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.”
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.” (Ed: This is a 14 page document which spells out Keller’s views in detail.)
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.
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.
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.
Rachel Miller, a member of a PCA church, is a wife and home-schooling mom who finds time to do writing and research. She blogs at A Daughter of the Reformation where this article first appeared; it is used with permission.