My story on BioLogos: Reflections on the ‘Non-Negotiable’ God

I have been a big fan and supporter of BioLogos, the pro-faith-and-science foundation established by noted geneticist Francis Collins, for years, so it is with great excitement that I share the news that the organization has published an essay I wrote on its website. Although many of its authors offer great insights into history, science and biblical scholarship, the foundation is also known for its desire to share personal stories of people’s reconciliation with faith and the theory of evolution.

My story is a little bit different, in that I discuss my coming to faith in Christ and highlight just how little a role the modern-day evangelical controversy over evolution played in my conversion. I include the first few paragraphs below. You’ll have to click over to the main site to read the rest. Hope you like it!

I became a Christian when I was 18, a freshman at the University of Maine. For me, my story of coming to faith was less a case of being walked through the steps of the sinner’s prayer, and more a case of being dragged through it kicking and screaming.

I was perfectly content with my life the way it was (or at least, as content as I thought a person could expect to be). I didn’t have much of an answer for the question of God, but then, it wasn’t very often in my life that I had need of such an answer.

Nevertheless, I had a couple Christian friends from high school who stubbornly evangelized me, and though I resented what I perceived to be their presumptive intrusion into what was not really any of their business (my life, namely), I was just slightly too nice to tell them to bug off.

But then, one weekend, I had what the folks at Alcoholics Anonymous refer to proverbially as “the wake-up call.” Fortunately for me, it was not as dramatic as what many AA members have experienced, but it was about as close to rock-bottom as I ever wanted to get.

Frankly, it scared me. So I did some thinking, and it wasn’t long before I recalled my two friends and their alluring talk of “the better life” God supposedly had for me. It seemed so easy. A simple prayer one night, and wake up a different man.

So I “prayed the prayer.” And absolutely nothing happened.

Read more.

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12 thoughts on “My story on BioLogos: Reflections on the ‘Non-Negotiable’ God

  1. Congratulations on getting your story published on the BioLogos site. It was well written, and more importantly, tells a redemptive story.

    Nevertheless, given that the point of your piece seems to be that the creation-evolution debate is entirely beside the point when it comes to relationship with the living God, it is surprising that you have made one side of this debate the focal point of your writing.

    • Yes, precisely because so many well-funded and prominent groups like Answers in Genesis insist on making young-earth creationism a central point of the Christian message, and a litmus test for “true” Christians.

      • But that’s just it, Tyler. Your testimony declares, both explcitly and implicitly, that the origins debate is not a necessary step on the road to Christ, yet your site is constructed for the purpose of forcing people to make a choice about it. The fact that you sit on what you consider to be the correct side of the debate rather than the incorrect side does not change the fact that you are majoring on the debate.

        I’m just curous about the inconsistency in your position. I am more curious, however, about reconciling the biblical text with evolution, if that is possible. I’m hoping you can help.

        Most evolution-believing Christians either mock YEC’s and ID’s or else offer scientific arguments against them. Hardly any are showing how the points of tension between the biblical text and evolution can be resolved.

      • My site most certainly is NOT “constructed for the purpose of forcing people to make a choice about” evolution. As I have explained on the site numerous times, I actually don’t care all that much about what other Christians think about evolution and creation. As I’ve already expressed here, my motivation is to rebut the idea that saving faith in Christ is fundamentally incompatible with accepting the enormously well established scientific fact of evolution.

        Young-earth proponents like Answers in Genesis and Creation Today absolutely have and do teach this, both in direct statements and — even more so — indirectly, by focusing on the age of the earth and “disproving” evolution above all else. Such a false dichotomy is profoundly harmful to the Christian message in our modern world. It is an unbiblical and thoroughly unnecessary obstacle to the gospel, and I will fight it every way I know how.

        Paul once wrote that he and his fellow ministers would “endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.” My goal with God of Evolution is simply to remove such an obstacle, and to do everything I can to prevent the young-earth createvangelists from making the “way that leads to life” even narrower than it already is.

      • Tyler,

        I do not know enough science to have an opinion on the scientific validity of YEC, ID, Darwinism, NeoDarwinism, or any other school of thought on this subject. I have, however, read the Bible and I hope you are going to be willing to help me with what I consider to be significant tension points between evolution and the Bible.

        In fact, if you are willing, I think you could take many, if not all, of the questions I have and turn them into blog posts. If you did so, and if you gave compelling answers, I think you might gain a great many followers. I think there are a good many folks like me, who resist evolution, not knowing enough science to accept YEC, ID, old-earth creationism, or some other alternative to evolution, on the basis of the tension that exists between the biblical account of history and history as dictated by evolutionary theory.

        The Bible is not a book about science, but it is a book about history. Therefore, it’s not the science of evolution that is problematic; rather, it’s the history implied by it.

        I found James McGrath and Peter Enns utterly uninterested in giving a biblical reconciliation with evolution. For biblical scholars who have embraced evolution and feel that its rejection is a stumbling block to Christ, I find such a posture inexplicable. I am hoping things will be different with a part-time stableboy.

