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September 5, 2011 / Olavi

There is a contradiction at the heart of Biologos, and discussion of it is not permitted

A recent post at Biologos titled A Leap of Truth: Requiring Certainty raised an important issue surrounding Fundamentalism,

Really what happens is that people have fear. They are afraid that if they let go of this really tight way of looking at things, then the only alternative is going to be irrationality and lack of control, but that is not true. I think that actually you can let go of this really tight hold, and step forward into richer things, and think about things, and the alternative isn’t just quicksand where you disappear.

I responded, in part,

That sounds like something I would say. However it is breathtakingly disingenuous coming from Biologos, which has members that are bound by their respective institutions to not let go of a really tight way of looking at things, else they will be fired.

This is an open fact, and I filled several paragraphs explaining the basic problem of Biologos wanting to be modern and traditional at the same time.

The full record of what transpired thereafter is given at the end of this post (which may be verified against Google’s RSS archive of it). In short, Darrel Falk, the president of Biologos, wrote an extremely odd reply filled with irrelevant statements, I mentioned the strangeness of Darrel’s reply, and then his reply was deleted along with all but one of my comments. Even unrelated benign comments were removed, which caused my position to be misrepresented. I received the following email.



Contrary to what this person says, I addressed the topic at hand and made no ad hominem arguments, as the full text below will attest. The relatively quick reaction of this nameless moderator during an American holiday made me suspicious. Let’s see…



The message was sent from a computer in San Diego, home of Darrel Falk and Point Loma Nazarene University. (The Biologos server is hosted elsewhere.) I sent an immediate reply asking the moderator to identify himself, but no response has been forthcoming.

I am nearly certain that Darrel is hiding behind this moderator account because (a) the IP address matches, (b) the deletions are too timely and too Darrel-centric, (c) both the moderator and Darrel double-space their sentences, (d) I cannot imagine why a non-Darrel person would refuse to identify himself, (e) I cannot imagine why a non-Darrel person would use an anonymous account in the first place, and (f) I can imagine why Darrel would choose to act anonymously.

In any case, this moderator has engaged in some unethical behavior. Consider this casualty of the deletion spree:

The removal of that comment is a deliberate effort to misrepresent me.

Eight comments were deleted in all, and their reproductions below may be verified by subscribing to the Biologos comment feed with Google Reader, which retains comments even after Biologos deletes them. The first one below has not been removed (yet).

Olavi:

“Really what happens is that people have fear. They are afraid that if they let go of this really tight way of looking at things, then the only alternative is going to be irrationality and lack of control, but that is not true. I think that actually you can let go of this really tight hold, and step forward into richer things, and think about things, and the alternative isn’t just quicksand where you disappear.”

That sounds like something I would say. However it is breathtakingly disingenuous coming from Biologos, which has members that are bound by their respective institutions to not let go of a really tight way of looking at things, else they will be fired.

I encourage people to read the above quote again and take seriously what it says. It sums up exactly what happened to me as I transitioned away from literalism. It was not a drop into nihilism and despair, but a real opening into a greater intellectual and spiritual life.

It is unfortunate that Biologos is selling a such a conservative viewpoint. There are so many other options, but Biologos is only presenting one. Liberal perspectives are much more consistent and intellectually satisfying, and if Biologos was really interested in science education—if it really wanted to reach as many as possible instead of pushing a narrow theological agenda—then alternative perspectives would be offered.

Perhaps this post is a step in that direction, but I doubt it is anything more than lip service. I would love to be proven wrong. Biologos is not shy about taking on literalistic views of the Old Testament. Let’s see the same for the New Testament.

Darrel Falk:

In light of Olavi’s comment, it important to note that there is nothing disingenuous about the Ard Louis quote. Dr. Louis is not only a physicist at Oxford University, he is Chair of the Board of Advisors at BioLogos. Dr. Kerry Fulcher is a lead professor in the BioLogos program for science teachers in Christian schools. He is also provost at Point Loma Nazarene University (and in that context, my boss). We all put our faith in Christ alone.

Remember though that Paul says in I Corinthians 13—“we see through a glass darkly.” We admit that our understanding of eternal matters is fuzzy. We don’t have all the details worked out. Our acceptance of mystery is liberating and allows our relationship with God to grow deeper day by day as we keep learning new things. When everything is written in stone, it makes for a pretty stultifying life.

As Paul has said, however, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.” (I Tim 1:12) And as the writer to the Hebrews said so eloquently, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Olavi:

Darrel Falk’s response above is one of the strangest online comments I have read from someone purporting to be serious. It begins with a denial, but in place of supporting arguments there is an admixture of curriculum vitaes and pious statements which are not relevant to the issue.

Anyone is able to look up the statements of faith to which some Biologos members must adhere for their employment. There can hardly be a clearer example of “requiring certainty” than this.

The following thread was actually the first follow-up to Darrel’s response. (Unless you are interested in the complexities of Fundamentalism, you may want to stop reading now.)

Olavi:

Creationists of the strict Fundamentalist variety are mistaken. Their pastors, those whom they most trust as being in touch with God, have been feeding them misinformation. How do we handle this delicate situation?

