Is Dr. Tim Keller a Progressive Creationist?

In a recent interview with Eric Metaxas, Dr. Tim Keller states (beginning around the 20:00 mark) that he is an “old earth progressive creationist” and that his view is “not quite” theistic evolution. He goes on to say that the difference between his view and theistic evolution is that he believes that God intervened in the process. I was surprised to hear Dr. Keller define his views as “progressive creationism” given his support of BioLogos and their viewpoint on origins. So, I did a little research on progressive creationism and here are some highlights of what I found.

One of the best well-known proponents of progressive creationism is Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe. Dr. Ross has written many books defining his view on origins. His organization’s website defines their position as creation and not supernaturally directed Darwinism. Progressive creationism specifically rejects the concepts of macroevolution (species evolving from other species). The BioLogos website places Dr. Ross and Reasons to Believe under the heading of Old Earth Creationism and explains why OEC is not acceptable to the BioLogos viewpoint:

Old Earth Creationists (OECs) accept that the earth and universe are billions of years old, but maintain that these findings are in concordance with a direct reading of the first chapters of Genesis (often by interpreting the days of creation as long periods of time, or by understanding large gaps between the days of creation). OECs hold that modern science tightly corresponds with biblical accounts and assume that God included modern scientific ideas in the Bible, sometimes through secret language that would have been lost on the original audiences. OECs do not, however, accept the common ancestry of all life forms.

BioLogos disagrees with the OEC viewpoint, because while accepting the scientific consensus for an old earth, it rejects the findings of modern genetics, paleontology, and many other biological sub-disciplines that support common ancestry. Furthermore, we believe that God chose to reveal Himself within the worldview, culture, and language of the biblical authors. Since heliocentricity or the Big Bang, for example, are neither relevant to God’s message nor meaningful to the ancient audience, we do not think these scientific ideas are encoded in Scripture.

In contrast, BioLogos defines their own view on origins this way:

The BioLogos view holds that both Scripture and modern science reveal God’s truth, and that these truths are not in competition with one another. It accepts the modern scientific consensus on the age of the earth and common ancestry, including the common ancestry of humans. While there are varying views of how to reconcile the truths of science and Scripture (for example with regards to a historical Adam), those who hold to the BioLogos view accept God as Creator and believe that the Bible, though open to a diversity of interpretations, is ultimately the divinely inspired and authoritative Word of God. (emphasis added)

Elsewhere on their website, BioLogos gives this definition:

We believe that the diversity and interrelation of all life on earth are best explained by the God-ordained process of evolution and common descent. Thus, evolution is not in opposition to God, but a means by which God providentially achieves his purposes.

We believe that God created humans in biological continuity with all life on earth, but also as spiritual beings. God established a unique relationship with humanity by endowing us with his image and calling us to an elevated position within the created order.

And also this:

The BioLogos view celebrates God as creator. It is sometimes called Theistic Evolution or Evolutionary Creation.

When Dr. Keller’s name was listed as a leading figure on BioLogos’ Perspectives page, his name was not with Dr. Ross and the other Old Earth Creationists. He was listed as a leading figure who represented BioLogos’ view. Given Dr. Keller’s advocacy of BioLogos and their position, I think it odd that he would seek to define his view as progressive creationism. If progressive creationism fits his view better, wouldn’t Reasons to Believe be a more appropriate organization to promote?

8 thoughts on “Is Dr. Tim Keller a Progressive Creationist?

  1. Natural Historian says:

    It is difficult to compare descriptions of positions even over a 2 year period because Biologos has only very recently undergone a transition to be explicitly an organization supporting evolutionary creation. When they first began they tried to be a bit bigger umbrella and have discussion among many contrasting viewpoints and invited a number of ID types (ID can be equated but is not synonymous with Hugh Ross type OEC which i don’t even think is really OEC). Ultimately the ID types created enough friction that it probably seemed better to sort the ranks and stick with one theme. Hence some changes in personnel and many former authors are caught in a bit of a quandary in terms of being defined by organization that itself has shifted it definitions. However, they were not nor are they today bound to a particular position just because they allow their writings to be posted there. There are very few venues where science and faith can be discussed somewhat openly and critiques from theists of may sorts can respond. I for one don’t want reformed Christians to abandon engagement and allow one side of evangelicalism to dictate the terms of the debate. Part of the difficulty of assigning labels in the creation debate is that I don’t believe I’ve met two people that have the same position so categories have a high degree of overlap in most cases. Even YEC which has some apparently well-defined boundaries has a wide range of opinions about how much evolution is possible or has happened.

