLogos is a group of scholars who believe that “evolution need not be a stumbling block to faith”, that Adam and Eve did not really exist in the way Genesis describes, that the Flood was not worldwide, that Jesus would believe in evolution, and that Scripture is best interpreted through the lens of evolutionary scientific thought.

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