I’ve recently been appointed a Theological Fellow for BioLogos, along with two other theologians—Oliver Crisp (a Brit teaching at Fuller Theological Seminary) and Bethany Sollereder (a Canadian working at the University of Oxford). Given that I’m a Jamaican teaching at Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, NY, the international mix here is interesting.
BioLogos is an evangelical Christian organization founded by Dr. Francis Collins, the famed Director of the Human Genome Project. Their mission (taken from the BioLogos website) is to invite “the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.”
Jim Stump of BioLogos
I was first approached about becoming a Theological Fellow by Jim Stump, a philosopher, who is currently the Senior Editor at BioLogos. I met Jim in the summer of 2014 at a conference sponsored by three sister organizations—the American Scientific Affiliation, the Canadian Scientific and Christian and Affiliation, and Christians in Science (UK). The conference was called “From Cosmos to Psyche: All Things Hold Together in Christ” and was held at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON.
Through my conversations with Jim, I discovered that he is from the Missionary Church, the same denomination I was a member of in Jamaica. In fact, he knew folks at Jamaica Theological Seminary, where I did my BTh degree, and he had even taught there (the Seminary is sponsored by the Missionary Church in Jamaica).
I met Jim again at three other conferences on science and faith (in Chicago, San Francisco, and Buffalo), during which Jim explained BioLogos’s need to have professional theologians engage the public on matters of science and faith. While many scientists affiliated with BioLogos had been writing articles on the BioLogos website on various issues, one of the criticisms, he explained, had been that very few were experts in theology or biblical studies.
So BioLogos decided to formally appoint some Theology Fellows, initially for 2016. You can read the BioLogos announcement here. Each of the Theology Fellows will write at least six blog articles for the BioLogos website over the course of the year or so.
My Proposed Blog Posts for BioLogos
I’m considering doing a series of posts on the overall theme of Evolution and Biblical Faith: Loving the Questions. The subtitle suggests that I may not have all the answers (in fact, I’m pretty sure that I don’t), but I want to explore what the important questions might be.
My projected articles will be on the following topics (this is just a projection; we’ll see how they actually turn out):
- Methodology and approach – how should we think about relating the Bible and theology to contemporary science, including evolution?
- Cosmic creation – how might we relate the Bible’s vision of the cosmos as a temple (creation as sacred space) to an expanding universe over deep time?
- Human nature and the imago Dei – what does the Bible’s understanding of the human vocation to image God have to do with what we know of the evolution and cultural development of Homo sapiens (and other hominins)?
- The Fall – how do we relate the story of the primal transgression in the garden to the origin of moral and religious consciousness and (un)ethical behavior in Homo sapiens?
- Suffering, chaos, and “nature” – how does the Bible’s understanding of God’s providential activity in the natural world and human history relate to the suffering and death that seem rampant in both “nature” and history?
- The incarnation – how does the Bible’s understanding of Christ as God-with-us, the Word made flesh, speak to the evolutionary history of the cosmos and of living species?
- Eschatology – how should we think of the Bible’s vision of new creation, including resurrection and immortality, in relation to a finite universe characterized by entropy?
I realize that I’ve set myself a pretty big agenda. But go big or go home, right?
Update on My BioLogos Posts
I ended up writing posts on the first four of my proposed topics, as well as some other topics I hadn’t planned on doing, but that BioLogos asked me to do.
Here are the posts I actually wrote (with links):
“Why Christians Don’t Need to Be Threatened by Evolution” (2016)
“The Ancient Universe and the Cosmic Temple” (2016)
“Humans as Imago Dei and the Evolution of Homo Sapiens” (2017)
“Evolution and the Historical Fall: What Does Genesis 3 Tell Us About the Origin of Evil?” (2017)
“What Is the Relationship between the Creation Accounts in Genesis 1 and 2?” (2018)
“Why Is the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Important for Christian Faith?” (2018)
“Why Are There Multiple Accounts of Jesus’s Resurrection in the Bible?” (2018)
The Origins of BioLogos
The origins of BioLogos go back to the 2006 publication of Francis Collins’s book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, in which he argued for the compatibility of science and Christian faith, including on the question of evolution.
Collins supervised the decoding the human genome and wrote as an evangelical Christian, so a lot of people were interested to read the book. Based on its enormous popularity (it was on the New York Times bestseller list for sixteen weeks) and the flood of email questions Collins received from people in the scientific and religious communities, he started a website to address questions of science and faith. Collins then founded The BioLogos Foundation in 2007, with Karl Giberson (a physicist) as Executive Vice President and Darrel Falk (a geneticist) as Executive Director. BioLogos launched their own website in 2009.
I heard Karl Giberson lecture on “The Question of Origins” when he was the featured speaker at the 2011 Barnes Science and Christian Faith Symposium, sponsored by Northeastern Seminary and the Division of Mathematics and Science at Roberts Wesleyan College.