      • Yes, you expressed a similar sentiment on God of Evolution a few days ago. I’ll reiterate what I replied in that instance.

        I do appreciate your questions on Adam, and I plan on answering them as thoroughly as I can when I have time. However, I must say that I think this is a backwards and ultimately untenable way to approach the world and the pursuit of knowledge in general. Quite simply, we Christians do not have the privilege of structuring reality according to what might best suit our theology or our reading of the Bible.

        If the diversity of life on this planet today is the result of billions of years of evolution — as all of the evidence in numerous independent s of inquiry indicates — then that’s just the way it is, and it doesn’t matter if it makes us uncomfortable or wrecks our neat theological models. We have to live in the same world everyone else does, and we have to address the facts; we can’t simply pretend they aren’t there, and we can’t simply explain them away with appeals to God’s miraculous power and expect the world to be satisfied with that.

      • “I think this is a backwards and ultimately untenable way to approach the world and the pursuit of knowledge in general.”

        Since you are a Christian, I presume I speak for both of us when I say that we follow Christ. That is, we believe in Him. More specifically, we believe that He was raised from the dead. We believe so based on the testimony of His apostles in the New Testament documents. In those documents it is revealed that Jesus believed that Moses and the Prophets (that is, those responsible for the Old Testament documents) spoke on behalf of God. Please help me understand why you think it is “backwards and untenable” to attempt a reconcilation between our study of the world God created and the truth He has given us in His word through His spokesmen.

      • It is not at all untenable to “attempt a reconciliation” between the two (that’s exactly what I would say I myself and far more accomplished scholars like Peter Enns and James McGrath strive to do), but that is not how you phrased it. Unless I’m severely mistaken, the position in your previous post could be summed up as you not really being interested in what the scientific evidence (i.e. the facts of reality) says, unless and until you can make sense of it in light of scripture. If we Christians followed that same hermeneutic with everything in the Bible, we would — among other things — still be denying that the earth revolves around the sun, as the Catholic Church did in the days of Copernicus and Galileo.

        As to our knowledge regarding the things Jesus said and did in the New Testament, the author of Luke — in his chapter 1 intro — explicitly describes the purpose and nature of his writing and those of the other gospels. And he calls these writings “orderly accounts” of “the things that have been fulfilled among us,” passed down by “eyewitnesses.” And the Gospel of John, in verse 20:30-31, explains the deeper purpose: that we might believe Jesus is the Messiah and have life in his name.

        I’m not aware of any part of Genesis that claims to be an eyewitness account, or where the purpose of the book is clearly laid out. Therefore, it’s open to reasonable interpretation.

        I don’t in any way deny that the Old Testament scriptures, including Genesis, are inspired by God and reflect the truth of God. That doesn’t mean they have to be read as literal history.

      • “Unless I’m severely mistaken, the position in your previous post could be summed up as you not really being interested in what the scientific evidence (i.e. the facts of reality) says, unless and until you can make sense of it in light of scripture.”

        You are indeed “severely mistaken.” I trust scientists all the time, and have my entire life…and I will continue to do so. The problem arises only when they tell me something that seems to contradict something God has told us through His prophets and apostles. It’s those apparent conflicts I seek to resolve.

        “I don’t in any way deny that the Old Testament scriptures, including Genesis, are inspired by God and reflect the truth of God. That doesn’t mean they have to be read as literal history.”

        Agreed. We should only regard as history that which the Bible presents as history. We therefore need a hermeneutic which helps us discern what to take literally and what to take figuratively. It’s that hermeneutic I am seeking to draw out from you. To simply say, as you have, that evolution is true and any interpretation we have of the Bible that conflicts with it must be wrong” is a hermeneutic of extremely limited utility even if it is true.

      • I’m sorry, Mike. A person who admits to having not researched the scientific evidence but who — nevertheless — “resists evolution” entirely on the basis of his or her interpretation of the Bible seems to have made their position pretty clear: Their interpretation of scripture comes first, regardless of what the facts of reality are. But I apologize for my apparent misunderstanding.

        My proposed hermeneutic is not, from the outset, that “evolution is true and any interpretation we have of the Bible that conflicts with it must be wrong,” but it IS that God has written two books, the Bible and the book of Nature, and he didn’t lie in either one. If there is a contradiction between the two, then either the interpretation of the evidence in nature is wrong or the interpretation of the relevant scripture is wrong. And in the case of evolution, the evidence is so strong, so consistent and so spread across multiple independent fields of inquiry, I think the only two possible conclusions for the reasonable Christian is either that evolution occurred, or that God just made it look that way.

      • “If there is a contradiction between the two, then either the interpretation of the evidence in nature is wrong or the interpretation of the relevant scripture is wrong.”

        I agree and would only append “…or both interpretations are wrong.”

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