Some of you will read this post as a break from the series on the issues with BioLogos. That would be an error on your part.
On my morning walk (I've been back on the horse for 2 weeks now that it's below 80 at 5:30 AM in Little Rock) I've been catching up on podcasts, and I've been listening to Tim Keller's sermons from back in February. He has a fine sermon on "Literalism" that I commend to you, but the one I listened to today was called "Meeting the Real Jesus". In it, Pastor Keller is preaching on an excellent passage from Matthew 11:
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" And Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me." [ESV Mat 11:2-6]I could transcript it for you, but then my point would be buried under his very-good teaching on this passage. Turns out that this is actually a sermon from 1996 according the the Redeemer web site. You will get my version of this story instead -- and why it matters to the BioLogos controversy.
Here's the place in Scripture where John the Baptist -- the guy who Jesus later in this very passage called "the Elijah who is to come" -- is in prison, and he's actually giving God some sassy lip. You know: the real Elijah burns up all the prophets of Baal, and just because he missed Jezebel he runs off to a cave to ask God to let him die because the evil queen is still threatening him. So the Elijah who is to come at least comes by it honestly.
So John sends his disciples to Jesus to ask him, "listen: I'm in jail, and I thought you were the savior of Israel, so are you going to set me free here, or is there someone else who's going to set Israel -- and by 'Israel', I mean 'me' -- free?"
So Jesus says to them, "Tell John ... blessed is the one who is not offended by me." Think about that a second: Jesus is telling camel-cloth prophet John (who baptized him) in much the same way as he tells everyone earlier in Matthew's Gospel, "blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are those hungry for justice, etc.," except that rather than addressing the crowd, ("blessed are they") he's addressing one guy ("blessed is he").
But how does he say that? It's all in the ellipsis, isn't it? The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. See, John: I'm the one saving the ones who need to be saved. Pastor Keller does a very keen job of getting you there in his sermon by focusing on that key phrase I underlined -- that the poor have good news preached to them.
In fact, he makes it a point to say that this is really the central matter of the Gospel which most churches that call themselves "Christian" miss out on. Most "respectable" churches are preaching a Gospel not for people with no hope but a message for people who just need to try harder. They don't need to be saved: they just need a good example.
And in that, he says, they have lost the supernatural, culture-spanning power of the Gospel -- because they want to be for the respectable and not for the helpless. The poor, you see, understand their plight better than the comfortable: they cannot save themselves.
And this, I think is where we turn this passage of Scripture to the problem of being intellectually respectable. It seems to me that this is the central matter for the BioLogos folks: they do not want to save anybody. They want to merely do better as the world might see it.
It comes out when they say stuff like this:
The creation story of BioLogos is compatible with many faith traditions, and there is no way to give a scientific proof for one monotheistic faith over another. Therefore, this response will simply show the compatibility of Christianity with BioLogos.Or this blurb from a "coming soon" essay:
Over the past few decades, sociobiologists have begun applying Darwin’s theory to many aspects of human behavior, including altruism. If evolution selects only traits that promote reproductive success, then altruistic behaviors seem contrary to the underlying principle of evolution. Sociobiology and evolutionary models can account for some elements of altruism, but radical altruism poses additional challenges.That is: science can and does offer an explanation which we don't have to be ashamed of.
But Jesus here tells John that the one who is not offended by Jesus -- the one who doesn't necessarily protect us from persecution, but in fact saves us to take up our cross and die daily to sin -- is the one who is blessed.
It's funny that BioLogos sort of makes Isaac Newton out to be a rube because when he observed the planets in motion, he wrote this:
The six primary Planets are revolv'd about the Sun, in circles concentric with the Sun, and with motions directed towards the same parts and almost in the same plan. Ten Moons are revolv'd about the Earth, Jupiter and Saturn, in circles concentric with them, with the same direction of motion, and nearly in the planes of the orbits of those Planets. But it is not to be conceived that mere mechanical causes could give birth to so many regular motions: since the Comets range over all parts of the heavens, in very eccentric orbits. For by that kind of motion they pass easily through the orbits of the Planets, and with great rapidity; and in their aphelions, where they move the slowest, and are detain'd the longest, they recede to the greatest distances from each other, and thence suffer the least disturbance from their mutual attractions. This most beautiful System of the Sun, Planets, and Comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being. And if the fixed Stars are the centers of other like systems, these, being form'd by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed Stars is of the same nature with the light of the Sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems. And lest the systems of the fixed Stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other mutually, he hath placed those Systems at immense distances from one another.It seems to me that this sort of thing speaks plainly to their objectives -- which are not nearly and Bible-friendly and Gospel-friendly as they want to let on.
They are, in fact, offended by this sort of faith. It speaks to the kind of faith and blessing they are looking for.