And I’ve had the privilege of working with Darrel Falk on a multi-year project called Re-Imagining the Intersection of Evolution and the Fall, sponsored by the Colossian Forum, where I’ve been one of ten scholars on an interdisciplinary team (led by Jamie Smith and Bill Kavanaugh). We presented our research at a conference in Chicago in 2015, and a book of essays called Evolution and the Fall, written by members of the team, will be published by Eerdmans (2017). My essay is called “Reading Genesis 3 in Light of Evolution: Beyond Concordism and Non-Overlapping Magisteria.”
It was actually this presentation at the 2015 Chicago conference that led to Jim Stump inviting me to become a BioLogos Theology Fellow; and I’ve also become a member of BioLogos Voices, available for speaking engagements with interested groups on topics related to the BioLogos mission.
Dr. Middleton, I hope you definitely decide to “go big” with your “agenda” for articles. If in fact you do write them, will you be posting them here as they come out, or at least notifications about them?
I’ll probably give a summary of the article here with a link to the full article on the BioLogos website.
Congrats Richard. BioLogos made a great choice, both for your chops in Biblical Studies and Theology, and as a communicator. Have you drawn much on TF Torrance’s work relating theology and the natural sciences as you’ve considered some of these questions? He’s done some creative work on the many of the subjects you are considering for your blog posts.
Eric, I haven’t done much formal study on the relationship of theology and science (my work has been concentrated on the biblical worldview); so this is something I will definitely look into. Mind you, these are going to be quite short blog posts, so I don’t know how much detail I can go into.
This is very interesting. The best world authority on this subject is Dr. Stephen Meyer founder of “The Discovery Institute” in Seattle the primary promoter of “intelligent design” in the USA.
Francis Collins, on the other hand, despite his great scientific credentials, continues to believe in much of Darwinian evolution as a “theistic evolutionist” similar to the position of the Roman Catholic Chruch – as if God set off the world by winding a clock and was not intimately involved in creation! This is rubbish, and I can’t see how You can combine any form of real solid genuine Bible-Believing Christianity with anything to do with Francis Collins. Perhaps you would have been much better off teaming up with Dr Stephen Meyer who has written a whole book criticizing Collins called “Signature in the Cell” which I own in Kindle edition.
I also own three new excellent TV documentaries by Dr. Stephen Meyer in my Amazon Video Library! The first is called “Does God Exist?”. Focus on the Family commissioned Dr. Meyer to make this series to equip Christians going to secular universities how to use science itself to debunk and even argue with secular professors in our universities. I can’t stress enough how important these videos by Dr. Meyer are.
Dr Meyer has a Ph.D from the University of Cambridge in Philosophy of Science, and is very much in line with Dr. John Lennox professor of mathematics and a fellow of philosophy of science at University of Oxford. Meyer and Lennox are in my opinion the very best living Christian apologists in the world today. Their thinking certainly is consistent with the teachings of Dr. Francis Schaeffer, my own mentor.
See also the excellent documentary movie “Expelled” by Ben Stein which features among others Dr. Stephen Meyer and famous atheist Richard Dawkins. I also own this movie in my Amazon video library.
You can watch this entire movie on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/V5EPymcWp-g
I also recommend the book and movie documentary “The case for a creator” by Lee Strobel.
Anyway, this is just my point of view, and I am not infallible! I am sure you will do an excellent job in representing the Christian and Biblical Perspective.
Hi Dave, thanks for posting your response. I don’t have quite the same view of Francis Collins (or Roman Catholic theology) that you do, and I don’t think Collins’s position is rubbish (though he isn’t, of course, a trained theologian or philosopher, which is why BioLogos wants theologians writing on these issues). Without necessarily agreeing with everything posted on the BioLogos website, I basically affirm their intent to show the harmony of faith and science on the question of evolution.
I myself believe that God intelligently designed the creation order to evolve over deep time. I am not a Naturalist or Deist to believe that this evolutionary process just happens on its own. I affirm theologically that God is at work throughout.
I don’t have a fully worked out theory for this, but I lean in the direction of the classic Christian tradition of “concurrentism,” which affirms that God is sovereignly (mysteriously) at work in natural processes. While God can (of course) “supernaturally” intervene, I don’t believe we need to draw on such ideas to explain the design of creation; so I don’t pit intelligent design against a scientific account of evolution.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I have come to the conclusion that “intelligent design” is a philosophical position, not a scientific one; they are different discourses, and so evolution and design are not alternative points of view. I have also come to the conclusion that we should distinguish evolution as a scientific theory from naturalistic evolutionism (which conflates science and a philosophical position on “nature”).
Yet, as you can see from the subtitle of my essay on Genesis 3 (“Beyond Concordism and Non-Overlapping Magisteria”), I’m not satisfied to simply say these are two different discourses (that would be NOMA). Instead, I want to venture into the more difficult path of trying to think our non-negotiable biblical faith and what we think we know scientifically about evolution TOGETHER, to see where it leads. So the venture requires trust in the Holy Spirit. I’d value your prayers.
Congrats Richard. In this world of hardened positions, where science and the Bible are viewed as mortal enemies, its great to see a sensible step towards reasonable dialogue. As a fellow Jamaican, as well as a fellow graduate of JTS, I am immensely proud of your appointment. David P.
Thanks, David. Thanks to both Davids (both Jamaicans)!