Evolution and the Historical Fall—What Does Genesis 3 Tell Us about the Origin of Evil?

Last year I was appointed a BioLogos theology fellow, commissioned to write a series of six blog posts on Christian faith and evolution. My mandate was specifically to bring my own expertise in biblical studies (particularly the Old Testament) to bear on the question of evolution.

My own personal slant has been to explore questions at the intersection of faith and evolutionary science, both respecting the science and remaining steadfast as an orthodox, evangelical Christian (this, of course, challenges the truncated understanding of “evangelical” that the media often promulgates).

My fourth Biologos blog has just been published on the BioLogos website. It addresses the question of a historical Fall (the origin of sin) and how this might be compatible with the evolution of Homo sapiens. You can read it here.

This blog is based on the much longer chapter I wrote for the book Evolution and the Fall (Eerdmans, 2017), edited by James K. A. Smith and William Cavanaugh. You can see an interview with the editors about the book on the publisher’s blog site.

My previous BioLogos blogs addressed:

My final two BioLogos blogs will address:

  • The providence of God in a world of death and randomness (often thought by Christians to be consequences of the Fall).
  • How cosmic evolution might relate to the biblical promise of a new heaven and a new earth.

You can find all my BioLogos blogs in one place (including upcoming posts); just scroll to the bottom of the page.

BioLogos was founded by Francis Collins, the scientist in charge of the human genome project, which cracked the human genetic code; he is also an evangelical Christian. He founded BioLogos to encourage all people to see the hand of God in the evolutionary processes of nature.

The current BioLogos purpose statement reads:

“BioLogos invites the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.”

Please join me as I explore these fascinating questions at the intersection of evolutionary science and Christian faith.

I welcome responses to my post on the BioLogos website.

You can also post responses to the blog about my post at the Jesus Creed website, hosted by Scot McKnight (the blog is by an excellent science and faith blogger who goes by RJS).

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Why Christians Don’t Need to Be Threatened by Evolution

A few months ago I posted briefly about my appointment as a theological fellow for BioLogos. In that post I explained a bit about the history of BioLogos and why they appointed three theology fellows this year (of which I am one).

My task as a theology fellow will be to write six or more blog posts on the topic of biblical faith and evolution—on topics ranging from cosmic creation and human distinctiveness to the origin of evil, divine providence, and eschatology.

The series is tentatively titled Biblical Faith and Evolution: Loving the Questions.

My first blog in the series, “Why Christians Don’t Need to Be Threatened by Evolution,”  appeared today on the BioLogos website.

You can read the whole post there and also post comments and questions in response.

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My next post in the series is called The Ancient Universe and the Cosmic Temple; it addresses the relationship of biblical creation accounts (especially Geneses 1) to what science tells us about the age and size of the universe.

Appointment as a Theology Fellow for BioLogos

I’ve recently been appointed a Theological Fellow for BioLogos, along with two other theologians—Oliver Crisp (a Brit teaching at Fuller Theological Seminary) and Bethany Sollereder (a Canadian working at the University of Oxford). Given that I’m a Jamaican teaching at Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, NY, the international mix here is interesting.

BioLogos is an evangelical Christian organization founded by Dr. Francis Collins, the famed Director of the Human Genome Project. Their mission (taken from the BioLogos website) is to invite “the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.”

Jim Stump of BioLogos

I was first approached about becoming a Theological Fellow by Jim Stump, a philosopher, who is currently the Senior Editor at BioLogos. I met Jim in the summer of 2014 at a conference sponsored by three sister organizations—the American Scientific Affiliation, the Canadian Scientific and Christian and Affiliation, and Christians in Science (UK). The conference was called “From Cosmos to Psyche: All Things Hold Together in Christ” and was held at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON.

Through my conversations with Jim, I discovered that he is from the Missionary Church, the same denomination I was a member of in Jamaica. In fact, he knew folks at Jamaica Theological Seminary, where I did my BTh degree, and he had even taught there (the Seminary is sponsored by the Missionary Church in Jamaica).

I met Jim again at three other conferences on science and faith (in Chicago, San Francisco, and Buffalo), during which Jim explained BioLogos’s need to have professional theologians engage the public on matters of science and faith. While many scientists affiliated with BioLogos had been writing articles on the BioLogos website on various issues, one of the criticisms, he explained, had been that very few were experts in theology or biblical studies.

So BioLogos decided to formally appoint some Theology Fellows, initially for 2016. You can read the BioLogos announcement here. Each of the Theology Fellows will write at least six blog articles for the BioLogos website over the course of the year.

My Proposed Blog Posts for BioLogos

I’m considering doing a series of posts on the overall theme of Evolution and Biblical Faith: Loving the Questions. The subtitle suggests that I may not have all the answers (in fact, I’m pretty sure that I don’t), but I want to explore what the important questions might be.

My projected articles will be on the following topics (this is just a projection; we’ll see how they actually turn out):

  • Methodology and approach – how should we think about relating the Bible and theology to contemporary science, including evolution?
  • Cosmic creation – how might we relate the Bible’s vision of the cosmos as a temple (creation as sacred space) to an expanding universe over deep time?
  • Human nature and the imago Dei – what does the Bible’s understanding of the human vocation to image God have to do with what we know of the evolution and cultural development of Homo sapiens (and other hominins)?
  • The Fall – how do we relate the story of the primal transgression in the garden to the origin of moral and religious consciousness and (un)ethical behavior in Homo sapiens?
  • Suffering, chaos, and “nature” – how does the Bible’s understanding of God’s providential activity in the natural world and human history relate to the suffering and death that seem rampant in both “nature” and history?
  • The incarnation – how does the Bible’s understanding of Christ as God-with-us, the Word made flesh, speak to the evolutionary history of the cosmos and of living species?
  • Eschatology – how should we think of the Bible’s vision of new creation, including resurrection and immortality, in relation to a finite universe characterized by entropy?

I realize that I’ve set myself a pretty big agenda. But go big or go home, right?

The Origins of BioLogos

The origins of BioLogos go back to the 2006 publication of Francis Collins’s book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, in which he argued for the compatibility of science and Christian faith, including on the question of evolution.

Collins supervised the decoding the human genome and wrote as an evangelical Christian, so a lot of people were interested to read the book. Based on its enormous popularity (it was on the New York Times bestseller list for sixteen weeks) and the flood of email questions Collins received from people in the scientific and religious communities, he started a website to address questions of science and faith. Collins then founded The BioLogos Foundation in 2007, with Karl Giberson (a physicist) as Executive Vice President and Darrel Falk (a geneticist) as Executive Director. BioLogos launched their own website in 2009.

I heard Karl Giberson lecture on “The Question of Origins” when he was the featured speaker at the 2011 Barnes Science and Christian Faith Symposium, sponsored by Northeastern Seminary and the Division of Mathematics and Science at Roberts Wesleyan College.

And I’ve had the privilege of working with Darrel Falk on a multi-year project called Re-Imagining the Intersection of Evolution and the Fall, sponsored by the Colossian Forum, where I’ve been one of ten scholars on an interdisciplinary team (led by Jamie Smith and Bill Kavanaugh). We presented our research at a conference in Chicago last year (2015), and a book of essays written by members of the team will be published by Eerdmans later this year (2016). My essay (presently at press) is called “Reading Genesis 3 in Light of Evolution: Beyond Concordism and Non-Overlapping Magisteria.”

I’ll keep my readers informed about the posts I write for the BioLogos website, with links so you can read them if you’re interested.

For anyone interested, I previously posted on why we don’t need to be threatened by evolution, in which I discussed a Christian basis for the scientific study of the world.