23 March 2010

Love. Peace. Unity. Or?

Last month, I read that Biologos (a Christian "think tank" that advances evolutionary creation) and Reasons To Believe (a Christian "think tank" that advances old-earth creationism) were reporting on a dialogue between their two organizations that was intended "to discuss areas of agreement and disagreement" with a particular focus on "the biological record of the past 700 million years."

This is very interesting to me. My position is very closely aligned with that of Biologos, so naturally I often disagree with the opinions of Reasons To Believe (RTB). But as I've explained in detail before, my big problem with RTB has nothing to do with their preference for miraculous intervention during biological evolution. It has to do with their proclivity for the crafting and promulgation of falsehoods, and I have asserted that their statements on various aspects of evolutionary science amount to misconduct that calls for intensive reform.

And so I'm quite curious about how Biologos and RTB interacted. The joint statement reports that "significant progress was made in clarifying similarities and differences" and that the two groups seek to model Christian disagreement that is characterized by "civility, grace, and unity." The comments are full of joyous praise for the effort, and the statement cites classic proof texts calling for Christian unity and mutual respect.

And who could disagree with that? Well, I'm going to try.

First, let's get the easy stuff out of the way. Yes, of course I want dialogues between people who disagree to be characterized by mutual respect. I work with all sorts of people, who disagree with me about all sorts of things, and nearly all of these relationships are characterized by mutual respect. I'm not suggesting that Biologos treat RTB with contempt, or that Biologos treat RTB with anything less than common decency.

My concern is that all the proper talk about unity and respect masks a very serious problem that can – and should – influence Christian unity. That problem is a lack of intellectual and professional integrity on the part of RTB, manifested by their dissemination of obvious falsehoods that are difficult or impossible to dismiss as mere mistakes. I've documented some of the worst of these lapses, any one of which would – if left uncorrected – compromise RTB's integrity and thereby its claim to the kind of respect that should be reserved for those in positions of Christian "leadership."

And so I'm not convinced that the dialogue between Biologos and RTB is such a good thing. If the discussions create the impression that the two organizations are just two groups of Christians who differ on interpretations of theological or scientific claims, then they will serve to obscure the troubling fact that RTB manufactures bogus folk science for use in defending its theological commitments. In other words, the kind of dialogue that I would support would only secondarily touch on preferred modes of scientific explanation or preferred interpretive approaches to biblical creation narratives. It would primarily deal with the fact that both organizations – as public Christian ministries – have serious obligations with regard to truth-telling.

One commenter seemed to be getting at this very point. He is probably referring to an "Apologetics Seminar" at Biola University.

How exactly does Biologos expect to dialogue with an organisation whose ‘evolution expert’, Fuz Rana, gave a talk last weekend entitled “Human Evolution: Confronting the Myth” explaining how “Darwinism has become bankrupt as a paradigm to understand human origins?”
Darrel Falk of Biologos answers (in part):
Great question! However, think of it this way: What do we gain by not talking?
Here's my answer to Darrel's rhetorical question: It depends on what you're talking about.

I would prefer a dialogue that results in reform at RTB. RTB's opinions on evolution I acknowledge to be worthy of respect even if I find them unacceptably contrived and even potentially damaging to faith. But RTB's misrepresentations of evolutionary science are very serious problems, and until those matters are tackled, dialogues about the role of miraculous creation events are, in my opinion, counterproductive.

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