So last night I was reading more of Christopher Benson’s apologetics for BioLogos over at Evangel, and I was reading his responses to the many people disagreeing with him – “many” not being “most”, though it was nice to see Joe Carter actually say publicly that his finds BioLogos to be a non-starter. And as I read Chris’s reponses to people (me among them), I posted my curt resignation from Evangel.
I got one e-mail afterward which said this:
I don't know where evangelicalism has ever been bound together with belief in a literal 6-day creation. We have our significant disagreements among us on that question, but it ought not be something to break fellowship over, and still less something to use to brand a brother or sister as you seem to have done.Believe it or not, that really was said in real Christian love and concern for what I said and did, so it gave me a moment of pause to think about whether I said all I had to say about the subject – and whether I said it well enough to let it lie.
What I said was this:
And with that, sadly, I am out of here.
Note to Joe Carter: please close my Evangel account. If this is the sort of thinking FirstThings wants to represent as “Evangelical”, we are all shamed by it.
God be with you all, and may he shine His light of grace on you.
And, of course, hilarity ensued. I was accused of all manner of things for doing this, and some think I should not leave Evangel for the sake of this disagreement -- which some perceive as splitting over the interpretation that Genesis 1 talks about a 6-day creation.
This is why I think it's necessary to make this post today, so pack a lunch.
First, let me make it clear: I think it's plain that there are people saved by Jesus Christ who have faith in Him who do not believe in a 6-day creation. When Peter preached to the Jews at Pentecost that they needed to repent and believe, he made no references to the number of days in creation, and his emphasis was of course on this Jesus, whom they crucified, who they could now know for certain was both Lord and Christ -- therefore, repent and be saved from the coming judgment.
People who believe what Peter preached to believe are saved -- which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in his name which is the only name by which we must be saved. Period.
Second: In that group of people, there are some who do not hold to the inerrancy of Scripture. I think you could make the case that a lot of people who are saved by faith are not saved to a high view of Scripture. I think it's a common occurrence, but it is a shameful thing -- a shame to their pastors, and to themselves because they do not consider what it means to have that which God said as a reference.
Third: This is because in that group of people, there are some who are not great systematic thinkers -- as I discussed here. Having a fallible confession of faith does not mean you have a broken confession of faith.
Fourth: That said, the important corollary to my third point is that denying critical parts of Scripture is not the same thing as being rudely ignorant of them. For example, perhaps you have never read John 1 and you can't really define in what way the Word, the Lamb of God, was present and active in creation. I'm really OK with that. What I am not OK with -- and what I think historically the church has never been OK with -- is the abject denial of something the Bible says clearly and unequivocally. So to say, for example, that science teaches us that no persons were present at the moment of the beginning of the universe because nothing existed at that moment so we have to rethink our "literal" interpretation of John 1:1-14 is to say, "I reject the historic Christian faith," not "I trust Scripture differently than you do, and my way is better because it builds bridges to modern and post-modern philosophical and political bedrock."
Fifth: That distinction is the one which, frankly, is the place where the definition of "Christian" and "not Christian" resides. It does not reside in some sociological analysis of all people loosely committed to series of historically-related traditions. If this is not the place where this distinction is established, I think we have misunderstood at least the essential writings of Paul, but probably all of the New Testament.
You know: in Antioch, where the first people were actually called "Christians", they had some kind of belief system which started with the loose evangelism made by converted Jews who were escaping persecution in Jerusalem, followed by the exhortations of Barnabas, followed by the teachings of Paul when Barnabas sent for him to come and teach those in Antioch. But what this part of Scripture says at least in part is that there is a place where what the world believes is substantially different than what the church believes. There is a distinction between being merely someone from Antioch, and being someone who is a "Christian" -- and it does lie someplace in the mix of what a persecuted post-Jewish believer would tell people, and what Barnabas would tell people, and what Paul would tell people.
My suggestion is that none of that is found in what we see in the BioLogos agenda and writings -- against their protests to the contrary. This assertion deserves its own post, which I do not have time to complete today. Look for it in the near future.
Sixth: It is simply irrefutable that the BioLogos project is deeply entrenched in obliterating what's described in my fifth point, and in engaging in activities covered by my fourth point. This is their chief aim -- as it is the aim of every cult, post-orthodoxy, which finds itself wanting to appease some other authority apart from or above Scripture. This assertion requires more than just saying it is so. Look for my exposition of this in the near future.
Seventh: That is bad enough in its own right. But when someone is willing to take up for those engaged in activities in that sixth point, and call those activities orthodox and faithful, and to do so in a flippant way without personally engaging clear objections based on documented facts and rudimentary critical thinking, that person is himself working to damage the faith of others.
My opinion is that this is what Christopher Benson is participating in -- he's endorsing BioLogos as a "middle way" approach to mend fences with "science", but he is in fact giving up what must be called the home field of orthodoxy to do so. In every way, he endorses the POMA approach to authority where "partially overlapping" turns out to be a cover for simply allowing Science to have the first and last word, and Scripture must have only a say which is consequential to the current findings and edict of science.
So the problem is not the lack of full-throated endorsement of a 6-day creation. The problem is not even a failure to endorse a robust doctrine of scriptural inerrancy. The problem is that there are members of the Evangel masthead who are, frankly, engaged in damaging the faith of others by defending rank apostates -- and not merely defending them, but endorsing them as faithful members of the larger church.
When I joined Evangel back 10 months ago, Phil gave me the advice that because the basis for unity was too broad and too shallow, and that the objectives of the bloggers too diverse, there's no way to make a clear-throated stand for the Gospel there and be anything but overwhelmed by the other voices. I think I made a good show of it, and I stand by all my own contributions there. However, because it's obvious to me that I am at a disadvantage because I expect others to have a good conscience about how they participate there -- including engaging topics where we disagree rather than essentially retorting, "read a book" -- I resign. I withdraw.
Let me go on the record to say without any hesitation that my objectives are not the objectives of Evangel -- and I can say honestly I don’t know what those objectives really are anymore. When this sort of hard-press apologetics for the acceptance of a world view which can and does damage the faith of others is made and is not rebuked or restrained, I don't belong there.
God bless Joe Carter for inviting me, and for putting up with my personal flavor of mayhem for the last 10 months. May God bless him with a sharper vision in the future for making the content of Evangel more actually-evangelical and actually-Gospel-filled rather than a mixed bag of politics and secular scientific apologetics.