Is Dr. Tim Keller a Progressive Creationist?

In a recent interview with Eric Metaxas, Dr. Tim Keller states (beginning around the 20:00 mark) that he is an “old earth progressive creationist” and that his view is “not quite” theistic evolution. He goes on to say that the difference between his view and theistic evolution is that he believes that God intervened in the process. I was surprised to hear Dr. Keller define his views as “progressive creationism” given his support of BioLogos and their viewpoint on origins. So, I did a little research on progressive creationism and here are some highlights of what I found.

One of the best well-known proponents of progressive creationism is Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe. Dr. Ross has written many books defining his view on origins. His organization’s website defines their position as creation and not supernaturally directed Darwinism. Progressive creationism specifically rejects the concepts of macroevolution (species evolving from other species). The BioLogos website places Dr. Ross and Reasons to Believe under the heading of Old Earth Creationism and explains why OEC is not acceptable to the BioLogos viewpoint:

Old Earth Creationists (OECs) accept that the earth and universe are billions of years old, but maintain that these findings are in concordance with a direct reading of the first chapters of Genesis (often by interpreting the days of creation as long periods of time, or by understanding large gaps between the days of creation). OECs hold that modern science tightly corresponds with biblical accounts and assume that God included modern scientific ideas in the Bible, sometimes through secret language that would have been lost on the original audiences. OECs do not, however, accept the common ancestry of all life forms.

BioLogos disagrees with the OEC viewpoint, because while accepting the scientific consensus for an old earth, it rejects the findings of modern genetics, paleontology, and many other biological sub-disciplines that support common ancestry. Furthermore, we believe that God chose to reveal Himself within the worldview, culture, and language of the biblical authors. Since heliocentricity or the Big Bang, for example, are neither relevant to God’s message nor meaningful to the ancient audience, we do not think these scientific ideas are encoded in Scripture.

In contrast, BioLogos defines their own view on origins this way:

The BioLogos view holds that both Scripture and modern science reveal God’s truth, and that these truths are not in competition with one another. It accepts the modern scientific consensus on the age of the earth and common ancestry, including the common ancestry of humans. While there are varying views of how to reconcile the truths of science and Scripture (for example with regards to a historical Adam), those who hold to the BioLogos view accept God as Creator and believe that the Bible, though open to a diversity of interpretations, is ultimately the divinely inspired and authoritative Word of God. (emphasis added)

Elsewhere on their website, BioLogos gives this definition:

We believe that the diversity and interrelation of all life on earth are best explained by the God-ordained process of evolution and common descent. Thus, evolution is not in opposition to God, but a means by which God providentially achieves his purposes.

We believe that God created humans in biological continuity with all life on earth, but also as spiritual beings. God established a unique relationship with humanity by endowing us with his image and calling us to an elevated position within the created order.

And also this:

The BioLogos view celebrates God as creator. It is sometimes called Theistic Evolution or Evolutionary Creation.

When Dr. Keller’s name was listed as a leading figure on BioLogos’ Perspectives page, his name was not with Dr. Ross and the other Old Earth Creationists. He was listed as a leading figure who represented BioLogos’ view. Given Dr. Keller’s advocacy of BioLogos and their position, I think it odd that he would seek to define his view as progressive creationism. If progressive creationism fits his view better, wouldn’t Reasons to Believe be a more appropriate organization to promote?

Dr. Tim Keller and BioLogos

Last August, I noticed that Dr. Keller was no longer listed as a “leading figure” who represented the BioLogos Foundation’s views on origins. BioLogos defines their view on origins this way:

It [the BioLogos view] accepts the modern scientific consensus on the age of the earth and common ancestry, including the common ancestry of humans.

When Dr. Keller’s name was removed from the list of leading figures who represent the BioLogos view, some wondered if it meant that Dr. Keller had had a change of heart regarding his association with BioLogos. That does not appear to be the case.

To give a brief bit of history, starting in 2009, BioLogos has hosted three “Theology of Celebration” workshops:

At our Theology of Celebration workshops, evangelical leaders gather to explore the implications of modern science for Christian faith. The workshop is first and foremost a worshipful celebration of God’s creation, but it is also a place for relationship building and thoughtful exchange between influential Christian pastors, scientists, scholars, and other cultural gatekeepers.

An invitation-only event, the workshop is organized by some of today’s most influential evangelical leaders: Andy Crouch, Os Guinness, Joel Hunter, Tim Keller, John Ortberg, and Philip Yancey. Rev. Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church serves as our local host in New York City.

With key papers and presentations by world-class scientists and scholars, the workshop series has made significant progress in informing and equipping church leaders who continue to wrestle with questions about science. We hope that, decades from now, evangelical historians will point to the BioLogos workshops and say that the sea of change began here: because of the fruitfulness of these meetings, the evangelical church entered into a productive and meaningful engagement with science.

