Wednesday, 21 October 2015

BioLogos: the 2015 Evolution and Christian Faith Conference

Sometimes, you have to stop and look at Christadelphian science denialism in context to see how tragic it is. We're living well in the 21st century, in a time when whole genome sequencing has become passe, when we can manipulate matter at the level of individual atoms, when we can send a probe to Pluto with pinpoint accuracy and receive back images of startling clarity. Our telescopes can peer back into time to see the earliest galaxies, while the phones we carry have far more computing power than large computers did less than a generation ago. Despite the fact that science very much has the runs on the board in that it can explain phenomena, make predictions, and improve our life, our community has closed its eyes to this remarkable success, and retreated so far into science denialism that it has gone backwards from its mid-19th century origins where belief in an old Earth was entirely uncontroversial, into the madness of young earth creationism, which represents a complete denial of almost all of the physical, earth, and life sciences. Sadly, when any Christadelphian publicly speaks on a science-related matter, it is now safe to assume that they are going to be completely uninformed on the subject, and fundamentally in error.

That of course means the believer looking for credible information on the Bible-science subject as I have pointed out before will need to look outside official Christadelphian sources. I have previously pointed out that resources such as The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Christians in Science, the BioLogos Foundation, and the American Scientific Affiliation should be on every Christadelphian's list of recommended resources. BioLogos in particular has in the short time it has existed managed to punch well above its weight. Recently, it hosted the Evolution and Christian Faith conference, featuring a number of highly respected Biblical scholars and scientists. Some of the presentations are now online, so for those wanting material that unlike almost all of the science-related videos on Christadelphian channels are informed, accurate, and reliable, these videos come highly recommended.

As BioLogos point out, not all of the plenary videos are yet available, so this selection is incomplete. Nonetheless, it provides much that will be of benefit to the Christadelpian Bible student seeking informed, reliable material from those who actually speak with competence and experience in science and Biblical studies:
Plenary Videos

Deborah Haarsma

President's Welcome

Scot McKnight

Northern Seminary

Adam and the Scientists

At the heart of theological education, whether in a church or a Christian school and among some Christians teaching in public schools, is sensitivity to the context of scientific claims. All scientific and historical claims speak out of and into a specific context, and this applies both to the grand theories in science (like biological evolution) and to theological claims about Adam, Eve, sin and salvation. Paul talked about Adam in a way that made eminent sense to his Jewish and Roman contemporaries and the Book of Genesis made sense in the Ancient Near Eastern world. Teaching students sensitivity to context is vital to their own spiritual formation for being taught something contrary to context jeopardizes both scientific and theological claims. In this presentation I will focus on how the literary, archetypal and historical Adam were understood in the Jewish world.

John Walton

Wheaton College

Investigating What the Bible Claims Concerning Adam and Eve
Given all the debate concerning the relationship between the biblical account of Adam and Eve and the constant flow of new information concerning genetics and the fossil record, it is important for us to take a careful look at the biblical text to evaluate what its claims actually are. Such claims are going to emerge in a close reading of the biblical text as an ancient document, which will be the focus of this paper.

Oliver Crisp

Fuller Theological Seminary
A Moderate Reformed Doctrine of Original Sin

I shall present a moderate Reformed doctrine of original sin. This does not include a doctrine of original guilt (i.e. that I am guilty of someone else's sin). Also, it is a doctrine consistent with more than one story about human origins (i.e. it does not presume monogenism, the notion that we are descended from an aboriginal human pair). Moreover, this doctrine has greater ecumenical promise than some other Protestant accounts of original sin. I shall argue that these are strengths rather than weaknesses of the view.

Leonard J. Vander Zee

Faith Alive Christian Resources
From Stardust to the New Jerusalem: Gospel-Centered Preaching in an Evolving Universe

Standing on the front lines, how do pastors preach and teach the biblical gospel in a way that helps skeptical congregants take a fresh look at their long-held beliefs about creation and human origins? Preaching centered on practical moral and therapeutic application alone does not provide a sufficiently strong foundation for congregations to navigate the depths necessary for such biblical understanding. An answer may lie in a much-needed homiletical application of the Theological Interpretation of Scripture that recovers the early church’s consistent emphasis on the Bible’s narrative arc, centering and interpreting the whole story in the light of Jesus Christ.

Ted Davis

Messiah College
The Bible and Biology: How Did We Get Here?

Why has evolution been so controversial among Christians? Does the acceptance of evolution entail the denial of orthodox Christianity? In an illustrated talk featuring numerous cartoon images, Dr. Davis presents some of the reasons why many American Christians have objected to evolution. Then he briefly outlines the main ideas and attitudes associated with two types of antievolutionism that are influential today, scientific creationism and intelligent design. The lecture concludes with some examples of contemporary Christian thinkers who accept biological evolution while upholding the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, touchstones of Christian orthodoxy since the fourth century.

Ard Louis

Oxford University
Randomness and other Metaphors in the Theory of Evolution

Popular descriptions of evolution can employ many value-laden metaphors such as survival of the fittest, selfish genes, or random mutations. While these can have precise scientific meanings, they are unfortunately often misappropriated in popular natural (a)theological arguments, used both by religiously motivated anti-evolutionists and metaphysical naturalists, that look at the natural world and then extract theological meaning (or lack of meaning) from it. In this talk I will re-consider some of these metaphors. For example, the word “random” can have overtones such as purposeless. But in science and engineering we often use methods that employ random number generators to precisely calculate well-defined properties. There are many parallels between these methods and the way that evolution works. Technically these are often called "stochastic" methods, so it might have been better if we scientists had used the term stochastic mutations, instead of random mutations, since the former term is scientifically correct but runs less risk of carrying unnecessary metaphysical baggage. Helping people avoid misunderstandings of these metaphors may allow them to better appreciate just how beautiful the science of evolution really is.

In addition, the parallel oral sessions have been recorded, while the program booklet is online, complete with lecture abstracts and speaker biographies. Read yourself rich.