by Phil Johnson
ast month several regular contributors over at the BioLogos blog wrote a series of posts exploring the question "How Should BioLogos Respond to Dr. Albert Mohler's Critique?"
That question was prompted by Dr. Mohler's June 19 message titled "Why Does the Universe Look So Old?" at this year's Orlando Ligonier Conference. Dr. Mohler took a position that is at odds with the central canon of the BioLogos credo. BioLogos most certainly needed to respond. The question was, How?
Evidently, the gentlemen at BioLogos have finally settled on their best strategy for replying to Dr. Mohler: Publish something at the Huffington Post accusing Dr. Mohler of dishonesty.
To paraphrase one of my Facebook friends: Even if they really do believe the abusive ad hominem argument they are making against Al Mohler, that's an interesting strategy. Let's air our differences at this bastion of secular humanism, and we'll invite some of the giants of discernment over at Huffpo to sort it out for us in their combox.
Dr. Karl Giberson, vice president of BioLogos, wrote the Huffington piece. The case he makes against Dr. Mohler has basically one point. Here it is: In his Ligonier lecture, Dr. Mohler claimed that Charles Darwin had a pretty good idea about what kind of "evidence" he was looking for before he ever boarded the Beagle; he was already sympathetic to evolutionary theory, and he was already hostile to biblical authority.
Not so, Dr. Giberson says. Darwin was a devout Christian and a creationist when he first set off on the Beagle. Giberson claims Darwin's very first doubts about the reliability of Scripture-as-history came as he collected his samples and observed and analyzed the biological evidence. Dr. Giberson evidently would have us believe Darwin was a typical evangelical until an honest inquiry into the scientific evidence forced him to take a more enlightened position.
I'm admittedly no Darwin scholar, but I do know for a fact that the only version of "Christianity" he ever adhered to was by no means evangelical. He was a product of that Unitarian intellectualism that dominated the established church in Georgian times. According to an 1887 article by Robert Schindler (published in Charles Spurgeon's magazine, The Sword and the Trowel):
If anyone wishes to know where the tadpole of Darwinism was hatched, we could point him to the pew of the old chapel in High Street, Shrewsbury, where Mr. Darwin, his father, and we believe his father's father, received their religious training. The chapel was built for Mr. Talents, an ejected minister [i.e., a Puritan who dissented from the established church order]; but for very many years full-blown Socinianism has been taught there. (Emphasis added.)
Furthermore, Darwin was enthralled with natural theology and (like BioLogos) held the truth-claims of Scripture to be less reliable and less authoritative than "scientific proofs." That was what prompted his interest in science to begun with. And—as Dr. Giberson himself notes in an earlier open letter to Dr. Mohler—"[Darwin] was a devotee of William Paley."
Perhaps the most succinct summary of William Paley's religious convictions comes to us from Sir Leslie Stephen, a younger contemporary of Paley's. Stephen was a respected English author and an Anglican clergyman. He described William Paley as "Socinian in all but name."
Given BioLogos's own theological trajectory (I'm thinking particularly of their dismissive attitude toward key doctrines like biblical authority and original sin), they may not recognize Socinianism—or its close cousins, Unitarianism, Deism, and theological liberalism—as anti-Christian worldviews. But Dr. Mohler certainly understands that those ideas are hostile to Scripture and antithetical to every major stream of historic Christian faith.
In other words, Dr. Mohler undoubtedly disagrees with Dr. Giberson's assessment of Darwin. As difficult as this may be for Dr. Giberson to receive and as hurtful as it may be to his academic ego, Dr. Mohler no doubt found Dr. Giberson's book Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution unpersuasive.
But as far as Dr. Giberson is concerned, the only possible explanation for Dr. Mohler's statement about Darwin is that Mohler simply doesn't care about truth. Giberson insists Dr. Mohler is a deliberate, cold-hearted, shameless liar.
I'm not exaggerating. Giberson loaded his Huffington article with just about every accusation and insult space would allow. He stops just short of making Mohler out to be a felon. Giberson alleges that Mohler "does not seem to care about the truth and seems quite content to simply make stuff up when it serves his purpose." "Perhaps [Mohler's] only real encounter with Saving Darwin was an instruction to an assistant to 'find something in Giberson's book that I can ridicule in my speech.'" "Mohler perhaps, is being a 'faith fibber,' something I have been guilty of, although not on this scale." "I am disappointed to realize that [skeptic Michael] Shermer, who repudiated his faith, has more respect for the truth than Al Mohler, who views himself as a caretaker of a faith that I share."
Because in the very next sentence, Giberson goes on to assert that "religious belief is complex and full of mystery, paradox, and contradiction" (emphasis added). That is tantamount to saying faith is an absurdity. I'm fairly confident Dr. Mohler would not view himself as a caretaker of that sort of faith. It's not true faith at all by any biblical standard; it's classic existential and neo-orthodox nonsense.
But anyway, let me get to the thing that chafes me most about BioLogos's answer to their own question, "How Should BioLogos Respond to Dr. Albert Mohler's Critique?"
My answer would have been, "Address the biblical and theological points he made." Dr. Mohler gave several clear doctrinal arguments to show why the peculiar brand of cosmological deism being touted by the BioLogos crew is incompatible with sound doctrine and hostile to a high view of Scripture. Their campaign is destructive to foundational doctrines of the Christian faith, starting with the authority of Scripture and the doctrine of original sin.
The theological case Dr. Mohler made was compelling. Until BioLogos responds to it, I'll stand by what I have said all along: They cannot be serious when they claim they are interested in bringing science and faith together. Indeed, they are steering people into the same spiritual blind alley that ultimately caused Darwin to abandon theism altogether. And the skeptical blogosphere is full of spiritual casualties who are living (and dying) illustrations of what happens when half-hearted faith hits that dead end.