If you notice in the above quote, “Rev. Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church serves as our local host in New York City.” The first year, Dr. Keller spoke at the workshop on the topic, “Barriers to Accepting the Possibility of Creation by Means of an Evolutionary Process: II. Concerns of the Typical Parishoner” and presented his paper, “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople.” At the end of the first workshop, the attendees released a signed statement about the event:

Many voices in our current culture assert that there are irreconcilable conflicts between science and faith in Christ. We, the undersigned Christian pastors, theologians, scientists, and other scholars, respectfully disagree. We have learned much from each other during these days of communal prayer, presentation, discussion, and worship, but we also recognize that we have much more to learn and many others from whom to learn. We affirm that the truths of Scripture and the truths of nature both have their origins in God, and that further exploration of all these truths can enrich our joyful and worshipful appreciation of the Creator’s love, goodness, and grace. We commit to exploring these important issues further.

Signatures include: Dr. Keller, Dr. Peter Enns, Bishop N.T. Wright, Dr. John Walton, Dr. Bruce Waltke.

In 2010, the second “Theology of Celebration” workshop was held to answer three basic questions:

Suppose that mainstream science is largely correct: the earth is billions of years old and the diversity of life is best explained as a result of an evolutionary process.

How then might we understand Adam and Eve?

What is God doing in creation and how is this different than a deistic view of divine activity?

How might the church best respond to the rampant scientism that so often seems to be associated with accepting scientific conclusions?

The workshop produced a much longer signed statement which included the following:

We agree that the methods of the natural sciences provide the most reliable guide to understanding the material world, and the current evidence from science indicates that the diversity of life is best explained as a result of an evolutionary process. Thus BioLogos affirms that evolution is a means by which God providentially achieves God’s purposes.

And

We acknowledge the challenge of providing an account of origins that does full justice both to science and to the biblical record. Based on our discussions, we affirm that there are several options that can achieve this synthesis, including some which involve a historical couple, Adam and Eve, and that embrace the compelling conclusions that the earth is more than four billion years old and that all species on this planet are historically related through the process of evolution.

The list of workshop attendants includes Dr. Ron Choong and Dr. Tim Keller, among many others.

Following the 2010 workshop, there has been a great deal of interest in the issue of the historicity of Adam. Dr. Jack Collins released his book, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?. Dr. Peter Enns published his book, The Evolution of Adam. Presbyteries within the PCA have sent overtures to the General Assembly asking for a denial of all evolutionary origins of Adam and Eve.

Given all of the discussion over the historicity of Adam, some hoped that Dr. Keller’s name being removed from the BioLogos list of leading figures indicated that he changed his mind about his support of BioLogos. Apparently not.

The third BioLogos “Theology of Celebration” workshop was held in New York City last month. Christianity Today magazine published an article about the workshop. The title, “Evangelical Evolutionists Meet in New York,” is followed by the subheading, “N. T. Wright, Tim Keller, John Ortberg among Biologos conference attendees.” The focus of the conference was what role pastors and the church should play in easing the tension between science and faith. Here is an excerpt from the Christianity Today article:

David Kinnaman of Barna Research presented findings on what U.S. Protestant pastors believe about creation. More than half profess a 6-day, 24-hour creation of life. Fewer than one in five, on the other hand, follow Biologos in affirming an evolutionary process as God’s method of creation.

And

Few Christian colleges or seminaries teach young earth creationism (YEC), participants noted during discussion groups. But less formal, grassroots educational initiatives, often centered on homeschooling, have won over the majority of evangelicals. “We have arguments, but they have a narrative,” noted Tim Keller. Both young earth creationists and atheistic evolutionists tell a story tapping into an existing cultural narrative of decline. To develop a Biologos narrative is “the job of pastors,” Keller said.

So, Dr. Keller believes that it is “the job of pastors” to develop a BioLogos narrative. It seems to me that his support of BioLogos and its evolutionary view is pretty solid.

A Meeting of Understanding: Secrecy, Non-hierarchical Leadership, and Blogs

Yesterday, byFaith published a report on an invitation-only meeting held by “denomination leadership” this week to “discuss charitably and forthrightly the cause for conflicts in the PCA that hamper our ministry and unity.” There has been a good deal of discussion over this meeting, and I thought I might share a few of my own thoughts on the subject.

The meeting was held under something called the “Chatham House Rule.” I had never heard of this myself, but a quick Google search turned up the following description:

When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.

The world-famous Chatham House Rule may be invoked at meetings to encourage openness and the sharing of information.

What this means is that the byFaith report, and any other report about the meeting, can discuss what was said, but not who said it. The list of participants is also not to be shared. Because of this, those of us who were not present at the meeting have a limited amount of information available to us.

The meeting was called in order to address the various causes for conflicts within the PCA. While I certainly agree that this is an admirable goal, I wonder about the way they went about it. When there is a climate of distrust and suspicion, is the best answer to hold a semi-secret meeting and then publish a report with anonymous comments?