  2. Steve Drake says:

    Natural Historian,
    That Hugh Ross type OEC is definitely OEC is beyond dispute. Hugh Ross is definitely OEC from the many books he has published and articles he has written. I hope I’m not misunderstanding you here.That there is a difference between progressvie creation and theisic evolution is something we may wish to discuss, but they both take an OE position, with the concomitant theological implications thereof.

  3. Natural Historian says:

    Steve, yeah, you are right. No doubt an old earth creationist. I misspoke there and was thinking of OEC as being equated only with progressive creationism which it is not. Biologos seems to be try to distance themselves from the OEC acronym as if it belonged to Ross but they would also old earth obviously. Gets a bit confusing but of course in the end the all have to deal with the implications of their view. Joel

  4. Joseph Martinetti says:

    As a volunteer apologist with Reasons to believe, we do hold to an old-Earth view, but differ with BioLogos on evolution. Progressive creationism does not view the modern scientific theory of evolution as the way in which God created, as BioLogos does. Here’s a statement from their website, “We at BioLogos agree with the modern scientific consensus on the age of the earth and evolutionary development of all species, seeing these as descriptions of how God created.”

  5. Joseph Pun says:

    Is it possible that Keller is a progressive creationist but helping to steer Biologos from more heretical positions. Just because he is part of an organization doesn’t mean you believe everything it believes. FWIW.

    • Rachel Miller says:

      Joseph~ While it is certainly possible to belong to an organization without holding to everything it believes, Dr. Keller is not merely a part of BioLogos. He and Redeemer NYC were part of the founding and have hosted the main Theology of Celebration workshops. Most importantly, Dr. Keller has said that it is the “job of pastors” to develop a BioLogos narrative. The BioLogos narrative, in their own words, is this:

      It [the BioLogos view] accepts the modern scientific consensus on the age of the earth and common ancestry, including the common ancestry of humans.

      If he doesn’t agree with that, he’s in the wrong organization.

  6. Bruce Fogerty says:

    I spent hours on the BioLogos site the day it launched and was stunned to see Dr. Keller and initially Redeemer Church listed as the sponsor of the first BioLogos workshop. Quickly Redeemer’s name was removed from the site and Dr. Keller was left alone to fend for himself, which he on most occasions- he does quite well. I found/find it interesting that the presbytery to which Redeemer and Dr. Keller is a part officially held the position that anyone who held to theistic evolution should not be teaching in any capacity. So much for church discipline. The most disappointing thing about Biologos is that it has presented itself as an organization that truly wanted dialogue, but in their own way shouted down any opposition to their firmly held full-fledged neo Darwinian position. And slyly rolled their eyes and thought anyone who disagreed with their position to be buffoons. I was able to get a leader from Redeemer Seminary an invite to the first BioLogos workshop and warned him that the “heat would be on” to join the fraternity. He politely turned down their bid. I finally gave up trying to get Dr. Keller to sit down with my friend Dr. Steve Meyer, the leader of the ID movement. However, several years later I was able to get Eric Metaxas to host a Socrates in the City in DC with Steve. It was attended by big Biologos crowd who initially had big gas over Steve getting the mic. However, by the end of the evening Steve has proven himself worthy.

    Make no mistake, the selling of theistic evolution to the evangelical masses is underway and funded by some extremely deep pocketed foundations. Stay tuned, this one is a real page turner.

  7. James Sundquist says:

    Tim Keller has a host of other problems besides his nebulous and confusing position on Creation and Evolution. Here is an article by Dr. E.S. Williams exposing the rest of his false teachings:

    KELLER’S FALSE GOSPEL
    BY DR. E.S. WILLIAMS

    http://the-highway.com/keller-false-gospel_Williams.html

    As to Astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross and his Progressive OEC, I wrote this documentary exposing his views in which he tortures Scripture to make it fit his imagination:

    http://www.nwcreation.net/articles/theageofearth.html

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