Here’s how not to handle it: don’t try to displace it with your own competing ideology. “Your pastors have the wrong theology but we have the right one. We have the answer and they don’t. Come to us for the answer.” Biologos is very much resented for taking this approach. Biologos is seen as creating another theology using ideas derived from scientific materialism. Why is the truth inaccessible to those trusted creationist pastors? Biologos does not give a satisfying answer to this important question. I personally know people who feel this way, and we see the sentiment reflected in the comments on this site.

The way out is to let go of one’s own craving for certainty and self-righteousness, as expressed in the quote above. What is so bad about the possibility of being mistaken? Why is that the worst thing to ever happen? Is it not obvious that that desire is motivated by egotism and not holiness? It is egotism and the fear of being mistaken that condemns creationists and their pastors to confidently spread misinformation, to sincerely believe that objective falsehoods (like YEC) are truth.

Creationists are not in need of a new theology coming down from on high at Biologos, which they readily reject anyway. They need to embrace their own fallibility; they need a newfound humility to accept the possibility of being mistaken. There has to be an agreement to stop playing the game of one-upmanship, the game of I-have-a-better-theology-than-you. Atheists play their own version of the game as well. It’s a game of egos clamoring for their own self-satisfied warm feelings of self-righteousness.

But by promoting its own narrow theology, Biologs continues the game, and creationists resent them for it. It’s a great irony and tragedy that Biologos is unable to reach the precise audience it aims to reach. A new level-playing-field approach of I-could-be-mistaken and let-us-find-out-together based upon critical thinking and self-fallibility could change that. Unfortunately we are only likely to hear more expressions of piety and self-exultation from Biologos, and none of the humility which is necessary to lead by example. Biologos wants others to accept their fallibility (that of being mislead by creationism), while Biologos actively dismisses their own fallibility. Naturally, creationists respond by dismissing Biologos.

Open Circle:

Olavi, I must ask you to cite concrete evidence to support your accusation that BioLogos is attempting to promote its own “narrow theology.” As far as I can tell, that has not at all been the case – there have been many things posted on BioLogos that I strongly disagree with, and just as many things posted that I strongly affirm and advocate. It seems that BioLogos is very much doing its best to act as a forum for ideas, under the premise that Scripture and science are fundamentally consistent and compatible, both working towards the ends of revealing the truth and demonstrating in full measure the nature and glory of God.

Cheers,
-Open Circle

Olavi:

Open Circle, most seminaries in the Western world teach the current state of knowledge about the origins of the Bible. To those seminarians, and to most who learn about the subject, the presumption of Biblical inerrancy is an intellectually indefensible position. Like creationism, it is starkly at odds with the evidence. We won’t hear this viewpoint coming from Biologos, however, because some of its members will lose their employment if they are seen endorsing it.

For many Christians, the historical-critical method brings a sigh of relief. It gives voice to the uneasiness they feel with the double-standards they see around them. They are unable to accept the pious protestations of individuals who have pledged not to question and not to investigate.

Many, however, are unaware of the fascinating subject of historical criticism, which would provide them with the intellectual integrity they seek. Moreover they see real problems with fundamentalism apart from its issues with science. Biologos espouses a position which is, at root, just as fundamentalistic as creationism. It is unfortunate that fundamentalism is being countered with more fundamentalism. For many Christians, that will simply not work. Biologos does not, and will not, help those people. Instead, it wants to push its own theology.

This final thread is hardly relevant; it is only included here for the purpose of full disclosure.

Olavi:

Roger, that is a misrepresentation of my views.

Roger:

Olavi, I apologize for misunderstanding your views. It seems that I was going by our previous conversation, where I thought you preferred the Naturalist-Spiritual view.

Indeed I accept a great of the ethical principles in Christianity—those which are wholly divorced from the in-group/out-group tribalism mentality. I have simply culled away those egotistic projections which are, ironically, at odds with the best of Christian ethics.

Judging by this current statement on BioLogos it would seem that you accept the ethics of Christianity, at least in modern liberal western form, but reject the theology of Christianity. How you reconcile Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, et al with these values is far from clear, but since you are rejecting theology, may be that is not a problem.

You seem to think that theology, which is knowledge about God, leads to pride is the problem, while good ethics is the solution. May be you are right in thinking that Science which is knowledge the universe leads to the ability of humans to abuse our planet so it is the problem, but I do not think so. I think that ethics often leads to legalism, which is the problem for which good theology is the answer.

You seem to have been brought up in a legalistic environment. Legalism can be in two forms, ethical and intellectual, which are usually combined, but can be separated. In either case people are expected to conform to certain standards to be accepted. They can be liberal or conservative standards.

You reject the conservative legalism of your youth which is good, because all legalism is bad, however you risk being trapped in a new liberal legalism now, because your system of values is not based on sound relational theology. So we have a system where each generation of children rejects the values of its parents.

Jesus came to reject legalism in all its forms, the Judaic conservative form and the Greek liberal form. Jesus demonstrated that salvation or freedom is not based on right ethics or right ideas, but on right relationships to God and others. This is the only way to rise above legalism in this world.

Olavi:

Roger, I wonder why you think it’s appropriate to make diversions into this absurd kind of pseudo-psychoanalysis. It’s a technique used to avoid engaging with a person’s argument.

Needless to say, you are way off base with this stuff. (But that’s exactly what I would say if you were “on base”, right? Etc. See how silly this is?)

Don’t tempt me to start guessing the psychological reasons for why you are doing psychoanalysis :). I would recommend addressing the argument instead of the person.

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