The comments reported in the article are grouped together under headings that summarize the concerns addressed. The headings: Civility and Theological Precision, Blogs and Protecting Reputations, Can We Still Champion One Another’s Ministry?, and Loving One Another and Matthew 18 cover various concerns that seem somewhat one-sided in the present debate. Interestingly, Federal Vision, theistic evolution, feminism, and inerrancy were not topics of discussion.

Those who are overly concerned with theological precision were encouraged to set aside the idolatry of precision and instead focus on love. Blogs were mentioned only as places that encourage name calling and destroy reputations. It was lamented that the various “camps” aren’t encouraged to support each other in their ministry. This last one reminds me of comments I’ve read in the past that we should not be so concerned about another pastor’s orthodoxy, but rather, how much good his ministry is doing or how quickly his ministry is growing. Lastly, a consistent application of Matthew 18 and a blogging code of ethics were recommended as the answers for what ails the PCA.

All of these comments seem overly representative of one side of the concerns within the PCA. This presents an interesting challenge to those of us not present at the meeting. There are two possible interpretations of the report. One, it’s possible that all sides were well represented at this meeting and that the report doesn’t reflect the full diversity of opinion. In which case, it would be ideal if someone who was present at the meeting would write a more comprehensive summary of the discussion. I would happily publish it here. Anonymously if need be. The other interpretation is that the report accurately represents the tenor of the discussion and that there was not a good representation of the diversity of opinions at this meeting, which leads me to my next point.

The report mentions that the Stated Clerk, Roy Taylor, called the meeting “in collaboration with other denominational leaders.” Twice in the article “denominational leaders” are mentioned. Who are the denominational leaders? The PCA does not have a hierarchy of leadership. There is a stated clerk of the General Assembly and various coordinators and presidents of the PCA’s permanent committees and agencies. These men were at the meeting according to the report. But there were an additional 50 pastors in attendance. Considering that the discussion was about issues that affect the whole denomination, who decided which pastors were the ones most representative of the whole? Are certain pastors from certain presbyteries “denominational leaders?” (Of course, it might be easier to answer that question if the list of invitees was available.) Don’t we already have a forum for discussion of denomination level issues? Why not discuss this at GA?

What are your thoughts on this “meeting of understanding”?

Indelible Grace: The Music of RUF

My first experience with RUF was the summer conference at Panama City Beach in 1994. I have very fond memories of that trip. That conference was also my first exposure to RUF music. I had been in youth groups, sung on praise teams, and listened to countless hours of contemporary Christian music, but RUF music was distinctly different. The melodies were easy to sing and beautiful to listen to, but the words were absolutely wonderful. The first two RUF hymns that I learned were Psalm 130 and Give to the Wind Thy Fears. Here is the first stanza of Psalm 130:

From the depths of woe I raise to Thee
The voice of lamentation;
Lord, turn a gracious ear to me
And hear my supplication;
If Thou iniquities dost mark,
Our secret sins and misdeeds dark,
O who shall stand before Thee?

And Give to the Wind Thy Fears:

Give to the winds thy fears,
Hope and be undismayed.
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears,
God will lift up,
God will lift up
God will lift up thy head

These hymns were so moving. I was so impressed by the rich vocabulary. These were not typical praise songs. I couldn’t wait to learn more. What I discovered was that there was a move within RUF to bring old hymns, many almost forgotten, back into use, some with new music. Men such as Chris Miner, Darwin Jordan, and Brian Habig were instrumental in this new venture. Kevin Twit helped take the RUF hymns to a much wider audience. Continue reading

Declaration Rejecting All Evolutionary Views of Adam’s Origin

Rocky Mountain Presbytery (PCA) has sent an overture to the 40th General Assembly of the PCA on the issue of the historicity of Adam and Eve. The overture seeks to affirm the declaration adopted by the old Southern Presbyterian Church (PCUS) in 1886, 1888, and 1924 which states:

That Adam and Eve were created, body and soul, by immediate acts of Almighty power, thereby preserving a perfect race unity;

That Adam’s body was directly fashioned by Almighty God, without any natural animal parentage of any kind, out of matter previously created from nothing.

The overture also references the BioLogos Foundation and its influence on the evangelical world:

Whereas, evangelicalism has seen the increasing influence of organizations such as The Biologos Forum founded to defend the following view: “We have found that the methods of the natural sciences provide the most reliable guide to understanding the material world, and the current evidence from science indicates that the diversity of life is best explained as a result of an evolutionary process.” Biologos purports to be evangelical and accept the authority of Scripture but yet“[i]t accepts the modern scientific consensus on the age of the earth and common ancestry, including the common ancestry of humans;”

It should be interesting to see what comes of this. To read the full overture, click here.